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E. Bauer

The Character of Fascism

An Analysis of the Composition of the Hitlerist Camp


From The Militant, Vol. V No. 8 (Whole No. 104), 20 February 1932, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In October 1930, the central committee of the C.P.G. decided overnight, that Fascism is reigning in Germany and that Bruening is its prophet. The 11th Plenum of the E.C.C.I. put its seal upon that, and all expectations, nourished by the “deviations” and inconsistencies in the resolutions, in the speeches of Remmele, etc., that the German central committee would revise this decision and take reality into account, have come to naught. Under the mask of a “theoretical elaboration”; a large current of confusion is flowing through the party into the minds of its membership and the only one of the four credos of the Thaelmann article in December which is actually being preached, is: “We live under Fascism!” “Fascism and social-Fascism in the last analysis are two different shades of one and the same basis for the bourgeois dictatorship” (Manuilsky’s report to the 11th plenum)

It is therefore not at all strange that the resolutions of the 5th world congress have been raised from their graves and that Stalin’s theoretical infantile maladies, like “social-democracy as a moderate wing of Fascism”, “social democracy and Fascism as twins” and other abortions of the same sort are being preached as eternal truths. It is only being consistent for a Warner Hirsch [1] (Die Internationale, Vol. 15, No. 1) to counterpose democratic England and France to “Fascist” Germany!

The question of the evaluation of the situation, the question whether we really have Fascism already in Germany, is of the greatest strategic importance. If one takes an affirmative position on this question then one must come to an entirely different point of departure, to an entirely different (and distorted) evaluation of Hitler, as well as of the Fascist danger in the perceptible future. For in that case the question of a formulation becomes the question of a prognosis of the most likely development.

The theoreticians of the Comintern are operating with commonplaces like “Bruening and Hitler are both merely dictators of the bourgeoisie. Between an open Fascist dictatorship and the Bruening government there is in no case any class difference whatsoever.” These are elementary truths for every Marxist.

The essence of Marxist analysis does not, however, consist in the recognition of the general, but of the particular, of the concrete. The essence of a valid political characterization does not consist of the ability of fastening it on to every, but to a definite, political situation.

Can the expression “Fascism” serve as a characterization for a specific political phenomenon, for a definite situation? It can. But in that case, what is “Fascism” actually? A review of European, and especially Italian, Fascism permits us to elaborate certain specific features of it, without any difficulty. Fascism is a unique and new phenomenon of the period of monopoly capitalism, a product of post-war capitalism, an offshoot of reformism.

As the collapse of economy spreads, as reformism begins to disappoint the masses looking for a way out, Fascism is saddled everywhere with the task of intercepting the radicalized masses who are about to turn revolutionary channels and of faking them useful once more for the purposes of finance capital. It is a matter, in this case, first of all, of radicalized petty bourgeois masses and consequently, we see everywhere, as a particular feature of Fascism – its broad petty bourgeois mass basis. Furthermore, we see as a consequence of this, the super-radical and quasi-revolutionary, typically petty bourgeois phraseology, the desecration of the idols of yesterday – democracy, pacifism – and the idealization of the most brutal strongman dictatorship. We see further an unrestricted terror of the Fascists against the working class and all its organizations before and after its seizure of power, through particular organs (Fasces, Storm Divisions, etc.) – a terror of such a great quantitative proportion that it becomes transformed into a specific quality. Finally we see the nationalist ideology as a maneuver of diverting attention from social misery and as the basis of an aggressive foreign policy, which is possible only on the backs of a defeated working class, for whom the revolutionary way out is closed. It is especially significant to take into account, as Alfred Kurella has done, the strong war sentiments current among the Italian workers.

Its origin and the tasks asigned to it by the bourgeoisie account for the position of Fascism with regard to the social democracy. Fascism, which cannot tolerate any other party, not even a petty bourgeois one, at its side, can least of all tolerate those for whom it must substitute, because they have compromised and outlived themselves. It is quite true that the social democratic leaders would like to rule together with Fascism, but Fascism would not share its power with them. Despite the offer for a coalition made by the Baldesi of the Socialist Party of Italy, the S.P.I. was proscribed even before the C.P.I. Despite all the services rendered to Pilsudski by the Socialist Party of Poland, its leaders nevertheless landed in the fortress of Brest-Litovsk. Just as it is certain that several D’Aragonas will go over to Fascism, it is certain that the reformist organizations in themselves will be totally crushed.

“Fascism, nourished by the social democracy, will and must eventually crush its skull, in order to reach power. The Austrian social democracy does all it can to facilitate this surgical operation for it.” (Trotsky)

That is why the formula of “social Fascism” is not only harmful in agitation, but also false as a political prognosis.

When we consider, after this brief analysis of Fascism, the present day Bruening government, the differences are unmistakable. Its social basis consists unfortunately, as yet of the reformist workers chained to it by their treacherous leaders and not of the petty-bourgeois masses of Fascism even though it does indeed maneuver with the latter from time to time, The ideology of the Bruenings who base themselves upon a parliamentary majority, is conservative and not quasi-revolutionary. The terror of the state apparatus is as yet in its embryo. It restricts itself to the toleration of the Nazi terror. The foreign policy of Bruening is not that of Hitler. That is what differentiates Bruening from Fascism. What brings him closer to it we know full well; it is the regime of emergency decrees, the factual even if not formal, suspension of democracy, the active support of the Nazis, etc. If we want to evaluate the Bruening government as a whole, we must characterize it not as Fascism but much more precisely as the government of the transition to Fascism, of the active preparation (Groener!) of Fascism.

The difference between Hitler and Bruening consists not in the aim but in the social basis (what Thaelmann, Manuilsky and Co. say about their common social basis is pure twaddle). It consists in the methods. And that is something that must not be overlooked.

It is, however, conscious deception to characterize this order of things as the “lesser evil”, as the social democracy is doing. Because the “lesser evil” Bruening is being tolerated by the S.P.G. and not fought by it, it becomes by itself an ever “greater evil” and is enabled thereby to prepare the “greatest evil” so impudently. It is clear that to differentiate between Bruening and Hitler does not as yet signify a policy of toleration. The Marxist manner of posing the question is given by Trotsky in his latest pamphlet:

“We Marxists consider Bruening, and Hitler, together with Braun, as component parts of one and the same system. The question which one of them is the lesser evil has no sense, because the system against which we are fighting, needs all these elements. But for the moment, these elements are in conflict with one another and the party of the proletariat must take advantage of this conflict in the interest of the revolution”.



(To Be Continued)


1. This gentleman, still convalescing from the Merker malady, is seeking to squeeze his way into the front ranks of the bureaucratic jackals again, by howling himself hoarse against Trotsky (“Trotsky, an agent of Hitler-Fascism”). In his day, he himself, after leaving the C.P.G., did not disdain the role of a genuine “agent of Ullstein”.

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