Just some thoughts I’m working through at the moment, I’ll probably change and expand on some points as time goes on. This may have been loosely inspired by recent events but it’s also intended to provoke a more critical response to the claim that Capitalism and Fascism are diametrically opposed.
One inescapable victory of capitalism is in its successful cleaving of the economic and political struggle. This separation often referred to as ‘false consciousness’ by socialists eager to reinsert the notion of historical materialism back into the debate, unfortunately, does often correspond to the realities of life under capitalism. That is to say, the specifics of capitalist exploitation does lend itself to a similar division in the organization of anti-capitalist struggle.
This dispersal of power is in many ways one of the things that sustain capitalism, local struggles whilst often successful in winning better working conditions for workers within an organization will by their nature leave the wider political structures largely untouched even though, it is those same structures that protect those companies and enshrine their power of appropriation in law.
So why or how could it be asserted that there is a connection between fascism and capitalism? Consider the connection between business owners, and party politics. In 2016 Janet Mayer’s excellent book, Dark Money traced how flows of capital from some of the richest families and institutions in the US impacted the political landscape, targeting environment restrictions, the reduction of workers rights and the lowering of taxation. Whilst the reasoning for this has often been linked to a specific conception of freedom, specifically economic freedom. It became increasingly that freedom in this instance only applied to the business owners ability to realize profits. Not their worker’s well being or those affected by the inevitable consequences of environmental fallout.
One factor that historically has threatened businesses ability too profiteer is the collective power of the workers who through, general strikes, negotiation, unionisation and direction action can upset the established order between the direct producers and the appropriators of their labour, divesting the business owner of some of their ability to realize profits whilst redistributing power back to the workforce.
In the 1930s following the Great Depression, many businesses in Europe were taken under state ownership, capitalism, in the original sense of the private producers owning the means of production was in many ways in decline. However, in Nazi Germany, something quite different was underfoot. In the mid-1930s, Nazi Germany transferred a vast range of businesses back into private hands these included everything from steel and mining to railways and shipwards (Bell, 2009). Whilst there is some contention over why this exactly happened, it’s worth examining the case of Friedrich Thyssen, who in 1923 began to make substantial donations to the Nazi Party due to his belief that they could repress the growing communist movement and the drive towards collective ownership.
Prior to The Night of Long Knives and the murder of the majority of Hitler’s political opponents, in 1933 the Nazi Party also targeted the trade unions, confiscating funds and occupying headquarters before consolidating the former trade unions under a singular entity, the German Labour Force. Under their auspices strikes were banned, job placements were made mandatory and women were removed from employment figures. Whilst workers wages between 1933 and 1939 actually fell during this time and the cost of living increased, the overall GNP of Nazi Germany increased
. Additionally from 1934 to 1938 saw the highest increase proceeds, from privatization, of any EU-15 country.