[Marxism] a workshop on the Marxist approach to fascism and how to fight it, at York University, Toronto

Raju Das rajudas at yorku.ca
Wed Jan 24 09:42:47 MST 2018

My colleague, Robert Latham, and I are looking for speakers for this 
workshop.  Raju


*Rethinking United Fronts and the Far Right in the Contemporary World:*

*The Crisis of Bourgeois Rule and the Weakness of Anti-Capitalist Politics*

The ascendance of the Far Right across the world – from the US to India 
– is prompting, among other things: a) a concern that fascism, in one 
form or another, is returning to political life; and b) inclinations 
among those in countries facing such developments to confront, as in the 
past, the transformations with united or popular fronts, linking various 
progressive movements, parties, and Left political orientations.

Debate has already begun as to the benefits and drawbacks of this 
approach, based mostly on history.  This day-long workshop, *Rethinking 
United Fronts and the Far Right in the Contemporary World,* seeks to 
explore both the class character of Far Right movements (both in terms 
of the structural conditions of its existence and the class position of 
its foot soldiers) as well as the class nature of the political 
opposition that is required to confront it. In particular, it will 
examine whether and how the factors and the conditions in the 
/contemporary/ world bearing on evaluations of united fronts – and 
the very possibility and potential nature of such fronts today – are 
similar to and are different from those in the past. The workshop will 
also ask on what basis might such fronts extend their reach beyond the 
struggle against the Far Right and nascent fascism to broad progressive 
social and political transformation.

To be held at York University, Toronto, *provisionally set for July 
21^st , 2018*, the workshop (as part of the Augmenting the Left series) 
will draw together a cohort of scholars and activists, based in North 
America, who will speak to these complex issues that are in urgent need 
of elaboration.  It is organized by the York research collective, 
‘Critical Scholarship and Social Transformation’ 

We start from the assumption that the Far Right’s ascendance and opening 
toward fascism represents a crisis of world capitalism: the crisis of 
democratic-secular politics, and the hegemonic project of the 
bourgeoisie as well as the crisis of the bourgeois economic 
system, dominated by financial capital. Other attributes include the 
failure of social-democratic or other forms of bourgeois-reformist 
politics, and the weakness of Left movements, including those on the 
communist-revolutionary Left: indeed, the power of Far Right movements 
is inversely proportional to the power of the working masses.

As originally conceived by some on the Left earlier in the Twentieth 
Century a popular front strategy involved communist organizations 
combining their forces with other progressive organizations, including 
bourgeois organizations. The united front was a strategy where workers, 
belonging to the communist Left, keeping their organizational identity 
intact, were meant to combine with social democratic workers to strike 
against fascism in a united fashion; this process was seen as an 
inevitable part of the fight to establish socialism and would expose the 
bourgeois character of social-democratic reformist leadership. The 
united front was to be a springboard; a defensive strategy, which was 
meant to be ultimately transformed into an offensive strategy against 
bourgeois class rule itself.

Revolutionary practice requires revolutionary ideas. The united front is 
arguably also an intellectual project - and not just a political one - 
that might transform through history. United fronts do not just come 
about on their own.  They require prior intellectual imagination 
demanding answers to serious questions. Seeking unity across various 
anti-Rightist forces makes sense to many observers today, but one must 
ask: on what terms?  One must also ask: with or without the context of 
an “exceptional historical conjuncture,” how should various progressive 
forces today relate to one another? There is also the question about 
what happens after the defeat of the far Right? This implies that 
Marxist-oriented thought ought to keep selectively returning to 
the critical engagement with non-Marxist thought, something that Marx 
himself was committed to as seen in his close study of bourgeois 
economists like Ricardo. In his /On the Significance of Militant 
Materialism/, Lenin also gave a call for such an engagement, arguing 
that revolutions are not made by communist revolutionaries only.

Rather than see this engagement as a diversion from any orthodox or 
true Left paths, we can see it as a potential opening towards a 
politics of anti-capitalism, where non-socialist orientations are not 
dismissed but, where possible, pressed beyond their limited political 
and intellectual scope into a struggle over the question of how far – 
and where - to go in relation to capitalism and political life; and to 
foster a widening and deepening scope of contention (from housing, food, 
heath care, education, to nature and the material alteration of our 
world). This politics of anti-capitalist contention, in the contemporary 
world where anti-capitalist forces are frustratingly fragmented, can 
extend to protest and reform movements that are Left-oriented but not 
anti-capitalist; or to socialist-labelled political parties that 
maintain their long tradition of reformism but which might veer toward 
policies beyond reform. What is needed is a commitment from 
anti-capitalists to debate and struggle not over the limited nature of 
reform or the struggle against the far Right per se but over the 
substantial and difficult questions that are located in that in-between 
space of transition from reform to anti-capitalism.

As an initial attempt to promote a critical discussion on the Far Right 
and the nature of Left politics that will be necessary to fight it, we 
would like to invite a selected number of scholars and activists to the 
workshop. If you are interested in sharing your ideas, please respond to 
the organizers within two weeks of receiving the invitation.

Robert Latham: rlatham1 at yorku.ca <mailto:rlatham1 at yorku.ca>.Raju Das: 
rajudas at yorku.ca <mailto:rajudas at yorku.ca>

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