[Marxism] Re: The Anatomy of Fascism

Suresh borhyaenid at yahoo.com
Mon May 3 11:46:17 MDT 2004

It seems possible to conceive of a whole array of
capitalist societies other than idealized types of
"bourgeois democracy" and "fascist dictatorship". By
way of analogy with the ancient regime, Maurice Dobb
in "Studies in the Development of Capitalism" brought
out the salient fact that the progressive expansion of
commerce and the external market into the feudal
system resulted in apparently diametrically opposed
responses from the landed classes. On the one hand, in
some parts of Western Europe, in the Northwest of
England notably, it resulted in a tendency towards the
leasing of land to the peasantry and eventually
towards the conversion to a system of hired labor,
while elsewhere, in Eastern Europe and Russia and also
previously in parts of the West, the development of a
wider national and international market, in promoting
the export of corn, resulted in an apparent
re-entrenchment of the serf-based mode of production.
What the history of the transition to capitalism in
the late Middle Ages and early Modern Era demonstrates
is what Marx insisted, that "men make their own
history", and react to the given conditions of a
period in a somewhat contingent manner. Just as
peasant dissatisfaction and rural crisis could result
in either increased exploitation or an economic
transformation to a more purely cash economy, we have
seen in the 20th century how proletarian disturbances
can usher in social reforms or produce the more
blatant forms of the dictatorship of capital, as well
as regimes which are mélanges of the two. 

We could also, for our purposes, look back to
classical times, during the era of agrarian agitation
in the Roman Republic under the Gracchi brothers or
during the abortive slave revolution under Spartacus.
The institutionalization of the Empire was one
possible permutational consequence of popular unrest.
Yet, it does not necessarily follow that we should
constrict Roman history after Caesar declared himself
dictator for life or after his assassination, into a
static "empire" model, anymore than we should become
over-enamored with fascism as an ethereal essence, as
Hannah Arendt famously did with "totalitarianism". 

There are different possible responses to socialist
insurrection, in Germany after the Spartacist uprising
and the short-lived worker's republic in Bavaria, a
generation of the ruling and middle classes was
impressed with a fear of revolution and thrashed out
violently. On the other hand, in the same era, fascism
did not develop indigenously in Hungary after Bela
Kun's adventure in overthrowing capitalism, but only
as a German appendage during WW II. The bourgeoisie
can resort, at times, to authoritarian forms of
government short of fascism, in other words, without
appealing to masses of disenfranchised shop-keepers
and roaming bands of youth caught in the throes of
"sturm und drang". The semi-colonial world in
particular has seen the whole continuum of
sub-democratic and sub-fascist forms of government,
over the last half century or so. Was India under
Indira Gandhi’s state of emergency on the precipice to
fascism? Was South Korea under General Park a fascist
dictatorship? Is there such a thing, as Christopher
Hitchens maintains, as Islamic fascism? When
imperialist propagandists compared Nasser to Hitler,
or described Peron as a fascist, there was, I would
suggest, an element of genuine confusion there besides
typically artful deceit.

Thus, it’s quite possible for fascist tendencies, or
trends resembling and even imitating those of Nazi
Germany or Italy under Mussolini, to be exhibited in
the heart of the capitalist system, in America most of
all, without the sort of profound working-class
ferment we would usually expect to result in a
breakdown of normal social relations. This could
simply be a result of a one-sided class war - the need
to roll-back previous social gains, and to exploit the
mass of workers more thoroughly, in order to
counteract falling profit rates and add to the overall
pool of surplus value.

Of course, this sort of perspective precludes, to an
extent, attempts to affix reified categories onto the
course of events as if labels could substitute for a
dialectical understanding of the evolution and
revolution of man within society.

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