When the ‘Anti-fascists’ go fascist

As in Italy…

At the end of the First World War the Italian cabinet split. One faction wanted to use Italy’s position as a victorious ally to push its territorial claims. Another urged caution, arguing that Italy was in danger of alienating its erstwhile allies and new neighbors. In December 1918, the latter faction resigned in protest. The leader of this latter faction, Leonida Bissolati, took his case to the Italian people.

On 11 January, he addressed a public meeting at La Scala theatre in Milan…But a cabal of radical nationalists, ‘war veterans, conspirators, police agents, and random souls undone and exasperated by the war’, had packed the opera house and would not let him finish. Marinetti and his Futurists sat in a box, ready to lead the disruption. 

“…the infernal symphony began. Squeaks, shrieks, whistles, grumbles, nearly human…but a human, nay a patriotic cry became distinguishable now and then and ruled the inarticulate mass with the rhythm of a brutal march. They said ‘Croati no! Croati no!’ meaning that they were not Croats, that they wanted no friendship with Croats or Yugoslavs; and they meant too that Bissolati was a Croat”

Bissolati raised his voice and spoke on, until he caught sight of Mussolini’s pale, spade-like visage in the audience, and recognised ‘that unmistakable voice, dishearteningly wooden, peremptorily insistent, like the clacking of castanets’. Bissolati turned to his companions on the stage and said ‘Quell’uomo no!’ ‘I will not fight with that man.’ He finished his speech in a low voice, as if reading to himself. There was no applause. The political campaign for a reasonable territorial settlement was over.* 

The historian Mimmo Franzinelli called this ‘the first act of organised fascist violence’.

…so in America?

I was reminded of this as I read Heather Mac Donald’s new book The Diversity Delusion. There, Mac Donald recounts episode after episode of people who loudly proclaim their ‘anti fascism’ adopting exactly the tactics of Mussolini and Marinetti in trying to silence any opposition. Here is how an incident at Claremont McKenna College was reported

The protesters, most of whom wore all black, congregated outside Honnold/Mudd Library at 4 p.m. to stage the action.

“We are here to shut down the f***ing fascist,” announced an organizer to a crowd of around 100 students.

The organizer also warned that “there is a potential for police to show up and there is a potential for arrest.”

The protesters subsequently marched to the Ath around 4:30 while chanting. An organizer shouted “How do you spell racist?” into a megaphone; the marchers responded “C-M-C.”

When they arrived, the protesters were greeted by around two dozen Campus Safety officers and Claremont police officers, stationed at various locations around the building. Protestors ignored the officers (who did not obstruct them) and the makeshift white fences sectioning off areas of Flamson Plaza, enveloping each of the Ath’s entrances with multiple rows of students linking arms. White students were encouraged to stand in front to form a barrier between students of color and the police.

The protesters continued their chants, including “hey hey, ho ho, Heather Mac has got to go,” “shut it down,” and — most frequent and sustained — “black lives matter.” Some of the officers appeared visibly uncomfortable during chants of “from Oakland to Greece, f**k the police.”

Fascism and communism – Cousins, not opposites

That the tactics of fascism are adopted so readily by people who would call themselves ‘anti-fascist’ should come as no surprise. In her classic memoir Wild Swans, Jung Chang recounts how the Red Guards of Communist China – who Mao wanted to be his “shock troops” – were part of a “generation of teenagers [who] grew up expecting to fight class enemies”. They started by abusing their teachers, even fatally beating some, and “some schoolchildren set up prisons in which teachers were tortured”.

But just as Mussolini and Marinetti took their tactics beyond the theater in Milan, so, too, were the schools just a training ground for the Red Guards. Mao

…encouraged the Red Guards to pick on a wider range of victims in order to increase the terror. Prominent writers, artists, scholars, and most other top professionals, who had been privileged under the Communist regime, were now categorically condemned as “reactionary bourgeois authorities.” With the help of some of these people’s colleagues, who hated them for various reasons, ranging from fanaticism to envy, the Red Guards began to abuse them.

Fascism and Communism are not diametric opposites, they are close cousins. That is why their tactics are so similar. The modern day ‘anti-fascists’ who terrorize university administrators might not mind being called heirs to the Red Guards, but they are the heirs of Mussolini and Marinetti’s fascists too. Just as the tactics of fascism spread across Italy and the Red Guards took their campaign of violent intimidation from the campus to China at large, we must be wary in America today about letting this sort of fascist behavior get normalized. We can start by calling it what it is.

Mac Donald will be discussing The Diversity Delusion at our lunch forum next week on April 24. Click here for tickets and more information.

*Quoted from The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-1919 by Mark Thompson