Social fascism was a theory supported by the Communist International (Comintern) during the late 1920s and early 1930s, which stated that
social democracywas a variant of fascism. At the time, the leaders of the Comintern, such as Joseph Stalinand Rajani Palme Dutt, argued that capitalist society had entered the " Third Period" in which a working class revolution was imminent, but could be prevented by social democrats and other fascist forces. The term "social fascist" was used pejoratively to describe social democratic parties, anti-Comintern socialist parties and dissenters within Comintern affiliates throughout the interwar period.
At the Sixth Congress of the Commitern in 1928, the end of capitalist stability and the beginning of the "Third Period" was proclaimed. The end of capitalism, accompanied with a working class revolution, was expected, and social democracy was identified as the main enemy of the Communists. This Commitern's theory had roots in
Grigory Zinoviev's argument that international social democracy is a wing of fascism. This view was accepted by Joseph Stalinwho described fascism and social democracy as "twin brothers", arguing that fascism depends on the active support of the social democracy and that the social democracy depends on the active support of fascism. After it was declared at the Sixth Congress, the theory of social fascism became accepted by the world Communist movement. [ Klaus Hildebrand, "The Third Reich", Routledge (1984), ISBN 041507861X, p. 106]
At the same time,
Social Democratic Party of Germany(SPD), under leadership of German chancellorHermann Müller, agreed with anti-communist parties that "red equals brown". [Adelheid von Saldern, "The Challenge of Modernity: German Social and Cultural Studies, 1890-1960", University of Michigan Press (2002), ISBN 0472109863, p. 78] This led to mutual hostility between social democrats and communists, which were additionally intensified in 1929 when Berlin's police, under control of the SPD government, shot down communist workers demonstrating on May Day(Berlin's Bloody May). This, and the repressive legislation against the communists that followed, served as further evidence to communists that social democrats were indeed "social fascists". [Martin Kitchen, "A History Of Modern Germany 1800-2000", Blackwell Publishing (2006), ISBN 1405100400, p. 245] In 1931 in Prussia, the largest state of Germany, Communist Party of Germany(KPD), which referred to the Nazis as "working people's comrades", united with them in unsuccessful attempt to bring down the state government of SPD. [Rob Sewell, "Germany: From Revolution to Counter-Revolution", Fortress Books (1988), ISBN 1870958047, [http://www.marxist.com/germany/chapter7.html Chapter 7] ] German Communists continued to deny any essential difference between Nazism and Social Democracy even after elections in 1933. The KPD, under the leadership of Ernst Thälmann, coined the slogan "After Hitler, our turn!" – strongly believing that united front against Nazis wasn't needed, and that the workers would change their opinion and recognize that Nazism, unlike Communism, didn't offer a true way out of Germany's difficulties. [ Jane Degras, "The Communist International 1919-1943: documents. 3. 1929-1943", Routledge (UK), ISBN 0714615560, p. 121]
Adolf Hitler's Nazis came to power in Germany, the KPD was outlawed and thousands of its members, including Thälmann, were arrested. Following these events, the Comintern did a complete turn on the question of alliance with social democrats, and the theory of "social fascism" was abandoned. At the Seventh Congress of the Comintern in 1935, Georgi Dimitrovoutlined the new policy of the " popular front" in his address, [http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/dimitrov/works/1935/unity.htm "For the Unity of the Working Class Against Fascism."] The "popular front" period ended in 1939 with the conclusion of the Nazi-Soviet Pact.
Leon Trotskyargued against the accusations of "Social Fascism". In the "Bulletin of the Opposition" of March 1932 he declared:
:"Worker-Communists, you are hundreds of thousands, millions; you cannot leave for anyplace; there are not enough passports for you. Should fascism come to power, it will ride over your skulls and spines like a terrific tank. Your salvation lies in merciless struggle. And only a fighting unity with the Social Democratic workers can bring victory. Make haste, worker-Communists, you have very little time left!": [http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1931/311208.htm "For a Workers' United Front Against Fascism" B.O. No. 32]
However, in the same essay, Trotsky made it clear that any cooperation with the social democrats was only tactical and temporary, and that in the final analysis, the social democracy would have to be defeated and subverted by the revolutionary faction:
"The front must now be directed against fascism. And this common front of direct struggle against fascism, embracing the entire proletariat, must be utilized in the struggle against the Social Democracy, directed as a flank attack, but no less effective for all that..."No common platform with the Social Democracy, or with the leaders of the German trade unions, no common publications, banners, placards! March separately, but strike together! Agree only how to strike, whom to strike, and when to strike! Such an agreement can be concluded even with the devil himself..."No retraction of our criticism of the Social Democracy. No forgetting of all that has been. The whole historical reckoning, including the reckoning for Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, will be presented at the proper time, just as the Russian Bolsheviks finally presented a general reckoning to the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries for the baiting, calumny, imprisonment and murder of workers, soldiers, and peasants."
Ernst Thälmann, the leader of the KPD, denounced Trotsky's position as the worst kind of "social fascism":
:"In his pamphlet on the question, "How will National Socialism be Defeated?", Trotsky gives always but one reply: 'The German Communist Party must make a bloc with the social democracy...' In framing this bloc, Trotsky sees the only way for completely saving the German working class against fascism. Either the Communist Party will make a bloc with the social democracy or the German working class is lost for 10-20 years. This is the theory of a completely ruined fascist and counter revolutionary. This theory is the worst theory, the most dangerous theory and the most criminal that Trotsky has constructed in the last years of his counter revolutionary propaganda."
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