Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Fascism Today

It is conventional to think that fascism got its comeuppance as a result of being on the losing side in WWII. Yes, some regimes did survive beyond that time as a result of staying neutral. Spain and Portugal are examples. But eventually they all succumbed to the winds of democratic change. A key driver of C20th fascism was the charismatic leader who restores national greatness. Once he is gone, things tend to calm down. Thus, while dictatorships live on, truly fascist ones don't. The leadership of modern dictatorships can change, say as in the example of China, but they have other ideologies.

But do they? A defining feature of both modern Russia and China is their sense of thwarted national importance. In Russia at this moment this is manifested in the Duma's campaign to purge Russian life of foreign influences. Putin's recent banning of American adoption of Russian orphans is just the best known of a series of mooted or in-the-works measures to roll back the internationalization of the Russian people that has proceeded apace since the end of the Soviet empire. Some of the more sinister suggestions being considered are strictly curtailing marriage between Russian officials and foreigners from outside the former Soviet Union, categorizing foreign ties such as owning property or having a child abroad as a threat to the state, and amending their constitution to include a national ideology.

In China historical grievance combined with a strong sense of cultural superiority is a powerful unifier among the dominant Han majority. Some ways in which this manifests are  sabre-rattling  about Japanese territory, and on-and-off bullying of minority territories or geographical neighbours once part of a former Chinese empire. This includes Taiwan, Vietnam and Tibet, where Tibetan identity is being marginalized by Han immigration and the gerrymandering of religious leadership selection. Not long ago I got into a ding-dong about Tibet with my Hong Kong-born respirologist, with him asserting that Tibet has always been Chinese and so China is being unfairly pilloried in foreign media!

The alarming build-up of PRC peacetime military strength and Russian racist posturing cannot help remind us of early Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Much of how Argentina behaves towards the Falklands again today as it did formerly under Leopoldo Galtieri and his Junta follows the same pattern of channelling popular anger into supporting aggressive behaviour. The strong ethno-cultural focus of these regimes' propaganda is a defining feature of fascism.

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