Preface to the newly edited book by Evguiéni Pachukanis

Evguiéni Pachukanis writes, concurrently with the unfolding of events, one of the most notable analyzes of fascism: it is a unique and radical materialist reading. This book brings together, for the first time in Portuguese, the four important studies of the Pachukanian work on fascism and its environments and related problems. Reflecting on the political framework that was emerging in the first decades of the XNUMXth century, Pachukanis identifies, scrutinizes and systematizes the causes of fascism, its relationship with capitalism and with the struggles and disputes in terms of economy, politics and classes. Warm texts due to the heat of the moment and, simultaneously, solid and perennial due to the vigor of his thought.

The Pachukanian studies that deal with the Italian and German cases stand out for the radical sharpness of an analysis that is always intransigently revolutionary. His texts are not defeatist or cautious, nor are they favorable to generalist agreements. At the same time, they are not idealistic, Olympic readings or just metrics that are indifferent to reality: the three studies on fascism and the study on the German social-democratic case are deep immersions in history and events, in a meticulous reconstitution of data, pronouncements , publications and third-party theoretical analyses, constituting a firm factual network from which the most solid line of reflection ever written on such elements also arises.

Pachukanis, although an external spectator to the facts – he is neither Italian nor German – is intimately linked to the historical circumstance that he analyzes in a peculiar way. From a Soviet point of view, in direct opposition to the German and Italian drifts to the right, his reading is committed to the revolution that should be made in both countries. Even the German case is extremely close to it. Initially, because Pachukanis had a large part of his theoretical training in Germany itself. Furthermore, after the Revolution of 1917, on several occasions he advised the equivalent of a Russian Foreign Office on German matters – he even worked directly as a diplomat for revolutionary Russia in its dealings with Berlin.

He helped draft and actively participated in the preparation of the Treaty of Rapallo, signed in the Italian city of the same name in 1922, in which relations between Russia and Germany were reestablished. His legal ingenuity was decisive for the virulent fight against the Soviet experience to receive the first dissonance, allowing a sigh in the face of the international blockade against Russia and the republics united to it. The same diagnosis applied to Germany itself, isolated after losing the First World War.

Regarding Pachukanis' relationship with Germany, in addition to his participation in the Treaty of Rapallo, Luiz Felipe Osório comments that “the Soviet jurist forged important personal and professional ties with Germany. In 1910, he goes from Saint Petersburg to Munich (in Ludwig-Maximilians Universität) to continue the course of law. […] From 1920 to 1923, Pachukanis worked in the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, equivalent to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as director or head of the department of economic law. From 1921 to 1922 he returned to Germany, to serve in Berlin. It is at this point that he becomes directly involved in Rapallo's preparations. The records show that, on December 3, 1921, he sent a telegram to Minister/Chancellor Georgy Chicherin to deal with questions proper to a chargé d'affairs, going far beyond mere legal advice. The Soviet commission going to Genoa was appointed directly by Lenin, given the importance of the mission, and included Georgy Chicherin, Maxim Litvinov and Leonid Krasin. On the way to Genoa, the first two made a strategic stop in Berlin. So they were able to deal directly with Pachukanis on various diplomatic matters, in addition to Rapallo”.[I]

Against the backdrop of Pachukanis's analysis of the Italian and German cases for his General theory of law and Marxism. If it is true that his texts on fascism have their own gravity axis, dealing with a distinguished theme, it is also true that, for this specific political analysis, the horizons and deep commitments of his most important theoretical work unfold.

Em General theory of law and Marxism, shines, for the political and legal fields, the most rigorous scientific construction of Marxism: the commodity form, atom of capitalist sociability, as Marx had revealed in The capital, is the matrix of the state political form and the form of legal subjectivity, which are umbilically derived from it. More than the question of normative contents or political action, the critique of form is reached. The political form and the form of law are called into question: the sociability of the commodity form is at stake. Thus, the extinction of law and the withering away of the State are indexes of a stage of class struggle in overcoming capitalism.

There is no State that can manage, through the promotion of institutions or law, the arrival of socialism. Neither can one think that politics is what normative, principled or legal statements announce as such. Fascism would then be analyzed by Pachukanis from the point of view of the contradictions of capitalist sociability, with no illusions regarding possible solutions or contentions on the moral, ethical, institutional or legal level. In texts on fascism, the jurist Pachukanis never points to law as a solution. The radical crudity with which he approaches the nature of law in capitalism is the same with which he analyzes the concrete cases of Italian and German dynamics in their journeys to the extreme right.

It should be noted that already in his magnum oeuvre, General theory of law and Marxism, there are passages in which Pachukanis directly reflects on the specific historical time that fascism will generate. As it reads: “Monopoly capitalism creates the perfect premises for another economic system, in which the movement of production and social reproduction is carried out not through private contracts between autonomous economic units, but with the help of a planned, centralized organization. . This organization is engendered by trusts, cartels, among other monopoly associations. The action of these trends could be seen in wartime, with the merging of private capitalism and state organizations to form a powerful system of bourgeois state capitalism. […] The social meaning of these doctrines is an apology for the modern imperialist State and its methods, to which it particularly resorted during the last war”. […]

“The State as a force factor in both domestic and foreign policy was the correction that the bourgeoisie was forced to make in its theory and practice of the “Rule of Law”. The more bourgeois domination is threatened, the more compromising these corrections will prove to be and the faster the “rule of law” will turn into an incorporeal shadow, until, finally, the exceptional aggravation of the class struggle forces the bourgeoisie to completely set aside the mask of the rule of law and revealing the essence of power as the organized violence of one class over others”. […]

“It is worth noting, moreover, that precisely the last decade of the XNUMXth century and the first of the XNUMXth showed a visible tendency in a whole series of bourgeois countries towards the re-establishment of frightening, distressing and vexatious punishments. The humanism of the bourgeoisie gives way to an appeal to severity, to a wider application of the death penalty”.[ii]

The set of texts by Pachukanis on fascism succeeds General theory of law and Marxism. The first to be published, in 1926, was entitled “For a characterization of the fascist dictatorship”. Originally, it was Pachukanis's report on the subject that was read at the Communist Academy. The second was the entry “Fascism”, published in Encyclopedia of State and Law, under the direction of P. Stutchka, in 1927. The third was the report entitled “The Crisis of Capitalism and Fascist State Theories”, published in Soviet state and revolution, in 1931. The last of the texts was called “How the social-fascists falsified the soviets in Germany”, published in 1933.

The first three – two on the Italian case and the other on the German case – are analyzes that focus on ongoing facts. The fourth, also about Germany, deals with a moment in the past, the end of the First War and the arrival of the Weimar Republic. Although referring to a previous moment, such an analysis is essential to understand the later impasses of the German struggles, already when Hitler ascended to power.

Given the temporal extension of the writing and publication of such a set of texts, the question of their congruence with the main ideas developed by Pachukanis in General theory of law and Marxism. It is known that Pachukan's last reflection underwent changes in relation to that of the time when he wrote his most important work. The author's final texts, already close to 1937, the year of his death, reveal great distinctions in his thought, reinserting traditional views of law that he had previously fought against.

There is a debate among researchers of Pachukanian thought about when one should consider their texts already influenced and constrained by Stalinist positions. Some tend to point out only the set of writings from the 1930s as patently confluent with Stalinism, while there are those who already see in works soon subsequent to General theory of law and Marxism the change of thinking. Márcio Bilharinho Naves, the most important scholar of Pachukanis, dismisses the principle of a cut in the work of the Russian author merely referenced to a precise date.

Recognizing that there are substantial differences between the texts from the last phase and those from the time of the jurist's central book, Naves points out, however, that Pachukanis resists in his process of self-criticism. This problem returns many times in the texts of the 1930s, even under the forced adjustment to the constraints of the political context. Therefore, it is not a question of tracing, in an absolute way, a before and an after, but rather of verifying the persistence, rectifications and constant alterations of the pachukanian problematic in his final texts.

Says Naves: “Pachukanis effectively modifies and abandons their positions. The difference between our analysis of this self-critical process and the others resides, on the one hand, in a new effort to read the way in which Pachukanis reorganizes his theoretical device, and seeks to account for his hesitations and resistance, particularly in recognizing the existence of a “proletarian right” or “socialist”. On the other hand, and in close connection with the first, we try to think of the reconstitution of the legal conceptual apparatus in the 1930s as the negation of the theses originally defended by Pachukanis. We can divide this period into two moments. In the first, Pachukanis introduces a non-negligible theoretical “imbalance” in his theory of law, compromising its theoretical construction, but still conserving – even if in contradiction with the new theses – some elements of the original conception. And a second moment – ​​from 1936 – onwards, in which Pachukanis supports a theory of law – and of the State – in accordance with the Stalinist orientation, clearly demarcated in relation to the formulations of General theory of law and Marxism".[iii]

In the reading of Márcio Bilharinho Naves – with which we agree –, the works of Pachukanis from the 1930s, including those from 1935, already present an “imbalance” that alters their original positions, although there is an attempt to protect them in some way . The 1936 works mark a complete contrast and a total submission to Stalinism, before he was killed in 1937. With this scenario as a guide, the set of texts on fascism is distributed in part by what is its most vigorous and original phase – the 1920s – and, in another, the moment of Stalinist rectification, in which he still sought to sustain the fundamentals of his analysis.

In fact, one can see in “The Crisis of Capitalism and Fascist Theories of the State” and “How the Social-Fascists Falsified the Soviets in Germany” the presence of some traits of the official political position of the Soviet government: the nomenclature of “ social-fascists” to the German social-democrats, in particular, reveals a jargon pleasing to Stalinism. However, in general, the texts of the 1920s, and even those of the 1930s, are substantially constructed by the problematic, method and radicalism of Pachukanis' main thought.

* * *

The first text of this book is called “For a characterization of the fascist dictatorship”. In it, Pachukanis rejects the idea that fascism is a dictatorship of the petty bourgeoisie or the landlords. It is, above all, a dictatorship of big industrialists and finance capital. The Italian fascist state is the same as the other states of big bourgeois capital, such as the French, English and American ones. Hence, immediately, the central question of Pachukanis to support the characterization of fascism, which replicates what is the most important question of General theory of law and Marxism. Given that there is a relationship between capitalism and law, Pachukanis asks himself, in his greatest work, why it is law that specifically structures capital. His words are classic: “Why does class domination not present itself as it is, that is, the subjection of one part of the population to another, but takes the form of official state domination or, what amounts to the same thing, why Is the apparatus of state coercion not constituted as a private apparatus of the ruling class, but does it detach from it, assuming the form of an impersonal apparatus of public power, separate from society?[iv]

In “For a characterization of the fascist dictatorship”, the same question arises to understand why, being the bourgeois State, capital specifically needs the fascist dictatorship. The problem of form arises right from the start: “to say that the dictatorship of fascism is the dictatorship of capital is to say very little. It is necessary to give an answer to the question: why does the dictatorship of capital take place precisely in this way? One cannot forget Hegel's thought about form being an essential point of content. Therefore, we have an obligation to find out what this particular form generated as new, what it offered as new, what its specific possibilities and its specific contradictions”.[v]

Pachukanis wonders whether fascism is a specific intellectual or philosophical doctrine. Finally, he dismisses this hypothesis, pointing out the primitivist nature of fascist ideas, whose character is fragmented, contradictory. In terms of the specificity of the conditions for its emergence, the author recognizes that, in the Italian case, fascism sprouted from more propitious and cherished conditions than in other countries: feelings of national liberation (which could symbolically drink even from Garibaldi), irredentism , the peculiar figure of Gabriele D'Annunzio, the nationalist agitation.

In this context, contradictions also arise: the petty bourgeoisie that gives impetus to fascism is not that of artisans and shopkeepers – who could eventually compete with big capital –, but rather a petty bourgeoisie of academic youth – technical intelligentsia and public servants, subordinated to big capital. Pachukanis points out, already here, the fact that this was the same and specific profile of the fraction of classes that got involved with Hitlerism in Germany.

All this leads us to identify, within the general context of capitalism and its sociability, a core of fascism. Pachukanis will say that perhaps its most striking characteristic is the mass organization, disciplined, in the manner of war. In this, the phenomenon differs from Bonapartism, which is based on the Army. Fascism is supported by the political organization of the masses, in such a way that it feeds on a constant struggle and conflict between fascists and anti-fascists. Already in power, fascism acts as a state within the state: it does not establish itself as an impersonal bureaucracy, but as an organization that dictates its will to the government or state bodies.

For this reason, contrary to the expectations of big business and the liberal bourgeoisie, Mussolini did not suppress or dissolve the fascist militias. Pachukanis is aware of the fact that the strength of leftist parties in Italy, in the years before the rise of fascism, was revealed by the various municipal governments they administered. There were also many unions responsible for struggle actions and strikes. Against this background, fascism, which was of little expression, in a short time becomes an enormous force, uniting sectors of big capital and landowners.

When he takes power, he abandons revolutionary pretensions and openly defends a strong power and the free movement of capital. The labor movement, persecuted, goes into decline. The subsequent wage reduction led to an increase in production in the following years. However, Mussolini did not reorganize the economy in terms of an economically sovereign nationalism; on the contrary, he allowed a series of denationalizations. The connection between fascism and traditional Italian nationalism is more evident only at the international level, with emphasis on its imperialist stance. Pachukanis points out, however, that Italian imperialism is not made in opposition to English imperialism, but in harmony with it. The interest of capital operates the international dynamics of fascism.

Faced with this whole picture, Pachukanis wonders what would be specific to the phenomenon of fascism, given that the French coup of 1851 already contained many of such characteristics. In his own words, he says: “The difference is that, alongside legalized repression, repression through arbitrariness continues.”[vi].

Pachukanis points out, through tables published in the press, the number of persecutions, arrests, deaths, destructions and condemnations carried out by the official organs of the State and by the fascist bands, even reaching the execution of pogroms. It is true that the bourgeoisie, at its limit, fears the arbitrary power of fascism, but the benefits of the breakdown of workers' movements make it accept a government subordinated to a hierarchy directed by the fascist leader.

It is on the basis of such a characterization that Pachukanis is concerned with rejecting the despicable association that the liberal bourgeoisie intended to undertake between fascism and communism. Here, his proposition of social forms in the field of politics shines. It doesn't matter if, in terms of content, fascist criticisms are somewhat reminiscent of the Leninist criticism of bourgeois democracy. The issue is one of form: socialism reveals itself as the class dictatorship of the proletariat to establish a new system of productive relations.

Despite also being a critique of bourgeois democracy, fascist class dictatorship is radically different in that it is an attempt to maintain capitalist social forms, seeking to delay their withering away. Thus, the punctual coincidence of some criticism is not enough to establish an equivalence. The radical distinction between fascism and communism lies in the form: revolutionary political action aimed at overcoming capitalist forms versus the reactive political action that seeks to save these same forms.

Fascism makes clear the possible cleavage of the government of capital: it is always divided and spread by democratic deception or by fascist demagoguery, whose terror seeks to artificially weld class rule. It turns out that the need for fascism also generates its cost, given that its pattern of exacerbated struggle prevents the possibility of any “normalization”. Pachukanis already pointed out, in the 1920s, that such a war regime would not be able to stabilize in the long term.

The pachukanian text concludes the analysis dealing with tactics. The author claims the position that the solution to fascism is socialism. The fall of capitalism in general, through the dictatorship of the proletariat, is the most desired path for the fascist question. However, since the forces did not arise in Italy to remove fascism from the game, it would continue to exist. Hence, Pachukanis highlights the need to seek the fight against fascism even if the working class is not mature enough to carry out the proletarian revolution.

The internal contradictions between fascists and anti-fascists must be explored. Just as Lenin envisioned in the English case the possibility of a practical mass political action that would lead to the escalation of conflicts and contradictions between fractions of the right, so Pachukanis also points out the way out of passivity in the Italian case by proposing an anti-fascist struggle, even if the struggle proletarian struggle for the seizure of power is immature. Such a Leninist step towards action – a step open to the unexpected, even if it seems small[vii] – could be the meeting of conditions that lead to both the fall of fascism and the fall of the capitalist system in Italy.

Following on from such a pioneering text, “Fascism” was originally an entry written by Pachukanis for the Encyclopedia of State and Law. This editorial venture sought to bring together the best and most canonical studies on fundamental themes of politics, institutions and law, advancing Soviet and socialist knowledge by consolidating an encyclopedic repertoire.

In addition to other entries he wrote there, Pachukanis wrote the entry on fascism, in which he analyzes its characteristics and its opposition to other forms of bourgeois rule. The author resorts, in his reflection, to the recognition of fascism as a phenomenon that is not located only in the State, but that advances through the political and social fabric against the working classes, serving as an anchor of salvation for the big capitalists. The Italian case, since the beginning of the 1920s, allows delineating some of the general quadrants of fascism, such as the denial of the liberal order and corporatism. But, immediately, it removes the notion that the concept of fascism is broad to the point of extending to dictatorships that, at that time, still maintained the police and the army as the main organs of violence, exemplified by Hungary, Bulgaria, Spain, Lithuania and Poland.

Pachukanis considers that Germany, even when writing this text, differed from Italy insofar as, in the post-war period, the German bourgeoisie made a movement to seek to save its state institutions, while the Italians concentrated political power in the fascist party . With this, Pachukanis marks a rigorous construction of a specific – and not extended – concept of fascism.

The third of the texts published here, “The crisis of capitalism and the fascist theories of the State”, deals with an assessment, written in 1931, of the situation of world capitalism and the cases of Italy and, in particular, of Germany. The prism through which he analyzes this dynamic is that of theories – mainly those about the State and politics – that sought to explain fascism. Pachukanis criticizes readings made within the Soviet Union that identified fascism from the weakening of the State and its institutions in favor of fascist organizations, associations and armed militias.

This would lead anti-fascist struggles, in the author's view, to a return to the defense of the bourgeois State, and what was needed was precisely to seize state power to destroy it. In contrast to such views, which dissociated fascist militias from state institutions, as if the latter were weakened, what happens with fascism from the Pachukanian perspective is fundamentally an increase in state power. The apparatus of war, repression and intimidation, the bailout of the banks, the dependence of the poor population on minimal state assistance, increase.

The world capitalist crisis causes ideological fissures that must be explored. The repressive manipulations, in addition to those salvationist from capital, have repercussions on the hearts of the masses. Pachukanis even mentions Brazil in his assessment of the crisis: “When in Brazil millions of kilos of coffee are thrown into the sea, […] when in South America the entire potato crop is abandoned on land, at the same time , millions go hungry – and this, of course, cannot but influence the psychology of the most backward and oppressed layers of workers. Capitalism realizes that it has now become hated.”[viii]

The Pachukanian reading of the crisis does not admit the liberal position that seeks to dissociate the social democrats from the fascists. They are two brigades that complete and continue each other. Pachukanis assumes the reading key of Stalin, who claims that social democracy is the moderate wing of fascism, even calling it by the term social-fascism. In this multiplicity of currents that converge in the defense of capitalism, alongside the crudest German fascist views, there are those that seek to base themselves on theoretical concepts that are reputedly more sophisticated. Pachukanis attacks, in his text, exactly against such currents and their ideologues. The Order of Young Germans (JungDeutsche Medals or yet, jungdo), in which, incidentally, there were many jurists and specialists in matters of public and State law, is its priority target.

The author exposes that the theoretical reference of such fascists who intended to be better elaborated, elitists, was Ferdinand Tönnies. Already at the end of the XNUMXth century, Tönnies proposed the conceptual difference between society (Society) and community (Community): the latter would be the result of collective organic ties, while the former, arising from artificial, individualist relationships. The community is founded on the traditions of the past; society does not keep this ballast and is guided by future strategies, by profit. In this conceptual pair, the so-called sophisticated German reactionary positions, which considered themselves heirs of the true Prussian spirit – of the barracks – would be allowed, a motto “against” the bourgeoisie and its individualism. Such a “against” is, in fact, “in favor”: the motto of the community, erected in a struggle for a collective inspired by some idyllic communal past, removes the possibility of class struggle, thus seeking to amalgamate the social whole from of a pattern that prevented rifts, divisions and conflicts within capitalist sociability.

Gustav Adolf Walz and other more recent theorists dedicated themselves to developing the benefits of this conceptual community/society pair. Pachukanis points out the absence of science – sheer absurdity – in such readings, which sought to refound German society from selected pieces of feudalism and bourgeois society, making this mixture a substance capable of serving as a guiding principle of world history.

Such readings identified modern absolutism, Italian fascism and even the Bolshevik experience as examples of social subordinations that valued community against society. The difference of the proletarian dictatorship in relation to the other subordinations would be only the detail of the objectives of the revolution. Pachukanis accuses such a proposition as being presumptuous, which, by taking the reason for the proletarian struggle as a particular “detail”, does not even deserve to spend time on its criticism, given such scientific insanity.

Such positions falsify the fascist claim to radicalism and the struggle against the bourgeoisie, democracy or parliamentarism. Expressions such as “bourgeois State”, criticized in these readings, or “true democracy”, praised by them, reveal that the same State and the same democracy are proposed, only wrapped in envelopes of past pretensions. Pachukanis exposes such a false turn of fascist statements: it is just a superstructural, political movement of capitalism in crisis and decay. Since it cannot resolve its contradictions in liberal terms, it then makes up for it by taking a step back, going back to the past, distorting it to make it replace the already ineffective liberalism.

The make-up intended by the best-established fascist theorists is even made up of objectives and strategies that vary according to the winds, through profiteers who sniff out the best pleasures to the power of the occasion. Pachukanis points out that theorists like Reinhard Höhn – who, years later, would be responsible for disgracing the co-religionist Carl Schmitt within the Nazi circle itself – suggest that Germany should overcome bourgeois democracy and establish an organic state regime, like a community of neighbors, given that, due to its superior status compared to the Italians, it would not be compatible with the dictatorship of a strong personality. In the ironic words of Pachukanis, “they did not count on the success of the German Mussolini”.

At the base of these falsifications and anti-scientific make-up of elitist fascist theories, is the fact that the economic foundations of society are not called into question. Pachukanis firmly expresses that only the political superstructure is at issue in fascism. Capitalism and bourgeois exploitation remain untouched. Only the parliamentary system, democracy, freedoms and the political field are put in the spotlight. In this change, there is indeed something extremely real: military alliances. According to Pachukanian thought, this is where the novelty of fascism's contribution to the bourgeois dictatorship lies. Capitalism replaces the old system of political parties with terrorist organizations of capital, paramilitary and military.

Pachukanis vigorously shines, in his analysis, when he deals with the claim of fascist theorists to relate something of the politics of the extreme right with something of Marxism. And so it does in the reflection on two themes: the publicized similarity in politics and the similarity in economic principles. With regard to politics, there is an attempt by fascist theorists to say that Marx would operate the same criticism of bourgeois democracy, lacking in him the appreciation of the State. Being defenders of the community arising from organic traditions and gathered around the state leader, they could not conform to the Marxian point that the state must be fought.

Pachukanis identifies that they falsify Marx when they consider that, for socialists, the passage to socialism would be something immediate, without the dictatorship of the proletariat; at the same time, it reveals that fascist theorists themselves are unable to establish any more relevant approximation with long-term horizons, so much so that they distance themselves from Marx's criticisms, opposing him to Ferdinand Lassalle - the latter, yes, according to Höhn, a defender of the State, desiring a social-popular State.

Here, the fascists are reconciled with the old theses of juridical socialism, against which Friedrich Engels and Karl Kautsky had already risen in legal socialism[ix]. Pachukanis maintains the propriety of this irreconcilable opposition, precisely because he is the most important Marxist thinker to address the issue of criticism of the State in General theory of law and Marxism. With regard to politics, the author concludes: “Fascist theorists and social democrats embrace and turn their eyes to Lassalle, opposing him to Marx”. Pachukanis stays with Marx.

With regard to the economic relationship between fascism and Marxism, there is a difference in target: Pachukanis strikes a fundamental blow against the attempt to establish this similarity from the bosom of Marxism itself, especially by Nikolai Bukharin, who intended to praise Bolshevism for its efficiency economy similar to that of an eventually thriving fascist economy. What would have in common in such strength would be state capitalism. This, according to Bukharin, had been taken as the superior expression, natural evolution, of monopoly capitalism. It would be an advance in the productive forces, succeeding consecutively to the industrial and monopoly phases of capitalism.

Such a position would end up seeing positive traits in fascism, if we take it, in economic terms, also as a state-led capitalism. Pachukanis rebels against such a reading. State capitalism is an index of the weakness, impotence and contradictions of capitalism, not of its growth or the Olympic increase of its productive forces. It follows that this vision, in addition to being mistaken for seeing success in failure – whose symptom is fascism –, also reveals itself to be fully reformist, not contributing to revolutionary struggles.

The intention of the fascist theorists was precisely to keep under their power, through ideological demagoguery, the intermediate layers of society that could conquer the proletariat. All this for the benefit of capitalist profitability alone. For Pachukanis, the struggle for socialism, in the Soviet Union and in the West, has to go through the ideological struggle, demonstrating the nature of fascism and unmasking its ideology.

The fourth and final text of this anthology, “How the social-fascists falsified the soviets in Germany”, is subtitled “On the Proceedings of the First German Congress of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies”. Pachukanis vigorously invests in the analysis of such minutes, which deal with facts that occurred at a crucial moment in German history and international proletarian struggles: the turn from 1918 to 1919. After the overthrow of the German monarchy with the end of the First World War, the struggles and contradictions of the working masses exploded.

to the left of Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) – the German Social Democratic Party –, revolutionary groups such as Spartacus, led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, rose. But social-democracy, instead of advancing on the path of overcoming capitalism, held back the most consequential impulses of struggle. In a process of debates, disputes, congresses and assemblies, an attempt was made to manage – and block – the German socialist revolution, which ended up leading, months later, to the emergence of the Weimar Constitution, inaugurating the period called the Weimar Republic – from ready under SPD rule, which was eventually destroyed by Nazism in the 1930s[X].

The context in which councils and soviets exploded in Germany led, in December 1918, to the First German Congress of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, in Berlin. Spartacism had as its platform “all power to the councils”. Pachukanis analyzes how the SPD and its associated factions betray the Soviet movement. In his own words, opening his study, he says: “[…] social democracy falsified the soviets and filled this form of organization of the revolutionary masses with a radically hostile content, converting the soviets into an accomplice and mask of the counterrevolution ”[xi].

Pachukanis is emphatic in saying that social-democracy – which he will call social-fascism – saved capitalism exactly at a decisive moment of the German revolution, organizing the forces of bourgeois reaction and thus creating the womb in which Nazism would triumph. Flags such as the defense of “pure democracy” (traditional, without councils) and peace began to be brandished by the counterrevolutionary forces.

Being rigorous in the analysis of that period, Pachukanis also points out, in the positions on the left, structural errors. The main thing is in the Luxembourgish positions when they assume anti-Bolshevik orientations, such as the valuation of spontaneity, the denial of the organizational role of the party in the preparation of the armed insurrection and sectarianism, which was revealed in couplets such as “out of unions”. In addition, Pachukanis attacks the fundamental tactical error of the search for the preservation of unity between Spartacism and the SPD independents.

By joining hands with the Kautskyists, they misguided the position of the working classes, confusing them due to their agreement with their opponents and, therefore, curbing the revolutionary impetus of the masses. The author is assertive when he concludes that Germany was objectively ripe for socialist revolution. There could be no other task than the proletarian struggle; the time for the struggle for democracy had long since passed. Only the revolution was the struggle of historical time.

O Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (USPD) – German Independent Social Democratic Party –, which betrayed the soviets, was the only mass organization that brought together significant layers of the working class, given that Spartacism was small. In the decisive hour of the revolution, in a country that had only such a task to undertake, the German revolutionary proletariat was disarmed in terms of leadership and party organization. Then, the national and international bourgeoisie, which had already learned from the experience of the Russian Revolution, acted ruthlessly – “with calculated cruelty”, in the words of Pachukanis – against the German revolutionary workers.

Given the soviets' popularity among the German working class, it only remained for the social democratic leadership to falsify them and appropriate their discourse. Friedrich Ebert and Philipp Scheidemann succeeded each other in power with laudatory references to the soviets; the Ebert government even declares itself a socialist republic. This sequence of combats against councils and soviets, permeated by hypocritical declarations of support and enthusiasm for the revolutionary cause, acting in accordance with bourgeois tradition, makes the masses, in the face of such falsehood, pay more attention to Spartacist agitation. From there, the preparation for the repression of the Spartacus group must also follow. The First Congress unfolds itself in a succession of coups, blockades and injunctions that jettison or disfigure the struggles on the left.

Pachukanis realizes that the course of the minutes of the First Congress follows the attempt to praise the soviets for “containing the revolutionary workers and soldiers”, but the power should be in the hands of a centralized government, therefore bourgeois. From the same pattern of hatred of Spartacism and the German revolutionary masses, hatred of the Bolshevik Revolution is present in the minutes: it is considered fragile, not resistant to future war attacks by the Entente. Kautsky's supporters and social democrats who claimed to be on the left even falsified readings of Marx to say that the revolution could only come about with a ready-made state machine or a developed economy, rising up against Leninism. Narrating the horrors of Russian revolutionary terror, Scheidemann speaks, in a clear call to action pogrom, against the soviets.

Finally, Pachukanis perceives that the Spartacist and Socialist Revolutionary representatives themselves, in their last speeches and protests, in which the courage and practical experience of many of their positions weigh, also have great difficulty in establishing a rigorous reading of the facts and of Marxism. Fritz Heckert, Spartacist, future leader of the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (KPD) – German Communist Party –, and whom Pachukanis calls a comrade, instead of denouncing the war and the bourgeois dictatorship, makes side considerations on the improprieties of the nascent Constituent Assembly due to the great role of the representatives, as one would expect an assembly with greater direct participation of the masses.

But, in favor of this generic criticism of the model of political representation, fundamental criticisms of the bourgeois rule of that moment are no longer made, taking the hypothesis of the constituent assembly as naturalized. Even with all the betrayals of the social-democratic left, the Spartacist calls for the unity of the left persist. Finally, Congress let Rudolf Hilferding pronounce his scientific studies on which sectors of the economy would be ready or not for socialization. Pachukanis points out that “it was precisely in Hilferding's report that the greatest vulgarities were expressed on the theme of the 'Marxist scientific spirit', on the sensible realization of socialization”[xii]. The farce of the First Congress was carried out on the eve of the decisive events of January 1919. Immediately, the German socialist revolution was torn apart, and the historic road to fascism and Nazism then became completely open.

* * *

Pachukanis' texts on fascism are, notably, for some of their thematic angles, the most important Marxist reflection on the subject. In a unique way, the author reaches, in this question, the problem of the forms of bourgeois sociability – merchandise, value, State and law. His analysis does not follow a political bias – fascism as the moral failure of the State and politics, to be rescued by legal and democratic institutions – nor an economicist bias – fascism as a simile of capitalism as it is, without specifying it in this context. Only the apex of Marxist scientific analysis, the General theory of law and Marxism, allows to undertake the best application to the most acute historical situation of that time, fascism. With Pachukanis, fascism faces its fullest critical reading. The social formation finds the social form with which it will be read.

Such is the impact of Pachukanis's analysis of fascism that, in history of marxism, a work organized by Eric Hobsbawm, Elmar Altvater considers it the best reading carried out by Marxism at the time of the Third International. As Altvater says: “The concept of rationality, not only in the interpretation of Weimar social democracy but also in that of the Marxism of the Third International, does not allow us to capture – as we said – the problem of the form of bourgeois society. […] Some theorists had intuited it imprecisely and, in general, belatedly, but many – and, moreover, those politically determinant – had lost sight of this problem, which had become a dead end for Second World Marxism. and the Third International. How this could have happened is perhaps explained by the intelligent and accurate analysis that E. Pachukanis gave of Italian Fascism, right after his victory. He fully realizes that the victory of fascism in Italy, on the one hand, is the consequence of erroneous assessments, mistakes and weaknesses of the labor movement, and, on the other hand, it is the response of the dominant to a certain economic and political situation. of Italian society: it is a “dictatorship of stabilization”. But the analysis he presents is not intended to determine the causes of the defeat of the labor movement and explain the character of fascism as a social system of bourgeois restructuring, but rather to demonstrate that fascism and Bolshevism are completely different in the dynamics of their development, although certain formal analogies cannot be denied. Its theme, then, is the rejection of the charge that "red" and "black" are equivalent. […]

“Fascism, therefore, appears as an expression of the breakdown of bourgeois rule and demonstrates precisely that the only path capable of leading to socialism is the dictatorship of the proletariat. Thus, fascism is an expression of decadence, while Bolshevism is the organization of the new, of progress. The problem of social restructuring brought about by fascism is largely shifted to the field of ideology criticism, with the aim of providing agitation and propaganda arguments for those who work for the Party. The analysis of fascism, as carried out by Pachukanis, is precise, rich in empirical content; on the contrary, it loses all essential character in the reflections of other Third International theorists”.[xiii]

The most important Marxist philosopher of law reveals, also in his analysis of the most harmful phenomenon of capitalism of his time, fascism, the scientific rigor and genius of his reflection.

*Alysson Leandro Mascaro He is a professor at the Faculty of Law at USP. Author, among other books, of State and political form (Boitempo).


Evguiéni Pachukanis. Fascism. Translation: Paula Vaz de Almeida. São Paulo, Boitempo, 2020, 128 pages.


[I] Luiz Felipe Brandão Osório, “Rapallo, a bridge between Weimar and Moscow”, in Gilberto Bercovici (ed.), One Hundred Years of the Weimar Constitution (1919-2019) (São Paulo, QuartierLatin, 2019), p. 632.

[ii]Evguiéni B. Pachukanis, General theory of law and Marxism (São Paulo, Boitempo, 2017), p. 134-5, p. 151 and p. 173.

[iii] Márcio Bilharinho Naves, Marxism and law: a study on Pachukanis (São Paulo, Boitempo, 2000), p. 127.

[iv]Evguiéni B. Pachukanis, General theory of law and Marxism, cit., p. 143.

[v] See, in this volume, p. 26.

[vi]See, in this volume, p. 48.

[vii] I refer to reflections on the randomness in politics developed in “Meeting and form: politics and law”, in Alysson Leandro Mascaro and Vittorio Morfino, Althusser and Random Materialism (São Paulo, Countercurrent, 2020).

[viii]See, in this volume, p. 67.

[ix] See Friedrich Engels and Karl Kautsky, legal socialism (transl. Lívia Cotrim and Márcio Bilharinho Naves, São Paulo, Boitempo, 2012).

[X] I develop reflections about that period in Alysson Leandro Mascaro, “O marxismo e Weimar”, in Gilberto Bercovici (ed.), One Hundred Years of the Weimar Constitution (1919-2019), cit., p. 53-82.

[xi] See, in this volume, p. 89.

[xii] See, in this volume, p. 117.

[xiii]Elmar Altvater, “Capitalism Organizes: The Marxist Debate from the World War to the Crash of 1929,” in Eric J. Hobsbawm, history of marxism, v. 8 (Rio de Janeiro, Paz e Terra, 1987), p. 67-9.

See this link for all articles


  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • João Cândido and the Revolt of the Whipwhip revolt 23/06/2024 By PETRÔNIO DOMINGUES: In the current context, in which there is so much discussion about State reparations for the black population, the name of João Cândido cannot be forgotten
  • The collapse of Zionismfree palestine 80 23/06/2024 By ILAN PAPPÉ: Whether people welcome the idea or fear it, Israel's collapse has become predictable. This possibility should inform the long-term conversation about the future of the region
  • A look at the 2024 federal strikelula haddad 20/06/2024 By IAEL DE SOUZA: A few months into government, Lula's electoral fraud was proven, accompanied by his “faithful henchman”, the Minister of Finance, Fernando Haddad
  • Letter to the presidentSquid 59mk,g 18/06/2024 By FRANCISCO ALVES, JOÃO DOS REIS SILVA JÚNIOR & VALDEMAR SGUISSARDI: “We completely agree with Your Excellency. when he states and reaffirms that 'Education is an investment, not an expense'”
  • Return to the path of hopelate afternoon 21/06/2024 By JUAREZ GUIMARÃES & MARILANE TEIXEIRA: Five initiatives that can allow the Brazilian left and center-left to resume dialogue with the majority hope of Brazilians
  • Chico Buarque, 80 years oldchico 19/06/2024 By ROGÉRIO RUFINO DE OLIVEIRA: The class struggle, universal, is particularized in the refinement of constructive intention, in the tone of proletarian proparoxytones
  • Theological manual of neoliberal neo-PentecostalismJesus saves 22/06/2024 By LEONARDO SACRAMENTO: Theology has become coaching or encouraging disputes between workers in the world of work