Now in English, from the coming issue #36 of the magazine Red Sun:
The purpose of this article is not to make a complete examination of fascism and its history, but to contribute to a basic understanding of what fascism is and how it is expressed in the world, from its appearance until today. Thus we want to contribute to disperse the smoke screens spread by the reaction on this subject, and arm ourselves with a Marxist understanding of fascism in order to be capable of combating it. We are not going to go through all the examples of fascist regimes, but limit ourselves to a few in order to illustrate the main points.
First of all, the struggle against fascism is in no way a thing of the past; the imperialists and their lackeys, today just as before apply fascism when they need it. Therefore, it is necessary for the communists and revolutionaries to understand what fascism is, applying the ideology of the working class, and not to let ourselves be fooled by the lies and distortions of the bourgeoisie. First, we need to start from a Marxist definition of fascism. It is not sufficient, but directly misleading, to use the term fascism for everything that is reactionary and “anti-democratic”. Neither can we accept the bourgeois definitions that start from concepts such as “authoritarianism” and “totalitarianism” (as we will see below) – nor do we have to “start from scratch”; in the Marxist classics and in the history of the international communist movement we find enough practical experience and Marxist theory to be able to define fascism, and it is our task to apply this knowledge to the concrete reality and not see it as a dead dogma.
As we have learned from the experiences of the Third International and its dissolution, the struggle against fascism and the application of the united front, and mainly from Chairman Mao Tsetung and the Chinese revolution, the “classical” definition of fascism made by Georgij Dimitrov is not sufficient. He defined it as “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinist and most imperialist elements of finance capital”. An insufficient definition because it does not take into account corporativism as a part of fascism, i.e. the corporative organization of the power and the economy. Chairman Gonzalo teaches us: “The questioning of parliament is a basic position of fascism that aims against the traditional demobourgeois structure of the state, based on the negation of the principles, freedoms and rights established in the 18th century, and that postulate the corporative organization and develops the reactionary violence to the maximum, all in accordance with the most unbridled class dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (big bourgeoisie in our case) and in the service of imperialism”. (May the Strategic Equilibrium Shake the Country More!, PCP 1991). Here we have a brilliant synthesis and a more complete definition of fascism, but we must remember that no concise definition is sufficient to understand a phenomenon – to do so, one needs a deeper understanding and a practical application of our ideology in each concrete case. Therefore, we will look at the different elements of fascism more in detail.
Class dictatorship and democracy
Our starting point when talking about fascism must be the Marxist understanding of the state, i.e. the class dictatorship. As Lenin said: “The state is a machine for maintaining the rule of one class over another”. That is to say, every society where classes exist, without exception, is a dictatorship. Furthermore, Lenin teaches us that the existence of the state not only shows us that there are classes, but that there are irreconcilable contradictions between those classes – i.e. contradictions that cannot be resolved through the conciliation of the antagonistic classes, but only through revolution. Under capitalism, when the bourgeoisie has the power, the state is the instrument of the bourgeoisie to maintain its power and repress the other classes, mainly the proletariat. In the proletarian revolution, the working class crushes the bourgeois state and builds the proletarian state, which has as one of its objectives to repress the bourgeois class and all those who want to restore capitalism. When we reach communism, the society without classes, and not before then, the state can and must disappear. We distinguish between system of state and system of government: the system of state indicates what class has the power (and thus the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie is the system of state in capitalism), while system of government indicates what system this class uses to exercise their dictatorship (bourgeois democracy is one system of government, fascism is another).
The state fulfills its role in different ways, with laws, control of public opinion through education and the media, etc. – but at the heart of the matter the state always bases itself on the armed forces, i.e. the violence. As a part of this dictatorship, different degrees of democracy may exist; under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie there are thus different forms of democracy for the bourgeois class and all those who serve its power, but not for the working class and the people. Under the dictatorship of the proletariat there is democracy for the working class and the people, but not for the clique of bourgeoisies and reactionaries. But just because every state bases its power on violence, we cannot reduce our definition of fascism to a question of violence and terror:
“With regard to identifying fascism with terror, with repression, we think that this is a mistake. What is involved in this case is the following: if one remembers Marxism, the State is organized violence, that is the definition that the classics have given us. All states use violence because they are dictatorships. How else would they keep the people down in order to oppress and exploit them?” (Interview with Chairman Gonzalo, PCP 1988)
When it works as the bourgeoisie wants, the bourgeois parliamentary democracy, elevated to an ideal by the imperialists, gives the illusion of popular influence and keeps down the revolutionary will of the oppressed – the problem is that this democracy finds itself in contradiction with the imperialist system itself, for which it is more and more difficult to maintain even this parliamentary farce.
The origins of fascism: dying imperialism and reaction all along the line
“The fact that imperialism is parasitic or decaying capitalism is manifested first of all in the tendency to decay, which is characteristic of every monopoly under the system of private ownership of the means of production. (…) Fourthly, ‘finance capital strives for domination, not freedom’. Political reaction all along the line is a characteristic feature of imperialism”. (V.I. Lenin – Imperialism and the Split in Socialism, 1916)
When the bourgeoisie was a revolutionary class struggling against the old ruling feudal class, it defended the bourgeois liberties and rights, they struggled for the institution of democracy and for the progressive ideas of the time about the “equal worth of all human beings”. In general, it was successful in its task of overthrowing the feudal class and establishing itself at the power, the bourgeois state. But ever since that moment it has been clear that the new rulers did not have the “well being of all the people” as their goal; the liberties and rights that they had proclaimed were valid for themselves, and could never in practice be valid for the new class of proletarians that emerged, because the very existence of the bourgeois class and capitalism is based on the exploitation of this proletariat. The bourgeois democracy and its parliamentarism presented itself as a suitable form for its dictatorship, along with the ideology of liberalism.
When capitalism around 1900 entered its imperialist stage, i.e. its highest, last and dying stage, it entered into even sharper contradiction with the old ideas of the bourgeois revolution. When “free competition” has been swept away and ownership has become more and more concentrated in the hands of a few monopolies, when the exploitation itself has created a growing class of conscious and revolutionary proletarians, and when massive genocide is being committed in the conquered countries as part of the imperialist expansion and division – it is more and more difficult to maintain even a limited democracy and justify one’s authority with phrases about “the equality of all human beings” or “liberty, equality and brotherhood”.
“Another point of scientific socialism important to Mariátegui is the crisis of bourgeois democracy whose symptoms could be perceived before World War I and whose causes he sees in ‘the parallel growth and concentration of capitalism and the proletariat’; in that way the development of monopoly, characteristic of imperialism, and the questioning of the bourgeois order by the proletariat are what causes the bourgeois democratic crisis. Deepening the problem he emphasizes that under the bourgeois regime industry developed immensely with the power of machinery, with ‘great industrial enterprises’ having arisen, and since the political and social forms are determined by the base sustaining them he concludes: ‘The expansion of these new productive forces does not allow the subsistence of the old political patterns. It has transformed the structure of nations and demands the transformation of the structure of the regime. Bourgeois democracy has ceased to correspond to the organization of economic forces tremendously transformed and enlarged. That is why democracy is in crisis. The typical institution of democracy is the parliament. The crisis of democracy is a crisis of parliament.’” (Let Us Retake Mariategui and Reconstitute his Party, PCP 1975)
In short, imperialism is rotten capitalism, and it is expressed in its economy, its ideology and its politics. To the more and more concentrated monopolies, the bourgeois democracy becomes more and more of an obstacle instead of a means to maintain their dictatorship and apply their politics, and ideologically and politically, in imperialism everything that has been progressive in politics, philosophy, culture and science is abandoned. Faced with the economic, ideological and political crisis, and mainly to confront the proletarian revolution, imperialism launches fascism in an attempt to save its rotten system of exploitation and oppression.
Ideologically, fascism represents the attempt to create a myth to replace the ideas of the bourgeois revolution. Ideologically, it is eclectic; it has no firm principles that it bases itself on, but mixes and uses what it needs to fulfill its task of maintaining the imperialist order. But as a result of its concrete ideological and political necessities, some recurring traits are found in most of the fascist movements, and a common ideological origin in the ideas that emerged as a result of imperialism’s decay and as a reaction against Marxism.
Irrationalism – already by the end of the 19th century and the early 20th century, bourgeois intellectuals developed the ideas that would then become characteristics of bourgeois ideology under imperialism. The “irrationalist” trend, represented by Nietzsche, Shopenhauer and others, rejects the ideas of the Enlightenment about scientific understanding, and instead glorify “intuition” and “instinct”. The main enemy for these intellectuals, of course, was Marxism; while Marxism analyzed the world scientifically in order to change it, the task of the bourgeois thinkers was to prevent and deny this analysis in order to maintain the present order. Where bourgeois thinkers before had upheld clarity and objectivity, and even given essential contributions to social and natural sciences, they now started to uphold subjectivity and “feeling”, rejecting reason. To prevent the understanding of the existing class contradictions, they introduced a series of metaphysical ideas about “the popular” (see Carl Jung’s theories and the idea of the “volksgeist”), the “will to power” etc. which obviously influenced Hitler and became part of the fascist ideology. Also typical of fascism is the pronounced cynical and pragmatic attitude to its own ideology – for example, Hitler himself openly admitted that the idea of a “Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy” was a lie, a myth designed for specific political purposes, and not based on real facts.
The same irrationalism, idealism and relativism is also found in the “post-modernism” that is in fashion in today’s academic world as a weapon against Marxism. It especially takes Nietzsche’s ideas that aim against the scientific analysis of society, against every intention to change it, against the idea of progress. According to Nietzsche, “there are no laws” in nature nor in human society: “’things’ do not behave regularly, according to a rule: there are no things (they are fictions invented by us); they behave just as little under the constraint of a necessity. There is no ‘obedience’ here; for that something is as it is, as strong or as weak, is not the consequence of an ‘obedience’ or a ‘rule’ or a compulsion’.”(“The Will to Power”). Thus, the bourgeois ideologues want to maintain the idea of the “end of history”, and repeat Nietzsche’s idea of “eternal return”: “the world is a circle that has already repeated itself an infinite number of times and it will continue to repeat itself in infinitum”[our translation]. As a reactionary class, the bourgeoisie has to reject not only the inevitability, but the possibility of qualitative change or leaps in the development of human society. As Nietzsche says: “Humanity does not represent a development for the better, does not represent something stronger or higher the way people these days think it does. 'Progress' is just a modern idea, which is to say a false idea." This is simply the thinking of a reactionary and decadent class, nothing more.
The “superman” and the contempt for the masses – Nietzsche’s idea of the “superman” is an expression of the cynical and extreme individualism that today pervades all bourgeois thought and culture, and to him it was no secret that this individual freedom could only be accessible to a few. In consequence, the masses were “subhumans” that did not deserve such freedom – and so Nietzsche and other intellectuals already then establish the ideological justification for questioning the bourgeois liberties and rights. Hitler speaks of “the aristocratic principle of nature” and says that the masses are incapable of forming “general political judgments” (Mein Kampf).
Racism, that in the bourgeois version of history has become the most characteristic trait of German fascism, has been a recurring component in the fascist movements. But it is neither limited to fascism nor a necessary part of it, although it was given a more open form and was applied more systematically by various fascist regimes. In short, it is a question of imperialism’s inevitable necessity to conquer new territories, and as a part of that, enslave and kill the populations of these territories. The ideas of race biology were developed to justify this, and therefore racism continues to be a part of bourgeois ideology and politics as long as imperialism continues to exist. It is not a result of the “ignorance” or “xenophobia” of the masses, but of the concrete needs of imperialism. It is a characteristic of bourgeois ideology to try to explain psychological and social phenomena with biology – and this biologism still pervades bourgeois science and culture; everything is explained with genes and chromosomes, from the oppression of women to poverty; in order to put it in our heads that the present order is the “natural” one and that every struggle for another society is useless and “goes against nature”.
Nor is racism specific to the fascist movements. It was the British reaction that showed the way when it came to racist theory and practice during the last part of the 19th century; people like Cecil Rhodes and Houston Stuart Chamberlain took the lead with their theories about the hegemony of the white race, and the British genocides and concentration camps in Africa served as models for the German fascists. Other imperialist powers have followed the same road, and up until World War II the majority of those countries dedicated themselves to race biology or versions of that “science” on a large scale (including Sweden, under Social-democratic regime). Although it was more controversial and sensitive to carry out such activities after the war, the imperialists have not stopped using such “science”. One example is the famous book “The Bell Curve” from 1994 by Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein (Murray is closely linked to the “think tanks” that have taken part in drawing up U.S. politics since Reagan), which, using numbers and diagrams, tries to prove the differences in intelligence between the different “races” and thus explain the poverty and other problems in the U.S.
See how the fascists use racism according to their needs of the moment. The theory of the Jewish/Bolshevik conspiracy was opportune at a specific moment, while today a large part of the “neo-nazi”-type fascist groups take position for Israel and have invented the theory of the “Muslim invasion” – with the same purpose: to fight against the working class and the peoples of the third world. The new “anti-immigrant” parties in Europe present their racism in the form of “struggle between cultures”, while the other bourgeois parties hide their racism with so-called “multi-culture” – but the goal is still the same.
National chauvinism mainly serves two purposes: 1) to present the imperialist aggression, the wars of conquest and division, as heroic and just; as a reaction to the working class’ and the peoples’ hatred against these wars, and 2) to try to create the false unity, above the classes, for the imperialist “fatherland” in order to in this way hide the class struggle.
Fascism expresses on one hand the big bourgeoisie’s need for counterrevolutionary repression and terror to repress the working class and the people and on the other hand its need to create among the masses a false unity, above the classes, in favor of the bourgeois dictatorship and against the revolution. The fascist movements camouflage themselves as “revolutionaries” to capitalize on the revolutionary will of different classes among the people, and use attributes and slogans taken from the proletarian movement or other popular movements (see the “national socialism” of the German fascists, Velasco’s so-called “revolution” in Peru, Chavez’ “Bolivarian revolution” in Venezuela, or how the so-called “autonomous nationalists” in Europe today take the style and the slogans of the “left”). A characteristic of fascism is the verbiage about “anti-capitalism”, “neither right nor left”, “neither capitalism nor socialism” – a demagogy that aims to hide the fact that fascism is for guaranteeing the absolute power of the big bourgeoisie. A very illustrative example of this kind of politics is Khrushchev’s thesis on “the state of the whole people” and the “Party of the whole people” – and note that when Chairman Mao defined the social-imperialist Soviet Union as a “dictatorship of Hitler-type”, it was not by coincidence.
Corporativism is “the setting up of the state based on corporations, which implies the negation of parliamentarism” (Chairman Gonzalo). I.e. the power of the big bourgeoisie organized through organs with representatives from different strata, guilds, or other groups, who with their “expertise” and “in agreement” make political decisions – instead of representatives elected through elections, as in bourgeois parliamentarism (note that both forms serve to maintain the bourgeois dictatorship). Examples of such corporative organs are the fascist unions in Germany under Hitler and Italy under Mussolini, as well as the “Self-defense Committees”, “Development Committees”, COFOPRI, FONCODES, INADE etc. in Peru. Social democracy (social fascism in Lenin’s words) in countries like Germany or Sweden also develop, especially since the end of World War II, a clear and manifest corporativism; the so-called “Swedish model”, “the spirit of Saltsjöbaden”, is a very clear example of this “agreement” between the classes, which in reality is an agreement between the factions of the bourgeoisie and its lackeys, under the supervision of the state and in favor of the big bourgeoisie. These are examples that show that the “negation of parliamentarism” does not necessarily imply the abolition of parliament or of elections, but that this negation is also expressed in the power of the executive, in the total failure of the illusion of parliamentary democracy etc.
The reaction, including the fascists themselves, often try to present corporativism as a hybrid of capitalism and socialism, or a system neither capitalist nor socialist – they may even present it as a form of socialism (“democratic socialism” in the words of the Social Democrats). This is a part of the demagogy that the fascists use to deceive the people, and that the other reactionaries of today use to say that “socialism and fascism are the same”. In both cases, it is a vulgar propaganda that even the reactionaries themselves do not believe; a superficial look at any fascist regime is sufficient to see that fascism means more genocide and more repression against the proletariat and the people, especially against the revolutionaries and communists, and more profits for the big bourgeoisie.
Corporativism expresses the big bourgeoisie’s need to protect the interests of the whole big bourgeoisie, as a class, against the revolution and in struggle with the big bourgeoisie of other countries. It expresses the need to handle the struggle between individuals, groups or factions within the big bourgeoisie of the country, in order to safeguard the power of the whole big bourgeoisie. Therefore, to some degree, the fascist regime uses the state to impose plans and give directives to the companies of the big bourgeoisie – but they cannot avoid the “anarchy of capitalism” as Lenin says, and they cannot avoid the production crises that are inevitable in capitalism. In reality, the fascist regime is an instrument for the companies of the big bourgeoisie, and thus the term “planned economy” used by the reaction does not apply to fascism.
The theory of “totalitarianism”
The concept of “totalitarianism”, as well as that of “authoritarianism”, is an invention of the reaction to attack socialism, saying that fascism and socialism are the same. Originally, it was a term used by the Italian fascists to describe their system, and after that different reactionary theoreticians, like Borkenau (a renegade from the Communist Party of Germany), Karl Popper and Hannah Arendt systemized it in order to use it as part of the imperialist propaganda against the socialist countries - and it has been popularized and spread since then in the academic world as well as in culture, the most famous example being the novel “1984” by the Trotskyist Orwell. Before World War II, the bourgeoisie in the U.S. and the other imperialist powers had a positive attitude towards the fascist regimes in Germany and Italy, because they hoped that they would be able to put an end to the “communist threat” in the world – but later, when they found themselves in open conflict and war with German and Italian imperialism for world domination, it was very opportune to invent the concept of “totalitarianism”. In sum, it is a concept that denies the class character of the state, and bases itself on the idea that the power for the people or the proletariat is impossible, that it is a myth and a politics that only leads to terror and oppression when one tries to put in into effect – so, “totalitarianism” is a hoax to hide from the masses the enormous advances made by the peoples in the socialist countries, hide the true character of fascism, and thus promote the eternal dictatorship of the exploiting classes and imperialism.
As we see in the above examples, fascism continues to exist in different forms in the world today, in imperialist countries as well as in the third world. Imperialism counts on fascist regimes in oppressed nations to guarantee its control of those countries; fascism in Peru is a clear example, a fascism adapted to combat a people’s war. In Latin America we see clear expressions of the use of “revolutionary governments” like that of Chavez, that present themselves as “anti-imperialist” and even “leftist”, while they are submitted to imperialism, mainly yankee imperialism, and repress any popular or revolutionary movement as is the job of fascist regimes.
In Europe, imperialism still uses corporative forms and every day the negation of the bourgeois liberties and rights is expressed more and more. Although today they do not use Social Democracy like before, the crisis of parliamentarism is clearly expressed, as well as the repression (and the Social Democratic parties, who have a long history of repression and terror against the people, in many cases are the initiators and main defenders of the intensified repression and control of the population, like in Sweden).
At the same time, new fascist parties “of the old type” have entered the parliaments all over Europe (PVV in Holland, NPD and DVU in Germany, DF in Denmark etc. etc.). They have their roots in the most racist factions of the other parties, and in the “neo-nazi” groups. All of these have a specific role for the ruling class. To the bourgeoisie, the “neo-nazis” and “right-wing extremists” serve as shock troops against the revolutionaries and communists and against popular protests, and the mentioned parties are in the parliaments in order to carry out the dirty work of introducing more racist policies – and so the racist policies of the other parties will appear a little bit “softer”.
How to fight against fascism
We revolutionaries and communists must not let ourselves be surprised by fascism, knowing that the repression, the counterrevolutionary violence and the negation of democratic rights are not exceptions, but are inevitable and inherent in imperialism. Therefore, we must combat the liquidationist positions that say “revolutionary work cannot be carried out under fascism”. Nor can we accept the position that takes fascism as a pretext to put forward a so-called “united front” above the classes, distorting the Marxist thesis of the united front as a front of the revolutionary classes, a front to make people’s war. What must be done is to combat the class dictatorship of the exploiting classes with people’s war as the main form of struggle. All the experience of the world proletarian revolution shows us that we must reject and crush the idea of only “using legal and peaceful methods” until the enemy starts to apply fascism, i.e. until the moment when it is no longer possible. The working class, its Communist Parties and the socialist countries have always been the vanguard and the most consistent and irreconcilable fighters in the struggle against fascism – and we have the responsibility to continue fighting in that spirit against fascism as well as against all imperialism, the reaction and revisionism.