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Debate

    “Functional Substitutes for Fascism” in the Era of Globalization

    This journal published in 1998 (Vol. XVIII, No. 2) an article by David Pizzo, “The

    Museumization of Fascism: ‘Functional Substitutes for Fascism’ in the Era of

    Globalization,” that debated an important intervention by Achin Vanaik in the

    continuing discussions on Indian “fascism.” Vanaik originally presented his thesis in

    an article entitled “Situating the Threat of Hindu Communalism: Problems with the

    Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XXIX, No. Fascist Paradigm,” which appeared in

    The Furies of 28, 1994, and was subsequently republished as a chapter in his book,

    Indian Communalism, London: Verso, 1997. We are pleased to publish Vanaik’s

    response to Pizzo, followed by some further thoughts on fascism by David Pizzo and

    Vasant Kaiwar.

Reply to Pizzo

Achin Vanaik

    In welcoming David Pizzo’s critique of my views The history of actually existing fascisms in inter-war on fascism I am not simply engaging in a formal cour-Europe has been “raided” at various levels — cul-

    1tesy. For I discern in that critique a motive and pur-tural, political, economic (sometimes with considerable pose that I respect and appreciate and which stands sophistication affording illuminating but partial insights) in striking contrast to the way in which most Indian to justify fascist characterizations in India. The Marxists have dealt with the issue of fascism here. number of Indian Marxist intellectuals who have been The latter have treated the issue of fascism in third troubled by the idea that this might constitute a se-world countries in an utterly unproblematic manner. rious theoretical departure from classical understand-

    ? 2000: Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol. XX Nos. 1&2

116 Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol. XX Nos. 1&2 (2000)

    ings of Marxism can barely be counted on the fingers This is something that I can only endorse and wel-of one hand. come and wish others, especially Indian Marxists,

    would emulate. But then, the starting point for their own Marxist

    theorizations is not the classical tradition represented I have many points of both agreement and disa-by the likes of Trotsky, Bauer, Thalheimer but the un-greement with Pizzo but I will not try to explore all or derstandings of fascism propagated by the Stalinist even most of these. Instead, I will isolate what I be-Comintern from 1924 onwards, with the 1928 thesis lieve to be the most fundamental points of difference plus amendments in the 1935 Congress, constituting so that contrasting perspectives in theorizing fascism, their basic pole of reference. Gramsci has been ap-even among Marxists, can be clearly posed. It is not propriated by Indian sympathizers, supporters and quite accurate to claim as Pizzo does, that I have re-apologists of Stalinism and Maoism for his specific legated the “fascist situation” to the museum of insights into the character of Italian fascism and his history, or that I believe fascism is a phenomenon general insights into the cultural-ideological dimension “that only applies to a narrow set of events in one of fascism but without using him to directly challenge place during one brief period.” Even for classical that Comintern theoretical tradition. Though Trotsky is Marxism, fascism was seen as a recurring possibility, the single most important reference point in the clas-i.e. capable of temporal extension. Both in chapter five sical Marxist tradition for an understanding of fascism, of my book and in the introductory chapter one, I ac-he is effectively ignored (when not excoriated) by knowledge this point and pronounce myself agnostic most such Indian Marxists. Such Marxists, uncon-but skeptical about the possibility of such temporal cerned as they are by the need for reassessing or re-extension. But I am not categorical in ruling out the visiting that classical tradition, when talking about In-possibility of such fascist recurrence in the capitalism dian fascism do not for the most part qualify their of our times precisely because I have great respect for characterization by talking of “neo-fascism” or the power of that classical tradition of Marxism which “semi-fascism” or of “functional substitutes for believed in this recurrent possibility. fascism.” With great confidence and self-assurance Pizzo is certainly correct in stating that my central they talk simply of fascism and the “fascist threat” point of reference in discussing the contemporary re-in India. levance of fascism is that tradition. But also because In refreshing contrast, Pizzo is much more cir-of my respect for the explanatory power of that tradi-cumspect and perfectly willing to emphasize the signi-tion I do categorically rule out any spatial extension of ficance of the differences between such “third world the applicability of the fascist paradigm outside the fascism” and “classical fascism” rooted in the metropolitan heartlands (its advanced and core re-study of metropolitan fascism by using such qualified gions of North America, Europe and Japan) to third nomenclatural forms even as he insists that commo-world dependent capitalist countries. This still does nalities justify their emplacement within a wider, more not mean that I cannot in any circumstances be per-universal and general theory of fascism. Moreover, suaded that I am wrong or that there can be no revi-fully conscious of the need to develop Marxist theori-sion of, or departure from, that tradition’s under-

    zations of fascism to suit our times, Pizzo self-standing of fascism to suit our times. But any effort to consciously tries to do just that. He recognizes that do so should respect and recognize the great there is a theoretical problem and seeks to address it. strengths of that explanatory framework, be explicit in

     Debate on Fascism and “Functional Substitutes for Fascism” 117

    confronting its core theses and persuasive in justifying minant national bourgeois bloc which therefore faces a departure from them. the possibility of revolutionary usurpation by a comba-

    tive working class, which, if it took place, would mark a A universal theory of fascism is what the classical

    world-dramatic shift in the relationship of class forces understanding aimed to provide. But it was adamant

     against capital. widethat this should never be confused with, or interpreted

    to mean, universalizing the possibility of fascism to That is to say, fascism is not just the most extreme any or every capitalist state. It is the Stalinist Comin-form of national political and class reaction but simul-

    tern which in 1928 as part of its “third period” thesis the most extreme form of taneously and inescapably

    made two basic theoretical claims, not held then or international reaction. This distinctive form of the fasc-subsequently by the main legatees of the classical ist dialectic of the international-national is possible Marxist approach to the study of fascism the trio of only because the national terrain over which the poli-Trotsky, Bauer and Thalheimer (along with the contri-tics of fascism is played out is one or more of the im-butions of Gramsci). perialist heartlands itself. In short, imperialist competi-

    tion of a most acute kind is also a feature of the fascist The first and completely new claim was that fasc-

    crisis. This was a crucial feature of historical fascism ism was a general phenomenon common to all capi-

    which gave it such gravity as a world-impacting phe-talist countries; the second, was a heteronomous and

    nomenon. The penumbra of fascism, it may be argued, highly instrumentalist understanding of fascism as the

    should be seen as capable of extending to other de-“open dictatorship” of monopoly capital. The theo-

    veloped capitalist countries which are not serious retical consequences of these two quite unwarranted

    players in the game of imperialist competition. Some claims have carried on to this day.

    may even wish to argue that this penumbra of the Pizzo says, “It is my belief that fascism is a radi-

    fascist threat be seen as capable of extension to de-cal form of ‘emergency surgery’ to save the most

    pendent capitalist countries. But even here some way fundamental structures of global capitalist accumula-

    of registering the qualitative differences between met-tion during periods of acute crisis.” I have no quarrel

    ropolitan fascisms and “peripheral fascisms” would with such a view. And yet the direction Pizzo subse-

    have to be made. quently takes from here is not mine. To put it another

    No wonder, in the post-war era those outstanding way, fascism is a last resort attempt to resolve the

    Marxist theorists who saw themselves as belonging to most acute crisis of capitalism as a world system, not

    traditions which were the legatees of classical Marxist of capitalism in one country! This is a crisis so acute

    theorizing of fascism at its best, insisted that fascism that the fundamental structures of world capitalism are

    2proper was a feature of imperialist countries only. gravely threatened. There can only be so acute a cri-

    Using notions of semi-fascism, neo-fascism, peripher-sis of world capitalism (given its combined and uneven

    al-fascism to describe brutal authoritarian-nationalist character) if there is such a crisis in one or more of its

    states in the third world should not become an attempt core metropolitan regions. The basic methodological

    to imply the existence of some “process” of point of departure for any assessment of an epoch or

    “creeping fascism” from the geographical periphery era or situation of fascist crisis must itself be the inter-

    to the center, or even as a symptom of the shape of national arena. But the political expression of that cri-

    things to come in this era of the Long Downturn (post-sis is revealed at the level of the nation-state in the

    1973) or what Eric Hobsbawm calls the Third Age of deep dilemma of a frightening fragmentation of a do-

118 Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol. XX Nos. 1&2 (2000)

    3the “Landslide.” That this period of the Long and coherence of the dominant class bloc was impe-Downturn provides the objective foundation for the riled as never before because of its acute fragmenta-emergence of a new politics of barbarism-reaction tion and danger of decomposition in an ongoing class worldwide is an unobjectionable inference. That such struggle with a powerful and organized working class. forms of barbarism as may emerge bear significant The counterrevolution begins before the seizure of resemblances to the barbarisms of the past, namely state power and is completed after it. Crucial to the fascism, is also unobjectionable. I have made both mass movement process is the nature of fascism as a

    these points in my introductory chapter. But the me-of the petty bourgeoisie. When Barrington Moore cites

     starting point for even understanding the pre-war Japan as an example of Asian fascism or thodological

    validity and strength of the fascist threat today has to when Pizzo cites Indonesia (1965) and Chile (1973) be the investigation of the metropolis not the periphery. as candidates for the status of third world fascisms,

    this is effectively an endorsement of the possibility of I will come back to this point again, but let me take

    “fascism from above.” up now the second claim of the Stalinist Comintern

    the effective denial of the very considerable autonomy However, historical fascism was always a counter-of fascist state power from class power. Now there is revolution from below. It is not enough to cite middle-nothing in Pizzo’s critique that suggests any sympa-class support for the Chilean coup (or even the truck-thy with this Comintern approach. But nor is there ers’ strike) or for the Indonesian military coup. There

    anything which suggests that he is explicitly rejecting has to be a petty bourgeois mass movement and an

    such a heteronomous claim. That is to say, nowhere open, mobilizational politics of some duration (which

    does Pizzo face up directly to another central proposi-at least characterized what was happening in India tion of the classical Marxist understanding of fascism, from the late 1980s to the early 1990s and remains a even if it is for the purpose of rejecting its validity for repeatable feature of the contemporary political scene) the building of a more contemporary theory of univer-in which the key vehicle for that mobilization the

    sal fascism. The emergence of fascist rule fascist party grows. In the fascism from above represented the political expropriation of the bour-perspective, one can dispense with the necessity of geoisie and therefore, the most autonomous form that there being a fascist party or movement or both. The the capitalist state can take. This is the extreme end military, with or without a suborned party, can appar-of the spectrum represented by the Marxist commit-ently do the job.

    ment to the theory that in capitalism the state has only I will not totally dismiss such revisionist attempts to “relative autonomy” from class rule. It is precisely construct a new theory of fascism. But the last-ditch this understanding that inspired Trotsky, Bauer, Thal-character of fascism because of this fact of “political heimer (even Gramsci “Caesarism”) to try and expropriation” applies not just to any or every na-

    understand and explain this autonomy better through tional bourgeois bloc but only to the bourgeois bloc of their respective attempts to develop Marx’s views on dominant classes in dominant, i.e., imperialist coun-Bonapartism into a fuller theory of the fascist state. tries, not to dominated classes or dominated class What a contrast this was to the thinking of the Comin-blocs in dominated, i.e., third world dependent coun-tern! tries. The meaning of fascism as the emergence of a The fascist option had to be endorsed, indeed it world crisis requires nothing less. Pizzo agrees with became incumbent to do so because the political unity me that even the necessity for third world fascist reso-

     Debate on Fascism and “Functional Substitutes for Fascism” 119

    lutions resides ultimately in what first world bourgeoi-casual comparison between the phenomena of impe-sies, not third world ones, believe is in their interests. rialism/capitalism and fascism it is easy to forget that The latter, after all, are dependent bourgeoisies lo-there is a crucial distinction. Imperialism and capital-cated in dependent class blocs where the “hege-continuous processes while fascism is not! ism are

    monic” component is “externally” powered. Fascism is not because acute capitalist/imperialist

    crisis is not a continuous process but an occasional or But unlike me, Pizzo believes the fascist option is

    periodic or recurring feature. That is why it is legiti-not simply the last-ditch resort of a terribly belea-

    mate to talk of the possible “evolution” of capital-guered national-metropolitan bourgeois bloc whose

    ism/imperialism, of its changing or new “phase(s)” deep predicament comes from a direct class confron-

    or “stage(s).” tation with its workforce threatening its survival and

    hegemony. It can also come from the much milder Of course, during the inter-war period, all Marxists challenge simply to its imperialist interests in the third subscribed to the view that the imperialism of their world. Corresponding to this much more diluted con-period was the “highest stage,” i.e. in some sense ception of challenge comes a much more diluted con-the peak or last stage in the history of capitalism’s ception of the “fascist option” as a kind of “foreign productive dynamism. Fascism was the expression of policy option” which can be “consciously ex-a capitalism forced to try and resolve its acute crisis in ported… to the third world.” this moribund stage and if successful through fascist

    victories then able to buy time and a new lease of life How much dilution a theory can suffer in the

    for itself before the contradictions of the longer-process of revision and yet remain sufficiently true to

    enduring epoch of its moribund stage of existence the essentials of that theory so as to constitute a de-

    brought matters to a revolutionary or near-velopment and advance and not an “un-Marxist”

    revolutionary head once again. Hence the recurring departure is a serious question. What are the “es-

    temptation of fascism. The problem that has faced sentials” of a Marxist understanding of fascism which

    post-war Marxists is that they have had to retain this have to be preserved? If indeed, classical Marxist un-

    conclusion about fascism’s recurring possibilities derstandings and the actual experiences of the Euro-

    under very different assumptions, not shared with in-pean fascisms of the inter-war period is both our me-

    ter-war Marxists in their times, about the character of thodological and historical-empirical foundation then

    capitalism/imperialism. what degree of “Marxist departure” can be ac-

    cepted? The difficulty in answering this definitively The point I am trying to make here, is that one suggests that there is not going to be any definitive cannot talk of new phases or stages or of the “evolu-

    theoretical resolution of the differences that exist be-tion” of fascism in the way that one can for capital-

    tween Pizzo and myself. But before leaving it at that ism or imperialism. In the dialectic of continuity and let me take up some other points. change that can be claimed to characterize all three

    phenomena, the dimension of change that can be al-At one point in his article, Pizzo argues (by way of

    lowed for in developing a more adequate and con-making analogous references) for incorporating great-

    temporary theory of capitalism and imperialism will be er flexibility. He says, if capitalism, colonialism and

    greater than that which can be allowed for in a theory imperialism have changed over time, why not fascism?

    of fascism, precisely because of the more continuous But again, the crucial question is how much allowance

    and therefore “evolving” character of the first two. for variation in fascism is to be made? Indeed, in this

120 Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol. XX Nos. 1&2 (2000)

    This point can perhaps again be highlighted by noting these contemplations of mine are also by way of ma-the difference between colonialism and neo-nipulating analogies and I do not want to claim more colonialism, itself corresponding to the evolution or for them other than their ability to provide suggestive change in capitalism/imperialism. illuminations, not clinching arguments. Post-war imperialism is not the era of colonialism Perhaps I can sum up my central claim in this way.

    The world arena and therefore the metropolitan heart-but of neo-colonialism. The shift in nomenclature is

    crucial because for all the continuities between the lands must be the methodological starting point for two, the change (political independence) is of such any investigation of the nature of the economic, and great import that one has to alter the term of descrip-its corresponding socio-political, crisis of the contem-tion. It cannot be claimed that neo-colonialism is a porary capitalist system. Robert Brenner in a recent concept that can be subsumed under a wider theory text, “The Economics of Global Turbulence” has of colonialism. Both colonialism and neo-colonialism sought to provide nothing less than a new, overarch-

    4have to be subsumed under a newer, historically ing theory of contemporary capitalism/imperialism.

    broader and more developed theory of imperialism. For all its remarkable strengths this text has also been Moreover, imperialism-colonialism or imperialism-neo-severely criticized for its “unMarxist” identification colonialism are not connected as in some dialectical of the “horizontal” competition between capitals relationship where the explanation of the sources of rather than the “vertical” conflict between capital

    one is inseparable from the explanation of the sources and labor as the central systemic contradiction. [One of the other. It is the first term “imperialism” that can easily infer the negative effects that accepting provides the explanatory key to the relationship and Brenner’s framework would have on the claim that the second term in the duality is essentially derivative the fascist paradigm retains as crucial a relevance from the first. today as in the past]. Of course, one does not have to

    accept Brenner’s framework. But there is one The admittedly analogical comparison that Pizzo is

    enormous and incontestable methodological virtue in making between the changing character (and theories)

    his attempt to forge a new and better understanding of of colonialism-neo-colonialism and fascism-neo-

    world capitalism his insistence on locating his core fascism would be more precise if he did not insist that

    analyses in the USA, Germany and Japan and their theories of post-war “neo-fascism” in the third world

    respective radial zones. are to be subsumed under a wider theory of fascism.

    Rather, the second (neo-fascism) should be con-This is as it has to be. The corollary to such an trasted with the first (fascism) in acknowledgement of economic analysis would have to be the socio-political how basic changes on the ground (a new phase) in analysis of the national-bourgeois blocs correspond-capitalism/imperialism have created the necessity for ing to this economic architectural layout. The key

    questions then would be whether there is (are) intert-change in terminological description regarding colo-

    nialism-neo-colonialism. And just as in the imperial-wining socio-economic-political crisis(es)? When

    might it (they) emerge? What forms would it (they) ism-neo-colonialism duality, the second derives from

    the first, might not the relationship between metropoli-take? And so on.

    tan fascism-peripheral fascism be similarly linked ra-In the introductory chapter of my book I stress that ther than the latter presumed to be capable of sepa-in this period of the Long Downturn there has to be a rate and independent existence from the former? But politics of international as well as national reaction. A

     Debate on Fascism and “Functional Substitutes for Fascism” 121

contemporary theory of fascism can claim to be pre-this paramount aim. So important is this state oc-

    cisely this an explanation of the politics (its sources, cupation as the culmination of fascist efforts and the effects, possibilities and prospects) of international state as its chief “transformative” instrument that

    reaction. This, in effect, is what Pizzo aims to do and once fascist forces achieve state power they will not feels justified in calling this an effort to construct a relinquish it before completing their project. more universal theory of fascism in which the classical In the Sangh, because the RSS is considered at Marxist theories of fascism can be subsumed. I have least as important as the state, there has also been a already said enough about my doubts in this regard noticeable (and enduring) tension and uncertainty re-and whether this is the right thing to do. But in con-garding: (a) RSS attitudes towards the state and the structing such a wider theory of international reaction “corrupting” ideological impact on the RSS of in-

    in the form of a universal theory of fascism the dialec-volvement in conventional political activity; (b) a clear tic of the international-national has to be both main-determination that the political party vehicle, whether tained and respected. To do this, it is an inversion of Jan Sangh or the BJP, be subordinate to the greater priorities, almost a waste of time, to look at what is authority of the RSS; (c) a longer term and more flexi-happening in the third world. You have to look first ble attitude to the question of state power (“we can and foremost at Europe, Japan, North America. It is wait and try again even if we lose elections”); (d) a from the concrete analyses of the concrete situations sustained effort to use state resources to strengthen there that the crucial building blocks for constructing a the various organizations of the Sangh Combine, most more universal and contemporary theory of fascism (if importantly the RSS. (Of course, the RSS should infil-it is possible) will emerge. trate the state apparatuses but never be subsumed or But precisely because the third world is where the subordinated by it, even by “their own” state); (e) more radical forms of rightwing political authoritarian-activity in the terrain of civil society is not the mere nationalisms are to be sighted, their experiences have preparation for ascension to state power but the cru-been given a theoretical and methodological weight in cial terrain itself, indeed more important than the state. the effort to understand the political trajectory of world In my chapter on fascism, I sought to drive home capitalism today that they can never deserve. certain crucial distinctions between the danger of fasc-Finally, regarding India and “Indian fascism” I ism and the danger represented by the Sangh. I want wish to make only one point. The central instrumental-to end by re-quoting that stress. The danger ity of fascism is the state. The central instrumentalities represented by the RSS-led Sangh is, in fact, “more of the so-called fascist forces of India the Sangh deep-rooted than fascism, more enduring and more Combine is not just or primarily the state, important difficult to completely or comprehensively destroy.” though it is, and determined though the Sangh is to Thus the “ultimate decay or defeat of the Hindu state

    would not have the same decisively damaging effect capture and suborn it. It is also the RSS itself. It is the

    RSS that is meant to be the skeletal structure on on Hindu communalism as the ultimate decay or de-

    feat of the fascist state has on the forces of fascism.” which the anatomy of the “new India” is to be con-

    structed. Since for fascism the central instrument is Notes

    the state, everything has to be invested in its seizure 1 David Pizzo, “The Museumization of Fascism: ‘Functional

    Substitutes for Fascism’ in the Era of Globalization,” Compara-and use. The very purpose of fascist activity in civil

    XVIII,2, tive Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, society the fascist movement is to help achieve

122 Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol. XX Nos. 1&2 (2000)

    (1998) pp.96-107. cide with an upset in the economy, would fascism, in 2 If it is not already clear from my book then let me make it explicitly turn, have some chance of success.

    so: I see the Trotskyist theoretical tradition as embodied in its out-1 Ernest Mandel, 1969standing post-war thinkers such as Isaac Deutscher and Ernest Mandel as providing the best point of reference in the post-war

    I want to begin my answer to “Reply to Pizzo” period for trying to understand the politics of our times. Mandel has

    also provided a more concentrated, systematic and concise presen-by thanking Achin Vanaik again for taking seriously tation of Trotsky’s basic propositions regarding fascism — an this ongoing dialogue on the issues of fascism and invaluable contribution. I also fully share Perry Anderson’s typical-“globalization.” While it is clear that we differ on ly perspicacious judgment: “Trotsky’s writings on fascism

    many issues, our exchange has been enormously represent the only direct and developed analysis of a modern capi-

    talist state in the whole of classical Marxism.” See, P. Anderson, fruitful for me in thinking about a problem that has far Considerations on Western Marxism, London: Verso, 1984, p.119. more significance than mere academic banter. Far too 3 Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes, London: Michael Joseph, often, I feel that the debates about “globalization” 1994.

    both in the media and in the academy itself have been 4 Robert Brenner, “The Economics of Global Turbulence,” New

     229, May-June 1998. Left Review,completely de-historicized and, indeed, almost entirely

     divorced form the realities of “The New Barbarism”

    2that has come to characterize our world. Drawing on

    his own work and on the most useful elements of

    Trotsky’s Marxian theories of fascism, Vanaik has

    presented us with conceptual models and points of A Continuing Discussion

    departure that avoid both of these intellectual pitfalls.

    I feel I have a vast amount of intellectual terrain

    that I must cover in response to Vanaik’s detailed on Fascism, Globaliza-

    comments, so I will therefore apologize in advance for

    keeping my points and the amount of empirical sup-

    port I provide very brief. But as I said, I view this as an tion, and the “Third ongoing conversation that would profit enormously

    from the input of other scholars, and as such my

    claims are merely intended to stimulate further discus-World” sion among those willing to approach a topical issue

    that itself has been relegated to the “museum of his-

    tory.” 3In my “The Museumization of Fascism” I at-

    tempted to highlight and explicate what I view as a David Pizzo “functional substitute for fascism” in the post-1945

    era. I contend that the “recurring temptation of fasc-

    ism” noted by Trotsky and Mandel must not only be

    examined in relation to events in the so-called Third And the May 1968 events in France were only a prelude.

    World after de-colonization, but that this “recurrent Only if this wave should recede into failure, and if the

    disappointment of the younger generation should coin-fascism” must also be situated and understood in

     Debate on Fascism and “Functional Substitutes for Fascism” 123

    6terms of the very real qualitative and quantitative spective regimes.

    changes that have occurred in the global economic, While I agree with Vanaik that while it is difficult to social, and political order since that time. It is certainly situate “Third World fascism” (if there is such a true that the “fascist situation” of the inter-war pe-thing) and classical fascism within the same paradigm, riod was characterized by structural and conjunctural enough features of the latter were incorporated in the features dramatically different from the situation faced former, often by design, to demand the conceptualiza-both locally and globally by post-war authoritarian tion of some sort of “functional substitute for fasc-

    movements and regimes and their professed targets. ism” applicable globally. What one wishes to call this,

    Fascist movements of the 1920s and 1930s must be be it “neo-fascism” or something similar, is less viewed spatially, structurally, and conceptually as important than recognizing that some of the most cru-products of their time and place. I would, however, cial tenets of Trotsky’s and Vanaik’s fascism have argue that certain crucial features of the European indeed been retained and are observable in the fascist constellation remain viable and discernable in “semicolonial countries,” particularly once one contexts other than inter-war Europe. The perceived notes the dramatic changes that have occurred since need to liquidate organized opposition to the state and Trotsky (and Mandel) created their intellectual frame-capital (at the time it was labor and the “red me-works. Vanaik is correct in claiming that I did not ex-nace”) violently and completely during a time of pro-plicitly confront Trotsky’s understanding of fascism, found structural crisis has indeed arisen in other con-and I believe that I must briefly explain how I interpret

    4texts, including in the “semicolonial countries.” the model with which he and his later advocates have Regimes such as Chile under Pinochet and Indonesia provided us. I believe that many of elements of his under Suharto deployed massive amounts of repres-theory are as viable and insightful now as they were in sive police and military force against all visible ma-the 1930s; other aspects need drastic revision due nifestations of the “communist threat,” practically less to hindsight than to the profoundly different global annihilating organized labor and other grassroots or-context in which all of us must operate. ganizations within their borders. These civil wars and What is clear is that Trotsky himself ruled out the radical “emergency surgery” that ended them “normal” military dictatorships as fascist formations. were the result of deep contradictions and tensions in It is worth quoting at length the contrast he drew be-the global economy and more particularly inside the tween the two:

    countries in question. Such internal “counterrevolu-We must not identify war dictatorshipthe dictatorship

    5of the military machine, of the staff, of finance capitaltions from above” not only made use of the methods

    with a fascist dictatorship. For the latter, there is first of the European fascist regimes and at times explicitly

    necessary a feeling of desperation of large masses of acknowledged their affinity and debt to them, they al-

    people. When the revolutionary parties betray them, so aimed to save the crucial sinews and structures of

    when the vanguard of the workers shows its incapacity accumulation in an even more naked way than their to lead the people to victorythen the farmers, the fascist predecessors. Furthermore, this radical surgery small business men, the unemployed, the soldiers, etc., to save elite structures of political and economic pow-become capable of supporting a fascist movement, but er enjoyed even more material and ideological support only then.

    from the “Western Democracies” than Fascist Italy He went on further to state that “A military dictator-

    and Nazi Germany had in the early years of their re-ship is a purely bureaucratic institution, reinforced by

124 Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol. XX Nos. 1&2 (2000)

    the military machine and based upon the disorienta-The key to understanding fascism for Mandel and tion of the people and their submission to it. After Trotsky was a) the development of the “fascist situa-

    some time their feelings can change and they can be-tion,” which resulted from major social and economic

    7come rebellious against the dictatorship.” In this upheaval, itself the result of long-term structural prob-formulation, one crucial difference of course is the lems, and b) the ability of the fascist state to carry out nature of the mass movement that helps bring the a sweeping program of eradication in order to resolve, fascist party to power. But the second crucial distinc-at least temporarily, the crisis. The form of this pro-tion is that military dictatorships as they existed in gram matters less than the function and the end result Trotsky’s time were unable to achieve the complete (complete destruction).

    destruction, or at least the submission of the fascist Mandel and Trotsky claimed that the “strong state’s selected targets. The form of the dictatorship states” of Europe and the “semicolonial world” matters less than the function. Elsewhere he spelled must be distinguished from the fascist states in that this out explicitly: they do not have the technological or organizational

    When a state turns fascist, it does not mean only that means to carry out such program:

    the forms and methods of government are changed in Neither a military dictatorship nor a pure police state

    accordance with the pattern set by Mussolinithe not to speak of an absolute monarchyhas sufficient

    changes in this sphere ultimately play a minor rolebut capabilities to atomize and demoralize for very long a

    it means first of all for the most part that the workers or-conscious social class with millions of members and

    ganizations are annihilated; that the proletariat is re-thereby to prevent the reappearance of even the ele-

    duced to an amorphous state; and that a system of ad-mentary class struggles that are periodically produced

    ministration is created which penetrates deeply into the by the simple play of market laws. To accomplish these

    masses and which serves to frustrate the independent ends, the big bourgeoisie needs a movement that can

    crystallization of the proletariat. Therein is the gist of set the masses in motion on its side, that can wear

    8fascism… down and demoralize the more conscious parts of the The central element that distinguishes fascism proletariat by systemic mass terror and street warfare,

    and that, after the seizure of power, can totally destroy from “mere dictatorships” is its ability almost totally

    the proletarian mass organizations and thereby leave to exterminate all opposition and thereby save the

    the conscious elements not only atomized not also de-crucial elements of the socio-economic system (even 10moralized and resigned. if doing this requires the fascist state to appropriate or

    The fact of the matter is that the amount of force even destroy many elements of the system itself). This

    and surveillance deployable by “strong states” has line of reasoning was echoed by Mandel:

    grown exponentially since the 1930s, or even since Fascism is not simply a new stage in the process by

    Mandel was writing in the 1970s. The sophistication which the executive of the bourgeois state becomes

    and destructive capacity of new technology, metho-stronger and more independent. It is not simply “the

    dology, and mechanisms of social control and “coun-open dictatorship of capital.” It is a special form of the

    “strong executive” and of the “open dictatorship,” ter-insurgency” have reached unprecedented

    which is characterized by the complete destruction of all heights not only in the First World. By way of “mili-

    workers organizationseven the most moderate tary aid” and other transfers they have become deci-

    ones… it is the attempt to violently prevent any from of sive tools in the repertoires of “semicolonial” states organized workers’ self-defense, by completely ato-attempting to achieve the same “successes” rec-9mizing the workers.

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