Karl Radek


International Fascism and
the Communist International

(26 July 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 53 [31], 26 July 1923, pp. 559–560.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2022). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Today Fascism is no longer a special fruit of Italian events, but an international phenomenon. But it is only in Italy that it is in power, and here it has created a Fascist state, just as Russia is the first state of the proletariat. But the waves of Fascism are running high in Germany and in Czechoslovakia; it is beginning its attack in America, in France and in Austria. Fascism, as we shall see further, is a petty bourgeois reaction against the situation created by the war, a petty bourgeois reaction which big capital is anxious make use of for the restoration of its power wherever this is overthrown or shaken. The difference between the position of the bourgeoisies of various countries is much greater than the differences within the working class, and thus the policy pursued by the petty bourgeoisies of different countries is marked by more essential differences than those to be observed in the position and policy of the working classes of the different countries, although these also show numerous points of difference. We shall not occupy ourselves at the moment with the various phases of the Fascist movement in the various countries, but solely with that aspect of the movement which all countries possess in common. For this purpose we must first devote our attention to Central and South European Fascism, for if we extend our observation to American Fascism, or to the Fascism which is only just arising in England, we find that in these countries. The movement is at present nothing more nor less than the preparation of new fighting methods on the part of big capital, which desires to be ready in case state power should fall into the hands of the petty bourgeoisie.

What do we find common to Italian, German. Czechoslovakian, and Austrian Fascism? The most striking comparison is formed by the regime of Horthy, the executioner of the Hungarian workers, and the regime of Mussolini. In both cases, we find orgies of reaction, in both cases the most savage persecution of the labor movement. It may even be asserted that in Hungary the persecutions are ten times as savage as in Italy, although the Hungarian government is not a Fascist one. Every counter-revolutionary power, or counter-revolutionary movement is not necessarily Fascism. In what do the Fascisti differ from the Hungarian White counter-revolutionists? The Fascist movement is the movement of broad petty-bourgeois masses, whilst white governments of the Horthy type embody the victory of feudal capitalist groups. White governments of the Horthy description end by no longer serving the cause of feudalism, nor the cause of the restoration of the purely landowning state of society, but solely the cause of the banking and industrial magnates. And here the Fascist movement ends too, for in present-day Europe it is only possible to rule on the basis of a proletarian or large bourgeois policy; today, no politics can be based on the petty bourgeoisie alone. But the difference between a Fascist government or movement and a white feudal-capitalist movement consists in the fact that the white governments (as for instance the Horthy government) come into existence in the form of a movement arising out of the old ruling classes, which strive for the restoration of old conditions, whilst the Fascist movements, in so far as they represent the thoughts and feelings of the broad masses fighting under the banner of Fascism, cherish the hope of being able to build up life on new foundations – foundations whose outlines are still very vague, but which it is hoped will free the petty bourgeoisie from all the burdens which the war has cast upon it.

Wherein do the roots of the Fascist movement lie? The root of the Fascist movement is in the proletarianizing of broad masses of the petty city bourgeoisie by the war. The decay of state finances, the disintegration of the currency system, the rise in prices, and the increase of taxation, have led to an impoverishment of the intelligenzia, of the lower officials, of the officers, and of considerable strata of tradespeople. These masses have been everywhere seeking a means of escape: they seek new paths, new forms of life. After the war the representatives of social democracy and of various small bourgeois parties came into power in Germany, in Czecho-Slovakia, in Austria, and in Italy. The masses of suffering petty bourgeoisie expected that these governing powers would alleviate their situation would change their condition of life. But these alterations can only be attained by a united fight against the big bourgeoisie, by beginning to organize life on socialist principles. Social democracy, afraid of big capital, and lacking in faith in the creative power of the proletariat, has proved incapable of fulfilling this task. It has everywhere not only made compromises, but has actually capitulated to the big bourgeoisie, as a result of which it has not alone secured the actual victory of the big bourgeoisie in every country, and undermined the confidence of broad masses of workers in socialism, but has also driven the enquiring masses of the petty bourgeoisie to the conviction that socialism is a swindle, that it is not capable of building up a new life. And as the situation of these masses has grown worse from day to day, they have had to seek further, and now they have discovered this. Fascism, which says to them: down with the deceits of democracy, which means nothing but corruption and profit in the working class to the detriment of the state – let us form a strong power, composed of courageous men who will know how to restore the shattered life of the bourgeoisie with a firm hand, how to set the factories going again, to run the railroads without deficit, to feed the starving petty bourgeoisie, and to give the intelligenzia the position due to them in the state. The leading capitalist groups utilize this Fascist ideology for the purpose of putting an end to the impotent rule of democracy. It is not that democracy prevents them from ruling economic life, but it does not guarantee a powerful apparatus, working energetically and without debate in their favor.

In the conquered countries, the decaying classes utilize Fascism to retain their hold on existence. In Hungary, the feudal-capitalist officers’ clique was able to seize power without the aid of a broad petty bourgeois movement, for here the Soviet power had been defeated by the Roumanian bayonets. But in Germany or Austria, power can only be seized with the aid of a broad petty-bourgeois movement, as the working masses in these countries are tar too powerful to be placed under the yoke of a White Guard government by means of a military conspiracy. This was demonstrated by the Kapp putsch in Germany in 1920, when the military conspiracy was strangled by the workers. In Austria, where one sixth of the population is organized in the trade unions, the victory of a small group of officers would scarcely last an hour if it were not backed up by a broad petty-bourgeois movement. For this reason, the landowning and officers’ cliques, who lost their state positions in consequence of the military defeats and in consequence of the victory of the revolution in 1918, are now utilizing the misery of the petty bourgeoisie, and the petty bourgeois national feelings, for the purpose of preparing the way to their own victory. The petty bourgeoisie of the vanquished countries is not only nationalist in spirit because it has been so reared during the last decades, but because it only needs to compare its present position with its position before the war, during the reign of the Hohenzollerns and Habsburgs, to come to the conclusion that it was much better off under the latter. Thus it seeks its ideals in the past, and becomes the dupe of those political elements which are to blame for its present misery. All those who are battening on the decay of economics, all those who are raking in milliards by speculation: the cliques of capitalist sharks – all these are nuking Fascism serve their own ends, are using the Fascist bands to get into tlieir hands those working masses who are struggling against higher prices and the ever-increasing misery.

This diagnosis of Fascism determines our strategy in our combat against it. It goes without saying that the Communist Party has to organize the defence of the working masses against the Fascist bands, and it must be ready to defend itself by force of arms against the Fascist bands, for if Fascism attains power, it will signify the absolute sway of capitalism in its bloodiest form. And this will again attempt to restore its economics at the cost of the working people. But we should not assume that it is only possible to fight Fascism by force of arms. This broad movement of the petty-bourgeoisie must also be deleated by political weapons, by a bold revolutionary policy, by the initiative of the proletariat in re-establishing society on new foundations. This will impart confidence to the masses and enable them to believe that a new regime has come, a regime which will rescue them from their growing want and misery. It follows from this that in order to insure our victory over Fascism, we must win over the petty-bourgeois masses, that we must make it plain to them that they are being used as cats paws in the hands of capitalism, of landowning and officers reaction. Fascism is the socialism of the petty-bourgeois masses, and it is only when we demonstrate to them that their leaders are dragging them further down in their wretched position, that we shall be able to wrest them from the hands of those elements who are living on their impoverishment, it is only in this way that the Communist Parties will not only resist the Fascist wave, cut will also be able to direct it into the mighty current of the proletarian movement.

The Communist international differentiates this policy most definitely from the policy pursued by social democracy. Social democracy, by renouncing the combat against the big bourgeoisie delivered over the petty bourgeois masses to the influence of the iron, coal, and banking magnates, who have delegated their power into the hands of the hands of the officers' cliques, under the name of democracy, in order that the revolutionary labor movement might be crushed. And this same social democracy now shrieks aloud at the dangers of Fascism. Today it shrieks, but tomorrow it will be ready to lick the boots of the Fascisti, or at best to play the role of an impotent opposition to the Fascist government. Social democracy, in clinging to the debris of rotten democracy, in displaying the standard of impotent pacifism, and, in the fight against high prices, merely folding its hands in its lap is not combatting Fascism; it is merely widening tlie chasms dividing the petty bourgeois masses from the working class. When we Communists attempt to differentiate between those suffering elements among the Fascisti which belong to the people, and those elements which are utilizing Fascism for serving the purposes of capitalist and landowning reaction, the social democrats cry out that we are making compromises with Fascism. This clamour on the part of the social democrats is merely a sign of their own utter helplessness, of their fear of being further shaken. We however know very well that the working class will beat back that attack of capital whose highest form is Fascism, and will proceed to an attack on the citadel of capitalism itself. And in this struggle it will not only unite the whole working class, but all the masses of the people suffering from the effects of the disintegration of post war capitalism.

Last updated on 3 September 2022