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PSMLS Review — The Meaning of Social Fascism

by Jack R. Maxwell

Part 1 of the PSMLS series on Social Fascism

The two classes on the issue of Social-Fascism were fascinating to listen to. It is eerie how similar things were in 1932 and in 2022, or more specifically between the years 2015-2022. Social democracy grew out of the Eduard Bernstein movement; the belief that capitalism can be muzzled or reformed to where it can work for the majority of people while keeping the mode of production within private hands.

The Bernstein movement came from the late 19th-early 20th centuries and is not to be confused with that led by the American senator Bernie Sanders. Bernstein lived around the time of Lenin’s early days and advocated strongly for socialism through reform. That is to say, if you vote in enough “good” democrats or social democrats then everything will be fine. It is the naive belief that the good bourgeois politician will look out for the people while ignoring their true masters – the capitalists. Senator Sanders has nothing to do with Bernstein despite the fact that both share very similar goals of welfare-capitalism and both have naive beliefs that capitalists shall surrender willingly their power, their prestige, their mansions, and their wealth without any kind of legal, social and class struggle.

This is false as history has shown, but the class topic of social-fascism is more nuanced and requires an understanding of the nature of social-democrats when fascism, the last response of capital to save itself from collapse and revolution, makes its appearance on the scene. The same is also true for when workers/communist revolutions break out, as was the case in Germany in 1918 or 1919. Even when capitalism is in severe dire straits social democrats aim to peel support away from communists by offering concessions to workers, an approach which is easier to fathom for most than actual revolution.

Social fascism is when social democrats turn against the communists and support capital or even the fascist movement/coup for power. It is not necessarily, from my understanding, that social democrats are fascists. Social democrats support imperialism. They support capital – a kinder form of capitalism with a generous welfare state.

While the goals social democrats have, such as healthcare for all, low-cost/free college, better taxation policy, etc. are worthwhile short-term goals, they do not address the major problem of capitalism. They do not see anything beyond reform. That is why social democrats are unreliable allies for the revolution. I do think the short-term reforms are worth supporting, but we must also demand far more beyond that. Keep the struggle going, keep organizing and never let up, because capitalists sure don’t.