| It doesn't stop|
at the water's edge
“”Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal constraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.
|—Robert Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism|
“”It is surprising to hear, even today, from some quarters, that fascism had some merits but made two serious mistakes: the racial laws and the entry into the war. Racism and war were not deviations or episodes from its way of thinking, but the direct and inevitable consequence.
|—Italian President Sergio Mattarella in 2018|
Fascism is a term applied to a fairly diverse range of historical regimes but is generally agreed to refer to a brand of far-right totalitarianism characterized by its obsession with the nation and often race, severe regimentation of society and the economy, and extreme levels of political violence aimed at purifying and expanding the state. The first real fascist movement emerged in Italy after World War One, and the ideology was largely defined by the writings of Benito Mussolini and the National Fascist Party who came into power in that nation between 1922 and 1943. After this, the movement diversified and spread across Europe, eventually becoming prominent in regimes such as Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany and Francisco Franco's Spain. There were also significant but unsuccessful fascist movements in democratic states as well, such as the the Silver Legion of America in the United States, and Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists in the United Kingdom. Fascism saw its downfall after World War Two and the subsequent revelation that one of the most prominent fascist states had committed arguably the most horrifying crime in human history. Unfortunately the ideology still survives in whole or in parts to this day such as for example neo-Nazism.
It's rather difficult to pin down an exact definition of what fascism actually means, as it was originally a very fluid ideology cobbled together by Mussolini (not the most stable man) based on whatever he thought would be popular in post-1918 Italy. Another difficulty arises from the fact that successful fascist politicians often ignored the promises and documents they made before coming to power. However, fascism has some general characteristics: militaristic and often expansionist nationalism, contempt for the democratic process, contempt for both capitalist democracy and leftist socialism, a belief in a natural social hierarchy, and a desire to subordinate individual interests to the will of the
nation dictator. It also often demands a "cleansing" of "inferior" individuals and ethnic groups who are not seen as contributing to a unified society.
In the 1920s and 1930s, communists came to lump all their radical opponents together under the label of "fascist" (alongside "imperialist"), and conversely to regard their fascist enemies as defenders of capitalism, despite the original fascism being not only anti-socialist, but also anti-capitalist. In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler described both capitalism and socialism as two sides of the same coin (both being allegedly controlled by Jews), and most of fascism's reputation as a right-wing philosophy came from its staunch anti-communism, nationalism, and reactionary social views. Nonetheless, its economic program was broadly populist and called for heavy state-intervention in the economy.
From this line of thinking was born the recent addition to the vernacular of using "fascist" as a snarl word to refer to any opponent, a practice which has proliferated to the point that the word fascist has lost all meaning in the historical sense.
- 1 Ideology
- 2 Fascist regimes and ideologies
- 3 Fascism and conservatism
- 4 Broadness of the term "fascism"
- 5 Fascism and the political spectrum
- 6 See also
- 7 External links
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
“”All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.
Fascist ideology centres on national unity behind a single revered dictator and for the idea that citizens must serve the state (as opposed to most forms of liberal democracy, which have an inverse view of this relationship). Fascism is largely remembered for its oppressive treatment of citizens, infringements on personal freedoms and ruthless crushing of opposition. It usually requires a cult of personality around a single central figure, hero worship, and a strong emphasis on a particularly militaristic view of national security. A running theme in fascist regimes is the concept of palingenetic ultranationalism, or that there must be an "organic" revolution that will lead to a national rebirth to a more pure era that will do away with decadence and weakness within the nation. Rarely are there many specifics given on what this may look like or how to reach this "rebirth" but it is nevertheless strongly identified with fascism, to the point where some say it is the primary difference between fascist regimes and other right-wing dictatorships. In this way fascism could be considered an extreme (or just different) take on reactionary political philosophies.
During fascism's "theoretical" phase, fascist thinkers tried to present the ideology as a happy medium between the excesses of capitalism and the hideous persecution seen by the Soviet Union's brand of communism. Fascists argued that a nation's economy could be bettered by allowing the government means of indirect control, such as through domination of cartels and businesses, and requiring capitalists to use their property in the “national interest”. In Italy, Mussolini's economic plans finally manifested themselves as a sort of corporatism; his government grouped businesses and trade unions into government-controlled corporations, which handled everything from labor contracts to production quotas. In the Dictionary of Political Thought, Roger Scruton describes corporatism like this:
“”The economy was divided into associations (called ‘syndicates’) of workers, employers and the professions; only one syndicate was allowed in each branch of industry, and all officials were either fascist politicians or else loyal to the fascist cause. According to law the syndicates were autonomous, but in fact they were run by the state. The ‘corporations’ united the syndicates in a given industry, but made no pretence at autonomy from the state.
In other words, Mussolini's quasi-socialist pretensions were simply another means to achieve totalitarian control over Italy's economy.
This holds true elsewhere for all aspects of fascist economics. Despite some socialistic rhetoric, fascists by and large remained loyal to the traditional class divisions of old; they favored the interests of the rich over the interests of the poor. While Mussolini was by no means a free-market capitalist, he maintained friendly relations with those overseas, especially in the United States by allowing foreign investment ties. As historian John Weiss noted, “Property and income distribution and the traditional class structure remained roughly the same under fascist rule. What changes there were favored the old elites or certain segments of the party leadership.” Referring to Nazi rule in Germany, historian Roger Eatwell said, “If a revolution is understood to mean a significant shift in class relations, including a redistribution of income and wealth, there was no Nazi revolution.” Even Mussolini prior to World War Two allowed business owners to do whatever they wanted, and he also cut business taxes, slackened work conditions laws, and reduced mandatory wages.
“”We observe that nothing creates fascists like the threat of freedom.
Fascists also believe that liberal democracy is obsolete and that the full mobilization under fascism is the only way to prevent national or even civilizational decline. Fascists view their assumption of power as a "course correction" that is needed to prevent the collapse of their way of life. This collapse is usually viewed as being caused by certain undesirable groups of people like liberals, Jews, or leftists. Fascism promotes the regeneration of the nation by purging it of decadence. This is why fascists aestheticized modern technology, especially as it relates to industrial efficiency and wartime violence.
A particularly revealing case study of this phenomenon is Vichy France. During the reign of Philippe Petain, the French government enacted a series of reforms under an ideological program called the "National Revolution" which aimed to reverse a perceived decline of the French nation due to liberal decadence, a perceived disrespect for traditional values, and (of course) the evil Jews. None of this was forced on the French by Nazi Germany; this was the culmination of decades of monarchist and conservative resentment after the French Revolution which came to a head after France's humiliation in the opening campaigns of World War Two.
This is why fascist movements tended to emerge after instances of national suffering. The Nazis wanted to reverse the horrid conditions Germany suffered after the Great War (which they viewed as being caused in large part by the Jews); the Italians wanted much the same. The Spanish Civil War was preceded by decades of social tension between conservative monarchists and the urban working class. In each case, far-right elements of society come into conflict with other groups, who they then blame for causing whatever problems they perceive as affecting society. They then take power and exact retribution, which takes the form of bloody massacres and purges.
Unfortunately, this is perhaps the most enduring aspect of fascism. Far-right wackjobs still like to fearmonger about fading "traditional values" and "morality" and point to what they claim is a civilizational decline being caused by the increasing influence of modern liberalism. It's the same song and dance. It's always been the same song and dance.
Nationalism and racism
“”Of course, I am against fascism with its spread of color prejudice and race hatred and working class oppression. How could any sensible Negro be otherwise?
The logical next step from the fascist concept of a needed national renewal is a general sense of extremist nationalism. The concept of the nation was of central importance to fascists, and Mussolini's break with socialism came about due to the fact that socialists held class in higher regard. Fascists historically viewed the nation as a singular entity that binds people together through shared heritage and culture. Fascists wanted to replace internationalist class conflict with nationalist class cooperation.
Fascists were and are typically racist, usually holding that non-European races are inherently inferior; they historically also almost always promoted some form of imperialism although this seems to be less common in the modern postcolonial era. Nazism meanwhile can be most characterized by its obsession with the concept of race, much of which stems from the strict pseudoscientific racial hierarchy described in Hitler's Mein Kampf.
Nationalism also led fascists to be hostile towards immigrants, particularly left-wing immigrants. This was most noticeable in France when Nazi policies were driving refugees into France; fascist thinkers in France criticized the government for accepting immigrants out of "foolish sentimentality" and for turning France into a "depository for trash." There was also the usual fearmongering over the idea that immigrants were actually infiltrating France to act as spies, an attitude which likely contributed to the antisemitic Dreyfus affair.
Fascism by and large tended to be socially conservative. Fascist Italy, for instance, cracked down on pornography, prostitution, homosexuality, and birth control as degenerate sexual deviancy, although local authorities were sporadic in their enforcement of these laws. Nazi Germany viewed homosexuality as degenerate, and persecuted homosexuals by sending them to concentration camps.
Gender roles were strictly enforced under Mussolini's government, with the man himself saying "War is to the man what maternity is to the woman." The state gave financial incentives to women to birth as many children as they could; this was part of an effort to boost birthrates and expand the Italian population. After all, more babies eventually means more soldiers. The Nazis also encouraged traditional gender roles for women, even going so far as to borrow Mussolini's idea and bestow medals upon women who gave birth to four or more children. The fascists' solution to unemployment was to boot women out of the workplace, with Mussolini saying that working was "incompatible with childbearing."
The Nazis had a complicated relationship with abortion; they were fine with it if the fetus were known to have a genetic defect or was from a non-Aryan parent, but they were unrelentingly opposed to the practice otherwise. In certain cases, abortion was compulsory.
Fascist dictatorships are usually not just content with a silent, obedient population, but expect the people to actively come out and support the regime. A successful fascist dictatorship will rely more on public opinion than on sheer oppression. This is another point where fascism differs from other right-wing dictatorships, which usually rely on little more than oppression and try to shut down public opinion.
This is because fascism emphasizes "direct action" up to and including political violence as a core method of achieving its aims. Fascism exalts the concept of the "endless struggle" for without struggle, they believe society will decay and collapse due to its own decadence. This set of beliefs is a big part of why most fascist parties formed their own private death squads before coming to power; it was their way of committing acts of political violence and of mobilizing the citizenry.
“”Fascism is the cult of organised murder, invented by the arch-enemies of society. It tends to destroy civilization and revert man to his most barbarous state.
Social Darwinism is a core component of fascist belief. Central to their ideology is the concept that nations and races must rid themselves of those individuals rendered weak by disease, mental illness, or political or social "degeneracy" in order to survive in a world defined by constant struggle. Social Darwinism was embraced by fascists because it helped them legitimize their focus on racial identity and the role of organic societal relations.
Naturally, this led to a number of fascist atrocities aimed at ridding society of its weakest members. Most infamous is Aktion T4 run by Nazi Germany, which was an effort to euthanize people with physical and mental disabilities, as well as those afflicted with severe illness or old age. The Holocaust can also be seen as an extension of this, as the Nazis believed that Jews were actively harmful to the functioning of their organic society, thus necessitating mass murder. Meanwhile, the fascist need to create greater numbers of "strong" people led to the population growth programs seen above, where fascists would encourage women of their preferred national race to give birth to as many children as possible.
Social Darwinism was also extended by fascists to the nation-scale as well. "Survival of the fittest" was used to justify fascist imperialism, as strong nations would naturally dominate the weaker as nature dictates. Weaker nations were composed of weaker people, and thus fascists saw no need to accommodate the needs of those they conquered. In fact, those people fascists considered to be weak were often eliminated, most infamously during the Holocaust, but also during the massacres committed by Mussolini in colonial Libya and Ethiopia.
In summary: the balance sheet of fascism
In Introducing Fascism: A Graphic Guide, Stuart Hood provides what he likens to a "balance sheet" of Fascism — which is to say, a non-exhaustive list of traits and attitudes that make out the core of the historical Fascist regimes;
Fascist regimes in Italy, Germany, Spain and Japan were superficially varied, drawing on different histories and traditions. But they had some or all of the following in common;
- A political philosophy which was a compound of radical ideas and mysticism, of left-wing-sounding slogans and conservative policies.
- A strong state with a powerful executive which did not require democratic consultation before acting, combined with a hatred of bourgeois democracy.
- Hatred of Communism and Socialism as political movements based on the idea of class differences and class antagonisms. Against this idea, Fascism aimed to substitute a corporative state that denied a divergence of class interests between capital and labour.
- The formation of a mass party on paramilitary lines which drew its recruits in part from the discontented and disenfranchised working-class.
- Admiration of power and the deed which found expression in the cult of violence. Training for war and violence gave free rein to sadistic and pathological characteristics.
- Authoritarian programmes which emphasized conformity, discipline and submission. Society was militarized and directed by a messianic leader.
- The cultivation of irrationality — the impulse was more important than logical thought. Irrationality led to a cult of death — witness the Spanish Fascist slogan: Arriba la Muerte! — Up with Death!
- Nostalgia for the legendary past. For instance, in Italy's case, the Roman Empire. In Germany, an appeal to primitive myths of the Nibelungen. The initials SS were written in runic letters from Viking times. Japan resurrected the medieval code of the samurai.
- Aversion to intellectuals whom Fascism accused of undermining the old certainties and traditional values.
- Fascism claimed to honour the dignity of labour and the role of the peasantry as providers of the staples of life. With this went an idealized picture of rural life - the healthy countryside versus the decadent city.
- Machismo. Women were relegated to traditional female roles as housewives, servants, nurses, and as breeders of "racially pure" warriors for the state war machine.
- Fascism was frequently subsidized by big industrialists and landowners.
- Fascism's electoral support came overwhelmingly from the middle-class — in particular the lower middle-class affected by economic crisis.
- Fascism needed scapegoat enemies — "the Other" on whom to focus society's aggressions and hates.
“”In truth, we are relativists par excellence, and the moment relativism linked up with Nietzsche, and with his Will to Power, was when Italian Fascism became, as it still is, the most magnificent creation of an individual and a national Will to Power.
It's been effectively argued (originally from Isiah Berlin) that fascism drew upon the "Counter-Enlightenment" movement, a movement he pinned primarily to Continental German philosophy and subjectivism. Opposing the Enlightenment ideal of rationalism and democracy but by post-World War One also opposing a return to older forms of feudalism, this movement came to be heavily influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche and his concept of the Will to Power, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's mysticism and belief in cultures as being organic units that "create" reality, and Johann Gottfried Herder's radical cultural and moral relativism. The movement was characterized by a belief in vitalism (a desire for a spiritual rejuvenation that often opposed both contemporary monotheism and atheism/agnosticism) and anti-rationalism, and a view of liberalism and modern civilization as decadent to the bone.
Fascist regimes and ideologies
Italian Fascism (Italy)
Italy under Mussolini is widely considered the first fascist regime, and his methods of ruling and gaining power became an influence on Adolf Hitler. Fascist Italy is most characterized by its focus on Italian nationalism (particularly on the historical Roman Empire), irredentism towards historical Italian territory, and its corporatist economic and social structure. Mussolini's take on fascism is probably the version best defined by the phrase "third positionism", but his corporatist ideals quickly broke down into the government forcing labor groups to do what the industrialists wanted.
Fascist Italy was also a colonial power in Africa, and some of its worst crimes occurred there.
“”The common elements of fascism — extreme nationalism, social Darwinism, the leadership principle, elitism, anti-liberalism, anti-egalitarianism, anti-democracy, intolerance, glorification of war, the supremacy of the state and anti-intellectualism — together form a rather loose doctrine. Fascism emphasises action rather than theory, and fascist theoretical writings are always weak. Hitler's Nazism had rather more theory, though its intellectual quality is appalling. This greater theoretical content is mostly concerned with race, and it was Hitler's racial theories that distinguished Nazism from Italian fascism.
|—Ian Adams, Political Ideology Today|
The National Socialist German Workers Party came to power in Germany after Hitler was named chancellor in 1933. From there, the regime consolidated complete control over German society. It became known for the myriad outrages committed against Germany's Jewish population beginning with fearmongering, evolving to political violence, and culminating with the Holocaust.
The Nazi regime was also the most obsessed with race, establishing and implementing a strict racial hierarchy based on Hitler's ideas. This resulted in the passage of the Nuremberg Laws, which criminalized interracial marriages, stripped racial minorities of citizenship rights, and defined Jews and Roma as "enemies of the race-based state". One of Hitler's other cornerstone ideals was the concept of "lebensraum", which was his motivation to expand the German state through conquest, particularly through the fertile lands of Eastern Europe. This policy also played into the annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia, as well as the beginning of WWII when he invaded Poland.
Nazism, while a subset of fascism, did have some notable differences from its parent ideology. For example, while Hitler was obsessed with racial purity and racial hierarchies, Mussolini did not support racialism and antisemitism until fairly late in his rule, and seems to have mostly been doing this to help cement his alliance with the Nazis. Mussolini instead saw the nation rather than race as the rallying point for Fascist unity; Hitler saw both concepts as one and the same. That being said, fascists post-WWII do tend to be racist antisemites.
Shōwa Statism (Japan)
Imperial Japan from the 1920s onwards became dominated by the Kōdōha (or "Imperial Way") Faction which established a totalitarian military dictatorship until its forcible dissolution in 1936. This ideology, whilst distinctly Japanese, holds many parallels to fascism, from the glorification of violence to the Social Darwinist "we are the great race and all others must kneel" mindset. Their machismo personality cult was morphed into straight up birthed-from-god emperor worship, itself a longstanding Japanese tradition from centuries of Shogun rule. Although it lost power, the Imperial Way Faction's followers retained great influence over Japanese politics, and Japan remained a military dictatorship throughout the pre-WWII Shōwa period of Japan.
Japan during this time was rabidly expansionist, and it became mired in a war with China from 1937-onwards and then invaded most of Southeast Asia for oil reasons. The Japanese people had long resented the Western imperialist powers running roughshod over Asia, and sought to establish their own empire as an Asian counterweight.
While a puppet regime under the Nazis, the Vichy regime used its own initiative to implement many elements of the fascist state. This cannot be entirely handwaved away with the "they needed to please Germany" excuse. Under Philippe Pétain, the French government enacted a social program called the Révolution nationale, which was intended to roll back French social progress made after the original French Revolution. Indeed, Vichy France was built on the longstanding social resentment that had been long held by French conservatives towards their more cosmopolitan countrymen.
Philippe Pétain became the leader of a French personality cult, with a song dedicated to his glory becoming the unofficial national anthem. He led France into becoming a totalitarian dictatorship until the end of his regime in 1944.
Although French complicity in the Holocaust is often excused as being the result of German coercion, French conservatives had long held antisemitic beliefs; this can be seen in incidents such as the Dreyfus affair. The Vel' d'Hiv Roundup is one infamous incident in which French police acted on their own to mass arrest and deport more than 13,000 Jews to the German death camps. The raid was planned and carried out primarily by French citizens, with little to no involvement by occupying German troops.
Falangism was the ideology followed in Francisco Franco's domination of Spain; it emphasized social conservatism and nationalist Catholic identity far more than most other forms of fascism. "Falange" is the Spanish word for "Phalanx", a shieldwall tactic used by the Spartans and Alexander the Great which required extreme discipline from the soldiers to execute properly.
The Falangist ideological economic system was built on Mussolini's corporatist ideas; their version was called national syndicalism but was intended to work in essentially the same way. However, before and during the Spanish Civil War, it became necessary to accommodate the ideas of their monarchist and conservative allies when the movements merged, so the Falangists largely abandoned their anticapitalist beliefs. Thus, in practice, Franco's fascist regime more resembled an ultra-conservative brand of totalitarianism than it did anything created by the Nazis or Mussolini.
Franco's apologists like to claim that he shielded Spain's Jews from the Holocaust. However, it was discovered in 2010 that Franco had ordered the creation of a secret archive of Jewish names which was later handed over to Heinrich Himmler. Franco's regime would have cheerfully cooperated with the Holocaust had the alliance with Nazi Germany been finalized; as it was Franco decided not to join the war due to concerns over his nation's readiness.
Falangism was not a solely Spanish phenomenon, it gained followers throughout the Latin world with varying levels of power and implementation.
Ustase regime (Croatia)
Yugoslavia is synonymous with ethnic strife for much of its existence. Serbia was the hegemon of the region, and many resented their reach over Croats, Slovenes, and Bosniaks. Eventually, in the outset of the second world war, Croatian fascists who were directly inspired by Hitler and Mussolini rose up. They created a collaborator regime led by the Poglavnik Ante Pavelic, who set up death camps for Serbs, particularly Jasenovac where hundreds of thousands were murdered in ways so brutal even Nazis were disgusted at the barbarity. It was against the Ustase that Josip Broz Tito rose up as a guerrilla fighter and helped overthrow the regime.
Fascism and conservatism
“”Fascism begins the moment a ruling class, fearing the people may use their political democracy to gain economic democracy, begins to destroy political democracy in order to retain its power of exploitation and special privilege.
|—Tommy Douglas, Canadian politician.|
It is clear that fascists received some support from conservatives who saw them as allies in opposing communism. In a climate of increased polarization and instability, in which a communist takeover was viewed as a serious threat, conservatives formed coalitions expecting that the fascists would eventually be co-opted or abandon their radicalism. Hence, Hitler was allowed to form a government by Paul von Hindenburg on the advice of Franz von Papen (who were both conservatives), Mussolini was appointed prime minister by the conservative Italian king, and Spain's monarchists supported the Falange during the Civil War. In Italy, conservatives were somewhat successful at moderating the more radical elements of fascism, with the original corporativist economic policy being scrapped in favor of a more economically liberal policy; in Spain, the conservatives in the coalition eventually won out with Franco being succeeded by the hereditary King Juan Carlos I, who led Spain to democracy following Franco's death (a fascist coup attempt failed to stop it). In Germany, by contrast, Hitler elbowed the conservatives aside quickly after the death of Hindenburg, creating a much more totalitarian government.
Many political philosophies called fascism in retrospect (Austrofascism, Spanish National Catholicism, etc.) were just radicalized, populist spins on conservatism. There were two exceptions to this: Italian fascism and Nazism. Conservatism does not share the revolutionary or radical nature of fascism, and does not in general make populist appeals as fascism does.[Note 1] Also, the original fascist program sought restructuring of the economy along corporatist lines, which is not generally supported by conservatives.
There was also the problem of the "public" versus the "private" spheres of society. Conservatives (pre-Moral Majority conservatives, at least) usually want the government to respect the private sphere: family and religious life were places conservatives did not want the government interfering. Fascism and Nazism, however, tried to place all social life under the influence and control of the State, causing some within the Catholic Church to go against them.
Fascism and the Church
“”Your Excellency! The priests of Italy invoke over your person, your work as the restorer of Italy and the founder of the Reich and the Fascist government the blessing of the Lord and an eternal halo of Roman wisdom and virtue, today and forever! Duce! The servants of Christ, the fathers of the peasantry honor you loyally. They bless you. They swear loyalty to you. With pious enthusiasm, with the voice and heart of the people we call: hail the Duce!
|—Father Menossi, January 12, 1938, Palazzo Venezia, to which seventy-two bishops and 2,340 priests broke out into shouting: "Duce! Duce! Duce!"|
So why was the Catholic Church ever involved in this? Well, during the early 20th century, there were two major ideologies of various flavours floating around; Liberalism and Communism. Liberalism and the ideas of freethought were very much against the structured order that an organized religion requires to thrive in, especially with ideas such as freedom of speech and all the "immorality" provided, so that was right out. Communism, despite (or because of) its similarities to a religion,[Note 2] mandates atheism, which is something the Church would have difficulty compromising on (there have been religious forms of communism, but they didn't catch on). So along comes a third ideology, Fascism, with the ideas that we should return to the glory days of thousands of years past, we should have a very ordered and rigid society, authority should be adhered to without question, and dissenters should be forced into line or "dealt with"; this worked perfectly for the Church. The Catholic Church endorsed Fascism for a time, until it became clear that the Fascist leaders never had any intention of becoming subservient to the Church. So the Church has always been opposed to
East Asia Fascism.
The Catholic church and European Fascism
“”We shall always remember with gratitude that which has happened for the benefit of religion in Italy, even if the good deeds performed by the party and the regime were not smaller — indeed, they may even have been greater.
|—Pope Pius XI, 1931|
The late, great Christopher Hitchens relates the dreadfully close and well-documented eager collaboration between the faithful members of the Catholic church and the openly fascist right-wing extremist parties of Europe, writing;
Fascism — the precursor and model of National Socialism — was a movement that believed in an organic and corporate society, presided over by a leader or guide. (The "fasces"—symbol of the "lictors" or enforcers of ancient Rome—were a bundle of rods, tied around an axe, that stood for unity and authority.)
Arising out of the misery and humiliation of the First World War, fascist movements were in favor of the defense of traditional values against Bolshevism, and upheld nationalism and piety. It is probably not a coincidence that they arose first and most excitedly in Catholic countries, and it is certainly not a coincidence that the Catholic Church was generally sympathetic to fascism as an idea. Not only did the church regard Communism as a lethal foe, but it also saw its old Jewish enemy in the most senior ranks of Lenin's party.
Benito Mussolini had barely seized power in Italy before the Vatican made an official treaty with him, known as the Lateran Pact of 1929. Under the terms of this deal, Catholicism became the only recognized religion in Italy, with monopoly powers over matters such as birth, marriage, death, and education, and in return urged its followers to vote for Mussolini's party. Pope Pius XI described II Duce ("the leader") as "a man sent by providence." Elections were not to be a feature of Italian life for very long, but the church nonetheless brought about the dissolution of lay Catholic centrist parties and helped sponsor a pseudoparty called "Catholic Action" which was emulated in several countries.
Across southern Europe, the church was a reliable ally in the instatement of fascist regimes in Spain, Portugal, and Croatia. General Franco in Spain was allowed to call his invasion of the country, and his destruction of its elected republic, by the honorific title La Crujada, or "the crusade." The Vatican either supported or refused to criticize Mussolini's operatic attempt to re-create a pastiche of the Roman Empire by his invasions of Libya, Abyssinia (today's Ethiopia), and Albania: these territories being populated either by non-Christians or by the wrong kind of Eastern Christian. Mussolini even gave, as one of his justifications for the use of poison gas and other gruesome measures in Abyssinia, the persistence of its inhabitants in the heresy of Monophysitism: an incorrect dogma of the Incarnation that had been condemned by Pope Leo and the Council of Chalcedon in the year 451.
In central and eastern Europe the picture was hardly better. The extreme right-wing military coup in Hungary, led by Admiral Horthy, was warmly endorsed by the church, as were similar fascistic movements in Slovakia and Austria. (The Nazi puppet regime in Slovakia was actually led by a man in holy orders named Father Tiso.) The cardinal of Austria proclaimed his enthusiasm at Hitler's takeover of his country at the time of the Anschluss. In France, the extreme right adopted the slogan of "Meilleur Hitler Que Blum"—in other words, better to have a German racist dictator than an elected French socialist Jew.
Catholic fascist organizations such as Charles Maurras's Action Française and the Croix de Feu campaigned violently against French democracy and made no bones about their grievance, which was the way in which France had been going downhill since the acquittal of the Jewish captain Alfred Dreyfus in 1899. When the German conquest of France arrived, these forces eagerly collaborated in the rounding up and murder of French Jews, as well as in the deportation to forced labor of a huge number of other Frenchmen.
The Vichy regime conceded to clericalism by wiping the slogan of 1789 — "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite" — off the national currency and replacing it with the Christian ideal motto of "Famille, Travail, Patrie." Even in a country like England, where fascist sympathies were far less prevalent, they still managed to get an audience in respectable circles by the agency of Catholic intellectuals such as T. S. Eliot and Evelyn Waugh.
In neighboring Ireland, the Blue Shirt movement of General O'Duffy (which sent volunteers to fight for Franco in Spain) was little more than a dependency of the Catholic Church. As late as April 1945, on the news of the death of Hitler, President Eamon de Valera put on his top hat, called for the state coach, and went to the German embassy in Dublin to offer his official condolences.
Attitudes like this meant that several Catholic-dominated states, from Ireland to Spain to Portugal, were ineligible to join the United Nations when it was first founded. The church has made efforts to apologize for all this, but its complicity with fascism is an ineffaceable mark on its history, and was not a short-term or a hasty commitment so much as a working alliance which did not break down until after the fascist period had itself passed into history.
Catholics nowadays will point to the many Catholics, lay people and clergy, who resisted the evils of fascism (especially Nazi Germany) and were almost always persecuted thusly. How this lets the higher ups in the Church who were totally cool with Nazism off the hook is a mystery.
Broadness of the term "fascism"
“”It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley's broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else.
|—George Orwell, What is Fascism?|
Hood comments on the apparent definitional wideness of the term "fascism" in contemporary society, writing;
"Fascist" has become an all-purpose word. We often use it to describe people and things we don't like. It is applied indiscriminately to figures of authority, to modes of behaviour, to ways of thinking, to kinds of architecture.
But this catch-all use of the word raises obvious questions. Are all people who could be defined in these terms really "Fascists"? Are all right-wing parties or groups, all conservative right-wing governments, necessarily "Fascist"?
Random yet typical everyday examples he provides of this loosely defined, vernacular usage of the term "fascist" include;
- People who insist that sexual liberation led to AIDS.
- People who, in a broad stroke, would systematically dismiss art as being "crap".
- People who think the educational system is in a liberal mess due to lack of old-fashioned discipline.
- People who think there's "too many darn immigrants" in their country.
- People who think law enforcement is fascist by necessity.[Note 3]
As is apparent, while some of these examples could be recognizable, the point stands that the term has been allowed to slide away from the actual specifics of fascist ideology. In response to this bewilderment of definition, Hood suggests a tentative ballpark definition for the wider term;
What "Fascists" have in common is that they are the enemies of liberal or left-wing thought and attitudes. They can be seen as threatening, aggressive, repressive, narrowly conservative and blindly patriotic.
Umberto Eco's 1995 essay "Eternal Fascism" put forth 14 common features of Fascism which "cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it":
- The rejection of modernism. “The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.”
- The cult of action for action’s sake. “Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation.”
- Disagreement is treason. “The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge.”
- Fear of difference. “The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.”
- Appeal to social frustration. “One of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.”
- The obsession with a plot. “The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia.”
- The enemy is both strong and weak. “By a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.”
- Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. “For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle.”
- Contempt for the weak. “Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology.”
- Everybody is educated to become a hero. “In Ur-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death.”
- Machismo and weaponry. “Machismo implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality.”
- Selective populism. “There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.”
- Newspeak. “All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.”
It is important to note that having one or more of these traits doesn't mean that a society is Fascist but that the odds increase that it will fit the definition of Fascism.
Fascism and the political spectrum
“”Man and fascism cannot co-exist. If fascism conquers, man will cease to exist and there will remain only man-like creatures that have undergone an internal transformation. But if man, man who is endowed with reason and kindness, should conquer, then Fascism must perish, and those who have submitted to it will once again become people.
There is a considerable dispute in some circles over whether fascism is a left- or right-wing idea. This dispute consists mainly of attempts to deny that one's own side of the political spectrum has anything in common with fascism, or alternatively to slime people on the opposite side of the political spectrum by claiming such commonalities. These tactics have been carried pretty far, as mentioned above, with "fascist" becoming a general insult or accusation hurled around loosely, usually inappropriately and often childishly, to criticise anyone or anything we find even slightly overbearing or restrictive.
The first bunch of people to make these sorts of claims were communists attempting to bunch fascists together with supporters of capitalism by claiming that the fascists were merely the hired guns of the Bourgeois Oppressors; completely ignoring that fascism, besides being anti-communist, was also to some extent anti-capitalist, supporting limited welfare programs and other non-laissez-faire economic ideas. In Germany in particular, the right-wing parties had never been on board with extreme capitalism anyway; significant state intervention on behalf of big business had been the norm since the days of Bismarck. In the Nazis' case, Hitler stated that he wished to remove the influence of the "capitalist class," whom he believed to be largely Jewish and/or Jewish-controlled, and partially restore the traditional pre-capitalist ruling system; these ideas were partially implemented when the Nazi officials nicked Jewish-owned property for the enrichment of the German people and/or themselves.
However, in practice, the fascists and Nazis didn't really change much of the economic status quo from before they took power. After all, they had come to power with the support of conservatives who wanted a strong "law and order" regime to keep down the communists, social democrats and trade unions. A large influx of conservatives forced the fascists and the Nazis to moderate or abandon anti-establishment programs — as when the anti-clerical Mussolini signed the Lateran Treaty with the Catholic Church, or when Hitler appointed the pro-capitalist Hjalmar Schacht as economics minister — and marginalize or eliminate more economically-radical factions within the fascist movements, as when Hitler purged the brothers Strasser during the Night of the Long Knives.
More recently, some conservative luminaries such as Jonah Goldberg (and also some conservative non-luminaries) have been claiming that liberals and everyone else to the left of them are "fascists." This tactic usually relies on taking the straw man broadsides heaved at liberalism by wingnuts and finding commonalities between them and some fascist program; for example, noting that Nazi Germany had large public works projects, and since liberals also favor public works projects while conservatives do not, liberals must also be fascists.[Note 4]
The Political Compass generally rates fascists as in the economic center, well to the left of today's right-wing politicians but well to the right of socialist figures. Generally economics is considered of secondary importance to fascists anyways except as an extension of their nationalistic and reactionary cultural views, hence the populist economics.
The term left-wing fascism (also known as left fascism) denotes real or perceived tendencies in extreme left-wing politics that are otherwise commonly attributed to the supposed polar-opposite ideology of fascism. Conceiving of the extreme left as somehow being completely different to the far right signals that one has not fully grasped the implications of horseshoe theory. In fact, fascism has always been wrapped up in leftist-sounding language — it's "a workers movement", "a populist struggle for justice", et cetera — while much of radical leftism has always endorsed the methods of authoritarian regimes, especially by excepting acts of terror from condemnation as long as they're done in the name of radical leftism.
That being said, however — the term has gained popularity among cranks, who will gleefully settle for complete non-sequiturs while bashing progressivism and feminism. Anything to generate those echo chamber clicks!
Left-wing fascism could be considered a sort of "inverse third positionism". Common qualities taken on by these extreme leftists that could be viewed as having what is essentially "fascist" traits include:
- Vehemently supporting nationalism (e.g. Socialism in One Country, Third World Socialism)
- Hijacking progressive anti-colonial efforts to push for ethnocentric dictatorships taking the place of the former colonial masters
- A reliance on ethnic scapegoating (sometimes delving into pure racialism) and at the most extreme not-so-subtle support for race war
- Celebrating a brutal "will to power" wherein violence is considered an expression of 'just protest' and is seen especially as a tool with which to "rejuvenate" a certain people/culture
- Drawing its inspiration from the same philosophical traditions as fascists — notably Rousseau, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Romanticism generally — in clear opposition to the anti-authoritarian, rationalist, democratic ideals espoused by Enlightenment philosophy
- Rallying a popular movement via "channeling" a specific people/culture, often with pseudohistorical undertones and a focus on the "redemption/rebirth" of said people/culture, all done in direct opposition to more universalist liberal humanist values
- The cultivation of frustration and outright aggression as the prime creative force for constructive change
- Rampant paranoia, whereby the far right's perceived threat of "cultural marxism" is given a different coat of paint and experienced on the far left as an equivalent threat from "scheming by imperialist financiers"
- Wide overlap with numerous far-right conspiracy theories
One clear divergence between "traditional" fascism and modern left-wing fascism is that the authoritarian arm of the New Left draws powerfully from postmodernist thought, which even contemporary fascists do not. The resulting blend thus ultimately motivates goals and methods that rhyme perfectly with those of fascism, but applies and rationalizes them with a social deconstructivist approach to historically dominated cultures/identities — as opposed to "traditional" fascism, which instead argues from a romantic mythologizing of historically dominant cultures/identities. For this reason (and for reasons of horseshoe theory), proponents of left-wing fascism actually end up cheering on the successes of far-right movements within their preferred cultures — one example being narrating the establishment of Iran's theocracy as a true expression of these "purer" cultures against the decadent open societies of the west.
Movements that have been accused of embodying some, or most, traits of left-wing fascism include:
- The Jacobins
- Lyndon LaRouche's movement
- The Italian Red Brigades
- The Red Army Faction
- Leninism, Stalinism, Juche and Maoism[Note 5]
- Third International Theory
- Peronism and other South American regimes
- National communism
- The Nation of Islam
- George Galloway and much of what he touches
- Yuri Kochiyama ended up around here
Countless third-world dictatorships (often drawing on irredentism, tribalism, and millennialist theocracy) have also come to embody this ultimately null difference between the authoritarians on both the far right and far left, including those of:
- The Ba'ath Party in Iraq and Syria.
- Muammar al-Gaddafi
- Idi Amin
- Jean-Bédel Bokassa
- Francisco Macías Nguema
- Robert Mugabe
- Pol Pot
- The Kim family in North Korea
Ecofascism is essentially the mixture of the authoritarian/totalitarian aspects of fascism mixed in with standard green politics wrapped in hard-right politics. The progenitors of ecofascism is Nazi Germany which passed laws protecting animals and promoted Blood and Soil as part of their ideology. This seems to be more prevalent in Europe, where several political parties exist such as the Nouvelle Droite (or European New Right) of Alain de Benoist, "Third Way" in the United Kingdom (a "green" splinter from the neo-fascist National Front), the Ökologisch-Demokratische Partei (Ecological Democratic Party, a right-wing splinter from the German Green Party), and groups espousing third positionism. Another was Savitri Devi, an avowed Neo-Nazi who espoused animal rights, and who thought that animal slaughterhouses were worse than Nazi war crimes. The closest example of this from the U.S. is probably Virginia Abernethy, a Vanderbilt University professor who is both a widely cited expert on population and ecology and a self-avowed white separatist. Another American example would be the Wolves of Vinland, a group of Norse neopagans who have been described both as "eco-punks" and as white nationalist.
One now notorious example of an avowed ecofascist was the Australia-born shooter behind the Christchurch terrorist attacks in New Zealand that killed 51 people and injured 50 more. In his manifesto The Great Replacement (named after the French far-right theory of the same name by writer Renaud Camus) he declared that he was "an Ethno-nationalist, Eco-fascist".
- Third Position
- Police state
- List of forms of government
- Dictator, inevitably the one who runs the show in fascist states.
- "The Strange, Strange Story of the Gay Fascists" -- a 2008 Huffington Post essay on rampant homophobes with fascist beliefs who turn out to be in the closet (at least to outsiders)
- "Ur-Fascism" by Umberto Eco: the first and last word on the qualities of fascism.
- "Against the Fascist Creep (PDF)" by Alexander Reid Ross: A summary of fascist creep in left-wing and right-wing circles during the last century
- In the 20th century. Today, well...
- Karl Marx is the wisest man of all and is never wrong, the Communist Manifesto is the best book ever written and you may not make any criticisms of it, the economics of communism have never been found to be flawed, the global revolution will occur and we will have an eternal worker's paradise, and those who don't advocate for Communism are living in a False consciousness.
- Be they Freemen or lifestyle Anarchists.
- Take WWII, where all the Allies were doing it. (We await the first conservative to call Churchill the spawn of Mussolini.)
- "Tankieism" may be the most common gateway drug to full-blown left-fascism, and vice-versa. In practice the only real difference is that authoritarian commies put more emphasis on class along materialist lines, whereas modern left-fascists drop class almost entirely in favor of revolution along racial/cultural lines via its unhinged postmodernist influences, but transitioning between the two is surprisingly easy.
- Paxton, Robert O. The Anatomy of Fascism. New York: Vintage Books, 2005.
- The surprising reason Mussolini’s home town wants to build a fascism museum by Michael Birnbaum & Stefano Pitrelli (January 31 at 6:39 PM) The Washington Post.
- Fascism Merriam-Webster
- Mussolini, Doctrine of Fascism
- Modern History Sourcebook: Benito Mussolini: What is Fascism, 1932
- See the Wikipedia article on Silver Legion of America.
- See the Wikipedia article on British Union of Fascists.
- Is This Fascism? Passmore, Kevin. Slate. 01.20.17
- What Is Fascism? Szalay, Jessie. LiveScience. 01.24.17
- See the Wikipedia article on Social hierarchy.
- .Fascism Britannica.
- Speech to Chamber of Deputies (9 December 1928), quoted in Propaganda and Dictatorship (2007) by Marx Fritz Morstein, p. 48
- Corporatism Britannica
- Dictionary of Political Thought Scruton, Roger.
- When We Loved Mussolini Tooze, Adam. The New York Review Of Books Aug.18.16
- Conservative economic programs Britannica
- Pleasantville Movie Review RogerEbert.com
- John Horne. State, Society and Mobilization in Europe During the First World War. pp. 237–39.
- Cyprian Blamires. World Fascism: A Historical Encyclopedia, Volume 1. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2006 p. 168.
- Mark Neocleous. Fascism. University of Minnesota Press, 1997. p. 63.
- See the Wikipedia article on Révolution nationale.
- France: The Dark Years, 1940–1944 Julian Jackson. "Chapter 8: The National Revolution."
- Spanish Civil War Britannica
- (For the love of God, don't click this link. It's just here for illustrative purposes.
- Is modern society in decline?
- America must reverse its moral decline
- America’s Accelerating Decay Dennis Prager. National Review.
- The Black cultural front : black writers and artists of the Depression generation. Jackson : University Press of Mississippi, 2012.
- Anthony James Gregor (1979). Young Mussolini and the Intellectual Origins of Fascism. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520037991. pp. 191–192.
- Oliver Zimmer, Nationalism in Europe, 1890–1940 (London: Palgrave, 2003), chapter 4, pp. 80–107.
- Fascism: extreme nationalism Britannica
- Payne, Stanley G., A History of Fascism, 1914–1945. (Routledge, 1995, 2005), p. 11.
- See the Wikipedia article on Nazism and race.
- Maria Sop Quine. Population Politics in Twentieth Century Europe: Fascist Dictatorships and Liberal Democracies. Routledge, 1995. pp. 46–47.
- Persecution of Homosexuals in the Third Reich US Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Bollas, Christopher, Being a Character: Psychoanalysis and Self-Experience (Routledge, 1993) ISBN 978-0-415-08815-2, p. 205.
- McDonald, Harmish, Mussolini and Italian Fascism (Nelson Thornes, 1999) p. 27.
- Durham, Martin. Women and Fascism (Routledge, 1998) p. 15.
- Friedlander, Henry (1995). The origins of Nazi genocide: from euthanasia to the final solution. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-8078-4675-9. OCLC 60191622.
- Fascism and Political Theory: Critical Perspectives on Fascist Ideology. Oxon, England; New York: Routledge, 2010. p. 106.
- Marcus Garvey quotes
- Payne, Stanley G. A History of Fascism, 1914–1945. Routledge, 1996. pp. 485–86.
- Griffin, Roger (ed.). Fascism. Oxford University Press, 1995. p. 59.
- Fascism Ch. 27 The Interwar Period Lumen Learning.
- Introducing Facism: A Graphic Guide, Icon Books, 2013, ISBN: 978-184831-612-6, page 88-89
- Wolin, Richard. The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism (p. 27). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
- Ian Kershaw. Hitler, 1889–1936: hubris. New York; London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000. p. 182.
- Mussolini’s Battle For The Roman Past: The Ancient Redesigned
- See the Wikipedia article on Imperial Way Faction.
- See the Wikipedia article on February 26 Incident.
- Japan's Territorial Expansion 1931-1942 Stratfor
- See the Wikipedia article on Maréchal, nous voilà !.
- France Reflects on Its Role in Wartime Fate of Jews New York Times
- Martin Blinkhorn. Fascists and Conservatives: The Radical Right and the Establishment in Twentieth-Century Europe. Reprinted edition. Oxon, England, UK: Routledge, 1990, 2001. Pp. 10
- Falange Britannica
- General Franco gave list of Spanish Jews to Nazis The Guardian
- See the Wikipedia article on Falangism in Latin America.
- Tommy Douglas Wikiquote.
- God and the Fascists - The Vatican alliance with Mussolini, Franco, Hitler and Pavelić, Karlheinz Deschner, Prometheus Books, 2013, ISBN: 978-1-61614-837-9, p. 23
- Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (p. 235-237)
- "George Orwell: What is Fascism?". http://www.orwell.ru/library/articles/As_I_Please/english/efasc.
- Life and Fate (1959).
- For a detailed study of this phenomenon with specific regard to fine art, see the book and film, The Rape of Europa.
- See the Wikipedia article on Left-wing fascism.
- Warning: Direct link to Return of Kings
- Wallace, R.A. and A. Wolf, Contemporary Sociological Theory: Continuing the Classical Tradition, 3rd ed. (1991) p. 116.
- Michael Geyer and Sheila Fitzpatrick. Beyond Totalitarianism: Stalinism and Nazism Compared. New York, New York, USA: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Pp. 33-37.
- Really. She's even on the board of the American Third Position party and everything. Even the Federation for American Immigration Reform, no stranger to accusations of racism itself, has denounced her.