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Issue #1782      June 21, 2017

Culture & Life

Fascism rides again

The form of government that capitalism finds most congenial is bourgeois democracy, the system we have here in Australia (and indeed in most developed capitalist countries). By staging elections every few years, the people are given the erroneous impression that they and not the owners of the big corporations decide the government and run the country.

However, when the people decide that it’s time to really take charge of the running of the country, and seek to install a government more responsive to their wishes, capitalism turns nasty and defends itself by resorting to state terrorism, specifically embracing the system known as fascism.

Although Mussolini gave fascism its name, it was a known system before Mussolini popularised its name. In fact, the first fascist country was actually not Italy but Hungary following the overthrow of Bela Kun’s short-lived Republic of Councils established in 1918. Even earlier than that, however, the elements of fascism had been developed in Tsarist Russia, especially the use of state terrorism and anti-Jewish pogroms by rampaging gangs of armed thugs (the notorious “Black Hundreds”). Jews formed a large national minority in Tsarist Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church had no problem with making them a scapegoat for the ills of aristocrat-ridden Russian society.

When the Revolution swept away the remnants of Tsarism, its defenders fled to other countries of Europe where their combined hatred of Jews and Reds found ready acceptance in the post-war chaos of the collapse of a number of the European empires. In Hungary, the powerful and reactionary Catholic Church imposed clerical fascism to prevent any possible return of Kun’s Soviet-style regime. Italy soon followed to prevent a workers’ revolution there.

While the Revolution had ultimately won in Russia after a far-ranging civil war, Britain and the European capitalist powers sought to create what Churchill called a “cordon sanitaire” around the new Soviet state, lest its revolutionary ideas pollute the rest of Europe. Britain and France helped White Guard counter-revolutionaries into power in the former Russian province of Finland and did the same thing in the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The “cordon” was quickly joined by Poland, another former part of the Russian empire and in 1918 a country dominated by large landholders. Fearing the spread of Red revolution there, Colonel Pilsudski had seized power soon after the country achieved independence and had installed a military dictatorship.

The anti-Semitism and anti-Communism of the émigré Russian Whites found strong support among the ideologues of the German Nazi Party, who were waging a battle to the death to defend German capitalism from the Communist Party of Germany. Hitler told Germany’s business leaders he would rid them of the danger of Red Revolution if they would give him the resources – and the funds – he needed. They did, and he obliged.

The Communist parties of the world warned that the growth of fascist governments would mean war, but the capitalist powers were unconcerned for they were trying to provoke a war that would destroy their socialist rival the USSR. Soviet diplomacy skilfully thwarted that ambition for a time but ultimately war came to the Soviet Union anyway. At prodigious cost, the Soviet Army defeated the fascist forces and saved the world.

After WW2, progressive movements briefly flourished but a frightened capitalism soon resorted to fascism again whenever it perceived a threat to itself. To the people it talked incessantly of democracy but simultaneously spent their wealth building up the military might of what had emerged as the imperialist superpower, the USA. The world’s people were so strongly opposed to any return to the horrors of WW2, however, that the capitalist powers had to pose as the champions of peace while waging a “cold war” against the Soviet Union and the other countries that had chosen a Socialist form of government. A combination of unprecedented subversive activities, non-stop propaganda and economic blockade left the Socialist countries in a permanent state of siege.

In the wake of WW2, capitalism had found itself challenged by anti-imperialist struggles around the world and had resorted to its usual defence whenever it felt propaganda was not enough. Fascism was soon rampant from Chile to South Africa. The anti-imperialist movement finally suffered a huge setback in 1989 with the abandonment of Socialism in Russia and the dissolution of the USSR. The attempt to break up the country into a host of small states whose resources could be exploited at will failed however.

To prevent any return to Socialism, unsuccessful attempts were made to foist openly fascist regimes on the former republics of the USSR. These attempts were more successful with regard to Eastern Europe, with intensely anti-Communist regimes installed in countries as diverse as Croatia, the Czech Republic, Moldova, Hungary, Poland, and our old friends the Baltic republics.

Fascism is the open rule of the most reactionary elements of capitalism and is resorted to when capitalism perceives itself to be under threat. It relies on the work of demagogues like Hitler or Donald Trump to whip up support while simultaneously diverting attention using racial scapegoats (Jews, Mexicans) and promises to make Germany great or America great again.

The one thing fascism cannot do is meet the needs of the people (since it serves the needs of their exploiters). In fact, the economic sector that benefits most from fascism and most vigorously supports it is the armaments industry and all its related industry subsets. Inevitably, this means that fascism’s combination of extravagant promises of national glory, claims of racial superiority and appeals to ultra-patriotism can only be even partially met through aggression. The old slogan “Fascism means War” is as true today as it was in the 1930s.

The spread of fascism today attests to the growing awareness on the part of the biggest wealthiest corporations that capitalism is in crisis. The working class cannot be fooled forever. Fascism might stop the people’s movement temporarily but it has never succeeded in holding it back permanently.

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