Veith, Gene Edward. Modern Fascism: The Threat to the Judeo-Christian Worldview. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1993.
Chapter 1, “A Disease of the Times: Introduction” pp. 16-24.
Veith takes the title of his introduction from Thomas Mann, who understood and resisted fascism during World War II. In his view, it is a social discease which continues to grow unabated despite the formal military defeat of its forces in the 1940s (Veith 1993, 16). The ideas of fascism are not clearly understood by many today, who equate it with racism or some sort of extreme conservatism. Veith finds that the ideas “derive from romanticism, Darwinism, and existentialism. They are part of the mainstream of Western thought” (Veith 1993, 17). The ideas led to a desire not only for political control but for a sort of religious control of all of life, bringing freedom and harmony through breaking down cultural barriers.
Veith finds the clearest understanding of fascism to come from its relationship with Judaism. “Fascism sought to eliminate the Judeo-Christian tradition from Western culture” (Veith 1993, 17). It moves from reliance on the transcendent to that which is tangible, such as the earth, people, and the other elements often found as central in folk religions. Because of a hostility toward the transcendent, fascism condemned such beliefs as “Jewish” and spurred rejection of the idas and those who held them. This also required a rejection of Christianity when it held the concept of the authoritative Bible (Veith 1993, 18). A civil or cultural religion might survive, but not one which held to an entirely transcendent God outside of creation. This “resulted in a resurgence of the most primitive spiritulaity - the old pagan order of the divine king, the sacred community, the communion with nature, and the sacrifices of blood” (Veith 1993, 18). The goal is ultimately to lose one’s individual identity and be absorbed into a cultural group identity (Veith 1993, 19).
One of the difficulties we have in our analysis of fascism is that we wish to distance thinkers of the 20th century from their apparent political views. Veith observes that Heidegger, DeMan, and others who served as apologists for fascism were later known for deconstruction (Veith 1993, 19). This may seem a radical change, but if we see fascism as an attempt to break down the power of the transcendent, it is perfectly consistent with deconstructionism (Veith 1993, 20). While some of the societal revolutionaries moderated their views when fascism became weaponized in the war, others did not. This is, according to Veith, because the ideas are consistent with much of 20th century thought. As an example, Veith brings up Ezra Pound, a prominent propagandist for Mussoline, whose views against monotheism, whose agrarian and neopagan views, and suspicious approach to the abstract are influential in the mainstream of 20th century Western thought (Veith 1993, 21). Veith further finds that the left-leaning academics in the West, though they are not joining recognized hate groups, are going along with fascist ideals by rejecting the idea of the individual and finding identity only as defined by culture, power and oppression, and teaching transcendence as an illusory concept to be rejected (Veith 1993, 21-22). It is only a small step to decide a state should be the arbiter of identity and liberty.
Veith does observe that most contemporary thinkers, though they have the same guiding assumptions as the fascists, do not make the next logical step to a communal state as that which defines and governs identity, forcing a view of “the right” based on a racial, cultural, or sexual identity (Veith 1993, 23). Yet he considers this to be the next logical step for those who consider their views. The concern is what could happen in a next generation.
I observe that this book was published in 1993, so was probably written in or before 1992. As I read it, it is 2019, roughly a generation later. It would be very interesting to engage Dr. Veith and see what his current evaluation would be. In this writing he finds the move toward postmodernism to be “specifically fasciest” (Veith 1993, 24). Eventually, the individual, assumed into a collective, is meaningless and subject to all the crushing power of the collective. We watch eagerly to see what will come of this movement.