Traditionalism implies the rejection of modernism. Both Fascists and Nazis worshiped technology, while traditionalist thinkers usually reject it as a negation of traditional spiritual values. However, even though Nazism was proud of its industrial achievements, its praise of modernism was only the surface of an ideology based upon Blood and Earth (Blut und Boden). The rejection of the modern world was disguised as a rebuttal of the capitalistic way of life, but it mainly concerned the rejection of the Spirit of 1789 (and of 1776, of course). The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.
Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action's sake. Action being
beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is
a form of emasculation. Therefore culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical
attitudes. Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Ur-Fascism,
from Goering's alleged statement ("When I hear talk of culture I reach for my gun") to the
frequent use of such expressions as "degenerate intellectuals," "eggheads," "effete snobs,"
"universities are a nest of Reds." The official Fascist intellectuals were mainly engaged in
attacking modern culture and the liberal intelligentsia for having betrayed traditional
....The critical spirit makes
distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific
community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For Ur-Fascism,
disagreement is treason.
Besides, disagreement is a sign of diversity. Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks for
consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal
of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism
is racist by definition.
....For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle. Thus
pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare. This,
however, brings about an Armageddon complex. Since enemies have to be defeated, there
must be a final battle, after which the movement will have control of the world. But such
a "final solution" implies a further era of peace, a Golden Age, which contradicts the
principle of permanent war. No fascist leader has ever succeeded in solving this
....Ur-Fascism is based upon a selective populism, a qualitative populism, one might say.
In a democracy, the citizens have individual rights, but the citizens in their entirety have a
political impact only from a quantitative point of view – one follows the decisions of the
majority. For Ur-Fascism, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the
People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since
no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be
their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only
called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction. To
have a good instance of qualitative populism we no longer need the Piazza Venezia in
Rome or the Nuremberg Stadium. There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in
which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and
accepted as the Voice of the People.
- "Ur-Fascism," New York Review of Books, 1995