Ivan Ilyin: On Fascism

Fascism is a complex phenomenon: it is multifaceted and historically speaking, far from exhausted. Within it one finds elements of health and illness, old and new, protection and destruction. Therefore in an evaluation of fascism fair-mindedness and equanimity are needed. But its dangers must be considered in full.

Fascism arose as a reaction to Bolshevism, as a concentration of power guarding sovereignty from the Right. As leftist chaos and totalitarianism advanced, this was a healthy phenomenon, as well as necessary and unavoidable. And such a concentration will come about henceforth, even in the most democratic states: in an hour of national danger the more vigorous forces of the people will always rally to the defense of sovereignty. Thus it was in ancient Rome and the new Europe, and so it shall be hereafter.

Standing against leftist totalitarianism, fascism was correct, as it sought just socio-political reform. This quest could be successful or unsuccessful: solving such problems is difficult, and first attempts might not have made any headway. But to meet the wave of socialist psychosis- through social and consequently anti-socialist measures- was imperative. These measures had long been imminent, and waiting any further was out of the question.

Finally, fascism was right since it derived from a healthy national-patriotic sensibility, without which a people can neither lay claim to its existence nor create a unique culture.

However, along with this fascism committed an entire range of grave and serious errors that defined its political and historical physiognomy and lent its very name that odious pallor which its enemies never tire from emphasizing. Therefore for future social and political movements of a similar cast, another self-designation is necessary. If someone gives his movement the former name (“fascism” or “National Socialism”), this will be interpreted as the intent to restore all the faults and fatal mistakes of the past. These faults and mistakes comprised the following:

  1. Irreligiousness: a hostile attitude toward Christianity, religions, faith and churches in general.
  2. The creation of right-totalitarianism as a permanent and supposedly “ideal” system.
  3. The establishment of a party monopoly and the resultant corruption and demoralization that sprang from it.
  4. Withdrawal into extremes of nationalism and militant chauvinism (national megalomania).
  5. Mixing social reforms with socialism and the slide through totalitarianism to a state takeover of the economy.
  6. The fall into idolatrous Caesarism with its demagoguery, subservience and despotism.

These errors compromised fascism and set against it entire religions, parties, peoples and states, ultimately leading it to an unwinnable war and destruction. The cultural and political mission of fascism failed, and the Left flooded in with ever greater force.

  1. Fascism should not have held a position hostile to Christianity and any religiosity in general. A political regime that attacks the Church and religion brings schism into the souls of its citizens, undermines in them the deepest roots of justice and begins to claim its own religious significance, which is mad. Mussolini soon understood that in a Catholic country, state power needs an honest concordat with the Catholic Church. Hitler, with his vulgar godlessness, behind which was concealed equally vulgar self-deification, unto the end never recognized that anticipating the Bolsheviks, he walked the path of Antichrist.
  2. Fascism could have not created a totalitarian system: it could have satisfied itself with an authoritarian dictatorship sufficiently strong to a) uproot Bolshevism and Communism, and b) provide religions, the press, academia, art, sectors of the economy and non-communist parties freedom of judgment by virtue of their political loyalty.
  3. Never and nowhere can the establishment of a one-party monopoly lead to anything good: the best men will depart the stage, and the worst will flock to the party in droves. For the better men think independently and freely, while the worse are ready to adjust to anything in order to make a career. For this reason the monopolist party lives by self-deception: beginning “qualitative selection”, it demands “party consensus”. Making this the condition for work in any legal and political capacity, it calls men to absurdity and hypocrisy; in so doing it opens the doors wide to all manner of imbeciles, dissimulators, impostors and careerists. The qualitative level of the party breaks down, and pretenders, crooks, predators, speculators, terrorists, yes-men and traitors come to power. As a result all the shortcomings and errors of political partisanship reach in fascism their highest expression; the party monopoly is worse than party competition (a law known in trade, industry and all the creation of culture).

Russian “fascists” did not understand this. If they manage to entrench themselves in Russia (God forbid), they will compromise healthy ideas of sovereign power and fail in ignominy.

  1. Fascism did not at all have to fall into “political megalomania”, despise other races and nationalities, and proceed with their conquest and extermination. A sense of one’s own dignity is not in the least arrogant hubris. Patriotism does not call for the subjugation of the Universe; to liberate your people does not at all imply overtaking and wiping out your neighbors.
  2. The line between socialism and social reforms has a deep, principal significance. Stepping over this line would mean the ruin of social reform. For we must always remember that socialism is antisocial, and justice and liberation in society tolerate neither socialism nor Communism.
  3. The greatest fascist error was the restoration of idolatrous Caesarism. “Caesarism” is the direct opposite of monarchism. Caesarism is godless, irresponsible, and despotic; it holds in contempt freedom, law, legitimacy, justice and the individual rights of men. It is demagogic, terroristic and haughty; it lusts for flattery, “glory” and worship, and it sees in the people a mob and stokes its passions. Caesarism is amoral, militaristic and callous. It compromises the principle of authority and autocracy, for its rule does not prosecute state or national interests, but personal ends.

Franko and Salazar recognized this and are attempting to avoid the aforementioned errors. They do not call their regime “fascist”. We shall hope that Russian patriots will also reflect in full upon the mistakes of fascism and National Socialism and not repeat them.

Text Translated by Mark Hackard.