Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Fascism in the Streets

In the comments I see someone has noted that there was an element of Fascism present here in St. Paul yesterday. That of course is true, though I did not write much about it. As indicated previously, the marchers I saw and photographed were mostly good natured and peaceful. The only fascist chant I heard was the famous "Whose streets? Our streets!" which of course is relatively mild.

Not so mild were the efforts of some to put that slogan into practice in a violent manner. Since I am not really much of a photo-journalist I was unable to provide any pictures of window breakers. In fact, I was just out in downtown St. Paul in a fruitless effort to find this evenings riot. By the time I got down there all the cops were taking off their gear and packing it up in the rented minivans they had driven down in, or were eating sandwiches while awaiting the order to pack up. I might put up such a picture, since it is the sort of work you might not find elsewhere, but perhaps that is because a picture of a cop in riot gear eating a plastic wrapped sandwich is not terribly compelling.

The Fascist movements of the early twentieth century had a component of street fighting youth. I don't think Horst Wessel ever called out the "Whose streets?" chant when he was getting in fist fights with young Communists, but maybe he did. The spirit of the call was certainly present, in that the youth have a special claim on the public space, which they will take by violent action. Breaking windows to intimidate political opponents is of course classically fascist.

The best defense to a charge of fascism against the bandanna clad window breakers of 2008 in St Paul is that window breaking is also a popular form of teenage hooliganism. In other words, the mobs in the street are not fascist only if they are not political. That defense could very well be a good one. While it has not been easy to engage the bandanna crowd in conversation, my sense from one snippet was that the individual did not understand the difference between anarchism and communism. In my view, they are essentially opposites, since communism requires central planning, and hence a central government. Perhaps they view anarchy as a brief phase after which they will establish some sort of control? Or perhaps as I said, they find acting out somewhat thrilling, and are looking for an excuse to be violent. The counter-argument is that there must be some political element in a protest outside the Republican National Convention. If the protesters don't know what they are for, they at least know what they are against.

In truth many of the followers of the fascist movements of the last century were probably at a similar level of political consciousness. The current movement lacks a charismatic figure, like a Mussolini, to organize the youthful and the violent. Fortunately the economic situation in this country is not so severe as that obtaining in post-WWI Europe. Also fortunate is the cool competence of the police that I spoke to, who have been doing a pretty good job of not allowing the anarchists to achieve much in the way of anarchy.


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