by Noel Ignatin
Urgent Tasks No. 4/Fascism in the U.S.?

A specter is haunting the U.S. left: the specter of fascism. Where is the measure taken by the party in power that is not branded as fascist? Welfare cutbacks, legislation to abolish compulsory union membership, the passage of a bill curtailing the legal right of dissidents to organize, efforts to ferret out and suppress those responsible for the bombing of public buildings in the center of large cities, the establishment of a professional army, moves to coordinate autonomous local police departments — all these measures and others which represent the ordinary functioning of government in a society dominated by bourgeois social relations are described as "fascist," or at the very least as steps toward fascism, by many left-wing organizations.

It is a curious fact that the willingness on the part of many leftists to throw around the "fascist" label is not shared by some of the groups in other countries where there is a lot more justification than here for use of the term. For example, the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR) in Chile has stated,

Properly speaking, what has been installed in Chile is not a fascist state, but rather a military or gorilla dictatorship with fascistic aspects. . . .

It is not a fascist regime in the exact sense of the word for a variety of reasons. Its base of support does not come from a permanently mobilized mass movement. It does not have . . . the support of a crucial social bloc. ... It does not have a fascist party through which the dominant bourgeois sector articulates and centralizes its leadership of the process. The political police do not serve as the most powerful branch of the repressive apparatus. The Chilean military dictatorship . . . is far .from having the strength, vitality or potential of the fascist states of past decades."[1]

This clear statement, from one of the groups most widely and highly esteemed by the U.S. left, has had no deterrent effect in this country.

There can be no serious objection if all that is involved is the use of a word — "fascism" — which is not meant to be taken scientifically but is simply intended to call forth a strong reaction from those hearing it. The fear is that more is involved. The indiscriminate use of a term which is meant to apply to a specific form of rule that arises in definite circumstances can and does obscure the reality of modern society and the forms of social motion which appear within it, including the emergence of a revolutionary social bloc.

Current left thinking on fascism is shaped by lines that were worked out in the Third International (Comintern) following the death of Lenin, and especially in the early and middle nineteen thirties. The influence of that period has been transmitted to the present generation by means of three books: Fascism and Social Revolution by R. Palme Dutt, first published in June 1934, reprinted in several editions through the next two years, long out of print and now reprinted by Vanguard Press, the publishing house of the Communist Labor Party; Lectures on Fascism by Palmiro Togliatti, first delivered in Moscow in 1935 and now gathered and published by International, the Communist Party publishing house; and The United Front, consisting of the main report and closing remarks by Georgi Dimitrov to the Seventh Congress of the Comintern in August 1935 together with various speeches and articles written by him over the next two years, first published in 1938 and since reprinted by both the CP and the CLP.

Of the three, Dimitrov's has had by far the greatest impact. It has never really been out of print, was a major influence on the thinking of the Black Panther Party at the time of the United Front Against Fascism Conference in 1969, has been read by the largest number of people. It is also the least valuable of the three books. Like most reports to Party and Comintern congresses during that period, it is lacking in any explanation of the considerations that led to the adoption of the current line and is limited to setting forth the official policy in a way that ensures its diligent implementation by Party members who are likely to do better when not encumbered by the realization that the official policy was selected from several conceivable alternatives.[*]

Both the Dutt and the Togliatti books were written during that brief moment in 1934-35 when the Comintern line was in transit from "ultra-left" to right opportunist. Consequently, in accordance with the well-known principle that even a stopped clock is right twice a day, they come nearest of all the official Comintern pronouncements to an appreciation of the true origins and nature of fascism. Thus, they manage to avoid the sectarian exaggerations of the "third period"[**] without falling into the rightist deviations of the "popular front" period, during which the independent interests of the proletariat were totally liquidated within the alliance of all "democratic forces."

The Dutt and Togliatti[***] books are not without serious flaws, however, and we shall mention a few in the course of this essay. But the first point that cries out for recognition is the irony contained in their current popularity. Whatever else Comintern policy in relation to fascism was, it was not a success. From 1921 up to the eve of World War II, to the rhythm of accelerating drum beats, the working class of one country after another witnessed its trade unions, established parties and cooperative societies fall before the advance of the fascists and their allies. The communists were not spared the general fate of the class; as Claudin puts it:

During the gloomy spring of 1939, after Franco's entry into Madrid and Hitler's into Prague, the only substantial section of the Comintern that remained on its feet in Europe was the French party. Apart from this, only the small Communist parties of Scandinavia, Britain, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland, whose political impact was almost nil, remained legal. All the other European sections had been reduced to clandestine existence after suffering heavy defeats. Soon after this the French party was to undergo the same fate: and the Second World War would begin.

. . . Thus, the Comintern had failed in the main aim it set itself at the outset of its existence — to wrest the working class from reformism and organize it politically and tradeunion- wise on revolutionary principles."[2]

It is undeniably the case that the fortunes of the Communist parties picked up with the outbreak of the War. But by that time, the Dutt, Togliatti and Dimitrov books were gathering dust on the back shelves; and one bit of evidence to show how useless they were as a guide to the future can be seen in the fact that in those areas of Europe where fascism held sway and where the Soviet Army did not pass, the outcome of the War was neither of the alternatives envisioned in the title of Dutt's work.

The Dutt, Togliatti and Dimitrov books represent, in a certain sense, an official blueprint of failure. Yet, a generation later, they are rediscovered and, what is more, enjoy a certain vogue. It is as if a doctor were to gain increased popularity owing to the fact that every one of his patients is known to have died directly following his treatment, or at the very least wound up as a quadriplegic!

All three books answer the question What is fascism? by citing the famous definition put forward by the Thirteenth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Comintern (1933): "Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital." Since this is undoubtedly the most familiar definition, and can often be quoted verbatim by leftists who could not, if asked, furnish the name under which Adolf Schicklgruber achieved world renown, it seems a good idea to check any conclusions reached against that definition. Therefore, we shall return to it later on.

This essay will attempt to consider, separately as much as possible, four topics relating to fascism. The first is — under what conditions does it arise?


All students agree that fascism makes its appearance at a time of crisis, a period in which the traditional methods of resolving social conflicts are no longer acceptable to any of the parties involved. The problem in analysis comes when the question is posed: at what stage of the crisis does fascism become a real possibility?

Dutt writes that fascism appears at that stage

when the breakdown of the old capitalist institutions and the advance of working-class movement has reached a point at which the working class should advance to the seizure of power, but when the working class is held in by reformist leadership.[3]

According to this view, fascism is "a species of preventive counter-revolution." [4]

This was the standard Comintern line. Thus, Dimitrov sees the drive toward fascism as a "striving to forestall the growth of the forces of revolution. . . ."[5] Both Dutt and Dimitrov regard fascism as a defensive response on the part of the bourgeoisie; even when they speak of the fascist "offensive" it is clear that they view it as a counter-attack against the growing wave of the revolutionary offensive.

This is not so obvious as it seems. In his book, Fascism and Dictatorship, Nicos Poulantzas writes:

The beginning of the rise ot fascism presupposes a significant series of working-class defeats. These defeats immediately precede fascism, and open the way to it. . . .

The meaning of this 'defeat' should be clarified. It was not 'the defeat' inflicted in a single day, but a series of defeats in a process marked by various steps and turns.[6]

The period of "relative stabilization" which followed the post-World War I revolutionary crisis in Europe is described by Poulantzas as a "significant weakening of the working class in the relation of forces" which, however, left intact most of the working class' economic gains made during the earlier period when it had the offensive. According to him, fascism was, in part, an attempt by the bourgeoisie to eliminate these gains which no longer corresponded to the real relation of class forces.

To Poulantzas, then, Germany in the years 1929-33 is going through not an upsurge in the revolutionary process, but the last dying gasp of the crisis which the working class had failed to utilize properly in 1923.

Trotsky's position combines elements of both. Writing in 1930, he agrees with the Comintern that the present situation represents "not . . . the conclusion of a revolutionary crisis, but just . . . its approach." At the same time, he points out that "The German Communist Party did not come on the scene yesterday . . . " and that its record of disasters from 1923 to the present is a factor that weakens the ability of the working class to resist fascism.[7]

What difference does it make to the analysis if fascism is seen as rising up as a possibility concomitantly with communism on the eve of the revolutionary wave, or if it is regarded as something like a jackal, stalking and finally bringing down the wounded proletarian lion?

The difference is (I admit that this may be stretching too far) in the former case, fascism can be treated purely as the tool of the bourgeoisie, a tool which it wields more or less handily to beat back the workers' movement; in the latter case, fascism must be seen as a social phenomenon to some extent independent of the bourgeoisie, a phenomenon which arises out of the crisis of modern society and develops through the inter-action of a number of distinct causes — over-determined, as it were.[†] This brings me to the second topic I wish to take up: what is the relation of fascism to the bourgeoisie?


The answer of the Comintern is clear and unmistakable: "Fascism is . . . a weapon of finance-capital . . ." (Dutt); "Fascism is the power of finance capital itself." (Dimitrov); ". . . it is the expression of the most reactionary sectors of the bourgeoisie." (Togliatti).

The Comintern writers go to great pains to expose the direct links that finance capital established with the fascists prior to the latter's coming to power; they produce volumes of evidence to show the flow of money from the big bourgeoisie to the treasuries of the fascist organizations.

All of this research is entirely irrelevant. The only points in a class analysis of fascism are — to what extent do the fascists serve the interests of capital (or any of its sectors) and to what extent is that service merely a by-product of the circumstances under which the fascist regime happens to emerge in a particular time and place.

"Totalitarian movements (here the writer is speaking of a phenomenon not exactly equivalent to fascism, but that does not matter for the present purposes) are mass organizations of atomized, isolated individuals."[8]

At the beginning of the period there is a revolutionary crisis (Italy 1920, Germany 1918-23) during which the working class shows itself unable to stand at the head of the efforts of the nation to reconstruct itself. At the critical moment it acts indecisively, and thus loses its moral authority over the middle sectors, who had rallied to it when it seemed to offer revolutionary solutions. The failure of the proletariat throws the masses, who have been torn from their moorings, into despair. The fascists arrive on the scene and proceed to organize that despair into a powerful force.

"The success of totalitarian movements . . . meant the end of two illusions. . . . The first was that the people in its majority had taken an active part in government. . . . The second . . . was that these politically indifferent masses did not matter. . . ."[9]

The fascists combine the most violent denunciations of the existing order with a ferocious opposition to the Marxist organizations, accusing the latter of having proven their unfitness to head the nation, as they are guided by narrow self-interest and sectarian principles. Thus they are able to wield the homeless and the rootless among the populace, the people who have lost their sense of identification with any of the contending forces, into a solid force.

At first the fascists limit themselves to attacks on the workers' organizations. They break up meetings, burn down headquarters, commit violence against outstanding workers' representatives. At this stage they are tolerated and even encouraged by the bourgeoisie, which sees them as a force to use against the left.

As the social crisis deepens, the appeal of the fascists grows. While loudly proclaiming their revolutionary aims, they are in fact protected by the existing state, which lets their members off while jailing the workers who resist them. At a certain point the fascists become bolder in their aims, are no longer satisfied to act as a goon squad for the employers, but begin to. have ambitions to rule. They expand their activity, and may even enter into genuine popular struggles, as for example the Berlin transport strike of 1932, which they led jointly with the Communists.[††]

The bourgeoisie is confronted with a choice: on the one hand, sectors among the class (particularly heavy industry) want to utilize the fascists to settle accounts with the working class and also to shift the weight of authority among the ruling circles themselves; on the other hand, the fascists are an unknown quantity, a mass movement and, as such, not entirely predictable. The big capitalists ask for, and receive, guarantees from the fascists: the anti-capitalist propaganda is subtly shifted in favor of a campaign against "non-productive" capital; a fascist party chief who seems a bit too serious about the radical program is demoted. The bourgeoisie's mind is set at rest and the contributions flow freely again.

All this does not take place without a great deal of agonizing and doubt among the bourgeoisie. However, the process is now getting out of control. The fascists have built a mighty mass movement, out of the dregs of society — and, never quite out of mind, there stands the untamed proletariat, still capable of throwing up Soviets and workers' councils should the opportunity present itself. The matter is decided: the fascists carry out their "revolution" and march into power, carrying with them the hopes of the despairing masses and the best wishes of the bourgeoisie.

Trotsky makes the shrewd observation that:

The strength of finance capital does not reside in its ability to establish a government of any kind and at any time, according to its wish; it does not possess this faculty. Its strength resides in the fact that every non-proletarian government is forced to serve finance capital. …"[10]

The fascists come into power and now begins an exceedingly complex series of maneuvers and readjustments. Their aims are directed first toward smashing the workers' organizations. At the same time, they are forced to rein in their own "left wing" — those plebian forces who take at face value the promises of revolution against the "vested interests." There follow several years of twists and turns, wherein the fascist party is purged of those elements that brought it to power (the famous "Night of the Long Knives" in Germany in 1934). At the same time, the fascists flood the state apparatus, displacing the remnants of the old bourgeois parties, and also place their representatives on the boards of directors of the big corporations. While this leads to an expansion of the prerogatives of the fascists relative to the old bourgeoisie, it also brings the former under some semblance of control, and the fascist regime begins to assume the appearance of an ordinary regime of right-wing dictatorship.

This is the classical pattern, and so far it does not contradict the notion of fascism as a tool of the bourgeoisie.

If matters ended there, the Comintern interpretation would be relatively satisfactory. But matters do not end there. The fascists, while they have been forced by the relation of forces to bow to the wishes of the traditional bourgeoisie, have not lost their character as a "revolutionary" party. They are waiting for the proper opportunity to put their program into practice.

The outbreak of war gives them that opportunity. As is the case in every country, war expands the autonomous power of the state. It makes possible the establishment of all sorts of supervisory boards and the like, which once again tilt the balance of forces back toward the fascist party. For Hitler, the outbreak of war was a golden opportunity to implement the Nazi program of the master race, beginning with the physical extermination of the mentally ill and advancing to the "final solution" of the Jewish question.

Some of these measures are of no consequence one way or the other to the bourgeoisie. But some of them are definitely counter to its interests. For example, the diversion of trains for the transportation of Jews, at a time when German supply lines were dangerously strained, was not in the rational interests of the bourgeoisie. The execution of Polish and Jewish skilled workers, which was carried out on ideological grounds, did not serve the interests of the Krupps and Far-bens, who hoped to use those workers for production. Perhaps the most dramatic illustration of the contradiction between the fascist program and the rational needs of the bourgeoisie was Hitler's plan, in the event of Germany's defeat, to reduce the country to rubble, "to slam the door behind us, so that we shall not be forgotten for centuries."

These are not the actions of a class which is motivated by the drive for profits; they are the actions of a party with a vision. It is true that the Nazis were unable to carry out their entire program; toward the end of the War, even such a top-level personality as Himmler began dismantling the death camps (without informing Hitler) as a step toward reestablishing a more normal situation and making possible negotiations with the West. But if the ideological fascists were unable to realize their entire program, so were the ordinary bourgeois unable to tame them entirely: it should not be forgotten that the famous attempt of the generals to assassinate Hitler — which represented the "sane" wishes of the bourgeoisie — failed, and led to wider purges of the state and a tighter Nazi grip on policy.

These events cannot be explained by means of the Comintern formula for fascism as the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. It is necessary to recognize the relative autonomy of the fascist movement in relation to all classes, as an important feature that distinguishes it from other rightwing governments.

The observation by the contemporary Hungarian writer, Mihaly Vajda, is more accurate than the traditional Comintern view in describing the relations of fascism and the capitalist class. Vajda writes:

that on the one hand fascism can only be accounted for if it is treated as a phenomenon of capitalist society, but that on the other hand it cannot be regarded as a movement which is actually launched by the ruling class, and that moreover it openly contradicts the interests of the ruling class in certain cases.[11]


The third point I wish to consider is the "chauvinism" of the fascists. Chauvinism is generally regarded as the extreme nationalism of an oppressor country. A careful study shows that fascism, in its German variety at least, was far beyond anything that had previously been recognized as nationalism. The aim of the Nazis was not the establishment of German supremacy, although they occasionally referred, for mass consumption, to that goal. The aim of the fascists was the establishment of the master race, which they insisted was just beginning to make its appearance, and which would be drawn from the "Aryan" elements of all the peoples of northern Europe. They repeated often that, for them, the conquest of the German state was simply a stage on the path to the reconstitution of Europe 'that fascism was a movement not a state. As Hannah Arendt points out, they treated Germany itself as a conquered nation, the first of all the nations of Europe to receive the benefits of their racial purification policies. It is no exaggeration at all to observe that fascism, far from being motivated by nationalist considerations, in fact tended toward internationalism — not of the proletarian type, to be sure.[†††]

Likewise with the label "imperialistic" that the Comintern used as part of its definition of fascism. The First World War was an imperialist war. As has been noted by a variety of observers, including W.E.B. DuBois and Lenin, it was a war for colonies, a war to conquer territories (or defend already-conquered ones) to which the conquering power would profitably export capital. The aim of fascism (particularly the German variant) in the Second World War was not the export of capital but instead the annexation of entire territories with their population and natural resources — in other words, centralization of capital, the very opposite of export. Hitler's rule over Europe did not lead to the expansion of capital in the occupied areas, as would have been the case if capital were being exported to them, but to its reduction, as entire industries were dismantled and carted back to Germany and those that remained were reorganized to serve the needs, not of profit but of the war. If this was imperialism, it was a new stage and deserved to be recognized as such, something which the Comintern definition does not do.

Lastly, with regard to the term "reactionary." That is a fairly fluid term, and it may seem unduly harsh to challenge a term so devoid of specific content- Nevertheless, it is part of the Comintern definition of fascism and should not be allowed to pass without scrutiny. If it means anything, the term "reactionary" applies to those who would go back, who would revert to more primitive social and technological conditions. It is precisely the unique character of fascism that it combined the crudest, the most oppressive, the most ahistorical conceptions of the human personality with the most modern methods of mass production and social engineering. The restructuring of the army, the mobilization of all the resources of Germany and the conquered territories, the adoption of the techniques of the Blitzkrieg, the coordination of military efforts with the pro-Nazi movements in every country — these things shattered the traditional ideas of how things were done. They were supported by that sector of the bourgeoisie which was the most advanced, and were resisted by that sector which was the most reactionary — the traditionalists, the old officer corps, the Prussian nobility.


In his report to the Seventh World Congress, Dimitrov announced that, "The accession to power of fascism is not an ordinary succession of one bourgeois government by another, but a substitution of one state form of class domination of the bourgeoisie — bourgeois democracy — by another form — open terrorist dictatorship."[12][*†]

The fourth topic I wish to take up is — what is the character of this "open terrorist dictatorship?"[*††] There can be no denying the terrorist character of the fascist regime — terror on a scale previously unknown. But it is not merely the scale of terror that distinguishes fascism from other forms of dictatorship — autocracy, military rule, etc. — even when we allow that the expansion of terror has given it a "qualitatively" new aspect. Previous regimes aimed at the suppression of conscious opponents. Fascism, after the first few years of breaking up the opposition parties, moves toward the establishment of the totalitarian state.

The characteristic of the totalitarian state is not merely suppression of the opposition, but total domination of the lives of the subjects. This is brought about in part through the use of terror. Even this terror has a special character — it is no longer directed at individuals and organizations that have placed themselves in opposition to the regime, but is directed at large groups of the population that have given no particular reason to doubt their loyalty: Jews, Poles, Gypsies, the mentally ill, those with congenital defects, etc. The concentration camps were filled with people who were absolutely "innocent" in every sense except that they had the misfortune to fall into one of the targeted groups.

The second feature of the totalitarian state is that it not merely suppresses the defense organizations of the proletariat; after having smashed up the proletarian organizations and having reduced the population to a grouping of atomized individuals with no ties of group interests, it then proceeds to reorganize these fragmented beings into mass organizations that reach into every sphere of life — the workplace, the school, the community. It is not enough that opposition should be suppressed; the masses must be brought to cooperate with the new regime, to participate actively in its mass rallies, sport societies, re-education sessions. No form of autonomous activity can be permitted; art, music, sport and even chess are of value only to the extent they are "weapons."

It is well known that the slogan that motivated the Communist Party in Germany right up to — and beyond — the coming to power of the Nazis was — After Hitler, Our Turn! They consistently underestimated the possibility of a fascist victory (a mistake for which they later criticized themselves) but also, even after the victory, underestimated the seriousness of the defeat this entailed. As late as 1935, in his remarks at the Seventh World Congress, Dimitrov was still whistling in the graveyard about how "the Communist Party even in conditions of illegality continues to make progress, becomes steeled and tempered. . .,"[13]

Of all the major figures in the leftwing movement of the time, only Trotsky, to my knowledge, had any appreciation of what the victory of fascism would mean to the working class. In words which all those who snarl when they hear the name "Trotsky" should be forced to read, he wrote, in 1931, before the victory of the Nazis:

The coming to power of the National Socialists would mean first of all the extermination of the flower of the German proletariat, the destruction of its organizations, the eradication of its belief in itself and in its future. Considering the far greater maturity and acuteness of the social contradictions in Germany, the hellish work of Italian fascism would probably appear as a pale and almost humane experiment in comparison with the work of the German National Socialists.

Retreat, you say, you who were yesterday the prophets of the "third period." Leaders and institutions can retreat. Individual persons can hide. But the working class will have no place to retreat to in the face of fascism, and no place to hide. If one were to admit the monstrous and improbable, that the party will actually evade the struggle and thus deliver the proletariat to the mercy of its mortal enemy, this would signify only one thing: the gruesome battles would unfold not before the seizure of power by the fascists but after it, that is, under conditions ten times more favorable for fascism than those of today. The struggle against a fascist regime by a proletariat betrayed by its own leadership, taken by surprise, disoriented, despairing, would be transformed into a series of frightful, bloody, and futile convulsions. Ten proletarian insurrections, ten defeats, one on top of the other, could not debilitate and enfeeble the German working class as much as a retreat before fascism would weaken it at the very moment when the decision is still impending on the question of who is to become master in the German household."[14]

To what extent did the fascist regime, even in its most completely realized form — Nazism, succeed in subordinating all strata of society to its total domination? There is abundant evidence dealing with this question in relation to the big bourgeoisie, and there the answer seems to be — not very much. As Guerin put it, "The fascist regime . ., never domesticated the bourgeoisie."[15] It must be remembered, as an explanation of the fascist failure in this regard, that the German bourgeoisie, even though it was undergoing a crisis, was by no means a weak social formation. It is not inconceivable that, in other circumstances, where the bourgeoisie is mortally wounded, the fascist mob could succeed in bringing it under its domination or even eliminating it totally as a class distinct from the heads of the state and the fascist movement. Suppose, for a moment, a situation where the bourgeoisie was exhausted, divided, unable to command any longer the respect of the population, but where the working class is not sufficiently conscious and organised to rule as a class. Could a mob inflamed by radical slogans without class content come to power and proceed to expropriate the bourgeoisie while retaining the essential feature of bourgeois social relations, namely the domination of the living laborer by previously accumulated, congealed, dead labor? Perhaps "fascist" would not be the best term to apply to such a regime, but would it not exhibit many of the features of the fascist state? How would such a regime stay in power? Most likely, it would combine violent denunciations of the old system of private property, resting on the masses' bitter memories of private exploitation, with constant appeals for vigilance lest the old way be restored. It would strengthen the state apparatus, and scornfully dismiss appeals for free speech and press as opening the door for the class enemy to return. Lastly, it would mobilize the population by means of a constant and deafening clamor of propaganda, officially approved mass organizations in every sphere of life,. public rallies and demonstrations, supervised collective study and character re-molding, perhaps through some device like the Catholic confessional or ritual group discussions of individual errors. (I beg to remind the reader that all this is pure speculation, since no such regime ever has existed or could exist anywhere in the world.)


Of course, for us, the more important question is the success of fascism in liquidating the working class. (Recall the words of Mussolini — the working class when it is not organized is not a class but a mob.) The evidence here is sparse. It is obvious that Italian fascism never brought about the total atomization of the proletariat. The situation regarding Germany is not so clear. Several things indicate, however, that the fascist success was not as great as has been alleged. In the first place, there is the large number of German workers who found themselves in the camps. Based on what I said earlier, that the Nazi regime attacked the "innocent" as well as the "guilty," this cannot be offered as conclusive evidence. Second, the rapidity with which the German people set up autonomous institutions to regulate the distribution of allied relief food in the West immediately following the War provides some evidence that the germs of proletarian aspirations had not entirely been stamped out. It may very well be that the very speed of the occupation, especially in the east, where the Soviets moved immediately to establish their control over the police, functioned to prevent the emergence of more visible proof that the German proletariat had, indeed, survived the scourge of Nazism.

To return to the official Comintern definition: I think I have demonstrated that every element in the definition is either mistaken, inadequate or subject to serious questioning. It should be laid to rest.

* * *


*The Dimitrov book, and the Seventh Congress generally, are (associated with the notion of the ("Popular Front," which was originally set out as a new "tactical orientation" but which very quickly became the keystone of CP strategy. This is not the place for a consideration of the methods of combatting fascism, which will be dealt with in a planned future article on revolutionary alliances. I cannot resist pointing out, however, that the Dimitrov book was published only one year before the Nazi-Soviet pact, when the line changed from the united front against fascism to — the united front with fascism. That odd timing has not seemed to hurt the book's popularity.[return to text]

**It was the so-called third period (1928-34) that contributed the immortal concept "social fascism" as the summary of the true nature of social democracy. The theoretical basis for this idiocy was most clearly articulated by Stalin when he declared that "Social-Democracy is objectively the moderate wing of fascism. . . . They are not antipodes, they are twins." (Works, vol. 6, page 294) This was regarded as somehow more "revolutionary" than the reasonable observation that fascism takes advantage of the reformist illusions fostered by the social democrats. Stalin's formula was endlessly repeated and elaborated, for example by Comintern chief Manuilsky, who declared, "All too obvious mistakes are being made among us: it is said that bourgeois democracy and fascism, social democracy and Hitler's party, are antagonistic." (Report to Eleventh Plenum, 1931) Actually, the line went beyond equating social democracy and fascism: the German CP was insisting up to 1932 that "our political line . . . is to deal the main blow to the SPD (Social-Democrats)." One fruit of this was the formation of a de facto bloc with the Nazis, as in the "Red Referendum" of 1931. (See Poulantzas, fn. p. 160)[return to text]

***The Togliatti book is of interest for reasons that have nothing to do with the subject under consideration. In The God That Failed Ignazio Silone recounts how he and Togliatti were the only delegates to a 1927 meeting of the Executive Committee of the Comintern who had the temerity to resist Stalin's request that a certain document written by Trotsky be condemned without having been read by any of those present. This sort of "bourgeois individualism" led to Silone's expulsion from the Italian CP in 1931. In these Lectures Togliatti, who was more pliable, quotes something written by "excomrade" Silone. Those familiar with the Comintern personnel policy, especially toward communists in exile from fascist countries, will appreciate the significance of Togliatti's departure from the norm.[return to text]

†There is no doubt that Dutt, for instance, was aware of the importance of "missed opportunity" in preparing the way for the advance of fascism. Thus, on page 126 he writes: "First, the revolutionary wave in Italy was broken . . . not by Fascism, but by its own inner weakness. . . . Second, Fascism only came to the front after the proletarian advance was already broken from within . . . harassing and slaughtering an army already in retreat." He never integrated this awareness into a general theory.[return to text]

††Togliatti recounts how the Fascist club responds to a complaint from a woman about her husband beating her by summoning the man to headquarters, warning him and ordering him to put a stop to such treatment. (Togliatti, op. cit., p. 143)[return to text]

†††can be pointed out that internationalism does not have to assume a proletarian character. The Catholic Church is also internationalist. So was the Comintern when it called for the proletarians of all countries to identify their class interests with the state interests of the USSR.[return to text]

*†Perhaps some might observe a difference between this and Manuilsky's remarks of a few years earlier: "The fact that the bourgeoisie will be obliged to repress the workers' movement by fascist methods does not mean that the hierarchy will not govern as before (that is with the participation or support of the social democracy). Fascism is not a new governmental method distinct from the system of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Anyone who thinks this is a liberal." (Quoted by Poulantzas, op. cit., page 149)[return to text]

*††Gus Hall, in his Introduction to Togliatti's Lectures, comments that "Fascism . . . especially tries to cover up the fact that it is 'the open dictatorship of the most reactionary section of monopoly capital.'" (page xi) Is he unconscious of the humor involved in "covering up" what is "open"?[return to text]

1. The MIR and the Tasks of the Resistance, Resistance Courier, Special Edition, Number 1, pages 53-4.[return to text]

2. F. Claudin: The Communist Movement, Monthly Review Press, 1975, pages 242-3.[return to text]

3. R. Palme Dutt: Fascism and Social Revolution, International, 1935, page 108.[return to text]

4. Ibid., page 113 (emphasis in original).[return to text]

5. Dimitrov: The United Front, International, 1938, page 9.[return to text]

6. N. Poulantzas: Fascism and Dictatorship, New Left Books, London 1974, page 139.[return to text]

7. L. Trotsky: The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, Pathfinder, NY 1971, pages 59-62.[return to text]

8. H. Arendt: The Origins of Totalitarianism, Meridian, NY 1958, page 323. I cannot possibly recommend this book too enthusiastically, especially the third section, "On Totalitarianism."[return to text]

9. Ibid., page 312.[return to text]

10. Trotsky, op. cit., page 440.[return to text]

11. M. Vajda: Fascism as a Mass Movement, Allison & Busby, London 1976, page 8.[return to text]

12. Dimitrov, op. cit., page 12.[return to text]

13. Ibid., page 26.[return to text]

14. Trotsky, op. cit., page 125.[return to text]

15. D. Guerin: Fascism and Big Business, Pathfinder, NY 1973, page 9.[return to text]

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