- Eleven Theses on Neo-Fascism and the Fight to Defeat It
“Something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?”1 Since the US election, daily surges of Trump-shock—awful disorienting blasts of outrageous and unaccountable communications and executive decisions—have regularly defied our standard ways of making sense of political life. Something is happening here, indeed. But, each unpredictable wave throws our paradigms into disarray. We are perpetually swept into the wake of communications and executive policies that scramble the measures that we desperately try to employ. Trusted weapons of analysis and resistance cannot find their aim fast enough to keep up with the whirlwind.
The new regime bears important similarities to classic fascism: Rapid, rabid intensifications of white nationalism, dismissals of reason, autocratic leadership, deepening entwinements of state and capital, disenfranchisement, attacks on liberal and representative democratic institutions, and increasingly open right-wing populist violence. However, today’s neo-fascism relies on distinctive, twenty-first century dynamics that are not only antithetical to the survival of democracy in the United States but also threaten planetary ecological collapse. These dynamics, slippery as they are, must be illuminated to move toward understanding—and ultimately transforming—our current condition. We also need new surges of radical creativity that can generate a complex ecology of democratic sensibilities, alternative solidarities, political modes, and relationships that move beyond the ruts of rote protest politics. Here, we offer eleven theses on emergent neo-fascism and a receptive, full-bodied politics that can vitalize a formidable demos to defeat the regime.
The New Fascism
1. Beyond the substantive elements of what is shocking about Trump himself, his regime is a hyper-intensification of shock politics as such
Neoliberal shock politics, as described by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine, has functioned for the past forty years as a set of governing strategies that capitalize on extant crises and intentionally create others that send shockwaves throughout the polity.2 Policy makers employ [End Page 100] these shocks to disorganize, dismantle and ultimately reorganize life-ways, institutions, and communities to the benefit of capital. Previous shocks have typically had at least the illusion of a substantive character as in the cases of financial meltdowns, fiscal crises, terrorist threats, natural disasters. Trump-shock, however, manifests more in the very character of shockingness as such. The disjointed, unpredictable tempos of Twitter-like communications and unvetted executive actions disorient all who are geared toward ordinary political reasoning and conduct. The chaos of Trump-shock distracts, disorients, and disorganizes the polity in ways that work to overload the circuits of critical response and create political whiplash. By incessantly provoking frenetic scrambles to interpret and react to each appalling new event, Trump-shock seeks to disable proactive movement and effective oppositional initiative. Many Trump-shocks spring from the inconsistencies and opacities internal to particular communiques and executive orders as well as from the dissonances among them. Meanwhile, capitalist white nationalist power consolidates and metastasizes.
2. Trumpian power draws on and transforms the neoliberal smart political energy grid that has been taking shape in recent decades
A smart energy grid is one that employs a variety of modes of (political) energy production, transmission, consumption, and blackout in highly flexible and responsive ways to maximize power. No longer relying on a few central nodes of power generation, they work with increasingly interactive forms of energy production to create even and usable flows of power across a wide area. Elemental to the neoliberal grid, operative since the 1970s, are mutually amplifying currents between overwhelming episodic energies of political economic shock, on the one hand, and myriad quotidian energies associated with radically inegalitarian institutions, practices and circulations of goods, finance, capital, labor, bodies, and media resonances.3 Each shock wave simultaneously summons new flows, resonances, and institutional reforms that maximize capitalist power and profit, energize vitriol, and enhance capacities for future shocks while shutting down impediments to capitalist metastasization. Particularly in the United States, this grid has been characterized by certain amplificatory resonances between capitalist intensities and affective currents of right-wing cultural forms, which William Connolly discusses as an evangelical-capitalist...