Fascism Is Coming

Of Ideology and Fascism

Sandeep Banerjee

With the advent of the epoch of fighting fascism the question of ideological fight became even more necessary to Communists.

Clara Zetkin in 1923 wrote an article “Fascism” in which she said: “We have to overcome Fascism not only militarily, but also politically and ideologically.” Then, “I wish to emphasise the importance of our realising that we must struggle ideologically for the possession of the soul of these masses. We must realise that they are not only trying to escape from their present tribulations, but that they are longing for a new philosophy. We must come out of the narrow limits of our present activity.” Also, “We must not limit ourselves merely to carrying on a struggle for our political and economic programme. We must at the same time familiarise the masses with the ideals of Communism as a philosophy.” Then she said, “The second root of Fascism lies in the retarding of the world revolution by the treacherous attitude of the reformist leaders. Large numbers of the petty bourgeoisie, including even the middle classes, had discarded their war-time psychology for a certain sympathy with reformist socialism, hoping that the latter would bring about a reformation of society along democratic lines. They were disappointed in their hopes. They can now see that the reformist leaders are in benevolent accord with the bourgeoisie, and the worst of it is that these masses have now lost their faith not only in the reformist leaders, but in socialism as a whole. These masses of disappointed socialist sympathisers are joined by large circles of the proletariat, of workers who have given up their faith not only in socialism, but also in their own class. Fascism has become a sort of refuge for the politically shelter less.”

Gramsci wrote his “For an ideological preparation of the masses” as “Introduction to the first course of the party school,” and signed “The agitation and propaganda section of the Communist Party” in April-May 1925. There he stressed, “In order for the party to live and be in contact with the masses, every member needs to be an active political element – that is to say, a leader. .... It is necessary that the party educates its members and raises their ideological level in an organised manner. ... [that means] in any situation (even if under a state of siege, even if the leading committees cannot function for a certain period or are not able to link up with the periphery) all members of the party are able to orientate themselves in their own circles. It means that each of them should be able to draw from the situation the elements required to decide a political line – so as to ensure that the working class does not lose heart, but rather feels it has direction, and is still capable of fighting. The ideological preparation of the masses is therefore an absolute necessity for the revolutionary struggle. It is one of the indispensable conditions of its victory.”

In the editorial preamble by the archive to the work “The Programme of the PartiOuvrier” by Karl Marx and Jules Guesde (1880) one finds find that there was a dispute between Marx and French leader Guesde regarding the ‘Economic Section: “This document was drawn up in May 1880, when French workers' leader Jules Guesde came to visit Marx in London. The Preamble was dictated by Marx himself, while the other two parts of minimum political and economic demands were formulated by Marx and Guesde, with assistance from Engels and Paul Lafargue, who with Guesde was to become a leading figure in the Marxist wing of French socialism. … … Whereas Marx saw this as a practical means of agitation around demands that were achievable within the framework of capitalism, Guesde took a very different view: “Discounting the possibility of obtaining these reforms from the bourgeoisie, Guesde regarded them not as a practical programme of struggle, but simply ... as bait with which to lure the workers from Radicalism.” The rejection of these reforms would, Guesde believed, “free the proletariat of its last reformist illusions and convince it of the impossibility of avoiding a workers ’89.” Accusing Guesde and Lafargue of “revolutionary phrase-mongering” and of denying the value of reformist struggles, Marx made his famous remark that, if their politics represented Marxism, “cequ'il y a de certain c'est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste” (“what is certain is that I myself am not a Marxist”).” And Engels mentioned this remark in his letter to Bernstein (Engels to Eduard Bernstein, 2-3 November 1882).

But why Engels mentioned this remark of Marx in his letter to Bernstein? It is because Berstein alleged that he (Bernstein) was not getting the journal ‘Citoyen’ regularly and depended on accounts sent by some followers of Benoît Malon and was getting not bad impression about Marxists working there (“…in France ‘Marxism’ suffers from a lack of self esteem”) from those fellows.Incidentally,Benoît Malon belonged to the “Possibilist” group of French Socialists and Malon was evicted from the journal ‘Le Citoyen’ in August 1881.Engels wrote: “Nor have you any other source, i.e. other than Malon at second hand, for your reiterated assertion that in France ‘Marxism’ suffers from a marked lack of esteem. Now what is known as ‘Marxism’ in France is, indeed, an altogether peculiar product — so much so that Marx once said to Lafargue: ‘Ce qu'il y a de certain c'est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste.’ [If anything is certain, it is that I myself am not a Marxist] But if, last summer, the Citoyen was able to sell 25,000 copies … ” Engels thus admitted that he somewhat shared Bernstein’s view about ‘Marxism’ in France (Engels put the word Marxism within single quote marks), but he also mentioned that “last summer, the Citoyen was able to sell 25,000 copies” and some other facts to Bernstein and finally remarked “The facts speak so clearly for themselves that Malon will doubtless have to swallow his ‘lack of esteem’.” Here is a letter of Engels’s to Conrad Schmidt on 5 August 1890. There he wrote: “…but if little Moritz is right when he quotes Barth as saying that, in all Marx's writings, he can find only one example of the dependence of philosophy, etc., upon the material conditions of existence and that Descartes declares animals to be machines, I can only say I feel sorry for a man capable of writing such things. And if that man has not yet found out that, if the material mode of existence is the primum agens, this does not preclude the ideal fields from in turn exerting a reciprocal but secondary influence upon it, then he cannot possibly have understood the subject he is writing about. But as I have said, this is all at second hand and little Moritz is a friend one can well do without. Nor, today, has the materialist view of history any lack of such friends to whom it serves as a pretext for not studying history. As Marx said of the French Marxists in the lateseventies: ‘Tout ce que je sais, c'est que je ne suis pas Marxiste.’” So here the context was misunderstanding a basic of Marxist philosophy: if the material mode of existence is the primum agens, this does not preclude the ideal fields from in turn exerting a reciprocal but secondary influence upon it. This reminds us many works by Marx and Engels, for example, “The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism by weapons, material force must be overthrown by material force; but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses.” (From: Abstract from The Introduction to Contribution To The Critique Of Hegel’s Philosophy Of Right. Marx, 1844)

Finally comes Engels’s letter to Lafargue(27 August 1890) written about 3 weeks after the abovemen-tioned letter to Schmidt. Here Engels mentioned that remark of Marx while criticising some newcomer ‘Marxists’ in Germany: “These gentry all dabble in Marxism, albeit of the kind you were acquainted with in France ten years ago and of which Marx said: ‘All I know is that I'm not a Marxist.’ And he would doubtless say of these gentry what Heine said of his imitators: ‘I sowed dragons and I reaped fleas.’”Engels ridiculed the behaviour of those whom he referred as ‘crowd of students, literati and other young déclassé bourgeois’ who thought themselves leaders of the party because they are more capable due to their university education: “There has been a students’ revolt in the German party. During 2 or 3 years a crowd of students, literati and other young déclassé bourgeois invaded the party, arriving just in time to take most of the editorial posts in the new papers that were then proliferating. In their usual fashion they regarded their bourgeois universities as socialist Saint-Cyrs’ entitling them to enter the party in the rank of officer, if not of general.”(École spécialemilitaire de Saint-Cyr is the famous military academy founded by Napoleon to serve the bourgeois-colonialist state of France.) Here one gets some idea of what Engels thought to be a mindset that was not expected of Marxists.

At least these are things not at all noticed by the critics of Marx.

Vol. 53, No. 12, sep 20 - 26, 2020