It’s Too Late To Stop The Rise Of Fascism

Estelle Ellison
8 min readApr 26, 2024

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It is too late to speak of stopping the “rise” of fascism. It is here. While many communists, anarchists, and autonomists in past decades have accurately described fascism as an innate property of capitalism, recent opportunities to prevent fascism from becoming a more lethal and explicit expression of capitalism have passed us by. Familiarizing ourselves with the many violences fascism now has at its disposal means coming to terms with what has and hasn’t worked in our struggles to keep the vulnerable alive, abolish prisons, and bury capitalism beneath a liberatory future. Understanding what must be done requires us to keep track of our conditions, shore up our strengths and abilities, and brace for the impact of intensifying threats to our lives.

The harmful oversimplified chant “vote blue no matter who,” encapsulates the danger of ignorance in the face of fascism. The means of thwarting reactionary violence is nowhere to be found within the binary logic of america’s two-party system. Widespread assimilation into this reformist ideology is precisely why liberals prove themselves unable to grasp the severity of our current circumstances. It is because liberals are enamored with today’s eugenicist normalcy that they make such impassioned calls to “stop the rise of fascism” at the ballot box, despite the slogan being so clearly obsolete and inaccurate.

Protests that do not resemble police-sanctioned parades are aggressively criminalized. We’re coerced into wage labor that is more dangerous than ever now that it is conducted during an ongoing pandemic, and our exploitation funds genocide at home and abroad. The surveillance state works to build further inroads with techno-fascism, leaving us with fewer and fewer ways of sharing critical information.

Despite palpable global suffering, liberals willfully bury their heads in the ground to remain insulated from the material struggles marginalized folks face today and the fights we insist on taking up. And yet, liberals’ complicity leads them to think the present horrors we face are merely a future that has not yet come to pass. Liberals see violent repression of anyone who feels rightly compelled to prevent business as usual and think their party of choice will prevent the rise of a fascism that is already staring them down.

Today’s fascism has been careful not to disrupt this american fantasy where ballots stop genocides and playing pretend stops pandemics. Fascism benefits as much from those who are eager to inflict more violence against the vulnerable as it does from liberals who believe fascism has yet to enshrine itself in our daily lives. So the two-party system sells americans a split reality, where oppressive violence is both already sanctioned and prevented from existing. The fascism we wish to end in our lifetimes has steadily amassed power uninterrupted throughout many presidencies. But liberals can only muster up a semblance of outrage when a conservative is in the white house.

It is this liberal tendency that brought us drone strikes, unprecedented deportations, incomparable police budgets, and shamelessly well-funded genocides. In the face of this continual bolstering and maintenance of a fascist apparatus, far too many still presume the state is a compassionate audience for oppressed people under a democrat presidency. While this represents a failure to grasp large-scale systems of oppression, recent years have shown us that most are also unable to grasp individual instances of abuse and oppressive behaviors.

Liberals can only scarcely acknowledge fascist reality when it reinforces their belief in the power of reformism, entirely divorced from the kind of actions and collective care that actually imperil oppressive systems. But, we know this pattern of making concessions to fascism is not exclusive to liberals. We are also dealing with political decay from the orgs, formations, and networks we once believed would help get us free. Watering down “abolish the police” to “defund the police” led to hyper-militarization. Normalizing abuse, aiding the criminalization of anti-abuse actions, and helping forge today’s eugenicist normalcy did not free us, it killed and isolated a lot of us–millions of us and counting. Grappling with the reality of our situation means accepting one thing: we did not manage to stop the rise of fascism.

So what do we do now that we haven’t stopped the rise of fascism? While liberals continue maintaining their fantasy that they are all of our saviors, we do not have the luxury of entertaining such falsehoods. We know reformists alike work to make our tasks more difficult regardless of whether they believe their votes do us any favors. But there are also our would-be comrades and the orgs that expect our obedience despite leaving us to fend for ourselves when they aren’t joining in with reactionaries ridiculing us. The influence of fascist capitulation is ubiquitous. We can’t afford to have inflexible hierarchical conceptions of what liberatory struggles can look like. We can’t settle for practices that prove unable to stop eugenics, abuse, structural violence, neglect, and precarity.

Just as pacifist abolitionists have taken up the same anti-cancel culture stance as open fascists, they similarly help protect those who have the biggest investment in maintaining white supremacy and capitalism. There are stark class divisions between the biggest proponents of transformative justice and those who engage in anti-abuse actions and survivor support. This phenomenon parallels supposedly radical orgs and formations that favor pacifist actions that make photo ops rather than change and disrupt the status quo. TJ is convenient for preserving power dynamics and preventing a loss of face and this is why it has become the calling card for orgs and leaders who most frequently try to co-opt radical practices from the most vulnerable. Viewed this way, peace policing and anti-survivorship are two sides of the same coin, both ultimately serving similar class interests.

In contrast with this dynamic, we are seeing more combative tactics emerging from folks with no interest in remaining in the good graces of the funding and managerial class. They do not care about respectability before the surveillance gaze of a fascist state. Along with more masked demonstrations, there is, fittingly, more antagonism towards the state, more disruption, and sabotage from those disillusioned with reformism and top-down organizing strategies. Instead of being swept up in a reactionary tide that invites further political decay into our last remaining networks of care, more people are refusing to perpetuate ableist resentment and abuse apologism. Just as we mask to keep ourselves and our networks safe, we should strive to protect younger radicalized folks participating in the fight from recruiting orgs they may not know are looking to replace their older burned-out and harmed ex-members.

Yes, there is widespread demoralization and grief at the sheer mass of betrayals we witness from friends, family, comrades, orgs, and networks we once trusted but must withdraw from for our own safety. Feelings of hopelessness may seem increasingly appropriate given the cruelties we now face. But there are still people applying their collective creativity and sense of militant care to continue fighting in ways that honor their capacity. As some may stubbornly cling to the same police-friendly pacifist marches with fascist apathy as their main audience, others understand why pacifism more closely resembles an endorsement of the violences we are tasked with stopping.

Some liberals may acknowledge the existence of this fascist tide only long enough to claim the worst is yet to come. But with this assertion comes their singular exclusive focus on elections, taking no time and space to mourn and grieve the millions lost and still facing lethal threats. To liberals, the threat of increased violence is merely a cudgel used to invalidate and guilt the most vulnerable into putting their fate in the hands of blue and red fascists. Even as some liberals may concede that elections alone will not end fascism in our lifetimes, they still insist on the primacy of elections above all else. They are comfortable leaving the work of surviving this historical period to the most vulnerable, so long as we show up to affirm the importance of elections and the benevolence of voting liberals planning to absolve themselves of any responsibility for continued fascist violence the minute after they’ve dropped off their ballot.

Before this fascist period emerged, the variance in how different communists, anarchists, and autonomists conceived of movement building may have seemed negligible to most. Not yet witnessing a moment where the world economy slowed to a near halt, the work seemed to continue as it always had, burnout cycles and all. One could argue that it did not seem possible to say with certainty whose movement work was or was not truly liberatory. But we have seen a global pandemic give capitalism pause, albeit just long enough to feel confident in spurring people back to work in this pandemic. National orgs have shown us how they respond to crisis. We have observed where reformist and pacifist abolitionism gets us. Ableism has become far more fatal in this pandemic just as abuse apologism has become more lethal during this fascist period where domestic violence and intracommunal abuse have become more common.

Those of us who are more vulnerable anticipated the increasing severity of broadening violence, but it is evident that we have not been listened to. What seemed to be abstract and arbitrary differences in how we think about “the work” of getting free turned out to be significant determining factors for whether we would stop the rise of fascism. No amount of ideological rationalizations made tolerating reactionary behaviors and oppressive systems liberatory. Fascist capitulation didn’t make orgs and formations any more revolutionary. It made them more fascist. As a result, this fight for survival finds us with decreased capacity, few co-conspirators, and scarcely enough time and space to mourn and grieve. So it is no surprise that more of us are utilizing our rage to disrupt the status quo.

Reformism was never going to free us, but it is imperative now that we do not settle for the empty promise of change amidst so much death and suffering. In the heart of global imperialism, respectability and likeability is a counter-insurgent tool more than anything else. Leaders are not coming to free us, so we must look to each other for the support and courage to participate in the most important fight of our lives. The moment we rule out actions because they are too antagonistic to the state or don’t have good enough optics we have lost. Opportunists who are clamoring to be on the state’s good side, to remain in the good graces of the monied and managerial class, and to help fascism condemn self-defense and disruptive actions have all made their peace with being on the wrong side of history. The rest of us who recognize the task of the day will act as we see fit. It is because we want to bury fascism in our lifetimes that we pick up the shovel, and we dig.

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Estelle Ellison

Time dissuades us from getting free... Black Trans Disabled Writer (She/They)