Fascism cyberseminar

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Fri Oct 20 17:54:16 MDT 1995


This is a proposal for a cyberseminar on Fascism. I have tried to 
incorporate titles that are easy to come by in any library or bookstore. I 
have appended titles that were suggested by list members earlier on, 
but am hesitant to include them because they don't appear to be easily 

I think it is important for us to operate from the same reference-point. 
The titles tend to be oriented to political economy. Our list is top-
heavy with discussion that approaches things from an abstract 
philosophical and economic approach. It is high time we started 
looking at the real world. We should examine Fascism in exactly the 
same way that Marx examined Bonapartism in the 18th Brumaire. 
There is no reason, of course, people can't interject reports on books 
that have a "cultural theory" approach, such as the kind that Jon 
suggests, but we should try to look at class relations, the money trail, 
etc. in a very focused way.


1) Karl Marx, "18th Brumaire"
This is where it all starts. Louis Bonaparte, operating from a 
petty-bourgeois base, appears to declare war on big capital, all the 
while shafting the lower-classes in the back. This is the very model for 
approaching social phenomena like populists, fascists, etc. in a 
*dialectical* fashion.

2) C. Vann Woodward, "Tom Watson Agrarian Rebel"
This is a classic semi-Marxist/semi-Progressivist interpretation of the 
small farmer's revolt against big business. This is the original 
"populism". These populists railed against Wall St. They also railed 
against foreigners and blacks. The book is over 400 pages but a real 


1) Leon Trotsky, "The Struggle Against Fascism". One of Trotsky's great 
contributions was his analysis of fascism. There is, of course, no such 
thing as a "Trotskyist" interpretation of fascism. Trotsky simply used 
the method of Marx in understanding Hitler, Franco and Mussolini.

2) Daniel Guerin, "Fascism and Big Business". Guerin was a Trotskyist 
but eventually drifted toward anarchism. This book shows how 
German big business was behind Hitler from the very beginning, 
despite his anticapitalist rhetoric.

3) William Reich, "Mass Psychology of Fascism". A concession to the 
"cultural studies" crowd perhaps. Reich was solidly grounded in 
Marxism, however. Until he became obsessed with "orgones", he was a 
really perceptive thinker. (Those orgone boxes don't work, trust me.)


1. James Ridgeway, "Blood in the Face". A journalistic approach to 
survivalists, militias, patriots, neo-Nazis, etc. from a respected radical.

2. James Baldwin, "The Fire Next Time". A hostile look at the Nation of 
Islam from a liberal integrationist written in 1963. Baldwin's conclusion: 
Malcolm X is a black Nazi.

3. Malcolm X, "Autobiography". Story of one man's transition from 
Black Muslim to Pan-Africanism and pending approach toward Socialism.  (This 
book should seque effectively into a discussion of nationalism in general. I 
wanted to include Eric Lincoln's "Black Muslims in America" but discovered 
that the book is fairly hard to track down.)

Methodology: Very simply, a reader or readers will read one of the 
books and then file a report to the list. If 2 or more people are 
reporting on the same book, we will wait until they are all finished 
before any of them post. Then, we will have a discussion of the topic. 
By doing this, I expect we can avoid a lot of the amorphousness that 
sometimes plagues this list and other internet lists. If it succeeds, and I 
have every expectation that it will, I'll file a report with the "Journal of 
Higher Education" and we'll all have photographs and interviews.  (I can 
tell you in advance that I am hideously ugly and obese, so don't be 
shocked.) I think we generally have terrific discussions here, but we can 
always do better.

This is just a proposal, of course. Unless there is a storm of 
controversy over the selections, I strongly urge that we proceed. There 
is not much time to waste, since people seem to feel that fascism is 
around the corner. (Some day, comrades, I promise to overcome my sarcasm. 
Please bear with me. You know, despite it, I have a great affection for 
each and every one of you even when I'm short-tempered with you.) If we can 
come to some kind of agreement, then I suggest we start lining up reporters 
for which I will take responsibility of coordinating.

earlier suggestions:

>From glevy at acnet.pratt.eduTue Sep  5 08:48:31 1995
Date: Sat, 2 Sep 1995 20:42:50 -0400 (EDT)
From: glevy at acnet.pratt.edu
To: marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu
Cc: Louis N Proyect <lnp3 at columbia.edu>,
    marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu
Subject: Fascism

Regarding Louis's proposal for a fascism seminar, let me note that we 
briefly discussed this topic in a thread that started on 7/10. There were 
then some suggestions for readings made by Justin and myself. An 
additional work, not mentioned before, that would be worthwhile taking a 
look at is:

--Alfred Sohn-Rethel _Economy and Class Structure of German Fascism_, 
London, CSE Books, 1978


>From glevy at acnet.pratt.eduTue Sep  5 08:48:47 1995
Date: Sat, 2 Sep 1995 21:38:33 -0400 (EDT)
From: glevy at acnet.pratt.edu
To: marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu,
    Louis N Proyect <lnp3 at columbia.edu>
Subject: Re: Fascism

Other suggestions for background reading include:

-- Robert Gellately _The Politics of Economic Despair: Shopkeepers and 
German Politics 1890-1914_, London, Sage Publications, 1974

-- Jurgen Kuczynski _Germany: Economic and Labour Conditions Under 
Fascism_, NY, International Publishers, 1945


>From tomcondit at igc.apc.orgTue Sep  5 08:55:19 1995
Date: Mon, 4 Sep 1995 20:09:28 +0000
From: Tom Condit <tomcondit at igc.apc.org>
Reply to: marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu
To: marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu
Subject: Fascism texts

Texts re fascism

1.  It's been about 20 years since I read this, so forgive the
vagueness.  In about 1923, Andres Nin wrote a pamphlet on fascism
for the Red International of Labor Unions.  His intent was to
draw the attention of his readers to the very real threat that
fascism represented.  He said that it was an error to treat
fascism as merely another episode in the normal history of
repression, dictatorship, and class terror of the bourgeoisie
against the workers.  (Remember, he was a Catalan, and knew a
little bit about repression.)  The key difference was that
fascism intended not merely to *repress* the working class
movement but to *destroy* it, and involved a mass mobilization
(primarily of the petty bourgeoisie) to accomplish that end,
since it was beyond the capacity of the state.

2.  It's probably worth taking a look at the "Lyons Theses" of
the Italian Communist Party, adopted at the first congress in
exile after the CP was outlawed (1925).  In English it can be
found in the second volume of the Lawrence & Wishart edition of
Gramsci's _Selected Political Writings_.

3.  There is a book which I have neither read nor read any review
of, but which I saw a publisher's blurb for about ten years ago,
dealing with the financing of the Nazi party in the 1920s. 
According to the blurb, this was mostly self-financing, and the
book examines exactly how the Nazis went about fundraising. 
(Don't forget that most of the big German bourgeoisie was
resolutely monarchist, and didn't go over to support for Naziism
until very nearly the eve of Hitler's ascension to power--hence
the giant jump in the Nazi vote in the last free elections.)

(See William Manchester's book on the Krupp dynasty for information 
on the switch of the Krupp money to the Nazis.)

Don't you just love it when people give you leads which involve
digging through layer upon layer of subject indices?

Tom Condit
Tom Condit
<tomcondit at igc.apc.org>
1801-A Cedar Street
Berkeley, California 94703

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>From dhenwood at panix.comTue Sep  5 10:27:17 1995
Date: Tue, 5 Sep 1995 10:01:05 -0400
From: Doug Henwood <dhenwood at panix.com>
Reply to: marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu
To: marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu
Subject: class & fascism

Subjects of two recent threads here - fascism & the class/identity relation
- are covered in a very interesting article in the latest New Left Review
(#212), Michael Mann's "Sources of Variation in Working Class Movements in
Twentieth Century Europe."

The article is 40 pages long, so a screenful of summary can't do it
justice. Several points, though, seem worth highlighting. Maybe this isn't
new to some folks, but since I'm no expert in the comparative sociology of
political movements, it sure grabbed me.

* Socialism's political base was primarily skilled male workers.

* Sector counted for more than class, with industrial workers supporting
socialism and workers in other sectors (construction, agriculture,
services) supporting fascism or anarcho-syndicalism.

* The feminist critique of socialism as primarily masculine is confirmed in
Mann's analysis, but with a usually unspoken corollary - women were often
important bases of support for the right, both traditional and fascist.
"Fascist leaders were uniquely male...but lower down...fascists were no
more masculine in composition than other parties. Indeed, they mobilized
more women in their ancillary organizations than all but the confessional

* The base of fascism was *not* the petit bourgeoisie; it was much broader
than that, and included lower-status workers who resented socialism's more
elite base. As Mann says, this misunderstanding led to serious errors in
fighting the far right.

Most of this is obviously relevant today.



Doug Henwood
[dhenwood at panix.com]
Left Business Observer
250 W 85 St
New York NY 10024-3217
+1-212-874-4020 voice
+1-212-874-3137 fax

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>From wpc at clyder.gn.apc.orgTue Sep  5 16:54:06 1995
Date: Tue, 05 Sep 95 18:21:24 PDT
From: Paul Cockshott <wpc at clyder.gn.apc.org>
Reply to: marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu
To: marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu
Subject: Re: Louis and Paul, please

I suggest you consult the following anti-fascist
Searchlight, 37B New Cavendish St, London W1M 8JR
annual subscription to the USA 35 pounds
Fighting Talk, BM 1734, London WC1N 3XX
annual subscription 15 pounds to the USA

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>From djones at uclink.berkeley.eduWed Sep  6 06:17:44 1995
Date: Tue, 5 Sep 1995 22:32:59 -0800
From: jones/bhandari <djones at uclink.berkeley.edu>
Reply to: marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu
To: marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu
Subject: Re: class & fascism

Thanks to Doug for his  summary of Michael Mann's recent NLR article.  I
will juxtapose to some of Mann's principal findings those of Serge Bologna
in his Nazism and the Working Class, 1933-1945, Common Sense, no 16 (PO Box
311, Edinburgh, EH9, 1SF) as summarized by Dave Black in News and Letters,
June 1995, p. 5 

>* Socialism's political base was primarily skilled male workers.

Whether this was true of the SPD, it does not seem to be true of the KPD:
in the Weimar period, "the socialist unions collobroated with employers in
the 'systematic and selective expulsion' from the factories of militant
workers--especially (but not exclusively))those of Communist Party (KPD),
whose membership as a result was 80% unemployed in 1931. With very little
base in industry, the KPD turned to 'mass propaganda.'  The Social
Democrats (SPD), on the other hand, focused on local government, public
administration and social security, that is, the state bureaucracy.  As a
result, the SPD found itself in hostile confrontation with the unemployed
and the KPD.'"
>* Sector counted for more than class, with industrial workers supporting
>socialism and workers in other sectors (construction, agriculture,
>services) supporting fascism or anarcho-syndicalism.

Again what was the base of the KPD or such organizations as the anarchist
Free Workers Union which had at one time 400,000 members?  Who composed the
base of KPD's paramilitiary anti-fascist organization of 100,000 with more
than 7,000 militants in Berlin? In order to determine their base, is this
distinction between sector and class helpful?  It may be true instead the
split was not among sectors but within the proletariat itself: "Contrary to
what Trotsky thought the problem wasn't Communist-Socialist division within
ONE labor movment. 'It was a question of two cultures': one which saw the
Weimar Republic as a gain for the workers and one which saw it threatening
their means of existence.'"

>* The feminist critique of socialism as primarily masculine is confirmed in
>Mann's analysis, 

Bologna also argues this to be true: "In 1929 Erich Fromm began a Workers'
Enquiry 'so as to identify any eventual inclination towards
authoritarianism," in which his colloborator Hilde Weiss, questioned
Socialist and Communist militants on issues such as women's liberation. The
study showed alarming authoritarian attidutes in the male orespondents of
the SPD.  Weiss' findings scared Max Horkheimer... into suppressing the
findings for ten years.  Horkheimer, it seems, didn't want 'to undermine
the socialists' at a time when special police squads answererable to the
SPD interior minister were firing on demonstrations of the unemployed."

>* The base of fascism was *not* the petit bourgeoisie; it was much broader
>than that, and included lower-status workers who resented socialism's more
>elite base. As Mann says, this misunderstanding led to serious errors in
>fighting the far right.

Well, this seems to imply the revisionist claim that the working class
component was then decisive within fascism.  In order to assess this claim,
it seems that it will be necessary to grapple with the work of Tim Mason,
whose work I have not yet read.  


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>From jpb8 at acpub.duke.eduWed Sep 20 12:11:14 1995
Date: Wed, 20 Sep 1995 03:41:29 -0400 (EDT)
From: Jon Beasley-Murray <jpb8 at acpub.duke.edu>
Reply to: marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu
To: marxism list <marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu>
Subject: fascism

I have now finished what I said I would do, and read both Zeev 
Sternhell's _The Birth of Fascist Ideology_ and Laclau's _Problems in 
Marxist Theory: Capitalism, Fascism, Populism_.  I remain intrigued by 
both, and very briefly want to outline some reasons why, and hope others 
jump in at some point.

I should also mention that I began reading these in the context of trying 
to figure out Deleuze and Guattari's analyses of fascism.  Not that that 
necessarily matters...

Sternhell and Laclau have very different tasks at hand.  Most obviously, 
I think, S wants to explain the intellectual attraction of fascism in the 
period 1900(ish) to 1939.  L, on the other hand, wants to analyze its
popular attraction--he sees fascism as a variant of populism (in fact as 
a populism of the dominant classes).

In all the chapters bar the last, S could be a very orthodox marxist (at 
several points I suspected he was).  He traces the genealogy of fascism 
(and NB by this he effectively means Italian fascism; anti-semitism 
hardly enters his picture) from Sorel's anti-materialist and 
anti-rationalist revision of marxism.  Sorel (apparently) begins with a 
(filched, it would seem) critique of marxist economics, and ends up 
extracting only the sense of class war (of moral revolt, as S has it), 
legitimated and generated by the myth (important word, this) of the 
general strike.  Hence revolutionary syndicalism.

Sorel plays with some of the following steps, but for S they are general 
taken up by Italian followers...

What next goes wrong is the failure of belief in the proletariat.  This 
follows the failure of attempted general strikes in c. 1905 in France 
(and later, in Italy, is accentuated by the disappointing experience of 
the 1918-19 unrest).  What is called into replace the proletariat as 
agent of revolution is the nation.

Hence national socialism, strictly conceived.

Then the failure of belief in anti-capitalism (which had always been 
juggling around at various points).  However, even by 1919 and the 
establishment of the fascist party in Italy, many from the Left are still 
involved, and still essentially socialist.  But once these people are 
superseded by other tendencies, we hit corporativist fascism in its 
pretty much fully fledged incarnation.

Fascism is able to gain support because of a weak state, and, most 
importantly, the tacit connivance of the intelligentsia, who are pretty 
much imbued by these ideas that have been floating around for the 
previous 20 years.  There is a roll call of such passive intellectuals, 
from Heidegger to Croce, to Lewis and Pound etc., but S by no means 
singles out the usual suspects.  Pretty much he wants to denigrate an 
intellectual generation.

Indeed, it is very important to him to state that all the elements of the 
fascist synthesis are present more or less fully formed *before* WWI.

All this could, as I say, have been presented as the consequence of left 
deviationism (in the first chapter there's also discussion of Bernstein 
et. al., though mainly to explain why the French and Italians weren't so 
charmed by those debates).  However, instead he ends with a call for 
universalism and rationalism, more or less because though not perfect 
they're not fascist.

Anyway, I won't go on too much further.  If this elicits interest, we'll 
call this no. 1 in a series.  A point to ponder, however: the trajectory 
Sternhell traces is, it seems to me, very similar to the trajectory run 
by Laclau (and with him others, for their own reasons), but Laclau is 
arguing explicitly on the basis of self-conscious *anti*-fascism.

Take care


Jon Beasley-Murray
Literature Program
Duke University
jpb8 at acpub.duke.edu

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>From hithere at hopf.dnai.comThu Sep 21 09:18:00 1995
Date: Thu, 21 Sep 1995 00:52:14 -0700
From: snichols/bbogert <hithere at hopf.dnai.com>
Reply to: marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu
To: marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu
Subject: sternhell,fascism,direct action

I just finished Sternhell's _The Birth of Fascist Ideology_. I have a
visceral reaction. Not just because of general reflections on the state of
the U.S. (and elsewhere).  But because "Direct Action" was a battle-cry
comrades of mine used not too long ago.  What are the implications of
up-by-your-bootstrap tactics in a dull and depressing time?  (If we can't
agree on a platform, we can at least agree on the action). At the same time,
how does one avoid becoming the next Louis Feuer (your irrational sit-in's
interfering with our reading of _Capital_)?

"Direct action" was quite popular in certain circles in the Bay Area in the
mid-80's (street protests, sit-ins, blockades). Tired of politicians and
polite demonstrations, twenty-somethings began to develop a secular, at
times militant practice of Direct Action (distinguishable from PlowShares
actions or the explicit pacifist commitments of bodies like the Livermore
Action Group). The movement itself broke apart, the play of the race card,
helped by police violence. I never did finish my analysis -- the dialectics
of the Steve Biko Sit-In. 
I know this list is devoted to theory, but I think the interaction of theory
and practice is important. Sternhell emphasizes the proto-fascist
substitution of the Nation for the syndicalist Proletariat. However, I was
pleased to read in the Village Voice that direct action tactics may be
moving radical politics forward in New York (coordinated blockades at
diverse sites building trust between diverse ethnic groups, according to the
story). Ideas?  How can theory help us get us beyond the rainbow fragments? 

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