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What Is Fascism?
Who is Fascism?

What Is Fascism?
Fascists, crypto-fascists, neo-fascists, nazi-fascist, fascist sympathizers, fascist tendencies … what does any of it mean?


In Politics and the English Language, George Orwell writes, "The word 'fascism' has now no meaning except insofar as it signifies 'something not desirable.'" The freedom with which the word is used still to this day proves that, if anything, the general population has strayed even further from the correct understanding of fascism.

But even as Orwell wrote those words in 1946, very close to the threats of fascism from World War II, many were numb to the contours of fascism. In an attempt at objectivity, Lorne Morgan offers up a range of dissenting opinions in The Origins and Development of Fascism:

According to Mussolini, "Fascism conceives of the State as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived of in their relation to the State". Hitler sees the Fascist state as "the organisation of a community homogeneous in nature and feeling, for the better furtherance and maintenance of their type and the fulfillment of the destiny marked out for them by Providence". Palme Dutt, one of its ablest critics, summarizes Fascism as "a movement of mixed elements, dominantly petit-bourgeois, but also slum-proletarian and demoralised working class, financed and directed by finance-capital, by the big industrialists, landlords and financiers, to defeat the working-class revolution and smash the working-class organisations". Professor Robert A. Brady, impartial American investigator, in an authoritative work on German Fascism defines it as "monopoly capitalism become conscious of its powers, the conditions of its survival, and mobilized to crush all opposition. It is capitalism mobilized to crush trade unions, to wipe out radical and liberal criticism, to promote, with the sum total of all its internal resources, economic advantage at home and abroad." (p. 1)
Morgan delves into the origins of fascism, arguing that the understanding of fascism begins at its roots. He muses that, after the end of the first World War, countries like Austria, Italy and Spain were ripe for a new direction that communist and social-democratic parties might bring; but, instead of bringing about the necessary revolution and, most importantly, improved living conditions for its citizens, they floundered in bureaucratic debates and lack of action. Poor leadership opened a hole that far-right radicals eagerly filled with ultranationalistic dictatorships.

Fascism is much more of a sliding scale than a concrete ideology. Fascist regimes of the past differed from one another, but shared more specific characteristics of racism, authoritarianism, totalitarianism, and propaganda techniques to consolidate truth, power, and nationalism.  In a Vox article "How Fascism Works," Yale philosopher Jason Stanley says, "fascism [is] a method of politics. It's a rhetoric, a way of running for power." This rhetoric contains a constant suppression of the truth, which is necessary for free societies.

Celebrated Italian writer Umberto Eco who grew up in Mussolini's fascist regime made a list of the most common traits of fascism in his 1995 essay "Ur-Fascism." He wrote, “the fascist game can be played in many forms, and the name of the game does not change.”

By Thad Higa



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