The economic, political and social origins of fascism

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The article reproduced here was first published in November 1933 in issue number II of Masses, an eclectic monthly publication connected to the left of French Social Democracy. It was written by A. Lehmann, a member of the ‘communist workers' groups' in Germany, which had their origin in the KAPD. We are republishing it today so that our readers can gain some idea of the degree of clarification achieved by the communist left which split from the Third International, and of the considerable regression of those ‘councilist' and ‘Bordigist' tendencies which claim descent from the left communists today.

This article carries with it some of the weaknesses prevalent in the German left at that time in their understanding of fascism, weaknesses which led if to think that fascism was in the process of extending itself to all countries. Although the article defines the general conditions which gave rise to fascism (the period of capitalist decline, an acute economic crisis), it fails to grasp the particular conditions which made fascism appear in Italy and Germany and nowhere else (the brutal defeat of the working class after a powerful revolutionary movement, and a small share in the re-division of the imperialist cake). The Italian left in the same period, while less precise in its under­standing of the general conditions, was able to make a much clearer analysis of these particular conditions which allowed it to see ‘anti-fascism' as a major enemy of the proletariat (although after World War II it in turn took up the aberration of the ‘globalization of fascism'. In contrast, in this text there is no denunciation of anti-fascism.

Another weakness is in the analysis of the degeneration of the Russian Revolution and of the Third International. In this article these phenomena are presented essentially as consequences of the situation in Russia itself (backwardness, weight of the peasantry, etc), and not as a product of the retreat of the revolution on a world scale.

In spite of these weaknesses, the article contains a number of signifi­cant points which even today represent a much more valuable analysis than that of most of the groups who currently claim descent from the ‘ultra-left', points which can be summarized as follows:

* an understanding of the period opened up by World War 1 as that of the decline of the capitalist mode of production, which was linked to the disappearance of extra-capitalist markets;

* the impossibility of the bourgeoisie, in this period of decline, to grant any real reforms to the proletariat, leading to a considerable reinforcement of the state, to the integration of the trade unions, and to the end of all possibility of the proletariat making use of parliament in its struggle;

* transformation of the nature of crises: cyclical crises give way to the permanent crisis, the acute phases of which lead, in the absence of a proletarian response, to imperialist war;

* denunciation of all frontist and ‘anti-imperialist' policies;

* the proletarian character of the Russian Revolution and of the Third International - contrary to the ideas beginning to be developed at that time, particularly in the Dutch left;

* the capitalist nature of the regime then existing in Russia (even if the term is not explicitly used in the article) and the rejection of any policy of ‘defence of the USSR' by the proletariat;

* the necessarily world-wide character of the proletarian revolution;

* the necessity for the working class to equip itself with a party based on a clear and coherent programme, the most conscious fraction of the class, and by necessity a minority, which could not substitute itself for the class in the seizure of power, and which could only be created in a moment of rising revolutionary struggle and not in a period of defeat, as the voluntarists of Trotskyism and then of 'Bordigism' would have it.

These points form the axis around which the International Communist Current has constituted itself today. They demonstrate the continuity which exists between the revolutionary movement developing today and the movement in the past, marking the historic unity of the proletarian struggle throughout the terrible period of counter-revolution which we are now leaving behind.

A great number of ‘modernist' tendencies reject this continuity. These tendencies want to ‘innovate'. But today, in rejecting the past they also deprive themselves of any future - in the proletarian camp at least. For our part, we understand that we can only go beyond the gains of the communist left by beginning from these gains and not by rejecting them. That is why we resolutely claim a continuity with the communist left.



Economic causes

In order to grasp the essential causes of fascism, it is necessary to consider the structural changes in capitalism which have taken place in recent decades. Up until the first years of the century capitalism was still developing in a progressive manner in which competition between private capitalists or shareholding companies acted as a motor force of economic progress. The more or less regular growth of productivity was fairly easily absorbed by the new markets opened up during the period of colonization by the imperialist powers. The form of political organization corresponding to this atomized structure of capitalism was bourgeois democracy which allowed the different capitalist strata to regulate their contradictory interests in the most appropriate way. The prosperous condition of capitalism allowed it to grant the workers certain political and material concessions, and created within the working class the preconditions for reformism and the illusion that parliament could serve as an instrument of progress for the working class.

The possibility of an ever-growing accumulation of capital, which had been manifested during this initial phase, came to an end as competition between national capitals became more and more intense due to the lack of new territories to be conquered for capitalist expansion. These rivalries caused by the restriction of markets led to the First World War. The same conditions also initiated the transformation of the structure of capitalism via the progressive concentration of capital under the domination of finance capital. The war and its consequences accelerated the process. Inflation in particular, by leading to the dispossession of the middle classes, allowed the development of monopoly capital on a huge scale: the organization of capital in vast trusts and cartels, horizontally and vertically, which began to go beyond even the national framework. The different strata of capitalism (financial, industrial, etc) lost their particular character and were absorbed into an increasingly uniform bloc of interests.

As the sphere of action of these trusts and cartels began to go beyond the framework of nation-states, capitalism was forced to influence the economic policies of the state in a more accelerated manner. The liaison between the organs of capitalist economic interest and the state apparatus thus grew closer, and the intermediary role of parlia­ment became superfluous.

In the context of this structure, capitalism no longer had any need for parliamentarism, which only survived at first as a facade for the dictatorship of monopoly capital. However, this parliamentarism was still useful to the bourgeoisie, since it gave the dictatorship of capital a political base from which it could keep alive reformist illusions in the proletarian masses. But the aggravation of the world crisis, the impossibility of obtaining new markets, gradually led the bourgeoisie to lose all interest in keeping up the parlia­mentary facade. The direct and open dictatorship of monopoly capital came to be a necessity for the bourgeoisie itself. The fascist system showed itself to be the form of government most suited to the needs of monopoly capital. Its economic organization is best able to offer a solution to the internal contradictions of the bourgeoisie, since its political content allows the bourgeoisie to find a new basis of support, replacing a reformism which has become less and less able to sustain the illusions of the masses.

Social causes

The inability of the bourgeoisie to maintain its political base in reformism derives from the intensification of class conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Since the war reformism in Germany has been nothing but a sterile game. Everyday the German working class lost a little more of what remained of the ‘conquests' of reformism. The prestige of reformism in the eyes of the masses survived only because of its powerful bureaucratic organization. But the recent most violent attacks against the workers' living standards, which have plunged them into the most unbearable poverty, have rapidly undermined the influence of reformism in the working masses and laid bare the class antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

Parallel to this process within the working class there was a process of radicalization among the different strata of the petit-bourgeoisie. The peasants were plunged into debt, reduced to poverty, and in some places, resorted to terrorist actions. The shop keepers felt the twin blows of the impoverishment of the masses and of the competition from the big stores and co-operatives. Intellectuals disorientated by uncertainty about what tomorrow might bring, students without a future, declassed ex-officers, all began to turn to adventurist ideas. White-collar workers - proletarianized and struck down by unemployment, redundant functionaries - also showed themselves to be ready to be mobilized by radical demagogy. A vague and utopian anti-capitalism grew up among these heterogeneous strata dispossessed by the grande bourgeoisie. Their anti-capitalism was reactionary in that it aimed at a return to a bygone stage of capitalism. Thus despite their radicalism they became a conservative factor and easily became the instrument of monopoly capitalism. In reality, for this radicalized, unconscious petit-bourgeois mass, incapable of playing an independent role in the economy and faced with the growing antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, it was a question of making a choice between one or the other. It had to choose between monopoly capital, which was responsible for its desperate situation, and the revolutionary subject of history, the proletariat. Hatred of the proletarian revolution which would put an end to classes, and the petite-bourgeoisie's attachment to its privileges (privileges which were now only a memory), threw the radicalized middle classes into the arms of monopoly capital, thus supplying the latter with a sufficiently large social base for it to dispense with reformism, now on the verge of collapse.

Political roots

The synthesis of these two contradictory aspects of fascism: dependence on monopoly capital and mobilization of the petit-bourgeois masses, expressed itself on the political plane in the development of the National Socialist Party. This party owed its development to a frenzied demagogy and to the subsidies of heavy industry. On the ideological level, this party gave vent to the despair of the petit-bourgeois masses via a radical and revolutionary phraseology, even going as far as to advocate certain forms of expropriation (eg banks, Jews, big stores); its liaison with monopoly capital was expressed, in its propaganda for class collaboration, for hierarchical corporative organization against the class struggle and Marxism.

The inconsistency of the ideological content of Nazi demagogy is shown clearly in its racist propaganda. The discontent of the masses was deflected against the Treaty of Versailles, capitalism's scapegoat, and against the Jews who were seen as the representatives of international capital AND promoters of the class struggle. This tissue of incoherent stupidities could only take root in the winds of the petite-bourgeoisie, whose secondary role in the economy makes it incapable of understanding anything about the economic facts and historical events into which it has been thrown.

The radicalized peasants and petite-bourgeoisie always formed the great mass of the National Socialist Party. It was only when its subordination to monopoly capital became clearer that the bourgeoisie itself came to reinforce the cadres of the Nazi Party and supplied it with officers and leaders. But until Hitler came to power, the Nazi Party found it impossible to make any serious encroachments into the working class, as witnessed in the elections to the works councils. The Nazis always had great difficulty in penetrating the unemployment registration bureaux (Stempelstelle); only a few hundred thousand mercenaries could be recruited for the S.A. and the S.S from among the unemployed white-collar workers and the lumpen-proletariat, even though there were millions of unemployed without any means of subsistence.

But if the working class did not allow itself to be significantly contaminated by fascist demagogy it was nonetheless incapable of preventing the development of the National Socialist Party. It did not manage to undo the formation of a bloc of reactionary classes. The big workers' parties tried without success to make use of this or that apparent divergence between monopoly capital and the National Socialists. Above all, the proletariat did not understand that the real contradiction was not between democracy and fascism, but between fascism and the proletarian revolution. It was thus the lack of the revolutionary capacity on the part of the proletariat which permitted the political development of fascism and the rise of Hitler.

To see how this was possible, we must examine in detail the ideological and tactical content of the main tendencies in the workers' movement.

The Tendencies and Organizations of the Working Class




Reformism developed within the working class during the ascendant phase of capitalism. Its roots lay in the possibility for the bourgeoisie to rapidly develop the productive apparatus, a growth in production which in general found easy outlets in new markets. The result of this for the working class was a rapid development in its numbers and power. The bourgeoisie needed to assure the increased growth of a docile and satisfied working class and this could be easily obtained by ceding to the working class a small part of the ever-growing profits derived from imperialism. But even when the bourgeoisie was no longer able to accord any more concessions to the working class and actually had to deprive the working class of all the advantages it had won in a previous epoch, reformism still retained an important influence in the working class and was able to play the role of providing capitalism with a political base. This was the case for the trade union and political organs of reformism, which having developed during the years of prosperity continued to exist so long as they could fulfill the interests of capitalism. The principal method of the political organization (Social Democracy) was parliamentarism. Its activities had the aims of convincing the workers that they must wait peacefully for any improve­ment in their lot, which would be decided by parliament in the proper democratic way. Every time Social Democracy took the most active part in the massacre of the revolutionary workers it justified its betrayals by presenting itself as the defender of democracy. The trade union organization orientated itself towards discussing contract rates with the employers and in the last resort going to the state for arbitration. It prevented strikes whenever it could and, in the case of spontaneous strikes, tried to get the workers back to work by using all kinds of manoeuvres. The innumerable trade union bureaucrats, well paid and embourgeoisified, ruled over the workers through their control over various forms of assistance (sick pay, unemployment benefits, etc). Participation in these institutions and in the various trade union benefits maintained the docility of the workers and the power of the bureaucrats, despite their persistent and ever more cynical betrayals.

Parallel to development of the trade union bureaucracy, a special bureaucracy charged with the application of social legislation - assistance, unemployment, benefits, etc - grew up in the state apparatus. This kind of organism, and its functions should be seen as an auxiliary form of reformism, whose origin lay in the conjuction of parliamentary and trade union reformism - a state orientated reformism which contri­buted equally to maintaining order, obedience and illusions within the working class.

Thus reformism persisted in its organizational form even though it had lost its economic basis. Reformist ideology survived in the working class, but gradually it weakened under the pressure of the growing exploitation and poverty of the proletariat. When the proletariat was reduced to struggling for its most basic interests, it became clear to the bourgeoisie that it could no longer maintain a practical organi­zational form for class collaboration on the basis of reformist ideology. The practical organizational form had to be maintained at all cost, but the ideology had to be change; thus the bourgeoisie resolutely replaced reformism with fascism. First of all the trade unions were integrated purely and simply. There could be no question of resistance on the part of the bureaucrats because the organizational reality of class collaboration was kept up; the only thing that was thrown out, like a worn out glove, was the ideology of reformism. The replacement of reformism with fascism thus proceeded very smoothly, and if the bourgeoisie had no need of any new agents it was able to retain the services of the old clowns who asked for nothing more.

These developments proved that the trade unions were of no use to the working class, and that this was not the result of bad leadership but of the very structure and aims of the trade unions as representative organs of the corporative interests within capitalism; such organs have thus necessarily become part of the normal functioning of capitalism and cannot be used for revolutionary ends.




The development of the Russian Revolution since October 1917 has been conditioned by contradiction between a very concentrated but numerically small proletariat and an immense backward peasantry. Russian industry was in general very modern technically, but its economic structure suffered from a number of weaknesses because it had been organized by foreign capital for the purposes of war or export. After the downfall of Tsarism the bourgeoisie was unable to hold onto the power which had fallen into its hands because it could find no support among the peasantry who wanted peace and land.

An audacious and conscious proletariat seized state power in October 1917, but it confronted enormous difficulties of organization in the face of a backward, already satisfied peasantry twenty times its size. The collectivization of enterprises was carried forward by the workers at great speed but attempts at a communist distribution of products came up against the passive and active resistance of the huge peasant mass. The NEP was a retreat by a proletariat forced to compromise by the peasantry; but the proletariat still remained master of the commanding heights of the economy. However, in this regime of compro­mise between collectivized industry and a fragmented agriculture, the hidden but real rivalry between the proletariat and the peasantry gave rise to an unheard of development of the state apparatus, to bureaucratic specialization and to the suppression of the power of the Soviets. The success of the planned economy accelerated this process of crystallization of a bureaucracy which gradually managed to rule without any controls over it, to impose coercive economic measures, both on the proletariat (re-establishment of piece work and the authority of management) and on the peasantry forced concentration of peasant enterprises), and also measures of political domination (replacement of popular tribunals with the decisions of the special political police, the GPU).

A parallel process took place within the Communist Party, the directing organ, which following a succession of crises, became the exclusive expression of the class interests of the bureaucracy. With the dis­appearance of the political power of the Workers' Soviets the dictatorship of the proletariat no longer existed, and had been replaced with the dictatorship of the bureaucracy as a class in formation.

The Third International and the Communist Parties in all countries suffered structurally from the repercussions of this transformation of the Russian regime; with the German party in particular, bureaucratization and the absence of internal democracy reached an extreme point. The influence of the working masses could not make itself felt in the policies of the K.P.D, Its strategy and tactics were imposed upon it according to the interests of the Soviet bureaucracy. Up until the NEP, Soviet foreign policy had been orientated towards the world revolution, despite errors which for example in the case of Radek, were to have disastrous consequences on the German Revolution. Today the theory of ‘Socialism in one country' puts all its weight on the construction of the industrial apparatus in Russia (this industrial construction having been baptized as ‘socialism'), and consequently accords the greatest importance to stabilization and policies of peace in foreign relations. With the disappearance of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia the world proletariat no longer had any interest in considering the developments of the situation in Russia as the axis of the world revolution.

The class interests of the bureaucracy engendered the theory of the ‘leadership party' which is the negation of the possibility of working class politics independent of other classes, in particular the middle classes, and it is therefore at the roots of opportunism. At the same time, the utilization of the world proletariat for the changing needs of Soviet diplomacy created a growing gulf between the masses and the K.P.D.

The essential consequence, which crystallizes the whole activity of the Soviet bureaucracy, has been the degeneration of the class character of the revolutionary movement. Instead of spreading class ideology, the K.P.D., for opportunistic and diplomatic reasons, promulgated a nationalist ideology (the slogan of social and national liberation, the theory that the German nation was oppressed by imperialism). The K.P.D. believed that by resorting to this manoeuvre it would cause disarray within the petit-bourgeois ranks of National Socialism. In reality it only caused confusion and disarray among the proletariat; it was able to do nothing to oppose the rise of fascism, while the coming to power of fascism won over to the ranks of National Socialism militants of the K.P.D. who had been deceived by its own nationalist slogans.

The incoherence of Bolshevik manoeuvres (united fronts now with the fascists, now with the Social Democrats), bureaucratic pretensions towards establishing a dictatorship over the masses, the absence of a proletarian ideology - all this condemned the K.P.D. to impotence. After having gone from ‘success' to ‘success' on the electoral arena, the K.P.D. found itself completely isolated from the masses when it did want to act (eg the Nazi demonstration in front of Liebknecht's house). However, it is not even possible to know whether it really wanted to act and to what purpose.

The roots of this incapacity are the same as with Social Democracy. In both cases they are a result of the penetration of bureaucratic ideology into the organization - the ideologies of parliamentarism (in the slogan ‘to stop Hitler, vote for Thaelmann'); trade unionism (attempts to conquer the unions) and opportunism which consisted of manoeuvres between classes and different strata of the working class.

Small Bolshevik groupings

The theory of the ‘leadership party' and the practice of parliamentary, trade unionist, and opportunist manoeuvres are also to be found in the various Bolshevik opposition groups. The K.P.O.1 (Brandler), the Trotskyists and the S.A.P.2 have the same basic ideology, differing only in subtle details which are in any case changing all the time. For all these groupings, the tactic to be used against fascism is unity in action between reformism and Bolshevism. This tactic has not been applied, but the working class can expect to gain nothing from the unity of treason and impotence.

Perspectives for the worker's movement The lessons of revolutionary experience

Perspectives can only be based on experience - revolutionary experience which is already rich in lessons. From the Paris Commune to the October Revolution passing through the Revolution of 1905, experience has contradicted the tactics and strategy of Bolshevism; it has shown that the working class, in a given objective situation, is capable of acting independently as a class, and that in these situations it spontaneously creates organs for the expression and exercise of its will as a class: workers' councils or soviets. It is necessary to see how these organs were born and developed in Germany. The first workers' actions, which arose in 1917 against the will of the trade union bureaucrats who had been integrated into the war regime, engendered the ‘Revolutionary Shopstewards' (Revolutionare Betriebsobleute).

The Workers' Councils of 1918 were the direct descendants of this movement. The military collapse of Germany prematurely gave rise to unheard-of possibilities for the development of these councils, but they lacked a sufficient political clarity. The clearest awareness of revolutionary needs, represented in the Spartacus group, was still not sufficiently developed for the council movement to rid itself of certain anarchist illusions and also from habits inherited from the long period of reformism. The failure of the council movement in 1919 was to a large extent a result of insufficient awareness of the necessity for the dictatorship of the proletariat.

In the unstable situation of capitalism which lasted until 1923, the necessity for the workers to have revolutionary organizations based on production became clear, and almost everywhere in Germany the factory organizations grew up, formed more or less spontaneously against the counter-revolutionary trade unions and forming at this point a very important political current. The revolutionary efforts of the workers were ended in 1923 by the brutal action of the Reichwehr, crushing workers already demoralized by the doubly absurd tactic of the Communist Party, which proposed a united front to the fascists at Reventlow against French imperialism, and, at the same time, was participating in the parliamentary government of Saxony with the Social Democrats.

After 1924, the temporary stabilization of capitalism and the absence of revolutionary perspectives led to the disappearance of radical currents, gave a new lease of life to reformism supported by the state apparatus and inaugurated the period of parliamentary ‘success' for Bolshevism. This apparent consolidation of reformism and the illusory success of Bolshevism did not prevent, with the development of the crisis after 1929, the growth of the fascist movement and the deterioration of the living standards of the working class, which was suffering increasingly the blows of an unemployment which seemed to have no solution. At the same time, the masses showed a certain distrust of the existing parties, a certain effervescence tending towards the united front of the class; but on the whole there was still an attitude of waiting for the big organizations to act effectively. The coming to power of fascism without any resistance shattered the illusions of the workers.

Towards the organization of the proletariat

Thus the pressure of economic conditions led the bourgeoisie to destroy organizations which had in fact been the only ones able to block and paralyze any revolutionary movement of the class. This dialectical aspect of the rise of fascism has led us to see beyond the unfolding of the terror and the dispersion of the old workers' movement to the possibilities of progress and the basis for a new movement. The destruc­tion of the old organizations opens up new perspectives for a new class movement. The proletariat finds itself unencumbered with the self-proclaimed proletarian parties which are effectively reactionary, with the paralyzing illusions of political and trade union reformism and of parliamentarism. The illusions of Bolshevism have also been shaken; the majority of revolutionary workers no longer believe that its every action has to be led by a party of professional revolutionaries standing above the working class; they no longer have any confidence in the Bolshevik methods of bluff and agitation which lead only to sterile actions.

The practice of illegal struggle has led the workers to develop new forms of political work. The revolutionary workers in the factories and among the unemployed are forming small groups which provocateurs are unable to penetrate, The distribution of leaflets full of agitational slogans and of bluff has been replaced by the elaboration of discussion material and by proletarian political education. The bureaucrats of the Communist Party are no longer able to impose their point of view without discussion.

However, this work of regroupment and self-education is still proceeding in a sporadic fashion and without enough political clarity. It is vital that the greatest possible programmatic clarity is the point of departure for all political work. The most conscious revolutionary elements, already grouped together in nuclei formed by tenacious preparatory work, will assist this process of clarification and regroupment among the groups which have been born out of the debris of the old organizations, but which are still looking for a new ideology. These communist workers' nuclei have developed during the period of deepening crisis. Through these nuclei the synthesis of the experience of the illegal struggle of the radical workers in the various revolution­ary attempts since 1917 has been realized; and it has been realized with all the revolutionary ardour of the young, for whom the development of events has illuminated the necessity to break with the methods of reformism and Bolshevism. In their ideological clarity they bear the lessons of the past, and in their will to struggle the hopes of the working class reside.

During the period preceding the fascist terror, dominated by reformist and Bolshevik illusions, these nuclei were numerically weak in relation to the big mass organizations, but they were steeled in illegal propa­gandist activity and they were solidly right across Germany. Free of the sectarianism into which the remains of the radical organi­zations fell after 1923, they carried on their activity of ideological propaganda among the most advanced elements of the working class. Thanks to their experience in illegal work they continued their activities without any interruptions in spite of the terror and suffered only a few losses. Under the regime of terror, they grew considerably, while the barely reconstituted mass organizations got nowhere. At this time, the quantity of material distributed in Germany by the communist workers' nuclei is comparable to that at any other organization.

These nuclei, which must be the ideological armament of the proletariat, will have to integrate new elements step by step while avoiding the dilution of the clarity of their principles. Every nucleus must be firm and clear within itself so that hidden contradictions do not surface later on.

In the present phase of capitalism, the tactics of communists are determined by whether the situation is pre-revolutionary or revolutionary. In the present pre-revolutionary situation, the task at hand is the creation of the foundations of a revolutionary communist party. The communist nuclei in formation must act on the working class to accelerate the development of conditions for revolutionary struggle: the struggle for the clarification of class consciousness, destruction of the old conservative reformist (or Bolshevik) ideology, comprehension of the necessity for the class to organize itself in councils and propaganda for revolutionary methods of struggle. This action within the class can only become effective through permanent participation in the practice of the proletariat's struggle to survive on all fronts, because the workers can only really learn through direct experience.

In a revolutionary situation the goal is the destruction of bourgeois power by class action, the conquest of the means of production, the building of the power of the workers' councils on the economic and political terrain, and the beginning of the socialist reconstruction of society in general. All these goals call only be realized during the revolution through the closest possible liaison between the proletarian class and the revolutionary party, which is only the clearest and most active part of the class.

The aim of the party's work cannot be to raise itself above the class like a Bolshevik Central Committee commanding the revolution from on high. The revolutionary party can only be a lever in the development of the proletariat's own activity.

The present forces of left communism must be conscious of the fact that they cannot constitute the revolutionary party just at any time, but that the basis of this party can only be formed through a new task of reconstruction within the revolutionary struggle of the masses; that while "the revolution cannot triumph without a great revolutionary party" the inverse is also true - in a situation which is merely ‘becoming revolutionary' this party cannot anchor itself and develop itself in the working class as a whole.

The fundamental question for the revolutionary tactic of a communist nucleus in the class is not how to gather together, as quickly as possible, the maximum strength behind the organization to defeat the enemy - all thanks to the superior intelligence of the organization's leadership. No, the fundamental question is: how, at each stage of the practical struggle, can the consciousness, organization and capacity for action of the proletarian class be pushed forward, in such a way that the class as a whole can, reciprocally with the revolutionary communist party, carry out its historic task.

The task of revolutionary communist nuclei is therefore a double one: on the one hand, ideological clarification as the foundation of the development of the revolutionary party; on the other hand, the prepa­ration of the bases of the factory organizations through the gathering together of the revolutionary workers with the most developed awareness. As capitalist exploitation grows more and more acute it will force the workers to defend their very existence and to enter into struggle even in the most difficult conditions. For lack of any other organization, the workers in struggle will create organs for the direction of the struggle like, for instance, the action committees. The role of the factory nuclei will be to participate in these movements, to clarify them by giving a political content and to work for their extension to the national and international arena.

To the extent that these struggles extend, the working class will enter into the struggle for political power. These organs of struggle, having become permanent, will take on a special character: they will become organs for the conquest of power by the proletariat and finally the sole organs of the proletarian dictatorship. These councils - organs emanating directly from the factories and the organization of the unemployed, revocable at all times - will have a double role: the political councils will have to complete the crushing of the bourgeoisie and the strengthening of the dictatorship of the proletariat; the economic councils will take charge of the social transformation of production.

The perspectives of capitalism

These principles of organization and these perspectives for the develop­ment of the activity of the class are based not only on the historic experience of the working class, but also on the perspectives of capitalism.

The perspectives of capitalism are dominated by the deepening and broaden­ing out of the crisis throughout the world. It is now clear to everyone that the present crisis is something quite different from the cyclical crises which used to be part of the normal functioning of capitalism. It is clear that the current crisis is a crisis of the system itself, or rather a stage in the decay of capitalism. The attempts made to surmount the crisis were accompanied at the beginning by enthusiasm on the part of the bourgeoisie but they fell apart a few months later - as is the case now with the schemes of Roosevelt. Capitalism can no longer do anything but modify the existing division of markets, that is, replace the sector hardest hit by the crisis with one hitherto less affected; but it cannot create any new outlets. The attempt at a new division of markets in the end only results in the extension of the disasters of the crisis to all countries and all branches of the economy, in the subjection of the workers of the whole world to an equally aggravated exploitation, and in the extension of fascism to new countries.

The attempt at a new division of markets leads to violent international contradictions all over the world. National capitalisms clash against each other through frenzied customs and monetary policies. Antagonisms become more and more acute and the points of friction, the sources of conflict, become more and more widespread. This deterioration of international political relations reacts in its turn on the economic conditions which have engendered it in the first place and make these conditions even more insurmountable. The result is that fascism can find no stable economic base. That is why, to divert the attention of the masses away from their own growing misery, it stirs up new international difficulties.

Thus the impossibility of capitalism surmounting its economic diffi­culties and the sharpening of contradictions on an international level open the way to fascism in all countries and, at the same time, exclude the possibility of fascism stabilizing itself. The solution to this dialectical contradiction can only lie in the proletarian revolution. However, a solution may be sought by the bourgeoisie in a new world war if the proletariat does not take the initiative towards decisive action. But the world war itself is not a solution and the dilemma which will be remorselessly posed is the one foreseen by Marx: Communism or Barbarism.

Revolutionary perspectives must therefore be envisaged on a world scale. The cyclical fluctuations of the conjunctural crisis, taking place within the framework of the permanent crisis of degenerate capitalism, will lead in the years to come, to a more brutal and unbearable deterioration of living standards for the working class.

The necessity for the working class to defend its most basic interests will inevitably produce the conditions for a new epoch of struggles on a world scale.

Faced with a world-wide development of fascism, we must not consider the situation of the German workers as something special, demanding mainly solidarity actions of a more or less utopian nature. The fundamental question being posed for the international proletariat is the following, how best to use the political end organizational lessons of the German experience so that, in the next epoch of struggle, the class enemy will find itself confronted with a world proletariat armed ideologically and organizationally in the best possible way.

The response is clear and flows from what has been said concerning activity in Germany. The same ideological and organizational lessons must from now on be applied throughout the world by revolutionary communists who have understood the lessons of the recent experience of shameful betrayal by reformism and of the downfall of Bolshevism. Clear-sighted revolutionary nuclei must form themselves and resolutely address themselves to the task of ideological clarification and of the renewed organization of the working class.

These new organizations must establish international links in order to lay the basis for the formation of the Fourth International through the same process of the transformation of nuclei into the party which must take place in the revolutionary conjuncture.

To raise the slogan now for the constitution of the Fourth International is as inconsequential as demanding the immediate constitution of a new ‘real party of the working class'. In reality, this slogan of the S.A.P. and the Trotskyists can only end up in the provisional reconstitution of Bolshevism, in a ‘Three-and-a-half International' which will be a shameful appendage of the Third International and destined to end in the same fiasco.

The proletariat has other things to do than to set up historical caricatures. Its task is to defeat the bourgeoisie and realize communism. It is up to us to prepare the weapons which will allow it to triumph.

A. Lehmann

1 Kommunistiche Partei Opposition.

2 Sozialistische Arbeiterpartei (Socialist Workers Party).


General and theoretical questions: