File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 12

Date: Thu, 02 Oct 1997 08:16:31 +0100
Subject: M-I: Fascism and social fascism

I have only been able to skim the archives after an absence, but my main
impression is despite the sharpness of some of the contradictions, the
trend towards ever more serious, committed and honest contributions. 

I don't share Robert Malecki's glee about the way the conflicts have
developed on the LeninList, even though I mistrusted the timing of how it
was set up, and of course as I am not a Leninist, expected any application
from me to join would in turn be treated with mistrust, and was not
appropriate. Nevertheless the LeninList feels like closely adjacent space.
It is not difficult to argue that Lenin was the most influential Marxist of
the 20th century. His record, and the tradition he contributed to so
powerfully, and which evolved subsequently, in one way or other is bound to
be a recurring theme of any wider forum, such as marxism-international.

It is normal for lists to have a struggle for influence if not of
domination. The question is how that is handled and whether it clarifies
the important issues and produces something bigger than each contributor
could manage on their own. In my experience it is almost always better to
try to go to the underlying contradictions, and regard particular posters
as representing a stand which needs to be clarified. 

One theoretical question - of enormous practical political importance -
that comes to my mind on skimming the polemic, is the difference and the
overlap between fascism and social fascism. Jim Hillier appears to have
drawn a line in the sand, and regard the word fascist  applied to Cuba as a
term of abuse and out of order. But it does not appear to be the main point
being argued by his protagonist, which is that Cuba is revisionist. That it
is also fascist, from this point of view, is almost a corollary. Some
pressure could be applied to ask what does it mean to say such a country is
fascist?  Clearly the context and the origins are different from the rise
of fascism in countries like Italy and Germany.

At what point do arbitrary, unlawful and repressive errors by a would be
socialist state become overt fascism? The ANC and SWAPO undoubtedly
tortured some prisoners. In an open marxist forum had the internet been
operational at the time, someone or other would have called them fascist. I
am not saying that the ANC and SWAPO must be taken to be socialist
organisations but that a criticism of fascism, may be wrong, may be right,
may be short sighted or maybe well worked out, but complications could
occur if the statement of the idea is ruled out in principle.

I am reminded of the news a few months ago that Paul Cockshott had been
suspended from the LeninList because he had allegedly called the IRA
fascist. To his credit, Jim Hillier defended that decision on
marxism-international, and although if I recall correctly, his first
reaction was that I was interested in it only for liberal reasons, the
exchange, widened into a debate in which major differences of principle
remained, but was also very instructive. In the course of that I felt Jim
argued and pointed to evidence that I found convincing that the Republican
actions had a strong democratic basis to them. However I can also believe
that there were at the very least excesses which were arbitrary and
undemocratic. More important Paul Cockshott had a wider argument that the
historical development of nationalism in Ireland took a particular form
that made it impossible to resolve in the context of a national liberation
movement. It may be wrong, and the moderators of any list are entitled to
say it should not be expressed, but I would be surprised if there was total
unanimity that such a view is unmarxist by definition.

I wonder therefore whether Jim is coming from a position where he thinks
that there is a basic set of standards among real revolutionaries that you
do not insult well established revolutionary movements as fascist. 

Or whether he is critising the style of polemic rather than its content in

Or whether there is bound to be a contradiction among a group of people
committed to Leninism, between those who follow a strong anti-revisionist
line, and those who uphold the "socialist camp", with all its
imperfections, and who regard its exploration of the market as unfortunate
but not a line of demarcation between revisionism and Leninism. 
There are of course others who regard Lenin's late article, "On
Co-operation" as pointing to the existence of a mixed economy over a
significant period of time. 

Whatever various individuals do, and however well or unwisely they argue
their case, I think some of these fundamental political questions,
including the issue of fascist possibilities under socialism, cannot in
principle be excluded from the wider marxism-space.

Chris Burford

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