Zeev Sternhell

Israeli historian (1935-2020)

Zeev Sternhell (Hebrew: זאב שטרנהל‎, born 10 April 1935) is a Polish-born Israeli historian, political scientist, commentator on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and writer. He is one of the world's leading experts on fascism. Sternhell headed the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and writes for Haaretz newspaper.

Zeev Sternhell, 2016

Quotes edit

The Birth of Fascist Ideology: From Cultural Rebellion to Political Revolution, 1994 edit

Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, (1994)

  • Marxists could be converted to national socialism, as indeed quite a number of them were, similarly, national socialism could sign treaties with Communists, exchange ambassadors, and coexist with them, if only temporarily. Nothing like this, however, applied to the Jews.
    • p. 5
  • If the Fascist ideology cannot be described as a simple response to Marxism, its origins, on the other hand, were the direct result of very specific revision of Marxism. It was a revision of Marxism and not a variety of Marxism or a consequence of Marxism...It was the French and Italian Sorelians, the theoreticians of revolutionary syndicalism who made this new and original revision of Marxism, and precisely this was their contribution to the birth of the Fascist ideology.
    • p. 5
  • In the form that it emerged at the turn of the century and developed in the 1920s and 1930s, the fascist ideology represented a synthesis of organic nationalism with the antimaterialist revision of Marxism. It expressed a revolutionary aspiration based on a rejection of individualism, whether liberal or Marxist, and it created the elements of a new and original political culture.
    • p. 6
  • Fascism rebelled against modernity inasmuch as modernity was identified with the rationalism, optimism, and humanism of the eighteenth century, but it was not a reactionary or an anti-revolutionary movement in the Maurrassian sense of the term. Fascism presented itself as a revolution of another kind, a revolution that sought to destroy the existing political order and to uproot its theoretical and moral foundations but that at the same time wished to preserve all the achievements of modern technology.
    • p. 7
  • Thus, fascism adopted the economic aspect of liberalism but completely denied its philosophical principles and the intellectual and moral heritage of modernity.
    • p.7
  • It was the revolutionary syndicalists, those dissidents and nonconformists of the Left, who by means of their criticism of Marxist determinism created the first elements of the Fascist synthesis in the first decade of our century.
    • p. 8
  • That is why so many Sorelians, like many people on the Left both before and after the war, slid into fascism. When these leftists of all shapes and colors came to the conclusion that the working class had definitely beaten a retreat, they did not follow it into this attitude. Their socialism remained revolutionary when that of the proletariat had ceased to be so. Having to choose between the proletariat and revolution, they chose revolution; having to choose between a proletarian but moderate socialism and a nonproletarian but revolutionary and national socialism, they opted for the nonproletarian revolution, the national revolution.
    • p. 27
  • Thus, it was quite natural that a synthesis would arise between this new socialism [fascism], which discovered the nation as a revolutionary agent, and the nationalist movement, which also rebelled against the old world of conservatives, against the aristocrats and the bourgeois, and against social injustices and which believed that the nation would never be complete until it had integrated the proletariat. A socialism for the whole collectivity and a nationalism that, severed from conservatism, proclaimed itself as being by definition the messenger of unity and unanimity thus came together to form an unprecedented weapon of war against the bourgeois order and liberal democracy.
    • pp. 27-28
  • Sorel declared that Marx’s theory was ‘the greatest innovation in philosophy for centuries; it was the starting point of a fruitful transformation in our form of speculation. All our ideas must concentrate round the new principles of scientific socialism.’
    • p. 39
  • Sorel supported this opinion and threw himself into a long and violent anti-Semitic campaign. He signed a long article in praise of Urbain Gohier, the most celebrated living anti-Semite, whom he encouraged to continue ‘maintaining that the French must defend their state, their customs, and their ideas against the Jewish invaders who want to dominate everything.’
    • p. 85
  • The nascent Fascist ideology derived its initial basic content from the syndicalist-nationalist synthesis. This synthesis would not have been possible without the original contribution of Sorel, Sorel who had preached hatred for the heritage of the eighteenth century, for Voltaire and Rousseau, for the French Revolution, for rationalism and optimism, for liberal democracy and bourgeois society;…
    • p. 90
  • Like all self-respecting revolutionaries, Mussolini considered himself a Marxist. He regarded Marx as the ‘greatest theoretician of socialism’ and Marxism as the ‘scientific doctrine of class revolution.’
    • p. 197

Neither Left nor Right: Fascist Ideology in France, 1996 edit

Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, (1996)

  • At the same time as Sorel, the revolutionary syndicalists in Italy came to this conclusion: they threw themselves enthusiastically into the war not out of patriotism, as is often thought, but because they saw it as an instrument of revolution. Since war is a conflict between nations rather than between classes, the nation was seen as the foremost agent of revolution, and Italian revolutionary syndicalism became the backbone of fascist ideology.
    • p. 21
  • Thus, the historical circumstance of the half century preceding the Second World War gave rise to the essence of fascism: a synthesis of organic nationalism and anti-Marxist socialism, a revolutionary ideology based on a simultaneous rejection of liberalism, Marxism, and democracy.
    • p. 27
  • [Fascist ideology was] a variety of socialism which, while rejecting Marxism, remained revolutionary. This form of socialism was also, by definition, anti-liberal and anti-bourgeois, and its opposition to historical materialism made it the natural ally of radical nationalism.
    • p. 268

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