Why are many conservatives against anti-fascists

Left-wing extremism

Prof. Dr. Armin Pfahl-Traughber

Prof. Dr. Armin Pfahl-Traughber

To person

Dipl.-Pol., Dipl.-Soz., Born in 1963, is a full-time lecturer at the Federal University of Applied Sciences in Brühl with a focus on extremism and the history of ideas, lecturer at the University of Bonn with a focus on political theory and editor of the Yearbook for Extremism and Terrorism Research (Brühl).

An analysis of the history of ideas and the strategic functions of a battle term

Even if every convinced democrat has to be a staunch opponent of fascism: Antifascism is not a democratic position per se.

Autonomous at a demonstration as part of a campaign, August 1997 in Quedlingburg. (& copy AP)

If you bring the term "anti-fascism" into the context of left-wing extremism, this sometimes causes irritation and amazement. What should, so is a frequent reaction, be reprehensible if one sees oneself as a decided opponent of fascism and the fascists? Isn't this, according to a possible other opinion, a question of a basic democratic position? The view indirectly contained in these questions, according to which every convinced democrat is also a staunch opponent of fascism, can in principle be agreed. Nevertheless, the reverse does not apply, according to which every convinced anti-fascist must also be a convinced democrat. Suffice it to say that a totalitarian dictator like Stalin (at least before 1939 and after 1941) was an avowed anti-fascist, but hardly a staunch democrat, as evidence for this view. Here anti-fascism is to be critically presented and interpreted as a topic of left-wing extremist agitation, alliance politics and ideology.

The definition of fascism in a scientific sense

Dealing with anti-fascism presupposes the definition of the reference term of rejection: The term "fascism" emerged as a self-designation for the Mussolini movement in Italy and initially only referred to the bundling of the political forces addressed. They were ideologically oriented towards nationalism, socially the recruitment from the middle class and strategically the organization as a mass movement. Some activists, like Mussolini himself, came from the socialist left. This explains the relatively high status of the social question in the agitation and program of the fascists, who, unlike the Marxist socialists, did not intend to expropriate the means of production. Rather, it was about only mentally eliminating the social differences through the common awareness of national belonging. Based on the Mussolini movement, fascist movements arose in many other countries in the 1920s and 1930s.

The definition of fascism in the left-wing extremist sense

In the communist movement of the time, fascism theories emerged early on, which interpreted the emergence of such endeavors as an expression of a particular crisis in monopoly capitalism and saw in them the instrument of a certain wing of the capitalist class. Precisely because of its political proximity to capitalists, the orthodox communism of the time defined fascism as the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinist and imperialist elements of monopoly capital (Dimitrov thesis). In addition, fascism was seen as the bourgeoisie's instrument of struggle against the proletariat, and so at times all tendencies directed against communism were referred to as fascist in an inflationary sense - regardless of their actual political orientation. The KPD of the Weimar Republic even exaggerated this agitation to such an extent that it defamed the SPD as "social-fascist".

Anti-fascism in the democratic sense

Since the use of the term "fascism" as a left-wing extremist fighting term and a scientific term can be distinguished, the same applies to the understanding of "anti-fascism". In a democratic sense, for example, the liberal opposition to Mussolini saw itself as anti-fascist as early as the 1920s. And in this sense the term found widespread use: as an expression of the rejection of an authoritarian dictatorship which, in the alleged name of nation and people, abolished fundamental rights and persecuted oppositionists. But not only the opponents of Mussolini's regime in Italy saw themselves as anti-fascists in this sense. Also in the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939 and after Franco's victory, many opponents of his military dictatorship called themselves anti-fascists. In this respect, this term is also a positive term, i.e. H. This self-designation is accompanied by an appreciative and benevolent perception in democratic societies.

Anti-fascist in a left-wing extremist sense

In contrast, the aforementioned definition of communist fascism assumes that fascism in economic crises necessarily follows from capitalism. A consistent anti-fascism in this sense intends to abolish the economic order of capitalism and thus also the parliamentary democracy, which is regarded as bourgeois. In this respect, such an understanding of the communists is not only directed against fascists or right-wing extremists, but also against bourgeois democrats of the most varied of orientations. Therefore, this understanding of fascism was and is a political instrument for the ideological legitimation of one's own claims to power, which was and is used tactically differently depending on the specific framework conditions: In seemingly "revolutionary situations" one extends the understanding of fascism to social democracy, with a rather marginal importance one also forms alliances with bourgeois forces through anti-fascism.