Fascism and Social-Fascism
Report by O.W. Kuusinen
From 13th Plenum of ECCI
“We are revolutionary Marxist-Leninists and we always start out from a correct scientific analysis of the economic and political situation and of the tendencies of its development. We repudiate all subjectivism and its arbitrariness in appraising the objective situation.”
“If we, as Marxists, repudiate subjectivism, it is not because we regard ourselves as the slaves of objective development. No, we regard ourselves as the active revolutionary instrument of history for accelerating the victory of the proletariat.”
The fact that fascism has been victorious in a country like Germany where the labor movement was so powerful, makes it absolutely necessary for all the section of the Communist International to concentrate their attention more than ever on the fascist movement and on the fight against it.
The Class Character of Fascism
The first thing that is required in the connection is the ability to appreciate properly the class character of fascism. The question of the character of fascism must not be confused with the question of the class composition of the fascist mass movement. As is known the class composition of the movement is very mixed. Relying on the capitalists farmers, fascism appeal to the peasantry which is in bondage to the landlord and to big capital, is bound by debt, oppressed by taxation, and suffer from the agrarian crisis. Fascism appeals to the artisan, to the handicraftsman, to the small shopkeeper and to the small rentier who suffer from monopoly, the shrinking of market the big banks inflation and the burden of taxation. Fascism seeks for itself a mass basis among office employee the minor government official and the petty bourgeois intelligentsia who suffer from salary reductions, mass dismissals, and mass displacement in the rate apparatus. But fascism also tries to penetrate the working class and find some response among that section of the unemployed which has fallen into despair and which has been long divorced from industry, and among the more backward sections of the worker who have not yet awakened to class consciousness. Moreover, in recent times a hole declassed stratum of the petty bourgeoisie has arisen in capitalist towns, such as ex-officer, unemployed ‘intellectuals,” etc. (a completely new lumpen stratum). Fascism utilize these too.
It goes without saying that the mixed composition of the fascist movement is an important question from the point of view of our struggle against fascism, from the point of view of the prospects of the disintegration of the fascist movement. But the social composition of this movement does not in the least solve the problem of the class character of fascism. The decisive thing is: what class policy does it pursue? Which class does it serve?
In Germany, the fascists claim to be ” socialists” but their “socialism” in reality turned out to be the most predatory type of monopoly capital. The policy of fascism is the policy of the big bourgeoisie. Fascist rule as our theses say, is the “open, terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, the most chauvinist and most imperialist elements of finance capital.” This is clearly seen in all countries where the fascist are in power. The deeds of the ruling fascists are such that even the very stones cry out about the class character of fascism in Italy, Germany, Poland, Finland, Austria, Yugoslavia, etc.
But it is precisely this fundamental fact that is distorted by the Social-Democrats and their hangers-on. Otto Bauer insists on depicting German fascism as “non-class” rule, or as “the dictatorship of the lumpen proletariat,” which, he alleges, dominates the proletariat and the bourgeoisie as “de-franchised subjects.” And Trotsky and Thalheimer insist on depicting fascism as Bonapartism or petty bourgeois counter-revolution. Why do they insist on that? Because it is important for them, as for all social-fascists, to distract the attention of the workers from the fight against the ruling bourgeoisie, whom they serve. It is extremely noteworthy that the same thing was repeated by Remmele when he was a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany at the time of the fascist coup. “The whole bourgeoisie is subordinated to the lumpen proletariat,” he said in the voice of Otto Bauer, and by that revealed the close political connection that exists between his Right Wing opportunism and Social-Democracy. Another warning example: the Komunirticlw Review, the theoretical organ of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, approved the definition of fascism given by the “Left” Social-Democrat Cechacek, viz., “the revolt of the petty bourgeoisie indicates the complete isolation of the urban bourgeoisie and big capital.” This simply means the complete isolation, not only of the Social-Dem crat Cechacek, but also of the theoretical organ of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia from Marxism in regard to the definition of the class character of fascism. It is high time that the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia isolated the editor from the theoretical organ of the Party.
Can Fascism Stabilize Entire Tottering Position of the Bourgeoisie?
The second general question that is raised in the these that we have submitted is the appraisal of the objective consequence of the policy of fascism. Unquestionably, fascism is the instrument of black reaction. It is precisely as such that it is used by the bourgeoisie to save capitalism from collapse. Whether it can save capitalism is another question entirely. It is not true to say that capitalism has managed to stabilize its position with the aid of fascism as many Social-Democrats assert. This is what the world bourgeoisie wants to do; this is the aim of its policy of fascization; but the results are altogether different. It is not true to say simply, that fascism hinders revolutionary development. We say that revolutionary development is simultaneously hindered and accelerated by the fascist fury of the bourgeoisie. This dual character of the objective consequences of the policy of fascism must be understood, otherwise it will not be possible to see the perspective clearly.
The reason why the social-fascists see only one side of the problem is quite clear. They can expect nothing good from the revolutionary perspective; on the contrary, they fear it ever so much more than “total” fascism. They try to scare the workers of Germany with the bogey of the “Italian perspective.” But the times now are altogether different from what they were when fascism came into power in Italy. That was the period of transition from revolutionary crisis to the relative stabilization of capitalism, whereas German national-socialism came into power in the period of transition from the end of capitalist stabilization to the revolutionary crisis. “This change in the objective situation”-we emphasize in our theses-“determines altogether different perspective for fascism in Germany, as well as in other lands of fascist dictatorship.”
Amidst the conditions of tottering capitalism, even the fascist terror of the bourgeoisie cannot for long restrain the mases of the worker from decisive action. The terror rouses anger even among the majority of those workers who up till now have followed the Social-Democrats, and if only the Communists are able to approach these workers properly it will be much less difficult than formerly to win them over to the side of revolution. Even fascist demagogy can now have a twofold effect. It can, in spite of the fascist, help us to free the masses of the toilers from the illusion of parliamentary democracy and peaceful evolution; and the other bait that the fascists use in place of these illusion (small private property, national interest) can be exposed by showing what the ruling fascist do for the benefit of the class interest of the big bourgeoisie and the land-lord·. When the big bourgeoisie tries to convert the peasantry and the urban petty bourgeoisie into a reliable prop for themselves, they accelerate the process of differentiation among those intermediary lasses even where the bulk of the masses of the e exploited classes, fascist rule quickly creates the soil for winning them over to the side of the revolutionary proletariat.
The growth of fascism means that “the capitalists are no longer able to maintain their dictatorship by the old methods of parliamentarism and by bourgeois democracy generally; moreover, the methods of parliamentarism and bourgeois democracy generally are becoming a hindrance to the capitalists in their home politics (the fight against the proletariat) as well as in their foreign politics (war for the imperialist redistribution of the world).” (Theses.) This does not exclude the possibility’ that, under certain condition, the fascist dictatorship will be able to utilize the form of curtailed parliamentarism, a is the case for example, in Poland and Finland. But the more difficult the position of the bourgeois becomes, the most fascism strive to eliminate the parliamentary competition of many bourgeois parties and substitute for it the political monopoly of а single party.
This cannot but serve to increase the discord and conflicts among the bourgeois parties particularly between the fascists and social-fascist. It is wrong to imagine that there can be no real disagreement between them. Disagreements exist and new ones continuously arise on the basis of the inherent contradiction in the position of the bourgeoisie. These disagreements are not disagreement of principle, as both the one and the other stand for the bourgeois dictatorship. In spite of all their disagreements the fascist and social-fascists are, and remain, twins as Comrade Stalin remarked. Our appraisal of the revolutionary perspective is not based on their mutual quarrels;
it is based on the inevitable intensification of the fundamental internal and external contradictions of capitalism and primarily, on the firm conviction that the revolutionary forces of the proletariat will grow.
There are no disagreements between the fascists and social-fascist as far as the necessity for the further fascization of the bourgeois dictatorship is concerned. The Social-Democrats are in favor of fascization, provided the parliamentary form is preserved. “Our goal is the same, our methods are different,”. Tanner, one of the typical representatives of social-fascism, chairman of the Finnish Social-Democratic Party and of the International Co-operative Alliance, told the fascists. And the loyal servant of capitalism told the truth. What is worrying these people is that in their furious zeal the fascists may hasten the doom of capitalism.
The Fascization of Social-Democracy
The fascization of Social-Democracy is proceeding at an accelerated pace. This does not mean the formation of “neo-socialist” groups in the Social-Democratic Parties. For example, social-fascism as a whole praises the new, and what, in fact, are fascist forms of the economic policy of the big bourgeoisie and describes them a “rudiment of socialism.” Blum and Vandervelde have described the economic policy now pursued by Hitler and Mussolini as “socialism without the socialist.” The social-fascists rightly complain that the fascists have stolen their program; but the fascists would be equally right in complaining that the social-fascists have appropriated their ideology.
In the wake of the fascists, the social-fascists of all brands stand for a “strong government.” Many of them reproach the German Severings and Zorgiebels with not having ruled with a sufficiently firm hand. At the Congress of the Socialist Party of France held in July 1933, Montagnon demanded “a reform of the state that will make it a strong state, master of its own destiny, capable of controlling and conducting economy.” Montagnon is a neo-socialist, but let us see what another social-fascist has to say in giving advice to Social-Democratic workers:
“Everybody admits that in the present conditions a ‘strong government’ is necessary. Compel your party to start a real struggle for a strong democratic government …. We would honestly help you in the struggle for such a government. Moreover, we would pledge ourselves not to undertake any revolutionary action that would go beyond the limits of democracy.”
This is what Trotsky, the counter-revolutionary lackey of the bourgeoisie, writes. In principle, there is no difference between the position taken up by Trotsky and that of the neo-fascist Montagnon and the question of a strong government. And Kautsky openly declares that the reproaches hurled against the leaders of the German Social-Democracy that they did not establish a dictatorship in 1918 are unjustified, because write Kautsky, “such a terror would have to be directed primarily against the Communists,” Hence, if a dictatorship were established, it would have to be directed against the Communists.
As a matter of fact, the German Social-Democrats did use terror against the Communists, and they even threatened the fascists that they would “rule with a firm hand.” Everyone remembers the threats uttered by Weis at the Magdeburg Social-Democratic Party Congress to use dictatorial powers against the national-Socialists and against the Communists. On June 28, 1929, Grzsinski declared in Frankfurt: “The German working class will really hang on the lamp-posts those who attempt to encroach upon the political rights of the German working class by violence and establish their rule at the expense of the people.” Loebe, in the name of the “Iron Front,” threatened to organize a general strike against fascism; but in May 17 he voted for Hitler.
The slogan, “a strong government,” against the revolutionary workers, of course, and not against fascism, was borrowed by the whole of the second International from Weis, from the neo-fascists and from the fascists.
But it is not only a matter of the fascization of the ideology the theories and the slogan of the Social-Democratic Parties. Look at their deeds.
In Czechoslovakia and in Spain, the social-Democrats took part in the government and in the preparation for establishing a fascist dictatorship. In Denmark and in Sweden, the Social-Democrat are in power and are proceeding along the same road. In Austria, Poland, Finland and Hungary, the social-Democratic Parties exist legally under the fascist dictatorship. In these countries they are the obedient opposition of His Majesty, Fascism. In Japan they come out openly in favor of war and of the monarchy.
In the United States, the Socialists and the American Federation of Labor are helping Roosevelt to carry out what, in fact, are fascist ‘ economic measures. In England, the Labor Party produced open allies of the diehards, viz., the national-Laborites on the one hand and Moseley’s fascist group on the other. The future will see the rise of numerous groups of this kind.
The Italian socialist Modigliani, and even the ‘Left” Nenni, declared at their Congress that they are prepared to return to Tuily a legal Opposition at Mussolini’s first call. And the German social-Democrat Breitchcid wrote a letter to Neurath stating that all he will fighting for was the rights of a legal Opposition. And ‘Wels and Breitchcid openly declare that the talk of social-Democracy in Germany is to prevent the fascist dictatorship from being unplanted by proletarian dictatorship.
The Crime in the Second International
The coming into power of Hitler in Germany marks the beginning of a new stage in the development of the crisis in the second international. The defeat of Social-Democracy and the whole of Social-Democratic ideology, policy, and tactics was revealed precisely in the country where the strongest party of the second International existed. The defeat of the German Social-Democratic Party caused great consternation in the ranks of the Second International. Attack began to be hurled at the leadership of the German Social-Democracy; there is mutual recrimination among the social-fascist leaders and ferment in the rank of the Social-Democratic workers. This consternation manifested itself at the Brussel Congress of the trade union bureaucrats, and at the Paris Conference of the social-fascist functionaries. And they have not quite got over it yet.
Very soon, however, the Social-Democratic leaders began to whitewash the German Social-Democrats. At the Paris Congress they defended Weis and the German social-Democratic Party. Bauer hastened to draw up a thesis of the historical inevitability of the victory of fascism in Germany; Kautsky and Old berg declared that “cultured” social-Democracy had to suffer defeat at the hands of uncultured fascism.
“Left” social-fascists, such as Adler, Fenner Brockway and also the Menshevik lackey of the bourgeoisie, Trotsky, hastened to the assistance of Wels, Vandervelde and Blum. Trotsky came forward as the principal purveyor of arguments for saving social-fascism. This traitor to Communism published monstrous lander against the Communist Party of Germany to the effect that the latter was responsible for the victory of the National-Socialists, and that it be-trayed the German proletariat. And at a time when the German Communists are waging a heroic struggle, are fighting with heroic self-sacrifice against fascism, the traitor Trotsky dare to declare that the Communist Party of Germany is dead!
The attempt to whitewash German Social-Democracy is accompanied by “Left” maneuvers. The German social-fascists are shouting about a revolution against Hitler. The Austrian, Norway and Switzerland, the Social-Democratic Parties, even after the world historical bankruptcy of the Second International in Germany, won election victories. This does not mitigate the crisis in the second International, it is true. In France, for example, the Socialist Party split up into three parts after a big electoral success. But it does mean that the Communists must exert all efforts to destroy the mass influence of the Social-Democratic Parties.
“Fascism is the dangerous enemy of the proletariat. It can be defeated only in fierce revolutionary battle.” This is how our theses emphasize this point. It is not true to say that the victory of fascism is an inevitable stage preceding the proletarian revolution in all capitalist countries. But the stronger the mass influence of Social Democracy is, the more dangerous is fascism. Hence, the successful struggle against fascism, as against war, calls for intensified work on the part of all sections of the Communist International to win the workers away from the influence of the social-Democratic Panic·.