(FASCISM and PHILOSOPHY – continued)

home | 1901-WW2 Index


previous | next

Triumphant Philosophies against Fascism

In trying to make the world they preferred, the fascists confronted historical influences not easily overcome. Against the fascists was the 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 in opposition to fascism. Bentham favored laws for "the greatest good for the greatest number" and Mill had written "On Liberty." Nietzsche had associated them with what he called a "pig philosophy," which seems not to have 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 in philosophy in the early 20th century was that writings of Edmund Burke (1729-97). He was an 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, but some Christians, including Roman Catholics, who were above average in their moral sensibilities became fascism's enemy.

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 – which was inherently hostile to fascism. Russell wrote of both Lliberalism and Marxism being rationalistic, "and both, in intention, are scientific and empirical." The conflict between fascist thinking and Russell, by the way, was marked by the Hitler regime's plan for Russell's death with their occupation of Britain.

Despite Stalinism, Communists at least believed in democracy and self-determination, contrary to fascism's authoritarianism and the imperialism of Italy and Japan. Philosophically Marxism and fascism were not compatible, and Europe's communists were the best organized opposition of the fascist regimes – in part because of their philosophical commitment to social activism rather than just contemplation. Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union broke up a temporary truce between the two powers. Such international aggreements were common, like the French republic's alliance with tsarist Russia before 1914. The philosophical difference between fascism and Marxism remained – however much Stalinist authoritarianism violated Marxist ideals and can be compared with fascism. During the war, fascism pushed a number of idealistic youths in Europe 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 in Europe as a percentage of its population.

Copyright © 2007-2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.