'Trust me, I am the one who will drain the swamp': An interview with Walden Bello on fascism in the Global South

By Wolfram Schaffar July 18, 2018 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies — Since the election of Narendra Modi in India in 2014 and Donald Trump in the USA in 2016, political analysts and commentators around the globe have increasingly used the concept of fascism to capture the rise of new right-wing authoritarianism in various countries. Activists and academics in Europe are much more reluctant to use the word fascism, for several reasons. One reason is that – because of the alarming associations which fascism evokes in German – the term was often instrumentalized, and used to discredit political opponents, without a sound theoretical analysis. There is also a big reluctance to transfer the term to countries outside Europe, especially to the countries in the South – because it would further relativize the concept. Walden Bello is a prominent voice who started using the concept of fascism since early 2017 for the new regime under Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines. He repeated his analysis of Duterte as a “fascist original” and his regime as “creeping fascism” at the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) in July 2017 as well as in recent articles (Bello, 2017). In October 2017, Bello was among the founding members of a new group, the Laban ng Masa coalition to combat the “fascist” policy of Duterte (Villanueva, 2017). In his most recent paper in the Journal of Peasant Studies, he broadened his analysis and compared the rise of Fascism in Italy in the 1920s with the establishment of the New Order under Suharto in Indonesia in 1964/1965, Chile at times of the coup d’état in 1973, Thailand in 1976, and the Philippines today (Bello, 2018). With his articles and his political campaigns, he opened a new chapter of academic discussion and political activism on fascism in the South. Walden Bello is currently a professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Binghamton and senior research fellow at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies of Kyoto University in Japan. He served as a member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines from 2009 to 2015, during which he was chairman of the Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs. In our interview conducted in December 2017, we discussed theoretical problems in dealing with the concept of fascism as well as strategic challenges for political activism. Read interview (PDF) here.