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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. 9 (Whole No. 105), 27 February 1932, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

(continued from last issue)

Today, the task stands before us, before the Communists, to gather the entire working class around the slogan of the struggle against the threatening Fascist overthrow. There is no doubt, that this struggle will also bring about a conflict with the “lesser evil”. There is no doubt that the struggle against wage robbery, which is a struggle in the trade unions and in the factories and which constitutes an inseparable element of the formation of the united front, will also bring about a struggle against the regime of emergency decrees.

The Struggle Against Social Democracy, and the United Front

No one (and least of all ourselves) desires the suspension of the struggle against the S.P.G., the suspension of criticism – a “reconciliation”. But it is necessary to realize that the struggle against the S.P.G. must be conducted in the form of a united front tactic, under the slogan “against the seizure of power by Hitler”. Lenin demonstrated very cleverly the essence of this tactic when he recommended that the English Communists “support” Henderson under certain conditions (Infantile Leftism, page 76, German edition). By making it clear for them that they would support Henderson “as the hangman’s rope supports the hanged.”

Manuilsky and Thaelmann make very light of the matter, by substituting here also, for the question of a concrete analysis, for the question of the varying struggle on the different fronts, a non-Marxist commonplace like: “the main enemy is the dictatorship of capital – that is, every bourgeois government and its supporters”. According to this schema, it will always remain a mystery, why the Bolshevik! fought with Kerensky against Kornilov and did not carry on the struggle against Kerensky in a stereotyped fashion.

It speaks of a high degree of insensitiveness to the development of events, not to want to see the Facsist danger, not to want to see the practical consequences which genuine Fascism will bring.

People who regard Bruening as Fascist, that is, the overture as the opera, can very easily become altogether blind and deaf.

Thaelmann Fails to Correct False Views

The party, far from revising its false theory, has “deepened” it by the article in the January issue of Die Internationale, composed by the group of authors that works under the pseudonym of Thaelmann.

“It may be assumed that the execution of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie – no matter through what methods, and particularly when it is a question of Fascist methods – will in the first instance, and in the long run, be in the hands of the Centre in a very strong measure”. (Die Internationale, Vol. 33, No. 1)

The content of the present situation is characterized crudely but not incorrectly by Thaelmann:

“Today, the Centre is the carrier of the policy of an interchangeable exploitation of the social democracy and the National Socialists for the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.” With this, he has finally reached the estimation formulated by Trotsky in the following manner in 1929:

“This will also determine the policy that the bourgeoisie will adopt in the near future: to force the social democracy, with the aid of Fascism, to reconstruct the constitution, so that the bourgeoisie will be able to combine the advantages of Fascism with those of democracy, those of Fascism in essence, those of democracy in form. In this manner, they hope to save themselves the high expense of democratic reforms, and if possible, also the new expense inherent in a Fascist overthrow”.

Unfortunately, however, Thaelmann, who characterizes this situation as Fascism and who neglects entirely the economic relationships and the political perspectives that lie in this situation, has not yet reached the conclusions of Trotsky!

“Will the bourgeoisie be able to take this path? To its actual conclusion and for a prolonged period of time – most certainly not. In other words, the bourgeoisie cannot build up a regime that will allow it to base itself in a peaceful manner, on the workers as well as on the ruined petty bourgeoisie, without bearing the expense for the social reforms or for the convulsions of a civil war. The contributions are too great, they will be broken in one direction or the other.” (Trotsky, The Austrian Crisis)

Dangers of Calling Present Condition Fascism

The fundamental error, of characterizing this condition as Fascism, is avenged by the prognosis. We have already heard above, of Thaelmann’s “prolonged Centre-Fascism”. What is even more grotesque, is the sentence he attaches to the quotation brought above: “At times, the preponderance rests with the social democracy and that will probably be true, from the class point of view, also in the future, up to the proletarian revolution in Germany.”

A truly annihilating prognosis, this prognosis put forward by Thaelmann: Germany has already reached its Fascist form and it will remain so. Year after year, the genial Bruening will continue to rule, nourished by the starvation of the patient proletariat, interchangeably supported by his zealous and inexhaustible retainers, the National Socialist Party of Germany and “social Fascism”, in which case the seizure of power by Hitler is just as unlikely as the disintegration of the S.P.G., until such a time, when, probably after the completion of the second five year plan – the “people’s revolution” finally arrives.

It is clear that this prognosis is somewhat dulled by the struggle with the Nazis. It is clear, that the party and its Brandlerist page boys underestimate and mock at the significance of the slogan of the General Strike (which we, for our part, have never separated from the question of immediate partial strikes).

It is clear that the entire ideological confusion with regard to Fascism can lead to capitulation at the moment of the establishment of the Fascist dictatorship, because these people will say – just as the despicable Kolaroffs, the Bulgarian Thaelmanns, did on June 9, 1923 – “Why get excited particularly now, when one Fascist is merely replacing another Fascist?” The Comintern, which has most unhappily capitulated to Fascism three times already (Bulgaria, Poland, Finland) is coming to another cross-road. The very reserved criticism of the defeatist attitude made by Thaelmann serves no purpose at all as long as his own theories, false to the roots, are not cast aside.

We must pose the question here: why this fatal error in the problem of Fascism? Simply by referring to the thinking ability of the Thaelmanns and Manuilskys, this question is not solved for the Marxist.

Basis For False Analyses and Tactics

Manuilsky has, however, perhaps unintentionally, informed us why it is impossible, in the last analysis, for the Stalinist Comintern leadership to differentiate between Hitler, Bruening and Wels.

“The entire aggravation of the class struggle proves that the differences in the methods of class rule between so-called bourgeois democracy and Fascism are constantly being wiped out, and are actually, in practice, wiped out already. Can anyone attempt to prove that, for example, the policy of the German social democracy with regard to the country of socialist construction – the U.S.S.R. – is any more “progressive” than the policy of Italian Fascism!” (Report of Manuilsky to the XI Plenum of the E.C.C.I. – our emphasis, E.B.)

That means: the final touchstone in the policy of the Stalinist Comintern leadership, whose basic task is no longer the world revolution but the construction of socialism in one country, are the foreign trade relations of the Soviet Union: and so it happens that a considerable lack of sensitiveness arises in these people, their eyes glued on Mussolini, with regard to the Hitler question. But even in this case, these people, generalizing mechanically, are falling into error. In the instance, the often misused argument of the difference between Germany and Italy is very much in place. Mussolini means – oil exports. But Hitler means – war of intervention.

The nationalist attitude towards Marxism, which in Germany has led through the program of the national and social liberation, (to use Manuilsky’s own jargon) to the “descent to the level of the middle classes, in the Menshevik, and not in the Bolshevik manner”, here too proves to be fatal.



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