On Kenosha and the difficulty of recognising Nazism in the US

It is sometimes said that when someone resorts to making comparisons to Adolf Hitler during a debate they have lost. Comparing mandatory pandemic lockdowns or the near-forced labour of “essential workers” and educators to Nazi policy may indeed, at times, be overly-dramatic.

But when what is being criticised is the instinct to shout “Sieg Heil”, campaign slogans bearing the name of American Nazi sympathiser organisations, plans to stop a “demographic bomb” and prevent the breaking down of “the white, male power structure”, when the society criticised is one in which white supremacists kill protesters protesting against the state killings of an ethnic minority, when a senior adviser to the president promoted materials on the theme of white genocide and the top writer for the most popular news programme in the country wrote posts about intellectual deficiencies in Asian and Black people, the comparison is not always out of place.

There have been several nights of broken glass in the history of the American colony. Several dark-skinned Anne Franks hiding in the exposed roots of trees covered in spruce pine and red onion to throw off the tracking dogs. Holocausts, pogroms are a dime a dozen, extermination attempts, mass internment, cattle cars, but its primary targets were Black and Indigenous – populations whose lives and deaths are still considered to be of little consequence.

As a result, the society built upon a gulag continues to be called a great experiment in democracy. Atrocities committed against non-white people are trivialised and reduced to “the imperfections” of an “imperfect nation”. The tonnage of blood and flesh peeled from whipping posts, Black town burnings, and “Indian Wars” are but flecks of dust floating against a harmonious, pioneering white settlement destined to civilise the world.

More a Merkers Mine than a state, the slave colony where Black life was waterboarded between the threshing wheel of slave production and the thin air of “race riots” is, even in 2020, seen by many as the birthplace of modern liberty. This is because embedded in both the colony’s structure – and in the minds of its admirers – is the fact that Black people do not count. If Black lives mattered, the lights shining from the shining city on the hill would be known to be concentration camp searchlights. If Black lives mattered, globally, America would be a pariah state.

Leftists will watch racists genuflect before a president who hugs the flag. They will watch protesters taken away in unmarked vans for protesting the arbitrary state murder of Black people and cry: “fascism!”

But there is a particular form of fascism to which the American state conforms. A fascism that is organised around the logic of white nationalism, the destruction, exploitation and expelling of ethnic minorities, and white political supremacy. The charge of fascism conveniently leaves out or makes subordinate the race hatred that fuels, enables and is the primary reason for the support of this burgeoning authoritarianism.

A leftist that comes away from reading the history of Nazi Germany denouncing, first, the Third Reich’s subversion of political norms, should be suspected of anti-Semitism. A leftist who warns of the rise of fascism as evidenced by the destruction of mail-sorting machines and the appearance of unmarked vehicles at protests in a country that has prison farms, is one for whom Black life has not counted.

As many have laboured to remind this society, Hitler’s genocidal project was inspired by (if not a tribute to) the American colony. Contrary to the racist claim that racism is un-American, it is more accurate to say that the Third Reich was a type of Americanism.

European innovation and efficiency were added to the blood quantum laws, Black codes, eugenics, forced relocation, work camps, and killing fields of rugged America. Slave ships to cattle cars, Tuskegee experiments to Josef Mengele, the Nazi project was less an otherworldly “radical evil” that came out of nowhere than it was a facsimile of the white supremacist order of the colonies.

It remains an entirely strange thing to shoot into a crowd of protesters protesting against police anti-Blackness and killings. Stranger still, is to wish Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager who killed two people and injured one, to be president. And for the leader of the country to come to his defence.

It does, however, follow exactly the logic of Nazism. Whereas firing automatic weapons into a crowd and killing scores in Paris is seen as evidence of the collapse of Europe under “Islamofascistic” terror – often by the very same conservatives and religious groups who now come to the aid of Rittenhouse – the killing of the people protesting against the centuries-long tradition of white right to the pleasurable destruction of dark-skinned people is to be excused.

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