- Economy And Class Structure Of German Fascism by Alfred Sohn-Rethel
- Fascist Economic Policy and the N. R. A.
- Neoliberal fascism
- A guide for A2 politics students
Even if for some it seems right at first glance, this proposition is very narrow-minded from the perspective of a structural approach. For Hilferding, the flows of financial capital were aiming at imperialist integration into the nascent global economy. However, this imperialist expansion was not caused by the inadequacy of the internal market but by the pursuit of higher profit rates by capitalists controlling the means of production. Very importantly, Hilferding stresses that financial capitalism is not a different phenomenon from industrial capitalism when it comes to capital accumulation and its profit-making orientation.
Switzerland, Hong Kong, or the Cayman Islands. As Marx claims:. Capitalism establishes an accumulation of misery, corresponding with accumulation of capital. Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole.
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Marx , Capitalism as an industrial and financial economic system is characteristically crisis-prone. It is determined by forces that cause it to be unstable, chaotic and self-destructive. Marx and Engels , However, this sorcerer has succeeded in pulling a rabbit from the hat during each time of crisis, and that rabbit is called fascism.
Economy And Class Structure Of German Fascism by Alfred Sohn-Rethel
In times of crisis, the capitalist state has succeeded in securing the hegemony of capitalism by using intense ideological and repressive powers via what Gramsci called political society. The capitalist state is essentially primed for the consolidation of bourgeois hegemony. As identified in Marxist theory, power in such a class-divided nation-state consists largely in class power.
Hence, class power is materialized with regard to definite apparatuses and performs. Louis Althusser expresses the historical role of the state in capitalism in the following way:. Althusser , This role of the state in capitalist formation is not merely an argument raised by the Marxists. In the opposing camp, Friedrich Hayek also says that the state must be a strong legislator and enforcer to ensure the development of individual entrepreneurial freedoms and the market Hayek The problem now becomes how to minimize oppression by the state itself; the response of Hayek is the creation of a private sphere totally independent of communal interference.
For Hayek, such a private sphere is only able to come into existence if there are definite actions and rights that are insured and not violated by the state. It necessitates not only individuals but also that the state be obliged by the rule of law. In a nutshell, fascism is an integral part of capitalism and is visibly put into force when capitalism enters a crisis, due to its own contradictions or when faced with a counter-threat from an opposite or alternative ideology.
Various predominant methods in this process include at the local level the restriction of rights and wages of non-capitalist classes, the monopolization of political decision-making mechanisms, the use of violence against dissident groups, and, at the international level , regulatory wars against determined enemy states or groups. Here, someone may raise the question: why are the countries where capitalism is most developed the freest countries on the world? This is because the social structure and economic situation in Italy in that period was in fact rather distant from that of an advanced, industrial capitalist, nation.
As we shall see, Germany was, in important respects, rather archaic in terms of its class structure. However it did represent a far closer approximation to a fully-developed capitalist society than did Italy. The position is much less clear with regard to three other issues, and it is upon these that I intend to concentrate. In general, I accept the theory of fascism put forward by Leon Trotsky, most notably in his writings collected as The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany. In certain circumstances, bourgeois democracy is incapable of providing a political form within which this can be done and other instruments must be used.
Prime among these is fascism, which consists of a mass movement of the desperate petit bourgeoisie welded together into an unstable bloc under the banner of-reactionary anti-capitalism, following the defeat of a proletarian upsurge. Trotsky himself put it succinctly in Spain may go through the same cycle as Italy did, beginning with — ferment, strikes, a general strike, the seizure of the factories, the lack of leadership, the decline of the movement, the growth of fascism and of a counter-revolutionary dictatorship.
The regime of Primo de Rivera was not a fascist dictatorship because it did not base itself upon the reaction of the petit bourgeois masses. While most of this is undoubtedly correct, it contains at least one important gap, and a number of points have either been lost or distorted since Trotsky wrote it.
This is a common fault in marxist and semi-marxist accounts of fascism. In Italy, certainly, the growth of the fascist movement was extremely rapid.
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At this stage, the role and character of the new movement were not at all clear, least of all in the mind of Mussolini. The character of Italian fascism was formed in action rather than reflection, and the decisive period for this was the last part of and early , when a veritable black terror engulfed the strongholds of Italian Socialism. Thus we have the development of a new historical formation concentrated into a period of, at most, four years.
The rapidity and unexpectedness of the rise of the fascists explains to some extent why the leaders of Italian communism devoted relatively little attention to it  , and why later accounts have little to say about the process by which the movement developed. By the time Italian fascism became a recognisable force, it was already a mass movement. However, it is only with the benefit of hindsight that we attribute any importance to this then obscure event. In the first period, from to , the NSDAP was one among many gangs of ex-soldiers and marginal elements bent upon forcing the Reichswehr the then name of the German Army into a reactionary coup against Weimar.
This they failed to do. This had some impact upon the local military leaders, but failed to move the General Staff. In fact, that avenue had been decisively closed in March At that time, an obscure civil servant called Kapp, backed by a section of the Freikorps bands of reactionary soldiers, officers and students formed by the Social Democrat government after November to lead the crushing of Workers and Soldiers Councils set up in the period of revolutionary upsurge at the end of the war , had attempted a coup.
Although they occupied Berlin and drove the Social Democratic government out of the capital, they were so openly reactionary that they forced even the German Trade Unions to call a general strike.
From that point on it was clear to the General Staff, and to any other officer not completely mad with reaction, that no purely military reaction was possible. Weimar Germany could only be ruled by means of collaboration with the trade union bureaucracy. The ending of Weimar was possible only if there was a social force of sufficient size and power to terrify the unions into submission.
Hence, when Hitler tried his hand in Munich in , the result was a fiasco. The NSDAP was hardly a party during the time Hitler spent in prison between and and even after his early release it was at best one small and reactionary political party. It is therefore clear that fascist movements do not simply emerge as elemental forces in the class struggle, but have a history and a development. Before they can be a serious factor in society they have to be of a sufficient size and power to be able to perform their chosen role. A closer examination of the gestation period will be particularly important in the next article, which will examine the National Front.
At the Third Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, in June , a position, introduced by Clara Zetkin, was adopted which does not differ radically from that of Trotsky. This is not the case. Consider the following quotation:. There is one common feature in the development, or more correctly the degeneration of modern trade union organisations in the entire world: it is their drawing closely to and growing together with the state power The capitalist cliques at the head of mighty trusts, syndicates, banking consortiums, etcetera, view economic life from the very same heights as does state power; and they require at every step the collaboration of the latter.
In their turn the trade unions in the most important branches of industry find themselves deprived of the possibility of profiting by the competition between the different enterprises. They have to confront a centralised capitalist adversary, intimately bound up with state power. Hence flows the need of the trade unions — insofar as they remain on reformist positions This is not taken from a Communist International publication but from Trotsky, although it admittedly dates from some time after the end of the Third Period policy.
It represents the same analysis of the trade union question as formed the starting point for ultra-leftism of the Third Period. Already the sixth congress of the Comintern and the fourth congress of the RILU have recorded the fusion of the reformist trade union apparatus with the bourgeois state and with the large monopoly capitalist enterprises. During the last year, in connection with the unfolding of the class conflicts, this process has gone still deeper. Just as social-democracy is evolving through social-imperialism to social-fascism, joining the ranks of the vanguard of the contemporary capitalist State in the suppression of the rising revolutionary movement of the working class At no time did Trotsky reject the notion that the role of social democracy was counter-revolutionary.
Indeed he recognised that many social democratic leaders would prefer the triumph of fascism to the victory of proletarian revolution:. There can be no doubt that, at the crucial moment, the leaders of the Social Democracy will prefer the triumph of fascism to the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.
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His disagreement lay in the fact that he recognised that fascism threatened the social democratic organisations with destruction as much as it did the communist ones. From that, it followed that the social democratic leaders could not play a fascist role so long as they remained dependent upon the existence of mass working class organisations for their social position. It was precisely because of this contradiction between the politics of the leaders of social democracy and the objective threat to the masses upon whom they depended that Trotsky argued that a genuine united front policy was a possibility:.
The thousands upon thousands of Noskes, Welses, and Hilferdings prefer, in the last analysis , fascism to Communism. But for that they must once and for all tear themselves loose from the workers. Today this is not yet the case. Today the Social Democracy as a whole, with all its internal antagonisms is forced into sharp conflict with the fascists.
It is our task to take advantage of this conflict and not to unite the antagonists against us. The front must now be directed against fascism.
Fascist Economic Policy and the N. R. A.
And this common front of direct struggle against fascism, embracing the entire proletariat, must be utilised in the struggle against the Social Democracy, directed as a flank attack, but no-less effective for all that. Thus, for Trotsky, the imperative need for a united front against the NSDAP did not mean that the struggle against social democracy was to be abandoned or relegated to a minor place. Indeed, the united front was one of the ways in which the best elements in the Social Democracy could be won in struggle to the positions of the Communists.
But at the same time it is our duty in the interests of the proletariat and its cause, to criticise those persons, organisations and parties that hinder unity of action by the workers. There remains one further point upon which Trotsky has been widely misinterpreted. We have seen above how, in the case of Italy, Trotsky argued that fascism in Italy developed following the failure of a mass upsurge of the proletariat.
This was the view held by the Communist International, and Trotsky specifically attacked it. But at present, the problem in Germany does not arise at the conclusion of a revolutionary crisis, but just as its approach But it appears sufficiently early — at the dawn — in relation to the new revolutionary crisis. The fact that it gained the possibility of taking up such a powerful starting position on the eve of a revolutionary period and not at its conclusion, is not the weak side of fascism but the weak side of Communism.
This made fascism that much greater a danger. The case of Italy is the most favourable.
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It is true that in September the metalworkers suffered a major setback, although their month-long occupation of the factories was not smashed by the forces of reaction. Tasca describes the situation as follows:. But the so-called victors were demoralised.
After super-human efforts they had tasted the joys of free production, only to find themselves no better off than they were before, and worse still, with no prospect of improving their lot. But Italian fascism did not build its mass base by means of a frontal assault on the metal workers of Turin.
These had not experienced a direct defeat, and at least in the well-documented case of Ferrara, had won their disputes in What this seems to suggest is that, in the middle of a very intense social and economic crisis, the failure of the Italian proletariat to present itself as the leading class in the nation opened the road for, other groups. The working class was not so much defeated as demoralised and fragmented and was thus not able to prevent the mass influx of the petit bourgeoisie into the ranks of the fascists.