Trotsky on fascism

16 08 2010

The gigantic growth of National Socialism is an expression of two factors: a deep social crisis, throwing the petty bourgeois masses off balance, and the lack of a revolutionary party that would be regarded by the masses of the people as an acknowledged revolutionary leader. If the communist Party is the party of revolutionary hope, then fascism, as a mass movement, is the party of counter-revolutionary despair. When revolutionary hope embraces the whole proletarian mass, it inevitably pulls behind it on the road of revolution considerable and growing sections of the petty bourgeoisie. Precisely in this sphere the election revealed the opposite picture: counter-revolutionary despair embraced the petty bourgeois mass with such a force that it drew behind it many sections of the proletariat.

-Leon Trotsky, 1932

The average American has a hard time grasping that the rise of fascism only involves the state indirectly. Fascism in and of itself is a movement that begins in the streets, manipulated by the ruling class, but only as an owner can manipulate his bloodthirsty pitbull. Thus, fascism seldom begins with an increase of state power, but with a crisis of state power. There is a point at which the mobs in the street get so caught up in attacking “the enemy” that they unwittingly fall into the hands of a demagogue. That is how fascism happens, not through “health care reform” or the invasion of army troops in the street. The people impose the violence on themselves, and become their own police state.

It is interesting that the rhetorical language of fascism is despair. Despair can take many forms: pining for a simpler time, the “morning in America” moment, a purer racial past, a more homogeneous population. Despair can be more concrete in terms of putting food on the table or a roof over your head. But a major characteristic of fascism is that it has no plan, at least not one it cares to divulge. It only speaks in platitudes, points fingers, and hints at a brighter future to be won by sweat, sacrifice (and blood?). There always seems to be talk of returning to the pristine first principles of the social order, and always, a badgering cry to “throw the bumbs out”.

Any similarity between this and any current political phenomenon, real or imagined, is purely coincidental.