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Security deficit September 30, 2020

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.

I was thinking this weekend about an odd aspect of the narrative in the public sphere around certain issues relating to the pandemic, particularly those coming from the far-right. And it is this. In essence fascism and the far-right offer appeals to security – sometimes by pointing to others, in a scape-goating fashion, at other times (or simultaneously) looking at economic or cultural issues that they paint as a danger to the nation and/or the state or the people. One can reduce this to the idea that for them – bar radical and marginal fringes – tomorrow must be like yesterday. It’s conservatism, but bound up in reaction. In a way the radicalism of fascism is performative, quite literally so in terms of spectacle, because the underlying power relationships – and we saw this in practice, arguably Spain being one of the most illuminating examples under Franco, were ones where capital and pre-existing hierarchical social relations were maintained and even extended, whatever the workerist (after a fashion) rhetoric of the Falange. It’s not that the state didn’t take an interest in private enterprise, but capital was able to broadly make accomodations with the new regimes.

And in this context security is about preserving the integrity of the people, as defined by them. This can be in relation to racial or other threats – as in Spain where the ‘threat’ was oriented around ideological threats (of such range that at this remove it is telling to see how they encompassed far left through to some right of centre strands in conservatism).

But at heart the message, the appeal as it were, is to security. Trust us, give us state power and we will ensure your safety. Now, there are obviously caveats to this. The martial aspect of fascism(s) was such that such safety was contingent. A war and instability weary German people didn’t sign up for massive expansion through military conquest of the Reich, but that is what they got. And it was deep in the DNA of those in charge of the National Socialist state. But – the Spanish example, and arguably even that of Italy, suggest that it was possible for that dynamic to be contained or even suppressed in practice.

Which brings us to the contemporary situation where we see the far-right in this state, and elsewhere, cosying up to pandemic denialists and so on. Unwise to overstate this, but there is a reality that this may not be the best option for them, because the pandemic itself impacts grievously on the security of populations. And the evidence of its existence and the necessity for measures, such as masks, to be taken is so obvious – generally – that the cohort open to contrarian messages is quite limited. Simply put as numbers rise of cases and deaths it becomes more and more difficult to paint oneself as a champion of the ‘people’ however tightly one describes that people.

Indeed conspicuous by its absence is any concern for workers or communities in all this. At a time when frontline workers in health and other areas have been appallingly impacted by the virus, where in meat factories other workers have been likewise suffering, where communities have seen cases ramp up, where old people at a point in their lives where their safety and health should be first and foremost have fallen to the unchecked spread of the virus through care homes and so those forces have allied themselves with those who claim none of this has happened or if they accept it has downplay it completely.

There’s another aspect which is that that contrarian cohort is also so variegated and so clearly driven in large part by a sense of personal autonomy and, it seems reasonable to posit, an individualism set against collective solutions that it provides a not entirely reliable catchment area for the far right. That said as even a cursory reflection on the past provides, fascism always had this odd tilt (or perhaps not so odd given the irrationality that lies at its heart) towards the esoteric. Moons of Ice, amalgams of various theological strands, and so on being a part and parcel of it, albeit to a somewhat marginal degree. But one would think that some of those cleaving to anti-mask positions are unlikely political soldiers for the long haul of the march towards Irish political institutions.

Perhaps part of this is the example of the Five Star Movement which in its hazy liberalism crossed with something all too new age provided political cover and an all too expedient means of levering far-right forces to state power in Italy. But even that example is conflicted – quite against the expectations of Salvini the 5SM ran to the left when it decided it had no other option.

Again, all this is in a sense hypothetical. The range of forces on this island remain small, but they have managed to use the pandemic to further their profile. There are more of them than there were five years ago. That is a reflection and a function of the socio-economic dislocaiton of the past decade. What happens next is an open question. At national level the scope for a breakthrough seems remote in the extreme. At local level so far it appears similar. Much depends upon the response not just of the left but the republican left up to and including SF.

But it seems that one obvious critique that should be leveled against those who argue for so-called ‘freedoms’ is the complete lack of interest displayed in the actual lived lives and safety of workers across this island and the denial of reality in regard to the threat that the pandemic presents to them.


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