XXXI. THE SPREAD OF FASCISM
THE WORLD WAR shattered the Austro-Hungarian Empire into fragments. Austria was reduced to complete impotence. No sooner was the body dismembered than each severed part demonstrated that, under the circumstances, it could not possibly lead a healthy bourgeois existence. Hungary went towards communism, Austria towards Left socialism. In Austria, also, the ruling group never could rest, content with its artificial isolation and general helplessness.
Of all the countries of Europe, Austria was the weakest economically and the least able to weather the storm of new events. In 1919, she had to be fed by the United States Food Administration in Europe. During the period thereafter, she had to be supported by external aid in the form of loans and financial support. No sooner did the present crisis break out when the Creditanstalt, the chief bank of Austria, announced its bankruptcy and had to be aided by Germany and other countries, thereby accelerating the financial crash all over the world.
No sooner was the Versailles Treaty smashed by a victorious Nazism than a virulent fascism surged up to overwhelm Austria. This fascism was divided into two sections, one adhering to the Nazi-type, made up of city elements subservient to big industry and favoring organic unity with Germany, the other leaning towards Italian fascism, and supported by large landed estate owners sympathetic to Italy. Connected to this second division were the governmental forces under Dollfuss which were interested in a revival of a greater Austria, and which wanted to maintain Austrian independence.
Against the Right Wing fascist formations were the socialists. These socialists had received 70 per cent of the electoral vote of Vienna. They constituted the government of that City, and held 40 per cent of the power in the country as a whole. The Austrian socialists, too, had been sufficiently affected by the communist revolutions in Bavaria and in Hungary and by the deep degradation of Austria after the War to have mouthed extremely Left socialist phrases. They professed a readiness to recognize at times the necessity of a Dictatorship of the Proletariat, and a friendliness toward Soviet Russia. In view of the extreme language of the socialists and of the miserable failure of the communists in that part of Europe, as well as owing to the fact that Austria had not much large-scale heavy industry, the communists were practically of no account. The socialists held complete sway of the labor field and were proud of the many social reforms they had inaugurated, such as their model co-operative dwelling houses. Had these socialists really wanted to fight, they could have taken over power long ago, but this would have precipitated that civil war which above all they wanted to avoid.
Following the world crisis, the initiative was taken by the fascist groups and reactionary forces to drive the socialists out of the national government, to increase the army and the Heimwehr, and to disarm the socialists outside of Vienna. Increasingly Vienna lost her autonomy, while the Austrian government assumed a Bonapartist character, dispensing with parliament and operating through emergency decrees.
The second stage was marked by a temporary coalition of the fascist groups to storm the Socialist Party’s stronghold of Vienna. This Dollfuss could do only by establishing a dictatorship and physically annihilating the socialist administration. The leaders of the socialists did not wish to fight, but they were compelled to make some show of resistance, not only because of their previous revolutionary phrase-mongering which had compromised them, but also because they actually held the power in Vienna, and no bureaucracy will relinquish its sinecures without struggle. The pitiful showing of the Socialist Party proved again that historically the socialists could play only comic opera, no matter how many poor rank and filers were shot down and killed.
Although they were in a position to know thoroughly the plans of the government to attack them, the leaders of the Socialist Party made no adequate preparations for defense. When the attack began, these heroes, instead of vigorously defending the center of the city, at once took refuge in their co-operative houses on the outskirts. Not the barricade but the bedroom became the scene of fighting.
Had the Socialists really wanted to fight they easily could have held the center of the city, but by taking to their “forts,” the co-operative houses, they permitted themselves most efficiently to be massacred. This is the first time in history that a revolution was conducted by running to fortresses and taking to the defensive rather than the offensive. Of course, the co-operative houses in the suburbs were soon isolated one from the other and blown to pieces by artillery. The masses lost the effectiveness of their numbers by the fact that they were compelled to cower in their kitchens to carry on the fight.
No doubt the socialist leaders believed that Dollfuss would spare them if they behaved in such a foolish manner and that as soon as the co-operative houses were surrounded they could beg their socialist workers to yield on the ground that they were overwhelmed by superior force. But in such calculations the phrase-mongering bureaucracy reckoned without two factors: first, the militancy of the membership that conceived such action a complete betrayal; and second, and most important of all, the fact that the fascists were in no mood to spare them. It was not necessary to destroy the co-operative houses and to kill so many socialists—it is estimated two thousand socialists were slaughtered. All that the fascists needed to have done was to have surrounded the houses for a day or two and starved the defenders into submission. However, it was the intention of the fascists to teach the socialists a good lesson. Only in this way could the reactionaries show Mussolini and Hitler that the Austrian government meant really to wipe out the socialist and trade union menace. The killings that followed, therefore, were not so much due to the vigorous activity of the socialist bureaucracy as they were to the determination of the fascists to take every advantage of the situation to destroy the workers’ organizations, root and branch.
To the Austrian reformists, the destruction of their precious co-operative houses was the loss of their whole world and the end of their entire socialism; so the burning of the Reichstag had seemed to the German opportunists. It was an end of an era. Not fighting for socialism, the socialists could not retain even their co-operatives; Austrian reaction, to puncture the bubble of socialism, merely had to destroy some plumbing. Down went the unions, the mass organizations, everything. By blowing to pieces the co- operative houses, the fascists demonstrated not only what they would do to revolution, but how they intended to handle social reform. The whole episode was an excellent illustration of the law that he who stops half way today can get nothing. It is either all, or nothing. (*1)
Nevertheless, it must be added for the sake of completeness that the socialist workers in Austria behaved far better than the communist workers of Germany. In Austria they did not run away; they actually stood their ground and fought in battle against the army of fascism.
The events in Austria gave the communists in Germany a great opportunity to demonstrate whether they had survived the terror of Hitler. Had there been any regular communist movement, there would have been outbursts in Germany to coincide with the fighting in the sister country. But all was quiet. The complete absence of any disturbance during the Hitler blood purge and the dissolution of the storm troops, during the events in Austria, during the Saar plebescite, and during the rearmament of the Rhine, have furnished mute evidence of the complete breakdown of the communist forces of Stalin in Germany.
No sooner were the socialists put down in bloody struggle when the fight began to rage between the followers of Hitler and the Catholic fascists under Stahrernberg, who was linked up with the Heimwehr. The issue between the two forces was the issue between industry and agriculture between Germany and Italy. Had the Nazis won the day, Austria would have been swallowed by Germany and made into a province, like Bavaria. But what Germany could do with Bavaria it could not do with Austria, a far greater country.
The Austrian aristocracy had to struggle against any such fate as Bavaria had met. Like Bavaria, Austria is Catholic, but, unlike Bavaria, it is far closer to Italian influence. For centuries Austria was connected with Italy, and these ties have entered into the very manners of the Austrians. At the moment, too, Italy was rising in relative importance. Italy needed a counterweight to the Franco-Jugo-Slav alliance; she was willing to work through the old Austrian monarchical and agrarian interests that wished to maintain the independence of Austria and at the same time crush the labor movement. The idea of Mussolini was to set up again a new Austro-Hungarian empire under the domination of Italy and thus expand Italian influence on the Danube. As part of its diplomacy, Italy stressed the fact that both countries were Catholic, while Germany, contrariwise, emphasized the fact that both were German. One used religion, the other race for its imperialist purposes.
In this welter of intrigue, one thing is clear: Austria cannot remain as she is. She must either be reduced to a semi-colonial state under Italy, or become fused with Germany. The latter is far more probable.
The efforts of France and the countries of the Little Entente were concentrated to keep Austria as insignificant and helpless as possible. This they did partly through working through the socialists. Indeed, France was accused of aiding the Socialist Party of Austria by shipping them arms via Czecho-Slovak agents, to resist the government. This policy has, however, failed. Italy can dominate the scene not by repeating the choking policy of France, but by working through the royal family, Otto of Hapsburg and others, to restore the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. To this the Hungarian agrarian aristocracy is favorable, and is working day and night with Italy for the accomplishment of this purpose.
Two separate and distinct groups are opposed to the reconstitution of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. They are, first, the countries that would be menaced immediately by the restoration of such a monarchy, namely, Czecho-Slovakia, Jugoslavia, and, to a lesser extent, Roumania and Poland, which countries had also grabbed pieces of the former empire’s territory. There is hardly a doubt that the restoration of the Hapsburg monarchy in Austria and Hungary in 1935 would have led to war.
On the other side, also in opposition, is Germany. If Austria and Germany unite, it cannot be under the Hapsburgs. This would be similar to making the tail wag the dog. Germany must rule the fusion, and, just as the industrialists of that country have been unwilling to yield their leadership to the royalist forces of the Kaiser but rather have compelled the Royalist-Nationalists to submerge their identity within the Nazis, so would the industrialists refuse to yield leadership to Austria. A return of the Hapsburgs in Austria would stimulate greatly the royalist movement in Germany to the detriment of the political power of Thynnes and Company. Of course, it is not entirely out of the question that German diplomacy might temporarily become reconciled to an Austro-Hungarian monarchy, provided its internal stability were secure and Germany’s ultimate victory inevitable. Then a great alliance could be forged, including Italy and Eastern Europe under the leadership of Germany, against the Soviet Union.
There are elements even among the royalists of Austria who suspect Italy of perfidy, who prefer the policy of playing off Italy against Germany and vice versa, and who dream of a reconstituted old order in which the Austro-Hungarian Empire would arise as independent, as powerful, and as domineering as before. They point out that Italy’s interest in Austria is like that of France, namely, merely a negative one to prevent Germany from growing strong in a southern direction, to prevent Austria from improving in any direction, and to keep Austria constantly dependent upon Italy and its allies.
If this is Italy’s scheme, it is a lost one. Austria cannot permanently be kept weakened. Such a policy led to the fall of the socialists and would lead to the fall of any capitalist government eventually. The Austrian Heimwehr fascists refuse to serve without perspective, merely as tools of Italy. But to what way out can they turn? To reconstitute the Austro-Hungarian monarchy without Italy is impossible, and would lead to war. To be under the tutelage of Italy means to be linked up with interests that cannot develop Austria. Eventually Austria must turn to Germany.
Confident of their success, the Nazis in Austria pressed impatiently for victory; they assassinated Dollfuss and staged a rebellion. The government was forced to act, although it could not count on the sympathy of the people after the destruction of the socialist and workers’ organizations. Indeed, many of these groups tended to favor the Nazis, who at least were allied to modern industry rather than to backward landed property of the old royalty. Nevertheless, the government, behind which were the Heimwehr and Catholic fascists, was able to crush the Nazis temporarily.
The ease with which this was accomplished leads the impartial historian to speculate whether the defeat was not planned by Hitler himself. Such politics is not impossible. At the moment in question, Hitler was greatly embarrassed by the revolt in the storm troops against his conservative tendencies which compelled him to execute many of his former friends It might well have been that Hitler, knowing Austria must eventually fall into Germany’s power, deliberately allowed the Austrian Nazis to be shot down on the grounds that they were not reliable and that the movement was premature. Had the Austrian petty bourgeois Nazis won the victory, Hitler’s control might have been greatly threatened. At the same time, Hitler could obtain the same results through negotiation and compromise, rather than through force. After all, the Austrian Nazis did accomplish their first aim, the destruction of the Dollfuss regime. It is questionable whether der Fuehrer wanted them to go beyond removing Dollfuss or farther than putting just enough pressure on the government so as to force Austria’s fusion with the German rulers.
Assuming such were the calculations of Hitler, recent events have amply demonstrated their worth. As the pressure against Austria grows greater, it becomes clear that Austria cannot live without the support of Germany; day by day the influence of the Nazis grows stronger. The socialists, too, remember that it was the Catholic troops who shot them down and not the Nazis. Certainly the people do not support the government. Some of the socialists even bend towards collaboration with the “National Socialism” of the petty bourgeoisie under Hitler. It is clear that no Austrian government can live long without the Nazis’ co-operation. Either fusion with Germany (or, what is the same thing, the Austrian Nazis in the government), or perpetual rebellion, turmoil, and chaos—this is the immediate perspective in Austria.
In the meantime, the clerical fascists in power have attempted a reorganization of the government somewhat along the lines fantastically laid out by Saint-Simon, with three separate houses of parliament. At the present time it is too early to analyze the effect of the new regulations. Already the Catholic fascists are in conflict with the government, and a new dictatorship has been set up, under Schuschnig, which has driven out Stahremberg and his adherents who are too closely sympathetic to Italy’s aspirations.
The intensity of the world crisis and the rise of fascism have placed the most severe burdens upon the French capitalist system. All signs point to an acute situation within France leading to fascists attempts at power. Although one of the very last countries to be drawn into the crisis, owing to her exceptional economic conditions, such as the high development of usurer capital, the big reparations payments, etc. France has been rapidly reduced to 60 per cent of the production she enjoyed in prosperity, which had been falling very sharply since 1931, revealing an unemployment of at least two million workers. Bankruptcies and receiverships, too, have mounted to almost one thousand five hundred monthly. Although trade fell, huge import surpluses were accumulated (in 1933 alone mounting to about half a billion dollars), which could not easily be paid for, owing to the drastic drop in tourist income, the cessation of reparations payments, the great lowering of investment returns, the intensified tariff wars, and other losses.
To the three hundred billion francs public debt the French government has been forced to add the annually mounting deficits. In spite of her drastic efforts to reduce the import surplus, to cut down governmental expenditures, and to cancel debts to the United States, governmental financial obligations have so continued to rise that France is threatened with having to go off the gold standard. (*2) To the French middle class, this is the most terrible thing that can happen. Deeply involved in financial operations, having already experienced an 80 per cent loss, when all French investments were marked down in order to stabilize the franc after the War, France can go off the gold standard today only with the greatest social convulsions. As the cost of living remains high, the effects of the crisis make themselves felt more tensely. With fascist Germany on its right and the Spanish Revolution on its left, France finds itself in a critical transition period.
To the internal difficulties must be added the external: the loss of the Saar Basin, the rise of German imperialism, the growing influence of Italy in the Mediterranean, the break-up of France’s post-war continental hegemony, the necessity to bolster up the puppet countries supported by France for its protection, the need for increased military preparations, etc. No wonder France fears it will be the next country to crack; no wonder class formations have crystallized accordingly.
As elsewhere, however, it is the Right Wing that has taken the aggressive initiative, and among the Rightists it is the Royalists who lead. The fact that the Royalists fill such a prominent role is an indication of the fact that France is still agrarian, that her economy is relatively stagnant, and that, not the great industrialists, but the finance and landed capitalist interests still play the leading organizational role in France. Together with the fascists, then, the Royalists, such as Les Camelots du Roi, took to the streets in vigorous denunciation of parliament, as in February 1934, and actually built barricades in their fight with the police. While the party of law and order, the Right Wing, used the Stavisky Parliamentary scandal to threaten insurrection, the socialists went to the defense of the government and called a general strike to support the legislature. Here again we see that the socialists become active only in the preservation of capitalist democracy; while never dreaming of calling a general strike for socialism, they are very eager to do so where the safety of the capitalist system is involved.
The socialist movement has been temporarily successful in putting down the fascist forces in France, and the recent election returns of 1936 have placed Leon Blum, socialist, as Premier of France. Nevertheless, it is highly questionable whether the victory of fascism in Germany does not inevitably spell the victory of similar reactionary forces in the rival countries of France and England, if only for the self-preservation of these countries. Even though the socialists and the communists in France completely capitulate to the theories of nationalist defense and become subservient elements in French capitalist schemes of imperialism—that is, even should these parties demonstrate to the full what amounts to their complete counter-revolutionary activity against the interests of the workers who support them—nevertheless, French capitalism may be compelled to find the socialists and communists entirely too costly and too inefficient for its purposes, and be eventually driven, as the war danger grows near, to bring into existence in France the same sort of coordinated integrated militarist dictatorship as exists in Germany. We may say, then, rather safely, that the victory of the Right Wing forces in France is eventually assured. The alternative, that the socialists and communist forces would be allowed to retain power, is only conceivable in case capitalist France goes to aid communist Russia, but that is inconceivable. France can aid Russia only after Russia has abandoned its communism, which in turn can occur only after a fierce civil war within Russia itself.
The oldest French organization to have taken on a fascist color is the Ligue de l’Action Francaise. It was organized during the exciting days of the Dreyfuss case, under the leadership of Charles Maurras and Leon Daudet. Its policies from the start were strongly nationalistic, anti-semitic, monarchical, and Catholic. France was to be for the French, not for the Jews and Protestants. Bitterly opposed to democratic principles, it organized its shock troops, the Camelots du Roi, or henchmen of the King. In 1923, these “henchmen” staged a demonstration in which they wrecked the presses of several newspapers and fed castor oil to the Left Deputies. They have been enthusiastic in their support of Mussolini’s principles and methods. Indeed, the first official book of fascist doctrine, Fascisme, written by Gorgolini, was published by George Valois under the auspices of the Ligue.
For a long time the Camelots du Roi, mostly students with a penchant for violence, have been systematically drilled, and now have established many arsenals. Following the principles of Mussolini, the Action Francaise tried to form corporations of workers and employers, as in Italy. Leon Daudet has declared that everyone must recognize the overwhelming superiority of Mussolini, especially since his display of wisdom in preserving that incomparable force of political stability—the hereditary monarchy, the House of Savoy.
Daudet would welcome a French Mussolini to restore the House of Bourbon. To him, Briand, Boncour, and Poincaire are pernicious fools for preferring their old “democ-soc-parliamentary fetich” to the cause of real peace by a Latin alliance. Parliaments, parties, and universal suffrage are ruining France. Sovereignty should be taken from the people and given to the State, the goal of which should be not quantity but quality.
In 1923, Francois Coty, the masculine perfume magnate, also attempted the organization of a fascist group called the “Blue-shirts.” He bought over the paper Le Figaro for anti-communistic propaganda, and, when that failed in 1928, he issued L’Ami du Peuple, selling it below cost. Like Daudet, Coty advocated Italo-French amity, and the use of the idea of Latinity as a rallying cry for fascism. Having once been a radical socialist, Coty used his slogans of solidarism to organize his Solidarit’e Francaise, which today is one of the largest fascist groups in France.
The fascist movement generally received a great impetus in 1924 during the hectic period preceding the stabilization of the franc, when masses were taking to the streets. At that time, two hundred thousand workers assembled to pay their respects to Jean Jaur’es in a gigantic demonstration in his honor. The bourgeoisie became frightened and began to organize numerous military organizations, the most important being the Ligue des Patriotes, led by General Castelnau. These groups, strictly speaking, were not fascist organizations, but leaned in the general direction of fascism with their anti-parliamentary, anti-Bolshevik, anti-labor programs. As a subdivision of the Ligue des Patriotes, Pierre Taittinger organized the Jeunesse Patriotes, or Young Patriots. This group strove to build up a national party and openly acknowledged its intentions to seize power in the fashion of Mussolini, with a program demanding the defense of the small middle class, small producers, small pensioners, and French petty property. For the workers, the Young Patriots threatened law and order everywhere, in the streets, schools and factories, and advocated the elimination of strikes.
During this period of fright there was formed also the Federation Nationale Catholique, again under the leadership of General Castelnau. Its base was among the peasants, who were advised to be ready to fight against the dictatorship of the cities. It participated in anti-red and strike- breaking activities. This National Catholic Federation has been intimately connected with the Jeunesse Patriotes, to whom it turned over its own Catholic Boy Scouts. Thus there has taken place a considerable interlocking between the movements.
It should be noted that the chief financial supporters of all of these groups include Marsal, a banker, Arthuys and Mathon, industrialists, Poncet of the steel trust and ambassador to Germany, and Serge Andre’, director of large oil companies and also of the Societe d’Armaments, one of the armament firms handled by Sir Basil Zaharoff. All of these men, of course, ardently proclaimed themselves “the defenders of the small middle class Frenchmen.”
The theoretician of the Right Wing generally has been Andre’ Tardieu who has ceaselessly struck at democracy and socialism in favor of Mussolini’s model. Parliament is the root of all evil, and Tardieu would curtail drastically its powers. His “minimum reforms” are: (1) the withdrawal of parliament’s power to initiate expenditures; (2) the granting to the executive of power to dissolve parliament; (3) prolongation of parliament’s term of office, that is, less frequent elections, and extension of the time during which the executive may rule after dissolving parliament; (4) popular referendum on parliamentary acts whenever the executive sees fit; and (5) defense of the State against the subversive tendency of its own employees. Tardieu is against any interpellations of the government; the executive should be accountable to no one, and should be free to handle expenditures as he sees fit.
At present, the Chamber can be dissolved only with the consent of the Senate, and this has happened only once. Under Tardieu’s view, the influence of the Chamber gradually would disappear. Tardieu would prevent all State employees from joining any trade union or organization. They must be at all times 100 per cent loyal to the regime. This is all the more important in France since the number of functionaries is very large. Following the philosophy of Mussolini, Tardieu insists upon establishing authority to save liberty.
The most threatening organization in street action has been, however, none of the preceding organizations, but the Croix de Feu, which at first was organized to include only war veterans who had been decorated, but later was extended to take in other veterans and finally, the sons of war veterans. It is led by Colonel Robert De la Rocque. The membership claimed is over one hundred and twenty thousand. (*3) The program of the Croix de Feu is an elaborate one. In its foreign policy, it would scrap the Versailles Treaty, calling for reliance on no other force except the military might of the nation. It also demands two years military service and large increases in the military budget at the expense of social reform and education. In its internal policies, it is opposed to civil liberties for any other but nationalist opinions. On the other hand, it caters strongly to the views of the Catholic Church, challenging the State’s monopoly of education, calling for fewer college graduates and for less democracy in the public schools. Of course, it fights the trade unions and favors the dissolution of the National Federation of Labor. In some respects the program of the Croix de Feu is far from the theories of fascism, but there is no doubt that every contradiction will be ironed out in time. The Croix de Feu apparently carries forward the traditions of Napoleon, and should lend itself to Bonapartist politicians.
The arch foe of this veterans’ group admittedly is communism, and La Rocque has promised to hang the communists or socialists, should they attempt to control the government. His own positive program, however, is exceedingly vague, advocating abstractly a political clean-up and good leadership; La Rocque has made his aim rather the acquisition of power than a clear statement of social reforms.
Under the pressure of the Right Wing, the French government has rapidly taken on aspects similar to that of the Bruening regime in Germany and that of Giolitti in Italy, before the fascist victories. While chaos exists in the parliamentary sphere, with one government giving way to another in rapid succession, all during 1934 the Right Wing on the one hand and the workers on the other were arming themselves for physical struggle in the street. The Right Wing, under the patronage of the Wendell family of munition makers and the Rothschild family of bankers, has now united in a Unione Nationale des Combattants.
At the same time, the government, by its treaty with Soviet Russia, has been able cleverly to disarm the workers morally and materially. Suddenly the capitalist government of France appears as the champion of the Soviet Union and receives the enthusiastic endorsement of the socialists and communists. If Russia is to be supported and Hitler is to be fought, what more can these so-called revolutionists ask? They now promise to support the French army and no longer to embarrass the ruling class by strikes in the factories. In the Chamber of Deputies, their representatives declare that they gladly will give up their arms and no longer attempt to take matters to the street. Thus in France, as in Germany, while the Right Wing cynically organizes itself more strongly than ever, the Left Wing becomes a mere tail end of the republican government. As the communists liquidate themselves into socialists, the socialists crystallize into republican adherents of national defense.
As the day of French fascist victory grows near, we can foreshadow what its general theory will be. In economics it will be far closer to Italian fascism than to German national socialism, not only because the country is economically similar to Italy, agriculture and petty industry playing a predominant part, but because friendliness to Italy will fit in with French imperialism to raise the slogan of Latin unity against the Teutons. French fascism will follow Sorel and Bergson in philosophic method and will adopt the corporate State in politics, all the while stressing the general will of Rosseau, and the sociology of August Comte.
However, within the fascist ranks there are several tendencies which will have to compose their differences. First, there exists the struggle between the industrialists and the Royalists. There is this difference between the French and the Italian situation. In Italy the King was never overthrown; in France, over sixty-five years stand between the present and the last empire. Should Germany restore its monarchy, it is possible that French fascism also would require such a figurehead. In the absence of such a necessity, it is doubtful whether the industrialists will consent to having such an expensive symbol reinstalled.
The second difference is over the question of the character of the actual leader of the movement. In Italy and England the fascist leadership is in the hands of men who were active militants in the Left Wing of the Socialist and Labor Parties. In Germany, Hitler followed the ideology of Christian socialism. In France, national conditions would demand a leader who can pose as a socialist, perhaps a leader of the Catholic union movement, who at the same time intimately will be connected with the military forces of France. The army has always played a decisive role in France. One who aspires to fascist leadership must have the whole-hearted endorsement of the army and veteran forces of the country. It is difficult to find such a person in the ranks of the orthodox socialist and trade union movements which for so long a time have taken a sharp anti-militarist position. With the physiognomy of Catholic socialism and with the mailed fist of militarism, however, fascism in France has the possibility of playing the same integrating and destructive role as other fascisms have accomplished in other countries.
That fascism has arisen in Great Britain is amply indicative of two factors, first, the breaking down of the British Empire and its slow disintegration, and second, the fact that all countries today must be prepared for sudden declarations of war. Britain can counter the perfected fascist organs of rival countries only by similar governmental centralization. It is difficult to see how any country in Western Europe today can avoid fascist tendencies when all nations are living under the shadow of perpetual war that will begin without the formalities of declarations or warnings. That country will win the war soonest that is completely prepared for any emergency, that has mobilized its entire population into an immense frictionless machine, that has wiped out the class struggle or reduced it to innocuous chatterings, that rests upon the most highly developed industries, that has coordinated all industrial and social life behind it.
Fascism is the only theory and movement that fits in with this scheme of things, and even though the internal situation within the country itself,—namely, the development of class war,—might not necessitate such fascism at this time, the international situation and the war danger may compel it to come into existence. This is increasingly the situation with Great Britain, and has begun to affect even the United States.
In spite of their parliamentary traditions, the British have been well prepared for fascist tendencies by the long operations of their powerful imperialism which all classes have ardently indorsed. British “democracy” was ready to adopt a policy of blood and iron in its colonies. There were no parliamentary elections for the Africans or Asiatics but the cold stark terror of a ubiquitous State. How poetically just it will be when precisely because India and other colonial regions are striving to win a maximum of independence and democratic liberalism for themselves, Britain should be moved to fascism!
The huge colonial structure of the British Empire has maintained a cynical State apparatus, highly contemptuous of the common run of mortals, each functionary a petty satrap or nabob thoroughly prepared to adopt the views of Hobbes, views which today can be realized only through fascism. The colonials have a saying that only “mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun"; the immense energy of Britain’s rulers will not ooze supinely away should the Empire be in danger because of labor’s claims. As it crushed the colonials, so will it try to crush the workers at home.
Even before the great crash of 1929, the danger of the disintegration of the British Empire had become apparent to the acutest political thinkers of the day, affecting drastically all political parties. As G. D. H. Cole put it, “Today, the situation is changed.Capitalism is not in Great Britain in any danger of immediate or dramatic collapse; but it is plainly sliding downhill…. The Socialists, for the most part, are not encouraged by the growing difficulties of capitalism; they are frightened by them.” (*4) Indeed that was exactly the situation with the socialists. One might have imagined that, with the decline of British capitalism, the socialists would have proclaimed the verification of their theories and the necessity of sliding into socialism. The socialists have not pressed the point, although for the first time the doubt has begun to penetrate among them as to whether there could be partial, gradual steps to socialism.
Formerly, the socialists used to speak of the nationalization of the mines, the further questions then debated being whether to give compensation to the mine owners, or whether that compensation should he in the form of royalties, general debt on the public, or mine stock payments. Today, the British socialists must comprehend that, even if the State should nationalize the coal mines, the coal would still not be sold. What difference would it make whether the mines were owned privately or publicly, when there would remain the same vast number of miners out of work? Prior to the war, the socialists used to speak of the necessity for a minimum wage; now many of them have admitted that under the present set-up this would only increase the army of unemployed. Previously they had talked of the right to work; the question now has become where to place those unemployed. In short, the novel features created by the great technological changes in the era of imperialism have whirled the socialists into a sea of confusion.
This new situation hastens some of the socialistic theoreticians towards fascism, especially those formerly connected with the guild socialists. Their solution is to rely less on experts, to develop the home market and to revive agriculture. Away from industry, back to the land!
Writers like Cole emphatically polemicized against such measures as work relief on the grounds that the dole was cheaper, the work was entirely too costly and hurriedly improvised, the accomplished task was considered like prison work, men were not selected according to capabilities, the kind of work done was wasteful, etc. Instead of work relief, he argued that every unemployed worker should be given the option to enroll in a volunteer “National Labor Corps.” (*5) Together with this regimentation of the unemployed should go a complete reorganization of the workers in the factory, somewhat on the style of Mussolini. “There should be in every industrial plant employing more than a handful of persons some sort of Works Council, chosen by the whole body of workers in the plant and representative of the different grades and sections. This Council shall be a statutory body, either set up, as in Germany, under a special Act of Parliament, or created as an integral part of the system of State control. (*6) All of these theories Italian and British fascisms may well indorse.
That the guild socialists have become fascist forerunners is especially noticeable in the general theses proposed by Cole, (*7) which included the following: (1) The necessity for elaboration of a new economic policy based on the admission of the fact that Great Britain never could regain her old supremacy in overseas commerce; (2) A recognition that the main problem is unemployment to be met by means of National Labor Corps to improve the country through slum clearance, house building, forestration, road making, railway development, electrification, and land drainage; (3) The creation of a Board of National Investment to guide capital investment in creative lines or to borrow money to go into such new enterprises itself; (4) A recognition of the hopelessness of the old trade unions and the encouragement of new Works Councils, connected with the State; (5) The encouragement by the State of all, methods of rationalization, the State to take over certain concerns and to see that the new equipment which English industry needs so badly is obtained; (6) The building up of the dairy industry, encouragement of “back to the land” movement, socialization of land and extensive credits given to the farmers. (*8)
The views expressed above bespeak eloquently of the general pessimism in the ranks of the ruling class of Great Britain, and show clearly the difference between British fascism and Italian. Both must stress empire—the Italians, however, in order to win one and to revive the glory that was Rome’s, while the British fight to maintain their old standing, pessimistically admitting their deterioration. In short, fascist theories are developing in Great Britain not so much because of the rise of the class struggle within the country, or of the fear of communism, but rather because of the shifts in world economy and the changed international position of the British Empire. We have here a classic case of slow and gradual desuetude.
To provide the monkey glands for Britain’s rejuvenation, Cole urges, first, closer international collaboration—evidently through the League of Nations under British control, through cancellation of debts, and through a stopping of the fall of prices—apparently in order to allow Britain to compete despite its antiquated machinery; second, a real disarmament—especially necessary now that Britain has become increasingly vulnerable to attack both in the Mediterranean by Italy and from the air by Germany; and, third, peace with Russia. The old individualist liberalism must disappear forever. “There must be a large infusion of State socialism into the economic system of every important country… .” (*9)
In practical politics the fascist movement in Britain has been adumbrated by two important developments; first, the domination of heavy monopoly industry in the British Federation of manufactures with theories most clearly expressed by Sir Alfred Mond, calling for a complete self-sufficient empire. Here is the basic slogan of British fascism. Unlike Austria, apparently torn between conflicting doctrines of race and empire, Great Britain must take her stand on the same ground as Italy, namely, “Empire.” Britain’s economic views cannot be those of autarchy. She is too much involved in international trade as the carrier of the world’s goods ever to advocate any disruption of commodity intercourse. Nor can Great Britain take to theories of race. Herself a admitted conglomerate of many races, Danes, Saxons, Welsh, Irish, French, etc, theories of racial purity cannot advance the prestige of Britain. Besides, there is her polyglot empire to consider. Nor can Great Britain make any further pretensions of organizing the world. Such claims are for American fascism to advance. Faced with the superior rivalry of the United States, the most that Great Britain can hope to do is to maintain its scattered forces intact.
The second important development leading to fascism was the organization of the Maintenance Men during the British general strike in 1926. This gigantic strike that involved directly five million workers gave the British ruling class the shock of its life. The bourgeoisie saw clearly that any drastic reduction in the standards of the British workers would be met by a movement leading towards revolution. On the other hand, the capitalists knew that the decline of the economy of the British Empire was bound to lead to reductions of standards at home. The British employers would be gored to death on the horns of this dilemma unless they acted in time. During the strike itself they organized their corps of Maintenance Men to keep order and to help break the strike. With the need for the Maintenance Men arose the need for a fascist program.
The terrific impact of the economic depression in 1929 greatly accelerated all such developments in Great Britain. Finally, under the leadership of Sir Oswald Mosley, formerly a Left Wing socialist, there has been organized the British Union of Fascists. There are other fascist organizations in Britain, such as the Imperial Fascists, the National Fascists and the British Fascists, but they are relatively small compared to Mosley’s Blackshirts. Unlike the other three, the British Union of Fascists is not especially anti-Semitic.
According to Mosley, fascism comes to each great nation in turn as the country reaches the crisis inevitable in the modern age, as the epoch of civilization comes to an end, and the necessity arises to reorganize the system. Britain cannot meet the problems of decline, the losing fight to keep the colonies, or the discontent at home, by means of the talking gallery of Parliament. Action is ceded on the style of Italy. A stronger State should be established so that every member of the body politic will act in harmony with the whole under the guidance and driving force of the fascist movement.
All lesser interests, whether of the Right or of the Left, whether they be employers’ federation, trade union, banking or professional interest, must be subordinated to the welfare of the nation as a whole. Within the corporate State structure, trade unions and employers’ federations no longer will oppose each other, but function as the joint directors of national enterprise. Class war will give place to national cooperation through the formation of corporations. Here the British Fascists only modernize the opinions of that inveterate utopian, Robert Owen, who had declared a hundred years previously in an address to the working classes of England that they must recognize “First-that the rich and the poor, the governors and the governed have really but one interest…. Fourth—that the higher classes in general no longer wish to degrade you… .” (*10)
The heart of the program of the British Union of Fascists is the question of the empire. According to this organization, only through the corporate organization of Britain can there be the best and maximum development of the empire. The dominions and the colonies being natural producers of food stuffs and raw materials, they will be kept as such, while the mother country will remain highly organized to produce manufactured goods. Thus the British Union of Fascists repeats the same coercion of the old mercantilists that led to the American Revolution and would be bound to lead to further explosions in the colonies.
This program only rationalizes the recent efforts of the British government to establish a tariff around the empire, to keep out foreign competitors, and to make the British imperialist system an integrated whole. Such efforts, however, cannot succeed permanently. The tariff on wheat and meat can tend only to raise the cost of living for the workers of Great Britain. The keeping out of foreign finished products will tend only to increase the technical stagnation in Great Britain and to raise costs throughout the empire. The establishment of such a tariff only can increase the animosity of the United States, which country, moreover, can evade the tariff by means of the export of capital into the dominions, incidentally reaping an extra profit because of the tariff. The idea of an imperial tariff that will hold is a bursting bubble.
Together with these policies, Mosley intends to build up the home market; first, in order to compensate England for her loss in foreign trade; second, so as to make England more self-sufficient in time of war; and third, to raise a more powerful middle class throughout the countryside. To the masses, Mosley promises that such regulation of agriculture and industry will lead to the end of irresponsibility and criminal competition, whereby each employer competes with the others to lower wages, and instead will institute a planned economy and will raise the standards of life everywhere. The middle class will be preserved from the competition of the big fellows, which is driving them to extinction.
While speaking thus prettily to the petty bourgeoisie, the fascists do not neglect to promise the big industrialists that under the control of fascism there would be a real organization of British power to increase exports, under the slogan “Britain buys from those who buy from Britain.” Thus there would be a vigorous governmental policy to club weaker nations into line and to make them purchase British goods or suffer the disastrous boycott movement which Britain might be able to enforce under particular circumstances.
Recognizing the weakened position of Great Britain and the existence of powerful labor forces opposed to war, the British fascists have been forced to play down the theories of militarism that flow from fascism. On the contrary, they have declared repeatedly that it is irresponsible liberalism and free trade which have started wars, but that organized economy under fascism could not do so. As they have put it, it is muddle, not organization which leads to war; chaos is more dangerous than thought and method. Fascist organization is the method of world peace among nations bound together by the universal fascism of the twentieth century.
It is significant, too, that the British fascists do not oppose democracy to dictatorship, but, on the contrary, point out that a dictatorship is the necessary culmination of democracy. Fascism will be victorious not against the will of the people but only as its expression. Fascism implies a government armed by the people with power to overcome problems which must be conquered if the nation is to live and to remain great. If the people do not give fascism power, then the State will collapse and nothing will stand in the way of communism. Thus, the dictator should constantly avail himself of plebiscites wherever they can serve a useful purpose, since, according to Mosley, fascism is no less determined to secure popular representation than to secure government itself. Mosley is not too coy, however, to affirm that under some circumstances it might become necessary for a strong man and fascist movement to save England even against itself. History is to decide whether such action is correct. Following Carlyle, Mosley preens himself as another Cromwell.
Of course, even more so than in Italy, fascism in England is loyal to the Crown and pledges itself to co-operate strongly with the Royalty. After all, Sir Oswald is not a mere plebeian like Mussolini or Hitler. The Crown is needed not only because it symbolizes the unity of the British Empire, but because that all men are created equal is a false supposition. Under fascism, the talented and strong men will rule, these elements, of course, being found in the fascist aristocratic camp only.
Besides the fascist movement’s forming from below, similar trends have been recently occurring within the British government itself. A “National” government has been created which undertakes to harmonize the interests of all parties and to end the party system in Britain. The situation today, therefore, is similar to that during the War, when the coalition government prevailed, only, significantly enough, it is not the liberals who have made the coalition, but the conservatives. Here again we see how present-day peace must use methods in ordinary life that were resorted to only during war time in the preceding era. What was a temporary war measure becomes a permanent peace philosophy.
The formation of the “National” government has gone hand in hand with a reduction of the power of parliament whose chattering is being curbed by the ever-increasing authority of the executive arm of the government. More and more the British government is adopting administrative decrees rather than old-style parliamentary methods. In this respect, also, we have a foreshadowing of theories and practice of fascism. In the other countries where fascism has triumphed, a similar set-up has always preceded the accession of the new forces.
Up to now, the fascist movement in Great Britain has not been able to make great headway. The strongly entrenched labor movement in Great Britain, despite its bellicose nationalism and servile imperialism, is a great obstacle in its path. However, as the war danger grows greater and more menacing, there can be no question but that these tendencies must develop further toward victory. The death of King George V may well mark the transition between the old and the new.
We are now able to examine more particularly the road and methods by which fascism reaches power. Essentially, fascism is the reformation and re-dressment of the capitalist front to enable the social order to exist a while longer. It brushes aside the veiled dictatorship of the economic rulers, which exists under a democracy, to establish the open dictatorship of Big Business over the nation. To accomplish its purpose, however, it is compelled to use the middle class which it mobilizes and to which it makes various concessions. The fascist movement arises from the fact that the ruling class is unable to govern as of old and from the further fact that the proletariat is extraordinarily active, threatening to take power. Fascism develops through two routes. First, there is the mass movement organized in militant formation from below; second, there is the insidious fascization of the government from above. In the background is the lack of capacity of the working class to accomplish what it threatens. These three factors combined allow fascism to get control.
Between parliamentary democracy and fascism there stands the mechanism of Bonapartism as a logical intermediary step in government. The profound necessity of Bonapartism has been proved in Italy, Germany, and Austria, and as the other countries, such as France, England, and the United States, move toward fascism, the definite signs of Bonapartism similarly have appeared. As soon as the struggle of the social strata-the -Haves and the -Have-nots, the exploiters and exploited-reaches its highest tension, the conditions are ripe for the domination of bureaucracy, police, soldiery; the government becomes “independent” of society. These are precisely the characteristics of Bonapartism.
Bonapartism, therefore, is a governmental regime resting not upon the mass support of political parties, but entirely upon the bayonets of its army and the activity of its functionaries. The government endures solely because the main classes have mutually paralyzed or exhausted each other. Such a situation existed when Napoleon I became emperor. None of the powerful classes, whether represented by Jacobins or Bourbons, had desired the rule of this upstart. He was tolerated only because he was able to secure stability for private property in an era of violence and chaos’ when no single class engaged in the civil war could put down the other. A similar situation existed under Napoleon III. As the revolution of 1848 unfolded itself, it was apparent that there was no class strong enough to take the power, so all groups were forced to tolerate a Napoleonic government which each detested.
Generically identical events existed in Italy, Germany, and Austria before the victory of fascism. In Italy, the workers, on the one hand, and the capitalists, on the other, were struggling bitterly in the streets. Neither side was able to put down the other. The government under Nitti and later under Giolitti, Bonomi, and Facta, was merely a frame for the conflicting elements, was simply maintaining the State apparatus necessary to protect private property and order as a whole. None of the contending groups really wanted to support the Giolittis. They were in office through sufferance and because no majority could be found to support any other. The Bonapartism of the Giolitti government was a short one, owing to the fact that, unlike the days of Napoleon I and Napoleon III, the classes had not mutually exhausted themselves, but were still fighting for control. As soon as one or the other opposing class won the day, it was bound to shove aside the temporary governmental regime and install its own representatives. The same situation prevailed in the days of Bruening, von Papen, and von Schleicher in Germany, and of Dollfuss and Schuschnig in Austria.
All this, however, does not mean that Bonapartism is impartial or neutral in the struggle. Bonapartism lends itself very favorably to the struggle for fascism. The very fact that the government was no longer actively supported by the classes but existed solely on sufferance, was an indication to the property owners that the days of democratic parliamentarism were over and that they would have to support a group, like the fascist, which was not afraid to use open terror force to secure stabilization. The very capitalist interests that create the Bonapartist regime in the government in order to hold the fort are the same interests that help to support fascism. And conversely, both Bonapartism and fascism being agents of the same class, the old governmental order, although it tries to hold on as long as possible, finally, when it knows it has to go, does whatever it can to aid the victory of the fascists.
Thus we have seen in the cases of Italy, Germany, and Austria that the very governmental apparatus which was supposedly opposed to fascist usurpation helped the fascists with all the power at its command, the police and the army disarming the subversive forces, arming the fascists, and gradually fusing with fascism, under its leadership. We therefore can declare it to be a fundamental political rule that countries proceeding from parliamentarism to fascism have to pass through the stage of Bonapartism, which exists during the interim, while the classes fight, and which paves the way to and aids fascist victory.
To this we may add the further notation that it is the liberals and democrats who, naively enough, ardently support the Bonapartist regime, believing that their support of Bonapartism will prevent fascism. By these very actions, however, the liberal democrats help to destroy the authority of parliament, while they give unparalleled power to the executive arm of the government, and increase the might of the military. Thus they prepare the people for a new fascist dictatorship.
Very often Bonapartism deliberately takes upon itself the initiation of “emergency” decrees hostile to the masses (*11) so as to permit the fascist demagogue to stir up the people against the government, now pathetically endorsed by the liberals and social democrats. The hatred of the people becomes centered not on fascism but on Bonapartism, although these very decrees are precisely the ones that would have been executed by fascism, had it had the power. Thus Bonapartism, in a way, does the groundwork for fascism, takes the blame for unpopular measures, and releases the fascist movement from the possibility of exposure and defeat in advance.
It is not to be imagined that fascism arrives only where the internal contradictions have become unbearable. It may also arise because of external pressure’s reacting upon the internal life of the nation. Austria is a good example of this possibility. In Austria, unlike the case of Germany, there was no revolutionary situation. The socialists made no efforts to take over the government or to lead a revolt. It was not the Left Wing that threatened the government; it was rather the Right Wing that took the initiative to change the regime by driving out the socialists. What urged the Right Wing forward was primarily international pressure. The breakdown of the Versailles Treaty and the rise of German fascism gave the ruling class of Austria its opportunity to reform its empire and cement its international alliances. It was inconceivable that Germany should declare war against the Soviet Union and be unprotected in her rear by having German Austria dominated by socialists. It was absolutely necessary to straighten out the front to clear the decks for final action. And Austria, as a pawn in the international chess game, was bound to respond.
The rise of fascism in the Western capitalist countries which emerged victorious from the war demonstrates another aspect of the same principle, since fascism may be instituted not because of the danger of the working class’s starting a revolution against capital, but because of the necessity to meet the rivalry of countries strengthened by fascism. If fascism enhances the ability of Germany to conduct war, then it is inevitable that France, England, and other countries must adopt similar political machinery.
Fascism does not arise only where the workers are actually in revolt, as in Italy. It can attain power also where the working class is merely on the verge of revolt, that is, where a revolutionary situation is developing but has not as yet matured to an actual insurrection. Germany is a good illustration of this. Austria shows that fascism may triumph where even a revolutionary situation is lacking, but where the change is required for international and imperialist reasons.
The fact is that today political fluctuations can be so violent and sudden that the ruling class cannot afford to wait until the workers have actually burst out in insurrection; it may have to turn to fascism in advance in order to nip the maturing movement in the bud. Thus fascism may take power not only to prepare for war or to meet the fascist consolidations of other countries, but also to guard against surprises.
Naturally, then, if the victory of fascism need not await an actual proletarian insurrection, fascism may be germinating in countries where the labor movement has not yet become threatening. The United States is an example of this. Precisely in such a period of sudden radicalization of the people, when the masses can move quickly from their former positions into violent demonstrations against the State, must conservative governments, even though not actually in fear of revolution, keep in reserve such movements as the fascist to prepare for any emergency.
In Germany and Italy there were powerful communist parties in revolt or threatening revolt. This gave the socialists a chance to charge that the harebrained antics of the communists breed fascism. But the Austrian example shows that the existence of a strong communist party is not necessary in order to spur fascism to take power, since in Austria the communist party was practically non-existent. Furthermore, in England, the fascist movement is arising without even a strong socialist movement’s existing, but only a Labor Party. Finally, fascist trends are rearing their heads in the United States where there is not even a Labor Party.
In short, while it is true that originally for a capitalist class to turn to fascism there had to be the immediate threat or actual outburst of the proletarian revolution under communist direction, today this is no longer so. As the United States is demonstrating, fascist drifts may appear even where the labor movement is weak and poorly organized. The mere fact that the masses potentially may form a powerfully organized militant labor movement is sufficient for the rulers to prepare their fascist weapons in reserve. This is all the more necessary since in countries like the United States there is no doubt that, should the workers make even the most moderate attempt to engage in independent political action or to form national industrial unions, the inevitable clashes that would arise would speedily lead the country to a revolutionary situation. In the United States, above all, there exist the finest potentialities for a deep-going and general radicalization of the masses against which the bourgeoisie can prepare only by forging its fascist weapons in advance.
It is precisely in the latter cases, where the masses are not immediately threatening to overthrow the capitalist order, that fascism proceeds via the governmental route rather than by the road from below. Here there is no occasion for the organization of large mass demonstrations by fascists who shoot down all in their way and who march on Rome. Rather is it a case of the cold and calculating fascization of the apparatus of government and the steady submergence of democratic institutions to give rise to Bonapartism and to dictatorial tendencies that pave the way for fascism. This last is the situation characterizing the United States today.
If we attempt to pass judgment historically upon the fascist movement so as to guide our conduct in relation to it, in short, if we ask ourselves the question whether fascism is reactionary or progressive, we find that the answer is by no means a simple one. If we put the question: Must society pass through a period of fascism in order to reach a higher productive level? our answer must be emphatically, No! Fascism is not inevitable. The human race can proceed from the chaos of capitalist competition with its waste and wars to a planful, organized society without going through the blood-path and horror of the fascist regime. It was entirely possible, as Russia has shown, to pass from pre-fascist capitalism directly to the rule of the working class.
If fascism is reactionary, it is fundamentally because it has set back the only class capable of moving the world to a higher technique and better relations. Precisely because fascism destroys the organizations of the working class and would prevent them from overthrowing capitalism, does fascism stifle the birth of a new order, and thus becomes reactionary. This is the essence of the matter.
Flowing from this fundamental policy of throttling the working class, fascism has been forced to adopt other reactionary features. In its methodology, it derogates science and intellectual pursuits, emphasizing emotions and passions. It reduces the number of students in the higher institutions of learning; in huge pyres it burns the books of which it disapproves. However, while it pretends to avoid intellectualizing, it spins out all sorts of utopian phalanstaries of organized capitalism, planned economy, self-sufficiency, autarchy, etc. In short, capitalism, in its period of senility, ends up where socialism begins, namely, in utopia, in the belief of its ability to maintain the profit system without its evils and to establish a purposeful order that will eliminate rivalry and secure harmony for all.
Capitalism refuses to recognize that it has passed its menopause. To restore its virility, it resorts to the magic potions of fascism with frenzied incantations to the blood of its ancestors. The sole result is intellectual abortions. As its body fails, it gives up hope in evolution and turns from materialism to idealism, from objectivism to subjectivism, from the bug of reality to the spider-web of wish.
In its reliance upon the middle class, fascism must maintain the backward petty economy of that class, must make concessions to the peasantry and small property holders, and must prevent the development of the productive forces. At the same time, the powers of destruction in the hands of the ruling class become greatly strengthened. None of the basic problems leading to chronic crisis and perpetual warfare can be solved. On the contrary, all become intensified.
The reactionary features of fascism are evidenced, too, in its emphatic insistence on a most intense form of nationalism, adopting theories that could lead only to the strangling of all the races of humanity and perpetual warfare between them. At the very moment when the new productive forces, such as radio, television, and the airplane, imperiously demand the end of national boundaries and the intimate co-ordination of all the productive forces of the world, at that moment fascism increases national restrictions a hundredfold.
Reactionary, too, are fascist reforms in social life. The position of women is relegated to that of hundreds of years ago; the youth are broken on the wheel of fascist discipline; babies are compelled to be born under gas masks. The masses, already having developed to a point where they can organize themselves in powerful groupings and can express their interests, find all self-development closed to them. They are compelled to be followers of leaders, a species of sheep whose task is “not to reason why, but to do and die” for fascism. The suppression of all initiative, ambition, and desire for advancement on the part of individuals belonging to the lower orders is part of the fascist scheme. All the evils that Herbert Spencer denounced in his tirades against socialism, calling it the new feudalism, or new slavery, have been realized in the guise of National Socialism or fascism. The very policies for which the workers were cursed, such as Luddism, that is, destruction of machinery, sabotage, terrorism, the crushing of individual liberty, etc., all have been realized, not by the workers, but by their capitalist opponents who were the first to attack the workers on these grounds.
On the other hand, strive as it will to prevent the inevitable victory of the working class, fascism both positively and negatively prepares the way for its own downfall and for the ultimate triumph of the new social order. Wherever fascism wins and atomizes the proletarian organizations, it does not really destroy the working class. That it could not do, without destroying the whole system of wage-slavery. The workers can do without their masters, but the masters cannot do without the workers. What fascism does unwittingly is to harden and toughen the workers and to overcome the poison which demoralized them.
In methodology, the very emphasis of the fascists upon emotion and passion plays into the hands of the revolutionists who, contra to the socialists and idealist rationalists who babble about the power of persuasion, have constantly roused the temper of the workers to induce them to get into action. Revolutionary communist theory is above all a theory of action, acclaiming education through action rather than through abstruse book reading and abstract chattering. Practice is the best pedagogue. To fascism, the present is an age of unreason; fascist appeals to babies, to little children and to adolescents are appeals to those below reason. The communist, on the contrary, relies on the burning hatred and passions of the exploited adult worker whose life is tortured away under fascism. The age of violence that characterizes the era of fascism fits in well enough with the plans of the subversive forces working for a new order.
In economics, fascism is compelled to base itself upon the highest technique and most developed trustified system. Thus, far from scattering the workers, it must organize them into larger masses and bring them closer together. The nationalization of industry only emphasizes again the end of private industry and the bankruptcy of the private property owner. The more the State takes over the factories, the easier it is for everyone to see that the capitalist is a mere parasite. How long can the State guarantee the private owners a stated income merely because of their ownership? Sooner or later the question must become acute, whether these payments which drain the vitality of the whole nation should be made in perpetuity.
The National Socialists themselves are compelled to attack “parasitic” capital, viz., interest-capital, stock-and-bond-capital, speculative capital, etc. How long can the fascist divorce these children of capital from their brethren, and on what more equitable basis can they support the claims of the landlord and of the merchant as against the banker and the financier? Fascism here, against its will, is constrained to denounce a part of capitalism, and lets loose a force condemning the entire capitalist system. In this way, also, the petty bourgeois, who feared and hated socialism, eventually is brought to the point of view of adopting theories of socialism, even though at first on a restricted national scale.
Fascism is forced to raise collectivism to an unprecedented level. It wipes out all the filth of criminal individualism that nineteenth-century competition had accumulated. In its strictures against the evils of competition, fascism stimulates all, especially those who learn with such difficulty, namely, the petty bourgeoisie, to think not of themselves alone in the swinish egotistic manner of old, but of the welfare of the State. Soon enough the welfare of the State will be identified with the welfare of the masses. The permanent result of fascist teaching in the long run will be the subordination of the individual, not to the State, but to the needs of all, that is, of the masses who labor and suffer.
The accelerated development of State capitalism which occurs under fascism only brings to a head all the contradictions of the mode of production and prepares the mass of people better than ever for the transformation of society into one where only those who work control the means of work. Simultaneously, the fusion of State and business transforms every struggle of the workers into a political one against the State. State capitalism compels the workers to attack not a particular phase of the system but the heart of the order itself.
Just as fascism has been forced to deride certain forms of capital, so must it praise and idealize labor. The old aristocratic ruling class, like a bird of prey soaring on high, could look with contempt and mockery upon the grubby individuals digging at hard labor in the valleys. Against such birds of prey, the socialists countered with a theory stressing the dignity and value of labor so disdainfully scorned by Nietzsche. Now this very cry of the dignity of labor is taken up by the ruling class as the sole way to maintain its rule. Only he eats who labors. The only person of value is the worker; idlers have no place in a system fighting for its existence.
Such is the theory of fascism and, whether it likes it or not, this new point plays directly into the hands of the communist revolutionary who easily can point out the abyss between fascist theory and practice, and how fascism protects not the laborer but the destroyer and the loafer, immensely increasing the number of these parasites. For good or evil, fascism has identified its role with the rule of labor and has therefore confirmed, in its own way, all the pretensions that the laborer has made that he and he alone should rule. Sooner or later, the laborer will decide to remove fascism in favor of a rule more in accordance with his interests; fascism will be hard pressed to prevent its deposition. Theoretically, then, in the very beginning fascism lays the basis for its own destruction.
An excellent step has been made by fascism in exterminating the gangrenous rot which was poisoning the working class in the form of the trade union and socialist-communist bureaucracy. Fascism has squeezed the pus out of the proletarian system. By hanging the labor bureaucrat from the lamp-post and exposing his cowardice to ridicule and shame, the fascists have done an inestimable although unconscious service to the working class. First of all, by destroying these old bureaucracies, fascism gives the opportunity to the workers to build afresh, and has removed the old weights bending the working class to its knees. At the same time, fascism has killed once and for all the possibility of these cancerous growths’ returning.
In the second place, the workers have become tremendously hardened under fascism, especially the advanced class-conscious workers. Having been forced to break from their past groupings, these workers, in jail, in concentration camp, and elsewhere, have probed deeply into their souls to discover the sins for which they are being punished. The old sentimental slogans have disappeared. Fascism has completed what the World War started. It has made the working class disciplined, realistic, and hard. If nationalism is fascism, the workers must become internationalist! With kicks and blows, fascism forces the proletariat to revolution.
All the problems over which the old movements—may they rest in peace!—used to mull interminably have now disappeared. The problem of parliamentarism—Should the workers participate in parliamentary democratic elections or not?—entirely loses its force now that parliaments are abolished. Should bourgeois property be confiscated, should the employers be paid?—is no longer debatable in the light of the complete confiscation of the working class property made by the bourgeoisie. Is insurrection inevitable, or will peaceful persuasion do the job?—is a subject that now can meet only amused contempt if posed to the proletariat. Thus have the opportunists and the liberal reformists been driven not only out of the ranks of the government but out of the ranks of labor as well. From this hard ordeal of fascism there must emerge a new working class, bred by the even more intense contradictions and antagonisms of the future, thrust forward even still more sharply by the exigencies of world war and similar cataclysms, no longer divided as of old by craft lines, national boundaries, economic distinctions, reforms, ideals, etc., but now thoroughly united and welded together under the leadership of a tested and tempered vanguard.
This is the progressive feature of fascism. History does not proceed in one straight line, nor is it as smooth as the pavements of our boulevard. The road to power is exceedingly hard and devious. Apparently the labor movement is declining, taking two steps backward for every one that it advances. But this is only on the surface. So long as capitalism develops, it must develop these workers, increase their numbers and their power materially and ideologically. If it throws them back it is only in order to enable them to take a running jump towards the next stage before it.
Capitalism inexorably, and through the very reactionary features of fascism, whips and kicks the battalions of progress into line, compelling them to fight for the future, as they paralyze the present. Symbolic indeed is the castor-oil that fascism employs; it has enabled the workers to clean out all the filth of the past and to emerge with their fever gone, ready for battle.
Despite the rapidly menacing rise of fascism, we categorically can declare that fascism cannot last long. The case of Mussolini is no criterion, since Italian fascism was fortunate enough to stabilize its power at a time when the revolutionary proletariat was being defeated throughout the world, and when capitalism was recovering its stability and strength. Italian fascism obtained power in the beginning of the period of prosperity that began in 1923. The victory of Hitler and of other fascists, however, did not occur in this happy interlude of capitalism. Hitler took power in a stage when the economic crisis was at its deepest. He can maintain his power only by showing results in war. In the meantime, the longer fascism remains in power, the deeper grows the gap between it and the masses, and the more fascism degenerates further into a mere apparatus.
However, it is not so much the internal difficulties which will overthrow the fascist regime as will the inevitable bursting forth of the world war for which fascism is the preparation. The direction of this war, in a basic sense, only can be against the international working class as symbolized by the Soviet Union. Whatever other complications occur are secondary to this fundamental perspective.
It is hardly conceivable, whether the Soviet Union resists the invasion or whether it succumbs, that the terrible holocaust of war will not generate the whirlwind of revolution afterward. The Franco-Prussian War gave rise to the Paris Commune and the victory of the workers in one city; the World War gave rise to the Russian Revolution and the victory of the workers in one country; the next war, unprecedented in its havoc, is bound to raise the problem to a higher pitch and to pose before the working class the inexorable necessity of ending the capitalist system throughout the world.
Of course it is not inevitable that this next revolutionary attempt must succeed, just as it was possible for the workers to have failed previously. However, the probabilities are that in the next revolutionary wave, the workers, prepared as they have been by fascism itself, will be far more competent and capable of accomplishing the job than ever before. Fascism, in all likelihood, therefore, represents the last political gasp of a dying social order.
1. This the Spanish Socialists will also learn.
2. A recent decree has devalued the franc by about 30 per cent.
3. Compare the pamphlet issued by the Vigilantes Committee of Anti-Fascist Intellectuals on the Croix de Feu, which points out that the Vice President of that organization is a director of large concerns, the manager is the Vice President of a bank, and Taittinger is a corporation director, etc.
4. G. D. H. Cole: The Next Ten Years in British Social and Economic Policy, p. 7.
5. The same, p. 51.
6. The same, pp. 163, 164.
7. The same, pp. 423 and following.
8. Incidentally, a good many of these suggestions relating to unemployment have been adopted in the United States under the Roosevelt regime.
9. G. D. H. Cole: British Trade and Industry, Past and Future, p. 440.
10. Robert Owen: “Address to Working Classes,” in A New Society & Other Writings (Everyman’s edition), p. 154.
11. Compare the Bruening “hunger decrees,” for example.