In 1993, I published a book titled Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview.1 In it, I showed that the various fascist movements in Europe of the 1930s and 1940s were facets of the modernist movement, particularly, the branch of that movement that morphed into postmodernism. I also showed that the intellectual establishment of the 1990s, as represented in the academia of the time, was still holding to the ideas of the intellectual establishment of the 1930s that gave us Adolf Hitler, the Holocaust, and World War II, as if those catastrophes had never happened. But, as I wrote,

My concern is not so much with the current intellectual scene as it is with what might come next. What will the “post-contemporary” movement look like, once the postmodernists have successfully discredited objectivity, freedom, and morality? What sort of society will be erected on the rubble, once the Western tradition is deconstructed?2

“What might come next”? Well, Tabletalk has asked me to revisit my book to see how it stands up nearly three decades later. Reading it again after all these years was an unsettling experience. Much of what I predicted and warned against has come true. And even when I was wrong, I was wrong in underestimating the magnitude of the fascist revival.

As an undergraduate, I took a history seminar on early-twentieth-century Europe in which we studied the rise of fascism, which, to my surprise, was actually an avant-garde form of socialism involving some of the most distinguished thinkers and artists of the day. Then, as a graduate student in literature at a time when deconstruction and postmodern were in vogue, I observed the carefully controlled fallout over Victor Farias’ Heidegger and Nazism, which showed that the godfather of postmodernism, the twentieth-century philosopher Martin Heidegger, was not only a committed Nazi who presided over the purge of Jews in his university but a member of that party’s most radical faction. The same rationalizations accompanied the publication of Wartime Journalism: 1939–1943 by Paul De Man, which showed that the author, one of the fathers of deconstruction in literature, honed his ideas in writings published in Nazi publications in occupied Belgium.

As I started my career in Christian academia, I kept coming across related facts. I read an article by Raymond Surburg in Concordia Theological Quarterly about two important pioneers of the historical-critical approach to the Bible that demonstrated how their attacks on the Old Testament were motivated by their open anti-Semitism and by their desire to purge Christianity of its “Jewish” elements and thus the influence of the Bible. One of my colleagues, William Houser, a communications professor, discussed with me the contrast between Hitler’s ideal of “the triumph of the will,” captured in Leni Riefenstahl’s artistically acclaimed propaganda film of that name, and Luther’s “bondage of the will.” I also read the critique of Christianity and its ethic of love by Friedrich Nietzsche, the nineteenth-century philosopher venerated both by the S.S. concentration camp guards and many of my graduate school professors.

I wanted to connect the dots. Concordia Publishing House had started a monograph series and asked me to contribute something. After much research wherein I found that the connections I was making were fully supported by specialists in the field, I wrote Modern Fascism. That was not my choice for the title, which makes it sound like a book on contemporary political cults. Its subtitle captures my thesis: Fascism was all about “liquidating” the “Jewish elements” in Western civilization—that is to say, the influence of the Bible, specifically transcendent morality, objective truth, the value of the individual, etc.—in favor of reviving a neopagan worldview of power, constructivism, and collectivism.

What will the “post-contemporary” movement look like, once the postmodernists have successfully discredited objectivity, freedom, and morality?

Here is a summary of what I found:

A set of ideas is emerging from today’s academic world that is startlingly reminiscent of what the fascist theorists were saying in the 1930s: individual identity is a myth, insofar as identity is really determined by culture and ethnicity; laws and social conventions are only masks for power; human-centered values are part of a corrupt Western civilization; the transcendent meaning of reason, objectivity, and language is an illusion. Is it possible that those who hold these views do not realize that these are also the doctrines of fascism?3

Sound familiar?

In the 1990s, those ideas were “emerging” in academic circles, but today, they dominate universities, to the point that dissenters are silenced. And they have spilled over into popular culture, public policy, the government, and the attitudes of ordinary Americans.

To be sure, such views are associated with the “left,” and such “critical theory” derives from “post-Marxism.” But, as I show, despite Marxist propaganda and the antics of today’s “Antifa” anti-fascists—who emulate Mussolini’s agitators down to their black shirts—fascism is not extreme conservatism. No one who believes, as most conservatives do, in limited government and individual liberty could be a fascist. Rather, fascism was an alternative form of totalitarian socialism (as in Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party, or Nazis), which replaces Marxist class conflict with the conflict between ethnic groups. Which is exactly the post-Marxist innovation.

To be sure, today’s critical theorists who reduce all of culture to one group exercising power over other groups do so in a professed attempt to liberate the oppressed. The Nazis, on the other hand, exulted in their exercise of power over others. Today’s humane-seeming leftists, as I say, “work with unexamined moral assumptions, overlooking the way they have demolished the basis of those assumptions.”4

In the book’s chapter on ethics, I discuss how the fascist thinkers were replacing a transcendent, objective approach to ethics, which is the legacy of the Bible, with an ethics constructed by the will (you can see it in the euphemism of being “pro-choice” in matters of abortion). Though the unreflective masses simply follow the values of their culture (e.g., “cultural relativism”), the elite construct ethics as an act of power, whether in subjugation or in resistance.

I show how this approach to ethics, combined with the pseudosciences of Darwinism and race theory, led to the notion that there is “life unworthy of life,” in the words of a Nazi propaganda movie, that should simply be extinguished. I trace the straight line between eugenics, euthanasia, and the death camps.

I find other parallels with fascist religious ideas, both neopagan and the attempt to de-Judaize Christianity, and the popular spirituality and liberal theology of today. Also, fascist philosophy is evident in aesthetics and popular culture.

But I didn’t predict everything, and sometimes today’s reality is worse than I predicted . When I wrote about mass-consciousness and propaganda, I discussed the chief Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels’ use of film and radio, comparing it to the 1990s mass media. I wrote, “One wonders what he could have done with television.”5 One wonders what he could have done with the internet!

But what I said about Hitler’s mob psychology sounds startlingly descriptive of what happens on today’s social media, something unknown either in the 1930s or the 1990s: “Individuals who are personally gentle and kind-hearted can turn murderous when they give up their personalities to that of the larger group.”

Fascist thinkers were replacing a transcendent, objective approach to ethics, which is the legacy of the Bible, with an ethics constructed by the will.

And the Nazi regime’s approach to dissidents bears a strong resemblance to the mentality behind today’s “cancel culture”:

Those who dissented with the regime were seen not as people who disagreed intellectually or philosophically, but as people with hostile wills. In rejecting the common will, they were guilty of not belonging. This is perhaps why the Nazi apparatus was so thorough in its interrogations—what was wanted was not so much conformity but assent. Those who disagreed were exhibiting a contrary will; they were not skeptics but enemies.6

In my book, I distinguished between Hitler’s Nazism, which was obsessed with race, and Mussolini’s fascism, which was not. In making parallels with the 1990s, I mostly emphasized nonracial fascism, assuming that race as an essential category was no longer being seriously considered by anyone. But now race has returned with a vengeance.

Not only critical theory but critical race theory has become a dominant ideology, being taught in schools and even churches. Responding to racial injustice is good, but critical race theory, in addition to reducing American history and culture to racial oppression, treats “blackness” and “whiteness” as essential and deterministic categories. Jewish writers, alarmed by the surge in anti-Semitism, note that the evils associated with “whiteness”—cold rationalism, financial exploitation, harsh objectivity, etc.—are the same qualities that the Nazis associated with the Jews.

Again, critical race theorists are championing what they consider the oppressed race. But their framework for doing so can only serve the cause of racism by reducing human beings’ identity to their racial categories. And it is no wonder that overt swastika-brandishing, Sieg-heiling Nazi cults have re-emerged, with white supremacists applying critical race theory to themselves, arguing that the white race is the one being oppressed.

My book focused on the worldview of fascism. It is also, of course, an economic theory, one that allows for private ownership while the state controls the economy. Opposed to free markets and to capitalism, national socialism promotes the union of corporations and state power. This appears similar to the new brand of Chinese communism, which allows for corporate profits but without individual liberty in the context of a totalitarian state. How America’s “woke capitalism”—with its monopolies, opposition to competition, government favors, and ideological activism—fits into this model is still developing.

In my book, I offer the possibility that what might emerge is “a completely different form of fascism, a fascism with a human face,”7 describing a collectivist utopia of happy, state-controlled conformists bound into a common will.

But that is not what is emerging at all. More prescient is my penultimate paragraph:

The 20th century [I would say now the 21st century] persists in its obsession with primitive emotions, irrational subjectivity, moral revolt, anti-transcendence, and the triumph of the will. But civilization is fragile. Deep in the human heart is what St. Paul called “the mystery of iniquity,” which is barely held in check by the objective restraints of law, reason, and conscience. To eliminate those restraints is to unleash hell on earth.8


  1. Gene Edward Veith Jr., Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview (St. Louis: Concordia, 1993). ↩︎
  2. Veith, Modern Fascism, 23. ↩︎
  3. Veith, Modern Fascism, 21–22. ↩︎
  4. Veith, Modern Fascism, 23. ↩︎
  5. Veith, Modern Fascism, 147. ↩︎
  6. Veith, Modern Fascism, 91. ↩︎
  7. Veith, Modern Fascism, 158. ↩︎
  8. Veith, Modern Fascism, 159. ↩︎


Editor’s Note: Dr. Veith recently recorded an interview at White Horse Inn reflecting on his 1993 work Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview. Listen here

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