The Road to Fascism: For a Critique of the Global Biosecurity State (2. Eternal Fascism)

‘Together without fear. The coronavirus is a weak enemy if we fight it together, family doctors and citizens.’

Table of Contents

  1. The Return of Fascism
  2. Eternal Fascism
  3. The Fascist State and Human Rights
  4. Fascism and the Decay of Capitalism
  5. The Psychological Structure of Fascism
  6. From Kitsch to Woke: The Aesthetics of Totalitarianism
  7. Fascism and the Left
  8. The Camp as Biopolitical Paradigm of the State
  9. For a Popular Front Against Fascism
  10. On Humanity in Dark Times

2. Eternal Fascism

In the previous section I argued that fascism should not be regarded as a never-to-be-repeated moment in the political history of Europe between the two World Wars but instead understood as a latent presence in the structure of all power, and one that has returned today in the political, juridical and cultural superstructure of the global biosecurity state. This newly emergent form of fascism has been imposed on the nation states of Western capitalism — mostly with the willing collaboration of their governments — by technocratic forms of global governance like the World Health Organisation and the World Economic Forum that have assumed far greater power over our lives these past two years on the justification of responding to the ‘crisis’ in public health they have largely been responsible for manufacturing.

Another variation on the use of the word ‘fascism’ in a contemporary context was coined by the Italian semiotician, novelist and political commentator, Umberto Eco, who grew up in fascist Italy, and who in June 1995 published a text in the The New York Review of Books titled ‘Ur-Fascism’. Conceding that fascism, in its historical form, had little chance of returning in a Europe drunk with celebrating the formation of the European Union, Eco was interested in why this term — rather than Falangist (Spain) or Cagoulard (France) or Ustaše (Croatia) or even Nazi (Germany) — became the privileged synecdoche for different authoritarian nationalist movements. Eco is insistent that this was not because Italian fascism, although the first fascist movement to come to power, contained the essence of totalitarian movements. On the contrary, unlike National Socialism or even Stalinism, Italian fascism had no coherent doctrine, combining political revolution with monarchy, military conquest with the Catholic Church, state absolutism with private business. Unlike the Third Reich or the Soviet Union, there was no unified model of fascist culture, with neoclassical architecture being built alongside modernist buildings, and avant-garde writers and artists that were denounced as degenerate by Adolf Hitler and bourgeois by Joseph Stalin tolerated and even celebrated under Benito Mussolini. That didn’t mean that political dissidents in fascist Italy weren’t arrested, tortured and executed, that the freedom of the press wasn’t abolished, that the trades unions weren’t dismantled, that the legislature wasn’t bypassed, and that laws weren’t issued direct by the executive without democratic oversight. But while there was only one form of Nazism, just as there was one form of Falangism, there are, Eco argues, many fascisms that combine some but not all of its elements. Some are imperialist, some atheist, some anti-capitalist, some anti-Semitic, but none of these elements are necessary to all. From this proposition comes the point of Eco’s article, which is to outline the typical features of what he calls ‘Ur-fascism or Eternal Fascism’, of which he describes fourteen. These fourteen features of fascism cannot be organised into a system, many contradict each other, and some characterise other forms of despotism; but it is enough, Eco says, for just one to be present in any given society for fascism to form around it.

In what follows I’m going to quote from Eco’s descriptions of these typical features of Eternal Fascism, and then give examples of them drawn from the new ways of thinking and feeling, the new meanings and values, the new social practices and behaviours, the new relationships and kinds of relationships, that have formed over the past two years around and in response to the coronavirus ‘crisis’ and the global biosecurity state that has been constructed on the justification of combatting it.

‘1. The first feature of Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition. As a consequence, there can be no advancement of learning. Truth has already been spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message.’

The most prevalent demonstration of this first feature of fascism has been the mantra, repeated over and over by every government implementing the biosecurity state to justify its removal of our human rights and civil liberties, to ‘follow the Science’. In doing so, science — which is a set of discursive and practical procedures for testing a hypothesis about the physical and natural world and proving it by a repeatable practical demonstration to be either true or false — has instead been hypostatised as an eternal and unchanging Truth. Science, in other words, has been turned into its opposite, which is religion, the dictates of whose high priests — the Chief Medical Officers of nation states, the Chief Executive Officers of pharmaceutical companies, or the Leadership Team of the World Health Organisation — must be followed without question, unchallenged by the emergence of new evidence they themselves are not required to produce for debate or to justify the practices they impose. It is in this sense that the obedience of hundreds of millions of citizens in the global biosecurity state to its dictates has accurately been described — for example by the Italian philosopher of biopower, Giorgio Agamben — as a cult.

‘2. Traditionalism implies the rejection of modernism. The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense, Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.’

On the justification of following this monotheistic, absolute and therefore fundamentally unscientific ‘Science’, Western governments have imposed arbitrary ‘measures’ without medical foundation or logical justification. These include so-called ‘social’ distancing, enforced mask-wearing, plastic dividers between tables in restaurants and schools, directional arrows in shops, anti-bacterial soap dispensers at the entrance to every venue, and all the other instruments and practices of cultic compliance. As was revealed by the advice on the mandating of masks from the World Health Organisation and, in the UK, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, the primary function of such ‘measures’ is to create fear in the minds of the public and thereby increase obedience and acquiescence to the restrictions to our human rights and civil liberties. It is a measure of the irrationalism by which we are now ruled that overt support for such practices has come from the World Health Organisation, the European Medicines Agency, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in the UK, the Robert Koch Institute in Germany, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, and been met with collusive silence by the Nobel Foundation, the Lindau Institute, the Royal Society and the National Academy of Sciences.

Professor Henegan is Director of the University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine.

‘3. Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action’s sake. Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore, culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical attitudes. Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Ur-Fascism.’

The primary example of this feature of eternal fascism has been the readiness of governments to impose so-called ‘lockdowns’ on their populations in response to public demand for immediate action, and the online censorship, public denunciation and media campaigns to slander and delegitimise anyone who dares to adopt a critical attitude to such action — of those, in short, who dare to think. The readiness with which corporate ‘Fact-Checkers’ have been accepted as the Orwellian Thought-Police of the biosecurity state, and the ease with which accusations of ‘conspiracy theory’ continue to be levelled at anyone who dares to think for themselves, including previously eminent scientists and still independent political thinkers, reeks of the anti-intellectualism of Eternal Fascism. Although the irony may be as lost on them as it will be to those who look to such organisations for objective guidance, no less an authority than the European Commission has published a guide to identifying conspiracy theories, which they define as ‘the belief that certain events or situations are secretly manipulated behind the scenes by powerful forces with negative intent’.

‘4. The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture, the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason.’

The extension of this anti-intellectualism and demand for reactive action is the unprecedented level of censorship that has taken over public life in the former neoliberal democracies of the West. This has been imposed above all against the scientific community, whose every attempt to raise questions, ask for proofs, or propose alternative explanations and courses of action — in other words, to adhere to the principals of scientific procedure — is met with accusations that in doing so they are endangering lives and, most recently in Canada, threatening the security of the state, thereby justifying the use of emergency powers to crush dissent and punish dissenters. The other sign of this coin is the equally unprecedented compliance with which the corporate media outlets and platforms have collaborated, both with governments and each other, to repeat a single, homogeneous and unquestioned narrative in support of the justification for the global biosecurity state.

‘5. Disagreement is a sign of diversity. Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-fascism is by definition racist.’

Just as, under the official ideology of multiculturalism, forty years of neoliberalism created a global, corporate, ersatz, homogeneous monoculture that has reached into every corner of the globe — colonising indigenous cultures, destroying alternative cultures and suppressing what remained of the counter-culture — so today, behind its commitment to diversity, the global biosecurity state has been built on a fundamental fear of the other. The medical apartheid in Western societies instigated by ‘vaccine’ passports, and the system of segregation, exclusion and punishment of intruders being constructed on their imposition, is the technological implementation of this ideology. Like the ‘safe spaces’ of woke orthodoxy, these have been implemented on fear of difference, fear of the body, fear of death, fear of whatever threatens to break into the online world of biosecurity. This is a space in which everyone is policed by everyone else, everyone is a potential informant, in which anyone deviating from the imposed norm is censored, punished, banished and erased from the records of everyone but the police, the security services and the tech companies dictating the norms of that world. The global biosecurity state has been modelled on this online space, which, as social media platforms amply demonstrate, is built on fear, hatred, division, on the unquestionable certainties of youth, on communities of identification formed around victimisation, on the homogenisation of heterogeneous social elements through programmes of indoctrination, on enforced orthodoxies of compliance, on what, behind their facades of inclusivity, are quite clearly fascist principles. Perhaps more accurately, the global biosecurity state is the totalising homogenity of this online space, into which the heterogeneous populations of nation states are being subsumed.

‘6. Ur-Fascism derives from individual or social frustration. One of the most typical features of historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure from lower social groups. In our time, when the old “proletarians” are becoming petty bourgeois (and the lumpen proletariat are largely excluded from the political scene), the fascism of tomorrow will find its audience in this new majority.’

Historically, fascist governments have drawn their strongest support from the petty bourgeoisie (shopkeepers and small businessmen) and from rural areas (farmers and small landowners), the inbred conservatism of whose populations are always a crisis away from conformity with fascism. Undoubtedly, though, the strictest adherents to and loudest advocates of the restrictions and requirements of the biosecurity state have been the middle classes, who appear quite ready to ‘work from home’ for the rest of their lives while their consumer goods are served by delivery drivers and their business are conducted via online platforms. Indeed, as their economic buffer zone has begun to collapse under two years of lockdowns and the ensuing financial crisis, compliance with the biosecurity state has become the new measure by which the middle-classes differentiate themselves from the working class, who make up a disproportionate number of those resisting its imposition.

As a consequence, discrimination against the socially present, the disobedient, the unmasked and the unvaccinated as a public display of conformity with fascism has increased enormously over the past two years, and precisely among the demographic that defined itself — and was never hesitant to denounce others for not following its example — on its anti-discriminatory virtues. I will address this in greater detail later, but we’ve seen this most glaringly among what congregates under the name of the Left, and who are more accurately described as liberals as indoctrinated into the orthodoxies and technologies of the global biosecurity state as they were those of multiculturalism and political correctness.

‘Unvaccinated unwanted!’ Shop in Gleichen, Germany, 2021.

‘7. At the root of the Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia. But the plot must also come from the inside: Jews are usually the best target because they have the advantage of being at the same time inside and outside.’

On the face of it, this might seem like a description of the ‘far-right conspiracy theorists’ to which the COVID-faithful reduce anyone who questions the necessity of imposing the regulations and technologies of the global biosecurity state on the populations of their countries; but the same might be said of those who have acquiesced in turning the unmasked, the undistanced, the untracked, the untested and the unvaccinated into threats worthy of the harshest punishments. Indeed, it is the COVID-faithful who have lived in a state of siege under their own governments, while the rest of us have ignored or refused to comply with those governments’ attempts to deprive us of our rights and freedoms. And it is we who have been characterised and denounced — by our Government, by our National Health Service, by our police forces, by the pharmaceutical companies, by our press and media, and by our fellow citizens — as the ‘enemies within’ who should very firmly be banished from society.

To this extent, the uncompliant have taken up the burden most recently borne, in the West, by the Muslim and the terrorist. As it was against the Jew and the communist in Nazi Germany, the xenophobia of the biosecurity-compliant citizen is directed not against the foreigner without but against those who, by refusing to comply, have become the foreigner within. As numerous heads of governments imposing biosecurity states have openly declared — including Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz, Mario Draghi, Karl Nehammer, Scott Morrison, Jacinda Ardern, Joe Biden and Justin Trudeau  — the ‘unvaccinated’ will no longer be treated as part of French, German, Italian, Austrian, Australian, New Zealand, US or Canadian society.

‘8. The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies. Jews are rich and help each other through a secret web of mutual assistance. However, the followers [of Ur-Fascism] must be convinced that they can overwhelm the enemies. Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.’

The global biosecurity state has at its disposal not only the wealth of individual nation states, whose governments have expended several generations of debt to impose its restrictions and programmes, but also of the international corporations with whom they have forged new alliances. And yet, at the same time, these governments have taken action, in collaboration with these corporations, to deprive resistance to the biosecurity state of funding raised by their populations. The most recent example is that of Canada, where truckers demonstrating against ‘vaccine’ mandates were described by government and media as ‘right-wing extremists’ who were ‘plotting to kill police officers’, justifying the Canadian Government’s appropriation of the millions of dollars raised to support their protest on the GoFundMe crowdfunding platform. Like the underground resistance led by the fabricated Goldstein in George Orwell’s 1984, the enemies of the biosecurity state, like the virus itself, are both everywhere and everywhere being defeated, and all obedient citizens are called to join the struggle against them through their total obedience.

‘9. For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle. Thus, pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare. This, however, brings about an Armageddon complex. Since enemies have to be defeated, there must be a final battle, after which the movement will have control of the world. But such a “final solution” implies a further era of peace, a Golden Age, which contradicts the principle of permanent war.’

Our own ‘final solution’, which has been proposed by the World Economic Forum and adopted by every government subscribing to its programme, is to ‘build back better’ from the global lockdown; and our Golden Age is the variously called ‘New Normal’ or ‘Great Reset’ of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. From the very start, the response to a threat to public health that has never existed and which the governments of the world manufactured into a ‘crisis’, has been very deliberately characterised as a ‘war on COVID’, the medical meaninglessness of which hasn’t stopped this mantra being taken up and echoed by every institution in every country in the West. And while the high priests of COVID have warned us that this war will never be won and that the virus will always be with us, with the threat of future strains justifying further lockdowns hanging over our heads for the foreseeable future, we are, already, seeing how this war on COVID, just as it seemed to have been ‘won’, has been expanded into more conventional forms of warfare.

‘10. Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology, insofar as it is fundamentally aristocratic, and aristocratic and militaristic elitism cruelly implies contempt for the weak. Ur-Fascism can only advocate a popular elitism. Every citizen belongs to the best people of the world, the members of the party are the best among the citizens, every citizen can (or ought to) become a member of the party. But there cannot be patricians without plebeians. In fact, the Leader, knowing that his power was not delegated to him democratically but was conquered by force, also knows that his force is based upon the weakness of the masses; they are so weak as to need and deserve a ruler. Since the group is hierarchically organized (according to a military model), every subordinate leader despises his own underlings, and each of them despises his inferiors. This reinforces the sense of mass elitism.’

In June 2021, leaders of the G7 nations at the summit held in Cornwall were photographed freely mixing with the UK’s hereditary Head of State while being waited on by masked and socially-distanced workers required by their employers to be fully ‘vaccinated’. At a time when the rest of the UK population was living under the threat of fines and arrest during the third Government-imposed lockdown, this encapsulated the division of society into the elite to whom the rules of biosecurity do not apply and the masses to whom they do. But in the UK, the outrage of the general public was most raised by the reports of the numerous social gatherings and parties held at 10 Downing Street when the rest of the UK population was under lockdown restrictions; and the attendance of Boris Johnson at many of these events briefly threatened his survival as Prime Minister — until the ‘crisis’ in the Ukraine conveniently distracted a newly terrified and hate-filled population into forgetfulness.

Of course, like the ‘Two Minutes Hate’ in 1984, both these occasions for public outrage primarily served to reaffirm the necessity and efficacy of obeying restrictions on our human rights and civil liberties that have been repeatedly proven to be unnecessary and ineffective. They thereby served not to undermine, but instead to further justify, the regulations of the biosecurity state. Long before this stage-managed spectacle, however, two years of unrelenting attacks, slanders, dismissals, derision, mockery, threats, hate and disgust directed from every quarter of the state and civil society against those of us who refused to obey orders from this self-appointed elite has created a popular elitism of compliance. Hierarchically stratified by public and online virtue signalling, this has reduced us, in the minds of the COVID-faithful, to a semi-criminal and diseased underclass, unworthy and undeserving of human rights or the freedoms of citizenship — into, indeed, the Untermenschen of the global biosecurity state.

‘11. In such a perspective, everybody is educated to become a hero. In every mythology, the hero is an exceptional being, but in Ur-Fascist ideology heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death.’

One of the more farcical spectacles created to promote the existence of a public health ‘crisis’ in the UK was the state-led adulation of NHS staff as heroes. This was initiated with the ‘clap for the NHS’ rite that was trialled for compliance in Italy, and which was performed every Thursday evening in the UK by those obeying the Government’s instructions to remain at home. As a consequence of this spectacle, when the third UK lockdown was officially lifted in July 2021, some UK residents had actually followed the Government’s instructions, implemented with the full support of the NHS, to remain in their homes since March 2020. This adulation was further propagated by the child-like drawings thanking the NHS that were mass produced for those signalling their obedience. This hero-worship served the by-now firmly entrenched belief that the population of the UK should be locked down to ‘save the NHS’, a progressively defunded public service that, until March 2020, was meant to serve us. But perhaps the most facile image of this cult of heroism were the images of superheroes from US comics depicted bowing in reverence to NHS staff.

From their willingness to embrace this trite propaganda and their own online behaviour — which continues to oscillate between assuming the role of a spiritual guru and a hysterical patient — it appears NHS staff are only too ready to believe their own hype. Just what the UK Government really thought of these ‘heroes’ became clearer when, in January 2022, the new Secretary of State for Health, Sajid Javid — the previous holder, Matt Hancock, having been forced to resign for breaking his own lockdown restrictions — announced that NHS staff who refused to be injected with a COVID-19 ‘vaccine’ would be sacked.

In contrast to historical fascism, however, in which death was promoted as the reward for a heroic life, in the biosecurity state death has been all but outlawed, with the death of every 80-year-old testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 lamented as a ‘tragedy’ deserving of national mourning. The exception, of course, are the vast numbers of deaths that have already occurred and are expected to occur in the future from the removal of medical diagnosis for cancer, treatment for heart disease, care for dementia and the other primary causes of death in the UK, which will far surpass anything attributed to COVID-19.

‘12. Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters. This is the origin of machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality). But since even sex is a difficult game to play, the Ur-Fascist hero tends to play with weapons — doing so becomes an ersatz phallic exercise.’

The enforcement of the regulations and programmes of the global biosecurty state has occasioned a significant increase in the violence and unaccountability of the police forces of Western nations, armed and armoured like their counterparts in the military and augmented by counter-terrorist paramilitary formations. These have used pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets, water-cannons and armoured-cars mounted with sonic and heat weapons in order to assault demonstrations against lockdowns and ‘vaccine’ mandates by unarmed and unarmoured civilians, including the elderly, women and children. This should make it apparent, once and for all, that the expansion in the number and capabilities of the weapons of the police and security forces of the former neoliberal democracies of the West in the twenty years since 9/11 has not been in order to protect us from external threats to our safety. On the contrary, it has been in anticipation of the social uprisings and protests we’ve seen across the world in response to the violence of the global biosecurity state. This, rather than Eco’s rather cod-Freudianism, is the reason for the unprecedented levels of state violence we’ve seen over the past two years.

But if we take what Eco calls ‘phallic exercises’ to mean the exercise of state power — which has nothing ersatz about it — against the populations of nation states, then undoubtedly the past two years has seen a display of machismo at levels new in the West except, perhaps, among our leaders. Since the Government of Theresa May underwent who knows what PR course in public relations, all our Ministers of State adopt a heroic stance when appearing in public as ludicrous as it is revealing about how they see themselves. At the same time, under the guise of protecting young adults from a disease to which they are all but immune, the biosecurity state hasn’t shrunk from advising its subjects to abstain from certain sexual practices, to practice a new form of ‘safe sex’ (not face to face), or to give up sex altogether ‘for the common good’. Certainly, the erasure of intimacy imposed by social distancing and masking won’t stop there, and will endeavour, as the biosecurity states of historical fascism did, to impose its restrictions and obligations on sexual intercourse (the extreme example being the prohibition on ‘miscegenation’ in Nazi Germany).

‘13. Ur-Fascism is based upon a selective populism, a qualitative populism, one might say. In a democracy, the citizens have individual rights, but the citizens in their entirety have a political impact only from a quantitative point of view — one follows the decisions of the majority. For Ur-Fascism, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction. There is in our future an Internet populism in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.’

For the two years of its construction, the biosecurity state removed many of our human rights and freedoms, including the right to liberty (Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights), the right to private and family life (Article 8), freedom of thought and conscience (Article 9), freedom of expression (Article 10), freedom of assembly and association (Article 11), prohibition of discrimination (Article 14), and the right to education (Protocol 2). This was itself facilitated by the prior removal of the legislature from the legislative process under a politically-declared emergency period that allowed Ministers to make laws by decree, with 579 coronavirus-justified statutory instruments made into law without parliamentary approval as of 3 March, 2022.

As a consequence, the Government has had to create the appearance of the continuation of democracy in the UK. To this end, every new regulation removing our rights, freedoms and the accountability of the Government to UK citizens has been accompanied by a propaganda campaign extolling the common good as justification for this removal. The most egregious of these has been that, for the benefit of ‘public health’, citizens of the biosecurity state must give up their right to say what goes into their own bodies, even though it has been demonstrated beyond the doubt of any but the COVID-faithful that none of the COVID-19 ‘vaccines’ do anything to stop or inhibit either infection with or transmission of the SARS-Cov-2 virus.

In the absence of any democratic oversight of this dictatorial legislative process, the Government has fallen back on the facade of technocratic organisations like the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, which usurped Parliament as the ultimate decider of our human rights and civil liberties, and such online tools as YouGov polls. Throughout the past two years, these have presented responses to their probes of their carefully vetoed respondents as the equivalent of referenda. These have declared that such-and-such a percentage of the population is in favour of, for example, masks in schools or mandatory ‘vaccinations’, even though neither have been supported by scientific evidence of their effectiveness, or even of the logicality of their imposition. In this way, the erasure of our rights, freedoms and parliamentary democracy over the past two years has been presented as a form of direct representation, in which the ultimate arbiter of political decisions has been displaced onto an unquestionable truth called ‘The Science’. The fact that the majority of the population has fallen for such an obvious deception is proof, at the least, of the political naivety of the British public, and perhaps of its wish to wash its hands of responsibility for its own future.

‘14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak. Newspeak was invented by Orwell, in 1984, as the official language of Ingsoc, English Socialism. But elements of Ur-Fascism are common to different forms of dictatorship. All the Nazi or fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning. But we must be ready to identify other kinds of Newspeak, even if they take the apparently innocent form of a popular talk show.’

From the very beginning of this manufactured ‘crisis’, those not ready to believe its deceptions have cited George Orwell’s novel, as I have in this article, as a model for what has happened — although the Aldous Huxley’s lesser-known Brave New World would perhaps have been a better reference point. But whatever its own inspiration, in the Government propaganda that appear on every surface — from the lecterns behind which Ministers and their appointed technocrats announced the latest restrictions before bothering to inform Parliament, to the bus-stop shelters, TV screens and mobile phones through which the public continues to be indoctrinated into compliance — Newspeak slogans like ‘Stay Home / Protect the NHS / Save Lives’, the equally asinine ‘Stay Alert / Control the Virus / Save Lives’, or simply ‘Hands / Face / Space’, serve precisely the function Eco describes here. This is to impoverish the terms in which permissible debates are held, and thereby to shut down forums for critical thinking. We saw this demonstrated when any scientist, doctor or political commentator tried to introduce such thinking on News programmes, chat shows, at demonstrations, or simply on their own social media accounts.

For 100 years we have wondered how the populations of Italy and Germany could have believed the obvious lies employed by Mussolini and Hitler to turn their nations against themselves in the name of the common good they called fascism and National Socialism; over the past two years we’ve had a demonstration and reminder of exactly how. The politically declared common good has changed its name to ‘biosecurity’, but the means for imposing it, and the justifications for doing so, are remarkably similar and unchanged from a century ago.

Eco concludes his article with this warning:

Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier for us if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying: “I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Black Shirts to parade again in the Italian squares.” Life is not that simple. 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.’

As Eco wrote, it only takes the presence of one of these features for fascism to form around it, and all fourteen are present in the biosecurity state. Like historical fascism, they are not all present, or all equally present when they are, in all instances of the biosecurity state. What is official policy or unofficial practice in, for example, Canada, Australia and New Zealand is currently not in France or Germany, or has not yet been imposed in England; but all these features of fascism, which go beyond legislation and policy into newly-formed meanings and values, new social practices and behaviours, new relationships and kinds of relationships, are present across the global biosecurity state. This alone, we might think, justifies using this term to describe this revolution in the former neoliberal democracies of the West. Unless Eco could see 27 years into the future to describe our present with such uncanny accuracy, he was accurately describing the latent presence of fascism in the West that has re-emerged today with all its historical features intact.

However, as a semiotician and cultural critic rather than an historical materialist or political economist, Eco’s analysis is limited to the ideological manifestations of fascism, and therefore ignores its material driving force, which is the convergence of state power with corporate interests. Pitched at a readership of wealthy, middle-class, liberal New Yorkers ideologically committed to American exceptionalism and global capitalism as the best of all possible worlds, Eco’s analysis steered well clear of proposing a causal link between these manifestations of fascism and their economic foundations, and least of all to the history of US imperialism since the Second World War. Instead, he allowed his readers to conclude that any presence of fascism in their cultures, ideologies and countries in the 1990s can only ever be an anachronistic residue of the 1930s, and which the ideologies of multiculturalism and political correctness — both of which were in their heyday in the 1990s — would eradicate, no doubt with the help of the US military.

Auschwitz, however, to use Eco’s example, wasn’t only a death camp but also an industrial factory of slave labour. This was used by Krupp, the largest company in Europe at the beginning of the Twentieth Century and the premier weapons manufacturer for Germany in World War Two; Siemens, at the time Germany’s largest industrial conglomerate, and whose output included armaments for the German military, and today Europe’s biggest industrial manufacturing company; and IG Farben, the German chemical and pharmaceutical company that produced the Zyklon B gas used to exterminate prisoners. The camp itself, moreover, was administered with the help of IBM, the US technology company that produced the census responsible for the racial profiling of populations subjugated by the Third Reich, and Bayer, the German chemical company that tested its products on individuals, races and ethnicities categorised by National Socialist medicine as ‘Lebensunwertes Leben (life unworthy of life)’. As is widely known but still unrecognised, all these now international corporations are still in business today, having thrived from their 12-year collaboration with the National Socialist Government and the forced labour of hundreds of thousands of prisoners they drew from the concentration camps. Fascism, in other words — if we use this term to include National Socialism — wasn’t confined to the cultural, political and ideological features analysed by Eco, but also described an economic infrastructure that merged government and corporate power to create an immensely powerful financial, industrial, technological and military state.

The even more powerful global biosecurity state of today has its own equivalents to these industrial, pharmaceutical, technological and chemical companies. These include global investors like the Bill Gates Foundation, which funds and has influence over vast numbers of health and medical institutions, including the World Health Organisation and, in the UK, the Medicines and Heathcare products Regulatory Agency, and which has allowed it to influence the biosecurity policies of nation states towards mask mandates, lockdowns and experimental ‘vaccination’ programmes; international pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Moderna, which, besides making billions from this manufactured ‘crisis’, are not only effectively conducting the largest clinical trial in history of their experimental mRNA technology, but also appear to be deciding how many injections the populations of nation states must take; global information technology companies like Apple, Alphabet, Meta and Tesla, which are collecting the personal data and developing the technology by which it is used to monitor and control us; as well as multinational corporations like Serco, G4S and Uniserve, to whom the coronavirus ‘crisis’ has been the occasion and justification for increasing the UK Government’s outsourcing not only of the manufacture of the ‘crisis’ through immensely lucrative Test & Trace and PPE contracts but also of the security functions of the UK biosecurity state, which includes so-called ‘quarantine’ centres. Auschwitz, as Eco argued, doesn’t have to be reopened for the camp to return as the biopolitical paradigm of the state, as I will go on to discuss in a later article.

This, I believe, is where the real parallel with historical fascism lies: not in its more or less anachronistic cultural manifestations (the apotheosis of science as a new religion, irrational mandates, anti-intellectualism, censorship of dissent, discrimination and segregation, xenophobia, fear of the working class,  maintaining of a permanent state of war, populist elitism, hero-worship, machismo, militarism, state violence, political populism and Newspeak — none of which have exactly been lacking in the neoliberal democracies of the West over the previous two decades), but in its political, juridical and financial practices and institutions, about which Eco says nothing.

Nor, understandably — beyond his prescient reference to an ‘Internet populism’ — does he say anything about the vast reach of the new technologies, systems and legislations of surveillance, data collection and population control. Between 1995, when Eco was writing, and 2022, when I am, these have expanded and penetrated not only into what we previously considered to be our private lives but into our bodies themselves. The resulting capabilities and rights of the global biosecurity state to control us under the pretext of monitoring our health ‘status’ already far surpasses anything dreamed of by fascist propagandists and scientists of the 1930s.

The greatest value of Eco’s article, therefore, is not in identifying the presence of fascism in the contemporary cultures and ideas of his time, which remained within the neoliberal framework of multiculturalism and political correctness, but in making an argument for the continuity of fascism beyond its historical rise, coming to power and military defeat in World War Two. In doing so, he opened up the possibility — which today has become the necessity — of identifying the return of fascism not only in our ideologies, cultures and behaviours but also in our politics, laws and economics, and most importantly of all in the new lack of distinction and forms of convergence between them. Because it is precisely this convergence of interests between authoritarian government, nation state and big business that defined the infrastructure of historical fascism.

Simon Elmer
Architects for Social Housing

In the next section, ‘The Fascist State and Human Rights’, I look at the erasure of human rights and civil liberties under the global biopolitical state as a demonstration of the fact that fascism has returned to our governance, our laws and their enforcement through a digital totalitarianism which, far from having ended with the coronavirus ‘crisis’, is being built into the structure of a new world order.

Collections of articles by the same author about the UK biosecurity state :

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9 thoughts on “The Road to Fascism: For a Critique of the Global Biosecurity State (2. Eternal Fascism)

  1. Another excellent article. The almost ubiquity of smartphones, with young adults, teenagers and now even children of primary school age, having been groomed into their usage – along with the ‘normalisation’ of QR codes – is part of this. In the area where I live and I suspect in most conurbations, there is an increasing number of 5G towers being erected. Most of those groomed into smartphone usage are likely to be enthusiastic about the faster internet connection promised. And in a surveillance state as Britain has been since around 1990-ish when CCTV became ubiqitous in shops and then increasingly common outdoors during the 1990’s, those who are too young to remember how it was before are unlikely to worry that their respective smartphones may be geopositionally tracked by the 5G network. Link it to the concept (or so-called ‘conspiracy theory’) of ‘Smart Cities’ and even then they may willingly accept the restrictions imposed.


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