(FASCISM and PHILOSOPHY – continued)
In trying to make the world they preferred, the fascists confronted historical influences not easily overcome. There was the now hidden influence of John Locke and the belief that legitimate state authority must be derived from the consent of the governed – contrary to fascism's belief in imposed leadership by exceptional persons like Mussolini or Hitler.
Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill were still of some influence, Bentham having favored laws for "the greatest good for the greatest number" and Mill having written "On Liberty." Nietzsche having associated them with what he called a "pig philosophy" – a view perhaps shared by some fascists – had not substantially diminished their influence. Mill believed that a person should be sovereign "Over himself, over his own body and mind," and he believed in protecting minorities against the majority – of special value to minorities living in states where the majority were supporting a fascist dictatorship.
Another anti-fascist influence still around in the early 20th century was that of Edmund Burke (1729-97), the 18th century Anglo-Irish politician-philosopher, who had been a member of the liberal Whig political movement as Locke had been. He was an opponent of unrestrained executive political power or mob power. He was an Anglican who supported rights for Catholics and an opponent of the illiberal ways of the French Revolution.
Christianity was also a force that the fascists had to content with. There was widespread support by Christians for fascism, despite diatribes against Christianity that arose from some fascists, including from the official philosopher of the National Socialist movement, Alfred Rosenberg. The Catholic church increased its hostility to Hitler's regime in 1940 in reaction to Germany's euthanasia program. A few Catholics and other Christians in fascist-ruled countries who were above average in moral sensibility became fascism's enemy.
Opposed to fascism were those influenced by the Austria school of economics. Their associating freedom with economic efficiency was a part of their hostility to fascism, and among them were Jews who fled from Nazi anti-Semitism. In the United States was the philosophical tradition that molded Franklin Roosevelt's hostility to fascism. Roosevelt, in addition to calling himself a Christian, was a firm believer in democracy. In the United States and Europe were many who believed in an important component of democracy: the public's check on what government's did and allowed others to do.
And in Europe were anti-fascist Marxists. The philosopher Bertrand Russell, who was hostile to Marx and Marxists, recognized Marxism as coming out of the liberal tradition. He wrote that both "are philosophically not very widely separated; both are rationalistic, and both, in intention, are scientific and empirical." (This is contrary to those who understand things only in isolation and absolutes rather than in broad historical development.) Russell, by the way, was a liberal marked for death by the Hitler regime in their plans for a fascist takeover of Britain.
The difference between the fascists and communists was obscured briefly in the minds of some by the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939. But, by then, Hitler had been imprisoning Communists who had broken no German law – including the internationally famous communist Ernst Thalmann.
In Europe, the Communists were the best organized opposition of the fascist regimes – in part because of their traditional belief in social and political activism, Marx having said something about purpose being to change rather than just contemplate or examine one's navel. During the war, fascist aggressions pushed a number of idealistic youths into the Communist Party, their idealism to clash with Stalinism after the war. Italy went from Fascism to having one of the larger Communist parties as a percentage of its population. It was Communist Partisans who were able to apprehend and assassinate Mussolini. In Hegelian fashion, Marxism and liberalism "negated" Fascism.
Copyright © 2007-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.