Revolutions: The Revolutionary Tradition in the West, 1560-1991

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11

Revolution from the Right

Fascism

Roger Griffin


The Marxist and liberal denial of Fascism’s revolutionary credentials

‘Nazism makes out it is subversive. The most terrible white terror against people and socialism the world has ever seen takes on a socialist disguise. To this end its propaganda must develop a revolutionary facade with trappings of the Paris Commune.’ 1 Even today there are many for whom this pronouncement, made by the Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch in 1933, the year in which Adolf Hitler came to power, still rings true. ‘Real’ revolutions, they assume, do not just replace one socio-political, economic or technological system by another, but in doing so enable humanity (or at least one part of it) to pass from a lower to a higher stage of development. The Right, however, even at its most radical, is widely seen as wanting to put a stop to such progress by creating a modern state whose real purpose is to preserve the traditional class system and its values, or even put the clock back by invoking the ancient qualities of the race as the basis of contemporary society.

Assumptions of this kind have meant that fascism’s own claims to be a revolutionary force have been widely rejected by its opponents. Marxists, for example, are committed to the belief that the capitalist world order will eventually be overthrown and give way to one in which systemic inhumanity and exploitation will finally cease. They are thus predisposed to assume that anything which tends to postpone the advent of socialism is ‘reactionary’, while the radical transformation of society in an anti-socialist direction pursued by fascism makes it ‘counter-revolutionary’. By the same logic, fascist talk of a rejuvenated national community in which class conflicts will dissolve is axiomatically treated by Marxists as an elaborate exercise in ‘false consciousness’, or using ideas and values which conceal the true intentions. Inter-war fascism was the product of a crisis of capitalism, threatened from within by the breakdown of the financial, social and political structures which maintained it, and from without by revolutionary socialism.

This pincer movement, so Marxists believe, caused it to drop its liberal disguise which made it appear rational and humanistic, and resort to an

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