Fascism: three-part test

BY:F. Akbar| May 14, 2024
Fascism: three-part test


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

Georgi Dimitrov’s definition of fascism is often cited, yet key parts of his quote are not always included or fully appreciated:

[F]ascism is not a power standing above class, nor government of the petty bourgeoisie or the lumpen-proletariat over finance capital. Fascism is the power of finance capital itself. It is the organization of terrorist vengeance against the working class and the revolutionary section of the peasantry and intelligentsia. In foreign policy, fascism is jingoism in its most brutal form, fomenting bestial hatred of other nations…. The development of fascism, and the fascist dictatorship itself, assume different forms in different countries, according to historical, social and economic conditions and to the national peculiarities, and the international position of the given country. — Dimitrov

“Finance capital” is the operative term. This refers not solely to capitalists of extreme wealth, but specifically to banking/investment institutions. This is important because under imperialism (as explained by Lenin in Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism), banks sit atop the capitalist hierarchy—above monopolies, above government.

Note the subsequent lines: fascism inflicts terrorism on working people and revolutionary intelligentsia. Fascism is not simply aimed at terrorizing working people out of malice or bigotry, but to erode their political power (against finance capital’s). Fascism’s development will also “assume different forms in different countries” according to the country’s international position and national peculiarities. It is therefore important not to define fascism merely in terms of rhetoric or policies reminiscent of fascist regimes or leaders that existed in a different context from present-day America.

Properly understood, fascism according to Marxism-Leninism is all three of: (1) terrorist violence against working class power, (2) aggressive imperialism abroad, (3) organized by finance capital (i.e. banks).

U.S. situation

The US’s descent into fascism is not the product of an organized fascist movement or conspiracy, but the bourgeois state resorting to reactionary ends to keep the unsustainable neoliberal state intact. This is not primarily due to character failings of government officials (e.g. Republican malice, Democrat ineffectualness) nor that the parties (or the US state more broadly) are in fact fascist. The instinct to label them as such is understandable, but incorrect; the RNC and DNC are ultimately bourgeois liberal parties. Yet in their commitment to liberal capitalism, they have no other means to resolve the issues inherent to the capitalist system than to increasingly embrace fascistic state repression or aggressive foreign policy.

Fascism is a system, and it is not primarily political; it is primarily economic. Government officials that have embraced fascism, fully or in part, have only ever been its puppets. The true puppet-masters of fascism are and always have been finance capital elites.

The advent of fascism in the US has less to do with the particular agendas pursued by a given political party or its various factions, as those are not being pursued independently anyway, but at the directive of those parties’ financial benefactors. Fascism has more to do with the influence of finance capitalists like Bill Ackman influencing government officials of all stripes to change university leadership in a more reactionary direction, ban media outlets like TikTok, violently break up peaceful protests, and support the genocide in Gaza (itself based primarily in economic motives). As many get caught up over how much worse it would have been or will be under Trump and the GOP than under Democrat rule now, this stance effectively makes my point: the corrupting influence of finance capital transcends partisan politics and ensures the same outcomes—varying only in degree, not content.

This is how Marxists have long understood fascism, emphasizing not the bad acts/ideas of individuals but the system itself, especially when it is in crisis. Relatedly, the event-horizon we should fear most will usher in fascism is not an election outcome, but another crisis, born of capitalism’s own failings, that will prompt an emergency response from the state. This “Shock Doctrine”—i.e. crises and public emergencies exploited by the bourgeoisie to expand repressive state power and/or imperialism abroad and redistribute wealth up to the top—has had the greatest hand in the neoliberal construction of a fascist US state.


The point is not that the Party should disarm against non-fascist reactionary forces. Far from it, these forces (knowingly or not) are instrumental in advancing fascism and must be fought. Yet to do so effectively, the Party’s program must take a holistic, dialectical approach to identifying fascism, appreciating its development in the US, and must devise tactics accordingly.

Further, as we see the US state descend into fascism with the simultaneous loss of its power to provide relief and enforce rights, alongside the expansion of its repressive police power, the Party should make itself a counterbalance: to provide where the state neglects, and to defend where the state aggresses. Our clubs should endeavor to take on the roles of government in their backyards, building up the Party long-term to become a state unto itself.

Proposals for the next party program

  • To redefine fascism as reaction stemming from banking and investment institutions.
  • That the course of action for defeating fascism is the immediate pursuit of a new, proletarian state subverting the political influence of finance capital entirely.
  • To build the foundation of this new proletarian state in our Clubs, supporting Club direct-action initiatives that provide needed services to their communities.
  • To support candidates from CPUSA for local offices, whose campaigns will attract support for the Clubs, and if elected, can wield state power to support Party activities (not the other way around).

Other proposals

  • Task a research-group with exploring the merits of alternative forms of banking and finance rooted in socialist principles—e.g. Sovereign Wealth Funds, Inclusive Ownership Funds, financial instruments based in Islamic Sharia that eschew interest—as anti-monopoly program demands alongside (not as a replacement to) nationalizing the banks.


    F. Akbar is an activist in the Driftless Club, WI.

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