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The PRISM editors have prepared this primer, posted here in three parts, in line with the growing concern and interest of many anti-imperialist groups about the rapid growth of fascist forces in the context of increasingly violent imperialist rule and the socio-political impacts of the current global capitalist crisis. This is Part 1.


[Part 3]

5. How is fascism related to the many urgent issues today?

The global capitalist system continues to be relentlessly tossed by severe crisis, while all the main contradictions of the world are intensifying. So many urgent issues are today interlinked with fascism in various ways, and with the underlying imperialist system as well.

Economic, financial, environmental, and social crises. The 2008 financial meltdown produced a Great Recession, which further worsened into a global depression comparable to the 1930s depression. In the most recent shockwave, the Covid pandemic triggered massive and recurrent lockdowns affecting nearly half of the world, in terms of deeper levels of poverty, unemployment, business closures, and indebtedness. These crises exacerbate so many social inequalities, where only a small elite of financial oligarchies squeeze the labors and livelihoods of the rest of the world (the 99%), plunder its remaining resources, and destroy the planetary environment.

Mass unrest and mass movements for systemic change are spreading in countries rocked by the global and domestic crises. Increasingly, the imperialist states, their financial oligarchies, and their client states can no longer rule in the old way using liberal-bourgeois processes. Their ruling classes are splintering into quarrelsome factions, with some of them pushing more aggressively for fascist and dictatorial solutions.

In many countries, state measures restricting or surveilling people’s movements imposed during the Covid lockdowns—such as bans on mass protests and other public gatherings, mandates for multi-function ID cards, and media censorship—have not been lifted or even expanded. These, in turn, are being met with mass protests and “freedom convoys” that raise legitimate demands in defense of the constitutional bill of rights.

The Covid-related crises of these past two years have opened up vastly new opportunities for the biggest monopoly-capitalist giants (particularly in Big Tech and Big Biotech/Pharma, backed by the financial elites) to expand their global operations and supply chains, squeeze more superprofits, and tighten their hold within imperialist states and international governance bodies.

The deep fascist links and interlocking ties among such shadowy groups of the financial oligarchy which zoomed skyhigh in recent years, such as Blackrock, Vanguard, State Street, Morgan Chase, the Rothschilds, the Gates Foundation and the World Economic Forum, have caused alarm not just among progressive and libertarian movements but also among smaller business groups and governments.

Imperialism as today’s main source of fascism. All imperialist powers continue to pursue state terrorism and wars of aggression against the world’s peoples, on top of worsening inter-imperialist rivalries. The imperialist homelands are wracked by internal crises and class struggles, which gradually erode liberal-democratic formalities and sharpen the political in-fighting among elitist factions. All these trends encourage the growth of militarism, absolutist tendencies, and other elements of fascism.

After the US got mired in its “endless wars on terror” from 2001 onward, new inter-imperialist rivalries emerged and escalated. The rivalry between the traditional imperialist powers (US, Europe, Japan etc.) and the two rising imperialist powers (Russia and China) is becoming especially fierce. All these powers are feverishly engaged in arms buildup, including the capacity for cyberwar, space-based and undersea warfare, and covert operations involving remote-operated drones, mercenaries, and false-flag forces composed of jihadist groups or fascist militia. The case of the US supporting ISIS-linked groups in Syria and Libya, and neo-Nazi militia such as the Azov regiment in Ukraine, clearly proves the tangled links between imperialist meddling and fascist armed groups.

The multipolar character of today’s geopolitics provides even more flashpoints of inter-imperialist rivalries, proxy wars, wars of aggression, escalation of the arms race, and growth of fascism. The standoff between Russia and US-led NATO over Ukraine is just the latest in a series of military muscle-flexing and saber-rattling among the imperialist powers. Apart from Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia—which have hugged the headlines in recent years—other flashpoints bear close watching in East and Southeast Asia, South Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

The evolving imperialist narratives to justify fascism. Throughout the Cold War decades (1950s-1980s), the US-led imperialist camp harped on “anti-communism” to justify its militarist and fascistic methods. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the US proceeded to use NATO to tighten the noose around Russia and to fill the power vacuum in the surrounding regions of the Middle East, the Balkans and Central Asia.

The US-led camp paraded its next lineup of global villains (“rogue states” or “Axis of Evil”), targeting mainly North Korea, Iran, and Iraq for “regime change”, and at certain times including Nicaragua, Cuba, Libya, and Yugoslavia or Serbia. It presented itself as the world’s champion of “human freedoms” while the villains were “inhumane tyrants.” Up to now, it continues to use similar tags of “totalitarianism”, combined with “the threat of nuclear rogues”, to demonize and strangle small states with anti-imperialist policies and socialist aspirations such as North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela.

But right after the dust settled on the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the US-led coalition launched a new global crusade against the supposed threat of “terrorism” by Islamic jihadists. The US had in fact created and used these jijadist groups earlier in the 1980s-90s to do its bidding in Afghanistan and other parts of Asia and the Middle East, only to later set them up as villains. The US then turned them into a convenient excuse for its expanded wars of aggression abroad, and for renewed fascist repression at home under the signboard of “homeland security”. The other powers (including Russia and China) and their allies followed suit, bloating up similar “terrorist threats” to justify their own fascist campaigns against revolutionary and resistance movements within their respective spheres of control and influence.

US imperialism has continued to pursue its neo-conservative policy of expanding its sphere of influence and dominating all continents through “endless wars” as described in the Bush-era “Project for the New American Century,” which extended to the Obama era and early Trump years. Now there are proposals to revive Eisenhower’s Cold-War era strategy of confronting if not strangling Russia and China.

At the same time, the US has learned to combine its aggressive wars with non-military modes, such as “color revolutions,” economic sanctions and sabotage, and use of border disputes, to soften target governments or demonize them before they are taken down in a “soft coup” shielded by mass protests. This flanking approach, which the US used repeatedly in post-Soviet Georgia and Ukraine, Brazil, Venezuela (unsuccessful thus far), and China (also unsuccessful thus far), is yet another reminder that imperialists are clever enough to set up their enemies as “brutal fascist regimes” and dress up their overthrow as “popular uprisings” and “revolutions”.

The role of high-tech in the growth of militarism and fascism. High-tech plays a role secondary to the economic, political, military, and other social factors for the growth of imperialist militarism and fascism. Nevertheless, this role is rapidly expanding and its impacts becoming more felt in specific areas of concern.

Nuclear arms, which has pushed the imperialist capacity for war way beyond ultimate human scales, is a huge challenge for world’s peoples and anti-imperialist and antiwar movements to also raise the capacity oppose them from the 1950s onwards. In the past few decades, the imperialist capacity to wage war, subjugate peoples, and suppress mass resistance is again multiplied many-fold by huge digital-electronic, biotech, nanotech, and megatech (space and geo-engineering) advances.

Their applications are now seen in a wide range of fields such as new remotely-operated precision weaponry; synthetic biowarfare and biomedical control; cyber-warfare (including online systems for financial and economic control or sabotage); full-spectrum surveillance of entire populations such as those exposed by Edward Snowden; 24/7 propaganda war at global and national scales using online platforms; and tighter control of mass media and calibrated levels of censorship. In recent years, various propaganda wars have been raging even on just the veracity of content and the reliability of sources of information. Both the barrage of fake news and its supposed nemesis, “fact-checking” mechanisms, are being weaponized in the service of tighter fascist control.

All these offer a veritable expanded arsenal for militarist-fascist states, for use not just against their imperialist rivals and other states, but also against their own peoples and resistance movements. These must thus be urgently confronted by the world’s anti-imperialist and democratic forces.

Caveat for anti-imperialist and democratic activists. We have elaborated in this primer the main features of fascism as a tool of imperialism and as a major threat to the people’s democratic rights and struggles. As activists, nevertheless, we must apply the principles of class analysis and social investigation of concrete conditions, in order to better understand the political positions and behaviors of particular organizations, groups, and individuals around the issue of fascism. This requires serious study, which in turn should guide the strategy and tactics of the anti-imperialist and democratic movements in our respective countries as they unfold.

While fascist groups and movements have very distinctive features, we must remind ourselves that they are able to influence, recruit and deceive middle and backward sections of the democratic classes—sometimes in big numbers—because of their ability to mimic (in distorted form) some features of the truly progressive and democratic movements. In many countries, mass media and schools have become so infused with ultra-reactionary and anti-communist thinking, that wherever progressive and democratic forces are weak, spontaneous sections of the masses become easy prey to fascist propaganda and recruitment.

We have already mentioned about the imperialist state’s tactic of posing as “anti-fascist” (or even Left) to hide its real fascism and inherent Rightist positions. In doing so, it can justify its attacks against its enemies who are tagged as “fascist,” “terrorist” or “Rightist”—even when these are real Leftists, democrats or antifascists, or in some cases, other imperialists and reactionaries who are on the opposite side of the fence.

6. How should the world’s peoples defend their rights against fascism and imperialism?

History teaches us that the world’s peoples must consistently resist fascism, and fight imperialism as its main source. We must be vigilant and prepared to defend all our civil liberties and democratic rights, including our collective rights as peoples, against any escalation of fascist attacks and restrictions, especially in the framework of worsening imperialist oppression, plunder, and wars of aggression.

Every country and global region, every social class or group, and every mass movement and organization, will certainly have to confront their specific conditions and urgent issues, particularly those that affect the broad toiling masses of proletarians, peasants and other semiproletarians, indigenous peoples, women and youth. These issues and demands of the masses, the ongoing political and economic struggles around them, and the various groups that engage them, must be closely documented and studied as they unfold, and projected to gather the widest possible sympathy and solidarity by the rest of the world’s peoples. So many international channels and platforms for coordination are available for these.

The rich experiences of the global people’s struggles in the 20th century also teach us that proletarian-led armed revolutions for national liberation, democracy and socialism are the most powerful bulwarks against the monstrous and relentless armed attacks of imperialism and its fascist forces. We must study and learn lessons from shining examples of the Soviet Union and China in World War II and the many national liberation movements thereafter. Each country, political force or party, and mass organization will have to make the necessary preparations and decisions based on their concrete conditions.

At the same time, a broad anti-imperialist and democratic front can arouse, organize and mobilize the people in their tens or hundreds of millions nationwide, to fight imperialism and fascism by all means possible. In the final analysis, only the unity and heroic struggle of all toiling masses, all peoples, and all countries oppressed by imperialism can finally defeat it and eradicate this monstrosity of fascism. [Back to Part 2]

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