François Furet

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François Furet (French: [fʁɑ̃swa fyʁɛ]; 27 March 1927, Paris – 12 July 1997, Figeac) was a French historian, and president of the Saint-Simon Foundation, well known for his books on the French Revolution. He was elected to the Académie française in March 1997, just three months before he died in July.


The Passing of an Illusion, The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century (1999)[edit]

University of Chicago Press (1999)

  • The bourgeoisie is a synonym for modern society. The word designates the class that gradually destroyed, by its free activity, the old aristocratic society founded on a hierarchy of birth.
    • p. 4
  • The American people were possessed by the capitalist spirit without ever having had a bourgeoisie; French political society, in contrast, created a bourgeoisie devoid of the capitalist spirit.
    • p. 7
  • Fascism was born of the reaction of the particular against the universal, the national against the international. In its origins it was inseparable from Communism, fighting the latter’s goals even while adopting its methods… Communism and Fascism grew up on the same soil, the soil of Italian Socialism. The founder of the fasci in March 1919, Mussolini was a member of the revolutionary wing of the Socialist movement prior to supporting Italy’s entry into the Great War; then, immediately afterward, he found himself in violent conflict with the Bolshevik-leaning leaders of his former party.
    • p. 22
  • Born of war, both Bolshevism and Fascism drew their basic education from war. They transferred to politics the lessons of the trenches: familiarity with violence, the simplicity of extreme passions, the submission of the individual to the collectivity, and finally the bitterness of futile or betrayed sacrifices.
    • p.163
  • In Fascism, as in Communism, the idea of the future was based on a critique of bourgeois modernity… It rose from a variety of currents and from authors of very different origins, all of whom demonized the bourgeoisie. The doctrine was cast as post-Marxist, not as pre-liberal.
    • p. 175
  • To understand this relationship we may start with what has become an accepted observation: Stalinized Bolshevism and National Socialism constitute the two examples of twentieth-century totalitarian regimes. Not only were they comparable, but they form a political category of their own, which has become established since Hannah Arendt.
    • p. 180
  • The fact that Communism and Fascism assigned contradictory roles to history and reason—the emancipation of the proletariat versus the domination of the Aryan race—mattered little.
    • p.191
  • What was new about Hitler and Stalin was what Friedrich Meinecke, in an attempt shortly after World War II to express his horror at Hitler’s moral nihilism, called a ‘ Machiavellianism of the masses'.
    • p.191
  • In many thundering discourses, Hitler expressed his respect, if not admiration for Stalinist Communism and its leader.
    • p. 191
  • Nazism was a form of Bolshevism turned against its initial form.
    • p. 205
  • Hitler did a better job than Stalin of accomplishing Lenin’s totalitarian promises—better, too, than Mussolini,…
    • p. 205
  • It was in Nazi Germany that Bolshevism was perfected; there, political power truly absorbed all spheres of existence, from the economy to religion, from technology to the soul. The irony, the tragedy, of history was that both totalitarian regimes, identical in their aim for absolute power over dehumanized beings, presented themselves as protection from the danger presented by the other.
    • pp. 205-06
  • Nazism was a German form of Bolshevism.
    • p. 207

Fascism & Communism (2004)[edit]

University of Nebraska Press, 2004

  • The Mussolinian fascism of 1919 can be seen as a ‘reaction’ to the threat of Italian-style Bolshevism, also arising out of the war and following more or less the Russian example—a reaction in the broadest sense of the word, since Mussolini, who, like Lenin, comes from an ultrarevolutionary socialism, can more easily imitate it in order to fight it.
    • p. 2
  • After all, in my country as well, and in democratic Europe, fascism, a fortiori in its Nazi form, was a more or less taboo subject for the historian. I mean that the moral condemnation directed against the two regimes precluded not only studying them, but also understanding the popularity they enjoyed between the two wars. And that taboo that impeded all types of comparative analysis, and even the idea of an interdependence between communism and fascism, was just as great, even if it did not have the same historical or cultural reasons.
    • p. 17
  • The fascist movement fed on anticommunism, the communist movement on antifascism. But both shared a hatred for the bourgeois world, which allowed them to unite.
    • p. 19
  • Lenin takes power in 1917, Mussolini in 1922, Hitler fails in 1923 to succeed ten years later. Thus, ten years later Mussolini fascism can be considered a ‘reaction’ to an Italian-style Bolshevism, also arising out of the war and more or less modeled on the Russian example. In the same manner, Nazism can be made into a response to the German obsession with the Komintern, a response along the dictatorial and revolutionary lines of communism.
    • p. 20
  • The German extreme Right, and even the entire Right, did not need communism to hate democracy. The national Bolsheviks admired Stalin. I concede that Hitler privileged the hatred of Bolshevism, but as a final product of the democratic bourgeois world. In fact, certain of his close accomplices, such as Goebbels, made no mystery of hating Paris and London more than Moscow.
    • p. 20
  • Therefore, I think that the thesis of fascism as a ‘reactive’ movement against communism only explains part of the phenomenon; it fails to explain the differences between Italian and German fascism… But Hitler and the Nazis didn’t need this to give substance to their hatred of the Jews, which was older than the October Revolution. In fact, before them, Mussolini, whom they so admired, had led anticommunist fascism to victory without anti-Semitism.
    • pp. 20-21
  • Because the only serious way to approach the study of the two original ideologies and political movements that appeared at the beginning of our century, Marxist-Leninist communism and fascism in its Italian and German forms, is to take them together as the two faces of an acute crisis of liberal democracy that arose with the First World War.
    • p. 32
  • The point communism and fascism have in common is the fundamental political deficit of modern democracy. The different types of totalitarian regimes that are established in their name share the will to put an end to this deficit by restoring the main role to political decisions and by integrating the masses into one party through the constant assertion of their ideological orthodoxy. The fact that the two ideologies proclaim themselves to be in a situation of radical conflict does not prevent them from reinforcing each other by this very hostility—the communist nourishes his faith with antifascism, and the fascist his with anticommunism. And both fight the same enemy, bourgeois democracy. The communist sees it as the breeding ground for fascism, while the fascist sees it as the antechamber of Bolshevism, but they both fight to destroy it.
    • p. 33
  • In the case of Hitler and his accomplices, however, the Jews not only incarnate Bolshevism in their eyes but also stateless capitalism. This allows the Nazis to magically unite in the same hatred a single people who presumably incarnated two contradictory ideas and social regimes.
    • p. 36
  • It is the fact of the privileged relationship of the Jews to democratic universalism that makes possible the understanding of the particular nature of modern anti-Semitism as opposed to medieval anti-Semitism. These two forms of hatred of the Jews are not incompatible, and their effects can be cumulative. But the older form is rooted in Christianity—in the Jewish refusal to recognize the divinity of Christ—whereas the more recent form doesn’t have the same content as the Christian charge. Rather, it accuses the Jews of hiding a will to dominate the world behind the abstract universality of the world of money and the Rights of Man.
    • p. 60
  • The idea of the October Revolution as the product of a plot of international Judaism is part of this type of representation. I don’t deny for an instant that there were numerous Jewish militants on the first Bolshevik staff as well as in the socialist movement, especially in the countries of Eastern Europe. But this is not an observation from which one can infer, even by definition, the existence of a particular Jewish plot. The accusation belongs on a different plane from that of rational thought or historical analysis.
    • p. 61
  • The historians of our era, obsessed by the determinist idea and by the sociological conception of history, often tend to misjudge what was accidental in the European tragedy in the twentieth century and the role played by several men. They don’t want to see that sometimes monstrous events have small causes.
    • p. 63
  • The novelty of fascism in History consists in its emancipation of the European Right from the impasse that is inseparable from the counterrevolutionary idea. In effect, in the nineteenth century the counterrevolutionary idea never ceased being trapped in the contradiction of having to use revolutionary means to win without being able to assign itself any goal other than the restoration of a past from which, however, the revolutionary evil arose. There is nothing like this in fascism.
    • p. 89

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