Fascism: What Is It? F A Ridley 1941
It will now, we hope, be clear from our preceding sections what are the main characteristics of Fascism, when considered generically as the sociology of the current counter-revolution staged by declining capitalism. Centralised capitalism, with a strong state in control, ‘Black Socialism’, in the excellent phrase of a recent American writer (Dwight Macdonald in the July-August Partisan Review). Its character as fundamentally counter-revolutionary is demonstrated by the fact that it imposes upon the unorganised ('laisser-faire’) capitalism of the Past that degree of collectivism without which no society can hope to adapt itself to politico-economic conceptions that were foreign to the liberal capitalism of the Past. From this we deduce both the character of Fascism as deliberate counter-revolution and also the falsity of the current conception in ‘Left’ circles that regards Fascism as reaction pure and simple. It is, we repeat, precisely because Fascism is not simply that, is not merely blank negation, that we must differentiate sharply between Mussolini, Hitler, and, say, mere political atavism embodied in the symbolical person of ‘Colonel Blimp’.
It is precisely because Fascism is not merely blind reaction that it is the deadly danger that it is: mere blind reaction would not last long in an age of headlong change such as ours. For the Socialist conception of the State as existing for the service of man and as progressively ‘withering away’, Fascism substitutes a State for which man exclusively exists, and which is an ‘end-in-itself’. In place of the State that ‘withers away’ we have a political regime in which everything ‘withers away’ – except the State!
From the economic standpoint, Fascism substitutes for the economics of Free Trade, of individual competition, the economics of autarchy – an economic system analogous to the mercantile system of early capitalism. Instead of the individual capitalist as the accumulator of Capital with the State as his protector, the ‘total’ regime concentrates in the hands of the State itself the primary capitalist function of the accumulation of Capital. Even where it does not become the direct owner yet the Fascist State more and more becomes the rigorous supervisor and controller of the sum total of economic processes and of the fluctuations and oscillations of the Market. Indeed, whilst not entirely free to implement its desires in this respect, yet it is undeniable that Fascism dislikes the conception of the market and that it hankers after a ‘natural economy’ (that is, a system of barter without the intervention of money in the process of exchange). 
In fact, Fascism has two enemies: Socialism on the Left which would destroy it by Revolution; and Laisser Faire (Cobdenite Liberalism), the outmoded character of which would now be indubitably fatal to any Capitalist regime that still adhered to it. The character of Fascism as the scientific counter-revolution of the collectivist age is strikingly displayed in this fundamental antithesis.
When considered purely as a political regime Fascism stands for the fiercest and most frustrated Imperialism: for the practical supremacy of the military ‘virtues’, for ultimately a series of the most terrible wars for world supremacy. Neither moral order nor international law exist for the Fascist State considered as an ‘end-in-itself’, in the phraseology of the Kantian School. Only the conquest of the planet, or its agreed division with other Fascist Powers, could secure a lasting peace, other than an armistice, in a Fascist world. Incidentally we may add that, since Fascism is, according to our definition, the politics of a frustrated Imperialism, nothing short of a Social revolution can eliminate it. Its defeat, and consequent frustration, by a rival Imperialist power, merely strengthens it by definition.
From a consideration of this aspect of Fascism we obtain fresh and convincing light on the futility – and worse – of those who are just now vehemently urging us to support a rival Imperialism against Germany and Italy, on the ground that a war of such a kind is a war ‘against Fascism’. Let these pundits propound to themselves this simple question: by the last (1914-1918) victory of ‘Democracy’ (read – British, French and American Imperialism) over Germany ('Prussian militarism’) was not Germany ‘frustrated’ to the point of Fascism? And will not further frustration result in super-Fascism by the same logic inherent in the soil itself of declining Capitalism? To remove Fascism in perpetuity nothing less than an earthquake is necessary – the Social Revolution! And nothing else will do the trick. Whosoever says that any alternative exists, misleads and betrays the Workers.
From the standpoint of human culture Fascism spells decay, infallibly ending in ruin. To prove this, it only needs to repeat this equation: creative instincts constitute the life-blood of culture; freedom is absolutely essential to the rise and to the free play of creativeness in all its manifold forms. Fascism is the death of Freedom; for no species of the counter-revolution could coexist with Freedom for long; not even Fascism of the veiled ‘gentlemanly’ type. Freedom would soon damage the system and bring it to an abrupt end. With the Western World thus stifled and devitalised, the history of European civilisation would be over. Only a stagnant, purely defensive and preservative civilisation; only a ‘Byzantine’ culture – in the worst sense of that term – could hope to survive as such in an arid Sahara of the soul. With thought in chains, and without that freedom which all history proves to be the Siamese Twin of Progress, only disintegration and death could follow in a society with its back forever turned upon the Future. For the Renaissance of European culture, no less than for economic and political resurrection, there is now only one Aladdin’s password: it consists of two words: World Revolution!
Lastly we must ask this final question: what is the future of Fascism? Evidently a bright one as long as capitalism has any future at all. For in an age of counter-revolution, the ‘law’ of ‘the survival of the fittest’ holds good: more ‘scientific’ forms of counter-revolution will ultimately defeat less. And Fascism is, we repeat, the counter-revolution of our era. The name may vanish, particularly if the Fascist Empire lose the present war; and various individual features may either be modified, or even totally disappear. Nonetheless, if capitalism continues, Fascism – in its essence at least – must continue amid the growing inevitable frustration of Imperialism and Capitalism, to gain both on Reformism and on rival, less developed types of counter-revolution. Could Fascism stabilise itself over a whole historical epoch, ‘modern’ civilisation, like its classical predecessor, would end in what the proto-fascist Oswald Spengler has styled ‘the [renewed] Age of the Caesars’. In an all-powerful military and bureaucratic ‘étatisme’ presiding over a stagnant social order, in which the creative sap of life had dried up, and from which all life and movement had departed, such was the last ‘Byzantine’ phase of Classical Antiquity: such, if Fascism wins, will be the last phase of ours. If Fascism were to win out, the most probable result would be a series of wars leading ultimately to a Dark Age. If one Fascist Empire were strong enough to crush its competitors a (world) ‘Byzantine’ despotism could arise.
Will Fascism win? Prophecy is alien to our scope, but it is very unlikely that it will. For Ancient Society rested on a virtually unchanging foundation; whilst ours rests on a foundation of ceaseless and headlong change. Unless Fascism can destroy the technical foundations of society, its stagnant superstructure can scarcely endure – and, we may add, its perennial necessity for technical efficiency in war makes this task virtually impossible. ‘The (New) Roman Empire’ is therefore unlikely to endure as many decades even as the old did centuries.
What will succeed it? If Fascism fails to endure, there will be no possibility of return to (bourgeois) Democracy. That social phase is finished for ever. Only the Social Revolution can succeed it: only the end of class society and of the present age of human adolescence, and the permanent substitution of the struggle of man versus nature for that of man versus man. To Fascism, the quintessence of stagnation, succeeds socialism: history as a continual dialectic: society in continuous evolution, freed from class struggles and consequent retrogression: moving forward in a straight continuous line to ever wider domination over the forces of Nature: Man, the King of the Universe!
A final point! As Fascism, the last phase of class society, concentrates all power in the hands of the national State so the struggle for human emancipation – the Social Revolution in its widest sense – is henceforth inseparably bound up with the substitution of Freedom for Authority: with the struggle against the national State.