Liberalism & Totalitarianism: Degrees of the same Disease

(from "Men Among the Ruins")





Coming back to liberalism, I wish to say that it represents the antithesis of every organic doctrine. Since according to liberalism the primary element is the human being regarded not as person, but rather as an individual living in a formless freedom, this philosophy is able to conceive society merely as a mechanical interplay of forces and entities acting and reacting to each other, according to the space they succeed in gaining for themselves, without the overall system reflecting any higher law of order or meaning. The only law, and thus the only State, that liberalism can conceive has therefore an extrinsic character in regard to its subjects. Power is entrusted to the State by sovereign individuals, so that it may safeguard the freedoms of the individuals and intervene only when these freedoms clash and prove dangerous to one another. Thus, order appears as a limitation and a regulation of freedoms, rather than as a form that freedom itself expresses from within, as freedom to do something, or as freedom connected to a quality and a specific function. Order, namely the legal order, eventually amounts to an act of violence because, practically speaking, in a liberal and democratic regime a government is defined in terms of a majority; thus, the minority, though composed of "free individuals," must bow and obey.


The specter that most terrifies liberalism today is totalitarianism. It can be said that totalitarianism may arise as a borderline case out of the presuppositions of liberalism, rather than out of those of an organic State. As we shall see, in totalitarianism we have the accentuation of the concept of order uniformly imposed from the outside onto a mass of mere individuals who, lacking their own form and law, must receive one from the outside, be introduced in a mechanical, all-inclusive system, and avoid the disorder typical of a disorganized and selfish expression of partisan forces and special-interest groups.


Events have recently led toward a similar solution, after the more or less idyllic view proper to the euphoric phase of liberalism and of laissez-faire economy has turned out to be simply a fancy. I am referring here to the view according to which a satisfactory social and economic equilibrium allegedly arises out of the conflict of particular interests: almost as if a preestablished harmony à la Leibniz would take care of ordering everything for the better, even when the single individual cares only for himself and is freed from every bond.


Thus, not only ideally, but historically too, liberalism and individualism are at the beginning and at the origin of the various interconnected forms of modern subversion. The person who becomes an individual, by ceasing to have an organic meaning and by refusing to acknowledge any principle of authority, is nothing more than a number, a unit in the pack; his usurpation evokes a fatal collectivist limitation against himself. Therefore, we go from liberalism to democracy: and then from democracy to socialist forms that are increasingly inclined toward collectivism. For a long time Marxist historiography has clearly recognized this pattern: it has recognized that the liberal revolution, or the revolution of the Third Estate, opened a breach and contributed to erode the previous traditional sociopolitical world and to pave the way to the socialist and communist revolution; in turn, the representatives of this revolution will leave the rhetorics of the "immortal principles" and the "noble and generous ideas" to naive and deluded people. Since every fall is characterized by an accelerated motion, it is not possible to stop halfway. Within the system of the predominant ideologies in the West, liberalism, having absolved its preliminary task of disintegration and disorganization, has quickly been set aside—thus, the claim of some of its contemporary epigones to be able to contain Marxism, which represents the last link in the chain of causes, rings hollow indeed and is indicative of lack of wisdom. There is a saying from Tacitus that summarizes in lapidary style what has happened since the "liberal revolution": Ut imperium evertant, libertatem praeferunt; si perventerint, liberatem ipsam adgredientur—that is, "in order to overthrow the State (in its authority and sovereignty: i.e., imperium) they uphold freedom; once they succeed, they will turn against it too." Plato said: "Probably, then, tyranny develops out of no other constitution than democracy—from the height of liberty, I take it, the fiercest extreme of servitude." Liberalism and individualism played merely the role of instruments in the overall plan of world subversion, to which they opened the dams.


Thus, it is of paramount importance to recognize the continuity of the current that has generated the various political, antitraditional forms that are today at work in the chaos of political parties: liberalism, constitutionalism, parliamentary democracy, socialism, radicalism, and finally communism and Soviet-ism have emerged in history as degrees or as interconnected stages of the same disease. Without the French Revolution and liberalism, constitutionalism and democracy would not have existed; without democracy and the corresponding bourgeois and capitalist civilization of the Third Estate, socialism and demagogic nationalism would not have arisen; without the groundwork laid by socialism, we would not have witnessed the advent of radicalism and of communism in both its national and proletarian-international versions. The fact that today these forms often appear either to coexist or to be in competition with each other should not prevent a keen eye from noting that they sustain, link, and mutually condition each other, being only the expression of different degrees of the same subversion of every normal and legitimate institution. It necessarily follows that, when these forms clash, the one that will prevail will be the most extreme, or the one located on the lowest step. The beginning of the process is to be traced to the time when Western man broke the ties to Tradition, claiming for himself as an individual a vain and illusory freedom: when he became an atom in society, rejecting every higher symbol of authority and sovereignty in a system of hierarchies. The "totalitarian" forms that are emerging are a demonic and materialistic counterfeit of the previous unitary political ideal, and they represent "the greatest and most savage slavery," which, according to Plato, arose out of formless "freedom."


Economic liberalism, which engendered various forms of capitalist exploitation and of cynical, antisocial plutocracy, is one of the final consequences of the intellectual emancipation that made the individual solutus—that is, lacking the inner, self-imposed bond, function, and limit that are found instead in every organic system's general climate and natural hierarchy of values. Moreover, we know that in more recent times, political liberalism has become little more than a system at the service of laissez-faire—namely, economic liberalism—in the context of a capitalist-plutocratic civilization; from this situation new reactions arose, pushing everything lower and lower, to the level of Marxism.


The above-mentioned connections are also visible in the special sector of property and wealth, especially when we consider the meaning of the change that occurred within it, following the institutions created by the French Revolution. By denouncing everything in the economic world that was still inspired by the feudal ideal as a cruel regime based on privileges, the organic connection (displayed mainly in various feudal systems) between personality and property, social function and wealth, and between a given qualification or moral nobility and the rightful and legitimate possession of goods, was broken. It was the Napoleonic Code that made "property" neutral and "private" in the inferior and individualistic sense of the word; with this code, property ceased to have a political function and bond. Moreover, property was no longer subject to an "eminent right," nor tied to a specific responsibility and social rank and subject to a "higher right." In this context, rank signified the objective and normal consecration in a hierarchical system that the superior one, as well as the personality formed and differentiated by a supra-individual tradition and idea, receives. Property, and wealth in general, no longer had any duties before the State other than in fiscal terms. The subject of property was the pure and simple "citizen," whose dominant concern was to exploit the property without any scruples and without too much regard for those traditions of blood, family, and folk that had previously been a relevant counterpart of property and wealth.


It was only natural that in the end the right to private property came to be disputed; whenever there is no higher legitimization of ownership, it is always possible to wonder why some people have property and others do not, or why some people have earned for themselves privileges and social preeminence (often greater than those in feudal systems), while lacking something that would make them stand out and above everybody else in an effective and sensible manner. Thus the so-called "social question," together with the worn-out slogan "social justice," arose in those conditions where no differentiation is any longer visible other than in terms of mere "economic classes" (wealth and property having become "neutral" and apolitical; every value of difference and rank, of personality and authority having been rejected or undermined by processes of degeneration and materialization; the political sphere having been deprived of its original dignity). Thus, subversive ideologies have successfully and easily unmasked all the political myths that capitalism and the bourgeoisie have employed, in the absence of any superior principle, in order to defend their privileged status against the push and final violation by the forces from below.


Again, we can see that the various aspects of the contemporary social and political chaos are interrelated and there is no real way to effectively oppose them other than by returning to the origins. To go back to the origins means, plainly and simply, to reject everything that in any domain (whether social, political, or economic) is connected to the "immortal principles" of 1789, as a libertarian, individualistic, and egalitarian thought, and to oppose it with the hierarchical view, in the context of which alone the notion, value, and freedom of man as person are not reduced to mere words or excuses for a work of destruction and subversion.



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