Hitler accepts the ovation of the Reichstag, Berlin 1938

Is Fascism on the Rise?

The chaos of American capitalism—from the 2024 election farce to brutal attacks by Zionist thugs and police on Palestine solidarity encampments—has many wondering whether fascism is on the rise. In this Q&A from issue 2 of The Communist, Arman Ebrahimi tackles this and other frequently asked questions about fascism. 

What is fascism and is it on the horizon?

Fascism is a mass reactionary movement, funded by the capitalists, used as a battering ram to smash the working class into subservience. Fascist parties lean on the enraged petty bourgeoisie and create armed militias to crush unions, workers’ parties, and the most oppressed and combative sections of society. Under fascism, all democratic rights, including the right to free speech or to be part of a union, are completely abolished. As Trotsky put it, “Fascism is a chemically pure distillation of the culture of imperialism.” 

Historically, full-on fascism has come to power only in Italy in the 1920s and in Germany and Spain in the 1930s. It is the mass petty-bourgeois basis that distinguishes fascism from military dictatorships more generally. The proletarianization of society over the last century has squeezed out this class of small proprietors, which rules out the rise of a mass fascist movement. 

While world capitalism is descending into barbarism, we can be confident that revolution is our future. All signs point towards a radicalization to the left of millions of people in the US. A solid majority support unions, and this sentiment is only growing. Millions support a higher minimum wage and universal healthcare. Polls indicate a deep hatred of the rich and 28% of Gen Z and 22% of Millennials hold a favorable view of communism.

The largest mass movement in American history, the 2020 George Floyd protests, brought 26 million people onto the streets, at times reaching insurrectionary proportions. This was only a preview for the mass revolutionary movements coming to this country.

Is Trump a fascist?

While Trump is certainly a narcissistic right-wing demagogue, he’s no fascist. He’s a bourgeois businessman and politician out for himself, trying to worm his way back into power any way he can. Although he might wish he could, there is no serious prospect of Trump establishing a personal dictatorship. He would be checked both by a majority of the capitalists—to preserve stability and prevent a revolution—and above all, by tens of millions of workers in defense of their own interests.

Although plenty of crazed small business people support him, he does not stand at the head of a mass fascist party with its own shock troops. Despite the liberal uproar, the January 6 riot was a farce involving a tiny number of people. Even the generals would oppose him taking dictatorial power, as it would shatter illusions in bourgeois democracy and provoke a revolutionary explosion they might not be able to control.

Furthermore, the forces of armed reaction are largely concentrated in rural areas, and are vastly outnumbered by the organized and urban working class. Although they can cause some problems on an individual basis, we need not be afraid of them as a social force.

Donald Trump, West Palm Beach 2023
While Trump is certainly a narcissistic right-wing demagogue, he’s no fascist. He’s a businessman and politician trying to worm his way back into power any way he can. / Image: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Aren’t both parties already fascist?

Both the Democrats and Republicans are complicit in funding genocide, war, and devastation around the world. They are also both responsible for grinding down the living standards of workers in the US over the last 50 years. But they are hardly fascist—they are good old fashioned capitalists and imperialists.

Even if Trumpism were the same as fascism, liberalism has proved its impotence to stop it. In fact, liberalism’s policies are the perfect breeding ground for right-wing populism. Decades of deindustrialization and the massive loss of jobs in the Rust Belt have led millions to hate the Democratic Party with a burning passion. In the absence of a class-struggle alternative, Trump has tapped into this distorted class anger and used it to his own advantage.

The liberals and reformists have been complicit every time genuine fascism has actually taken power. At the end of the day, what unites conservatives, liberals, and fascists is their shared interest in preserving capitalist private property. With Bolshevism as the main threat to their mode of production, the capitalists funded the fascists to smash the communists, first and foremost.

What is the solution?

The best antidote to right-wing populism is preparing for communist revolution. Only the communists offer a program that can improve conditions for the majority and give them something to fight for. By expropriating the billionaires, we can move immediately to a 20-hour workweek while massively increasing wages and provide quality healthcare, housing, and education for all. 

By uniting workers in a struggle for these shared demands, we can bring many with illusions in Trump to the side of revolution. Of course, Trump’s own actions and the general crisis of capitalism will expose his rotten nature. But a mass communist party can accelerate this with clear explanations and a fighting program.

As the crisis of their system deepens, the capitalists and their politicians will try to make the working class pay. We can be confident that the workers won’t take these attacks lying down—and that the communists will be on the front line of these struggles!

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