by Leonardo Boff
Eco-Theologian-Philosopher, Earthcharter Commission
Fascism is an extreme derivative of fundamentalism, with a long tradition in almost every culture. In his 1996 controversial work, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order, Samuel P. Huntington denounces the West as home to the most virulent fundamentalists. They imagine that their culture is the best in the world, that their religion is the best, the one and only true religion, that theirs is the best form of government, democracy, with the best techno-science, that has changed the face of the planet, and with its lethal weapons, it has given humans the ability to destroy humanity and much of the biosphere.
We know of Islamic and other forms of fundamentalism; also of the fundamentalism of sectors of the official Roman Catholic Church that still believe that she is the one and only and exclusive Church of Jesus Christ, outside of which there is no salvation. This erroneous vision allows for the satanizing and even the persecution of other Christian and non-Christian denominations. Thank God for the present Pope, a man of rationality and common sense that invalidates such distortions.
Those who pretend to be the exclusive carrier of truth are condemned to be fundamentalists and to close in on themselves without dialogue with the other.
Here we remember the words of the great Spanish poet Antonio Machado, who wrote: “The truth. Not your truth. Come with me to search for the truth. Your truth? Keep it to yourself. ” If together we search for the truth, it will be the full truth.
Fascism was born and is born, within the context of the breakdown of social norms, social disorder, and generalized crisis. Security disappears, and the established orders are weakened. Society and individuals have difficulty living in such a situation. Social scientists and historians, such as Eric Vögelin (Order and History, 1956), L. Götz, (Entstehung der Ordnung, 1954), Peter Berger,(A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural, 1973), have shown that humans possess a natural tendency towards order. Wherever they arrive, they soon create an order and their habitat. When order disappears, violence is commonly used to impose a kind of order which does not lead to the social cohesion of coexistence.
Fascism’s niche finds its origin in this disorder. Thus, at the end of the First World War, social chaos ensued, especially in Germany and Italy. The way out was to establish an authoritarian system of domination that monopolized political representation, through a single, hierarchically organized political party of the masses, forcing everything; politics, economy and culture in a single direction. This was only possible through a chief (Fürher in Germany and the Duce, in Italy) who organized an authoritarian corporate State of terror.
National myths were created for symbolic legitimacy, the heroes of the past and old traditions, usually in a framework of great political liturgies inculcating the idea of a national regeneration. Especially in Germany, Hitler’s followers were filled with the conviction that the white German race was “superior” to the others, and had the right to subjugate and even to exterminate inferior races.
The word fascism was used for the first time by Benito Mussolini in 1915 when the group “Fasci d’Azione Revolucionaria” was created. Fascism derives from the term “fasci,” a bundle of leafless branches, strongly fastened, with an ax on one side. A single branch can be broken, breaking a bundle is much more difficult. In 1922-23, Mussolini founded the National Fascist Party (Partido Nacional Fascista) that lasted until his overthrow in 1945. In Germany, it was established in 1933 by Adolf Hitler, who upon being appointed Chancellor created National Socialism, the Nazi party, that imposed on the country a hard discipline, total vigilance, and a state of terror.
Fascism was sold as anti-communist, anti-capitalist, as a corporation that is above class, and creates a socially closed unity. Vigilance, direct violence, terror and the extermination of the opposition are characteristics of the historic fascism of Mussolini and Hitler. Violence is also present in neo-fascism.
Fascism has never totally disappeared, because there always are groups that, moved by a fundamentalist archetype, seek an order at any price. This is what the present neo-fascism is about. There is in Brazil today a figure more hilarious than ideological, that proposes fascism, in whose name violence is justified, and which defends torture and torturers, homophobia and other social deviations. It is always in the name of an order to be forged, using violence against the current disorder.
Fascism has always been criminal. It created the Shoah (the Holocaust, which eliminated millions of Jews). It used violence as a way of relating to society, which is why it never could and never will be consolidated for long periods of time. It is the greatest perversion of human sociability. It will not be different in Brazil, where this perversion has no possibility of success.