In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels described the spectre of socialism haunting the world. That year was 1848. More than a century and a half later, the much-predicted spectre continues to loom large, but it is the spectre of fascism rather than that of socialism carrying the people to their graves, not dug by the gravediggers of capitalism but by the capitalists – the beneficiaries of the exchange society. The expropriators are still expropriating. “Whoever is not willing to talk about capitalism”, Horkheimer wrote, “should also keep quiet about fascism”. What is this phenomenon called fascism that is rearing its hideous head? This is especially true for Europe, but other regions are not devoid of its pernicious tendencies. Some critics label the latest variety as neo-fascism, leaving one to wonder what new could emerge from the debris of barbarism. To walk back into history, like a flaneur, let’s take a promenade into the past. Fascism started in Italy. Benito Mussolini, once a member of the Communist Party, was the first to introduce a stifling cutthroat capitalist system-corporatism devoid of all forms of democracy, any difference of opinion, formation of the workers’ unions, etc. It was the rule of a demagogue, backed by the big capital, against the working class and the declining communist upsurge. Its salient aim was to crush the ongoing class struggle; anti-Semitism was not its ‘other’. In the Mussolini era, Italy was not an industrially advanced country. Its northern parts were industrialized, and class struggle was rife in places like Turin, but large swathes of the south were agrarian which sided with Mussolini in his march on Rome. “Capitalism in Italy”, Gramsci reveals, “was in infancy…. free competition, the essential principle of the capitalist bourgeoisie, had not yet touched the most important aspects of national affairs… political forms were mere arbitrary superstructures – they lacked any effectiveness and achieved nothing. The seats of power were still confused and interdependent… hence there was no class state in which the principle of free competition ensured efficiency with great parties… to keep the country united, dictatorship of one man was preferred… [That was] A system of colonial domination… [which was] collapsing” (Selected Pre-Prison Writings). The present era of capitalism is suffering from the same affliction inherent in the system and hence trying to bail itself out through fascistic slogans and practices. The weak bourgeoisie was a collaborator with the landlords and the Vatican. To rescue the collapsing system, the weak bourgeoisie co-opted with the landlords and found Mussolini as their redeemer. To integrate Italy into international capitalism, Mussolini colonized Ethiopia, in the absolute silence of the League of Nations, and added it to its other African colonies. Through colonization, Mussolini found the means to accumulate capital. German fascism had an altogether different story. With a strong industrial base, the conflict between light and heavy industry became intense. The latter wanted a quick realization of its stagnant capital through the military-industrial complex. The Marxist forces were the biggest impediment. Hence, backed by the US and the British empires, it chose fascism to crush the strong and culturally hegemonic communist current that, according to Marcuse, had become second nature to the German people to the extent that even Hitler had to use the term National Socialism to counter the communist tendencies rife in Germany. In his book, “Stars Down to Earth”, Adorno mentions the decisive role of the German nobility including Hindenburg – the then president of the German Republic – in obstructing the communists vying for power from the very beginning with the collaboration of big capital and the fascists. The anti-Semitism was not the cause but the consequence of stagnant capital facing the dilemma of loss of profit and hence devaluation. Incidentally, it was the same period of recession when American capitalism had stagnated and was looking for markets abroad. J.P. Morgan, Rockefeller, General Motors, General Electric, T.W. Lamont, Standard Oil, and the Manhattan, Chase, and National City banks financed the Third Reich’s military-industrial complex. Henry Ford received the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, the highest award Nazi Germany could give to any foreigner, in Dearborn, Michigan. Ford was a vocal anti-Semite, wrote a book against Jews, and was notorious for quashing labour unions and controlling immigrant workers. Anthony Sutton in his excellent book “Wall Street & Rise of Hitler” has revealed how the American capital profited from building the German military might. Let us see how the critics define fascism. For A.J.P. Taylor, fascism is “little more than a terrorist rule by corrupt gangsters”. It’s rather a facile and incomplete definition. For Marcuse, National Socialism or fascism “tends to become the direct government of the most powerful social groups which have conquered or abolished all the intermediary legal and political institutions that stood between their particular interests and the commonwealth. Their regime, far from suppressing him, has emancipated the human individual in his most sinister instincts and aspects. National Socialism is neither an absolutist nor a socialist nor a nihilist revolution. The New Order has a very affirmative content: to organize the most aggressive and destructive form of imperialism which the modern age has ever seen” (Technology, War & Fascism). The affirmative content of the New Order was to maintain hegemony over the subjects through consent, but the consent had an element of coercion as well. Hitler’s rhetoric, A.J.P. Taylor says, was about guns before butter but it assured the supply of butter to the people before giving them guns. The butter, the erotic freedom, and Lebensraum built a consensus among the classes and created a one-dimensional society where followers were hungry for command and restrictions. Human freedom from objectified labour, a dangerous ideal, was substituted with economic security. Fascism became a cross-class phenomenon, which it continues to be. The freedom of sexuality – the Freudian Eros – was given free rein; the public expression of libido was given official approval and patronage. “That which was formerly guarded carefully and offered to a select few behind high walls”, E.R. Pope stated, came “to life for all of us – in the nocturnal magic of Nymphenburg Park… in the scanty clothing of the muses, in the undressed freedom of beautiful figures… Those who shout exultantly, filled with the joyful enthusiasm of action and gazing, are the German youth of 1939” (Ibid). Once the hegemony was established, dominance followed. The creation of the other was a necessity, a condition for the accumulation of capital, hence Jews were selected for dispossession. “Bourgeois anti-Semitism”, Adorno says, “has a special economic purpose: it conceals domination in production” (Minima Moralia). If Hitler was prepared to exchange a hundred thousand Jews for ten thousand trucks, Roosevelt was caging his citizens of Japanese descent in concentration camps. The idea of Lebensraum was borrowed directly from the Monroe doctrine. Either was an instrument of the dominant capital to dispossess its neighbours, natives, or beyond. (PART 2) Both Marcuse and Adorno were privy to the very nature of fascism. “The state – a totally incalculable and unpredictable machine embracing the life of [hu]man everywhere is the most terrifying aspect [of National Socialism]”, Marcuse writes, ” this materialistic conception reflects the National Socialist reality much better than do the theories of the racial community and the leader state” (Technology, War & Fascism). Unlike more than a rule of a handful of gangsters, National Socialism was led by the Gestapo, the “air arm”, the labour front. “The various administrative machines are coordinated in a bureaucratic apparatus that integrates the interests of industry, the army, and the party. Here again, the supreme power is not vested in the individual captains of industry, generals, and bosses, but in the big industrial combines, in the military machinery, in the political position. The National Socialist state is the government of hypostatized economic, social, and political forces” (Ibid). The most abhorrent characters of modern-day polity, the leaders of fascism, were not all-powerful figures; they were merely the symbols of the autocratic system. “Like any corrupt despot”, Gramsci writes, “Mussolini and Hitler were the manifestations of the specific relations of immediate political, organizational, and military forces which they did not create themselves and they failed to correct – if at all they attempted to do so or was there any room in the system – despite their desperate efforts” (Prison Notebooks). Antonio Gramsci, the brain pleaded by the fascist prosecutor to stop functioning for forty years, put forward one of the best critiques of fascism. For Gramsci, fascism, the cross-class phenomenon, commanded by a powerful set of social and cultural forces was incapable of solving the anarchy inherent in capitalism but the fascists understood the crisis of revolutionary tendencies and managed to counter them effectively. It was neither “a last-ditch attempt of (survival by) the moribund capitalism” nor a form of Bonapartism. He also rejected that fascism was a standoff between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. On the contrary, despite the intrinsic weakness of its political institutions, fascism reflected an outright defeat of the proletariat in the political setting giving the bourgeoisie absolute domination in political and economic affairs. For Marx capitalism is a process (and not a thing), comprising production, distribution, consumption, realization, circulation, etc. Any impediment in any of these interdependent processes leads to stagnation, hence anarchy. Fascism is an attempt to overcome anarchy by portraying a spurious alignment of the dominant interests with the public interests in the name of identity politics. The present era of capitalism is suffering from the same affliction inherent in the system and hence trying to bail itself out through fascistic slogans and practices. Eric Hobsbawm, one of the leading Marxist historians, described the crash of 2008 as a “sort of right-wing equivalent to the fall of the Berlin Wall” (Seumas Milne: The Revenge of History). In the US, the inherent crisis of capitalism had already commenced in the Clinton era. Hostage to the hedge fund managers and bondholders, he postponed the crisis by creating a housing bubble. In Bush’s era, anarchy reached its acme. Whenever capital accumulation reaches its peak, capitalists, Marx says, do not invest in public funding instead they prefer to throw money into the sea, meaning they go to war. By invading Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush followed the recipe and gave the military-industrial complex a reprieve, but the over-accumulated money in the banks created a housing bubble leading to bankruptcies and state intervention. However, instead of blaming the system those losing the houses cursed themselves for their failure to pay their bank instalments. Here the role of the cultural industry, which Adorno alluded to, came into play. The culture industry had effectively integrated the society, which led to the triumph of repressive unification and conformity in liberal democratic states as it happened under fascism. “It has frequently been remarked that should fascism become a powerful force in this country, it would parade under the banners of traditional American democracy” (The Authoritarian Personality). It’s important to see how early Adorno saw the flag of fascist tendencies getting unfurled in the US and Europe. “All fascist movements,” he says, “officially employ traditional ideas and values but actually give them an entirely different, anti-humanistic meaning… The pseudo-conservative is a man who, in the name of upholding traditional American values and institutions and defending them against more or less fictitious dangers, consciously or unconsciously aims at their abolition” (Ibid). Hasn’t the world seen it in American democracy generally and in the success of Trump as president and popular demagogue especially? In the West, the only project left to reason is to dominate and control the human mind and this can be best served through integration and unification hence instead of socialism fascism seems to have become an immediate alternative for the indoctrinated public. As Bernstein suggested, Adorno was the one who perceived early on that liberal capitalism would be replaced by “a more reified social order under the dictates of instrumental reason” (Ibid) as it did under fascism. Marcuse was blatantly expressive; in a letter to Horkheimer, he wrote “I see in the United States today the historical heir of fascism” (Erika & Klaus Mann). However, the choice put forward by Rosa Luxemburg to the people of the world was straightforward and precise when she asked them to choose between socialism or barbarism. Ironically, when the moment came to choose between socialism and barbarism, the world, Eric Hobsbawm says, did not choose the former. Hence it isn’t surprising that European democracies are falling victim to fascist tendencies. Not just the countries of Eastern Europe such as war-torn Ukraine – where the fascists Symon Petliura and Stepan Bandera remain popular in a segment of the society – but the technologically advanced Western European democracies such as France, Germany, Greece, and Italy have embraced fascist tendencies, overtly or covertly. In an interesting development when the US decided to give the notorious cluster bombs to Ukraine, Biden confessed to the depletion of conventional arms. It proved that the overproduction of ‘mass’ of commodities (means of destruction in this case) has been exhausted and capital must restart its production of rearmament. The purpose of the war seems over but the last Ukrainian is still alive. In the absence of a Marxist alternative, people sick of the system based on expropriation are voting with their feet to fascist parties. The reasons are obvious! Marine Le Pen of France and Giorgia Meloni of Italy have won their pedestals by exploiting the left-wing agenda from the extreme right. For Marx, the realization of socialism needs advanced material conditions. Europe and the US have ample material resources but lacking the subjective force, an organized working class party, the field is open for fascist tendencies to prevail. The subcontinent is no exception. With ample material resources and ripe objective conditions, India has ended up with a man of destiny, a Gramscian Caesar. Pakistan lacking in both has long fallen to Marx’s Bonapartism. In these dire and bleak conditions, is it possible for the Marxist truth to find its realization? “There is a great upheaval under the sun and things are ideal”. Mao was quite hopeful. (Concluded) The writer is an Australian-based academic and has authored books on socialism and history. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.