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Understanding the Paradox of Modern Anti-Fascism: Unveiling the True Nature of Fascism

Understanding the Paradox of Modern Anti-Fascism: Unveiling the True Nature of Fascism

Understanding the Paradox of Modern Anti-Fascism

Written by Aaron Kheriaty, Senior Brownstone Institute Counselor

The Misinterpretation of Fascism

The terms "fascist" and "fascism" are frequently used in today's political discourse. However, it seems that those who use these terms most often understand them the least. This misunderstanding has led to a paradox where many of today's self-proclaimed anti-fascists ironically embody the central characteristics of fascism. Fascist tendencies can be seen across the political spectrum, not only among white supremacists but also among certain character types described by Eugene Rivers. However, to truly oppose fascism, one must understand its historical manifestations and what the term truly signifies.

The True Nature of Fascism

Contrary to popular belief, fascism is not a reactionary opposition to progressive ideas in the name of tradition. Many postwar thinkers have made this mistake, including Umberto Eco, Theodore Adorno, Wilhelm Reich, Eric Fromm, and Antonio Gramsci. They generalized the concept of fascism to include any movement that is either authoritarian or inclined to defend the past. However, this interpretation is flawed. It stems from a belief in the value of modernity following the French Revolution. According to this belief, modernity represents an inevitable and irreversible process of secularization and human progress. To be good is to embrace the progressive direction of history; to be evil is to resist it.

Fascism and Modernity

However, this characterization of fascism misses its central features. Fascism is not a reactionary-traditionalist phenomenon, but a secondary and degenerative development of Marxist revolutionary thought. It represents a stage in the modern process of political secularization that started with Lenin. Fascism understands itself as a revolutionary and progressive manifestation of power. Like communism, it replaces traditional religious principles with a secular religion in which the future becomes an idol. Fascism makes no attempt to preserve traditional values against the advance of progress. Instead, it moves forward with a "creative destruction" that feels entitled to overturn anything standing in its way.

The Ethical Consequences of Fascism

The ethical consequences of fascism are severe. Once value is attributed to pure action, other people cease to be ends in themselves and become mere instruments, or obstacles, to the fascist political program. This leads to the denial of other people's personhood and individuality, reducing persons to mere objects. Fascists, despite considering themselves creative, can only destroy. They tear down taboos indiscriminately and weaponize symbols rich with meaning. The past is nothing but an ideological tool: one can rummage around in history for useful images or slogans to deploy in service of expansive power; but wherever it is not useful for this purpose, history is discarded, defaced, toppled, or simply ignored as though it never existed.

The Danger of Misunderstanding Fascism

The danger lies in the fact that many of today's self-styled anti-fascists embody the very characteristics of fascism they claim to oppose. The danger is that a thinly veiled fascism — marching mendaciously under an anti-fascist banner — will overtake and absorb legitimate attempts to cure societal injustices.

The Real Political Divide

Rather than the standard left-right, liberal-conservative, progressive-reactionary categories of interpretation, the real political divide today is between perfectists and anti-perfectists. The former believe in the possibility of complete liberation of humanity through politics, whereas the latter regard this as a perennial error grounded in a denial of inherent human limitations.

The Consequences of Totalitarianism

We are all aware of the horrifying consequences that follow when fascism slides, as it readily does, into totalitarianism. But consider that the defining feature of all totalitarianisms is not concentration camps or secret police or constant surveillance — though these are all bad enough. The common feature, as Del Noce pointed out, is the denial of the universality of reason.

The Way Forward

Simone Weil, an authentic and exemplary anti-fascist figure, provides a way forward. She lived her conviction of being on the side of the oppressed with exceptional single-mindedness and purity. Her journey led her to reject the delusional deification of man, the ideal of human self-redemption that is central to fascism.


Understanding the true nature of fascism and its manifestations in today's political landscape is crucial in effectively opposing it. Misunderstanding and mischaracterizing fascism only lead to the paradox of becoming what one claims to oppose. The real political divide lies not between left and right, liberal and conservative, or progressive and reactionary, but between perfectists and anti-perfectists. What are your thoughts on this article? Do you agree with the author's perspective? Share this article with your friends and let's start a conversation. Don't forget to sign up for the Daily Briefing, every day at 6pm.

Some articles will contain credit or partial credit to other authors even if we do not repost the article and are only inspired by the original content.

Some articles will contain credit or partial credit to other authors even if we do not repost the article and are only inspired by the original content.

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