“Social Democracy objectively represents the moderate wing of Fascism.” British Communist R. Palme Dutt’s theoretical explanation of the Stalinist concept of “Social-Fascism”
The theory of ‘Social-Fascism’, which held that Social-Democracy was Fascism’s “handmaiden” and its “moderate wing,” was first formalized within the international Marxist-Leninist movement over a number of Comintern meetings throughout 1928-1929. The idea that Social-Democracy and Fascism were ideologically intertwined was not a new one at the time; Zinoviev as early as 1922 had remarked at the Fourth Comintern Congress that: “Not by chance is Mussolini, a renegade from the Second International, a sometime Social-Democrat, now at the head of the counter-revolutionary movement in Italy; not by chance are such as Ebert and Noske at the head of the government in Germany.” Similar observations had been made over the years by other leading Communists, including Clara Zetkin, Leon Trotsky, Earl Browder, and Josef Stalin. Yet it was not until the Comintern introduced the concept of the ‘Third Period’ at the tail-end of the 1920s – i.e., the notion that global capitalism had entered a period of economic collapse and impending revolution – that the complementary theory of Social-Fascism was also officially adopted and began to directly shape Communist tactics and propaganda. The claim that Social-Democrats were working in concert with the bourgeoisie to stymie the nigh-inevitable proletarian revolution and to build a reactionary fascist state was not always popular or well-understood among Communism’s grass-roots supporters, particularly as it seemed to often translate (as was most notably the case in Germany) into Communist parties directing the bulk of their hostile energies against fellow workers in the ‘reformist’ parties, rather than against actual outright ‘Fascists’. One of the more notable attempts to allay some of this confusion and to give the idea of Social-Fascism a more complete theoretical foundation occurred in the 1934 book Fascism and Social Revolution, by Rajani Palme Dutt. In his book Dutt, a British-Indian Communist and one of Stalinism’s more erudite English-language theoreticians, outlined in detail some of the Marxist-Leninist analyses of Fascism with which many have already become familiar: that it is “a means of capitalist class rule in conditions of extreme decay,” that it is “the organisation of the entire capitalist state upon the basis of permanent civil war,” and so on. A significant segment of Dutt’s book is also given over to examining the relationship between Social-Democracy and Fascism, and it is the chapter dealing with this topic which has been excerpted below. What makes Dutt’s analysis on this topic particularly compelling is that it does not just focus on painting Social-Democracy as a capitalist tool for manipulating workers into the service of the bourgeoisie. Instead, Dutt goes into some detail examining the alleged shared ideological roots between Social-Democracy and Fascism, intimating that the two do have some form of common intellectual lineage, particularly through Social-Democracy’s alleged “abandonment” of Marxism and internationalism during the Great War. While Dutt (like most Marxists) is reluctant to ascribe any serious, pre-War theoretical foundations to Fascism, his admission that there is nonetheless an actual, direct relationship between Socialism and Fascism is still particularly noteworthy, especially given how reluctant many on the Left today seem to be when it comes to acknowledging the uncomfortable fact that Fascism and National Socialism actually began as evolutions (or heresies) of Marxist doctrine.
Social Democracy and Fascism
From R. Palme Dutt’s Fascism and Social Revolution (1934)
It is evident from the previous survey of the historical development of Fascism in Italy, Germany, and Austria that the role of Social Democracy is of decisive importance in the development to Fascism. The understanding of these two closely-related phenomena of the post-war period, of modern Social Democracy and of Fascism, is of key importance for the whole understanding of post-war capitalist politics. The whole question, however, is ringed round with controversy, and requires very careful further analysis, if the real issues of Fascism, and the conditions of the growth of Fascism are to be understood.
It should be explained that the term “Social Democracy” is here used only to cover the post-war phenomenon, the post-1914 Social Democratic Parties which subsequently united to form the post-war Second International or “Labour and Socialist International” in 1923. Although the tendencies of opportunist parliamentary corruption and absorption into the capitalist State were already strong and growing before the war throughout the imperialist epoch, even while the nominal programme of international revolutionary Marxism remained, and were increasingly fought by the revolutionary wing within these parties since the beginning of the twentieth century, it was only the decisive test of the imperialist war in 1914 that brought these tendencies to their full working out and openly revealed these parties as having passed over to capitalism. The direct passing over in this way since 1914 of large organisations of the working-class movement in all the imperialist countries, and especially of the parliamentary and trade union leadership, to open unity with capitalism and with the capitalist State, is a big historical fact; and the subsequent evolution of these parties since the war has played a large role, in the early years in the defeating of the working-class revolution, and in the subsequent years in the growth of Fascism.
This latter role was already showing itself in very marked preliminary forms in those secondary states where White dictatorships were established, in Hungary, Finland, Bulgaria, etc. In the period of the reconstruction and partial stabilisation of capitalism with the aid of Social Democracy, and still more since the development of the world economic crisis and the shattering of the basis of capitalist reconstruction, this character has become increasingly marked throughout Social Democracy. A process of “fascisation” in a whole variety of forms and stages, as well as of playing directly into the hands of Fascism, can be traced.
Nevertheless, although many disillusioned Social Democrats, especially after the glaring example of Germany and the consequent crisis throughout the Second International, are increasingly coming to recognise the role Social Democracy has in practice played in the development of Fascism, yet the Communist analysis of “Social Fascism” as the more and more dominant character of Social Democracy in the latest period, and constituting the parallel basis with Fascism for the maintenance of the rule of finance-capital to-day, has often aroused indignant resentment and much misunderstanding.
It is therefore necessary to examine more fully the “twin” character of Social Democracy and Fascism as the bases of support of capitalism in the present period.
1. The Capitalist View of Social Democracy and Fascism.
It will be most useful to begin the examination of this question with a consideration of the view of modern finance-capital on the roles of Social Democracy and Fascism.
This view of finance-capital is to be found expressed with exemplary clearness in the Deutsche Führerbriefe already referred to, or confidential bulletin of the Federation of German Industry during the critical year 1932. These “Führerbriefe” or “letters to Leaders” constitute a “political-economic private correspondence,” originally issued for confidential circulation to the heads of finance-capital, organised in the Federation of German Industry. Nos. 72 and 75 of September 16 and 20, 1932, contained a study of “The Social Reconsolidation of Capitalism,” which is a revealing expression of the outlook of the dominant financial groups.
The writer sets out from the basic viewpoint that the maintenance of capitalist rule depends on the splitting of the working class:
The necessary condition for any social reconsolidation of bourgeois rule possible in Germany after the war is the splitting of the workers’ movement. Any united workers’ movement springing up from below must be revolutionary, and this rule would not be able to hold out against it for long, not even with the means of military power.
The main danger is thus the united working-class front: against this even military force could not long prevail. Capitalism accordingly requires a social basis outside its own ranks and splitting the working class. This has been provided in the post-war period by Social Democracy.
The problem of consolidating the bourgeois regime in post-war Germany is generally determined by the fact that the leading bourgeoisie, who have control of the national economy, have become too small in order to uphold their rule alone. They require for this rule, if they do not wish to rely on the extremely dangerous weapon of purely military force, an alliance with strata which do not belong to them socially, but which render them the indispensable service of anchoring their rule in the people, and thereby being the actual and final bearers of this rule. This last or “outermost bearer” of bourgeois rule was, in the first period of post-war consolidation, Social Democracy.
So far the analysis is simple. Social Democracy had provided the basis for the maintenance of capitalist rule and splitting the working class. But what has made it possible for Social Democracy to split the working class? What is the social basis of Social Democracy? Here the analysis of the spokesman of finance-capital comes very close to Lenin’s analysis of the causes of the split in the working class in imperialist countries. The writer finds the basis of Social Democracy, and of its splitting of the working class, in the privileged conditions, based on social legislation and concessions, of a favoured, organised section of the working class:
In the first reconstruction era of the bourgeois post-war regime, in the era from 1923-4 to 1929-30, the split in the working class was founded on the achievements in regard to wages and social policy into which Social Democracy capitalised the revolutionary upsurge.
Thanks to its social character as being originally a workers’ party, Social Democracy brought into the system of reconstruction at that time, in addition to its purely political force, something more valuable and enduring, namely the organised working class, and while paralysing their revolutionary energy chained them fast to the bourgeois State.
It is true that November socialism1 was also an ideological mass flood and movement, but it was not only that, for behind it there stood the power of the organised working class, the social power of the trade unions. This flood could ebb, but the trade unions remained, and with them, or more correctly stated, thanks to them, the Social Democratic Party remained.
On this basis the main body of the organised working class was “chained fast to the bourgeois State” through Social Democracy and the trade unions, while Communism was kept outside as by a “sluice mechanism”:
These (the achievements in regard to wages and social policy) functioned as a sort of sluice mechanism through which, in a falling labour market, the employed and firmly organised part of the working class enjoyed a graduated, but nevertheless considerable advantage compared with the unemployed and fluctuating mass of the lower categories, and were relatively protected against the full effects of unemployment and the general critical situation on their standard of living.
The political frontier between Social Democracy and Communism runs almost exactly along the social and economic line of this sluice-dam; and all the efforts of Communism, which, however, have so far been in vain, are directed towards forcing a breach into this protected sphere of the trade unions.
This system worked well enough until the world economic crisis began to destroy the basis of stabilisation. The economic crisis compelled capitalism to wipe out the “achievements” of wages and social policy, and thereby to undermine the basis of Social Democracy. But this raised the danger of the working-class forces passing to Communism. Therefore it was necessary to find a new instrument for splitting the workers – National Socialism.
The process of the transition which we are undergoing at present, because the economic crisis necessarily destroys these achievements, passes through the stage of acute danger that, with the disappearance of these achievements, the mechanism of disrupting the working class which is based upon these achievements will cease to operate, with the result that the working class will begin to turn in the direction of Communism and the bourgeois rule will be faced with the necessity of setting up a military dictatorship. This stage would mark the beginning of the phase of the incurable sickness of bourgeois rule. As the old sluice mechanism can no longer be sufficiently restored, the only possible means of saving bourgeois rule from this abyss is to effect the splitting of the working class and its tying to the State apparatus by other and more direct means. Herein lie the positive possibilities and the tasks of National Socialism.
The new conditions mean, however, a change of the form of state. The tying of the organised working class to the State through Social Democracy requires the parliamentary mechanism; conversely, the liberal parliamentary constitution can only be acceptable for monopoly capitalism provided Social Democracy successfully controls and splits the working class. If capitalism is compelled to destroy the basis of Social Democracy, then it is equally compelled to transform the parliamentary constitution into a non-parliamentary “restricted” (i.e., Fascist) constitution.
The tying of the trade union bureaucracy to Social Democracy stands and falls with parliamentarism. The possibility of a liberal social constitution of monopoly capitalism is determined by the existence of an automatic mechanism which disrupts the working class. A bourgeois regime based on a liberal bourgeois constitution must not only be parliamentary; it must rely for support on Social Democracy and allow Social Democracy adequate achievements. A bourgeois regime which destroys these achievements must sacrifice Social Democracy and parliamentarism, must create a substitute for Social Democracy, and must go over to a restricted social constitution.
The solution of the problem of the maintenance of capitalism in crisis the writer accordingly finds in National Socialism and the establishment of a “restricted” or Fascist state. The writer finds in the role of National Socialism in the present period a remarkable parallel, in his view, to the role of Social Democracy in the preceding period.
The parallelism is indeed really striking. The then Social Democracy (from 1918 to 1930) and present-day National Socialism both perform similar functions in that they both were the gravediggers of the preceding system, and then, instead of leading the masses to the revolution proclaimed by them, led them to the new formation of bourgeois rule. The comparison which has often been drawn between Ebert and Hitler is also valid in this respect.
Both appeal to the anti-capitalist yearning for emancipation; both promise a new “social” or “national” commonwealth.
From this the final conclusion is drawn:
The parallelism itself shows that National Socialism has taken over from Social Democracy the task of providing the mass support for the rule of the bourgeoisie in Germany.
Such is the exposition of the private thought of the finance-capitalist oligarchy on the role of its two instruments, Social Democracy and Fascism. We have so far reproduced this exposition without criticism, because it has independent value as an authoritative statement, all the clearer through not having been written for public consumption, of the real viewpoint of finance-capital. It is a valuable political document which may be recommended for the study of disciples both of Social Democracy and of Fascism. It will be noted that this remarkably candid and clear-headed statement of the real case of Fascism, as seen by its actual paymasters and controllers, shares none of the mystical, national, racial, “corporative,” chauvinist nonsense with which Fascism is presented for public consumption, but is thoroughly rational and hard-headed. To this it will be important to return in considering the so-called “theory” of Fascism.
The actual analysis, however, although a useful starting-point of discussion on the question of Social Democracy and of Fascism, requires in certain respects criticism. The writer sees correctly the mechanics of capitalist post-war rule on the basis of Social Democracy. But he writes as if Fascism “has taken over from Social Democracy the task of providing the mass support for the rule of the bourgeoisie.” Yesterday Social Democracy performed this role; to-day it is Fascism; each has its period. Social Democracy and Fascism are thus seen as performing an essentially identical role, only in differing periods, and under different conditions, and therefore with differing methods and forms of state constitution. This is, however, too simple, and is not correct. Both exist together; and each performs a distinctive role, supplementing one another. Fascism bases itself primarily, for its social basis, on the miscellaneous petit-bourgeois strata, the peasantry, the declassed elements and backward workers. Social Democracy bases itself on the upper strata of the industrial workers. The bourgeoisie builds its rule on the support of both, bringing now one, now the other, to the forefront, and utilising both for its support. Fascism never becomes the main basis of the bourgeoisie (although it may become its main and sole governmental instrument when the crisis requires the coercion of all the workers, and the hold of Social Democracy is in danger of weakening), because Fascism never wins the main body of the industrial workers with traditions of organisation – the sole power that can overthrow capitalism. Here the role of Social Democracy remains of decisive importance, even after the establishment of the Fascist dictatorship. This is seen with obvious clearness in those countries, e.g., Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Spain under De Rivera, etc., where Social Democracy is tolerated under a Fascist dictatorship. But it is also true in those countries of fully completed Fascist dictatorship – Germany, Italy – where Social Democracy as an organisation is formally suppressed and the trade unions absorbed in the Fascist front. Only so far as Social Democratic influence, ideology, and traditions still dominate the industrial workers, disorganising the revolutionary fight, preventing the united front and mass struggle, only so long can the rule of capitalism be maintained, even in its Fascist forms. In these countries also, if the Fascist dictatorship weakens, Social democracy stands ready to come to the rescue of capitalism.
The distinction of Social Democracy and Fascism is no less important to understand than the parallelism.
Both are instruments of the rule of monopoly capital. Both fight the working-class revolution. Both weaken and disrupt the class organisations of the workers. But their methods differ.2
Fascism shatters the class organisations of the workers from without, opposing their whole basis, and putting forward an alternative “national” ideology.
Social Democracy undermines the class organisations of the workers from within, building on the basis of the previous independent movement and “Marxist” ideology, which still holds the workers’ traditions and discipline, in order more effectively to carry through the policy of capital and smash all militant struggle.
Fascism accordingly requires for its full realisation the “totalitarian” terroristic class-State.
Social Democracy controls the workers most favourably and successfully in the liberal-parliamentary class-State, utilising its own “internal” methods of discipline, and occasional State-coercion, for the suppression of all militant struggle.
Fascism operates primarily by coercion alongside of deception.
Social Democracy operates primarily by deception, alongside of coercion.
It is this combined relationship of difference in method and parallelism in basic aim and role that underlies Stalin’s definition, given already in 1924 (“Main Factors of the Present International Situation,” Communist International, English edition 1924, No. 6), that “Social Democracy objectively represents the moderate wing of Fascism.”3
2. The Germs of Fascism in Social Democracy.
Fascism not only historically draws its origin in large part from Social Democracy in the sense that many of its principal leaders spring from Social Democracy: Mussolini, former editor of the Italian Socialist central organ Avanti; Pilsudski, former leader of the Polish Socialist Party; Mosley, former Minister of the second MacDonald Labour Government.
Fascism also draws its ideology mainly from the lines already worked out by Social Democracy.
The attempt can be made to trace earlier strands and tendencies in pre-war non-Marxist forms of Socialism already giving hints of aspects later developed in Fascism: e.g., Lassalle’s “national” type of socialism (the Lassallean party’s deputies, it may be noted, voted the war credits of 1870, while the Marxists abstained), Prussian tendencies, and coquetting with Bismarck; Proudhon’s credit-fallacies and opposition to the class struggle; Sorel’s cult of violence, “social myths” for mass-deception, and denunciation of democracy in the abstract; the Syndicalist cult of “occupational” lines of division; Fabian super-class State glorification; Hyndman’s4 already pre-war social chauvinism and big navy agitation. The Fascist writers seek to trace their spiritual ancestry from three main sources: Mazzini (the old liberal democrat would turn in his grave), Proudhon, and Sorel. But this is mere myth-making. Fascism is essentially a product of the post-war general crisis of capitalism, and has no spiritual ancestry. Fascism is in practice an abortion consequent on the miscarriage of the proletarian social revolution.
It is from 1914, when Social Democracy directly abandoned Marxism and internationalism, that the characteristic trends of ideology akin to Fascism began. A study of the principal extreme expressions of the war-socialists, especially of Lensch, Parvus, and Cunow in Germany, Hervé in France, or Blatchford in England, would reveal many striking resemblances with subsequent Fascism.5 “In this world war,” wrote Lensch in 1916, “Germany completes its revolution” (the typical use of “revolution” to cover the most extreme monopolist dictatorship and chauvinism); “at the head of the German Revolution stands Bethman-Hollweg.” Cunow declared that Social Democracy must adapt itself to imperialism and throw overboard the remains of liberal-democratic ideology about “the right of nations to political independence.” “England in the war” wrote the war-socialist Hänisch6 “represents the reactionary, and Germany the revolutionary principle.” All these illustrate the use of “revolutionary” phrases and denunciation of obsolete “liberal-democratic” superstitions to cover in practice complete subservience to monopolist capitalism and chauvinism. Denial of internationalism, advocacy of class-unity or the “sacred truce,” and service of the capitalist State in the name of “socialist” or “revolutionary” phrases – these are the common starting-point of modern Social Democracy since 1914, and, in a more developed form, of Fascism.
But it is in the post-war period that the ideology of Social Democracy becomes the real breeding-ground for Fascism. Social Democracy emerged from the war with two clearly marked characteristics: first, close unification of each party with its own “national,” i.e. imperialist State, and denial of any save the most formal “letter-box” internationalism; second, class-co-operation, in the forms of coalition ministerialism and trade union collaboration, to help to build up capitalist prosperity as the necessary condition of working-class prosperity. It will be seen that these basic principles are already close to the basic principles of “National Socialism.”
Social Democracy after the war was faced with two tasks: first to defeat the working-class revolution; second, to help to reconstruct the shattered structure of capitalism. The first brought the Social Democratic leadership into close alliance with the reactionary, militarist, and White Guard circles, and trained it in undertaking governmental responsibility in shooting down the militant workers. The second task of capitalist reconstruction, after the period of direct civil war was closed, required ever closer collaboration of Social Democracy and the trade unions with monopoly capitalism.
This collaboration of Social Democracy with capitalism in the period of reconstruction and stabilisation required the development of a corresponding new ideology. The war-time ideology of the “national danger” and the necessity of unity against “the common enemy” could no longer serve in peace time. In the period of reconstruction and stabilisation a new theoretical basis had to be developed. The collapse of capitalism, it was argued, was not in the interest of the working class; the working class required a prospering capitalism as the basis of the advance to socialism; “it is useless to socialise misery,” as Kautsky declared, pointing to the “economic ruin” of Russia as the warning of the consequence of the alternative path. Capitalism had not yet exhausted its development; it had still before it the advance to a new flourishing era of “organised capitalism”; this was the path to socialism. The task of the workers was to help to rebuild capitalism, increase production, and help to develop the new rationalised “organised capitalism,” with increasing participation economically through the trade unions (“economic democracy,” Mondism)7 and politically through Social Democracy in the Government; this was the true path of advance as against the “catastrophic” policies of Communism. In the period of stabilisation, rationalisation and the short-lived boom of 1927-9 this new ideology of Social Democracy reached its highest development.
Marxism began to be more or less openly thrown overboard, especially by the trade union leadership, even though it remained formally on the programme. The leading German trade union theorist, Tarnov, came out openly at the Breslau Congress of the German Trade Union Federation:
Marxism as a leading ideology of the working-class movement has outlived itself. But as a real great mass movement cannot exist without a corresponding ideology, therefore we, the leaders of the trade unions, must create a new ideology.
The essence of the “new ideology” was in fact the very old pre-Marxist (originally Liberal, later Fabian and finally Fascist) theory of the identity of interests of the working class and capitalism. As another leading theorist of the German trade unions declared:
One must not lose sight of the fact that the working class is a part of the capitalist system, the downfall of which system is its own downfall; and therefore the great historical duty of the working class is to obtain by means of the regulation of its place in that system the improvement of the whole social structure, which is again equivalent to the betterment of its own social situation.
The same line of thought was expressed by the General Council of the British Trades Union Congress in its Report to the Swansea Congress in 1928, when it analysed three possible courses before the trade unions, and advocated the third (the Mondist line of collaboration with capitalism) as the best:8
The third course is for the trade union movement to say boldly that not only is it concerned with the prosperity of industry, but that it is going to have a voice as to the way industry is carried on, so that it can influence the new developments that are taking place. The ultimate policy of the movement can find more use for an efficient industry than for a derelict one, and the unions can use their power to promote and guide the scientific reorganisation of industry as well as to obtain material advantages from the reorganisation.
Social Democracy and the trade unions under its leadership thus become, in the Social Democratic theory, constituent parts of modern capitalist organisation and of the capitalist State (the Webbs had in fact fully worked out this theory long before the war; and this theory is the underlying thread of their History of Trade Unionism, as indeed of all their work). “Social Democracy to-day,” affirmed Hilferding at the Kiel Congress of the German Social Democratic Party in 1927, “is an indispensable element of the State.” “Without trade unions,” wrote Citrine, “industry under modern conditions could not function effectively” (W.M. Citrine, “Trade Unionism – the Bulwark against Chaos,” Reynolds’ News, September 4, 1932).
Every development of organisation and strengthening of monopoly capitalism and its dictatorship is thus hailed as the advance of “Socialism.” Characteristic of this is the Labour Party’s advocacy of the “public corporation” (i.e. State-protected capitalist trust, with guaranteed dividends for the shareholders) as the form of modern socialism – exemplified by the London Passenger Transport Act, which was introduced by a Labour Government and carried through by a Conservative Government, and hailed by the Labour Party as a triumph of “Socialism.” On this the conservative Times declared:
The principal objections which have been raised may be grouped under three main heads – namely that the Bill is a “Socialist” measure; that it creates a dangerous monopoly; and that it will raise the cost of transport. None of these criticisms will really bear very prolonged examination. It is true that the Bill in its original form was produced by a Socialist Government, and that the then Minister of Transport, Mr. Morrison, nearly succeeded in damning it for ever by claiming it as a triumph of Socialism. But where in fact does the Socialism come in? On what point of principle will the new transport undertaking differ from the Central Electricity Board or from Imperial Communications Company, both of which were created by a Conservative Government? Like them indeed it is a statutory monopoly, and therefore subject to a certain degree of public control; but it is privately, not publicly owned.
(Times editorial, “The London Traffic Bill,” December 1, 1932.).
It is obvious that the “public corporation” of the Labour Party and Social Democracy bears close analogies in principle to the Fascist “corporation” as the system of organisation for industry.
On this basis Social Democracy upholds the modern developments of monopolist capitalism as already the advent of “Socialism.” As the German Social Democratic leader, Dittmann, declared at the Magdeburg Congress of the Social Democratic Party:
We are no longer living under capitalism; we are living in the transition period to socialism, economically, politically, socially…
In Germany we have ten times as many socialist achievements to defend as they have in Russia.
The world economic crisis dealt a heavy blow to this ideology. But Social Democracy adapted itself to the crisis by an extension of its theories. It was now necessary, it declared, to “save” capitalism from the menace of chaos and proletarian revolution. The Leipzig Congress of the German Social Democratic Party in 1931 gave out the watchword: “We must be the physicians of ailing capitalism.” Vandervelde, the Chairman of the Second International, proclaimed in the Belgian Chamber of Deputies in 1932:
The capitalist system is cracking in all its parts. It can only be saved by serious and urgent measures. We are at the eleventh hour. Take care that the proletariat, like Samson, does not bring crashing down the columns of the temple.
(E. Vandervelde, Le Peuple, May 7, 1932).
And the French Socialist, Montel, had indeed already proclaimed before the crisis (République Sociale, November 15, 1928): “The Socialist Party will present itself as the only party capable of saving bourgeois society.”
Through the whole of this line and propaganda it is evident that Social Democracy was in practice preparing and smoothing the way for Fascism and for the conceptions of Fascism. And indeed even after the victory of Fascism Leipart, the leader of German trade unionism, directly used the same line of argument to prove that the trade unions could be accepted by Fascism as subservient instruments of the Fascist dictatorship:
The trade unions have come into being as the organised self-help of the working class; and in the course of their history through natural causes have become more and more fused with the State itself.
The social tasks of the trade unions have to be fulfilled no matter what the form of the State regime is…
The trade unions are fully prepared, even beyond the field of wages and working conditions, to enter into permanent co-operation with the employer’s organisations.
A State supervision over such collaboration could in certain circumstances be conducive towards raising its value and rendering its execution more easy.
The trade unions do not claim to influence directly the policy of the State. Their task in this respect can only be to direct the just claims of the workers to the attention of the Government with reference to its measures of social and economic policy and legislation, and also to be of service to the Government and Parliament through its knowledge and experience in this field.
This was the official declaration of German trade unionism in March 1933, offering its alliance to the Fascist dictatorship.9 It was received with expressions of pain and indignation in the non-German Social Democratic Press as a “shameful capitulation.” Yet the line expressed is exactly identical with the line of argument, on the question of trade unionism and the State, employed by a Citrine in Britain, a Green in the United States, or a Jouhaux in France.
With this may be compared Mussolini’s suggestion in 1921 of a possible alliance of reformist Social Democracy and Fascism:
In the field of social legislation and of improvement in the standard of life of the working classes, the Socialists may find unexpected allies within Fascism. The salvation of the country may be assured, not by the suppression of the antithesis between Fascism and Socialism, but by their reconciliation within Parliament. A collaboration with the Socialists is quite possible, especially at a later stage, after the clarification of ideas and tendencies, under which the Socialist Party at this moment labours, is ended. It is evident that the co-existence of Intransigent and Reformist Socialists in the same party will in the course of time become impossible. Either revolution or reform resulting from participation in the responsibilities of power.
(Mussolini, Popolo d’Italia, May 22, 1921.)
The course of events rendered this direct alliance unnecessary; but Mussolini subsequently took the reformist trade union leaders, D’Aragona and his colleagues, into his service.
Social Democracy thus prepared the way ideologically for Fascism: first, by the abandonment or corruption of Marxism; second, by the denial of internationalism and attaching of the workers to the service of “their own” imperialist State; third by the war on Communism and the proletarian revolution; fourth, by the distortion of “Socialism” or the use of vaguely “socialist” phrases (“the new social order,” the “commonwealth,” “industry as a public service,” etc.) to cover monopolist capitalism; fifth, by the advocacy of class-collaboration and the unification of the working-class organisations with the capitalist State. All this provides the ideological basis and groundwork of Fascism, which represents the final stage of the policy of the complete absorption of the working class, bound hand and foot, into capitalism and the capitalist State. This whole propaganda and line of Social Democracy confused, weakened, and battered down the class-conscious socialist outlook of those workers who were under its influence, prevented the spread of revolutionary Marxist understanding, fostered semi-Fascist conceptions of nationalism, imperialism, and class-collaboration, and thus left the masses an easy prey to Fascism.
3. How Social Democracy Assists Fascism to Power.
In the historical examination of the Italian, German, and Austrian examples in the previous two chapters we have seen in practice how Social Democracy assists Fascism to power. It is therefore only necessary now to summarise these results of what historical experience has demonstrated.
First, Social Democracy disorganises the proletariat and the proletarian struggle. The Social Democratic and trade union leadership act as an agency of the employers and of the ruling class within the working-class ranks, preaching defeatism and opposition to struggle, and, where the outbreak of working-class struggle becomes inevitable, directly disrupting the struggle from within.
This is most clearly seen in the role of Social Democracy in strikes. A conspicuous example of this process, in view of the subsequent revelations, was afforded by the great munitions strike in Germany in January 1918, which nearly brought Germany out of the war and into unity with the Russian Revolution. The Social Democratic leaders, Ebert, Braun, and Scheidemann, by decision of their Executive, took over the direction of the strike, even calling on the workers to disobey mobilisation orders. Yet their object in coming on the strike committee, as declared by them many years later, was to strangle the strike. In 1924 Ebert brought a libel suit against the charge of treason for having led the strike of January 1918. In this trial he made known that the Executive had passed a secret resolution instructing him to take over the leadership of the strike in order to bring it to an end. Ebert stated in court (Times, December 11, 1924):
The Socialists had been requested to take control of the strike in order to avoid the worst. Herr Ledebour had told the strikers that the strike would be lost if the Majority Socialists came on to the Strike Committee, and at this point he (Herr Ebert) had joined it in order to restore the balance… He declared that he had entered the Strike Committee to bring the strike to an end as soon as possible.
Scheidemann stated in the same trial (Times, December 13, 1924):
The strike broke out without our knowledge. We joined the Strike Committee with the firm intention of putting a speedy end to the strike by negotiating with the Government. There was a great deal of opposition to us in the Strike Committee: we were known as “the strike stranglers.”
Exactly the same process was conducted by the Labour Party and Trades Union Congress General Council leadership in the British General Strike of 1926, which was only called, according to MacDonald (Socialist Review, June 1926), because “if no general strike has been declared industry would have been almost as much paralysed by unauthorised strikes.” J.H. Thomas explained subsequently in the capitalist journal Answers, that, although opposed to the strike, he “did not resign because I felt certain that I could do far more good by staying in than by going out.” The object of the leadership, he explained to the House of Commons in May 13, 1926, was to prevent the struggle “getting out of the hands of those who would be able to exercise some control.” The Conservative Home Secretary, Joynson-Hicks, analysing the causes of the defeat of the General Strike, put forward as the main cause that “the responsible trade-union leaders retained their hold upon the trade unions, and took the constitutional course of admitting the general strike was illegal and called it off” (Joynson-Hicks, letter to the Twickenham Conservative Association, August 14, 1926).
The same process was demonstrated in Italy over the occupation of the factories, where the reformist leadership achieved what all the Government forces had to confess themselves unable to achieve – the restoration of the factories to capitalism.
But this direct strike-breaking (examples of which on a greater or lesser scale are familiar every year and almost every month to the workers in every country) is only the plainest and simplest expression of a universal process of disorganisation and disruption of the working-class front, preaching of confidence in capitalism, close alliances with the class enemy, and war on the militant workers.
It is only after conspicuous and repeated disruption of the working-class front after this fashion by Social Democracy from within, and consequent weakening and discouragement of the workers, that the way is opened for Fascism to advance.
The betrayal of the General Strike was followed by Mondism – a first step towards Fascism, and welcomed as such by the Italian Fascist Press (it may be noted that Mond openly declared his sympathy for Fascism).
The surrender of the factories in Italy was followed immediately by the Fascist offensive, opening at Bologna and going continuously forward to the establishment of the Fascist State in 1922.
The second Labour Government’s assistance to the offensive against the workers was followed by the landslide of the National Government vote of 1931 and the first beginnings of a serious Fascist movement in Britain.
The Social Democratic support of the Brüning dictatorship and hunger-offensive was immediately followed by the sweeping advance of Fascism in Germany.
This is the principal way in which Social Democracy assists the advance of Fascism to power – by disorganising the working-class front, by breaking strikes, by denunciation of the class struggle, by preaching legalism and trust in capitalism, by expulsion of all militant elements and splitting of the trade unions and working-class organisations.
The war on Communism is placed in the forefront of Social Democracy. The German example has shown to what lengths of direct alliance with the militarist and White Guards Social Democracy will go in order to crush the revolutionary workers.10 But the slogan of the war on Communism is the slogan of Fascism. Social Democracy and Fascism offer, in effect, rival services to the bourgeoisie for the slaying of Communism.
With the further development of the post-war period Social Democracy helps forward the advance towards Fascism more and more positively by assisting the strengthening of the capitalist mechanism and of the capitalist dictatorship. Social Democracy assists to carry through the economic measures for the strengthening of capitalist monopoly (rationalisation, etc.); it supports all the Brüning and Roosevelt types of intensified capitalist dictatorship, and itself helps to introduce and operate measures of intensified dictatorship. This was signally shown by the second Labour Government of 1929-31, with its Coal Mines Act and London Traffic Bill, its imposition of textile wage cuts by arbitration awards, its arrest and sentencing of hundreds of workers under the Trade Union Act, and its lathi-rule and imprisonment of sixty thousand in India. In the same way, Severing as Minister of the Interior shot down the workers’ May Day demonstrations in Berlin in 1929. Similarly, the Prussian Social Democratic Government actually boasted in its own defence, when removed by von Papen, that it “had caused more deaths on the Left than on the Right”:
The Prussian Government is in a position with police-statistics to prove that police interference has caused more deaths on the Left than on the Right, and that police measures have caused more wounds on the Left than on the Right.
(Braun-Severing Memorandum to Hindenburg, protesting against deposition: B.Z. am Mittag, July 19, 1932.)
In the final stage, as the Fascist movement advances closer to direct power, Social Democracy gives its final and decisive assistance by opposing and banning the united working-class front against Fascism – the sole means to prevent Fascism coming to power – and concentrating hopes in illusory legal defences, the ballot, “democracy,” moderate bourgeois governments and finally even the support of pre-Fascist and near-Fascist dictatorships (Brüning, Dollfuss) as the “lesser evil.”
It is the Social Democratic Minister Severing that bans and dissolves the Red Front, while permitting the Storm Troops.
It is Social Democracy that refuses the repeated urgent appeals of Communism for the united front during the critical year of 1932 and the first quarter of 1933.
This line makes inevitable the victory of Fascism.
4. The Question of the Split in the Working Class.
The crucial importance of the united working-class fight against Fascism is seen by all to-day, especially after the German example of the disastrous consequences of disruption.
Nevertheless, in spite of the German example, Social Democracy continues to refuse and oppose the united front in all countries. At the same time, alongside this direct refusal of the united front, the cause of the split in the working class is often attempted to be misrepresented by Social Democracy as due to Communism and the Communist International, which are accused of dividing the working-class forces.
It is therefore necessary to give further consideration to this all-important question of the split in the working class and its causes.
The analysis of the split in the working class as due to Communism and the Communist International is both historically and in current practice incorrect.
The split in the working class dates from 1914 – before the Communist International existed. It was caused by the dominant official leadership of the Social Democratic Parties abandoning their pledges and obligations before the International, directly contravening the principles on which their parties were built, and passing to unity with capitalism. The split took formal shape when this leadership expelled those deputies who voted against the war credits, in accordance with their international obligations, and the sections who supported them. All this took place already during the war, before the Communist International existed. To argue that the responsibility for the split rests with the revolutionaries is to argue that Liebknecht should have voted the war credits.
The split deepened as the issue of the imperialist war developed into the issue of the working-class revolution or the support of the White Guards in shooting down the workers’ revolution. The Mensheviks united with the Tsarists and foreign imperialism to take up arms against the workers’ rule; the German Social Democratic leaders armed the counter-revolutionary officers’ corps to shoot down the revolutionary workers. The breach of 1914 had widened to civil war, with Social Democracy on the capitalist side of the barricades. An unbridgeable barrier was created – as unbridgeable as the division of the classes. All this process of 1914-19 had already developed, revealing to the full the fact of the division of the working class, owing to the existence of an imperialist wing in the working-class camp, before the revolutionary sections finally organised the Communist International in 1919. To regard the Communist International as the cause of the split is to mistake the effect for the cause.
Lenin gave the call for the formation of the Communist International already in the autumn of 1914, only after and because the majority Social Democratic leadership had destroyed the old Second International, trampled international socialism under foot, and openly united with capitalism. There was no other way to continue the struggle for international socialism.
It is obvious that the responsibility of the split lies wholly with those sections that abandoned the party programme and united with capitalism, and not with those sections that stood by the party programme and continued to fight capitalism. This responsibility, begun in 1914, carried forward through the civil wars of 1917-21, continues in the issues of to-day. It is the unity of the Social Democratic leadership with capitalism that inevitably splits the working class and is the cause of the split. This is the root of the question of the split.
But given this split of the working-class organisations, which can only be finally overcome by the re-union of the mass of the workers (through the experience of the struggle, through ideological controversy, through conviction by their own experience) on the basis of the class struggle against capitalism, that is, finally on the basis of Communism, the immediate urgent question becomes that of the present common fight against the capitalist and Fascist offensive. It is evident that in this situation the need is for all workers and working-class organisations, whatever their political outlook, to combine in a common front for the immediate fight on the maximum possible agreed basis of fight. This is the meaning of the united front, for which the Communist International has consistently striven since 1921.
But it is here that Social Democracy, after causing the original split, perpetuates and deepens the split of the working class by opposing the united front, expelling all sections that support it, and even wrecking the working-class organisations to maintain its domination.
This is shown with conspicuous clearness in the decisively important question of the trade unions. The Communist line is for a single united trade union organisation, embracing all workers, independent of their political views, within which the revolutionary workers conduct propaganda for their viewpoint or proposals, according to the principles of trade union democracy. Social Democracy rejects this viewpoint, and seeks to make membership of a trade union, or active membership (delegate positions, official positions) dependent on holding reformist views, on subscribing to the Labour Party programme, etc. To achieve this purpose the Social Democratic trade union leadership habitually expels, not only individual trade unionists (often outstanding militants with long records in the struggle and elected at the top of the polls by their fellow members) but whole sections and organisations and even majorities, if these express a revolutionary viewpoint, in order to maintain the domination of Social Democracy.
It is evident that this system of Social Democracy in the unions means the smashing of the unions as the united organisations of the workers. Reference is often made by Social Democrats to the existence of “Red Unions” as evidence of the role of Communism in splitting the trade union movement. But it is not realised by many who hear these charges in good faith that the Red Unions, in the countries with a divided trade union movement, have developed historically as the consequence of the Social Democratic policy of expulsions and denial of trade union democracy. The case of the Scottish Mineworkers is the classic example of this process in Britain, where the majority of the members of the union constitutionally elected a new executive and officials with an overwhelming revolutionary majority, but the old reformist executive and officials refused to vacate office, and proceeded to expel one of the two largest districts, the Fife district; after exhausting every constitutional effort for unity, the revolutionary majority were thus compelled to form the United Mineworkers of Scotland. Similarly in France the CGTU or Unitary Confederation of Labour (revolutionary) only came into existence at the end of 1921 after the revolutionary trade unionists had won a constitutional majority in the old Confederation of Labour, and the old reformist leadership had met this majority by a series of expulsions to convert it into a minority; the Congress constituting the CGTU was actually attended by a majority (1,564) of the unions belonging to the old CGT. The responsibility for the split rests with the reformists.
The aim of Social Democracy in this splitting the trade unions in order to maintain its domination was stated with extreme clearness by the General Council’s spokesman at the Trades Union Congress of 1926, in defending the ban of the General Council on Trades Councils affiliating to the Minority Movement:11
If the Council had agreed to this affiliation, within a short time the Minority Movement would have become the majority.
(A. Conley, General Council, at the Bournemouth Trades Union Congress, 1926: Daily Herald report, Sept. 8, 1926.)
It was thus to prevent the revolutionary minority becoming the majority by constitutional means of propaganda and persuasion that the reformist leadership adopted the ruinous policy of wrecking the unions. The lengths to which they were prepared to go in this policy were declared by the President of the Miners’ Federation at the Swansea Trades Union Congress in 1928: “Talk about wrecking the movement, I would rather have 50 honest men than 500 imitations; and if we have to disject the movement to the very ground, I am prepared to do it.” That is to say, the reformist leadership is prepared “to disject the movement to the very ground,” reducing the membership to one-tenth and expelling nine-tenths, rather than accept the verdict of a revolutionary majority. This throws an important light on the Labour or Social Democratic conception of “democracy,” the principle of which is often held forward as a reason for opposing the united front. Similarly, the Trades Union Congress delegate to the American Federation of Labour in 1927, Sherwood, of the General and Municipal Workers, speaking at the Los Angeles Convention, said:
Branches of our organisation in London, over 15,000 strong, refused to comply with the instructions of our General Council. Well, Mr. President, we simply smashed the branches… We had on our General Council two men who represented great areas in our country, but they were going to Minority meetings, and we said, “Sign a declaration or get out.” Well, they had to get out.
The illustrations here drawn deliberately from British trade unionism, where the process developed latest and most slowly, could be paralleled in very much stronger form in the other European countries and in the United States. In Germany, in particular, where the revolutionary movement was strongest, the Social Democratic policy of wrecking the unions by wholesale expulsions to maintain control was carried to extreme lengths, and played a large part in the disruption of the working class and opening the way to the victory of Fascism. This is the parallel to the general policy of the refusal of the united front.
There remains the question whether Communism in Germany, as is sometimes urged by critics, over-emphasised the policy of the “united front from below,” that is, the appeal to the lower organisations of Social Democracy and the trade unions and to the organised and unorganised workers generally to combine in the single front against Fascism, and only in the last two years, since April 1932, and more especially since the expulsion of the Braun-Severing Government in July 1932, developed alongside of this the policy of “the united front from above,” that is, the direct party-to-party appeal. The criticism of this line is based on a lack of understanding of the conditions. The policy of the united front from above, alongside the united front from below, has never been ruled out in principle by the Communist International, and has been repeatedly applied, when suitable occasion offered; but regard has had to be taken to the conditions in differing periods and situations. When Severing as Social Democratic Minister of the Interior was shooting down the workers’ May Day demonstrations in 1929, to have appealed to the Social Democratic Party leadership for a united front against the attack on the workers would have been worse than meaningless. So soon as the expulsion of the Braun-Severing Government by von Papen offered an occasion, the Communist Party immediately made its proposal for a united front directly to the Executives of the Social Democratic Party and of the General Trade Union Federation. The refusal of the united front by these bodies sealed the victory of Fascism.
5. The Adaptation of Social Democracy to Fascism.
As capitalism develops to more and more Fascist forms, Social Democracy, which is the shadow of capitalism, necessarily goes through a corresponding process of adaptation. This process of “fascisation” of Social Democracy shows itself in the increasing support of open forms of dictatorship (Brüning, Emergency Powers, Ordinance rule in India), the use of armed violence against the workers, not only in civil war as in the early post-war years, but against unarmed workers in conditions of peace (Berlin in 1929, India under the Second Labour Government), and the increasing suppression of democracy within the working-class organisations.
With the complete victory of the Fascist dictatorship, this process of adaptation does not come to an end, but on the contrary reaches even more extreme forms.
Already since the war a whole series of examples of direct alliance of Social Democracy with White Governments of counter-revolutionary terror against the working class have shown themselves in country after country, and have continued to-day into Fascist forms.
In Hungary under the White Terror Social Democracy entered into a written Treaty of Alliance with the White Government. This Treaty was signed on December 22, 1921, between the Prime Minister, Bethlen, and the Social Democratic Party, affiliated section of the Second International. By the terms of the Treaty it was laid down that
The Social Democratic Party will consider the general interests of the nation as of equal importance to the interests of the working class.
In respect of foreign policy the Hungarian Social Democratic Party
will carry on an active propaganda on behalf of Hungary, among the leaders of the foreign Social Democratic parties, with the foreign governments, etc., and for this purpose will co-operate with the Hungarian Foreign Ministry… will adopt the Magyar stand-point… before all, in its organ Nepszava adopt an impartial attitude and loyally express in this paper the collaboration with bourgeois society.
In respect of home policy the Social Democratic Party will “co-operate with the bourgeois classes in the economic sphere,” prevent strikes, conduct “no republican propaganda” and “shall not extend its agitation among the agricultural workers.” The Treaty concluded with the pledge:
The delegates of the Hungarian Social Democratic Party declare that they agree to the wishes expressed by the Prime Minister both with regard to foreign and home policy, and give assurance of fulfilment on their part. They nominate on their part a delegate who maintains contact with the Foreign Ministry.
In return for this Treaty, Social Democracy was to be officially protected by the White Government, while Communism was ruthlessly suppressed. When the terms of this Treaty became known three years later, and a scandal was raised, compelling even a Commission of Enquiry in the Second International (the Commission of Enquiry, under Kautsky in 1925, ended in a complete whitewashing verdict, recognising the “good faith” of the Hungarian Social Democrats, and accepting their assurance that the Treaty would not be continued further), the Hungarian semi-governmental organ, the Neues Pester Journal commented in its issue of January 1, 1925:
The Treaty does not contain anything which every Socialist Party of the world – if we disregard the Third International – would not have recognised, or at least realised by its practical attitude… the Treaty has been fully observed, and both parties have honestly fulfilled its provisions.
The bourgeois organ is correct. The Bethlen-Social Democratic Treaty is only peculiar in that it sets down in writing the practice of all Labour and Social Democratic Parties, whatever their formal programme. The underlying principles of Fascism and its “Labour Front” are thus in many respects anticipated by Social Democracy.
Bulgaria afforded a further example of the same process. The elections of 1923 had resulted in a vote of 437,000 for the militant Peasants’ Party under Stambulisky, 252,000 for the Communist Party, 219,000 for the Bourgeois Bloc, and 40,000 for the Social Democrats. The Stambulisky Government was carrying through a programme of agrarian reforms, the impeachment and trial of the former war-ministers, and other measures unpopular with the reaction. The reactionary parties in June, 1923, carried through a military coup d’état, engineered by army officers, overthrew the Peasant Party’s Government by force and murdered the Prime Minister, Stambulisky. On this basis was set up the White Terror regime of the butcher, Tsankov, under whom, according to the statement of Vandervelde, Chairman of the Second International, 16,000 Bulgarian workers and peasants were murdered in eighteen months (Humanité, May 18, 1925). In this Tsankov Government of White Terror the Social Democratic Party, affiliated section of the Second International, was officially represented; its Minister, Kasassov, sat alongside the representatives of the Fascist “Officers’ League” and of the bourgeois parties.
In Poland in 1926 the Pilsudski coup d’état, overthrowing parliamentary democracy, and establishing a type of Fascist dictatorship, was carried out with the support of the Polish Socialist Party, section of the Second International; its representative, Moraszevski, sat in Pilsudski’s Government.
In Spain the Primo de Rivera Dictatorship gave its protection to the Spanish Socialist Party and the reformist General Union of Labour, while suppressing the revolutionary workers’ movement, and even, while throwing the revolutionary leaders into prison, appointed the reformist leader, Caballero, as a Privy Councillor.
In Italy D’Aragona and the reformist leaders of the General Confederation of Labour entered into the service of Mussolini and declared the Confederation dissolved in 1926.
In Austria the Dollfuss dictatorship was built up step by step with the passive support of Social Democracy as the “lesser evil” in relation to the Nazis; in the beginning of 1934 the Social Democratic Party was making a direct offer of alliance to Dollfuss at the same time as the Government offensive was turning on its organisations and Press; and even when the workers finally rose in their heroic struggle, it was against express orders of the Party, which on the very eve of the struggle was sending urgent messages for submission and expressing readiness to Dollfuss to accept an emergency dictatorship and a form of Corporate State.
In Czecho-Slovakia the Social Democratic Party participated in the Coalition Government of all the bourgeois parties, which in 1933 was suppressing the Communist Press and preparing the conditions of intensified dictatorship.
In Japan the following situation was complacently reported in the British Labour organ Forward on March 20, 1930, under the title “Labour in Japan,” with reference to the elections:
One’s impression is that the proletarian parties have been given a much fairer field than before. It is true that since the last election there have been two great police round-ups of the so-called dangerous thinkers. This might be urged to have had a weakening effect, but the opposite is more probably the case. Those that remain have been given as it were an official cachet. By inference they are certified free from Communism. There is no longer that bogy to frighten away possible supporters.
The “official cachet” to Social Democracy from an extreme reactionary militarist Government, which is savagely suppressing Communism with tens of thousands of arrests, is regarded with high favour by the British Labour organ as a most fortunate advantage. A short time after, in the spring of 1932, the leadership of this Japanese Social Democratic Party, headed by the Secretary, Akamatsu, and half the Executive Committee openly moved over and transformed themselves into an avowedly Fascist “National Socialist Party.”
Social Democracy has thus throughout the world shown itself ready to adapt itself and enter into alliance with every counter-revolutionary, White Terrorist and Fascist Government, even entering directly into such Governments. Where Social Democracy has not been accepted into such open alliance, but has been forced under the carrying out its role of disruption of the working class under the form of opposition, this has not been for lack of trying on the part of the Social Democratic leadership, who have invariably exhausted every manoeuvre to endeavour to be admitted to the favoured circle under the protection of Fascism.
The signal example of the latter process has been Germany. The significance of the German experience has been dealt with in the previous chapter.
If German Fascism rejected the offers and pleadings of Social Democracy for an open alliance, it was because German Fascism had no confidence in the existence of any form of workers’ organisation, however servile the leadership, save under its direct control, because it had no confidence in the power of a permitted Social Democracy to maintain control of the workers, because it was determined to hold all apparatus positions for itself and permit no other forms of organization. The role of the remnants of Social Democracy thus becomes in practice, under the completed Fascist dictatorship, to continue its disruption of the working-class front in new forms, to carry forward its fight against the united front and against Communism, to confuse the revolutionary struggle with the deceitful aim of Weimar democracy which made possible the victory of Fascism, and to stand ready, in the event of the weakening of the Fascist dictatorship and the advance of the working-class offensive, to come to the rescue of capitalism and save the capitalist State, as in 1918, against the working-class revolution. In this way Social Democracy remains, even under the completed Fascist dictatorship, the main basis of support of the bourgeoisie in the working class.
The collapse of German Social Democracy created a crisis in the Second International. Numbers of workers who had followed its leadership began to have their eyes opened to the realities of the struggle, and to move towards increasing sympathy with Communism and towards the line of the united front. But the effect of the crisis on the leading strata was to hasten the process of “fascisation.” The slogan was given out to rally on the basis of “democracy,” that is, on the basis of the existing capitalist State. Therefore the line was proclaimed to combat still more fiercely the united working-class front, to strengthen the authority of the State, if necessary, in “emergency” forms, to unite with the “moderate” elements of the bourgeoisie, forming left blocs and coalition governments to save the State, and even to support the war-propaganda of the bourgeoisie in the name of “democracy.” The Left Cartel policy in France, the toleration of Dollfuss in Austria, the coalition policy in Czecho-Slovakia, the support of Roosevelt by the reformist leadership in Britain and America, illustrated this line. An increasingly influential school developed which openly drew the “lessons” of Fascism as the need to concentrate more on a “national,” as opposed to an international, basis, to abandon the conception of the working-class conquest of power and direct the appeal increasingly to the petit-bourgeoisie, and to seek to build a “strong, authoritarian State” in the conditions of crisis. These conceptions were openly expressed by “Neo-Socialism” in France. A variant of a similar tendency was revealed by the Socialist League wing of the Labour Party leadership, which also came forward with proposals for an intensified dictatorship within the capitalist State. It is evident that this whole line of propaganda in practice chimes in with and assists the increasing development of capitalism in all modern states towards fascist forms.
Social Democracy – modern post-1914 Social Democracy – takes its starting-point and origin in the conception of co-operation with capitalism and with the capitalist State. This line is presented as the line of safe and peaceful, harmonious, “democratic” advance towards Socialism, as opposed to the dangers and destruction of the path of violent revolution. The whole experience of 1914-1933 has demonstrated with inescapable clearness that this line leads, not to Socialism, nor to peaceful progress, nor even to the maintenance of democratic forms in the most limited sense, but to unexampled violence against the working class and strengthening of the capitalist dictatorship and, in the final culmination, to the victory of Fascism, of imperialist war and of all the forces of destruction, against which only the proletarian revolution can avail to save the world. This is the lesson of the episode of “Social Democracy” (correctly, Social Imperialism or Social Fascism) in working-class history, an episode which is beginning to draw to its close.
1. The socialism of the 1918 November Revolution – in other words, the revolutionary socialist masses who supported the Social-Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD) and the Independent Social-Democrats (Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, USPD) in the aftermath of Germany’s defeat during the Great War.
2. In the original text, the following footnote is appended here: “Left Social Democrats often say of Communism: ‘Our aims are the same; we differ only in our methods.’ It would be more correct to say of Social-Democracy and Fascism: ‘Their aims are the same (the saving of capitalism from the working-class revolution); they differ only in their methods.'”
3. The complete text of Stalin’s 1924 article “Concerning the International Situation” can be read here. The section of the article which Dutt is referring to reads in full:
Firstly, it is not true that fascism is only the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie. Fascism is not only a military-technical category. Fascism is the bourgeoisie’s fighting organisation that relies on the active support of Social-Democracy. Social-Democracy is objectively the moderate wing of fascism. There is no ground for assuming that the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie can achieve decisive successes in battles, or in governing the country, without the active support of Social-Democracy. There is just as little ground for thinking that Social-Democracy can achieve decisive successes in battles, or in governing the country, without the active support of the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie. These organisations do not negate, but supplement each other. They are not antipodes, they are twins. Fascism is an informal political bloc of these two chief organisations; a bloc, which arose in the circumstances of the post-war crisis of imperialism, and which is intended for combating the proletarian revolution. The bourgeoisie cannot retain power without such a bloc. It would therefore be a mistake to think that “pacifism” signifies the liquidation of fascism. In the present situation, “pacifism”” is the strengthening of fascism with its moderate, Social-Democratic wing pushed into the forefront.
4. Henry Hyndman was a British socialist. Initially a conservative, Hyndman by 1881 had converted to Marxism and formed the first socialist party in Britain, the Social-Democratic Federation (SDF). By 1911 the SDF had evolved into the British Socialist Party, which underwent a split during the Great War over support for the war effort. The pro-war faction, led by Hyndman, formed a ‘National Socialist Party’ in 1916, which advocated a nationally-oriented Marxism supportive of Britain’s military endeavors against the Central Powers. Hyndman died in 1921, and his National Socialist Party (which in 1919 had reverted to the name ‘Social-Democratic Federation’) gradually absorbed itself over subsequent years into the Labour Party.
5. Alexander Parvus was a prominent Jewish-Lithuanian Marxist, particularly active within Germany, who is notorious today for his involvement in various intrigues, such as international arms trading, channeling funds to Lenin, and clandestine liaisons with German and British intelligence agencies. In 1915 Parvus began funding Die Glocke, a pro-war Social-Democratic journal which sought to build a Marxist framework around support for Germany’s war aims. Paul Lensch and Heinrich Cunow were two of the more well-known contributors to Parvus’s Die Glocke. Gustav Hervé was, similarly, a prominent pro-War figure within the French socialist movement; like Lensch and Cunow, Hervé advocated a form of nationalist-socialism which bore similar elements to early Fascism (Hervé later became an open supporter of Fascism for a time). Robert Blatchford was an English activist who advocated a similar position to Hervé, Lensch, and Cunow, although from a British perspective; in 1915 he formed the ‘National Democratic and Labour Party’, which supported a “patriotic labour” ideal and which developed links with the Liberals and the Conservatives.
7. ‘Mondism’ takes its name from Sir Alfred Mond, the 1st Baron Melchett, a British-Jewish industrialist and liberal politician. ‘Mondism’ was the name given to a political concept advocated by Mond which proposed the ‘scientific’ rationalization of industry, i.e., the use of state intervention to amalgamate certain industries and to direct the production of others in order to increase productivity and efficiency. A central component of the Mondist idea was that trade unions and employers should actively work together through the machinery of industry (and without government intervention) to establish mutual conditions beneficial both to workers’ living standards and to the needs of big business.
8. A Mondist plan was endorsed by vote at the 1928 annual convention of the British Trades Union Congress (TUC), championed in particular by Walter Citrine, General Secretary of the TUC, and by other leading figures on the TUC’s General Council, such as Ernest Bevin, Arthur Pugh, and J.H. Thomas. Most of the TUC leadership had strong reformist leanings, in large part owing to the failure of the 1926 General Strike: the consequences of the 1926 strike had induced an aversion towards class conflict and revolutionism in much of the trade union leadership, leading to their attraction to Mondism and to a preference for “industrial bargaining” over radical industrial action. (Communists saw in this an abandonment of socialism, believing trade unions would degenerate into the labour arm of the capitalist management structure; they also viewed Mondism as a form of class collaboration, making reformist Social-Democracy ideologically akin to Fascism). Incidentally, Mondism also had supporters among the membership of the Independent Labour Party, some of whom broke away to help form Mosley’s New Party in 1931; elements of Mondism can be seen in the famous ‘Mosley Memorandum’ produced by Sir Oswald in 1930 as his solution to the unemployment crisis.
9. Theodor Leipart was chairman of the General German Trades Union Federation (Allgemeiner Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, ADGB), the primary organization of ‘free’ (socialist) trade unions in Germany. From 1931 onwards Leipart increasingly sought to build accommodation between the ADGB and forces in the nationalist camp, gradually disassociating the federation from its ties to the Social-Democrats and attempting to develop an alliance first with the quasi-authoritarian government of General Schleicher, then with that of the Hitler cabinet. As part of the negotiations between the trade unions and the government, in 1933 Leipart and his allies in the ADGB leadership sought concessions from state and NSDAP representatives that the ADGB would be allowed to continue an independent existence in some form, possibly through a merger with the Christian trade unions. It was hoped that the ADGB could continue to operate as part of the corporatist economic structure which the government was considering building at the time. Obviously this did not come to pass; in May 1933 the ADGB’s membership and resources were forcibly absorbed into the German Labor Front and the National Socialist trade union (the NSBO), and the Hitler government abandoned its plans to establish a corporatist economic structure around 1934. Leipart was arrested and briefly imprisoned, but managed to survive the Third Reich period and lived to 1947.
10. In the original text, the following footnote is appended here: “Compare the statement of the first British Labour Prime Minister, MacDonald, over the forged Zinoviev letter in 1924: ‘Who is it that has stood against Bolshevism? Liberals have contributed nothing, Tories nothing… All the work has been done by Labour Leaders and Labour Party leaders.'”
11. The Minority Movement was formed by the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) in 1924 as an organization operating within the UK’s existing unions. It sought to take control of the existing units through the entryist tactic of “boring from within,” i.e., gradually increasing Communist influence among the union membership until CPGB-affiliated union delegates were in a position to capture the national trade union leadership.