January Socialist Night School Recap

On October 28, 2019, the fascist Jair Bolsonaro was elected President of Brazil. Bolsonaro and his supporters have incited attacks on the LGBT community, university professors, leftists, indigenous populations, and others who don’t cohere with their definition of a reactionary ethnostate. Descent into fascist barbarism can be thwarted only if the proletariat is successful in its historic task of vanquishing capitalism to the dustbin of history. But we must ask ourselves, do we know the difference between fascism and dictatorship, authoritarianism, or any other right-wing, undemocratic, bonapartist movement? How can we take the necessary steps to reshape the society around us if we do not first have the theoretical tools to understand society in the first place?

At our January Socialist Night School event “Fascism: What it Is, and How to Fight it,” we explored this topic by examining Leon Trotsky’s work of the same name. We began by setting up a theoretical framework through a discussion of Marx’s historical materialist analysis of history. Then, we considered Trotsky’s analysis, which uses class struggle and historical materialism as a lens to define fascism. What we found is that fascism can be better understood through observing the relationship between the proletariat, petty-bourgeoisie, and bourgeoisie. The petty-bourgeoisie, in a period of a decaying capitalist system and decreased economic stability, turn to fascism against the revolutionary proletariat. The bourgeoisie, fearful of the prospect of a revolution against them by the proletariat, ally themselves with the mobilized petty-bourgeoisie and, like a battering ram, smash the institutions and parties of the proletariat. The initial concrete expression of this manifests itself as physical attacks on unions and socialists. To defeat these forces, the working class must unite and push back against fascism before it matures into an insurmountable mass movement violently counterposed to our own.

Following our overview of the reading and theoretical concepts, we delved into a discussion past and present fascist, or fascist-adjacent, movements. For example, is Trotsky’s definition of fascism sufficiently accurate? Is Trump a fascist? Is his administration? What can we do to stand up to fascism here at home? Our collective conversation revealed that while Trump may not be a fascist, he surely harbors them in his administration and more broadly inspires them to organize through his racism and nationalism. We mustn’t be afraid to confront rising fascism wherever it crops up, and stamp it out before it matures into an unstoppable can form a mass movement.

If you’d like to get involved with the Socialist Night School or the Education Committee, please email ColumbusDSAEducationCommittee@gmail.com. Stay tuned for details on our February session, which will focus on ecosocialism.

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On October 28, 2019, the far-right nationalist Jair Bolsonaro was elected President of Brazil. Bolsonaro and his supporters have incited attacks on the LGBT community, university professors, leftists, indigenous populations, and others who don’t cohere with their definition of a reactionary ethnostate. He is a fascist, and he now leads the world’s fourth-largest democracy.

The situation in Brazil is representative of a larger international phenomenon. Descent into fascist barbarism can be thwarted only if the proletariat is successful in its historic task of vanquishing capitalism to the dustbin of history. If this is true, then “what is to be done” is clear… or, is it? We must ask ourselves, do we know the difference between fascism, dictatorship and authoritarianism? Or any other right-wing, undemocratic, bonapartist movement? How can we take the necessary steps to reshape the society around us if we do not first have the theoretical tools to understand society in the first place?

At our January Socialist Night School event “Fascism: What it Is, and How to Fight it,” we explored this topic by examining Leon Trotsky’s work of the same name. We began by setting up a theoretical framework through a discussion of Marx’s historical materialist analysis of history. Then, we considered Trotsky’s analysis, which uses class struggle and historical materialism as a lens to define fascism. What we found is that fascism can be better understood through observing the relationship between the proletariat, petty-bourgeoisie, and bourgeoisie.

Historically, fascism is based in the reaction of the petty-bourgeoisie, and is backed by the bourgeoisie against the proletariat. The petty-bourgeoisie, in a period of a decaying capitalist system and decreased economic stability, turn, either out of a lack of patience or confidence, against the revolutionary proletariat. The bourgeoisie, fearful of the prospect of a revolution against them by the proletariat, ally themselves with the mobilized petty-bourgeoisie and, like a battering ram, smash the institutions and parties of the proletariat. The initial concrete expression of this manifests itself as physical attacks on unions and socialists.

While other definitions of fascism focus on authoritarianism and ethnonationalism and often omit or dismiss a Marxist class analysis, Trotsky’s class analysis provides us with a framework by which we analyze other movements labeled as fascist. This analysis not only helps us understand the similarities between the fascist movements of today and those the past, but also reveals the nuanced differences between today’s reiterations of fascism and other predictable social phenomena. In Brazil, the middle and upper class rallied around Bolsonaro, who promises economic prosperity through, for example, the exploitation of the Amazon rainforest, and the decimation of the indigenous people who live there. Likewise, we see shades of fascism in the United States where the owners of car dealerships and jetski salesmen, today’s petty-bourgeoisie, propelled Trump to victory based on a narrative that blames immigrants for economic instability.

To defeat these forces, the working class must unite and push back against fascism before it matures into an insurmountable mass movement violently counterposed to our own. Socialists must provide a narrative bolsters and develops the forces of the proletariat while countering the rhetoric of fascists. Socialists everywhere must wage a struggle to make the following known: the true parasites of our society are not the poor or the immigrants or the working class, but rather the wealthy who hoard the wealth created by our labor!

If you’d like to get involved with the Socialist Night School or the Education Committee, please email ColumbusDSAEducationCommittee@gmail.com.