Fascist parties use reactionary ideas that are prevalent within society as a whole – such as nationalism, racism, religious sectarianism, and homophobia – to provide them with a unifying ideology.
To take immigration as an example – racist politicians of the mainstream parties whip up anti-immigrant hysteria and then propose the “solution” of restrictive immigration laws to deal with the “problem”. Fascists conduct and/or encourage a guerrilla war against immigrant communities by individual racists and gangs of racist thugs.
Fascists don’t just try to win elections – they try to build a movement that violently attacks, terrorises, intimidates and harasses convenient scapegoats for the failures of the capitalist system.
It is out of this movement that fascism hopes to construct fighting squads to attack the organisations of the working class as a whole – such as trade unions, anti-racist organisations, socialist and communist parties.
Fascism needs to be seen on the streets and project an image of “strength” to be able to grow. As BNP leader Nick Griffin said in 1993: people backed “what they perceived to be a strong, disciplined organisation with the ability to back up its slogan ‘defend rights for whites’ with well directed boots and fists.”
Who it attracts
Fascism appeals primarily to those layers of society made desperate by social crisis and insecurity, and who are outside of the two major social classes: the working class and the capitalist class. It attracts the likes of small businessmen, shopkeepers and the self-employed who are fearful of an organised working class but are also jealous of the wealth and privilege of the bosses.
It targets and attracts the unemployed and other marginal “underclasses” – like the white youth on the run down council estates in Burnley and Oldham – who are easily convinced of its poisonous hatred and prejudice (made legitimate by the mainstream politicians); who are looking for radical solutions to their problems; and who are eager to blame their miserable situation on the nearest available scapegoats.
Fascism also attracts those who the “official” workers’ movement has abandoned or failed to provide hope to. When it is on the rise as a movement, it can even attract a section of the working class – the least organised section of workers who are attracted by its strength and disillusioned with the weakness of the trade union leaders and the betrayals of Labour and “socialist” governments, like Jospin’s government in France.
It does so by presenting itself as an anti-establishment movement and likes to cloak itself in left language as well. So today the BNP, for example, says things like it is against selling off council houses to “private capitalist landlords”.
The immediate danger we face from the likes of the BNP is not that they will take power. It is that they will grow, presenting a physical threat to ethnic minorities, leftists and the more radical sections of workers in struggle – such as militant trade unionists – and dividing the workers along racial lines.
Ever since the BNP has focused on Burnley and Oldham in the north of England, racist attacks have been on the rise there. Gangs of racists have rampaged through Asian neighbourhoods smashing up local shops. Pubs which refused to ban Black and Asian people have been burnt to the ground. Black and Asian people have been driven from their homes after vicious campaigns of racial hatred.
In Bermondsey, south London, the National Front (NF) regularly hold marches under the slogan “keep Bermondsey white”. Although the more recent marches have been rather small (40 or so people), in the 1970′s similar marches attracted thousands of fascist supporters.
At the moment fascists like the BNP may seem to be just focusing on elections. But this is part of a strategy of using elections and electioneering to garner support and to make themselves look like a normal, “respectable”, democratic party.
Winning seats in parliament and local councils not only helps make them look respectable but it gives them an opportunity to use such positions to spread their racist lies and set the agenda for the “respectable” politicians. Just witness David Blunkett’s calls for “integration” and complaints about “swamping” in the wake of race riots in Britain and Le Pen’s election victory in France.
But looking at the examples of Germany, Italy and Spain, which all had fascist governments, we can see what a fascist regime looks like in power. The mass murder of millions of Jews, Roma, socialists, communists, trade unionists, gays and lesbian is well known. But what is not so well talked about is the complete stamping out of all democratic rights. Every independent organisation that was not state sanctioned was outlawed, especially trade unions, other political parties and even the boys scouts.
But more than just that, the fascist regimes created a system of government control that was used to stop any independent organisation of workers and young people. All of this was done under the guise of protecting the nation but in reality it was about protecting the rule of capitalism. All the major German and Italian firms made a fortune under the fascists. Workers couldn’t organise themselves to fight against their exploitation at work for fear of the secret police.
This is another distinguishing feature of fascism – it is the party of civil war against the working class both in its methods and its objectives. Whenever the ruling class has allowed fascism into power, it has been because the bosses could not fool and rule the workers any longer through the usual “democratic” machinery or repress and defeat them through one or another form of military dictatorship. Ordinary bourgeois politicians use the state against the working class.
Fascism acts independently of the state and uses a section of the masses – organised under its leadership – to penetrate, crush, divide and atomise the working class more efficiently than any “normal” dictatorship could. So it was no surprise that when the bosses in Italy, Germany and Spain were facing a massive social crisis and the threat of a workers revolution was just around the corner, they turned to the fascists like Hitler and Mussolini to save capitalism for them.
What to do about it
That is why we can never give the fascist like the BNP any room to grow. We need to organise all anti-racists and anti-fascists, trade unionists and democrats into a campaign to crush them before they can grow. This means not allowing them to organise, driving them off the streets whenever they try to march, and closing down their public meetings. We must smash their every attempt to meet and organise themselves.
But ultimately to get rid of the fascists once and for all means getting rid of the racist system that gave birth to them – capitalism.