[Marxism] Far Right

Jurriaan Bendien andromeda246 at hetnet.nl
Fri Jun 25 17:11:17 MDT 2004


Hi Einde,

Thanks for your comment. It's admirable that you are still will to respond.
As a matter of fact, I feel terrible also and have big, big problems to
solve. Never mind - just to respond to your points:

E:

My point is that not all of the proletariat is class-conscious and
organised. I think it's important to emphasise that the organised
sections of the working class were relatively immune to fascism because
many bourgeois theoreticians try to argue otherwise.

J:

Yes. I think you are correct there, and I don't want to dispute about that.
I remember reading historical studies on the topic from when I was in high
school, comparing this to what my parents told me and so on. Thinking about
what I read, a lot of it didn't make sense and was influenced by ideologies
and values which resulted in maybe a good story, but not a satisfactory
explanation of why what happened, happened. Generally, in the mainstream
portrayal, Nazism had nothing to do with capitalism, nothing to do with
imperialism, and nothing to do with class forces. It was a psychological
abberation, a cultural shipwreck, a power struggle gone mad, and all sorts.
Much energy was also expended in the cold war years by scholars trying to
prove that Stalinism and Nazism were but two sides of the same coin. Indeed
the concept of "totalitarianism" was supposed to express this idea. At that
rate nothing much can be learnt from history other than that there are
people with bad ideas who should be avoided and should not be placed in a
position of power.

E:

A key element in Germany (also to a certain extent in Italy) is that the
working class was split and the more radical element did not attempt to
organise a proletarian united front. Such a united working class front
could then have served as a focal point for other social classes because
it would have offered an alternative solution to the problems fascism
was promising to solve.

J:

Yes. This was in good part the consequence of the "third period" line
adopted by the Comintern, according to which the social democrats were
"social fascists" and so on. In fact, many of the solutions to the crisis
had already been created by the labour movement and by bourgeois
organisations. Hitler utilised and adapted many of these schemes, for his
economic programme. The central question however was who held power. That
power was necessary to impose a solution.

E.

This emphasis on working class unity (at least in the sense of the unity
of the various organisations of the class conscious proletariat) does
not however imply indifference to the concerns and issues of other
social classes and groups, but in order to win the struggle conclusively
you need a strong organisation that is hegemonic within the working class.

J.

That's agreed.

E.

You will have to define what you mean by fascism in these cases (also
when you are talking about) and what you are defining as workers.

J:

Well, fascist-type movements typically aimed to forcibly resolve a political
deadlock or stalemate in the conflicts between social classes, to secure the
basic conditions for the continuation of capitalist society,

- by popular or populist mobilisations appealing to those fractions of
social classes likely to follow a leadership that appears strong and
capable,
- by direct military repression, and
- by political dictatorship and dictatorial methods.

Typically this occurred in a situation of social disintegration, with mass
unemployment and economic stagnation, where none of the main social classes
and their political organisations could impose their solution.

This normally means that the existing bourgeois political organisations and
institutions are neither able to contain the conflict nor resolve it, and
therefore, that recourse must be made to political and/or armed forces
outside of the conventional bourgeois-parliamentary framework, and to new
forms of association and organisation. The aim is to either smash opposition
by force, or incorporate and neutralise it through new forms of association,
which normally involve some kind of leadership cult, imposing new norms, and
extensive propaganda.

"Workers" are basically those who, lacking other means or possibilities, are
mainly dependent on working for a wage or salary for a living, plus their
families. In developed capitalist countries this includes the vast majority
of the labour force - but this majority is itself stratified. Some workers
can save and buy mortgages, other cannot, some are temporarily unemployed,
others are permanently lumpenised and so on. The new middle classes are
basically the highly educated, professional classes, who can accumulate
capital to some extent, but not enough to free them from the necessity to
work.

E:

Caricatures are no basis for political analysis - I think we can agree
there. But I think that it may be a sign of contempt for theory to say
that historical generalisations cannot provide us with certain
guidelines regarding what to look for in a particular situation.

J.

I agree obviously. But the problem is one of understanding what the
historical continuities and discontinuities really are, so that we can grasp
what is new in the situation, and get a more objective characterisation of
the current epoch. Demographically, culturally, and technologically the
world has changed enormously in the past two decades, and if anything, the
traditional political structures have a lot of difficulty of coping with the
changed power relations, communication relations and social relations.
Specifically socialist organisations do not have a lot of political clout in
most countries. We need some historical guidelines to orient ourselves, the
problem is if historical analogies are made which do not really apply
anymore, such that we try to assimilate a new situation to an old frame of
reference which is not really adequate to understanding the present and the
future.

E:

I still think that Trotsky's insights and analysis are valuable tools in
helping us to approach the contemporary phenomena of far right populism
and fascism. This doesn't mean slavishly following every jot and tittle
of his analysis, just as he didn't slavishly follow every jot and tittle
of Marx's analysis of Bonapartism although he used Marx's insights into
Bonapartism in teh development of his analysis of fascism.

J:

I agree. But there were many facets of the experience of Nazism which
Trotsky did not cover, he concentrated on the essential political and power
relationships involved, for the purpose of a political intervention, and so
there is a sense in which his analysis remains a bit "algebraic". It was
good algebra, but under the circumstances his political assessment could
hardly be exhaustive; obviously it is only afterwards that historians can
pick the historical record to pieces. Trotsky concentrated primarily on
Germany, not Italy - not just that he had more experience there and spoke
German, but also Germany had the strongest labor movement and what happened
there was political crucial for European politics.

E:

so far as I am aware none of the empirical studies have refuted any of
the major aspects of Trotsky's analysis.

J:

But I think many have filled out his analysis more, specifically in regard
to the nature of the Nazi economic policy and Nazi culture.

E:

The Marxist orientation on the working class has to do with its key role
in capitalist production - not with its consciousness of its potential.
Part of the role of Marxists is to aid the proletariat in coming to a
clear consciousness of its role - but preaching at the workers won't
achieve this. It can only come through organic participation in the
struggles of the class.

J:

That is true, but arguably also the morality of the "healthy" workingclass
people is the only basis for refounding society on a socialist basis.

E:

It strikes me that your good doctor had a typical academic contempt for
real working-class people.

J:

I thought about it that way also, but I don't think he meant that. I think
he meant that the level of political awareness that existed, was in no way
adequate to respond to a massive assault on rights, resources and conditions
won through struggles in the past. This expressed itself in the rather
inarticulate response of the labor movement and the Left to the radical
neo-liberal programme of the Cabinet, and the inability to mobilise people
effectively against it.

E:

I'm sorry if this is a bit rambly - I'm not very well at the moment and
it's a bit difficult to concentrate properly. However, I don't want to
wait until I'm better because by that time I'll probably have forgotten
the points I want to make - and the discussion will probably have moved
on to other areas.

J:

You are not rambly at all, you're perfectly clear. Thanks for your comment -
hope you get well soon. I have to stop here as well, and concentrate of what
I have left to do...

Jurriaan






More information about the Marxism mailing list