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20th Century’s new fascism

By Thomas Klikauer and Norman Simms - posted Tuesday, 3 December 2019

New fascism does everything possible to blur the lines between new fascism and anti-fascism in order to making new fascism acceptable – it the mainstreaming of fascism. Of course, in a milder tone, compared to the 1930s, new fascism exploits, even as it seeks to create more, divisions among those opposing new fascism.

In the 1930s, old fascism utilised a split between communists and social-democrats. Today's new fascism uses tensions between social-democratic parties and more progressive parties, like Germany's Die Linke or the Greens. Just before old fascism took over in 1933, one of Germany's finest statesmen, Carl von Ossietzky (1889-1938) strongly argued for a merger of communists and social-democrats in order to fight fascism. Neither communists nor social-democrats, tragically, were prepared to join together in order to fight the rise of Hitler. Not long after, both parties paid a bitter price when being tortured to death next to one another by Hitler's SA.

This is something our contemporary politicians need to keep well in mind. When faced with new fascism, all democratic parties can no longer afford to make the same mistake again, otherwise new fascism – as a pernicious and reactionary form of anti-modernism – will inevitably take over. The new fascism will install a totalitarian regime based on race and national identity. This will be the race-based and deeply antisemitic state the National Socialists established to last for a thousand years – the völkische Staat. The new fascist state will certainly be a monolithic entity to the exclusion of anyone not seen as white and Aryan. Those despised outsiders, refugees and cultural minorities, Hitler's Untermenschen, will be (mis)treated, incarcerated, expelled or extinguished. In Germany's version of new fascism, this has already been expressed by the AfD through the suggestion of shooting refugees at borders.


Old and new fascism do not differ in their willingness to destroy the heritage of Europe's Enlightenment, along with its Kantian tradition of modernity, rationality, tolerance, openness, liberalism, pluralism, universalism and, above all, humanism. Like the fascism of the 1930s, the new fascism of our own day is not inclined towards the free market. A free and open marketplace is precarious and could easily hand itself and humanity over to the ruthless dictates of neoliberalism. Though the new fascism is not following this ideology of a radical neoliberal economy, nor any other systematic ideology, it prefers the ideal of a strong, ethnically-cleansed and authoritarian state – not the total market. In Theodor Adorno's words, this is the closed space in which the individual's function is to serve the fascist state.

In conclusion, new fascism and old fascism are not the same. In a way, new fascism has modernised itself even though it remains a deeply anti-modern force. New fascism no longer operates with swastika flags, torch-marches, uniforms, street brutalities and the like. This is not to say that hard core Neo-Nazis tdo not do that – they do. But in new fascism's modernised version, new fascism has become less focused on violence and brutality, or at least wants the world to think so. But it can be discovered by listening closely to the tones in its speech and can be smelt by the stench of its ideals.

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About the Authors

Thomas Klikauer is a German academic who teaches in the MBA course at the University of Western Sydney. He is the author of the forthcoming book The AfD to be published by Sussex University Press in early 2020.

Norman Simms edits the journal Mentalities/Mentalités.

Other articles by these Authors

All articles by Thomas Klikauer
All articles by Norman Simms

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