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Fourth International, September-October 1947


World in Review

What It Means When Fascists Become Active Once Again


From Fourth International, September-October 1947, Vol.8 No.8, pp.228-229.
Transcribed, edited & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


Warning Signs Of Danger

Dispatches from Europe are beginning to bristle with references to revived activity by the forces of darkest reaction. The neo-fascists in Italy are growing bolder and bolder. In France the figure of de Gaulle is emerging from sinister shadows. Virulent anti-Semitism and recrudescence of fascist activities in England have assumed such scope as to become a subject of dispute at the recent Trade Union Conference at Southport. The annual report of the leadership sought to dismiss the matter in a single paragraph. But a resolution to refer it back was carried against the Executive Committee.

All these are signs warning of danger. Why are they recurring today? Why is extreme reaction, that up until now has been forced to skulk in nooks and corners, beginning to bare openly its fangs again? These grave questions demand clear answers. They have a direct bearing on the march of events in this country, too, where the reactionaries have been enjoying a field day at the expense of organized labor. Unless the workers get to the root of this problem, reaction can rise up again as it did in Italy under Mussolini and Hitler in Germany.

In the natural sciences we have learned how to probe really to the roots. In natural sciences we take for granted that given the same conditions, the same causes will continue to produce the same results. In fact, our whole productive system operates in accordance with this scientific law. Yet in the field of politics – which is also a branch of science – many people are surprised again and again to discover that this same law likewise holds true.

No Marxist – nor even semi-Marxist – will deny nowadays that fascism is the direct political outgrowth of the decayed capitalist system. When beset by economic crisis, capitalism is able to continue functioning only by unloading increased burdens on the working class. Since workers do not submit willingly, this cannot be achieved except by destroying workers’ organizations through fascism or military-police dictatorships. But this is not an easy thing for the capitalists.

Preconditions For Anti-Labor Onslaught

The rich rulers can succeed only if certain conditions obtain. They must bide their time till labor’s militancy is dissipated, and workers become exhausted, despondent and apathetic. They need to gain time for marshaling all their reserves. When they are enabled to do both, then the hour is ripe for the industrialists and bankers to unleash their reactionary detachments in a counter-offensive against labor.

They gain this favorable position whenever the workers fail to strike for power at the height of their own offensive. The way to conduct that offensive to victory was shown by the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917. Temporizing with capitalism leads to defeat as was proved by experiences in Italy and Germany following World War I. It leads to defeat even where the workers belatedly take up arms against fascism as in Spain. In brief, fascism cannot be beaten by maintaining the status quo. Fascism can only gain from such a policy. The revolutionary struggle for socialism is the sole guarantee against fascism, and the ascendancy of reaction in general.

World capitalism has been deeply undermined by the last war, making more urgent the abolition of this barbaric system than was even the case after the first imperialist slaughter. Throughout Europe and in the colonies the masses responded instinctively to this need for change by rising against their capitalist masters. But their leaders, with Stalinists and the Social Democrats at the head, have been dissipating this revolutionary energy by maintaining the status quo.

After World War I, reaction, as in Italy, was on the march within two years. But this time, in most countries the capitalists have been unable to break the workers’ organizations. On the contrary, the traditional workers’ parties have grown enormously. The Labor Party is still in power in England. The Stalinists are the largest party in France, with the undoubted majority of the working class still behind them. The Stalinists are likewise the dominant force in the Italian labor movement. In Eastern Europe, they are in complete control of the governments. But nowhere did either the Stalinists or the Laborites exercise their power to complete the overthrow of capitalist property relations and production for profit. In fact both the Laborites and the Stalinists have acted as defenders of the capitalist system, utilizing the revolutionary fervor of the workers as a bargaining point with Anglo-American imperialism.

Despite the setbacks they have suffered, the workers and peasants, goaded by deepening misery and hunger, are moving once more toward heir Socialist goal. In our previous issues we have dealt with the growing ferment in France.

In recent weeks the masses in Italy have come to the fore. Two million industrial and farm workers recently went out on strike at one time. Workers seized factories and shipyards. Their armed detachments took over Casale Monferrato when the authorities freed six local fascists. The peasants have seized estates from the landlords, an infallible sign that they are behind the workers and that again revolution is on the order of the day. It is against this background that the mobilization of Italian reaction can really be understood.

Stalinist Treachery

The revolutionary wave is rising higher and higher. On September 20, six million workers and farmers demonstrated against the existing regime throughout Italy. With their families, do they not constitute close to a majority of the Italian people? Starvation and an unemployment toll of 3 million are spurring them forward.

Yet the Communist Party which controls the Italian Confederation of Labor and has also placed itself at the head of the peasant movement is striving to manipulate this militancy of the masses for its own ends. Despite blustering radical phrases, it continues to defend the status quo. Its main aim is to get back into government office and use it as a lever of diplomacy in Moscow’s dealings with Anglo-American imperialism. In this shabby game of power politics the demands and aspirations of the insurgent workers and peasants are flouted and lost. The lone gainer is Italian reaction which becomes bolder as the Stalinist leaders play into its hands. The scattered forces of fascism are being coalesced, awaiting the day when they can duplicate Mussolini’s march on Rome.

Although the Italian masses are disgusted with the De Gasperi regime, they are not, according to dispatches, turning in larger numbers to the CP. Thus the stage is being rapidly reached where any change will seem, especially in the eyes of the petty bourgeoisie, preferable to the status quo. If the Italian workers don’t break soon from the straitjacket of Socialist and Communist leaderships and create a new revolutionary leadership, the fascists will inexorably become a serious threat once more. That is the terrible penalty the workers must suffer for the treachery of their present leaders and a failure to abolish the barbaric capitalist system.

In England, although the tempo is slower and circumstances different, the Laborites are playing the same capitulatory role as did the German Social Democrats in the days of the Weimar Republic and as the Stalinists play in Italy today. The “nationalizations” in England have thus far only burdened the workers with payments of interest on huge bond issues to the former owners who continue to manage the coal mines and the Bank of England. There is no thought in 10 Downing Street where Attlee, Bevin, Morrison and the rest now sit, of abolishing capitalism and installing a socialist economy. As Britain descends ever deeper into crisis, the Laborite leadership continues to maintain the status quo at the expense of labor.

What Fascism Feeds On

To some people it seems surprising that fascism can take root in the traditionally democratic climate of England. But what other alternative has capitalism there or for that matter in these United States in the final analysis? In England the fascists have already dared to break up Communist Party and Labor Party meetings. Attacks on the Jews in the heart of London and other industrial cities are multiplying. Hackney and Stepney are the two London boroughs where they are now most brazen.

They will seek to spread out and grow bolder the more the Labor Party flounders. In England as in Italy, the same inexorable law of capitalist decay becomes manifest. Either the workers must take the road to power and root out capitalism or the fascists will seize the opportunity to destroy labor and its organizations.

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Last updated on 16.2.2009