1: Introduction. (Part 4B1)
2: The World That is No More.
3: The Prophets of Fascism. (Part 4B2).
4: The American Experiment Has Failed. (Part 4B3).
(For the introduction see here.)
3: The Prophets of Fascism.
Our second extract for setting up the framework for understanding the evolution of fascism is taken from Erik Von- Kuehenlt Leddhin’s book Liberty or Equality; specifically, the chapter entitled Democracy and Totalitarianism: the Prophets.
The book advances the thesis that liberty and equality are incompatible and that the tendencies within human nature, when combined with democracy, will naturally lead to totalitarianism or fascism.
What’s missing from KL is an understanding of something like the praxeology of power. However, what is truly valuable in his book is the compilation of authors, philosophers and commentators and chronicling the development of the Protestant Reformation to the French Revolution to Communism and National Socialism.
In part 4D, we will make use of a different work of Leddhin, Leftism Revisited to examine the leftist or socialist origins of Fascism and German National Socialism.
The impression one get’s of the evolution of the state from Leddhin (a Austrian, Aristocratic Catholic), is that of a snake slowly coiling itself around its prey and then devouring it.
Furthermore, what you will also see is that to many of the thinkers that will follow, what happened in the 20th Century and what we have now, is not all that surprising. This point about foresight was also echoed by Thomas Kuhn in his work on “revolution”, which we covered here.
Theory without fact is empty and fact without theory is insignificant. Armed with an understanding of the logic of unsecure power, however (Imperium in Imperio), the conclusion that the triumph of the Minotaur was inescapable is almost undeniable.
Democracy and Totalitarianism: the Prophets.
THE notion that tyranny evolves naturally from democracy can be traced back to the earliest political theorists; there are allusions to it in Aristotle’s Politics (v. 8. 2-3, 18), but the description of this evolutionary process in Plato’s Republic (Books viii, ix) provides us with a picture which, without exaggeration, can be called an almost perfectly accurate facsimile of the insidious transition which took place in central and eastern Europe after 1917 and, especially, after 1930. Here we find a description of the mass rebellion against the elites, the deification of youth, the ever mounting expropriation of the well-to-do until they begin to defend themselves, whereupon the masses select a ” leader ” whose task it is to protect ” the people”; we see the bodyguards paid by the demagogue, the flight of the wealthy and of the intellectuals, the rejection of democracy by the desperate upper classes as a result of this development, the evolution from ” protection ” to tyranny, the spoliation of the temples, the militarization of the masses, the recruiting of criminals into the police force, the provocation of military conflicts in order to impose emergency measures at home and thus a stricter national discipline, finally ” purges ” and a mounting wave of corruption.
Some of the latter, like Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), P. J. Proudhon (1809-1865), Herman Melville (1819-1891), J. J. Bachofen (1815-1887) and, to a certain extent, also Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) and F. Nietzsche (1844-1900), expected the rise of what Mr. Hilaire Belloc aptly calls the ” servile state.” Others, overlooking the possibility of a peaceful and gradual evolution, were fascinated by the potentialities of the ” dialectics ” of democracy and democratism. They followed a direction of thought indicated by Plato and, up to a point, by Aristotle also. Among these we find Walter Bagehot (1826-1877), J. Burckhardt (1818-1897), Constantine Leontyev (1831-1891), F. M. Dostoyevski (1821-1881), Ernest Renan (1823-1893), Franz Grillparzer (1791-1872), Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), B. G. Niebuhr (1776-1831), J. Donoso Gortés (1809-1853) and Benjamin de Constant (1767-1830).
To the aforementioned, a group of other analysts should be added, thinkers who varied in their affinity and enthusiasm towards democracy. Some of these were outright enemies, others again were friends of the democratic ideology; but they all had very concrete fears and apprehensions, which in time proved to be well founded. Among such men should here be mentioned Edmund Burke (1729-1797), Alexander Herzen (1812-1870), Count Montalembert (1810-1870), Royer Collard (1763-1845), Lord Acton (1834-1902), Prévost Paradol (1829-1870), J. S. Mill (1806-1873), Lord Bryce (1838-1922), Sir Henry Maine (1822-1888), Orestes Brownson (1803-1876), W. E. H. Lecky (1838-1903), Henry Adams (1838-1918), H. F. Amiel (1804-1881), Alexandre Vinet (1797-1847) and Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881). Contemplating this list it is certainly no exaggeration to state that, during the nineteenth century, some of the best minds in Europe (and in America) were haunted by the fear that there were forces, principles and tendencies in democracy which were, either in their very nature or, at least, in their dialectic potentialities, inimical to many basic human ideals —freedom being one among them.
Psychological factors driving identity and uniformity:
….at the very bottom of all socio-political problems we find, among others, certain recurrent psychological factors. One of them we might call man’s subjection to the influence of two powerful, mutually antagonistic drives: the identitarian instinct and the diversitarian sentiment.
Whereas the first-mentioned belongs, in a certain sense, to the animal nature of man, the latter is purely human. Yet there can be no doubt that our modern civilization decidedly favours the excessive development of the former. Democracy, mass production, militarism, ethnic nationalism, racialism and all tendencies toward ” simplification ” put the emphasis on identity and uniformity…
Leddhin emphasizes psychological factors here. While we agree with him, these factors are necessary but not sufficient, however. As he would have agreed, different regime types are more or less likely to endorse, and more importantly, select and amplify these factors. The selectors are unsecure elites operating within an unsecure system.
Uniformity and death:
Benjamin de Constant, who belonged to the eighteenth no less than to the nineteenth century, recognized the paralyzing qualities of uniformism when he wrote: “Variety is organization; uniformity is mechanism. Variety is life; uniformity is death.”
The reason for “uniformity” is the state’s need to make everything, including men, easier for tax-collecting and war-making.
The means of manipulation:
Jacob Burckhardt, commenting with implicit bitterness on a speech of President U. S. Grant, remarked: The complete programme contains Grant’s latest address, which points to a single state with one language as the necessary aim of a purely acquisitive world. His apprehensions were based on the fear of revolutionary risings using totalitarian methods and envisaging totalitarian aims: It seems that an essential condition for crises is to be found in the existence of a highly developed system of communications and the spreading of a homogeneous mentality over vast areas. But when the hour and the right material are at hand, the contagion spreads with the speed of electricity over hundreds of miles, and affects the most diverse populations, which hardly know each other. The message flies through the air and they all suddenly agree on that one issue, if only on a sulky admission that ” there’s got to be a change.
The Marquis de Sade, one of the most original defenders of democratic dictatorship, combined his immoralism with the notion that the principle of equality should be extended to plants and animals, not only to man. N. D. Fustel de Coulanges considered levelling tendencies to be instrumental in keeping the power of the tyrants of antiquity:
With two or three honourable exceptions, the tyrants who arose in all the Greek cities in the fourth and third centuries reigned only by flattering whatever was worst in the mob and violently suppressing whoever was superior by birth, wealth or merit. This technique, already noted by Plato, is intrinsically democratic—in the classic sense. It must be remembered that ostracism, as a political institution, flourished in democratic Athens, and was primarily directed against outstanding persons. Dostoyevski, on the other hand, with his interest turned toward the future rather than the past, saw in the egalitarian madness the cause rather than the result of tyranny.
It is not madness, however, because “egalitarian madness” is a result of unsecure elite action.
Still, the modern state with its demo-liberal ” prehistory ” would be the full executor of an egalitarian majoritism. Thus Burckhardt wrote in a letter: But I know only too well the modern state, whose irresponsible omnipotence is going to manifest itself in a very crude and practical manner. It will simply take the approximate majority of the popular mind as a measuring rod and regulate the rest according to it in a strictly disciplinary way. These horrors, according to the great seer of Basel, are already conditioned by tendencies which can be found in earlier forms of democracy. He insisted:
Democracy, indeed, has no enthusiasm for the exceptional, and where she cannot deny or remove it, she hates it from the bottom of her heart. Herself a monstrous product of mediocre brains and their envy, democracy can use as tools only mediocre men, and the pushing place-hunters give her all desired guarantees of sympathy. Yet it must be admitted that a new spirit, coming from below, gets hold of the masses so that they, driven by dark instincts, are looking again for the exceptional. But herein they may be surprisingly badly advised, and take a fancy to a Boulanger!
It comes from below because the low are raised by the high.
The terribles simplificateurs whom Burckhardt expected to be the coming masters were far more potent and destructive than M. Déroulède’s melancholy hero. And the egalitarian tendency envisioned by Burckhardt and so typical of modern dictatorship, has its obvious democratic background; for the totalitarian democrat of the type of Mr. Herbert Read it is admittedly irrational, but has, nevertheless, the character of a necessary mystique. Alexis de Tocqueville, on the other hand, clearly recognized the psychological roots of the levelling mania: Equality is a slogan based on envy. It signifies in the heart of every republican: ” Nobody is going to occupy a place higher than I. No wonder that the modern dictatorships with their ” equality in slavery ” are so strongly based on the egalitarian system and on mass support, not on elites or existing aristocracies (save those coming into existence through the new bureaucracies). National Socialism of the German pattern has been no exception to the rule.
What KL is missing is an understanding of the imperatives of Elites in fostering equality.
Democracy and Fascism:
Modern thinkers go far beyond this careful understatement. They insist with varying degrees of emphasis on the fact that democracy and liberalism are two entirely different principles dealing with different problems. To practically all of these analysts, who have seen the rise and the preliminary victories of contemporary totalitarianism, it was self-evident that this form of tyranny has its roots in the democratic (plebiscitarian, majoritarian, egalitarian), and not in the liberal libertarian, principle. Thus, writing about National Socialism, a contemporary author remarked:
True Hitlerism proclaims itself as both true democracy and true socialism, and the terrible truth is that there is a grain of truth to such claims . . . but one fact stands out with perfect clarity in all the fog: Hitler has never claimed to represent true liberalism. Liberalism then has the distinction of being the doctrine most hated by Hitler.
We will see more of Leddhin on Hitler shortly.
Yet since democracy cannot relinquish its egalitarian heritage, the jealousy, envy and insecurity of the voting masses tend to give new impetus to the egalitarian mania as well as to ever increasing demands for ” social security ” and other forms of” economic democracy.” These cravings and desires result in specific measures, and thus we see finally a bureaucratic totalitarianism restricting personal liberties.
Yet the preparation of the masses for totalitarian dictatorship through their ” penetration ” by politics was another, though more oblique, blow against liberty. Thomas Mann in his younger years had such apprehensions, and they have been voiced in our days by certain political sociologists also.
Democracy and the enslavement of mind, body and spirit:
Nietzsche, in the past century, had no doubt that:
The democratic idea favours the nurturing of a human type prepared for slavery in the most subtle sense of the term. Every democracy is at one and the same time an involuntary establishment for the breeding of tyrants, taking the word in all its connotations, including those of a spiritual nature. The view that there is within the framework of democracy ample opportunity for anti-libertarian tendencies, or even openly totalitarian trends, is shared by a whole score of modern authors.
Liberty or Equality Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn.
Democracy is the internal cause of fascism and war, as we will see in part 5, is the external cause the totalitarian state.
In the next part, we look at the American experiment and the origins of its failure in the Republic’s designers to reckon with Imperium in Imperio.