What is fascism ? This is a burning question for revolutionaries. Without a proper understanding of the nature of fascism, it is impossible to make triumph the democratic and socialist revolutions.
Because fascism is counter-revolutionary, not only in the sense that it want to suppress the revolution: it tries also to pretend being the revolution itself.
Fascism does not present itself as conservative, as “counter-revolutionary”, it presents itself as the “true revolution”, as the “pure movement”, as the “idealist conquest” of beauty, honor, a purified body, as the building of an authentic “community” purged of any oppressive elements.
This is the most dangerous aspect of fascism.
Fascism, in the 1920's-1930's, was well understood by the communists, under the direction of the Communist International, as “the open terroristic dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, and most imperialist elements of finance capital.”
This definition made by Dimitrov is the logical conclusion of the understanding of the general crisis of capitalism. The quest for profit makes that the monopolist capitalists become stronger and decide to take control over the state, pushing in the direction of imperialist war.
Fascism is the weapon of finance capital to mobilize for a “renewal” of the state, a “national” renewal, going in the imperialist direction. So, fascism is not a “gangrene”, an “emotional pest”, a “manipulation”, etc. like the petty-bourgeois forces, trotskyists, anarchists, pretend.
In the same way, the answer of the communists is logical: against the dictatorship of a minority from the capitalist class, what must exist is the most wide unity of the masses, i.e. the “popular front.”
The popular front is the mobilization of the masses against the dictatorship, to maintain democratic values that the bourgeoisie can not maintain any more, because it is totally reactionary and it has become dominated by finance capital.
In Germany, the popular front did not exist; the antifascist action came too late and was not able to face the counter-revolutionary and divisive attitude of the social-democracy. As it began to work, the bourgeoisie pushed the nazis – that were already losing positions – to power, as soon as possible.
But in France, the popular front permitted the unity of the masses at the level of all society, by the merger of the communist and socialist workers associations, from sport to the factories. It stopped fascism.
Nevertheless, the popular front was, in a way, a mechanical conception. It under-stressed the cultural aspect. It underestimated the ability of fascism to mobilize as an “anticapitalist romanticism.”
The concept of popular front was not able to understand the very important role of antisemitism. In the same way, it did not understand the cultural question in the unity of the working class: in France the communist sport associations refused the bourgeois principle of competition, and the unity with the socialist workers association made them accept it.
The door was open for an acceptance of the dominant values, of the capitalist society itself. This error is very easy to understand in the flags of the socialist eastern countries.
The “national flag” was maintained, but with communist symbols on it: a political and cultural heresy, justified by the principle of the “popular front” because the bourgeoisie was considered too weak to hold the flag of democracy, so a popular democracy would bring to socialism, so to say without the need of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Dimitrov went as far as saying this, and if under Stalin's direction this revisionist step was not possible, as soon as 1953 all the doors were open to revisionism in the eastern countries, in a very easy way.
On the contrary, Mao Zedong understood very well the concept of popular front; he refused that everything was submitted to the front, and even theorized the concept of democratic revolution as first step of the “uninterrupted revolution” promoted by Stalin. Communists had to always keep their cultural, ideological and practical independence. Without that, there would be no real new state.
Mao Zedong understood also what form takes fascism in a oppressed country. As the imperialist forces try to take direct control of the state, there are coup and counter-coup to dominate entirely the bureaucratic state, or at least to have the hegemony.
In the oppressed country, as the national bourgeoisie is too weak, a fraction of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie pretend to be “progressive”, real democratic, when in fact what it promotes is fascism.
This is here the great difference with the revisionist forces, that always had supported the “reformist bourgeoisie” of any oppressed country – when in reality such a bourgeoisie can not exist. Revisionism, in supporting “reforms”, supports the renewal of the old state through fascism, through the taking of power by a new bureaucratic fraction.
In France, we use this understanding to see in a better way how the French bourgeoisie is itself divided in two main fractions: a traditional, conservative one, and a modernist, aggressive one.
This is also really important and difficult in France, because the defeat of France in 1940 made the imperialist bourgeoisie take a “democratic” mask, whereas the traditional, conservative one became a collaborator of Nazi Germany.
After the second imperialist war, the imperialist bourgeoisie led by De Gaulle could not maintain its position; the reconstruction reinforced capitalism and the traditional bourgeoisie. But now, when capitalism has no way to “grow”, finance capital begins to want the power for itself alone again: this explains the come-back of an aggressive Neo-Gaullism, that the CPMLM was able to foresee in a perfect way.
And the only communist answer was necessarily: to grasp the contradiction between manual and intellectual labor, between city and countryside. What is needed is to hold the flag of civilization, to understand communism for the humans as a coming back to a non alienated state, which can exist only in a correct perception of nature.
Like Karl Marx explained in his 1844 manuscripts: “The human aspect of nature exists only for social man; for only then does nature exist for him as a bond with man – as his existence for the other and the other’s existence for him – and as the life-element of human reality. Only then does nature exist as the foundation of his own human existence. Only here has what is to him his natural existence become his human existence, and nature become man for him. Thus society is the complete unity of man with nature – the true resurrection of nature – the consistent naturalism of man and the consistent humanism of nature.”
So, fascism comes in a time of crisis. Either, fascism manage to promote a romanticist community, mobilizing for imperialist wars... or socialism wins over barbarism!