The Source of Fascism

TimeWatch Editorial
February 20, 2017

As we said in our February 17 Editorial, quite frequently, we use terminology that has historical significance. Many times, those who have lived during the years when the history being referred to was occurring, smile knowingly, but for the most part, there are many who are not always aware of what these references mean. This time, the term we will take a look at is “Fascism.” The Constitutional Rights Foundation published an article on its website entitled “Mussolini and The Rise of Fascism” in which they explain the history of the terminology. Here is how the article begins:

“Fascism arose in Europe after World War I when many people yearned for national unity and strong leadership. In Italy, Benito Mussolini used his charisma to establish a powerful fascist state.  Benito Mussolini coined the term “fascism” in 1919 to describe his political movement. He adopted the ancient Roman fasces as his symbol. This was a bundle of rods tied around an ax, which represented the power of Rome. Mussolini established the first fascist regime, followed soon after by others, including Nazi Germany. Fascism, however, differed somewhat from one nation to another.” The Constitutional Rights Foundation, “Mussolini and The Rise of Fascism,” Bill of Rights in Action, Summer 2010 (Volume 25, No. 4)

Of course, what is also amazing is the fact that Fascism has been implemented slightly differently from nation to nation. There are however, basic structural similarities that remain constant in each country. Here are some of those similarities.

  • Absolute Power of the State: Fascist regimes have a strong centralized state, or national government. The fascist state seeks total control over all major parts of society. Individuals must give up their private needs and rights to serve the needs of the whole society as represented by the state.
  • Rule by a Dictator: A single dictator runs the fascist state and makes all the important decisions. This leader often uses charisma, a magnetic personality, to gain the support of the people.
  • Corporatism: Fascists believe in taming capitalism by controlling labor and factory owners. Unions, strikes, and other labor actions are illegal. Although private property remains, the state controls the economy.
  • Extreme Nationalism: The fascist state uses national glory and the fear of outside threats to build a new society based on the “common will” of the people. Fascists believe in action and looking at national myths for guidance rather than relying on the “barren intellectualism” of science and reason.
  • Superiority of the Nation’s People: Fascists hold up the nation’s people as superior to other nationalities. They typically strengthen and unify the dominant group in a nation while stifling dissent and persecuting minority groups.
  • Militarism and Imperialism: Fascists believe that great nations show their greatness by conquering and ruling weak nations. Fascists believe the state can survive only if it successfully proves its military superiority in war. The Constitutional Rights Foundation, “Mussolini and The Rise of Fascism,” Bill of Rights in Action, Summer2010 (Volume 25, No. 4)

These fundamentals are enforced. It must be clearly understood that the nation that is subject to a Fascist form of government is not been given a choice, but rather must comply with the form of management that is imposed. But you ask, where did all this begin? The Constitutional Rights Foundation continues.

“After serving in the Italian army during World War I, Mussolini returned home, looking for a way to unify the Italian people. In 1918, he began to deliver emotional speeches, calling for a dictator to head the country. He argued that only a strong leader could unite the people to overcome Italy’s postwar mass unemployment, chaotic political party conflicts, and strikes by socialists and communists.  In 1919, Mussolini organized his fascist movement in the northern city of Milan. He formed squads of street fighters who wore black shirts. His “Blackshirts” beat up socialists and communists and threw them out of local governments. In 1921, Mussolini formed the National Fascist Party. But he still lacked a clear fascist program. He only knew one thing for sure: He wanted to rule Italy.” The Constitutional Rights Foundation, “Mussolini and The Rise of Fascism,” Bill of Rights in Action, Summer2010 (Volume 25, No. 4)

Quite often we tend to separate the spiritual from the political from the military, from the economic. This is flawed reasoning, and the reason why we so very often miss the real objective and motivation of the events that seem so unrelated. Here is an important connection that should be carefully observed and monitored. On March 6, 2014, Lucy Hughes-Hallett, writing in the Guardian Newspaper said the following:

In 1938, Pope Pius XI addressed a group of visitors to the Vatican. There were some people, he said, who argued that the state should be all-powerful – "totalitarian". Such an idea, he went on, was absurd, not because individual liberty was too precious to be surrendered, but because "if there is a totalitarian regime,  it is the regime of the church, because man belongs totally to the church". As David Kertzer demonstrates repeatedly in his book, “The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe”, to be Antisemitic was not to be unchristian. The Pope told Mussolini that the church had long seen the need to "rein in the children of Israel" and to take "protective measures against their evil-doing". The Vatican and the fascist regime had many differences, but this they had in common.” Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Review of “The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe,” The Guardian Newspaper, March 6, 2014.

David Kertzer’s book was also revealing on a much deeper level. As we intimated at the beginning, quite often we overlook some important connections that would expose the true source and motives of the events that unfold before us. We however, fail to follow through, as we simply become victims of the seductive distractions that are strategically placed for no other reason but to blind us to the true aim of the manipulators. Listen to connection that Lucy Hughes-Hallett makes as she reviews David Kertzer’s book.

Kertzer announces that the Catholic Church is generally portrayed as the courageous opponent of fascism, but this is an exaggeration. There is a counter-tradition, John Cornwell's fine book, Hitler's Pope, on Pius XII (who succeeded Pius XI in 1939) exposed the Vatican's culpable passivity in the face of the wartime persecution of Italian Jews. But Kertzer describes something more fundamental than a church leader's strategic decision to protect his own flock rather than to speak up in defense of others. His argument, presented not as polemic but as gripping storytelling, is that much of fascist ideology was inspired by Catholic tradition – the authoritarianism, the intolerance of opposition and the profound suspicion of the Jews.” Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Review of “The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe,” The Guardian Newspaper, March 6, 2014.

Perhaps the elements of Fascist Ideology that have arisen today have not changed. Neither have their original source. The Great Controversy, page 380, paragraph 3 says”

“Let it be remembered, it is the boast of Rome that she never changes. The principles of Gregory VII. and Innocent III. are still the principles of the Romish Church. And had she but the power, she would put them in practice with as much vigor now as in past centuries. Let the principle once be established in the United States, that the church may employ or control the power of the State; that religious observances may be enforced by secular laws; in short, that the authority of church and State is to dominate the conscience, and the triumph of Rome in this country is assured.”  The Great Controversy, page 380, paragraph 3

That warning was first written in the year 1888. There is therefore no reason to be caught off guard.

Cameron A. Bowen

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