ROME and the Origins of Fascism
Strictly speaking, fascism is a term that was used to describe the regime of Benito Mussolini in Italy from 1919 to 1943. The word derives from the fasces of ancient Rome, bundles of rods tied together around an axe and carried before the Consul by the lictors, symbolising his magisterium, or authority. The term though, has also been applied to include similar regimes in Europe in the first half of the 20th century, notably Nazi Germany and Franco’s Spain. Since the end of the Second World War, however, the word has gained wide currency in left wing circles as a pejorative term for any individual, movement or regime opposed to Marxism. But what does it really mean? The place to start in answering such a question is ancient Rome, since it is reasonable to assume that the appropriation of the name “fascist” to the political movement led by Mussolini in the first half of the twentieth century, was meant to convey something of its character, nature, intentions and ideology.
The significant social characteristics of Ancient Rome were:
i) Paganism (once taken to mean non-Christian but now generally understood to apply to polytheism, i.e. “many gods”) – Roman social and political life was built around their religion, which, in effect, was a State cult established on a pantheon of gods for every purpose. The Latin word religio, means “something that binds”, and in Rome, religion was something that bound the State and the people together. Religious practice was cold, formal and unemotional and was a part of the State administration, with priests, appointed for life, coming from the ruling political families. The head of all priests was the “pontifex maximus” and Julius Caesar was the Pontifex Maximus of Rome, before becoming Dictator, then Emperor. Pontifex Maximus, which means Greatest or Highest Priest, lends its name to the head of the Catholic Church, i.e., the Pontiff, or Pope. In fact, many traditions and religious habits of the Christian Church derive from both the pagan religion of Rome and Judaism, and these include the veneration of the virgin, the pantheon of canonised saints, the priesthood, blood sacrifices and the building of lavish temples (or churches). Roman fascism then, was a spiritual movement that was established around the worship of many gods, or “multiculturalism” to give it its modern name, and that denied the one true God and His revelation through both the ancient prophets and in the person of Christ Jesus.
ii) Militarism – Rome was a completely militarised State, being organised along military lines. All men were obliged to give details of their property to a board of Censors, who enrolled them in one of five property classes. Those whose only property consisted of their children, were called the proletarii, i.e. “offspring” (thus, Orwell’s ‘prols’). Each class was divided into units of one hundred (centuriae), under the command of a centurion and each centuriae was further divided into juniors, (aged from seventeen to forty-five), and seniors, (those over forty-five). The juniors were used on active service and the seniors were confined to garrison duty. War was a way of life, and, during the campaigning season, troops were always on active service somewhere. Rome became the major power in the then known world because of its superior military tactics and organisation.
iii) Central Governmental Control – The roman Government was absolutist, with power of life and death over its citizens. The symbolic use of the rods and axe was meant to indicate the nature of this authority held by the Consul over the lives and well being of Roman citizens. It was authority, in a sense, to beat and kill, in the interests of the State. Rome, at the time, was the world’s leading power and had evolved from a series of villages under Etruscan domination into a city of considerable size, ruled by a king. After the last Roman King was overthrown in 509 BC, there began the Roman conquest of Italy, which was followed by the evolution of a system of government that survived to the Caesars. Briefly, that system provided for:
a) Two Consuls, elected by the People’s Assembly for one year only, who retained the full authority of the king and each of whom had the right of veto over the actions of the other.
b) The Senate, made up of 100 members from noble families only, and elected for life. The Senate began as an advisory body to the Consuls and had the power to veto resolutions of the People’s Assembly. Eventually, the Senate became the effective government of republican Rome.
c) The People’s Assembly (comitia curiata) made up of people elected by the citizens of each curiae, or parish. The Assembly elected the Consuls and voted for or against proposals put to it by the Consuls, but could not raise or discuss any issues.
The fundamental characteristic of the Roman political system was the notion that sovereignty derived from the State, not the people.
The Roman citizenry was divided into classes, as we have seen was the case in its military organisation. The basic divisions in class were between the patricians – ruling families, and the plebeians – commoners, and the history of Rome is replete with the ongoing saga of the struggle between these two classes. Although great personal ability was an asset, it did not automatically ensure career opportunities in Rome. Of far more importance was a distinguished family background and important connections with other leading families. While a man without the right family background might reach a high position in office if he had built up a high profile through a brilliant military or legal career, he would still need the patronage of one of the leading families. Such a man was referred to as a novus homo (‘new man’) and was not accepted socially within the ruling clique. The rigidity of the class structure and the legal inability of citizens to move from one class to another was a factor in the fall of Rome, according to David Knowles in his Introduction to Augustine’s City of God (Pelican Classics 1972).
The collapse of the Roman Empire and State is best recorded in Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. But Pamela Bradley, writing in Ancient Rome – Using Evidence (Edward Arnold 1990), notes several progressive changes to the social, cultural and political order.
- Vast amounts of wealth poured into Rome from the provinces, in the form of booty, taxes etc. Much of this wealth found its way into the hands of the ruling classes, who year by year became richer at the expense of the poor.
- The lifestyle of the upper classes became more luxurious as they spent more and more on houses, food, works of art, jewellery and slaves. There was a gradual, moral deterioration as wealth led to greed and idleness. The entertainments paid for by the rich became more brutal, adversely affecting the character of the people.
- The increase in wealth allowed the rich to buy up more and more land, with the result that many poor farmers were priced off the land.
- Grains and foodstuffs began to be imported from Roman provinces, such as Sardinia and Sicily, where slave labour of patrician estates allowed low costs of production and cheap prices for foodstuffs in Rome. The ruined small farmer inevitably sold his land to the rich patrician and drifted into the city to find work. There he was housed in high rise tenement buildings with few facilities.
- The Senate became the supreme governing body, appointing magistrates, assemblies, foreign affairs and finance. A small clique of wealthy patrician families – about twenty – dominated the Senate. Their failure to see and resolve the major issues facing Rome led to a challenge to its authority, the introduction of violence into politics and the eventual downfall of the Republic.
The fall of Rome then, can be attributed to:
- Excessive Taxation – The wealth that poured in from the provinces during the formative years of Empire created an appetite for revenues that could not be sustained. In order to redress the decline in tributes, booty and wealth from provincial mining, Rome introduced punitive taxation. As demand increased, resistance grew.
- The impact of multiculturalism – The widespread use of slave labour meant that Rome became a truly multicultural city. Because of its formality and coldness, the Roman religion was generally tolerant of the beliefs and practices of other religions, with the exception that Christianity was religio illicita; that is, an unlawful religion. Judaism, on the other hand, was religio licita; the practice of which was lawful. Although many Jews perished in the Roman purges, they were executed because they were Christians, not because they were Jews. But the importation of many foreigners into Rome to dwell under Roman administration and protection meant that the principle of religio – something that binds – was diluted as newcomers brought their own gods with them and thus, Roman society began to change in its fundamental character. According to Gibbon, “The Roman world was overwhelmed by a deluge of barbarians”.
- Class Rigidity – The legal freezing of all classes and occupations denied the ambitions of the lower classes for opportunities and tended to stifle the initiative of lower class citizens.
- Lack of Individual Liberty – Increasing central government control over the lives of citizens had a negative effect on their enterprise and initiative, increasing discontent and undermining morale in the army.
- Moral Degeneracy – As noted above, the vast wealth of the patricians led to a luxurious lifestyle, replete with every sort of perversion. In order to distract the plebs from their misery, spectacular public entertainments were put on by the patricians, such as the gladiatorial contests at the Coliseum. “Where there is no restraint the people perish” according to the Book of Proverbs, and so it was in Rome. Perversions and moral degeneracy increased as the wealthy sought out new ways to entertain themselves. Their wealth and their position meant that they had nothing else to do and this problem can be seen in the pre-Revolutionary aristocracies of Russia and France, as well as in established oligarchies such as the Soviet Union etc.
- Population Shrinkage – The actual population of Roman citizens began to decline, as the impact of wars, hedonistic lifestyles and self indulgence began to take hold. Conversely, the slave and provincial population of Rome increased, resulting in the Roman culture coming under siege to alien influences.
In summary, the characteristics that distinguished Roman fascism were; tyranny of the many by the few; consolidation of wealth and power in the hands of the few; intimidation, manipulation and control of citizens; increasing intolerance and brutality towards those with different values or ideology; and rejection of the notion of any transcendent authority to whom rulers might be accountable.
In examining the latter day manifestation of what is called fascism, we can study its manifestation in Germany during the period between World Wars 1 and 2. More particularly, we can examine its record during the years in which the Nazi Party in Germany comprised the government – from 1933 to 1945. In this short compressed period of twelve years, modern fascism revealed its character and nature and the principal targets of its agenda for the remaking of the world.
It must be understood, though, that Nazi fascism was a spiritual movement which, from its outset, set itself against the existing Judeo/Christian spiritual inheritance of western culture. Modern Fascism, then and now, seeks to remake society in a way that will be a complete break with the culture and traditions of all peoples. Very little of the old will find a place in this “brave new world”.
If we look at fascism as it evolved in the early twentieth century, we can find certain similarities with the ideology of ancient Rome. For example:
- Militarism – Modern fascism tended towards militaristic posturing, as in Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany. Both had visions of Empire and devoted much of their revenues to expenditure on war making machinery. War was glorified and the blind devotion and obedience of the soldier to the ruler was honoured above all other things. Foreign policy was essentially one of endeavouring to intimidate neighbouring states and, if that failed, launching military adventures against them.
- Paganism – One of Hitler’s first acts was to take over the Churches in Germany and appoint a Nazi as “Reich Bishop”, to oversee religious practices and doctrine. According to Reich Bishop Mueller, “The Fuehrer is the herald of a new revelation”. The new State religion was a throwback to the mythological paganism of the ancient Teutons.
- State Power – Twentieth Century fascism left no doubt that the individual had only those rights that the State gave him. The underlying principle was that all power and authority was vested in the State and that the individual, the family, the corporation and every institution, owed the State his primary allegiance. Thus, children were encouraged to report to the State any comments or behaviour of their parents that might be considered to be contrary to the State ideology.
- Excessive Taxation – After an initial economic boost caused by an increase in government expenditures – generally on military items – both Italy and Germany went into a period of economic decline. The amount of State revenue required to maintain forces sufficient to keep all of Europe in subjection, while at the same time conducting military campaigns on a grand scale, was just too much. Life in the Third Reich became a life of slavery for most citizens, with no end in sight. Every item was rationed, except for the powerful elite (patricians), and ordinary citizens had little motivation to accumulate any money, since there were few opportunities for discretionary spending.
- Individual Bondage – Although both Mussolini and Hitler came to power with popular support, any notion of inherent individual liberty was dispensed with very early in their regimes. Freedom of speech and assembly were denied and, in Germany, which became the dominant fascist power, all thoughts, speech and action were subject to the Nazi principle of gleichschaltung, meaning co-ordination or synchronisation with Nazi ideology. State schools were devoted to the propagation of the Nazi worldview, including race theories, anti-Semitism, the supremacy of the Party and the denial of God. The consequences of this loss of liberty were catastrophic to the economy, since the loss of liberty went hand in hand with the loss of creativity, imagination, enterprise, productivity and initiative. More than any other single factor, this enslavement of the people was the major contributor to the defeat of Germany in WW2.
- Moral Degeneracy – The accrual of wealth in the hands of the fascist elite led to gross perversions and degenerate practices. Barbaric treatment of concentration camp prisoners included medical experiments, lampshades made from human skin and other subhuman behaviour. Drug abuse and homosexuality was rife amongst the Nazi leadership. SS officers were mated in breeding camps with specially selected young women who exhibited strong Nordic characteristics. There was no end to the perversions dreamt up by Nazi ideologues with nothing much else to do.
The links of character and nature between the fascism of ancient Rome and Modern Fascism then, are apparent and well established. They are militarism, pagan polytheism, rigid governmental control, excessive taxation, lack of individual liberty and moral degeneracy.
In 20th century Europe, fascism was established in Italy and Germany by the use of sloganeering, parades, emotionalism, lies, social disorder, confusion, dissatisfaction and a culture of blame. It was maintained by gross media manipulation, appointment of judges for their political reliability rather than their judicial competence, directing social hostility towards a “class enemy”, government control of every aspect of life, banning alternative opinions, corruption of the education system and the continued use of parades and uniforms to excite emotions and create hysteria. It is important to remember that the fascist regimes in Italy and Germany both came into being with popular support, using constitutional methods. Once in power, the systems and institutions of Government were undermined to allow them to remain in office.
Apart from the characteristics that it shared with classical fascism, modern fascism had its own unique character, which included:
i) “The practical and violent resistance to transcendence” (Ernst Nolte) as manifested in anti-semitism, the Jewish religion being the root of the notion of a transcendent God and an objective moral law;
ii) Worship of the natural – earth, air, water;
iii) Worship of the primitive; and
iv) Revival of ancient paganism.
In Australia, there has been a revolution during the last fifty years. It began at Sydney University in the 1930s and has permeated throughout society. It accelerated in the 1970s and completely dominates our culture today. Unlike Germany and Italy, where fascism came in by revolution in the streets, fascism in Australia came in by stealth. It was introduced using Fabian techniques of stealth, gradualism and the concealment of intentions. That is why I call it Fabian Fascism. Fabianism is the method, but fascism is the outcome.
The term Fabian is taken from the name of a Roman General, Censor, Consul and Dictator, Quintus Fabius Maximus. Because of his success in delaying the invasion of Hannibal, he was given the name of Cunctator, or “delayer”. His strategy was one of gradualism and avoidance of open battle, preferring to attack the lightly defended enemy supply lines. He is widely regarded as the father of guerilla warfare.
His name, and his strategy, was appropriated by the British Fabian Society, an organisation established to advance socialism by means of gradual reform in democratic societies, rather than by the revolutionary overthrow of elected governments. Members of the Fabian Society established the British Labour Party in 1900 and Fabians have been influential in the policies of all Labour Governments and, since World War Two, in governments of all political persuasions.
An Australian Fabian Society was established in 1947 and is a leading incubator of politicians, judges, economists, journalists and political activists generally. The fundamental nature of fabianism is to conceal ultimate intentions and to take many gradual and continual steps.
The typical Fabian strategy is seen, for example, in relation to Government policy relating to homosexuality. At first, what was demanded was the decriminalisation of homosexual acts between consenting adults in private, a notion which the prols found not unreasonable. From there, we have arrived at a social environment vastly different to those proposed or even envisaged when the first gradual steps of decriminalisation were taken, and one in which the opinion of the prols has not been sought and, in any event, would be overruled by the patricians, the real rulers in our society. An important aspect of Fabianism is the colonisation of society’s great institutions – the Church, the Parliaments, the Courts of Law, the Universities, the Media and the arms of Government – by Fabians. Thus, most social portfolios of Government, such as child welfare, health and education have a higher proportion of homosexuals than the community generally.
The outcome of the Fabian tactics of gradualism in relation to homosexuality is that governments are now funding the euphemistically entitled Safe Schools, a programme in which primary school children are being groomed to choose homosexual lifestyles; homosexual couples demand, and receive, rights to adoption; lesbians demand, and receive, Government funded in vitro fertilisation and, just ahead, the Marriage Act is to be revised so that the term “marriage” will no longer apply just to heterosexual couples, but also to homosexual couples. It is safe to say that this was not what the community had in mind when the decriminalisation of homosexuality was introduced.
Moreover, our patrician elites are fiercely resisting the notion that the Australian community have a say on the amendment of the law to include homosexual relationships under the term “marriage”. Despite the fact that the present Government was elected on an understanding that the issue of “marriage” would be referred to a plebiscite of all the people, there is real doubt that the opinion of the prols will ever be sought.
The same Fabian tactics of gradualism can be seen in relation to other important areas of social policy, where the stated aim put a very different emphasis to that which has been experienced as the policy unfolded. Multiculturalism is an example, as is globalism and economic rationalism and feminism. Who would have thought that the decriminalisation of abortion would lead to publicly funded abortion on demand for women, married or not, and girls, with or without parental knowledge or consent? The answer is, that this was what Fabians were aiming at in the very beginning of their agitation to alter outdated social attitudes.
Many people take the view that fascism somehow disappeared from the face of the globe with the end of the Second World War, but that is a self-serving doctrine that denies the obvious. Fascism is the natural condition of man left to his own devices and has always existed in one form or another. Fascism, in this postmodern world, is a term that means:
- Absolute rulership by an elite, whether an elite of aristocrats (Greek aristos= the best) or by an elite of psychopaths and sociopaths, such as the Nazis and many fascist warriors of today.
- Control of individual thought, speech and opinion – modern “political correctness” – is just a latter day manifestation of gleichschaltung. The media in Australia does the job of the Propaganda Ministry in Nazi Germany, inhibiting the expression of alternative opinions and bombarding citizens with an endless cacophony of approved propaganda.
- The Corporate State – This means the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few. In Mussolini’s Italy, the notion of the Corporate State was first developed, with banks, industries, unions, the party officials and media all becoming unified under party leadership. In Germany, it evolved further, with the military and the church being included in the system. There is a clear parallel between the patricians of ancient Rome, the commercial and industrial barons of Nazi Germany and the rich and powerful of today. They each acquired greater wealth as the general population became poorer. In Australia today, poverty is masked by a spiralling national debt. When that becomes due for repayment, it is the poor who will become poorer. Essentially, the Corporate State is a vehicle for those with power and wealth to make sure that it is kept in their hands.
- Militarism – In the past, militarism has always expressed itself in campaigns to dominate other states and establish World Empire. Today, that same fascist goal of one world government finds expression in the United Nations, which is rapidly, and unconstitutionally, exceeding not only its own charter but, at the same time, assuming responsibilities in Australian life for which the Australian Constitution gives it no authority.
- Paganism – The notion of God is anathema to fascism. Any idea of a transcendent authority allows an individual to be influenced by something over which the “party” has no control. For that reason, fascism always gets rid of God as a major priority but, recognising the need of individuals for spiritual diversion, invents some other form of approved “spiritual exercise”. As often as not, that includes a reversion to primitive tribal mythologies, nature worship and the like. Extremist environmentalism is a modern example.
- Deconstruction of Scripture – For those who wish to continue to describe themselves as “Christian”, the Bible is deconstructed so as to facilitate and accommodate cultural change. The Bible is deconstructed to mean what it clearly does not say. The Church goes along with this to preserve its status in society, just as the German Church did in the days of Hitler, when Bibles were banned, to be replaced by Mein Kampf. Flexibility and tolerance are the hallmarks of the religious deconstructionists and any commitment to the objective application of scripture is rejected as “dangerous fundamentalism”. The Church has become married to the world and its worldview.
Some modern fascist states are self evident, without any subtlety in their makeup. These might include all of the communist states, as well as many African dictatorships. Many other states, while having overtly democratic systems, are, in fact, either fascist or fascist-tending. An obvious example is Indonesia, where elections of a sort are held every now and then, but where the result makes no impact on the wielders of power – the army and the wealthy patrician families.
The characteristics of postmodern Australian society today include:
- Unrestrained self indulgence as opposed to self discipline,
- The replacement of God and Christianity by environmentalism and the deification of tribal mythologies,
- The misuse of schools and universities for the incubation and dissemination of fascist ideology,
- Ever increasing concentration of media ownership,
- Increasing restriction on individual liberty,
- The emergence of tribunals, such as the Human Rights Commission, established to enforce fascist ideology, outside of the legal system,
- Great public events to distract the attention of citizens from realities, such as Olympic Games, America’s Cup, Car Racing, festivals, sports events, parades, fireworks, celebrations, public buildings, etc.,
- Radical environmentalism, or “worshipping the created thing rather than the Creator”, as St. Paul put it in his epistle to the Romans,
- The development of a “new class”, consisting of academics, students, politicians, bureaucrats, government grantees, institutional managers, etc.
- A reduction in the birth rate of Australian born citizens.
To all intents and purposes, Australia has a fascist system of Government. Election rules are so rigged that only the major parties can possibly win. For example, One Nation received more than one million votes in the 1998 Federal election, but failed to win a seat in the House of Representatives. By contrast, the National Party received 700,000 votes and won eleven seats. The election of a Coalition government or a Labor government makes little difference to the policies of government, since effective rule is in the hands of people and institutions outside the Parliament. “Political correctness” is just a modern name for the Nazi gleichschaltung; the suppression of alternative ideas is the same; only the method is different. The official glorification of radical environmentalism and aboriginal mythology do away with the need for God, and the hedonistic culture masks the realities that will one day have to be faced. Our Constitution is routinely disregarded by Governments and the High Court and there is no mechanism for citizens to initiate changes to the Constitution.
Fascism is a spiritual movement that is opposed to the Judeo Christian inheritance of western Europe, which consists of a transcendent God and an objective moral law. Fascist spiritualism focuses on what is tangible and natural, such as the environment and events, and worships the primitive.
Fascism ultimately defeats itself because of:
- Its moral degeneration,
- Its denial of individual liberty,
- Its focus on power rather than good.
In the meantime, while fascism endures, there is great suffering amongst ordinary people and the nation is destroyed.