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The Philosophy of Bolshevism, Fascism, and Hitlerism, Parts I & II

The Philosophy of Bolshevism, Fascism, and Hitlerism, Parts I & II

Samuel Štefan Osuský

Samuel Štefan Osuský

by Samuel Štefan Osuský
translated by Paul R. Hinlicky

from LF Winter 2009 & Spring 2010



Translator’s Introduction

Born in 1888 in the district of Senica, Samuel Štefan Osuský lived until 1975. He studied in the Lutheran Lýceum in Bratislava and at the theological seminary of the same church; he then studied in Germany at Erlangen and Jena from 1914 to 1916; he was awarded the PhD by the philosophy faculty of Charles University in Prague in 1922. He began to serve as a vicar in 1911, then as a pastor during the war years until 1919. He became an adjunct professor on the staff of the Lutheran seminary in Bratislava in 1919, a regular professor in 1920, and a full professor in 1933. He taught at the seminary until the Communist purge of the faculty in 1951, when he was prematurely retired. Osuský was elected one of two bishops of the Slovak Lutheran Church in 1933 and served in that capacity until 1946. He was imprisoned during the years of the First Slovak Republic for his opposition to the wartime fascist government, whose inhumane treatment of the Jews he protested alongside the leadership of his church in a public letter in 1942 during the time of the first deportation of Slovak Jews to Auschwitz.[1] Apart from responding to crises, Osuský’s many-sided academic work was focused on gathering philosophical, historical, and scientific resources for education in support of faith in the modern world; he conceived of this theological work as “a service to the nation,” lifting up the contributions of Slovak Lutherans to the formation of the first Czechoslovak Republic and its renewal after 1945. This work put him into conflict with the political Catholicism of the 1930s and 1940s as well as with the Stalinists who captured the government in 1948.

The lecture that I have translated below is of interest on several levels. First, it is a precious historical record of a Lutheran churchman and intellectual’s prescient analysis of the cruel future about to unfold. Second, the lecture is not complex or arcane in its analysis but rather takes the modern secular movements of Leninism, fascism, and Nazism at face value as “philosophies” or “worldviews” that entail certain behaviors. Using the limited resources available to him, Osuský produced an analysis that shows the power of a straightforward Lutheran theological critique of the pseudoreligions of the twentieth century. Finally, while the contemporary reader has the luxury of knowing the outcome of the movements in which Osuský was immersed, his churchly and intellectual leadership in the midst of ominous times full of confusion speaks a word of rebuke across the decades. Can we imagine in America today a churchly theologian or a theologically and philosophically adept bishop giving a lecture to pastors on this level—one that might prove accurate?

Certainly there are nontheological factors that sharpened Osuský’s perceptions. Lutherans were a minority within a minority in Slovakia with a painful memory of persecution—a fact that (as in the well-known case of the Huguenot village of Le Chambon in France) disposed them to be sympathetic toward others being persecuted. As a Slav who had read Mein Kampf, Osuský knew exactly what Hitler intended for him and his kind.[2] Yet Slovak fascists, including a handful of Lutherans, were blind to these implications, and their blindness has an arguably theological explanation that Osuský laid out for his readers. In any case, Osuský’s theological commitment, via the Czechoslovak leader Tomáš Masaryk, to democratic governance and liberal principles, and his Christian, i.e. non-Marxist socialist commitment via the Swiss Leonhard Ragaz (1868–1945),[3] cries out again across the decades for theologians who will not be enchanted anew by fascism or communism appearing in new guises.[4]

A further note on the immediate context of the lecture is helpful in underscoring the Lutheran presuppositions behind Osuský’s analysis, which may be less visible in this particular text because of his practical decision, noted at the beginning of the lecture, to lecture on political philosophy in keeping with his disciplinary specialization. Thus it helps to learn a little about his co-lecturers on the occasion of the gathering of the pastors on November 22, 1937. Dr. Ján Jamnický, professor of pastoral theology and church law, lectured on the “The Essence of Preaching the Word of God and the Contemporary Problem of Exegesis,” in which he knowledgably engaged Karl Barth’s new summons to theological exegesis but also refused to separate Barth’s approach from historical understanding. Appealing to Luther’s rule of tentatio, oratio, and meditatio, Jamnický connected scientific-historical exegesis with Luther’s description of preaching in the church, where “nothing else will take place but that God will converse with us in His Word and we will converse with God in hymns and prayers.”[5]

Dr. Ján Beblavý, professor of systematic theology, lectured on the Faith and Order meeting that had taken place earlier that year in Edinburgh, interpreting its consensus statement on the doctrine of the church in a Lutheran way. Similar to Jamnický’s acknowledgement of the new impulses coming from Barth, he claimed that the antidoctrinal liberal theology[6] of the previous century had committed a great error in regarding the church as a human enterprise. In this spirit, Beblavý called his auditors back to Luther’s teaching about the church as the creature of the Word: “The majority of German liberal theologians supporting the new regime have betrayed the church of Christ and entered into the service of German racism.”[7]

Pastor Juraj Struharik lectured on the “Battle of the Spirit against the Flesh in the Church and in Church Life.” Here he took up Luther’s insight that the Pauline battle is not the Platonic-Stoic conflict between emotion and reason, but between the spirits of human self-reliance and reliance on God. He applied this principle not just to the individual Christian but to the visible church in history as a field of battle. The present pernicious theory imagined that “the Church becomes flesh… by a collective divinization of the body, the blood” so that “the chief virtue is the preservation of a pure race and the chief sin the mixing of races.”[8] An appeal to Luther and a protest against the race theory-theology of the Deutsche Christen characterized the lectures surrounding Osuský’s presented on the same day, forming with him a united theological front against the gathering storm of Hitlerism.

Osuský’s worst fears came true. In 1939 “political Catholicism,” an ideological brew that found inspiration in Franco’s Spain and Mussolini’s Italy while foolishly overlooking the racist imperatives at the heart of Nazism, took advantage of Hitler’s dismemberment of Czechoslovakia to proclaim an independent Slovak state allied with Nazi Germany. Its first president was a Catholic priest, Jozef Tiso, who had inherited the leadership of a deceased priest, Andrej Hlinka, at the helm of the nationalist Slovak People’s Party. While Lutherans under Osuský’s leadership generally protested these developments and eventually supported the partisan uprising in the summer of 1944, their opposition to fascism would not count for much after 1948, when the Communists invalidated the last democratic election results in Slovakia and proclaimed the dictatorship of the proletariat. Having hanged Tiso for his crimes, the Communists used the blunders and indeed crimes of political Catholicism as a pretext for crushing independent church life in the darkest days of Stalinism in the early 1950s. Thus Osuský’s predictions of disaster in the following lecture would come true not once but twice within fifteen years of its presentation.

A few notes on translation. It is always difficult to render evanjelický/á (in German, evangelisch) into English: translating that word as “evangelical” leads to incorrect associations in English; however, “Protestant” likewise is incorrect, since the reference is to the historic Confessions of the Reformation period. The official name of Osuský’s church is the “Evanjelická Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia”; hence “evanjelická” stands as an abbreviation for this church-confessional identity. I have thus taken the liberty of translating “evanjelický/á” as “Lutheran,” to conform to American usage. I have left Osuský’s inconsistent manner of citation as it is found. Anyone interested in pursing his sources would have to be fluent in Czech or Slovak; those who are can consult the original text for such clues as are provided. I have disregarded Osuský’s irregular paragraph structure and removed some obscure allusions to footnotes to make for a smoother read. I have also taken the liberty of modernizing somewhat the rather archaic (even in Slovak) expressions into contemporary idiomatic English; e.g., the biblical “Behold!” that Osuský uses ironically I usually render as “Look!” I would like to thank my Slovak friend and theological colleague, Lubomir Batka, for his counsel on questions of translation, and the librarian at the Evanjelická Bohoslovecká Fakulta of Comenius University in Bratislava, Ján Badura, for his assistance. Thanks are due also to Rebecca J. Frey for valuable corrections and comments in the notes.


* * * *

I have ruminated for a long time about what to lecture on at this academic meeting of pastors. Three circumstances made my choice easy and decided for me. Since this is an academic meeting of pastors, the first of these is that I should accordingly lecture from a discipline assigned to me by the Czechoslovak State Evangelical Theological Faculty in Bratislava—namely, from philosophy, psychology, or sociology. Thus I cannot speak about more narrowly theological problems, which the other brothers from the faculty will discuss for you, but I must keep to my own area. Again, considering the field of study I should select from those just mentioned, I was helped by a second circumstance—namely that at the first such academic conference for pastors in 1926 I lectured on the development of socialism from the side of social theory.[9] This lecture then will be a continuation of that one. Which side of this complex of thought to continue today is decided by a third circumstance—a very interesting book that I have read and commend to the attention of all participants: Konrad Heiden, Europe As It Is.

Under the influence of this book and my own experience, I have come to the conviction that Bolshevism, Fascism, and Hitlerism are among the most potent currents of our century. We feel their activity, dynamism, and power on every side; hence I think we should become familiar with the basic thoughts of their ideologies or worldviews. They were originally only political parties, yet they have developed from political parties into great political movements in such order as I have named them. The first of these entered on the stage of history in Russia in the second decade of this century (1917); the second in the third decade (1922) in Italy; and the third in the fourth decade (1933) in Germany. Their literature has achieved wide distribution by now, so it does no harm to occupy ourselves with the philosophy of Bolshevism (as I call in brief Russian Communism); Fascism (as I call the philosophy of Mussolini); and Hitlerism (as I call German National Socialism).

The Philosophy of Bolshevism

The philosophy of contemporary Russian Communism, abbreviated as Bolshevism, can be expressed in two words: dialectical materialism. The philosophy of materialism forms the foundation of Bolshevism. The history of this idea is well known, beginning from Democritus through the Epicurean materialists, the Renaissance Epicureans of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; the followers of Gassendi in the French Enlightenment of the seventeenth century; Diderot, d’Holbach, La Mettrie in the eighteenth century, up to the materialists of the nineteenth: Vogt, Buechner, Moleschott, Colby. These form one source of the philosophy of Bolshevism, except that there is a certain difference. We ordinarily call these writers metaphysical, mechanical, or vulgar materialists, whereas we identify the philosophers of Bolshevism as dialectical materialists. Vulgar materialists acknowledged only matter; they explained all phenomena, all change—in psychic and spiritual life as well—as the motion of matter, as changes of place in space. Thus they reduced everything to quantitative measurements. Such materialism developed in part in theory, but even more in practice during the first phase of Bolshevism as well. It persists even to the present; it opposes “official” dialectical materialism.[10]

Contemporary “official” materialism is dialectical. It takes its origin from the dialectical philosophy of Heraclitus, Neoplatonism, Hegel, and Feuerbach up to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Already in Heraclitus’s philosophy, life is understood as resembling the flow of water between the banks of a river; among the Neoplatonists as the development of a thesis and antithesis; and with Hegel as a battle between the thesis and the antithesis to the emergence of a synthesis. Etymologically, the word dialectic, which comes from the Greek word dialogo, means taking things apart by analysis. Hegel, as is well known, explained the development of things by positing Absolute Spirit as thesis in the first place, and then nature or matter as the antithesis, and then out of these two the dialectic proceeded further to produce their synthesis. So also in Bolshevism. But where Hegel posited Absolute Spirit in the first place as the thesis, Bolshevism posits matter. Therefore Lenin called Hegelianism inverted materialism. Fr. Bicek in his essay “On Dialectical Materialism”[11] rightly calls attention to this difference: just as there was no dialectic among the pre-Hegelian vulgar materialists, so also there was no materialism in the Hegelian dialectic.[12] So we see that two contradictory sources were already coming together in the philosophy of Bolshevism at its foundations: the source of materialism and that of dialectical idealism.

This conflict becomes a danger for dialectical materialism at its very foundation. The question is: how would it be possible to combine these two contradictory tendencies? That is, how to transform mechanistic materialism into dialectical materialism?

Mechanistic materialists understand life and humankind as machines. As long as this worldview is not undermined, mechanistic materialism can remain. When, however, chemistry and biology developed after progress in physics and mechanics, and these new disciplines showed that the mechanical view cannot be sustained with regard to organisms, mechanistic materialism had to also move forward and change into dialectical materialism. To be sure, dialectical materialism retained the basic idea of mechanistic materialism—that the fundamental element of existence is matter, although mental life, thought, knowledge could not be understood as the mere movement of matter. According to dialectical materialism, mental life and everything connected with it is a special property of matter. In Spinoza’s language: matter does not have only the property of spatial extension but also of thinking; it does not have only the property of movement but also something more—thought. Thought as a property of matter is not something incidental or accidental, but rather a property that emerges at a definite stage of development as an effect of matter. Between matter and mind there is a relation of thesis and antithesis. Namely, matter is the first reality, out of which develops a second reality: mind. They are related as cause and effect. Dialectical materialism in this way borrows the idea of evolution or development from the philosophy of evolutionism and expresses it precisely by dialectic. That is why it is called dialectical materialism.

Dialectical materialism understands all of existence in this way: natural and mental life, and history as well, are in constant metamorphosis with the movement from thesis to antithesis. According to dialectical materialism, everything is in constant flux or metamorphosis, one form of being passing dialectically into a second form. All things are composed from antitheses, but the antitheses must be transcended through knowledge. Bicek characterizes dialectical materialism this way: “Dialectical materialism looks on the universe as an infinite universal process, in which one thing inevitably passes into a second thing, everything is moving, everything in formation.”[13] Everything real is changing and everything that is changing is real. Where there is no change there is no life. Hence dialectical materialism repudiates the thought of an absolute and immutable being. Development or change, as I said, takes place dialectically, namely, from a thesis to an antithesis and thus to a synthesis; to a new union of antitheses that exert a reciprocal influence on each other.

The most general form of disintegration is the antithesis of being and nonbeing. Existing things are unions of being and nonbeing. What exists forms the new that is not yet. A boy is already no longer a child but not yet a man. Process, metamorphosis lies in the unity of being and nonbeing; that is, between what was and what will be, between what is becoming and that which is. There is no present, only the passage from the past to the future. Antar in his book ABCs of Dialectical Materialism[14] considers the chief antitheses to be the following: matter-mind; quantity-quality; cause-effect; part-whole; male-female; individual-collective; theory-praxis, and the like.

Dialectic—that is, the dialectic of development—does not relate only to being in the realm of space or in nature, but also to being in the realm of mind and to history in the realm of time. The dialectic of dialectical materialism is occupied with problems in the realm of mental life. Dialectic namely does not mean only a method or means of development but also a doctrine about the acquisition of knowledge, thus a theory of knowledge. In this sense we meet with dialectic already in Plato. With Plato dialectic meant reflecting through conversation in order to come to common concepts, to ideas. Dialectic is also found in Hegel as the logical path to the development of a concept. Dialectic as a theory of knowledge in dialectical materialism is distinguished from these two, however. In fundamentals it is materialistic and sensual; but in metaphysics as in noetics, it overcomes mere sensualism. From the principles introduced above, it follows that dialectical materialism in its theory of knowledge derives things from being and not the opposite, being from thinking, as do various shades of idealism—for example, Plato and Hegel, as mentioned. Idealists, when starting from mind, must start from thinking because the mind thinks. Over against that, materialists, when they start out from matter, must start out from being; from matter, and to the same degree to matter, they attribute the causality of thought.

I did say, however, that they are not mere sensualists like the mechanistic materialists. Dialectical materialists take material reality as their starting point but they also overcome it. They analyze being and thought and in the synthesis they remove the mutual opposition between these entities. Bicek expresses it this way: “Man himself is a part of being and therefore the forms determined for being are also determined for thought.”[15] Reality works on our minds, and calls forth impressions and representations in us, even though the process of thinking is still not finished at this stage. Thought works over these impressions and perceptions through reason. Mechanistic sensualism is overcome by rational processing. It is then empiricism, passing into the antithesis of rationalism, and being overcome in the synthesis of rational empiricism. According to this approach, our thinking is determined by being, by impressions from the real world—not only the world of nature, however, but also the historical world and our reactions to it. We react in thinking to that which happens outside of us, but according to our own selves, our own subjecthood. This “according to us” is determined by natural and historical impressions and by our subjectivity.

Bolshevism wants to create its own psychology suitable to this line of thought. This is the so-called “reaction psychology,” started but mechanized by the psychologist K. Kornilov. As Bolshevism stands under the influence of materialism and evolutionism in metaphysics, so also in psychology it stands under the influence of American behaviorism.[16] This tendency understands mental life and its activity as the reaction of an organism to external impressions. That is why this psychology is named reaction psychology.[17] It criticizes the direction of psychology in the West because it does not sufficiently understand the development of psychological phenomena on the basis of the activity of labor; rather, it operates with an abstract rather than a concrete human being. For example, an intelligent being reacts to the same stimulus in a totally different way from a robot. But the same psychology of Kornilov also further reduces all of mental life to mechanical reactions, and thus psychology to a branch of physics.

As a result, more recent psychologists of dialectical materialism have moved beyond Kornilov because according to them psychology too must be dialectically materialist. Kornilov does not accept phenomena on the basis of feelings and perceptions but only on the basis of measurable reactions. In these reactions, however, we do not have reflections of things as if in a mirror, because the responders are subjectively alive also in their reactions, which depend on their perceptive apparatus. Even at this point Lenin’s psychology encountered empirical criticism. These subjective elements of the subjects’ reactions must be investigated not only according to nature but also according to the history of labor, according to the subjects’ social environment and process.[18] Bolshevik psychology must take account of these moments, so that like other sciences it also might help “in the realization of the practical goals of social construction.”[19] Psychology perceived in this way shows that just as Bolshevism deviates from vulgar materialism by its dialectic in the field of metaphysics, thus also in psychology as in all the sciences.

According to Bolshevism, every science must start out from reality, but reality must be worked out logically and systematically in knowledge. Like American pragmatism, it must test this knowledge to see whether it is true in the sense that one can use it to benefit the proletariat. According to the Bolsheviks, every science, just like every occupation, must be productive. A nonproductive science is not necessary. There is no absolute truth; truth is what development demands and proves itself in the praxis of the proletariat. Anyone proficient in the history of philosophy clearly sees that we have here to do with American pragmatism.

We said above that dialectical materialism relates itself not only to the realms of nature and of thinking, but also to the realm of time—namely, to history. Accordingly Bolshevism creates a philosophy of history. In brief we can name this philosophy of history historical materialism. As in metaphysics materialism combined with idealistic dialectic manifests itself as a philosophy of evolution, as likewise in epistemology American behaviorism and pragmatism make their presence known, so in the philosophy of history the idea of historical materialism asserts itself, beginning with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. As in metaphysics matter is the first element, so in history the basic motor is matter, i.e. economic interest. Human beings are the product of economic relations. The idea does not form relations; rather, relations form the idea. Everything ideological—politics, laws, morality, philosophy, religion—everything is only a reflection, reflex, or superstructure of the economic dimension.

History is a contest between economic classes that develop over time. First there was a period of primitive communism, i.e., the thesis. Then classes were created under the influence of production as the antithesis. These classes developed this way: in the ancient world there were masters and slaves, in the medieval world lords and serfs, in the modern age bourgeois and proletarian. The proletarian was formed first in a relation of service to the lord and then in the relation of a worker to an employer. The problem of consumption comes to the foreground in the modern age as the synthesis. Mercantilism gave birth to the physiocrats, who gave birth to liberalism with capitalism, and then capitalism brought forth socialism. The goal is the destruction of classes—a classless society by means of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The individual is only an atom in the total—the collective proletariat. A theory of collectivism or of communization is evident. This is what statism means in Bolshevism—the nationalization of everything.

But here also we see the overcoming of mere mechanistic collectivism. In the beginning, private property was completely disallowed, but now after the breakdown of economic policy known as the Soviet New Economic Policy (Lenin, 1921), the Bolsheviks make a distinction between private property and capital. The question of pay, the reward for work, led them to this modification. Work was no longer rewarded by need but by achievement[20] and so from wages it is possible to create private property. But private property here does not mean capital in the Communist sense—namely, involuntarily creating surplus value in private property by exploiting alienated labor. Rather it means that one can use one’s income for non-necessities. This alteration is a deviation from pure communism, as we know, just as on the other side it is a deviation from the communization of the family. Elo Sandor in his book Bratislava—Moscow[21] asserts that while there are various social levels and also luxury goods in Russia, there is only one working class, because everyone is an employee of the state and of the self, not of another person.

A practical philosophy of Bolshevism is also formed according to this theoretical and political philosophy, as it appears to us in their ethics and their philosophy of religion. Morality is what serves the proletariat. Good is what is profitable to the proletariat. Evil is what is unprofitable to the proletariat. It is the antithesis of the previous thesis. Before Bolshevism, namely, good was whatever served the employer class. Behold the dialectic! There are no absolute moral norms, as there is no absolute truth. According to Bolshevism, Christian ethics are also only relative and not absolute, but only the consequence of the proletarian movements of those times. Nietzsche had already called Christian ethics the morality of the slave class.

Anatoly Lunacharsky (1875–1933), a longtime commissar of culture, similarly explained the origin of Christian morality. It was and is the morality of the miserable proletariat in the early Christian period. The proletariat then did not know otherwise how to change their miserable fate: they did not have the power, they were not organized, and hence they awaited the intervention of supernatural powers that would bring in the kingdom of the hungry, i.e., the impoverished proletarians. According to Lunacharsky, this is the original meaning of the kingdom of God. When the upper classes became Christian in the third and fourth centuries, they changed the concept of the kingdom of God into a spiritual-idealistic one. Bolshevism returns to the original Christian conception of the kingdom, but with this difference—that today Communism actualizes the kingdom of the proletarians and of equality by organizing the proletariat. Everything and anything that serves this goal is good and permissible. Look! The end sanctifies the means! It is not possible to come to this understanding of the kingdom of God by means of contemporary Christian morality, which is the morality of the bourgeoisie; on the contrary, so far as Christianity nowadays conflicts with the morality of the proletariat, it is the opium of the people and it is necessary to battle against it systematically.

It is not necessary perhaps for me to remark more broadly on their point of view regarding religion; such things are well enough known. I mention only the 124th article of the Stalin Constitution of 1936. This passage says literally: “To secure the freedom of conscience to the entire citizenship, the church in the ussr is separated from the state and the school from the church. The freedom to practice religious cults just as the freedom of antireligious propaganda is acknowledged to all citizens.” It is worth noting that only the practice of the cult is secured for the religions while the right to propaganda is secured for godlessness. This is a big difference. But also note that freedom here is not freedom in our sense of the word. According to the Soviet understanding, freedom does not lead to the above-mentioned good, but obedience to the collective. Therefore André Gide could write in his book, Return from the Soviet Union, that conformism reigns in Russia.[22]

Further development shows us that here also the dialectic in its formative stage breaks down the rigor of the collective, which swallows up the individual. The individual must serve the whole and the whole must serve the individual, just as determinism must be broken by indeterminism. That already shows that Bolshevism deviates from mechanistic determinism and comes to the conviction that neither determinism nor indeterminism is valid, but only the one with the other. As Antar writes, to know the necessary is needful, so that we know what is possible and to act necessarily according to the knowledge of what is possible. Therefore the philosophy of Bolshevism can be called also the philosophy of the will, voluntarism, action, and activity.

Dialectical materialism regards itself as the highest synthesis of all the streams of philosophy. It wages vigorous combat against tendencies that deny the justification of whatever philosophy. One of them wants to replace philosophy with natural science (Minin); another wants to bear with philosophy in the present but asserts that in the future philosophy will disappear into science (Vasiljev); a third accepts dialectic as a philosophical method but not as an epistemology (the Mechanists) and they strenuously defend their perspective of dialectical materialism against all others. This work, as Bicek informs us, [23] is well organized in large Marxist-Leninist institutions in Russia, especially in the Marx-Engels Institute and concentrated in the Philosophical Institute affiliated with the Communist Academy in Moscow. This institute for the study of philosophy has Dialectical Materialism, Historical Materialism, the History of Philosophy, and Contemporary Philosophy as its main sections. [24]

We will not overcome Communism by boasting of our own superiority. It is necessary to take it seriously and thus to overcome it philosophically. As it overcomes the oppositional streams in Russia, so I judge it also defeats itself. I point to a contradiction that is already present in its foundations. Dialectical materialism denies the absolute, the eternal, and yet begins with matter as its own absolute and eternal. This is the most basic contradiction. No dialectic overcomes this. There is also a contradiction in the very name: either dialectic or materialism but not both. If dialectic is valid, why begin precisely with matter? I am equally justified in beginning with mind. Why begin under the influence of economic relations and not with mind, i.e., the ideational side of life? The very reality of their ideology in advance of the realization of their own ideal is the best proof of the error of their perspective. Why begin with work and not with theory like they do? Why begin with the whole and not the individual? Why begin with necessity and not freedom? Why begin with flux rather than permanency? Why begin with the temporal and not the eternal? Why begin with the relative and not the absolute? Why begin with the less and not with the greater? And so on. Dialectical materialism must fall apart on these contradictions. Either the dialectic or the materialism has to fall out. Thus I see that the development continues to the end. In dialectical materialism antitheses are connected, out of which it is impossible to form a unity. As dialectical materialism abandoned mechanism, so also dialectic, if it wants to be consequent, must abandon materialism, and only remain as dialecticism, relativism, and as such be satisfied only with time. If religion is an opiate, the counter question is whether Bolshevism itself is not without religious elements. Feuerbach, the patriarch of Bolshevism, had already put the human being in the place of God. Communism, as the descendent of Feuerbach, has done nothing else but collectivize this human being, divinize it or its special class, and bow to it as to God. In the place of Jesus and the apostles it has Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, in which they believe. The proletarian believes in paradise, in the dictatorship of the proletariat. This faith gives him power, even fanaticism, but what will it mean when it proves to be the case here also that this religion too is an opiate?

Part II - The Philosophy of Fascism


Some maintain that the fascism of Mussolini in Italy does not have its own philosophy. Fascists would say in reply that they are proud of that because their philosophy lies not in speculation but in action. So Herbert Schneider, a professor at Columbia University, characterizes it in his voluminous and objective book, Fascism: Its Theory and Praxis in Italy.[1] A certain Fascist named Pellizi writes: “The thought of Fascism is Mussolini, because he thought up Fascism when he created it.”[2] We might add: he created it by deeds and speeches, less so by writings. But Pellizi does not have the complete truth. Fascism neither fell from heaven nor did Mussolini just think it up. Mussolini also had his predecessor-teachers from whom he learned. Schneider says in the foreword to his book that Fascist theory developed out of various ideologies under the influence of circumstances and matured chiefly from three philosophical sources in the past: from the philosophy of Machiavelli; from the philosophy of northern nationalism; and from southern Hegelian or idealistic philosophy. Let us take a closer look at these philosophies and see with whom Mussolini went to school.

Niccolò Macchiavelli (1469–1527), the great Renaissance political philosopher, by virtue of his book The Prince is the first teacher of Mussolini and his Fascism. It is only necessary to insert the Italian word duce in place of “prince” to see this. The ideal of a great, united, and powerful Italy stood before Macchiavelli. Forceful lords or princes who united divided governments and made order would achieve this ideal. His ways and means were justified by the result: a powerful Italy. After Macchiavelli, the second teacher of Fascism is the first modern Italian philosopher of history, Giovanni Battista Vico (1668–1744). In his philosophy Vico took a position against the rationalistic French Enlightenment in defense of Catholic tradition. In his chief writing, On New Science (1725), he sought to found a new science on the creative activity of mind or spirit. We shall see later where and how the thought of the creative activity of mind or spirit was validated. Another philosophical school is the Italian nationalist philosophy, which grew out of the classical French philosophers Joseph de Maistre (1753–1821) and Louis Gabriel de Bonald (1754–1840). These traditionalists living under Bourbon rule, terrified by the horrors of the French revolution, proclaimed a return to Catholic ontology, to Catholic tradition, to absolutism, to the feudal arrangement of estates, to the ideal of the theocratic state and authority, and set up obedience as the chief pillar of order. We know that they are the conceptual founders of Catholic modernism. Antonio Rosmini-Serbati (1797–1855) took over the opinions of these men in his own eclectic philosophy. After the model of the French eclecticism of Victor Cousin (1792–1867) and in the spirit of the eternal Catholic philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, Rosmini-Serbati took a stance against the critical philosophy of the Protestant philosopher Immanuel Kant.

These ideas are echoed even more distinctly in the philosophy of Vincenzo Gioberti (1801–1852), who connected the French ontologism mentioned above with Hegel’s idealistic philosophy. Hegel’s thought had been introduced into Italy by Francesco de Sanctis (1817–1883), and thus cleared the way for statist-nationalist Catholic philosophy in Italy. That happened chiefly in Gioberti’s book Del primato morale e civile degli italiani (“On the Moral and Cultural Primacy of the Italians”) in the year 1857.[3] This writing contains Catholic idealism; it proclaims that the Catholic religion creates morality and morality creates erudition. The European nations are derived from Christianity and therefore from Italy; Italy is the firstborn; Christianity erected its throne in Italy, and there it attained to the height of its glory. Italy is a priestly nation, the head of Christianity; the other nations must be her hands, Europe must return to its Catholic origins, the heterodox must be destroyed, and so forth.[4]

Bertrando Spaventa (1817–1882)[5] continued the philosophy of Gioberti. He connected Gioberti’s thoughts with the concepts of Machiavelli, laid down the idea of state power, and so put in motion the divinization of the state. Thus Catholic thought and nationalism combined in their philosophies. Among the older thinkers, the nation was subordinate to religion; among the recent thinkers, the relationship has been reversed so that the nation-state has been divinized. Don Luigi Sturzo (1871–1959), the Catholic populist member of the Italian Parliament, referred to this development as the pantheistic divinization of the nation-state.

Thus we have come to the official philosopher of Fascism, to Giovanni Gentile (1875–1944).[6] Gentile, as J. Popelová has written,[7] was a middle school teacher at first but became a university professor after 1903. His philosophy, contained in the writings Reform of the Hegelian Dialectic (1913), Theory of Mind (1916), System of Logic (1917) and so forth, overshadowed the work of another great Italian philosopher, Benedetto Croce (1866–1952). Strangely, just like Communism, Italian Fascism in the philosophy of Gentile also starts out from Hegel’s philosophy. Just as the philosophy of Gentile is idealistic but in contrast to the speculative and intellectual characteristics of Hegel, it is also voluntaristic and actualistic, like the philosophy of Bolshevism.

The foundation of Gentile’s metaphysics is the act of knowing in the sense of action and this, furthermore, in the sense of a creative action of the mind. Look! Here we see an echo of Vico’s philosophy. The ony thing that is truly alive to Gentile or that truly exists is the ego in its act of consciousness. Reality is only thinkable to the extent that it is really thought. Thinking does not comprehend reality as it is but rather creates reality. Philosophy then is and ought to be a creator of reality. For example: music exists only when someone plays and listens to it. According to this concrete logic, it is not the logic of an object that is known but the logic of a knowing subject. The concrete logic of Gentile is not what it is to Masaryk,[8] but a science about thinking thoughts. Philosophy is not the knowledge of a known object, but the knowledge of a knowing subject in its activity of knowing. Philosophy is not the understanding of what is real in reality, but understanding of the self (autoconscienza). Truth is not the identity of things and reason, nor the identity of sensations and reason, but the identity of reason and will. To know means to think and desire, and that means to act. The one and only truth is the one that I create. Truth is not what authority, science, or the church preaches, but is the act of our being. Truth does not exist always ready and available, but each of us has and indeed must have our own truth.

It is evident that this philosophy agrees with the Communist doctrine about the relativity of truth and also with the famous Jesuit doctrine. As it is opposed to absolute truth, so it is also opposed to history in the sense that history is the sum of things that have been done (res gestae). To Gentile, history is not what has been done but what lives in us afterward. Between historical persons and us there must be a constant relation; only then do these historical persons become historical. History is found not in archives but in us. History then is historiography and these writings [the -graphy in historiography] must be written by deeds. As we see, the kernel of Gentile‘s philosophy is not the contemplation of the world but rather the creation of a world or of life, and that by every individual in the united whole, the nation. What is moral is whatever one does within the union of the nation. The chief virtue is manliness or heroism.[9] By this philosophy and ethic, Gentile is not only reshaping politics but also the training of the young and their incorporation into Mussolini’s Fascism. In this way, the idealistic German philosophy of Hegel—actually more the idealism of Fichte—took a new form in Italy as a particular philosophy of Catholic activism. Schneider characterizes it this way: “God, the immanent mind, has moved itself from Germany and reveals itself now in Italy, in its own new dwelling, in the creative process of history.”[10] With its relativism and activism, Gentile‘s philosophy has points of contact with American pragmatism. As proof, we may consider the pragmatist Giovanni Papini (1881–1956), who converted from atheism to affiliate with the aforementioned Catholic modernism; and also Giusippe Prezzolini (1882–1982), on the basis of his writings on Italian culture, his biography of Machiavelli, and his acceptance of Nietzsche’s concept of the Übermensch.

So we now come to the special representative of Fascism, Benito Mussolini. We know that he was originally a socialist, a revolutionary, and an admirer of his forerunners Karl Marx and Louis Blanc. He was a revolutionary socialist until 1914, when he was expelled from the socialist party, even though they say he himself did not cease to be a socialist and revolutionary. Mussolini helped to found circles in 1915 that were called Fasci d’azione rivoluzionaria. From these fasci or unions (in ancient Rome the term originally meant the lictor fasces, the bundles of rods surrounding an axe that were carried by the lictors) came the name Fascism, which gained its entire momentum from the unions of such Fascist revolutionaries. We mention his book The Doctrine of Fascism (1932) and significantly his political speeches and appearances, because, as we said, his speeches have greater impact than his writings. He is convinced that living speech is potentially able to obtain more than written words. From this perspective he resembles Hitler. We do not yet have a work on Mussolini’s Fascism in Slovak, unless we want to consider Karl Murgaš’s The New Italy as such a work.[11] But Murgaš’s book is really a journalistic travelogue that promises to be objective but is far from non-prejudicial. He does not notice any failures or inadequacies. The author praises to heaven everything he has seen in Italy, and he is delighted when he can “take a swing” by sarcasm or mockery at Czechoslovakia alongside his praise of the foreign land. I am curious what the divinized Mussolini would say to an author, to an Italian journalist, if he wrote about Italy the way this author writes about our country. We gain no wisdom whatsoever from such writing. Fortunately, even if we do not have our own Slovak writings on Mussolini, other sources will serve us.

Mussolini’s philosophy retraces the footsteps of the philosophers mentioned above. Besides these he was also influenced by the so-called poets of revolution, the futurists, postwar social relations in Italy, socialist dissatisfaction, risks, and the danger of a split from Communism. In general it is necessary to understand his Fascism as a reaction to Communist action. Even though Mussolini was a socialist, and there remain certain elements of socialism in his worldview, he is nonetheless consciously antidemocratic, antirationalist, and antipositivist, because according to him these tendencies are the foundation of democracy, and he is an enemy of democracy. Zdeneˇk Smetácˇek calls Mussolini’s tendency collective spiritualism.[12] The world does not exist; it must be created by the human mind, will. In this position you can already see the influence of Gentile. These are the chief products of the mind of the nation: science, art, religion, culture. By them we overcome nature. Culture appears in the whole history of the nation, which is a revelation of the general mind. The individual is an emanation of the mind of the nation and he must once again be subordinated to it. All institutions are products of this collective mentality and must serve it. But the nation does not exist by itself alone; it needs the state in order to reveal its mind. The state is the incarnation of the mind; it is the greatest, holiest magnitude. This Mussolini, who on April 6, 1920, could still write like an anarchist in the magazine Popolo d’Italia: “Away with the state in all its forms, with the state of yesterday, today and tomorrow, with the bourgeois state and the socialist state. For us last surviving individualists, there is only one religion, absurd in this age today, but ever consoling: the religion of anarchy”—this Mussolini, I say, turned around 360 degrees and took up the cudgels for the highest idol, the state. His statism, his divinization of the state, devours everything like Moloch. His ideal is like Machiavelli’s: stato forte—the powerful state. The power of the state is measured not only by physical strength but also by the ability to know how to arrange, lead, and create order and so values. To Mussolini, the state is the organism that must have central governance and rule over the individual members. The chief is the head of the government and this is he himself, il Duce. The sole limit of the government is its power. The nation comes to self-awareness in its leader, from which it then passes to the consciousness of the whole and mainly into the will of individuals. Mussolini is this leader. Smetácˇek rightly notes that if we would inquire why precisely Mussolini is “the one,” we would wait in vain for an answer.

Democracy has no place in such a concept nor does the philosophy of democracy, liberalism. According to Mussolini, liberalism was justified only as a rejection of Enlightenment absolutism. He certainly talks about freedom; however, he does not understand freedom as a right, but as a duty which the state determines according to conditions. We see in democracy the government of the majority and equality. Mussolini denies that the majority ought to rule and says that equality is unthinkable. There is natural inequality and it is impossible to equalize this. What democracy holds—that the state must build on the sum of individuals and on the will of the majority—is an error. The representatives, as they are called in popular democracies, are in fact representatives of factions. In a democracy the government of the people is in fact a conflict between political factions and not a government. But government must be based on the whole, on the nation, as on a living ideal unit. The expression of this unit is the elite of the nation—namely, the spiritual leaders of the nation and chiefly the One, il Duce. The individual must submit to the whole—another common point with Communism. In Communism one submits to the class; here, to the nation. Mussolini’s motto is: nothing for the individual, everything for Italy. Only the state has rights, the individual only duties.[13] Already according to Gentile, now also according to Mussolini, the nation does not need freedom but work and bread. According to Mussolini, freedom is only a distant goal that the state cultivates, but there are no natural rights.[14] This is the echo of Hegel’s philosophy of the Prussian state.

As Mussolini is opposed to democracy and liberalism, so also he is opposed to capitalism and socialism. We have an expression of this in his statist syndicalist-federative system, or as it is commonly called, his corporative system, to the extent that it builds on the social corpus, that is, on social estates. A corpus is a society of producers in which there are both employers and employees but no classes. The employer and the employee are unified in the corpus; they are collaborators in the framework and in the interest of the state. The Marxist doctrine of classes widened the gulf between employer and employee; Mussolini wants to remove this gulf in that he fights for a classless society—but that, I say, is utopia. The thought of a corporative system is not new. This idea is a revival of the medieval estates and guilds; it makes from these a hierarchical organization according to the Catholic hierarchical system. Mussolini removes the battle between the classes but introduces war between the nations in place of it. The socialist motto: “International solidarity and class warfare” in Mussolini changes into the slogan, “Interclass solidarity and national warfare.”[15] We see from this slogan that he is also opposed to the idea of internationalism. Just as he is alienated from the Socialist International, he is also alienated from the international work of the League of Nations. According to Schneider, both the Presbyterian Wilson’s Christian internationalism and the Jewish International of the Bolsheviks are ideological nonsense to Mussolini.[16] We will see later on how he judges papal internationalism. Thus we understand why Mussolini and his Fascist state left the League of Nations and reject its ideas.

In fact he has additional reasons. According to the view of Fascism, life is motion, conflict, and war. Death lies in wait for those who do not fight. War is inevitable because there are antitheses in life—again a point of contact with Communism. Equilibrium, like equality, will never exist and neither will peace. Only that while Communists presuppose a Darwinian war between classes, Mussolini posits one between nations. He is an open imperialist because, he says, imperialism is eternal and laws do not change life. Whatever is living must expand. He wants to achieve this expansion with his nation. He wants to resurrect the old Roman Empire and the glory of the age of the Renaissance. According to Mussolini’s philosophy, glorious Italy did not become extinct but only declined, and now Fascism will raise it to new life because Italy has the natural right to such new life.

According to Schneider, Mussolini proclaims from the outset that he will not use barbarian means like the Germans in doing this, but that the Italians will also not be idealists. Rather Italy will be among those favored nations that do not suffer from other nations. There are plutocratic and proletarian nations. The Italian nation is proletarian, injured in the world war. “We want our place in the world, because we have a right to it.”[17] To speak about peace, about work in service of peace, about disarmament, is hypocrisy. I said earlier that Mussolini‘s ideal is a godlike mighty Italy. This has already been made clear by previously introduced information. From this perspective Mussolini looks back on all of history and so constructs his philosophy of history. Following the aforementioned predecessor philosophers, he proclaims that Italy to be the center point of all history and indeed the world. The Greeks, the Phoenicians, and the northern barbarians all desired Italy. Italy led Europe in the fight for education; it first civilized and Christianized the barbarians, then stood at the head of medieval mercantilism, then came the naval conquests and discovery. Italy gave the world the Renaissance, modern astronomy, and physics, and now leads the world to a new level of social and political organization.[18] A certain Fascist named Volt looks at history this way: “The cycle of a great heresy that began with Luther and ended with Lenin is finished. Future society will not be built upon the Declaration of the Rights of Man, but on the [papal] Syllabus [of Errors].”[19]

We have already seen what kinds of means Mussolini uses in internal and foreign policy, how they change according to circumstances, how he has gotten rid and gets rid of his opponents. We read enough about that. What ethical principles he has besides great industriousness, efficiency, courage, fearlessness, and daring, he himself states most clearly: “We do not have unchanging principles because we are not a church but a movement. Fascism has two pillars: flexibility, changing according to the times and needs—that is pragmatism (Jesuitism, according to us), and second: consciousness of the glorious past of Italy.”[20] A true pupil of Machiavelli. Alongside this Machiavellian nature, Schneider also finds a streak of Nietzsche. According to him, Mussolini holds to the motto: live by taking risks. That means to be fearless and defiantly reject all rest and lack of movement. Gentile gave philosophical foundation to this perspective by asserting that life is not a game or pleasant activity but a hard and merciless struggle. It demands work, sacrifice, heroic deeds, physical and mental youthfulness. The Fascist hymn Giovinezza, originally a student graduation song, agrees with this perspective, as also their greeting, “Eia-eia a la-la.”[21] Strength, energy, self-confidence, self-awareness, firm will, faith, and optimism about life—all these characterize Fascism, again resembling Communism. Some kind of aristocracy is born of Fascism, which regards itself as the creator of history. The Fascist Evola writes: “The light of a sublime myth shines in us aristocrats, in beings of frightful visage, who breathe freely in a world freed from Providence, teachers, and reasons for things, but now looking into the shadows where there is no God and where they themselves are his creators.”[22] This is a definite piece of gigantism, of modern titanism.

How is it possible to square the Fascist perspective on Christianity with such principles? We said that Fascism divinizes the state and regards it as the incarnation of the mind of the nation. From all that has been said we see that the supersized mindset of the nation takes the place of God for Fascism and that politics is its religion. In what relation can the Christian-Catholic papal religion stand to such a political religion? What religious philosophy can it be and what is theirs? So far as the Catholic Church puts up with the Fascist mentality, it lives in peace with it. That is rationalized by the fact that the Catholic Church is also a manifestation of this historical Italian mind. If the church took a stance against the ideas of Fascism and vindicated sovereign rights for itself, that would be the end of the peace. Just so, as a papal monarchy, to the extent that the Church helps Fascism it suffers from Fascism, and vice versa. Murgaš also says in the book about the new Italy mentioned earlier: “The dictatorship of Mussolini lives by a respectful, correct relation with the Church.”[23] Insofar as the Catholic Church is not superior to the state, he can cooperate with her. The past testifies that if suddenly she took a stand against Fascism at all (certainly not necessarily in all the Christian principles), Fascism would turn against her. Actually Fascism was originally opposed to the church. According to Murgaš, Mussolini proclaimed as late as 1919 that the Fascist “movement is not and would not be anti-Catholic,”[24] but already in 1921 he spoke this way: “Tell the priests, who however amount to nothing more than whimpering old celibate virgins: away with those church buildings, destined for demolition, because our victorious heresy is determined to enlighten the brains and hearts of all.”[25] It is true that later he changed his view and proclaimed a synthesis of the two Romes, spiritual and secular. He came to an agreement with the Vatican on February 11, 1929. After the Lateran Treaty, the pope published an encyclical in which he carefully but very characteristically says: “Although the church does not condemn democratic governments, it is evident that in its governmental system there is favorable soil for partisan elbowing.”[26] It is interesting that in democratic states, the pope praises democracy.

After this agreement Fascism did not take a stance against the church, but “fascistized” the church so that it regards Fascism as Catholic: “Whatever is national must also be fascist. If anyone objects that the Catholic Church is international, I reply that it is actually Roman, that is, imperialistic… The spread of the Roman church is a phase of Italian cultural imperialism through acknowledging the moral primacy of Italy among the nations. The church is only the organized form of Italian religion… The state is spiritualized, the church nationalized.”[27] Look! We saw above that Mussolini rejects Jewish international socialism, the international League of Nations and with that the Presbyterian Wilson. He not only receives the international papacy, however, but also rationalizes and politicizes it. Socialism and the League are nonsense, but the latter is genuinely sensible! Like the Catholic Church, Fascism also rejects the idealistic philosophy of the Lutheran Hegel and gives the state the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas as a dowry. On the basis of such a combination of the spiritual and the secular, naturally, attacks on the pope and the Catholic Church are forbidden, indeed punishable, just like attacks against the king. Catholicism is the state religion and other cults are allowed provided they do not oppose laws and good morals. What that means in fact, however, according to the whole philosophy of Fascism we can just imagine. The anniversary of the concordat with the Vatican, February 11, is not only a church but also a state holiday.

The ongoing divinization of Fascism does not cease but continues today. In the schools, the state teaches religion with its own teachers, even though the church authorizes the textbooks; in Italian classrooms there is a cross next to the picture of the king, but Schneider correctly says: “This cross is progressively swallowed up and Fascism becomes a religion.” It is mystical, fanatical, and cultivates the monastic ideal of self-sacrifice for the divinization of Italy, with Italy for the Vatican. Thus we do not wonder at Murgaš’s words: “In Fascist Italy the principle is valid: that a good patriot can only be a good Catholic.”[28] Does anyone turn that around and say: to be a good Catholic means to be a Fascist? Murgaš, to be sure, says that a Slovak cannot be a Fascist; actually, he says more precisely that a Slovak cannot be for Fascism among us.[29] Why? Because Czechoslovakia is not like Italy. Italy, he says, is more than 99 percent Catholic and almost 94 percent Italian. “Such a nation can be bound together “into fasces”—bundled together by one and the same idea and thus capable of being organized into one order on the way to one goal.”[30] But in Czechoslovakia, where there are more nationalities, that is impossible. If conditions were otherwise, however, this author of The New Italy would be a Fascist too, an adherent of this Fascism that you see written on the battle flag: “We go with Andrej Hlinka, the dictator of our hearts, souls, desires and hope.”[31]

When I collect all these ideas and reflect on this whole philosophy, I do not wonder that it is received by Catholics, even though objections would be possible from the standpoint of the doctrine of Christ—but I do wonder and I cannot understand how some Lutherans can nod yes to Fascism. Certainly they do that either of out ignorance about the essence of Fascism or because the sense of Lutheranism in them has completely perished.

The Philosophy of Hitlerism

The most recent of the three philosophical streams and thus one not yet sufficiently studied, with fewer publications about it as a result, is Hitlerism. As Bolshevism is typically Russian (though in origin German), as Fascism is typically Italian, so Hitlerism is typically German. Hitlerism also can be well understood only in historical perspective. Originally it was the National Socialist Worker’s Party, formed in 1920 in Munich under Hitler’s leadership, but gradually grew, up to the revolution of January 30, 1933, when it became the pan-national German movement. J. L. Fisher in an essay about Hitlerism in his book The Third Reich[32] correctly treats and characterizes Hitlerism in stating that racial nationalism creates its conceptual foundation over against the internationalism of social democracy. In order to understand this, it is inescapably necessary to study the theoretical works that preceded such nationalism.

The roots of Hitler’s racism go as far back as the Frenchman Joseph Arthur Gobineau (1816–1882) and his work An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races, which was published in four volumes between 1853 and 1855. We can probably summarize his opinion this way: that as individual races are physically different, so also are they mentally different; that the mixing of worthier races with less valuable ones leads to the decline of the former; and finally, that the Aryan races have brought about cultural progress. After Gobineau it is necessary to mention Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1885–1927), English by birth but educated as a German philosopher. Chamberlain’s major work, The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, published in 1899, proclaimed the superiority of the Germanic races, especially the seafaring Vikings. I am grateful to our late brother Jan Hrobonˇ for pointing me to this peculiar work thirty years ago, which I read at that time with peculiar interest. The Frenchman Vacher de Lapouge (1854–1936), the German Woltmann, and Ludwig Gumplowicz (1838–1909), who called all of history the labor of the races, continued developing these racist views. Besides these I cannot fail to mention that some biological hypotheses also helped these racist theories. Thus August Weismann (1834–1914), an evolutionary biologist, posited a hypothesis about the inheritance of human properties. After him the Augustinian monk from Brno, the well-known Gregor Mendel (1822–1884), taught that inherited human properties cannot be changed by internal means. This finding in particular supported the widely circulating opinion that there are more gifted and less gifted races. Hitler’s National Socialism learned about the first, basic agent in the Hitlerite worldview, which we signify by the word Blut from these anthropologists and biologists. From that point it proceeded to a mystical cult of race and blood.

A second source of Hitlerism’s worldview, as it is of Fascism and Communism, is Charles Darwin’s famous theory of evolution from the middle of the nineteenth century. We know that according to this theory that life is a struggle. If it is a struggle, if the stronger triumph in the struggle of natural selection, and if the Germans are the superior race, so this race must go to war with the less valuable races and defeat them. Look! We already have the path by which Hitlerism makes its way outlined for us. We add to Darwin another philosophical source. It is the well-known worldview of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), derived from the philosophy of Fichte. In Nietzsche’s book, Thus Spake Zarathustra, published in 1883–85, he erected the Übermensch with his lordly morality and the will to power as his chief feature as a new ideal of the individual and of the nation, over against the slavish Christian morality. Alongside Nietzsche, I mention also the Viennese professor Othmar Spann (1878–1950), with his National Socialist sociology, corporative system, philosophy of war, and concept of Germanness.[33] It is also impossible not to mention the pessimistic philosophy of history of Oswald Spengler (1880–1936) with his book The Decline of the West, published in two volumes from 1918 to 1922. Spengler prophesies the extinction of the West in this work. In order to avoid this sad outcome, in order for the German nation to avoid it, Germany must protect itself through racial purity and the acquisition of sufficient territory. In this book Spengler expressed his belief in Prussian autocracy, according to which the whole is sovereign and the individual has only to obey. Finally I mention Gustav[34] Feder (1883–1941), an engineer who also influenced Hitler’s worldview. According to Mein Kampf, Feder is actually the initiator of the economic and social program of the National Socialist Party because of his economic theory. His theory distinguishes between capital arising from labor and speculative, bourgeois capital. The former supports, the latter destroys, because capital must serve the state and not rule over it.[35]

So we come to the creator of Hitlerism, to Adolf Hitler (1889–1945), with his book Mein Kampf, published in 1924. Bauer says that it is the “Bible of National Socialism, published again and again, introduced into the schools, they give it as a wedding gift, etc.”[36] Besides this book, the chief sources for understanding the worldview of Hitlerism are Hitler’s speeches and deeds. According to these sources we could reconstruct the chief points of his worldview as follows: Hitler was an enemy of democracy and parliamentarianism even before the 1933 takeover, because according to him personal responsibility disappears in this form of government. His perspective is aristocratic. To be sure, Hitler speaks of a true “German democracy” over against the Western democracies, but this German democracy consists in the nation, which as a whole freely chooses its Leader, who resolves to assume all responsibility for everything that happens. In this democracy the majority does not vote, yet the individual decides.[37] Hitler hardened his views after severe setbacks before and after the war, especially after the defeat of Germany in the war. He based his position on the rebirth of the nation and its return to self-awareness, strength, and unity in order to undo the defeat. He set himself again on the path to victory. What was it that stood in his way? Jewish Marxism, internationalism, the League of Nations, France, the Slavic nations, etc., and all these obstacles must be overcome and removed.

Hitler builds the Third Reich on these ideas. But the state is not the goal of human life; rather the survival of the nation or the race is the goal. The state is the vessel; the content is the nation or race.[38] According to Hitler, human rights are state rights. “The world is not for cowardly nations.”[39] As there is war in nature, so also in life; there is struggle in history, in which the stronger triumphs. “The strong drive away the weak, because the life instinct always crushes the ridiculous bonds of the so-called humanity of individuals and in its place introduces the humanity of nature, which destroys and devours weakness, in order to grant a free field of play to actual strength.”[40] Humanity really ought to look forward to this struggle, because it is ennobled in this eternal struggle; in eternal peace humanity would sink into decline.[41] This law of nature justifies a policy of conquest. As nature has laws, so also does the nation. The life of nations works according to the law of race. “The stronger must reign and must not mix with the weak and thus sacrifice their greatness.”[42] Race creates everything on the earth: culture, technology, and science. There is no equality of races. There are races that create culture, others that appropriate culture, and still others that destroy culture.

The Jews hold first place among the destroyers of culture. Hitler regards it as a great deception when Judaism is considered a religion. To the Jew religion is nothing other than a system of instruction in maintaining the Jewish race and its material benefits.[43] Jews are egoists, parasites on human society. They have never created anything in the two highest arts, music and architecture.[44] They have been creative only in the theater, yes, because there it is only a matter of imitation. Nor have they contributed creatively economics, because they only do business, bargain, and speculate. To be sure they preach freedom, but only in order to use it for their own benefit. They founded the Freemasons and socialism in order to dominate the whole world. The Jew himself protects his own race. A Jewess will marry an influential Christian out of calculation, but a Jew rarely marries a Christian girl.[45] Their final goal is the dictatorship of the proletariat, which means to rule over the entire world. Zionism is a form of naiveté.

In order for the German nation to triumph in the struggle, it must preserve its purity. The nation collapsed physically because it is necessary to use the means of rejuvenation (sterilization, prohibition of incest, the Aryan paragraph, encouragement of a high birth rate, etc.). Since strength comes in nature and in history, so also it is necessary to cultivate the physical strength of youth, and also teach them self-control, obedience, and self-sacrifice for the nation. Hitler is aware of the fact that the German nation is a racial mixture of Nordic, Baltic lowland, Baltic highland and other elements.[46] As one may see, his concept of nation is purely biological. According to him, the nation is a blood organism; the individual is only an organ of the whole without rights, only duties. The whole has rights, of which the Führer is the symbol with his autocracy and totalitarianism. Hitler’s foreign policy also flows from these principles. Mein Kampf says: “We must adopt with icy cold realism the perspective that it is not the intention of heaven that any nation on this earth have fifty times more soil than another. It is self-evident that in such a case the political border must not turn back from the borders of eternal rights. If there is on this earth enough space for the life of all, then we must get as much soil as we need for life.”[47] He probably means Russia. He clearly expresses that in this way. “If we want to acquire soil in Europe, there is nothing else to do than to conquer it at the expense of Russia.”[48] “The German Reich, as a state, has to take in all Germans,” to subjugate other nations, “not to Germanize the people but to Germanize the soil.” [49]

So we come to the second pillar of Hitler’s political philosophy—to the soil, Boden. Fisher says that if prewar Germany meant industrial imperialism and the social democracy connected to it, so Hitler’s Germany means agrarian imperialism. Hitler wants the nation to return to its home soil, but he also wants it to conquer and settle new land because it is needed. Mein Kampf wants to achieve this conquest with the help of England and Italy, reckoning with the chief enemy, France, and by annexing the soil of Slavic nations. “Human beings create the borders of states, and they can also change them.” If some nation succeeds in extending its borders, “this testifies to the strength of the conquerors and the weakness of the defeated. Rights are grounded only in such power.” Look! Here we see Stirner’s slogan: the right of the fist.[50] According to Hitler’s views, Russia is weak and stands on the edge of destruction; therefore he turns his gaze toward Russia.

If anyone asks about the economic program of Hitler’s National Socialism, since it is socialism, in brief I would answer as follows. According to Feder, Hitler’s economic philosophy leaves private property alone on account of initiative and creativity, but he puts it in the service of the nation. He wants capital to be creative but not larcenous (Schaffendes nicht raffendes Kapital). In this way the class war of social democracy would be resolved. Hitlerism like Fascism builds on the conditions in which both entrepreneur and worker have the same social function: they serve the needs of the whole and do not exist in the service of individual profit. Soil constitutes the most precious capital, which ideally belongs to the nation. The individual or even entire societies possess soil only by renting it. Any other economic programs are not fully worked out. They change according to conditions and circumstances.

Olden, Hitler’s biographer, briefly characterizes the central figure of Hitlerism, namely Adolf Hitler and his principles, as follows. According to Hitler the masses desire the victory of the strong and the annihilation of the weak. To him there is only one valid law, and that is the law of power. Hitler has the will for this, like Nietzsche’s Übermensch; he has the resolve and determination. He believes in terror, and chiefly he believes in himself as Führer. He is a good orator; he does more with words than with letters. Behind him as the Leader comes the entire hierarchy of underlings down to the lowest local organizations. These form the elite of the nation, as is the case also with Mussolini. National selection also dominates in the nation itself.[51] The Führer commands his subordinates; they obey and respond back up the chain of command. The program of the party is inerrant dogma, in which, in the model of Catholic ideology, one must believe. The Führer is inerrant; the Rome or Mecca of Hitlerism is Munich. Bauer says that the fanatical faith in the Führer and in the correctness of his principles, in the victory of German national matters, fulfills the Germans’ great fantasy of hatred towards others. When we analyze these ideas and their present realization in Hitlerism, and seek in the past for their model we come to what the great Hitlerite Alfred Rosenberg (1893–1946) came to: He called the revolution of National Socialism a “conservative revolution.” He was right in this sense, that the Nazis returned to the old Prussian ideas. Many German ideas may be thus characterized as representing the actual Prussianization of Germany.[52] The expression of the entire Nazi movement and a good symbol of it is the battle flag of Hitlerism: the red background with a white circle in the middle, and the black swastika in the center. It is the symbol of the old imperial colors: black, white, and red. Red symbolizes the social program; white, the national; and the black swastika indicates that German-Aryans fight against the Jew.[53]

We must mention two significant race theorists of Hitlerism to this outline: Hans Friedrich Karl Günther (1891–1968) and Alfred Rosenberg. Günther, a professor and chief propagator of racism, wrote the book The Race Doctrine of the German Nation, in which the concept of race is treated as interchangeable with the concept of nation. As a professor, he classifies and evaluates individual races. Bearing in mind that modern anthropology after Linnaeus and Blumenbach distinguishes three chief races, the European (white), the Negroid (black), and the Mongoloid (yellow), and more sub-races, Günther then acknowledges that the races are mixed. By race as distinct from nation we understand a group of people with inherited bodily features in common. In a nation, the bond is more mental, linguistic, and cultural. Günther detects three sub-races in the first or European white race: the Nordic, the Alpine, and the Baltic highland and Baltic lowland. According to Günther, the Germans are 50% Nordic, 20% Alpine, 15% Baltic mountain [dinárský], and 15% Baltic lowland [ostický] and other races. As a result of the fact that the German race has mostly Nordic blood, it excels all the others. Günther’s German race is characterized by a lean form, a long skull, blond hair, and blue eyes. It is the most excellent, most noble, most creative of races—the master race. The other races are less valuable. Among these are the French nation, bastard and degenerate; the Czechoslovak race; the Polish, etc. Least valuable especially is the Jewish race.

True, the research of other anthropologists leads to other results. Thus according to our anthropologist Matiejka, the percentage of races in our nation is 4.5% Nordic, 15% Alpine, 35% Baltic flatland, and 20% Baltic highland. The volume put together by Dr. Weignerom, The Equal Value of the European Races, proves that there are no privileged groups among the Europeans. It is worth noting also that the former Leipzig professor, H. Schneider, in his 1923 book The History of Philosophy, proved on the basis of natural science that it is precisely the mixing of races that creates mechanisms fitted to cultivate higher culture. Against the boasting of the inner properties of the German race, Dr. Hugo Iltis in his book, Race in Science and Politics, points out that physical features have no connection to mental properties. He writes satirically: “Black skin is not connected with a black soul.” There are no longer today any pure races. The closer we come to the primitive tribes, the purer the race is; the closer and higher we come to today, the more the races are mixed. The Jews also are a well-mixed race. If the German racists are correct that the mixing of the races works evil and leads to the decline of nations, that it is necessary to purify the races, then how will we explain the phenomenon that culture has advanced just where the races have gradually mixed together? Europe itself, North America, and even Germany itself are sufficient proof of that. Why, we saw above that the race scholars acknowledge the mixing of races also in Germany. Is their culture thereby inferior? Neither science nor statistics prove that the Nordic race is the most valuable. It is impossible to prove that because neither history nor culture attests to it.

Attempts to analyze races according to blood also occur in order to support the theory of racism. This is what the theory of Alfred Rosenberg[54] requires in his book The Myth of the Twentieth Century. According to this theory, the mixing of blood is a crime akin to incest. Iltis correctly notes that blood connects us rather than divides us, as proved by the fact of blood transfusions. The blood types a, b, ab, and o are well known, and they exist among all races. But Rosenberg continues politically with the conclusions of Günther. While Hitler was writing Mein Kampf, he treated the advocates of the old German myths ironically.[55] But that did not prevent Rosenberg from continuing in his fantasies. According to his myth of blood, we Czechoslovaks are uncultured, valueless, and half-savage, with no right to exist on European soil. For example, he writes about the Hussite movement: “Here the Alpine-Baltic Mountain essence displays itself, manifested in savagery combined with a terrible superstition. From this time on, this nation remained uncreative, and it has to thank the creative German powers repeatedly flowing into it for its later cultural recovery… To acknowledge freedom today for Czechs and Poles means to be wed to racial chaos.”[56] If he writes that way about us, we can imagine what he writes, for example, about the Jews. I cite his words: “The Jews have poisoned the world, they are the originators of Christianity as well as Freemasonry, capitalism as well as Marxism—they must be destroyed.”[57] Those are the words that sound like the news reports today about the concentration camps not only for Jews but also for Christians. We understand why we are less valuable: the Nazis need our soil.

How far they will proceed in this premeditated malice toward others and themselves the following testimony serves to make clear: “The Viking appears in singular beauty in history, since compared to him the aesthetically perfect Greek is the unfinished barbarian.”[58] Look and see where Hitlerism is going! The seafaring Viking pirates triumph over the classical Greeks! And if we would go further in history, we would finish up their sketch this way: the continuation of the Vikings were the Teutonic knights who expelled the Baltic Slavs; after them came Prussian militarism that led to a world war; and in the end come the Hitlerites, who can only bring about a world catastrophe!


Conclusion

What can I say not only about Hitlerism but about the philosophy of all three of these tendencies? Democracy is on the defensive. These tendencies, according to their essence, are on the offensive. Our situation is not easy, but in short we must assert: in so far as Bolshevism is atheistic and materialistic, we cannot accept it from a religious standpoint; so far as Hitlerism is naturalistic, we cannot accept it from a Christian standpoint; so far as Fascism is Catholic, we cannot accept it from a Lutheran standpoint. I will not analyze the matter in greater detail. But I will point further to this: the method—terror—the denial of individual freedom, we cannot accept either as Christians or as Lutherans, and Hitlerism we cannot accept as Slavs. I have expressed my astonishment at how anyone from the ranks of Lutherans could agree with Fascism, and I find it no less astonishing that any Slovak Lutherans could sympathize with, preach, and write sympathetically about the philosophy of Hitlerism.


Samuel Štefan Osuský presented this lecture in Ružomberok, Czechoslovakia, in 1937. It was published in Štyri Prednášky [Four Lectures] (Mikuláš: Tranoscius, 1938) and translated by Paul R. Hinlicky for Lutheran Forum.


Notes [Part I]

1. This “Pastoral Letter on the Jewish Question” (ed. Samuel Štefan Osuský, in Služba Narodu, vol. ii [Mikuláš: Tranoscius, 1947], 227–32) was co-signed by Osuský and Bishop Pavel Cˇobrda to express the consensus of the church’s General Presbyterium. It was a remarkable and courageous act of witness. My translation of it has recently been published in Lutheran Quarterly 23 (2009): 332–42.

2. On “intentionalism,” such as Osuský might be charged with, see Lucy S. Dawidowicz’s response to her critics in the “Introduction of the Tenth Anniversary Edition” in The War against the Jews, 1933–1945 (New York: Penguin, 1987), xvii–xxxiii.

3. Vasil Gluchmann, Slovak Lutheran Social Ethics, Studies in Religion and Society 37 (Lewiston: Edwin Mellon, 1997), 58ff, 70ff.

4. At the conclusion of his groundbreaking study, Robert P. Ericksen, Theologians under Hitler (New Haven: Yale, 1985) pointed to such nontheological factors (187): “We can best avoid the Nazi error by heavily stressing the values of the liberal, democratic tradition, humanitarianism and justice, and by conscientiously probing history with a view towards its significance for contemporary decision making” (191).

5. Four Lectures, 11.

6. Beblavý’s indictment—that the German Christians’ ranks were filled with liberal theologians—has been justified by recent historical research; see Doris L. Bergen, Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1996). See also Richard Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919–1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge, 2003) and Susannah Heschel, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany (Princeton: Princeton, 2008).

7. Ibid., 74.

8. Ibid., 102.

9. Cirkevné Listy (1926): 173–75, 199–201, 224–26, 265–67.

10. Osuský notes, “Such are Boricevskians, Timirjazevians, Sarabjanovians, Stephanists, Alexrodians, etc.”

11. Bicek, “On Dialectical Materialism,” Cˇeská Mysl (1931): 385–408.

12. Ibid., 423.

13. Ibid., 394.

14. Antar, ABCs of Dialectical Materialism, Edícia Slunce (Prague: Jaroslav Holshek, 1931), 40.

15. Bicek, “On Dialectical Materialism,” 394.

16. The vague reference here may be to the behaviorism of John B. Watson. B. F. Skinner had just started to teach in 1937.

17. Bicek, “On the Soviet Reaction Psychology,” Cˇeská Mysl (1931): 527–38.

18. Ibid., 529.

19. Ibid., 527.

20. Osuský notes, “See Stachanovshtina.”

21. Bicek, “Soviet Reaction Psychology,” 20.

22. Ibid., 26–35.

23. Bicek, “The Organization of Philosophical Work in Soviet Russia,” Cˇeská Mysl (1931): 330–32.

24. Osuský perhaps did not know that in 1936 (the year before this lecture) Stalin abolished the Communist Academy and its institutes and subsumed them under the Soviet Academy of Sciences.


Notes [Part II]

1. Herbert Schneider, Fascism: Its Theory and Praxis in Italy, trans. Cr. V. Cˇížek (Prague: Orbis, 1931), 368.

2. Ibid., 330.

3. This date cannot be correct unless Osuský is thinking of a translation of Gioberti’s book. The first Italian edition is dated 1843.

4. Schneider, 29.

5. Bertrando Spaventa was an Italian philosopher whose dates are those given by Osuský. Silvio Spaventa (1822–1893), a politician, was Bertrando’s younger brother. Osuský appears to have confused the two.

6. Gentile, who ghostwrote The Philosophy of Fascism for Mussolini, died in 1944.

7. J. Popelová, “Gentile, Philosopher of Italian Fascism,“ Cˇeská Mysl (1934) 10–20.

8. Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (1850–1937), the president of the First Czechoslovak Republic, was a rationalist and humanist.

9. It is possible that Gentile was echoing Machiavelli’s notion of virtù, which to him means ruthlessness in the exercise of power (including deceit), not necessarily manliness in the Anglo-Saxon sense.

10. Popelová, 33.

11. Karl Murgaš, The New Italy (Bratislava: Library of the Slovak, 1937).

12. Zdeneˇk Smetácˇek, “Ideology of Italian Fascism,” Cˇeská Mysl (1933): 208–15.

13. Schneider, 140–42.

14. Ibid., 146–52.

15. Ibid., 209.

16. Ibid., 40.

17. Ibid., 39.

18. Ibid., 313.

19. Ibid., 328.

20. Popolo d’Italia, October 17, 1920.

21. This greeting is from the chorus of Giovinezza; the correct Italian spelling is Eja eja alalà. It can be roughly translated as “hip, hip, hooray.”

22. Schneider, 346.

23. Murgaš, 41.

24. Ibid.

25. Schneider, 298.

26. Ibid., 299.

27. Ibid., 301.

28. Murgaš, 141.

29. Ibid., 82.

30. Ibid., 81.

31. Ibid., 171. Hlinka (1864–1938), a Catholic priest and head of the Slovak People’s Party, advocated Slovak autonomy under the First Republic and resisted the liberal, secular, and rationalistic tendencies of Masaryk.

32. J. L. Fisher, The Third Reich (Brno: Soc. Revue, 1932), 117.

33. Ironically, Spann was ejected from his professorship by the Nazis in 1938 (the year after this lecture) following the Anschluss of Austria.

34. The correct first name is Gottfried.

35. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, trans. František Bauer (Prague: Orbis, 1936), 73.

36. Ibid., 13.

37. Ibid., 39.

38. Ibid., 124.

39. Ibid., 41.

40. Ibid., 49.

41. Ibid., 50.

42. Ibid., 95.

43. Ibid., 58, 100.

44. Ibid., 97–9.

45. Ibid., 102.

46. Ibid., 125.

47. Ibid., 51.

48. Ibid., 52.

49. Ibid., 126.

50. Ibid., 196.

51. Ibid., 144.

52. Ibid., 147.

53. Ibid., 159.

54. Rosenberg was executed at Nuremberg in 1946 as a war criminal.

55. Ibid., 116.

56. Rosenberg, Der Mythus der zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts (no pub. data), 23–126.

57. Iltis (no pub. data), 92.

58. Rosenberg, 167.


A Leap In The Dark (LF Summer 2019)

A Leap In The Dark (LF Summer 2019)

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