Fascism And The Communist International (Comintern)
-How Did The Stalinists Allow The Victory Of Fascism?
(From 'Prometheus' No.12 1994)
Written by Hiroyoshi Hayashi
Translated by Roy West
1. The Comintern's Outlook and Policy in the First Stage
2. Stalin's Theory of Fascism
3. The Comintern's Period of Social-Fascism
4. The Practical Collapse Of The Theory Of Social-Fascism
5. The "Cause" Of The Defeat Of The Working Class And The Comintern's Volte-Face
6. How And Why Was The Popular Front Realized
7. What Is Fascism And How Can It Be Fought
8. Lenin's "Tactics"
What is fascism and how should we fight against it? This is an old but always new question. Today, centered in Europe, new anti-revolutionary groups plotting the resurrection of fascism have captivated declassed petty bourgeois and bourgeois youth. Fascism is often thought of as something which belongs to the historical past: its victory in Twenties Italy, the supremacy of the Nazis along with the world wide "trend" of fascism in the Thirties, how it led to a world war and then was defeated in this war and collapsed. However, current events reveal that as long as capitalism and class society continue, fascism will definitely not be a thing of the past. For this reason, we must discuss and study fascism once again. Here I would like to discuss the "relationship" between the Comintern and fascism, as well as examine the essence of fascism. It was believed that the Comintern was the only organization or movement that was able to truly struggle against fascism, but it bears a great "responsibility" for the victory of fascism-particularly Nazi fascism. The relation between the Comintern and fascism has three stages. The first period corresponds to the early almost spontaneous generation of fascism, followed by the period of the theory of "social-fascism" from the end of the Twenties to the beginning of the Thirties, and then the period of "popular front tactics" and "democratic united fronts tactics" from the Thirties. At any rate, the problem is reduced to what is fascism and how should we fight against it. We will discuss this chronologically.
1. The Communist Party's United Front Tactics
The Comintern's documented appraisal of fascism appeared just after the victory of fascism in Italy in the "Theses on Tactics" from The Third World Congress of the Communist International in 1921. In this document, it was stated that a firm struggle against opportunism should be waged, and at the same time, if the Communist Party attaches itself to the working class in the midst of the struggle against the anti-revolutionary fascist movement Communism could gain mass power in Italy. This resolution stated that the bourgeoisie is not satisfied with the "ordinary" functioning of the state apparatus, and thus creates legal and illegal self-defense organizations under state protection(the French citizens league, the English "defense group", the American Legion in the U.S., and the Fascists in Italy) which play a decisive role during times of enormous economic upheaval. The resolution recommended that the working class rally the best and most active elements into various defense or ganizations in order to resist the fascists, and "teach a needed lesson to the favorite child" of the bourgeoisie. In other words, this document appealed to the workers themselves for the need to fight this violence and firmly resist the Fascists through the creation of their own defensive organizations.
In October 1922, just after the Fascists had grabbed power in Italy, the Comintern issued an international appeal to the Italian workers which pointed out that reformists had handed over the initiative to reaction, the dictatorship which the leaders of the workers had hesitated to proclaim was constructed by the bourgeoisie, and the leaders of the Italian Socialist Party worshipped bourgeois democracy, law, order which the bourgeoisie themselves crushed under foot.
Furthermore, in the Theses of the Fourth Congress of the Comintern, which was held later that same year, the following position was taken concerning "International Fascism".
"Closely linked to the economic offensive of capital is the political offensive of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat. Its sharpest expression is international fascism. Since falling living standards are now affecting the middle classes, including civil service, the ruling class is no longer certain that it can rely on the bureaucracy to act as its tool. Instead, it is resorting everywhere to the creation of special White Guards, which are particularly directed against all the revolutionary efforts of the proletariat and are being increasingly used for the forcible suppression of any attempts by the working class to improve its position.
The characteristic feature of 'classical' Italian fascism, which at present has the whole country in its grip, is that the fascists not only form counter-revolutionary fighting organizations, armed to the teeth, but also attempt to use social demagogy to gain a base among the masses: in the peasantry, in the petty bourgeoisie and even in a certain section of the proletariat. There is currently a fascist threat in many countries: in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, almost all the Balkan countries, Poland, Germany, Austria, America and even in countries like Norway. The possibility of fascism appearing in one or another form cannot be ruled out even in such countries as France and Britain.
One of the most important tasks of the Communist Parties is to organize resistance to international fascism. They must be at the head of the working class in the fight against the fascist gangs, must be extremely active in setting up united fronts on the question and must make use of illegal methods of organization.
But the reckless promotion of fascist organization is the last card in the bourgeoisie's hand. Open rule by the White Guards also works against the very foundations of bourgeois democracy. The broadest masses of the working people become convinced that bourgeois rule is possible only in the form of an undisguised dictatorship over the proletariat." (Theses Resolutions and Manifestos of the First Four Congresses of the Third International, pp. 392-3, Humanities Press)
Apart from the references to united front tactics, the Comintern's view of Fascism at this time was largely correct. But with the Stalinists assumption of power, the Comintern's theory and policy became nonsensical and narrow-minded. By 1924 Stalin had already come out with the view that the social-democratic parties are objectively speaking the moderate wing of fascism. Clearly this position had a decisive influence on the Fifth Congress of the Comintern held the summer of that year. Since this is the origin of Stalin's theory of fascism we will consider it in detail.
2. Stalin's Theory of Fascism
The citation below from Stalin's 1924 essay "Concerning International Situation" is typical of the Stalinist theory of fascism.
"Some people think that the bourgeoisie adopted 'pacifism' and 'democracy' not because it was compelled to do so, but voluntarily, of its own free choice, so to speak. And it is assumed that, having defeated the working class in decisive battles (Italy, Germany), the bourgeoisie felt that it was the victor and could now afford to adopt 'democracy.' In other words, while the decisive battles were in progress, the bourgeoisie needed a fighting organisation, it needed fascism but now that the proletariat is defeated, the bourgeoisie no longer needs fascism and can afford to use 'democracy' instead, as a better method of consolidating its victory. Hence, the conclusion is drawn that the rule of the bourgeoisie has become consolidated, that the 'era of pacifism' will be a prolonged one, and that the revolution in Europe has been pigeonholed.
This assumption is absolutely wrong.
Firstly, it is not true that fascism is only the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie. Fascism is not only a military-technical category. Fascism is the bourgeoisie's fighting organisation that relies on the active support of Social-Democracy. Social-Democracy is objectively the moderate wing of fascism. There is no ground for assuming that the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie can achieve decisive successes in battles, or in governing the country, without the active support of Social-Democracy. There is just as little ground for thinking that Social-Democracy can achieve decisive successes in battles, or in governing the country, without the active support of the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie. These organisations do not negate, but supplement each other. They are not antipodes, they are twins. Fascism is an informal political bloc of these two chief organisations; a bloc, which arose in the circumstances of the post-war crisis of imperialism, and which is intended for combating proletarian revolution. The bourgeoisie cannot retain power without such a bloc. It would therefore be a mistake to think that 'pacifism' signifies the liquidation of fascism. In the present situation, 'pacifism' is the strengthening of fascism with its moderate, Social-Democratic wing pushed into the forefront." (Stalin Collected Works Volume Six, pp. 293-5; Moscow Languages Publishing House 1953)
We need to look at Stalin's theory of fascism in more detail. This theory is of decisive importance since it is at the origin of the theory of social-fascism which, instead of fighting fascism, was one of the causes of the defeat of the international workers movement. In fact, there was nothing more unfortunate for the international working class than the victory of this unbelievably careless, and completely one-sided view in the Comintern. It is no exaggeration to say that there has been no worse case of self-important, self-deluded sophistry and dogma.
Stalin basically said that the bourgeoisie needs fascism not only in times of intense class struggle, but also during "ordinary" periods of class struggle, and that this is social-democracy. Of course, he did not say that social-democracy and fascism were directly identical. Social-democracy was not said to be fascism, but fascism's moderate wing. Nevertheless, fascism was seen as social democracy, and social democracy as fascism, and they were both seen as "twins", etc.
What is this argument exactly? This is a mistaken view which completely lacks any scientific basis; nothing but a non-concept. In a sense, it is correct to say that social-democracy and fascism are both tools for the class rule of the bourgeoisie. Nevertheless, it is incorrect to say that there is no point in distinguishing between them. At all moments in the class struggle this distinction is important, and the fact that the working class must make decisive use of the important contradiction between the two should not be trivialized in the least. Any worker should be able to see through the infantile "leftist" camouflage covering Stalin's foolish argument that the most atrocious anti-revolutionary and the opportunists are the same because "they both serve the bourgeoisie".
Since Stalin argued that fascism was at the same time social-democracy, he insisted that it was incorrect to consider "fascism as a fighting organization of the bourgeoisie". However, regardless of how fascism is defined it should be clear that its most essential and fundamental characteristic is precisely that it is a "fighting organization of the bourgeoisie" (aimed at the working class and their revolutionary struggle). It should be clear that the Stalinist position, which blurred or denied this reality, represents extreme opportunism which dissolves the determination of the working class to fight fascism, and leads to defeat. Under the influence of this sort of theory, the working class was unable to fight and crush fascism.
It is clear that fascism is a product of a crisis in bourgeois rule. However, Stalin even denied this. He declared that it could not be said that fascism is a weapon of the bourgeoisie during a period of crisis in bourgeois rule, because social-democracy is the same as fascism, and even when there is no crisis the bourgeoisie makes use of social-democracy to rule. This is extraordinary piece of logic, but during the period of Stalinism this explanation triumphed, and workers who opposed this opinion were branded as "counter-revolutionaries". As a result of this theory it was natural, in a sense, that the proletariat was unable to trust any political party, lost their spirit, could not find a rallying point, fight against fascism, or escape defeat.
The view that social-democracy is fascism has a superficial leftist appearance with its strong indictment of social-democracy. But this is in appearance only. In fact, this radical political theory is nothing but an opportunistic evasion of the decisive struggle with fascism and a submission to fascism (as history has shown!). Using this sort of convincing, pseudo-revolutionary jargon, Stalin led the working class to defeat. For the workers movement there could be no more criminal act. The working class could had no worse enemy than the Stalinists. Certainly, it is justified to say that social-democrats are the worst traitors and deserve to be severely condemned, but this is not because they are fascists. As for the conversion of individual social democrats to fascism, there is no need of concrete examples. It is well known, for example, that the fascist pioneer Mussolini was a "left wing social-democrat". Well known fascists also came out of the social-democratic parties of Germany, France and England (in England the Mosley faction, in France Jacques Doriot, in Japan Sekimatsu. But there were also several individual converts to the "right wing" converts from the JCP such as Sano, Nabeyama, Tanaka Seigen, and Mizuno Naruo!).
To indiscriminately scream "Fascism!" whether it be bourgeois reaction, simple reactionary politics, or whatever, incites the workers' sense of crisis, but is in fact completely meaningless and amounts to nothing more than making lot of noise to hide one's own incompetence and opportunism; the essence of Stalinist politics. The Stalinists insisted that fascism was dominate even in periods when the bourgeoisie is satisfied with democratic means. This meant that the Social-Democratic Party, which had taken power in Germany, was also fascist. According to this argument, even in periods where class conflict recedes due to economic stability and political peace, Fascism grows stronger because of the expansion of social-democracy. Of course, one can "prove" anything one wishes with this sort of electric argument and sophistry. In fact, however, this is completely untrue. Stalin's view is harmful because, through the use of superficially "leftist" phrases, the workers' real determination to fight is paralyzed and corroded, and their will is wiped out, while the real ideological preparation to be carried out is prevented.
3. The Comintern's Period of Social-Fascism
Within the Comintern, the theory of social-fascism first appeared in 1928. The Program adopted at the Sixth General Meeting of the Comintern emphasized the reactionary role of social-democracy during a period of crisis, and further stressed that social-democracy "plays a fascist part" and "displays fascist tendencies".
They depicted social-democracy (i.e. pacifism, petty bourgeois democracy and reformism), as being the same as fascism, or as an even greater danger. They emphasized the reactionary and counter-revolutionary role that social-democracy has played throughout history and within the real class struggle. Of course, there is no shortage of such real examples, since the crimes of social democracy in the history of the class struggle are many. In particular, the Communist Party called for caution and a struggle against "left wing" social-democrats since there was a greater danger that they would foster fantasies among the workers. Trade unionists were also the object of attack since they were connected with social democracy and were contemptuous of the working class. In the summer of 1929, the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI) presented the following theses.
"In Germany we have a new experiment of the largest party in the Second International, the German Social-Democratic Party, being in power. As a result of their own experiences the German workers are abandoning their illusions concerning the Social-Democratic Party. The Social-Democratic Party has revealed itself as the party which, on coming into office, has strangled the workers strikes with the noose of compulsory arbitration, has helped the capitalists to declare lockouts and liquidate the gains of the working class (eight-hour day, social insurance, etc.). By the construction of cruisers and by the adoption of its new militaristic programme, breaking with all the remnants of pre-war traditions of socialism, social-democracy is preparing the next war. The leading cadres of social-democracy and of the reformist trade unions, fulfilling the orders of the bourgeoisie, are now, through the mouth of Wels, threatening the German working class with open fascist dictatorship. Social-democracy prohibits May Day demonstrations. It shoots down unarmed workers during May Day demonstrations. It is the social-democracy who suppresses the labour press (Rote Fahne) and mass labour organizations, prepares the suppression of the CPG and organizes the crushing of the working class by fascist methods.
This is the road of the coalition policy of the social-democracy leading to social-fascism. These are the results of the governing activities of the biggest party of the Second International." (The Communist International 1929-1943 Documents, pp. 45-6; Oxford University Press)
The Comintern insisted that the English "national unity" government of MacDonald, established at the time, could only play a reactionary role and could only continue on the path of bourgeois politics. This was completely justified. However, there was no reason to reach the conclusion that this was a fascist or "fascistic" government. Reaction and fascism are not simply the same thing. Fascism is always reactionary and counter-revolutionary, but reaction in general is definitely not fascism. From this view that reaction in general is identical to fascism or fascism is identical to reaction in general, the Comintern defined reactionary social-democracy as also being fascism, and called for "attacks to be concentrated" against social-democracy. If fascism is the same as reaction in general, and therefore social democracy and fascism are identical, it is inevitable that social-democracy will be called the "main enemy" and there will be cries to overthrow social-democracy before fascism.
It's very clear that this sort of politics actually helps fascism and makes the defeat of fascism difficult, if not impossible. It is true that social-democracy is reactionary, but in actual politics it is natural that a distinction must be made between social-democracy and fascism. That is, compared to revolutionary socialism, social democracy is reactionary, and through its petty bourgeois nature and opportunism assists the bourgeoisie. However, it is an elemental truth that this is not the same as helping the bourgeoisie through threats and naked violence. For the Communist Party to conclude that social democracy is also fascism from the fact that social democracy is reactionary, is perhaps the crudest, most careless and random "theory" to ever come out of the socialist movement. Only the Stalinists (Communist Party) could cause such a grave setback for the struggles of the working class by introducing such a horrible standpoint (of course they are doing the same thing today).
However, this crude theory was widely accepted, because the treasonous and reactionary nature of social democracy was perfectly clear and was being exposed daily (it was only ten years since the Social Democrats Noske and Schadler had used the anti-revolutionary forces to cruelly suppress the revolutionary movement and assassinate Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Leibknecht) Gaining strength from the workers' ill-feelings towards social-democracy, for a period of time the theory of social-fascism was able to exercise a strong influence on the international workers movement. This period was an unhappy one for the working class since it was marked by the victory of Nazi fascism.
Naturally the Comintern's theory of social-fascism also met with great resistance within the Communist Parties throughout the world. For example, in the Polish Communist Party there was a strong tendency to emphasize the view that ideologically, politically and organizationally, there is a "fundamental hostility" between fascism and social-democracy, and that social-democracy had resisted fascism. They emphasized that since fascism was a menace to social democracy they were not "in league" with the fascists. Of course, the argument about friend or foe itself is nonsense (this is because this depends on certain political situations and conditions, and is not a question of dogma.). However, this does reveal that even within the Comintern movement there was an increasing distrust of the mechanical and pseudo-leftist policy of the Comintern.
From the end of the Twenties to the beginning of the Thirties, in other words during the crucially important period of the Great Depression, the Comintern spread the false theory, in "leftist" clothing that basically said: social-democrats have the same aim as the fascists, carry out the same activity, and the only difference was whether this was hidden behind a smoke screen or not; fascism was "more than bourgeois terror" (thus, a struggle must be waged not only to "directly" counter-attack against this, but also against the social-democratic brand of fascism); fascism was not "a new method of rule" to be distinguished from the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie; social democracy was rather the main obstacle blocking the path to winning a large number of workers. Therefore, social-democracy must be crushed first (before fascism!) to separate the workers from it. Martynov, the convert from economism to Stalinism, pretentiously argued that in advanced industrial countries, the counter-revolutionary role of "pure" fascism (as distinguished from so-called social democratic fascism), was not as important as that of the labor aristocracy (i.e. social-democrats). It is shocking how popular this ridiculous view became among Stalinists at the time. Of course, this nonsense led to all sorts of confusion and chaos in the workers movements throughout the world, thus dealing a horrible blow to the workers' class struggles. This also led to attempts to artificially divide the trade unions (since it was considered "criminal" for a worker to participate in a union led by "social-fascists"), which further earned the distrust of a wide segment of the workers.
The period of social-fascism was, deceptively, the period of shouting about winning over the working masses. Even though the theory of social fascism was unrelated to "winning the masses" and was in fact a policy which antagonized them, the Stalinists had to continue screaming this. For the Stalinists, "winning the masses" was the same as persecuting social-democrats as social-fascists. That is, the workers were under the influence of social-democracy, and therefore by exposing their traitorous essence they could free the workers from their rule, and directly link up with them. Their work to free the workers from social-democracy basically came down to bravely, in words only, hurling abuse at social-democrats and shouting that they were reactionary. It is clear that practically this could only end up encouraging inactivity and idleness. It was said that if the workers could be freed from social-democracy, overcoming fascism would be easy. The theory of social fascism led to "left-wing" dogmatism and idleness, on the one hand, and extreme opportunism and submission to fascism, on the other hand. This is the essence of the theory.
The theory of social-fascism insisted that that one should not overestimate capitalist stability, glorify or defend bourgeois democracy, or think that peaceful, parliamentary means can be used to achieve revolution. Moreover, both the rule of fascism and the rule of social-democracy (i.e. the Social-Democratic or Labour parties in Germany, England and elsewhere) are the same in that they are the "rule of finance capital".
In fact, this view is a one dimensional, pseudo-leftist mechanical theory, and it should be clear to class conscious workers that this "left" sectarianism and "anarchism" only leads to the isolation of the revolutionary workers and the cutting of ties to the working masses. Next, let's look at one more representation of the theory of social-fascism. The following is taken from the theses from the Eleventh Plenary Session of the ECCI Comintern meeting:
"The recent growth of fascism was possible only because of the support
given by international social-democracy since the war to the bourgeois
dictatorship, whatever its form. Social-democracy, which, by fabricating
a contradiction between the 'democratic' form of the bourgeois dictatorship
and fascism, blunts the vigilance of the masses in the struggle against
the rising wave of political reaction and against fascism, and which conceals
the counter-revolutionary nature of bourgeois democracy as one form of
bourgeois dictatorship, is the most active factor and pace-maker in the
development of the capitalist State towards fascism.
The successful struggle against fascism requires the Communist Parties
to mobilize the masses on the basis of the united front below against all
forms of the bourgeois dictatorship and against every one of its reactionary
measures which clears the way for open fascist dictatorship. It requires
the rapid and decisive correction of errors, which arise primarily from
the liberal idea of a basic difference between fascism and bourgeois democracy,
and between the parliamentary and the openly fascist forms of the bourgeois
dictatorship; such ideas are a reflection of social-democratic influence
in the Communist Parties." (Ibid. p. 159)
Basically this says that there is no essential difference between a fascist dictatorship and a social-democratic government, and thus no difference between a fascist government and a bourgeois democratic government. The view that there is a distinction to be made between the two was branded "liberalism". Of course, ultimately in terms of being a government for capital, both governments are "essentially" the same. However, what is the purpose in looking at fascism and social-democracy as being identical and painting over all distinctions? This can only confuse the healthy class consciousness of the working class. When class consciousness is clouded and the clear practical will is blunted, the working class is unable to achieve victory.
4. The Practical Collapse Of The Theory Of Social-Fascism
In 1932, at the time of the German presidential election, Thalmann stated the following (At the time the Communist Party opposed Hitler and Hindenberg and ran their own presidential candidate Thalmann, and befriended Hindenberg based on the theory of the "lesser of evils")
"(To win the proletariat the struggle of the German Communist Party) must be directed first of all against the two extremely important counter-revolutionary mass political parties, the German Social-Democratic Party and the National Socialist Workers Party (Nazis). But, even in this struggle, the main thrust of attack must be directed against the Social-Democratic Party. Moreover, it must be made clear to the masses the if the popular influence of "moderate wing" of fascism, i.e. the Social-Democratic Party, is not first overcome, it will not be impossible to fight against Hitler's party and government". (Translated from Japanese.)
Moreover, the German Communist Party's shouting about the dangers of Social-Democracy as fascism, was also intended to conceal their own alliances with fascism, and deceive workers with the policy that there are differences between fascism. To declare this at the moment when the fascists were close to gaining power is completely ridiculous and beside the point, and it should have been clear at a glance that this disarms the workers.
Later, after the Communist Party (Comintern) adopted united-front tactics (popular front tactics), they tried to cover their own practical bankruptcy with the claim that even in the period of the theory of social-fascism, they had repeatedly proposed a "united front" with the Social-Democratic Party but it had been refused. Certainly, the Comintern declared the united-front. But, the problem is that this lacked all serious content. First of all, they did not consider the fact that a united-front proposed devoid of any relation to the concrete conditions of class and class struggle will degenerate into opportunism. Furthermore, this united front "from below" was only a maneuver to separate social-democracy (Social-Democratic Party) from the working class masses. It was natural that attacking the Social-Democratic Party as fascists, on the one hand, and then calling for union with them, on the other hand, could not be taken seriously. Clearly it is a devious lie for the Communist Party to claim that "we called for a united front, but the Social-Democrats refused". This explanation is not a true overview of history, but rather merely the devious effort of the Stalinists who were forced to revise or forge history after they had adopted the united-front tactics (popular front).
It should become clear by reading the 1932 Theses that the harmful reactionary effect of the theory of social-fascism on the revolutionary movement in Japan was not small either, and this is manifested in the infantile practice of the JCP at the time and is deeply reflected in the literature of Kobayashi Tajiki and others.
It was naturally thought that Lenin's social-chauvinism was the same as the definition of social-fascist. This was the idea that essentially there is no difference between Lenin using this term at the time of the First World War to derisively refer to those who proclaimed to be socialists while being chauvinists or nationalists, and called for a decisive struggle against them, and referring to social-democrats as social-fascists. According to this argument, social-democrats convert to fascism, make alliances with fascism, in fact accept fascists, and apply a line that submits to them and opens the road to fascism, so they should be called social-fascists. In other words, through the logic of the "lesser evil" the social-democrats assist not only bourgeois democracy, but also bourgeois conservatism. (For example, at the time of the presidential election they supported Hindenberg against Hitler, and supported the government of Bruning as being "better" than the government of Hitler, etc.)
However, even though the social-democrats" support of bourgeois conservatism as being "better" than Hitler exposes their ugly opportunism, clearly this does not mean that they are fascists or the same as fascists. In the Twenties and Thirties the social- democrats didn't publicly or directly support fascism, but at the time of the First World War, socialists throughout the world publicly and directly defended the imperialist war and supported the bourgeoisie who carried this out. This is certainly "no small" difference. The crude and stupid view of the Communist Party lacks all logic, and more or less degenerates to the level of sophistry, and this is the way the JCP argues today.
Next we will look at some examples of how the theory of social-fascism failed throughout the world, was resisted by class conscious elements among the workers, and how its bankruptcy was practically revealed.
In practice the theory of social-fascism often took the form of alliances and united actions between the Communist Party and the fascists. It was inevitable that a united-front would arise-either consciously or naturally-from the position which "prioritized" the fight against social-democrats instead of fascism as fundamental, in accordance with the argument that the social-democrats are fascists who must be crushed in order to protect the working masses and make the fight against fascists possible (Of course, to counter the Stalinists, we do not follow the advice of opportunists who insist that fascism must be fought first and the struggle against social-democracy can only have a subordinate meaning. Rather, we call for the struggle against fascism to be combined with the struggle against social-democracy and opportunism-this combination should not be a mechanical balance, but should be adjusted in various ways depending on the situation and conditions)
One example of the practical failure of the theory of social-fascism can be seen in the actual experience of the united-front organized in August 1931 with the Communist Party supporting the opposition to the Social Democrat government of Prussia which instigated by the Nazis. It is said that the German Communist Party at the time had decided on a policy of opposition to the Nazi's votes, but under the pressure of the Comintern adopted a policy of collaboration with the Nazis. Needless to say, reality has shown that it is true that the Social-Democratic government in Prussia was defeated through the cooperation of the Nazis and the Communist Party. It was claimed that the Social-Democratic government, the target of the German Communist Party's polemic at the time, which confused and divided the proletariat, was a thousand times more harmful than an open fascist government which opposed the unity of the proletariat armed with class consciousness. This amounts to saying that a fascist government is better than a social-democratic government. There could be no more greater ignorance of the essence of fascism (which leads to indifference to the destruction of the workers). Seeing this unbelievable "policy" and "view", we have to conclude that it was natural or inevitable that the German Communist Party and the working class were easily defeated and crushed by fascism. In fact, the Comintern fervently propagated the unbelievable view that the rule of fascism was not dangerous (at least not as dangerous as the rule of the Social-Democratic Party) and that even if the fascists were victorious this would not create any major or fundamental change, thereby disarming the working class against fascism. It could be said that there has been no greater crime against the working class, or humanity in general for that matter, than this view.
Spain provides another example. When the workers filled the streets to celebrate the declaration of the republic in 1931, the Communist Party joined the royalists, reactionaries and fascists to shout for the "overthrow of the republic", thereby decisively isolated themselves from the workers. This stupid action probably seems unfathomable, but it is a fact nonetheless. Actions more or less like this were often carried out by the Communist Parties throughout the world.
Of course, the theory of social-fascism was at the bottom of the Spanish Communist Party's stupid policy. The previous year, at a national meeting, the Spanish CP rejected the "social-fascist" view that bourgeois democracy was possible in Spain, declaring that this was a fantasy which would confuse revolutionary efforts. Moreover, at this meeting a divisive labor union organization was proposed to oppose the labor union in which the social-democrats had gained hegemony. In other words, they increasingly leaned towards a policy which isolated themselves and divided the workers movement by mechanically proposing a hostile program and organization to oppose the struggles and organizations of the Socialist Party and anarchists. With their conversion a few years later to the tactic of the people's front, the Spanish CP began spreading fantasies about bourgeois democracy, devoting themselves to petty bourgeois collaboration, thereby repulsing the revolutionary workers and totally isolating themselves. Until they were able to increase their influence somewhat with the "intervention" of Russia, the Spanish CP remained nothing more than a small sect.
5. The "Cause" Of The Defeat Of The Working Class And The Comintern's Volte-Face
After the victory of fascism, the Comintern could only shift the blame for the victory to the Social Democratic Party, and offer the ridiculously "optimistic" theory that the victory of fascism actually was not so great, and fascism would soon collapse. The ECCI adopted the following resolution in 1933 after the victory of the Nazis.
"Thus, in the final analysis, the establishment of the fascist dictatorship in Germany is the consequence of the social-democratic policy of collaboration with the bourgeoisie throughout the entire life of the Weimar Republic. Social-democracy repeatedly stated that it would have no objection to Hitler's coming to power if he did so 'constitutionally'. Even after he came to power Vorwarts wrote, on 2 February, that a man like Hitler would not have been able to become Reich Chancellor except for social-democracy. Wels said the same on 23 March in his declaration to the Reichstag, when he said that the social-democrats had rendered great services to the 'national socialists', for it was thanks precisely to social-democratic policy that Hitler had come to power. Not to speak of Leipart, Lobe, and other social-democratic leaders, who unreservedly support the fascists. The communists were right when they called the social-democrats social-fascists." (The Communist International 1919-1943 Documents Volume III., "Resolution of the ECCI Presidium on the Situation in Germany" p.251, Oxford University Press)
Of course, no matter how much they pinned responsibility on social-democracy, this could not satisfy the workers. This is because social-democracy is social-democracy for the very reason that it obviously cannot consistently fight to the end against the rule of the bourgeoisie in general, or fascism. Therefore, the summary had to be carried out subjectively. But the CP/Stalinists stubbornly refused to recognize any of their own responsibility. Moreover, the idea that the victory of fascism was no big deal and that the real fight remained was of little comfort to the workers who were being persecuted by the fascists. It was clear that the counter-revolutionaries had dealt the working class had a historical defeat, but the Communist Party gave no serious thought or was even unaware of this fact.
However, through experience of the fatal defeat of the German CP (i.e. Comintern), and the bankruptcy of the theory of social fascism, the Comintern, that is the Stalinists throughout the world, made a 180-degree turn to stand on the polar opposite opportunism. Seen from the theory of social-fascism this could not be regarded as anything but betrayal. They had no shame in applying a policy which just the other day they had violently denounced as bourgeois collaboration which would lead to the betrayal and defeat of the working class. It is clear that the Comintern was in fact applying the "strategy" devised by Trotsky. Unlike Trotsky, however, the Stalinists made no effort to embellish this opportunism or conceal it with vague phrases, but rather began to push the line of petty bourgeois collaboration on the working class throughout the world in a perfectly straightforward way.
How could fascism, comprised of "human garbage" lacking all thought, have been victorious?
The typical reply is that the working class was divided. This is the summary of the defeat in Germany proposed by the Trotskyists who insisted on a "united-front between the Communist and Socialist parties", as well as the Stalinists who championed the popular front after 1935, and this view continues up to this day. But is this summary really correct? Moreover, just as the summary of the Trostkyists is connected to glorifying fantasies about opportunism and social democracy, so is it inevitably connected to the Stalinists glorifying fantasies about bourgeois democracy and liberalism. The Stalinists now say that to fight against fascism, bourgeois democracy must be actively protected and defended, and they openly declare the importance of an alliance with a part of the bourgeoisie. They even say that to oppose the nationalism of the Nazis, the Comintern should have considered nationalistic feelings among the workers. In other words, in a certain sense the working class should have competed with the Nazis and nationalism. This sort of carelessness in regards to nationalistic feelings was seen as one, or the main reason for the defeat of the German working class.
However, would it have been possible to defeat fascism if they had held out hopes for social-democracy and formed a united-front with them? Didn't the Stalinists shout hoarsely that social-democracy was unable to fight against fascism when they were standing on the theory of social-fascism, and wasn't this correct? In fact, they are social-democrats and opportunists for the very reason that they are unable to fight against fascism. In this case, all hopes that they could fight fascism would be a waste, and fantasy.
The idea that without the union of the Socialist and Communist parties, the working class (or for the Stalinists the anti-fascist "democratic forces") could not unite, and therefore could not defeat fascism, is formalistic nonsense. This replaces actual revolutionary unity with the formalistic unity of simply assembling numbers. It is clear from many historical examples that this formalistic unity is powerless in the struggle against capital and reaction.
It is correct to say that fascism was able to make use of the divisions in the working class. But to overcome these divisions was not simply a question of uniting the Socialist and Communist parties. The splits in the working class can be overcome within the real class struggles and the experiences of the working class. Moreover, genuine unity can only be realized as revolutionary unity (unity towards communism, unity under the hegemony of communism). We don't deny that even without unity towards communism, the unity of the working class against fascism is possible and important. This is the unity within the real struggles and experiences, the starting point or opportunity for real unity which we have insisted on. But this cannot be mistaken for true unity. We certainly support the union of the working class (i.e. the CP, SP and ourselves) in the fight against fascism. However, even in this case we insist upon the Leninist principle of "advancing separately, striking together".. Further, we wouldn't propose this unity as some sort of fixed "strategy", but rather as a question of the actual class struggle. This emerges as the reality of one stage of the objective class struggle, not as a question of the subjective demands of a political party or individual. The vanguard of the working class shouldn't just "oppose" this objective reality (in the manner of the theory of social-fascism), but rather make use of this reality to expand its influence, and open the path for the ultimate liberation of the working class. For the working class, defeating the assault of fascists and anti-revolutionaries is part of the path to revolution, not a goal in itself or the ultimate task. The utmost task of the working class is to overcome the rule of capital.
Trotsky criticized the "popular front strategy" of the Stalinists as being incorrect because it was not a "union of the working class", but rather spread the opportunism of the "union of democratic forces". However, Trotsky is no different from the Stalinists insofar as he spread the illusion that fascism could be fought through a union with social-democrats. In terms of this sort of formalistic union to overcome fascism, they are both essentially the same sort of opportunism. What needs to be emphasized, above all, is that fascism can be crushed through the firm, real struggles of the working class, not through a formalistic union. If a union is to have significance, it is only in the case that it is connected to the firm struggles of the workers.
There is the additional question of nationalism. That is, the question of what attitude the Communist Party of a given country should take towards nationalism. Of course, this is not the question of parties in colonial countries. The view was offered that the Comintern was indifferent to nationalism, and the workers were defeated because the workers monopolized nationalism. Dimitrov adopted this view, but this was also the "official" conclusion of the Comintern. This is the idea that the Nazis were victorious because they were able rally the masses around the nationalistic slogan of "crushing the Versailles Treaty and regaining the lost rights of the German nation", whereas the Communists were defeated because they took a negative view towards rallying nationalistic energy. This is the idea that one way to defeat fascism is vie with fascist nationalism (in general, this means competing with demagogic politics).
"An article in the following year summarizing the results of the eleventh ECCI plenum stated: 'Even before the September elections to the Reichstag there began, with the increased encouragement of finance-capital, the tempestuous upsurge of the national-socialist fascist movement in Germany. The communist party answered with counter tactics. Having presented the programme of the 'social and national liberation of Germany', it opened fire on the fascists, attracting the social-democratic workers to a united front in the struggle with fascism. Consequently, it was able to put a stop to the growth of Hitler-fascism, and even to introduce elements of decomposition in itc' Shortly before Hitler came to power, it was stated in the Comintern journal that there had been 'inner inhibitions and 'apprehensions' in the KPD about that part of the programme which appeared to be borrowed directly from the Nazis. This was an error; the KPD was the first and only opponent of the Versailles system in Germany. 'The German party must concern itself more with the question of the German population in neighbouring countriescWe must not leave them a prey to the national socialists, but must emphasize the fact that they will not enjoy the full right of self-determination, and to join the future German Soviet State, until the chains of the Versailles system are broken asunder by the German Soviet Republic of the Future.'" (Ibid. p. 122)
No matter what opposition the German bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie had towards the Treaty of Versailles, which unilaterally shifted war responsibility on Germany and saddled the country with an enormous debt, it was not the position of the workers. This is similar to how opposition to the US-Japan Security Treaty, and efforts for national independence and autonomy are not the standpoint of the Japanese working class. The idea that fascism would not have been able to spread its influence and gain victory had the Germany working class been more nationalistic, is a harmful view which blurs class conflict and the contradictions of capitalism, and prevents the true understanding of history. In fact, this idea is extremely reactionary since it bases the working class on nationalism instead of internationalism.
The reason the workers were defeated by fascism was because the working class failed to carry out a consistent class policy, fight the class struggle to the end, organize the struggles to overcome anti-revolutionary fascism, and prepare (organization, political, and ideological) for these struggles. On these points, the (reactionary and harmful) role played by the Comintern was great. We must clearly hold the Stalinists responsible, along with the social-democrats.
Of course, essentially petty bourgeois or liberal opposition to fascism is represented by the idea that anything should be used in the fight against fascism: i.e. promoting the defense of democracy, working class unity, or even nationalism. However, the petty bourgeois opposition to fascism is powerless, never goes beyond mere words, and ultimately fascism gains power and makes advances. (If the deep contradictions of capitalism continue, the rule of the bourgeoisie degenerates, the petty bourgeoisie are ruined, the workers are unemployed, and class conflict worsens.) Fascism is born from the limitations and decay of the rule of monopoly capital and bourgeois democracy, and so it is a silly fantasy to think that fascism can be wiped out by defending the rule of capital and bourgeois democracy. Of course, it may be possible to temporarily stem the tide, but this temporary respite doesn't stop fascism from reappearing more powerfully, expanding its influence and grabbing power.
To crush fascism the serious class struggles of the working class is necessary, along with the existence of a political party deeply connected to the working class and labor unions which have become steeled as class organizations. Anything else merely amounts to empty words and nonsense.
6. How And Why Was The Popular Front Realized
The heyday of the theory of social-fascism ended with the Nazis' victory in Germany. This victory gave the Stalinists a serious shock in two ways. First, it seriously harmed the Comintern's authority. It revealed that the leadership of the Comintern was not almighty, was full of defects, and irresponsible enough to allow the victory of fascism. Secondly, the "safety" of the Soviet Union suddenly became seriously menaced. From the beginning, Hitler sought a "lifeline" to the east for the Germans, and the Soviet Union had every reason to be frightened by his victory. It thus became difficult to maintain the theory of social-fascism. Hence, there was an objective need for a change in policy, but it was not necessarily clear to the Stalinist bureaucrats what form this should take.
The popular front was born in France, but the reason why and how this came about is not as clear as the Stalinists would have us believe.
According to the official view, the starting point for the popular front was the left-wing response to a February 1934 fascist demonstration (it would be actually more appropriate to say the right-wing in general). It is said that rise of the mass movement to "protect the republic" which began with the February 12 general strike of the counterattacking working class (a union of Socialist Party affiliated trade unions), led to the formation of the popular front and its victory (in the April 1936 general election). The left-wing, particularly social-democracy, believed that this right-wing demonstration was the first indication or starting point of the appearance of a fascist movement in France. They thought that a quick and effective counter-attack was necessary, and began to plan by means of rallying the left-wing (socialist) and democratic parties. The call for this hegemony came from the Socialist Party and its affiliated trade unions. At the time the Communist Party responded coldly, but throughout 1934 their attitude gradually changed, and with the abandonment of the theory of social-fascism and their conversion to the standpoint of left-wing or democratic unity, the conditions for the formation of the popular front emerged.
Of course, superficially speaking this was the case. However, it would be fundamentally incorrect to say that the major reason for the Communist Party turn was the rise of the mass movement to counter-attack the right-wing demonstration (the Communist Party scholars claim this and thereby conceal the actual motives for the Stalinists' turn).
The Stalinists' explaination for their own conversion is the following: The lesson which the workers of the world must learn is that fascism in Germany was victorious because the power opposing it was divided. To fight fascism and prevent its victory (not crush or wipe it out), a wide front against fascism is necessary, and all of the people opposed to fascism must be rallied together. The petty bourgeoisie as well as the bourgeoisie (as long as they are liberals and opposed to fascism) must also be rallied. This wide front has the power to prevent fascism. The popular front was born from the realization that without this approach, fascism can definitely not be prevented. This was the Stalinists view.
However, the birth of the popular front tactic is not so admirable. Despite the myth of the Stalinists, this is not the historical truth. For example, there is the following opinion of Yokoda Chihiro:
"If we set aside the name of popular front and the theory later added, the united left-wing movement against fascism, or at least the practical initiative for SP-CP unity, came from the rank-and-file activists of both parties, not from the Comintern which later consecrated it theoretically and organizationally. This was done at the Seventh Congress of the Comintern which was held in Moscow from July 25 to August 20 1935." (Sekai Rekishi [World History])
"The Comintern and the Soviet leadership approved of and supported these actions of the French CP because they sought to ratify the Franco-Soviet Joint Assistance Treaty which was signed in May 1935, and hoped to strengthen Franco-Soviet cooperation against Germany. For this reason, it must be said that the people's alliance was governed more by the desire to oppose international fascism, than the threat of domestic fascism." (Ibid)
Here it is claimed that the popular front strategy was born from the practice of the rank-and-file activists in the Communist and Socialist parties which was subsequently approved of and developed by the leaders. This view which placed a halo on the popular front is convenient because it justified it by giving the impression that this was a mass tactic which was necessarily born from within the movement of the working class and rank and file activists instead of being discovered and promoted by the Stalinist bureaucrats and social democrats. Certainly, there were various movements naturally generated towards "SP-CP unity", but on the other hand, strong tendencies opposing this trend also existed. This tendency was natural after several years under the "theory of social fascism".
The desire for a united-front did not come from the rank and file of the Socialist and Communist parties. At least, the Communist Party activists did not demand this. At the time of the February 1934 right-wing demonstration, the Communist Party, together with the right-wing, called for the overthrow of Daladier's government, and sharply opposed the activists of the Socialist Party. The Socialist Party supported the Radical Socialist Party prime minister (Daladier) as a "breakwater" against the right-wing, but the Communist Party said that he was a bourgeois politician and the Socialist Party's support exposed their own essence as "social fascists". Hence, it is not necessarily true that the impulse for a united front or popular front came from the rank and file activists of the Communist and Socialist parties. But the activists of the left-wing of the Socialist Party and Trotskyists who held on to illusions about a "SP-CP united front" claimed this, and followed this path.
The idea that the popular front strategy and SP-CP unity was a "practical initiative" that did not come from the Comintern, is a completely self-serving and arbitrary explanation of history since this "initiative" certainly did come from the Comintern. It betrays an extremely naive and ignorant understanding of history to think that a SP-CP union or the popular front could have come into existence because a segment of left-wing activists in the Socialist Party wished for it. (These left-wing Socialists thought that they could somehow prove their own "leftism" by clinging to the fantasy or inferiority complex that the CP, i.e. Stalinists, were somewhat "revolutionary", and this same sort of snobbism is represented in Japan by the left-wing of the Socialist Party).
The French Communist Party converted to the tactic of a united front with the Socialist Party who they had cursed as "social-fascists" because the Comintern, i.e. Stalinists, changed their policy. Just like the Japanese Communist Party members, the French CP members, had no idea of a correct class line and simply adopted what Stalin said. The Comintern changed its line because to counter the threat of German fascism the Soviet Union had begun to seek an alliance with the French and English bourgeoisie, and think that a line of cooperation and collaboration with them was necessary. The position of the Soviet Stalinists was thoroughly nationalistic, and represented the standpoint of Soviet imperialism. Instead of the struggles of the international working class and the victory of revolution, this was a policy that above all sought national interest, the "safety" and stability of the state. The reactionary Soviet Stalinists, who prioritized the need to strengthen their own despotism, found benefits in a union with the Western European bourgeoisie. The most important thing was this union, while the development of the class struggle only had secondary or subordinate meaning.
Therefore, it is fundamentally incorrect to judge, like Yokoda Chihiro, the standpoint which prioritizes the alliance with the Soviet Union as the line to fight "international fascism. Even in the case of the line of struggle against German fascism, this only signifies the struggle between one bourgeois state and another, it is fundamentally different the fight to crush fascism as one part or wing of the class struggles of the working class. The Soviet Stalinists are in fact merely justifying pushing the French working class into the hands of the French bourgeoisie in order to struggle against German fascism. Just like a typical bourgeois, they either don't understand the class struggle in general, or they have forgotten that it is essential. They were thus satisfied with the philistine judgement that the standpoint of the left-wing of the Socialist Party was the line to fight domestic fascism, and the Communist Party position was the line to fight international fascism. The line of the Stalinists, in fact, was the standpoint which subordinated the class struggles of the world to the national interests of the Soviet Union; the class standpoint of the Soviet Stalinists. This is not the standpoint of the working class, just as the standpoint of the French imperialists is not the workers' standpoint. The French CP simply subordinated the line of class struggle to the interests of the Soviet Stalinist bureaucrats, and thus replaced class struggle with class collaboration with the bourgeoisie. In other words, instead of deepening the class struggle, collaboration with the French bourgeoisie was prioritized because the interests o the French bourgeoisie differed from those of German imperialism and they would probably fight against German fascism. The task of the Soviet Stalinists was to prevent a Franco-German alliance, and draw the French bourgeoisie into an alliance with the Soviet Union, and this also became the task of the French Communist Party. This corrupt shameless naked collaboration with the French bourgeoisie, was a degenerate line which converted the French CP into a thoroughly bourgeois party. This made it possible for the first time to realize the popular front strategy of union with the social democrats. Of course, this replaced the theory of social-fascism with a new fantasy, and certainly did not rally forces for the social revolution to free the workers from all fantasies.
Throughout 1934 the Stalinists in the Soviet Union (i.e. Comintern) carefully sought a change in their line. At first, this did not necessarily have a clear shape. But even before they had started to positively insist on SP-CP unity, they had suppressed the voices opposing this. Then in the autumn of 1934 the Comintern and the French CP began to openly declare the standpoint of a union with republicans and democrats. The change in the Communist Party called forth many intricate discussions within the Socialist Party and among worker activists (trade unionists). Basically the question was whether they should join hands with the Communist Party to fight fascism. Certainly there were psychological obstacles for the activists who up to that point had been condemned as "social fascists". However, the class psychology of the social-democrats (petty bourgeois activists) won out: that is they decided that if the Communist Party had a "change of heart" and abandoned the idea of social revolution, wanted to ally with the Socialist Party and a segment of the bourgeoisie for the "modest goal" of defending democracy within the framework of capitalism, then they should welcome this. Their class instincts turned out to be justified, because the strategy of the popular front ultimately played the role causing the social revolution to have a miscarriage, and disarmed French working class and workers movement in the face of fascism.
In France and Spain the Communist Party under the new line completely abandoned the class standpoint, and switched to a nakedly bourgeois standpoint, and began to play a reactionary role under with this new method. Their standpoint led to an alliance with the French bourgeoisie in order for the French bourgeoisie to ally with the Soviet Union instead of Germany. The Communist Party was even below the level of social-democracy, since at the very least social-democracy sometimes represents the interests and standpoint of the naturally generated workers movement, whereas the Communist Party even denied this. They opposed all class conscious or radical elements (such as syndicalism in Spain), and openly allied with the bourgeoisie. We will look at some evidence of the dirty role, which can only be called counter-revolutionary, that they played (especially in Spain); a role which Noske and Sheidemann played in the German class struggle.
Let's consider some testimonies:
"The representative of the Communist Party always carefully countered against the Socialist Party, and found points of agreement with the Radical-Socialist Party. The Communist Party had decided to make any sacrifice to gain cooperation, and declared that they were willing to yield on whatever point. They accepted, without any reservations, the Radical-Socialist Party's structural reform and methods. Furthermore, in the majority of the debates, in response to the representatives of the Socialist Party and CGT (Socialist Party affiliated labor union) who worked to preserve the revolutionary character of the economic and governmental plans (of course this is a lie-Hayashi), the Radical-Socialist Party and the Communist Party agreed on a minimal program which would not seriously threaten the privileges of the bourgeoisie. (Testimony of Socialist Party activist Andre Delmas [translator's note: name is written in Japanese katakana and may be spelled incorrectly] who worked for SP-CP unity, quoted from "Roshia Kakumei Igo" [After the Russian Revolution])
"From 1933 to 1935 we witnessed the moment in which the rough draft was written between the socialist revolution and war and then suddenly erased. In other words, in June 1936, on the other side of the Pyrenees a spontaneous revolution in response to the fascist offensive displayed brilliant power. But the Stalinists pulled the brake on the revolutionary power in France and Spain which they persecuted and destroyed. Russia stood at the head of chauvinism and chose the path of a holy union. With the socialists confined by their sense of respect for the government actions and military allies, they couldn't help gradually accepting the overbearing demands of capitalist power." (Ibid. Testimony of Socialist Party activist Marceau Pivert translated from Japanese)
"When, in his day, Lenin came forward with his "twenty-one points" (twenty-one conditions of admission to the Communist International-Hayashi) to weld the Communist parties of the whole world into one iron-bound, centralized organization which would be blindly obedient to every order from the Moscow Central (of course, this expression stems from the prejudice of the anarchists-Hayashi), he had a definite purpose in view. He wanted thus to give the proletarian movement in every country a fixed direction and to safeguard it against any coalition with bourgeois or so-called Menshevist parties. Wherever a revolutionary situation developed in any country the workers were to set to work immediately to seize political power for themselves, and through a system of soviets on the Russian pattern proceed to the expropriation of the land and the industrial plants without entering into any compromise with other factions. Russia was, moreover, to afford every possible moral and material assistance to these efforts.
It is not our task here to pass critical judgment on the worth or unworth of such tactics; we are concerned only in establishing the fact in order to show that between the present tactics of Stalin and his adherents and the principles advocated by Lenin there are no points of contact whatever, but that they differ as much as do fire and water. It was chiefly these tactics of Lenin which brought about the complete break with the big Socialist parties abroad, whose leaders Lenin fought tooth and nail and publicly pilloried as "betrayers of the proletariat." In Germany, for example, where the Social Democrats held to the theory that it was first necessary to consolidate the republic internally and externally before it would be possible to proceed through social reform to the establishment of socialism, their tactics were combated by the Communists by every means possible and with fanatical bitterness. The adherents of Social Democracy were branded as "Social-Fascists" and counter-revolutionaries, and every ordinary Communist in Germany was firmly convinced that in comparison with the Socialist Party, Hitler was the lesser evil. The word "Menshevism" came to epitomize every kind of treason against the working class. From the Communist point of view the "Menshevik" was public enemy number one and had to be fought by every means available.
And today? Everything which only a few years ago was damned to the bottomless pit by the Communist International is now for Stalin and his followers the acme of political wisdom. Stalin has become the executor of the will of the once-hated Menshevism and tries to outdo it in concessions to the bourgeois world. The whole idea of the popular front is just a sweeping repudiation of the principles laid down by Lenin and the Old Bolsheviks. One might perhaps object that it is at any rate a step in advance if Stalin and his following abroad have convinced themselves of the untenability of those old principles and have therefore set out along new lines. That would be correct, if along with the new insight there had occurred a change in disposition; if they had finally decided to respect even the opinions of others and to quit playing the part of red popes. But it is just in this regard that there has been the least change.
Stalin, who is today making the most far-reaching concessions to the shallowest reformism and to the defenders of the bourgeois state, has transformed Russia into a vast slaughterhouse and persecutes his real or fancied enemies of the left with the pitiless obsession of an oriental despot. The same man who is today supporting in Spain the interests of his imperialist allies and defending the bourgeois republic against the struggles of the Spanish workers and peasants for social liberation, is having his miserable hired scribblers abroad shamelessly malign and drag through the mud the heroic fighters of the C.N.T. and the F.A.I., who are bearing the brunt of that struggle, just as he does with his political opponents in Russia. The same man who set himself up as the attorney for the so-called United Front is today with cynical deliberateness destroying the anti-Fascist front in Spain so that in the interest of foreign capitalists he can attack the Spanish revolution from the rear. ("The Tragedy of Spain" Rudolf Rocker)
Let's consider the last testimony. Despite all of the prejudices of anarchists, this accusation of the counter-revolutionary role of Stalinism is perfectly justified. Rocker correctly evaluates the significance of Lenin's "twenty-one points", whereas no liberal or radical writer was able to do so. He states that the strategic standpoint of Lenin, was completely different from, or even the opposite of, the popular front strategy in Spain. Without any difficulty, he bitterly exposes the ridiculousness of the Stalinists flattering the Social Democrats, i.e. Socialist Party, who up to a few days prior they had attacked as the head of reaction and counter-revolution.
Marceau Pivert represents the "left-wing" of the French Socialist Party and is an activist who was definitely not free of illusions about the Socialist Party government and the SP-CP united front, but still he had no illusions concerning the reactionary role played by the Communist Party which served the bourgeoisie. But if the Communist Party's role could not help being so reactionary, what would be the role of a united front with the CP? Pivert, in fact, refuses to answer this question, or is unable to do so. If he had sincerely attempt to respond he would have had to surmount the standpoint of the left-wing of the Socialist Party. It is precisely because he is unable to surmount this standpoint that he was in the left-wing of the SP, a believer in the SP-CP united front, and ultimately an opportunist who defends and glorifies Blum of the Socialist Party.
The Communist Party in France did not participate in the Blum government. Do they think that for this reason they have escaped the accusation that they were Millerand-ists, i.e. typical opportunists. Just the opposite. The reason that the Communist Party applied the tactics of "extra-governmental cooperation" was not because they thought it was incorrect and reactionary to participate in a petty bourgeois government (popular front government). Rather, they thought that it was correct on principle to participate, but "feared" that their participation would have scared away and split the bourgeoisie in the popular front and pushed them into the camp of reaction. The Communist Party didn't come out publicly or openly, but from behind and secretly supported the popular front government. Moreover, they faithfully maintained this pledge. It is certainly no exaggeration to say that throughout the period of the popular front, there was no other party more faithful to the power of the bourgeoisie.
The Communist Party quickly tested out their promise. The birth of the popular front government was a period of rising large-scale strikes by the French working class, but the French CP strongly attempted to suppress the working class struggles in the name of defending the popular front government. At the time, the French Communist Party's slogan aimed at the workers was "everything is not possible". Of course if one is abstractly asked "whether everything is possible or not", one would have to answer that probably "everything is not possible." However, what is being concretely stated here is that the workers should not thrust their demands on the popular front government, but rather patiently submit to their usual exploitation under capitalism. The Communist Party told the workers that they must patiently endure under capitalism because of the formation of the popular front government. The counter-revolutionary role of the Stalinists during the popular front period is symbolized by the fact that they appeared as the open enemy of the working class with their slogan that "everything is not possible".
Spain was even worse, with the Stalinists tying the Spanish workers' struggle against fascism to the brutal attacks of the bourgeois power. For example, consider the "May events" in Barcelona in 1937. These "events" were instigated by the anarchists and POUM (Workers Party of Marxist Unification)-in other words the working class. The Stalinists used the violent means of state power (the Popular Front Government) to repress this movement and restore counter-revolutionary bourgeois "order". There are no words which can justify the hideous actions of the Spanish Communist Party, who forever lost their qualification to represent the working class and the workers movement. How do Miyamoto Kenji or Fuwa Tetsuro (JCP leaders) view or reflect upon the past crimes of the Communist Party? They probably would probably stubbornly say that this was the fault of Stalin and has nothing to do with themselves. But until very recently didn't they defend and glorify this crime (by stressing the importance of the popular front and the role of the Communist Party within it.). The Japanese Communist Party also bears serious "responsibility" for the opportunistic tactics of the Stalinists, and they can certainly not flee from this "crime".
7. What Is Fascism And How Can It Be Fought
In 1934, the Comintern changed from the theory of social-fascism to the tactics of the popular front. This was done to hide their responsibility for total defeat in Germany, and because of the fear this defeat triggered. Without any serious reflection, Stalin now began to treat the social-democrats, that he had called social-fascists, as true comrades who could be trusted in the struggle against fascism. Of course, this Copernicus-style conversion was nothing but a shift from one error ("infantile left sickness"), to another error (total opportunism). Workers who had also been told that bourgeois liberals were the enemy along with the social-democrats, were now told that not only the social-democrats, but also the liberals were allies. The excuse given for this class collaborationism was that "all the people" opposing fascism must be rallied to fight against it. In place of workers politics starting from the actual class relations, they substituted sentimental petty bourgeois politics.
What is fascism? Like any other concept, Fascism can be defined in many ways. Most of these definitions are neither completely incorrect nor meaningless. To a limited extent, each one probably has some meaning. For example, it is not necessarily incorrect to define fascism as "counter-revolution". However, fascism is counter-revolution, but all counter-revolution is not fascism. So we must define the essence of fascism and define fascism as fascism. Let's look at the representative definition of the Comintern.
At the 1935 Comintern Congress, Dimitrov played the "leading role" in carrying out the Comintern's big turn according to the will of Stalin. He represented the new popular front policy of the Comintern. Dimitrov defined fascism in the following way.
"Comrades, fascism in power was correctly described by the Thirteenth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International as the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital. The most reactionary variety of fascism in the German type of fascism. It has the effrontery to call itself National-Socialism, though it has nothing in common with socialism. Hitler fascism is not only bourgeois nationalism, it is bestial chauvinism. It is a government system of political gangsterism, a system of provocation and torture practiced upon the working class and the revolutionary elements of the peasantry, the petty bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia. It is medieval barbarity and bestiality, it is unbridled aggression in relation to other nations and countries." (The United Front pp.10-11; International Publishers)
"Fascism is not a form of state power 'standing above both classes-the proletariat and the bourgeoisie,' as Otto Bauer, for instance, has asserted. It is not 'the revolt of the petty bourgeoisie which has captured the machinery of the state,' as the British Socialist Brailsford delcares. No, fascism is not super-class government, nor government of the petty bourgeoisie or the lumpenproletariat over finance capital. Fascism is the power of finance capital itself. It is the organization of terrorist vengeance against the working class and the revolutionary section of the peasantry and intelligentsia. In foreign policy, fascism is jingoism in its crudest form, fomenting bestial hatred of other nations." (Ibid. p. 11)
Dimitrov then screams out:
"Fascism is a most ferocious attack by capital on the mass of the working people;
Fascism is unbridled chauvinism and annexationist war;
Fascism is rabid reaction and counter-revolution;
Fascism is the most vicious enemy of the working class and of all working people!" (Ibid. p. 15)
In Dimitrov's original text he uses italics to emphasize this last part. This is the part which according to the Stalinists "best expresses the essence of fascism." In the October 1954 issue of "Shiso" (Thought), Kabe Hajime wrote in praise of Dimitrov's definition of this part.
He uses a whole string of emotional words such as system of "barbarism", "brutality", "unbridled aggression", and "a system of provocation and torture", and extreme chauvinism, etc, but what Dimitrov wants to say is that fascism is "the dictatorship of finance capital." This is the Stalinists' fundamental definition of fascism. He juxtaposes this definition with what it is not: "not super-class government, nor government of the petty bourgeoisie or the lumpenproletariat over finance capital."
Kabe glorifies the first quotation from Dimitrov's concept of fascism as "a definition which has lost none of its correctness even today" which "correctly defines the essence of fascism". He explains the significance of Dimitrov's new concept is that it defines fascism as not being "the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (finance capital) in general, but only the most reactionary, chauvinistic, and imperialistic segment of finance capital", i.e. not the bourgeoisie as a whole, but only one segment of the bourgeoisie." Despite all of the Stalinists cursing at fascism, they go so far as to say that fascist power is only one segment of the bourgeoisie, the rule of the worst party from the bourgeoisie, not the rule of the bourgeoisie in general, and that this was the correct concept of fascism. Behind the fake veneer of radicalism, one can clearly see the opportunism which betrays the working class.
Dimitrov's concept is wrong in two ways. First, it considers fascism as simply the rule of the bourgeoisie, and moreover this rule is seen as the rule of one segment of the bourgeoisie.
It should be clear to anyone who has seriously studied the fascist movement and governments at all, that it is not correct to say that fascism is not directly bourgeois power but only the power of "finance capital". The development and victory of fascism is born from the reality of the deep contradictions and class conflict of twentieth century monopoly capitalism. Fascism can only be explained from these contradictions, not as a question of a reactionary "segment" of the bourgeoisie. By posing the problem of fascism as one part of the bourgeoisie, the Stalinists claim that it is possible to ally or cooperate with the other segments of the bourgeoisie (democratic, liberal bourgeoisie, progressive, pacifist bourgeoisie-and petty bourgeoisie), thereby justifying the dirty policy of criminal opporutnism.
The workers must clearly understand that when Stalinists pretentiously attack some vulgar theory with the cry that "fascism is the power of finance capital" this is only "the power of finance capital" in this sense, i.e. only in this deceptive and opportunistic sense.
Dimitrov completely changed from the theory of social-fascism and insisted on the following:
"The accession to power of fascism is not an ordinary succession of one bourgeois government by another, but a substitution of one state form of class domination of the bourgeoisie-bourgeois democracy-by another form-open terrorist dictatorship. It would be a serious mistake to ignore this distinction, a mistake which would prevent the revolutionary proletariat from mobilizing the widest strata of the working people of town and country for the struggle against the menace of the seizure of power by the fascists, and from taking advantage of the contradictions which exist in the camp of the bourgeoisie itself. But it is a mistake, no less serious and dangerous, to underrate the importance, in establishing the fascist dictatorship, of the reactionary measures of the bourgeoisie which are at present increasingly developing in bourgeois-democratic countries-measures which suppress the democratic liberties of the working people, falsify and curtail the rights of parliament and intensify the repression of the revolutionary movement." (Ibid. p. 12)
Up until the day before, those who distinguished between bourgeois democracy and fascism were considered betrayers of the revolutionary movement. But today the betrayers of the workers movement are those who fail to make this distinction. Of course, the meaning of this is different from the idea of workers making use of bourgeois democracy. The workers have made use of this, the continuation and expansion of the open class struggle and socialist movement under the rule of capitalism would not be impossible if they did not. However, the question is how bourgeois democracy should be used. Does this mean glorifying bourgeois democracy and spreading illusions about it; or does this mean exposing its essence, and by resisting it (ideologically, organizationally, and practically) rally the workers. This is the fundamental question.
In the following passage, Dimitrov emphasizes that bourgeois democracy must be defended.
"Our attitude to bourgeois democracy is not the same under all conditions. For instance, at the time of the October Revolution, the Russian Bolsheviks engaged in a life-and-death struggle against all political parties which, under the slogan of the defense of bourgeois democracy, opposed the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship. The Bolsheviks fought these parties because the banner of bourgeois democracy had at that time become the standard around which all counter-revolutionary forces mobilized to challenge the victory of the proletariat. The situation is quite different in the capitalist countries at present. Now the fascist counter-revolution is attacking bourgeois democracy in an effort to establish the most barbaric regime of exploitation and suppression of the toiling masses. Now the toiling masses in a number of capitalist countries are faced with the necessity of making a definite choice, and of making it today, not between proletarian dictatorship and bourgeois democracy, but between bourgeois democracy and fascism." (Ibid. p. 110)
This is dirty sophistry. He poses the question as one of "bourgeois democracy or fascism?", instead of "dictatorship of the proletariat or bourgeois democracy". However, the question in 1935, just as it was in 1917, is "the rule of the bourgeoisie or the rule of the workers?"-on this point fundamentally nothing has changed. In 1917, as well, a counter-revolutionary movement which opposed bourgeois democracy existed. For example, the Kornilov Rebellion against the social reformist/democratic (provisional) government.- The danger of the victory of counter-revolution is not just a phenomenon of the Thirties. However, in 1917 the Bolsheviks didn't propose to defend bourgeois democracy (in this case the provisional government), and General Kornilov definitely did not support bourgeois democracy either, (Therefore, it is a lie for Dimitrov to say that in 1917 all of the political parties defended bourgeois democracy and were opposed to the proletariat dictatorship and the Bolsheviks), but rather staged an uprising to overthrow the government representing bourgeois democracy and set up a despotic government. The Kornilov Rebellion was a "sudden crisis" and so the Bolsheviks gave all their energy to fight against this rebellion. The class struggle inevitably intensifies, and as a result "sudden crises" develop. The idea of class struggle without "sudden crises" is complete nonsense and idealism. To be familiar with the actual class struggle and talk such nonsense shows that they are real scoundrels. Dimitrov's logic is nothing but contemptible lies aimed at people's ignorance. Of course we can expect nothing else from Stalinists.
The Stalinists claimed that fascism is the rule of "the most reactionary wing of finance capital". They then juxtapose this theory with various views that fascism is either Bonapartism, petty bourgeois counter-revolution, petty bourgeois or lumpen-proletariat power. The Stalinists also insist that fascism is not the rule of the bourgeoisie in general. Of course, it is easy to show that the Stalinists' concept is a ridiculous dogma. But, what then is the concept of fascism?
Through our experience with the debate on the theory of the nation [see Hayashi's theory of nation-translator], we are already familiar with the difficulty of providing a conceptual definition of a given phenomenon, and this is also the case for the concept of fascism. Nevertheless, we must provide a definition of the concept of fascism; this is inevitable.
We know experientially that directly fascism is not simple counter-revolution, and simple reaction is not fascism. For example, a white-terror government (e.g. the 1920 Horthy government in Hungary) is a military counter-revolutionary government and shares many common characteristics with fascism, but there is hardly any point in defining it as being directly fascist. This is the same for most of the reactionary, counter-revolutionary military governments in the past and present. What, then, are the moments which define fascism in distinction with simple counter-revolution and reaction, i.e. the essence of fascism as fascism?
Our presupposition is that fascism was a phenomenon of the Twenties and Thirties which cannot be separated from this background (this stage of capitalism) and this concept must therefore be discussed in connection with this period.
Fascism was a product of the Twenties and Thirties. This period in which the capitalist contradictions were extremely intensified (this was symbolized by the two world wars and the depression which started in 1929), the contradictions and conflicts between the major powers deepened, imperialist wars were battled out. This was also a period in which, as a result of the Russian Revolution, the anti-socialist/communist consciousness (generally speaking their counter-revolutionary consciousness) of the bourgeoisie and their sense of fear and crisis was strengthened to an unusual extent. Moreover, this was the period in which monopoly capitalism transformed into state-monopoly capitalism. Fascism is also a product of this period, not some sort of supra-historical existence.
When capitalism entered the stage of monopoly from the stage of free competition, bourgeois thought also underwent a great stage. A reaction began against the optimistic 19th century view of "progress" in general and science (and scientific cognition and thought). The unconditional faith in democracy was also shaken, the "principles" of liberalism and individualism negated themselves, and the inclination towards reaction grew stronger. All of things in which the liberal bourgeoisie had placed their faith began to fall apart, and the movement of the workers and socialism appeared. Fascism is very much a product of this period, and in this sense was born and raised under monopoly capitalist society.
We must recognize that fascism is a product of this period of intensified imperialist contradictions, and that it is thoroughly reactionary and counter-revolutionary. There is no fascist movement in the world, and could not be one, which is not a collection and generalization all of reactionary things. This does not only represent modern (capitalist) reactionary things, but also represent all of the reactionary things of the past. Fascism is connected to pre-capitalistic reactionary and old feudalistic, despotic elements. Fascism is direct descendent of all the fascistic things throughout history.
Still, fascism is completely a product of modern capitalism. Fascism is a reaction to the working class, socialism, and communism, on the one hand, and to bourgeois liberalism and democracy (i.e. individualism and selfishness), on the other hand. Rather than seeing both of these sides as identical, fascism regards the former as being born out of the latter's contradictions (i.e. its weakness and softness). Therefore, to negate socialism and communism, it is necessary to negate liberalism and individualism as well. The principles of individualism and democracy inevitably lead to socialism. Moreover, because these "principles" are historically dead, socialism and communism develop. In terms of its understanding of the period, fascism was predominate over the liberals and individualists, just as the German fascist state was predominate over the democratic states of France and England (in a certain sense and within definite limits).
The "principle" Fascism offers, place of socialism and communism, on the one hand, and the liberalism and individualism, on the other, is the concept of a type of community. This "community" is false, but they were deeply aware of that liberalism and democracy were completely incapable of resisting socialism/communism, and destined to historic defeat. They were aware that the concept of democracy (and its system) is self-contradictory, and destined to dissolved.
For fascism, individualism, liberalism, democracy, and parliamentarianism are all the same thing in the end. The parliamentary system symbolizes a divided and dissolute community lacking in communal will. This represents Germany's division and decline, and only carries out useless discussion, and within these useless discussions and conflicts, the German community and national-community is weakened, and decaying, and loosing its place among the leaders of the world. At the basis of the parliamentary system is a decadent individualism, i.e. the standpoint or ideology that the individual as individual, not the community, is the starting point. However, in reality the individual is first a member of the community, an individual as a member, and no individual can be separate from the community. The concept which places the individual before society is incorrect; rather it is the community (for the fascists this is the false community of the nation or state) which exists prior to the individual. The individualism and liberalism at the basis of the democratic parliamentary system symbolizes that the community has ceased to be a community, and for this reason the parliamentary system must be negated and replaced by the "principle of leadership" which truly symbolizes the community. The contradictions and confusion of the "many wills" of parliament should be replaced by the strong, consistent, united will of the almighty "leader" (Hitler).
Political parties and politics are the same for the fascists. They are an expression of decadent bourgeois individualism, and expose the egoistic existence of individuals and classes. Each individual and class insist on their own special rights and particular standpoint, and place this above the society or community, and the essence of political parties is ugly struggles which necessarily degenerate into a struggle for rights and privileges. The fact that bourgeois parliamentary politics, democratic politics, and political parties are dissolved by bribery and corruption was not accidental, but rather came from this essence, and could not be swept away under this system. Therefore, in the interests of the community, political parties and political governments must be negated. Political parties symbolize the rottenness of bourgeois individualism and democracy, and without a community, a system which prioritizes individuals and classes will necessarily come to an end. Fascism thus negates political parties and political governments, and brings forth the "community principle". However, this system doesn't overcome class society, and is only a negation of the idea and is nothing but a brutal and arbitrary dictatorship.
What the fascist call a community is the "nation", "race", "people" "state", etc. Of course, under capitalism this is not a true community (i.e. a real association/combination ("ketsugotai") due to the essence of class society. The fundamental characteristic of capitalist society if the decisive split in the citizenry; that is, the split between the bourgeoisie and the working class, the class divisions and conflict between classes. There is no way for a society with this sort of deep and essential divisions and conflict to exist as a united community. A nation-community or state-community is fantasy and dogma. This is destined to collapse because it is not realistic.
Whereas the Nazis insisted on a nation-community, Mussolini tried to attract the workers and petty bourgeoisie with the fantasy of a so-called "corporatist state". The fascist. The fascist movement cannot be separated from this fantasy-or rather this fantasy is the essential moment for the fascist movement to be a fascist movement. Hence, fascism is a characteristic phenomenon or product of the era of imperialism. Hitler's fascism clearly extends beyond the fantasies of Mussolini, is even more radical and thorough, and more nakedly imperialistic and reactionary. The characteristic of Hitler's fascism is that it is a fantasy of a nation-community or race-community, which was a reflection of the increasing imperialism of German monopoly capital. In this sense, Hitler surpassed Mussolini, and was able to be predominate over him (see the section on "Hitler's Nationalism and German Imperialism" in the article "Theory of Nation").
The fantasy of a corporatist state began in Italy, but it also influenced a number of other countries. For example, the Austrian fascists (Engelbert Dollfuss and others) were influenced by Italian fascism, but the reason they drew close to Italian fascism was in order to escape integration (Austro-German consolidation) with Nazi (German) Fascism. Dollfuss applied his own line of fascism, while suppressing and outlawing the Austrian Nazis Party. His fascism aimed for a "corporatist state", and in this sense must be distinguished from Hitler's fascism. His position was that parliament must be abolished, the spirit of partisan politics jettisoned, and nationalistic unity won, and thus he outlawed political parties and instigated a fascist system. However, the "principle" of the state was (Italian) "corporatism". His system was called a "Christian state", but its actual content was to form a state in which the outlawed democracy and usual elections were replaced by the organization of the five "assemblies". These five "assemblies" refer to the following: the first was the "State Assembly" whose fundamental members were appointed by the President; the second was the "Cultural Union Assembly" which was a kind of representational system of functionaries represented by scientists, artists, educators and members of religious groups.; the third was the "Prefectural Assembly" represented by the governors or each prefecture; the fourth was the "Economic Union Assembly" which was made up of representatives from industry and agriculture; the fifth council was the "United Assembly" made up of representatives of the other four assemblies. (The names of these "assemblies" are translated directly from the Japanese and may not be the common English usage-translator.) However, the characteristic point was not only that these "assemblies" were compelled to support the government, but also that essentially they were supporters of the government which retained no autonomy whatsoever. The task, through the corporate state, was to "wipe out the tradition of individualistic democracy" initiated by the French Revolution.
This sort of Italian fascist state could also be seen in Salizar's fascist state in Portugal and in the thought of the English fascist Mosely. The three elements composing Salizar's state were various social groups, national representational organs and corporatist organizations, and "liberalism and individualism were abolished." Likewise, in the program of Mosely's British Union of Fascists presented in 1935, along with regulations on foreign capital and international finance capital and jingoistic and imperialist policies, it glorified the corporatist state. The lower parliament was to become fascist, with the upper parliament changed into a corporatist "national union", and a "dictatorship on the modern individual" was to be substituted for democracy.
Japanese fascism is also inseparable linked to the fantasies about a nationalistic or state community. Extensive use was made of the emperor system for this community fantasy. It can be said that because of this fantasy, Japanese fascism was able to exist as fascism. The community fantasies of Japanese fascism is linked to imperialist expansion.
Nationalism, racism, populism, statism, etc., all have the same realistic, historical foundation in monopoly capital imperialism. The Nazis anti-Semitism was a distorted expression of the ultra-nationalism and ultra-imperialism of German monopoly capital; it was not some sort of supra-historical, mystical or psychological thing, nor was it an expression of the wickedness of human beings, etc.
Further, for the petty bourgeoisie, nation, race, people, and state (ethnic-state or corporate state), etc. is a community, in other words a community constructed on a fantasy. This doesn't overcome class conflict, and it is therefore in fact nothing but a divided, illusory community. Moreover, this does not overcome individualism or selfishness, but rather provides a form for them to work in a different shape. In this false community, the selfishness of the individual petty bourgeois appears as the "collective" selfishness which is opposed to the collective egoism of other nations and states. This replaces peace with inevitability of war (imperialistic war) (or the inevitability of imperialistic war gives birth to the victory of fascism).
The community of fascism is an illusion and a lie which doesn't overcome all of the old bourgeois rubbish (individualism, egoism, etc.), but rather revives and reproduces it on a greater scale in a different form. This is the synthesis or culmination of all the reactionary, ugly and barbaric things in capitalist, class society.
The link between fascism and the petty bourgeoisie is not accidental. For the petty bourgeoisie, bourgeois democracy and liberalism are considered essential things, and within this environment they feel an agreement with their own nature. For this reason, the collapse of this is fatal for them. This signifies their own collapse, and the breakdown of the democratic system drives them to despair, and they are eager to escape from this bankruptcy and find another system they can rely on.
However, they either are not familiar with the socialist solution, or they don't regard this as a solution for their difficulties. Hence, they seek their salvation in illusions about the state, and for them this is an extremely "natural" process. This is because the petty bourgeoisie lives in thrall to a mystical conception of the state, and is unable to escape from this. This means that in a crisis, they hope to maintain their present state as petty bourgeois; that is, they place their hopes in the fantasy that they can be protected and rescued by the state, this progresses to become the fantasy of "salvation" through nationalism, statism or imperialism. Unlike monopoly capital, the petty bourgeoisie (i.e. small producers) are dependent on the market and ruled by the market, and are unable to resist the despotism of the market through their own individual efforts. As they become increasingly powerless, they place their faith in some enormous power that can save them. Consequently, they are very easily won over to the fantasy of a sham community, or a strong state.
Fascism appears from within the disintegration and bankruptcy of liberalism and democracy, and uses this to propel itself forward. Therefore, the powerlessness of the Stalinists' popular front tactics of the Thirties which defended liberalism and bourgeois democracy to fight fascism was immediately clear. Instead of proposing the concept of a real community (i.e. the concept of socialism) which overcomes class divisions in place of bankrupted liberalism and democracy, fascism proposes a superficial concept of community which operates within class divisions, that is a fantasy community (nation, race or state). The fascists offer this because they believe that it is impotent and historically anachronistic to defend liberalism and democracy, since the rule of capital (the "order" of the current system) instead of becoming more stable or strong, is becoming more crisis-ridden preparing the way for the inevitable collapse of the system. Democracy has been revealed to be self-contradictory and bankrupt. Therefore, the democratic approach can no longer protect and maintain capitalism- this is the most fundamental impulse of the fascist movement, and the deepest source of its strength. Of course, this is also at the basis of the modern bourgeoisie's consciousness, and so the fascist movement is able to quickly expand its power as the "the lion of the day." Fascism is an attempt to overcome the crisis in bourgeois "democratic" rule through a pseudo community, that is a sort of barrack-society, a despotic system to overpower the working class. Objectively they serve monopoly capital and no one else. The petty bourgeoisie, and needless to say the working class, were not saved by the victory of fascism. Rather, the decisive advance of state monopoly capital under the fascist system meant that they were subsumed and dissolved under monopoly capital.
But the Stalinists, after 1935, in fact defended and protected bourgeois liberalism and democracy, i.e. the failure of capital and the Great Depression, which even the fascists had understood and attacked as being historically bankrupt. It was natural that not only could they not defeat fascism, but in fact lead to fatal defeat.
In place of the false community of the fascists, they should have put that of the real community (i.e. socialism/communism) and fought resolutely for this. This is how to crush the fantasies about this false community, and liberate not only the workers but also the petty bourgeoisie.
Out of the reality of capitalism, oppositional ideas are always being born, and are connected to various class movements. Reaction makes use of these ideas (and must do so to win over the people). Reaction attempts to win over the people with the ideology of a community (of course a false one) which appears to be opposed to bourgeois egoism, individualism and liberalism. However this is nothing but demagoguery. This is the essence of the demagogic character of fascism.
What is fascism? Like all concepts it is difficult to say in a word. It seems to be correct to define it as a counter-revolutionary movement in the period of monopoly capital. From the standpoint of class foundation, it could be called a bourgeois or petty bourgeois counter-revolutionary movement, even though it is clear that the fascist movement is not directly the movement of monopoly capital. It could also be called capital's brutal "mercenary" movement because objectively this is the role of fascism (just as Roman mercenaries were once subservient to their masters, was Hitler subservient to German monopoly capital by means of representing its imperialistic designs in a totally crude form). Since fascism took the form of a "mass movement", it could also be called a "mass" counter-revolutionary movement. Furthermore, fascism needed the ideology of a pseudo-community to mobilize the petty bourgeoisie and backward workers, and also pretended to be a "socialist" movement. Fascism played the role of mobilizing the masses for nationalism and imperialism, and thus gave unlimited support to the imperialistic bourgeoisie. Ultimately it merges with the movement and rule of the imperialistic bourgeoisie.
Fascism is the counter-revolutionary movement in the period of monopoly capital, and is based on corrupt elements from among every class and from the declassed-this doesn't mean, however, that every class or social layer makes the same sort of "contribution" to fascism. They use the fantasy of a pseudo-community to try organize on a "mass level", but in the end they serve monopoly capital and the power of fascism merges with the rule of monopoly capital. Therefore, the Stalinists are fundamentally wrong to define fascism as the power and movement of the "most reactionary segment of the bourgeoisie", because it represents the modern bourgeoisie as a whole. The fascist movement cannot be crushed by a return to the rule of the "democratic" bourgeoisie (or the combined rule of the democratic bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie) in place of the "reactionary, counter-revolutionary" bourgeoisie. This must be achieved through the revolutionary victory and power of the working class.
8. Lenin's "Tactics"
The Stalinists first introduced the theory of "social-fascism", which is the position that "Fascism is no big deal, the real danger is opportunists, i.e. social-democrats". History has amply revealed that this standpoint is based on extreme self-righteousness and narrow-mindedness and leads to the ruin of the working class. Superficially this is dressed up in leftist clothing, but is in fact extreme opportunism because it conceals the abandonment of the struggle against fascism behind the cry for a struggle with social-democracy.
Ruined by the theory of social-fascism, the Stalinists subsequently began to push the nakedly opportunistic, polar opposite line of the popular front to the workers throughout the world. Social-democracy, opportunism, and even segments of the bourgeoisie were unconditionally glorified, and ugly collaboration with them became the norm. The revolutionary struggles of the working class were negated, only small reforms within the framework of capitalism were said to be realistic or possible. The Comintern degenerated to the point of becoming advocates and defenders of reformism that was not better than social-democracy.
The revolutionary tactics of the working class obviously have nothing in common with the theory of social-fascism and the popular front. Certainly, we accuse social-democracy and reformism of harming the interests of the working class, diverting the movement in the wrong direction, and ultimately betraying the working class. We firmly denounce their collaborationism. But this is completely different from the mechanical dogma that social-democracy and fascism are identical, and that social-democracy is just the moderate wing of fascism. We must connect the fight against fascism (and the ruling class in general) to the struggle against opportunism. The form of the connection must be decided on the basis of the objective conditions and the subjective conditions of the workers and revolutionary movement. However, this principle itself is completely clear, and not at all vague.
Lenin clearly spoke about the tactics for the revolutionary workers movement. Here we will show that Lenin's tactical position is clearly different from the theory of social-fascism and the tactics of the popular front. In "Left-Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder", Lenin debated the "left-wing" communists who "renounced all compromise".
"For, the German 'Lefts' must know that the whole of Bolshevism, both before and after the October Revolution, is full of instances of maneuvering, temporising and compromising with other parties, bourgeois parties included. To carry on a war for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie, a war which is a hundred times more difficult, prolonged and complicated than the most stubborn of ordinary wars between states, and to refuse beforehand to maneuver, to utilise the conflict of interests (even though temporary) among one's enemies, to refuse to temporise and compromise with possible (even though transitory, unstable, vacillating and conditional) allies-is not this ridiculous in the extreme?" (International Publishers: p. 52)
"The more powerful enemy can be conquered only by exerting the utmost effort, and by necessarily, thoroughly, carefully, attentively and skillfully taking advantage of every, even the smallest, 'rift' among the enemies, of every antagonism of interest among the bourgeoisie of the various countries and among the various groups or types of bourgeoisie within the various countries, by taking advantage of every, even the smallest, opportunity of gaining a mass ally, even though this ally be temporary, vacillating, unstable, unreliable and conditional. Those who do not understand this do not understand even a particle of Marxism, or of scientific, modern Socialism in general." (Ibid. p. 53)
"Before the downfall of tsardom the Russian revolutionary Social-Democrats repeatedly utilised the services of the bourgeois liberals (in our situation today this would be social democrats-Hayashi), that is, they concluded numerous practical compromises with them; and in 1901-02, even prior to the appearance of Bolshevism, the old editorial board of Iskra (consisting of Plekhanov, Axelrod, Zasulich, Martov, Potresov and myself) concluded-not for long it is true-a formal political alliance with Struve, the political leader of bourgeois liberalism, while it was able at the same time to carry on incessantly a most merciless ideological and political struggle against bourgeois liberalism and against the slightest manifestation of its influence in the working class movement. The Bolsheviks have always adhered to this policy. Ever since 1905 they have systematically insisted on an alliance between the working class and the peasantry against the liberal bourgeoisie and tsardom, never, however, refusing to support the bourgeoisie against tsardom (for instance, during the second stage of elections or during second ballots) and never ceasing their relentless ideological and political struggle against the bourgeois-revolutionary peasant party, the 'Socialist-Revolutionaries', exposing them as petty-bourgeois democrats who falsely masqueraded as Socialists. During the Duma elections in 1907, the Bolsheviks for a brief period entered into a formal political bloc with the 'Socialist-Revolutionaries.' Between 1903 and 1912 there were periods of several years in which we were formally united with the Mensheviks in one Social-Democratic Party; but we never ceased our ideological and political struggle against them on the grounds that they were opportunists and vehicles of bourgeois influence among the proletariat. During the war we effected certain compromises with the 'Kautskians,' with the Left Mensheviks (Martov), and with a section of the 'Socialist-Revolutionaries' (Chernov and Natanson); we were together with them at Zimmerwald and Kienthal and issued joint manifestoes; but we never ceased and never relaxed our ideological-political struggle against the 'Kautskians,' Martov and Chernov (Natanson died in 1919 a 'Revolutionary Communist' Narodnik who was very close and almost in agreement with us). At the very outbreak of the October Revolution we entered into an informal but very important (and very successful) political bloc with the petty-bourgeois peasantry by adopting the Socialist-Revolutionary agrarian programme in its entirety, without a single alteration-that is, we effected an unquestionable compromise in order to prove to the peasants that we did not want to 'steam-roller' them, but to reach agreement with them. At the same time we proposed (and soon after effected) a formal political bloc, including participation in the government, with the 'Left-Socialist-Revolutionaries' who dissolved this bloc after the conclusion of
the Brest-Litovsk Peace and then, in July 1918 went to the length of armed rebellion, and subsequently of armed warfare, against us." (Ibid. pp. 53-55)
"Capitalism would not be capitalism if the 'pure' proletariat were not surrounded by a large number of exceedingly mixed and transitional types, from the proletarian to the semi-proletarian (who earns half of his livelihood by the sale of his labour power), from the semi-proletarian to the small peasant (and petty artisan, handicraft worker and small proprietor in general), from the small peasant to the middle peasant, and so on, and if the proletariat itself were not divided into more or less developed strata, if it were not divided according to territorial origin, trade, sometimes according to religion, and so on. All this makes it necessary, absolutely necessary, for the vanguard of the proletariat, its class-conscious section, the Communist Party, to resort to manoeuvres, arrangements and compromises with the various groups of proletarians, with the various parties of the workers and small proprietors. The whole point lies in knowing how to apply these tactics in such a way as to raise, and not lower, the general level of proletarian class consciousness, revolutionary spirit, and ability to fight and to conquer. Incidentally, it should be noted that the victory of the Bolsheviks over the Mensheviks demanded the application of tactics of manoeuvres, arrangements and compromises not only before but also after the October Revolution of 1917, but such manoeuvres and compromises, of course, as would facilitate, accelerate, consolidate and strengthen the Bolsheviks at the expense of the Mensheviks. The petty-bourgeois democrats (including the Mensheviks) inevitably vacillate between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, between bourgeois democracy and the Soviet system, between reformism and revolutionariness, between love for the workers and fear of the proletarian dictatorship, etc. The proper tactics for the Communists is to adopt is to utilise these vacillations and not to ignore them; and utilising them calls for concessions to those elements which are turning towards the proletariat, whenever and to the extent that they turn towards the proletariat, in addition to demanding a fight against those who turn towards the bourgeoisie. The result of the application of correct tactics in our country is that Menshevism has disintegrated and is disintegrating more and more, that the stubbornly opportunist leaders are becoming isolated, and that the best of the workers and the best elements among the petty-bourgeois democrats are being brought into our camp. This is a long process, and the hasty 'decision'-'No compromise, no manoeuvres!'-can only hinder the work of strengthening the influence of the revolutionary proletariat and enlarging its forces." (Ibid. pp. 56-7)
Lenin's thought and tactics are perfectly clear. Indeed, the theory of social-fascism seems to be an extreme caricature of the ridiculous "Left" revolutionaries who call for "No Compromise!". Even though the social-democrats "anti-fascism" is temporary, uncertain, and ultimately untrustworthy, it is still the task of class conscious workers to make use of this. At the same time, Lenin emphasizes that even in the case of a temporary alliance with these opportunists, their essence must be "unceasingly" exposed. In other words, Lenin says that a "never ceasing their relentless ideological and political struggle" should be waged against opportunism. Nothing could be more clear than the fact that the tactics of the popular front have nothing in common with the standpoint of Lenin, and an expression of the Comintern's submission to an ugly collaboration and conciliation with opportunism and the bourgeoisie.
Through the theory of social-fascism and the tactics of the popular front, the path towards the victory of the workers of the world was blocked. It is meaningless to discuss whether the working class in Europe might have been victorious had a correct revolutionary, class standpoint been advanced. What can be said, however, is that even supposing victory had been possible, the Comintern's confused policy would have certainly made victory impossible. Here we have not discussed why and how the pseudo-radical, ultra-opportunistic and nonsensical policy of the Comintern became inevitable. This is a separate topic. Here we have only pointed out this reality.