What is Fascism?Maurice Bardèche
Translated by Greg Johnson
Czech translation here
The following text is the introduction to “Survey of Fascism,” part 1 of Maurice Bardèche’s Qu’est-ce que le fascisme? (What is Fascism?) (Paris: Les Sept Couleurs, 1961).
I am a fascist writer. You should thank me for admitting it, for now at least one point has been established about this notoriously slippery subject.
Indeed, nobody admits to being fascist. Soviet Russia, which lives under a one-party police state, is not a fascist country—indeed, it seems, quite the opposite. The Hungarian government that sends tanks against workers and court-martials strikers is not a fascist government. It is simply defending the power of the people. A provisional government that uses terrorism to impose the will of an activist fraction on an entire country is not a fascist organization. It is a national liberation movement. It is therefore not the form of institutions that characterizes fascism, but something else.
There is no more unanimity about the goals than the methods. The Communists say that if you defend capitalism, you are necessarily fascist. But public opinion does not agree. The United States, England, and Adenauer’s Germany are fascist according to the Soviet delegates and their auxiliaries. Even in France, where political crises brought to power a kind of presidential system, the man in the street shakes his head with skepticism if you tell him he lives in a fascist dictatorship. It is not enough to listen respectfully to the heads of banks and big corporations to be convicted of fascism without further discussion.
The criterion, we feel, will not forever elude the resolute conscience. “There are fascist countries,” cries the resolute conscience, “and you know that very well. Military dictatorships in Latin America, where politicians are mere flunkies of fruit-juice sellers, the Franco regime in Spain, this is what we call fascism. If you want a definition, then give your own analysis: a fascist regime is one that denies freedom to the people to perpetuate the privileges of a wealthy minority. Do not play with words. Fascism is the union of a method and a purpose: it removes freedom, which is not objectionable in itself, but it removes it to ensure social inequality and poverty, and that is how we recognize it.”
There is an objection to this definition, but it is embarrassing. It is that no fascist agrees that military dictatorships in the Latin American fiefdoms of fruit-juice merchants, or even Franco’s Spain (which it is rather disingenuous to equate with the former), are genuine cases of fascism. Fascists refuse to acknowledge what intellectuals, newspapers, and political parties call fascism. They go further: they condemn these alleged examples of fascism as their opponents. What, then is fascism, which we understand completely differently from the press, radio, and teachers of our time?
If I were the last of my kind, such an explanation would not be worth a try. But something wondrous is happening: On the one hand, the fascist writer, the fascist intellectual, is a rare beast, and no regime outside of the antipodes allows itself to be classified as fascist, which is as archaic as a Negro king. But, on the other hand, there are fascist groups, and they do not hide the fact. There are young fascists, and they proclaim themselves. There are fascist officers, and people tremble at the fact. Finally, there is a fascist spirit. And, above all, there are thousands of men who are fascists without knowing it, who wear other hats rather uncomfortably, and for whom fascism—as we see it, not as it has been described—would be their aspiration if we explained it to them.
Here is a mirror that reflects our hearts: I want them to recognize themselves. Or at least to know that they are not our brothers. Even our enemies must know that they are enemies. Time has filled our sails and allowed us to round the cape of lies. The land of lies vanishes into the mist. Twenty years later, we no longer see it. And now, in the rising wind, we must not fear words.
Guillaume Faye: Od soumraku k úsvitu
Žluté vesty zviditelnily tu nejfrancouzštější část Francie
Buddha a Führer: Mladý Emil Cioran o Německu
Remembering Gabriele D’Annunzio (March 12, 1863–March 1, 1938)
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
The Wave: Fascism Reenacted in a High School
Oswald Mosley a jeho široký patriotismus
Dr. James Miller wrote a nice description of fascism:
‘ the countries whose politicians are mere flunkies of fruit-juice sellers’
I assume this was a reference to United Fruit’s role in the US-backed coup in Guatemala, 1954. It is certainly an amusing way of describing a ‘banana republic’.
Monsieur Bardèche makes an important point nonetheless: military juntas in Latin America are often depicted (or perhaps, one should say, demonized) as ‘Third World Fascism’, most notably in N. Chomsky & E. Hermann’s book ‘The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism’, but they are altogether different from European Fascism in terms of both policy and ideology. Similarly, though he had Fascist backing, Franco’s Spain was not, strictly speaking a fascist regime, but a military dictatorship.
Maurice Bardeche’s description above is a little too vague to really provide a clear definition of “Fascism” (or rather, a clear answer to the question “what is Fascism?”), but I have a feeling his “Fascist spirit” – which I am guessing is his definition of Fascism – is similar to Armin Mohler’s “Fascist style.” The problem with this kind of definition is that, although it defines “Fascism” in terms of a specific spiritual character, one could question to what extent one can apply this definition to decide who is “Fascist” and who is not. For example, with this definition someone could argue that perhaps ancient Romans, Spartans, or Medieval Crusaders are “Fascist” because they possessed the identifying “spirit” or “style,” but is this not an abuse of the term “Fascist”? Where does one draw the lines? It is obviously most reasonable to consider “Fascism” a modern phenomenon, and thus its definition must definitely be confined to the characteristics of what the 20th Century witnessed as “Fascism” (taking Mussolini’s Italian Fascism as its prime example, since that is its first true manifestation). Defining “Fascism” as a “spirit” means giving it a very loose definition, essentially attempting to justify applying the label to anything one feels like calling “Fascist.”
Another important point to consider for those who define “Fascism” as a “spirit” or “style” is distinguishing the “Fascist spirit” from related spiritual forms. For example, Julius Evola would object that Fascism – differentiated from the traditional organic state form by its totalitarian nature – is a modern phenomenon, and what should really interest us is a “traditional spirit” instead. Right-wing thinkers like Edgar Julius Jung and Othmar Spann have also distinguished the organic state from the Fascist state, the latter being a flawed state form which holds the potential to be transformed into a more desirable non-totalitarian organic state (unfortunately, I did not explain this point clearly in my essay on Spann, but at least I have set the point down here).
We also know that even people who were generally thought of as “Fascist” actually have objected to the broadening of the term “Fascist” to describe their own movements because of the misconceptions it could cause; it unfairly makes them appear that they are a branch of Mussolini’s Fascism (which they truly are not). After all, is it not natural to be concerned with such misconceptions, particularly when one views key Fascist movements such as Italian Fascism as having undesirable negative characteristics that we must denounce? This also begs the question of why Mussolini gets the honor of having his movement’s name (since his is the first to use the term “Fascist”) be used to describe all other movements that were compared to it during the time period? Finally, what of right-wing, anti-liberal, and nationalist democratic movements or states, some of which were even sympathetic to although different from “Fascists” (particularly those in early 20th Century Eastern European nations, such as Poland and Romania [for example, the National Democrats and A.C. Cuza’s movement, respectively); where do they fit in, since they are actually democratic?
Well there is more to the book that you have not seen (yet).
It’s strange how my first comment took so long to come through that it coincides with the publication of that article. Yes, I assumed this article hinted at Bardeche’s definition, although I was aware that he provided more detail. Concerning the recent publication of “The Fascist Dream, Part 1” which expands upon the definition, my above comment still applies for a number of reasons. Even with the new article, the definition of “Fascism,” while expanded slightly, is still extremely vague. Bardeche gets as close to a definition as possible with the reference to “a firm and stable direction of the nation, the primacy of the national interest over private interests, the necessity of a discipline loyally accepted by the country…” However, even this is too vague and since he tries to strip “Fascism” of its common historically defining characteristics, it is also equivalent to an attempt to expand it too far (essentially for the purpose of calling “Fascist” whatever one wants, not what necessarily is or should be called such). Of course, a lot of Bardeche’s reasoning on many issues seems flawed, but I won’t bother to pick apart everything he says because that would be a little too much. Anyway, although I would have written my previous comment a little differently had I seen the recent article first, most of my points still stand from what I can see.
The eternal question of what fascism is finds here yet another answer. It is a general term in the current blog world, laden with negative connotations. Unfortunately, this very use of the term will buttress the walls surrounding the current citadels of power; in these citadels is proposed the meaning of the terms with which they are to be attacked by the bloggers who throw around their Fascist terminology. That can’t work. One can’t work with the vocabualry of on’s enemy and hope to be understood.
If one wants to maintain some intellectual rigor the original sponsor, Mussolini’s Italian Fascism gives a specific temporal and geographical definition. It allows the separation from German National Socialism, but also from sweeping views such as the quote from (Carl Schmitt, I believe): “Fascism is the esthetization of politics.” He was perhaps impressed by the architectutal, costumal and cultural pageantry before his eyes. But these can only be outward representations of an inner attitude. Another contemporary (can’t remember his name) of the 1930s meant to see the essence of fascism in a song (La Giovanezza), black shirts and marching formations of young people. Again, the outwardly is taken for the substance. But coincidence is not substance.
I read recently a nice and, as I find, substantial characterization of Fascism versus National Socialism:
Fascism = State Privilege, State Prerogative (Staatsvorrecht)
National Socialism = Folk Privilege, Folk Prerogative (Volksvorrecht)
That is a sensible distinction between these two authoritarian systems, as Italy saw indeed its basis in the Roman past, its empire and hegemony, while Germany saw it in a metaphysical manifestation of the German people’s millennial presence on their soil, thus making their land to their spiritual, historical and geographical home.
It is much easier to say what Fascism is not than to say what it is. It is in the first place and inner attitude and we do recognize as fascists in a general way the German National Socialists, the Iron Guard Codreanu’s, Moseley’s English Union memebers, the French Fascist movement, all related by a related inner attitude towards reality, how man’s place in the flow of time, his achievements on his soil, his self-worth as humans are opposed to a cold, senseless, materialistic existence. So Schmitt’s “esthetization od politics” carries despite its vagueness much weight. It indicates the rejection of materialism, utility thinking, the rationalization of all manifestations of life as a goal of politics and not just as a private and inconsequential habit.
It can be hard to define precisely what fascism is because of its metamorphic quality, a quality underlined in various ways by authors such as Oswald Spengler, Pierre Daye, Maurice Bardèche, Michel Schneider, and Roger Griffin. As Spengler predicted in The Hour of Decision (1934), “The Fascist formations of this decade will pass into new, unforeseeable forms, and even present-day nationalism will disappear. There remains as a formative power only the warlike, ‘Prussian’ spirit — everywhere and not in Germany alone.” If I remember correctly, Guillaume Faye has characterized historical fascism as a premature and immature form of archeofuturism.
I think the spirit of fascism will serve us better in the storms to come than anything else.
Personally, I believe that it is actually the idea and spirit of an organic, nationalist democracy that will serve us best in today’s world. This is the idea of a democratic state with racial and ethnic nationalist values embedded in its constitution and social make-up; a state which combines the values of freedoms, the opportunity to choose government, racial and ethnic separatism, and the solidarity of cultural-social community. This is the concept advocated by some of our best thinkers today, such as Guillaume Faye, Alain de Benoist, Pierre Krebs, Pierre Vial, etc.; and it is much more attractive than that of “Fascism.”
If it sounds a little one-sided for me to say this, you should consider that even Horia Sima (commander of the Legionary Movement/Iron Guard after Codreanu) – often considered a “Fascist” himself but this label is unreliable when it comes to the Legionaries – actually advocated a combination of nationalism and democracy after World War II. Sima wrote: “To prevent this disaster of our civilization – the days which end in a hybrid mix of peoples and races governed by a powerful and anonymous center – there exists only one cure: The alliance between the two columns supporting the modern world, Nationalism and Democracy. For both are under threat in the same way and must, therefore, form a block of indestructible wills, in order to have the power to thwart their enemies from the shadows” (from “Menirea Nationalismului”). It is important to recognize, as Sima had, that today is no longer a world where “Fascism” has a chance to fight for its place; it is a world where democracy with the right values struggles to overcome false democracies with “liberal”, “multiculturalist” values.
I suppose I could criticize your use of the terms “nationalism” and “democracy” in the same fashion that you criticize “fascism,” given that these terms can mean very many things, some good and some bad. One can criticize nationalism — or particular forms of nationalism and the nation-state — from many perspectives on the right, including the traditional conservatism of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Clyde N. Wilson, the traditionalism of Julius Evola, the revolutionary conservatism of Arthur Moeller van den Bruck and Thierry Maulnier, the neo-fascism of Oswald Mosley and Francis Parker Yockey, and the ethnic federalism of Saint-Loup and Yann Fouéré. As for democracy, the term has been used as a pretext for so many crimes that it’s tempting to reach for one’s handgun whenever it’s mentioned.
I don’t think that fascism is incompatible with a mixed constitution, a constitution which could include elements that might be characterized as democratic (in the sense of popular participation, popular representation, and popular safeguards against the abuse of power). To cite William Ophuls:
“It might seem contradictory to combine opposing political philosophies within a single system. But as Rousseau himself said, ‘People have always argued about the best form of government, without considering that each of them is the best in certain cases, and the worst in others.’ In other words, in politics as in racing, it’s horses for courses. Rousseau, Jefferson, and Thoreau are good for a small, simple polity; Hobbes and Machiavelli may be the necessary guides for a larger, more complex polity.”
As I see it, every polity must reckon with antinomies. Every polity has tensions and contradictions that can never be decisively resolved or eliminated, but only managed, preferably by observing the “golden mean” of Aristotle. I think a combination of authority and subsidiarity is appropriate, such as advocated by the Rexist author Jean Denis, whom I quoted in a post at:
Within such a polity, popular participation and representation would take more concrete, responsible, and effective forms than in liberal democratic polities, being conducted within human-scale institutions within a properly articulated popular community (Volksgemeinschaft). The state would exercise sovereign powers, but wouldn’t exercise totalitarian powers; the state can be strong without being gargantuan or intruding into every facet of life. I see no problem in characterizing this as fascist or revolutionary nationalist.
You are actually correct about my use of the term “nationalism”; I am willing to admit that I have used a broadened definition of “nationalism” in my comment. However, as you probably already know (since I have discussed the meanings of “nationalism” in the past), I am already aware of the problems with “nationalism” in the very specific sense as defined by Evola or other traditionalist thinkers. As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that I am clearly not a “nationalist” in that sense (it would be slightly awkward to criticize “nationalism” using Moeller van den Bruck, by the way, since he actually used that term to describe his own views).
However, in the way I use it my comment above, it simply means the idea of ethnic and racial separatism, nothing more (something which obviously reaches back to the ancient world); i.e., I am using the term in a very generic manner simply to get a point across to my audience (which is not only you, but all the other people here who classify themselves as “white nationalists” and the like). Whether or not this is a misuse of the term “nationalism” does not concern me much here because I am simply trying to get a message across to people who also often use the term in the same manner. Frankly, this issue is almost irrelevant to the issue at hand because I am not trying to push the term “nationalist” on anyone (unlike the way people are behaving with the term “Fascist”), since I really don’t care what one calls themselves as long as they agree with the basic principles of ethnic-racial separatism.
As for democracy, I think it is clear how I define that term and that my position in using it is well-defended considering my reference to Faye and Benoist, who discuss the concept extensively in their writings (I am largely in agreement with Alain de Benoist on issues of governance, sovereignty, and federalism, by the way; although I take inspiration from other authors as well, particularly the Revolutionary Conservatives).
As for your assertion that “Fascism” can be combined with democracy, you are now defining “Fascism” in the very broad manner that I have criticized in older comments above. Numerous problems and questions arise: to what extent is this broadened use of the term “Fascism” reliable or realistic? If you simply speak of “Fascism” as meaning “a firm and stable direction of the nation, the primacy of the national interest over private interests, the necessity of a discipline loyally accepted by the country”, then why should this be called “Fascist” in the first place? A government that practices these principles does not have to be “Fascist” per se (meaning, it doesn’t have to be authoritarian or totalitarian); we don’t need to imitate Mussolini, Hitler, etc. to get these principles in practice. Why use the term to begin with, when there are many other, better terms? This is actually one of the issues that makes this argument so ridiculous to begin with.
Furthermore, as we know, even thinkers like Evola thought of “Fascism” as being by definition totalitarian (something I am inclined to agree with, considering its background, as I previously explained). Is it not something to be avoided since it could give rise to many misconceptions (especially since “Fascism” is almost always equated with the characteristics of Mussolini’s regime)? Perhaps you in particular do not mind encountering these misconceptions, since you very much admire the original “Fascists”? In general, the reason I am opposing using the term “Fascism” is not only because it is a dishonest use of the term, but it is also a terrible strategy for us because it naturally fails to describe our position (or at least the position of anyone advocating a non-totalitarian and democratic government).
I would even go so far as to say that the only reason you would want to call yourself “Fascist” is because you actually want to be linked with the older movements that were considered “Fascist” (Hitler, Mussolini, etc.); you consider your own position as an extension, an offshoot of their own. Well, let me make it clear that I oppose this, since my worldview and beliefs are very distinct from the “Fascists” and I have no desire to be confused with them and certain practices and ideas they had which I find disagreeable. The best strategy for us to take at this point, in my opinion, is to make our fight manifest itself as true democracy vs. false democracy, instead of “Fascism” vs. “democracy/freedom” (as if freedom is inherently bad). Of course, if you don’t believe that any form of democracy can be positive at all, my argument is irrelevant for you, but you made it seem otherwise.
Well, I actually prefer the term “revolutionary nationalist” in the sense in which François Duprat used it (incidentally, I think Michael O’Meara has used this term for himself). I’m more interested in what revolutionary nationalism can be, and what it can become, than in what it was. As for whether one calls it fascist or not, me ne frego. There is no reason why revolutionary nationalism can’t evolve, why it can’t correct itself, why it can’t adapt itself to new environments and situations. Revolutionary nationalism isn’t set in stone, any more than other political movement, be it anarchism, conservatism, ecologism, liberalism, socialism, etc. There are many schools and forms of all of these movements.
Of course, my conception of revolutionary nationalism is quite different from yours. I’ve been influenced by different sources, I’ve read them in a different order and in a different way, I’ve started from a different place and I’m pursuing a different direction. I could say that I’ve united a different bundle of values, ideas, and practices under the rubric of revolutionary nationalism. My thinking is fairly heterodox.
I wouldn’t reject democracy out of hand, but I think it’s necessary to remove the mystique around this term (as Louis Rougier would put it) and to put democracy in its place, hence my references above to a mixed constitution and to subsidiarity.
I’m convinced that profoundly illiberal and antiliberal measures will need to be taken if White peoples are to survive. As Andrew Hamilton emphasizes in his latest article, it really is a matter of life and death, and needs to be treated as such. The use of force and violence is inevitable and necessary in these circumstances.
I will not press the matter of which terms to use anymore at this point, but I want to make something clear about myself, about my own philosophical background. You should be aware that I did not begin as someone who believed in democracy. For many years I was an ardent anti-democrat who believed in authoritarian government; I was even very much inspired by Fascism and National Socialism. I studied and familiarized myself with anti-democratic and elitist intellectuals (Evola, Spengler, Yockey, Spann, etc.); I was very interested in their arguments and in their breakdown of egalitarian, liberal, and democratic ideas. As I have implied, the “mystique” of democracy had no effect on me.
After reading the works of other Right-wing thinkers who were very familiar with anti-democratic theory but who eventually concluded that a certain form of democracy was the better system (especially New Right thinkers like Benoist, Faye, Krebs, etc.; although some older authors are part of this influence too), I began to balance the different perspectives better. It was only after carefully considering their arguments that I was finally convinced that democracy – when improved, so that it takes on a more organic, non-egalitarian, non-liberal, and basically right-wing form – was actually a more preferable system than an authoritarian government. It should be evident here that this is not just about semantics; it is about which form of government I truly believe is the most desirable and also the best to advocate (I might add, in my opinion, that advocating a dictatorship is also a bad strategy because it simply cannot succeed; you would remain merely part of a fringe group). As you can see, I am not someone who was always a believer in democracy and was therefore “stuck” in it; rather, I reached this conclusion through a long period of intellectual development and careful consideration.
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