On Ecofascism

Fascism is an amorphous reactionary politics that developed in the early 20th century in response to the social crises of capitalism. It is a fuzzy, highly contradictory politics with no consistent ideology that changes to match its unique circumstance, yet it has certain archetypal foundations that makes it recognizable and discernible as fascism rather than some other form of totalitarianism. Robert Paxton defines fascism as such:

A form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

Since the end of World War II, fascism has remained in the undercurrent of right-wing politics and continues to manifest in new forms. One modern mutation is ecofascism, which applies the characteristic racism, nativism, authoritarianism, and reactionary violence of fascism to the reality of ecological crisis. As a type of fascism, it does not have a universally consistent or logical ideology, but it can be characterized by recognition of environmentalism and impending ecological crisis that calls on the archetypal elements of fascism as the ideal response to said crisis.

The environmental tendency within fascism is not new, however. The Nazi Party—one extremely influential incarnation of fascism—had a very strong strain of environmentalism in their ideology and political goals, seen most prominently in “blood and soil” and “Lebensraum.” “Blood and soil” is a Nazi slogan that refers to their mythologized connection between different racial groups and “the fatherland” that linked their racist social theory to a type of nationalist land ethic. As such, the Nazis produced a lot of propaganda about how the German people were “forest people” and needed to reforest their lands. “Lebensraum” is how the Nazis rationalized imperialist expansion into Poland and internal genocide by positing that the German people needed to reconnect to their rightful land, justifying dispossession and extermination of non-Aryan people. The purpose of this context is to see how fascist ideology has a deep history of linking racism and xenophobia to environmentalism in a way that defines place and belonging in terms of racial nativism.

With any form of critical analysis, fascist concepts of racial nativism and ethnonationalism are blatantly, empirically false, but fascists base their claims on pseudo-mythological interpretations of history that invoke traditionalism and disparage rationalism. Euro-American fascists have a strong affinity for using Norse mythology as the basis for their view of history and claims to certain “fatherlands.” The Nazis were explicitly neo-pagan and used völkisch ideology to artificially ground “blood and soil” in a falsified, eternal history. Modern fascism and ecofascism relies heavily on neo-völkisch movements (resurgence of folk religions): ecofascist aesthetics and rhetoric in online spaces features heavy overtures of Odinism (worship of Odin of the Norse pantheon) and other environmentally-slanted folk religions. Many American fascists use the Vinland Sagas from Icelandic folk literature to justify claiming North America as the heritage of the “white race” (e.g. Vinlanders Social Club and Wolves of Vinland). These dominant forms of paganism and neo-völkiscism relate to ecofascism in particular because they function in ecofascist ideology to attach mythological naturalism and nativist environmentalism to the racist, xenophobic, genocidal violence that ecofascist advocate while subverting any rational counter-argument because of its religious angle.

Just as different forms of fascism coexisted in the mid 20th century, there are multiple strains of ecofascism coalescing in the present. Two prominent but contradictory forms of modern ecofascism are Trumpian fascism and anarcho-primitivist (a.k.a. deep ecology). Trumpian fascism refers to emergent right-wing fascist governments that are gaining power within existing nation-states of which Donald Trump’s presidency is arguably the most prominent example. These fascisms look very similar to 20th century fascism and are focused on empowering the state to execute fascist ideals; in Europe and white settler colonial states, they share a rallying point of anti-immigration and anti-globalization. Conversely, anarcho-primitivists and (many) deep ecologists are anti-state mutations of fascism that are extremely misanthropic in a much more generalized way. There is a common belief that the ecological crisis will be good because it will eliminate the “weaker” races from the world (i.e. non-white people) and will destroy the emasculating, degenerate society of modernity and urban living (as created by Jewish/globalist conspiracy). Both of these forms are extremely dangerous and can become hegemonic in continuous nation-state formation or near-term social collapse from climate change.

Ecofascism can be counterposed against indigeneity as a way to relate to place and define who belongs. While indigeneity is based on relationality and place-based society, ecofascism essentializes race and ill-defined homelands into a violent, pseudo-mythological political formation. Modern state ecofascists use the same “blood and soil” ideological milieu as the Nazis to argue that ecological crisis is caused by overpopulation from immigration and that only a region’s rightful “folk” are capable of restoring the land. This reasoning places blame on a racialized other which allows relatively privileged people to maintain attachments to their current ideals of livability while ignoring the systemic causes of ecological and economic crises. Thus, the solution to capitalism’s crises of economy and ecology is violent deportation, genocide, and a coalescing of bourgeois and petty bourgeois classes around a strong, authoritative nation-state so as to secure the idealized political economic system with which they are familiar.

The ecofascist response to climate change and the resultant flow of climate refugees (caused by capitalism’s ravaging of society and environment) is emphasizing the lost glory of the nation-state, militarizing the politically-invented border, and directing proletarian fear toward violence against vulnerable refugees. This syndrome can be seen forming globally, especially in the historic global hegemons: Europe and the United States. Despite the United States’ right-wing climate denialism, this country’s only substantive climate policy falls into this category, meaning the United States is actively building ecofascism. While fully documenting examples of US ecofascist climate policy are beyond the scope of this zine, the most prominent example of rising ecofascism is the posturing and policing about and at the US’s Southern border. To quote Umberto Eco in Ur-Fascism, “The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders.” Rampant xenophobia and the creation of ICE predate Trump, but Trump’s campaign slogan of “build the wall,” emphasis on militarizing the border, and apologetics for openly avowed fascists and black-shirt-esque militias terrorizing refugees are clear example of fascistic policy in relation to immigration from Latin America, which is caused largely from US foreign policy and increasing climate instability.

Defining ecofascism is vitally important because it allows those of us who value equality, dignity, and liberty to recognize emergent ecofascism while it is still imminently smashable. It also helps us imagine how current political formations support reactionary responses to climate change and how those responses will be horrifically violent toward people of color and climate refugees. Thus, Umberto Eco’s call to antifascist action remains as vital as ever:

We must keep alert, so that the sense of these words will not be forgotten again. Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. … Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances – every day, in every part of the world.

Written by Jarrod Fyie. To learn more about Columbus DSA, visit their website and follow them on Twitter.