So here's a quick primer:
- Bourgeoisie - The dominant class in a Capitalist society, notable for their complete control (whether de facto or de jure) over the 'means of production' (the industrial, agricultural, and financial sectors).
- Petty bourgeoisie - The lower sub-classes of the bourgeoisie; the "middle classes", the low-ranking professional bureaucrats, depending on the context this can also include the soldiers and police.
- Bourgeois dictatorship - Because the bourgeoisie dominates all of the most important parts of society, their rule is essentially a dictatorship of and for their class.
- Proletariat - The "producing" or "working" class. These are the factory workers, the miners, the field hands on large-scale industrial farms; any industrial worker in a fully developed capitalist system. (Maoism, in addition to being a bat-shit cult of personality, is notable for its focus on the peasantry rather than the proletarian.)
- Lumpenproletariat - Depending on who the writer is, this one will have one of a multitude of definitions.The dispossessed workers, the structurally unemployed, the "ghetto youth" who nobody will hire, the criminal underclasses, military mutineers... I'm honestly not sure what exactly Trotsky means with his use of this word, but you get the general idea.
What follows are excerpts from "Fascism" What it is and how to fight it", which can be read in full here -(http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/1944/1944-fas.htm)
Seriously, go read the full thing.
(Update: Rereading this post I realized that the stuff I highlighted makes it sound like I'm trying to say that the US is already fascist, which would be absurd. Those are just points I found interesting.)
Here's part of the 1969 Introduction:
Liberals and even most of those who consider themselves Marxists are guilty of using the world fascist very loosely today. They fling it around as an epithet or political swearword against right-wing figures whom they particularly despise, or against reactionaries in general.
Since WWII, the fascist label has been applied to such figures and movements as Gerald L. K. Smith, Senator Joseph McCarthy, Senator Eastland, Barry Goldwater, the Minutemen, the John Birch Society, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George Wallace.
Now, were all these fascist, or just some? If only some, then how does one tell which are and which aren't?
The rest is by Trotsky, and was written during the 1930s. Emphasis added:
At the moment that the "normal" police and military resources of the bourgeois dictatorship, together with their parliamentary screens, no longer suffice to hold society in a state of equilibrium -- the turn of the fascist regime arrives. Through the fascist agency, capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie and the bands of declassed and demoralized lumpenproletariat -- all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy.
From fascism the bourgeoisie demands a thorough job; once it has resorted to methods of civil war, it insists on having peace for a period of years. And the fascist agency, by utilizing the petty bourgeoisie as a battering ram, by overwhelming all obstacles in its path, does a thorough job. After fascism is victorious, finance capital directly and immediately gathers into its hands, as in a vise of steel, all the organs and institutions of sovereignty, the executive administrative, and educational powers of the state: the entire state apparatus together with the army, the municipalities, the universities, the schools, the press, the trade unions, and the co-operatives. When a state turns fascist, it does not mean only that the forms and methods of government are changed in accordance the patterns set by Mussolini -- the changes in this sphere ultimately play a minor role -- but it means first of all for the most part that the workers' organizations are annihilated; that the proletariat is reduced to an amorphous state; and that a system of administration is created which penetrates deeply into the masses and which serves to frustrate the independent crystallization of the proletariat. Therein precisely is the gist of fascism....And also:
Two years after its inception, fascism was in power. It entrenched itself thanks to the facts the first period of its overlordship coincided with a favorable economic conjuncture, which followed the depression of 1921-22. The fascists crushed the retreating proletariat by the onrushing forces of the petty bourgeoisie. But this was not achieved at a single blow. Even after he assumed power, Mussolini proceeded on his course with due caution: he lacked as yet ready-made models. During the first two years, not even the constitution was altered. The fascist government took on the character of a coalition. In the meantime, the fascist bands were busy at work with clubs, knives, and pistols. Only thus was the fascist government created slowly, which meant the complete strangulation of all independent mass organizations.
Mussolini attained this at the cost of bureaucratizing the fascist party itself. After utilizing the onrushing forces of the petty bourgeoisie, fascism strangled it within the vise of the bourgeois state. Mussolini could not have done otherwise, for the disillusionment of the masses he had united was precipitating itself into the most immediate danger ahead. Fascism, become bureaucratic, approaches very closely to other forms of military and police dictatorship. It no longer possesses its former social support. The chief reserve of fascism -- the petty bourgeoisie -- has been depicted. Only historical inertia enables the fascist government to keep the proletariat in a state of dispersion and helplessness....Also good reading on the subject is Trotsky's "Fascism, Stalinism and the United Front".