Daniel Guérin (1904-1988) fut un infatigable militant, présent dans tous les combats du xx’ siècle. Journaliste, il est notamment l’auteur de Sur le fascisme (réédité à La Découverte en 2001), La révolution manquée, Le mouvement ouvrier aux États-Unis et La Révolution française et nous,  et Ni Dieu, ni Maître (anthologie de l’anarchisme).

Sur le fascisme

Ce livre est le témoignage précieux d’un des rares spectateurs qui, voyant naître et s’étendre le nazisme au jour le jour, en comprit immédiatement tout le sens, toute la portée, toute l’horreur. De 1932 à 1933, avant et après l’installation d’Itler au pouvoir, Daniel Guérin accomplit deux voyages à travers l’Allemagne. Prenant conscience de l’ampleur du drame qui se jouait, il décida de rédiger ce témoignage, dans l’espoir malheureusement vain d’alerter le public français. Cette description sur le vif, publiée en divers articles dans la presse de l’époque, forme la matière de La peste brune, le premier tome de ses écrits Sur le fascisme (réédités sous ce titre en 1965). Convaincu que seule une analyse en profondeur du phénomène fasciste permettrait d’en révéler la véritable nature, il entreprit en 1935 un travail de synthèse, Fascisme et grand capital (publié en 1936, et republié en 1965 comme second tome de Sur le fascisme), qui, par la clarté logique de son exposé, la rigueur de sa documentation et – l’histoire l’a prouvé – la justesse de ses vues, devait devenir un classique…


The Cult of the Leader

Neither does big business look without a certain amount of anxiety on the symptoms of “delusions of grandeur” displayed ever more obviously by the dictator. This development is really inevitable, for in proportion as the plebeians are eliminated and the party relegated to a secondary position, it is necessary to inflate the “Man of Destiny” all the more in order to conceal behind his person the real nature of the fascist state: a military and police dictatorship in the service of big business. It is necessary to follow Spengler’s advice:

“Nothing has meaning any more but the purely personal power exercised by the Caesar [in whom] the omnipotence of money disappears.”

Thus in Italy, the dictatorship of the fascist party has gradually given place to the personal dictatorship of the Duce. In Germany, during the last electoral campaign, “there [was] very little question of National Socialism and much – to the exclusion of almost everything else – of Herr Hitler.” But the dictator himself is taken in by this “booby-trap”. The same mishap befalls him as befell Louis Bonaparte:

“Only … when he himself now takes his imperial role seriously … does he become the victim of his own conception of the world, the serious buffoon, who no longer takes world history for a comedy but his comedy for world history.”

Mussolini and Hitler end by literally becoming egomaniacs. And the big capitalists must increasingly reckon with the boundless pride, the changing humor and whims, of the Duce or the Führer. This means a loss of time and has certain drawbacks.

And finally, the economic policy of fascism, however favorable to themselves it may be, is not entirely satisfactory to the big capitalists. Although they eagerly pocket the fabulous profits from armament orders, they are terrified at the possible consequences of this policy. They are haunted by the thought of a financial catastrophe. They likewise complain, as we have seen, that the “war economy” regime is constantly imposing on them more burdensome state regulations, that it is forever eating away at sacrosanct “private initiative”.

Therefore the industrialists are not wholly content, and in the minds of some of them the idea begins to germinate of throwing overboard once and for all the fascist plebeians and their leader himself, and of completing the already far-advanced transformation of the fascist totalitarian regime into a purely military dictatorship.

But they hesitate. They dare not deprive themselves entirely of the incomparable and irreplaceable means of penetrating into all cells of society which they have in the fascist mass organizations. Above all, they hesitate to deprive themselves of the services of the “Man of Destiny”, for the mystic faith in the Duce or the Führer, though declining, is not yet extinct.

“The present order in Germany,” the Temps states, “exists and continues only thanks to the popularity of the Chancellor and the faith of the German masses in Herr Hitler’s actions …”

“The Führer is unquestionably more popular than the regime.”

The “Man of Destiny”, however much a nuisance he may be, is still necessary. Even his madness is useful; he alone can still perform the psychological miracle of turning the discontent and wretchedness of large strata of the people into enthusiasm and faith.

But most of all, the industrialists are apprehensive lest a radical change in the regime, such as they desire, should cost much bloodshed. They dread a civil war, even a short one, in which “national” forces would oppose one another; they fear nothing so much as what in Germany is called, in anticipation, a “new June 30”. Hence they hesitate.

The hypothesis is not absolutely excluded that some day they will come to feel that the advantages of a purely military dictatorship outweigh its shortcomings. But a change of this nature would not necessarily open up the way to a revolution. It is true that for the middle classes, suddenly deprived of their daily mythology, the awakening would be a cruel one, and that it would be harder, with only the aid of a military and police apparatus, to keep the proletariat enslaved. Yet the authoritarian state, strongly supported by bayonets, might still endure for a time in this new form; it might find new “mysticisms” (the nationalist mysticism, the dynastic mysticism, etc.) to keep large strata of the population under the spell; in a word, even without Mussolini or Hitler, the “strong state” might survive.