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Haeckel’s Monism And The Birth Of Fascist Ideology

Gasman’s thesis is that fascism was a coherent intellectual doctrine advocating a scientist-led social transformation. The biological sciences were key factors in fascism’s birth and development. Fascist intellectual doctrine crystalized before 1919 in a process inseparable from the widespread Haeckelian cultural reformation. Monism, Haeckel’s religion, was a common denominator among various national fascisms.

Look how little the leopards have lost their spots!

Professor Gasman’s Haeckel’s Monism and the Birth of Fascist Ideology provides insights into the coherent fascist intellectual doctrine that, by 1920, was embraced by a wide swath of European academics and artists. Defining features of this cohort were:

They referred to themselves as: ecologists, naturalists and socio-biologists.

They were pseudo-scientists bent on subverting real science.

Their mantras were: natural, holistic, and organic.

Their Religion of Nature was basically a revival of Pantheism. They worshipped Earth as a divine living organism. Human achievements were disparaged as scant and fleeting compared to Nature’s glory.

They desired scientist-led governance. Scientists probed Nature’s divine realm, hence scientists alone understood the political implications of Nature’s laws.

They were pessimistic and denied the existence of progress.

They exhibited a longing for primitivism.

They were organizationally and ideologically linked to the organic foods movement.

They were organizationally and ideologically allied with the occultist/neo-pagan milieu.

They were divided between those who wanted to replace Christianity and those who wanted to modify Christianity.

They dreaded human overpopulation and were active in eugenics/population control strategizing.

They considered humanitarianism to be scientifically incorrect.

They described society as an organism that grew organically out of Nature.

They saw direct continuity between biological and sociological laws, and contended that bio-evolutionary laws should literally be the basis for human laws.

They believed human survival required abject conformity to the environmental totality. Human liberation would come not through dominion over Nature but through submission to Natural Law.

They opposed capitalist industrialization and sought to reinvigorate beleaguered countryside interests undermined by the rise of industrial cities. Hostility to industrial capitalism manifested in criticism of what was deemed lifeless scientific-mechanical thinking.

They stridently opposed democracy.

Gasman did not set out to expose similarities between environmentalism and fascism. His book makes no reference to environmentalism nor ventures off the topic of European academic trends circa 1870-1920.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Gasman and History
Haeckel, Monism, and the Fin de Siècle Zeitgeist
Some of Haeckel’s Austrian and French Disciples
Haeckel and Italian Fascism
Conclusion

Gasman and History

Gasman’s The Scientific Origins of National Socialism (1971) exposed German zoologist Ernst Haeckel’s role in the rise of Nazism. His sequel, Haeckel’s Monism and the Birth of Fascist Ideology (1991), discusses Haeckel’s contribution to fascism elsewhere in Europe. For the sequel Gasman visited Jena’s Haeckel Haus library, which became accessible after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He discovered a trove of letters to Haeckel from proto-fascist intellectuals.

Gasman’s thesis is that fascism was a coherent intellectual doctrine advocating a scientist-led social transformation. The biological sciences were key factors in fascism’s birth and development. Haeckel provided scientific legitimization for this movement. Fascist intellectual doctrine crystalized before 1919 in a process inseparable from the widespread Haeckelian cultural reformation. Monism, Haeckel’s religion, was a common denominator among various national fascisms. There was obvious Monist content in the thought of Mussolini, Hitler, and Norway’s Quisling and Britain’s Oswald Mosley.

Gasman concludes his introductory chapter with:

“…Fascist ideology was largely a consequence of the direct and specific transformation of a widely held, popular scientific system… This scientifically based ideology, in turn, proved powerful enough to generate a political movement that was able to gain influence and ascendancy in a number of unstable political and social environments, and hence to play a predominant, though not exclusive role in the origins of Fascism. The ideology in question was the evolutionary Monist science and philosophy of the German zoologist Ernst Haeckel…”

Gasman concludes his book thusly:

“Fascism emerged as an expression of the intellectual and cultural forces that had been unleashed by the Monist movement in the decades around the turn of the 20th century… Fascism and its glorification of the power of evil immanence, was only a variation on Haeckelian Monism’s most essential philosophical axioms and scientific, political and religious beliefs.”

Haeckel’s contribution to fascism has been hosed down the memory drain. Gasman explains this ongoing historical lapse, in part, by recalling:

“In West Germany a major conference on Haeckel, organized in 1978 by the Association of German Societies for the History of Medicine, gave expression to a widely held opinion in that country, when it set out to run determined interference against the idea that Haeckel, the enlightened, progressive, secular, and above all materialist thinker could be associated with mysticism and the genesis of National Socialism.”

Several ruses conceal Haeckel’s contribution to fascism:

Historians highlight Social Darwinism’s role in fascist ideology. However, fascist ideologues studied Haeckel, not Darwin. When Continental Europeans discussed evolution, they typically regurgitated Haeckel’s quasi-Darwinist theories.

The late 19th century rebellion against Western Civilization and Christianity, ascribed to Nietzsche, should be credited to Haeckel.

Henri Bergson et al. are named as inspiring the fascist precursors: Syndicalism and Futurism. Syndicalist tracts are unmistakably Haeckelian. Futurism was far closer to Haeckel than to Bergson’s moralistic Catholicism, where one finds no aggressive socio-biology or war mongering.

Haeckel is portrayed as a materialist, empiricist, and left-wing progressive. Haeckel was an idealist, mystic, elitist, racist reactionary.

Proto-fascist ideologues who were also Haeckel disciples have either been deleted from history or have had their connection to Haeckel deleted.

Haeckel, Monism, and the Fin de Siècle Zeitgeist

Lamarck introduced biological evolution (“transformism”) in Zoological Philosophy (1809). Darwin improved on Lamarck’s thesis in Origin of the Species (1859). Continental Europe’s salon set preferred Lamarck to Darwin. The “Darwinian” clubs that proliferated across Europe in the late 19th century were mislabelled.

Far more so than in the English-speaking world, on the Continent an extreme reactionary world-view, framed as “Social Darwinist,” gained currency. This process occurred alongside a counter-attack on Comtian positivism (empiricism). Anti-positivism was marked by syncretic mysticism and militant irrationalism. In this milieu “German science” carried the force of law. The era also witnessed the budding of “volkisch” creeds seeking to reinvigorate beleaguered countryside interests undermined by the rise of industrial cities.

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