Nietzsche, Godfather of Fascism? On the Uses and Abuses of a Philosophy

By Jacob Golomb; Robert S. Wistrich | Go to book overview

8

Ecce Caesar:
Nietzsche's Imperial Aspirations

Daniel W. Conway

It is only beginning with me that the earth knows great politics.
—Nietzsche, Ecce Homo

It is a historical fact that Nietzsche was widely admired by twentiethcentury fascists. Mussolini was an avid disciple of Nietzsche's teachings and often acknowledged his influence on the development of the fascist philosophy. Hitler, too, was eager to associate his regime with Nietzsche's name and reputation. Responding in part to the cloying advances of Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth, Hitler became a patron of the Nietzsche archives and an occasional visitor to Weimar.1

The case for Nietzsche's direct contributions to the rise and development of European fascism nevertheless remains inconclusive. First of all, he was read neither carefully nor well by Mussolini, and not at all by Hitler.2 Nor was his philosophy studied carefully by the ideologues who supported these leaders and helped formulate their official positions.3 A direct link between Nietzsche and fascism is therefore difficult to establish with certainty. Indeed, the Nietzsche who was enshrined in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany bears only a crude resemblance to the author of the books from which the fascists claimed to derive philosophical inspiration. Second, Nietzsche was openly contemptuous of several elements of fascism that constitute its ideological basis—such as nationalism, tribalism, anti-Semitism, militarism, anti-intellectualism, xenophobia, and isolationism. He explicitly stated on a number of occasions that the future of Europe lay not in the decadent “particularism” favored by the protofascists of his day, but in a pan-Europeanism that

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