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On Fascism

1,027 words

cemeteryTranslated by Lucian Tudor

Translator’s Note:

In the present brief article, Alain de Benoist sets forth a basic definition of “Fascism,” challenging by implication the unacceptable generalizations of this term by certain Liberal and Leftist scholars today. Benoist also makes it clear that Fascism is a time-bound phenomenon which arose in very specific circumstances, and is therefore not a metahistorical idea (as some pretend). This understanding allows one to differentiate it from other forms of Right-wing thought (whether we speak of Traditionalism, Revolutionary Conservatism, Identitarianism, or others) and also to recognize the necessity of doing away with the simplistic and outdated struggle of “Fascism” versus “anti-Fascism.”

Innumerable definitions of Fascism have been proposed. The simplest is still the best: Fascism is a revolutionary political form, characterized by the fusion of three principal elements: a nationalism of the Jacobin type, a non-democratic socialism, and the authoritarian call to the mobilization of the masses.

Insofar as it is an ideology, Fascism was born of a reorientation of socialism in a direction hostile to materialism and internationalism. Addressing itself to an electorate mostly of the Right, it has often had promoters among men of the Left. Neither racism nor anti-Semitism are consubstantial to it (Zeev Sternhell). In its concrete incarnations, it has been shaped by historical occurrences of the beginning of the 20th century (the First World War, the Soviet Revolution), by the general frame of the epoch (the modernization of the global society), and by the nature of its electorate (essentially of the middle classes, sometimes with a proletarian component).

The experience of the trenches along with disenchantment by technology, Jünger has written very well, has marked a fundamental breakage. During the First World War, society appeared to divide itself into two groups: the combatants and the others. Returned from the front, the first had the feeling of having conquered rights over those others who had not fought. The combatants had believed in a society where the virtues of war (courage, the spirit of camaraderie, permanent availability) would also reign in times of peace. The patriotic rhetoric, when it is developed on a foundation of class struggle, could not be but a deceptive illusion.

After the Great War there had been seen, for the first time, the coincidence of nationalist exaltation and the (relative) disappearance of social differences. In the end, it is also with the First World War that the anti-democratic spirit “ceased to seek its principal supports in the past” (Georges Valois). An explosive mixture. The Bolshevik Revolution, at the same time, shows that a revolutionary movement can come to power by mobilizing the masses. It introduces the idea of the new man and imposes the model of political commitment of the priestly type; a political apostolate. The forms taken by Fascism to avert the menace of Communism would often be mimetic forms: they imitated those of the opponent so much so that they could effectively combat it (Ernst Nolte).

Behind a discourse at times traditionalist, understood as archaic, Fascism has been fundamentally modernist: it has encouraged and sustained all the developments of science and of industry, has favored the emerging technocracy, has contributed to the rationalization of the economy and to the institutionalization of the welfare state. To the extent by which it had glimpsed the abolition of the social classes of the 19th century, and which, on the other hand, it had carried a will to power that it could not dismiss any of the tools placed at its disposal by techno-science, it could not act in any other manner. As Adorno and Horkheimer have already observed on the eve of the Second World War, Fascism, Communism, and the New Deal represented different versions of a project of social reconstruction where the State was called to play a principal function in the rationalization of the economy and in the reconfiguration of social relations.

At its foundation, Fascism is based upon the modern trilogy: State-People-Nation. All its effort is directed to making synonyms of these three terms, which are nowadays separated. Born over the sign of the Fasces, before anything else Fascism has wanted to appear like it. Thus it had wanted to bring together the social classes and the political families, opposed in another epoch, to consolidate the unity of the nation. This was at the same time its strength and its weakness. Obsessed by the unity, it has been the centralizer.

Pretending to avert the specter of civil war, it has engendered absolute hatreds, left as a fractured, irreparable heritage. Its Jacobinism, its subjective nationalism, is the source of all its failures: the one who tends to that unity necessarily excludes that one who does not allow himself to be driven to the unity.

That spirit of community, which has profoundly marked Fascism, does not permit Fascism to characterize it as its own. Fascism has not produced anything more than a particular version. In Fascism, the idea of community is vitiated by the conviction that that it must be animated and directed from the above, in a statist perspective, whereas a true community spirit is incompatible with statism.

The 20th century has without doubt been the century of Fascisms and of Communisms. Fascism was born of war and died in war. Communism was born of a political and social explosion and died in a political and social implosion. It could not have been Fascism if not in a given stage of the process of modernization and industrialization, a stage which now belongs to the past, at least in the countries of Western Europe. The time of Fascism and of Communism is finished.

In Western Europe, all “Fascism” today cannot be anything other than a parody. And the same occurs with the residual “anti-Fascism,” which responds to this phantasm with even more anachronistic words. It is because the time of the Fascisms has passed away that today it is possible to speak of it without moral indignation or complacent nostalgia, as one of the central pages of the history of the century which has just ended.

Source: Alain de Benoist, “El Fascismo,” Elementos: Revista de Metapolítica para una Civilización Europea No. 67 (15 Mayo 2014), pp. 9-10;  http://issuu.com/sebastianjlorenz/docs/elementos_n___67._fascismo_i.

 

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16 Comments

  1. Posted February 2, 2015 at 5:24 pm | Permalink
  2. Alex Fontana
    Posted January 29, 2015 at 3:48 am | Permalink

    It seems to me that Benoit is making three primary points: 1. Fascism is centralization of power. 2. Fascism is a product of its times. 3. Fascism is Jacobean in essence.

    I do not see a problem with the first. The second is fairly obvious. The third is rather nonsensical to make the comparison. Many fascists were army vets as Benoit has pointed out, they were not sans-culottes. Yes they were revolutionary but they were by no stretch of the imagination egalitarians, therefore the third point is largely invalidated in its assumed analogy.

    • Lucian Tudor
      Posted January 29, 2015 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      Concerning your points: the first is true for anyone for anyone who is willing to look at Fascism per se, meaning its actual manifestations in the 20th Century. The second is not obvious enough, because there are people who like to theorize a metahistorical “Fascism”. So, in the case of both the first and second points, we need to keep in mind that they are not obvious because people like Roger Griffin apparently don’t think so.

      As for the third, you are mistaken; Benoist is not saying that “Fascism is Jacobean in essence”, but rather that it is characterized by a Jacobin type of nationalism. This means that it does not need to share any other characteristics or ideas with the Jacobins other than the same form of nationalism, so one can have the same basic type of nationalism without any belief in egalitarianism. As for what the “nationalism of the Jacobin type” is by definition, Benoist has already written several essays to explain it (some useful references in English translation are his essays “What is Sovereignty?”, “The First Federalist: Johannes Althusius”, “The Idea of Empire”, and “Nationalism: Phenomenology & Critique”). Benoist is very far from being alone in this position; comparable analyses and critiques of Jacobin-type nationalism has also been made by C. Frantz, E.J. Jung, Evola, Venner, and Steuckers, to name just a few.

  3. Proofreader
    Posted January 28, 2015 at 4:41 am | Permalink

    Alain de Benoist’s assessment of fascism seems to reflect that of Jules Monnerot’s Sociologie de la Révolution (Paris: Fayard, 1969), a book I’ve browsed through but haven’t thoroughly read.

    • Lucian Tudor
      Posted January 28, 2015 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I do recall that de Benoist once mentioned Jules Monnerot as one of his influences, although we should not assume his understanding of Fascism is shaped solely by Monnerot’s analysis.

    • Proofreader
      Posted February 4, 2015 at 8:56 am | Permalink

      Yes, I’m aware of these things. Alain de Benoist is extremely well read and his work is influenced by many thinkers: he’s not the slave of any one thinker or system. I think there’s an article on fascism in Benoist’s Vu de droite that mentions Monnerot’s Sociologie de la révolution in a bibliographical note. There’s also a relatively recent article by Benoist on Monnerot on the website “Les Amis d’ Alain de Benoist.” My point is that many of the theses of Benoist’s article seem to echo those of Monnerot.

  4. David Halevi
    Posted January 27, 2015 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Revolutionary fasces.

    • Peter Quint
      Posted January 28, 2015 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      Good find. I wonder why they hid the ax head under a hat, and the bundle behind a banner.

  5. Peltast
    Posted January 27, 2015 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    A new Fascism will come because time is running out for Whites/Europeans.

  6. Peter Quint
    Posted January 27, 2015 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    “Fascism is a revolutionary political form, characterized by the fusion of three principal elements: a nationalism of the Jacobin type, a non-democratic socialism, and the authoritarian call to the mobilization of the masses.” That is a very good definition, I agree with it. All one has to remember that the oldest Italian definition for fascism is “unity” and you have a good basis of understanding. Fascism varies a little from state to state whether it be Mussolini’s Italy, Hitler’s Germany, or modern day Israel. Unity of nation, loyalty and exaltation of race.

  7. Theodore
    Posted January 27, 2015 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    In his insistence that fascism today is impossible, no more than a “parody,” de Benoist mirrors leftist critics of the far-Right, like Griffin and Payne. Indeed, when looking at his various ideological twists and turns over the decades, and comparing his views to that of, e.g., Faye, would it be unfair to label de Benoist “the Dugin of Western Europe?” That was not meant as a complement.

    • Lucian Tudor
      Posted January 27, 2015 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      Quite the contrary, Alain de Benoist truly detests the way Leftists and Liberals like Griffin misdefine the term “Fascism”, overgeneralizing it and taking it out of its proper context (which then allows them to label ideas “Fascist” which are actually not, and which also impedes any proper analyses). As for Benoist’s particular opinion of Fascism, it is not unreasonable to make a comparison to Dugin, but actually his views are also nearly identical to authors like Dominique Venner. Even Faye is not as different from Benoist as some believe; Faye’s work from the 1970s up to the end of the 1980s (GRECE period) express the same fundamental principles as Benoist’s works (yet I see nobody complaining much about those). In fact, nearly all European New Right authors share a similar of Fascism; they don’t view every individual component of it as negative and time-bound, but Fascism per se is negative and time-bound. The Radical Traditionalist and Revolutionary Conservative perspectives of Fascism are also comparable to the New Right/Identitarian perspective: essentially a critical view of Fascism and National-Socialism from the Right.

      • Verlis
        Posted January 27, 2015 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

        which then allows them to label ideas “Fascist” which are actually not

        I’m confused now, Tudor. If there is no such thing as generic fascism then this statement doesn’t make any sense. Or have you changed your mind on generic fascism?

        Regardless, I lack the energy to quibble over definitions of fascism or to dispute whether such an ideology really exists or not, but I will certainly point out one glaring hole in de Benoist’s analysis: the absence of any reference to what Griffin calls palingenetic ultranationalism. Now, ‘fascism’ can be analyzed without reference to palingenesis, and as the analysis relates to issues like labor, class reconciliation, state controls, and so on, the analysis loses little by the exclusion – and if one were committed to the notion that there is really no such thing as fascism one could even claim the analysis gains by the exclusion.

        Let us say, however, that there is another kind of fascism – a ‘higher fascism.’ This higher fascism cannot be analyzed without reference to palingenesis because, loose or not, ambiguous or not, the palingenetic myth is its beating heart. The time-bound particularities of ‘fascism’ – the uniforms, the salutes, the public spectacles – may lie dead and buried, but the palingenetic myth only lies dormant. Each generation produces individuals touched by its power – its ‘inner greatness’ – though many learn to quell their yearning for reasons of political expedience. Quite how this myth manifests itself in the future may have little or nothing to do with how it did a century earlier, so one can never be sure of what circumstances might breath new life into it.

        It was this knowledge that excited an aging Savitri Devi, such as when George Lincoln Rockwell assured her in a letter that Adolf Hitler had been ‘one of us’ even if he’d had to engage in lowdown, mundane politicking to secure his position. How comforted she was to imagine that one who’d climbed so high had had the same visions, felt the same exhilarations, that she had. It is this sense of certainty that one has hit upon a timeless truth that confers upon a man the power to patiently endure all manner of political trial, safe in knowing that the core of what one holds to be true ‘cannot be stormed’ (as a CC book title so powerfully puts it in relation to I know not what). The name we give to any political movement embracing this myth is surely of secondary import.

        • Lucian Tudor
          Posted January 27, 2015 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

          I assume that at the beginning there you are referencing some of my older comments on Fascism, particularly back when I commented on Roger Griffin’s work. My opinion is that the word “Fascism” can refer either to Facism in the very specific sense, meaning the Italian Fascism of Mussolini’s movement, or to a “generic Fascism”, which means movements of the 20th Century which share a set of certain fundamental characteristics that allow them to be identified as such (Benoist has contributed to such a definition, not only in this article but in other texts, and then there are obviously also contributions from numerous other New Right authors).

          However, it is important to remember that Fascism does not truly exist before the 20th Century, and that there are many traditionalist, monarchist, authoritarian, nationalist, or other types of Right-wing states and movements which are labelled “Fascist” but which are actually not. The problem is that Liberal and Leftist authors such as Griffin, Payne, et al. are overgeneralizing the term “Fascist”. They are not using a valid definition of “generic Fascism”, they are using an abused and unrealistic definition of this. There are plenty of Right-wing authors who have pointed out the problems with such overgeneralizations (besides Benoist, there is obviously Evola, Sunic, Venner, Dugin, etc.). There is also one mainstream scholar, more honest than some Leftists, named Anthony James Gregor, who challenged such overgeneralizations as well (he wrote a fairly good book on the matter titled “The Search for Neofascism”, dealing with the abuses of the terms). So, I do acknowledge that there is a “Fascism” more general than the very specific “Italian Fascism”, but I believe that it is typically defined far too broadly.

          As for Alain de Benoist’s above article “On Fascism”, it was actually originally only a very short introduction to an entire issue of the Nouvelle Ecole devoted to the subject of Fascism; meaning, this article cannot be taken as a complete analysis of Fascism by Benoist, only a brief commentary on some key features (and obviously demonstrating the Nouvelle Droite’s position on the matter). Benoist has already addressed authors like Griffin in more depth. What you refer to as the myth of palingenesis is not an exclusively Fascist characteristic. You assert it as a key component of Fascism (via Griffin), but actually the idea of palingenesis can be found not only in non-Fascist Right-wing thought (such Revolutionary Conservatives, Radical Traditionalists, and some democratic nationalists, who were even sometimes opposed to Fascism), but can also be found in ancient Pagan religions and in Christianity.

          It is clear that the palingenetic idea is central to Fascism, but to imply that everything else which holds the palingenetic idea is Fascist is simply absurd in the face of the historical facts! The claims of people like Griffin reach the peak of absurdity when he uses his manipulative overgeneralization of the term “Fascism” to label people who belong to the “revolutionary Right” but who are anti-totalitarian and often even believe in democracy (including Benoist himself) as “Fascist”, when this obviously ignores the fact that Fascism is inherently totalitarian (as Evola, among many others, observed). Finally, how is it that nobody has asked themselves why should we take Griffin’s definition of Fascism so seriously, when there are so many other mainstream scholars who provide contradictory and perhaps even better definitions (Nolte, Hildebrand, Sternhell, etc.)?

          • Lucian Tudor
            Posted January 28, 2015 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

            I would like to add a few remarks to my previous answer to clarify some things further. First, concerning Roger Griffin, from what I read, he asserts that there are three basic defining characteristics of “Fascism” in the generic sense: (1) a genuinely revolutionary and therefore non-conservative nature (by “conservative” he merely means “status quo conservative” or a reactionary, traditional type of conservatism; unfortunately for him, there are many other types); (2) the palingenetic myth or idea of the rebirth or renewal of a nation, people, or state; (3) the idea of the people or nation being in a state of political and/or cultural crisis which must be overcome.

            I think it is obvious that by defining Fascism using just these three basic traits as the defining ones, Griffin has made the definition outrageously generic. This is what allows him to include all New Rightists as “Fascist”; by Griffin’s overly general definition, Benoist, Dugin, Venner, and everyone else are all “Fascist”. Actually, in this sense we could even call many “National Communists” and other ethnically-conscious Leftist revolutionary movements (such as those in Latin America) Fascists as well, despite the fact that they are generally regarded as being more “Left-wing” than “Right-wing”. Theoretically, by Griffin’s standards, there are numerous ancient and medieval political leaders, religious leaders, and movements which can be labeled as “Fascist”. Imagine how unacceptable this is when we think that “Fascism” originally referred only to Mussolini’s Italian Fascist movement and nothing else (and the name was taken up by just a few other groups at the time, such as the British Fascists), and now we’ve extended the term to the point of absurdity. This is no more acceptable than extending the names of other political movements in the same fashion (e.g. “National-Socialism/Nazism”, which has actually been generalized by some as well).

            You proposed the idea of a “higher Fascism” which is metahistorical, akin to Griffin’s definition. However, let me demonstrate how this concept easily falls on its face with a bit of creative thinking. One could easily counterpose to this concept the idea of something else which is “higher” and metahistorical: let us use as a makeshift term the phrase “higher Rightism”, for the lack of anything better (we could just easily use the terms “higher traditionalism”, “higher conservatism”, or something else of that sort). So, in this opposing theory, this “higher Rightism” is a metahistorical composition of ideals, values, and principles which are shared by Fascism (as we see it in the early 20th Century) but which are also shared by numerous other states and movements in history all across the milennia. Therefore, Fascism is encompassed but far surpassed by the “higher Rightism”; it is not the former which is metahistorical but the latter, and Fascism is merely an imperfect, flawed, time-bound, and place-bound manifestation of the “higher Rightism” (since, for example, Fascism was totalitarian but the “Rightism” is not). As a matter of fact, you can see that this idea of a “higher Rightism” – whether that term is preferable or not – is a rather reasonable idea, and is surely much closer to the truth.

          • Proofreader
            Posted February 4, 2015 at 9:06 am | Permalink

            You’ve commented that, if we use Roger Griffin’s definition of fascism, “we could even call many ‘National Communists’ and other ethnically-conscious Leftist revolutionary movements (such as those in Latin America) Fascists as well, despite the fact that they are generally regarded as being more ‘Left-wing’ than ‘Right-wing.'” On that matter, I believe that A. James Gregor came close to doing this in The Fascist Persuasion in Radical Politics and other works.

            You’re quite right that the term “fascism” is defined elastically and applied indiscriminately. I’ve been thinking of getting Gregor’s Interpretations of Fascism, which a critical survey of theories on fascism. Indeed, it’s a very critical survey of theories on fascism: Gregor doesn’t exactly hide his scorn and contempt for many of these theories.

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