The Basis of Fascism

By Dr. Mike Magee | 31 July 2007

Benito Mussolini at the fascist congress in Naples on 28 October 1922. (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

The Basis of Fascism

The French Christian conservative, Joseph Marie de Maistre had described the French revolution as “satanic”, laying a step for the counter-Enlightenment that fascism represented. He laid another solid step up for fascism by claiming that “man is too wicked to be free”, a judgement that one would have thought any Christian would have left to God, rather than taking it upon himself to make. But Christians generally hold the delusion that God Himself has chosen to speak through them, and so all are liable to claim they are God, or at least his audible prophet. Hitler was the same.

For Mussolini, Fascism was the utter rejection of the French revolution, the explosion of the Enlightenment in to feudal Europe. The Russian revolution, with its Marxist ideology was, Mussolini thought, the child of the Enlightenment, but these were crudely held ideas, hardly formulated as any sort of ideology itself. Hitler had no ideology at all, unless Mein Kampf is flattered with this description.

At no time did National Socialism develop a consistent economic or social theory.

K D Bracher, The German Dictatorship, NY 1970

Hitler’s aim was to act first, and then, when his political projects had been completed, he meant to work out a doctrine. An ideology of fascism was only worked out in the country where the Enlightenment exploded—France. Charles Maurras was its author, and he too was utterly inconsistent. It is typical because fascism is essentially opportunistic. Like a hyena, it feeds on whatever it can find, foraging for dead meat here and there, but equips itself with powerful teeth, and so is able to consume everything it finds. Maurras saw that the French revolution was part of a continual revolution beginning with the Renaissance and stretching into modern times, where it remains active. In Hegelian terms, it came out of a series of dialectics:

  • clear exposition against obscurantism
  • reason against dogma
  • science against revelation
  • truth against lies
  • technology against traditional methods
  • progress against reaction
  • tolerance against oppression
  • democracy against despotism
  • freedom against authority
  • spontaneity against suppression
  • independence against imperialism.

Depending on an analyst’s or author’s main focus, it has been called many things too:

  • the Enlightenment
  • Liberalism
  • Secularization
  • Industrialization
  • the Scientific Revolution.

It is summed up in the popular demand for liberty, and so is perhaps best called by the generic name “Liberalism”.

Rousseau said primitive humans had been free—not only subject to no laws but with no conception of law. They behaved naturally. Progress into society has displaced that natural freedom—the institutions of the ancien régime conspired to enslave human life—and the aim of liberalism is individual freedom. The Age of Revolutions in Europe had destroyed the ancien régime, so conservatives had nothing to conserve. They had to campaign for change despite their label. They were no longer conservatives but neo-conservatives, and every Christian neo-conservative from the French revolution until the present day has stood for the restoration of the ancien régime . They want to put the clock back! It was the basis of fascism in the twentieth century and remains it. Leo Strauss, the anti-Enlightenment guru of the crypto-fascist US neoconservatives, was eager to meet Maurras in 1933.

In describing the French revolution as “radical evil” with a “satanic character”, Joseph de Maistre declared that the movement for liberty was directed against God! In pronouncing war as divine, he opposed humanity’s hatred of it to God’s love of it and divine use of it. In declaring human reason as merely “a trembling light”, he rejected human endeavour as the basis of human existence in favour of the benefits of the radiant glow of faith in God and His providence. In praising the executioner as the cement of society, he denied any possibility of a humanitarian state. Man is too wicked to be free because of original sin. Most men are destined to be slaves. That is why authority is needed. It is God sent! The aristocracy and the clergy held to God’s truth, and, in defending it with the Inquisition, they had been right. Authority rattled the manacles and lit the pyres that made great societies great.

That which our miserable country calls superstition, fanaticism, intolerance was a necessry ingredient of French greatness.

J de Maistre

Though it all sounds demented, it is all the pure logic of the Christian neo-conservative. Essential planks of fascism were being carefully set in place ready for the Christian conservative backlash—the fight to the death between Christianity and the Enlightenment—between Christianity and liberalism! De Maistre is the ideological founder of fascism. Another Frenchman, Éduard Drumont, added hatred of Jews to the simmering pot of fascism with his book, La France juive (1886). He wrote in a sentence even more true today:

In our era of universal lies, one must speak the truth.

The trouble is that the truth he thought he had discovered was that the unfathomable malaise of France was the fault of the Jews. He was already playing the scapegoating themes of fascism familiar fifty years later—creative, idealistic, justice-loving Aryans were set against the parasitic, cunning, exploiting Jews. Change the scapegoat to communists then to Moslems and the neo-conservative policies of the next fifty years are also described in essence. A Christian, Drumont supported lowly clergy against the hierarchy of the Church, identifying it with the Jews in its hypocritical practice of usury. He was to be remembered by Action Française as the founder of French National Socialism.

Action Française, the extreme right in France before WWII, and its newspaper shaped the minds of the French generation who collaborated with Nazism. Charles Maurras founded Action Française in June 1899. He was a classicist whose idealistic vision was of a French Hellenic classicism. Maurras was opposed to modernism, with its democratic emphasis on the individual, but his political philosophy were modern, in being intellectual and scientific. In Paris from 1886, he studied Auguste Comte, the French positivist philosopher, accepting his ideas about order, individualism and scientific reasoning, and adding to them the classical values of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy—hierarchy and authority. Maurras shared the authoritarian and hierarchical attitude of the Catholic Church. He was brought up a Catholic and remained one to his death, but could not accept that Chriat was a Jew. He said his view was “sufficiently heathen and Christian to merit the beautiful title of Catholic”. The Church appreciated Maurras in return and used articles from Action Française in sermons, its own propaganda to its flocks.

Maurras bragged, “I entered politics like religion”. He was an elitist like de Maistre and believed:

The souls of men have not all been drawn from the same source. The daughters of potter’s clay will not rise to the ranks of those whom the gods begat in beds of purple.

This elitism is the central distinctive feature of fascism. Maurras was a passionate monarchist and anti-democrat. These fascist ideologues considered that the “satanic” Enlightenment came from the “slaves” at the base of society, degenerates whom Nietzsche thought should be destroyed.

Action Française was effectively the French fascist party and used all of the organized brutal methods of intimidation used by fascism even before Hitler or Mussolini. It encouraged an escalation of marches, demonstrations, rioting, bombing and assassination, but Maurras ensured its survival by restricting it to incitement. Apostles of Maurras and and offshoots of Action Française were happy to turn words of incitement into the action that Action Française itself avoided. Its central support was in the army, the conservative right and the Church—the core of the ancien régime . It was one of the few allies of the “Syllabus”, the Church’s campaign against Modernism, and Pius X (1903-1914) sympathised with Action Française, even saying of Maurras, “I bless his work”. It was cynical opportunism. Pius X signed a decree against Maurras’ party but deferred its implementation claiming it was “worthy of condemnation but not condemned”! The relationship between the Catholic Church and the French fascists was, to say the least, ambiguous. Eventually the decree was applied in 1926:

Catholics are not permitted to adhere to the school of those who place the interests of parties above religion, and make religion the servants of those interests.

It must have been a pronouncement that was purely local in scope or was soon forgotten, having no apparent consequences for Mussolini’s or Hitler’s Catholic supporters. Action Française retorted that it was like a father telling his son to murder his mother. They refused and turned against the father. The Catholic Church had broken with its neo-conservative allies of its own volition, and temporarily, it was not so tainted with fascism. Many leaders of Action Française began their own fascist parties, while Maurras continued in charge of it, as unpredictable as ever, supporting Franco in Spain, but calling German and Italian fascism “the Islam of the north”. Even so, the policies he advocated all supported Hitler’s aims.

When Hitler occupied France, Maurras supported Marshal Philippe Petain as king of France, while Maurras was praised as the “most French Frenchman”. Before long he affirmed that Pius had been the saviour of France, and he was reconciled with the Church. After a lifetime of hating Germans, Maurras welcomed the defeat of France as a vindication of his ideas. The collaborationist Petain’s regime, run by men of Action Française, became the incarnation of the Maurrassian ideal regime—order, hierarchy and authority. From 1940-44, French Jews were denied their civil rights. Xavier Vallat, a Catholic member of Action Française, and the commissioner for Jewish affairs in the Vichy government, implementing Vichy’s anti-Jewish legislation, began sending French Jews to Auschwitz.

In the New Statesman, Carmen Callil suggests from the example of Maurras, that “mythologies about culture and intellect” can be deceiving. Thousands of his fellow citizens called Maurras “Le Maitre ”, but he “was a child, a dangerous child of his time”. The same might prove true of the modern US Master of intellectual fascism, Leo Strauss whose philosophy is often chillingly similar to Maurras’.

Attempts were made in Britain to seek Christian support for fascism. H G Wells in his booklet, Crux Ansata, written in 1943, highlights the position Christians were openly taking vis-a-vis fascism. A Christian organisation called the United Christian Front (UCF) had been formed and explained itself in a document of that name published in 1938. The United Christian Front sought to rally Christians against bolshevism. Whether you regard bolshevism as a Christian heresy or the evil empire of Satan, those who have most fanatically sought to destroy it have always turned out to be fascists. There is an exclusion principle in totalitarianism. Ultimately, no space is big enough for more than one of them. So it is that US and Jewish neo-cons have locked antlers with their opposite numbers in Islam.

Among UCF luminaries was the leader of the British fascists, called Blackshirts, Oswald Mosley. At the onset of hostilities, Mosley was interned for obvious reasons, but, interestingly, the chairman of the United Christian Front, Captain Archibald Ramsey was interned with him! Another of its leaders, its treasurer, Sir Henry Lunn described Franco, the fascist dictator of Spain, as “a Christian gentleman”. Franco was such a Christian that he set his Moroccan soldiers, mainly Moslems, against the supporters of the properly elected republican parties of Spain, mainly Christians, and turned Spain fascist for a generation.

Also among its members were Pius XII and Charles de Gaulle. When he was in exile in Britian, de Gaulle used the Special Operations Executive (SOE), meant to conduct covert operations behind enemy lines, to have his political opponents assassinated. Naturally, no one was allowed to know this. Some history is secret. Among the aims of the UCF, Wells says, was to “drive every honest teacher of history or science out of our schools”. In its place could be put the dishonest non-history and non-science of the bible to return the world to the dark ages when serfs knew their place.

Enemies of the Enlightenment – Joseph de Maistre (Isaiah Berlin 1965)

Done in 60 Seconds Charles Maurras

The Rise of Oswald Mosley & British Fascism 1932-34

Hitler and the Roman Catholic Church

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