Rastko Mocnik: Inside the identity state - Two types of fascist politics

Looking at how elements of fascism can emerge spontaneously in contemporary society enables us to see that fascism does not originate from "evil" or "lack of enlightenment", but rather from the logic of objective historical processes, and from internal pressures and tensions. It is therefore essential to struggle against modern fascism at an objective level: by addressing changes in historical structure and the processes this structure "automatically" generates. Moralistic campaigns, the promotion of tolerance and so on, cannot be effective since they do not take account of historical causes. They merely serve to obscure or distract, and quite often also encourage or even introduce the processes that lead to contemporary fascist practices. In these moralistic campaigns, conducted at a governmental and European level, we can observe the authoritarian element present in current liberal politics. In a democracy, the people should be telling the rulers what to do; now the rulers instruct the people on what they should do, think and feel, and tell them what is good for them.

My broad thesis is that in the last twenty or thirty years two kinds of "fascism" (for want of a better term) have arisen. Each of these types of modern "fascism" was produced by heterogeneous processes which initially did not have much in common. There was nothing in these processes that would inevitably produce "fascism". But once their effects had crystallized and interconnected, there appeared what we would conditionally call "fascism". 

Two errors of theoretical analysis
At the end of the 1980s and in the early 1990s many of us in Slovenia were shocked to witness mass support for emerging political elements with visibly fascist tendencies. We were so troubled that we failed to consider another feature of this historic event: that these fascist elements had never previously combined in the historical model of fascism. In the early 1990s, we partially distanced ourselves from our own theses, and spoke of "cultural fascism". The ideological ingredients were very powerful. They included racist and extremist nationalist ideologies, based on the mythology of a canonical national literature. This was the ideological foundation for the political practices that ignited war in Yugoslavia, led to ethnic cleansing, and ultimately also to genocide. 

It was hard to grasp, at first, why these ideological and political elements, which were indeed fascist, had not been articulated in the model of historical fascism. Further, we did not recognize that, as early as in 1992, a different type of fascist praxis had emerged in Slovenia. It was characterized by the slogan "Not left, not right, but better" (accompanied by a portrait of the party president and the party symbol). Seeing this campaign slogan, proclaimed by the Liberal Democratic party, I thought immediately of the classic study on French fascismNi droite, ni gauche (Neither right nor left) – the title which became the slogan for emerging fascist ideology in France.[1] Regardless of the historical analogy, however, we interpreted this slogan incorrectly. The leader of this party was an old apparatchik and its operatives were for the most part careerists from various regimes. This led us to conclude that the party was depoliticizing its discourse, since it did not want people to remember its past. Under this slogan, it won. When, almost twenty years later, the mayor of Ljubljana presented his new party during the 2011 election campaign, he promoted it with similar words: "We will not talk about ideology, rather we will carry out our programme." (At the time his party did not have a programme.) It is a chilling fact that the speaker quickly became the most popular politician in the country and that he and his party also went on to win the elections.

Two types of fascist political practice

Two historical types of recent fascist political practice can therefore be identified. They arose one after another with a brief interval in between. Their common feature is that they are "anti-political". Otherwise, they differ in a number of respects.

The first was established at the turn of the decade from the Eighties to the Nineties. We could call it "romantic cultural fascism". Its basic ideology is nineteenth century nationalism with no liberal dimension. There is also a strong element of racism in Slovenia, predominantly of the Orientalist strain (touching on mythologies about Europe' s relationship with the Balkans and the identity of "Central Europe"). If this political position gains the opportunity, it organizes ethnic cleansing (through the use of regular military force, through paramilitary violence, or simply by means of administrative measures, as in the case of the erased citizens of Slovenia). It strives to create an authoritative state. In short, it is "anti-political" in the romantic-racist style. 

The other practice could be called "realistic technocratic non-politics". It claims to be free of ideology and to have no interest in politics, but argues rather that it engages in problem-solving, social management, and the application of expert solutions... Read more:


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