Understanding And Defeating Resurgent Fascism – OpEd


As fascism is being intruded more widely and deeply into key areas of world politics, it is important to identify this trend, to explain the psychology of fascism and to nominate key elements of any strategy to defeat it.

Fascism is best known for its rise in Italy under Benito Mussolini and its Nazi manifestation in Germany under Adolf Hitler. However, despite the enormous cost in human lives it took European and other peoples to defeat Nazism in World War II, fascism remains a prevalent, persistent and growing problem in world politics. In fact, while we like to think that modern leaders oppose fascism and the violent behavioral outcomes that arise from it, the reality is that many political and corporate leaders are fascists themselves and support other fascists when elite interests require it. They just don’t use the word ‘fascist’ to identify themselves and modern political analysts rarely use it either.

One manifestation of fascism is occurring in eastern Ukraine (and now Kiev) where the United States elite is sponsoring the ongoing genocide of Russian-speaking peoples in support of fascist groups that are directly descended from Nazi groups in World War II. For a taste of the extensive documentation of this point, see Robert Parry ‘Ukraine’s Neo-Nazis Demand Respect’, Michel Chossudovsky ‘America’s Neo-Nazi Government in Kiev. Towards a Scenario of Military Escalation’, Michel Chossudovsky ‘Ukraine and the “Politics of Anti-Semitism”: The West Upholds Neo-Nazi Repression of Ukraine’s Jewish Community’ as well as this video ‘Ukraine Crisis: What You’re Not Being Told’, this video ‘Neo-Nazis in Ukraine’ and this video compilation: ‘US support of violent neo-Nazis in Ukraine’. Moreover, in a recent video report which also referred to the earlier US-orchestrated genocides in Rwanda and Libya, it becomes clear that ‘Genocide is just another foreign policy tool for the US’ fascist elite. See ‘Genocide in Eastern Ukraine’.

Do you think that this description sounds too extreme? Here is the response of the eminent Norwegian peace research scholar Professor Johan Galtung: ‘US Fascism? Yes, indeed; if by fascism we mean use of massive violence for political goals. US fascism takes three forms: global with bombing, droning and sniping all over; domestic with military weapons used across race and class faultlines; and then NSA-National Security Agency spying on everybody.’ See ‘The Fall of the US Empire – And Then What?’

But the ongoing prevalence of fascism reaches well beyond the United States. The eminent Burmese scholar Dr Maung Zarni notes that fascism ‘is not encoded genetically or culturally in any people. The word “fascism” is not exclusive to historical discussion of the Germans, Italians, Japanese or for that matter any group with a brutally fascist past…. Just as there were the good Germans and the Nazi Germans, I would argue, there are “Nazi Jews”, based on the available evidence of popular and legalized racism in Israel towards ALL Arabs…. What else would we call the Jews of Israel who demand “death to Arabs”?’ See ‘Stop Playing the Anti-Semitism Card & Get Real about the Rise of Fascism in Israel’.

Moreover, as long-time Middle East analyst Dr Franklin Lamb notes, ‘many Jews feel that the world is against them, and view criticism of Zionist apartheid Israel as a mask for animosity towards Jews’ but, he argues, any ‘rejection’ is ‘not at all about Jews, but only about Zionism as a fascist, racist creed’. See ‘A Nail in Zionism’s Coffin?’

Elsewhere in the world, Dr Maung Zarni has warned about the rise of Buddhist fascism against the Muslim Rohingya in Burma. See ‘Myanmar’s new Nazis: Wirathu’s “Buddhist” Vision, 969 Islamophobia, strategies and 969 Rakhine-China-connections’ and ‘Burmese Neo-Nazi Movement Rising Against Muslims’. Other examples could be cited.

There have been many attempts to understand fascism, starting with the early work of Wilhelm Reich The Mass Psychology of Fascism. So what is fascism and what is the underlying psychology of individuals who are fascists?

Usually, fascism is described as a form of authoritarian nationalism in which a dictator has complete power and violently suppresses opposition and criticism while emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and racism. (If you want to read a 14 point characterization of fascism, see Professor Lawrence Britt’s ‘Fascism Anyone?’) More generally, however, the above definition of Galtung’s highlights its essence. But the psychology of fascists – those who believe in, and use, ‘massive violence for political goals’ – is complex and is a direct outcome of the nature of the extraordinary violence to which they were subjected as children.

Let me briefly identify the psychological profile of fascists and the specific violence that generates a person with this psychology. For a thorough explanation and elaboration of this point, see ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’.

First, fascists are terrified and they are particularly terrified of those individuals who perpetrated violence against them when they were a child although this terror remains unconscious to them. Second, this terror is so extreme that fascists are too terrified to consciously identify to themselves their own perpetrator (one or both parents and/or other significant adults who are supposed to love them) and to say that it is this individual or individuals who are violent and wrong.

Third, because they are terrified, they are unable to defend themselves against the original perpetrator(s) but also, as a result, they are unable to defend themselves against other perpetrators who attack them later in life. This lack of capacity to defend themselves leads to the fourth and fifth attributes – a deep sense of powerlessness and a deep sense of self-hatred. However, it is too terrifying and painful for the individual to be consciously aware of any of these feelings/attributes.

Sixth, because they are terrified of identifying that they are the victim of the violence of their own parents (and/or other significant adults from their childhood) and that this violence terrified them, fascists unconsciously delude themselves about the identity of their own perpetrator. They will unconsciously identify their ‘perpetrator’ as one or more individuals of whom they are not actually afraid from an existing ‘legitimised victim’ group, such as people from a different race, religion or class. This is also because their unconscious terror and self-hatred compels them to project onto something (that is, people and/or resources) that is ‘controllable’ (because their original perpetrators never were). For this reason, their victims are (unconsciously) carefully chosen and are always relatively powerless by comparison.

This is easy to do because, seventh, children who become fascists have been terrorised into accepting a very narrow-minded and dogmatic belief set that excludes consideration of those in other social (including racial, religious or class) groups. The idea that they might open-mindedly consider other beliefs, or the rights of those not in the ‘in-group’, is (unconsciously) terrifying to them. Moreover, because they have been terrorised into adopting their rigid belief set, fascists develop an intense fear of the truth; hence, fascists are both bigoted and self-righteous. In addition, the belief set of fascists includes a powerful and violently reinforced ‘lesson’: ‘good’ means obedient; it does not mean intrinsically good, loving and caring.

Eighth, and as a result of all of the above, fascists learn to unconsciously project their self-hatred, one outcome of their own victimhood, as hatred for those in the ‘out-groups’. This ‘justifies’ their (violent) behaviour and obscures their unconscious motivation: to remain unaware of their own suppressed terror and self-hatred.

Ninth, fascists have a compulsion to be violent; that is, they are addicted to it. Why? Because the act of violence allows them to explosively release the suppressed feelings (usually some combination of fear, terror, pain, anger and powerlessness) so that they experience a brief sensation of delusional ‘relief’. Because the ‘relief’ is both brief and delusional, they are condemned to repeat their violence endlessly.

But the compulsion to be violent is reinforced by another element in their belief set, the tenth characteristic: fascists have a delusional belief in the effectiveness and morality of violence; they have no capacity to perceive its dysfunctionality and immorality.

And eleventh, the extreme social terrorisation experience to which fascists have been subjected means that the feelings of love, compassion, empathy and sympathy, as well as the mental function of conscience, are prevented from developing. Devoid of conscience and these feelings, fascists can inflict violence on others without experiencing the feedback that conscience and these feelings would provide.

In theory, of course, fascists can heal from the terror and self-hatred that underpins their psychology. Unfortunately, they are unlikely to have the courage to seek the appropriate emotional support to do so. In the meantime, those of us so inclined must resist their violence and this can be done strategically. See The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense: A Gandhian Approach.

If you wish to join the worldwide movement to end all violence, fascist or otherwise, then you are welcome to sign online ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.

In summary: Fascists are terrified and self-hating. But, rather than feel their own cowardice and self-hatred, they unconsciously project this as fear of, and hatred for, the people in one or more ‘legitimised victim’ groups.

Robert J. Burrowes

Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?‘ . His email address is [email protected] and his website is at http://robertjburrowes.wordpress.com

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