Fascism – What It Is And How To Fight It By Leon Trotsky

“What is fascism? The name originated in Italy. Were all the forms of counter-revolutionary dictatorship fascist or not (That is to say, prior to the advent of fascism in Italy)?

The former dictatorship in Spain of Primo de Rivera, 1923-30, is called a fascist dictatorship by the Comintern. Is this correct or not? We believe that it is incorrect.

The fascist movement in Italy was a spontaneous movement of large masses, with new leaders from the rank and file. It is a plebian movement in origin, directed and financed by big capitalist powers. It issued forth from the petty bourgeoisie, the slum proletariat, and even to a certain extent from the proletarian masses; Mussolini, a former socialist, is a “self-made” man arising from this movement.

Primo de Rivera was an aristocrat. He occupied a high military and bureaucratic post and was chief governor of Catalonia. he accomplished his overthrow with the aid of state and military forces. The dictatorships of Spain and Italy are two totally different forms of dictatorship. It is necessary to distinguish between them. Mussolini had difficulty in reconciling many old military institutions with the fascist militia. This problem did not exist for Primo de Rivera.

The movement in Germany is analogous mostly to the Italian. It is a mass movement, with its leaders employing a great deal of socialist demagogy. This is necessary for the creation of the mass movement.

The genuine basis (for fascism) is the petty bourgeoisie. In italy, it has a very large base – the petty bourgeoisie of the towns and cities, and the peasantry. In Germany, likewise, there is a large base for fascism….It may be said, and this is true to a certain extent, that the new middle class, the functionaries of the state, the private administrators, etc., can constitute such a base. But this is a new question that must be analyzed….In order to be capable of foreseeing anything with regard to fascism, it is necessary to have a definition of that idea.

What is fascism? What are its base, its form, and its characteristics? How will its development take place? It is necessary to proceed in a scientific and Marxian manner.”

Full text here.

As ever, Trotsky is clear, precise and easy to read. So, if you’re a young lefty and have never read actual source Marxism before, leap in! 🙂

I first read this when I was 17 and it made so much clear to me. I was hazy on a lot of theory and a little embarrassed to ask older comrades for explanations.

A lot of people on the left throw the word ‘fascist’ around and thus devalue it of any real meaning or power. As Marxists, we have to point out that a fascist isn’t just some Tory oaf you meet, it’s a precise term for a political movement that hijacks socialist rhetoric for the bosses’ ends.

And it is always, always funded by capitalists.