Peter Petroff February 1934

Essence of Fascism


Source: Labour, February 1934, p. 141;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

PETER PETROFF badly wanted by the Nazis for his Socialist and Trade Union activities in Germany escaped with his wife and two young daughters from under the noses of the storm troopers. In the following article on ESSENCE OF FASCISM he gives a clear account of the sources and practice of a “culture” which threatens the modern world with a reversion to barbarism.


The plague of Fascism is spreading. No country is absolutely immune against the infection.

The crisis is everywhere creating favourable conditions for the spreading of this plague. The number of declassed elements is growing, the large masses of unemployed thrown out of the process of production are getting demoralised and are falling an easy prey to adventurers and demagogues.

Capitalism is played out. The magnates of capital determined to maintain their economic and political power, realise that this can no longer be done in democratic forms and are resorting to Fascism, in order to attain their object by dictatorial methods.

To this end they are mobilising the declassed and despairing elements to use them against the workers.

A characteristic feature of Fascism is the use of popular radical slogans, socialist songs and emblems to cover its anti-socialist reactionary ideas. Fascism is a form of militarist dictatorship of an essentially new type supported by militarised hooligan elements whose job it is to keep the population terrorised. Thus lies, dishonesty and violence form an essential part of the ideology of Fascism.

Fascism replaces the democratic principles of liberty and responsibility by the principle of autocratic leadership. It leaves no rooms for freedom of thought, of speech, of the press, of art and of science.

While all tyrannies of the past demanded silent obedience Fascism demands the active support of everybody from the cradle to the grave.

Fascism stands for totalitarianism. It means the complete subjugation of all and everything to the centralised totalitarian Fascist state.

It does not tolerate a state of affairs in which any part of public or private life remains outside the sphere of control of the Fascist state. Under Fascism the individual’s work, social relations, political activity, scientific notions, religious fervour, artistic taste, sexual behaviour, physical exercise and use of leisure is dictated and controlled the state.

Ancient slavery, mediŠval serfdom never reached such a pitch of subjugation of the individual as Fascism means.

The Fascist state is a militarist state. It militarises the whole nation beginning with the children. It turns the schools and universities into barracks and compels the elder pupils and students to give part of their time to military training. It cultivates the spirit of war and presents war its an ideal.

To keep the masses in subjugation the Fascist state requires an elaborate system of lawless coercion and terror. To administer this system docile tools, arrogant to the masses of the people but servile to their superiors, must fill responsible positions. Men with ideas and character must be eliminated.

Thus Fascism creates an ever-increasing state of inefficiency and corruption in all spheres of administration which, in the long run, makes for its downfall.

Fascism means the destruction of the accumulated cultural values of a nation. Instead of educating thinking citizens, it drills docile slaves. It enslaves women, and makes art and literature subservient to the interests of the dictatorship. Science is robbed of the liberty essential for its development and made a mere servant of the state.

Stagnation and decay in the cultural field are therefore features of the Fascist state.

Fascism is incompatible with the existence of free Labour organisations. It pretends to abolish class snuggle by preventing the workers from defending their interests. Knowing that the modern worker will not remain unorganised, the Fascist state organises sham unions and makes membership therein compulsory. It strives to turn all voluntary organisations, including the churches, into appendages of the state. Fascism destroys all forms of representative government in the state as well as in the municipalities, replacing them by an all-powerful autocratic bureaucracy. The so-called “corporatives” have so far remained on paper in Italy as well as in Germany.

The totalitarian Fascist state is a one-party state. No other parties are allowed to exist or subsist beside the governing party. The Fascist party itself is however, not a governing body, but merely an instrument.

In the economic field Fascism maintains and supports the capitalist forms of ownership and exploitation. It, however, develops tendencies towards state capitalism.

Fascism on the basis of private capitalism means the slavery of the masses; based on state capitalism, it must become absolutely intolerable. In the present Fascist state, based on private ownership, thy citizen is deprived his right to choose freely his representatives; to think what he wishes, and to say what he thinks (as Spinoza puts it); to organise voluntarily; he is forced to act against his convictions and his conscience.

Under state capitalism, however, the State – the Dictator – would become also his employer and his landlord, and his misery would become boundless.