Spectre of Fascism Free School

John Heartfield

Spectre of Fascism Free School will return in fall 2017.

These events will take place on the unceded Coast Salish territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples.

The events are FREE and open to the public. If you would like to donate to the Institute to help fund future events like this one, please visit http://www.sfu.ca/humanities-institute/donate.html.

Organized by Samir Gandesha and Stephen Collis, and sponsored by SFU’s Institute for the Humanities.


With the recent election of Donald J. Trump as 45th President of the United States, there has been a dramatic return of the word “fascism” to contemporary analyses of politics. For example, on December 9th, 2016, Michael Kinsley, writing for the Washington Post, openly declares that “Donald Trump is a fascist.” In one sense, this was justified by the fact that Trump’s administration includes Steven Bannon, former Wall Street Executive, Harvard MBA, and avid reader of Italian fascist philosopher Julius Evola. Indeed, Richard Spenser, one of the key neo-Nazi figures whom Bannon describes as the “intellectual leader of the alt-right movement,” infamously greeted Trump’s election with a version of Seig Heil (Hail Trump) and a Nazi salute. A hard core of Trump support is comprised of White Nationalists and White Supremacists such as David Duke. On the other hand, Trump does not lead a tightly disciplined mass-based party premised upon a philosophy of history entailing a social Darwinist struggle to the death between the races and the project of constructing an indomitable 1000-year Reich in eastern Europe. Indeed, there seems to be little if any thought given to the prospect of the future whatsoever, rather the vision has been consistently retrospective: “Make America Great Again.” Globally, we have witnessed a parallel rise of authoritarianism from the tragic denouement of the Egyptian Revolution to the consolidation of the so-called Gujarat Model in India under the leadership of Hindutva-backed Prime Minister Narendra Modi to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has violently purged the Turkish state in the aftermath of the failed coup last summer.

Canada, itself, has not been immune. Far from it. The agenda of the previous Harper Government anticipated, in significant ways, the Trump Administration from the centralization of executive power in the PMO, the use of antidemocratic omnibus bills to push through controversial legislation favourable to the oil and gas sector, two attempts at voter-suppression by way of the Fair Elections Act, the silencing of scientists and librarians, the running battle with Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, and, of course, draconian Anti-Terrorism Act, Islamophobia, and the invocation of “Old Stock Canadians.”

Such developments have been understood in terms of a shift from a nominally “democratic” to a fully “authoritarian” phase of neo-liberalism. So, this Free School seeks to open a discussion on the question of the extent to which what we are witnessing today is a return to classic twentieth century “fascism” or some species of what Enzo Traverso, author of amongst other books, “The Origins of Nazi Violence,” calls “post-fascism.” The first session will look at theories and histories of 20th century fascism and authoritarianism, and the second session will look to more contemporary 21st century examples. An important underlying concern will be to think about the practical responses to the global spread of authoritarianism.



– Feb 23: Samir Gandesha, “History as Repetition: The Uncanny Return of Fascism”
– Mar 2: Populism Panel, “The Return of Right-Wing Populism and the Framing of the Migrant and Refugee” (location: room 1415, SFU Harbour Centre; time: 5:30–7:30pm) https://www.facebook.com/events/1859380904341114/
– Mar 2: Ingo Schmidt, “The Hope of the Hopeless: Contemporary Lessons from Marxist Struggles Against Hitler and Mussolini” (time: 8–10pm)
– Mar 9: Steve Collis “Poetry Against Fascism: The Spanish Crucible”
– Mar 16: Gary Genosko, “The Proliferation of Micropolitical Fascisms”
– Mar 23: Jaleh Mansoor, “The Dialectics of Violence in Post War Europe: Fascism and Anti Fascism.” (location: Selectors Records, 8 E Pender St, Vancouver)
– Apr 4: Roxanne Panchasi, “Everyone Hates Marineland: A History Of French Fascisms, 1789-2017” (location: Selectors Records, 8 E Pender St, Vancouver)


– April 6–9 (more details soon)


– May 4: Patricia Barkaskas in Dialogue with Samir Gandesha and Steve Collis, “The Violence of Settler Colonialism”
– May 11: Jerry Zaslove in dialogue with Samir Gandesha, “Critique of Violence and the Fascism of Everyday Life”
– May 17: Am Johal, “Friend and Enemy: On the Politics of Carl Schmitt” (location: Selectors Records, 8 E Pender St, Vancouver)
– May 25: Harjap Grewal, South Asian Antifascist organizing in BC (start time: 5pm)


Spectre of Fascism Free School will return in fall 2017.