THE UNIVERSITIES IN DICTATORSHIPS | By: Ernesto Rodríguez • Diario de Los Andes, news from Los Andes, Trujillo, Táchira and Mérida

All dictatorships have been characterized by their hatred of the free expression of ideas in universities. Indeed, it is important to know some historical antecedents such as that of Fascism in Italy established by Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) from October 1922 to July 1943. An important precursor of Fascism was the movement known as ‘Futurism’ founded by Emilio Filipo Marinetti (1876-1944) on February 20, 1909 with his ‘Futurism Manifesto’ which among other ‘pearls’ says: “We want to glorify militarism (…) we want to destroy museums, libraries and all academies (…) liberate this country from the fetid gangrene of its teachers ”. In 1929 Marinetti was appointed ‘Secretary of the Fascist National Union of Writers and Academics of Italy’.

On the other hand, the Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile (1875-1944) was one of the greatest exponents of 20th century Italian ‘philosophical idealism’ and argued that nothing is real except the pure act of thought and hence the name of his philosophy as’ Actualism ‘or’ Actual Idealism ‘or’ Theory of the Spirit as a Pure Act ‘. Gentile was Minister of Public Instruction between 1922 and 1924 and we are going to quote verbatim what is said in the well-known Illustrated Atlas of Fascism (1): “In 1923 Gentile laid out the measures for the reform of the school. The most ‘fascist of the reforms’, as Mussolini pompously presented it, had an authoritarian imprint (…) The ‘educating state’ had to give proof of its power, first in school and then in society; Not only was the school structure organized in a strictly hierarchical sense, but from the pedagogical – ideological point of view all decisions were directed towards an ‘anti-scientific’ school. Classical education was assured absolute pre-eminence (the gymnasium-lyceum for the training of the ruling elites) and scientific, technical and professional studies were postponed ”(pages 56-58)… ..Note the anti-scientific attitude of fascism !!! !… ..But let’s continue to quote: “Gentile devoted great attention to the university world (…) inspired one of his trusted men, the Minister of National Education Balbino Giuliano, to impose the oath of fidelity on university professors: the decree On August 28, 1931, the formula of devotion “to the fascist regime” was included in the oath of fidelity “to the fatherland”, already imposed in the general university regulations of 1924. Only twelve professors refused the oath and were expelled ”(page 91). There were also the Fascist University Groups and “Among its cultural activities we can remember the Fascist Mystical School (Milan, 1930) that had to propagate the ideals of fascist life through conferences, conventions and from 1940, glosses of Mussolinian speeches (Lecturae Ducis) ”(Page 93). Likewise, “The motto of the Italian Youth of the Lictorio, an institution founded in 1937 to organize fascist youth, was“ Believe, Obey, Combat ”(page 97).

On the other hand, it is pertinent to remember that Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) ended university autonomy and let us see the luminaries he chose to direct education: “To direct the ‘Reich Ministry for Science, Education and Popular Culture’ , whose mission was for the Reich to unify and control all German science inside and outside the universities (…) Hitler appointed Bernhard Rust, who had been a provincial school teacher fired for sexually abusing a female student and evaded trial with the argument that he suffered from mental illness. For Rust the purpose of education was to create Nazis. ” The rules of the universities were changed and the rectors were appointed by Rust who: “In 1933 he decreed that students and professors should greet each other with the Nazi salute ‘Heil Hitler!’ (2). That salute means: ‘Hail Hitler’. Students and teachers were incited to act as police informants, and on April 8, 1933, a memorandum reached the ‘Nazi Student Organizations’ ordering the burning of ‘culturally destructive’ books in public libraries and universities. The ‘German Student Association’ began its activity in May 1933 and books by anti-Nazi or Jewish authors were burned. Jewish teachers and students were expelled according to the ‘Racial Policy of Nazi Germany’. Among the eminent university professors who were expelled or were forced to flee to other countries we can mention: Albert Einstein (1879-1955), Jewish German physicist and Nobel Prize winner in Physics in 1921. Fritz Haber (1868-1934), German chemist Jew and Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918 who was expelled in 1930. Otto Fritz Meyerhof (1884-1951), German Jewish doctor and Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1922. Max Born (1882-1970), German Jewish physicist and Nobel Prize winner in Physics in 1954. Martin Buber (1878-1965), Israeli philosopher. Ernst Bloch (1885-1977), German philosopher with a Jewish family. Theodor Adorno (1903-1969), Jewish German sociologist. Max Horkheimer (1895-1973), Jewish German philosopher. Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979), German Jewish philosopher and Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945), German philosopher of Jewish origin. In effect, Hitler, regarding the academic freedom of teachers, said: “We are at the end of the Age of Reason (…) There is no truth either in the moral sense or in the scientific sense (…) the slogan of science objective has been coined by teachers to escape the necessary supervision by the power of the state ”(3). We see that Hitler ranted about the ‘Age of Reason’ or ‘Enlightenment’, which was the philosophical and scientific movement that emphasized the rational, libertarian and anti-superstitious attitudes, which existed in Europe mainly in the 18th century.

It is also important to remember that the phony Hitler disguised himself as a ‘revolutionary socialist’ and on May 1, 1927 he delivered an incendiary speech against capitalism: “We are socialists, we are enemies of the capitalist economic system (…) and we are determined to destroy it. capitalist system in all its aspects ”(4).

We must also always remember the famous incident on October 12, 1936 when the Basque intellectual Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936) had a verbal confrontation with the Spanish fascist general José Millán Astray y Terreros (1879-1954). Let’s see the details.

Millán Astray was an invalid war veteran with only one leg, one eye, one arm, and few fingers on his remaining hand. His motto was: ‘Long live Death!’ The aforementioned day was celebrated the ‘Day of the Race’ in said university whose rector was Unamuno. After the formal start, General Millán Astray intervened and violently attacked the Basque Province and the Province of Catalonia for their autonomist claims, saying: “they are a cancer in the body of the nation. The Fascism that heals Spain will know how to exterminate them by cutting healthy meat like a surgeon without sentimentality ”. Then one of his followers shouted: ‘Long live Death!’, And Millán Astray chanted with his followers: “Spain… One!… Spain… Great!… Spain… Free!”. The Falange was the Spanish fascist party founded in 1933 and the Falangists present at the event made the fascist salute before the portrait of the Spanish military dictator Francisco Franco (1892-1975). Then all eyes turned to Unamuno who was Basque and said: “you all know me and you know that I am unable to remain silent. There are times when being silent is lying. Because silence can be interpreted as consent (…) I recently heard a necrophilic and absurd cry: ‘Long live Death’ (…) General Millán Astray is an invalid, crudely said. It is a war invalid. So was Cervantes (…) It pains me to think that General Millán Astray guides the psychology of the masses. An invalid who lacks the greatness of a Cervantes will seek relief by causing mutilation around him ”. Then Millán Astray interrupted him violently, shouting: “Down with Intelligence! … Long live Death!” amid thunderous ovations from his fanatical fascist supporters. Then Unamuno continued: “This is the temple of the intellect and I am its highest priest. It is you who desecrate your sacred precinct. You will win because you have too much brute force. But you will not convince, because to convince you need to persuade, and to persuade you need what you do not have: reason and right in the fight ”(5).

In contrast to the ideas of the fascists, it is important to remember that Simón Bolívar (1783-1830) decreed university autonomy on June 24, 1827 and was a great lover of universities, as he endowed the University of Caracas with rich estates for that with their income it was financed guaranteeing its economic independence. Consequently, we must defend university autonomy, which is very important for free thought, democracy, rationality and science. NOTES: (1) ‘Illustrated Atlas of Fascism’. Texts by Francesca Tacchi and Jesús de Andrés. Susaeta Ediciones SA (2003) (2) Pags. 197 and 244 in Timothy Ferris (2010) ‘The Science of Liberty’. HarperCollins Pub. (3) Page 188 in Noretta Koertge (Ed., 2005) ‘Scientific Values ​​and Civic Virtues’. Oxford Univ. Press. (4) Pages. 224-225 in John Toland (1976) ‘Adolf Hitler’. Doubleday. (5) Pages. 443-444 in Hugh Thomas (1965) ‘The Spanish Civil War’. Penguin Books.


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THE UNIVERSITIES IN DICTATORSHIPS | By: Ernesto Rodríguez • Diario de Los Andes, news from Los Andes, Trujillo, Táchira and Mérida