Eve's Review

The Anti-Fascist Professionals

December 10, 2018

Tags: fascism, terror, anti-fascism, socialism

“Fighting Fascism, How to Struggle and How to Win”
Clara Zetkin
Haymarket, 131 pages
$11.95

Eve Ottenberg

With the term fascism much in the news since Trump’s election, those concerned about it might want to consult the pros. They include Clara Zetkin, whose “Fighting Fascism,” originally published in 1923, was recently reprinted and Leon Trotsky’s “Fascism, What It Is and How to Fight It,” still, fortunately, in print. For both authors, a key feature of fascism is terror, violence on a massive scale against ordinary working people. By that standard, what we have seen so far in Trump’s America is not fascism. This doesn’t mean it’s good; in fact, what we see and what started long before Trump, which his racism and xenophobia amplify, is a kind of proto-fascism, because neoliberalism shades easily and imperceptibly into fascism. It does so through its savage assault on ordinary people’s living standards; by abolishing rent control (cited by Zetkin), by privatizing public enterprises (Zetkin also cites this), by slashing the social safety net, cutting food stamps, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, by suppressing wages and undermining unions. Indeed, with regard to these neoliberal economic policies, Mussolini said it all: fascists “are liberals in the classic meaning of the word.”

Fighting fascism is something it would seem everyone is able to agree on. After all, 75 years ago, half the world was anti-fascist, because half the world was fighting fascism; Americans and Soviets allied against it. So it’s always a bit of a surprise to hear the term anti-fascist disparaged on a major news network like, say, Fox. If Fox is against anti-fascism, it’s not unreasonable to assume it favors fascism. Even if this is not yet explicit, it soon could be. Which is all the more reason to consult original anti-fascists like Zetkin and Trotsky: “The historic function of fascism,” Trotsky wrote, “is to smash the working class, destroy its organizations and stifle political liberties, when the capitalists find themselves unable to govern and dominate with the help of democratic machinery.” According to Zetkin, fascism has two essential features, “a sham revolutionary program…and the use of brutal and violent terror.” In Italy, she writes, “fascism found its breeding ground in the disintegration and weakness of the economy.” Indeed, Mussolini’s assault on revolutionary workers’ organizations has some parallels to today’s corporate attacks on unions and to Trump-inspired, right-wing hysteria over migrant workers.

For Zetkin, fascism opportunistically seizes power, when socialists fail to take advantage of a revolutionary situation. She blames reformists, who weaken left-wing militancy and open the way for a government that thinks “better the fascists than the socialists.” This reformist failure was evident in the 1920s and ‘30s and was certainly evident during the 2008 economic collapse. Bailing out financial criminals, Obama squandered his political capital with working people, who voted in a Republican congress in 2010, and then defected to Trump in 2016. Many working people just did not want another Wall-Street Democrat in power. When Clinton rigged the campaign through the Democratic National Committee against Sanders, she may well have handed Trump the presidency.

Zetkin lists Italian fascism’s failures to fulfill its promises, and the list brings to mind Trump’s faux populism, though it is far more detailed than Trump’s pledges. Despite promises, Italian fascism did not provide proportional representation, women did not get the vote, an economic parliament was not created, no national assembly was summoned to reform the constitution, there were no protections for the eight-hour day and the minimum wage, no insurance for the elderly and invalids, no funds for the unemployed, no demands that workers participate in factory leadership, no progressive tax on capital, no military reform, and religion returned to the schools. Today’s Republican party would applaud many of these betrayals, considering them sound policy.

Zetkin argues that fascism uses “either ‘democracy’ or a dictator,” provides the troops for the corporate capitalist assault on working people and “consists everywhere of an amalgam of brutal terrorist violence together with deceptive revolutionary phraseology.” She would not have been surprised at how Trump deployed populism in the 2016 election, nor at the subsequent fascist violence in Charlottesville, nor at the anti-Semitic slaughter in Pittsburgh. These are symptoms of the disease in its earliest stage. We’ve passed the window for a vaccine, and lukewarm Democratic polices will not provide a cure. The infection is present. It remains to be seen whether it can be controlled.


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Fiction
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A novel about the human cost of a water crisis in a low-income city.
When two suburban retirees decide to go into the marijuana trade for extra spending money, it doesn't take long for things to go haywire, in this novel which could be called a comic meditation on mental illness.
This fourth and final volume in the series "The Human Struggle," reveals much about the causes of the war off-world, in which angels assist fighters in their battle against humanity's fascist enemies. It also traces the skullduggery of an enemy corporation here on earth, as it maneuvers to speed the planet's demise.
The third in the sci-fi fantasy trilogy, "The Human Struggle," this novel follows the fighters, Detective Orozco, head of the transuniverse orphanage, and Pavel Saltwater, computer genius. Both are heroes from the previous books.
Second in "The Human Struggle" series, this is a sci-fi fantasy about the collapse of an alternate reality and the human effort to avert it.
A sci-fi fantasy about a war of the worlds, and the human struggle to survive it.
A novel about a group of hippies, radicals and political activists in the 1960s and how they changed or did not in the ensuing decades.
This murder story, set in a great but second-rate East Coast city during the 1960s, portrays society from the top to its dregs, people fighting to survive, while struggling against powerful, ambiguous forces, deep within the human soul.
This tale of a teachers' strike pits beleaguered public workers against an ambitious official and the business model of education.
These stories and essays, a number previously published, make for a collection that is various and compelling.
A comic novel in dialogue about a group of daffy suburbanites and how they get tangled up with each other
A comic novel about a group of well-heeled ninnies who band together in a "not in my backyard" effort.
A novel about the human costs of the Iraq war.
A comic novel about a group of bumblers with a get-rich-quick scheme.
A dark drama about murder and betrayal in New York City in the 1950s.
A comic novel about real estate in Manhattan.