Miguel Urrutia, a lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences, points out that the new fascist organisations are a response to the emergence of positions that have been a constant in our country since the end of the 19th century, but which are taking advantage of the current situation as an opportunity to update themselves. According to him, moreover, the traditional right, with its conservative, nationalist vision and its refusal to condemn the civil-military dictatorship, creates the conditions for these expressions to emerge.

By Jorge Molina and Patricio Mery Bell

One characteristic highlighted by this scholar is the commitment of these groups to have a presence among popular sectors, in contrast to the traditional nationalism of the Patriotic Leagues or the Republican Militia of a century ago, which emerged from the oligarchy.

“This is further evidence of the connection with the Chilean right, which for years has been moving towards the popular world, taking advantage of its Catholic and conservative experience in the second half of the 20th century, with phenomena such as the popular UDI”, he remarked.

Likewise, according to historian Sergio Grez, behind the different Nazi-fascist groups, despite their nuances, there is a shared doctrinal basis in their rejection of liberalism, democracy, Marxism and the notion of class struggle, in pursuit of a mythical national unity.

“A feature that identifies both the nationalist groups of the 1920s and 1930s and those of today is their rejection of the values of political liberalism and democracy, where they identify the germ of national weakening, and instead uphold the hierarchical principle of existence, and an appeal to a mythical people that results from an amalgam of concepts such as homeland, working people and nation,” he said.

In this line, all these nationalist groups, from those rooted in the ideas of thinkers such as Nicolás Palacios and Francisco Encina in the 19th century, through the National Socialist Movement to José Antonio Kast and his hordes, are presented as a reaction to the weakening and division of the nation.

Fascism was often evoked to define the authoritarian tendencies and new forms of power that appeared after the Second World War, not only in Latin America but also in Europe. In a famous article in 1949, at the height of the “Adenauer era”, Theodor W. Adorno considered that “the survival of Nazism in democracy was more dangerous than the persistence of fascist tendencies directed against democracy” (1998: 555). The German students who, in the 1970s, demonstrated against the FRG’s anti-communist laws (Berufsverbot) were saying no different. In 1974, Pier Paolo Pasolini observed the advent of a “new fascism” based on the anthropological consumerist model of neoliberal capitalism, against which Mussolini’s regime appeared hopelessly archaic, like a kind of “paleofascism”. And a few years ago, historians who devoted themselves to studying Berlusconi’s Italy could not fail to recognise a relationship of kinship, if not filiation, with classical fascism. Incidentally, the differences are of size: A follower of “negative freedoms” and a mortal enemy of communism – a term he uses as a metaphor for any idea of equality – the “little duce of Arcore” had no ambition to build a new state and had turned instead to the cult of the market; his natural habitat was television, not the “oceanic agglomerations” cherished by his predecessor; His charisma and the display of his body were manufactured by the modern media and referred to a particular variant of charisma at a distance, rather than the classical charisma theorised by Max Weber, which implies a direct, emotional, almost physical relationship between the leader and his followers.

This small digression suffices to show that fascism has not only a transnational dimension – brilliant studies have brought to light its transatlantic character – but also a transhistorical one. It is collective memory that establishes the link between a concept and its public use, beyond its historiographical dimension. Seen from this perspective, fascism can become a transhistorical concept that transcends the epoch that engendered it, in the same way as other notions in our political lexicon. To say that the United States, France and the United Kingdom are democracies is not to postulate the identity of their political systems, still less to claim that they would correspond to the Athenian democracy of the age of Pericles. Twenty-first century fascism will not have the face of Mussolini, Hitler or Franco, nor – we hope – that of totalitarian terror, but it would be wrong to infer from this that our democracies are not in danger. The ritual evocation of external threats to democracy – first and foremost terrorism – forgets a fundamental lesson from the history of fascism: democracy can be destroyed from within.

Post-fascism draws its vitality from the economic crisis and the exhaustion of liberal democracies that have driven the popular classes to abstention and are henceforth identified, in all their elements, with austerity policies. Its rise takes place in a profoundly different context from that in which fascism was born in the 1920s and 1930s. After the collapse of the liberal order of the “long” 19th century, fascism presented itself as an alternative civilisation, announced its “national revolution” and projected itself into the future. It outlined the utopia of a “New Man” that was to replace the decadent democracies and regenerate the nations of the Old World. Mussolini promised the rebirth of the Roman Empire and Hitler announced the advent of a millenarian Reich that would have allowed the members of the Volk (German people) to commune in a future of racial brotherhood. Post-fascism, devoid of the vital and utopian impulse of its ancestors, emerges in a post-fascist era marked by the collapse of the hopes of the 20th century. It is limited by a “presentist” temporality that excludes any “horizon of expectations” beyond electoral deadlines. In other words, post-fascism has no ambition to mobilise the masses around new collective myths. Instead of making the people dream, it wants to convince them to be an effective tool to express their protest against the powerful who dominate and crush them, while still promising order – economic, social, moral – to the possessing strata who have always preferred trade to finance and inherited property to the fluctuations of the market. Far from being or presenting itself as “revolutionary”, post-fascism is profoundly conservative and even reactionary. Its modernity is based on its effective use of the media and communication techniques – its leaders blast television screens – rather than on its message, which is completely devoid of any millenarian mythology. If it knows how to fabricate and exploit fear by presenting itself as a wall against the enemies that threaten “ordinary people” – globalisation, Islam, immigration, terrorism – its solutions always consist in returning to the past: a return to the national currency, reassertion of sovereignty, withdrawal of identity, protection of the poor who now feel “foreign in their homeland”, and so on.

One of the fundamental sources of classical fascism, its raison d’être and, in several cases, the key to its rise to power, was anti-communism. Fascism defined itself as a “revolution against revolution”, and its radicalism was on a par with the challenge embodied by the Russian Revolution. Both postulated the return of the established order and structured their movements according to a military paradigm inherited from the first world conflict; they mirrored a political life brutalised by total war. Today, post-fascism dilutes its language through TV spots and advertising campaigns rather than parading its troops in uniform. And when it mobilises the crowds, the latter do not disdain certain aesthetic codes borrowed from the libertarian left, as in the case of the 2013 “Demonstration for all” in opposition to gay marriage. The post-fascist imaginary is not haunted by the Jüngerian figures of the “labour militias” (Arbeiter) with their metal bodies sculpted by combat, nor by eugenic ghosts of racial purification. In short, it boils down to the conservative impulses of what critical thinking has defined as the “authoritarian personality”: a mixture of fear and frustration and a lack of self-confidence that lead to the enjoyment of one’s own submission.

Post-fascism has enemies, but neither the labour movement nor communism structures its hatred and anger any more.seen in a historical perspective, post-fascism is a consequence of the defeat of the revolutions of the 20th century and the eclipse of the labour movement as a subject of social and political life. With the disappearance of communism and the alignment of social democracy with the rules of neo-liberal governance, the radical right acquired a kind of monopoly on criticising the system, without even needing to appear subversive.

A common feature of post-fascism, well entrenched in all its variants, from neo-Nazi movements to the more “moderate” parties emerging from the traditional right, is xenophobia. Violent hatred of the foreigner, always identified with the immigrant, structures its ideology and guides its actions. In the post-fascist imaginary, the foreigner is defined in opposition to the autochthonous. Consequently, the foreigner is also and above all an enemy of the interior, a corrupting element that affects the healthy body of the nation like a virus, or eats away at it like a cancer.

The new xenophobia is supported by a very considerable neo-conservative scholarly output. Works such as Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilisations (1993), David Landes’ Wealth and Poverty of Nations (1998) or What Happened? Islam, the West and Modernity by Bernard Lewis (2002) are today’s equivalent of Gustave Le Bon’s The Psychology of the Evolution of Peoples (1895), Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s The Genesis of the Nineteenth Century (1899) or Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West (1918). Their language and conceptual props have changed, but they serve an analogous function. At the time of their appearance, the books of Le Bon, Chamberlain and Spengler had a solid scientific reputation and exerted an undoubted influence on conservative culture. And, as for our scholars today, their influence remained confined to the cultivated strata.

Ordinary xenophobia expresses itself rather through the symbolic violence of slogans, shocking statements, vulgar images, racist platitudes. As in the anti-Semitism of yesteryear, spread in both the aristocratic strata and the working classes, the repertoire of contemporary Islamophobia is vast and goes far beyond the borders of post-fascism. Since the birth of the European Union (with the exception, now, of Alexis Tsipras), it has never recognised that the Old World needed its immigrants and that they constituted its future. After decades of rhetoric about “chosen immigration”, the impossibility of “taking in all the misery of the world”, “the noise and the smell”, “chocolate bread”, and so on, post-fascism has been powerfully legitimised by the very ones who claimed to fight it. Already in classical fascism, words played a more important role than writing. Now that the videosphere predominates over the graphosphere, it is not surprising that xenophobic discourse spreads first through the media, assigning cultural production an auxiliary role.

In Chile, the extreme right has a media presence with characters such as José Antonio Kast, Raúl Meza (lawyer for repressors imprisoned in Punta Peuco), Loreto Letelier (former UDI militant), Ignacio Urrutia (legislator), Hermógenes Pérez de Arce (columnist), Jorge Muñoz (former army general), Jorge Arancibia (former Commander-in-Chief of the Navy and current Constituent Convention member), Aldo Duque (lawyer), Rojo Edwards (senator-elect), Hernán Büchi (former Finance Minister under Pinochet), Carlos Cáceres (former Interior Minister under Pinochet), Javier Leturia, Gonzalo Rojas (historian), Sebastián Izquierdo (founder of Capitalismo Revolucionario), among others.

During 2020 and 2021, it became clear that the presence and prominence of far-right sectors in different territorial and social spheres and spaces such as the Parliament, with the activity of Ignacio Urrutia and Camila Flores, or in the Constitutional Convention with Jorge Arancibia.

In a text by the Observatory of the Rise of the Far Right in Chile (OAEC) of the University of Chile, it was noted that in the last period, especially after 2019, “groups inherited from historical fascism, ‘anarcho-capitalists’ and strange mixtures of ultra-conservative religious perspectives and neoliberal anti-statism emerged ( ) that began to take over social networks and make small but significant shows of street force. While all these groups have radically different worldviews and programmatic outlines, chauvinism, xenophobia, racism, LGBTI phobia, misogyny, contempt for democratic culture and rejection of possible constitutional change, occupy the agenda of all of them transversally, regardless of the language and methods they use to justify these kinds of narratives”.

Following Julio Cortés (2020), it is interesting to study the groups of the “new right” because it is from them that a kind of “front line” is emerging in defence of the existing social order, and in the first place, of the so-called Chilean “neoliberal model”.

To begin with, it is necessary to make a first major distinction within the spectrum of what is undifferentiatedly considered “facho”.

Traditional fascism usually presents itself with a formally “anti-capitalist” discourse, and with an explicit criticism of liberal and Marxist ideologies, consequently rejecting the economic/social models that emanate from them: capitalism and communism. Fascists of this type present themselves as adhering to a third, nationalist position. They often present populist components, while attacking the idea of class struggle, claiming the national-popular, and have even defined themselves as “national-revolutionary” and/or “national-unionist”. Some examples of the confusion of this discourse, and of the difficulty of pigeonholing them into the traditional right/left dichotomy, can be found in the phenomenon of Argentine “Peronism” and in the support for Chávez by national-revolutionary sectors.

In the Chilean case, the more purist nationalist sectors had little sympathy for Pinochet’s trade unionist/neoliberal drift, which was obviously far removed from their ideal of national-popular revolution. This did not prevent them from actively collaborating with the state terrorist apparatus.

Although they do not openly proclaim themselves to be fascists, there are two groups in Chile that come close to these characteristics: the Movimiento Social-Patriota (MSP) and the Partido Republicano (Republican Party). Both appeal strongly to the fact that they are neither “right-wing nor left-wing”, and although they are conservative on moral issues: they defend openly homophobic and anti-feminist positions, their sovereignist discourse makes them criticise both the “globalism” of the UN and Human Rights, as well as the economic groups that have divided up Chile. The MSP issued statements in support of the rebellion of 18 October, although they differed from its more violent aspects.

Another very different sector, which openly assumes itself to be right-wing or new right, are the so-called “libertarians”. They are described as basically neo-liberal Pinochettists. Their criticisms seem to be aimed jointly at two groups: Revolutionary Capitalism and the Libertarian Party, who in turn seem to hate each other (a picture not unlike that which has always been seen on the ultra-left).

In the United States there has been a Libertarian Party for decades, which is linked to a somewhat diffuse and absurdly striking current: anarcho-capitalism (or “ancap”), which uses as its emblem a flag similar to the red-and-black flag of anarcho-syndicalism, but with yellow (symbol of gold) instead of red. Strictly speaking, they are not anarchists, since they are not in favour of the destruction of the state, but “minarchists”: in favour of keeping the state and the government reduced to their minimum expression, as in the old days before Keynesianism and the welfare state, which to them as free-market extremists seem to be open forms of socialism.

Close to them, the liberal-libertarians with the late philosopher Robert Nozick at their head preach a pure capitalism, which reminds one of Marx when he spoke of “the anarchy of the market”, or of Bakunin who said that the bourgeoisie was not repulsed by anarchy, but “wants it for itself”. Despite appeals to anarchy, Nozick points out that “the minimal state is the only morally permissible state”, thus placing himself also in the camp of Axel Kaiser-type minarchists.

For Revolutionary Capitalism, fascism is left-wing and considers MSP and even Patria y Libertad as such, although on the other hand it readily appeals to “poor facho pride”. At the same time, it differs from the Libertarian Party (which it criticises as atheists, pacifists, and “libertarians” because it claims the need for violence, and above all for direct action in the streets, calling for the use of weapons and attacking demonstrators, with particular hatred for “antifa” and the “front line”. But they seem to come from the same political background, since they themselves have pointed out in a long interview to The Clinic that they were followers of Axel Kaiser’s ideas, but that while many theorise about how it would be possible to privatise the air, they prefer a bit of “Leninism” and action on the streets.

The name revolutionary capitalism is quite striking and many find it absurd. Not so much if we consider that it is a form of neo-Pinochettism, and that Tomás Moulian himself speaks of the work of the dictatorship as a “capitalist revolution”.

Finally, when these groups go into action, street violence is increased and aggravated, not only by adding this third element to the protesters/police equation, but also because they tend to have strong personal links with the repressive apparatus, which turns a blind eye to their actions, when it does not tolerate and openly supports them.