Antifascism is the environmental movement’s self-defence

Varisverkosto was part of organizing the Finnish mobilization for Take Concrete Action, a mass action in Gotland against Cementa on August 25th to August 27th. In this text published in Finnish before the action we examine why it is important for antifascists to be part of the environmental struggle.

Helsinki Without Nazis -antifascist demonstration in 2021. The banners of participants read for example “Elokapina (Finnish Extinction Rebellion) agaist ecofascism” and “Environmental movement against fascism”.

Antifascism is self-defence, is an often repeated antifascist slogan. In order to understand the meaning of said slogan, we need to eplain what it is we’re defending ourselves against. The short answer is: antifascism is defending our politics from fascist attacks. The debate about what these politics exactly are can go on forever, but in this context it’s sufficent to say that these politics are anticapitalist, antiracist, and feminist. Working towards these goals can take many different forms, so antifascism can be understood as defending various groups, organizations, movements, communities as well as individuals. The ways and reasons for defending oneself depends on the situation and context, but it’s important to remember that sometimes it means defending our own and others’ lives and existence concretely. In the bigger picture, defending a livable future on this planet is clearly a part of this self-defence.

Antifascist direct action is connected to anticapitalist politics. By now, as climate change and other environmental crises are accelerating and compounding, it should be clear that no politics in the 21st century can be taken seriously unless it seriously addresses and centers environmental issues. In order to function, capitalism requires constant growth, which necessitates the exploitation of nature and labour. Since the Industrial Revolution, capitalism has been intertwined with the expanding use of fossil energy sources. Therefore, in practical terms, capitalism has always been fossil capitalism. In identifying fossil capitalism with its need for limitless expansion as the root cause of the climate change, we recognize that anticapitalism needs to be ecologial and that ecology has to be anticapitalist.

Even though many antifascists have been part of the environmental movement and vice versa, the antifascist understanding of achieving an ecological society has been underdeveloped so far. On the same note, not all participants in the environmental movement recognize climate change and other environmental crises as tied to capitalism, and therefore see the struggle against environmental destruction as necessarily being anticapitalist. If the main target of our struggle is the world-burning fossil capitalist system, that is destroying humans, animals, and the planet, the antifascist and the environmental movement alike need an analysis of the relationship of capitalism and nature. What does an antifascist ecology or ecological antifascism look like? What would an antifascist and anticapitalist environmental movement consist of in Finland and beyond its borders?

Helsinki Without Nazis -antifascist demonstration in 2021. The banner text reads: “Environmental movement and antifa – together we stand always”.

The far right has no real solutions to offer to the varied and interwoven environmental crises, neither in theory nor in practice. Fascists oppose anything related to the idea of environmental justice, and even more strongly an ecological anticapitalism, since their political goal is a hierarchical society in which none is free. In this regard the far right doesn’t distance itself from the bloodied legacy composed of capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism. On the contrary, fascism aims to reinforce the already existing hierarchies, oppression, and exploitation present in liberal democratic societies to their extremes. For example, even when a part of the present day far right acknowledges climate change as a fact, they blame it primarily on the people of the Global South, and their suggested solution is closing the borders of the old industrial nations in the Global North for everyone else.

Far right actors across the world have delayed and opposed any measures that would address climate change and environmental destruction. Even though the far right talking points about the environmental movement being “extreme leftist” are over-exaggerated, fascists treat all environmentalists as their enemies. During the last years in Finland, we have seen an increase of speech calling for harassment and violence against the environmental movement. The threshold for moving from talk to action has already been lowered: fascists have been actively harassing Extinction Rebellion Finland demonstrations and even attacking their protest in Jyväskylä by spraying feces on participants with water guns.

Turku Without Nazis -antifascist demonstration in 2020. The signs read: “Environmental movement against ecofascism” and “Swedish nazitourists – go home”.

Within the far right, two sometimes seemingly contradictory positions regarding environmental issues can be detected, with both appearing separately or together: 1) the environmental movement is an enemy 2) using “environmental” arguments to greenwash their own violent and oppressive politics of misanthropy. In practice, there is no contradiction between the two positions: fascists can attack the environmental movement while also pretending to be concerned about nature. It is therefore important that environmental protection is not based on an ecology that doesn’t include the notion of environmental justice. The stronger the  environmental movement becomes as a societal force, the more opposition it will face also from the far right. For this reason, as with other social movements, it is important to formulate an antifascist analysis and practices for the self-defence of the environmental movement.

There are plenty of reasons, both political and practical, for the antifascist and the environmental movement to join up. The destruction of the environment, local and global inequality, and the violence of the far right are all part of the same problem. We have to organize together, so we can struggle together against the interwoven ecological and social issues. We need a locally organized antifascist environmental movement that is a part of the global fight against fossil capitalism. Taking part in the action in Gotland, we are bringing together different antifascist, feminist, antiracist, anticapitalist, and ecological perspectives and uniting them into a common struggle.

Antifascism is the environmental movement’s self-defence!

Antifascist network Varis

Antifascist Action in Finnish.