Fascism, as a term and political concept, emerged after WWI during a period of global political and economic crisis as societies were undergoing transition in their economic base. The term itself comes from the Italian Partito Nazionale Fascista, the ruling party under Mussolini, but is also used to identify other governments and movements that emerged in the period after WWI, including Nazi Germany, Franco's Spain, and Imperial Japan.
Fascism emerged and seized power as a revolutionary political resolution to the problems of societies in the midst of instability and crisis caused by the transition from an agriculture-based economy and the feudal social and state structures that served and protected that economy. The early 20th century saw intense political battles in the transition to an industrial based economy.
In 1920s Germany, for example, the bourgeois democratic Weimar government, wracked by economic and political crisis, could not contain the revolutionary motion of both the communist and fascist elements. The communists were crushed as the ruling class threw its weight to the fascists. The fascist state tore up the old bourgeois democratic state and created a new German state that set out to conquer the world.
Many of the debates about and the many inaccurate definitions – such as the idea that fascism is a middle class movement – serve ruling class interests by obscuring fascism's true nature. At its core, fascism seeks to protect private property through the the unity of the state and the corporations and prevent a communist resolution to the crisis faced by society.
Many are confused about the class nature of fascism because fascism, in all instances, uses ideology to obscure its actual class base. Fascism appeals to a popular following through some combination of nationalism, racism, religious sectarianism, or similar methods. Nonetheless, its objective base remains the highest echelons of the capitalist class. Georgi Dimitrov, in his 1935 speech before the 7th Congress of the Communist International, "The United Front of the Working Class Against Fascism,” identified this class base of fascism as, "the most reactionary, most chauvinist and most imperialist elements of finance capital."
Today, fascism is arising under qualitatively different conditions. As the economy shifts from industrial to electronic production, the economic base of current bourgeois-democratic state-forms is eroding. We are facing nothing less than an attempt by the ruling class to wholly reshape the state and society to adapt to new economic conditions so that they can continue their rule.
No longer is the "most reactionary, most chauvinist, and most imperialist" section of the capitalist class the class base of fascism, but the entire bourgeoisie. The centralization and integration of the leading capitalist corporations and the global and fundamental nature of the current transition mean that the owning class shares a common interest in its objective need for a fascist resolution to this crisis.
Under today's qualitatively new conditions fascism represents the bourgeoisie's struggle to align the superstructure with the changing nature of private property relations. Fascism today seeks to facilitate a whole new world order based on private property without capitalism.
Against this, a new class – replaced by electronic means of production and excluded from the capitalist relation – is arising. Its position in society makes it objectively communist.
To crush the growing diverse and democratic social motion the ruling class needs most of all to control society. This is why the police are being militarized and expanded (and the military turned to policing), why surveillance is expanding and deepening, why ruling class agitation and propaganda call for attacks on the most vulnerable groups of workers.
There is no longer any economic base for a bourgeois-democratic solution. The instability and crisis caused by the transformation from one base to another call for a revolutionary resolution. The space for compromise between capitalists and workers is gone. The capitalist class needs private property in a new form and can win it only through fascism. The new class can only survive through communism, a cooperative society that does away with private property.
Fascism is not pre-ordained nor is it simply imposed. Whether the motion toward fascism is blocked or not depends upon the interplay of underlying economic conditions and the struggle between the developing social response and forces that seek to protect capital’s interests. Its success, failure or restriction depend upon the consciousness and organization of the forces that move to promote it, to compromise with it, or to oppose it – in particular the proletarian opposition.
Fascism is on the rise both here and around the world and its victory will mean even worse atrocities and violence than we have seen before. However, the answer to fascism is also growing. The popular demand for a government that supplies food and not police brutality, that provides health care and not deportations, and that builds houses instead of destroying them, is the ground on which, not simply an anti-fascist, but a genuinely revolutionary movement can emerge. With the erosion of the base of bourgeois democracy, it is these demands and the people who make them who can prevent fascism.
Fighting for the program of the class of dispossessed is the fight against fascism. In this fight the class will learn class consciousness and the need for its own independent political party. The urgency of the situation is clear. The future depends upon us
This Building Block article is one of a series which explains a basic concept of the revolutionary process, challenging readers to explore its meaning for political work in today's environment.
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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