Translated by Greg Johnson
Part 2 of 3
“The Fascist Dream” is the third and final part of Maurice Bardèche’s Qu’est-ce que le fascisme? (What is Fascism?) (Paris: Les Sept Couleurs, 1961).
Fascism opposes another image of man to the democratic one, another conception of freedom to the vaunted democratic one.
Democracy puts no limits on freedom beyond prohibiting harm to others. Democrats are quick to discover that one might harm the government without harming others, and their codes are filled with political offenses. But they have never admitted that without harming others individually, one can still harm the nation as a whole through the abuse of freedom.
Fascism opposes this anarchic concept of freedom with a social conception of freedom. It does not permit that which harms the nation. It permits everything else. It is wrong to believe that it is in the spirit of fascism to limit individual freedom or freedom of thought. Nothing has changes in the everyday life of a country when it becomes fascist: contrary to the famous saying, when someone rings the doorbell at seven o’clock, it must be the milkman.
But fascism does not allow someone to carve out empires by capturing the minds of fools. The public is not a pond where you can fish all year round and where well-equipped pirates have the right to haul fortunes up in their nets. Everyone can think what he wants and say it. But the diversion of people’s wills must be punished in a well-regulated country, just like the theft of electricity. It is not reasonable that the law protects rabbits but does not protect our minds.
The anarchic freedom of democracy does not just permit the diversion of the popular will and its exploitation for private interests, it has still more serious consequences. It opens life on all sides to every inundation, to every miasma, to every foul wind, without barriers to decadence, exploitation, and above all mediocrity.
It makes us live on a steppe that everyone can invade. There is a word for purely negative order: the defense of freedom. But this freedom is like a drug you try once, it is a chrism one receives, and then man is abandoned defenseless on the steppe. Monsters make their nests on this steppe: rats, toads, serpents turn it into a sewer. These swarms have a right to grow, like nettles and crabgrass.
Freedom lets in anything. All the filth that others want to rid themselves of has the absolute right to settle on the steppe, to speak out, to appeal to the law, and also to mix our blood with the Negroid dreams, whiffs of witchcraft, cannibal nightmares—monstrous flowers carpeting unfathomably foreign brains. The emergence of a mongrel race in a nation is the real modern genocide, and modern democracies systematically promote it.
As for mediocrity, it rises like an insidious poison in those peoples who have received educations but not goals and ideals. It is the spiritual leprosy of our time. Nobody believes anything; everyone is afraid to be duped. The democratic state gives no one a mission. It gives nothing but a hollow voice, a freedom without content, without face, which we squander in seedy pleasures. Everyone is chained by his own selfishness. Everyone is disgusted to see his own image, and that of his shabby happiness, in his neighbor. And they hate these mirrors of their misery.
Can fascism be a faith? That is a big word. Our religions are dying; they are bloodless; man awaits new gods. No image of the city can replace the gods. But the destiny of men can still be a reason to live. If our lives are condemned to the night, the joy of building, the joy of devotion, the joy of love, and also the feeling of having faithfully fulfilled our human duties are still an anchor to which we can we cling. These avenues that we have traced for ourselves have saved the men of our time who did not resign themselves to mediocrity and disgust.
The fascist dream sees these routes to joy as open to all men. There is no true fascism without an idea that shows all the prospects of a great work. And true fascism is precisely to involve the whole nation in this work, to mobilize the whole of it, to make each worker a pioneer and a soldier of this task and thus to give him the pride of having fought in his rank. The spirit of fascism consists above all in endowing each with the greatness of the task accomplished by all and thus giving an inner joy, a deep engagement, a vital goal that will enlighten and transform their lives.
It is false to think that this idea must be expressed by a policy of conquest. That is the facile and vulgar form of great enterprises that no longer belongs to our time. The creation of national infrastructure, the realization of a just social order and a healthy people, the transformation of our lives according to the modern world, the propagation of our influence and example are beautiful and difficult tasks to which each can contribute in his own way.
When everything is an adventure it communicates the spirit of adventure. Transforming Corrèze can be as exciting as organizing an airmail service, but it is necessary to inject the idea that this is an exciting enterprise. Fascism recognizes this irreplaceable mystique of achievement. It is a sign of degeneration when the worship of a man is substituted for the task to be accomplished and when the nation nourished with nothing more than words, authority without a program, portraits disguised as principles: it is nothing more than a donkey with a policeman trailing behind him.
Thus fascism leads to a different social morality than democracy, and it seeks to develop a human type that the democracies ignore or combat.
The democrats believe in the natural goodness of man, in progress as the course of history. They think that all parts of the personality merit equal development. For them, the state does not make men moral, it merely teaches them to read; education is a panacea that can work miracles. Democracy does not intervene to establish its own image of man. Its fine ideal exists nowhere. One cannot even say that the men in charge choose subjects to suit their agenda, like leaders of seminars. Democracy is only concerned with diplomas. Democracy distributes awards for excellence. She places her best pupils in the Pantheon. But in 100 years, she has not produced a single hero.
Fascists do not believe in the natural goodness of man; they do not believe that progress is the irreversible direction of history. They have this ambitious idea that man has the power to create, at least in part, his own destiny. They think that the revolutions of history of course have causes and preparations of all kinds, but that they are ultimately determined and driven by the energy of a man or of a group, without which these revolutions would not have occurred. Thus they regard victories and defeats as the result of a mixture of remote causes, the chances of the moment, and the stubborn will of men, which cannot be equated, and they do not abandon the hope that man can, through the force of prudence and energy, withstand events. In particular, they believe the responsible course is to develop in their people the qualities that would permit them to survive and not give in to adversity.