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Palme Dutt

WHAT is Fascism?

In the first three chapters of this book attention has been deliberately concentrated on the developing tendencies of modern capitalist society as a whole since the wax, in place of limiting attention to the distinctively "Fascist" countriesItaly, Germany, etc.

Such a survey has revealed how close is the parallel which can be traced in every field, economic, political and ideological, between the increasingly dominant tendencies of theory and practice of all modern capitalism since the war and the professedly peculiar theory and practice of Fascism.

Fascism, in fact, is no peculiar, independent doctrine and system arising in opposition to existing capitalist society. Fascism, on the contrary, is the most complete and consistent working out, in certain conditions of extreme decay, of the most typical tendencies and policies of modem capitalism.

What are these characteristics which are common, subject to a difference in degree, to all modern capitalism and to Fascism? The most outstanding of these characteristics may be summarized as follows:

I. The basic aim of the maintenance of capitalism in the face of the revolution which the advance of productive technique and of class antagonisms threatens.

2. The consequent intensification of the capitalist dictatorship

3. The limitation and repression of the independent working-class movement, and building up of a system of organised class co- operation.

4. The revolt against, and increasing supersession of, parliamentary democracy.

5. The extending State monopolist organisation of industry and finance.

6. The closer concentration of each imperialist bloc into a single economic-political unit. Œ

7. The advance to war as the necessary accompaniment of the increasing imperialist antagonisms. All these characteristics are typical, in greater or lesser degree, of all modem capitalist states, no less than of the specifically Fascist states. In this wider sense it is possible to speak of the development towards Fascism of all modern capitalist states. The examples of the Roosevelt and Bruning regimes offer particular illustrations of near- Fascist or pre-Fascist stages of development towards complete Fascism within the shell of the old forms. Nor is it necessarily the case that the development to Fascism takes the same form in detail in each country. The sum-total of the policies of modern capitalism provide already in essence and in germ the sum-total of the policies of Fascism. But they are not yet complete Fascism. The completed Fascist dictatorship is still only so far realised over a limited area. What is the specific character of complete Fascism? 

The specific character of complete Fascism lies in the means adopted towards the realisation of these policies, in the new social and political mechanism built tip for their realisation. This is the specific or narrower significance of Fascism in the sense of the Fascist movements or the completed Fascist dictatorships as realised in Italy, Germany and other countries. Fascism in this specific or narrower sense is marked by definite familiar characteristics: in the case of the Fascist movements, by the characteristics of terrorism, extra-legal fighting formations, anti-parliamentarism, national and social demagogy, etc.; in the case of the completed Fascist dictatorships, by the suppression of all other parties and organisations, and in particular the violent suppression of all independent working-class organisation, the reign of terror, the "totalitarian" state, etc. It is to this specific sense of Fascism, that is to say, to fully complete Fascism, that we now need to come. 

I. The Class-Content of Fascism. 

What, then, is Fascism in this specific or narrower sense? The definitions of Fascism abound, and are marked by the greatest diversity and even contradictory character, despite the identity of the concrete reality which it is attempted to describe. 

Fascism, in the view of the Fascists themselves, is a spiritual reality. It is described by them in terms of ideology. It represents the principle of "duty," of "order," of "authority," of "the State," of "the nation," of "history," etc. Mussolini finds the essence of Fascism in the conception of the "State": 
The foundation of Fascism is the conception of the State, its character, its duty and its aim. Fascism conceives of the State as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative. . . . Whoever says Fascism implies the State. (Mussolini's article on "Fascism" in the Enciclopedia Italiana, 1932, published in English under the title "The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism," 1933.)
We further learn that "Fascism believes in holiness and in heroism"; "the Fascist conceives of life as duty and struggle and conquest, life which should be high and full, lived for oneself, but above all for others"; "Fascism combats the whole complex system of democratic ideology"; "Fascism believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace"; "the Fascist State is an embodied will to power"; "the Fascist State is not indifferent to the fact of religion"; "for Fascism the growth of Empire is an essential manifestation of virility"; "Fascism denies the materialist conception of happiness as a possibility"-and similar profound, and hardly very original philosophisings in an endless string, the ordinary stock-in-trade of all Conservatism. 

Luigi Villari, the semi-official exponent of Fascism in the Encyclopaedia. Britannica, writes: 

The programme of the Fascists differs from that of other parties, as it represents for its members not only a rule of political conduct, but also a moral code. Mosley in his Greater Britain, the official handbook of British Fascism, explains:

The movement is Fascist (I) because it is based on a high conception of citizenship-ideals as lofty as those which inspired the reformers of a hundred years ago;
(2) because it recognises the necessity for an authoritative State, above party and sectional interests.
The Fascist, the organ of the Imperial Fascist League, defines Fascism (in its issue of August 1933): 
Fascism is defined as a patriotic revolt against democracy, and a return to statesmanship. Fascist rule insists upon the duty of co- operation. 

Fascism itself is less a policy than a state of mind. It is the national observance of duty towards others.
It is manifest that all this verbiage is very little use to bring out the real essential character of Fascism. 

In the first place, all these abstract general conceptions which are paraded as the peculiar outlook of Fascism have no distinctive character whatever, but are common to a thousand schools of bourgeois political philosophy, which are not yet Fascist, and in particular to all national-conservative schools. The generalisations of "duty of co-operation," "duty towards others ... .. life as duty and struggle," "a high conception of citizenship," "the State above classes," "the common interest before self" (motto of the German National Socialist Programme), are the dreary commonplaces of all bourgeois politicians and petty moralisers to cover the realities of class domination and class-exploitation. The professedly distinctive philosophy of the idealisation of the State as an "absolute end" transcending all individuals and sections is only the vulgarisation of the whole school of Hegel and his successors, constituting the foundation of the dominant school of bourgeois political philosophy. In all these conceptions there is not a trace of original or distinctive thought. 

In the second place, it is in fact incorrect to look for an explanation of Fascism in terms of a particular theory, in ideological terms. Fascism, as its leaders are frequently fond of insisting, developed as a movement in practice without a theory ("In the now distant March of 1919," says Mussolini in his encyclopaedia article, "since the creation of the Fascist Revolutionary Party, which took place in the January of 1915, I had no specific doctrinal attitude in my mind"), and only later endeavoured to invent a theory in order to justify its existence. Fascism, in fact, developed as a movement in practice, in the conditions of threatening proletarian revolution, as a counter- revolutionary mass movement supported by the bourgeoisie, employing weapons of mixed social demagogy and terrorism to defeat the revolution and build up a strengthened capitalist state dictatorship; and only later endeavoured to adorn and rationalise this process with a "theory." It is in this actual historical process that the reality of Fascism must be found, and not in the secondary derivative attempts post festum at adornment with a theory. 

No less unsatisfactory are the attempted anti-Fascist interpretations of Fascism in terms of ideology or abstract political conceptions. The conventional anti-Fascist ideological interpretations of Fascism see in Fascism only the principle of "dictatorship" or "violence." This approach, which is the hallmark of the liberal and social democratic schools of thought in relation to Fascism, sees Fascism as the parallel extreme to Communism, both being counterposed to bourgeois "democracy." Fascism is defined as "Dictatorship from the Right" in contrast to Communism as "Dictatorship from the Left" (this line is characteristically expressed in the Labour Party Manifesto of March Œ 1933, on "Democracy versus Dictatorship" in explanation of the Labour refusal of the united working-class front against Fascism). 

It is evident that this definition of Fascism is equally useless as an explanation of the real essential character of Fascism. "Dictatorships from the Right" have existed and can exist in hundreds of forms without in any sense constituting Fascism. Tsarism was a "Dictatorship from the Right." But Tsarism was not Fascism. The White Guard dictatorships immediately after the war for crushing the revolution were "Dictatorships from the Right." But these White Guard dictatorships were not yet Fascism, and only subsequently began to develop Fascist characteristics as they began to try to organise a more permanent basis (subsequent evolution in Hungary and Finland). Fascism may be in fact a reactionary dictatorship. But not every reactionary dictatorship is Fascism. The specific character of Fascism has still to be defined. 

Wherein, then, lies the specific character of Fascism? 

The specific character of Fascism cannot be defined in terms of abstract ideology or political first principles. The specific character of Fascism can only be defined by laying bare its class-basis, the system of class-relations within which it develops and functions, and the class-role which it performs. Only so can Fascism be seen in its concrete reality, corresponding to a given historical stage of capitalist development and decay. 

As soon, however, as we endeavour to come to the class analysis of Fascism we find ourselves confronted with a diametrical opposition of two viewpoints

In the one viewpoint Fascism is presented as an independent movement of the middle class or petit-bourgeoisie in opposition to both the proletariat and to large-scale capital. 

In the other viewpoint Fascism is presented as a weapon of finance- capital, utilising the support of the middle class, of the slum proletariat and of demoralised working-class elements against the organised working class, but throughout acting as the instrument and effective representative of the interests of finance-capital. 

Only when we have cleared this opposition, and what lies behind it, can we finally come to the real definition of Fascism.

2. Middle-Class Revolution or Dictatorship of Finance-Capital? 

Fascism is commonly presented as a "middle-class" (i.e., petit- bourgeois) movement. 

There is an obvious measure of truth in this in the sense that Fascism in its inception commonly originates from middle-class (petit- bourgeois) elements, directs a great deal of its appeal to the middle class, to small business and the professional classes against the organised working class and the trusts and big finance, draws a great Œ part of its composition, and especially its leadership, from the middle class, and is soaked through with the ideology of the middle class, of the petit-bourgeoisie under conditions of crisis. So far, there is common agreement as to the obvious facts. 

But Fascism is also often presented as a middle-class movement in the sense of an independent movement of the middle class, as a "third party" independent of capital or labour, in opposition to both the organised working class and large-scale capital. The Fascist dictatorship is accordingly presented as a "conquest of power" by the middle class in opposition to both the organised working class and to the previous domination of finance-capital. 

This conception is common in liberal and social democratic treatment of Fascism. 

Thus the liberal-labour New Statesman and Nation writes (October 28, 1933): 
The collapse of capitalism does not at all necessarily lead to the seizure of power by the proletarians, but more probably to the dictatorship of the middle class. This is surely the Achilles heel of Communist theory. 
Brailsford, the leading theorist of English Social Democracy, writes: 
If the Marxist conception of history be sound, somewhere surely on the surface of this stricken planet the increasing misery of the workers should have produced some aggressive stirring. That is nowhere the case. 

There is, however, an aggressive class which has made in one great industrial country its revolutionary stroke. The German Nazis are emphatically the party of the small middle class. . . . This class rose and captured the machinery of the State, because it was "miserable" and desperate. It shrank in terror from the menace of large-scale commerce (H. N. Brailsford, "No Hands Wanted," New Clarion, July 8, 1933.) 
And again: 
A militant middle class, with its dare-devil younger generation to lead it, faces the organised workers. If on both sides there has developed a distrust in parliamentary procedure, and a contempt for its dilatory and irresolute ways, the issue between them can be decided only by force. The class which first decides to organise itself for this new phase will enter the contest with an overwhelming advantage(H. N. Brailsford, "Will England Go Fascist?" NewsChronicle, November 28, 1933.)
The Socialist Review in January 1929 published an article entitled "The Third Nation," arguing that "the assumption at the root of all Communist theory" of a basic division between the capitalists and the Œ proletariat as the decisive issue of modern society was false: 

Apart from the capitalists and the proletariat-and between them - there is a third class. Here, then, is the fundamental question for Marxists: Does this class exhibit the characteristics of a subject class, about to make a bid for supremacy? 

A possible answer is that, in one country-Italy-they have already emerged as a revolutionary class. The Fascist revolution was essentially a revolution of the third class. 

The American would-be "Marxist" journal, the Modern Monthly, says in an editorial on "What is Fascism?": 
The first task of the Fascist dictatorship was to wrest state power from the hands of the private bankers, industrialists and landlords who possessed it.
 . . The Fascist dictatorship, it is clear, then, became possible only because of the two factors above noted: first, the crisis in imperialism and the consequent collapse of ruling-class power and policy, and, secondly the rise of a belligerent lower middle-class which provided a mass basis for its assumption of power. (V. F. Calverton in the Modern Monthly, July, 1933.)
Even Scott Nearing's otherwise fruitful and valuable study of "Fascism" is marred by this same basic theory of Fascism as a petit- bourgeois revolution:
 At the centre of the Fascist movement is the middle class, seeking to save itself from decimation or annihilation by seizing power and establishing its own political and social institutions. It therefore has the essential characteristics of a social revolutionary movement, since its success means the shift of the centre of power from one class to another. Fascism arises out of the revolt of the middle class against the intolerable burdens of capitalist imperialism. (Scott Nearing, "Fascism," Vanguard Press, New York,P.42.)
This separation of Fascism from the bourgeois dictatorship reaches its extreme point in the official Labour Party and Trades Union Congress organ, the Daily Herald, which, on May 2, 1933, after the full demonstration of the real character of Hitlerism in practice, still looked hopefully towards it to carry out some form of "socialist" programme against big capital:
The "National-Socialists," it is essential to remember, call themselves "Socialist" as well as "National." Their "Socialism" is not the Socialism of the Labour Party, or that of any recognised Socialist Party in other countries.
But in many ways it is a creed that is anathema to the big landlords, Πthe big industrialists and the big financiers. And the Nazi leaders are bound to go forward with the "Socialist" side of their programme. (Daily Herald editorial on "Hitler's May Day," May 2, 1933.)
Thus Fascism in the view of the Labour Party is almost a wing of Socialism, a rather unorthodox variety of Socialism, but "anathema to the big landlords, the big industrialists and the big financiers" (who, curiously enough, maintained it in funds and finally placed it in power). The same day that this article appeared in the British Labour and trade union organ, this party whose creed was "anathema to the big landlords, the big industrialists and the big financiers" seized and closed down the workers' trade unions in Germany. 

It is evident that this view of Fascism as a petit-bourgeois revolution against the big bourgeoisie is incorrect in fact, and dangerous in the extreme to any serious understanding of the real character of Fascism and of the fight against it. 

That it is incorrect in fact is manifest from the most elementary survey of the actual history, development, basis and practice of Fascism. The open and avowed supporters of Fascism in every country are the representatives of big capital, the Thyssens, Krupps, Monds, Deterdings and Owen Youngs. 

Fascism, although in the early stages making a show of vague and patently disingenuous anti-capitalist propaganda to attract mass- support, is from the outset fostered, nourished, maintained and subsidised by the big bourgeoisie, by the big landlords, financiers and industrialists.* 

*See Mowrer, Germany Puts the Clock Back, 1933, P. I 17, for a characteristic report of a private conversation of a leading Jewish banker in Berlin who "to a somewhat bewildered gathering in a drawing-room in plutocratic Berlin unctuously explained how for years he had been a heavy subsidiser of the National Socialists." Ile financial backing of Hitler by big industry was already laid bare in the HitlerLudendorff trial of 1924 and in the Bavarian Diet Investigation Committee. "In later years the list of the alleged financial patrons of the National Socialist Movement became extremely long. Factory owners, managers, general Πcounsel (syndici) were as thick as they might be on the subscription list of the Republican National Committee in the United States" (Mowrer, p. 144). Foreign supporters were stated to include Deterding, Kreuger and Ford. Paul Faure stated in the French Chamber of Deputies on February 11, 1932, that the foreign financial backers of the Nazis included the directors of the Skoda armaments firm, controlled by Schneider-Creusot. The reader should consult Ernst Henri's Hitler Over Europe (1934) for the most detailed examination of the financial backing and control of National Socialism since 1927 by the Ruhr Steel Trust elements dominated by Thyssen: "Thyssen persuaded the two political centres of German Ruhr capital, the 'Bergbauverein Essen' and the 'Nordwestgruppe der Eisen-und Stahlindustrie' to agree that every coal and steel concern had, by way of a particular obligatory tax, to deliver a certain sum into the election funds of the National Socialists. In order to raise this money, the price of coal was raised in Germany. For the Presidential elections of 1932 alone Thyssen provided the Nazis with more than 3 million marks within a few days. Without this help the fantastic measures resorted to by the Hitler agitation in the years 1930-1(33 would never have been possible" (pp. 11-12). For the general policy, see the statement of the Deutsche Fiihrerbriefe, or confidential bulletin of the Federation of German Industries, quoted in the next chapter.

Further, Fascism is only enabled to grow, and is saved from being wiped out in the early stages by the working-class movement, solely through the direct protection of the bourgeois dictatorship. Fascism is able to count on the assistance of the greater part of the State forces, of the higher army staffs, of the police authorities, and of the lawcourts and magistracy, who exert all their force to crush working-class opposition, while treating Fascist illegality with open connivance (banning of the Red Front alongside permission of the Storm Troops).*

* For the protection of Fascism by the lawcourts and police, and savage vindictiveness against all working-class defence, see Mowrer, op. cit., Ch. xviii. For the same process in Italy, see Salvemini, The Fascist Dictatorship, Vol. 1. Salvemini relat es (P. 71 how in 1920 the Liberal Giolitti Cabinet, with Bonomi, the Reformist Socialist, as Minister for War, "thought that the Fascist offensive might be utilised to break the strength of the Socialists and Communists" and "therefore allowed the chiefs of the Army to equip the Fascists with rifles and lorries and authorised retired officers and officers-on-leave to command them." The "March on Rome" was led by six Army Generals (P. 153). The pro-Fascist Survey of Fascism, 1928, admits that Fascism in Italy grew up "not without a certain toleration and even some assistance from high quarters" (P. 38). Mowrer confesses himself unable to understand why the pre-Fascist governments in Germany tolerated the growth of Fascism. "It is inconceivable that any German Chancellor, even a clerical militarist like Heinrich Bruning, should have allowed the constitution and training of such a force, armed or unarmed. Why he did so has never been satisfactorily settled-perhaps never will be" (p. 277). There is no mystery, no more with Bruning than with Giolitti, once the class realities of bourgeois policy and Fascism are clearly understood. In Germany, the officers who led the Kapp Putsch were never sentenced; a worker who shot a Kapp rebel was sentenced to fifteen years hard labour. Hitler, for his armed revolt against the State in 1923, was given a light sentence of detention, and released in a few months. The beginnings of the same process of discrimination by the lawcourts, with leniency to the early hooliganism of the nascent Fascist movements and savage sentencing of workers' attempts at self-defence, are already visible in Britain.

 Finally, has Fascism "conquered power" from the bourgeois state dictatorship? Fascism has never "conquered power" in any country. In every case Fascism has been placed in power from above by the bourgeois dictatorship. 

In Italy Fascism was placed in power by the King, who refused to sign the decree of martial law against it, and invited Mussolini to power; Mussolini's legendary Œ "March on Rome" took place in a Wagon-Lit sleeping-car. 

In Germany Fascism was placed in power by the President, at a time when it was heavily sinking in support in the country, as shown by the elections. The bourgeoisie, in fact, has in practice passed power from one hand to the other, and called it a "revolution," while the only reality has been the intensified oppression of the working class. After the establishment of the full Fascist dictatorship, the policy has been still more openly and completely, despite a show of a few gestures of assistance to small capital, the most unlimited and ruthless policy of monopolist capital, with the whole machinery of Fascism mercilessly turned against those of its former supporters who have been innocent enough to expect some anti- capitalist action and called for a "second revolution." *

Fascism, in short, is a movement of mixed elements, dominantly petit-bourgeois, but also slum-proletarian and demoralised working class, financed and directed by finance capital, by the big industrialists, landlords and financiers, to defeat the working-class revolution and smash the working class organisations.

* The argument sometimes put forward that the elimination of Hugenberg from the Nazi- National Government represented a breach between the Nazis and Big Capital, and the defeat of the latter, is a childishly superficial attempt to substitute the fate of an individual for the really decisive social forces. Hugenberg was removed from the Nazi-National Government, not because he was a big capitalist, but because he was the leader of the National Party, and the completed Fascist system cannot tolerate the existence of two parties. Certainly, this reflects an undoubted and sharp division within the bourgeoisie, between the alternative methods of maintaining bourgeois rule, between the old traditional National Party mechanism and the new Nazi Party mechanism, to the necessity of which a great part of the bourgeoisie have only reconciled themselves with many misgivings and much anxiety for the future. But the Nazi method remains a method, although a hazardous one, of maintaining the rule of finance-capital. Financecapital remains supreme, as was abundantly shown by the composition of the Provisional Supreme Economic Council appointed under the aegis of the Nazi Government. Its leading members included;

Herr Krupp von Bohlen, armaments king; private fortune, L6,000,000; capital represented, L15,000,000. Herr Fritz Thyssen, steel king; private fortune L6,000,000; capital interests German Steel Trust, 1140,000,000. Herr F. C. Von Siemens, electrical king; private fortune, L6,500,000; capital represented, 112,500,000. ΠProf. Karl Bosch, Dye Trust millionaire; private fortune, 12,000,000; capital represented, 155,000,000. Dr.A. Vogler, German Steel Trust; private fortune, L6,000,000; capital represented, L40,000,000. Herr A. Diehn, director Potash Syndicate; capital represented, L10,000,000. Herr Bochinger, director Maximilian Steel Works; capital, L15,000,000. Herr F. von Schroeder, banker. Herr A. von Finck, banker. Herr F. Reinhart, banker.

This glittering galaxy of the leaders of German finance-capital is sufficient proof of the relations of the Nazis and finance-capital. The subsequent further reorganisation of German industry, announced in March 1934, in twelve industrial groups, under the control of the principal large capitalists in each group, and under the general leadership, for heavy industry and also for industry as a whole, of Herr Krupp von Bohlen, has still more conspicuously illustrated this process of systematisation of Nazi rule as the most complete and even statutory domination of Monopoly Capital.

3. The Middle Class and the Proletariat.

This question of the role of the middle class or petit bourgeoisie, in relation to the working class and to the big bourgeoisie, is so important for the whole dynamic of present capitalist society and the social revolution, that it deserves fuller clearing.

The controversy over the role of the middle class, or many and varied intermediate strata between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat (small business men, small and middle peasantry, handicraftsmen, independent workers, small rentiers, liberal professions, technical, managerial and commercial employees) is no new one. In the nineteenth century Marx had dealt very fully with the economic and political situation and tendencies of these elements. He had shown how these middle elements were increasingly ground between the advance of large capital and of the proletariat, with growing numbers from their ranks falling into proletarian or semi-proletarian conditions; he had shown their vacillating and unstable political role, now siding with the bourgeoisie and now with the proletariat, torn between their bourgeois prejudices, traditions and aspirations, and the actual process Πof ruination and proletarisation at work among them; and he had shown how the proletariat should win the alliance of the lower strata of the peasantry and urban petit-bourgeoisie under its leadership in order to conquer power.

In the beginning of the imperialist era the question of the middle class was anew raised sharply to the forefront by Bernstein and the Revisionists in the last years of the nineteenth century and the first years of the twentieth. The Revisionists challenged Marx's teaching of the increasing proletarisation of the middle strata and consequent increasing sharpness of the issue between capitalism and the proletariat. On the contrary, they argued that the middle class was growing, and pointed to the figures of income returns, property returns and shareholding, to prove the growth of the middle class. On this basis they denied Marx's revolutionary teaching, saw instead the increasing harmony of classes and democratisation of capital, and looked to the gradual peaceful advance towards socialism through capitalist reorganisation, social reform and State intervention.

What the Revisionists really represented, as is now abundantly clear, was the growth of the "new middle class" of salaried employees of capitalism. In fact the process predicted by Marx was abundantly realised through the course of the nineteenth century. The concentration of capital went forward at an increasing pace. Large-scale capital pressed small-scale capital to the wall. The former small owners and independent workers became, as Marx said, "overseers and underlings." In this way a "new middle class" came more and more to the front, based on the increasing disappearance of the old independent small owners. This new middle class resembled the old in its two-faced position and outlook, between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, and its dreams of occupying an "independent" position above the class struggle; but it was already dependent for its livelihood on employment under large capital, and no longer primarily on its own property. Thus the development of this new middle class was in fact a stage in the process of proletarisation, in the increasing divorce of the everwidening mass of the population from an independent property basis; and its lower strata began to draw closer to the proletariat and to the proletarian movement (beginnings of "middleclass" trade unionism, recruiting to social democracy). The distinctive outlook of this new middle class was typically expressed in England by Fabianism and the leadership of the Independent Labour Party.

Against the Revisionists, the Marxists were easily able to show, not only that the development of this new middle class increasingly replacing the old was in reality a phase of the process of proletarisation, but that further economic development was in turn affecting the position of this new middle class, and creating a crisis in its ranks and a new stage of proletarisation. The overstocking of the professional market, the turning out from the universities and technical schools of increasing numbers beyond the possibilities of employment, and the cutting down of personnel through the further concentration of businesses, was already before the war creating a more and more sharp crisis of the new middle class.

This crisis of the middle class (both old and new) has been carried enormously forward in the post-war period. The operations of finance-capital-inflation, currency and exchange manipulations, share-juggling, monopoly prices and heavy taxation-have played havoc with small savings and investments, and with the old stability of middle-class incomes. At the same time unemployment and redundancy in all the professions has reached desperate heights.

"Throughout the Continent," wrote Keynes in his Treatise on Monetary Reform (p. 16), "pre-war savings of the middle class, so far as they were invested in bonds, mortgages or bank deposits, have been largely or entirely wiped out." The German property valuation returns showed that the number of those owning from thirty to fifty thousand marks worth of property L1,500 to 2,500) fell from over 500,000 in 1913 to 216,000 in 1925; owners of from fifty to a hundred thousand marks L2,500 to 15,000) fell from nearly 400,000 in 1913 to 136,000 in 1925. Although, despite the disillusionment of the wiping out of their savings by inflation, the middle class began hopefully to save anew after stabilisation, the total of savings rapidly began to fall after the economic crisis, and is now threatened anew by the new wave of world inflation. In Britain, a marked decline in small savings is noticeable in the post-war period even before the world economic crisis. Thus while in 1909-13 the Post Office Savings Bank accounts registered a net increase Of ;E12 million, in 1923-7 they registered a net decrease of 117 million, as well as a net decrease of government securities standing to their holders' credit by I IS million, or a total decline of L35 million; Trustee Savings' Banks showed a net decline of ;112 million; after allowing against this, the net increase in National Savings Certificates in the same period by ;E14 million, there is still left a total loss in these main forms of small savings between 1923-7 Of L33 million (Economist, February 23, 1929).

If the impoverishment of the small middle class alongside the enrichment of monopoly capital is thus a characteristic feature of the post-war period, even more so is the increasingly desperate situation of overcrowding in the professions. The world economic crisis brought this situation to an extreme point.

In Germany, it was reported that of 8,000 graduates from the technical colleges and universities in 1931-2, Only 1,000 found employment in their professions. According to a statement issued by the Prussian Minister of Education, Of 22,000 teachers who completed their training in 193 1-2, only 990 found posts. "Engineers have become mere wage-earners; while of the technical school engineering graduates only one in five found any job at all" (H. H. Tiltman, Slump, 1932, P. 75).

R. Schairer in Die Akademische Berufsnot, 1932, reported that 45,000 graduated students were unemployed, and that this figure, it was estimated, would, in the absence of remedial measures, reach 105,000 by 1935. Here we can see a large part of the social basis for the desperate armies of Fascism.

The impoverished and desperate middle class is driven from its former philistine slumbers into political activity. But this political activity takes on a new character. Whereas the Bernsteinian dreams had seen in the middle class a stabilising and harmonising factor in the social structure, wedded to liberalism and social reform, and smoothing over the antagonism of classes, the new dispossessed and ruined middle-class elements break out as an extremely unstable, violent force potentially revolutionary or, alternately, ultra-reactionary, without dear social basis or consciousness, but recklessly seeking any line of immediate action, which may offer a hope of immediate relief (relief from debts, State aid to small businesses, smashing the large stores, etc.) or the prospect of jobs (the new bureaucracy, mercenary fighting forces, displacement of Jews, war).

In what direction, however, can these middle-class elements turn their political activity? They can in practice only line up in the service of either finance-capital or of the proletariat. The myth of their "independent" role, of the "third party," is still endeavoured to be hung before them. The Liberal Yellow Book, characteristically enough, endeavoured to make much of "the third party in industry" as the force of the future. But these dreams are soon shattered by reality. For the ownership of the means of production is decisive, and to this the middle class can never aspire. Either finance-capital, owning the means of production, can seek to make the middle class its auxiliary, giving a measure of employment, if diminishingly in production, then at any rate increasingly in the tasks of violent coercion of the working class (fascist militia, police-officer class, fascist bureaucracy). Or the Πproletariat, socialising the means of production, can at last give full scope to all the useful trained and technical abilities within the middle class in the gigantic tasks of social reconstruction. These are the only two alternatives before the middle class. The first is the line of Fascism. The second is the line of Communism.

The true interests of the majority of the middle class, of all the lower strata of the middle class, lie with the proletariat, with the line of Communism. Finance-capital is the enemy and exploiter of both sections. The line of Fascism of service with finance-capital against the working class, means in fact no solution for the economic crisis of the middle class; alongside privileges and rewards for a handful, it means intensified servitude, oppression and spoliation of the majority of the middle class at the hands of the great trusts and banks.

Where the working-class movement is strong, follows a revolutionary line, and is able to stand out as the political leader of the fight of all oppressed sections against large capital, there the mass of the petit-bourgeoisie is swept in the wake of the working class. This was the general situation in the postwar revolutionary wave of 1919-20. During this time Fascism could win no hold.

But where the working-class movement fails to realise its revolutionary role, follows the leadership of Reformism and thus surrenders to large capital, and even appears to enter into collaboration with it, there the discontented petit-bourgeois elements and declassed proletarian elements begin to look elsewhere for their leadership. On this basis Fascism is able to win its hold. In the name of demagogic slogans against large capital and exploiting their grievances, these elements are drawn in practice into the service of large capital.

4. The Definition of Fascism.

Fascism is often spoken of as a consequence of Communism. "Reaction of the 'Left,' " declared the Labour Manifesto on "Democracy and Dictatorship" in 1933, "is displaced by triumphant reaction of the 'Right."' With strikingly similar identity of outlook to the Labour Party, the Conservative leader, Baldwin, also declared: "Fascism is begotten of Communism out of civil discord. Whenever you get Communism and civil discord, you get Fascism" (House of Commons, November 23, 1933).

This picture is a fully misleading picture. Undoubtedly, the parallel advance of the forces of revolution and counterrevolution represents in fact the two sides of the single process of the break- up of capitalism; the continuous interaction of the opposing forces of revolution and counter-revolution was long ago described by Marx. But the inference attempted to be drawn from this that, if the working class follows the line of Communism, then Fascism will triumph, is the direct opposite of historical experience. The reality shows the exact contrary.

Where the majority of the working class has followed the line of Reformism (Germany, Italy, etc.), there at a certain stage Fascism invariably grows and conquers.

What is the character of that stage? That stage arises 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.

In that case  owing to the failure of decisive working-class leadership to rally all discontented strata, the discredited old regime is able to draw to its support under specious quasi revolutionary slogans all the wavering elements, petit-bourgeoisie, backward workers, etc., and on the very basis of the crisis and discontent which should have given allies to the revolution, build up the forces of reaction in the form of Fascism. The continued hesitation and retreat of the reformist working-class leadership at each point (policy of the "lesser evil") encourages the growth of Fascism. On this basis Fascism is able finally to step in and seize the reins, not through its own strength, but through the failure of working-class leadership. The collapse of bourgeois democracy is succeeded, not by the advance to proletarian democracy, but by the regression to fascist dictatorship.*
*Reference may be made to the present writer's suggested definition of the conditions of the advance to Fascism, written in 1025: "Fascism arises where a powerful working-class movement reaches a stage of growth which inevitably raises revolutionary issues, but is held in from decisive action by reformist leadership. . . . Fascism is the child of Reformism" (Labour Monthly, July 1925). The subsequent events in Germany have abundantly Illustrated the truth of this.

We are now in a position to reach our general definition of the character of Fascism, the conditions of its development and its class-rule. This definition has received its most complete scientific expression in the Programme of the Communist International in 1928:
Under certain special historical conditions the progress of the bourgeois, imperialist, reactionary offensive assumes the form of Fascism.

These conditions are: instability of capitalist relationships; the existence of considerable declassed social elements, the pauperisation of broad strata of the urban petit-bourgeoisie and of the intelligentsia; discontent among the rural petit-bourgeoisie, and, finally, the constant menace of mass proletarian action. In order to stabilise and perpetuate its rule the bourgeoisie is compelled to an increasing degree to abandon the parliamentary system in favour of the fascist system, which is independent of inter-party arrangements and combinations.
The Fascist system is a system of direct dictatorship, ideologically masked by the "national idea" and representation of the "professions" (in reality, representation of the various groups of the ruling class). It is a system that resorts to a peculiar form of social demagogy (anti- Semitism, occasional sorties against usurer's capital and gestures of impatience with the parliamentary "talking shop") in order to utilise the discontent of the petit- bourgeois, the intellectual and other strata of society; and to corruption through the building up of a compact and well-paid hierarchy of Fascist units, a party apparatus and a bureaucracy. At the same time, Fascism strives to permeate the working class by recruiting the most backward strata of the workers to its ranks, by playing upon their discontent, by taking advantage of the inaction of Social Democracy, etc.

The principal aim of Fascism is to destroy the revolutionary labour vanguard, i.e., the Communist sections and leading units of the proletariat. The combination of social demagogy, corruption and active White terror, in conjunction with extreme imperialist aggression in the sphere of foreign politics, are the characteristic features of Fascism. In periods of acute crisis for the bourgeoisie, Fascism resorts to anti- capitalist phraseology, but, after it has established itself at the helm of State, it casts aside its anti-capitalist rattle, and discloses itself as a terrorist dictatorship of big capital.
Alongside of this may be placed the parallel analysis of Fascism in the Resolution on the International Situation of the same Sixth Congress of the Communist International in 1928:

The characteristic feature of Fascism is that, as a consequence of Πthe shock suffered by the capitalist economic system and of special objective and subjective circumstances, the bourgeoisie-in order to hinder the development of the revolution-utilises the discontent of the petty and middle, urban and rural bourgeoisie and even of certain strata of the declassed proletariat, for the purpose of creating a reactionary mass movement.

Fascism resorts to methods of open violence in order to break the power of the labour organisations and those of the peasant poor, and to proceed to capture power.

After capturing power, Fascism strives to establish political and organisational unity among all the governing classes of capitalist society (the bankers, the big industrialists and the agrarians), and to establish their undivided, open and consistent dictatorship. It places at the disposal of the governing classes armed forces specially trained for civil war, and establishes a new type of State, openly based on violence, coercion and corruption, not only of the petitbourgeois strata, but even of certain elements of the working class (office employees, ex-reformist leaders who have become government officials, trade union officials and officials of the Fascist Party, and also poor peasants and declassed proletarians recruited into the Fascist militia).

The further characteristics of Fascism indicated in the above analysis, both in respect of its advance to power, and of its programme and practice after power, it will now be necessary to examine.
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