Neo-fascist regimes need historical reality to be forgotten in order to resurface. They battle for reconciliation, silence and forgiveness, and are refractory to demands of trials or punishment, let alone memory. They want oblivion, for after it, the seed of doubt can be planted. And without any official commission to discover the truth about the atrocities that past fascist regimes committed, there are those who take advantage of algorithms to falsify their own history.
Published in Revista Espoiler of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires
Everything then turns to a matter of opinion. Those who aren’t vigilant may buy into any influencer’s speech and end up justifying the scarcity that neoliberalism has thrust upon them. As Argentine philosopher José Pablo Feinmann pointed out when referring to the rise of Nazi-fascism: “A poor bureaucratic employee feels special when they become a fascist. Fascists can almost magically - just out of being fascists - become the owners of the country they live in”.
In Argentina, the criminal justice system convicted the members of neo-Nazi group “Bandera Negra” (Black Flag) on the grounds of the members’ participation in “the National Socialist ideology which believes in the supremacy of certain races, thus discriminating against others based on their race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation and/or political ideology”. This stems from the work made by German social organizations and young people in the 1960’s to make their country recognize and document the full extent of its own tragic history and to take any legal actions necessary to try and convict such atrocities. In the midst of the city of Berlin there’s a Monument to the Holocaust, and there are archives and documentation centers that make it impossible to relativize truth. Raising a neo-Nazi flag is considered a crime.
However, waving neo-fascist flags is not a crime yet. There’s work yet to be done about most of the brutality the United States organized, financed and promoted in order to install anti-communist regimes close to their economic ideology. As we know, after its failures in Cuba and Vietnam, the United States set out to impose its economic plan with special virulence in Indonesia and Latin America. The military responsible for the coups in Indonesia, Brazil and Chile were trained in the same military school in the United States. The coups were followed by the killing and impoverishment of the population by virtue of the recipes learned at Berkeley (known in Indonesia as the “Berkeley Mafia”) and Chicago (Latin America’s “Chicago boys”).
In his book The Jakarta Method - Washington's Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped our World, Vincent Bevins explains how the Soviet Union always saw Latin America as part of the United States’ sphere of influence and for a long time held the rather orthodox position that the revolution in the west should progress slowly. They didn’t try to end capitalism in Latin America. It was rejected directly by the people. Henry Kissinger confirmed it when, faced with Salvador Allende’s imminent victory in Chile, he stated: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people”.
The first time a State carried out the enforced disappearance of people was November 1965. It was Suharto’s regime in Indonesia, which had been promoted and financed by the US in order to neutralize the dream of Sukarno, first president and protagonist of Indonesia’s independence, of creating an alliance of unaligned, anti-imperialist countries. Bevins explains that this was the third time in history in which the United States gave its puppet governments lists of people to be murdered. The first time was in Guatemala in 1954 and the second in Iraq in 1963. The case of Indonesia ended up with the killing of a million people and the imprisonment of another million in concentration camps. Spurned by their government, plantation managers and representatives of other American investments in Indonesia provided lists of “troublesome” employees and union leaders to the government. They were soon murdered.
Some Indonesian deniers hold that the murdered “weren’t a million, but only five hundred thousand”, which brings to memory the infamous phrase of Argentina’s ex-President Mauricio Macri when he said: “I don’t know if they were thirty thousand or nine thousand” when referring to Argentina’s disappeared during its last military dictatorship. The fact that a president can say that he doesn’t know what happened in the country of the region which best dealt with its fascist past makes evident the neo-fascists’ intention of corrupting history. That’s how people such as Jair Bolsonaro gained access to the presidency of Brazil. Otherwise, Bolsonaro would have gone to jail when, as a congressman, he voted in favor of impeaching then-President Dilma Roussef while dedicating his vote to the memory of the chief military torturer of the biggest detention center the dictatorship had in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo.
Some people state that Brazil’s dictatorship was less horrifying than Argentina’s or Chile’s, just because “only a few hundred” people were forcefully disappeared. However, the true extent of Brazil’s involvement as Richard Nixon’s liaison and enforcer of the United States’ regional plans is yet to be clarified. In 1971, the year in which the first Brazilian disappearances were recorded, Emilio Garrastazu Médici’s dictatorship helped topple the Bolivian government in favor of placing Hugo Bazer as dictator. Shortly after, Brazil moved its troops to the Uruguayan border in order to interfere with the election of the Frente Amplio coalition and thus ensure the victory of right-wing Partido Colorado. A few days after the coup in Chile, Brazilian military advisers took part in the torture of the thousands of detainees of Dictator Augusto Pinochet’s regime in Santiago National Stadium.
One of the reasons for this manipulation of history is the lack of a comprehensive and definitive view of the matter, one that can go beyond the limits of the countries where this plan was applied. The logic is clear: to encourage forgetfulness and doubt so as to minimize the data the right wing tries to hide. They do this as some sort of resurrection strategy.
A painful act during Argentina’s recent electoral times revolved around the Malvinas (Falklands) war. This was a truly macabre war initiated by the dictatorial regime of Argentina against Great Britain over their occupation of the Malvinas islands, which the United States didn’t seek, but that was a by-product of their support for Argentina’s dictatorship. Argentine essayist Beatriz Sarlo claimed that “The Malvinas Islands are actually British territory” and that “Populist and major political parties use them for nationalistic propaganda purposes”.
These statements don’t hold up against the facts: in 1965 the UN General Assembly acknowledged that Malvinas Islands aren’t British, but rather disputed territory currently occupied by the United Kingdom, over which Argentina claims sovereignty. The so-called “Question of the Malvinas Islands” is filed in the UN Special Decolonization Committee, which every year holds a similar resolution to that of the General Assembly, asking for sovereignty negotiations to resume.
The afore-mentioned lack of a comprehensive and definitive view that goes beyond the limits of the countries where this plan was enforced is also the catalyst for colonial neo-liberal ideas. We can’t conclude that Sarlo, a luminary of Argentine thinking, doesn’t know that since 1965 the international community holds that the Malvinas Islands aren’t British. The key is her claim that “Populist and major political parties use them for nationalistic propaganda purposes”, as if the ruling of the UN Special Decolonization Committee, that’s been held firm for over fifty years, was just a populist display of electoral speculation.
We can’t think of any example that’s more pierced by colonial practices and fascist political projects than suggesting the Malvinas Islands are British. If we’re going to blow up the concept of sovereignty, let’s say that the Malvinas Islands are Bolivian, and so back the claim of our Bolivian brothers for a sovereign access to the sea. It would be just as extravagant a statement as that of Sarlo, but with the advantage of contributing to erasing national borders, a colonial vice which prevents us from assessing the true magnitude of the anti-communist genocide and the globalization of the economic plan of its promoters.
Even by the most conservative estimation of the murders committed by the global anti-communist extermination regime financed and organized by the United States between 1945 and 2000, 1.866.250 people were killed. Other estimations move that number up to 1.989.250. Statements such as those uttered by Bolsonaro, Macri or Sarlo should be framed in such a way that could lead to their prosecution, so that they could be disqualified from holding public office, apart from other legal consequences. However, as long as we don’t have a truly independent investigation that contemplates the imperialist dimension of the United States’ plan on an international level, there will continue to be room for opinions, revisions and the recurring resurfacing of fascism over an embellished historical narrative. If we don’t embark on such an investigation, the systemic fury directed against a constructed enemy, such as communism was in the past, will continue to be poured over the left-wing political spaces that fight for the extension of rights.