Nuevo Curso on the Origins of Fascism

“Fascism has become a political insult. It has been emptied of meaning to encompass any authoritarian development, and has been associated with the most splenetic right. It is a mistake that disarms us.”


We present below an English translation of Nuevo Curso’s investigation into the class character of fascism and its historic origins.

Gulf Coast Communist Fraction

What Is Fascism?

Fascism has become a political insult. It has been emptied of meaning to encompass any authoritarian development, and has been associated with the most splenetic right. It is a mistake that disarms us.

Where Does Fascism Come From?

Fascism arises in the nationalist environment that cries out for participation in the First World War, to “culminate” Italian reunification, that is, the territorial program of the bourgeois revolution.

It dates back to the years 1914-15, that is to say, to the time that preceded Italy’s entry into the world war, the groups that called for this intervention and that, from the political point of view, were formed by representatives of different tendencies, constituted the first manifestation of fascism. There was a right-wing group with Salandra, i.e. the big industrialists interested in the war who, before demanding the intervention of the Entente, had advocated war against it, and there were also bourgeois tendencies of the left: the Italian radicals, i.e. the left-wing democrats and the Republicans, traditional supporters of the liberation of Trento and Trieste. In third place were some elements of the proletarian movement, revolutionary trade unionists and anarchists. The leader of the left wing of the Socialist Party, director of “Avanti”: Mussolini, also belonged to these groups (this is, incidentally, an individual case but with a particular importance).”- ‘Report on Fascism’ IV Congress of the Communist International by Amadeo Bordiga

These “left” tendencies are the ones that coalesced around d’Annunzio, Rossoni and Mussolini in a revolution of the petty bourgeoisie. Like all petty bourgeois revolutionism until then, it will be first and foremost nationalist and popular (=interclassist). But in 1919-20 there are two elements that mark a change of historical epoch that are those that will give it specific form as fascism: the workers revolution and the integration of the trade unions into state capitalism.

What gives fascism the opportunity to become the hope of the big bourgeoisie will be the vacillations and weaknesses of the revolutionary movement in Italy. After the inability of the Socialist Party to lead the mass movements of the workers, the factory occupations and the movements of the rural proletariat, the mass petite-bourgeoisie takes a turn and the bourgeoisie sees the opportunity to use it as a battering ram against the revolution underway.

The proletariat was disoriented and demoralized. As soon as they saw victory slip away, their mood underwent a profound transformation. It can be said that in 1919 and the first half of 1920, the Italian bourgeoisie had resigned itself in some way to witnessing the victory of the revolution. The middle class and the petty bourgeois tended to play a passive role, towed not by the big bourgeoisie but by the proletariat they believed to be on the verge of victory. This state of mind has subsequently changed radically. Instead of witnessing the victory of the proletariat, the bourgeoisie has been seen to successfully organise its defence. When the middle class realized that the Socialist Father was not capable of taking the lead, it gradually lost confidence in the possibilities of the proletariat and turned to the opposite class. It is at this moment that the capitalist and bourgeois offensive began. It essentially took advantage of the new state of mind in which the middle class found itself. Thanks to its extremely heterogeneous composition, fascism represented the solution to the problem of the mobilization of the middle classes in favor of the capitalist offensive.” – ‘Report on Fascism’ Fourth Congress of the Communist International by Amadeo Bordiga

But despite the inevitable ideological incongruities of such a movement, fascism is not just a nationalist and revolutionary ideology that mobilizes a frustrated petite-bourgeoisie against the proletariat. It builds a specific form of socializing state capitalism around the unions: the corporate state.

It first emerged in Italy in 1920, with an ideological conception based on Sorel’s theories of violence, and its systematic application, it took from the unionist nuclei that supported it (Rossoni) the corporate idea of the state, and from the nationalist camp, to the same as a supra-temporal and individual entity. (Everything in the State; nothing against the State: nothing outside the State, Mussolini). The Fascist Party represents and embodies the State; the great council, governed by it, is the central institution of government and the trade unions as an instrument of linkage between the people and the State. (Although the function of such unions is to peacefully subdue the proletariat to the bosses). He first presented himself as a socialist, to the extent that in 1919 he supported such a program, supporting the peasant demands for the socialization of the land and supported the occupation of the factories in Lombardy, seeming to remain a socialist faction. Relying on the discontent of the rural and petty bourgeois masses, the ex-combatants and liberal professionals, who were threatened with substitution, and substituted, by those who had not gone to war, agitating a socializing program and taking advantage mainly of the failure of the occupation of the factories and the general strike of the proletariat, because of the betrayal of the reformists, heavily subsidized by capitalism, came to power, where it swept away all the organizations of the working class and even all bourgeois opposition, also abjuring its primitive anti-capitalist demagogy.

All this shows that it is not only a phenomenon of capitalist reaction but, to a certain degree, a new political method of capitalism, the analysis and knowledge of which is of great importance to the proletariat. Today it constitutes a special state power, which has abolished all democratic forms, replacing them with the government of a militarized and bureaucratic party that maintains the entire population in a state of absolute oppression.”– ‘On the September Movement’ by Antonio Gallo 1932

Fascism in Spain and Argentina

The Spanish bourgeoisie, which in the 1920’s was living its fusion with the landowning oligarchy and the bureaucracy distilled by it, laying the foundations of the first Spanish state capitalism, was surely the first to realize the usefulness of the new ideology to break a workers’ movement that had put it against the ropes already in the “Bolshevik triennium” and that, with all its weaknesses, could not give for defeated but quite the opposite. The dictatorship of General Primo de Rivera, backed by the Catalan bourgeoisie, which considered him a hero after his visit to Barcelona, will try to copy the party and trade union structures of Italian fascism. The experiment, openly tutored by the two pillars of the “dreadful Spanish reaction” (army and Catholic Church), will not succeed in turning the petite-bourgeoisie into a shock force for the state. The political expression of the Spanish petite-bourgeoisie, left-wing republicanism, was still too weak and pusillanimous, after a century of state dunk, to produce a credible radicalization, even less by the hand of priests and generals. The dictatorship will only find attentive partners in socialist syndicalism. Still today, the statue of Largo Caballero continues to welcome the “New Ministries” built by Primo under the architectural and bureaucratic standards of Italian fascist rationalism.

The dictatorship prolonged his life for seven years. Not because it had effective national support, apart from the quarterflags, the sacristies, the circles of the nobility and the great bourgeoisie, but because it coincided with the best financial period in the world after the 1914-1918 war. This allowed him to associate the big bourgeoisie, neutralize the small one and ensure the contemporization of the strongest workers organization in Spain, the Socialist Party. It has already been indicated under another title to what extent this served as a staff to the dictatorship, offering it state councillors and national assembly members. But the monarchy was condemned. In the depths of the masses enormous energies were accumulated. The dictatorship had postponed, not prevented the opening of the revolutionary period.” ‘Drawings of Defeat’ ‘Promise of Victory’ by Grandizo Munis 1947

Francoism, as a political movement, represented in its relationship with the inane Spanish fascist groups an update of the same model of Primo’s dictatorship. To Falangists and national-syndicalists, the insurrectionary army gave them a field as death squads and recruiters of the petite-bourgeoisie without giving up the slightest space in the direction of the war. They were adornment and animal violence, useful facade to the military to show alignment with the Axis powers and political commissars of the state. After the war, they were encouraged to organize a defeated and massacred proletariat, given trade unions and housing, given a place in ideological “elaboration” – not without having been forced to merge with Europe’s last feudalizing party, Carlism – and always subjected to the counterweight of the most rancid clericalism and the militarization of the state barracks. Francoism had taken from fascism shavings and rhetoric, gunmen and paintings, but never let itself be guided by the petty bourgeois “revolutionarism”. The Spanish fascist was but a civilian henchman of an authoritarian military regime, with strong roots in the most reactionary component of the Spanish state bourgeoisie, a bloody and exploited palmero. That is why his drift in the sixties and seventies, when the regime began to “modernize”, led him back to “social democracy” (Ridruejo) or the clerical extreme right (the “bunker”), but not to trade unionism or left-wing guerrillaism, as was happening with their Argentine counterparts at the same time.

In Argentina, the bourgeoisie’s relationship with fascism took a different course. The coup d’état of 1930 and the subsequent Uriburu dictatorship revealed a fracture within the Argentine bourgeoisie: “The democratic civilist sector judged it convenient to dismiss radicalism and not to go any further. The fascist sector, a minority, but bolder and more determined by virtue of the force at its disposal, judged the opposite. And the subsequent development of the coup d’état is nourished completely by this difference that had to end with the triumph of the democratic sector.” – ‘On the September Movement’ by Antonio Gallo 1932

A fracture that will determine all Argentine politics until the military coup of 1943 from whose bosom Perón will emerge, finally lifted in 1945 by the unions after serving as Secretary of Labor and Welfare. Perón will not try to dress a military dictatorship to the taste of the great agrarian bourgeoisie with fascist elements, but will confront it, giving free rein to the “revolutionary” element of petty-bourgeois nationalism and, above all, the statist aspiration of the union structure, turning class conciliation (the “social justice” that gives the movement its name) and the rhetoric of national liberation into the basis of a state that no longer has as its primary objective the counterrevolution (which had triumphed globally) but the affirmation of a state capitalism -five-year plans and including a planning utopia- with its own imperialist interests. It was this rupture, in the continuity of the aspirations of the original fascism, that made the Peronism of the seventies, in far-right drift, the matrix of a revolutionary bourgeois left (“montoneros”) that would feed the “national and popular left” of the Kirchnerism of the nineties and the much brought and carried “populism” of Laclau and Mouffe.

Fascism Today?

Fascism is not “the facades”. It is not that mixture of cynical liberalism, stale moralism and authoritarian nationalism of a Vox or an Orban. Fascism is not the extreme right and even less the nostalgic extreme right, nor the ultramontane pistolism, even if it uses its symbols from other times. Fascism was in its origin and there where it developed as a movement of masses, of “left”, workerist, trade unionist, “modern”, “transgressor” aesthetically and discursively….

Fascism is the continuity of petty-bourgeois revolution in the conditions of state capitalism. It is about movements with mass, nationalist and “popular” aspirations that try to revive messages and democratic slogans “pending” of bourgeois revolutions and national liberations, presenting the authoritarian and repressive reinforcement of the state as the basis of an impossible conciliation of interests -of class- opposites.

That is why it grows, attracting the angry petite-bourgeoisie en masse, when the class movement hesitates or is weak. At that moment the bourgeoisie gives it all its support and gives it the doors of the state. It then becomes the form of bourgeois reaction to revolution or a form of reorganization and preparation of society for war. The fascist danger emerges when the workers fail to assert their independent movement or it stagnates, or is diluted and subordinated to some bourgeois faction. This is the trap of anti-fascism.

Nuevo Curso



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