It is time to expand our definition of the fascist threat

BY:Jen W| April 21, 2024
It is time to expand our definition of the fascist threat


This piece is a contribution to the Pre-Convention Discussion for our 32nd National Convention. During Pre-Convention Discussion, all aspects of the party’s program, strategy, and tactics are up for consideration and debate. The ideas presented here are those of the author or authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Communist Party USA, its membership, or their elected leadership bodies. — Editors

Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are already dying who could be saved, that generations more will live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done, discover your humanity and your love in revolution.George Jackson

The Communist Party USA has been working from Bulgarian Communist Georgi Dimitrov’s simple definition of fascism, “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital.”

This is a good starting point, but it is time to expand that definition. Fascism, like all things in this world, is dialectical. It grows and evolves over time based on material conditions. In 1969, American Marxist George Jackson explained, “We will never have a complete definition of fascism, because it is in constant motion, showing a new face to fit any particular set of problems that arise to threaten the predominance of the traditionalist, capitalist ruling class.”

The argument certainly can be made that settler colonialism is a form of fascism, leading to the realization that fascism has been in North America since the establishment of the original thirteen colonies. Some may push back on that idea, and point to the expansion of voting rights, civil liberties, and the New Deal reforms as proof that the USA is not yet fascist. We should, though, remember from whom the Nazis developed their genocidal ideas of human extermination.

Franco-Martinican poet and scholar Aimé Césaire wrote in Discourse on Colonialism on the connection between colonialism and fascism: “They prove that colonization… dehumanizes even the most civilized man; that colonial activity, colonial enterprise, colonial conquest, which is based on contempt for the native and justified by that contempt, inevitably tends to change him who undertakes it; that the colonizer, who in order to ease his conscience gets into the habit of seeing the other man as an animal, accustoms himself to treating him like an animal, and tends objectively to transform himself into an animal. It is this result, this boomerang effect of colonization that I wanted to point out.”

Settler colonialism is one face of fascism. This can look like Zionism in Palestine or Manifest Destiny on Turtle Island. We must understand that settler colonialism is the primary contradiction in the United States, and that it must be addressed as a prerequisite to building socialism in North America. The CPUSA party program should be amended to name settler colonialism as the primary contradiction, and set an intention to address the necessity of the principles of LANDBACK and indigenous sovereignty into our vision of socialism on this continent.

Fascism can look and feel different in different communities. Black American neighborhoods are violently policed, women have no right to bodily autonomy, and queer people are losing access to life saving healthcare. Immigrants are terrorized at the southern border. Our government is explicitly and materially backing the genocide of Palestinians, and is prosecuting citizen protesters at home. Marxist scholar Michael Parenti explained, “To insist that you don’t have fascism until every vestige of constitutional government is destroyed and the jack boot is right on our necks is to really overlook the disturbingly anti-democratic manifestations inherent in many nations calling themselves democracies especially in their dealings with left dissenters.”

It has been said that when fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. We see this openly in the far right, Christian nationalist, wing of the GOP. We also see this from the center-right Democrats including the head of their party, Joe Biden. He openly calls himself a Zionist, has proposed a draconian anti-immigration bill, and then refers to his Catholic faith as a guiding principle in his life. This is no different than the aesthetics and actions of Senators like Tom Cotton or Ted Cruz.

The struggle against fascism is not just against the ultra-right forces of Trumpian MAGA-ism, but also against the other faction of the bourgeoisie represented by Democrats like Biden. Monopoly capital supports both parties. All must be vigorously opposed and struggled against.

British Marxist, R Palme Dutt, in 1935, blamed the rise of fascism on the failures of the left. “The continued hesitation and retreat of the reformist working class leadership at each point (policy of the lesser evil) encourages the growth of fascism. On this basis, fascism is able finally to step in and seize the reins, not through its own strength, but through the failure of working class leadership. The collapse of bourgeois democracy is succeeded, not by the advance to proletarian democracy, but by the regression to fascist dictatorship.”

Comrade Stalin explained this, “Fascism is not only a military-technical category. Fascism is the bourgeoisie’s fighting organization that relies on the active support of Social-Democracy. Social-Democracy is objectively the moderate wing of fascism.”

Dutt and Stalin understood that supporting neoliberal candidates and liberal reforms will not lead us to liberation. In fact, these alliances move us backwards, deeper into fascism. CPUSA must take aim and identify the Biden wing of the Democratic Party as the fascist development it is, and take concrete methods of struggling against this wing of bourgeois reaction in addition to the MAGA far right. We must resolve to oppose Biden and his ideological successors in the 2024 Presidential Election and beyond.

Now is the time to take a bold stance against all faces of U.S. fascism. In order to fight the fascist threat, we must be able to analyze the local conditions that support its rise, name the people and entities which promote and profit from fascism, and together stand in stark contrast against it. We cannot offer the working class a better way until we can explain how current systems are harming us. Understanding fascism, and expanding our understanding of the fascist threat are the first steps.

References include:

  1. George Jackson, Blood in My Eye
  2. Joelle Fishman, What is Fascism?
  3. Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism
  4. Michael Parenti, Fascism, the False Revolution
  5. R. Palme Dutt, Fascism and Social Revolution
  6. Joseph Stalin, Concerning the International Situation


    Jen W is an activist in Austin, TX

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