"The Nature of Fascism"
By Communist League; 1976
(Reprinted in Number 4 Alliance; Summer 1993; as part rebuttal to comrade John Redshield's thesis that the USA was now a fascist state)

For many years Marxist-Leninists accepted the definition of fascism made by the 13th Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International in December 1933: This definition is of value in distinguishing a fascist dictatorship from a military dictatorship representing the interests of the same reactionary class or classes, in that a fascist dictatorship makes use of an organised social base, particularly among the petty bourgeoisie.

At the same time, it must be remembered that this definition was made at a time when the Communist International was already dominated by concealed revisionist elements purging a left-sectarian tactical line, and was confirmed by the 7th Congress of the CI in 1935, by which time the revisionist leaders had partially thrown off their mask.
In considering this definition when drawing up its "Theses on the Anti-Fascist United Front in late 1974, the Communist League was forced to note that fascist dictatorships had been installed not only in countries, such as Italy and Germany, where finance capitalism did not yet exist, but also in certain countries, such as Spain and Portugal, where the capitalist revolution had not yet been completed where political power lay in the hands of large landowners and comprador capitalists, and where the dictatorship was directed as much against the national capitalists and their revolutionary movement as against the working class.

For this reason the Communist league defined fascism more broadly than had been done by the ECCI, as

Even, however, when finance capitalist (imperialist) countries alone are considered, this definition differs from that of the ECCI. The latter presents fascism as the dictatorship of "certain elements" of finance capital, namely: From the ECCI definition, therefore, it would follow that there are "other elements" of finance capital - "less reactionary, less chauvinist and less imperialist" elements - whose interests are not represented  by the fascist dictatorship and who form a social base objectively opposed to fascism.

But the attempt to impose a fascist dictatorship is made - as will be discussed later - when the parliamentary facade of the capitalist state can no longer function in the interests of monopoly capital. At this time, therefore, the replacement of "parliamentary democracy" by a fascist dictatorship is objectively in the interests of monopoly capital. At this time therefore, the replacement of "parliamentary democracy" by a fascist dictatorship is objectively in the interests of the capitalist class as a whole.   

Indeed, if "parliamentary democracy" can no longer function in the interests of monopoly capital, once this had developed, it can no longer make capitalist society itself operate effectively. Although there are contradictions between monopoly capital and non-monopoly capital, non-monopoly capitalists have a common interest with monopoly capitalists in maintaining the effective operation of capitalist society. At this time therefore, the replacement of "parliamentary democracy" by a fascist dictatorship is objectively in the interests of the capitalist class as a whole.   

Of course, there are different levels of political consciousness among capitalists, as there are among workers - although the differentials are far less among the former than among the latter. Naturally, the more politically perceptive capitalists will realize the need, for them, for a fascist dictatorship earlier than their less perceptive colleagues, who may cling to faith in "parliamentary democracy" after the former have become well aware that their objective interests require its abolition. Certainly, it is necessary for the anti-fascist movement to take advantage tactically of any "anti-fascist" sentiments among capitalists for as long as these sentiments persist. But sooner or later reality forces subjective illusions to be cast off, and it would be the height of foolishness for the anti-fascist movement to base its strategy on capitalists whose subjective political consciousness lags temporarily behind their real interests. Strategically, the basis of an anti-fascist-united front must be those classes whose objective interests are adversely affected bv fascism:  the working class, the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie, and elements of social classes belonging to social and national minorities.

 Of course in a monopoly capitalist country the state - whether it takes the form of "parliamentary democracy" or a fascist dictatorship  represents the interests of the monopoly capitalist class, rather than those of the capitalist class as a whole. But it does not represent the interests only of "certain elements" within monopoly capital, as the ECCI definition would have it.

Hence, the Communist League defines fascism as :

and in the case of a monopoly capitalist country, this is the monopoly capitalist class as a whole.

Resistance to Fascism In Italy

 The resistance of the Italian working class to fascism was made especially difficult by a number of factors:
Firstly, fascism in 1922 was a new international phenomenon and many people were deceived by its demagogic "anti-capitalist" propaganda into believing its claims to be a "revolutionary" movement - claims which were lent colour to by the adherence to fascism of many "revolutionary" anarcho-syndicalists.

Secondly, there existed no Marxist-Leninist party, following a scientific strategy and tactics and with mass influence among the working class, which could mobilise the class forces, against whose interests fascism, was directed, into the only channel  capable of successfully resisting the fascist offensive - the anti-fascist united front.                       -

The open and concealed reformist leaders of the Italian Socialist Party advised the party's members and supporters not to participate in organised resistance to fascism, but to "ignore" it - advice repeated almost word for word by the leaders - of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany in the early 1930's and by the leaders of the British Labour Party today.

The Communist Party of Italy was formed only in January 1921 and had been unable to win significant mass influence among the working class before the coup of October 1922. Although urged by the Communist International, of which the party was a section, to form a united front against fascism, the party was led at this time by a left-sectarian group, headed by Amadeo Bordiga which categorically rejected these correct tactics.
To the leadership of the CPI:

1) 'Parliamentary Democracy" and fascism were both forms of the dictatorship of monopoly capital, and a revolutionary party had "no interest" in defending the democratic rights and liberties possessed by the working class under the former; the task of a revolutionary party was "not to defend but to destroy", parliamentary democracy;

2) Social-democracy, as manifested in the organisations of the Italian Socialist Party and the General Confederation of Labour, was "the main enemy" of the working class, and fascism should be resisted by directing the working class against social-democracy;

3) United Front tactics were "opportunist"; and to be strongly opposed as a "diversion" from the struggle for socialist Revolution,

4) where an organisation of resistance to fascism based on united front tactics sprang up spontaneously (like 'the "People's Commandos" formed in July 1921), this must be denounced as a "non-revolutionary" organisation and members of the party forbidden to join it.

In the circumstances of Italy in 1921-22, it is clear that successful resistance to fascism by the working class was being made impossible.

The circumstances in which the attempt by German monopoly, to impose a fascist dictatorship ten years later was successful will be dealt with in a separate report. What must be noted here, however, is that by this time the leadership of the Communist International was in the hands of concealed revisionists
who imposed upon the Communist Party of Germany precisely those left-sectarian
tactics which had been adopted by the Communist Party of Italy in 1921-22 and which had contributed to the victory of fascism in Italy at that time.

The Motives for the Imposition of Fascism

Marxism-Leninism holds that the "normal" form of state in a capitalist country is that of "parliamentary democracy":

The 'Communist League's "Theses on the Anti-Fascist United Front, therefore, correctly declare that, in a monopoly capitalist country: The Theses imply, however, that "parliamentary democracy" becomes an unsuitable form of state power for monopoly capital as a result of: The report which follows, makes it clear that this formulation is only partly correct, and makes it clear that that "parliamentary democracy" may become an unsuitable form of state power for monopoly capital for reasons other than the development of the revolutionary socialist movement.

The theory that fascism was brought to power in Italy as a "preventive measure" directed against the "threat" of socialist revolution was a feature of fascist propaganda. One of the earliest books on Italian fascism, by Luigi Fabbri (Bologna; 1922) was entitled "La contro-rivoluzione preventiva", (The Preventive Counter-Revolution). Even before the fascist coup of October 1922, Librero Tancredi told an election meeting in Turin on April 15th., 1921 that the fascist "Combat Groupe" had arisen because of:

This theory was repeated by right-wing social-democrats  In a speech in Milan on September 10th., 1922, Camillo Prampolini: The large-scale backing of the fascist movement by Italian Big Business and its state began in October 1920. The process of bringing to power a fascist government was accomplished in three stages:

Firstly, using the fascist apparatus of force - with arms and officers provided by the army, and with the connivance of the police - to weaken the organisations of the working class and peasantry:

Secondly, transforming the fascist movement, into a "respectable" political party and bringing it - through membership of the "National Bloc" headed by Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti, the "Old Fox" -- into the framework of "parliamentary democracy".

Thirdly, through a combination of the processes of stages one and two, bringing about through the "March on Rome" of October 1922. the establishment of a movement dominated by the fascists which would proceed to replace "parliamentary democracy" bv an open totalitarian dictatorship.

Was this large-scale backing of the fascist movement by Italian Big Business in October 1920 - October 1922 the result of a "threat" of socialist revolution?

In answering this question it must be noted:

Firstly;" that the large-scale backing of the fascist movement by Italian Big Business began (in October 1920) after the Italian working class had suffered a serious defeat (the sell-out of the occupation of the factories, in September 1920) which had left the whole working class significantly demoralised:

Secondly, the defeat was followed by a serious decline in the strength of all workers' organisations.

Thirdly, the trade union movement continued to be led by objectively counter-revolutionary elements;

Fourthly, the Italian Socialist Party continued to be led by objectively counter-revolutionary elements; and

Fifthly, the Communist Party of Italy - which might have been the vanguard party of the working class - was formed only in 1921 ; its influence within the working class was small; and it was led by left-sectarian elements, headed by Amadeo Bordiga, incapable of winning for the party mass influence among the working Class.

Clearly, if "parliamentary democracy" could no longer function in Italy in 1920-22 in the interests of  monopoly capital, it was not because of the "threat" of socialist revolution.

Mussolini himself admits this. Already in December 1920 he was writing of:

On July 2nd., 1921 he wrote: And on July 12-13th. 1921, he told be National Council of the fascist "Combat Groups": Perhaps, therefore, the large-scale backing of the fascist movement by Italian Big Business in 1920-22 was not because "parliamentary democracy" could no longer function in the interests of monopoly capital. Perhaps, its motives were purely psychological - as Angelo Tasca suggests: But Marxist-Leninists understand that, the ideas which motivate people to take a certain course of action do not arise by chance, out of the thin air; these ideas reflect reality.  And when members of the monopoly capitalist class have ideas sufficiently in common to motivate them to try to change the whole superstructure of society, then these ideas reflect not mere whim, but a conviction that their fundamental interests require such a change.

Tasca, in the passage cited above, hints at this when he refers to the anger of the monopoly capitalists that, during the occupation of the factories, the "parliamentary democratic" state had failed to protect their property.

But anger and thirst for revenge, are sentiments, which are soon dissipated. To carry through the carefully planned, long-term process of replacing "parliamentary democracy" ( the "normal" form of state under capitalism) by a fascist dictatorship, the decisive strata of monopoly capital had to be convinced that
this failure was not an isolated occurrence unlikely to be repeated. but was likely to be an intolerable feature of Italian society for a long time to come.

"Parliamentary democracy" can function effectively in the interests of monopoly capital only when:

Firstly, the trade union bureaucrats can control the mass of the workers, can damp 'down militancy and prevent this from manifesting itself in ways, which seriously affect the profitability of monopoly capital; and
Secondly, when political parties serving the interests of monopoly capital and operating within the framework of "parliamentary democracy" retain the support of the masses of working people.

Both these conditions had ceased in Italy in 1920, and their failure to operate increased over 1920-22.

Firstly, the reformist bureaucrats in the leadership of the trade union movement had failed to prevent the militancy of the workers from manifesting itself in September 1920 in a large-scale occupation of the factories which had caused very significant loss of profits to monopoly capital. True, these same bureaucrats - in conjunction with the leaders of the Italian Socialist Party had succeeded in selling out the occupation and securing a return to normal working with only minor concessions from the industrialists.
But this sell-out itself had gravely weakened the trade union structure appropriate to "parliamentary democracy". Sooner or later the workers would throw off their dispiritedness, and then these trade union leaders would be even less likely than in 1920, be able to damp down this militancy.

Secondly, the Italian Socialist Party, the principal party representing the interests of monopoly capital with mass influence among the working class, was in process of disintegration. Its' open and concealed reformist leaders, had participated in the sell-out of the occupation of the factories, and so had shared in
the loss of confidence among the workers suffered by the trade union bureaucrats. And after the breakaway of the left-wing to form the Communist Party of Italy in 1921, the party which they led was little more than a discredited rump, declining rapidly in membership and influence.

As Antonio Gramsci, who later became leader of the Communist Party of Italy, pointed out in October 1920:

From this he drew the conclusion that: Gramsci's analysis was confirmed in a statement by the Prefect of Florence in May 1921: Today, of course  the revisionist Italian Communist Party has effectively replaced the Italian Socialist Party as a party objectively serving 'the interests of monopoly capital, appealing to and supported by the mass of the working class. But this development was, in 1920-22, too far in the future to be of use to monopoly capital.

In the circumstances existing in Italy in 1920-22, the decisive strata of Italian monopoly capital were correct in drawing the conclusion that "parliamentary democracy" could no longer be operated effectively in their interests, and that they must therefore try to replace it by what Gramsci calls "an iron nationalist dictatorship".  

The Italian experience of 1920-22 bears out the Communist League's Theses on the Anti-Fascist United Front when they state that, in a monopoly capitalist country,

It does not, however, bear out the implication made in the Theses that "parliamentary democracy" becomes an unsuitable form of state power for monopoly capital only as a result of: It establishes that "parliamentary democracy" may become an unsuitable form of state power for monopoly capital for reasons other than the "threat" of socialist revolution.

It establishes that, in this respect, the Theses on the Anti-Fascist United Front require revision.

The Threat of Fascism in Britain

The conclusion - of the last paragraph has important implications for the British working class.

There is no "threat" of socialist revolution in Britain in the near future.

No matter what the level of spontaneous militancy which might develop in the British working class in the next period, this could not develop into a "threat" of socialist revolution in the absence of a vanguard Marxist-Leninist Party. Such a party will be built, but its construction cannot be brought about overnight.

Basing itself on the implication made in the Theses on the Anti-Fascist United Front that "parliamentary democracy" becomes an unsuitable form of state power for monopoly capital only as a result of:

the Communist League has tended to assume that there was little likelihood of British finance capital promoting and backing on a large-scale a fascist movement in the near future, with the aim of replacing "parliamentary democracy" in Britain by a fascist dictatorship.
The research embodied in the studies of the Italian experience of 1920-22 makes it necessary, as has been said, to revise this implication of the Theses, and so to revise the assumption that there is little danger of a serious fascist offensive in Britain in the near future.

In this connection it must be noted that the reformists in the leadership of the trade union movement were unable to damp down the militancy of a section of the working class in 1974 which defeated the attempt of the Conservative Government to impose wage restraint.
The Labour Government was brought into office, through the manipulation of "parliamentary democracy" by monopoly capital, and has succeeded, in cooperation with the reactionary leadership of the Trade Unions Congress, in for the moment, duping a majority of the workers into accepting wage restraint
under the cloak of "combating inflation".

But the economic weakness of British monopoly capitalism, and its need to combat the real cause of inflation - namely massive state deficit financing by the creation annually of huge quantities of new money  have compelled the Labour Government to begin the imposition of a programme of slashing state expenditure in fields which are not detrimental to monopoly capital, that is, particularly in the fields of the social services (although these will continue to be paid for by the working class).  And they are supported in this programme, in the name of the infamous "social contract", by those same reactionary leaders of the trade union movement.

This sell-out by the leaders of the Labour Party and the trade unions must, of course, in the long run seriously undermine the confidence which the mass of workers have, up to the present, retained in these leaders, as "representatives of their interests" - just as the sell-out of the occupation of the factories in Italy in 1920 seriously undermined the confidence of the mass of the Italian workers in the leaders of the Socialist Party and the General Confederation of Labour.

One temporary solution for British monopoly capital's problem in this respect would be the formation of a new "left-wing" social-democratic party based on the revisionist Communist Party of Great Britain, broadened, perhaps, by the inclusion of the "left-wing" of the labour party and some sections of the trotskyite movement - which could replace the discredited Labour Party within the framework of "parliamentary democracy", just as the revisionist Italian Communist Party has replaced the discredited Italian Socialist Party within the framework of Italian "parliamentary democracy".

But already since March of this year - certain sections of monopoly capital are backing an alternative solution: the fascist movement.

The rise in unemployment and the cuts already made in the social services, have increased the possibility of building up already inculcated racial prejudices among the white majority of the population into an  organised movement to lay the blame for the growing evils of decaying capitalism at the door of
the black minority of the population.

Already in February the BBC screened a film made by the "British Campaign to Stop Immigration" (a cover for the fascist National Front) which was in violation of 'The Race Relations Act", nothing more than a tirade of racialist filth which openly boosted the National Front.  And despite wide-spread protests and action in the courts, they insisted on screening the film for a second time.

On May 4th,  the "yellow" press gave front-page prominence to the story of a homeless immigrant family who, at no wish of their own, had been accommodated by the local welfare authority in a luxury hotel. "SCANDAL OF THE £600-A-WEEK-IMMIGRANTS' screamed the headlines of "The Sun"; following this up next day with "ROW GROWS OVER £600 HOTEL BILLS: ANOTHER 4,O-000 ON THE WAY"; and on May 6th. with "ANOTHER 20,000 ASIANS ARE ON THE WAY- A STORM OVER TWO-WIFE MIGRANTS". The "Daily Mail" joined in the Campaign with the headline: "WE WANT MORE MONEY', SAY THE £600-A-WEEK-ASIANS", the Daily Telegraph" with "MIGRANTS 'HERE JUST FOR THE WELFARE HAND-OUTS"'.

But racially prejudiced reporting of the "case" was not confined-- to the "yellow" press. When, having served their purpose, the bewildered family was bundled out of the hotel into a reception centre made out of a converted workhouse and were attacked by white residents of the centre, the "Guardian" of May 9th, featured the story under the headline: "ASIANS RILED NEIGHBOURS".

It is worthy of note that the presence of the family in the hotel had been known to the press for five weeks before the story was featured two days before the local elections took place on May 6th. In those elections the fascist National Party (a 'breakaway from the older 'National Front' seeking to divorce itself from the nazi associations of the latter) polled in Blackburn 8,315 votes (11% of the poll in those wards where they stood candidates) and gained two seats on the council.

On May 23rd. 1,000 anti-fascist demonstrators were greeted with abuse by large numbers of Blackburn people, while a smaller  National Party demonstration which followed was applauded and cheered. As Bill Ward, North-West Organiser of the Communist Party, expressed it:

On May 24th; Enoch Powell followed up his earlier "rivers of blood " speeches, by a new tirade in which he spoke of areas where white people livcd in "terror" of "black criminals"', and "warned that the spectre of guns" would soon make Belfast "an enviable place to live."

The press gave "due" prominence to Powell's speech under the headlines of "ENOCH"S SHOCKER" ("The Sun"), "IMMIGRANTS -HOW BRITAIN IS DECEIVED" (Daily Mail):  "IMMIGRANT RACKET LEAK" (Daily Express").
A spokesman for the National Front was more than justified in saying that:

On June 24th, a parliamentary by-election took place in Rotherham, where until the National Front began its election campaign 5,000 black immigrants had lived peacefully with their 80,000 white neighbours. When the campaign commenced the NF had only two members in Rotherham; but with the aid of coachloads of fascists brought in from other areas, and of the post-office who duly delivered 30,000 racist leaflets for the party free of charge, the NF polled 1,696 votes (6% of the poll), while the Labour vote dropped from 25,874 in October 1974 to 14,351.
On July 1st. a council by-election took place in the Deptford ward of the London borough of Lewisham. Here the National Party and the National Front both stood candidates, who between them obtained 44.5% of the poll - compared with the Labour Party's 43.5%.

The organised campaign to stimulate racism - as a preparation for the organised rise of fascism - has been accompanied, of course by outbreaks of racial violence.
In the two weeks of the National Party's local election campaign in Blackburn in April/May, there were more than 30 attacks on black people or their property. In May two Asian students were the victims of racial murder in East London, and in June a young Asian in Southall.

There could, of course be no more dangerous illusion than to believe that, once decisive strata of  monopoly capital have opted for fascism, that the state - the instrument of monopoly capital -  could provide some form of resistance to fascism.

On June 20th. the TV programme "This Week" revealed that members of the fascist para-military organisation "Column 88" had been allowed officially to become a unit of the territorial army and were receiving military training in the use of sophisticated weapons.

In the past ten years, despite the upsurge of racist propaganda, there have been no more than a dozen prosecutions under the existing legislation, and most of these were dismissed by the courts. Even in the most blatant case yet of defiance of the Race Relations Act, that of the Leamington fanatic Robert Relf, who was sent to prison for refusing to take down a racist notice in his garden, the press  present him as a victim of bureaucratic intolerance and he was released from prison after a few week, without "purging his contempt", on "health grounds".
The new "strengthened" Race Relations Bill now passing through Parliament prohibits the refusal of membership in clubs to people on account of their colour, but it rejects, in the name of "freedom of expression", the prohibition of written incitements to racist violence.
On June 24th. Home Secretary Roy Jenkins rejected demands; for the banning of the fascist National Front in the name of:

And on July 27th. he appealed on TV to people to people to "ignore" fascist provocations" -- his call being followed on the BBC by the allotment of 5 minutes peak viewing time to National Front leader John Tyndall to call for the deportation of black residents from Britain!


A section of British monopoly capital -  as yet, only a section -  has reached the conclusion that, by reason of the factors outlined in the previous section, "parliamentary democracy" is likely in the next few years to become inoperable in Britain in the interests of monopoly capital.
 The threat of an attempt by monopoly capital to impose a fascist dictatorship is not, therefore,  one which will become a reality, only when the revolutionary socialist movement in Britain, led by a Marxist-Leninist Party, has become a "threat" to monopoly capital.

The task of building an anti-fascist united front, which alone can defeat the attempt to impose a fascist dictatorship is thus an urgent one. It is one which must be carried out now, alongside that of building a new Marxist-Leninist Party.


ML Review     |     Alliance ML     |   WB Bland Archive    |    Albania Society