Dr. Noah Nissani was born in Buenos Aires in 1922, to a Zionist, Revisionist, classically liberal family. His father was a founder of the Zionist Federation in Argentina, his mother founded the Argentina branch of WIZO. Dr. Nissani immigrated to Israel in 1963, taught mathematics and physics in high schools in Dimona and Sde-Boker and was the first principal of Yerucham high school. He received a BSc. in Mathematics, Physics and Education from the Hebrew University, and an MSc. and Ph.D. in physics from Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva. He wrote a book ntitled “Gravitation,” in collaboration with Prof. Moshe Carmeli and Dr. Elhanan Leibowitz, as well as many papers presenting scientific innovations. Dr. Noah Nissani passed away in 2008. We are grateful to Hopeways.org for giving us permission to publish his important observations here.
The political terms “Right” and “Left” were born in the French Revolution, when two different revolutionary factions took seats in the French National Assembly’s hall: the Girondins on the right wing and the Jacobins on the left wing. Their political outlooks were opposed and hostile to each other, although they shared the same ideology and aspired to the same goal: more “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity”.
The Girondins started a process of creating a liberal-democratic regime, fashioned after the English model, which had been a stable system for six centuries, but the process lasted less than three years and halted when the Jacobins came to power. The new rulers drowned France with the blood of some 100,000 victims, during the period known as the “Reign of Terror”, and eventually crowned an emperor in the king’s place, then left Europe torn through a series of wars.
This article attempts to examine the essential differences between the psycho-philosophical backgrounds of these two parties, thus seeking to understand the reasons for the horrific 20th Century drama, when hundreds of millions of people were murdered by their own governments. There are three psycho-philosophical differences between the two parties that seem most meaningful:
A. Dividing human beings into “good ones” and “bad ones,” as opposed to recognizing the universal human weakness
B. Atheism versus religiousness
C. Rationalism versus empiricism
A. “GOOD AND BAD PEOPLE” VERSUS RECOGNIZING THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN WEAKNESS
The most significant difference between these two revolutionary outlooks seems to be that, unlike the Girondins, the Jacobins divided all people between good people and bad ones, honest people and wicked ones(1). The lower classes, who suffered from the nobility’s exploitation and tyranny, were the good and honest people. The oppressive aristocracy and its collaborators were the bad and corrupt ones.
In line with this perception and due to their view of social processes as struggles between good and evil, the Jacobins’ rule started the darkest period of the French Revolution, first murdering aristocrats and then those suspected as their associates(2) . But this was only an introduction to the events that humankind was to experience a century later, when other arrogant “good people”, the Marxists, took over large parts of the world.
Unlike the Jacobins, many of the Gerondins came from aristocratic background. Inspired by the Bible and the Greek philosophers, they held that all people were essentially equal. They had no fixed definitions for enemies who had to be fought, and their intention was to change the regime, from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional-parliamentarian one, much like the English model, thus abolishing the excessive privileges of the upper classes.
B. ATHEISM VERSUS RELIGIOUSNESS
The Jacobean atheism was integrated with rationalism, which is discussed in the next section, and with the dismissal of Judeo-Christian scriptures(3). The act that expressed this attitude was the introduction of a statue into the Notre Dam Cathedral of Paris, declaring it as “the god of reason”. Their rise to power was probably the first time in history where an atheist ideology, as opposed to atheist individuals, took over an entire country.(4)
On the other side of the French National Assembly, the Girondins, who shared the ideology of English Liberalism, supported the freedom of religion and the equality of all churches and religious movements, thus abolishing the privileges and the official status of the Catholic Church as the state religion(5) . Their views were religious in essence, deeply influenced by the Bible, the Greek philosophers and the Freemasons(6) . They combined religious values and the humility of the ruler who kneels before a higher being, with the values of free speech and thought(7).
C. RATIONALISM VERSUS EMPIRICISM
The impressive achievements of Newtonian mechanics in describing the laws of movement of both earthly and celestial bodies, through a small number of simple mathematical formulas drove many, including the Jacobins, into a certain type of megalomania – Rationalism, an exaggerated faith in human logic. Lacking the knowledge about Newton’s empirical methods, based on Tycho Brahe’s experiments a century earlier, and the lack of understanding of the process of trial and error through which science makes progress – a process that is basically not different from the way mice find their way in a labyrinth, made them believe in the human ability to find out the absolute truth through deductive methods. These methods are wrongly thought to be employed in mathematics, and especially in geometry. Therefore, the scientific progress that followed from Newton’s contribution encouraged a new form of an old arrogance, described in the Bible: the arrogance of the builders of the tower of Babylon.
Unlike the Jacobean rationalism, represented by Voltaire, the chief Girondin ideologue Montesquieu, followed Aristotle’s empirical method. He added to the research of around 150 regimes, which served as the basis for Aristotle’s “Politics”, another twenty years of study, with a team of assistants, for writing his book “The Spirit of the Laws” (1748). Together with the Bible and the Greek philosophers, this book guided the founding fathers of the American Revolution in shaping the principles and institutions of the United States. This Liberal Democracy has proven its viability for over two centuries, to this very day.
A. FAITH IN “GOOD AND BAD PEOPLE” VERSUS HUMAN EQUALITY
The Liberal revolutions in England and the USA contained all the psycho-philosophical aspects of the Girondin right wing and luckily for their success and stability, they had no faction similar to the Jacobin Left. The English revolution was led by aristocrats and the clergy. The former used their influence and the latter contributed the ideology. It took place in the 13th Century, i.e. before the Renaissance and the spread of the Classical Greek culture in Europe. Thus, the only source for this Liberal ideology was the Bible, which emphasizes the basic duality of human nature, whose soul and psyche combines good and evil, generosity and egotism, love and hate, cowardice and courage. (8)
Most of the founding fathers of the American Revolution were pious Christians. As devout Protestants, they were committed to studying the Bible which, together with the Greek philosophers and Montesquieu, guided them in shaping their constitution and institutions. All three sources have in common a religious and empirical approach that stresses the complexity of human nature, which is fundamentally equal in all human beings.
Following the Jacobin example, the Marxists accurately defined themselves as Left and divided all human beings into “good” and “evil” ones. The “good people” were the proletariat who had no means of production, and the “bad ones” were the bourgeoisie who monopolized the means of production. As a result, while the Jacobins “kindly” murdered around 100,000 people, the Marxists killed in their “war against the bad people” – their “class struggle” – over 100 millions. They turned the 20th Century, “the century of lights” that started with high hopes for the rule of reason, into the most horrible era in human history. (9)
The Nazis too divided humankind into “bad” and “good” people. The Jews were bad and Aryans, particularly the Germans, were good. They added to the 20th Century’s balance of slaughter around 20 million victims, 6 millions of them were Jewish. In contrast, the Fascists followed the Girondins in this respect. They defined no enemies and committed no genocide in their own countries except for 8000 Jews sent from Italy to Germany. (10)
B. ATHEISM VERSUS RELIGIOUSNESS
We mentioned above the Bible-based religiosity of the founders of the American and English Liberal revolutions.
Marxism, the atheist ideology that regarded religion as “opium for the masses”, fulfilled in the 20th Century the first of the two horrible centuries that Nietzsche foresaw. (see note 4)
The Nazis were atheists too and specially resented religions and morality of Jewish origin.
The fascists, on the other hand, joined the Right on the issue of religion, and coined the motto: “God, Fatherland, Family and Work.”
C. RATIONALISM VERSUS EMPIRICISM
The thinkers of the English liberalism and the American Revolution, relied on the same empirical sources of the Girondins: the Bible, the Greek philosophers and Montesquieu’s scientific research.
In contrast, the Marxists adopted a total faith in their power to create a just society through the exclusive influence of reason. In their arrogance, they did not feel a need to test empirically their “scientific socialism”, created by Marx’s rational thoughts, before applying it to billions of people with disastrous results.
The fascists too adopted rationalism, believing in the sole power of human reason, without empirical experimentation, to create a better, more just society. This led to the corporativism, the brainchild of Benitto Mussolini, a former Marxist ideologue.
Nazism has fulfilled Nietzsche’s hope, that after the Jacobean and Marxist Judeo-Christian morality destroys religion, this irrational system of protecting the weak, which contradicts the needs of Darwinian evolution, will also destroy itself. According to Nietzsche, this will bring about two centuries of horror, but also full of hope that the morality which natural selection rationally dictates – the rule of the strong and the elimination of the weak – will lead humankind to its correct course of development. (see note 4)
Out of the three psycho-philosophical differences that separated Jacobins and Girondins, despite their common ideology – good & bad versus equals, atheists versus religious, and rationalists versus empiricists – which we may characterise as arrogant versus humble positions, we find that:
1. The three arrogant positions are common to Jacobins, Marxists and Nazis
2. The three humble positions are common to Girondins and the founders of the English and American Liberal revolutions
3. Fascism has only rationalism in common with the Jacobins, but holds like the Girondins that humans are equal and respects religion
1) The faith in dividing humankind into good and bad people and in the perpetual struggle that ensues between them is deeply rooted in human psychology. It can be traced back to prehistoric times – to the Zoroastrian religion, which some scholars hold that it appeared 18 centuries before Christianity. This religion was dominant in the Persian Empire for over 1,000 years and spread from India to Ethiopia. It is based on faith in two supreme beings that constantly fight each other – Ohrmazd is the creator of the world and all that is good in it, while Ahriman is the source of all evil. An echo of this perception seems to appear in the Dead Sea Scrolls, where the struggle is between Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness. The Bible too mentions Satan, the evil angel, but it is referred to briefly and marginally, for example in the philosophical dialogues in the books of Job and Zechariah (3; 1), and expresses an allegory rather than actual faith.
2) Antoine L. Lavoisier (1743-1794), the founder of modern Chemistry, was among the “servants of the aristocracy” who were murdered by the Jacobins.
3) Voltaire (1694-1778), the dominant Jacobean thinker-ideologue, expresses his opposition to the Judeo-Christian scriptures: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” The appalling history of the 20th Century shows that the worse horrors are often carried out by those who refuse to believe in Voltaire’s “absurdities”.
4) The Jacobins rise to power that brought about the bloodshed of the “Reign of Terror”, may have inspired Nietzsche, when he wrote at the end of the 19th Century: “That’s the way Christianity was destroyed as dogma by its own morality, that’s the way Christendom as morality must now be destroyed. We stand on the threshold of this event… That great spectacle in one hundred acts, which remains reserved for the next two centuries in Europe, that most fearful, most questionable, and perhaps also most hopeful of all spectacles…” (Friedrich Nietzsche, “Genealogy of Morality”)
5) In fact it was the wish of the Assembly that Catholicism should cease to be the religion of the State and that liberty of worship should be established. It subsequently declared Protestants eligible to all offices (24 Dec. 1789), restored to their possessions and status as Frenchmen the heirs of Protestant refugees (10 July and 9 Dec. 1790), and took measures in favour of the Jews (28 January, 26 July, and 16 Aug 1790). (“Catholic Encyclopaedia, French Revolution).
6) The Freemasons formed in the 18th and 19th Centuries a kind of a Liberal “International”, whose members included such heroes of the American Revolution as Washington, St. Martin and Bolivar, as well as Montesquieu, Jabotinsky and almost any worthwhile Liberal. They accepted members from all faiths, who were asked upon joining to swear by the “Great Architect”, as a general symbol of the Creator in whom all religions believe. This naturally closed the door to all atheists. They congregated in places called “Temples”, which was adorned with two pillars that were named after the pillars of Solomon’s Temple.
7) The religious foundation appears in all three sources of English, American and Girondin Liberalism – the Bible, the Greek philosophers and Montesquieu.
Aristotle compares the rule of law to the rule of God: “Therefore he who bids the law rule may be deemed to bid God and Reason alone rule, but he who bids man rule adds an element of the beast; for desire is a wild beast, and passion perverts the minds of rulers, even when they are the best of men.” (Politics, III, XVI)
Plato claims that humans are incapable of setting laws: “What, then, he said, is still remaining to us of the work of, legislation? Nothing to us, I replied; but to Apollo, the God of Delphi there remains the ordering of the greatest and noblest and chiefest things of all.” (Plato, The Republic, IV)
Following the Bible and the Greek philosophers, Montesquieu held: “But the intelligent world is far from being so well governed as the physical. For though the former has also its laws, which of their own nature are invariable, it does not conform to them so exactly as the physical world.” (Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, i, I, 1).
And Jefferson too, in the USA Declaration of Independence: ” the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”.
And then, the main ideologue of Argentinean Liberalism, Juan Bautista Alberdi: “These facts, the natural elements of the proper constitution, which the Republic already owns, as a result of time and from God, should be matters for learning and phrasing, not of creation.” (Alberdi, “Basics and Starting Points to Political Organisation of the Republic of Argentina”, 1852, chapter 17).
8) Some examples for the Bible’s concept of human equality:
A) All the patriarchs of the “chosen people” are described in the Bible as human beings with all the moral weakness of ordinary people. But their human dualism does not prevent God from choosing them as the founders of the nation that was chosen to spread His faith to all people.
B) The glorious King David, the ancestor of the Messiah, the redeemer of his people and of all humankind, is not exactly a pure angel and his sins include even murder. Interestingly, the Biblical story openly relates his ancestry, which is also the origin of the Messiah: On one side he is descended from incest between Lot and his daughters, and his other includes Judah who had a forbidden relationship with Tamar, his daughter in law.
C) The Bible makes sure that the descendants of the nation’s leaders would not hold themselves superior to other people. It describes Samuel’s sons as takers of bribery (Samuel I, 8, 3) and a grandson of Moses as a pagan priest (in the Book of Judges, 18, 30, the Hebrew text reads “Menashe”, but the letter “Nun” is small, and the sages interpret it as an addition to “Moshe” – Moses.)
D) In an episode that inspired the legal philosophy of Classical Liberalism, God comforts Cain by telling him that his actions do not mean that he is worse than those who pretend to be good. He gives Cain a special mark to protect him from harm, blesses him with a loving family, with a son, after whose name the first city was called, and whose offsprings included the inventors of metallurgy, music and more.
(In some translations of the Bible have been introduced, in the text of this affair, sentences that make its sense more childish and canonical. In the New King James Version, Genesis 4:6. we read: “If you do well [will you not be accepted?] And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door…” The sentence in brackets does not appear in the Hebrew version.)
9) These terrible numbers do not include the soldiers and civilians who died in actual combat operations. See “Power Kills” in the Encyclopaedia of Genocide by the Institute of Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem, (http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/20TH.HTM).
10) Mussolini rose to power in 1922 and assumed absolute power in 1924. From 1938, when Italy came under Hitler’s influence, due to its isolation by most of the imperial powers after the conquest of Ethiopia, the first anti-Semitic laws were passed in Italy. During World War II, around 8,000 of Italy’s 45,000 Jews were deported to German extermination camps. The fascist regimes in Spain, Portugal and Argentina did not adopt racist policies, or divisions between good people and bad ones. Only Portugal comes after Britain in the list of 20th Century genocide champions in the essay “Power Kills” (Encyclopaedia of Genocide), and as it, in committing crimes against humanity in its overseas colonies.
The United States also comes close to join this list of genocide champions (Encyclopaedia of Genocide, Table 3, Pg. 25 – 30), if to the genocide in the Philippines is added the bombardments of civilian population in Germany and Japan. In all, around 2 million people were killed in genocide that democracies committed in the 20th Century.