Social fascism

Social fascism was a theory supported by the Communist International (Comintern) during the early 1930s, which held that social democracy was a variant of fascism[1] because — in addition to a shared corporatist economic model — it stood in the way of a dictatorship of the proletariat. At the time, the leaders of the Comintern, such as Joseph Stalin and Rajani Palme Dutt, argued that capitalist society had entered the "Third Period" in which a working class revolution was imminent, but could be prevented by social democrats and other "fascist" forces. The term "social fascist" was used pejoratively to describe social democratic parties, anti-Comintern and progressive socialist parties and dissenters within Comintern affiliates throughout the interwar period.


Poster of the Portuguese MRPP from the 1970s, commemorating a killed party member, whose slogan reads: "Neither Fascism, nor Social fascism. Popular Government"

At the Sixth Congress of the Comintern in 1928, the end of capitalist stability and the beginning of the "Third Period" was proclaimed. The end of capitalism, accompanied with a working class revolution, was expected and social democracy was identified as the main enemy of the communists. This Comintern's theory had roots in Grigory Zinoviev's argument that international social democracy is a wing of fascism. This view was accepted by Joseph Stalin who described fascism and social democracy as "twin brothers", arguing that fascism depends on the active support of the social democracy and that the social democracy depends on the active support of fascism. After it was declared at the Sixth Congress, the theory of social fascism became accepted by the world communist movement.[2]

The new direction was closely linked to the internal politics of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). After a faction fight inside that party following the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924, the victorious group around Stalin shifted decisively to the left, advocating the end of the mixed economy New Economic Policy and declaring an intensification of the class struggle inside the Soviet Union. An atmosphere of revolutionary fervour was created that saw any enemy of the ruling group around Stalin denounced as "wreckers" and "traitors" and this attitude was translated on to the international stage where both social democrats and communist dissidents were denounced as fascists.

At the same time, under leadership of German chancellor Hermann Müller the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) agreed with anti-communist parties that "red equals brown".[3] This led to mutual hostility between social democrats and communists, which were additionally intensified in 1929 when Berlin's police (under control of the SPD government) shot down communist workers demonstrating on May Day (Berlin's Bloody May). This and the repressive legislation against the communists that followed served as further evidence to communists that social democrats were indeed "social fascists".[4] In 1931, in Prussia—the largest state of Germany—the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), which referred to the Nazis as "working people's comrades", united with them in unsuccessful attempt to bring down the state government of SPD by means of a plebiscite.[5] German communists continued to deny any essential difference between Nazism and social democracy even after elections in 1933. Under the leadership of Ernst Thälmann, the KPD coined the slogan "After Hitler, our turn!" – strongly believing that united front against Nazis was not needed and that the workers would change their opinion and recognize that Nazism—unlike communism—did not offer a true way out of Germany's difficulties (see also Wilhelm Hoegner and Walter Kolbenhoff.[6]

After Adolf Hitler's Nazis came to power in Germany, the KPD was outlawed and thousands of its members were arrested, including Thälmann. Following these events, the Comintern did a complete turn on the question of alliance with social democrats and the theory of "social fascism" was abandoned. At the Seventh Congress of the Comintern in 1935, Georgi Dimitrov outlined the new policy of the "popular front" in his address "For the Unity of the Working Class Against Fascism". The "popular front" did not stop the conclusion of the Nazi-Soviet Non-aggression Pact.

Trotsky's criticism

Leon Trotsky argued against the accusations of "social fascism" and in the Bulletin of the Opposition of March 1932 declared:[7] "Should fascism come to power, it will ride over your skulls and spines like a terrific tank... And only a fighting unity with the Social Democratic workers can bring victory". However, Trotsky said in the same essay that any cooperation with the social democrats was only tactical and temporary and that in the final analysis the social democracy would have to be defeated and subverted by the revolutionary faction:

The front must now be directed against fascism. And this common front of direct struggle against fascism, embracing the entire proletariat, must be utilized in the struggle against the Social Democracy, directed as a flank attack, but no less effective for all that... No common platform with the Social Democracy, or with the leaders of the German trade unions, no common publications, banners, placards! March separately, but strike together! Agree only how to strike, whom to strike, and when to strike! Such an agreement can be concluded even with the devil himself... No retraction of our criticism of the Social Democracy. No forgetting of all that has been. The whole historical reckoning, including the reckoning for Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, will be presented at the proper time, just as the Russian Bolsheviks finally presented a general reckoning to the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries for the baiting, calumny, imprisonment and murder of workers, soldiers, and peasants.

See also


  1. ^ Haro, Lea (2011). "Entering a Theoretical Void: The Theory of Social Fascism and Stalinism in the German Communist Party". Critique. 39 (4): 563–582. doi:10.1080/03017605.2011.621248.
  2. ^ Klaus Hildebrand, The Third Reich, Routledge (1984), ISBN 0-415-07861-X, p. 106.
  3. ^ Adelheid von Saldern, The Challenge of Modernity: German Social and Cultural Studies, 1890-1960, University of Michigan Press (2002), ISBN 0-472-10986-3, p. 78.
  4. ^ Martin Kitchen, A History Of Modern Germany 1800-2000, Blackwell Publishing (2006), ISBN 1-4051-0040-0, p. 245.
  5. ^ Rob Sewell, Germany: From Revolution to Counter-Revolution, Fortress Books (1988), ISBN 1-870958-04-7, Chapter 7.
  6. ^ Jane Degras, The Communist International 1919-1943: documents. 3. 1929-1943, Routledge (UK), ISBN 0-7146-1556-0, p. 121.
  7. ^ For a Workers' United Front Against Fascism B.O. No. 32.

Further reading

  • Earl Browder, The Meaning of Social-Fascism: Its Historical and Theoretical Background. New York: Workers Library Publishers, 1933.
  • Theodore Draper, "The Ghost of Social-Fascism," Commentary, Feb. 1969, pp. 29-42.
  • Jay Lovestone, The People's Front Illusion: From "Social Fascism" to the "People's Front." New York: Workers Age Publishers, n.d. (1937).
  • D.M. Manuilsky, Social Democracy — Stepping Stone to Fascism: Or Otto Bauer's Latest Discovery. New York: Workers Library Publishers, n.d. (1934).
Bourgeois nationalism

In Marxism, bourgeois nationalism is the practice by the ruling classes of deliberately dividing people by nationality, race, ethnicity, or religion, so as to distract them from initiating class warfare. It is seen as a divide and conquer strategy used by the ruling classes to prevent the working class from uniting against them (hence the Marxist slogan, Workers of all countries, unite!).

Béla Kun

Béla Kun (20 February 1886 – 29 August 1938), born Béla Kohn, was a Hungarian Communist revolutionary and politician of Jewish heritage who was the de facto leader of the Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919. Following the fall of the Hungarian revolution, Kun emigrated to the Soviet Union, where he worked as a functionary in the Communist International bureaucracy as the head of the Crimean Revolutionary Committee from 1920. He was an organizer and an active participant of the Red Terror in Crimea (1920–1921), following which he participated in the March Action (1921), a failed socialist uprising in Germany.

During the Great Purge of the late 1930s, Kun was arrested, interrogated, tried, and executed in quick succession. He was posthumously rehabilitated in 1956, following the death of Joseph Stalin and the critical reassessment of Stalinism.

Central Committee

Central Committee is the common designation of a standing administrative body of communist parties, analogous to a board of directors, whether ruling or non-ruling in the 20th century and of the surviving communist states in the 21st century. In such party organizations the committee would typically be made up of delegates elected at a party congress. In those states where it constituted the state power, the Central Committee made decisions for the party between congresses, and usually was (at least nominally) responsible for electing the Politburo. In non-ruling Communist parties, the Central Committee is usually understood by the party membership to be the ultimate decision-making authority between Congresses once the process of democratic centralism has led to an agreed-upon position.

Non-Communist organizations are also governed by Central Committees, such as the right-wing Likud party in Israel, the Mennonite Church and Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (to war). In the United States the two major parties are administered by the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee; these act as the leading bodies of those organizations at the national/administrative level, as well as local committees in a similar capacity within the local Democratic or Republican governments of individual counties and states.

Commanding heights of the economy

The commanding heights of the economy refers to existing private industry essential to the economy like public utilities, natural resources, heavy industry and transport as well as control over foreign and domestic trade. This phrase emerged from a branch of modern political philosophy concerned with organising society and can be traced back to Karl Marx's idea on socialism which stresses the commanding heights and advocates for government control of it. This should not be confused with complete socialism or communism.

According to Yevgeni Preobrazhensky, a Bolshevik economist, control over the commanding heights of the economy would ensure primitive socialist accumulation. Deng Xiaoping, the leader who along with Chen Yun introduced the Chinese economic reforms, was inspired by this concept. The Communist Party of China still believes to this day that the state needs to control the economy's commanding heights.

Fascism (disambiguation)

Fascism is a political ideology.

Fascism may refer to:

Albanian fascism, a version of the ideology developed in Albania

Austrian fascism, a version of the ideology developed in Austria

British fascism, a version of the ideology developed in Britain

Croatian fascism, a version of the ideology developed in Croatia

French fascism, a version of the ideology developed in France

German fascism, a version of the ideology developed in Germany

Hungarian fascism, a version of the ideology developed in Hungary

Italian fascism, a version of the ideology developed in Italy

Religious fascism, a distinctive form of fascism with religious components

Christian fascism, a distinctive form of religious fascism

Clerical fascism, a distinctive form of Christian fascism, merged with Clericalism

Islamic fascism, a distinctive form of religious fascism with Islamic components

Russian fascism (disambiguation), versions of the ideology developed in Russia

Social fascism, a political theory

Spanish fascism, a version of the ideology developed in Spain

Yugoslav fascism, a version of the ideology developed in Yugoslavia

Feudal fascism

Feudal fascism, also revolutionary-feudal totalitarianism, were official terms used by the post-Mao Zedong Communist Party of China to designate the ideology and rule of Lin Biao and the Gang of Four during the Cultural Revolution.

General line of the party

In the terminology of communism, the general line of the party or simply the general line refers to the directives of the governing bodies of a party (usually a communist party) which define the party's politics. The term (Russian: Генеральная линия партии general'naya liniya partii) was in common use by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (since its early days under other names) and also adopted by many other communist parties around the world. The notion is rooted in the major principle of democratic centralism, which requires unconditional obedience to top level decisions at all party levels.


In Leninist theory, liquidationism (Russian: Ликвидаторство) is the ideological abandonment (liquidation) of the vanguard party's program, either in whole or in part, by party members.

Means of labor

Means of labor is a concept in Marxist political economy that refers to "all those things with the aid of which man acts upon the subject of his labor, and transforms it." (Institute of Economics of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R., 1957) Means of labor include tools and machinery (the "instruments of production"), as well as buildings and land used for production purposes and infrastructure like roads and communications networks and so forth. Labor, Itself defines "work, especially hard physical work."

The means of labor are one of three basic factors of the production process (Marx, 1967, p 174), along with human labor, and the subject of labor (the material worked on).

In some formulations, the means of labor and human labor (including the activity itself, as well as the skills and knowledge brought to the production process) comprise the productive forces of society (e.g., Sheptulin, 1978), other formulations define productive forces more narrowly as the union of instruments of production and the workers who wield them (e.g., Institute of Economics, 1957).

National liberation (Marxism)

National liberation has been a theme within Marxism, and especially after the influence of Vladimir Lenin's advocacy of anti-imperialism and self-determination of all peoples became prevalent in communist movements, especially in advocating freedom from colonial rule in the Third World. National liberation has been promoted by Marxists out of an international-socialist perspective rather than a bourgeois-nationalist perspective.Upon rising to power, Lenin and the Bolshevik government in Russia declared that all peoples had the right to self-determination. While Lenin was critical of nationalism, he claimed that the cause of national liberation was not a matter of chauvinism, but a matter of radical democracy.

Proletarian revolution

A proletarian revolution is a social revolution in which the working class attempts to overthrow the bourgeoisie. Proletarian revolutions are generally advocated by socialists, communists and most anarchists.

Marxists believe proletarian revolutions can and will likely happen in all capitalist countries, related to the concept of world revolution.

The Leninist branch of Marxism argues that a proletarian revolution must be led by a vanguard of "professional revolutionaries", men and women who are fully dedicated to the communist cause and who form the nucleus of the communist revolutionary movement. This vanguard is meant to provide leadership and organization to the rest of the working class before and during the revolution, which aims to prevent the government from successfully ending it.Other Marxists such as Luxemburgists disagree with the Leninist idea of a vanguard and insist that the entire working class—or at least a large part of it—must be deeply involved and equally committed to the socialist or communist cause in order for a proletarian revolution to be successful. To this end, they seek to build mass working class movements with a very large membership.

Finally, there are socialist anarchists and libertarian socialists. Their view is that the revolution must be a bottom-up social revolution which seeks to transform all aspects of society and the individuals which make up the society (see Revolutionary Catalonia). In the words of Alexander Berkman, "there are revolutions and revolutions. Some revolutions change only the governmental form by putting a new set of rulers in place of the old. These are political revolutions, and as such they often meet with little resistance. But a revolution that aims to abolish the entire system of wage slavery must also do away with the power of one class to oppress another. That is, it is not any more a mere change of rulers, of government, not a political revolution, but one that seeks to alter the whole character of society. That would be a social revolution".


The proletariat ( from Latin proletarius "producing offspring") is the class of wage-earners in an economic society whose only possession of significant material value is their labour-power (how much work they can do). A member of such a class is a proletarian.

In Marxist theory, a dictatorship of the proletariat is for the proletariat, of the proletariat, and by the proletariat. On the Marxist view, this will endow the proletarian with the power to abolish the conditions that make a person a proletarian and, thus, build communism.

Revolutionary base area

In Mao Zedong's original formulation of the concept of people's war, a revolutionary base area (Chinese: 革命根据地 gémìng gēnjùdì) is a local stronghold that the revolutionary force conducting the people's war should attempt to establish, starting from a remote area with mountainous or forested terrain in which its enemy is weak.

This kind of base helps the revolutionary conducting force to exploit the few advantages that a small revolutionary movement has—broad-based popular support can be one of them—against a state's power with a large and well-equipped army.


Super-imperialism is a Marxist term with two possible meanings. It refers either to the hegemony of an imperialist great power over its weaker rivals who then are called sub-imperialisms, or to a comprehensive supra-structure above a set of theoretically equal-righted imperialist states. The latter meaning is the older one and had become rare by the middle of the 20th century.

Third Period

The Third Period is an ideological concept adopted by the Communist International (Comintern) at its Sixth World Congress, held in Moscow in the summer of 1928.

The Comintern's theory was based on its economic and political analysis of world capitalism, which posited the division of recent history into three periods. These included a "First Period" that followed World War I and saw the revolutionary upsurge and defeat of the working class, as well as a "Second Period" of capitalist consolidation for most of the decade of the 1920s. According to the Comintern's analysis, the current phase of world economy from 1928 onward, the so-called "Third Period," was to be a time of widespread economic collapse and mass working class radicalization. This economic and political discord would again make the time ripe for proletarian revolution if militant policies were rigidly maintained by communist vanguard parties, the Comintern believed.

Communist policies during the Third Period were marked by pronounced hostility to political reformism and political organizations espousing it as an impediment to the movement's revolutionary objectives. In the field of trade unions, a move was made during the Third Period towards the establishment of radical dual unions under communist party control rather than continuation of the previous policy of attempting to radicalize existing unions by "boring from within."

The rise of the Nazi Party to power in Germany in 1933 and the annihilation of the organized communist movement there shocked the Comintern into reassessing the tactics of the Third Period. From 1934, new alliances began to be formed under the aegis of the so-called "Popular Front." The Popular Front policy was formalized as the official policy of the world communist movement by the Seventh World Congress of the Comintern in 1935.

Two-stage theory

The two-stage theory, or stagism, is a Marxist–Leninist political theory which argues that underdeveloped countries such as Tsarist Russia must first pass through a stage of capitalism before moving to a socialist stage.Stagism was applied to countries worldwide which had not passed through the capitalist stage. In the Soviet Union, the two-stage theory was opposed by the Trotskyist theory of permanent revolution.

While the discussion on stagism focuses on the Russian Revolution, Maoist theories such as New Democracy tend to apply a two-stage theory to struggles elsewhere.

United front

A united front is an alliance of groups against their common enemies, figuratively evoking unification of previously separate geographic fronts and/or unification of previously separate armies into a front—the name often refers to a political and/or military struggle carried out by revolutionaries, especially in revolutionary socialism, communism or anarchism. The basic theory of the united front tactic among socialists was first developed by the Comintern, an international communist organization created by communists in the wake of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. According to the thesis of the 1922 4th World Congress of the Comintern: The united front tactic is simply an initiative whereby the Communists propose to join with all workers belonging to other parties and groups and all unaligned workers in a common struggle to defend the immediate, basic interests of the working class against the bourgeoisie.

The united front allowed workers committed to the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism to struggle alongside non-revolutionary workers. Through these common struggles, revolutionaries sought to win other workers to revolutionary socialism. The united front perspective is also used in contemporary and non-Leninist perspectives.

Young Communist League of Germany

The Young Communist League of Germany (German: Kommunistischer Jugendverband Deutschlands, abbreviated KJVD) was a political youth organization in Germany. It was formed in 1920 from the Free Socialist Youth (Freie Sozialistische Jugend) of the Communist Party of Germany, A prior youth wing had been formed in October 1918, with support from the Spartacus League (Spartakusbund). It was unable to attract new members and its membership peaked in the last years of the Weimar Republic at between 35,000 - 50,000. However, those who did join were commonly children of communist parents that were extremely devoted to the Communist Party.Their activities included selling party newspapers, painting slogans, gluing posters, collecting dues, taking part in agitation, and they made up the voice choruses for Communist songs at demonstrations and other events. The KJVD had its own publishing house, the "Young Guard". The KJVD followed the Communist Party propaganda of attacking the Social Democratic Party of Germany as a proponent of "social fascism" resulting in hostility to the Social Democrats becoming a feature of the KJVD.Political rifts between the KJVD and its parent organization, the Communist Party, appeared, including support by members of the KJVD for the young Communist intellectual Heinz Neumann who advocated increased use of physical violence against political enemies, including the Nazis.Future leader of East Germany, Erich Honecker was a member of the KJVD and became KJVD leader of Saarland in 1931.After the majority of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany joined the Communist Party of Germany at the end of 1920, the Independents' Socialist Workers Youth group followed suit and merged with the Communist Party's youth organization and then in 1925, became known as the Young Communists League.The central organ of KJVD was Die Arbeit, which was published illegally.

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