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Class Analysis Reveals Undergirding of Trump's Win

Volume 30, Issue 10,11 & 12, December 21, 2016

Tyson Strandlund, Esquimalt, BC

How useful is Karl Marx - who died a hundred and thirty-three years ago - for understanding our world? (illustration by Roiberto De Vicq de Cumptich, The New Yorker, Oct. 10, 2016)

    In light of recent events, it would seem that there is great alarm in many corners of the world regarding the rise of fascism. Even politicians and organisations who have never used the F-word are seeking to stir reaction and rally support against the rising tide. However, it is only by laying bare the class interests which are served by fascism which we can keep our heads amongst the anxiety being raised throughout the masses, and maintain correct political orientation and practical policy.
    There are certain presuppositions which must be understood however. 
    First, the state has always been the instrument by which one social class rules over other social classes. This is without exception. Whenever we witness a political transformation of any kind, the immediate question must be: what interests of the ruling classes are served by this transformation? Only through class analysis can the nature of such changes be understood.
    Many of us are familiar with the revolution that took place in the Russian empire in 1917. Much less frequently discussed however is the “revolution” that took place in Germany in 1918. In contrast to the Bolshevik model, this “revolution” took place in an orderly and agreeable fashion, and was praised in nationalist, bourgeois, and even exclusively monarchist circles and newspapers, and generally accepted throughout the country. As in any revolution, there were multiple forces at play, including great masses of organised workers who sought to follow along the same path as the former Russian empire. 
    However, social democrats, namely Germany’s SPD allied with the bourgeoisie in order to suppress these masses and ensure that parliamentary democracy would be the new political system. Friedrich Ebert, leader of the SPD, was willingly handed the presidency by the old rulers, and through the application of violence betrayed the workers, and crushed the rebellion in blood. 
    A new constitution was drawn up by the dedicated liberal, Hugo Preuss, which ensured the cards were stacked in the favour of the government, and most importantly, of big business. Indeed, a number of significant concessions were made to working people, including shorter work days, increased wages, and other social benefits that cut into the profits of the capitalist class. By means of these concessions, Social Democracy had prevented a very different revolution from taking place. 
    The Dawes plan and Locarno ensured that American credits and loans would assist in the restoration of capitalism regarding which J. Edgar Hoover stated, 
The whole of American policies during the liquidation of the Armistice was to contribute everything it could to prevent Europe from going Bolshevik.
    The old aristocracy, or Junkers, kept their estates. The army, whose officer corps were disproportionately of the upper classes remained a “professional army” with many privileges. The magnates of industry and business kept their vast fortunes, and the socioeconomic structure thereby remained almost completely unaltered from the system which existed under the monarchy. The German state remained a state of big business.
    Now another presupposition is necessary. That is, an understanding that political and economic power are inseparable. Having made a show of “conceding power” to social democratic governments, the bourgeoisie were able to retain real power, suppress the revolution, and regain their breath. Immediately following the initial concessions, they began to claw them back with a vengeance, providing massive funding to fascist and nationalist organisations yet in their infancy. To return to my initial comment about the state, let me ask you, whose class interests were served by this transition of power? Despite taking on the appearance of a bourgeois “democracy”, in reality, the country remained a bourgeois dictatorship.
    How could this be possible, you ask, if social democrats indeed improved lives of workers, that things could take such a different turn so quickly? You see, one must understand the nature of social democracy. While the Germany communists held the support of a massive amount of industrial workers, the big difference between them and the social democrats is that the social democrats recoiled at the idea of being considered the same as the working class, clinging tightly to their elevated status as “middle-class”, and indeed, drew many workers as well who aspired to be a part of this class. 
    The argument then, which we have heard many times since, was that the middle class was shrinking, and indeed, they saw ever more clearly the day when it would disappear, as Marx had written, as they increasingly became devoured in the competition with monopoly capital – a competition they could not possibly win. Through this insistence they refused co-operation with the German communists. Over the following years, as the wages of many white collar workers dropped even lower than that of the industrial worker because strong unions protected them, many of the petty bourgeois and this heterogeneous middle class opposed unions and clung to their belief in their elevated status ever more tightly even as it slipped away. 
    With the rapid decline in living standards, ultimately the great lie of social democracy and the illusory nature of its promises caused many to become disillusioned and look elsewhere. Some joined the communist party, but many, in fear of being proletarianised were far more ready to listen to nationalist rhetoric that exploited their confusion on the subject of class, and redirected their natural revolutionary instincts once again away from the ruling classes. For social democrats, the ideas of “anti-capitalism” had become conflated with chauvinism, and that of social liberation with national liberation, and thus they became a tool for the fascists. 
    Despite the relative fall in support for social democracy however, the party continued to grow, and up until the end retained around 20 percent of the ballot, in tandem with growth of fascism – and this is by no coincidence. So too did the “anti-capitalist” element of their rhetoric sharpen, much in contradiction with their actions. 
    Their policies throughout their roles in government, and increasing relegation to playing the part of “opposition” led them more and more to resort to policies of “lesser-evilism”. Not only did they increasingly fail to fight for socialism, but even to protect the gains workers had already achieved. This illusory “lesser-evil” policy however ultimately meant the greatest evil for the working class, as the nation drifted ever right-ward, and ultimately ended in open support for extremely right leaning governments “in order to stop Hitler”. 
(Is any of this sounding familiar yet?)
    Now, returning to class analysis, when Hitler took power in again what was referred to as a “revolution”, whose class interests were served? There is a great deal to be said of the many ways in which National Socialists served the interests of monopoly capital, and the unique expedients with which to further strangle the working class. In short, however, the government “socialised” only the losses of big business, while assuming all risks and taking no share in the profits, in fact providing the best possible tax breaks and subsidies to private industry.
    Through a simple shift in rhetoric, the bourgeois dictatorship was again consolidated in the face of growing dissatisfaction with capitalism. The changes in façade are more reflective of historical circumstance and competition between the capitalist cliques themselves. While social democracy had favoured light industry, with its ties to international finance and reliance on export, fascism favoured heavy industry, which pushed the nation towards war. 
    Ultimately however there are several lessons which must be taken from this. Fascism from its inception up until its consolidation of power could not have achieved this aim without the active support of social democracy, and in the same token social democracy could not have survived without support from the fascists. In this sense they represent two sides of the same coin in the pocket of the bourgeoisie – twins, as many of the Marxists who observed this first hand, would observe. 
    Countless times throughout the rise of fascism we witness this mutual relationship, as social democrats used the various state apparatus of the police, the courts, and increasingly the fascist’s paramilitary organisations to suppress every struggle of the working class, while insisting on the legality of the fascist movement, and treating it often with open connivance in the name of “democracy”. 
    Rather than fighting a class struggle, the social democrats had fought a conflict of interests, wishing simply to limit capitalist competition, not eliminate it. Rather than presenting new, visionary ideas, they had reactionary aspirations. Rather than looking to create a dynamic or progressive economy, they long for the routine. 
    The root aim of social democracy is the same as fascism – they seek simply to turn back the clock. They insist on a policy of “class collaboration” in the belief of a state that works in the “general interest” rather than focusing on very real class antagonisms. I’m not suggesting for an instant fascism was ever the intention of the great masses of workers and petty bourgeois who supported social democracy – on the contrary, it has comprised the efforts of countless dedicated activists who hoped for a better society. 
    Herein lies the great danger. 
    The history of social democracy is one which has kept workers enthralled with parliamentarianism and enslaved to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, channelling revolutionary aspirations instead through “legal” routes, undermining class consciousness, and ultimately providing fertile ground for fascism. 
    There is no more dangerous enemy however than the one that comes in friendly colours and speaking the language of anti-capitalism. The greatest thrust of our efforts, therefore must be against social democracy. We must convince the broadest masses that social democracy is deception, its promises illusory, and that only through its defeat can we achieve the defeat of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and thereby the defeat of fascism.
    Social democracy and fascism cannot be counterposed, but must be seen as part of a single process. Indeed, it is social democracy which provides the social bulwark for fascism in the working class. The defeat of social democracy is the equivalent of winning a majority among the proletariat, and therefore most essential to creating the necessary preconditions for proletarian revolution. It won’t be easy by any means, but we must through a spirit of comradery begin to convince our fellow workers the great danger in the path they now follow. 
Tyson Strandland, a student at UVic served as Communist Party of Canada candidate for Esquimalt in the last federal elections. He is a member of the CPC and is seeking the nomination in the next provincial election.