There is a pattern of explicitly fascist attacks in the US, carried out by ideologically hardened far-right extremists who use the slaughter to spread their ultra-reactionary ideas. But there is a consistent refusal to analyze the politics and ideology behind these massacres.
By Ben Norton
Published on the author’s website, Aug 4, 2019
Yet another fascist massacre in the United States — and yet another deluge of apolitical corporate media reports, useless neoliberal punditry, hollow statements from politicians, and superficial performative “anti-hate” rhetoric from liberal activists.
There is a long pattern now of explicitly fascist attacks in the US, carried out by ideologically hardened far-right extremists who use the slaughter to spread their ultra-reactionary ideas.
But there is a consistent refusal to analyze the politics and ideology behind these massacres. Instead, liberals treat these attacks on civilization itself as mere blind acts of hate, awful “national tragedies” that can only be solved with more billionaire-funded gun control campaigns, irrational and incoherent outbursts of violence that simply cannot be explained — or at least that can only be explained by putting all of the blame on the buffoonish cheeto man in the Oval Office (who, did you notice, has such small hands!).
On August 3, a 21-year-old white supremacist fascist named Patrick Crusius murdered at least 20 civilians — most of whom were Latino/a — and injured dozens more, in a mass shooting terror attack in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, mere miles away from the border with Mexico.
The El Paso shooter’s manifesto shows unequivocally, without any doubt, that he is an ideological fascist and white supremacist who has studied and understands fascist theory.
Crusius is not mentally ill; he is not some brain-dead hick with a bunch of guns and a bad attitude; and — let’s be frank, liberals — he is not just a Trump supporter. He is a different monster altogether.
This fascist intentionally traveled hundreds of miles to a majority-Latino/a area in order to massacre as many civilians as possible, in hopes of helping to kick off a race war.
This was an ideologically motivated act of war. Fascist war.
The El Paso terrorist’s manifesto shows that — as fascists always do — Crusius scapegoats immigrants for problems caused by capitalism.
In his manifesto, the fascist white supremacist terrorist spends the most time talking about “economic reasons” behind his attack: unemployment, automation, poverty, wages, environmental destruction. He blames these economic problems not on their true causes — capitalism — but rather on immigrants, specifically on Latinos/as.
The El Paso terrorist talks about the horrible effects of corporations destroying the world, but as fascists always do, he tries to separate these corporations from capitalism as a system. Instead of blaming the capitalist system as a whole — which Crusius essentially admits he wants to keep, in modified form — he misdirects anger at immigrants.
Fascists have been using these same tactics of misdirection, scapegoating, and ideological confusion since fascism was formally created 100 years ago.
As historian Michael Parenti has long argued, fascism is “a false revolution”:
Fascism is a false revolution. It cultivates the appearance of popular politics and a revolutionary aura without offering a genuine revolutionary class content. It propagates a “New Order” while serving the same old moneyed interests. Its leaders are not guilty of confusion but of deception. That they work hard to mislead the public does not mean they themselves are misled.
When Crusius inveighs against corporations, he may sound like he is borrowing (and abusing) some leftist rhetoric in his manifesto. This is not new. Fascists have been stealing leftist rhetoric — and then promptly murdering leftists — for as long as there have been fascists.
Crusius laments, for instance, that the US government is “owned by corporations” — but he does not see how this is the inevitable result of a capitalist state, not just the US government specifically. It only makes sense that, as the world’s most powerful capitalist state, the US has the world’s most powerful corporations. But it is not unique in these regards.
The El Paso terrorist is also a proud self-declared eco-fascist. In his manifesto, he states that “Corporations are heading the destruction of our environment by shamelessly overharvesting resources.” Once again, this is indisputably true. But the fascist’s ridiculous, genocidal “solution” to this enormous problem is ending immigration, “sending them back,” and ultimately exterminating entire groups of “undesirables.”
This contradiction really needs to be unpacked. Because if you cannot acknowledge that some of the economic and environmental problems that this fascist terrorist is discussing are indeed real, then you are only going to fuel more fascist terrorists just like him in the future.
Neoliberalism — the stage of unfettered capitalism that has governed the world with an iron fist since the counter-hegemonic socialist bloc that resisted it was overthrown in the early 1990s — is neither a popular nor a sustainable ideology. It has no mass base; it never has. Its only supporters are capitalists, the political class funded by capitalists, the commentariat who work for corporate media conglomerates owned by capitalists, and the coastal elites who carry the water for them.
Neoliberals are incapable of providing answers to these very real problems. With unemployment, they say tough luck. With automation, they say find a new job or get an unaffordable education. With poverty and wages, they say more of the same.
Neoliberals have no answers to any of these questions. And they continue to kneecap leftists; they continue to silence, smear, and sabotage socialists, who are trying to provide not only answers to these questions, but actual alternatives.
And when neoliberals refuse to provide answers and actively destroy any socialist alternatives, they leave behind fascists, who preach their own ridiculous, racist, supremacist answers and suggest their own false alternative.
The only two political options in modern history are socialism or barbarism. The past century has proved this again and again, from the day Rosa Luxemburg uttered the words — and was murdered by an alliance of pro-imperialist social democrats and proto-fascists.
The growing string of fascist mass shootings is a very obvious sign that we are living in a system of unabashed barbarism.
The problem is when socialism is taken off the table as an option — as it has been in the United States for decades, but especially in the past 30 years with the declaration of the supposed “end of “history” (“There is no alternative,” Margaret Thatcher declared) — fascists try to propose social nationalism, and even an “environmentalist” social nationalism (ecofascism), as the only “realistic” alternative to neoliberal imperialism. (This explains, too, why in much of Eastern Europe today, where past popular communist movements have been outright outlawed, the choice is presently between neoliberal imperialists or social-nationalist fascists.)
The global crisis of capitalism cannot be ignored by any working-class person; only coastal elites can pretend as though it were a figment of ignorant workers’ imaginations. Nor can the global environmental emergency be ignored. When neoliberals do not permit a socialist solution to these crises, they set the stage for fascist insurgency.
Or, to knead JFK’s quote into something much more useful, those who make socialist transformation impossible will make violent fascist counterrevolution inevitable.
Moreover, at the core of the El Paso terrorist’s fascist ideology is settler-colonialism. In his manifesto, Patrick Crusius writes: “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
But Texas was Mexico’s territory until the US illegally annexed it in 1845, then stole it in 1848 in a colonial war of expansion.
This is the most grotesque colonial irony of all: settler-colonialists declared independence from Mexico; then the US took over this land through war. And 170 years later, white supremacist fascists claim Mexicans are “invading” this stolen land, so they’re massacring civilians.
In his screed, the El Paso terrorists even calls to “send them back” — but their ancestors were the ones from Texas in the first place! And very recently, just four or so generations away; we’re not talking about 500 or 2,000 years.
The El Paso terrorist even acknowledges that corporations do not actually care about immigrants; they simply want cheap labor to exploit. But he scapegoats exploited immigrant workers anyway.
Instead of calling for solidarity with exploited immigrant workers, as socialists and all progressives should do, fascists like Crusius yearn to return to a white colonialist life of luxury built on capitalist-imperialist exploitation.
So despite the many obvious contradictions in his absurd — and murderous — fascist ideology, what it ultimately comes back to is the idea that in the imagined past, in some imaginary halcyon age, things were somehow so perfect and great (a concept that has been referred to as palingenetic ultranationalism).
These fascists yearn to return to a false golden age of colonialism, when their lives of comfort were built on slavery and unrestrained exploitation.
Another important point: In his manifesto, the El Paso terrorist specifically notes that people will lazily blame Trump for the attack. Yet he carefully points out that his fascist ideology “predate[s] Trump and his campaign for president.”
In fact, the fascist terrorist harshly criticizes the bipartisan capitalist policies pursued by both corporate parties, including Republicans — but, again, instead of blaming bipartisan capitalism, Crusius blames immigrants.
As established above, fascists are false revolutionaries. They want a false revolution against the contemporary status quo, a counterrevolution more accurately, that takes them back decades or centuries in time.
So these false revolutionaries rail against ambiguous, intentionally undefined concepts like the “establishment,” and often in fact criticize the already far-right Republican Party for not going far enough to the extreme right for their fascist taste.
And fascists always need a scapegoat. The Nazis had communists, Jews, Romani; just as ISIS and al-Qaeda have Shia and the “Rafida,” and Hinduvta fascists have Muslims (and communists again — fascists always hate communists, at the very core of their being).
White supremacist fascists use immigrants, Latinos/as, Black people, and other racial and ethnic minority groups as their scapegoats. And they do this specifically to misdirect justified anger against the capitalist-imperialist system instead against other victims of that same system.
As the crisis of capitalism grows, as the US empire declines, as bipartisan neoliberals keep imposing crippling austerity, these far-right terrorist attacks will continue. Fascists desperately want to return to this false golden age of colonialism.
The only way to stop them is to resist capitalism and imperialism.
But a quick note here on what form this resistance needs to take. For today there is no lack of social chauvinists who pose as fake socialists and who spend most of their time and energy attacking all existing socialist and progressive anti-imperialist governments, parties, and organizations — the global vanguard leading the fight against fascism — smearing them relentlessly as though they were the ones that are “fascist,” “authoritarian,” or “red-brown.”
These soft-imperialist social chauvinists are only further helping fuel this kind of murderous fascist ideology that poses a false choice between neoliberal imperialism and fascism.
There are a lot of soi-disant anti-fascist frauds out there who peddle a performatively “radical” liberal ideology in the guise of revolutionary socialism or anarchism. They wear Antifa like a hip brand name, but are actively supporting murderous imperialism, caping for the US military, NATO, and the European Union — some of the most monstrously destructive forces on Earth, which have actively supported, cultivated, and rehabilitated fascists for decades.
These liberal anti-fascists fall back on defending mass-murdering liberal imperialist institutions as defenders of bourgeois democracy against the supposedly fascist hordes. (Often because these soft-imperialist liberal anti-fascists are in fact part of the petty bourgeoisie themselves, and they think the working class is comprised of reactionary barbarians.)
These liberal anti-fascists see liberal imperialism as an ally against fascism. They refuse to see how liberal imperialism fuels fascism much more than many tiny fringe far-right groups, which often only achieve power through an alliance with the liberal imperialist bourgeoisie (an alliance of liberal imperialists and the far-right against the left).
A systemic analysis of how these liberal imperialist institutions — from the American and British governments to NATO and the EU, from the CIA and FBI to MI5 and MI6, from the World Bank and IMF to USAID and the NED, from the Democratic Party to the neoliberal Blairites — a systemic analysis of their role in supporting fascist movements across Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia is also absolutely imperative for a larger struggle against fascism.
As Arundhati Roy succinctly put it, in reference to Donald Trump, but with much broader implications:
The thing is, people spend so much time mocking Trump or waiting for him to be impeached. And the danger with that kind of obsession with a single person is that you don’t see the system that produced him. You don’t see that, obviously, there was something about those eight years of Obama’s presidency that created Trump. And if we just keep obsessing about this one person without seeing what would happen if he wasn’t there tomorrow.
The very serious problems we are facing — problems that threaten human civilization as a whole — are much bigger than one person or a few individuals.
This capitalist, colonialist, imperialist system — and the crisis it is in — is what produces leaders like Trump and fascist terrorists like in El Paso. We have to stop it, before it stops us all.