First published in France in 1970, Nicos Poulantzas' Fascism and Dictatorship was translated by Judith White for New Left Books in 1974. In their introduction to that edition, the editors wrote:
The victory of fascism in Germany and Italy in the inter-war period was perhaps the greatest defeat ever suffered by the European working-class movement. The exact social nature of the political regimes led by Hitler and Mussolini has remained a focus of controversy on the Left ever since. Much new scholarly research has been done in the last decades on Nazism and Fascism, and a large literature written on them by liberal sociologists and historians. Nicos Poulantzas's work, by contrast, is the first major Marxist study of German and Italian fascism to appear since the Second World War. Fascism and Dictatorship takes full account of recent advances in empirical knowledge of the phenomenon of European fascism, but seeks to develop a rigorous theory of it as a specific type of capitalist State — using many of the concepts formulated in the now standard Political Power and Social Classes. Poulantzas's book carefully distinguishes between fascism as a mass movement before the seizure of power and fascism as an entrenched machinery of dictatorship. It compares the distinct class components of the counter-revolutionary blocs mobilized by fascism in Germany and in Italy respectively. It analyses the changing relationship between the petty bourgeoisie and big capital in the evolution of fascism. It discusses the internal structures of the fascist State itself, as an emergency regime for the defence of capital, and it provides an extensive and documented criticism of the official policies and attitudes of the Third International towards fascism, in the fateful years after the Versailles settlement. Fascism and Dictatorship represents a challenging synthesis of factual evidence and conceptual analysis that has generally been rare in Marxist theory.
We present an excerpt from Fascism and Dictatorship below.
In this section I shall first examine the relation between fascism and the dominant classes or class fractions within the periodization indicated above. I should at once make it clear that fascism is a very complex phenomenon: it can only be explained by elucidating its relation to the various classes in struggle. Nevertheless, it corresponds to a very particular situation of the various dominant classes and class fractions.
A friend of Nicos Poulantzas and many other Greek intellectuals, Étienne Balibar was in Athens recently for an Institut Français workshop titled “From populism to counter-populism: history and strategy”. Before the meeting he gave an exclusive interview to GrèceHebdo. Translated by David Broder.
On the weekend of the international conference on Nicos Poulantzas’s work held at the Sorbonne on 16–17 January, Contretemps published this interview with Michael Löwy, who was for seven years the late Greek-French thinker’s assistant at the Université de Paris 8-Vincennes.
Can you tell us about how you met Nicos Poulantzas?
In the 1960s my Brazilian friend Emir Sader – who to this day remains one of the most important Latin American Marxists – was living in exile in France. After my own move to France in 1969 I met with Emir one day and he said to me: ‘I have to leave for Chile’ (this was a few months before Salvador Allende’s Unidad Popular came to power, in 1970), ‘can you take my place as Nicos Poulantzas’s assistant at Vincennes university’? I said ‘yes, of course…’ That was when he introduced me to Nicos, who also agreed to this.
At that time, Nicos knew nothing of my own theoretical and political pedigree. He had no reason to worry about that, since Emir had vouched for me. But we belonged to very different tribes of Marxists: he was an Althusserian whereas I was a Lukácsian, he was semi-Maoist and then a Eurocommunist, whereas I was a Trotskyist. And yet we got along marvellously well. Over the years we organised courses on the Third International, the national question, state theory, Lenin, Gramsci… And at the outset we had decided to do the courses together. The students loved this, because they heard two different points of view on each of these themes. Our little duo lasted for some years…