Radek’s Novitiate

What is Social-Fascism?


Written: 1930.
Source: The Militant, Vol. III No. 31, 1 October 1930, p. 7.
Transcription/HTML Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Public Domain: This work is in the under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists’ Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

Radek has his novitiate to serve. Towards this end, he writes long-winded feuilletons in Pravda on “social fascism”. “What is this, a rope?” as the philosopher said among the Chemnitz folk. And since the trouble is the readers of the numerous articles on “social fascism” disastrously forget all the excellent arguments of the previous investigators, it is up to Radek to begin from the beginning. To begin from the beginning means to declare that Trotsky stands on the other side of the barricades. It is possible that Radek had to insert this sentence upon the special request of the editorial board, as a moral honorarium for the publication of his article.

But still: what does the essence of “social fascism” consist of? And wherein lies its difference from avowed Fascism? It appears that the difference lies in the fact (who would have thought it?) that social fascism is also “for the carrying out of the fascist policy, but in a democratic way”. Radek explains in long words why nothing remained for the German bourgeoisie than to carry out the fascization policy through parliament “with an outward retention of democracy”. Then what is the matter in question? Up to now the Marxists were of the opinion that it is democracy which is the “outward” disguise of the class dictatorship – one of its possible disguises. The political function of the present social democracy is the creation of precisely such democratic disguises. In nothing else lies its difference from Fascism which, with other methods, other ideology, in part also with another social basis, organizes, insures and protects the same dictatorship of imperialist capital.

But – Radek seeks to prove – it is possible to maintain decaying capitalism only with Fascist measures. In the long run, this is entirely correct. From this, however, does not flow the identity of social democracy and Fascism, but merely the fact that the social democracy is compelled in the long run to clear the road for Fascism, during which, reaching the end, it does not deny itself the pleasure of batttering in a considerable number of Fascist heads. Such objections, however, are declared by Radek to be an “extenuation of the social democracy”. This terrible revolutionist apparently thinks that to rub out the bloody tracks of imperialism with the brush of democracy is a higher and more eminent mission than to defend the imperialist coffers with blackjack in hand.

Radek cannot deny that the social democracy clings to parliamentarism with all its feeble power, for all the sources of its influence and welfare are bound up with this artificial mechanism. But, protests the inventive Radek, it is nowhere said that Fascism requires the formal dispersal of parliament. Just look! But it was precisely that political party which, in Italy for the first time, destroyed the parliamentary machine in the name of the Praetorian Guard of bourgeois class rule, that was called Fascism. This means nothing, it appears. Fascism as a phenomenon is one thing, its essence is another. Radek finds that the destruction of parliamentarism is, apparently not the kind of democracy is taken as such. “What is this, a rope?”

But since he feels that this does not pass off so smoothly, Radek adds with still greater inventiveness: “Even Italian Fascism did not disperse the parliament right away (!)”. What is true, remains true. And yet it did disperse it, without sparing even the social democracy, the finest flower in the parliamentary bouquet. With Radek it looks as though the social fascists dispersed the Italian parliament, only not right way, but after reflection. We are afraid that Radek’s theory does not quite explain to the Italian workers why the social fascists live in the emigration. The German workers, too, will not easily grasp who it really is in Germany that wants to disperse the parliament: the Fascists or the social democrats?

All of Radek’s arguments, like those of his tutors, imply that the social democracy is in no way an ideal democracy (that is apparently not the kind of democracy that Radek saw in his roseate dream after the reconciliatory embraces with Yaroslavsky). The profound and fertile theory of social fascism is not built upon the foundation of a materialist analysis of the particular, specific function of the social democracy, but upon the foundation of an abstract-democratic criterion which is peculiar to the opportunists even when they want to or must occupy the extreme wheel of the extreme barricades (here they usually turn their backs to the wrong side and hold the weapon at the wrong end).

There is no class difference between social democracy and Fascism. Fascism as well as social democracy are bourgeois parties, and not bourgeois in the general sense, but such as protect sinking capitalism, which sustains itself less and less, not only with democratic forms, but also with the least firm legality. That is precisely why the social democracy is condemned to sink down to nothing, giving way to Fascism at one pole and to Communism at the other.

The difference between blondes and brunettes is not so great, at any rate substantially less than the difference between men and apes. Anatomically and physiologically, blondes and brunettes belong to one and the same species of life, can belong to one and the same nationality, also one and the same family, and finally, both can be the same scoundrels – and notwithstanding, the skin and hair coloring has its significance not only in the police pass but in living relations as a whole. Radek, however, in order to earn the hearty applause of Yaroslavsky, wants to prove that the brunette is at bottom a blonde, only with dark skin and black hair.

There are good theories in the world which serve to explain facts. So far as the theory of social fascism is concerned, it is only fit for serving out the novitiate of capitulators.

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Last updated on: 1.11.2012