What is Fascism ?

by Rich Gibson

from his website


1. Fascism is the unchecked rule of a class of the privileged, or relatively rich, in power--a full-scale assault on poor and working people. Parliamentary institutions are usually set aside, or so demeaned as to be meaningless. (The Holocaust was legal). Elites issue direct orders, frequently through a populist leader. Wages, any social safety net, working hour laws, labor laws; all come under legal (and extra-legal) attack. The stick replaces the carrot.

Even between capitalists of the same nation, struggle intensifies.

Fascism in its early stages has been popular among masses of people mystified by nationalism, racism, and sexism. These ideas are key to the construction of fascism. But, "war means work" for some, which may also explain its historical popularity.

Fascism requires and is built on the support of capitalist elites. Henry Ford, the Dulles family, the Catholic Church, and the German Krupps among many others, were early supporters of fascism in the U.S.

Fascism is an element of the modern era, which carries forward elements of feudalism. Fascism has taken the form of state capitalism in Japan, Germany, and in more sophisticated ways, the Soviet Union in the Stalin era. But fascism has also grown in less developed countries, Romania, Bulgaria, most of Eastern Europe, Cambodia, Argentina, Guatemala, Chile; and taken significantly different forms.

2. Fascism and capitalism are inseparable. There has never been a form of capital that was not built on a fascist base--from early British action against the Chartists to today's varieties of imperialism. All major capitalist nations have fascist ties.

Hence, while fascism may not be the dominant form of capitalist government, elements of fascist ideology (biological determinism, rabid nationalism, etc.) and fascist organizations (sectors of the police, KKK, skinheads, etc.) are always present. No capitalist government has ever required a revolution to institute fascism.

Fascism does emerge in capitalist crises, the moments when the struggle for production reaches a point when the workers can no longer purchase the products they produce, a crisis of over-production and declining profits and/or an intense battle for cheaper labor, raw materials, and new markets; that is, war.

However, neither war nor capitalist crisis is a pre-condition of fascism; consider Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. In addition, it is possible to live under fascism within a nation that is not itself entirely fascist, that is, to live as a jobless black youth in Sao Paulo, or Los Angeles.

3. Fascism deceptively calls for the national unity of social classes, class-collaboration, but actually promotes the division of people by race, sex, culture, nation, or religion. Fascism was, under Mussolini and, later, Hitler, conceived as the "corporate state", that is, all the resources of the society were directed toward the support of corporate profits in the name of national unity and economic development. In order to motivate warriors and bolster profits, fascism conceals the real and insoluble tensions between those who own and those who work.

4. Fascism frequently is employed as a strategic base for war. Fascist shifts in government and official ideology grow with war preparations.

5. Violence and terror, made tolerable by racism and sexism (ideas which view people as sub-human) become public policy.

6. Fascism relies on mysticism, organized irrationalism, a culture which turns to superstition, irrationality (extreme religious dogmatism, the fear of sexuality, celebrations of misogyny, death, and hopelessness--serving to explain apparent systematic despair), and retards science and social production in order to mask its own decay. Indeed, fascism is organized decay.

There is a jagged line which runs from conservative Christianity to anti-semitism to anti-communism which underpins much of fascist writing. But, there is no consistency to fascist ideology, other than to preserve capitalism. Fascism is irrationalism organized to sustain inequality and authoritarianism. Even so, the role of the ideology of irrationalism can become powerful, that is, Nazis sacrificed the productive work of many Jews in order to kill them.

7. Fascism is virulently anti-communist. Communists (and perhaps some anarchists), who have been the only consistent and effective anti-fascist fighters, are the fascist's first targets.

8. Fascism has only been defeated internally (primarily by the actions of indigenous national resistance), perhaps, twice: in Albania and, maybe, China. However, resistance movements have changed fascism and halted its birth.

9. There is evidence that combined theoretical and physical struggle causes fascism to retreat--in ideology and materially. In ideology, there is a growing body of research which indicates that vocal and written opposition to fascist ideas does cause a reevaluation and moderation of thinking in individuals. In pre-fascist Germany in the 1930's, areas which actively put people on the streets to fight the Nazis regularly caused Nazi withdrawals--and minimized fascist group membership. There is nothing inevitable about fascism. It is a political movement, reaching from production relations into the mass consciousness, and can be combatted physically and intellectually.

10. If these factors are true, then it seems effective resistance to fascism must be based on a class analysis of society, an internationalist perspective that attacks imperialist war, a multi-racial, anti-racist/sexist, organized approach (as opposed to ephemeral coalitions based on sex, race, religion), willingness to consider violence, and the grasp of the critical role of ideology in combatting fascist practice.

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