There have been two articles published recently that track similar ground. The first is a lengthy piece on ‘third positionists’ and Red-Brown alliances, which outlines some key figures and points of contact.
The second of these, “The Multipolar Spin: How Fascists Operationalize Left-wing Resentment,” appeared briefly, and was removed soon after. It has since been republished elsewhere. Those who sought its removal have claimed that they were maligned because they were described as fascists. It is clear from the article that this is not the case. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s decision to remove the article is, in my view, disappointing and mistaken—they could instead have asked for a rewrite of specific wording. Their decision to remove the article will turn out to be as incorrect as their advising students against actively denying the far Right a platform on campuses, since that is precisely what led Richard Spencer to cancel his tour, claiming in a video that he decided to do so because “Antifa is winning.” In the case of the matters discussed in the article, it is far worse, involving shared platforms between some people who claim to be on the Left and fascist figures.
Both of the abovementioned articles are important, as is their discussion of the politics of fascism by way of individuals, particularly for those who are unacquainted with these figures and their writings.
But there seems to me a deeper impediment to understanding the course of Red-Brown alliances in recent times that these articles do not explain, in that a great many people (including anti-fascists) automatically assume that fascists are so ultra-nationalist that this rules out a fascist idea of empire. That assumption creates confusion, including making bizarre claims that the Trump administration was ever ‘isolationist’ seem remotely plausible, or the more simple one of amazement that fascists organise internationally, both on- and offline. It has also involved some misunderstanding as to why Red-Brown alliances emerge, and do so mostly within purportedly ‘anti-imperialist’ or ‘anti-war’ circles. Part of that is due to geopolitical affiliations, which tend to render the recourse to rhetorics of free speech, anti-war, and anti-imperialism laughably inconsistent and hollow, because the stakes are elsewhere.
But that raises the additional question of what those geopolitical affiliations mean, for fascists in particular, and why anti-fascism could do with developing a critique of geopolitics (which is, after all, a global system of borders). I do not, for a moment, believe that it is as simple as operationalising resentment, rather than shared or proximate understandings of the world which are rarely made explicit or challenged. That is true of concepts such as neoliberalism and globalisation. And I think it is true of geopolitics, as well as the conflation of ‘anti-imperialism’ with ‘anti-Atlanticism’ that makes Red-Brown alliances possible.
Below is a fragment from an essay of mine, still in draft, on fascist doctrines of imperialism.
My main argument is that fascists doctrines of empire are grounded in the concept of ‘natural dominion,’ and that without understanding this, it is impossible to understand the meaning that fascists attribute to ‘anti-imperialism,’ to war and peace, and by extension the basis on which Red-Brown alliances are forged as a metapolitics of the moment. It’s an elaborated version of arguments made elsewhere on fascism, but in this case the focus is on fascist visions of empire. Comments, suggestions are welcome. The avoidance of clarity on and discussion around the political conditions and implications of Red-Brown alliances is also a mistake, and an immense one.
The fascist imperium is a doctrine of international relations and an emerging claimant on imperial power. Its emphasis on a renascent, and presumably ‘isolationist’ ultra-nationalism does not imply an end to imperialism—though it may, on occasion and to some, sound as if it does because of how, as a theory of international relations, it frames a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate violence. Put simply, it is a distinctly fascist doctrine of empire that rests on the definition of sovereignty as natural dominion, in contrast to say, conventionalist, contract theories of sovereignty. As such, it seeks to redefine ‘anti-imperialism’ as the effort to conserve or retrieve a presumably natural global order and hierarchy, in line with a broader geopolitical theology that claims to bring about and end to war—through an irredentist violence. By that view, the fascist idea of ‘peace’ comes to imply the absence of war because war and peace are defined according to a strict distinction between the legitimate policing of populations and the war between legitimate sovereigns. This ‘peace’ attained through both revolutionary and ongoing fascist violence is the meaning of the so-called peace of the “Thousand Year Reich”—‘thousand year empire’—envisaged by German National Socialists, and which in practice involved the military annexation in the name of a grossdeutsh (Greater Germany), the invasion of territories placed under administrative rule, and the mass elimination and expulsion of those deemed foreign to and destructive of cultural singularity of a nation and continents. As a doctrine of sovereignty, ‘natural dominion’ entails a specific understanding of the principles of ‘non-interference’ and ‘self-determination,’ in very much the same way that domestic hierarchy and violence might be regarded as both a natural and private matter—it can be a precept of interior rule within nations, within continents, or a justification for annexation and colonisation, as with the claims of Italian fascists that Europe would exercise its “natural dominion” over other continents (Fioravanzo 2017, 246). It is also a reminder that “fascism was itself determined within a broader, longer-term global context of competing imperialisms” (Mark 2015, 8).
It has undeniably influenced and shadowed the concept of multipolarity which emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. Though the doctrine of multipolarity is not synonymous with that of the fascist imperium, proponents of the latter have treated it as a significant opportunity for transcoding and Red-Brown alliances. From within the framework of a Schmittian geopolitical historiography, the collapse of the Soviet Union is rendered continuous with the military defeat of the Third Reich. That geopolitical imaginary is also the basis of contemporary revivals of Francis Parker Yockey’s post-war mourning of a lost empire, in which he characterised America as the greater enemy, and (unlike the mass politics of other fascists tendencies) emphasised the need for fascists to recruit European nobility to the cause of a spiritual-cultural renewal and a new fascist imperium (Yockey 2013; Coogan 2002). Along with the German National Socialist jurist Carl Schmitt, whose geopolitical theology grounds sovereignty in the cultivation and appropriation of land (2006), Yockey’s neo-Spenglerian writings on the fascist imperium have been notable influences on contemporary fascist understandings of empire as a global diagram of ethno-religious states gathered around continental ‘poles’ of affiliation, driven by a Right-wing Gramscian emphasis on cultural warfare and, ironically given the emphasis on populism, preoccupied with the conscription of mournful aristocratic ideologues lamenting lost empires. What they envisage as that empire is a global version of racial-cultural segregation by another name.
As a broad historical and theoretical point, nationalism and inter-nationalism have never been mutually-exclusive. Historically, the nation-state and complex systems of international relations emerged simultaneously because borders establish nation-states and, at the same time, are the condition of possibility of international relations, giving rise to doctrines of and distinctions between ‘just war,’ diplomacy, colonisation and, not least, where the borders of any given nation-state might be situated in relation to another nation-state. No historical instance of fascist or any government has been militarily ‘isolationist’ or, for that matter, autarkic in its economic policies, despite the emphasis placed on economic nationalism (or mercantilism, which is a doctrine of international trade), or on the tenet of ‘non-interference,’ which presupposes a validation of the borders on which the distinction between policing and warfare is founded.
One thought on “Geopolitical Theology and the Fascist Imperium”
Thank you for this post which I encountered between the fragments of news fallout from Israel’s globally sanctioned righteous (an adjective not to be squeezed between inverted commas, since we just do not possess those commas, straight or onverted, possess no shelter or shield from the fallout of that righteousness, we are naked on the ground and without a roof over head, without a mask to cover the face!) murder of Palestinians on Gaza border, and–ongoing research on the theologico-politics, or ethno/etho-politics as well as geopolitics of Imperialism.
Coming from an angle of criticism of imperialist political and philosophical discourses I too find significant the certainty with which imperialism and internationalism are presumed to be antithetical stances. The heated turn of the century debate between Liberals and Imperialists, and the relatively later crop of Liberal-Imperialists in Britain sets the stage with almost perfect lighting for the inquiry. One of the prominent actors on stage, J. A. Hobson, who may or may not have foreseen the prospect of his words travelling thus far and wide in space-time, defines his ANTI-imperialist stance thus:
“If it is necessary that Western industrial civilization shall undertake the political and commercial government of the whole world, let these nations [Germany, France and Russia] get their share […]. On the assumption that backward countries must be developed by foreign countries FOR THE GENERAL GOOD, a reasonable economy of power will apportion the work which remains to the ‘imperialism’ of other nations. Even if these other nations were disposed to shirk their share, it would pay us better to prsuade them to undertake it rather than further to load our overladen shoulders.” (Imperialism)
After thus casting the lot of Britain for anti-imperialism, he goes on to elucidate the incompatibility between Social Reform, Trade Unionism, and ultimately Socialism, on the one hand, and Imperialism, on the other. Given the contingent character of anti-imperialism in this definition, however, we have to amend and limit Hobson’s assertion to the effect that Imperialism is antithetical with BRITISH Socialism, whereas, at this given moment in history, and by his account, the relation of, say, German Socialism with Imperialism might be altogether different, and at any rate, will have to be thought in its historical specificity, as will Russian or French Socialism, for that matter.