The Forgotten Fascists

Fascism was born to inspire a faith not of the Right (which at bottom aspires to conserve everything, even injustice) or of the Left (which at bottom aspires to destroy everything, even goodness), but a collective, integral, national faith.

― José Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of Spanish Fascism

My grandmother was born in February 1937 in Málaga, which was at the time a stronghold against the Spanish fascists. The day after she was born, the hospital was evacuated, most of the city which hadn’t already left was evacuated, and they all walked 125 miles, five marathons, along the coast to Almería. My newborn grandmother, her mother, her father, and her three older brothers travelled by night and hid by day, so that the air force could not see them and mow them down. Around five thousand Malageños, approximately one in three, were killed in that exodus. Another five thousand Malageños stayed behind, and did not evacuate. Many of those were raped, and all of them were killed and buried in mass graves.

The Spanish Civil War had begun the previous year, and, in addition to the horrible wartime casualties, Franco’s fascist party killed hundreds of thousands of civilians across Spain in a political cleansing, the "White Terror". The opposing republican party killed around fifty thousand civilians its twin, the "Red Terror". In the aftermath of the war, hundreds of thousands of republicans fled Spain to France. Many were imprisoned by the fascists for political "purification", and some were deported to Nazi concentration camps, where thousands more were killed.

The Shadow of Individualism

Fascism is definitely and absolutely opposed to the doctrines of liberalism, both in the political and the economic sphere...

Now liberalism is preparing to close the doors of its temples, deserted by the peoples who feel that the agnosticism it professed in the sphere of economics and the indifferentism of which it has given proof in the sphere of politics and morals, would lead the world to ruin in the future as they have done in the past.  This explains why all the political experiments of our day are anti-liberal...

If liberalism spells individualism, Fascism spells government.

― Benito Mussolini

The dominant ideology of every age casts a shadow, for there are always bits and pieces of human nature which escape its grasp. Liberalism had promised a new world after feudalism, an end to aristocracy where the station of your birth bound your fate. It built upon a foundation of equality under the law and grew into universal human rights, which it still asserts holds across the world. But in aiming for an ideal where each individual was responsible for their own outcomes, liberalism advocated a kind of intentional blindness to the tribal dimension of human nature. Reactions against liberalism grew in this shadow ― Marxism to reify economic tribes of social class, and Fascism to reify ethnic tribes of national heritage.

Liberalism aims to universally elevate individual rights above all. Socialism tries to subject individual rights to the state in the economic sphere (often through deprivatization of the means of production). Conservatism (though very dependant on historical context of what is being conserved), tends to desire to subject individual rights to the state in the social sphere (such as through controlling substances or sexual practices). Fascism takes both of these paths of control, wanting to subjugate its citzens to totalitarian control of its national narrative in both the social and economic spheres. In that sense, it could be said to be "economically left and socially right".

This complete abnegation of liberalism in both the economic and social spheres explains why the founding document of Spanish fascism reads as a strange mix between far-right and far-left ideas.1 On the one hand espousing nationalization, land redistribution, and the right to work (and also the "duty to work"), it also mandates cooperation between the state and the Catholic Church to "coordinate their respective powers". In Germany and Italy as well, though not socialist, their fascist parties as a rule employed an economically socialist agenda while also pursuing additional means for social control.23

Two-Faced Fraternity

[Fascism] is essentially a defensive reaction of the organism, a manifestation of the desire to live, of the desire not to die, which at certain times seizes a whole people. So each people reacts in its own way, according to its conception of life.

― Francisco Franco

Fascism is not, as many suppose, definitionally racist. Since the Reconquista, Spain had been considered racially mixed by many in Europe because of the centuries-long Moorish occupation. Spain's flavor of fascism turned these accusations of interbreeding into a strength, claiming that their diversity actually made them stronger and strengthened their national identity.

Rather, it is the dehumanization of all who oppose it which justifies our moral ire against fascism. Fascism, in each country where it reigned, imposed a narrative on its citizens and sanctioned violence on those who disagreed. Like an abusive partner, it promises deep care and meaning towards all who would acquiesce, but only violence towards those who would resist. Fascism is the epitome of political tribalism, of moralizing politics and painting political opponents as worthy of harm. It demands allyship from all, and those who will not ally it paints as enemies.

First Flames

If you win, you need not have to explain...If you lose, you should not be there to explain!

― Adolf Hitler

Civilzation is a delicate fiction, a tenuous negotiation between millions of disparate actors. We have aimed much of the strain towards singular points of elections, but these points are also weaknesses, tears in the illusion of societal consensus. Having won or lost, political tribes are, for a time, less fettered to popular opinion which it will not court until the end of another cycle.

In February 1936, the Spanish fascist party lost the election, though to this day there is disagreement over whether there was foul play. The transition was particularly hostile, with those supporting the fascists imprisoned or ousted from governmental positions in an attempt to consolidate control. Having lost the election and faith in the democratic process, the fascists turned to other means, and in July 1936 attempted a military coup which transformed into the three-year Spanish Civil War. Hitler, too, came to power as chancellor in the wake of an election difficulties.

As the crescendo of violence builds in the streets of America, and as our election draws near, travesties of the past echo ominous warnings of where political tribalism might lead us. If we set ourselves against our fellow citizens and support civic unrest and fan its flames, we may find ourselves walking this dark road we claim to abhor, away from indivudal rights and into civil war. Whatever the failings of liberalism, it is surely better than that.

  1. Rivera, "The Twenty-Six Point Program of the Falange", 1934. link.

  2. "You cannot get rid of me because I am and always will be a socialist. You hate me because you still love me." ― Benito Mussolini

  3. Mussolini, "The Doctrine of Fascism", 1932. link.