The Crisis of the Dictatorships is Nicos Poulantzas's fourth book. It is a compact study, at once topical and theoretical, of the historical end of the reactionary and authoritarian regimes that have dominated much of Southern Europe. Poulantzas applies the categories of his now standard general works — on Political Power and Social Classes, Fascism and Dictatorship, and Classes in Contemporary Capitalism — to the specific social structures and political systems of Portugal, Spain and Greece. The international environment and the internal dynamic of class conflict in each country are surveyed. The book then assesses the ruling bloc, the popular classes and the State apparatus in Portuguese, Greek and Spanish societies. The result is a novel and powerful analysis of the causes of the fall of the Papadopoulous-Ioannides Junta, the overthrow of the Salazarist State, and the crisis of Franco's heirs, that contrasts these with the end of German Nazism and Italian Fascism thirty years ago. The Crisis of the Dictatorships will be essential reading for all who are concerned with the political future of Europe.
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.