You Might Be a Marxist If ... You Believe Fascism is Inherent in Capitalism


Capitalists always deny the plain truth that their system is propped up by fraud, violence, and terror. Capitalist criminality follows from the reality that capitalism is fundamentally about exploiting workers; consequently, capitalists have a vested interest in crushing all working-class resistance to exploitation. Once these facts are acknowledged, it doesn’t take a big stretch of the imagination to realize that the capitalist class will resort to the most extreme forms of savagery imaginable if they decide this is necessary to keep the working class in line and themselves in control. This conclusion follows in the abstract just from analyzing the nature of capitalism and it is borne out in reality by the long history of capitalist attempts to tyrannize over the working class.

Violence is not the only tool that capitalists use to get workers to tolerate exploitation, for the bourgeoisie rule through a combination of force and fraud. They will use deception in lieu of violence as long as it proves effective. Capitalists are always willing to trick workers into accepting the capitalist system through the ceaseless propaganda of the profit-driven, capitalist-controlled media and to dupe the working class into believing that it possesses a real political voice through corporate-controlled “bourgeois democracy.” With its Fox News and other corporate media outlets and its pay-to-play, winner-take-all political system, the United States is a good example of a country with a capitalist-controlled culture and a democracy of the rich that strongly favors the interests of for-profit corporations and top income earners. But whenever capitalists sense that workers are becoming class conscious, that socialist ideas are taking root among the populace, and that mere propaganda and a falsely representative “democracy” are no longer enough to keep the working class docile and socialism off the agenda, then the capitalists use their control of the state apparatus to implement extreme methods of repression including state-sponsored murder and mayhem. 

Fascism is the name for the ferociously brutal form of dictatorship that capitalists impose on society whenever they fear that their usual methods of pacifying the working class are failing. Fascism wreaks violence and terror upon the working class in an attempt to prevent any moves toward socialist revolution. The great Bulgarian communist, Georgi Dimitrov (1882˗1949), called fascism “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital.” Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, Franco’s Spain, and Pinochet’s Chile are often cited as textbook examples of fascist regimes, but fascism exists to one degree or another  wherever capitalist regimes are exercising state repression against their working classes. Dimitrov pointed out that fascist tendencies are found in all capitalist countries; bourgeois ruling classes resort to full-fledged fascism when capitalism’s general crisis becomes so acute that the bourgeoisie fear losing power to an increasingly radicalized and militant working class. Since fascism is inherent in capitalism, a pertinent question to ask about any capitalist country is to what degree the seeds of fascism have developed along the path to full maturity.

Dimitrov also enumerated several uses of fascism that will sound strikingly familiar to workers around the world who are now living through an unusually dire and critical period of the capitalist crisis: 1) capitalists use fascism to enforce the shifting of the entire burden of the economic crisis onto the backs of working people; 2) they use fascism to launch and sustain perpetual imperialist wars in order to wrest control of foreign markets, command access to natural resources, and spread capitalist exploitation all over the globe; and 3) they use fascism to attack and destroy revolutionary movements for working class emancipation in their home countries and throughout the world.

Many definitions of fascism can be found on the Internet and in printed literature. Most of them define fascism by placing all emphasis on its use of violence, terror, racism, militaristic nationalism, and harsh suppression of democratic freedoms to achieve its goals. Yes, fascism uses state violence and terror and many other malignant, reactionary tactics to achieve its political aims, but it takes a Marxist, class-based analysis to identify fascism’s essence and overriding goal. Fascism is political violence, but it cannot be reduced to political violence in general. In its mature form, it is the organized, state-sponsored violence of the capitalist class against the working class. It is a tool used to facilitate capitalism’s general goal of preserving its hegemony over the working class on both the national and global levels by suppressing all attempts by workers to emancipate their class through progressive reforms and socialist revolution. Fascism is the most ferocious form of capitalist oppression of the working class. Any definition that disregards the class nature of fascist violence fails to capture fascism’s essence.

Although a clear understanding of what fascism is and how to fight it is fundamental to the Marxist outlook, Marx and Engels, never wrote about fascism per se. That is because fascism didn’t arise until the early 20th century, long after Marx and Engels were dead. But it is likely that the rise of fascism would not have surprised them had they lived to witness it. They were both well aware that social progress, whether through reform or revolution, always gives rise to violent resistance by the most reactionary elements of society. As young men, Marx and Engels experienced the violent counterrevolutions that turned back virtually all democratic gains of the bourgeois revolutions of 1848, and they also lived through the brief triumph and brutal suppression of the world’s first working-class government during the Paris Commune of 1871. Perhaps Marx and Engels came closest to anticipating fascism in their idea of the “pro-slavery rebellion.” Marx and Engels had taken to calling the American Civil War a pro-slavery rebellion in reference to slave owners’ attempts to preserve the slave system through state violence. They later extended this idea to any form of counterrevolution or rebellion against both revolutionary and reformist threats to capitalism. For example, in an 1886 preface to the English edition of Capital Engels said that Marx did not expect the English ruling class to submit even to a peaceful transition to socialism without launching a “pro-slavery rebellion.”      

Is the United States ruled by fascists? Let’s first consider the way our ruling class treats the rest of the world. For much of our history our rulers have used our people’s energies and talents as well as our country’s vast resources to suppress national liberation movements, support right-wing, anti-socialist dictators, and engage in numerous imperialist wars and interventions while attempting to disrupt and destroy all major socialist movements and countries. Thus a very strong case can be made that our ruling class has imposed a fascist foreign policy on the world. This is true notwithstanding our country’s fight against European and Japanese fascism in World War II—whoever said that fascist countries can’t fight one another? What about our rulers’ behavior at home? There is no questioning the fact that slavery, genocide, xenophobia, racism, religious hatred, attacks against working people, attempts to curtail and suppress democratic liberties, and countless other reactionary tactics have been used by our ruling class to mold this country into the world’s leading right-wing imperialist power. Still it cannot be said that our rulers have succeeded in imposing a full-fledged fascist regime in this country. If they had, this writer and many like him would have been silenced long ago. What has prevented our fascistically inclined ruling class from turning this country into an ultra-right capitalist dictatorship is the survival, despite all right wing assaults upon them and albeit in increasingly restricted forms, of the democratic rights and liberties enumerated in our constitution’s Bill of Rights.

This brings us to the question of how to combat fascism, a subject that could fill volumes. Suffice it to say that if the working class in general and American workers in particular fail to form militant mass organizations dedicated to protecting their democratic rights and liberties and purging them of their capitalist imposed limitations; if they fail to supplement these with additional rights to employment, education, housing, and healthcare; if they fail to put an end to imperialism, then the United States will continue its drift towards fascism.

If you believe that fascism is capitalist political violence against the working class, that it must be fought and defeated in order to preserve the political space necessary to protect and expand workers’ democratic rights, and that the elimination of fascism must be part of any transition to socialism, then you might be a Marxist already, or you might be ready to become one.                

1. A number of references in his Collected Works show that Lenin was aware of Italian fascism and deeply interested in the Italian communists’ efforts to combat it. He and the Bolsheviks also had plenty of first-hand experience fighting against right-wing counterrevolutionary warlords in the bloody Russian civil war of 1917-20.

Photo by djbones/cc by 2.0/Flickr

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  • Odd question, but I am curious. Does anyone know?.

    Posted by levi83, 09/12/2013 8:33am (10 years ago)

  • How do you keep dictators from rising under a socialist government?

    Posted by Salty, 08/15/2011 11:19pm (12 years ago)

  • You people have mental disorders. Communism brings nothing but death and misery to the enslaved working class while the ruling class live in luxury. You can't pedal this crap to people who actually read history and have read and understand what the communist manifesto is really saying. Marx has no problem installing a dictator to power claiming that communism inevitably leads to individual freedom, yet plans nothing in the way of ideas as to the removal of said dictator!! Instead, probably not wanting to reveal the horrors himself, he is a coward and proclaims that the inevitable does not require planning! BS! Capitalism and the free markets are the best possible scenario for individual freedom around and that is exactly why you mentally challenged, utopia dreaming lunatics attack it. We are aware of this tactic and have seen it many times thru out history, accuse your enemy of the very thing that you are actually doing! Anyway, it is great to live in a country where people are free to plan treason and promote an overthrowing of our country as founded. You must be very proud.

    P.S. I loved the news release last month about how the cpusa wants to take back the Fourth of July! What a riot! Oh to be a fly on the wall of your brainstorming sessions!

    Posted by Tom Lane, 08/12/2011 3:09pm (12 years ago)

  • It not just the non-fascist right that tries to link socialism with fascism. The fascists will do it themselves in order to dupe left-leaning workers into supporting them against genuine leftists. That's why the Nazis called themselves National Socialists.

    Posted by Rick, 06/19/2011 1:24pm (12 years ago)

  • Greetings Comrades, Sister and Brothers!

    Sounds of Miles Coltrane and Laura Nyro sprouting through the thoughts as the above article is thought of in the glourious terms of a frank Sinartra recording:

    Interesting, rendition -

    "Still it cannot be said that our rulers have succeeded in imposing a full-fledged fascist regime in this country. If they had, this writer and many like him would have been silenced long ago. What has prevented our fascistically inclined ruling class from turning this country into an ultra-right capitalist dictatorship is the survival, despite all right wing assaults upon them and albeit in increasingly restricted forms, of the democratic rights and liberties enumerated in our constitution’s Bill of Rights."

    And then, there is Ed Strong, how would he have reacted to our thoughts of: "ruling class...ultra-right capitalist dictatorship"

    Oh, how so correctly this is posed!

    Would they then, the "ruling class...ultra-right capitalist dictatorship" repeal the Bill of Rights and the Constitution?

    Would they form the 'Second Republic of the United States of America?'

    A fascist imposition would wipe out many years of work and force a retrenchment.

    Then, as the working class moves to the fore, at what point would there be a rewrite of the Bill of Rights, a reinvention of the institution of the rights of Socialist citizens of the new and then existing Socialist reality?

    That is, if we were to succeed in routing them, the "ruling class...ultra-right capitalist dictatorship?"

    Or, is an envisioning of the present Bill of Rights remaining in place in the initial stages of Socialist construction more of the possible than the impossible?

    Very interesting construction on "fascistically." Not a motivation to control the working class, but a way of crushing the working class.

    Yes, not a one of us would be here under a government which had a fascist formation actively imposed.

    This part, the imposition of a fascist formation, needs to be embroidered, sewn together more so, constructed of blood and iron and sand so we can see further down the line of possible actions we may confront.

    -As there is not a premonition of the future nor a "futurism" version of Socialism, even though Socialism is on the agenda of all of, let us say, of the rich fantastical opposition to Socialism.

    But, the response of the "fascistically" driven would be most dangerous for us and ultimately the entirety of our working class if a change of government unto the "fascistically" driven formation were to occur here in the United States through the fantastical opposition of the rich.

    When, then, are we really ready to move the Bill of Rights and the Constitution to the ends and means of the working class?

    Accepted: that there may be a bit of nostalgic and baggage laden work remaining with many remnants of the capitalist creation in the first parts of a Socialist construction, but again, how we build away from this possible "fascistically" laden event, now, today, may the most interesting of partial tasks our class has on hand or is it?

    Now some may think the terms are, let us say, 'quaint.' You know, "ruling class...ultra-right capitalist dictatorship." Maybe so, but 'quaint' has a habit of being new as well.

    Oh well, as the Isley Brothers would say, "Fight the Power!"

    In Love and Struggle
    Ken Heard
    Onward to Socialism!!!

    Posted by Ken Heard, 06/16/2011 4:11pm (12 years ago)

  • Hi David!

    I am the editor of a romanian socialist fanzine and, among others, I am translating stuff and making it available for people that don't speak english, so that we can win, you know? :)
    Anyway, I have decided to translate your stuff from the "You might be a marxist..." series and make it into a book. Of course, your name will be on the book, and, of course, the book is not going to be sold for profits, but distributed for free (as I have the possibility to steal paper from the company I work at).
    I am sure you have absolutely nothing against that (no editing from my part, just translating...), so my question is not if I may do that, but:
    Do you happen to have a plan regarding this article series? Is it ever gonna end? Do you have them written already? Or do your articles receive life once an idea pops in? :)

    Please let me know, as I really appreciate your writing style, and it would make for a great enlightening material for a lot of workers, including my boss.

    If you do not want to reply here, you can write to me on

    Thanks & best regards,
    Alexandra (my official Scribd page for the zine and - soon to be uploaded - other books that I have translated; it is in Romanian, but if you happen to know someone who speaks Romanian, you can get an objective review of my work)

    Posted by Alexandra, 06/16/2011 11:59am (12 years ago)

  • I am encouraged by the postings in response to this intelligent article. As a U.S. citizen and democratic socialist, I am appalled at the level of fascism that we are facing. It is my hope that corporate noise machines like FOXNews have not convinced the masses that "socialism" is the same as "fascism", although, sadly, I have been asked if socialists are racist and if the Nazis were socialists. It renews my hope to see so many intelligent thinkers weighing in on this issue.

    Posted by Leashya Padma-Munyon, 06/15/2011 5:27pm (12 years ago)

  • I am a veteran of WW II. Iam 89 years old, a member of the Canadian Communist Party for almost 30 years, removed from membership for defending democratic centralism and Lenin's outline of what a party should be (no matter what they say), retired member of OTEU 378 (now COPE 378), founding member of Council of Canadian Communists (CCC) (now Canadians for Peace and socialism (CPS) and member of several social ation groups. Once chair of the BC Peace Council 1964-1979.

    I attended a World Peace Conference held in Moscow in 1973. (on return I was deported from the USA when we landed in New Yourk to transfer plains). At that conference I tried to warn that the United Nations was in danger of the same fate as the League of Nations because of attacks by capitalist media. I heard no ore about it.

    The article is correct to warn of fascism it has been with us since 1945 and indeed is a stage of imperialism the present stage of USA and my country Canada.

    John Beecing

    Posted by John Beeching, 06/15/2011 12:19pm (12 years ago)

  • Many well-meaning people have been duped by all the right-wing misinformation out there claiming that fascism is anti-capitalist. Fascism is the dictatorship of the political agents of big capital over small capitalists and everyone else. Once the right gets you to believe the myth that fascism is anti-capitalist, their next step is to throw this argument at you:

    1. Fascism is anti-capitalist.
    2. Socialism is anti-capitalist.
    3. Therefore fascism and socialism are the same thing.

    And if they can get you to accept this then they've got you right where they want you--"Now don't you go anywhere near socialism because it's the same as fascism, and nobody in their right mind wants fascism...heh, heh."

    Posted by Marlen, 06/11/2011 8:45pm (12 years ago)

  • Right wing attempts to paint communism as a form of fascism are logical and historical nonsense. Communists have always been the most uncompromising fighters against fascism.

    Posted by Rob, 06/09/2011 3:57pm (12 years ago)

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