The Essence of Fascism

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[359] VICTORIOUS FASCISM is not only the downfall of the Socialist Movement; it is the end of Christianity in all but its most debased forms.

The common attack …

All over Central Europe …

Our picture may seem to over-stress the importance of the German developments and to ignore the fact that the [360] struggle between Fascism and and the Churches is far from general. Undoubtedly, the Roman Church […] … Quadragesimo Anno, the Pope …

But these instances …

But, even so, there are …

Undoubtedly, it would be impossible to argue that he who attacks the Christian Churches is attacking Christianity. Only too often has the opposite been true in the [361] course of history. Even in Germany to-day, Christian Pacifists and Religious Socialists are as far removed from …

This helps to clear up the second objection: … […]

But the Russian example should be a strong …

On the face of it, the argument is really …

[362] delusions of Socialism … …teachings of Jesus.

But politics …

It is to the philosophy and sociology of Fascism we must turn for the answer.

I. Fascist anti-individualism

The common complaint that Fascism has not produced a comprehensive philosophic system of its own is not …

… the idea of anti-individualism.

[363] After having…

Spann, the prophet of counter-revolution, starts …

Hegel Marx [364] Ernst Krieck

Mussolini Malaparte Julius Evola Hitler Rosenberg [365] Gottfried Feder

Oscar Wilde

Baümler, Blüher, and Wirth, philosophers [366]

Thus, Friedrich Gogarten's Politische Ethike

It is the Individualism of the Gospels.

II. Atheist and Christian Individualism


[368] necessarily be aimed, is an entirely different Individualism from the one against which his actual arguments are directed. Thus, as a critical contribution to Fascism, Spann’s argumentation is a failure. Yet incidentally it reveals the true nature of the problem with exceptional clarity, i.e. that meaning of individualism which Socialism and Christianity have in common.

Spann's …

Nobody can deny …

Spann's criticism of Individualism is vitiated … […]

The formula of atheist Individualism is that of Kiriloff in Dostoevsky's The Possessed … […]

[369] evil. […]

Dostoevsky's ruthless analysis of Kiriloff leaves no doubt about the true nature and limitations of the spiritually autonomous personality. The Titanic Superman is the heir of the gods Nietzsche … […]

[…] …denying that he has soul.

Christian Individualism arises out of the precisely opposite relation to the Absolute. “Personality is of infinite value, because there is God”. It is the doctrine of the [370] Brotherhood of Man. That men have souls is only another way of stating that they have infinite value as individuals. To say that they are equals is only restating that they have souls. The doctrine of Brotherhood implies that personality is not real outside community. The reality of community is the relationship of persons. It is the Will of God that community shall be real.

The best proof of the coherence of this series of truths lies in the fact that Fascism, in order to rid itself of one of the links finds itself constrained to renounce them all. It tries to deny the equality of Man, but it cannot do this without denying that he has a soul. Like different properties of a geometrical figure these statements are really one. The discovery of the individual is the discovery of community. The discovery of equality is the discovery of society. Each implied in the other. The discovery of the person is the discovery is the relationship of persons.

For the idea of Man and the idea of Society cannot be dealt with separately. What Fascism is contending with is the Christian idea of man and Society as a whole. Its central concept is that of the person. It is the individual in his religious aspect. The consistent refusal of Fascism to regard the individual in this aspect in the sign of its recognition that Christianity and Fascism are completely incompatible.

The Christian idea of society is that it is a relationship of persons. Everything else follows logically from this. The central proposition of Fascism is that society is not a relationship of persons. This is the real significance of its anti-individualism. The implied negation is the formative principle of Fascism as a philosophy. It is its essence. It sets to Fascist thought its definite task in history, science, morals, politics, economics, and religion. Thus Fascist philosophy is an effort to produce a vision of the world in which society is not a relationship of persons. A society, in fact, in which they are either no conscious human [371] beings or their consciousness has no reference to the existence and functioning of society. Anything less leads back to the Christian truth about society. But that is indivisible. It is the achievement of Fascism to have discovered its whole scope. It rightly asserts the corelatedness of the ideas of Individualism, Democracy and Socialism. It knows that either Christianity of Fascism must perish in the struggle.


III. The solutions

[372] Ludwig von Klages

Hegel's philosophy of the Absolute Mind

IV. “Soul” versus Mind

Let us begin by a broad contrast.

The first type of consciousness is the “Soul”; it belongs to the plane of vegetative or animal life. There is no Ego. […]

the [373] tissue of animal instinct. […]

Whether it is the rule …

The alternative type of consciousness is as far …

[374] is supposed to contain as a subjective experience in himself, he thus encounters as colourless semi-translucent objectivity outside himself. Society is a vast mechanism of intangible entities, of Mind-stuff; the substance of personal existence is merely the shadow of a shadow. We are in a world of spectres in which everything seems to possess life except human beings.

The details of this broad contrast are more or less arbitrary, each of the opposites being the compound of the spirit of a whole school of thought. Yet the values and methods presented in them ultimately derive from Nietzsche and Hegel respectively. […]

Both Nietzsche and Hegel were thinkers of great intellectual passion.

V. Spann, Hegel and Marx

[375] This can be readily seen when contrasted to Marx's criticism of Capitalist society.

Marx starts from … […]

In a developed market-society distribution of labour … […] They follow their own laws; rush in and out of the market; change places; seem to be masters of their own destiny. We are in a spectral world, but in a world in which spectres are real. For the pseudo-life of the commodity, the objective character of exchange value, are not illusion. The same holds true of other "objectifications" like the value of money, Capital, Labour, he State. They are the reality of a condition of affairs in which man has been estranged from himself. Part of his self is embodied in these commodities which now possess a strange self-hood of their own. The same holds true of all social phenomena in Capitalism, whether it be the State, Law, Labour, Capital, or Religion.

But the true nature rebels against Capitalism. Human relationships are the reality of society. In spite of the division of labour they must be immediate, i.e. personal. The means of production must be controlled by the community. Then human society will be real, for it will be humane: a relationship of persons.

In Spann's philosophy … […]

[376] yet, it is denied that there is self-estrangement. Not …

The anti-individualist implications of this position go far beyond Hegel. The reason for this easily found. His apologia for State-Absolutism and his glorification of the … […]

[377] J.J. Bachofen's antithesis

[…] The core of Klage's anthropology

VI. Klages, Nietzsche, and Marx

[378] [379] Karl Schmitt's “Enmity” principle: Politics, according to him… [380] [381] [382]

VII. Racialism and Mysticism

[383] [384] In Eckehart's Christian faith… [385]


VII. Vitalism victorious

[386] [387]

The Old Testament and the Jewish mind, the New Testament and the Christian mind, the Roman Church and Marxian Socialism, Pacifism and Humanism, Liberalism and Democracy, Anarchism and Bolshevism are all in turn denounced as Universalist. This series includes almost everything the author despises from the Palms to the Sermon on the Mount and the Communist Manifesto.

…by the Aristotelian, “The whole is before the parts,” or the Hegelian, “The Truth is the whole.” When Rosenberg … [388] [389] [390] … Tolstoi's and Dostoevsky's poetic embodiments of the Christian Revolution, For the …

IX. The sociology of Fascism

[391] [392] [393]

Text Informations

Original Publication: “The Essence of Fascism”, in Christianity and the Social Revolution, 1935, p. 359-394
KPA: 13/06
Recent Publication in English: in Polanyi 2018b, p. 77-90
Other Languages:

Lge Name
FR « L’essence du fascisme »

See also