The Communist perspective on fascism

Keep illuminating article entitled “Divided They Fell” from International Socialism in mind when you observe the modern anti-fascists in action:

The Communist Party organisation began to change fundamentally in the mid-1920s. Concomitant with the degeneration of the Russian Revolution, Stalinisation of the KPD began under the leadership of Ernst Thälmann. Freedom of discussion and internal democracy were replaced piece by piece by a mood of unquestioning discipline and authoritarian leadership. Oppositional currents were discouraged from speaking openly and eventually forced out of the party. No longer held politically accountable to the membership, in 1929 Thälmann and Stalin agreed upon an ultra-left course against the SPD, concluding that the Social Democrats represented a form of “social fascism”. This disastrous line would eventually prove fatal for both the Social Democrats and the Communists.

The theory of social fascism dictated that Nazis and Social Democrats were essentially two sides of the same coin. The primary enemy of the Communists was supposedly the Social Democrats, who protected capitalism from a workers’ revolution by deceiving the class with pseudo-socialist rhetoric. The worst of them all were the left wing Social Democrats, whose rhetoric was particularly deceptive. According to the theory, it was impossible to fight side by side with the SPD against the Nazis under such conditions. Indeed, the KPD declared that defeating the social fascists was the “prerequisite to smashing fascism”. By 1932 the KPD began engaging in isolated attempts to initiate broader anti-fascist fronts, most importantly the Antifascischistsche Aktion, but these were formulated as “united fronts from below”—ie without the leadership of the SPD. Turning the logic of the united front on its head, SPD supporters were expected to give up their party allegiance before joining, as opposed to the united front being a first practical step towards the Communist Party. Throughout this period the leaderships of both the SPD and the KPD never came to a formal agreement regarding the fight against Nazism.

Another fatal consequence of the KPD’s ultra-leftism was that the term “fascism” was used irresponsibly to describe any and all opponents to the right of the party. The SPD-led government that ruled Germany until 1930 was considered “social fascist”. When Brüning formed a new right-wing government by decree without a parliamentary majority in 1930, the KPD declared that fascism had taken power. This went hand in hand with a deadly underestimation of the Nazi danger. Thus Thälmann could declare in 1932: “Nothing could be more fatal for us than to opportunistically overestimate the danger posed by Hitler-fascism”.The KPD’s seeming inability to distinguish between democratic, authoritarian and fascist expressions of capitalist rule proved to be its undoing. An organisation that continually vilified bourgeois democratic governments as fascist was unable to understand the true meaning of Hitler’s ascension to power on 30 January 1933, the day the KPD infamously (and ominously) declared: “After Hitler, we will take over!”

To this day, “fascism” still means nothing but “any and all opponents to the right of the speaker”. Note that SPD refers to the Socialist Party which established the Weimar Republic and is currently the junior partner in Germany’s governing coalition, and the KPD is the Communist Party.