21 November 2003

On Post-Fascism

We are, then, faced with a new kind of extremism of the center. This new extremism, which I call post-fascism, does not threaten, unlike its predecessor, liberal and democratic rule within the core constituency of 'homogeneous society.' Within the community cut in two, freedom, security, prosperity are on the whole undisturbed, at least within the productive and procreative majority that in some rich countries encompasses nearly all white citizens. 'Heterogeneous,' usually racially alien, minorities are not persecuted, only neglected and marginalized, forced to live a life wholly foreign to the way of life of the majority (which, of course, can sometimes be qualitatively better than the flat workaholism, consumerism, and health obsessions of the majority). Drugs, once supposed to widen and raise consciousness, are now uneasily pacifying the enforced idleness of those society is unwilling to help and to recognize as fellow humans. The 'Dionysiac' subculture of the sub-proletariat further exaggerates the bifurcation of society. Political participation of the have-nots is out of the question, without any need for the restriction of franchise. Apart from the incipient and feeble ('new new') left-wing radicalism, as isolated as anarcho-syndicalism was in the second half of the nineteenth century, nobody seeks to represent them. The conceptual tools once offered by democratic and libertarian socialism are missing; and libertarians are nowadays militant bourgeois extremists of the center, ultra-capitalist cyberpunks hostile to any idea of solidarity beyond the fluxus of the global marketplace.

Post-fascism does not need stormtroopers and dictators. It is perfectly compatible with an anti-Enlightenment liberal democracy that rehabilitates citizenship as a grant from the sovereign instead of a universal human right. I confess I am giving it a rude name here to attract attention to its glaring injustice. Post-fascism is historically continuous with its horrific predecessor only in patches. Certainly, Central and East European anti-Semitism has not changed much, but it is hardly central. Since post-fascism is only rarely a movement, rather simply a state of affairs, managed as often as not by so-called center-left governments, it is hard to identify intuitively. Post-fascists do not speak usually of total obedience and racial purity, but of the information superhighway.

The Web is a wonderful place. The trail to this article led from Oiling a tribal society, to googling for Karl Renner, to The Two Hundred Years War and on to this piece.

The worry, of course, is that this week the High Court is tying itself in knots over the ancient common law of alienage. One judge speculated that an alien can be held in detention for life without committing any crime, merely by virtue of being an alien. That is what the federal government is putting to the court, an argument identical with the government's position in the s 51(xxvi) cases where another group of heterogeneous Australians were treated to a different legal regime from the rest of us...

So even Howard's 'ordinary Australians' might perhaps worry that the joys of the normative state seem to be available only to citizens and residents while the rigours of the prerogative state apply to everyone else.

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