By JR on Friday, September 11, 2015
Was Santamaria a Fascist?
I suppose it's all water under the bridge now but I think I should add a brief note to my previous commentary on B.A. Santamaria. He was a big influence in postwar Australia and it is only a small stretch to say that he was responsible for giving postwar Australia many years of conservative government.
My previous comments attempted to fix some lacunae in Gerard Henderson's account of Santamaria. And I see that I am not alone in seeing lacunae there. There is a long and rambling comment from the Left here. The writer, Guy Rundle, is obviously immersed in his subject and I guess the lacunae he identifies are important to the Left but, for the most part, I did not see much of conservative interest.
One thing that I did learn from Rundle, however, was that Santamaria had some kind words to say about Fascism in his early days. He was not alone in that, of course. FDR, America's great Leftist hero, did too.
But the mention of Fascism did make some things fall into place. My own diagnosis of Santa was that he was Leftishly inclined but subordinated that to his Catholicism, specifically the Catholicism of Pope Leo XIII's influential 1891 encyclical De rerum novarum. So sympathy for Fascism fits in with that. De rerum novarum was of course the Pope's response to Communism. It proposed a middle way between Communism and capitalism. And that "Third way" was very much what Mussolini adopted as his own economic program ("corporatism"). Though the Pope envisaged a bigger role for the church than Mussolini allowed.
I cannot resist mentioning parenthetically that Tony Blair's "third way" was something of a revival of those older third ways. Blair is, after all, a Catholic. De rerum novarum could well be a New Labour manifesto. So, with his electoral success, Blair showed that Fascism still has a lot of popular appeal. And stumpy little Nicola Sturgeon is a very successful exponent of it right now. Her kilt-wearing storm troops certainly evoke thoughts of the Sturmabteilung
So Santa would of course like Fascism. Fascism operationalized church teaching and that teaching did authorize a very meddlesome State (See paragraphs 32 ff of the encyclical), which is the characteristic Leftist program. So Fascism at once satisfied Santa's Leftism and his Catholicism. If I may be so bold as to summarize the encyclical in a few words, Leo XIII says that all men being equal is an absurdity so both charities and the State must step in to ensure a decent life for the poor. And Leo went into great detail about what the State should and should not do.
Something that puzzled me was Santamaria's glorification of rural life. There is no mention of that in the encyclical. But the glorification of rural life was very Fascist, particularly in the case of Nazism, so that also welds Santa to Fascism.
And is it relevant that both Santa and Mussolini were Italian?
Mussolini did however eventually choose the wrong side in WWII so Fascism came into bad repute, which is why Santa soon stopped mentioning it. Clearly, however, he was essentially a Fascist.