It is very difficult to discuss fascism or any other political regime, without discussing the state. First of all because fascism is a form, an assumed regime within the bourgeois state, as are democracy, military dictatorships and classical or sui generis Bonapartist regimes.

By: Jerónimo Castro    08/06/2020

The State has not always existed, it originated from the time when human work became capable of producing a surplus, and there began to be a dispute over that surplus, whether veiled or not.

When humanity became capable of producing surpluses, above its need, it was also when exploitation arose.

People who lived as gatherers and hunters were able to produce more or less what was necessary for their own survival, there was no way to exploit the work of others to the extent that that work did not produce a surplus. All exploitation is based on the fact that, at a certain point, the work went on to produce more than what was strictly necessary for the survival of the workers.

The habit of some primitive peoples of eating their prisoners, the ritualistic anthropophagy, comes precisely from the fact that it was not worth putting them to work.

The State arises, therefore, from the need to disarm society as a whole, to create an armed apparatus independent of the community, which protects the interests of the dominating class. The class that will appropriate the surplus produced.

To give an example, in the slave state, there was a society based on the exploitation of labor in the form of slavery, that is, when the worker did not just sell his work but was bought entirely and at once. He was a tool like any other, property of his master.

There were many forms of slave states, there was Greek democracy, there was tyranny, the Roman Republic, the empire; in the republic we had the dictatorship. All those forms of domination – republic, democracy, tyranny, dictatorship – were very different, but they had the same content of State, it was a slave State, which defended the slave master against the slaves and, sometimes, against the plebs.

Slaves and plebeians rebelled more than once against this domination by the slave masters; one need only recall the Gracchus brothers in Rome, who were representatives of the plebeians, and the rebellion of Spartacus, the gladiator who had rebelled and succeeded in defeating the Roman army several times.

Today, it is the same thing. The State presents itself in various forms, but it always has the same content, that of bourgeois domination. That is, the guarantee that the bourgeoisie can continue to exploit the working class, extracting from it the surplus that it produces.

  1. The bourgeoisie: from revolutionary to reactionary class

Bourgeois democracy came to light in the world under the fire and iron of bourgeois revolutions. There was a transformation process in which in its early days, the bourgeoisie presented itself as a progressive social class and, in its heyday and heroism, alternated between periods of democracy and revolutionary dictatorship.

The national, constituent and legislative assembly, the convention, the clubs, in which the Jacobins became the most famous, are some moments that portrayed the stormy birth of that form of government. Similarly, the terror that killed thousands in Paris, including King Louis XVI, Danton and Robespierre, as well as the defensive wars of the revolutionary period, and also the Napoleonic empire, are all, in between comings and goings, part of this process that is at once glorious, bloody and terrible.

It was not only in France that the bourgeoisie engaged in a bloody fight to seize power, there were bourgeois revolutions of various kinds and in various parts of the world, with different characteristics, but which sought to build a new state.

Thus, there were the wars of independence in the United States, in Haiti and in Latin America, for example. This was also the case with the English Revolution in the 17th century, one hundred years before the French Revolution. The rising bourgeoisie led, with greater or lesser fervor, the classes excluded from the old regime into a new world, where it would rule. In doing so, it left aside the old political forces, the nobility and the clergy, and built a State that would defend it and guarantee its existence.

At that time, the third state, the petty bourgeoisie, the artisans, the existing semi-proletarians and proletarians, the impoverished lower clergy, the enlightened nobility (to a certain extent), the liberal intellectuals and professionals were allies of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie gathered around it the discontented and the helpless, to change the world according to its own interests.

With the end of the revolutionary wave and the Napoleonic wars, came the restoration of the monarchy. France, Germany and Italy were still unable to unify. The bourgeois tasks were still pending and new revolutions were needed to solve them.

In 1848, a new revolution broke out in France and spread throughout Europe, it was the Poeples Spring. But social classes had developed, the third state, that union between the bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie, proletariat, underclergy, beggars, etc., had been redefined. Those classes developed clearer boundaries, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat already had their antagonistic interests well defined. The revolution begins, apparently, with this united third state. However, as it advances and as the masses under the bourgeoisie demand more rights and concessions, and the call for a social republic gains momentum, the bourgeoisie violently separates itself from the proletariat. It confronts and defeats the proletariat, often at the cost of massacres. The bourgeoisie, then, unites with the remnants of the feudal regime and again embraces Bonapartism as a political regime, based on the bureaucracy and the standing army, on the fear and paralysis of the bourgeoisie itself, and on its need for an apparently neutral arbiter to resolve social conflicts, always defending its property and profits.

It is worth saying that the regime of the first Bonaparte, Napoleon, is already Bonapartist, only progressive, since it sought in its own way to preserve and consolidate the conquests of the French Revolution.

In Germany, the bourgeois tasks will not be solved by the revolutionary model of 1789, but by a series of agreements and by a special type of Bonapartism, Bismarckism.

  1. Democracy and Dictatorships

To say that a government is democratic does not mean that it is not violent. The essence of every state, as Engels said, is organized violence at the service of a certain social class. Therefore, democracies are violent, and practice repression harshly. You only have to look at how much the Brazilian police kill, how many thousands of prisoners we have in prisons, the number of massacres perpetrated in the last thirty years, to see that it is not the absence of state-organized violence that distinguishes one regime from another.

Democracy is distinguished from all regimes of bourgeois domination because it guarantees certain formal freedoms to all. The right of assembly, of expression, of free demonstration, of free association. The guarantee of a fair trial, the right to a broad defense, not to be imprisoned without trial, or to be accused without a previously existing law.

We say that this is a formal guarantee because, in order to exercise these rights, we start from very unequal conditions, and many times, it is impossible to achieve them. For example, for a worker to exercise his right to free association, he risks losing his job, because, in the end, his employer is free to hire or not hire him. The same goes for the right to a broad defense, a fair trial, etc.

The other characteristic of bourgeois democracy is the tripartite powers, divided into executive, legislative and judicial. This is a formula which allows the various bourgeois sectors to monitor each other in the exercise of state control.

A third important aspect of bourgeois democracy is the eligibility of representatives and rulers. There are places where even judges and delegates are elected, in others only deputies. However, it is not only democracies that hold elections, and the fact that they exist is not synonymous with democracy. Dictatorships, as was the case in Brazil, hold elections. In these cases, the bodies elected are not normally those that govern. We will return to that later.

Bourgeois democracy itself does not always occur in the same way. In the first place, it is the result of the diverse forms in which it was instituted. We have the presidential republics, where the central figure is the executive power, the president; the parliament regimes, where it is the parliament that governs; and the constitutional monarchies in which, alongside the parliament and the executive, the monarchic families continue to exist in a more or less decorative form.

Moreover, it is good to say that democracy varies over time and space. Democracy in imperialist countries is usually much more democratic than in colonial and semi-colonial countries. There is much more real freedom in Europe and the United States than in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, for example.

Another aspect is that the degree of democratic freedoms also varies over time. A situation more or less intense influences the degree of repression that is applied against the masses, without necessarily breaking the frameworks of bourgeois democracy. A democracy can have more or less elements of Bonapartism, without crossing the border from one regime to another.

Democracy has a number of advantages, when it can be applied, with the permission not only of solving the problems among the various bourgeois sectors in a more peaceful way, but also of providing the best conditions for co-opting into the bourgeois regime sections of the working class, and even of the petty bourgeoisie, which under certain conditions, could violently confront the state and the regime.

Moreover, democracy is set up in a state that functions at the expense of permanent officials, a bureaucracy that in fact controls much more than one imagines. Millions of officials remain in the administration of state business. The government and even the regime can change, but many of these remain in this task. This diminishes the influence of elections on the whole of bourgeois business and guarantees to the bourgeoisie that, even if by chance the elections should get out of control, and a less docile parliament or government is elected, the state apparatus itself will still be controlled by the bourgeoisie, because of its own nature.

However, class-dominated regimes are not like a menu where the ruling class chooses, at its leisure, how it will dominate the other classes in society. There are other factors that go far beyond the will of the classes. A number of these could be summarized in the following expression: “correlation of forces in the class struggle”. In this ostensible name, we find the economic situation in general. When there is a correlation of forces that is favorable to the ruling class, it usually dominates with fewer problems, but when it is unfavorable, it is common even for divisions to arise in the ruling class itself, in the political situation, in the relationship between states, in the degree of discontent of the dominated classes and in their degree of mobilization, and so on.

Given the contradictions within the bourgeoisie itself, a fraction of it can throw out the bonapartism card. This regime differs from democracy not by the merely formal issues but by the content of its domination.

A Bonapartist regime can have elections and plebiscites, and even elected bodies. As well as a parliament and an elected president of the republic. However, that is the form and not the content.

In the first place, it is not in these elected bodies, in the parliament or in the president of the republic, that power resides. The Bonapartist relies on the body of officials of the state itself to govern, that is, on the empowerment of the state bureaucracy, on the other hand, and mainly, it also relies on the standing army. It is a government of the state apparatus that, apparently, becomes independent of society. At its head is the enlightened one, Caesar, Napoleon, the strong man.

Moreover, being able to maintain the triple division of powers, although formally, the truth is that the Bonaparte submits Justice and the Legislative to his power exercised through the Executive. Finally, the so-called “democratic freedoms” are reduced, even freedom for bourgeois sectors. A Bonapartist regime closes newspapers, arrests opponents, persecutes dissidents, prevents or hinders the exercise of freedom of expression, organization and demonstration. But it does that within the limits that its own military-police-bureaucratic apparatus allows. This is an important element, because, we will see later, that in fascism this is different.

There is an important variation of Bonapartism, the so-called Bonapartism sui generis, which are regimes that rely on workers’ sectors to confront sectors of their own bourgeoisie and imperialism, and thus achieve better conditions for the country on the world stage.

These are regimes that emerge in semi-colonial countries, under very specific conditions of class struggle.

It is a bourgeois, Bonapartist regime, that is, with authoritarian, dictatorial characteristics, which also beats the independent working class sectors, but which makes important concessions to other sectors.

There are a series of examples of this type of regime that we can cite, Latin America went through several of them. The government of Cárdenas (Mexico), Nasser (Egypt), Perón (Argentina), Velasco (Peru), Chávez (Venezuela) are all Bonapartist sui generis regimes. Velasco gave its immense headquarters to the unions, Nasser nationalized more than 80% of the economy and maintained very close relations with the Soviet Union. Cárdenas nationalized the oil industry and created a board of directors that incorporated the unions; Perón, in Argentina, created protective legislation and frequently went to union halls to drink mate with the workers and union leaders. From the social point of view, they can be circumstantially more progressive, as they give workers better conditions for the sale of their labor. From the political point of view, they are a tragedy, as they erase the workers’ awareness of the need for independent political organization. Peronism, Nasserism, Velasquism, Chavism, and so on, are bourgeois currents that rely on this experience and the nostalgia it causes in the face of the permanent worsening of the masses’ standard of living.

There is a broad discussion about whether Bonapartism is limited to these elements or whether the other dictatorships and authoritarian governments can also be considered Bonapartism. But beyond this controversy, a few points are worth noting.

Military dictatorships, a variant of classical Bonapartism, were common in Latin America, where it is the institution, or the military institutions (navy, army, and aeronautics), that rule. This is a type of regime based on the Armed Forces, and which normally puts a general in charge. It is worth remembering that Velasco, Chávez, Perón and Nasser were military men.

The army, because of its social weight and capillarity, gives the regime a political base which, depending on the circumstances, can give it longevity. The Brazilian military dictatorship, for example, lasted 21 years. Like all Bonapartism, the military dictatorship eliminates democratic freedoms to the extent that its military police apparatus allows it, even repressing dissident bourgeois sectors.

We could even talk about less common regimes such as the theocracy in Iran, based on the ayatollahs, or the absolutist government of Saudi Arabia, where women are still stoned, the hand of thieves is cut off, and a series of medieval punishments are legally applied.

  1. Fascism: what is it?

Being a bourgeois regime, fascism is very different from all those we have presented so far. Not because there is no common ground between these regimes, there is. For example, fascism also relies on the figure of a great leader and savior (even more emphatically) in a similar way to what happens in Bonapartism. Once in power, fascism establishes a deep police dictatorship, just as military police dictatorships do.

As in other forms of dictatorship, fascism relies on an ideology that reinforces the pre-existing oppressions in society (national, racial, gender, and sexual oppression) and attacks democratic freedoms. It is not by chance that the careless in general, the ultra-leftists and the opportunists, each for their own reasons, confuse, on purpose or for lack of ability, fascism with another regime, sometimes even with things that have nothing to do with fascism. We will return to this point later.

Having common aspects with other regimes of bourgeois domination, fascism differs from others in several respects. I will list some of its fundamental characteristics.

1) In the first place, the emergence of fascism is the result of a general crisis that is installed in society, a crisis that, being of economic origin, is also political and social, and that raises successively the real danger of overthrowing the bourgeois domination regime. It is necessary for the majority of the bourgeoisie to really believe that they are in imminent danger of total destruction in order for it to embark on such a decisive adventure.

2) Secondly, fascism is the result of the inability of the proletariat to lead and present a way out of this crisis. Fascism usually arises as a response of the petty bourgeoisie’s loss of faith in the ability of the working class to seize power, and solve the national crisis in which the country is immersed.

3) Thirdly, and very importantly, fascism is a mass movement involving millions of people, mostly petty bourgeoisie who have been ruined by the crisis or are afraid of being ruined, and lumpen who are on their uniformed sides, whose main task is to physically attack the proletariat, even before the seizure of power.

This powerful mass movement is organized and framed militarily. Just to get an idea, the brown shirts (Nazi paramilitary militia) in Germany, organized more than 4.5 million people. It is a radical plebeian movement, in a certain sense out of control, which the bourgeoisie uses as a beating stick to confront and defeat the mass movement.

In this sense, despite having participation in elections and parliamentary representatives, fascism is above all an extra-parliamentary movement, which uses illegal methods, since before the seizure of power, to confront the mass movement and the working class.

This movement, which has some highly contradictory characteristics, with a popular and plebeian base, is, whenever the bourgeoisie or some sectors of it decide, armed, uniformed and fed by the high bourgeoisie and its most determined sectors to give a lasting lesson to the working class.

4) We continue then for the fourth characteristic of fascism. In its process of development towards the seizure of power, but also after achieving this goal, fascism has the objective of waging civil war, without truces, until all organizations, of all kinds, that the working class may have are destroyed. The intention is to destroy parties, unions, clubs, football teams, schools, recreational centers, etc. This is different from other regimes, which seek to incorporate the workers’ organizations, or to inhibit them, although without being able to do away with them. In other words, the aim of fascism is the total atomization of the class as an organized entity, in any aspect of social life.

To achieve this end, there is no police apparatus that can account, no state can incorporate this amount of agents, it becomes necessary to involve whole social sectors, that is why the importance of the petty bourgeoisie and the lumpen proletariat, they are political agents of the bourgeoisie in this deadly fight against the working class.

Once in power, fascism has to adapt to the bourgeois state and, at the same time, demand that aspects of this state be adapted to it. In Germany and Italy, major purges were necessary to impose order on the fascist hordes after the seizure of power. Famous is the Night of the Long Knives, when under Hitler’s command, the SA (short for Sturmabteilung) underwent a heavy purge in which its main leaders were killed, its militias purged and finally incorporated into the Nazi SS (Schutzstaffel) protection troops and  the army.

Even so, important discrepancies remained between these armed groups. We cite, as an example, the differences between the SS, increasingly militarized militias, and the German army itself. Suffice it to recall that, already in the midst of the war, General Erwin Rommel narrated in his diaries that he had not allowed his son to serve in the SS, which at that time was already an elite military corps, demanding that he join the regular German army instead.

These two characteristics of fascism are due to the same reason, the fact that it is a mass movement that on the one hand needs to be controlled once it comes to power, and on the other hand, has the task of creating new leaders, many of them of plebeian origin, who are popular. The other institutions, such as the militias, demand a readjustment when they come to power.

This very important characteristic of fascism, of being a mass movement, is what at the same time: a) makes the bourgeoisie fear it and only use it as a last resort; b) makes it such a dangerous and powerful enemy, the only one that can actually carry out its mission of politically exterminating the proletariat.

Another important element of confusion is that fascism does not only attack workers’ parties and organizations, regardless of their political orientation. Fascism also attacks the liberals and even the bourgeois conservatives. This is so because fascism sees liberals, and also conservatives, more or less “democratic”, as accomplices of workers’ organizations, whenever they “allow” their existence. These sectors, which often support fascism in its rise, believing they can control it and negotiate an agreement with it, are ultimately frustrated and, not rarely end up cornered in the same wall as members of the working class.

This does not imply that fascism is placed above capital and labor, as an expression of the state above the classes. Nothing could be more mistaken, since, by attacking the traditional political representations of the bourgeoisie, fascism expropriates it politically. However, at the same time, it maintains and deepens its economic domination. By destroying every form of workers’ organization, it opens the floodgates for an unimaginable increase in the exploitation of the working class, allowing the freezing and reduction of wages and benefits that the workers might enjoy. Furthermore, the development of an arms policy leads to the State becoming a big buyer, which ends up benefiting the bourgeoisie as a whole.

3.2. The fight against fascism

As we expressed above, it was not easy for the various political currents that faced, or to be more exact, that were confronted by fascism, to arrive at a clear interpretation of what fascism actually represented. And, from this difficulty, that of having a correct characterization of the phenomenon, many of them made mistakes that cost them dearly.

The liberals and conservatives will see in the Nazis and Fascists a rampaging mob that they can control at their disposal and use as riot troops against the whole of the workers’ movement.

The Social Democrats will say that they represent a feudal reaction, but at the same time they believe that they are capable of negotiating and living with them, just as they live with other bourgeois forces. And it will try from the beginning to join the bourgeois forces, and call on the state to repress the fascist forces when they get out of control. They will commit a triple crime in the fight against fascism: letting them act against the communists for their own benefit, trying to join the bourgeoisie against the communists and the fascists, and believing that the bourgeois state will somehow fight fascism, and defend them.

When it arose in Italy, there was a tendency to see fascism as just another form of bourgeois political reaction, that is, a variation of it. Even after he came to power, Mussolini acted slowly, and this difficulty remained.

The Third International will give a series of partially correct characterizations, be it Clara Zetkin’s, Togliatti’s, Gramsci’s and even Thalheimer’s. Written in the period from 1923 to 1934, they sought to understand the new phenomenon with which they were confronted. However, from this partially correct, often contradictory totality, no fruitful synthesis will emerge, but already marked and influenced by Stalinism, the Third International will produce the most terrible and bizarre interpretations of fascism.

During the period from 1928 to 1933, the Komintern, which was then characterized by Trotsky as bureaucratic centrism, will say that everything is fascism, even social democracy, and it will also say that to defeat fascism it is necessary first to defeat social democracy.

The theory of social fascism will cost greatly to the German proletariat, and to the European socialist revolution.

In 1933, with Hitler’s victory in Germany, the Komintern will make a 180-degree turn, and will go on to defend a diametrically opposed, and equally mistaken, policy. Popular fronts to fight fascism.

The popular front, which was conceived by George Dimitrov, was the theorization or “legalization” of an electoral policy discussed for decades within the workers movement: the thesis of whether or not it was correct to create fronts with bourgeois forces in the electoral process to govern the bourgeois state. A composition made, even with programmatic bases. This proposal defined the tasks for a stage within the government. Stalinism, in the “fight” against fascism, concluded that this path was possible. It would be right to bring together the reformist and “democratic” forces to defeat fascism. Indeed, it could make such a composition with almost anyone who was not a fascist or who agreed to ally with the communists.

(At the same time, fascism was, so to speak, an optimal excuse to legitimize such a policy, which at the international level would be the alliance with democratic imperialisms against fascist imperialisms.)

By implication, this policy concluded that it was possible to defeat fascism through electoral means. That even in a situation of extreme crisis the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois State could fight fascism consistently, and that it would be through the way of the bourgeois institutions that fascism would be fought, and not through the actions of the masses.

3.3. Trotsky and the fight against fascism

Trotsky will come up with the most brilliant interpretation of what fascism is, how it arises, is organized, develops and, mainly, how to fight it.

In a series of texts, Trotsky will synthesize the learning of the workers’ movement, especially its vanguard, the communists. He does this already in his diaspora, forced by Stalinism.

In the works in which he discusses the German situation (which will later be edited under the title Revolution and Counterrevolution in Germany), the situation in France (which will be edited under the title Where France is Going), in Spain (in Writings on Spain), Trotsky will demonstrate, with mastery, not only what fascism is and what dangers it entails. He will also demolish the errors of Stalinism in Germany, where Stalinism refuses to form a united front with Social Democracy to defeat fascism. In France, and later in Spain, the opposite mistake of forming a popular front and getting the illusion that it was possible to defeat fascism by joining a supposed democratic block. In the latter, the consequences were much worse.

No person who has not studied these three materials, has any condition to give a truly valid opinion on the matter.

3.3.1. What Trotsky proposes

Trotsky will say that it is necessary to defend the existing elements of workers democracy within bourgeois democracy. To defend the democratic freedoms, which we said above are formal, since material conditions are necessary for their real implementation, which can only be exercised by the working class collectively.

Thus, to defend the workers newspapers, the buildings and meeting places (parties and workers unions headquarters), the demonstrations and the meetings themselves, becomes a central policy to fight fascism.

This defense cannot be done by calling on the police and the bourgeois state to disarm or stop fascism. In many cases, the few weapons that the police takes away from these factions with the right hand, they return double with the left hand. Everyone knows that police and army officers have always facilitated the arming of right-wing, far-right and fascist factions. Sometimes, they are even part of them.

To defend the democratic gains of the proletariat within bourgeois democracy, it is necessary to build workers’ militias. These are groups, which on the basis of common experiences such as a picket line, a demonstration defense group, are prepared to organize themselves to protect the whole of the workers’ movement.

This measure is one of the fundamental ones in the construction of a workers’ united front against fascism.

Much has already been said about the workers’ united front, but it’s important to repeat a few things. It is impossible to form a workers’ united front with reformism with the aim of taking power. The essence of reformism is precisely its fight against the revolution within the working class. However, to the extent that fascism threatens the material and physical existence of the reformist leadership, to the extent that its headquarters are attacked, its elections disrupted by rebels, to the extent that its militants, cadres and leaders are threatened, intimidated, beaten and killed by paramilitary groups, the awareness of the real danger of fascism arises, especially at the base, but also in leading sectors of reformism.

Of course there will always be oscillations, there will always be the desire to trust more in the bourgeois state, in justice, in liberals, republicans and bourgeois democrats. But a just policy of calling on the leadership on the one hand, and of action together with the rank and file, which demonstrates the viability of a united front to defend against fascism, will move or at least divide the leadership and the rank and file of reformism.

On the other hand, attention must be paid to the petty bourgeoisie. Although this class cannot have a project of its own for society, it is fundamental to bourgeois domination and equally very important to the victory of the proletariat.

As a very unequal class, where a certain mentality and way of life close to the bourgeoisie prevails in its upper strata, there are many material and psychological conditions of the proletariat in its poorer strata.

A correct policy for the petty bourgeoisie requires, in the first place, instilling in it the certainty that the proletariat is ready to fight and can win. Passing on such assurance to the petty bourgeoisie is only possible if the proletariat itself believes in its chances of victory.

The proletariat, by its very nature, by the social fact that one of its great advantages is in its numbers, invariably feels the need for unity in struggle and comes to believe in the possibility of victory. Here we come back to the question. A united front policy against fascism becomes fundamental in order to defeat it, to instill in the masses the certainty of victory, and to drag the petty bourgeoisie behind it.

The economic measures aimed at this sector, at the petty bourgeoisie, and the guarantee that the victory of the proletariat will bring it more advantages than disadvantages, the incessant search for dialogue with the impoverished strata of this class, are a central part of the revolutionary policy against fascism.

Finally, the bourgeoisie is not, at any time, a reliable ally in the fight against fascism. To believe that a hypothetical democratic bourgeoisie will side with the proletariat and allow it to defeat fascism in a physical struggle, allowing fascism to unite and arm itself in the meantime, is to believe in the illusion that social classes commit suicide. The bourgeoisie loves its property and privileges more than democracy.

Having said that, it is not ruled out, in specific situations, to make a fairly restricted agreement in common even with some bourgeois force to defend in action some democratic freedom, such as the release of some political prisoner or the repeal of some draconian law.

However, it is always worth remembering that no electoral card is strong enough to defeat fascism; the many anti-fascist electoral machinations and combinations were, in general, the prelude to the victory of fascism. Besides diverting the street struggle into legal and electoral struggle, this mechanism always committed the crime of extinguishing the class divide during combat, and made one part of the working class believe that there is a “good” and democratic bourgeoisie, and another “bad” and fascist one.

Finally, as long as there is capitalism, we can’t say that fascism is defeated forever. As long as there is capitalism, fascism is a valid hypothesis.


As much as we hate the right wing; the bourgeois democratic regimes with their increasingly Bonapartist aspects; the military regimes with their role of torture, killings, exile and persecution; the ruthless regimes in Saudi Arabia, with their stoning of women, persecution and endless suffering of LGBT people; the “theocratic” regime of the ayatollahs in Iran, which defeated and diverted the Iranian revolution; and so many others that we see every day, we cannot, in our opinion and out of our just indignation, freely use the epithet of fascism to define them.

Fascism is, as we try to define here, a very specific form of domination, which is formed in conditions that are also very specific to the class struggle. Defining it means defining what is the correlation of forces, a policy, and also a real danger that threatens the working class and its organizations.

It is obvious that in everyday life, and in a trivial way, many times the cry of “fascist” comes to our mouths as a way of manifesting our hatred and contempt for an attitude that we condemn. That is one thing. Another is when organizations waste gallons and gallons of ink, to try to prove that one thing is definitely not what they say it is.

The reasons for this political choice need to be investigated. Defining any enemy that is more to the right as belonging to the phenomenon of fascism may be mere ignorance, which is already wrong, but it can also serve as a justification for a number of policies, as wrong as the very definition of a fascism that does not exist.

On the basis of a definition that there is fascism, or that fascism is knocking on our door, there are many “leftists” who immediately pull the card of the popular front, or the broad front, or democratic unity, out of their sleeves, and so on. In terms of content, it is proposed, in the face of the “fascist danger” (real or imaginary, but most of the time imaginary), to bring together all the defenders of democracy in a large electoral bloc, and to ask for sacrifices from everyone (but only to demand them from the workers) in order to defeat the imminent danger.

Therefore, a correct definition of the danger that threatens us, allows us not only to fight it correctly but also to correctly fight those who propose a way out that is as harmful as the existing threat.

But there is another, more important issue, which is when in fact there is the danger of fascism or its imminent risk. In this case, the policy of unity with the bourgeoisie, as we have already said, is even graver, more dangerous and will certainly lead to even more disastrous defeats. There is only one social force capable of stopping a real fascist threat, the proletariat, and to be able to convince it of that in time, to be able to demonstrate the risks involved and the measures that are necessary to prevent it, becomes even more fundamental.

Translation: Blas ( Corriente Obrera Lit-ci U.S.)


August Thalheimer. About fascism.

Clara Zetkin. Como nasce e morre o fascismo.

Mandel. Fascism.

______, Marxist State Theory.

Nicos Poulantzas . Fascism and dictatorship, the third international against fascism.

Trotsky. Revolution and counter revolution in Germany.

______, Where is France going?

______, Writings about Spain.

Collaboration: Júlio Anselmo.

Article originally published in the blog Teoría y Revolución.