What is Red-Brownism?
One term you may sometimes hear in socialist circles is “red-brownism.” In this color scheme, the red refers to socialism, and the brown refers to fascism — the implication being that the ideology bridges fascist and socialist politics. The most overt example of this is a NazBol or National Bolshevik, a movement that originally started essentially as Nazism for people who idolize Stalin instead.
This phenomenon is not new. In Nazi Germany, the Strasser Brothers, Gregor and Otto Strasser, promoted a strain of thought in the Nazi Party along these ideological lines, hoping to appeal to members of communist and socialist parties prior to when those groups were targeted for repression. These were sometimes called “beefsteak Nazis.”
Contemporary commentators might try to equate it to the so-called “horseshoe theory,” which suggests that going too far left or right brings one to a similar point. Red-brownism does not validate this theory. Rather, it may better be thought of as a form of marketing, infiltration, and recruitment targeted towards those on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Many modern fascist movements are influenced by the works of Aleksandr Dugin, whose Fourth Political Theory advocates such syncretism as its core ideology. Though passing itself off as different than fascism, decrying Hitler as having gone to too great an extreme, the reality is that the ultranationalist, traditionalist ethnostates it advocates are not radically different.
This line of thinking is often subversive. Many socialists follow the commentary of Glenn Greenwald and Michael Tracey, who have developed a recent reputation for appearing regularly on Tucker Carlson, whose political views are fascistic. These appearances usually consist of them all happily gloating together at some mistake on the part of liberalism — which often invites parts of the socialist left to partake as well.
A non-red-brown Carlson appearance is, perhaps, one that will not get aired — Rutger Bregman’s unaired interview in which he skewered Carlson for his political views and faux anti-elitism.
Red-brown media works the other way as well, where ostensibly left-wing shows play host to fascistic figures, whose views are whitewashed on the show. For instance, Loud & Clear on Sputnik radio, a Russian state media network, has platformed all sorts of fascist and white nationalist leaders. Sputnik and its sister network RT largely seem to be ways to launder both fascistic ideas and Russian geopolitical goals to the global audience.
Countering this is not easy, though there are two areas one can focus on in order to help push out these ideas: internationalism and the needs of marginalized groups. Both of these run counter to the goals of this fascistic process, which seeks strong borders, isolationism, and a lack of diversity. We must work across borders to build movements to solve today’s now global problems and make sure that we do not play into ploys to recreate the sorts of oppression that enable fascism to take hold such as white supremacy, misogyny, cisheterosexism, and ableism.
Beware of sources and communities caught up in just being a contrarian view of everything. Remember that, as easy as it is to get frustrated about the failure of the Democrats to deliver on a lot of desperately necessary policy in recent decades, they aren’t a threat in the way fascists are. Do not let the dopamine rush of “owning the libs” take precedent over anti-fascist work. Never let concern for human rights be swept by the wayside.
Red-brownism propagates especially easily when the discourse is dominated by cis white men, who have little to lose by taking a “class-first” or even “anti-idpol” stance on issues that affect marginalized groups.
We can stop this from destroying the Left once again and build a movement based on solidarity, intersectionalism, and internationalism — one that addresses these concerns but will ultimately still appeal to anyone committed to building a world where everyone has a sustainable, high standard of living.