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What is Fascism?

fasces3 [1]680 words

Translated by Greg Johnson

Czech translation here [2]

Editor’s Note:

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.