“Ein Fascist ha” meaning “these fascists” is becoming an all too frequent statement used in social media by Afghans (particularly in the diaspora) to refer to members of a specific ethnic group in Afghanistan. Entertaining such a label so lightly is either ignorance or deliberate expression of hatred. I hope it is the former reason and those who use the term are oblivious to the origin, history and the graveness of fascism. Certainly there can be found some Afghans with extreme worldviews and even isolated imitations, but that exists in every society. To label an Afghan fascist based on ethnicity is as unimaginable as an Afghan with shaved heads and swastika tattoos roaming the streets. The latter is an absurdity so why is the former becoming so prevalent? Why is an Afghan being equated with some of the most heinous mass murderers of the 20th century?
It begs the question as to whether fascism in essence is a euro-centric ideology? Shouldn’t the fascist movements of the 1920s and 1930s be understood conceptually as products of their time and place? Does Fascism remain viable and discernible outside the context of inter-war Europe, and in particular, Is Fascism in any way applicable to Afghanistan? Has there been in Afghan history a Hitler, Mussolini or Franco? Where is the historical perspective and human sensitivity? Isn’t such gross misuse of the notion of fascism and hurling the label to an Afghan is in itself bigotry?
We can choose to ignore as such labelling reveals ones own lack of intellectual integrity. Or we can attempt to debunk these dogmatic slurs for the sake of peace and co-existence. Is it concerning that by shedding light to such bigotry, it only empowers the bigots and further increases its use? It is a valid concern but being silent to such labeling takes it from an anomaly to prevalence. Lest we Forget that “those cockroaches” is a poignant historical example of hateful labeling from Holocaust to Rwanda that culminated to the worst tragedy. Therefore the pseudo-intellectuals who troll the social media with the fascist label must be conscious of what is fascism and how deplorable it is to apply it to Afghanistan and an Afghan ethnic group.
What is Fascism:
Fascism is the most tragic ideology to emerge in the 20th century, becoming dominant in Italy in 1922 and Germany by 1933 and being a significant factor in the led up to the Second World War. It is also an ideology with the shortest life span, disappearing as a major force by 1945. Its impact has been however catastrophic and far reaching with the Nazi iconography being embedded in our consciousness. It has been difficult to come to an understanding of fascism as a political movement, largely due to its complex relation with capitalism which has emerged triumphant in the last two and half decades. In a very materialist understanding, it is argued that fascism is state corporatism. It is however, much more nuanced with grave ideological underpinnings.
Fascism emerged out of social contradiction in Europe in the early 20th century: mass democratization on the one hand and expansive imperialist capitalism on the other hand. The ideology founds its niche in Europe’s petty bourgeoisie (middle class) who marveled the capitalist expansionism, yet were drawn to socialism and suffering of the people. Fascism reconciled this social dilemma of the petty bourgeoisie by offering as Trotsky argued ‘order with an iron hand’ and was best summed up in Hitler’s maxim of ‘Responsibility towards above, authority towards below’. Although fascist ideology was a reaction to the social turmoil of Europe, coming to power it metamorphosed as Antonio Gramsci warned “once Fascism is called up and unleashed (by the big capital), it is worse than the devil, and no longer allowing itself to be controlled (by the bourgeoisie)”.
There is no concise definition of “traditional” fascism and neo-fascism. It is an ideological movement and there has always been different national variations of fascism. To historians like Renzo de Felice and Zeev Sternhell, German Nazism must be considered entirely a separate thing from Italian fascism as the ideology of fascism did not have the biological determinism that so much defined Nazism. Robert Paxton’s The Anatomy of Fascism is the best recent guide to an understanding of fascism. He traces the development of fascism through five stages: the creation of a movement; the rooting in the political system; the seizure of power; the exercise of power; and its fate in the long term. A significant factor in the attraction of fascism is its appeal to the personality of the ‘leader’.
It is hard to pinpoint any reminiscences of fascism in Afghanistan. As stated, fascism emerges from a condition of capitalism. In its very perverted essence, fascism is state capitalism. A neo-fascist’ state exists fundamentally through direct use of force by repressing the economic processes and the social structures of the society. State legitimacy is not derived through consensus but submission. The state under fascism instrumentalizes violence to permeate its disproportional power over the society. Its military and police apparatuses become heavily “overdeveloped”. Terror and purges become normalcy as subjugation of dissent and mass demobilization become systematic. The primary goal of a neo-fascist state becomes large scale, long term economic expansion based on capitalism and multi-national corporatism.
Now anyone, with the slightest awareness of the contemporary Afghan state surely sees that there is no trace of any of the neo-fascist state characteristics. Neither are the people in Afghan government with the slightest aspiration of establishing a neo-fascist state. The precondition for fascism (mature capitalism) is non-existent in Afghanistan. Currently the Afghan state is a liberal state with limited power. The Afghan state does not even have the monopoly of force even in its capital city, let alone the rest of the country. It is desperately fighting insurgency. Its recent national unity government is exceedingly accommodating of anyone willing to share power and is primarily preoccupied with daily dysfunctions.
It is quite understandable the sufferings that all Afghans have endured in the last four decades of war has created much sorrow, frustration and animosity. Particularly, in the diaspora, the displacement, the inability to integrate in the hostland has created a longing for the homeland. The despair that accumulates as the reality of a return becomes increasingly a dream, the frustration boils and hostilities emerges. It is important to be critical of your own government, in fact it is necessary to hold responsible any Afghan who harms or has malicious desires towards their country. This cannot be achieved through hate and divisiveness. Scapegoating and slandering with hateful fascist label a person or a group based on ethnicity is simply bigotry.
As Afghans we have a long rich history, full of kindness, love and understanding for one another. It is embedded in our culture and tradition, regardless of our distinct ethnicity. Therefore, we must be extremely wary of labels like fascism that only divide and dismember us.