The Thought Architecture of Fascism
This is the text of a lecture to the Lecture to mark the 30th anniversary of @IFK_Vienna — the International Research Center for Cultural Studies, University of Art and Design Linz, delivered 14 June 2023. Some of the slides are in text…
Good evening and congratulations to the IFK on its 30th anniversary. What did we know for certain in 1993 when the Institute was founded? That communism had collapsed, revealing among its ruins such horrific evidence, on top of what we already knew, that it would certainly never return.
On top of this, fascism — in the form of a serious movement, a state, an authoritative intellectual current — had been completely vanquished in 1945. It was a finished historical episode.
This, indeed, was the foundational statement of fascist studies, outlined in Ernst Nolte’s book Fascism in its Epoch: fascism was the product of a time, place and social conditions that can never be repeated.
Today, both certainties are gone. We have a self-proclaimed communism in the People’s Republic of China which is in systemic competition with the West, desires an end to the rules based global order, has re-adopted a “Sinicised” Marxism as its ideology, and is coming to a lecture hall near you to drive out the Marxism of Gramsci, Marcuse and Stuart Hall.
Meanwhile fascism is back. Our problem is not that fascist parties and movements are large: they remain, in most countries, small and incapable of taking power. Instead, the phenomenon of right-wing populism is evolving in a fascist direction, dragging with it a section of mainstream conservatism. As we will see in the coming Spanish election, these forces are most definitely capable of taking power. And in Austria too, where the FPÖ stands at 30% in the polls.
From fists to guns
And fascism itself has radicalised. As an anti-fascist in the 1970s and 1980s I fought skinheads and football hooligans whose ideology was a direct leftover from British Nazism (see above).