Daniel Guérin

Peace be with you

“Fascism, in fact, has brought to the highest degree of perfection the methods of police repression used in modern states. It has made the political police a truly scientific organization. The Italian Ovra, the German Gestapo – real ‘states within the state’, with ramifications in all classes of society and even in every dwelling house, with enormous financial and material resources, and with limitless powers – are in a position literally to annihilate at birth every attempt at opposition wherever it appears. They can arrest at any time, ‘put away’ on a remote island or in a concentration camp, even execute without a semblance of a trial, anyone they wish.”

“Added to these methods of police repression is the state of ‘forced disunity, dispersion and helplessness’ in which fascism keeps the working class.”

“And while fascism puts its adult opponents in a position where they can do no harm, it imposes its imprint on the young and shapes them in its own mold.”

“Doubtless there is something fascist education cannot stifle, and which does not need to be taught – the class instinct. No amount of propaganda will ever prevent the young worker from feeling he is exploited. Pietro Nenni, while far from claiming that the Black Shirt youth has already succeeded in freeing itself from the fascist grip, states that in Italy ‘many young people are socialists without knowing it and without wanting to be.’”

“In Germany as well, countless young people who believed literally that the Third Reich would be their state, and whom the Third Reich has condemned to forced labor, are bitterly disappointed. But it is extremely difficult for the youth in either country, in view of the mental training they are given, to get rid of the false ideas with which they are indoctrinated, to clarify their revolt, and without guidance do for themselves the work of a century of socialist action and thought. The confused awakening of their class consciousness leads some of them to the ‘left wing’ of fascism or National Socialism; it does not make them into militant revolutionists.”

“In the first place the regime is terribly expensive. The maintenance of the excessive bureaucracy of the state, the party and the numerous semi-governmental bodies costs unheard-of sums and adds to the financial difficulties of the government.”

“Neither does big business look without a certain amount of anxiety on the symptoms of ‘delusions of grandeur’ displayed ever more obviously by the dictator. This development is really inevitable, for in proportion as the plebeians are eliminated and the party relegated to a secondary position, it is necessary to inflate the “Man of Destiny” all the more in order to conceal behind his person the real nature of the fascist state: a military and police dictatorship in the service of big business.”

“And finally, the economic policy of fascism, however favorable to themselves it may be, is not entirely satisfactory to the big capitalists. Although they eagerly pocket the fabulous profits from armament orders, they are terrified at the possible consequences of this policy. They are haunted by the thought of a financial catastrophe. They likewise complain, as we have seen, that the ‘war economy’ regime is constantly imposing on them more burdensome state regulations, that it is forever eating away at sacrosanct ‘private initiative.’”

“The hypothesis is not absolutely excluded that some day they will come to feel that the advantages of a purely military dictatorship outweigh its shortcomings. But a change of this nature would not necessarily open up the way to a revolution. It is true that for the middle classes, suddenly deprived of their daily mythology, the awakening would be a cruel one, and that it would be harder, with only the aid of a military and police apparatus, to keep the proletariat enslaved. Yet the authoritarian state, strongly supported by bayonets, might still endure for a time in this new form; it might find new “mysticisms” (the nationalist mysticism, the dynastic mysticism, etc.) to keep large strata of the population under the spell; in a word, even without Mussolini or Hitler, the ‘strong state’ might survive.”

If fascism is not progressive politically, it is no more so economically – notwithstanding what certain people think. Stripped of all appearances, all the contradictions which dim its real face, all the secondary aspects which hide from so many its essential character, and all the circumstances peculiar to any one country, fascism is reduced to this: a strong state intended to prolong artificially an economic system based on profit and the private ownership of the means of production. To use the picturesque figure of Radek, fascist dictatorship is the iron hoop with which the bourgeoisie tries to patch up the broken barrel of capitalism. Here some clarification, however, is necessary: the “barrel”, contrary to what many believe, was not broken by the revolutionary action of the working class; fascism is not the ‘bourgeoisie’s answer to an attack by the proletariat’ but rather ‘an expression of the decay of capitalist economy’. The barrel fell apart of its own accord.”

Fascism is, to be sure, a defensive reaction of the bourgeoisie, but a defense against the disintegration of its own system far more than against any proletarian offensive – alas, non-existent. The crisis of the capitalist system itself is what shook capitalism to its foundations by drying up the sources of profit. The working class, on the other hand, paralyzed by its organizations and its leaders in the hour of the decay of capitalist economy, did not know how to take power and replace dying capitalism with socialism.”

Capitalism in Decay”

As to the nature of this crisis, fascism itself has no illusions.”

‘The crisis,” Mussolini admits, ‘has penetrated the system so deeply that it has become a systemic crisis. It is no longer a wound, but a chronic disease …’”

In spite of the fact that fascism demagogically promises the reabsorption of unemployment and the resumption of business, it knows perfectly well that it will not set the economic machine going again. It does not seek seriously either to bring back to life the vanished consumer, or to stimulate the long interrupted investment of private savings in production. Others are free to cherish Utopias if they wish, but fascism knows what it wants and what it can do. It merely tries to check, through artificial means, the fall in the profits of a private capitalism which has become parasitic. In spite of its verbose demagogy, it has no great designs; it lives from week to week; it aspires to nothing more than to keep alive – through wage cuts, state orders and subsidies, seizure of small savings, and autarchy – a handful of monopolists and big landowners. And in order to prolong the latters’ reign (though limiting their liberty and without insuring them their pre-depression income), it has no hesitation in hastening the ruin of all other layers of the population – wage earners, consumers, savers, working farmers, artisans, and even industrialists manufacturing consumers’ goods.”

“Fascism must be fought not from the outside by imperialist war but from within by proletarian class struggle. There is only one way to put an end to Mussolini and Hitler: that is to help the Italian and German workers to fight at home. And how can they be helped? By example! By fighting in our own countries!”

Daniel Guérin Fascism and Big Business [1938]

love eternal


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