Marxist Critical Systematic Review on Neo-Fascism and International Capital: Diffuse Networks, Capitalist Decadence and Culture War


This is a review on what the world scientific literature has been presenting about the relationship between neo-fascism and capitalism at an international level. For this purpose, a systematic critical review of Marxist literature in the field of social and human sciences was carried out, in the Taylor & Francis database. The search strategy was built with the free terms: “neo-fascism”, “capital” and “international”. Portuguese, Spanish and English were the language limits. Data analysis was performed through critical content analysis of a Marxist approach. Ten articles were included in the review. The following elements of the articles were synthesized and criticized: “theories used for analysis”, “neo-fascist aspects and/or agents representing the neo-fascist agenda under study”, “representation of international capital”, “the relationship between international capital and neo-fascism” and, finally, the “role of left(s)”. The articles reviewed allow us to state that the data on this relationship is plural and demonstrates a diffuse network among its agents. There are several donor institutions that function as funders of neo-fascist actions in a transatlantic “United States-Europe” network. Also, according to the articles included in this review, the central role of this relationship is found in the “capitalist decadence” and the “culture war” aspect assumed by the phenomenon.

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Carnut, L. (2022) Marxist Critical Systematic Review on Neo-Fascism and International Capital: Diffuse Networks, Capitalist Decadence and Culture War. Advances in Applied Sociology, 12, 227-262. doi: 10.4236/aasoci.2022.126020.

1. Introduction

Organizing the anti-fascist struggle and elaborating the best tactics for confrontation in these coming years has not been an easy task, especially due to the consequences of political character that this implies in the complexity of the world conjuncture. However, as described by Lenin, “without revolutionary theory, there is no revolutionary movement” (Lenin, 1986). Therefore, we consider that the stage of theoretical understanding of the neo-fascist phenomenon in the world is still incipient, especially in the revolutionary left, reserving them a challenge, from the theoretical point of view, to be overcome.

Thus, from a political-strategic point of view, elucidating neo-fascism would help inform organized collectives, institutionalized or not (Postone, 2015) to devise tactics of confrontation (Harnecker, 2012). Especially in the case of Latin America, this phenomenon has been growing, and, in Brazil, it has found its concrete expression with the rise of conservatism and the election of a candidate who represents this resurgence.

However, Brazilian neo-fascism is not dissociated from the movement of capital at the international level. On the contrary, in a Marxist analysis, international capital and its crisis is a key element in the discussion on the inflections of political regimes experienced around the world in different historical times. Whether in fascism or neo-fascism, the role played by international capital and its organizations, whether openly neo-fascist, or in fascistization, is very clear. They are the enemies that must be clearly identified and studied to help the progressive sector to regiment the social forces necessary for the confrontation.

However, before that, it is necessary to go deeper into the role of the crisis of capital in a Marxist view of fascism and the role of neo-fascism as a response to the capitalist dynamics in neoliberalism.

1.1. The Role of the Crisis of Capital in a Marxist View of Fascism

In Marxist analysis in general (Boito Júnior, 2019; Fontes, 2019; Oliveira, 2018), fascism is considered a political form of the capitalist State regime in which the relation of State domination over society is conducted through the suspension of bourgeois “democratic freedoms” (Brito, Sousa, & Silva, 2019; Calil, 2018). Thus, its maintenance and its “degrees” of closure of the political regime emerge as the only alternative that the bourgeoisie has (Demier, 2018; Mattos, 2019; Melo, 2017), in command of the fate of the State, in the face of a major capitalist crisis (Scartezini, 2016; Schlesener, Mezarobba, & Almeida, 2019; Semeraro, 2019). Therefore, it is fundamental to highlight the organic link that exists between capitalism, its stagnations, crises and decadence with the fascist phenomenon.

Unlike a traditional dictatorship, fascism becomes a dictatorship through social support. Thus, as the closure of the political regime occurs, a popular legitimization grows that supports such democratic restrictions. This support often happens because of the precarious living conditions provided by the crisis. This last element is important to characterize the fascist phenomenon, and, without this fascistized popular mobilization, it is not possible to say that fascism presents itself as a political-form (no matter how latently fascist class fractions and groups have been present in society).

When it comes to classical (or historical) fascism, Konder (2009) presents a more socio-historically located definition. When thinking about the fascism of the interwar period, the author describes fascism as a trend that arises in the imperialist phase of contemporary capitalism, which seeks to establish itself in the conditions of implementation of a State monopoly capitalism, expressing itself through a policy favorable to the increasing concentration of capital. It is a political-social movement of conservative content that disguises itself under a “modernizing” mask, guided by the ideology of a radical pragmatism, using irrationalist myths and reconciling them with rationalist-formal procedures of manipulative type (Konder, 2009).

In a derivationist perspective1, the role of the crisis of international capital and its intrinsic relationship with the legal form of the capitalist state gains relevance to explain fascism. For Mascaro (2020), the legal form condemned to opprobrium by the force of the conjuncture, showing signs of exhaustion of the law, together with the withering of the State are, respectively, indexes of the intensification of the class struggle and the overcoming of capitalism. The latter, when identified by the bourgeoisie as signs of wear and tear of its form of political domination, procedural democracy, serve as a warning to the bourgeois reorganization. Since they cannot resolve these grievances in a parliamentary manner, they move towards a fascist class dictatorship whose essence is a desperate attempt to maintain capitalist social forms by seeking to delay their withering away (Mascaro, 2020).

Thus, under the world capitalist crisis, many ideological fissures are opened that unveil the perverse meaning of the mode of production and that are exploited by the bourgeoisie to its advantage. The repressive maneuvers, besides those that save capital, resonate in the minds of the masses as “radical” solutions that aim to reheat the economy in fast, impossible steps that do not fit the cadence of social change. In this sense, fascism moves, in a second moment, as a structural, political action of capitalism in crisis and decay. This is the last possible handling before a downfall, that is, since it cannot resolve its contradictions in terms of liberalism, it goes back to the past, distorting it to make it replace the already ineffective liberalism (Mascaro, 2020).

Therefore, in terms of overcoming the mode of production, fascism allows us to expose democracy, parliamentary systems, freedoms and the political arena in the limelight so that capitalism and bourgeois exploitation can remain untouched. In this change, there is, yes, something extremely real: military alliances. Capitalism replaces the old system of political parties by terrorist organizations of capital, paramilitary and military in defense of the bourgeois fractions involved in this project. Therefore, the interests of big industrialists, financial capital and militarism in alliance make the reactionary utopias of the petty bourgeoisie (small owners - shopkeepers, artisans, etc.) appear as their own.

It is in this sense that Pachukanis (2020), when analyzing Italian fascism, states that fascism is the result of the decomposition of bourgeois-democratic ideology. For the author:

“the first fascist organizations had as their representatives the petite bourgeoisie strata for the most part. But this was not the petite bourgeoisie of early capitalist development. They were, in large part, representatives of the middle strata that grew up in the last decade of capitalism—technical intellectuals and servants. [...] The bourgeoisie, even the most liberal, is ready to close a deal with anyone that suits it, with any militia mercenary, as long as it is capable of saving the sacred property.” (Pachukanis, 2020: p. 31-36)

From a practical point of view, fascists know how to establish a close link between themselves and the large landowning capital, especially to allow the flow of resources that finance communications, transportation, and even the supply of weapons (Pachukanis, 2020). From a rhetorical point of view, fascists always propose a program that is at once strong, being a mixture of “cleansing” and distemper but, at the same time, guarantees absolute freedom for the circulation of capital and languishes state monopoly in circumstances where the prediction of more favorable conditions for capitalist accumulation presents itself (Pachukanis, 2020).

Pachukanis (2020) further stresses that the growth of fascism depends on a labor movement disorganized by the treachery of the reformists and the half-tactics of the centrist leaders, which together are driving the socialist strategy into decline. In the case of the fascist dictatorship in Italy, this is very well seen, to the extent that fascism was justified because the parliamentary government was absolutely incapable of conducting the indispensable measures necessary to rebalance the budget, eliminate the deficit, develop the economy, strengthen the weakened state apparatus, in short, all those emergency financial and administrative measures that constitute the conditions of capitalist stabilization.

Therefore, the Italian example shows the limits of left-wing political action within the State. Furthermore, it reinforces the fact that the systematic insistence restricted to institutional reforms ends up, contradictorily, paving the way for fascist mobilization. The way for the left to defeat fascism does not start primarily, but not exclusively, from the mobilization of the masses on the left, with organization and leaderships capable of guiding the extermination of fascist politics. However, the path taken by the revolutionary forces must understand the role that international capital has in the structure of the fascist phenomenon, focusing on disarticulating it. After all, as Pachukanis (2020) reminds us:

“Fascism is the result of the imperialist stage of capitalist development, in which the latter manifests traces of stagnation, parasitism and decay. It follows that fascism is not able to create forms that would provide for long-term development. Big capital, under certain conditions, is forced to decline the methods of democratic organization of the masses, as well as the help given to them by the Social Democrats.” (Pachukanis, 2020: p. 53)

It is on this path that the authors who dedicate themselves to understand how the fascism of current times (also called “fascism of a new type” or just “neo-fascism”) has been establishing analyses about the new period of the capitalist crisis and its relation with the rise of neo-fascism. Thus, the current concern is to understand how capital, in its neoliberal development phase, allows the advance of fascist forces in response to the dynamics of deceleration and long-lasting crisis (Roberts, 2016).

1.2. Neo-Fascism as a Response to Capitalist Dynamics in Neoliberalism

The long and lasting depression crisis described by Roberts (2016) has demonstrated the stage of the capitalist crisis and how its aggravation is an element that justifies the adoption of the fascist tactic. It is essential to remember that the economic crisis has been characterized as a “long depression” crisis for about 30 years, especially since the 2007/2008 crash. It is about understanding it through the prism of the combination between a low investment product and reduced productivity growth, resulting from a lower profitability of investment in productive sectors together with a vertiginous increase in fictitious capital (Taques, De Souza, & Alencar, 2017). In this scenario, world capitalism has experienced a deep depression with difficulties to overcome this crisis and it is at this point that neo-fascism has found fertile ground to germinate (Guamán, Martin, & Argoneses, 2019).

It is essential to remember that both neo-fascism and historical fascism itself should not be interpreted exclusively in the light of their leadership, but also seen as a product of the conjunctural aspects in which they find themselves (and are built) (Caldeira-Neto, 2020). That’s why Fassin (2018) has been naming the phenomenon that is experienced today as “the neo-fascist moment of neoliberalism”. For the sociologist, unlike Mouffe’s analysis which refuse to classify right-wing populist parties2 as “far-right” or “neo-fascist”, Fassin (2018) argues that the new type of fascism experienced presents anchorage in the capitalist dynamics of the neoliberalism in its current phase.

Thus, it is not just an “authoritarian phase” of neoliberalism, as Boffo, Saad-Filho and Fine (2018) point out, since the core of capitalist dynamics is to be authoritarian in itself, imposing its Weltanschauung (worldview) and building capitalist forms and relations in all terrains of social life. Therefore, according to Prado (2020), the explanation of neo-fascism must focus on the recurrence of the neo-liberal failure to achieve both a faster reproduction of the system and a low conflict reproduction of social life as the responsible elements. As the author rightly warns:

“Moreover, the State’s strategy of consolidation also tends to a process of exhaustion: indebtedness cannot always grow faster than the generation of surplus value in the mercantile production sphere. It is here, perhaps [...] that neo-fascism may indeed find its hour and its turn in the balance of power. For, as is known, it is possible to argue that capitalist economy in the country [Brazil] is tending to complete stagnation (complete stagnation of −0.3% per year).” (Prado, 2020: p. 5)

By identifying neo-fascism within imperialist countries, some authors, such as Prado (2020), claim that the emergence of neo-fascism in Europe is not only the consequence of a hostility to immigration, but one of the results of the exploitation of the countries on the periphery of capitalism by the so-called “civilized governments” (Campos, 2018). Even within Europe, neo-fascism came as a response to the crisis combined with the impossibility of liberal resolution of class contradictions, which, there, was established in the irreconcilable adjustment between social demands and capitalist accumulation.

Therefore, European neo-fascism is not a repetition of the fascism of the 1930s: it is a new phenomenon, with characteristics of the 21st century. It does not take the form of a military dictatorship, but respects certain democratic rights: elections, multiparty system, freedom of the press, existence of a parliament, etc. It tries, as far as possible, to limit these democratic freedoms as much as possible, with authoritarian and repressive measures depending on the domestic situation. Nor does it rely on armed shock troops, as were the German SA or the Italian fascio (Löwy, 2021). Thus, it can be said that Europe learned something from the tragedies of the 1930s and 40s. Or at least it learned that concentration camps should not be made inside its continent, but outside...3 (Campos, 2018).

In the case of countries with dependent capitalism, the role of neo-fascism is quite peculiar. In the legitimate attempt to avoid analytical inaccuracies, some authors (Fontes, 2019; Ouriques, 2020) have insisted on terms such as “conservative”, “authoritarian”, “totalitarian”, and even “proto-fascist”, “semi-fascist”, “post-fascist” to qualify the emergence of fascism in Latin American countries. We consider this view to be mistaken, since these terms sound like euphemisms in relation to the facts and their articulation with the totality. Moreover, the management of fear, the apology of violence, and especially the role of a counter-insurgent State, which constantly flirts with fascism (Marini, 1978) and always acts under the baton of a preventive counterrevolution (Fernandes, 1976), make the readaptations or reinterpretations of traditional fascist policies to the new circumstances a much more aggressive reality.

In this sense, in a dialectical approach, Mathias and Salama (1983) already announced that the narrow, unfinished or incomplete role of bourgeois democracy (characterized by its “restricted legitimacy”) in countries of dependent capitalism serves as an empirical element to justify that

“in developed capitalist countries, the state of exception is dictatorship, while the normal state is democracy. [Already at] in underdeveloped countries, the state of exception is democracy, while the normal state is political regimes of restricted legitimacy. The State plays a particular role in the diffusion of mercantile relations in underdeveloped countries.” (Mathias & Salama, 1983: p. 10) [emphasis added]

That said, the main hypothesis that scholars raise is that neo-fascism in the periphery would be the response of the transnationalized dominant bloc to the contradictions of neoliberal globalization, with the conclusion that the peripheral neo-fascism of the 21st century would correspond to the “upper phase” of neoliberalism, the last stage of imperialism, in Latin American countries (Martín, 2020). In this sense, the role played by the restricted legitimacy of its political regimes allied to the counterinsurgent essence of the state, makes neo-fascism in Latin America have a much more destructive character than what occurs in the central capitalist countries, and therefore, it cannot be “softened” with prefixes such as: “semi-”, “hemi-” or “proto-fascism”.

This can be empirically verified through some differences. For example, in central European countries neo-fascism4 focused, in a first version, against the welfare State, by the burden of taxes and through an anti-immigration nationalist “identitarianism”5 that sees in the “other” (non-European) the root of the dissolution of their lives (Viel, 2021; Campos, 2018). Beinstein (2018) calls this phenomenon “defensive neo-fascism”. However, this does not take away from European countries the dialectical nature of this relationship. Just as in classical fascism, when the Italian bourgeoisie allied with English capital in order to ensure the maintenance of its privileges (Pachukanis, 2020), in neo-fascism Greece surrendered to the IMF austerity packages and the Eastern European countries found themselves hostage to the protectionist policy of the eurozone. Thus, even in Europe, these countries are seen as the “scum” of the old world, the ones “from below” and, therefore, their populations are “intruders” and must resign themselves to their places of origin.

In Latin America, on the other hand, neo-fascism is endowed with a “self-destructive” character (Beinstein, 2018), making it even worse than in countries with central capitalism. If, under “normal” conditions of restricted legitimacy, Latin American countries live in the absence of an associated bourgeoisie that survives on the transfer of surplus value from the periphery to the center, thus causing a super-exploitation of labor; in times of neo-fascism it reveals its absolute pro-imperialist character and yet, contradictorily, is called out in a “ufanistic” way by the middle class and working class fractions most affected by the crisis that, once fascistized, politically endorse such subservience. In this context, without an “other” to blame for the crisis, there is the need to find someone to blame, and, of course, to distill hatred by directing violence. The culprit becomes the citizen-countryman who, by some criterion (economic, ethno-racial, or moral), for example: the poor, the blacks, the native peoples, or even homosexuals, become the reason for the crisis and whose existence must be eliminated (Carnut, 2020).

Given the particular characteristics of each domestic situation (Carnut, 2020), neo-fascism in Brazil takes on a very similar aspect to that reported above. Loff, when interviewed by Viel (2021), does not hesitate to classify the Jair Bolsonaro government as a representative of neo-fascism. “The discourse that [he] has about the social and political movements that oppose him, about women, ethnic minorities, the family, the nation, the West configures a neo-fascism adapted to the Brazil of the 21st century” (Viel, 2021: p. 3). For Löwy (2021), what Bolsonaro has in common with classical fascism is authoritarianism, the preference for dictatorial forms of government, the cult of the Chief (“Myth”) Savior of the Nation, hatred of the left and the labor movement (Löwy, 2021). But he does not have the conditions to establish a dictatorship, that is, a fascist regime. In this sense, it cannot be said that in Brazil in 2021 there is a “fascist regime”, but rather, there is a “neo-fascist government”.

Brazilian neo-fascism, in the current political-economic situation, also has a strong appeal among important segments of the marginalized poor mass, totally precarious and without any type of political organization (labor, party, etc.). Also, President Jair Bolsonaro sensitizes part of the young population who are uninformed and depoliticized, but who have a presence in social networks and who see in him a “supposedly transgressive behavior”, different from other professional politicians, in general demoralized (Filgueiras, 2018).

The Brazilian neo-fascist movement is a leviathan process produced by a heterogeneous socio-political and political-institutional coalition of neoliberal capitalism in Brazil, in which the various fractions of the bourgeoisie lined up in a context of multiple determinations, characterized by the crisis of economic stagnation; by the top-down class struggle of the owning classes against social reforms (in an extremely unequal society) and against leftist leaders committed to them; by the presence of a workers’ party with a vocation and experience in government and supported by the electorate; and by the crisis of the traditional parties of Brazilian democracy, especially the PSDB and PMDB, as well as the PT itself. This process has not fully taken over the state, but its impact has been closing the regime, to the point where the border between democracy and authoritarianism in Brazil is blurred (Ianoni, 2019; Puzone, 2019).

Neo-fascism, therefore, is not the cause of the economic crisis (Oliveira, 2018), but a result and product of it; it emerges as a supposed solution to remedy the woes produced by financialized neoliberal capitalism, but which actually deepens the problem, further sharpening the crisis: its economic agenda is a radicalization of neoliberalism (more of the same of what has already been done for four decades, a kind of ultraneoliberalism6), whose economic-social reforms and policies produced the successive localized crises (in countries and regions) throughout the 1990s and early 2000s and, finally, the global crisis of 2008. In fact, the pseudo-solution offered is the attack on liberal democracy and its institutions, through the constitution and mobilization of a mass movement (typical of all fascisms), the use of digital militias and the propagation of lies and confusion on social networks (typical of neo-fascism) with the aid of negationism7 (Filgueiras, & Druck, 2020) and delegitimization of science (Diethelm & McKee, 2009) replacing them with the irrationalism of conspiracy theories8 (Martin, 2020), all of this welded by a cultural and retrograde morality, fundamentally heteropatriarchal (Parinetto, 2020; Pavón-Cuéllar, 2020), based on evangelical fundamentalism (especially neo-pentecostal) of a pre-modern nature (Filgueiras & Druck, 2020).

It is in this complexity of the phenomenon that this study aims to review what the world scientific literature has been presenting on the relationship between neo-fascism and capitalism at the international level.

2. Method

A systematic critical review of the literature was carried out (Grant & Booth, 2009). This method aims to demonstrate that the authors searched extensively on a chosen database and how the authors critically assessed the quality of what was reviewed. Critical systematic reviews go beyond mere description and aim to present a degree of analysis of the studies included and, when possible, elaborate a conceptual or theoretical innovation or both (Gough, Thomas, & Oliver, 2012).

As such, a critical review provides an opportunity to “take stock” and assess what is valuable from the body of previous work. Because it is interested in the heterogeneity of understandings, this type of review usually starts from the following questions: how to understand the development of research on a subject within and in different research traditions? What theories can be generated from conceptual and empirical literature? (Gough, Thomas, & Oliver, 2012)

It is on this path that the research question that directed this review was: “what does the scientific literature present on the relationship between neo-fascism and capitalism at the international level?” Thus, the terms “neo-fascism”, “capitalism”, and “international” were taken as keywords of the research question.

From these terms identified as key to maintaining the coherence of the research question, these keywords were used as a starting point for developing a search syntax. For this, the Taylor & Francis (T&F) database ( was chosen, an international publisher of scientific journals that presents 439 highly qualified journals in the humanities, which include the areas of economics, politics and sociology. Thus, when entering the page of this database, in the “advanced search” section, a search strategy was elaborated with the Boolean operators AND and OR, whose final syntax was: [[All: “neo-fascism”] OR [All: neofascism]] AND [All: capital] AND [All: international]. With this syntax we obtained 414 identified studies (tested on March 13, 2021).

Of these 414 identified studies, a filter was used to determine the availability of the full studies (since, to access the full studies, one has to pay for them). This filter “Only show content I have full access to” allowed the final syntax to add an operator that restricted the search to only studies available for free. Thus, after applying this filter, the number of identified studies was reduced to 32.

Of these 32 identified studies, 4 studies were book reviews and were therefore excluded. Of the remaining 28 studies, 2 of these had the prefix “neo” as the authors’ name/surname, not relating the content to the term neo-fascism presented in the search, and for this reason were excluded. Of the 26 remaining studies (Table 1), other exclusions were made for some reasons (they were editorials, or considered the Brazilian military dictatorship as “neo-fascist”, dealt with populism and not neo-fascism, or neo-fascism only appeared in the footnote). Thus, 10 final articles remained, included for review.

The data analysis process of the 10 articles included followed the implementation of the critical systematic review method, which seeks to identify the conceptual contribution to incorporate an existing theory or derive a new theory. Thus, no assessment of the methodological quality of the studies was performed because the inclusion of the 10 studies is related to the contribution that each one presents in answering the review question.

Table 1. Authors, titles, scientific journals, and reasons for article exclusions and articles that remained to compose the articles included for the critical systematic review. 2021.

*Articles that remained because their content was in agreement with the question of this review. Source: Elaborated by the author.

For the synthesis of the data, a synthesis methodologically anchored in critical content analysis (Utt & Short, 2018) was chosen. This method was chosen because it refers to a way of analyzing the content of a text, grounded in the critique of the dominant bourgeois ideology (Löwy, Duménil, & Renault, 2015) and, therefore, converges with the Marxist tradition of analysis and interpretation of phenomena used to understand the results of this study.

3. Results

Define among the 10 articles reviewed, publications began in 2008, with 1 article from the 2000-2010 decade and 9 articles published between 2011-2020. In the analysis of the articles it was observed that 2 articles do not explicitly state the theory on which they anchor their analysis (Pertwee, 2020; Noonan, 2020), 2 do not clearly present the representation of international capital (Opratko et al., 2020; Moghadam, 2019), 1 does not present a clear relationship between neo-fascism and international capital (Moghadam, 2019) and 6 does not present the role that the left-wing parties should play in confronting the relationship between neo-fascism and international capital (Means & Ida, 2022; Opratko et al., 2020; Pertwee, 2020; Noonan, 2020; Askanius & Mylonas, 2015; Testa & Armstrong, 2008).

Five studies are located in the USA, 1 in Brazil, 1 in China, 1 in Italy, 1 in the United Kingdom, and 2 studies compare situations in different countries in Europe. One of them is about the reality in Sweden and Denmark, and the other is about Austria, Croatia, Germany, Serbia, and Sweden. The objectives of the articles included can be seen in Table 2, which are arranged in descending chronological order, presenting the authors, year, country, method, objectives, theories, and the neo-fascist aspects/agents extracted from the articles. In Table 3, in a more detailed way, it is possible to identify the representations of fascistized international capital, the relationship between neo-fascism and international capital, and, finally, the role of the left-wing and its tactics for confrontation. In Table 4 it is possible to see a synthesis of the emphasis of each article (theoretical or empirical) and the classification of the main element that characterizes the relationship between neo-fascism and international capital found in each one of them.

4. Discussion

This section discusses the main findings of the articles included on the following topics: “theories used for analysis”, “neo-fascist aspects and/or agents representing the neo-fascist agenda under study”, “representation of international capital”,

Table 2. Authors, year, country, method, objectives, theories, and neo-fascist aspects/agents identified in the articles included for the critical systematic review. 2021.

Table 3. Representations of fascistized international capital, relationship between neo-fascism, international capital and the role of the left in confronting those identified in the articles included for the critical systematic review. 2021.

Source: Elaborated by the author.

Table 4. Author and year, country and emphasis on the analysis conducted and classification of the relationship between neo-fascism and international capital found in the articles included in the critical systematic review. 2021.

Source: Elaborated by the author.

“the relationship between international capital and neo-fascism” and, finally, the “role of left(s)”. Finally, in this section, the limitations of this study were clarified.

4.1. Theories Used for Analysis

As for the theories used to support the analysis carried out by the studies, there was a plurality that can be systematized into 6 groups. The first group refers to those studies that “do not explain” the theoretical support they use (Noonan, 2020; Pertwee, 2020).

The second group consists of two studies that use “world-system theory” for analysis (Álvarez & Chase-Dunn, 2019; Martins, 2019). World-system theory is a considered “post-Marxist” theory used in the field of international relations, economic geography, and international political economy. In these terms neo-fascism would be linked to international capital through the concept of “world-system” (Wallerstein, 2002; Arrighi & Silver, 2001; Amin, 2005). The “world-system” is based on the inter-regional and transnational division of labor and results in the division of the world into core, semi-peripheral and peripheral countries. The core countries concentrate on highly specialized and capital-intensive production, while the rest of the world is engaged in labor-intensive and unskilled production and the extraction of raw materials. This tends to reinforce the dominance of the core countries. The underdevelopment of the southern hemisphere countries in this theory is due to their position in the structure of the international economic order, so the differences in the nuances of neo-fascism, strictly speaking, would also depend on the country’s position in this structure.

The third group is those who use a “Marxist” framework of analysis (Robinson, 2019; Opratko et al., 2020). This includes the study by Robinson (2019) who can be considered an orthodox Marxist9, due to the form, method of analysis (historical-dialectical materialist) and categories used. Also in this study, the role of neo-fascism is intrinsically related to international capital and the analysis revolves around this relationship (Mascaro, 2020). In the study by Opratko et al. (2020), the authors use Étienne Balibar’s theoretical framework and “cultural studies” to analyze the “cultures of rejection” that emerge in Europe, whose data were the result of several studies carried out by the authors in 5 countries (Austria, Croatia, Germany, Serbia and Sweden). The authors, depending on the framework used, diverge from the fact that the phenomenon experienced in Europe is neo-fascism and even equate the term to the idea of “right-wing populism”:

“We develop the heuristic and deliberately provocative concept of “cultures of rejection” to investigate the sociocultural conditions in which right-wing and authoritarian populist policies became acceptable. This approach diverges from and illuminates existing research on right-wing populism or neo-fascism. We present the concept of rejection cultures with full awareness of the role that “culture” plays in neo-racist discourses.” (Opratko et al., 2020: p. 2) [emphasis added]

It is known that Balibar (1990) criticizes the categories “class” and “proletariat”, admitting that the stage experienced by these categories makes them “disappear” in the terms of their substance. This, according to Balibar (1990), is a reality, since the effective universalization of the antagonism ends up dissolving the myth of a universal class, leading to the bet on the idea of “culture” and “identity” as a way of obscuring the class/proletariat. The focus on “identity” is evident when Opratko et al. (2020) do not recognize the role of neo-fascism, using the term populism as a way of highlighting the mediation between “political elites” towards a “people”, dismissing the discussion of the problem of social class (Löwy, 2021).

The fourth group is composed of studies that use a “hybrid10 perspective of analysis, which initially originated in Marxism, but in its development has moved away from the core Marxist theses (Means & Ida, 2022; Askanius & Mylonas, 2015). In Means and Ida (2022), Hardt and Negri’s referential (based on Foucault and Spinoza) is the one used to develop a political ontology of education as a representation of how modes of education circulate to stabilize and contain the crises of Empire. Bispo (2016) states that we can consider that Antonio Negri takes on the Foucaultian legacy from a Nietzschean perspective, which, when applied to neo-fascism, considers it as “right-wing movements” that have deftly exploited a perceived loss of accumulated status, turning economic grievances into racial and ethnic resentments. This understanding removes the centrality of the crisis of capital as a materiality that makes the masses adhere to discriminatory discourses. This is where the role of education in this scenario as a contender for the crisis emerges, as the authors point out:

“Within the corrupt imaginary of right-wing movements, education is presented as a means to return to a glorious and mythical past, a folkloric exercise to constitute a national identity that purifies and restores a chosen people: that is, Make America Great Again. These dead ends, from space colonies to neo-fascism(s), represent different ways in which education circulates as a means to stabilize and contain the crisis of Empire...” (Means & Ida, 2022: p. 2). [emphasis added]

On the other hand, Askanius and Mylonas (2015) use post-structuralist discourse theory (based on Laclau and Mouffe) to examine the far-right online media as a venue for discursive struggle over the causes, consequences and remedies of the European economic crisis. Originally Marxist, Ernesto Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory aimed at re-analyzing political activity, reconfiguring it and re-dimensioning conflict relations beyond the “polarization” between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie (Laclau, 2001). This theory is called post-structuralist because it does not credit “structure” with an ultimate character of politics in which the sense of “identity” has replaced it. Thus, the role of human emancipation is questioned when it assumes that the “identities” of “proletarian” and “bourgeois” are transitory and unspecific to the point of considering this aspect as an “identity reductionism” contained in Marxist theory (Freitas, 2019). However, in the strictly Marxist debate on social classes, the question of identity is important, but it is not at the center of the debate, especially depending on the approach. In Thompson’s (1987) historical analysis, individuals only understand themselves as proletarians or bourgeois when they are in the praxis of struggle for their interests, which are obviously antagonistic. Therefore, the role of antagonism is key. As Wright (2015) points out, this is not a “difference” that is based on identity, homogenizing different social positions and displacing the expropriation-appropriation debate. Thus, the class and its structure are central in the Marxist debate about neo-fascism and its relationship with international capital, since the analysis cannot only be oriented from the perspective of identity, but in which antagonistic interests are at stake.

The fifth group, composed of only one study, is part of the group of “progressive” studies (Moghadam, 2019) and deals with the author’s call for a shift from the World Social Forum (WSF) movement to the organization of a Fifth International. The author does not discuss a specific perspective of analysis, presenting himself as well settled on the left in his political positions, yet he does not make clear which reference he follows, mixing tendencies.

The sixth and final group is also composed of a single study that uses the “New Consensus Theory on Fascism(Testa & Amstrong, 2008) to analyze the neo-fascist principles manifested by “ultra” football fan groups as a consequence and a resistance to the dominant sociocultural and political values of contemporary Italy. The first consensus on fascism, considered “afascist”, or “anti-antifascist” (Melo, 2016), was based on the historiography of Mussolini carried out by Renzo De Felice (1929-1996) in which the issue of social support from the masses is its social base in the middle classes guaranteed a consensus on the legitimacy of the fascist regime based on its “revolutionary” character and the reengineering of a “new man” necessary for the transition from a traditional to a modern Italy. This theory of consensus was rejected by Marxist theorists, at the time Gramsci and Togliatti, who restored the link between fascism and the crisis of monopoly capitalism in a situation of decay, in which the adhesion of the middle classes (which was not their social base) and part of the proletariat was due to a (legitimate) discontent due to the worsening of living conditions (Melo, 2016). The “new” consensus on fascism, on the other hand, used in Testa and Armstrong’s (2008) study, is dedicated to consensus on what fascism was, and has been elaborated by Griffin (2012) after historiographically reviewing the discussion by various experts. For Griffin (2012) there is a tendency for scholars to focus on the ideological and cultural utopian dynamics of political phenomena and the exercise of violence in the search for a new order when defining fascism, thus lateralizing the role of the crisis of capital. For Iordachi (2009) the new consensus in fascist studies, holds some connection with the old consensus in that it is a loose convergence around a culturalist approach that moves away from the already existing consensus in the international Marxist tradition that fascism is a reactionary phenomenon, or at most counterrevolutionary and somehow inextricably related to capitalism.

4.2. Neo-Fascist Aspects and/or the Agents that Represent the Neo-Fascist Agenda under Study

As for aspects and/or agents linked to neo-fascism, the studies are divided into three groups. The first group emphasizes “neo-fascist aspects(Means & Ida, 2022; Opratko et al., 2020; Robinson, 2019; Álvarez & Chase-Dunn, 2019; Martins, 2019). In this group, the aspects are general and do not name direct agents of neo-fascist political action, restricting themselves to outlining which social institutions or “local mechanisms” neo-fascism presents that link its action to the movement of international capital. Some are well established and present coherence in the Marxist analysis such as “education as an institution requested by neo-fascism”; the mobilization of disaffected populations; and the use of state power to destroy the competitive pressures of the emergence of new poles of economic power. However, other aspects are subject to criticism in Marxist analysis. The first is the “emergency State” agenda in authoritarian neoliberalism. Now, it is not about the state being in “emergency”, or that it needs to be safeguarded because of the authoritarian rise of neo-fascist neoliberalism, on the contrary, the state is part of this gear and its legal form is essential to maintain the appearance of legality of bourgeois democratic rites even if the legal content does not reflect the facts as they are (Pachukanis, 2017)11. A practical example of this is the Brazilian judiciary’s assumption of the nullity of the case in which former president Lula was a defendant during the country’s fascistizing escalation (Deutsche Welle, 2021). The second is the neo-fascist rise with the possible arrival of “another period of deglobalization”. Now this suggests that globalization has cooled down, when, in reality, capital has never stopped expanding (Roberts, 2016). Adherents of “deglobalization” admit that the effect stems from very profound changes in developed countries in which trade, within the proportionality of total economic activity, fell between 1914 and 1970. This “decline” indicates that their economies have become less integrated with the remaining economies of the world. However, this statement is not supported by the total computation of the capitalist economy since in the period 1945-1970, economic recovery, through increased profitability, is evident (Roberts, 2016). There is, therefore, an attempt to invert (inversionism) in which neo-fascism causes the fall of commerce, largely becomes responsible for the capitalist crisis rather than the other way around. The third of these is the “prioritization of cultural struggles neglecting economic battles”. If, in fact, cultural struggles appear as a privileged field of struggle, it is because the war-technological advance of capitalism cannot be used in the same way it was in the violence incarnated in interwar fascism, for obvious reasons: the real possibility of human extinction related to a possible third world war. In fact, wars act as a counter-tendency to the falling rate of profit (Callinicos, 2014), but since they cannot happen in the traditional format as occurred in the first quarter of the 20th century, their readaptation to the 21st century requires strategies of “killing populations without even pulling a trigger”. Thus, culture wars (in which the enemy is the “other”) associated with negligent management of the coronavirus health crisis seem to be the new forms of genocide. So there is no longer any need for concentration camps; Europe’s immigration barriers make this space the third world (Campos, 2018). No more need for gas chambers; not providing oxygen in the respirators of those infected with covid-19 already fulfills this role. But all this does not mean to say that there is no economic sense in these actions. The idea, as in every war, is to destroy in order to start over, that is, to burn capital stocks to begin a new cycle of accumulation.

The second group of articles emphasizes “neo-fascist agents” in terms of public figures, writers, case studies, activists, political parties, hooliganism groups, personal websites and blogs (Noonan, 2000; Pertwee, 2000; Askanius & Mylonas, 2015; Testa & Amstrong, 2008). Among the public figures are: in the USA, Donald Trump, recognized world figure of imperialist and neo-fascist alt-right. Bernard Lewis, British historian of Islam, professor at Princeton, was the author of the expression “clash of civilizations” in The Roots of Muslim Rage, which summarizes the “realized prophecy” in which the neoconservatives of the Bush12 administration believed (Massad, 2021). The term “clash of civilizations” was appropriated by Samuel Huntington, a conservative American political scientist who claims that the main political actors of the 21st century would be civilizations and not national states and whose tensions would no longer be at the ideological level, but at the cultural level in which cultures brought to the United States by immigration are one of those “threats”. Strictly speaking, these two authors are a group of neoconservative scientists whose theories were used by neo-fascists in order to justify their actions. In Great Britain, writer of Middle Eastern history, Gisèle Littman (pseudonym Bat Ye’Or), is responsible for the term dhimmitude considered as the “specific social condition that resulted from jihad13 and “state of fear and insecurity” of infidels in need “accepting a condition of humiliation”. It mixes anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, as if they had the same (Islamic) root. These traits would have spread to European culture and the continent’s politics would have been the result of collaboration between Arab and Muslim radicals on the one hand, and on the other, fascists, socialists, Nazis and anti-Semitic ruling Europe. Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (pseudonym “Tommy Robsinon”) is a former leader of the Anti-Muslim English Defense League, EDL, far-right anti-Islam activist and political adviser to the former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Gerard Batten.

In Sweden, Nordfront (“free voice from the North”) activism is the main site of the neo-Nazi movement of the Nordic Resistance, whose current leader, Simon Lindberg, has been central. The Nordisk Ungdom (Nordic Youth) organization, in operation until 2019, was also an important supporter characterized as a far-right, ethnopluralist, anti-semitic and fascist movement, whose leader is Fredrik Hagberg. The, a Swedish far-right youtube page and news site, had more than 40.000 hits, was recently taken down. Among the political parties, the main one is the Svenskarnas Parti (SvP, Party of the Swedes) being a Swedish neo-nazi political party that now maintains an online magazine (Realisten) and that in the 2010 general elections, it became the first self-styled “National Socialist” party to win a seat in a municipal assembly since the end of World War II, by reaching 2.8% of the vote in the municipality of Grästorp (western Sweden) (BBC G1, 2014).

In Denmark, the main agents of neo-fascism are the political parties, such as Danmarks Nationalsocialistisk Bevægelse (National Socialist Movement of Denmark). This is the main neo-Nazi party in the country chaired by Esben Kristensen and which has not had a good electoral performance, but is a copy of Adolf Hitler’s German NSDAP as well as the Danskernes Parti, a far-right party on the rise. Among the main sites for neo-fascist information are Stop Islamiseringen af Danmark (SIDA), a Danish association critical of Islam, and also maintained by Vederfølner, the main Danish national conservative political association of the far-right. Among activism, Danmarks Nationale Front (DNF) calls itself an organization in which right-wing radicals have a common political convergence point. Among personal blogs Uriaposten and Snaphanen are the most allied to the Islamophobic far-right. Finally, in Italy, the “Ultras” Lazio and Irriducibili, are right-wing, xenophobic, misogynistic hooliganism organizations that recall Italy’s fascist past. They recently banned the presence of women in the first rows of the Curva (the section of the stands for organized fans) and in response to rival hooligans.

The third group has many “agents as neo-fascist aspects(Moghadam, 2019). The author deals with the problematic term “right-wing populists”14 and broadly focuses on the problem of neo-fascism with anti-Islamic political parties and also cites Steve Bannon as political advisor and chief strategist of the White House in the Trump administration, as having been at the front of Breitbart News, a far-right news, opinion and commentary site.

4.3. Representation of International Capital in Studies

As for the representation of international capital, the studies can be divided into four groups. A first group in which the authors “do not present” clearly who would represent international capital (Opratko et al., 2020; Moghadam, 2019).

The second group is composed of studies that “present the names of leaders or public figures(Means & Ida, 2022; Noonan, 2020; Pertwee, 2020). Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and Elon Musk founder, CEO and CTO of SpaceX and several other companies, are oligarchs linked to the advanced corporate technology sector and aim to take the lead in formulating international policies and agendas, as in the case of the World Economic Forum. These members constitute a pro-Trump faction that does not reject globalized capitalism, but wants to renegotiate the terms of trade in favor of the USA. They are, therefore, exponents of the fascistized liberal right, being in agreement with the ethical opening to the people, rejecting the dark side of nationalism and xenophobia unleashed by Trump, and, at least nominally, being committed to green capitalism. Another group of representatives of international capital that materially support neo-fascist actions constitute a “diffuse network” that can be divided into: 1) leaders of organizations; 2) organizations as such; 3) political parties; 4) public figures; and 5) direct funders. All of them can be seen in the study by Pertwee (2020) in Table 3. Much of this data is consistent with the survey on the European far-right carried out by Mulhall and Khan-Ruf (2021).

The fourth group is composed of articles that “present foreign capital in general(Robinson, 2019; Álvarez & Chase-Dunn, 2019; Martins, 2019; Askanius & Mylonas, 2015; Testa & Amstrong, 2008). This is evident in Robinson’s (2019) nomenclature of the representatives of international capital as the emerging “Transnational Capitalist Class” (TCC). This new transnational corporate order, based on the triad United States, Europe and Japan is composed, according to the author, by the rise of powerful TCC contingents in the former Third World. Another way the authors name them is: 1% of the rich and large corporations as responsible for the economic crises and austerity policies of the 21st century. This 1% would be holders of five main monopolies: 1) new technologies; 2) monetary standard and international financial flows; 3) access to natural resources of the planet; 4) mass media; and 5) weapons of mass destruction. For Askanius and Mylonas (2015), the financial crisis is the problem of the induction of neo-fascism and the main representative of the movement of capital. Thus, translated into austerity measures in the eurozone, promotion of far-right discourse by the media; threats of crises aggravated by multiculturalism, the feeling that the advanced capitalist economy of Western societies is reified as something concrete and natural, possessing national characteristics and “ownership” of a racial-territorial community; and, still, the notion that the crisis is not systemic, but as a perversion provoked by the presence of the “other” has been the generality on which the authors base themselves. Finally, Testa and Armstrong (2008) show how positions in football clubs are stepping-stones for political careers potentially financing neo-fascist hooliganist actions. The capital in this case still comes from membership campaigns that required a subscription and produced a membership card; and the Direttivi (organizing councils) made up of those who, having learned organizational skills in the political sphere, now pour these energies into the football sphere.

4.4. Existing Relationship between International Capital and Neo-Fascism

As for the existing relationship between international capital and neo-fascism, the studies can be divided into four groups of arguments. The first group are those articles that “do not present” arguments that make explicit the relationship between international capital and neo-fascism represented only by Moghadam’s (2019) study.

The second group is composed of those who bring arguments aimed at an “intention” of international capital under the yoke of neo-fascism (Opratko et al., 2020; Means & Ida, 2022). For Means and Ida (2022), when reflecting on the process of capitalist expansion, they envision neo-fascist ambition for extraterrestrial frontiers. Thus the authors believe that the space colonization (Empire to the entire galaxy), the fantasies of eternal capital accumulation, driven by education and technology; the Artificial Intelligence (AI) economy shakes the path to reposition education in the sense of retraining workers in function of the expansion of the Empire. Now, regardless of how much it is an intentionality, it already exists, therefore, neo-fascism, as much as it is an impulse to “unlock” capitalist accumulation in neoliberalism, the advance of the space race has already achieved successes at least since 1957-1975 (Carvalho, 2015). The exoplanetary ideology of capitalism’s advance to extraterrestrial frontiers is not necessarily presented as a process of exploitation of other geographic spaces provided by the neo-fascist impulse. However, this political-form in attempting to re-engineer the forms of social division of labor and the new flow of international capital that reposition the sharing of the (earthly) world under new conditions, would not exempt itself from exploiting these frontiers. In dialectical terms, the development of capital advances, but always in an unequal and combined way, and on an intergalactic scale, we could say that it advances more inside than outside the planet, still.

In the imaginary of right-wing movements, education, for being a facilitated locus of ideological transit, is palingenetically requested, that is, to proudly recall the past, instilling an anachronistic “return” to traditionalism. More than an intention, this use of education in fascism(s), whether interwar or of a new kind, is recurrent (Pachukanis, 2020). Not by chance, all sorts of disqualification of public educational services, the decline of public investment in education in the name of compulsory debt for the states, and the drive to privatize, standardize, and fascistize education systems are part of this project. It is good to recall, as described by Griffin (2012), how the “weight of ideology” in the construction of fascism(s) occurs. It reaches a level of importance so (or at least) similar to the movement of capital, and in its crises, the educational systems are the most important gateway because they act as reproducers of the dominant ideology of the fascist period. In Brazilian neo-fascism, for example, this has been shaping up very intensely with the sharp privatizing entry of the private sector into fascistized higher education and militarization causing the banning and censorship of subjects (such as “gender”) in basic education (Carnut, 2021). Still in this group there is a hope, placed in the study by Opratko et al. (2020), that the state should be the institution to lead the way out of the economic crisis by providing financial support to the economy or offering compensation to businesses and the unemployed. Now, this intention that the state would be responsible for exiting the economic crisis is too reformist and, in light of neo-fascism, demonstrates how much the analysis foregoes the state-capital-fascism relationship in a totalizing way.

The third group are those articles which bring arguments that make a “ascertainment” of the relationship between international capitalism and neo-fascism experienced in the world today (Pertwee, 2020; Means & Ida, 2022; Noonan, 2020; Álvarez & Chase-Dunn, 2019; Martins, 2019; Askanius & Mylonas, 2015).

Studies show that the contradictions of the neoliberal globalization project are linked to the emergence of neo-fascism through different mechanisms. Whether by the imperialist “charismatic-moralist” figure of Trump (Noonan, 2020), or by the different ways of financing neo-fascist actions and mobilizations (Pertwee, 2020) in which these networks are intertwined. The fact is that neither Trump nor the neo-fascists are the cause of the decline of the cosmopolitan liberal-capitalist world, they are an effect of its decay and failure. As much as criticism of Trump and neo-fascism has focused more on their rhetoric (of opposition to globalization, contempt for commercial logic, etc.) rather than the realities of strategic competition, studies point out that this is a limitation of important analysis and has resulted in the effectiveness the global right has had in “constructing” their own enemies as “the globalists”, “the system”, and “immigrants” (Askanius & Mylonas, 2015).

Especially in Europe, the crisis is seen as a product of several decades of failed policies and indecision by politicians in areas related to immigration; as a “Greek mess” (Greece as the rotten apple of Europe) and austerity policies as inevitable, necessary, and even fair. In general, the masses disregard the systemic nature of the crisis and the unilateral pro-market policy of the European Union, the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund program of fiscal austerity and structural reforms implemented in the so-called PIIGS countries (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain). In this sense they adhere to “eschatological notions”, supported and dramatized by racist statements, build a legitimization of the resurgence of fascism as a form of “final solution” for Greece and ultimately for the world at large. As Askanius and Mylonas (2015) point out:

In this way, explanations for the crisis fit into the dominant political discourse and mainstream media framing of the crisis, which has been haunted by rhetorical strategies of otherness and scapegoating employed to explain the crisis in culturalist terms. In these “blame games”, the crisis discourse offers explanations for the malaise in the cultural traits of specific groups that are blamed for triggering or exacerbating the crisis (Askanius & Mylonas, 2015: p. 64) [emphasis added].

The fourth group refers to articles which bring “controversial” arguments about the relationship between international capitalism and neo-fascism (Noonan, 2020; Robinson, 2019; Askanius & Mylonas, 2015). For Robinson (2019), in general, the struggle against neo-fascism is equivalent to the struggle against the emerging Transnational Capitalist Class that the author christens TCC. The author further states that the core of 21st century fascism is the triangulation of transnational capital with reactionary and repressive political power in the state and neo-fascist forces in civil society. This is a controversial topic because this absolute equivalence is not a true statement. Although neo-fascists are certainly a world dominant capitalist class, they are a minority among the other bourgeois fractions of transnational capitalism that are not necessarily fascists, but are right-wing liberals, sometimes fascist or not, but who support or identify with neo-fascist rhetoric, making electoral endorsements, but nothing that denotes a major effort in this path. Fascists, as Pachukanis (2020) puts it, “do not come to power alone”. They need a mobilized popular mass, and support from bourgeois fractions that, in concrete terms, cannot be classified as fascist in the strict sense.

Robinson (2019) further asserts that the emerging fascist projects of the 21st century are a response to the crisis. Although this is true in the Marxist perspective of analysis (Boito Júnior, 2020; Demier, 2018), the authors who dedicate themselves to “fascist studies”, as explained by Griffin (2012), do not attest this assertiveness. In this vein, Robinson (2019) goes on to explain that, in order to face the capitalist crisis, neo-fascist projects seek to recast the legitimacy of the state, making it more restricted. Strictly speaking, this argument can also be controversial when analyzed by the “new consensus theory”.

Another very controversial issue, based on the Marxist analysis of neo-fascism, is the role of multiculturalism as the main problem of the crisis, as brought up in the article by Askanius and Mylonas (2015). Despite the position the authors give to the crisis and its relationship with neo-fascism, the role of culturalism, as described above, gains centrality in explaining the “ideological component” of neo-fascism in Europe, raising the cultural problem to a wider scope of that he actually might be.

Testa and Armstrong (2008) also make very questionable claims due to the explanatory “tensions” that exist in the list of fascist studies. One of them is the question of the “resistance to national judicial systems” that the Italian hooliganist neo-fascists would have. In fact, in understanding the history of fascism in its development during the interwar period, the role of the Italian fascists’ critique of “institutional rites” and “parliamentary politics” justified, together with other events, the condemnation of the bourgeois institutions of which the State and the legal system are part of it (Pachukanis, 2020). In the case of neo-fascism, current studies suggest that neo-fascists do not directly reject bourgeois institutions, or when they do, they remain only in the rhetorical realm, even using formal democratic rights for their political actions at the state level (Carnut, 2020). In the case of the Italian hooliganists, this seems more like a trace of cultural survival of the fascism lived in that country, especially because of this group’s desire to search for abstract qualities (faith, courage, and the hero/warrior figure) linked to a palingenetic vision of Mussolini. Skills in the political sphere, now pour these energies into the football sphere.

4.5. The Role of the Left(s)

On the role of the left-wing parties and the forms of confrontation and/or departures from the neo-fascist scenario, the articles are divided into two groups. The first group are articles that “do not present the role of the left and do not suggest ways out(Testa & Amstrong, 2008; Opratko et al., 2020; Pertwee, 2020; Means & Ida, 2022; Noonan, 2020; Askanius & Mylonas, 2015).

The second group are the articles that “present the role of the left and suggest ways out” (Moghadam, 2019; Álvarez & Chase-Dunn, 2019; Martins, 2019; Robinson, 2019). The main ways out that the authors present range from general recommendations to actions to reorganize the left internationally. Among the general recommendations are: the deprivatization of common goods; end the destruction of the environment. Others are more specific, such as: codifying rights to employment, social security and equality between women and men; promoting fair trade and protecting cultural heritage; establish a country’s right to agricultural and food sovereignty; prohibition of patents on knowledge belonging to living beings; public policies that prohibit discrimination, sexism, racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism; dismantling all foreign military bases; the right to free access to information and support for non-profit media. Some go through actions to interdict the transit of international financial capital, such as: implementing the Tobin Tax on speculative capital and similar taxes on international financial transactions15; promote the dismantling of offshore banking transactions (“tax, legal and banking havens”). Other proposals related to left-wing internationalism were presented, especially linked to the World Social Forum, such as: practicing the horizontalism of the World Social Forum and the realization of a Fifth International (an international center-left, capable of gathering revolutionaries and reformists around them) and practicing, in society, diagonalism. This is a term coined by Boaventura de Souza Santos, referring to the criticism made to the forms of organization of the struggle on the left. For him, the politics of the corridors (bureaucratic representation) and the politics of the streets (in the collective presence of individuals) are not enough nowadays, so between the verticalists (traditional) and the horizontalists (new movements), it is necessary of a middle ground with the positive of the two, which the author calls “diagonalism”. Finally, other more combative proposals were presented, such as: naming the predators of the transnational corporate class and the neo-fascist and populist global right; to present a clear left alternative that is not just managing the capitalist state and its crisis.

4.6. Limitations of This Review

This article, in accordance with the methodology used, sought to synthesize and integrate the knowledge available from the choice of only one database (T&F). This methodological option implies a specific cut that restricted the analysis to what was published in this database. This means that the findings of this review should be critically read as just a small excerpt from a broad discussion, with no inferential pretensions beyond the studied database.

In addition, the option of analyzing only articles freely available for reading was taken in line with the international movement of free access to scientific knowledge (Liu & Li, 2017). This choice was maintained due to its ethical-political coherence with the Marxist critical analysis conducted in this study, which understands that interdiction of access to knowledge is to achieve concentration of power. Under no circumstances could a critical review study like this one be aligned with such a process of reproduction of scientific domination. Therefore, in this review, the other studies with limited access due to the ability to pay were deliberately disregarded.

It is also important to note that this choice may suggest that the review was “not very plural”, especially because it excluded much of the production of academics from the global periphery on the subject that publish more easily in other databases such as Scielo. This reinforces the argument that, in systematic review studies, database clippings, temporalities, languages, and other types of clippings are frequent (Grant & Booth, 2009; Gough, Thomas, & Oliver, 2012) and these limits underscore the complexity of this task. A task that is especially more arduous when it comes to the area of social sciences and humanities due to its pluriparadigmatic character.

Thus, it is admitted that, in further studies, a viable way to advance the discussion may be to expand the scope both to the use of other databases and in the availability of access to paid studies. These would be important strategies to complement the findings of this review.

Another limitation that must be highlighted is the theoretical-epistemological tradition chosen for the analysis undertaken in this article. The choice of the Marxist tradition and, consequently, the method of critical content analysis aimed to proceed with the reviewer’s position and accumulation in relation to the theme. Even acknowledging the debate between different paradigms of analysis as something healthy for the development of social sciences, it is necessary to recognize that, by summoning this multiplicity of theories and epistemes, the analysis tend to be shallow and endowed with eclecticisms (Carnut, 2019b) that make the interpretation of the phenomena doubtful. Therefore, the findings of this study were analyzed from the Marxist perspective in its broad conception, by the domain of the reviewer in this area, based on the elements found in the texts of the reviewed authors.

Even though the limits of this type of review are recognized, it is necessary to state that the study brings valid results as it constitutes an approximate panorama on the subject that can illuminate the analyzes on the relationship between neo-fascism and international capital more clearly. Thus, even considering this review as an initial work, its search, capture, extraction and synthesis procedures were carefully conducted, making its results susceptible to reproduction.

5. Final Considerations

In possession of the data synthesized and criticized in this review, it is possible to affirm that the scientific literature presents plural data on the relationship between neo-fascism and international capital, ranging from people and groups that support, organize and endorse the neo-fascist discourse, but are not necessarily so, even the people, organizations, political parties, (far)-right movement and donor institutions that act as funders of neo-fascist actions in the transatlantic “United States-Europe” sense (including specifically, England, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Croatia, Germany and Serbia).

Literature is also mixed by studies of a theoretical and essayistic character with studies that present an empirical qualitative analysis. Studies also reveal that among the main characteristics that neo-fascism and international capital present in their expression as a phenomenon, they refer to the central role of “capitalist decadence” and the aspect of “cultural war” in which the phenomenon appears in civil society.

Thereby, it is possible to affirm that the Marxist analysis on the genesis of neo-fascism as a phenomenon related to the decadence of the capitalist mode of production is confirmed in the studies reviewed, making an important counterpoint to the culturalist analysis. Therefore, it is possible to think that if the fascism of the classical period was fundamental in tensing imperialism by reordering the correlation of forces in favor of the entry of countries with fascist regimes in the distribution of the empire over the world, it is expected that the neo-fascism of today will re-accommodate the place of these countries where neo-fascism occurs in a new condition in imperialist domination. Therefore, the empire will be forced to “share the cake” with new “actors” and readjust the submission “to the crumbs” of others.

Finally, it is worth noting that the literature review on “neo-fascism and international capital” helps to elucidate and, at the same time, alert to the understanding of the ideology disseminated by Bolsonaro, his government and his policies. It also serves as a way to understand the role of the movements that guarantee his support in the attempt, probably frustrated, to geoeconomically relocate Brazil in this global scenario, in which regime closures in the context of the sharpening economic crisis demonstrate the trend that is approaching.


1Derivationism is a current of thought on the relation “State and capitalism” located within the Marxist debate. Evguieni Bronislavovich Pachukanis (1891-1937) was a precursor of this approach. Pachukanis was a Soviet jurist who revolutionized the general theory of law from this perspective, and his analysis was revived in the 1970s by authors who followed his thought, building what today is called the Materialist State Theory.

2According to Löwy (2021), the use of the concept of “populism” to express what is experienced in the world with the far-right is a wrong term. Criticism of the term came from its lax use by certain political scientists, the media and even by the left-wing to explain the nature of neo-fascist movements in Europe, serving, according to the author, only to sow confusion (Löwy, 2021). In fact, the problem with the concept is that it deflates the social-historical content of popular movements by equating workers’ mobilizations with reactionary ones. In addition, the term makes use of the concept of political “elite”, hiding the role of these leaders in the productive system and having as mediator the relationship between the rulers towards a “people” (once again devoid of the class issue of the debate).

3 Campos (2018) reports that “in 2002, Prime Ministers Tony Blair and José María Aznar took to the European Union summit the proposal to punish with economic sanctions the countries of origin of undesirable immigrants. The proposal caused scandal because it made explicit the desire that governments of African countries, for example, would become ‘jailers of their citizens’”. (Campos, 2018: p. 5)

4To Löwy (2021: p. 2), “an attempt at a typology of the current European extreme right would have to distinguish at least three different types: 1) Parties with a directly fascist and/or neo-nazi character; 2) neo-fascist parties; and 3) Far-right parties”.

5Identitarianism in Europe has been presenting a difference in the concreteness of the facts in relation to what occurs in Brazil. While in the old world identitarianism is related to the ufanistic nationalism of the European states, based on the assumption of being the main heirs of Western culture, in Brazil, identitarianism assumes another position, linked to gender-sexuality and race-ethnicity identities, generating more counter-hegemony that tensions with the capitalist cultural heritage.

6Ultraneoliberalism is a developing concept that finds empirical justification in the terms described by Boffo, Saad-Filho and Fine (2018) on the historical moment understood as an “authoritarian turn” of neoliberalism, intensifying market defense policies, with increased restriction of public spending. For these authors, neoliberalism needs radical conservatism and authoritarianism to become “ultra” since the previous phases of “installation” and “subjectivation” of neoliberalism were not enough to overcome the long-term capitalist crisis.

7For Diethelm and McKee (2009) denialism is the employment of rhetorical arguments to give the appearance of legitimate debate where there is none. Denialism is a process that employs some or all of the five characteristic elements in a combined form: 1) conspiracy and/or inversionism; 2) the use of false experts and defamation of experts; 3) selectivity of arguments; 4) the creation of impossible expectations about what research can offer; 5) use of logical fallacies.

8When dealing with “conspiracy theories”, understanding their tactical rationale is essential. Martin (2020) points out that struggles against conspiracy theories can be analyzed in terms of the tactics that powerful perpetrators use to reduce outrage about injustice. To do so they use cover-up, belittlement, reinterpretation, official channels, and intimidation/rewards.

9Orthodox Marxism refers to studies based directly on the method of Marx and Engels.

10It is possible to consider that the term “hybrid” is the most appropriate to avoid that authors affiliated to the tradition of Hardt and Negri or Lacau and Mouffe, for whatever reason, do not recognize themselves in the term “postmodernity” since the authors’ thought has moved from Marxism towards eclecticism. It is important to note that “postmodernity” is a generic term that involves at least three major currents of theoretical thought (“postmodernism”, “postmodern social theory” and “neo-modernity”), so it cannot be read as a monolithic theoretical set, but must be critiqued in its details in light of Marxist thought (Carnut, 2019a). Therefore, we assume what Rush (2006) points out about Hardt and Negri’s analysis as a theory of “postmodern hybridization” and also align ourselves with what Green (2017) points out about Laclau and Mouffe as a distinctly “postmodern” perspective.

11This is not about “legal wars” or Lawfare. These concepts, associated with social-democracy, admit that the rules of the legal game are impartial and, therefore, ratify the Democratic Rule of Law as an institution forged by the “social consensus”. Now, it is known that this legal-contractualist philosophy is far from having socio-historical support. When rescuing the historicity of the Modern State, it is clear that the legal systems are created, ultimately, to safeguard capitalism and not, in the same proportion, social and human rights. But Lawfare adherents tend to understand the “democratic suspensions” provoked by neo-fascists as a “state of exception”.

12According to Massad (2021: p. 17) “...that the solution for the Arab countries in Turkey. The seat of the Ottoman empire, which is not Arab, but dominated the region, had, from 1923 to 1938, the government of General Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who promoted a secular state with liberal reforms and pro-Israel and United States actions, warding off the ‘backwardness’ (and lack of peace for Israel) that the narrowed worldview of the Islamists would bring, in his conception”.

13Jihad is an essential concept of the Islamic religion and means commitment, effort, or struggle. Usually understood as “holy war” waged against the enemies of the Muslim religion.

14See footnote n. 2.

15The Tobin Tax, or as it has been called more recently, the Financial Transaction Tax (FTT), refers to a highly topical issue in contemporary financialized capitalism, considered by a global movement of academics and civil society groups as a mechanism to address the problems of fictitious capital that plague countries in general, particularly the European Union. It is a measure that was initially proposed by a study prepared in 1972 by James Tobin, Nobel Prize in Economics in 1981, and where it was advised to charge a 0.50% tax on foreign exchange transactions. For more details see Schulmeister (2014).

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this paper.


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