by Bill Nugent
Some time ago I read an interesting article that said that the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini was no flash in the pan and that fascism is still with us. One manifestation of fascism was destroyed in World War II but the philosophical underpinnings of fascism remain in place.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) is called the father of atheistic existentialism and also the father of nihilism. He laid the philosophical groundwork for fascism. Existentialism as a philosophy is opposed to all theological and philosophical systems. Existentialism is anti-system. The fact that existentialism is not an orderly system of thought makes it hard to define. Existentialism is a philosophy of personal choices. It is therefore as varied as each individual.
Atheistic existentialism denies the existence of God and therefore denies God the role of being someone greater than self who gives order and purpose to the world. Since there is nothing beyond self, the self lives in a meaningless universe and lives for nothing and serves nothing. This is nihilism. Nihilism is the zero point and this zero point is the starting point of fascism.
No one, certainly no thinking person, remains a nihilist forever. The human soul was designed to commit itself to serve something beyond the self. Nihilism and its handmaid narcissism (excessive self-love) are so inward looking that they starve the soul.
Existentialists reacted against nihilism and looked for a larger purpose around which to order their lives. A generation after Nietzsche’s death, in Germany of the 1920s, a new intellectual fad arose that captured the hearts of youth. Building on Nietzsche’s concept of ‘superman’ or ‘Ubermensch,’ they assembled pseudoscientific ‘proof’ that fair haired people of northern Europe were smarter and more noble. To them, blacks were subhuman and Jews had no souls. Their galvanizing mission was to avenge the German loss of World War One and seek global domination.
Many Germans of other religious and philosophical commitments abhorred this extreme nationalism but were silenced as the country united around the new totalitarian ideal. It is well documented that Hitler was profoundly influenced by Nietzsche and also by existentialist philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976).
In Italy fascism actually came to power before it did in Germany. Italian fascism was a revival of the glory — and brutality — of ancient Rome. Mussolini’s appeal was to nationalism, a unified state as an organic whole, and socialism whereby the state cares for its own. The term ‘fascism’ is derived from the Italian ‘fascismo’ from the Latin ‘fascis’ which means a bundle of rods tied with a band with an ax protruding. (Ironically this bundle symbol appears on the back of US dimes minted from 1916 to 1945.) This symbol was used in ancient Rome as a sign of Roman magisterial authority.
The fascis, with its rods bound with bands, came to symbolize union or unity. It was an enforced unity. Nietzsche wrote that power is the strongest human urge. It is power to order one’s own life as an existentialist and power to order other’s lives as a fascist. Here we see a supreme irony. The free thinking, bohemian, ‘do your own thing,’ avant garde types unify under fascism. It’s like when free thinking college students join authoritarian religious cults. They go from rebellion against all authority to servile submission to overly strict authority.
The dictators of Italy and Germany made a faustian bargain with the masses. The bargain was “Give us all power and we will give you a perfect society. Forget God’s law. We will kill our internal enemies (Jews) and our external enemies, the neighboring countries.”
As we enter the 21st century, atheistic existentialism has never been stronger and fascism is beginning to rear not its ugly head, but this time a smiling face. On college campuses (and in literature, film and political discourse) in Europe and the US there is a new conformity emerging. It is a new unity backed by unyielding authority — a nascent fascism. There is a required conformity to a new absolute. It claims to be open minded but it’s open to only one code of ethics which is called “political correctness.”
On college campuses conservative speakers are viciously shouted down. Conservative college newspapers are stolen and destroyed. In politics, the judicial branch of the US government has emerged as an oligarchy. Unelected judges write law from the bench rather than decide cases within the law. They act as proto-dictators. Among other outrages, they tossed out the laws of all 50 states that forbade or restricted abortion.
The new faustian bargain is “Give us power and we will give you the right to kill the unwanted (unborn), we will give special protection for homosexuality and banish prayer and Christian morality from schools.”
Western civilization’s fall from the biblical faith is in fulfillment of several Bible prophecies. The Bible also prophesies the rise of a great dictator who is the antichrist. A good resource for further study on the intellectual climate of our times is the book Modern Fascism by Gene Edward Veith, Jr.