Tag Archives: workers militia

Leon Trotsky: The Workers’ Militia And Its Opponents (1934)

As we’ve been going through the always inspiring and illuminating writings of Bolshevik revolutionary and founder of the Red Army Leon Trotsky searching for works that can illustrate the need for multiracial union-based workers defense squads to beat back the rising tide of fascism in the US, we have been learning and re-learning so much that it is amazing.  So many of the 1930s-era arguments against the creation of a workers militia to smash fascism are being repeated almost word-for-word every day on Twitter!  We know that in the USA, thanks to advertising and television and its inducement of short-attention-spans in way too many workers here, the idea that something written about political events of 70 years ago could remain relevant in 2017 seems absurd.  You want “NEW!” and “IMPROVED!” political science, right?  But just as the works of Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein are still considered to be among the finest examples of scientific writing on their subjects to date, so it goes with political science.  And as it is absolutely necessary for a doctor or a physicist to study the history of developments in her field of expertise in order to more fully understand the modern approaches and discoveries, in political science we can obtain a wealth of vitally important information from the writings of the top revolutionaries of the past two centuries and apply that information directly to today’s political challenges.  It may come as a surprise, but the fundamental class structure of a capitalist state hasn’t changed much in the past 175 years or so: we still have the working class majority, a smaller petit-bourgeoisie (middle class small business owners) and a relatively tiny capitalist class to whom the majority of the national wealth is funneled year after year.  The actors change but the roles do not; petit-bourgeois politicians and businesspeople have the same complaints and roles in 2017 as they had in 1917 – with relatively minor differences in scenery and plot.  It’s like seeing a modern production of a Mozart opera, in which the clothing of the 1700s is replaced by hip-hop fashion: it looks very different but the music and lyrics remain the same.  And we are sure that our very perceptive readers will find themselves surprised to hear Trotsky, writing in 1934 (in this case) making incisive comments which, if the names of the old politicians were replaced with current US politicians, you would imagine the article was written last week.

In political science, the famous warning that “those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it” carries full force.  We assure those of you who laugh at us for using the events of 1934 as a warning in 2017 that you ignore these works at your peril.  The options for modern politicians – working class, petit-bourgeois and bourgeois – have NOT changed in the past century.  If the working class does not overthrow capitalism in 2017, and the fascists are allowed to grow, the result will be largely the same as what occurred in Germany in 1933.  The USA has a whole slew of would-be Hitlers jockeying to reprise his role in the 2017 production of “The Collapse of Bourgeois Democracy”.  The working class has its own contingent of feckless, class-collaborationist fake-socialists and pro-capitalist trade union “leaders” eager to show what they can bring to the roles of Scheidemann and Noske.  Today’s anarchists have their Bakunins, Berkmans, Makhnos and Goldmans; and the revolutionary socialists have their own up-and-coming Stalins, Kollontais, Lenins, Maos, Guevaras, and Trotskys.  All of these actors will be vying for the hearts and minds of the masses of workers, without whom there will be no play. 

“History repeats itself: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” We do not intend to fall into the same traps that our ancestors fell into; more than that – we do not intend to lead YOU into those same traps YOUR ancestors fell into!   So that we do not do so, we must study the development of the various class forces in the past who were faced with essentially the same collapse of bourgeois democracy and essentially the same rise of fascism we are facing today around the capitalist world.  In Germany in the late 1920s and early 1930s the Communist Party refused to make a united front with the Social Democrats and form armed workers brigades capable of smashing Hitler’s gangs, paving the way for the rise of Nazi Germany.  Fascism then rose in France as well, paving the political road to the wartime Nazi-collaborationist Vichy government.  Why did bourgeois democracy fail throughout Europe in the 1930s?  Was the rise of fascism inevitable?  Is it inevitable now?  By studying the historical record of the workers movement as it struggled to overcome the obstacles hurled into its path during the interwar period of 1918 -1939 we can answer these questions. These tragic errors of the 20th century need not – and must not be – repeated in the 21st century.

— IWPCHI

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THE WORKERS’ MILITIA AND ITS OPPONENTS

From Whither France?, 1934

To struggle, it is necessary to conserve and strengthen the instrument and the means of struggle — organizations, the press, meetings, etc.  Fascism [in France] threatens all of that directly and immediately.  It is still too weak for the direct struggle for power, but it is strong enough to attempt to beat down the working-class organizations bit by bit, to temper its bands in its attacks, and to spread dismay and lack of confidence in their forces in the ranks of the workers.

Fascism finds unconscious helpers in all those who say that the “physical struggle” is impermissible or hopeless, and demand of Doumergue the disarmament of his fascist guard.  Nothing is so dangerous for the proletariat, especially in the present situation, as the sugared poison of false hopes.  Nothing increases the insolence of the fascists so much as “flabby pacificism” on the part of the workers’ organizations.  Nothing so destroys the confidence of the middle classes in the working-class as temporizing, passivity, and the absence of the will to struggle.

Le Populaire [the Socialist Party paper] and especially l’Humanite [the Communist Party newspaper] write every day:

“The united front is a barrier against fascism”;
“the united front will not permit…”;
“the fascists will not dare”, etc.

These are phrases.  It is necessary to say squarely to the workers, Socialists, and Communists: do not allow yourselves to be lulled by the phrases of superficial and irresponsible journalists and orators.  It is a question of our heads and the future of socialism.  It is not that we deny the importance of the united front.  We demanded it when the leaders of both parties were against it.  The united front opens up numerous possibilities, but nothing more.  In itself, the united front decides nothing.  Only the struggle of the masses decides.  The united front will reveal its value when Communist detachments will come to the help of Socialist detachments and vice versa in the case of an attack by the fascist bands against Le Populaire or l’Humanite.  But for that, proletarian combat detachments must exist and be educated, trained, and armed.  And if there is not an organization of defense, i.e., a workers’ militia, Le Populaire or l’Humanite will be able to write as many articles as they like on the omnipotence of the united front, but the two papers will find themselves defenseless before the first well-prepared attack of the fascists.

We propose to make a critical study of the “arguments” and the “theories” of the opponents of the workers’ militia who are very numerous and influential in the two working-class parties.

“We need mass self-defense and not the militia,” we are often told.

But what is this “mass self-defense” without combat organizations, without specialized cadres, without arms?  To give over the defense against fascism to unorganized and unprepared masses left to themselves would be to play a role incomparably lower than the role of Pontius Pilate.  To deny the role of the militia is to deny the role of the vanguard.  Then why a party?  Without the support of the masses, the militia is nothing.  But without organized combat detachments, the most heroic masses will be smashed bit by bit by the fascist gangs.  It is nonsense to counterpose the militia to self-defense. The militia is an organ of self-defense.

“To call for the organization of a militia,” say some opponents who, to be sure, are the least serious and honest, “is to engage in provocation.”

This is not an argument but an insult.  If the necessity for the defense of the workers’ organizations flows from the whole situation, how then can one not call for the creation of the militia?  Perhaps they mean to say that the creation of a militia “provokes” fascist attacks and government repression.  In that case, this is an absolutely reactionary argument.  Liberalism has always said to the workers that by their class struggle they “provoke” the reaction.

The reformists repeated this accusation against the Marxists, the Mensheviks against the Bolsheviks.  These accusations reduced themselves, in the final analysis, to the profound thought that if the oppressed do not balk, the oppressors will not be obliged to beat them.  This is the philosophy of Tolstoy and Gandhi but never that of Marx and Lenin.  If l’Humanite wants hereafter to develop the doctrine of “non-resistance to evil by violence”, it should take for its symbol not the hammer and sickle, emblem of the October Revolution, but the pious goat, which provides Gandhi with his milk.

“But the arming of the workers is only opportune in a revolutionary situation, which does not yet exist.”

This profound argument means that the workers must permit themselves to be slaughtered until the situation becomes revolutionary.  Those who yesterday preached the “third period” do not want to see what is going on before their eyes. The question of arms itself has come forward only because the “peaceful”, “normal”, “democratic” situation has given way to a stormy, critical, and unstable situation which can transform itself into a revolutionary, as well as a counter-revolutionary, situation.  This alternative depends above all on whether the advanced workers will allow themselves to be attacked with impunity and defeated bit by bit or will reply to every blow by two of their own, arousing the courage of the oppressed and uniting them around their banner.  A revolutionary situation does not fall from the skies.  It takes form with the active participation of the revolutionary class and its party.

The French Stalinists now argue that the militia did not safeguard the German proletariat from defeat.  Only yesterday they completely denied any defeat in Germany and asserted that the policy of the German Stalinists was correct from beginning to end.  Today, they see the entire evil in the German workers’ militia (Roter Frontkampferbund) [i.e., Red Front Fighters: Communist-led militia banned by the social- democratic government after the Berlin May Day riots of 1929].  Thus, from one error they fall into a diametrically opposite one, no less monstrous. The militia, in itself, does not settle the question.  A correct policy is necessary. Meanwhile,the policy of Stalinism in Germany (“social fascism is the chief enemy”, the split in the trade unions, the flirtation with nationalism, putschism) fatally led to the isolation of the proletarian vanguard and to its shipwreck.  With an utterly worthless strategy, no militia could have saved the situation.

It is nonsense to say that, in itself, the organization of the militia leads to adventures, provokes the enemy, replaces the political struggle by physical struggle, etc.  In all these phrases, there is nothing but political cowardice.

The militia, as the strong organization of the vanguard, is in fact the surest defense against adventures, against individual terrorism, against bloody spontaneous explosions.

The militia is at the same time the only serious way of reducing to a minimum the civil war that fascism imposes upon the proletariat.  Let the workers, despite the absence of a “revolutionary situation”, occasionally correct the “papa’s son” patriots in their own way, and the recruitment of new fascist bands will become incomparably more difficult.

But here the strategists, tangled in their own reasoning, bring forward against us still more stupefying arguments. We quote textually:

“If we reply to the revolver shots of the fascists with other revolver shots,” writes l’Humanite of October 23 [1934], “we lose sight of the fact that fascism is the product of the capitalist regime and that in fighting against fascism it is the entire system which we face.”

It is difficult to accumulate in a few lines greater confusion or more errors. It is impossible to defend oneself against the fascists because they are — “a product of the capitalist regime”. That means, we have to renounce the whole struggle, for all contemporary social evils are “products of the capitalist system”.

When the fascists kill a revolutionist, or burn down the building of a proletarian newspaper, the workers are to sigh philosophically: “Alas! Murders and arson are products of the capitalist system”, and go home with easy consciences. Fatalist prostration is substituted for the militant theory of Marx, to the sole advantage of the class enemy. The ruin of the petty bourgeoisie is, of course, the product of capitalism. The growth of the fascist bands is, in turn, a product of the ruin of the petty bourgeoisie. But on the other hand, the increase in the misery and the revolt of the proletariat are also products of capitalism, and the militia, in its turn, is the product of the sharpening of the class struggle. Why, then, for the “Marxists” of l’Humanite, are the fascist bands the legitimate product of capitalism and the workers’ militia the illegitimate product of — the Trotskyists? It is impossible to make head or tail of this.

“We have to deal with the whole system,” we are told.

How? Over the heads of human beings? The fascists in the different countries began with their revolvers and ended by destroying the whole “system” of workers’ organizations. How else to check the armed offensive of the enemy if not by an armed defense in order, in our turn, to go over to the offensive.

L’Humanite now admits defense in words, but only in the form of “mass self-defense”. The militia is harmful because, you see, it divides the combat detachments from the masses. But why then are there independent armed detachments among the fascists who are not cut off from the reactionary masses but who, on the contrary, arouse the courage and embolden those masses by their well-organized attacks? Or perhaps the proletarian mass is inferior in combative quality to the declassed petty bourgeoisie?

Hopelessly tangled, l’Humanite finally begins to hesitate: it appears that mass self-defense requires the creation of special “self-defense groups”. In place of the rejected militia, special groups or detachments are proposed. It would seem at first sight that there is a difference only in the name. Certainly, the name proposed by l’Humanite means nothing. One can speak of “mass self-defense” but it is impossible to speak of “self-defense groups” since the purpose of the groups is not to defend themselves but the workers’ organizations. However, it is not, of course, a question of the name. The “self-defense groups”, according to l’Humanite , must renounce the use of arms in order not to fall into “putschism”. These sages treat the working-class like an infant who must not be allowed to hold a razor in his hands.  Razors, moreover, are the monopoly, as we know, of the Camelots du Roi [French monarchists grouped around Charles Maurras’ newspaper, Action Francaise, which was violently anti-democratic], who are a legitimate “product of capitalism” and who, with the aid of razors, have overthrown the “system” of democracy.  In any case, how are the “self-defense groups” going to defend themselves against the fascist revolvers? “Ideologically”, of course. In other words: they can hide themselves.  Not having what they require in their hands, they will have to seek “self-defense” in their feet.  And the fascists will in the meanwhile sack the workers’ organizations with impunity.  But if the proletariat suffers a terrible defeat, it will at any rate not have been guilty of “putschism”.  This fraudulent chatter, parading under the banner of “Bolshevism”, arouses only disgust and loathing.

[NOTE: “The Third Period”: According to the Stalinist schema, this was the “final period of capitalism”, the period of its immediately impending demise and replacement by soviets. The period is notable for the Communists’ ultra-left and adventurist tactics, notably the concept of social-fascism.]

During the “third period”  of happy memory — when the strategists of l’Humanite were afflicted with barricade delirium, “conquered” the streets every day and stamped as “social fascist” everyone who did not share their extravagances — we predicted: “The moment these gentlemen burn the tips of their fingers, they will become the worst opportunists.”  That prediction has now been completely confirmed.  At a time when within the Socialist Party the movement in favor of the militia is growing and strengthening, the leaders of the so-called Communist Party run for the hose to cool down the desire of the advanced workers to organize themselves in fighting columns.  Could one imagine a more demoralizing or more damning work than this?

In the ranks of the Socialist Party sometimes this objection is heard: “A militia must be formed but there is no need of shouting about it.”

One can only congratulate comrades who wish to protect the practical side of the business from inquisitive eyes and ears.  But it would be much too naive to think that a militia could be created unseen and secretly within four walls.  We need tens, and later hundreds, of thousands of fighters.  They will come only if millions of men and women workers, and behind them the peasants, understand the necessity for the militia and create around the volunteers an atmosphere of ardent sympathy and active support.  Conspiratorial care can and must envelop only the technical aspect of the matter.  The political campaign must be openly developed, in meetings, factories, in the streets and on the public squares.

The fundamental cadres of the militia must be the factory workers grouped according to their place of work, known to each other and able to protect their combat detachments against the provocations of enemy agents far more easily and more surely than the most elevated bureaucrats.  Conspirative general staffs without an open mobilization of the masses will at the moment of danger remain impotently suspended in midair.  Every working-class organization has to plunge into the job.  In this question, there can be no line of demarcation between the working-class parties and the trade unions.  Hand in hand, they must mobilize the masses.  The success of the workers’ militia will then be fully assured.

“But where are the workers going to get arms” object the sober “realists” — that is to say, frightened philistines — “the enemy has rifles, cannon, tanks, gas, and airplanes. The workers have a few hundred revolvers and pocket knives.”

In this objection, everything is piled up to frighten the workers.  On the one hand, our sages identify the arms of the fascists with the armament of the state.  On the other hand, they turn towards the state and demand that it disarm the fascists. Remarkable logic!  In fact, their position is false in both cases.  In France, the fascists are still far from controlling the state.  On February 6, they entered in armed conflict with the state police.  That is why it is false to speak of cannon and tanks when it is a matter of the immediate armed struggle against the fascists. The fascists, of course, are richer than we.  It is easier for them to buy arms.  But the workers are more numerous, more determined, more devoted, when they are conscious of a firm revolutionary leadership.

In addition to other sources, the workers can arm themselves at the expense of the fascists by systematically disarming them.

This is now one of the most serious forms of the struggle against fascism.  When workers’ arsenals will begin to stock up at the expense of the fascist arms depots, the banks and trusts will be more prudent in financing the armament of their murderous guards.  It would even be possible in this case — but in this case only — that the alarmed authorities would really begin to prevent the arming of the fascists in order not to provide an additional sources of arms for the workers.  We have known for a long time that only a revolutionary tactic engenders, as a by-product, “reforms” or concessions from the government.

But how to disarm the fascists?  Naturally, it is impossible to do so with newspaper articles alone.  Fighting squads must be created.  An intelligence service must be established.  Thousands of informers and friendly helpers will volunteer from all sides when they realize that the business has been seriously undertaken by us.  It requires a will to proletarian action.

But the arms of the fascists are, of course, not the only source.  In France, there are more than one million organized workers.  Generally speaking, this number is small.  But it is entirely sufficient to make a beginning in the organization of a workers’ militia.  If the parties and unions armed only a tenth of their members, that would already be a force of 100,000 men.  There is no doubt whatever that the number of volunteers who would come forward on the morrow of a “united front” appeal for a workers’ militia would far exceed that number.  The contributions of the parties and unions, collections and voluntary subscriptions, would within a month or two make it possible to assure the arming of 100,000 to 200,000 working-class fighters.  The fascist rabble would immediately sink its tail between its legs.  The whole perspective of development would become incomparably more favorable.

To invoke the absence of arms or other objective reasons to explain why no attempt has been made up to now to create a militia, is to fool oneself and others. The principle obstacle — one can say the only obstacle — has its roots in the conservative and passive character of the leaders of the workers’ organizations.  The skeptics who are the leaders do not believe in the strength of the proletariat.  They put their hope in all sorts of miracles from above instead of giving a revolutionary outlet to the energies pulsing below.  The socialist workers must compel their leaders to pass over immediately to the creation of the workers’ militia or else give way to younger, fresher forces.

A strike is inconceivable without propaganda and without agitation.  It is also inconceivable without pickets who, when they can, use persuasion, but when obliged, use force.  The strike is the most elementary form of the class struggle which always combines, in varying proportions, “ideological” methods with physical methods.  The struggle against fascism is basically a political struggle which needs a militia just as the strike needs pickets.  Basically, the picket is the embryo of the workers’ militia.  He who thinks of renouncing “physical” struggle must renounce all struggle, for the spirit does not live without flesh.

Following the splendid phrase of the great military theoretician Clausewitz, war is the continuation of politics by other means.  This definition also fully applies to civil war.  It is impermissable to oppose one to the other since it is impossible to check at will the political struggle when it transforms itself, by force of inner necessity, into a political struggle.

The duty of a revolutionary party is to foresee in time the inescapability of the transformation of politics into open armed conflict, and with all its forces to prepare for that moment just as the ruling classes are preparing.

The militia detachments for defense against fascism are the first step on the road to the arming of the proletariat, not the last. Our slogan is:

“Arm the proletariat and the revolutionary peasants!”

The workers’ militia must, in the final analysis, embrace all the toilers.  To fulfill this program completely would be possible only in a workers’ state into whose hands would pass all the means of production and, consequently, also all the means of destruction — i.e., all the arms and the factories which produce them.

However, it is impossible to arrive at a workers’ state with empty hands.  Only political invalids like Renaudel can speak of a peaceful, constitutional road to socialism. The constitutional road is cut by trenches held by the fascist bands. There are not a few trenches before us.  The bourgeoisie will not hesitate to resort to a dozen coups d’etat aided by the police and the army, to prevent proletariat from coming to power.

[NOTE: Pierre Renaudel (1871-1935): Prior to WWI, socialist leader Jean Jaures’ righthand man and editor of l’Humanite. During the war, a right-wing social patriot. In the 1930s, he and Marcel Deat led revisionist “neo-socialist” tendency. Voted down at the July 1933 convention, this tendency split from the Socialist Party. After the fascist riots of February 6, 1934, most of the “neos” joined the Radical Party, the main party of French capitalism.]

A workers’ socialist state can be created only by a victorious revolution.

Every revolution is prepared by the march of economic and political development, but it is always decided by open armed conflicts between hostile classes.  A revolutionary victory can become possible only as a result of long political agitation, a lengthy period of education and organization of the masses.

But the armed conflict itself must likewise be prepared long in advance.

The advanced workers must know that they will have to fight and win a struggle to the death. They must reach out for arms, as a guarantee of their emancipation.

[Source: https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/1944/1944-fas.htm#p1   Corrected and emphasis added in bold type by IWPCHI]

 

Fascism: What it Is and How to Fight It

Fascist scum surround small group of antifascist protestors at Univ. of VA, Charlottesville on 11 Aug 2017.

In the aftermath of the monstrous fascist mobilization in Charlottesville, VA this past weekend, we are searching the archives of Marxism for the most important writings on the subject of how to effectively fight the fascist menace.  The New York Times reports that the fascists, emboldened by their “victory” in Charlottesville are now planning to run for political offices across the nation, primarily under the banner of the Republican party.

We have sought from the inception of our organization to impart to the workers of the US the vital importance of organizing a revolutionary vanguard party of the working class as the indispensable weapon of self-defense of the workers against the capitalist system and against its fascist attack dogs.  Without a political party of our own, the working class is left to stand by, impotently begging the paid agents of the capitalist class in both the Republican and Democratic parties to “do the right thing” for the workers.  This cowardly posture of “speaking truth to power” effectively eliminates the working class – the vast majority of the population in any capitalist country – to sitting on the political sidelines as the “rightful rulers” of the capitalist class rob us blind and pave the road for a fascist regime in which the workers organizations will be completely destroyed.  Under fascism, there will be no future for the trade unions or for any working class revolutionary organization of any kind.  Unless we build a revolutionary workers party that has as its ultimate goal the overthrow of the capitalist class and its decrepit, dying capitalist economic system which is the growth medium in which fascism thrives, the working class is doomed to destruction.  The experiences of workers in Italy and Germany under their fascist regimes provide ample evidence of this reality.

All that being said, we must make clear that the Trump administration, though it has fascists in its top positions is NOT A FASCIST GOVERNMENT!  If the Trump government was fascist, we would not be able to write and publish this article, and anti-fascists would not be able to march against the fascist hordes as they did in Charlottesville this past weekend.  We would all be in concentration camps – or dead!   It is imperative that workers understand the qualitative difference between a conservative, worker-hating capitalist political party and its state and a fascist party and its state.  The Trump administration is a neo-fascist bourgeois government, not a FASCIST government.  We can see even now the tremendous splits that have taken place within the Trump administration over the events in Charlottesville.  Even the hideous Confederacy-apologist Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions has come out publicly denouncing the fascist mobilization in Charlottesville: this would not happen in a fascist government.

But the fascists are inside the Republican party and are preparing to take it over.  They are supported financially by the most right-wing elements of the US capitalist class who are tired of having their hands tied by the US Constitution and Bill of Rights when they would like to just go out and smash every union and socialist/communist/anarchist political organization in the land!  It is this powerful but still minority fascist fringe of the US capitalist class that is pushing the nation towards fascism.  They have a large portion of the ruling class, the cops and courts and military on their side.  BUT THEY HAVE NOT TAKEN POWER YET.  If we confuse the semi-fascist Trump with the REAL fascist threat we will be directing our defensive attacks at the puppet rather than at the master.  We saw who the fascists are this weekend.  They are the usual scum: the Klan, the Nazis organized by David Duke and all of that syphilitic gutter scum attached to them like lampreys on a shark.  THESE ARE THE FASCISTS WE MUST CONFRONT AND DEFEAT.  They are organizing their ignorant hordes of lumpen and petty-bourgeois thugs to rampage across the campuses and cities and towns across the USA this fall.  We can and we must organize now to overwhelm them numerically whenever and wherever they appear, and we must ignore the appeals from their allies in the Democratic and Republican parties and among the clergy of all denominations who tell us to “turn the other cheek” against those who seek to kill us!  The working class must be organized through the trade unions into massive, highly disciplined battalions trained and led by union members who are military veterans to defend ourselves effectively in a military fashion against the nazi gangs.  If we do this – and ONLY if we do this can we send these fascist scum scurrying back to the holes they emerged from! The next time these filth try to organize a torchlight parade they must be crushed by the full weight of the integrated working class!  The next time they try to launch a provocation in broad daylight as they did in Charlottesville they must be met with the full weight of the entire integrated working class, led by strong, determined trade union contingents and they must be crushed!  They must have their heads acquainted with the pavement and be sent crawling home to lick their wounds.  This is the only “debate” the fascists understand!

Workers must come to understand the scientific, revolutionary Trotskyist definition of what fascism is and what it isn’t and what must be done to stop it.  If we do not understand fully what we are up against, where it comes from and who supports it we are powerless to stop it.  So in the interest of furthering your education on the subject of fascism, we offer these insights from the revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky.  If you have questions or comments on this material you can post your comments here and we will be happy to respond; otherwise contact us directly at iwpchi@gmx.com.

Workers of the World – Unite to Smash Fascism!

-IWPCHI

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Excerpts from Leon Trotsky’s writings on fascism and how to fight it.  We have lightly edited Trotsky’s polemics in order to bring them up-to-date for the present situation in the US without (we hope) dulling in the slightest way their surgically sharp edge. Our edits are in brackets [ ].  — IWPCHI

“The [people of the United States] for a long time thought that Fascism had nothing whatever to do with them. They had a republic in which all questions were dealt with by the sovereign people through the exercise of universal suffrage. But on [August 11th and 12th, 2017], several thousand Fascists […]  armed with [shields, clubs and firearms descended on Charlottesville, Virginia]. What does tomorrow hold?

Of course in [the United States], as in certain other European countries (England, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, the Scandinavian countries), there still exist parliaments, elections, democratic liberties, or their remnants. But in all these countries the class struggle is sharpening, just as it did [in the 1920s and 1930s] in Italy and Germany. Whoever consoles himself with the phrase, “[The United States] is not Germany”, is hopeless. In all countries the same historic laws operate, the laws of capitalist decline. If the means of production remain in the hands of a small number of capitalists, there is no way out for society. It is condemned to go from crisis to crisis, from need to misery, from bad to worse. In the various countries the decrepitude and disintegration of capitalism are expressed in diverse forms and at unequal rhythms. But the basic features of the process are the same everywhere. The bourgeoisie is leading its society to complete bankruptcy. It is capable of assuring the people neither bread nor peace. This is precisely why it cannot any longer tolerate the democratic order. It is forced to smash the workers by the use of physical violence. The discontent of the workers and peasants, however, cannot be brought to an end by the police alone. Moreover, it is often impossible to make the army march against the people. It begins by disintegrating and ends with the passage of a large section of the soldiers over to the people’s side. That is why finance capital is obliged to create special armed bands, trained to fight the workers just as certain breeds of dog are trained to hunt game. The historic function of Fascism is to smash the working class, destroy its organizations, and stifle political liberties when the capitalists find themselves unable to govern and dominate with the help of democratic machinery.

“The Fascists find their human material mainly in the petty bourgeoisie [small businesspeople]. The [small business owner] has been entirely ruined by big capital. There is no way out for it in the present social order, but it knows of no other. Its dissatisfaction, indignation and despair are diverted by the Fascists away from big capital and against the workers. It may be said that Fascism is the act of placing the petty bourgeoisie at the disposal of its most bitter enemies. In this way big capital ruins the middle classes and then with the help of hired Fascist demagogues incites the despairing petty bourgeois against the worker. The bourgeois régime can be preserved only by such murderous means as these. For how long? Until it is overthrown by proletarian revolution.
[Source: Leon Trotsky, “Whither France?”, November, 1934]

” The capitalists arrive at Fascism not at their own whim, but through necessity: they cannot any longer preserve the private ownership of the means of production save by directing an offensive against the workers, save by strengthening the oppression, by sowing misery and despair around them. At the same time, fearing the inevitable resistance on the part of the workers, the capitalists, through the medium of their agents, arouse the petty bourgeoisie against the proletariat and, while accusing the latter of prolonging and aggravating the crisis, they finance Fascist gangs to annihilate the workers. Should the resistance of the workers to the offensive of capital increase on the morrow, should the strikes become more frequent and important, Fascism […] will not evaporate but instead grow with redoubled force. The growth of the strike movement will impel the mobilization of strikebreakers. All the ‘patriotic’ thugs will participate in the movement. Daily attacks against the workers will be put on the order of the day. To close our eyes to this is to walk toward certain defeat.

“‘Do you mean to say […] that there must be no resistance?” No. It is necessary to resist.

“We are [not] adherents of that school which thinks that the best means of safety lies in silence, retreat and capitulation. ‘Don’t provoke the enemy!’ ‘Do not defend yourselves!’ ‘Don’t arm yourselves!’ ‘Roll over on your backs and play dead!’  Theoreticians from among this school of strategy should be sought not among ourselves but among the editors of [the bourgeois and fake-socialist press].  It is necessary for the workers to resist if they do not wish to be annihilated. But in that case no reformist and pacifist illusion is permissible. The struggle will be ferocious. It is necessary to foresee beforehand the inevitable consequences of resistance and to prepare for them.

“By its present offensive the bourgeoisie invests with a new and incommensurably more acute character the relation between the economic conditions and the social situation of capitalism in decay. Just so, the workers must invest their defence with a new character which corresponds to the methods of the class enemy. In defending ourselves against the economic blows of capital, we must know how to defend at the same time our organizations against the mercenary gangs of capital. It is impossible to do this save by means of the workers’ militia.

“In particular we must say to the trade unions: comrades, your branches and your publications will be pillaged, your organizations reduced to dust, if you do not immediately proceed to the formation of trade-union defence squads (“trade-union militia”), if you do not demonstrate by actions that you will not surrender a single inch of Fascism without a struggle.”

[Source:  Leon Trotsky, “Once Again, Whither France? Part I” March, 1935

“The armed organization of the proletariat [scientific term for ‘working class’], which at the present moment coincides almost entirely with the defence against Fascism, is a new branch of the class struggle. The first steps here too will be inexperienced and maladroit. We must expect mistakes. It is even impossible to escape completely from provocation. The selection of the cadres will be achieved little by little and this all the more surely, all the more solidly, as the militia is closer to the factories where the workers know one another well. But the initiative must necessarily come from above. The party can and must provide the initial cadres. The trade unions must also take to this same road – and they will inevitably take it. The cadres will become fused and strengthened all the more rapidly as they meet with an increasing sympathy and increasing support within the workers’ organizations, and afterwards within the masses of the toilers.

“What are we to say about those gentlemen who, in the guise of sympathy and support, vilify and poke fun at or, worse yet, depict to the class enemy the detachments of working-class self-defence as detachments of ‘insurrection’ and of ‘putsch’? […] It is impossible to give these gentlemen any other name save that of direct enemies of the proletarian revolution.”

[[Source: Leon Trotsky, “Once Again, Whither France? Part II” March, 1935

— IWPCHI

GREECE – Fascist would-be Fuehrer from ‘Golden Dawn’ Party Attacks Leftists – Smash Fascism!

Those on the “left” who think that Fascism can be defeated through intellectual debate can obtain for themselves a very graphic example of why this is a utopian concept courtesy of one Ilias Kasidiaris, a legislator in the Greek Parliament and member of the definitely fascist “Golden Dawn” party.

In a brazen attack on two female Greek parliamentarians from two working-class parties, this fascist cretin, tiring of the mental strain of having to think and politely respond to questions and challenges from his socialist and Communist Party interlocutors, rose from his seat and continued the “debate” in the way the fascists prefer: by physically assaulting the two women – on live, national television, no less!

[http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/07/us-greece-assault-idUSBRE8560P520120607]

The fascist scum from “Golden Dawn” who usually carry out their “debates” on the question of immigration by forming gangs and going into towns and city centers and physically assaulting anyone who “looks foreign” need to be put down like the rabid dogs they are.  The very existence of fascist political parties is a standing lethal threat to the workers movement and all decent human beings.  We call on our brothers and sisters in the Greek workers movement to unite and go out and give these “Golden Dawn” scum a golden shower!  “Acquaint their heads with the pavement!” Fascism must be crushed in the egg, or it threatens to annihilate the workers movement – physically.

The great Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky, who gave his life leading the heroic struggle against the rise of the Stalinist bureaucracy from 1927 – 1940, understood well the true nature of Fascism.  Writing in the 1930s, before the rise of Hitler and his Brownshirts, Trotsky warned the German working class of the danger that would result if the German workers organizations – unions, and both major rival “left” parties of the working class, the Social Democrats and the Communist Party, did not join forces to smash the fascist threat while it was still “in the egg”.  The failure of the two largest workers parties to make a political bloc against the Nazis – primarily due to the Stalinized Communist Party of Germany’s refusal to do so – led directly to the rise of Hitler and the physical destruction of the revolutionary workers movement in Germany.

Marx was quoted, famously, as saying: “all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice… the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”  Today we see the tragic events of 1933 in Germany restaged, with an all-Greek cast:  the Greek so-called “left”, represented by the left coalition Syriza movement, plays the role of the class-collaborationist German Social Democrats; the “ultraleft” leadership of the Stalinist German Communist Party of 1933 is portrayed, convincingly, by the “ultraleft” Stalinist leadership of today’s Greek Communist Party.   Von Hindenburg, the senile “grand old man” representative of the equally senile German bourgeoisie of ’33, is portrayed by his modern counterpart in Greece, 83-year-old Karolos Papoulias.  Papoulias, representing the utterly discredited and ready-for-the-dustbin-of-history Greek bourgeoisie of 2012, held an ominous meeting on May 13 with the head of the would-be-Hitlerite “Golden Dawn” Fuehrer Nikolaos Mihaloliakos.  This meeting, eerily reminiscent of Hitler’s tete-a-tete with Hindenburg just before Hindenburg made Hitler Chancellor in 1933, is the politically (and in every other way as well) bankrupt Greek bourgeoisie’s way of preparing the way for a fascist/military coup in the event that the working class gets the upper hand over the capitalist class in the near term.

Replace the word “France” with “Greece” – or any other capitalist country you’d like, including the U.S. – in this excerpt from a 1934 article by Trotsky and see if it rings a bell apropos of today’s political situation:

“Of course, in France, as in certain other […] countries […], there still exist parliaments, elections, democratic liberties, or their remnants. But in all these countries, the same historic laws operate, the laws of capitalist decline. If the means of production remain in the hands of a small number of capitalists, there is no way out for society. It is condemned to go from crisis to crisis, from need to misery, from bad to worse. In the various countries, the decrepitude and disintegration of capitalism are expressed in diverse forms and at unequal rhythms. But the basic features of the process are the same everywhere. The bourgeoisie is leading its society to complete bankruptcy. It is capable of assuring the people neither bread nor peace. This is precisely why it cannot any longer tolerate the democratic order. It is forced to smash the workers and peasants by the use of physical violence. The discontent of the workers and peasants, however, cannot be brought to an end by the police alone. Moreover, if it often impossible to make the army march against the people. It begins by disintegrating and ends with the passage of a large section of the soldiers over to the people’s side. That is why finance capital is obliged to create special armed bands, trained to fight the workers just as certain breeds of dog are trained to hunt game. The historic function of fascism is to smash the working class, destroy its organizations, and stifle political liberties when the capitalists find themselves unable to govern and dominate with the help of democratic machinery.

“The fascists find their human material mainly in the petty bourgeoisie. The latter has been entirely ruined by big capital. There is no way out for it in the present social order, but it knows of no other. Its dissatisfaction, indignation, and despair are diverted by the fascists away from big capital and against the workers. It may be said that fascism is the act of placing the petty bourgeoisie at the disposal of its most bitter enemies. In this way, big capital ruins the middle classes and then, with the help of hired fascist demagogues, incites the despairing petty bourgeoisie against the worker. The bourgeois regime can be preserved only by such murderous means as these. For how long? Until it is overthrown by proletarian revolution.”

Source: Leon Trotsky, “The Collapse of Bourgeois Democracy” from “Whither France?”, 1934

So what should be done with these fascist gangs, whose idea of “fun” is to rampage through Athens beating up “foreign-looking” immigrants and tourists?  Again, let’s turn to Trotsky:

“Fascism finds unconscious helpers in all those who say that the ‘physical struggle’ is impermissible or hopeless, and demand of Doumergue the disarmament of his fascist guard. Nothing is so dangerous for the proletariat, especially in the present situation, as the sugared poison of false hopes. Nothing increases the insolence of the fascists so much as ‘flabby pacificism’ on the part of the workers’ organizations. Nothing so destroys the confidence of the middle classes in the working-class as temporizing, passivity, and the absence of the will to struggle…

[…]

“[The socialist and communist newspapers write every day:]

“The united front is a barrier against fascism”;
“the united front will not permit…”;
“the fascists will not dare”, etc.

“These are phrases. It is necessary to say squarely to the workers, Socialists, and Communists: do not allow yourselves to be lulled by the phrases of superficial and irresponsible journalists and orators. It is a question of our heads and the future of socialism. It is not that we deny the importance of the united front. We demanded it when the leaders of both parties were against it. The united front opens up numerous possibilities, but nothing more. In itself, the untied front decides nothing. Only the struggle of the masses decides. The untied front will reveal its value when Communist detachments will come to the help of Socialist detachments and vice versa in the case of an attack by the fascist bands against Le Populaire or l’Humanite. But for that, proletarian combat detachments must exist and be educated, trained, and armed. And if there is not an organization of defense, i.e., a workers’ militia, [the Socialist and Communist newspapers] will be able to write as many articles as they like on the omnipotence of the united front, but the two papers will find themselves defenseless before the first well-prepared attack of the fascists.”

[Source: Leon Trotsky, “The Workers’ Militia And Its Opponents”, from “Whither France?”, 1934]

The time has come in Greece to organize such a “workers’ militia”.  The only “debate” the fascists understand is a debate which will end with the workers “acquainting the fascists’ heads with the pavement”!

IWPCHI

[For more of Trotsky’s writings on the subject of how to oppose fascism, see: “Fascism: What it Is and How to Fight It” here: http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/1944/1944-fas.htm     as well as his the excellent collection of his articles on the rise of fascism in Germany in the 1930s that make up the book “The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany”, Pathfinder Press.   Many of the articles in this book can also be found here by looking for the articles about Germany and/or fascism:

http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/index.htm