The meaning of fascism poses considerable difficulties owing to the fact that the ideas characterizing fascism are ‘untidy and inchoate’ (pick Welford). These are derived from a variety of sources and socio-cultural traditions. So one does not find a classical text like Marx’s Das Capital, to authoritatively outline and delineate the central ideas of Fascism. Moreover, fascism’s ‘chemical indifference honesty’ (George H. Sabine) further contributes to the elusive ideational categories that it portrays.
However, an attempt can still be made to construct a fascist world- view by taking recourse to such core ideas as statism, racialism, imperialism, militarism, elitism along with a foundational core of irrationalism. Some of these ideas could be apprehended by concentrating upon the intellectual heritage of the fascism derived much from the mood of revolt that prevailed in Europe during the end of the nineteenth century.
The stated mood of revolt drew heavily from the anti-thesis developed by social Darwinist (e.g. Spencer) against the prevailing liberal ideas which they essentially perceived as outmoded. Social Darwinist, particularly, articulated a ‘muscular philosophy’ which helped to foster an intellectual climate within which the myth of racialism began to flourish (wilford).
This section of the unit seeks to construct the fascist world-view by focusing upon the above enumerated core ideas.
THE FASCIST WORLD VIEW
Irrationalism constitutes the fundamental layer of the fascist world-view. Fascism suggest to repudiate and objective science. The complexities of life are such a fascist would argue that ordinary minds cannot grapple with it. Peace and objectivity would not help in conquering the complexities surrounding the human life. Mussolini once proclaimed that reason is “parren intekkactualim” lacking true meaning. The ordinary mind…….”is a wasteland full of mirages that give only an illusion of reality” (Leon P. Baradat).Truth, according to fascism, “is a subjective quality, available only to a few gifted people whose will or sprit or personality is greater than that of the masses”.(Baradat)
Fascism drew ideational sustenance from such varied sources as Plato, Rousseau, Hegel and George Sorel to erect the structures of irrationalism. For Mussolini, Hitler etc. stirring the people for action with no provable value or goal sanctity was enough.”Feel, don’t think” was their consistent command to their followers. For igniting passions and feelings, they resorted to their rhetorical talents rather than relying on some consistent coherent ideology of a written text.
Indiscriminate use of myths was also employed by the proponents of fascism. In particular, the myth of volk was most assiduously articulated by fascism. Although, literally signifying “the people”, volk also accompanied some abstract connotations such as: ‘a system of absolute values, an immutable metaphysical ideal of people-hood’. (Wilford). George Mosse, thus explained volk: “just as individual men had soul, so there existed a volk soul which like man’s soul, give the volk into unique and unchanging “character”.
This made the Germans, in particular, to transform their collective soul as ‘wild and dynamic, based on emotions rather than on a tortured intellectualizing ’.Irrationalism was further developed under the German philosophical tradition. Fichte, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche collectively sought to repudiate the idealist tradition and espoused irrationalism. These sources were frequently used and abused by the fascist for emphasizing irrationality and stirring up social persons so that fascism could dwell there and make deeper in roads in the society.
Strange though it may be, Hitler based his social theory on the works of a French scholar Arthur de Gobineau, who was sent to Germany by France as a diplomat. His influence with the German led him to develop his theory of racial superiority which ultimately had a great impact on German history.
Placing Aryans as the original superior race in the world responsible for the rise of great civilization, Gobineau found the Aryans intermarrying with the inferior races, thereby causing both the decline of their civilization as well as their social purity. Against this backdrop, Gobineau referred to the Germans as the purest because race they were the last mixed racially. The future of mankind, therefore, depended on social purity of the Germans.
Gobineau’s theory had profound influence among the Germans. Richards Wagner in particular popularized and dramatized the myth of the German’s racial superiority. Later on, another Germanized English man, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, sought to achieve what Wagner had achieved. Through his musical notes Chamberlain combined Teutonic mythology, German philosophical irrationalism and Gobineau’s social superiority theories. Chamberlain stressed the need for a strong leader to protect and maintain the German social purity by showing to them the way through which this could be done.
Hitler capitalized on these inheritances and condemned the Jews. He applauded the Germans for their racial superiority and particularly, pinpointed the Jews for their villainy in the given scheme of things and peoples. His hatred for the Jews gets amply illustrated in the following passage:
“The Jew…………………is a maggot in a rotting corpse; he is a plague worse than the Black Death of former times; a germ carrier of the worst sort, mankind’s eternal germ the spider that slowly sucks peoples’ blood out of its pores……………the typical parasite; a sponger who like a harmful bacillus, continues to spread; the eternal blood sucker……………the peoples’ vampire” (Quoted by Leon P. Baradat).
Hitler categories the peoples of the world into three racial categories:
1) The culture creating race(e.g Aryans)
2) The culture bearing race (e.g Lastius , Slaves ,the Orientals)
3) The culture destroying races(Gypsies, Negroes, Jews)
The racialist imperatives were so deep-rooted in the scheme that Hitler used to often proclaim that “we think with our blood” .So much so that the fascists would claim that “any knowledge dispelling racial superiority would not be knowledge at all”.”Science ,like every other human product, is racial and conditioned by blood”.
3. Statism – Drives towards a corporate state
The notion of Volkish spirit guided the course of state formation under fascism. Volk was traced to medieval Germany, which was portrayed as a close-knit rural society where Volk was conceived of as “the organic wholeness of the national community –a community where the German spirit reigned supreme and subordinated all individual interest and priorities”.
Besides the myth of Volk, the writings of Hegel provided further impetus to fascist statism. According to Hegel, the organist state was the ultimate idea which manifested as ‘the power of reason actualizing itself as will”. Thus, state was visualized by Hegel as an integrated community wherein individually and collectively, the particular and the universal, coexisted on the basis of reason. Thus portrayed, the state was conceived of as realizing spirit pr reason in history. State’s membership enabled men to move beyond their private interest and embrace the common good.
Moving further from the Hegelian premises and mutilating the mutual dependence of state and civil society. Mussolini proclaimed ‘Everything for the state and nothing outside the state.’ Thus, the Hegelian prescription of the state as an end in itself was interpreted by Mussolini for furthering the fascist cause. Hitler did not even require a distortion of Hegel’s ideas for legitimizing his state. To him, the state was a means for furthering German racial superiority.
The fascist statism drew heavily from totalitarianism, a term used by Mussolini himself. He raised the stature of the state as the “Will of Wills”, the “Good of Goods” and the “Soul of souls”. As such, the state can make any demand, give any order, require any sacrifice and the people must obey and comply with. State, argued Mussolini, happens to be the “Creator of Rights” and the “Good of Goods” As such; it cannot tolerate any resistance from any quarter. It is, therefore, natural that each individual has to perform the maximum service to the state, no more and no less.
Hitler, even while according a somewhat secondary status to the state, maximized the totalitarian ethos under his regime. He successfully converted every possible medium as a political tool and decisively ensured that it catered to the priorities set forth by his regime.
The fascist conception of state authority laid the foundation of a corporate state structure. This and other such trends will be taken up in the next section dealing with the operational dynamics of fascism.
Fascism drew legitimacy from the notion of elitism as well. Both Hitler and Mussolini argued that people are essentially uneven in their mental make-up, physical strength and spiritual endowments. As such, they cannot contribute evenly to civic and state affairs. Since their contribution is uneven, they cannot expect equal rewards for their dissimilar contributions to the society and the state.