Veith, Gene Edward. Modern Fascism: The Threat to the Judeo-Christian Worldview. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1993.
Chapter 2, “‘The Doctrine of Our Age’ The Fascist Tradition” pp. 25-42.
Veith alleges that very few people know the actual ideology of fascism as it was practiced in the 1930s and 40s. Therefore, it is relatively difficult to identify when it appears. “As the word is detached from what it signifies, the substance of fascism lives on, undetected because unnamed” (Veith 1993, 25).
One of the difficulties is that fascism is assumed to be conservative. This was the official assessment of it by Marxists (Veith 1993, 26). However, the real distinction between Marxism and fascism was that the Marxists were globalist socialists and the fascists were national socialists. Both were “revolutionary socialst ideologies” similar in many ways (Veith 1993, 26). Veith describes in brief the origin of “right” and “left” after the French Revolution in such as way as to show that the origins do not necessarily reflect current reality (Veith 1993, 27). Because of this confusion, some progressives who share many philosophies with fascism will complain that conservatives are fascists.
Veith describes fascism as “a response to the alienation that has been a part of the spiritual landscape of the West since the Enlightenment” (Veith 1993, 28). He describes in some detail the way a rationalistic view of humanity and the world results in alienation. The mechanistic views of the Industrial Rrevolution as well as the rise of modern science further separated people from their natural roots and emotions. Communal ties and families were broken up. Democratic reforms shared rationalistic assumptions, leaving people to question their purpose and sense of belonging in the world (Veith 1993, 29).
A futher contributor to the rise of fascism is the Romanticism of the 19th century. Here, as a response to rationalism, nature became something to contemplate (Veith 1993, 30). Because reason was subordinate, passion and primitive cultures which didn’t follow rational structures were elevated, as was the individual in isolation.
By the late 19th century, the idea of nature in harmony was eroded by Darwin’s more realistic analysis of nature as a struggle for survival. This view spread quickly into a social Darwinism in which those most fit would be able to rule society (Veith 1993, 31). Veith notes this as the time when racial theories and eugenics experiments, previously unknown, became popular (Veith 1993, 32). At roughtly the same time, Freud’s theories saw a violent conflict as that which defined the inner man as well. Veith describes Freud and Darwin as contradicting traditional morality and the rule of reason, i.e., the Enlightenment values (Veith 1993, 32-33). “The key figure in the emergence of a romantic materialism that would embrace both Darwinian science and philosophical irrationalism was Friedrich Nietzsche. His critique of compassion and glorification of violence, his belief in the evolution of a Superman who would be beyond good nd evil, and his intellectual assault on the Judeo Christian tradition were foundation stones in the development of fascist theory” (Veith 1993, 33). The stage was set for fascism by the ideas of Darwin, Freud, and Nietzsche. The response compelled by their ideas was to rebel and revolt against anything which seemed traditional, which followed rules of logic, or which was held as an accepted pattern in Western civilization. The alienation from nature and desire had to be thrown off. When traditional political and cultural solutions didn’t appear to do this after World War I and through the 1930s, fascist parties espousing these ideas grew rapidly (Veith 1993, 34).
The early fascist parties defined themselves as “nationalism plus socialism” (Veith 1993, 34). Counter to Marx, who was a globalist, the movement was nationalist in its nature. “The goal is national unity, a collective in which everyone cooperates in their (sic) own roles for the national good” (Veith 1993, 34). The movement pursued economic targets in the form of capitalism - defined as finance rather than actual goods. Veith observes this linked the movement to anti-Semitism, as the banking indistry was largely a Jewish enterprise (Veith 1993, 35). The end game in fascism would be to have one’s own nation overcome other nations, initially in trade but, if needed, by warfare. At this point, Veith observes that “the economic policies of Franklin Roosevelt, geared to pulling America out of recession by federal intervention into the economy, were very similar to those of Mussolini” (Veith 1993, 35). He goes on to say that the European socialism and even possibly the Soviet Union bear more similarity to fascism than Marxism, primarily because, for the most part, they are nationalist, rather than globalist. In fact, in modern Russia, “free-market reforms are opposed by new authoritarian, nationalistic parties whose members are ex-Marxists and whose ideology is national socialism” (Veith 1993, 36). Political correctness also tends to look at people groups rather than economic classes, and seek social transformation based on finding unity with others rather than by overthrowing the financial or political sector. Veith sees this as much more similar to Mussolini than to Marx.
The propsed economy of fascism is unified and collective, without competition or exploitation, and giving rewards in tangible goods rather than capital (Veith 1993, 36). The individual acts as part of the whole society, not as a free agent of any sort. This is a common view in postmodern philosophy (Veith 1993, 37). If people actually derive their identity through being part of a group, the self does not matter, only the collective. This was a strong argument against the alienation of rationalism. Gathering people in mass rallies, as was typical in fascism, enabled them to be part of the whole. The culture, not the individual, was what mattered. Veith observes the self-conscious use of the word “culture” rather than “civilization,” which seemed unnatural and bad. For this reason, the fascists carefully re-vitalized various pre-Christian folk religions (Veith 1993, 38). This was counter to the American constitutional principle of allowing cultural pluralism. Where fascism arose, it was based on an emphasis on different cultural groups, rather than on the individual who is equal to outher individuals regardless of cultural groupo. Veith sees the modern phenomenon of multiculturalism to be similar to fascism in that it elevates cultural identity groupos and treats them as collectives (Veith 1993, 39).
Veith furher identifies environmentalism with fascism. Since the villain was the Industrial Revolution, the hero must be the ability to pursue health, fitness, and the protection of all nature (Veith 1993, 39). While care for health and the planet are important, Veith describes the radical environmental movement as “eco-fascism” in its desire for compulsory agrarianism, foced population control, and protection of all non-human species at any cost (Veith 1993, 40). The revolutionary and iconoclastic views of the fascists attracted many who were eager to do something new.
Fascism self-consciously set out to tear down Western civilization and build something new in its place. Veith sees this repeated time and gain in those who reject tradition, including liberal Western democracy. Veith speaks in this instance primarily of postmodernism’s attacks on humanism (Veith 1993, 41). Again, as I have wondered before, I do wonder how Veith would analyze the situation now, more than 25 years after writing this work. In his concluding sentences of the chapter, speaking of Hitler, Veith observes as follows: “Although Hitler never hid the dark side of his ideology, his promotion of cultural identity, environmentalism, and economic justice were very persuasive. His populist politics and his avant-garde philosophy made him popular with both the masses and the intellectual elite. The problem was that so few people understood where these ideas would lead . . . “ (Veith 1993, 42).