The purpose of this blog is to provide analytical commentary on formal and informal labour organisations and their attempts to resist ever more brutal forms of exploitation in today’s neo-liberal, global capitalism.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The white terror – Déjà vu about fascism and the reactionary turn of our time.

In the summer of 1980, Italian fascists blew up the central station in “red” Bologna. 85 people were killed, more than 200 were wounded. The terrorists had close ties to the Italian military intelligence and NATOs secret stay-behind groups. In Norway in the summer of 2011, two fascist lone wolf terrorist attacks were carried out against the government square block and the Youths Labor party summer camp, claiming the lives of 77 people and wounding more than 300. August 2nd in Italy and July 22nd in Norway are both markers of the worst terrorist acts in post-war Western Europe. In this guest post, Idar Helle, a member of the Transnational Labour Project in Oslo, reviews the book by Eystein Kleven 22. juli-terroren: Angrepet på arbeiderbevegelsen [The terror of 22nd of July: The attack on the labor movement] (Marxist publishing 2011, 42 pages).

After the 22nd of July 2011 most of the literature has focused on the victims and the personality of Anders Behring Breivik, the man who carried out the two acts of terror in Norway. But this text is different. Instead, the cultural and ideological conditions for fascist mass violence in our time are brought to the surface. More than what we are used to from the Norwegian left, the author Eystein Kleven at Marxist publishing uncompromisingly proceeds to take action about what he sees as a strengthened reactionary political tendency in the European deep culture. With a little defined labor movement safely positioned in the role as the hero of history, the pamphlet from the fall of 2011 pounces on bourgeois society:

“That is how the reactionary becomes the particular in the bourgeois at the same time as the general in fascism. This is true even though the reactionaries, and not at least fascisms, have the habit to dress up with creations of the past, be it kings’ men, crusaders, the pope’s church supremacy or the caliphate of the East. Among the bourgeois theories or ideologies, fascism is the ideology that most consequently and brutally substantiates the fight against the labor movement” (P.41).

The pamphlet has weaknesses making it vulnerable to the author’s opponents among liberals and authoritarian anti-Marxists.  Eystein Kleven’s way of reasoning and phrasing in a direct way has something sober about it, but just as much belongs to a time before 1960, when the faith in Marxism as the consummation of science was considered a state religion in the East, and a plausible point of view at the universities in the West. The text seems to have been created in a strange closed universe, without any references to public debate or scientific literature at all. It is thus up to the reader to seek other texts within and outside of the Marxist mainstream to supplement Kleven, and to create a more effective political synthesis.

“The White Terror” is a term used about the harsh behavior of the French restoration monarchy after the fall of Napoleon and the last breath of the revolution in 1815. It is at this point that we arrive at last at the most insisting pinprick: “in history the reactionary violence has consistently been considerably more cruel and violent than the violence carried out by progressive forces during revolutions” (P.21). From here the author moves on to an uncompromising statement that on a strategic level capital will at any time be prepared to form alliances with fascism against social counterforces to avoid change of the economic system.

To fully understand this, it might be suitable to be specific about the implications this analysis has for the political forecast in Europe: The statement implies that the dominating financial interests today seeking to transform the European Union into a more complete plutocracy and corporate power structure, will have less to fear from neo-fascist governments than in a social Europe. And if the Troika and the creditors on Wall Street and at the Frankfurt stock exchange would have to choose, they would – every day throughout the whole year – prefer Golden Dawn’s mob rule to Syriza and the attempt to organize the Greek and the European community against the interests of capital. The leading theorist of the Frankfurt School, Max Horkheimer, expressed the essential point like this in the 1930s: “Whoever is not prepared to talk about capitalism should keep quiet about fascism”.  

Idar Helle is a researcher in the field of contemporary history, with a special focus on labour movements and industrial relations in Norway and Europe.

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