A selection from the book by Rastko Močnik
I. Introduction: Anti-fascism ’95
In issue no. 15. of the periodical IZI [Izbjeglice za izbjeglice – Refugees for Refugees], published in Ljubljana in June 1995, a reporter working for the Ljubljana daily Delo contributed an article the main point of which can be summarised by the following quote: “All European states, with the exception of Great Britain, succumbed to the German onslaught without much visible resistance, capitulated and soon enough established collaborationist regimes… All these states that are members of the European Union today, with the exception of Churchill’s England, and all their neighbouring states were fascist states in the 1940’s… Europe was liberated from these fascist regimes by the English and the Americans… That is why the only thing Europeans can celebrate on May 9th can be liberation from fascism, but not victory over it.”
As far as states are concerned, one can perhaps really say something like that. But one cannot say anything of the kind concerning Europeans. When the Second World War began, the anti-fascist Europe and the international anti-fascist movement had already been defeated in their struggle against fascism – I am referring to their defeat in the Spanish Civil War. Long before European governments capitulated, prisons in Italy and concentration camps in Germany had already been populated with opponents of fascism, those who would not accept it, those who thought with their own minds and those who were pronounced different. It would be difficult to find an area in Europe where there was no resistance to fascism: be it armed or unarmed resistance, on home ground or abroad, in exile, on battlefields in Europe and outside Europe. In the year 1939, Europeans had been fighting fascism for two decades already, and would go on doing so for the next six years.
When European states capitulated before fascism, people of Slovenia established Osvobodilna fronta [the Liberation Front] less than two weeks after the capitulation of “their own” state. The capitulating attitude of European states and the collaboration of parts of their ruling classes were among the reasons why the peoples living in the area of the former Yugoslavia fought not only against fascism but also for a different kind of state, which is why they managed to pull off a revolution.
At the time, the peoples of Yugoslavia had already had a long experience with fascism, with a state that collaborated with fascism and with a fascist state. They already had a tradition of fighting against fascism – Italian fascism, European fascism in Spain, and fascism at home. They were among the first victims: while fascist squadras went wild in Italy, they set the Slovenian cultural centre in Trieste on fire even before they came to power. But they were also among the first ones to organise resistance: between 1927 and 1929, TIGR enabled Slovenian and Croatian patriots to join forces and establish what was probably the first international organisation formed for the purpose of fighting fascism.
The above-mentioned issue of the IZI periodical provides data on how many refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina there were in various states; at the moment, there are 22,667 refugees in Slovenia. Three years before there had been approximately 75,000. It is worth remembering how the Slovenian state said at the time that there were one hundred and twenty thousand refugees, and we shall never forget the statements given by its officials or the media harangue before, in August 1993, the state decided to close its borders for those exiled from Bosnia and Herzegovina. In a poll conducted after the closing of the borders, more than half of the respondents spoke in favour of admitting the exiles. Then, too, the people spoke differently from the state; then, too, the people fought fascism.
The conduct of states when faced with fascism is worth pondering, and the decisions made by the people are worth remembering. It is on account of those decisions, the battles fought and the sacrifices made by ordinary individuals that today we may say, in 1945, the people of Europe defeated fascism. Will they defeat it in 1995?
There is a definite connection between oblivion and the powerlessness of today. States organise oblivion, conclude pacts with fascism, may fall prey. People remember, resist and persist. Today, there is no anti-fascist front, there are individuals who refuse to resign to the existence of fascism, who know that there may be more to life than hatred, anxiety and war, and who have the strength to demand from the state to behave differently from the way states and powers-that-be behaved half a century ago. I have written these analyses in order to make those demands successful, so that people should know how to formulate them and so be able to bring the nightmare of this century to a close.
And I have also done this so that the world we shall leave behind should not be worse than the one we were born in.
II. Utopia and self-deception of the spirit
Today, every utopia is discredited. At the very mention of this word, a disciplined user of the dominant ideology must think of the guillotine or of Gulag. On the other hand, the rare statements in favour of reviving utopianism, which one could still come across in the 1980’s, today sound utopian themselves.
Still, it makes one suspicious to see how voraciously political classes have taken over the more popular variants of the former philosophical fanfares about “the end of the utopian thought.” It is truly irritating when vulgarised dregs of the intellectual doxa of our youth become the agitprop slogans of the ideological avant-garde of the new ruling class. History warns us all of intellectual responsibility only too gladly by bashing us on the head; we have made mistakes, but only get to perceive them as such afterwards. Notwithstanding the sirens beckoning into darkness, we are obviously still not committed enough to enlightenment; we do not sufficiently deal with prejudices. And when these prejudices gain material existence in the apparatuses of oppression and exploitation, then what would once have amounted merely to cleaning the edges of the sphere of theory assumes the false value of analysis.
Today, intellectual engagement spins in a vicious circle within which it always misses theory. It is either dedicated to shedding light on the given topic, meaning dealing with the ideological effects on the edges of the problem areas, thus losing time and power by opening fields that it never manages to process. Or, it neglects these marginal activities, as a result of which intellectual weed grows and gains momentum, gaining “material existence” in ideological and who knows what other apparatuses, grabbing thought by the scruff of its neck and forcing it into self-defence. Amidst cleaning and fire-fighting duties, there is no time or strength for authentic theoretical production.
Anyhow, it is worth pointing out that this is a new situation. It may be connected with the ebbing of the utopian impulse. If this is not enough of a consolation, we could perhaps draw some much needed confidence from a conclusion that, if the truth must be told, it is the bleakest one yet. The detritus from which they put together new cages for us and make new blindfolds for our eyes once constituted elements of legitimate constructions of theoretical production.
1. The end of grand narratives?
If we ponder the phrase, “the end of grand narratives has arrived”, we will see that a certain strategy is of decisive influence here. First of all, this “end” applies only to possible alternative narratives. The dominant ones need not even be narrated, the established structure squeezes them out of its own accord. If we renounce all other significance, what remains is only that which lasts of its own accord, what has been institutionalised, established within the system, certified by the automatisms of behaviour, the constraints of the economy, what has been imprinted into everyday routines, protected by fear and feelings of being threatened, and on top of everything else, by the police and the army. As a corollary, banning grand narratives is suspiciously close to banning thought itself. Soon enough, the moment it ventures beyond the beaten track of ossified everyday routine – which it is only too glad to do! – thought gets deservedly accused of “greatness”; as soon as it gets articulated – which is also something that thought cannot do without! – it gets placed in the dock of the tribunal of public opinion, where “grand narratives” belong. The dwarfishness of the established system is dangerous! What remains is only that which dependably exerts its influence on the big and the small, the narrow-minded and the obese – what remains is the eternal selfishness of the solipsistic individual of bourgeois society. And much to our surprise, through this sloppiness, dwarfishness, and lack of anything in the way any perspective, there unfolds the greatest epic in the history of mankind – the march of global capitalism!
The degree of magnitude is, of course, a relative quantity: in view of the fact that it is not possible to think, even “on a small scale,” without a broader framework, and that local thought requires global consciousness all the more, the rejection of grand narratives is suspiciously close to rejecting thought as such. The ban also pertains to alternative narratives and actually prohibits thought itself; it is not just that it is forbidden to think in the long term, in great strokes, possibly peeking through the nearby fence. What it is all about is that the absence of the “grand” scale releases the small-scale illusions of all kinds of surveillance, criticism and denial, illusions that the greatest existing system feeds on.
2. Recuperation by means of inversion
The critique of “grand narratives” has a pedigree worthy of respect. The “narrative” was once attacked on account of the fact that narration produces totalisation. The narrative selects “events,” links them into a “whole,” the whole having a “point” – and all of the above, functioning as an ideological mechanism, it regulates the self-understanding of its victims, establishes the image of the world for them, interprets the present and the past, determines the promises of the future, imposes beliefs and provides reasons. The “grand narratives” criticised by this theory are the big ideologies of Western imperialism – from the time when it still worked on establishing the preconditions for its system, from the time when it still did not function as a “natural” product. The “initial establishment of preconditions,” of course, could not unfold without wars and conquests, was not possible without administration and oppression – nor was it possible without ideological foundations. The grand narratives of ideological foundations did not only hold together the army of conquistadors, clerks, gatherers, engineers and builders – they especially programmed the spirits and the bodies of those whose intended role was to be coolies and labourers, porters and policemen, lower-ranking officers and local intelligentsia, the administrators and executors of their new slavery.
Now, however, when the system has been established, when it functions of its own accord, unless something interferes with its functioning, it if is not opposed too much, the new narrative about the end of “grand narratives” is the new opium for the colonised peoples of Eastern Europe. Just as the misery of the proletariat is a precondition for the establishment of capitalism and its most dependable staple product, even though this no longer refers to the proletariat from the era of industrial revolution and Marxist utopian constructions, but to the new global proletariat on the margins and in the white spots of the system; so intellectual misery is a precondition for conquering new colonies from the Adriatic to Siberia, almost a prerequisite for the “proletarisation” of new recruits to the world system. And, of course, a prelude to establishing new local class rules – which tell us the fairy tale about “the end of grand narratives.”
It would appear that the ideology of world governance uses one of the mechanisms of mythological thought. From the same elements, from the same matrix, it derives the opposite point by means of some kind of inversion. In keeping with the general paucity of “white mythology,” this inversion is mechanical in character; it consists in returning the same piece of information to the sender, but in such a manner as to direct him/her to the assumptions that the statement itself rests upon. The information about “grand narratives,” their repressive character and their “end,” directed against “the system,” as a promise of its defeat, only brings the system back -“de te fabula narratur” – by merely turning that same statement (“the end of grand narratives,” etc.) against the assumptions of the critique, pointing it in the direction of its declarative situation. Did not the critique of world imperialism assume the anticolonial revolution, the struggle of the oppressed and the downtrodden for liberty, for independence, to be its tacit but explicit basis, a point of reference and orientation, the possibility of its declaration? Did it not flirt with the ideology of the Third World, of the damned of this world, of those bewitched by slavery, did it not flirt with their rebellion, with their grand narrative?
Serves you right – says the story about the end of grand narratives now – for not having listened to Che and produced “two or three Vietnams,” for opting to warm your bottoms sitting in the debate salons of the academia! It is too late now, the grand narratives have come to an end. The system has appropriated the subversive ideology, what has occurred, as we used to say in the 1960’s, is recuperation. Recuperation could work because the declarative position of academic critique was “false” right from the start, for it was always already a part of the system itself.
But still, this propaganda reaches further than its salon-type critics. In the meantime, while they sat in academic salons toying with their postmodernisms and deconstructions, a revolution did occur. Instead of “two or three Vietnams” in the American sphere, Afghanistan happened – and it was in the entire sphere of the Soviet whip. As for us here, we did our bit – and since old Europe neither jumped nor danced, the “Hic Rhodus, hic salta” moment passed, and the only thing left after the failed reconciliation were the thorns of the present.
3. The ideology of “the end of narratives” and the institutionalisation of national masquerade
And how does that ideological make-up compare with the other side of contemporaneity – that contemporaneity which got so overzealously, so recklessly, rigidly, barbarously, wildly engaged when it came to the institutionalisation of the ur-model of all “grand narratives,” that is to say, the institutionalisation of the national epic? We probably have to rely on a distinction that imposed itself upon us in the course of our former analyses of the one-party rule. The ideology of the rulers should be distinguished from the ruling ideology. The ruling ideology is the one that exists, in material terms, within the institutional network, and the current glue of the institutional network is the ethnic state. On the other hand, the ideology of the rulers, the ether of self-understanding of the ruling class, or at least the greater part of its factions, is the ideology of pacts concluded between the political class and other power groups (in the economy, administration, the machinery for producing public opinion, and only partially in “culture”). It is also, which is of particular importance – a tool for establishing short-term “civic” consensuses on the horizon of the nationalist “grand narrative.”
This structural opposition was established in the course of the diachronic development of “post-communist” societies. First, a bunch of lunatics dressed in national costumes burst onto the scene, introducing, through a repressive organisation of political public opinion, the revolutionary act of institutionalisation into the masquerade of “primary-school nationalism.” When the pathos of the initial ideological accumulation was spent in the course of establishing the state-legal framework of the ethnic state, the command positions were taken over by sober pragmatists, who initiated the procedure of normalisation into the prose of everyday capitalism. They announced the end of “grand narratives” only when the vampire national epic was securely established and a “narrative” of any kind could only come from the other side of the barricade.
Anti-utopianism is thus simultaneously the structure of the ideology of the rulers and the ideological formulation of its attitude towards the ruling ideology. As the ideology of the ruling elite, anti-utopianism is everyday wisdom, a specific phronesis that enables the new political classes to manoeuvre among the “indigenous” trends of capitalist economy. These trends are inaccessible to the political classes in nation states anyway, for they unfold on an essentially higher level. And that ideology reformulates that which is structurally given into that which is politically desirable. By “protecting,” on the level of statement, the self-realising effects of the capitalist system, and by protecting, on the level of making a statement, that is, in reality itself against those very effects, it maintains its ruling position despite the changes occurring in capitalist trends. The anti-utopian “pragmatism” is merely an admission of eternal defeat made in advance, a perpetual alibi for accommodating to situations that the subscribers to this ideology cannot keep under control. And admitting defeat in the world system is a guarantee of “victory” in the microcosm of the nation state; it is an ideology through which the new local class rule is reproduced.
If the new political class maintains its world-historical position by ideologically reformulating that which is structurally necessary into that which it wants in political terms, and if it reproduces its position of power within the society by ideologically formulating its attitude towards that which is not necessary in structural terms (that is, towards the ethnic state) as a non-attitude, something “non-necessary”; the ethnic state, viewed from this perspective, begins to appear as something that is beyond the political will, in view of the fact that it is not possible to formulate either “will” or “non-will.” If the anti-utopian ideology assumes the attitude of denial, Verleugnung, towards the world system, when it comes to the system of the national-ethnic state, its attitude is one of negation, denegation, that is, Verneinung. “Suppression” (the contradictions of capitalism, class struggle, exploitation on the world and the national level, etc.) is the “positive content” of anti-utopianism. “Negation” is the attitude that the ideology of the rulers establishes towards the ruling (ethno-nationalist) ideology.
If anti-utopianism possesses two elements, “the content-related” and the “relational”, and if, consequently, anti-utopianism is an albeit deformed but still reflected political position, which comprises both the self-determining mechanism (denial) and the mechanism of the attitude towards one’s own other (denegation) – what about the element whose negation is established through anti-utopianism? What is the situation of utopianism?
4. Utopia as an image and an act
Anti-utopianism has its own image of utopia. To put it more precisely, through its negation it establishes utopianism in a special interpretation, as a “grand narrative.” According to this interpretation, utopia is a more or less defined notion of what “society” should be like; therefore, it is a request that, as this interpretation would have it, utopianism would be prepared to realise by fire and sword. Hence, the connection with the guillotine and – somewhat rashly – with the Gulag. (The rashness concerning the Gulag is due to the fact that, first of all, the Gulag systems were actually anti-utopian reactionary systems; secondly, it is due to this rashness that we neglect the real problem, namely, how utopian ideology may function legitimately and in a conservationist manner, be it in Gulag-like or neoliberal systems.)
If we try to find an ideology that would correspond to that notion of utopia, contemporary fascism is an evident candidate. To put it more precisely, it is those ethnic policies the most consistent variant of which today is implemented through war, crime and military crime, which we refer to as contemporary fascism for want of a better name. A characteristic of such ideologies is that they are convinced that they have a notion of society; as far as we can judge on the basis of its realisations so far, this conviction is “utopian,” for these comprise various peripheral capitalisms, “neo-colonial” societies that can survive relying on less authoritarian regimes, and are certainly possible without “fascism.” “The ethnic utopia,” as a matter of fact, actually typically occurs precisely in such peripheral “neo-colonial” environments, but it is not necessary at all for such environments to really organise themselves in such a utopian fashion. All this means that “utopia,” which is negated by the contemporary anti-utopianism, is utopian self-imposed blindness. This self-imposed blindness, somewhere and sometimes, manages to be imposed, through authoritarian policies, upon those very same (peripheral) societies that the anti-utopian ideology aspires to rule. This means that anti-utopianism in this dimension expresses – from the position of one of the parties involved – the ideological conflict within the ruling political class of peripheral societies.
Now we see the specific economy of the anti-utopian ideology. It is capable of simultaneously negating the reactive romantic tensions of the ethnic institutional system and blocking those motivations that might bring into question the entire construction of peripheral capitalism, from the structure of the state to the economic premises and legitimation mechanisms of political rule. It is, therefore, through negation that anti-utopianism intervenes in the non-antagonistic contradiction within the framework of the political class and its broader surroundings of social power – thereby blocking (at least ideologically) the possibility of establishment, articulation of an antagonistic contradiction between the new social (economic, political, administrative, cultural, communication, military) power and the oppressed, the exploited, those who are excluded from the new system. That is why anti-utopianism has every chance of becoming a new hegemony on the periphery of capital. Of course, that is precisely why such anti-utopianism misses the utopian potential of “contemporary spirit,” and that may be precisely the reason why it will not be able to perform its blockade much longer.
It is enough to take a look at the latest rise of utopianism, the 1980’s, the alternative, social upheavals, to get a picture with the help of which we can at least begin an analysis. Those times and those upheavals were certainly not “utopian” in a vulgar anti-utopian sense; they did not have a model of the future society in their pocket, they did not even use the term “the future society.” And yet, they did “aspire to reach beyond the boundaries of the era,” even though this was not expressed in the shape of a globalistic “demand,” but presented itself of its own accord, through resistance to the current order. The dialectics of those relations, responses, collisions and conflicts was complex: it was partly immediately analysed by theory, and partly it still awaits processing. Here, we can only summarise those dimensions that are of importance for our purpose.
The utopianism of the 1980’s somehow corresponded to Mannheim’s definition: the realisation of his aspirations demanded a real abolition of the current relations. However, it only corresponded to that concept “somehow”; that is to say, with some important additional definitions. The most important specific characteristic was that the utopianism of the time did not understand itself in this way, and this was due to the fact that its demands were not globalistic-frontal, and they are not such because they did not originate from a “programme,” from a “vision,” but from various practices that various individuals and groups effectively carried out. The demands arose from productions, which, in turn, originated from the actual postulates of the products, styles and outcomes of those practices and productions. To the extent that those “demands” were shaped – as a response to blockades, attacks, persecution, “guilt,” restrictions – they were diffuse and disparate. They relied in particular on the already existing horizons within the framework of “historical reality.” The revindicative, programmatic, political moment crystallised and coagulated at the points of contact between the rigid horizon of the establishment, the “system” and alternative practices, productions, styles and outcomes. Even in these articulations there was nothing “utopian” in the vulgar sense of the term. Their horizon, their “reality,” their “sociability,” “historical activity” already existed, were already there – precisely within the framework of the alternative. Alternative self-understanding therefore felt all too obligated to “the real state of affairs” to feel any kind of need for additional construction of “utopias.”
But, paradoxically, this is precisely where the true utopian moment within the alternative was to be found. And from that very moment originated the only characteristic that, in the historical fate of the alternative, somehow corresponds to the vulgar notion of “utopia”; namely, that its “realisation,” its historical effect, denied the expectations, aspirations and “demands”; that, from the point of view of its cause, the outcome was even catastrophic.
We can define the utopian moment as blindness, self-blinding or “fateful illusion” – hamartia in self-understanding. The alternative actually had a “concept” of its responsibility towards the historical situation, but the “content” of that concept was an illusion. The place, the locus of that blindness can even be precisely determined: at the “points of contact” with the system, where the alternative had to shape its “demands” in order to make credible the preconditions for the possibility of its practices, productions, and styles (which were happening anyway); the formulation of “demands” unfolded following the dictates of the system.
The above self-blinding can be conceptualised in a number of ways. We could say that the alternative insufficiently made use of the mechanisms of overdetermination, even though, ironically, it was precisely its own theory that introduced this concept of preconditioning, which had a central role in the political reaches of this theory. But this kind of postulate is not sufficient, a rigorous conceptualisation must also comprise the logic of self-blinding. And that means the mechanisms of subjectivation, connected with the discursive articulation, the discursive establishment of “historical positions.” And the alternative as a cultural undertaking, was nothing else but a “discursive articulation, in the broadest and the most dramatic sense.” That only means that the “utopian” moment of self-blinding was its inner moment, necessary and inevitable, even constitutive.
We can also, in a stenographic manner and using the Hegelian jargon, place the utopian moment in the difference between what “the historical position” or, sit venia verbo, “the level of spirit” is “for itself,” and what it is “in itself.” The drama of appropriating the “in itself” is the basic formula of the phenomenology of spirit, which can also be formulated “materialistically” as a process in which the “in itself” pounces upon, surprises, prevents the illusions of “being-for-itself,” even though these illusions are – and precisely because they are – constitutive for “being-in-itself.” If we deprive this jargon of its teleological charge, while preserving the positive moment of “abolition,” Aufhebung, which resides in alienation -, we are still left with the conclusion that the utopian element is constitutive, if not for some possible “upheaval of the spirit,” then all the more so for any spiritual upheaval. That is why insistence on the utopian moment today constitutes self-deception of the spirit.
5. Is it still permissible to think?
We easily reconcile ourselves to the fact that we shall never be able to think everything through, and that even the little that has been given to us to think we shall not be able to think through in its entirety. Today, this modesty, which is not much of a virtue because it is our fate anyway, confronts us with a dramatic ethical problem: are we still allowed to think at all? If that which is “unthought” is within the framework of the alternative – even if indirect and contingent – and yet undeniably connected to the horrors of today, which leave us speechless, and if, on the other hand, we know that the “unthought” is constitutive of every thought: do we still dare, do we still have the temerity to think, can we still afford to be so arrogant as to make thoughts public?
Hopefully, it may be just a sophism that we can reject by means of an opposite sophism, the Aristotelian argument that even that very dilemma is the fruit of thinking. In order to ask ourselves whether we are allowed to think, we already had to think in order to arrive at that question at all. This means, the dilemma in question presupposes something the possibility of which it finds doubtful, thus responding to itself, for it “pragmatically” denies itself.
We could also say that what makes horrors horrible to us, the observers, is precisely the fact that we are left speechless, our thought petrified, when confronted with them. That thought and speech, therefore, the speech of thought, constitute the first gesture of refusal, opposition, and resistance. Or, to put it less pathetically and less self-admiringly, if the horrors of today are the work of the masses that are, no matter how abhorrent we may find it to admit this, still a kind of human community, then it is only possible to stop them “jointly,” that is to say, through speech, reciprocity, and one day, possibly, through solidarity.
If then, beyond the ethical dilemma and actually with it, we are forced and obligated into practical thinking, and if utopianism is a constitutive element of such thinking, then anti-utopianism constitutes abdication of the spirit and is an accomplice that allows the horrors of today. Conversely, utopianism is no mere self-defence of the spirit; the defence of the spirit is but the first step against today and beyond it. This sounds sufficiently “utopian” to hope that it is also reflective – and thereby practical.
III. How much fascism – again
In the current debate about fascism, it is probably of importance that it has been initiated by the media and not, say, by some voice of public, or social critique. It wasn’t even initiated by the alternative, still less by the established politics. Actually, the political establishment was not to be expected to do this, for the general reason that ever since the beginning of the period of the multiparty democracy, it has not initiated any intellectual discussion – on the contrary, it has stifled quite a few. It is also due to the particular reason that the political establishment manifests a leaning towards, perhaps even a predilection, for the right, including the extreme right. This is proven, for example, by the fact that even prominent members of both parties, which do plead for “tolerance,” occasionally resort to the racist kind of jargon. Another indication of this is the government’s coarse arrogance in the course of negotiating with the trade unions, especially when compared to its mellifluous servility when it fraternises with the Catholic Church establishment.
The alternative and critically intoned science have tried to place this debate on the agenda a number of times, but until now they have not been particularly successful at it. Within the space of a year that has elapsed since last such attempts (in 1995, editor’s note), a lot has obviously changed, leading the media, which have so far been almost exclusively fascinated by the multiparty rule, towards issues that they have not been able to deal with within such narrowly defined borders. The most important change is probably that “fascistoid symptoms” have coalesced within the framework of parliamentary politics, that extreme and populist parties have realised themselves within the political establishment, so that it is no longer necessary to leave the intellectually undemanding rut of the parliamentary establishment for “fascism” to present itself as an issue worthy of being considered.
This is the first paradox of discussions about fascism: under some circumstances, probably under some of the current ones, what public debates about fascism prove is precisely the power of fascism. It would appear that these debates are an achievement of fascism itself, which has earned itself the right to qualify for the subject of a public debate. Perhaps that is why one tends to feel awkward at the very use of the term “fascism”: on the one hand, we have a feeling that we are “painting the devil,” and on the other, it seems that it is fascism itself that guides our hand in the process.
In the sphere of “new democracies,” the first one to really initiate a debate was probably Milan Popović in the daily Borba. In the spring of 1992, he warned that the Nazi technology used for the purpose of legitimating the powers-that-be was still not sufficient to pronounce, for example, the regimes in Serbia or Croatia fascist in the true sense of the term: “…these regimes cannot become fascist ones… first of all because of their (semi-)peripheral, extremely dependent status on the hierarchical world system, that is, on the world economy.” In the course of the election campaign in early 1993, the same writer dealt with this issue again, on the pages of the same daily paper, under the telling title of “Fascism, after all.” This time around, he interpreted the positioning of “post-communist” societies on the (semi-)periphery of the world system relying on Chomsky’s theory of fascism (Deterring Democracy, 1991), within the framework of which “marginality” (as being paradigmatic in Italy following the First World War and, with some modifications, also in Germany, as well as in South America in the second half of the 20th century, and today in numerous “Third World” countries) is precisely one of the preconditions for the development of fascistogeneous dynamics. This dynamics typically unfolds in three phases: 1. the phase during which reactionary powers in the world centre offer indirect support or even directly install fascist apparatuses on the periphery; 2. the phase during which there is an increase of tension between the (democratic) centre and the former (fascist) client; 3. the phase in which direct confrontation occurs. Popović provides other arguments as well, referring to Wallerstein, and it has to be admitted that his analysis has been confirmed to a large extent in the meantime precisely within the framework of those regimes that are of greatest interest to him: the Milošević regime oscillates between the first and the second phase, having, for the most part, entered phase two; the Tuđman regime also oscillates between the first and the second phase, remaining mainly within the boundaries of the first one for the time being. Does this theory apply to our local (Slovenian, editor’s note) relations? One can at least note that the protagonists of the local fascisization very much strive to enter “the first phase”; it is obvious that “theories” of a “communist conspiracy,” warnings that democracy has not been secured yet and that, therefore, the nationalist revolution should be shifted to “phase two,” the hypotheses about the “UDBO [Security Service]-Mafia,” even some characteristics of international liaising, belong to the logic of the first phase of fascist dynamics. Judging by this, at least in political terms, if not in broader social terms as well, there is a possibility that fascistogeneous dynamics might be initiated with us, too.
But let us remain sceptical. There are other reservations that one may have concerning the use of the term “fascism.” The first one is purely methodological: there is reason to fear that we are pondering contemporary phenomena relying on categories from the past, thus missing precisely that which is most important about them, namely, their topical character. The other reservation is ethical: the label of fascism indisputably produces stigmatisation; let us not forget how this designation was abused, for example, when they tried to criminalise punk, and how we spoke out against the use of such methods in political conflicts. Finally, indiscriminate use of such an extreme expression is also politically problematical: whoever gets tagged with this label loses political legitimacy. Consequently, in the final analysis, such a person gets a push towards “fascistoid” acts and tendencies.
These problems are not new. Almost all their elements have been manifested, for example, in the course of German attempts to do away with the country’s Nazi past. And our position today seems to be more complex than that of Germany. In that country, the main issue was “memory” and “construction of the past,” which referred to only one, though gigantic problem. As for us, we have been affected by two historical issues at the same time, namely, the issue of domestic fascism before 1945 and the issue of the one-party rule after World War Two. There are two more problems today: the establishment of a state in the spirit of nationalism, accompanied by a pronounced “Blut und Boden” rhetoric of the Demos party, spiced up with the local equivalent of racism, namely “Balkanism”; and the emergence of radically right-wing and populist politics. The circumstances under which we are faced with these issues are significantly worse than they were in the former Federal Republic of Germany. “Adenauer’s” Germany, whatever objections might be and have been levelled at it by critically-minded individuals and movements, did manage to establish a firm constitutional framework of parliamentary democracy, supplemented by an “independent public sphere” of intellectual power and prestige that we would have approached only if the 1980’s had lasted some ten years longer. With us, the constitutional framework is still relatively weak, and also lacks adequate foundations, both in terms of the legal system and particularly in terms of, to use Habermas’s expression, an “ethical citizens’ consensus.” There is no independent public sphere at all; worse still, all the established political forces have been engaged in destroying it in one way or another.
If we think of the great contribution that the 1960’s movements in Germany and their rich heritage made to that country’s attempts to deal with its past and its struggle against neo-Nazism and the fascistoid excesses of right-wing politics, we can perceive a significant parallel in our local history, a parallel which warns us anew of the falling standards in the realm of political culture and general social relations, which occurred with the introduction of parliamentary democracy. In the era of “extraparliamentary opposition” and new social movements in Western Europe, in our country, too, there appeared social movements that, driven by numerous cultural, subcultural and countercultural motives, especially in cooperation with the then flowering theoretical production, created the seeds of an independent and free public sphere outside the ruling and established, then one-party politics. This structural social transformation is probably the fundamental reason for the transformation, at long last, in the technology of state-political decision-making, that is to say, for the introduction of parliamentary multiparty democracy.
One observation that imposes itself even when one gives the recent past a cursory examination is that, in the historical dimension, on the level of social events in a broader sense (economic, political, ideological), we were already continuously involved in “European” events. Lest the task of proving this should prove too easy, we can even disregard the 1960’s, because that particular decade provided a rather favourable set of circumstances the world over, even though it is worth noting that the first major manifestations of the 1960’s occurred almost simultaneously in Berkeley and in Ljubljana, and that in the mythical year of ’68, students in Belgrade kept the university under control longer than anywhere else. We can also disregard the significance of the Yugoslav brand of self-management socialism for the progressive world debate, and the theoretical, political and ideological importance that the Yugoslav “third path to socialism” undoubtedly had. Likewise, we can temporarily disregard the non-alignment movement, the first, and at least for a while, successful way of organising “the despised of this world,” within the framework of which Yugoslavia had a leading role. Also, we shall not speak of the rise of social and political thought in our country, which, on the one hand, drew a lot from that “participation in world history,” and on the other, fortified it, pushed it forward and at the same time criticised it.
Let us restrict ourselves to the era of “extraparliamentary oppositions” in the West and later social movements. In parliamentary democracies, these new political forms stepped outside the established political apparatuses and established a new political life, new forms and new “styles” of organisation, and produced alternative publics. But in our case, we were outside the establishment in advance because of the nature of the political system, but we also had to develop new forms, models and styles, and especially, of course, a “new” public, which means a real public as an alternative to the “inner public” of the establishment and the “false public” that was only the ideological apparatus of the one-party state. The way extraparliamentary movements in parliamentary democracies had to fight for penetrating the mechanisms of decision-making, we had to find ways of penetrating “the system.” In parliamentary democracies, this was not possible without the critique of progressive and leftist system organisations; with us, it also required a critique of the only party there was, the monopolist Communist Party. Just like extraparliamentarianism and the new social movements in the West led to transformations inside the political establishment (“Eurocommunism,” the coming of socialist democracies to power), so the alternative managed to transform the political establishment with us, that is, to end the one-party system and introduce parliamentary democracy.
At first, the introduction of parliamentary democracy was nothing but adjustment of the state-political sphere to the deeper changes in society. For a number of different reasons, to which we partly pointed in the course of the actual development, and which will partly have to be additionally analysed in the future, what came to pass was that, to a large degree, the consequence liquidated its causes. This process, too, was closely connected with “European,” even world events: the rise of neoliberalism, first of all in the metropolises and subsequently worldwide; the slowing down of reformed communisms; the electoral defeats of social democracy. Due to the specific character of development in the democratic system, now we participate anew in European and world history, although not at its progressive but at its regressive end: our development here is now part of the general developments in “Eastern Europe.” The proof that this “participation” in many ways assumes less drastic forms is the fact that from its very beginning it wasn ot necessary at all. In the analyses conducted so far, we have dealt with, for reasons to do with practical polemics, the politics of the right, Demos, reactionary groupings and the former communists, which produced this regressive turnabout. What remains, however, is the more important part of the task: to analyse the policies that enabled a counter-strike. What is certainly worth thinking about is how the alternative wasted or lost, during the short period between 1989 and 1990, the hegemony it had been creating for ten or fifteen years. Also, it is worth analysing how the social effects of the alternative hegemony, which appeared to be so deep, increasingly gave way to conservative, even reactionary “restoration.” These analyses we have yet to conduct: for now, suffice it to say that the local new populism, new “fascism,” new right-wing extremism, are the ways in which we participate in European, or even world history. This does not mean, of course, that those phenomena are in any way “necessary”; perhaps we shall be the first to remove them convincingly. It only means that they are real, that the historical “logic” is realised through them, broader than the local one, which still runs deeper than everyday political complications.
The dimensions of the “restoration” shock are gigantic: the presentation of peripheral capitalism as “renewal,” that is, a violent introduction, in one way or another, of rather backward capitalist relations; the establishment of a state based on nationalist ideology; the abolition of the independent public sphere and the monopolisation of the political process in the hands of party, ownership or even ideological “elites.”
It would appear that these disturbing outcomes of the “shift,” which to a great extent destroyed the achievements of the social transformations of the last decade, have created a situation to which a part of society and a part of the political elite respond with fascistoid reactions. The real question is not whether this or that political group actually resorts to fascistoid methods, still less whether this or that politician manifests behaviour that might qualify him or her for a “leader,” and the will to apply such talents. The real questions are whether there do exist circumstances in which extreme political attitudes stand a chance and authoritarian persons might succeed, and what the causes of those circumstances are.
The thesis that liberal democracy automatically produces fascistoid effects and that in a system of parliamentary rule the removal of such “reflexes” is a permanent task is seductive, albeit somewhat old-fashioned. In its more pessimistic variants, this thesis maintains that fascism is one of the possible responses to the internal contradictions of parliamentarianism, and that therefore classical liberal policies are not successful when fighting fascism. But even if we accept this, we may say, somewhat simplified view, we can note that, nevertheless, additional reasons are needed, special circumstances in which the “fascistoid by-products” of liberal democracy become truly significant. One of such special reasons may be if a sense of insecurity spreads among broad segments of the population. In the current circumstances of intensified social stratification, economic transformation and peripheral inclusion in the capitalist system, this precondition is certainly fulfilled.
We can also define this reason differently: fascism may be a way of resolving a real crisis in the existing relations between the economy and exploitation. Even though a while ago it did appear that the crisis of the one-party rule and the corresponding system of exploitation was already resolved, the introduction of the peripheral Eastern European capitalism brought about a deeper crisis, maybe precisely because, in view of the already achieved historical level of Slovenian society, that system is anachronistic and produces critical outcomes due to its backwardness.
The next reason may be a social-psychological one: the importance of mass-scale ressentiment in broad segments of the population that have a feeling that they are “victims of injustice.” At a moment when a new class rule is being established, and in a society in which, as sociological research has shown, egalitarianism is a deeply anchored ideology of the masses, that precondition is fulfilled as well, particularly if, among increasingly broad layers of the population, there is a deepening awareness that they have been separated from the processes of political decision-making and a rising sense of powerlessness. What also tends to happen is that some political groups particularly cultivate and incite such psychological processes; on the other hand, until now no political group has proved able to establish a convincing alternative to either liberal peripheral capitalism or the increasingly dangerous monopolisation of economic, political and general social power in the hands of the “new” class.
Finally, in contemporary parliamentary democracies it is more or less clear that the system cannot survive if it is not supported by a free public sphere that is independent of the political establishment in the narrower sense of the term. Multiparty democracy can only survive in a “political” environment that is much broader than multiparty parliamentarianism. That particular precondition has not been fulfilled in our case, and even worse, today we are further from something like that than we were in the final years of the one-party rule. We can assume that a more or less clear sense of this dramatic shortcoming is the reason that eventually led the ideological apparatuses of the multiparty system to initiate a debate on fascism. Perhaps we can hope that this debate will at least contribute to the establishment of a public sphere and the broadening of the political space beyond the framework of the party establishment.
The most challenging part of the current episode involving fascism and anti-fascism is not political fascism, which has long been with us, but cultural fascism, which does appear anew. A somewhat stereotypical explanation of the current radicalisation of a significant part of cultural establishment means that the “intellectual elite,” having done a heroic job when it came to introducing democracy, now feels rejected at the moment of “normalisation,” which is why it resorts to more forceful registers. Contrary to this view, we put forward the thesis that the “intellectual elite” continues its heroic job, that its task, now as before, is directed against the beginnings of an independent public sphere, and aims to prevent the establishment of that intellectual position that a developed democracy makes possible.
Their role model, actually, is the classical moralist writing, a type of engagement that historically belongs to the first half of the 19th century in Europe, that is to say, a position in which the only public was of the bourgeois-literary kind, and when there was no real political public. Contrary to this, the contemporary intellectual position only developed towards the end of the 19th century, that is to say, in the era of developed parliamentarianism, mass press and a developed public sphere, which extended beyond the framework of parliamentary politics. This position, of course, was created by the labour movement and the development of socialism, as well as the spread of general literacy. At the root of this process lies the intellectual response to the crisis of European civilisation. If we wish to position this break in anecdotal terms, we can date it by referring to the Dreyfus affair. It was then that the role of the intellectual was established, of one who applies his expert knowledge outside his immediate field, that is to say, in the political public sphere.
The role of the intellectual in the one-party system was reminiscent of the intellectual role in Heine’s time, precisely because at that time, just like in the era of the one-party system, there was no political public sphere to speak of. Still, that social position was finished off by the student movements of the 1960’s. Later, the new theoretical intelligentsia, in cooperation with the cultural self-organisation movements of masses of the young and subsequently with the new social movements, initiated the establishment of an independent sphere of political public, outside the one-party state apparatus. In the course of this historical turnabout, which ended successfully sometime around the middle of the 1980’s, the classical “dissident” position had no role whatsoever; precisely the opposite, it was then already an ideological ingredient of the cultural establishment and, therefore, on the other side of the barricade.
The current fascisization of the mandarin establishment attempts to apply that specimen of bourgeois “literary” and limited “public,” and through its radicalism it proves the historical crisis and probably the end of the historical potential of such archaic “intellectualism.” In its own way, this maybe proves that with the mechanisms of parliamentary democracy in place, an independent and broader sphere of political public has begun to gain in strength after all; it is a guarantee of a successful functioning of parliamentarianism, and at the same time an area in which it is possible to develop a modern European intellectual position. That is why, in spite of all the darkness being spread by the new fascism of old intelligentsia, we can still be optimistic. Naturally, on the condition that we successfully develop those initial elements that are the historical cause of this radicalisation. If we help the development of that sphere, the mandarin phantoms will evaporate of their own accord, even if they are only vampires from the dumpster of history.
IV. After the purloined revolution
I wrote the texts contained in this booklet in 1995, at the time of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, of political instability, when in the functioning of this state [Slovenia] one could discern a malignant mixture of rigidity, incompetence, authoritarianism and panic. By means of these writings, I tried to respond to the intellectual urgency of the moment, which was all the more dramatic because it appeared then that those who “perform the social function of intellectuals” – to use Gramsci’s expression – decided to mobilise extremist right-wing ideologies and to engage, through their great social power, supported by the influence of elite associations and the school canon, the “intellectual establishment,” that is, a great part of the ideological apparatus of the state, pointing it in the direction that, in my view, led into fascism.
The main correction that I would now propose is that what, three years ago, appeared to me to be some kind of aberration is actually the normal state of affairs of the epoch, which will probably last a while longer. That is why, in something of a hurry, perhaps even in a state of panic, I tried in those writings to sketch the historical processes that had led to a specific set of circumstances favourable to fascistoid trends. These are limited primarily to intellectual and ideological dimensions, but do encompass the “material existence of ideology” in the school apparatus, touch upon political constructions in their materiality and in the discursiveness of their reproduction. All the same, they neglect excessively the fundamental long-term processes in society, and especially in its “economic basis,” if I may use this jargon, so zealously discredited today. That is why in this preface I shall provide an outline of what should be written in some future treatises in order to supplement these writings – and what, perhaps, could be preserved for the future from them.
The basic postulate, it would appear to me, still remains; namely, the question is not “Fascism – yes or no?” but “How much fascism?” That means that what we stenographically call “fascism” is a structural element of the installation, and also, it would appear to me, in the reproduction of the local “semi-peripheral” capitalism. This hypothesis disproves the myth, common to the ideology of liberalism and to most Marxisms, that the capitalist way of production, and allegedly the capitalist social formation, are capable of reproducing themselves without extraeconomic pressure. The persistence of this myth is all the more noteworthy because the thinker whom liberalism considers to be its originator and Marxism thinks of as the main object of their criticism, actually thought otherwise. In fact, Adam Smith warned that the immanent logic of the “free market,” which, on account of the interests of “those living on profits” spontaneously tends towards monopolisation, can only be stopped by resorting to the state measures imposed by the ruler. Thus, the very first classical formulation already diagnosed “the free market” to be inherently suicidal, so that the only thing that could keep it alive is state pressure. Neoliberalism confirmed this classical thesis in practice – from Reagan’s antimonopolist legislation to the brutal suppression of British trade unions under the rule of Margaret Thatcher. The world’s hegemonic power of today also ensures the “freedom” of the world market through financial terror, political extortion and military “policing” – sometimes going solo, other times through its military extensions, mostly through “world” organisations such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank or the World Trade Organisation.
Contemporary “extraeconomic” practices that keep alive the current system of the world economy also point to the fact that the reproduction of the system does not depend so much on market relations but on relations in the sphere of production. In this way, they confirm that the theoretical shift from market analysis towards analysing production methods performed by Karl Marx was justified. The transformations in production relations are, of course, the central dimension in “transition” processes as well: new relations are established by means of state regulation, legal measures of state coercion. The juridical-economic formula “privatisation and denationalisation” now itself belongs to the normalisation discourse through which the ruling ideology managed to neutralise the dramatic dimension of that historical process. If we try to condense these developments into another formula, we can say that the process of divesting the state of its authority as the political-administrative representative of solidarity, arising from work, has just been brought to its close; what has been established in its place is the new civil society form of rule based on private ownership of capital. In this new context, the policing function when it comes to the regulation of conflicts arising from the exploitative nature of new production relations belongs to the state. The state now mostly channels and regulates conflicts arising from the insurmountable contradictions of the new system, arbitrates, and occasionally performs a repressive function in the course of buffering those conflicts which cannot be channelled into parliamentary democracy procedures or into some extraparliamentary negotiating (temporary) solution. Sociability is no longer based on solidarity but on conflicts. Hence the necessity of permanent operative presence of the state and the necessity of this liberal etatism, which is in total opposition to the declared political ideology of the liberal state. That is why it is all the more brutal in its dry pragmatism, and its legitimation discourses are that much more cynical.
The “extraeconomic” violence of the state is, therefore, an integral element of “normal” reproduction of social relations based on private ownership. It is, then, all the more to be expected in “transition”-related circumstances when the state, as the main factor of thorough transformation, must at least temporarily rule as a state in a state of emergency. This particular formula is one of the possible explanations of the fascisization with the state, particularly developed by Nikos Poulantzas. The real theoretical problem, therefore, is why in some states undergoing “transition” this fascisization has never occurred. Among the many reasons for this, the political-ideological dimension was probably important: 1. “the discourse, passions and illusions” of democratic revolution kept the peoples of Eastern Europe fascinated for some time after the revolution had already been “stolen”; 2. the social reaction of the deprivileged masses stripped of power was initiated relatively late, and was relatively skilfully manipulated by the reformist communist parties with social-democratic programmes.
Neither of the above has happened here. The pathos of the revolution of human rights spread through the “broader society” through the filter of nationalist ideologies, maybe because, paradoxically, the Yugoslav democratic revolution was never sufficiently “pathetic.” It was entirely avant la lettre “politically correct” and politely enlightening. The communist leadership rejected all too lightly the solidary responsibility imposed by the former ideology, merrily embracing the transition jargon, and switched, without any particular upheavals, from the communist “new class” to a liberal “new class.” Even though the reformed communist parties inspired surprising confidence in the civic electorate, they made a succession of bad estimates and political mistakes, allowing a right-wing radicalisation of deprivileged social layers, thus significantly helping to articulate “fascisization from above” by means of “fascisization from below.”
Concerning our local relations, then, we must explain the surplus of violence against the “transitional” regulation of “rule of law” and the surplus of ideological extremism against the “democratic” methods of fabricating public opinion. For the moment, it is only possible to offer the initial elements for interpretation; at this stage, the answers are necessarily theoretically eclectic, disconnected, and perhaps even mutually contradictory. They are therefore theoretically one-sided, and simplify too much; they cannot achieve a synthesis on the level of analysis, intead, they try to derive it by means of the alibi of the coherence of their subject, which they look for in the phantom of “national society.” This designation of the subject is doubly wrong: First, on the one hand, the effect of the “imagined community,” whose construction was allegedly analytically dealt with by these contributions, is tacitly accepted as their self-evident horizon; and second, on the other hand, they neglect the decisive dimension in the production of their subject, namely, the specific “transitional” inclusion of some special social-economic space, defined by the non-orthodox variant of state socialism, in the world capitalist system. Let us outline briefly how we could explain, from a point of view that would eliminate the shortcomings of these contributions, what we, perhaps somewhat cynically, refer to as the surplus of violence and the surplus of extremism in local relations.
One of the problems when trying to explain these radicalisations lies in the fact that we cannot avoid the attractive stereotype of regressive “resurrection” of old tensions and frustrated political programmes. In these essays I tried to offer a structural analysis that encompassed, for the most part, only one of the ideological levels, namely, the level of “high” or the ruling culture. This approach should be deepened. If we opt for the initial formula only, the strategic position of “outdated” or “anachronistic” structures, which have established themselves so quickly and all-encompassingly in the local societies, could be designated in the following manner: The “anachronistic” structures that the resistance to inclusion in the system of world capitalism relies on (meaning resistance to the intrusion of contemporary relations of inequality and exploitation in areas that, until now, have at least to some degree “resisted” the world system) are at the same time the structures taken over by this inclusion, “invested into” by precisely those relations of inequality and exploitation in the world capitalist system. The nation state, with its “civil society” supplement, the nation, is perhaps the pre-eminent one among those “anachronistic” constructions. In today’s relations, the “sovereignty” of the nation state boils down, at best, to the right of jurisdiction within a limited area of the world system. (And in “transitional” states this right is very conditional and is mainly realised as the obligation of fulfilling the “expert” ultimatums of hegemonistic world or “international” organisations and the political pressures of the so-called “international community.”) Nevertheless, in its real limitation, the “sovereignty” of nation states can be an operative element in the functioning of the world system, wherein it can create the conditions of “unequal international exchange” and investment niches, lower the value of labour by means of state regulation, lower ecological standards through the absence of state regulation, and create and regulate new markets of goods, production factors and labour through local policies, etc. It is through their archaic character that nation states bring “pseudo-natural” diversification into the landscape of the world economy, creating local landscapes through which world capital moves with its products and exchanges, thus successfully compensating for the existing tendencies of falling profit rates and “falling profits.” On the other hand, various forms of local resistance to these processes view the nation state as a shield and a defence weapon. Thus, a great, if not the major, part of political battles within the nation state unfold within the coordinates of the false dilemma between “cosmopolitism” and “localism.” What characterises both elements of this opposition is fascination with the power of the state and temptation in the face of monopoly on physical violence.
But this still cannot explain fascisization. This is the position of all “transitional” states, of many states from the centre, and even of some states from the first division. We must search for further origins: for example, the ideological horizon and the models of understanding the classes, coalitions and groups that those nation states, as they brag about themselves, “created” and appropriated. These ruling coalitions understood themselves as colonial powers even before they managed to qualify “their” states as “colonies.” The ur-model of such conduct was provided by the Slovenian communists when they broke up the last Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, whereupon they took the first plane to return to “their” state. It did not occur to them that after a negative gesture it was possible to do something positive; they did not see the democratic fermentation throughout Yugoslavia, they failed to see that the entire Yugoslavia expected democratic action of them, they did not want to know that they were in a position of being able to respond to the question posed by the historical moment. Neither they nor the later political classes thought of looking over the national fence. Some of those political Mafias actually wanted to expand their borders and violently export their limitations – “forcibly,” by means of ethnic cleansing, mass killing. “A people that oppresses other peoples is not free itself!” Naturally, but what should also be taken into consideration is the fact that a people that has fallen into the trap of nationalism is not free either.
So much about the “specific” local characteristics, but even they will not be enough for providing an explanation. What should also be explained is how these intellectually thin political classes with an antiquated ideology and schematic programmes managed to crush the democratic revolution of human rights, destroy the public, devastate the rich and diverse social space by introducing the plundering “Eastern capitalism.”
Translated from Croatian by Novica Petrović