by E. John Winner
There can be a profound difference between confrontation and conflict. Confrontation simply involves facing the world as it is, and facing others as they are. Doing so can bring out the most creative of our resources; the most charitable toward others. Conflict can establish unbreachable barriers between ourselves and others, sometime only resolvable with violence. And as we have seen politically recently, there are those – in America as on January 6, 2020, or in Russia as of this writing – who see violence as a necessary component of their identities. “I hurt others, therefore I am; I kill therefore I exist.” There are ultra-conservative thinkers who would deny this, but it is self-evident. Violence is embedded in any Fascism. Its glorification and justification forms the defining moment of Fascism. Violence also may be the only ethical response to Fascism, when the latter is enacted and sustained violently. But perhaps we can prepare a stronger ethical response to its threat that may at least encourage resistance to the irrational demands of the far Right.
Let’s be clear. I am to the Left politically, but I am sympathetic with traditional conservative views. Policy disagreements in a liberal state should result in politics, not warfare. My chief charitable donations have been to Catholic Charities, despite my atheism (35 years), the Anti-Defamation League (which was strongly conservative at the time I initially donated my support, thirty-five years ago, when there was a rising public expression of anti-Semitic views) and lately, the past two years, the Lincoln Project, an organization of traditional conservatives who recognize the profound danger to American democracy that Donald Trump represents. But here I am addressing the rise to prominence (globally and domestically) of an extreme “conservativism;” the revolution on the Right that can be noticed as Fascism; the hope of a replacement of the modern liberal state by one dedicated to maintaining old and out-of-date values, violence against ethnic “others,” and authoritarian government. Yes, there are authoritarians on the Left in colleges and certain government agencies. But these will not invade other countries, slaughter others wholesale, burn books or silence (not just individuals but) entire professions. These may argue alternative histories, but they usually don’t rewrite history to suit themselves. They may celebrate their own victimization, but they won’t spin that into the kind of ideology and policy program as we see on the Right.
Fascism is not a coherent ideology. It differs nationally, between the 19th century ethnic superiority claimed by some Russians, to the nostalgic worship of British Imperialism by some in Anglophone cultures such as Australia (disseminated world-wide by Right-wing propagandist Rupert Murdoch through News Corp. and Fox News). A Deweyan liberal who votes Democratic (and yes, an unrepentant non-theist), I have been accused of being a dangerous “Romantic” or even “utopian” Marxist (and told “go Brandon” which is troll-speak for “fuck you”), but while none of this is true, I’d rather be a dangerous Marxist promoting ”pernicious” ideas of national sovereignty and personal liberty in a liberal state, than a fascist promoting nostalgia for lost glories and ethnic purity; an apologist for Trump or for Russian thugs invading Ukraine. (And I find it amusing to be accused via guilt-by-association of being Marxist, by those who praise the openly Stalinist, ex-KGB agent Vladimir Putin. But why be surprised? Marxism is a now poorly understood complex of theories of economics and politics expressing a hope for progress in social relations. Stalinism is just another form of Fascism.) There is nothing good about such a point of view; nothing defensible. Yet this is not to say there is nothing to be learned in the confrontation with such a perverse way at looking at the possibility of a liberal society. Every “no” generates a new “yes.” The recalcitrant pave the way to their own degeneration into the ash-can of history.
Confrontation, not imagination, defines intellect. Too many are simply cowards. That is, they are “cowed” before a reality too rich, too complex, too variant, too multivalent for them to understand, let alone move through with any ease. And of course, they are never at ease, which is why they constantly demand distraction. Yet the excitement of real confrontation, the adventure of intellection, frightens them. It must be stopped! It must be managed somehow and properly controlled! It must be destroyed! Everything must be the same! After all, if the universe is filled with entities all of which are the same, then they can be known ahead of time (that is, before they are even known at all) to be readily available for consumption, use, or destruction.
To confront a thing or event in the matter of which we speak, one has to allow the unknown – even the unknowable – the opportunity to exist; to catch us unaware; to redefine existence; to reshape consciousness; and to make us other than we are, even if this sometimes ends in death. What doesn’t, after all? Yet, some believe they cannot die. Impossible numbers of young people flock to war, believing in their hearts that they will never die in battle. If so, then why are they afraid of a confrontation with the Real? If they can never die, it cannot threaten them. But the terror in their heads; the gnawing doubt. They could be wrong! And they don’t even know what that might mean. Yet their cynicism pours forth like a hot flood of vomit, disguised as an “opinion”: “In my opinion, nobody does anything for nothing.” “Just as matter of opinion, I believe all those ideals to be crap, mere excuse for getting all you can, just like me.” “Well, it’s only an opinion that fair laws can be written; frankly, laws only excuse the behavior of those who can steal and get away with it!” And so forth.
Yet for this ideology itself – for which they willingly go to war – all of this cynical determinism disappears. It is supposedly a result of freedom of will. Indeed such a choice is often presented as a struggle “for freedom” (the freedom to be cynical, I guess). But, in fact, people making such choices are forever beset with vaguely discernible indeterminacies of possible responses to stimuli thought evaded simply in the choice of ideology per se. Preferred items of consumption disappear from the market; one’s employable skill suddenly becomes meaningless. What one says, words one repeated so faithfully, no longer matters. It is in the nature of reality, however defined (both “inner” and “outer”), that it is forever changing, however minutely. But, that’s not what was expected! The ideology promised that all things would ever be the same – predictable and dependable. In fact, just in the nature of the given universe as given, nothing is ever exactly the same from moment to moment. Inevitably there is difference, which demands that we must always respond to these changes.
Yet, it must be pointed out, these changes are not progressive or developmental. The inevitable changes within the material universe, the changing configurations of the universe as a whole, may indeed proceed according to mechanical laws, but just for that reason, there can be no progress. I’ll put this in the most pointed terms: We like to think of the evolutionary changes that the Neanderthal underwent that eventually arrived at the generation of Homo Sapiens as progressive and developmental. But this is not the case. The Neanderthal was simply another form of life. One cannot even call it an “earlier” or “precursor” form of life to our own. It happens to be in the nature of evolution (the real thing, not the social interpretation of it) that it was entirely possible that Homo Sapiens could have appeared in one location, while Neanderthals continued to reproduce elsewhere, blissfully unaware. In short, we could well have found ourselves on this planet with not one but two – perhaps more – intelligent life forms, all looking something like us, but of a different genetic structure (the real definition of an animal species). It just happened otherwise.
It is precisely the non-progressive nature of changes of this sort – especially when they occur in a social setting, as part of the very warp and woof of human society – that allows the civilized intellect a playing field in which to undertake the kind of reasoning and innovation that brings real progress into the world of human beings. The darkest moments often call forth the most brilliant light. Yet this light may have long been shining – it was only necessary for someone who could see it – and stupid people cannot stop intelligent people from seeing it. If Rome had not at last been sacked, Augustine might never have given us the City of God, one of the most innovative, most critical, and most civilized texts in Western literature (and yet one utterly conforming to a previously established religious faith). One doesn’t need to accept Augustine’s religion to see that. One only has to appreciate the sparkling audacity of his argument. Augustine gives all credit to God, but the real hero is Augustine himself and his profound commitment to his own powers of reason. It doesn’t matter whether these are God-given or are born of his genes. It doesn’t even matter whether his claims and arguments are true or false. City of God furthered the progress of human thought. People in the West were suddenly more than they had been and had much more to look forward to than before. It may not have been a “great leap forward.” Perhaps it was only a step to the side. But it was movement, and human intellection stagnates when it can only move backward.
But let’s not rush all the way up the intellectual ladder to Augustine. Rather, let’s consider a rather small matter. Students are frequently taught that the invention of the microscope was a great innovation contributing to the progress of Modern society. Could it have been otherwise? The images seen through the microscope could have easily been interpreted as some sort of devilish illusion, a micro-spectacle of unreal shapes guaranteed to drive the viewer mad, and indeed, at the time of the microscope’s invention, some religious zealots made claims exactly like this. Really, the human mind is capable of any number of explanations for the phenomena of experience. Whales can be explained as fish, sea-monsters, demons with fins, gods in disguise – even, I suppose, as a kind of animate statue made of stone. Any explanation would do, were it phrased properly, and if all one wanted was an explanation. We are quite mistaken to believe that philosophy or science begin as explanation, which must then be assigned philosophers and scientists as their principle task. Explanation is the task of parents: it is the verbal component of the education of their young.
The scientists who continued to work to develop the microscope, and who, in that process, came to believe they were witnessing real entities, not illusions, of a size otherwise impossible to see with the naked eye, did so because in contemplating various articulations of vision – the camera obscura, certain trends in the visual arts, records of experimentation written during the innovation of the magnifying glass – they began to realize that the material universe around them could be considerably more odd than had long been thought. But, they also believed that the proper response to this oddness was learning. Rather than assuming they were deluded – and thus somehow gullible and culpable in a devilish plot to control human intelligence – they chose instead to allow their discoveries to unfold before them and to respond to each as it occurred. The logic of their attitude was actually fairly simple: if a shape under the lens moved about as though alive, chances would be good that it lived. Yet, the decision to adopt this logic demonstrated an amazing leap of faith, though not in God or the Bible, or even one born in the negation of the Bible or the denial of God. Theirs was a faith in human intelligence itself.
In denying the possibility of death, one never learns what it means to live. Those who are civilized accept that one day life ends, and through this acceptance, prepare the way for life to come. Surrendering intellect boldly to discovery of the unknown, the civilized find the path unfolding itself, sometimes rapidly, sometimes haltingly, but always continuing. There is no final confrontation. Yet, some look forward to a day of “final reckoning” with all rivals, adversaries and otherwise suspicious characters, all of whom will be either silenced (perhaps through shaming, perhaps legislatively) or eliminated. I suppose this originates as a fantasy of personal redemption through climatic, genocidal conflict during which the faithful (at least according to the fantasy) demonstrate superior skills and perhaps even superhuman strength and cunning. At the end of such a conflagration, the faithful hope to remain standing alongside adoring loved ones, because of their deep-seated belief that civilization actually constrains rather than promotes their ability to realize themselves in their greatest and most admirable capacities.
One has to grant the Western religious traditions their due: They charge us with a purpose, even if it has little to do with our concerted experience. Nonetheless, surely, according to them, there comes a final reckoning; a judgment day when all wrongs are righted, and we at last achieve the purpose for which we presumably have been created. But, this is really too easy. And all it has accomplished for modern culture is a resiliently recurring angst that many simply shrug off by resorting to sensory distractions or “entertainments.” Many moderns are rigidly insistent that religion can save their souls, but rarely do we find any practicing this.
Any imaginable Armageddon in the Judeo-Christian tradition would bring upon the Earth a devastation leaving none standing; the souls of the Saved will be entirely transformed beyond our capacity to recognize them. But, despite their totalitarian usurpation of Christian rhetoric, many moderns remain only pagans in the last analysis. They do not wish to be saved into the City of God. They want to triumph as masters of this Earth. Their divinity really plays at creation like a hyperactive adolescent at a video game. All reality is virtual, and after one dies three times, one simply feeds coins into the slot to start again. Nothing hurts, and even the pain one’s opponents manifest is performed solely for pleasure for oneself. This is as true for Islamic fanatics cutting off the heads of unbelieving victims as it is for Christian Americans insisting on control over women’s bodies. Their “beliefs” may be dogmatically apocalyptically religious, but their practice is Bacchanalian distraction from the banal necessities of common daily life.
And yet, how can we condemn them? The vacuous entertainments with which we amuse ourselves, secure in the supposed privacy of our own homes, away from any tangible social intercourse or community, is surely a pagan worship of private gods – sports heroes, musicians, movie stars – and irrational political pundits blathering bytes sounding vaguely like truisms, when all they can give us is a depleted rhetoric that effaces, rather than confronts, our shared reality. Surely we must find something deeper than this, not because there really is such a thing, but because in the search for it, we delve deeper and build deeper into ourselves, as something more enduring than our distractions. So we think to find something beyond the given distractions; the possibilities of what it might mean to be human beyond our predilections for greed, fear, and violence. For the time being, then, the way of intellect is the way of preserving a different possibility than the cultural reality into which we have been born.
Civilization in the West sometimes appears headed into eclipse. If so, we do not as yet have any sense that a new civilization will develop out of its ruins. But the hope that is at the origin of every civilization: that the community of men and women do walk this Earth as human – not crawling on their bellies in fear; not raging at the sun because it shines on oneself and one’s rivals alike; not wasting resources in self-celebratory demonstrations of gluttony or exercise of raw power, as if all that the naked ape could accomplish is embarrassment to any claim of superiority for the primate family as a whole – but as men and women, capable of reason, moderation, compassion for others, and passing these virtues down to the next generation. This hope cannot vanish from the world of human beings as long as there are human beings. And when there aren’t, that world ends.
But until then, it is my belief that human life and intelligence, which are inseparably dependent occurrences, are also accidental ones. The universe could have been wholly other than it is. There could have been other life forms on other planets; even perhaps some form of intelligent life unimaginable to us. All of this could be the case. And it is the wonder of existence; that it is somehow never within the compass of our thinking or our hopes; and that somehow, every day, we must meet the universe anew, on its own terms, in an attitude of discovery and creative sharing. This attitude is confrontational, but not in a conflictive sense. We are here to face the universe and through it ourselves. This is inevitable – it will be the case, whatever – and so we might as well cooperate, so long as we are able.
Primitive peoples need not make such an acknowledgment, because their tribal living is itself that acknowledgment; a direct response to living with it on a daily, even hourly, basis. But many in “developed” societies now refuse to give any such acknowledgment, and in doing so, re-enact and perform suffering on themselves and others. It takes quite a while and quite an effort to reach the recognition that an honest attempt to confront and comport ourselves cooperatively provides a moment of realization that resolution of any existential angst we feel – our fears and rages, our disappointments and frustrations – will always be found in living compassionately with other human beings regardless of our differences. This itself constitutes the only possible “perfection” of the rational animal; perhaps unachievable, but preferable to its opposite, which only results in blood, death, misery, and destruction; the wet dream of fascists and “strongmen” the world over. Fascism may indeed prove the order of the day. But to every day comes a night, followed by a dawn. I’m no utopian, and that dawn may be worse yet. But it will be different, and any paradise one might have hoped for will be lost; even at its best it will be different than any future we could imagine. But together we will face that when it comes, whether we would or not.
14 responses to “An Ethical Response to Fascism”
No one can say for sure why Neanderthals went extinct. No one knows for sure why large mammals world wide, accept to a lesser degree on the African continent also went the way of the Dodo. Climate change, disease, evolutionary forces have all been kicked around. But, there is one universal correlation with these extinction events: they all coincided with the immigration of Homo into these hitherto virgin regions and continents.
So there you have it. Make of it what you will. Some philosophers believe that the Universe only allows the manifestation of what could only be. From the shales of Burgess to Putin’s lair. Was Gould correct in thinking the beat of a butterfly’s wing could have altered the reality of today? Is there really such a thing as rewinding of history to start another time line leading to a different reality or is what we see what we were always going to get? Not only deterministic but unfailingly so.
Yet, you wax poetically, abstractly, metaphorically and I believe nobly though, I admit that I’m not sure how much I understood but the general tenor is the liberal agenda against the fascistic right and a concomitant expansion and utilization of the human intellect, of course for all the right reasons. Even those, ostensibly foot soldiers of the Right , of such authoritarian movements, would swear they too are against such and would rationally and intelligently argue that the Left, much to your porous protestations to the opposite, is not a Gandhi about silencing dissent but grinds its bones of cancel culture to make its bread and surely in their eyes see it as the camel’s nose of nascent social authoritarianism.
So yes, we alert, we warn and educate against those on the dark side. To what avail, when to them we are in the dark and human nature is what it is and civilization is only a thin veneer in a Darwinian world. And Joe six pack is more concerned about his septic tank.
Wax on brother, even when I don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s always a good read. Maybe being forced to watch Leave It To Beaver was a time track that served you well;)
I like the idea of confrontation as a creative moment, how it “can bring out the most creative of our resources; the most charitable toward others.”
Sadly, such confrontation often comes in the aftermath of evil. The stark revelations of Bucha with their confrontation with fascist fueled cruelty harkens back to the grim discoveries of Aushwitz and their confrontation with the horrors of Shoah.
The post-holocaust “never again” was a creative impulse, and today’s fascist resurgence reminds us that such an effort at creating a more humane and peaceful world is a creative burden visited on each generation. The fearful, self-interested, authoritarian seeds of fascism are ever-present, and wherever one is, one need not look far to find the opportunity to confront them before they take root and grow strong.
I also like the idea that the ethical response to fascism is that of “reason, moderation, compassion for others.” I would say that this argues for the idea that human life is not merely an intelligent life form but a compassionate life form. That would make human reason as not merely rational and intellectual but also passionate and emotional.
EJ, this is thoughtful and profound. The antidote to Fascism — to Violence as policy — is civilization, if you can keep it.
Thank you for such an excellent piece.
Interesting essay, E.J.! You mention early on being a “Deweyan liberal” and invoke Marx a bit favorably, but noting that you find yourself increasingly in tension with what passes as (a certain culturally dominant sort of) leftist though these days.
If that is an accurate assessment of what you said, I can surely relate. For me, as just about everyone here knows, I find a lot of sympathy with Jamesian pragmatism and postmodern lines of thought. So, politically, I notice that people often assume that makes me ‘progressive’ as shit, and in some ways, it surely does. But I also notice that the folks I draw inspiration from (Foucault most frequently) tend to be invoked in “progressive” ways I find baffling. Even more baffling (to others) is that I think it is precisely my anti-foundationalism and pragmatism that makes me more comfortable with cerrtain conservative thinkers like Burke, Oakeshott, and Kekes. In fact, I find that much progressive thought these days passes itself off as some sort of post-structuralism when – deep down – it very heavily relies on strucuralist and modernist approaches that it sees only in its opponents.
But remember, Dewey himself sat very uneasily with Marxism and the sort of leftist thought it spawned. Parlty, that was certainly because where Marxism is a heavy sort of structuralism, Dewey was very much not a “quest for certainty” structuralst. Dewey favored leftward incremental improvements to capitalism and industrialism, rather than a quick overhaul of these things. More to the point of your article, Dewey did not oppose World War 1, which led to his being chastized by other pragmatists like Randolph Bourne who used to idolize Dewey.
Lastly, assuming I understand your argument right, you might look at the work of Ernest Becker (or Robert Jay Lifton) regarding the human tendency to commit to grand purposes as a way of escaping the thought of mortality. I think folks underestimate the pull of war – actual or metaphorical – as a way to feel like they are “grounding” their lives in something deeper than themselves. I suspect that this pull is so deep that war and the type of conflicit that leads to it stands little chance of being abolished, and maybe the best we can do is find less destructive ways to channel it (James’s “Moral Equivalent of War”). And to Randolph Bourne’s perceptive point, war is the health of the state. States without war are like humans without sex or eating; the latter are what the former to to reproduce and sustain themselves.)
Winner’s entries are always thoughtful and beautifully articulated but even your own summary of his work sounds like a tautology. Evil is defeated by civilization (= good) all depending on one’s interpretation of civilization and good, of course.
I don’t think it always bad to repeat tautologies. Especially crucial ones like this, and especially when they are well articulated.
Fair enough. A thing of beauty is always a joy.
First time commenting here. I enjoy reading and learning from all the essays published at the Agora. I have considered contributing to the discussions before when historical or contemporary political/cultural controversies became the order of the day, but declined when the discussions turned to philosophical questions way beyond my educational background.
With that said—my small contribution.
A wide ranging essay by Mr. Winner. I appreciate this call for the defense of civilization against—to use a more generic and traditional designation for those who threaten it—barbarians. And there are barbarians of all sorts that have recently violated and continue to violate civilization’s norms to some degree—the January 6 rioters that Mr. Winner notes, but also BLM rioters, the anarcho-communists of Antifa, and the lumpenproletariat that has been given free reign by district attorneys in some Democratic Party run cities.
I am not expert on Fascism as an ideology or as a historical phenomenon. I do not see, however, how Fascism adequately describes the barbarians on the right that trouble Mr. Winner. And I am skeptical of the claim that Fascism is “not a coherent ideology” . Admittedly there are probably as many varieties of Fascism as there are varieties of other ideologies. But the ideology of Fascism is coherent enough for multiple scholarly works surveying various political ideologies to devote detailed attention to it. (Freeden; Ball/Dagger/O’Neill) And others focus exclusively on Fascism (for example, Gregor in Mussolini’s Intellectuals among others.) To claim that Fascism is incoherent or to reduce it to “violence as policy,” adherence to “out of date” values, or even to “authoritarian government” does not do it justice. This seems simply a way to give oneself license to cast this aspersion on whatever individuals or groups that one wants to be “noticed as Fascism.”
As for the January 6 mob specifically, my take—which readers here may find too charitable—is that they were driven more by irrational rage than some kind of inchoate Fascism. Basically we witnessed an ill-considered rally of perhaps 100,000 Trump devotees. They had been lied to by the mainstream media about Trump—the Russia conspiracy hoax, the pee tape hoax, the Charlottesville “good people on both sides” hoax. Now, astonished that Trump lost and deceived by the misinformation about the election spread on social media, they were convinced that they were being lied to again. Several thousand left the rally to protest outside the Capitol building. Then maybe 2000 fought their way into the building itself, without any idea of what they planned to do when they got inside.
As for develops overseas—again I must plead ignorance. But when I occasionally see accounts about the rise of “authoritarian” governments, say, in Eastern Europe, I think not so much about Fascist ideology but instead about culture. Years ago Samuel Huntington in The Clash of Civilizations, suggested that with the end of the Cold War and the end to political/economic pressure to choose sides, we would see countries reverting to traditional cultural patterns, esp. those rooted in religion. They would not be embracing Western liberalism. And from their perspective, such a stance takes on a new urgency in light of was Western liberalism has become.
I respect Ewell’s effort to appear reasonable here; but the deployment of Fox News tropes about “hoaxes,” the “whataboutism” concerning “Democratic Party run cities” – with the unpleasant implication that democracy doesn’t work, it’s all a power struggle between parties – the failure to address the now widely evidenced involvement of Trump and his Big Lie supporting coterie in the efforts to overturn a legitimate election, the denial of the level of violence the Jan. 6 insurrectionists threatened sitting members of Congress – all this leads me to not taking his remarks seriously.
I do not intend to “do justice” to fascism; I intend to fight it. As my father fought it at the Battle of the Bulge, as his father fought it in Ireland, as my mother’s father fought it in Ukraine.
Resort to religion is no solution; liberalism is the solution to the totalitarianism religion offers and the violence it occasionally portends.
Perhaps fascism is like pornography. Hard to explain but we know it when we see it and, any heir to the liberal Western tradition shouldn’t need corrective lenses to see the incipient hallmarks made de rigueur by sycophants of Trump and the panderers of the GOP. In any case it is a very useful (if technically inexact) metaphor, that if it looks and quacks like a goose stepping duck, it may as well be. And how can anyone talk about the poor gullible, driven to insurrectionist madness because their virgin ears were incapable of discernment when assailed by the lying MSM but they were only too willing to accept, like dogma, every syllable that came out of the mouth of their lord of flies, the most prolific liar to ever stand behind the POTUS podium. They should have gained immunity and been inured by anything smacking of falsehood but instead all too readily absorbed the far fetched over the more reasonable explanation. Russia Gate, Pee tapes, obstruction of justice, the perfect phone call – all had more kernels of truth and evidence than a stolen election. Don’t blame it on lies, blame it on willful ignorance and partisan bias.
You are right though, I doubt many of them kept the speeches of Hitler on their nightstand or had crooked cross tattoos and maybe never did hear of David Duke or Pres Orban. . Still, and more chillingly so, useful idiots, all too ready to enable the creeping insidious steps to authoritarianism, from the Big Lie to discrediting the very foundations of democratic norms, the courts, the media and the casting of wild conspiracies against science and truth itself. About vilifying elites, technocrats and demonizing opponents and the always present other; the fodder of the proto authoritarian populist.
Sure, historical and national norms, mores and ethos, when funneled through the lens of religion and culture will influence how liberal democracy is received and permutated. What religion or culture stipulates and demands that the media be controlled, that there only be one party, that the courts and laws are to be fouled, voting rigged, xenophobia, opponents banished, jailed or killed? Call it, like the strongman of Hungary, illiberal democracy but I know porn when I see it, the people are getting fuc*ed, even if some think they enjoy it. What Western liberalism has become is a site better than anything else out there.
Thanks for responding. Even though you do not take my remarks seriously, I guess that’s not as bad contemptuously ignoring them altogether. I will address some of your observations–at least those germane to my original reply. Not surprised that you find my own take on the January 6 assault wanting. I do not have access to the thinking of the rioters any more than you, but I believe my “enraged Trump devotee” theory to be certainly as plausible as your “I hurt others, therefore I am; I kill therefore I exist” explanation of the event-a descartes blanche-I guess- at least in their eyes to commit the violence that they did against police officers. Passions and ignorance make a combustible mixture. And I believe this account has more explanatory power then your appeal to Fascism. Aside from the handful of Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, virtually none of the people involved had ties to extreme right wing groups. And as terrifying as the event must have been to our representatives, the FBI early on concluded that the mob presented no overt threat to them. https://www.reuters.com/world/us/exclusive-fbi-finds-scant-evidence-us-capitol-attack-was-coordinated-sources-2021-08-20/
Regarding the resort to religion–I agree with you to a certain extent. But that is a decision the people in Europe will make for themselves. I do not know much about the specifics of Eastern Europe, but it seems they are struggling to establish polities that are stable and relatively free of corruption. After decades of repression by the Soviet Union, some are seeking to revive their traditional culture, including the Eastern Orthodox faith. While this might mean a rejection of Western liberalism, it does not necessarily mean the embrace of Fascism.
Finally, by giving justice to Fascism, I only mean giving the ideology its due as a coherent socio-economic theory, however invalid it may be in its dogma or despicable it is in its practice. In its dogma and practice it shares the same problems as the Marxism from which it emerged. And by all means keep on fighting it–if you happen see it. The problem is that too many people these days see it everywhere.