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Read the oth­er arti­cles in the series The Vile Beast

The womb it crawled from is still going strong” Brecht wrote. This sen­tence comes at the end of a play “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” that was nev­er pub­lished nor staged dur­ing his life­time, although he attempt­ed to do so dur­ing his exile in the Unit­ed States, from 1941 to 1947.

Bertold Brecht had nei­ther pub­lished nor shown this text, because he was crit­i­cized by the most Stal­in­ist com­mu­nist move­ment at the time — and most­ly by his polit­i­cal­ly “com­mit­ted” peers — for this piece of writ­ing done in the Unit­ed-States, this para­ble on fas­cism; he was crit­i­cized for hav­ing opened out on the notion of “total­i­tar­i­anisms” by extrap­o­lat­ing from a nazi inci­dent in 1941 he trans­posed into the Chica­go of the 1930s. Forced to self-crit­i­cism by his artist com­rades, Brecht final­ly explained that his play was not meant as an extent­ing the notion of fas­cism to “total­i­tar­i­an­ism”. He was also blamed from break­ing with the rules of “social­ist real­ism” when he moved to East Ger­many where he lived until his death in 1956.

That often-quot­ed sen­tence from his unpub­lished play, thus has a spe­cif­ic his­to­ry, which his­to­ry, in the con­text of the 1950s, allows us to bor­row it in order to “extrap­o­late” our­selves on today’s fas­cism or fas­cisms, iden­ti­fy­ing them as such or using the word “total­i­tar­i­an­ism” as a diver­sion­ary tac­tic so as not to dis­turb “the beast”.

Does being an anti-fascist, being someone who is ‘against the beast” make any sense nowadays?

I inten­tion­al­ly raise the ques­tion in a polem­i­cal way, in the same man­ner as one might ask if the term fas­cism does not have a passé aspect to it, and serve as some­thing of a gen­er­al pass­word with no spe­cif­ic meaning?

Let’s set aside answers based on the theme of “antifas­cism is a work­ing class tra­di­tion, a fun­da­men­tal for anar­chists” a root val­ue from which one can­not depart. Because, oth­er than hav­ing allowed us to write out an extra line of text, it tells us noth­ing of the strug­gle that needs to fol­low,  nor of the chang­ing nature of “the beast”, and, as we know, lofty words have nev­er kept any­one from drift­ing away from his or her own polit­i­cal stance. “Tra­di­tion­al” anti-fas­cism is an oxymoron.

One can also con­sid­er pro­casti­nat­ing bu using head­ings such as “the com­ing fas­cism” which avoids hav­ing to describe “the beast” we are fac­ing, by delay­ing ana­lyz­ing its excre­ments until tomor­row. This, as much in order to avoid speak­ing the ugly word, as an admis­sion that “the beast” has shown often unpre­dictable tal­ents to cameleon-like changes.

In fact, before being anti-fas­cist, one must always start by being a human­ist, so as to detect those moments when “the beast” aims at destroy­ing human­i­ty, its social orga­ni­za­tion, its liv­ing spaces, its pos­si­bil­i­ties for liv­ing togeth­er, its eco­log­i­cal sys­tems, all in the name of a high­er inter­est, one in which, no mat­ter what ide­ol­o­gy it invokes, every­thing is always about pow­er, prop­er­ty and prof­it. In fact, being an anti-fas­cist means delv­ing under the ash­es, beyond the heck­ling and the mor­bid lay­ers of earth and dust accu­mu­lat­ed over it by the fal­si­fiers of his­to­ry, for the intel­li­gence that a few, who were nonethe­less numer­ous, brought to bear on end­ing wars rav­aging the world, apt­ly describ­ing how “the beast” was not dead, and how a sim­ple “nev­er again” could nev­er replace both vig­i­lance and combat.

Rather than cul­ti­vat­ing myths about resis­tance, myths the remains of which all the nation­al­ists fought over with the com­mu­nists at the time, rebuild­ing togeth­er Nation-States while jeal­ous­ly guard­ing the “colonies”, these ‘post-war’ anti-fas­cists launched their de-col­o­niza­tion strug­gles, as a nat­ur­al exten­sion of their fight against “the beast”. Nowa­days, a cer­tain Albert Camus would be shoved into the ropes as a so-called Islamo-left­ist, now that phi­los­o­phy can be bought at the same counter as Mein Kampf.

Thus, anti-fas­cism can­not be a vio­lent reac­tion against despair, but quite the oppo­site, a human­ist invi­ta­tion to the strug­gle, be it of a minor­i­ty, when fac­ing def­i­n­i­tions of exits from the cap­i­tal­ist cri­sis that preach for both the sal­vaging of prof­its and of polit­i­cal regimes described as “strong”; a human­ist invi­ta­tion to the strug­gle against the off­springs of “the beast” born in the peri­od’s muck.

And I wish to take the time to des­ig­nate, one after the oth­er, these off­springs of “the beast” since they do not nec­es­sar­i­ly resem­ble one anoth­er, although they feed off one anoth­er and drink from their col­lec­tive moth­er, their only and most iden­ti­fi­able com­mon source: fascism.

This, to serve as the intro­duc­tion to what will be an ongo­ing chronicle.

To be continued…

Read the oth­er arti­cles in the series The Vile Beast

Image : CC Lila Mon­tana sol­idary photographer-journalist

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Let­tres mod­ernes à l’Université de Tours. Gros mots poli­tiques… Coups d’oeil politiques…