Fascism and global class struggle: A 4-part PSL course

Aug 1, 2021

This four-part digital course is a collective and deep study of the history of fascism, which is oriented toward helping us, as organizers, elucidate how it functions, what drives it, how to see through its different guises, and what we can do to fight it. It begins with an investigation into different definitions of fascism, how it has functioned as a concept in the class struggle, and how it relates to capitalism and imperialism with a particular focus on fascist movements that consolidated state power. Classes also examine political and organizational debates and strategies for organizing against fascism as well as fascist movements in the U.S. from the early 20th century until today.

The course is taught by Claudia de la Cruz, a popular educator, community organizer, and theologian who is Co-Executive Director of The People’s Forum and Gabriel Rockhill, a philosophy professor and member of the Liberation School Editorial Collective who is also the Director of the Critical Theory Workshop. 

Videos of each class, accompanied by class titles, descriptions, and readings, are below. At the end are audio versions of all classes produced by Liberation Audio.

Class 1: Classical fascism, colonialism, and international political economy

Our first class starts by examining various definitions of fascism in order to foreground how it has functioned historically as a concept-in-class-struggle, while also emphasizing the importance of a dialectical approach. This will allow us to situate fascism within the deep history of capitalism and its imperialist expansion. We then analyze how the Italian fascists and the Nazis rose to power within the constitutional parameters of bourgeois democracy–by receiving abundant funding from big industrial domestic and international capital–to run populist electoral campaigns and whip up certain sectors of the population around an ultra-nationalist and colonial program. Since every capitalist country had fascist movements in the wake of the Great Depression, we also examine what happened to these movements in the cases when they fully consolidated state power. Finally, we discuss how an internationalist, materialist perspective can help us make sense of the capitalist ruling class’s decisions to favor hegemony or repression in specific instances, and what this concretely means for fascist political practices and their visibility as such.

Course materials:
Daniel Guérin, Fascism and big business
José Carlos Mariátegui, “Biologia del fascismo
Aimé Césaire, Discourse on colonialism, trans. J. Pinkham (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2007), 35-46.

Class 2: Fascism and communist organizing

This class looks at some of the important communist responses to fascism and explores how communists have organized on the ground to fight and win against fascists. We begin with interwar Europe and international debates in communist party organizing but also discuss how Marxist-Leninists like the Black Panther Party understood fascism in the U.S. This provides us with some useful perspectives on various tactics, their relative successes and failures, and what this means for the present moment.

Class materials:
Clara Zetkin, “Resolution on fascism” (adopted on June 23, 1923 by the Third Enlarged Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International)
Georgi Dimitrov, “Unity of the working class against fascism
The Black Panther, May 31, 1969 on “Fascism in America

Class 3: Fascism and the U.S. police state

For this class, we focus specifically on the relationship between fascism and the U.S.’s racist police state. How has fascism functioned in the U.S., and how has the Empire contributed to its growth internationally? What were the forces operative behind the so-called Business Plot in 1934, a planned fascist seizure of state power, and what light does this shed on the present moment? What lessons can we as organizers learn from projects like the CIA’s Operation Gladio, which established an international network of Nazis and fascists, who committed acts of terrorism that were then blamed on communists? How does all of this history relate to the current state of American politics and the events of January 6, 2021?

Class materials:
George Seldes, Facts and fascism (New York: In Fact, 1943), 11-15; 68-79; 277-286. 
Gabriel Rockhill, “Fascist plots in the U.S.: Contemporary lessons from the 1934 “Business Plot
Sarah Churchwell, “American fascism: It has happened here

Class 4: U.S. fascism: Where do things stand?

Our final class is an opportunity to synthesize the wide-ranging themes addressed, with a particular focus on the current state of U.S. politics and the global fight against fascism. We consider what lessons organizers can learn from the history of communist struggles against fascism, both within the U.S. and internationally. We also examine the contemporary moment, and in particular the election of Biden-Harris, as well as the persistence of Trumpism, in light of the historical relationship between liberalism and fascism. Finally, we explore what we can do to develop the power and organizational frameworks necessary to stand strong against fascism, while also continuing to advance our collective agenda of socialism and liberation.

Class materials:
The Socialist Program with Brian Becker, In the news roundtable: The role of the racist mob in American politics” 
Glen Ford, “Democratic fascists prepare to drop the hammer

Audio versions