fwd: "Blackshirts and Reds Rational Fascism..." by Parenti: some stern criticism

David Walters dwalters at lanset.com
Fri Nov 21 16:33:01 MST 2003

 From sks...

Browsing the marxmail.org archive I saw someone recomending
"Blackshirts and
Reds Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism" by Michael
Parenti. It
is not an academic text, but a light read, if highly innacurate in many
details as most non-academic texts are. If you are like me, this is the
of book you put on your bathroom's book table, to read while taking a
or go to sleep with.

Anyways, the only chapter that deals in depth with fascism is the the
one. It reached the classical oversimplified (but true in an economic
conclusion of fascism as a way of Big Capital avoiding democracy, but
to "prove" this in the article and does a lot of errors, chronological,
historical, and political. He seems to have the typical lazyness many
have when looking at fascism, which is pressuming that since it was
you can simply black-box it, throw in a few "facts and figures" and
then say
something to the effect "as you can see it was evil" and you would be
Reality, of course, laughes out loud at such simplifcations.

The thing I hated the most was the glossing over of the significance of
details, and outrigth inacuracies. While on the italian (and other
experiences only mentioned in passing) he is largely acurate, he is very
much off-base on the german experience.

For example:

1) He basically compares the NSDAP's Sturmarbeitelung (SA) with
Blackshirts, which is very innacurate. The Blackshirts (fascio di
combatimiento) were essentially the armed forces of Il Duce, designed
armed, not political, combat, and trained in obedience and not
politics. The
Schutzstaffeln (SS) were much more like the Blackshirts, while the SA
was a
nod to the more "Socialist" and insurectionalist roots of the NSDAP,
essentially being the politico-military wing of the Party, and hence
more (very much more) political. Remember, the question of leadership,
on the surfrace not open to debate, was very much an open question
until the
purge of Otto Strasser and Co. So, the SA while on paper loyal to
were really loyal to their political training (and Rohm, althought
there is
no evidence he was disloyal to Hitler). In the book, this innacuracy is
significant, because of the freak nature of German fascism, which
allow for very much direct comparissons on the period before power was
attained, yet the author goes great pains to directly compare the
german and
italian fascism on the pre-power period, which is very very very wrong.

2) Figures from attacks by nazis in the early 1920s are used to sustain
theory that at the time the Nazis were anti-labor tool of the big
capitalists. This is highly innacurate, and funny when some mud is
thrown at
the SPD (see 3) for not figthing fascism, yet little is acknowledged of
real counter-revolutionary anti-labor polices of the SPD when they were
actually so. At the time, the tool of the big capitlaists in germany
was the
SPD, which was bringing the labor unions under control, murdering and
jailing revolutionaries, and subsidising their lifestyle while the
crumbled under the weigth of the versailles reparations and depression.
figures on the attacks on the labor movement, if true (I havent read or
access to the bibliographical refference there, it is from 1935!!!) are
descriptive of an NSDAP hell-bent on following it's capitalists
masters, but
rather descriptive of the near-civil war state of germany in 1921. Very
telling is the fact that workers are divided from fascists in the
something that would have been hard to do at the time when the NSDAP was
essentially a worker's organization. The truth is different. In 1921
the KPD
was much bigger than the NSDAP, and this explain the disparity in
But also, both the NSDAP and the KPD were engaged in low level warfare
only against each other, but against the SPD, which controlled the labor
movement. Attacks on the labor movement at the time, hence, are not
with anti-worker attitudes, but rather of anti-SPD/anti-state attitudes.
While later, of course, the NSDAP engaged in attacks against labor on
of the bosses, it did so very much in the style of the SPD, via NSDAP
controlled unions and labor halls, and not only by physical terror
the labor movement (like mussolini). In other words, the NSDAP in 1921
very much a part of the labor movement, and hence their attacks were
in nature as those from communists, ie attacks against the SPD's
hegemony in
the labor movement AND the state. The author is so lazy, that he uses as
proof of the anti-worker nature of the NSDAP, things that happened when
NSDAP was essentially against the state, controlled by the SPD, and
hence, subjectively pro-worker!

3) The author blames the SPD for not joining the KPD despite
invitations for
anti-fascist struggle. This is a half-truth, many left-SPDers did join
KPD in street figthing fascism, but this was basically done at the local
level. Neither the SPD leadership, nor the KPD leadership made any
to join together on a national level until the NSDAP was in power. The
period, baby. So yes, the SPD wouldn't join witht he KPD, but the KPD
wouldn't join with social-fascists either. This is not a small error,
but a
huge glossing over of history, however hard to swallow that history
be. And descriptive of the third-period flavor the permates much of the
author's represation of fascism. While I would have probably loyaly
the third period at the time (after all, in Italy the commies were doing
quite well under mussolini), to defend the thrid period on perspective
very very very dumb.

And this are just 3 examples, but there are other similar cases.


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