Introduction by the Editor

When considering the use that was made of the theoretical term Social-Fascism, it needs to be borne in mind that the reference at the time simply to Social Democracy rather than specifically to Reformist Social Democracy or, perhaps more precisely, to EVOLUTIONARY Social Democracy, that is, one that constrained itself to ‘socialism within capitalism’, arose from a political position that was first advanced by Lenin on the question of DEMARCATION.

There had always been these two wings to Social Democracy, the REVOLUTIONARY and the EVOLUTIONARY, but he had argued that the time had come for the demarcation between the two to be more clearly defined and that this could best be achieved by the REVOLUTIONARY defining themselves as COMMUNIST.

In agreement with Lenin’s contention, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was eventually founded in 1923.


Opening Paragraphs on
Social Democracy and Capitalism. R. Palme Dutt 1933
Italicised inserts in Brackets by the Editor

‘ It is evident from the previous survey of the historical development of Fascism in Italy, Germany and Austria that the role of Social Democracy is of decisive importance in the development to Fascism.

The understanding of these two closely-related phenomena of the post-war period, of modern Social Democracy and of Fascism, is of key importance for the whole understanding of post-war capitalist politics. The whole question, however, is ringed round with controversy, and requires very careful further analysis, if the real issues of Fascism, and the conditions of the growth of Fascism are to be understood.

It should be explained that the term “Social Democracy” is here used only to cover the post-war phenomenon, the post 1914 Social Democratic Parties which subsequently united to form the post-war Second International or “Labour and Socialist International” in 1923.

Although the tendencies of opportunist parliamentary corruption and absorption into the capitalist State were already strong and growing before the war throughout the imperialist epoch, even while the nominal programme of international revolutionary Marxism remained, and were increasingly fought by the revolutionary wing within these parties since the beginning of the twentieth century, it was only the decisive test of the imperialist war in 1914 that brought these tendencies to their full working out and openly revealed these parties as having passed over to capitalism.

The direct passing over in this way since 1914 of large organisations of the working-class movement in all the imperialist countries, and especially of the parliamentary and trade union leadership, to open unity with capitalism and with the capitalist State, is a big historical fact; and the subsequent evolution of these parties since the war has played a large role, in the early years in the defeating of the working-class revolution, and in the sequent years in the growth of Fascism. . . . . .

. . . . . in the era from 1923-4 to 1929-30, the split in the working class was founded on the achievements in regard to wages and social policy into which (Evolutionary) Social Democracy capitalised the revolutionary upsurge. Thanks to its social character as being originally a workers’ party, (Evolutionary) Social Democracy brought into the system of reconstruction at that time, in addition to its purely political force, something more valuable and enduring, namely the organised working class, and while paralysing their revolutionary energy chained them fast to the bourgeois State.

It is true that November socialism was also an ideological mass flood and movement, but it was not only ‘that’, for behind it there stood the power of the organised working class, the social power of the trade unions. This flood could ebb but the trade unions remained, and with them, or more correctly stated, thanks to them, the (Evolutionary) Social Democratic Party remained.

On this basis the main body of the organised working class was “chained fast to the bourgeois State” through (Evolutionary) Social Democracy and the trade unions, while (Revolutionary Social Democratic) Communism was kept outside as by a “sluice mechanism”: These (the achievements in regard to wages and social policy) functioned as a sort of sluice mechanism through which, in a falling labour market, the employed and firmly organised part of the working class enjoyed a graduated, but nevertheless considerable advantage compared with the unemployed and fluctuating mass of the lower categories, and were relatively protected against the full effects of unemployment and the general critical situation on their standard of living.

The political frontier between (Evolutionary) Social Democracy and (Revolutionary Social Democratic) Communism runs almost exactly along the social and economic line of this sluice dam; and all the efforts of (Revolutionary Social Democratic) Communism, which, however, have so far been in vain, are directed towards forcing a breach into this protected sphere of the trade unions. This system worked well enough until the world economic crisis began to destroy the basis of stabilisation.

The economic crisis compelled capitalism to wipe out the “achievements” of wages and social policy, and thereby to undermine the basis of (Evolutionary) Social Democracy. But this raised the danger of the working class forces passing to (Revolutionary Social Democratic) Communism. Therefore it was necessary to find a new instrument for splitting the workers – National Socialism: The process of the transition which we are undergoing at present, because the economic crisis necessarily destroys these achievements, passes through the stage of acute danger that, with the disappearance of these achievements, the mechanism of disrupting the working class which is based upon these achievements will cease to operate, with the result that the working class will begin to turn in the direction of (Revolutionary Social Democratic) Communism and the bourgeois rule will be faced with the necessity of setting up a military dictatorship.

This stage would mark the beginning of the phase of the incurable sickness of bourgeois rule. As the old sluice mechanism can no longer be sufficiently restored, the only possible means of saving bourgeois rule from this abyss is to effect the splitting of the working class and its tying to the State apparatus by other and more direct means.

Herein lie the positive possibilities and the tasks of National Socialism. The new conditions mean, however, a change of the form of state. The tying of the organised working class to the State through (Evolutionary) Social Democracy requires the parliamentary mechanism; conversely, the liberal parliamentary constitution can only be acceptable for monopoly capitalism provided (Evolutionary) Social Democracy successfully controls and splits the working class.

If capitalism is compelled to destroy the basis of (Evolutionary) Social Democracy, then it is equally compelled to transform the parliamentary constitution into a non-parliamentary “restricted” (i.e., Fascist) constitution. The tying of the trade union bureaucracy to (Evolutionary) Social Democracy stands and falls with parliamentarism.

For alternative to  Houses of Parliament today, go to Houses of Government in the Page
Secular British State

The possibility of a liberal social constitution of monopoly capitalism is determined by the existence of an automatic mechanism which disrupts the working class. A bourgeois regime based on a liberal bourgeois constitution must not only be parliamentary; it must rely for support on (Evolutionary) Social Democracy and allow (Evolutionary) Social Democracy adequate achievements. A bourgeois regime which destroys these achievements must sacrifice (Evolutionary) Social Democracy and parliamentarism, must create a substitute for (Evolutionary) Social Democracy, and must go over to a restricted social constitution. . . . . .

. . . . . The then (Evolutionary) Social Democracy (from 1918 to 1930) and present-day National Socialism both perform similar functions in that they both were the gravediggers of the preceding system, and then, instead of leading the masses to the revolution proclaimed by them, led them to the new formation of bourgeois rule. . . . . . ’

Extract from Fascism and Social Revolution.
A Study of the Economics and Politics of the Extreme Stages of Capitalism in Decay.

Opening Paragraphs on Social Democracy and Capitalism. R. Palme Dutt 1933

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