Part 3 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).
The purpose of the fascist state is to shape men according to a particular model. Unlike democratic states, fascist states do not hesitate to teach morals. Fascists think that the will and energy available to the nation are its most precious capital. They make it their highest priority to encourage the collective qualities that shape and preserve the national energy. They seek to develop such national qualities as discipline, a taste for order, love of work, the sense of duty and honor. In the practice of everyday tasks, these national moral principles are expressed in a sense of responsibility, a sense of solidarity, awareness of duties of command, the feeling of being at home in an accepted order and in an important task.
These feelings are not taught in schools with phrases written on blackboards. If education is to arouse them in a child, it is the regime itself that must develop them in men, with justice in the distribution of the national income, by the example it sets, by the tasks that it sets forth.
Discipline does not arise in action with the stroke of a magic wand or in response to a grandiloquent appeal: it is a mark of esteem that a people gives to those who lead them, and a regime must earn this every day by the seriousness of its actions and the sincerity of its love of country. The discipline of a nation is a weapon that is forged like the discipline of an army. It is understood to be a treasure that must be guarded. But it is above all the reward of men who give themselves entirely to their work and are themselves exemplars of courage, selflessness, and honesty.
This cohesion of the national will is, moreover, possible only in a clean country. No regime should be more concerned with honor, honesty, moral health than an authoritarian regime, and it must first of all be implacable in this regard with its own officials. This has not always been seen in the past. But there are many other things that we have not always seen in the past. Such self-discipline is the only thing that legitimates the discipline one demands of others.
But the policy of cleanliness is more than just that. It is also about the systematic elimination of all that discourages, sullies, and disgusts. I am not talking about pornographic magazines whose suppression the churchgoers and moralists believe will save the nation. Mostly, I am speaking of fortunes amassed without work, unjustified success, triumphant crooks and scoundrels, the spectacle of which is infinitely more demoralizing and harmful than the buttocks of cover-girls. I do not want the reign of Virtue, much less of the moral order. But I regard it as obvious that one cannot ask a people to love their work and to do it with seriousness and precision without removing from social circulation those who insult our work and our conscience by their manner of getting rich.
Fascism does not merely propose another image of the nation but of man. Fascism prizes some human qualities above all others because the very same qualities appear to give strength and duration to the state as well as meaning to individual lives. These are the qualities that have been required in all times of men who participate in difficult and dangerous enterprises: courage, discipline, the spirit of sacrifice, energy—virtues required of soldiers in combat, pioneers, sailors in peril. These are peculiarly military and, so to speak, animal qualities: they remind us that the first task of man is to protect and subdue, a calling that gregarious and pacified city life leads us to forget, but that is awakened by danger and every difficult achievement where man finds his natural adversaries again: storms, catastrophes, deserts.
The animal qualities of man have engendered others which are inseparable from them, because they belong to a code of honor that was established in danger: they are loyalty, fidelity, solidarity, selflessness. These qualities are the foundations of relations between men at all times, even in hours of uncertainty and abandonment. They constitute a system of mutual commitments upon which all groups of men can live. The rest of morality is nothing but a series of applications, which always vary with time and place.
These qualities that are functional, so to speak, and that the fascist dream takes as essential, in turn give rise to others which are their refinements, which always with time and place, and which become essential in their turn, to the extent that the human animal is more aware of who he is and what he is worth. These qualities are luxuries that military societies gave themselves as they took shape and constituted their hierarchy. They include pride, scrupulousness in vows, generosity, respect for a courageous adversary, protection of the weak and weaponless, contempt for liars and respect for those who fight fair.
These civic qualities still stir obscure palpitations when our decadent cities honor those who, in the past, made it their business to fight and to be fully men. They were found in both military and religious Orders, among the Saracen princes and samurai. They constitute, at bottom, the sole code that military societies have recognized according their vocation; they are essential to the honor of the soldier.
We are told that later the warrior monks became thugs and sodomites, robber barons, and cutthroat princes. When have wealth and above all power not degraded? It is the idea that matters. This beautiful human beast, this healthy human beast dreamed fascism.
It is certainly sad that the mud of war has rendered him almost unrecognizable, that the fury of war has effaced him like a statue in the desert, scoured by the winds of vengeance and hate. I do not say “this is what was.” I say: “this is what might have been and sometimes was.” This is the fascist dream, which was the dream in the hearts of a few.
The defeat of fascism should not make us forget that the image exists, that it still remains grand, and that others may find it again under new names. The very term fascism will no doubt founder, because it is too freighted with calumnies, because it is lost in a sea of shadows under a malignant mist. But what does the word matter? We all know that Spartan order, Spartan man, is the sole shield that will remain when the shadow of death rises before the West. Lenin prophesized that fascism would be the last form taken for survival by the societies that do not surrender without a fight to Communist dictatorship. If the West no longer has strength, if it disappears like an old man drowns, we can do nothing for it. But if it rises to defend itself, Lenin’s prophecy will come true. Under a different name, a different face, and no doubt without any projections of the past, in the form of a child we do not recognize, the head of a young Medusa, the Spartan order will be reborn: and paradoxically, no doubt, it will be the last defense of Freedom and the good life.