What is the Far Right? Reform vs. Revolution on the Right. What is the relation of Trump to the Far Right? How can it be stopped?
Insurgent Supremacists, The U.S. Far Right’s Challenge to State and Empire, Matthew Lyons.Kersplebededeb Publishing and Distribution 2018
This is a fascinating book and seems up to date even though it is a couple years old. His analysis follows the Three Way Fight . This position is that the fight is not just between the Left and the Right or the Left and the fuling Class. It is a 3-way fight. We have to defeat the Right and the ruling class. The Right, using populism tries to steal the thunder of the Left.
There has been continual debate on the Left over what is and isn’t Fascism. Though he has his own definition at the end. I don’t fully agree with it :
“ Fascism is a revolutionary form of right-wing populism inspired by a totalitarian vision of collective rebirth, that challenges capitalist political , and cultural power while promoting economic and social hierarchy” * (253)
It leaves out that the essence of Fascism is the smashing of the organizations of the working class and indeed other groups in society — -institution of totalitarianism. It alludes to this by calling it revolutionary and having a totalitarian vision. Related to this is the question of street fighters. The author emphasizes ideology at the expense of seeing street fighters as key to Fascism, This extends to him downplaying this aspect for the Far Right as well.
He takes this up more at the end analyzing different approaches to Fascism including its relations to capitalists — -Is it a creature of the ruling class or independent?, what are the limits of its divergence from capitalists interests once in power? Must it rely on racism?
He comes down on the side of seeing Fascism as an independent movement which can conflict with the interests of sections of the ruling class or even the whole ruling class. In this , I think he is correct. The view that Fascism is a form of Bonapartism is also true. It rules ultimately in the interest of capitalism even though it politically expropriates the bourgeoisie. The Nazis for example killed off skilled Jewish workers who could have been useful to the war effort, which is something rational capitalists would have opposed and many probably did. As other commentators have said. “ The capitalists did not need to exterminate the Jews, but the Nazis needed to exterminate the Jews and the capitalists needed the Nazis”.
Though the discussion of different attitudes to Fascism are interesting , the more interesting aspects of the book, which make up the vast majority of it are about the US right wing today. Here he makes a crucial distinction: The Far Right which includes Fascist groups but is not limited to them, is revolutionary. This wing wants to overthrow the current political structure of the U.S. Some of it wants to break up the U.S. into ethnic enclaves ( White Nationalists). Others want a theocracy generally imposed from below by the church and family. Others want to completely decentralize the state.
He contrasts this with the non-revolutionary conservatives who want similar policies but enacted through the current constitutional order.
In place of our concern with what is Fascist and what is not , we should be most concerned with what is Far Right and what is not. Obviously we have to oppose all Rightist ideology and indeed corporate liberalism/neoliberalism. However the Far Right, the revolutionaries, are the most immediate
danger on the streets etc. These are the immediately dangerous groups that will attack BIPOC people , Muslims, Jews , Leftists etc. physically. This is a danger even if they will never be able to or maybe are even aimed at complete Fascism.
Much of the book outlines different wings of the Far Right and their differing attitudes to Feminism ( Biblical Patriarchy, man as lord vs. allowing women to be assertive for the cause) Homosexuality ( Male bonding taken to an extreme vs. especially but not only Christian groups that see it as sin) , Explicitly Racist groups such as the Klan and Nazis vs. formally non-racists such as Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Christian Dominators etc.), Imperialism ( Paleoconservative/America First vs . those who want a strong Imperial U.S.) On the latter point, most if not all of the Far Right is formally anti-imperialist. They strongly opposed the current U.S. state so oppose its domination of the world. They even sometimes line up with resistance to the U.S. Related to Feminism is whether race or gender are primary divisions — -with the manosphere and Christians focusing more on gender.
The attitude to imperialism is especially troubling for the Left. If not careful , we can be sucked into alliances with the Right on the basis of formally similar positions ( US Out of …). Generally the Far Right does not oppose imperialism out of solidarity with non-Western people but out of preserving the U.S. or whatever new formation they propose — -though superficial solidarity is sometimes expressed. Especially White Nationalists want to allow homelands for everyone, they say. This danger has already manifested in the various Red-Brown alliances based on superficial agreement and expediency.
Too often leftists fail to understand that the Far Right and Right in general has a set of politics based on a different and opposing class , the petit bourgeoisie. The fact that the Far Right is revolutionary does not make them allies of socialist revolutionaries. The Far Right revolution opposes the bourgeois state, but it also is for smashing workers to bolster the needs of the petit bourgeoisie. The Left needs a deeper understanding of the class base of the politics of the Far Right.
Finally, on the issue of imperialism, there is a fundamental conflict between the Far Right and the bourgeoisie and its state. Trump’s America First is influenced by Paleoconservatism. However , Paleoconservatism is itself a bourgeois strategy for the strengthening of the U.S. bourgeois state. Many on the Right made an alliance of convenience with Trump’s America First policy. They too wanted US withdrawal and more isolationism. However, the fundamental drives of the Far Right oppose the American Empire as currently constituted. There is a giant gap between Trumpian policy and the goals of the Far Right. Some on the Far Right explicitly recognized this.
In general, the fact that the Far Right are at least political revolutionaries allows them to take some support that should go to the Left. They are political revolutionaries though it is debatable whether they can accurately be called social revolutionaries. The claim for them as social revolutionaries comes from a class analysis of the Far Right. This is one aspect Lyons is weak on. The core of the Far Right, as was the core of Fascism, is the desire by the Petit Bourgeoisie to displace the Bourgeoisie from political power and create an order more amenable to their economic interests. As with Fascism, the Far Right is caught between the demands of Labor and Capital.
Not every demand they make can be traced directly to the petit bourgeois class position but most are at least contingently related. The Wise Use and other environmental aspects of the Far Right want to remove regulations. They want untrammeled use of small private property. The Far Right generally hates globalism, the domination of large multi-national corporations. It wants to go back to a mythical era of small property ownership. This was a period of more complete white supremacy and women strictly in the home. As with the Fascists, the Far Right opposes the concessions that have been made under pressure to workers and BIPOC people. They see these concessions as proof of an alliance between “Jewish bankers” etc. and the Far Left. Assertion of property rights are central — — the right to pollute, the right to build wherever they want, the right to hire and fire who they please , the right to exclude the “wrong” kind of people from employment or patronage etc.
A key contribution the author makes is that these forces see the need for an actual revolution to bring about the changes they want. They do not trust the “ deep state” etc. They don’t see it as their state. Whether expressed this way or not, the petit bourgeoisie does not trust the bourgeoisie to run the country and wants to take power from them.
Whether this would be possible even if they took power is another question. Modern societies over time must be run in the interest of capital or labor. In spite of policy differences the Nazis upheld the profit needs of big capital , crushed labor and even crushed their own left wing. This is the likely result of a successful petit bourgeois revolution. However the Far Right is at least aiming for a social revolution.
Of course the author’s explanation of the rift between the Right in general and the Far Right in particular is important but schematic. Just as on the Left, there are groups that shift between a reformist ( accepting the current political structure) and a revolutionary posture. Though the author doesn’t spell this out, Trump had a reformist impact on the Far Right which few were able to fully resist. This was parallel to Bernie’s impact on the Left. As the author rightly points out, even with this slippage, the distinction is important. As he puts it, the fact that there is twilight does not negate the fact that full night and day really do exist. After the defeat of Trump the Far Right will likely grow within the Right since there is less of a plausible reformist scenario.
Finally, the division between the Far Right and rightist conservatives explains a division that Dave Renton has pointed out. As bourgeois politics has moved rightward, there is less of a distinction between Conservatives and the Right. Conservatives have moved into the territory previously occupied by the Right. However , Lyons’ distinction between reformist and revolutionary rightists is still important. The division is really between the Right and the Far Right, not conservatives and the Right generally. Conservatives and the Right accept the limits of bourgeois democracy , even while they may flirt with the Far Right to move politics more in their direction
One other issue the author raises that is VERY important is the effect of neo-liberalism on the Far Right. In the 30s autarky was already the rule of the day. The drive toward war was inherent in the depression. In that context, the Far Right drive toward state centralization made sense. Totalitarianism would most likely come in through a strong central state.
The context today is different. Neo-liberalism pushes globalization but also internal differentiation. Nationalist and regionalist movements such as Catalonia are on the rise. The switch from White Supremacy to White Nationalism is not just rhetorical. It is also a reflection of the growing trend toward decentralization on the Right and generally. Totalitarianism would be more likely exercised in smaller states if the bourgeois state was overthrown. The goal of Fascism was to take over and purge the bourgeois state in the interests of the petit bourgeoisie. The goal of the current Far Right will more likely be decentralized totalitarianism.
This of course begs the question of whether this would be possible even if a successful petit bourgeois revolution were possible. Would the dominant nation state structures prevail anyway? Would the Far Right after success move more in the Fascist direction towards a centralized totalitarian state? Does the decentralized nature of the Far Right mean that the bourgeoisie would be less likely to turn to the Far Right in a crisis since they would be unsure if they could lead the centralized state the bourgeoisie needs?
The book in general rightly shifts our attention away from the debate over the precise definition of Fascism. At this point few if any of the contenders on the Far Right are explicitly Fascist in the Hitler/Mussolini sense. Even the Nazis and the KKK which the author notes has been pulled in a Nazi direction may no longer have the goal of a centralized state.
How they stack up in relation to formal Fascism is irrelevant. All these revolutionary Right forces, who the author calls the Far Right are aimed at a revolution against bourgeois democracy and the rights that go with it that have been fought for over generations. They would crush labor. They would ratchet up the oppression of women, LGBTQ people, Immigrants, Natives and BIPOC people generally. This is the case even for those who are formally color blind. They would at the very least reinforce the current racial oppression and with the crushing of labor, their position also would recede. They would exalt property rights over human needs. They would institute totalitarianism either centrally or decentrally.
The Far Right is a direct and immediate danger to the Left and workers now. We cannot predict if the capitalists would grant them power In a crisis, but there is no need to wait to find out. We should draw no distinction between formal Fascists and the Far Right generally. They are a prime enemy and must be openly opposed. Revolutionary Marxists need to offer progressive revolutionary socialist politics to counter those currently looking for some kind of revolution. Otherwise , would be revolutionaries can be drawn to the reactionary petit bourgeois revolution.
Finally, the author discussed the relationship between the repressive state apparatus and the Far Right. He rightly points out that there is a conflicting but changing relation between the two. The state often is willing to use the Far Right against the Left but also represses it when it becomes threatening to the power of the bourgeois state.
Excellent , thought provoking book !!