DEMOCRACY (vs. FASCISM)
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is pushing his fascist program as fast as possible. By fascist I mean top down mandates without the voice of the people being heard, mixed in with racism and nationalism. With Walker’s program, public sector workers will have a very limited voice in the workplace. Walker’s budget favors the wealthy over the needs of the poor and children. The budget is a key component in the politics of wealth concentration. A wealthy fascist aristocracy supports Walker, and is attempting to gain more power. The tea party people represent the nationalistic aspect of the new fascism. Fascist racism is also there in the fierce opposition to immigrants. Walker’s budget includes a removal of in-state tuition for undocumented children. An Arizona type immigration bill has been presented by a Walker supporter to the Legislature’s Homeland Security Committee. Unwillingness to confront seriously the poverty and unemployment in central city Milwaukee is again rank racism.
The theme of this blog is a historical review of Catholic Social Teaching with reference to current events, and it will look at the rise of totalitarianism in the 30’s. This is the time of Quadragesim Anno, Pius XI and Pius XII. The Walker program is not the first time fascism has raised its ugly head. Can we fault Pius XI and XII for their blindness in not seeing the horror implicit in fascism? They were not alone. Check out the list of quotes I have assembled. Pius XI's pre-war and Pius XII’s pre-war and war-time positions might be more understandable. Does natural law ethics, the basis of Catholic Social Teaching, survive WW II? Quotes from Catholic scholars and others before the war, during the war, and after the war follow.
In 1946, Saul Alinsky said in his book, Reveille for Radicals,
“Organized religion, organized labor, and all other organized institutions of the people were completely impotent in preventing Fascism and war.” (Work, “Reveille for Radicals – Book Review,” Paul Kalinauskas, February, 1946.)
The question is why? Was all that was needed was Alinsky organizing tactics? 1946 reviewer Kalinauskas says Alinsky was naive. After the war it was easy to see the evils of fascism, but some Catholic intellectuals and officials only partially saw the coming horror.
Natural law philosophers – theologians, religionists fortified by the Ten Commandments, were at sea just as much as enlightenment liberals who claimed Hitler and Mussolini had a right to their opinion and were improving the social and economic situation in their countries.
(July 27, 2011: Voces was swamped with people looking for loved ones picked up by the police, the FBI, the ICE on a drug bust. The innocent are raked in with the guilty – no distinction – thus families separated. To whom do you complain? Kohl, Moore, Barrett are not listening. What happened to the 14th amendment? Is this due process?)
Before WW II
U.S. Attitudes and Political Theory
How does U.S. political democracy make decisions? According to Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, the basis for U.S. democracy is the Declaration of Independence statement, “all men are created equal;” therefore democracy is rooted in nature. However, Lincoln did not believe that a majority vote superseded nature. In his debates with Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln opposed the Kansas Nebraska Act which would have allowed slavery in those territories if the majority approved.
(From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 7-29-11, “Judge declares paid sick-day law ‘over’… In doing so he found the city law, passed by 69% of voters in November, 2008 and upheld by the state Court of Appeals in March, was moot because of state legislation (Walker’s gang) approved in April that voided it.”)
For Lincoln, and WW II President Franklin Roosevelt, the ‘common good’ was the goal of political society. Roosevelt was passionate about democracy, but his political philosophy was not based on the ontology of atomism or simply ‘survival of the fittest.’ He claimed the right wing individualists, ‘economic royalists,’ were the enemies of the people and invited progressives, Republican and Democrat, to work for the common good. The New Deal was an analogue to the Declaration of Independence. At the 1936 Democratic Convention in Philadelphia Roosevelt said:
“Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in the spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.” (Brands, H.W. Traitor To His Class, Doubleday, New York, p. 453.)
In the early days of European fascism it was not clear to the American public that fascism was inherently evil.
“From the time he came to power in 1922, the American press was generally supportive of Mussolini, who was credited with restoring order in postwar Italy and revitalizing its economy.” (Baldassaro, Lawrence, Beyond Joe DiMaggio, University of Nebraska Press, p. 122.)
As for fascism in the U.S., industrialists actually used fascist tactics. “Blackshirts” fought picketers at the 1934 Kohler strike in Wisconsin. Two strikers were killed. (Uphoff, Walter H. Kohler on Strike, Beacon Press, Boston, p. 73.)
(Today we have the Wisconsin recall elections. This is an attempt to save democracy. August 9, 2011, two Walker Senators were recalled.)
U.S. Roman Catholics and Academics
University of Chicago philosophy professor Mortimer Adler, of Jewish heritage, disagreed with his friend Robert Hutchins, President of the University, over the U.S. getting involved in the military war against fascism in Europe. Adler wrote in his autobiography:
“With the onset of the European war, a revival of American isolationism, under the banner of ‘America First,’ enrolled a large following. Among the leaders of that movement were Colonel Lindbergh, Gen. Robert E. Wood (chairman of the board of Sears Roebuck), Bob Hutchins, and Bill Benton, then vice president of the University of Chicago.”
Philosopher Bertrand Russell of England joined Adler and denounced Hitler. Adler claimed his argument against Hitler was supported by ‘natural law’ and, although Russell was correct in opposing Hitler, his argument was weak. Adler wrote:
“Abhorrence of Hitler had caused even Bertrand Russell, not only an avowed pacifist but also a relativist in morals, to advocate taking sides in the struggle because what Hitler stood for was, in his judgment, morally wrong. But my university colleagues would not forsake their skepticism about the objectivity of moral value in order to come out flatly against Nazism as politically and morally outrageous. They were willing and anxious to have us go to war against Nazi Germany, but could not bring themselves to declare that the issue involved rights and wrongs that were not a matter of subjective opinion or entirely relative to the declarant’s prejudices, feelings or point of view.” (Adler, Mortimer J. Philosopher at Large, Macmillan, N.Y. 1977, pp. 217 – 220.)
But before the war, even with a criterion to criticize the status quo, e.g. the natural law and disgust of Hitler, the ambivalence toward fascism as a political system and democracy as practiced in the U.S. and England, was a challenge to Mortimer Adler & Walter Farrell. Farrell was a Dominican priest and recognized as a scholar of the work of Thomas Aquinas. Leo XIII had proclaimed the theology of the 13th century Dominican Friar as the official theology of the Catholic Church.
Adler and Farrell wrote in The Thomist just before the U.S. entered WW II,
“We propose to make a philosophical analysis of democracy. We cannot ignore the fact that this analysis is coincident with a world-wide war which has come to be described as a struggle between the democracies and the totalitarian powers. …We ask the reader to help us by not identifying democracy with the existing governments of England and the United States. …The worst misunderstanding of what we are trying to say would be to suppose our judgment of democracy to be that it is always and everywhere the best form of government for people to adopt. …Far from supposing that democracy is the best form of government relative to every historic situation, we seriously doubt whether in the world today there is any people whose physical, economic, cultural, and moral attainments are yet adequate for the full practice of democracy.” (The Thomist, “The Theory of Democracy,” Mortimer J. Adler and Walter Farrell, O.P. Sheed and Ward, Baltimore, July 1941.)
Before he entered the Trappists, the young Thomas Merton wrote in his diary that he wasn’t so sure about going to war – was the defense of capitalism worth it? For example, he wrote,
“And if we go into the war, it will be first of all to protect our investments, our business, our money. In certain terms it may be useful to defend all these things, an expedient to protect our business so that everybody may have jobs, but if anybody holds up American business as a shining example of justice, or American politics as a shining example of honesty and purity that is really quite a joke.” (Run to the Mountain, The Journals of Thomas Merton, Harper San Francisco, 1996, p. 221) Merton applied for conscientious objector status in March of 1941. (Ibid. p. 361)
Other Catholic academics questioned getting involved in WW II. Jesuit priest, Joseph Husselein, S.J.,Ph.D. wrote in September 1941,
“It is not well for us to presume that the taint of totalitarianism does not exist, to a greater or less extent, in our own English speaking countries under the fair name and the guise of democracy. The teachings of popular professors in secular universities … who logically deny the existence of the natural law … and so derive all rights from the state are merely totalitarian in disguise. They are doctrines entirely subversive of that high ideal built up in the United States by the Founding Fathers on the firm basis of belief in God and consequently in inalienable natural rights from Him alone – rights not given by the state and cannot be taken away by it.” (Husslein, Joseph,S.J., Ph.D. Social Wellsprings, Bruce Publishing Co. Milwaukee, 1942. p. 316.)
There was a Catholic move to conscientious objection based on the common good, the good for all, not a particular nation. Archbishop McNicholas of Cincinnati wrote in a pre-war pastoral letter,
“Will such Christians in our country form a mighty league of conscientious non combatants? The organization of such a league deserves the consideration of all informed Christians who have the best interests of America at heart.”(The Chicago Catholic Worker, “The Case for Conscientious Objection,” Paul Kalinauskas and Ed Marciniak, December 1940, p. 5.)
Conscientious objection would be grounded on human nature, not custom, what works, majority opinion, or might is right. Kalinauskas and Marciniak explain,
“Conscience is a practical moral judgment of the intellect. It is practical because it does not concern itself with theoretical speculation on good and evil but tells man whether or not this particular action may or may not be performed by him, here and now. Men, unlike irrational animals, have been given the faculty of distinguishing between good and evil.” (ibid)
Here Kalinauskas and Marciniak do not argue for conscientious objection based on religious feeling or biblical interpretation, but they base their argument on reason – a natural law approach. Milwaukee native Gordan Zahn took up the challenge and became a WW II conscientious objector. It wasn’t a popular stance.
The January 1942 issue of the Catholic Worker, the first to appear after the declaration of war, displays this headline:
OUR COUNTRY PASSES FROM UNDECLARED WAR TO DECLARED WAR WE CONTINUE OUR CHRISTIAN PACIFIST STAND
Dorothy Day wrote:
“We are still pacifists. Our manifesto is the Sermon on the Mount, which means that we will try to be peacemakers. Speaking for many of our conscientious objectors, we will not participate in armed warfare or in making munitions, or buying government bonds to prosecute the war, or in urging others to these efforts.” (The Duty of Delight, “The Diaries of Dorothy Day,” Edited by Robert Ellsberg, p.65, Marquette University Press, Milwaukee, 2008.)
In Europe, well known German philosopher, Martin Heidegger supported Hitler. In Spain, the Rector at the University of Salamanca, Miguel Unamuno, never spoke out against Franco until it was too late and then was put under house arrest.
Natural law philosophers, theologians, existentialists – few saw what was coming except some artists, – painters Picasso, (Guernica - 1937) Diego Rivera, (The Opponent of Fascism - 1933) Felix Nussbaum, (The Refugee - 1939) Marc Chagall, (White Crucifixion - 1938).
During the War
What about moral political decisions during the war, such as, the continuing massacre of Jews in Europe and the decision to end the war by dropping atom bombs on Japan?
The Holocaust: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued several strong statements condemning Hitler’s massacre of the Jews during the war. In 1944 Roosevelt said, after he was informed of a roundup of Jews in Hungary,
“In one of the blackest crimes of all history-begun by the Nazis in the day of peace and multiplied by them a hundred times in the time of war-the wholesale systematic murder of the Jews of Europe goes on unabated every hour.” (op. cit. p. 761.)
Roosevelt thought that conquering Hitler would be the only and quickest way to stop the massacre. He refused to bomb the death camp at Auschwitz or the rail lines feeding it because it would require the diversion of scarce resources. (op.cit, Traitor to His Class, p. 761.)
Rhetoric was not enough for future U.S. President Harry Truman concerning the massacre of the Jews. Truman said in 1943, in what could be construed as a criticism of Roosevelt,
“Merely talking about the four freedoms is not enough. This is the time for action. No one can doubt the horrible intentions of the Nazi beasts. We know they plan the systematic slaughter throughout all of Europe, not only of the Jews, but of vast numbers of other innocent peoples.”(McCullough, David, Truman, Simon & Schuster, N.Y. 1992, p. 286.)
As President, Truman was supportive of the creation of the state of Israel.
The Atom Bomb: President Harry Truman explained his decision to use the atom bomb,
“The final decision of where and when to use the atomic bomb was up to me. Let there be no mistake about it. I regarded the bomb as a military weapon and never had any doubt that it should be used. The top military advisers to the President recommended its use. And when I talked to Churchill he unhesitatingly told me that he favored the use of the atomic bomb if it might aid to end the war.” David McCullough, Truman. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1992, p. 442.)
Some opposed the use of the atom bomb on moral grounds. The following appeared in the magazine Christian Century, August 29, 1945,
“Today a single atomic bomb slaughters tens of thousands of children and their mothers and fathers. Newspapers and radio acclaim it a great victory. Victory for what?”
Albert Camus declared,
“Technological civilization has just reached its final degree of savagery.”
Paulist priest James Gillis, a champion of social justice, a friend to labor, and an enemy of racial segregation, wrote an editorial in the Catholic World stating the use of the bomb was,
“atrocious and abominable …the most powerful blow ever delivered against Christian civilization and the moral law.” (Carroll, James, House of War, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2006, p. 43.)
There was no public comment from Pius XII directly condemning the U.S. and Truman, but the Vatican’s Observatorio Romano August 7, 1945 commented,
“This war provides a catastrophic conclusion. Incredibly this destructive weapon remains as a temptation for posterity, which we know by bitter experience, learns so little from history.”
Pope Pius XII stated,
“Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man.” (Mark Weber, www.1hr.org/jhr/16v16n3p-4_Weber.htlm - Cached.)
Dorothy Day commented in the Catholic Worker September 1945,
“Mr. Truman was jubilant. President Truman. True man; what a strange name, come to think of it. We refer to Jesus Christ as true God and true Man. Truman is a true man of his time in that he was jubilant. He was not a son of God, brother of Christ, brother of the Japanese, jubilating as he did. He went from the table on the cruiser which was bringing him home from the Big Three conference, telling the great news: ‘jubilant’ the newspapers said, Jubilate Deo. We have killed 318,000 Japanese.” (op cit, Duty of Delight, Diaries of Dorothy Day, p.95.)
After the War
After the war Adler and Farrell nuanced and adjusted their before-the- war writings. Adler wrote in his autobiography,
“In 1945, both Father Farrell and I delivered addresses at the American Catholic Philosophical Association, in which we took the position that the superiority of democracy to all other forms of government could no longer be questioned by philosophers who regarded themselves as Aristotelians or Thomists, even though Aristotle and Aquinas could not be quoted in support of that thesis.” (Adler, Mortimer, Philosopher at Large, p. 309, Macmillan, N.Y. 1977.)
How do you justify not speaking out about political-moral atrocities? It’s a political decision. After WWII, Pius XII said,
“The duty of repressing religious and moral error cannot be an ultimate norm of action. It must be subordinated to higher and more general norms which in some circumstances permit, and even perhaps make it appear the better course of action, that error should not be impeded in order to promote to promote the common good.” (Murray, John Courtney S.J. We Hold These Truths, Sheed and Ward, 1960, pp. 61-62 Pius XII, - discourse to Italian Journalists December 6, 1953)
Looking ahead, to the dramatic changes brought about by Vatican II, John Paul II, Apostolic Letter sent on the 50th anniversary of WW II:
“I wish to repeat here in the strongest possible way that hostility and hatred against Judaism are in complete contradiction to the Christian vision of human dignity.” August 27, 1989.
In 2000 John Paul II visited ad Vashem, The National Holocaust Memorial in Israel. “I assure the Jewish people the Catholic Church … is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time, in any place.”
He added, “There are no words strong enough to deplore the terrible tragedy of the holocaust.” Vatican II document Nostra Aetate, October 1965: “…what happened in his (Jesus Christ’s) passion cannot be blamed upon all the Jews then living, without distinction, nor upon the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as repudiated or cursed as if such views followed from Holy Scriptures.”
Conclusion: some opinions
Theologian, John Courtney Murray, tied American Catholic theology and philosophy to U.S. Political Democracy after WW II apparently following the lead of fellow Jesuit Joseph Husslein. He wrote that the Declaration of Independence was in agreement with Natural Law theory. He dismissed the notion that democracy was ‘in line’ with the ‘social contract theory’ by simply declaring that no one believes in the ‘Social Contract’ any more. “We no longer believe, with Locke or Hobbes, that man escapes from a mythical ‘state of nature’ by an act of the will by social contract.” (John Courtney Murray, We Hold These Truths, Sheed and Ward, New York, 1960, p. 7.)
The ‘social contract’ theory and moral relativism implies an atomistic ontology, e.g. - everyone for themselves – survival of the fittest. Atomists would contend the ‘common good’ or the ‘General Welfare’ means the ‘Greatest Good for the greatest number.’ In their most notable speeches both Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt use the word ‘charity’ in the classical sense of selfless love. This is not a word for political policy used by today’s survival of the fittest Ayn Rand followers.
The ‘social contract’ theory breaks down when it is admitted that the majority is not always correct, and there needs to be another standard of judgment. The ‘natural law’ theory fits the bill, but it needs to be reinterpreted. Retired MATC professor and union activist Anne Channell suggested, “It’s just human decency.” If the majority is not always correct, the voice of the minority must be listened to and protected. The best argument for the minority, opposing the majority, is reference to the standard ‘human decency.’ Common sense demands consideration of the common good as defined by Vatican II,
“…the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment.” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church)
Even with the solid framework of the natural law and measured interpretation of Sacred Scripture, complete certitude is not always possible in political morality. Decisions rest on probabilities based on available information, but also sentiments and prejudices which are not always susceptible to immediate analysis. The decisions themselves are political, and unintended moral error is always possible. A broker who takes bets for a living would understand. Despite the uncertainty, especially in times with rapidly changing technology and politics, moral decisions must be made. The best decisions are made, with the least amount of anxiety possible, in Faith, perhaps without direct connection to an organized belief system or theology – e.g. Abraham Lincoln. Moral political decisions must be made with the goal of the common good in light of a ‘preferential option for the poor.’ No longer are political-moral decisions simply local. We must be always aware that we live in a ‘global village.’