Fascism and Communism
FASCISM is no longer a fruit peculiar to Italian soil, but an international
phenomenon. Italy is merely the first country where the Fascisti have seized the
government, just as Russia is the first country where the proletariat has seized
power. But the Fascisti flood is rising in Germany, in Czechoslovakia, and is
beginning to stir in the United States, and France, and Austria.
Fascism, as we shall show, is a pettybourgeois reaction against post-war
conditions – a petty-bourgeois reaction that Big Capital is using to fortify
itself wherever its rule is threatened. The difference in the condition of the
petty bourgeoisie in different countries is much greater than the difference in
the condition of the working classes; and the policies of the former therefore
vary more than the policies of Labor.
I do not purpose to discuss here the national differences in the Fascist
movement, but rather its common features. I shall confine myself to Fascism in
central and southern Europe, because up to the present this movement in America
and England is still in its infancy.
What common features has Fascism in Italy, Germany, Czechoslovakia, and
Austria? It is perfectly obvious of course that Horthy’s Government in Hungary
pursues the same policy toward Labor that Mussolini’s Government pursues in
Italy. Both countries are celebrating orgies of reaction, and persecuting Labor.
We may say that these persecutions are in Hungary ten times more atrocious than
in Italy. And yet, Hungary does not have a Fascist government. An
anti-revolutionary government is not necessarily Fascist.
What then distinguishes the Fascisti from the Hungarian White
Counter-revolutionists? The Fascist movement is supported by the lower middle
classes, while Horthy’s Government is supported by the feudal nobility and the
capitalists. White governments of the Horthy type, however, do not in the long
run serve the ends of a feudal landed aristocracy, but rather of banking and
industrial finance. The outcome of Fascist government in modern Europe is the
same, because any new system today must rest upon either the proletariat or high
finance; it can no longer rest upon the middle classes. The difference between a
Fascist Government and a White FeudalCapitalist Government lies in the fact
that the latter ’ that of Horthy, for instance ’ is in the hands of the old
ruling classes, who are trying to restore the old conditions, while the Fascist
movement, so far as it represents the petty bourgeoisie, brings new men to the
front and endeavors to set up a new order that will liberate the common people
from the burdens imposed upon them by the war.
What is the ultimate cause of the Fascist movement? The ultimate cause of the
Fascist movement is the reduction of great numbers of the middle classes to the
condition of the proletariat as an outcome of the war. Disordered public
finance, demoralized currency, rising prices, and enormous taxes have pauperized
our educated classes, civil servants, army officers, and an important faction of
our independent artisans and tradesmen. These people are seeking to save
themselves. They are trying to find a new formula for life.
Immediately after the war the Social Democrats and other representatives of
the petty bourgeoisie gained control of the government in Germany,
Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Italy. The distressed classes we have just
mentioned hoped thus to bring about a change in their favor. But such a reform
could be won only by a determined struggle with the great capitalists, and the
adoption of Socialist measures. The Social Democrats failed, because they
feared Big Capital and distrusted the ability of the proletariat. They not only
compromised with their opponents but capitulated to them. This destroyed the
faith of both the working people and the middle classes in Socialism itself.
Since the condition of the middle classes grew steadily worse, they were
forced to try other methods, and resorted to Fascism, whose motto is: ‘Destroy
this lying democracy that merely stands for corruption and profiteering and
ruins the industrious commons. Let us set up a strong government of bold,
vigorous men, competent to run things, who will start our factories going, make
our railways pay, give remunerative employment to our starving bourgeoisie, and
rescue from ruin the educated classes.’
Capitalists use this Fascist ideology to destroy our impotent democracy. This
democracy does not, to be sure, prevent their controlling our economic life, but
it is proving a less serviceable tool than they would like ...
The petty bourgeoisie in central and southern Europe is nationalist, because
it has been systematically trained for many decades to revere nationalism, and
because when it compares its present condition with its condition before the
war, it believes that it was better off under the old government. The middle
classes look back longingly to the good old times, and thus become the victims
of the very elements that have brought them to their present pass. All those who
batten on the decay of society – speculators, profiteers, and money leeches of
every kind – make the Fascisti their tools to cow Labor and to prevent their
employees from raising wages to correspond with the rising cost of living.
These features of Fascism determine the Communists’ tactics. Naturally our
party must defend the working classes against the Fascisti. Naturally we must
defend them by force of arms, for if the Fascisti gain power they will rivet the
chains of Capitalism upon us. They will try to recover their own prosperity at
the cost of the manual workers. But it does not follow that we must fight
Fascism with arms alone; we must employ political measures likewise. The
proletariat must take the initiative in reconstructing the world on a new
foundation. This will convince the petty bourgeoisie that a new era is dawning
which may save them from their misery. Therefore if we are to conquer Fascism we
must win over the petty bourgeoisie. We must convince them that the capitalists
and landlords and reactionary army-men are merely using them as tools. Fascism
is middle-class Socialism, and we cannot persuade the middle classes to abandon
it until we can prove to them that it only makes their condition worse.