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White Skin, Black Fuel: On the Danger of Fossil Fascism (2021)

av Andreas Malm, The Zetkin Collective (Författare)

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761353,901 (3.5)8
"This is the first study of the far right's role in the climate crisis, presenting an eye-opening sweep of a novel political constellation, revealing its deep historical roots"--
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Andreas Malm and the Zetkin Collective - [White Skin, Black Fuel: on the danger of Fossil fascism].
As I am reading my latest book on the imminent dangers of a climate catastrophe, the rain is battering down on the skylight window above my desk. It has been raining in heavy bursts for the last four days and when I was out walking yesterday the fields down in the valley were sodden with water. Today the region is on an orange warning to the dangers of flooding and there is no doubt that the local rivers will burst their banks again. We have reached the stage now where it is not a question of whether there will be flooding, but now, how often it will occur?

Andreas Malm is a Swedish author and an associate professor of human ecology and sits on the editorial board of the academic journal Historical Materialism and has been described as an original thinker on the subject of climate change. His political stance is decidedly left wing with the weight of the history of fascist movements sitting heavily on his shoulders. His premise in White Skin, Black Fuel is that there is an historical link between the petrol chemical industries and racist politics. He refers to this as fossil fascism. The idea that the burners of fossil fuel will continue to burn their way to the destruction of the planet by exploiting prejudices against migrant populations and climate denialism. According to Malm it is a tactic that has an historical precedent in the fascist movements in Germany and Italy after the first world war. We can witness history repeating itself today with the rise of right wing political movements that have succeeded in electing Trump in America, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Andrzej Duda in Poland and the UK's Brexit government. Malm comes up with his own definition of fascism and it is interesting to consider how closely these political movements resemble his ideas:

"fascism is a politics of palingenetic ultranationalism that comes to the fore in a conjuncture of deep crisis, and if leading sections of the dominant class throw their weight behind it and hand it power, there ensues an exceptional regime of systematic violence against those identified as enemies of the nation."

Much of the book is a history lesson, a history lesson according to Malm that walks the reader through the story of imperialism: the discovery of coal and oil that powered the might of industrial nations and enabled them to dominate and subjugate much of the southern hemisphere. This is a fascinating story, but feels at times like a thesis written to prove an academic point. I think the links between fossil burning industry, right wing politicians and their resort to fascist policies are there in plain sight, however the historical linkage even if proven adds minimally to the important questions that face the world today; one of which is how are we to divest the power of the fossil fuel extractors from their influence over governments. Malm's book certainly enables us to recognise the enemy (the fossil fascists) and to understand the methods at its disposal to protect its interests. His own ideas from his historical perpective are that: capitalism, not human beings are changing the climate; industrialisation itself is less of a problem than the fossil system that powers it. The overwhelming focus on climate activism must be on dismantling fossil infrastructure.

Malm asks; why do so many parties and politicians of the far right traffic in climate denialism and he refers to the various stages of climate denial based on the ideas of Stanley Cohen's book ['States of Denial: knowing about atrocities and suffering]. His three stages of denial are:

If someone asserts that a bad thing does not happen and is not true, her denial is literal; if she accepts that it happens but gives it a lower degree of meaning – rewriting the event, obfuscating the effect, exculpating the perpetrator – it is interpretive. But the most insidious form is perhaps the third. Here the facts and gravity of the matter are accepted, but not acted upon. Knowledge is not an issue. The harm is fully acknowledged, but the obligation to intervene is suppressed through one cognitive technique or other.

On a personal level he uses an anecdote:

Imagine that your neighbour beats his wife badly every Saturday. Each Sunday morning, you wake up and think: what a wonderful neighbourhood this is, peaceful and prosperous, a blessing to live in! If someone asks whether you heard strange sounds yesterday evening, you shake your head vigorously. Or you might respond that some couples behave that way, fighting it out with fists and tableware – it is just one way of conducting an argument. They seem happy enough when he’s not drunk. Or you might recognise to yourself and others that there is grave violence inflicted on that woman and it ought to stop, but then you go about your daily life, month after month, and you listen to the muffled cries without acting – or perhaps you slip in the business card of a therapist through the letter slot, or talk to another neighbour who is also content just talking about the matter, and even if the assaults continue and you glimpse the woman in a state of physical collapse, you imagine that you have done your part.

Malm's thoughts on this are that right wing political leaders today who started out as literal deniers, have moved on to stage two and even stage three. Certainly the publicity emerging from the large petroleum companies Exxon Mobil or BP for example will highlight how they are combating climate change, a phrase now used for much of this would be greenwashing and therefore the third stage of denial.

The final section of the book entitled "Death at the Steering Wheel" is bristling with ideas and attempts to draw the various strands of the book together. This is not a book to instruct the reader as to what they can do to challenge climate change, although there is a section on activism and what is being done at the moment. It is a book that attempts to sketch in an historical perspective, to provide an understanding of the connections between right wing politics, an imperialist past and fascist policies that will blame and then attempt to eradicate the "citizens of nowhere"

Andreas Malm would seem to be the guiding hand behind this book, but it will I presume have contributions from the Zetkin collective, which probably accounts for my impression that the books lacks a little structure. The final section however focuses the readers attention on the difficulties facing those who say: we must act now. There is still much public support to keep the fossil fuel status quo and I know this from my own experience as I can hardly get the people around me to talk about it. I say to them: forget about the anti-vaxxers what you should really be concerned about is the climate deniers, in what ever form they take.

The rain has stopped at last, but the people in the valley are flooded. I am fortunate to live on a hill. However the house is old and it rained so hard the water poured in underneath the front door and flooded the hall. 4.5 stars. ( )
  baswood | Dec 11, 2021 |
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Andreas Malmprimär författarealla utgåvorberäknat
The Zetkin CollectiveFörfattarehuvudförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
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