月曜日, 8月 30, 2010

Neo-neo-fascism comes to Japan

"This relationship toward the Thing, structured by means of fantasies, is what is at
stake when we speak of the menace to 'our way of life' presented by the Other: it is
what is threatened when, for example, a white Englishman is panicked because of
the growing presence of "aliens". What he wants to defend at at any price is not
reducible to the so-called set of values that offer support to national identity.
National identification is by definition sustained by a relationship toward the Nation
qua Thing. This Nation-Thing is determined by a series of contradictory properties.
It appears to us as 'our Thing' (perhaps we could say Cosa Nostra) , as something accessible
only to us, as something "they", the others, cannot grasp; nonetheless it is something constantly
menaced by "them"'
Slavoj Zizek, Tarrying with the Negative

Reason has taken more than forty winks in recent years, and what monsters this has brought forth. The strong-stomached amongst you can take a look at the English Defence League here. The EDL, recent recipients of a magnificent pasting at the hands of Bradford's youth, reflect a broader and highly distressing phenomenon - the return of racist mass mobilisation in the US and Western Europe. You will have noted the funnelling of the American 'tea party' movement into the frothing mob against a proposed Islamic centre on the very site from which someone may possibly have witnessed the attack on the World Trade centre if they craned their neck. As you may have seen in a widely circulated film, this movement is almost entirely white and the scent of a lynchin' is never far from their nostrils.

These Muslim baiters are the most well known version of post-liberal, neo-neo-fascism but the rot is not limited to the Anglosphere. Italy has suffered for some time from xenophobic poseurs organising through Facebook and styling themselves adherents of Ezra Pound and the Third Millenium. Now it seems the brand is emerging in Japan.

The 'Zaitokukai' (short for 在日特権を許さない市民の会 for those who know or care) have been hanging around the dingier parts of the internet for a while but recently surfaced in Kyoto to harrass children at a primary school - a primary school mark you - for the Korean community. They called the children 'cockroaches' and 'North Korean' spies. Other targets include the screening of the film The Cove and people dressed up in Halloween costumes.

These men seem a somewhat different breed to the moustache and black-boiler suit types who have disfigured the Tokyo scene for so long. People like Issuikai (recent hosts of the BNP, FN and others for an international hate-in) are still around and the Zaitokukai may well merge into them. But these groups always formed a continuum first with the Yakuza and then with the state, policing the hard borders of a soft authoritarianism. Zaitokukai, although the numbers at their events remain pitifully and mercifully small, seem to have emerged organically from Japan's frustrated petitit bourgeoisie (the group's main organizer being an Akihabara based tax accountant.)

What is striking about the group's public bullying is how closely it matches the Zizekian analysis of nationalism, and the common structure of the fantasies deployed by both the Japanese and Euro-American new-new far right. The fact that the victims are different (Koreans, other Asian immigrants, even 'white' subjects such as anti-whaling activists or Halloween partygoers) allows us to cut through the gibberish that says of the EDL and its cognates: 'they're not really fascists', 'Islam is a religion so it's not racism', 'yeah but the Muslims are a problem too' and so on ad smug infinitum.

The first thing to note about Zaitokutai's most offensive act so far is that it was directed against 'Korean' primary schoolchildren using a 'Japanese' playpark. Is this not the most perfect confirmation of the fantasm at the heart of nationalism and racism, of menacing others "stealing" the primordial jouissance ? Something similar is at work in the claim that Muslim windows must be smashed and Muslim women humiliated in order to "prevent" the imposition of Islamic laws that will supposedly end liberal Europeans' unfettered enjoyment. This is one way in which the third millenium fascists are post-liberal - borne out by the appropriation of the notion of a 'citizens' movement' simply directed against the encroaching special privileges of the minority in question. The long-running outrage about Japanese child victims of kidnapping by North Korea (appalling crime but one raised mostly by people who seem to think thousands of Koreans liked being kidnapped, enslaved and raped by Japanese forces in WWII, or made it all up) takes the same form. Zaitokukai is itself an abbreviation of 'Group of citizens who will not forgive the special privileges of resident Koreans.'

Second, these groups are the fantasmic exhaust fumes - or flatulence - of the past ten years of imperialism and capitalist crisis. This is what befuddles liberals, seeing the apparent novelty of the racists' discourse ('cultural' rather than biological, 'defence' against those who will not integrate into the host community etc) and sharing many of the basic assumptions which these movements extrapolate to a vulgar and violent extreme. The EDL and the Tea Party arise directly from the humiliations of Iraq and Afghanistan and their Islamophobic buttresses. The Zaitokukai suckle at the teat of at least a decade of Yasukuni shrine visits, slander about 'foreign crime' and the conscious promotion (akin to the geopolitical aspect of Islamophobia in the West) of the idea that Japan's war victims are special pleaders, kidnappers, fifth columnists for rogue, backward, irrational states. This is where 'frank debates about immigration' end - hounding schoolgirls out of the only home they have ever known.

A third point. The rise of these movements in the past couple of years is, as more vulgar materialists used to say, no accident. The pervasive insecurity brought about the economic crisis leads Makoto Sakurai and his sort to reach for the easiest available hate rather than the source of the problem. If this Marxist base to the Lacanian analysis is true, perhaps the old solutions it offers - united front based in the working class confronting the fascists, that sort of thing - might be worth a run even in new conditions?