Redefining fascism

BY:Derrick Harden| May 17, 2024
Redefining fascism


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

The Third International’s definition of fascism was “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital.”

Fascism doesn’t need to be and often isn’t open. In Operation Red Sox and its successor programs which continued from before the end of World War Two until the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine War, the U.S. covertly backed Ukrainian fascists.

Fascism isn’t necessarily the most reactionary, etc. elements of finance capital. Fascist states have existed which suppressed those even further to their right. In Austria, the Dolfuss regime had little in the way of anti-Semitic laws and actually banned the Nazi Party.

CPUSA’s definition of fascism

Our Party’s current definition of fascism is “the open terrorist dictatorship by the most reactionary, militarist, racist section of monopoly capital and the elimination of all avenues of popular resistance and protest.”

Fascism isn’t the elimination of popular resistance and protest. Occupied France and occupied Yugoslavia were certainly fascist, yet attempts by the Nazis to eliminate popular resistance there were unsuccessful. Fascism derives from the imperialist rule of finance capital, not just monopoly capital in general but specifically from finance capital. Chauvinism is much broader than just racism, and imperialism encompasses much more than just militarism.

The narrower Party definition excludes recognizable fascist regimes like Dolfuss’ Austria, and the International’s definition prevents us from recognizing other forms of fascism, like contemporary India’s.

A New Definition of Fascism

Fascism is the movement towards, and final form of, imperialist dictatorship in conditions of capitalist decline and decay, and is characterized by militarism, illiberalism, corporatism, anticommunism, violence, and usually but not always, colonialism.


  • Fascism has three primary forms.
  • Radical fascism is open dictatorship by a fascist party.
  • Democratic fascism is fascism disguised as liberalism with the use of a multiparty democracy.
  • Social-fascism is not a regime, but a tendency, characterized by support for or collaboration with fascism by socialists.
  • The U.S.A. is a fascist country of the democratic type.
  • The Democratic Party is democratic fascist, and the Republican Party is radical fascist.
  • The Communist Party must break with and combat the fascist parties and state with the united front and popular front tactics, and chart a revolutionary course.

Analysis of the United States of America

The U.S. is a settler-colonial power. Settler-colonialism is deeply and intrinsically fascist. Framing the vast, innumerable, horrendous atrocities of American imperialism as deviations from a reigning liberalism ignores their systemic nature, their roots in the general crisis of capitalism and its consequent decline and decay, and their origin in colonization, slavery and genocide. It also ignores that key features of liberalism, like the free market, are missing from American society. The violence is neither aberrant nor occasional but is thorough and constant, however well or poorly hidden.

The general crisis of capitalism burst into the open with the advent of World War One, and the contradictions leading to it have never been resolved, but only deepened. In order to deal with the crisis and oppose the Communists, the imperialists promoted, adopted and implemented the various forms of fascism. Liberalism transformed into fascism.

Since World War One, the U.S. has promoted fascism worldwide. Its war against the Nazis was both exceptional, and limited. The U.S.A. is responsible for more fascist dictatorships, and more death and suffering, than any other force in history. Direct support for fascism is fascism. The bourgeois republic is no mere collaborator, but an organizer, instigator and leader of fascism. The extremist evil, atrocious and perverted terrorizing, torture and mass murder of millions of people and their utter political repression by the U.S. and its Quisling satellites far exceeds the boundaries of the Marxist definition of imperialism. The U.S. is the world leader of fascism.

Instead of one single dictator, democratic fascist U.S. has a serial dictatorship where each successive President has dictatorial powers to launch nuclear attacks, commit genocides, launch wars, declare martial law and violate the rights of the people. Instead of one unchallengeable ruling party, we have two, which represent the two wings of the dictatorship: the ‘carrot’ and the ‘stick’. Instead of race laws, our neoliberal and neocolonial economic foreign policy, immigration laws and prison-industrial complex serve to create an underclass of super-exploited laborers with few or no rights. Brutal and absurd violence and genocide is the norm, but is covered up. Fascist gangs roam the streets but hide within the official police departments. Naked anticommunism and militarism run rampant throughout the state and society. Anti-labor laws constrain and repress the workers movement. Women and youth lack rights. Oppressed peoples live in urban ghettos and Reservation bantustans. The trade-unions are small, weak and hamstrung.


Biden and the Democrats are committing genocide in Gaza. But the U.S. has committed many genocides. The vast crimes of America are without comparison except for with Nazi Germany, the British Empire and a few others. In modern times, genocide is a fundamentally fascist project, because it can only serve fascism today. It is because they are committing genocide, but not only because of that, that they are really fascists. What could be more reactionary, chauvinist, imperialist, militarist or racist than genocide? In fact, there is nothing more fascist than genocide, by any definition.

Trump and the Republican Party are also fascists. Should Trump come to power again, democratic fascism will not resist and will deliver us into his hands. To defeat radical Trump fascism, we must form a popular front. This means forming an alliance between workers, the middle class, and anti-fascist sections of the ruling class.

To defeat the democratic fascist regime, we must form a united front. This means forging the closest unity among all workers. However, the Communist Party must fight social-fascism through ideological struggle. For example, those who support fascist Ukraine must be exposed and forced out of the movement.



    Derrick Harden is an activist in Portland, Oregon


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