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A fascist movement, routed in conspiracy thinking, is currently in ascension across the globe. This article will be the first in a series addressing the growth of this movement, its origins, and its implications for revolutionary communist organisers. Combatting this movement must be at the heart of our organisational priorities, and we encourage our comrades across the world to devote significant attention to this growing threat. ¡no pasarán!
The growth of the Qanon fascist movement in the UK and Europe is a worrisome but unsurprising development, as relations between the US, UK and EU imperialist blocs continue to deteriorate. As stated in our response to the No Cold War letter, these world powers are undermining one another at every turn in an attempt to vye for global hegemonic control. Against this backdrop, alongside a global pandemic and the unrestricted flow of disinformation, the Qanon brand of fascism is proliferating.
For the uninitiated, Qanon is a conspiracy theory that the world is controlled by a cabal of satanic cannibalistic paedophiles and that Donald Trump will bring the great awakening and free the world from them. This information has been relayed to the world via 8chan and 8kun, in the form of highly cryptic messages by an anonymous insider signing their messages as Q. Hence the name “Qanon”. It is also worth noting that basically anyone can post as Q, leading to a separation of canon and non-canon messages (or “Q drops”) depending on whether the movement believes they are legitimate. Whilst belief in the conspiracy is still very US centric, it has none the less spread beyond America’s borders, largely via social media, with the largest concentrations outside of the US taking hold in the UK, Canada, Russia, Germany and France.
Whilst Qanon peddling far right groups have been around in Germany since 2018, anti-government sentiments around Covid restrictions have been used to rapidly expand its support to an estimated 200,000. Groups have used Qanon’s meta-narrative quality and ability to easily absorb other conspiracy theories to their advantage, allowing the far right to reach a much broader section of society than they otherwise would, drawing together a muddle of anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, fascists, and worried citizens. In addition to this they have adapted the Qanon conspiracy to fit their own local narrative, branding Merkel as one of the “Cabal” they have made Trump a messiah-like figure that will “save” Germany alongside Vladimir Putin. They have gone so far as attempting to storm German parliament and believing that NATO exercises were an operation by Trump to liberate Germany from Merkel.
In France, Qanon grew out of the yellow vest movement and shares many characteristics with the German movements, being overtly pro-trump and believing that Macron is part of the paedophilic world cabal. They have also grown significantly over lockdown. The yellow vests themselves are more heterogeneous than their German counterparts and their overtly fascist element is significantly smaller. It is also the possibility that the conspiracy was directly seeded in France, with Q drops specifically praising the yellow vests and directing Q followers to the movement.
The UK is second only to the US in terms of engagement with Qanon, producing ~3% of content (illustrating just how US centric it still is). However, like the other countries mentioned, the conspiracy's popularity has grown over lockdown and much like Germany and France, the conspiracy has taken root in various disparate movements and activist groups. This can be best illustrated by the demonstrations that have taken place over the last year, from the right wing, pro veteran “paedo hunter” Justice for All rally in Nottingham to the more anti-government rallies such as the Resist and Act for freedom March and the Unite for Freedom attended by the likes of David Icke, Piers Corbyn and assorted anti-vaxxers, anti-lockdown and anti-5G types, probably quite rightly worried about the level of government power and surveillance.
It can be speculated that the appeal of this conspiracy in the UK is the result of reasonable distrust and dissatisfaction with the government, redirected towards an all-encompassing conspiracy that promises to give easy answers to difficult issues. It is no mistake that most believers in the UK or EU do not start with the more nationalistic, hateful ideas. Instead, as the above article points out, the theory also broadly appeals to new-age religious types and UFO conspiracy theorists.
A pattern soon develops where these movements grew during lock-down, framing itself around certain societal issues such as anti-pedophilia movements, anti-vaxx and anti-lockdown movements, which were then used to slowly introduce people to the more explicitly hateful projects of this fascist movement: antisemitism and opposition to migrants and anti-fascist movements. As such, it can be difficult to determine if these far-right groups believe the conspiracy or see it merely as a useful tool for recruitment.
While the EU and US share a very close economic relationship, with the transatlantic trade shaping the global economy, antagonism between them is not new. The Airbus/Boeing situation, disputes over food standards, tariffs on European car parts, withdrawal from the climate agreement, the list goes on. Ultimately, the EU is dependent on the US and wishes to claim global hegemony for itself, while strengthening ties to China and Russia. The US on the other hand wishes to tighten the grip it already has on the EU, cannibalizing the EU states. Regardless of outcome, these conditions are priming the competing imperialist blocs for a new world war.
This function of destabilising the EU is mirrored by an attack on another of the Great Powers with which the US finds itself in competition: the PRC. The Qanon movement is manufacturing consent for a military incursion, by the US, on China. Since the market reforms of the early 1980s, China has seen groundbreaking economic growth, becoming the world's largest economy around 2014. Similarly to the EU, China is one of America's main partners in trade, even as Trump declared the country “harmful to US economic interests” in 2017, imposing escalating tariffs on them in the years that followed. The Qanon narrative surrounding China incorporates many of the US' open economic and political aims: the distrust and conspiracies surrounding 5G can be linked to the US not having a viable competitor to Huawei's 5G network equipment, coupled with anxieties produced by the US falling behind China in terms of technological advancement (the “tech war”). Anti-vaxxers are roped in if they buy into the erroneous claims that China is not only responsible for the global Coronavirus pandemic but that the virus was purposefully engineered as a chemical weapon, a tactic explicitly designed to obfuscate the US government’s own inability to combat the spread of the virus domestically as well as villainize China.
Against such a backdrop, it becomes clear how Qanon aligns with US foreign policy aims. Although some within the movement suspect it to be a deliberate psy-op by the C.I.A, it is irrelevant whether or not this fascist movement is directly controlled by the US federal government or not, as the US has no reason to decry the views it proliferates either way. The US has long aimed to bolster far-right, pro-America movements in peripheral EU states, hoping to form special relationships with EU countries so as to exert more influence. The rise of the Qanon movement in Germany and France, coupled with their ability to unite disparate far-right movements could mean destabilisation of the EU if those movements ever establish enough political presence in their respective countries, since those countries are the main powers behind the European project.
Being a unifying conspiracy theory, Qanon’s strength lies in its ability to unify various fringe groups that would not otherwise co-operate. Specifically, it leans these groups towards an America-centric worldview. Its functions are two-fold: as a powerful recruitment tool for far-right organizations and also as a propaganda vehicle which greatly benefits US foreign policy. Trump and his administration have been no strangers to acknowledging Q and the believers in Q, in fact a growing number of Republic congressional candidates are Q followers. In this way, any policy or act of aggression towards America’s enemies can be justified not as the shrewd machinations of one imperialist empire wishing to outmanoeuvre the other, but as a divine act that is all part of the grand plan to liberate the world from the Deep state. By doing so, Qanon is bolstering anti-EU and anti-government sentiment abroad and endearing foreign peoples and even fascist governments to American style nationalism, the resulting destabilisation reaping great benefits for the US.
Note: this article was written prior to the US election and the election of Biden. In the coming months, we may see the Qanon movement change the narrative and lore it has built to fit the new administration. How this will manifest remains to be seen but in its tenacity, it is unlikely to disappear from this set-back.