Fascism is a far-right nationalist political movement that emphasizes the role of a strong state. Considerable debate exists about the exact definition of fascism both within Marxism and in mainstream political science. Some Marxists consider it a specific form of capitalist reaction while others consider it a general one.
Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany are the regimes widely considered to be the maximum exponents of fascism. Other conservative, authoritarian, and corporatist regimes such as Francoist Spain or Portugal under Antonio Salazar are also considered fascist depending on the definition.
Fascists rarely self-identify as fascists for two reasons: first, fascism attained a taboo after World War II and second, because fascists are reluctant to acknowledge that their ideology is a generic form of ultranationalism, as opposed to a unique expression of a national spirit. They therefore identify fascism exclusively with a unique expression of a nation's national spirit — in the case of Italy, this would make it impossible for Greeks or Spaniards to be fascist by this view.
Attitude towards capitalism
Fascism tends to claim opposition to capitalism. This opposition is grounded in a petty bourgeois reaction. In the interbellum period, the small shop owners, artisans, and farmers were simultaneously crushed by organized labour and Big Business. This produced a widespread reactionary sentiment among the petty bourgeoisie, wishing to return the clock of time in order to restore an earlier social stage in human development when capital was less concentrated (see: Concentration of Capital.) The petty-bourgeois reaction was tampered by the need to reach political power at the invitation of the conservative elite, associated with the Haute bourgeoisie. The early petty-bourgeois extremism resurfaced at the end of Nazi-Germany.
Some currents in fascism favour social-economic policies, but "the economic programs of the great majority of fascist movements were extremely conservative, favouring the wealthy far more than the middle class and the working class. Their talk of national “socialism” was quite fraudulent in this respect. Although some workers were duped by it before the fascists came to power, most remained loyal to the traditional antifascist parties of the left."
Also referred to by phrases such as "unifying the classes" or "class harmony", class collaboration is the idea that there is no inherent antagonism between the exploiters and exploited. This idea is why fascism is preferred by the bourgeoisie over socialism since they largely retain their position as opposed to losing it under socialism, on top of pacifying the workers' movement. Philip S. Foner writes in May Day: A Short History of the International Workers' Holliday:
In 1933 Adolf Hitler, with the full support and assistance of powerful monopoly capitalists, seized power in Germany. On April 24, Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda and Popular Enlightenment, issued a May Day Manifesto which was carried on the front page of every newspaper in Germany. Addressed "to the whole German people," it announced that May 1st had been made "the festival day of national labor" and called for a celebration in which "Germans of all classes" would "clasp hands" and "in solid formation march into the new future." Class was a thing of the past, "since Marxism is smashed."
The London Times praised Hitler and the Nazis for having ended "the glorification of class-warfare and made May Day an occasion for the abolition of class differences and for the unification of workers and employers in the Fascist model." What it did not tell its readers was that despite the Nazi terror, the illegal Communist Party of Germany (KPD) held demonstrations on May 1, 1933, at which the red flag was displayed in Berlin, Chemnitz, Dresden, Halle, Hamburg, Leipzig, Sachsen, Thüringen, and Wittenberg. In Berlin workers raised the cry "Freedom for Thaelmann" (the Communist leader who was facing death in a Nazi concentration camp), "The KPD lives," . . .
On the very next day after May Day, Hitler signed legislation outlawing the free trade unions in Germany with their membership of 4,000,000, and seized their assets of over 180,000,000 marks. All union leaders who could be seized were taken into custody. Dr. Herbert Ley, president of the Prussian State Council, gave the following reason for the action against the free trade unions: "Marxism today is playing dead, but is not yet altogether abolished. It is therefore necessary to deprive it of its last strength." The New York Times noted that the action came one day after "the May Day wooing of German labor."
Theories of fascism
Fascism as Bonapartism
August Thalheimer (1884–1948) proposes a theory of fascism as a form of Bonapartism. Like Bonapartism, fascism represents a movement where the capitalist class abdicates its control over the state to save its economic position. Thalheimer argues that fascism, like Bonapartism, came to power after "an unsuccessful proletarian onslaught ended with the demoralization of the working class, while the bourgeoisie, exhausted, distraught and dispirited, cast around for a saviour to protect its social power."
Nazi Germany pursued policies unwanted by big businesses and the conservative elite which invited it to power. From this perspective, the capitalist class abdicates power to save itself and fail to anticipate the content of its rue. In that sense, fascist regimes are autonomous from the capitalist class. This is seen by proponents of this theory as proof of correctness.
Fascism as capitalism in decay
In Leninist theory, Fascism is often called Capitalism in Decay, as usually fascist movements spring from when Capitalism is not working well (See Weimar Germany). The quote where this idea is originally from Vladimir Lenin.
While not exactly the same theory, fascism has been described as "revenge of the petty-bourgeois", because of that it is "white men who feel entitled to sort of middle-management positions in society, and that when capitalism fails, and 'white maleness' doesn't get them what they were brought up to think it should get them, there's a violent lashing-out." This theory is not as a replacement, though, but as a companion idea to the idea of "capitalism in decay".
The Comintern's theories
The Comintern regarded fascism as a generic form of counter-revolution in all bourgeois parties. Consequently, they argued that fascism was not a larger threat than social-democrats, whom they regarded as 'social-fascists'. The Comintern abandoned this theory in 1933 when Hitler came to power.
After Hitler's rise to power in 1933, the Comintern began to define fascism with the most reactionary and terrorist elements of finance capital. By identifying fascism with one faction of the bourgeoisie or capital they opened up to collaboration with social-democrats and liberals to fight fascism, a broad popular front.
Falangism is a type of fascism, emphasizing a Catholic identity. It has features which make it resemble actual leftist syndicalism like that of the CNT or IWW, but only superficially. Both its Spanish and Italian variants preached class harmony and ended up getting coopted by Mussolini and Franco. Italian Falangism and Fascism are quite similar in practice. Spanish Falangism was led by José Antonio who sought to adapt the Italian Falange to Spain, who realized this movement could not attain power on its own but that a military coup would give power to generals and not ideologues like himself. In accordance with these predictions, Falangism was indeed coopted in both countries as it seemed destined to.
The Strasser Brothers, Gregor and Otto, were essentially Nazis that helped Hitler seize power, though their rhetoric was more "socialistic" than his and accordingly less trusted by big business, such as their calls for wealth redistribution. Regardless they still had almost all the hallmarks of the mainline Nazis, including antisemitism, the goal of establishing a fascist dictatorship, and efforts to smash the workers' movement while aiming for class collaboration. Economically, Strasserism was focused on establishing guilds similar to those in medieval times.
- ↑ The Five Stages of Fascism by Paxton
- ↑ Conservative economic programmes, Encyclopaedia Britannica, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/202210/fascism/219368/Conservative-economic-programs
- ↑ pp. 113-114
- ↑ http://sdonline.org/47/two-ways-of-looking-at-fascism/
- ↑ O'Shea, B., & Ghodsee, K. R. (2018, January 8). Red Hangover: Legacies of 20th Century Communism w/ Dr. Kristen R. Ghodsee [Podcast]. Revolutionary Left Radio. Retrieved May 9, 2021, from https://revolutionaryleftradio.libsyn.com/red-hangover-legacies-of-20th-century-communism-w-dr-kristen-r-ghodsee