As we watched the January 6 attack on the Capitol along with everybody else, we at DSA SF had a foreboding sense of the attack’s present and future implications for the rising tide of fascism. Our chapter is no stranger to anti-fascist organizing, having participated in a local coalition of Bay Area groups to confront right-wing mobilizations after Charlottesville in 2017. The events of the Trump years kept fascism at the forefront of our concerns, but in the aftermath of January 6 we felt a renewed sense of urgency to take our studies further.
Over four weeks, members of DSA SF met to discuss and understand fascism in a reading group organized by the DSA SF Education Committee. We began with a series of questions: Was January 6th an attempted coup? Was it a terrorist act? Was it a fascist act? And what is “fascist”? All of these questions and many others pointed to the importance of collaboratively defining these terms. “Terrorism,” for example is used so widely by the US government at this point that it serves more as a label for opponents of the US imperial project rather than as a way to describe a violent act in service of specific political goals. This same vagueness of usage can be seen when it comes to “fascism.”
So, what is fascism? Is it an ideology? Is it a mass movement? Is it inherently violent? What are the differences between neoliberal capitalism and fascism? And most importantly, how has usage of the term “fascism” developed over time, in ways that reflect specific historical, political and cultural contexts?
We submit this report on our readings and discussions to encourage the study of fascism and the contemporary far-right so that we can know our enemy and defeat them. We see collective study as an important form of socialist practice. Click here for our reading list, key questions the group grappled with each week, and some conclusions that we drew from the texts. To encourage others to read these texts and educate themselves, we have created an ebook that contains this article and the classic texts that we read. We hope other groups will draft and publish their own reports to create greater coherence in our understanding of fascism across DSA and beyond.