Page 6, 13th July 1984

13th July 1984
Page 6
Page 6, 13th July 1984 — Fascism's abuse of democracy

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Fascism's abuse of democracy

'Fascism by Noel O'Sullivan (Dent £4.40) THIS is a valuable addition to Dent's Modern Ideologies series.

A readable and objective study of Fascism is something of a rarity. This has the great merit of reassessing the origins of the devastating 20th century political creed with acuteness. Some of its findings show how inadequate were older assessments.

The author stresses the fact that the older, liberaldemocratic notion of politics rested on the belief that civilised communities were held together by the formal bond of law whereas the basis of the new "activist" form the politics which Fasicm exemplified was not law but some shared purpose of the community.

The activist style of politics gives free play to the exercise of fanaticism which the leadership can impose on a people with the greatest of ease, since it has a complete monopoly of the press, radio and television. Again, the activist style of politics makes war an intrinsically desirable way of conducting affairs.

t Noel O'Sullivan traces the origins of this "activist" style of politics to the French Revolution. It is thus mistaken to think that this remorseless political nihilism originated simply in the temperaments of Hitler and Mussolini. This analysis is very carefully made and is supported by a long quotation of prophetic quality from Thomas Love Peacock's Nightmare Abbey written in 1818.

The author sees the nihilistic idealism which culminates in Fascism simply as an implication of the restless and egotistical will with its morality of selfrealisation which has been cultivated in the West since the Renaissance, a cult which has

infected Western Christianity, making it powerless to counteract the evil. The Church has here a bitter responsibility. I wish the author had developed his perception of the fact that the doctrine of popular sovereignty — "democracy" as the word is generally understood today is one of the legitimising myths of the modern world and an essential element in the development of Fascism.

No doubt the book had to be written to a prescribed length. This would explain why no Fascist regimes other than those of Mussolini and Hitler are discussed at any length. However, there are some intensely interesting comments on the British Fascism of Oswald Mosley. In theory this was not totalitarianism but one may wonder whether had ,Mosley come to power, it would have been able to remain A huge proportion of Mosley's followers were not Fascist in any strict sence. Like Henry Williamson, they supported him for his "nomore-war" policies and his promise to deal with the unemployment problem. He had the support of rriany Catholics because of his promise to abolish partition in Ireland. How he proposed to do this was never quite clear.

The error of many of these supporters was to explain away what later became the worst excesses of Fascism in practice as merely " accidental" phenomena that would not last — notably anti-semitism and racism. If the book had been published in the 1930s, how useful it would have been. Nevertheless, it is most welcome now and it is to be hoped that it " will be studied widely and carefully.

Brocard Sewell

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