Dmitrov’s speech to 7th Congress of Communist International


Excerpts from Dimitrov’s Speech to the 7th Congress of the Communist International 1935


Comrades, fascism in power was correctly described . . . as the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital.


It is a government system of political gangsterism.


Fascism is not a form of state power “standing above both classes — the proletariat and the bourgeoisie” . . . It is not “the revolt of the petty bourgeoisie which has captured the machinery of the state,”. No, fascism 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 accession to power of fascism is not an ordinary succession of one bourgeois government by another, but a substitution of one state form of class domination of the bourgeoisie — bourgeois democracy — by another form — open terrorist dictatorship. It would be a serious mistake to ignore this distinction . . .. it is a mistake, no less serious and dangerous, to underrate the importance, for the establishment of fascist dictatorship, of the reactionary measures of the bourgeoisie at present increasingly developing in bourgeois-democratic countries — measures which suppress the democratic liberties of the working people, falsify and curtail the rights of parliament and intensify the repression of the revolutionary movement.


In reality, fascism usually comes to power in the course of a mutual, and at times severe, struggle against the old bourgeois parties, or a definite section of these parties, in the course of a struggle even within the fascist camp itself –. before the establishment of a fascist dictatorship, bourgeois governments usually pass through a number of preliminary stages and adopt a number of reactionary measures which directly facilitate the accession to power of fascism. Whoever does not fight the reactionary measures of the bourgeoisie and the growth of fascism at these preparatory stages is not in a position to prevent the victory of fascism, but, on the contrary, facilitates that victory.


Fascism is able to attract the masses because it demagogically appeals to their most urgent needs and demands. Fascism not only inflames prejudices that are deeply ingrained in the masses, but also plays on the better sentiments of the masses, on their sense of justice and sometimes even on their revolutionary traditions.


Fascism aims at the most unbridled exploitation of the masses but it approaches them with the most artful anti-capitalist demagogy, taking advantage of the deep hatred of the working people against the plundering bourgeoisie, the banks, trusts and financial magnates, and advancing those slogans which at the given moment are most alluring to the politically immature masses.


Fascism delivers up the people to be devoured by the most corrupt and venal elements, but comes before them with the demand for “an honest and incorruptible government.” Speculating on the profound disillusionment of the masses in bourgeois-democratic governments, fascism hypocritically denounces corruption.


It is in the interests of the most reactionary circles of the bourgeoisie that fascism intercepts the disappointed masses who desert the old bourgeois parties. But it impresses these masses by the vehemence of its attacks on the bourgeois governments and its irreconcilable attitude to the old bourgeois parties.


In our ranks, there was an impermissible underestimation of the fascist danger., to the effect that in countries of “classical” bourgeois democracy the soil for fascism does not exist. Such opinions have served and may serve to relax vigilance towards the fascist danger, and to render the mobilization of the proletariat in the struggle against fascism more difficult.


Fascism tries to establish its political monopoly by violently destroying other political parties. But the existence of the capitalist system, the existence of various classes and the accentuation of class contradictions inevitably tend to undermine and explode the political monopoly of fascism.


Another reason for the instability of the fascist dictatorship is that the contrast between the anti-capitalist demagogy of fascism and its policy of enriching the monopolist bourgeoisie in the most piratical fashion makes it easier to expose the class nature of fascism and tends to shake and narrow its mass basis.


The working class must be able to take advantage of the antagonisms and conflicts within the bourgeois camp, but it must not cherish the illusion that fascism will exhaust itself of its own accord. Fascism will not collapse automatically. Only the revolutionary activity of the working class can help to take advantage of the conflicts which inevitably arise within the bourgeois camp in order to undermine the fascist dictatorship and to overthrow it.


What is and ought to be the basic content of the united front at the present stage? The defense of the immediate economic and political interests of the working class, the defense of the working class against fascism, must form the starting point and main content of the united front in all capitalist countries.


We must not confine ourselves to bare appeals to struggle for the proletarian dictatorship. We must find and advance those slogans and forms of struggle which arise from the vital needs of the masses, from the level of their fighting capacity at the present stage of development.


In mobilizing the mass of working people for the struggle against fascism, the formation of a wide anti-fascist People’s Front on the basis of the proletarian united front is a particularly important task. The success of the whole struggle of the proletariat is closely bound up with the establishment of a fighting alliance between the proletariat, on the one hand, and the laboring peasantry and basic mass of the urban petty bourgeoisie who together form the majority of the population even in industrially developed countries, on the other.


What is the Achilles’ heel of the fascist dictatorship? Its social basis. The latter is extremely heterogeneous. It is made up of various strata of society. Fascism has proclaimed itself the sole representative of all classes and strata of the population: the manufacturer and the worker, the millionaire and the unemployed, the Junker and the small peasant, the big businessman and the artisan. It pretends to defend the interests of all these strata, the interests of the nation. But since it is a dictatorship of the big bourgeoisie, fascism must inevitably come into conflict with its mass social basis, all the more since, under the fascist dictatorship, the class contradictions between the pack of financial magnates and the overwhelming majority of the people are brought out in greatest relief.


We need not be dismayed, comrades, if the people mobilized around these day-to-day interests consider themselves either indifferent to politics or even followers of fascism. The important thing for us is to draw them into the movement, which, although it may not at first proceed openly under the slogans of the struggle against fascism, is already objectively an anti-fascist movement putting these masses into opposition to the fascist dictatorship.


If we Communists are asked whether we advocate the united front only in the fight for partial demands, or whether we are prepared to share the responsibility even when it will be a question of forming a government on the basis of the united front, then we say with a full sense of our responsibility: Yes, we recognize that a situation may arise in which the formation of a government of the proletarian united front, or of an anti-fascist People’s Front, will become not only possible but necessary. And in that case, we shall advocate for the formation of such a government without the slightest hesitation.


I am not speaking here of a government which may be formed after the victory of the proletarian revolution. I am not speaking of such a case, but of the possible formation of a united front government on the eve of and before the victory of the revolution.


What kind of government is this? It is primarily a government of struggle against fascism and reaction. It must be a government arising as the result of the united front movement and in no way restricting the activity of the Communist party and the mass organizations of the working class, but on the contrary, taking resolute measures against the counterrevolutionary financial magnates and their fascist agents.


Why did Lenin attach such exceptionally great importance to the form of transition to the proletarian revolution? Because he had in mind the fundamental law of all great revolutions, the law that for the masses propaganda and agitation alone cannot take the place of their own political experience, when it is a question of attracting really broad masses of the working people to the side of the revolutionary vanguard, without which a victorious struggle for power is impossible. It is a common mistake of a Leftist character to imagine that as soon as a political (or revolutionary) crisis arises, it is enough for the Communist leaders to put forth the slogan of revolutionary insurrection, and the broad masses will follow them. No, even in such a crisis the masses are by no means always ready to do so.


One of the weakest aspects of the anti-fascist struggle of our Parties is that they react inadequately and too slowly to the demagogy of fascism, and to this day continue to neglect the problems of the struggle against fascist ideology. Many comrades did not believe that so reactionary a brand of bourgeois ideology as the ideology of fascism, which in its stupidity frequently reaches the point of lunacy, would be able to gain any mass influence. This was a serious mistake. The putrefaction of capitalism penetrates to the innermost core of its ideology and culture, while the desperate situation of wide masses of the people renders certain sections of them susceptible to infection from the ideological refuse of this putrefaction.



Under no circumstances must we underrate fascism’s power of ideological infection. On the contrary, we for our part must develop an extensive ideological struggle based on clear, popular arguments and a correct, well thought out approach to the peculiarities of the national psychology of the masses of the people.


We Communists are the irreconcilable opponents, in principle, of bourgeois nationalism in all its forms. But we are not supporters of national nihilism, and should never act as such. The task of educating the workers and all working people in the spirit of proletarian internationalism is one of the fundamental tasks of every Communist Party. But anyone who thinks that this permits him, or even compels him, to sneer at all the national sentiments of the broad masses of working people is far from being a genuine Bolshevik, and has understood nothing of the teaching of Lenin on the national question.


We are enemies of all cut-and-dried schemes. We want to take into account the concrete situation at each moment, in each place, and not act according to a fixed, stereotyped form anywhere and everywhere, not to forget that in varying circumstances the position of the Communists cannot be identical.


We want to find a common language with the broadest masses for the purpose of struggling against the class enemy, to find ways of finally overcoming the isolation of the revolutionary vanguard from the masses of the proletariat and all other working people, as well as of overcoming the fatal isolation of the working class itself from its natural allies in the struggle against the bourgeoisie, against fascism.


We want to draw increasingly wide masses into the revolutionary class struggle and lead them to the proletarian revolution proceeding from their vital interests and needs as the starting point, and their own experience as the basis.


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