The day of victory over fascism: Will we need to defeat fascism again?
Jonáš Jánsky, Peter Sterančák / May 9, 2019
( 4 min read )
May 8th, 1945, Europe. A wave of enthusiasm, hope, and relief is flooding Europe. The war (for Europe) is over! German Nazi forces representatives are signing unconditional surrender to the Allied forces in Europe, merely 8 days after Hitler’s suicide (April 30, 1945). His "Thousand-Year Reich" lasted for 12 years (1933-1945). Fascism has never been good with planning… or anything else, for that matter. Yet, the ideas that fascism had spread all those decades ago, in Europe, are still present and even actively revived by certain groups of people all over today’s Europe, once again. Do we need to relive our past once again, with all that unnecessary suffering and death, to understand the toxicity and danger of ideas such as fascism? Let’s hope not.
Those 12 years of the “Thousand-Year Reich” do not seem like much in the context of our human history. However, for approximately 6 million Jews, dying as a direct result of anti-semitic policies resulting in the Holocaust, those 12 years must have felt like an eternity. Two third of the entire population of Jews, in Europe, perished in concentration camps built by the Nazis. Yet, it wasn’t just Jews who died en masse. The Second World War itself, that started by Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939, had claimed an estimated number of 70 -85 million people all over the world. Such is the price for promoting and implementing horrible ideologies like fascism, for the whole of humankind. Moreover, it wasn’t just Hitler as the sole bearer of fascism. The ideology characterized by radical right-wing, authoritarian ultra-nationalism and forceful suppression of other ideas than the ones promoted by the all-powerful dictator, started in Italy with Benito Mussolini before spreading across Europe after World War I. Fascists saw war as the means of inflicting forceful revolution that would impose their ideology on other people and states. The use of force, paramilitary commandos, a rule of a single leader/party, the glorification of the nation or race as the highest form of loyalty and obedience, uniformity of thoughts and beliefs, are fascism’s main features. We know what the results of such ideas are now. All we need to do is look back again and remember.
We should not only remember this anniversary with festive wreaths placed in memorials for those who died in the Second World War. The revival of fascist-like ideologies all around us is too visceral to ignore, too urgent to not think about. Whether it’s the presence of “Kotleba – Our Slovakia” party in Slovak parliament, or their devoted members all around our country, it’s not just a Slovak problem today. All over Europe, and the world now, there are people who openly admire these ideas, as well as, policies of fascism and try to re-adjust them for our day and age. They try to mold them for the modern ears of today’s disfranchised and alienated, among us. Followers of such leaders genuinely believe that the challenges and complexities of our modern world can only be solved by the strong hands of a charismatic leader. However, these types of leaders do not offer any sound solutions for the real global challenges we face. Technological disruption, pension scheme, climate change, or bio-genetic revolution, are not on their list of interests.
In a book written by Australian historian Paul Ham, called “Young Hitler, The Making of the Fürher”, he documents Hitler’s life transformations from a homeless failed painter to the passionate Fürher of Nazi Germany. He writes, that Hitler "was more receptive to the authoritarian uses of political powers, as exemplified by Bismarck, at a time when the Austrian parliament was struggling to provide adequate living standards, jobs and hope. Local politicians had failed to find a solution to this wretchedness, and periodically tried to divert attention from their failure to popular scapegoats: minorities such as Jews, gypsies, Serbs, Czechs, Italians, Hungarians or Romanians." Solving complex problems is not the agenda of new fascists-in-disguise, because fascism and other extreme ideologies don’t have solutions for real problems. They have false dreams of “Thousand-Year Reich” to sell. They have ready-made scapegoats for people to direct their frustration and fear. They have racial myths of superiority and inferiority. Nothing more.
We have the responsibility toward the future generations, to not only remember this anniversary but to actively engage in our society in favor of better ideas that actually help us solve problems – such as freedom of thought, cooperation, democracy, critical thinking, universal human rights, science, creativity, and tolerance. Ideas that are not proven by history to fail and destruct. History teaches us that when we forget our past, it tends to come back around. Let’s not allow ourselves to forget…