Fascist Ideology and its global implications
Fascism is an effective political ideology whose central theme is the notion of an organically combined national community, exemplified in a belief in ‘strength through unity’. The individual, in a factual sense, is nothing; individual identity must be completely absorbed into the community or social group. To simply elaborate, Fascism is an authoritarian Nationalist political ideology that promotes nation above the individual, and that stands for a centralized autocratic government controlled by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regulation, and powerful suppression of opposition. It often claims to be concerned with concepts of cultural decline or decadence, and seeks to achieve a national rebirth by subduing the interests of the individual, and instead promoting cults of unity, energy and transparency.
In historical terms, fascism can be defined as a movement and a regime. Emilio Gentile – who, with Zeev Sternhell and George Mosse,2 is the most insightful historian of fascism – presents fascism as a modern revolutionary phenomenon that was nationalist and revolutionary, anti-liberal and anti-Marxist. Gentile also presents fascism as being typically organized in a militaristic party that had a totalitarian conception of state politics, an activist and antitheoretical ideology as well as a focus on virility and anti-hedonistic mythical foundations.
Fascism is a highly nationalist, militaristic, totalitarian political ideology in which one person has absolute power. World War I was the major event that procreated fascism. The war was the first major war fought between industrialized nations, which were armed with technology such as machine guns and chemical weapons. The result was complete destruction. Millions of people died, entire countries malformed, and those who survived were often deeply disillusioned. For many people, the war presented that contemporary ideas had failed and that a new way was required. The majority of European fascist states developed from the amalgamation of and as a consequence to a multitude of significant events, including a troubled society with destabilised governments, the detrimental effect caused by the impact of World War and, by some, the disappointment caused by signing the Treaty of Versailles. Fascism was the movement and political response which offered European people the ability to reconstruct their nation and escape the existing dilemma. Fascism emerged in Italy in the 1920s. Italy had battled on the winning side of World War I, but it had agonised greatly. Many Italians were annoyed and disappointed that the country gained very little for the price it paid. Some war veterans felt alienated from society: They had grown accustomed to the fears of war, and now normal life seemed unreal and incomprehensible. Some of these war veterans began to rally together, trying to re-create the companionship of the war. Their meetings led to the increase of fascism. In its original form, fascism was neither racist nor anti-Semitic. Undeniably, some early Italian fascists were Jewish. Although Italy was the origin of fascism, it expanded to other countries. In the mid to late twentieth century, the Spanish government under General Francisco Franco was fascist, as were the Argentinean government under Juan Peron and some of the governments in Eastern Europe before World War II. The Japanese government before and during World War II also shared some fascist thoughts.
The fascist model is that of the ‘new man’, a hero, inspired by duty, honour and self-sacrifice, prepared to devote his life to the magnificence of his nation or race, and to give unquestioning obedience to a top leader. In many respects, fascism establishes a revolt against the ideas and values that dominated Western political thought from the French Revolution onwards in the words of the Italian Fascist slogan: ‘1789 is Dead’. Values such as rationalism, progress, freedom and equality were upturned in the name of struggle, leadership, power, heroism and war. In this respect, fascism has an ‘anti-character’.
Fascist ideology based on national unity behind a single revered ruler 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 principally remembered for its oppressive treatment of citizens, infringements on personal freedoms and cruel crushing of opposition. It usually requires unusual of personality around a single central figure, hero worship, and a strong emphasis on a particularly militaristic view of national security.
The theory of fascism makes society to be ordered in a corporatist fashion, favouring collective bargaining for all groups in society, such as workers, farmers, employers, clergymen, etc., in practice, this transformed to the fascist states simply favouring and strengthening the largest and most sympathetic businesses, exercising heavy state control on them in return. In contrast to communism, these businesses will remain formally under private ownership, with their profits going to the owners rather than the state.
The French Revolution and its political inheritance had profound influence upon the expansion of fascism. Fascists interpreted the French Revolution as a largely negative event that resulted in the entrenchment of liberal ideas such as liberal democracy, anticlericalism, and rationalism. Challengers to the French Revolution initially were conservatives and reactionaries, but the Revolution was also later disparaged by Marxists and racist nationalists who opposed its universalist principles.
- Action: Human beings find meaning and purpose by acting, not by reasoning or thinking.
- Community spirit: People need to be part of a community. Individualism is dangerous because it turns people away from their community.
- Nationalism: The community that matters the most is the nation. People should work together to promote the glory and power of the nation.
- Militarism: The nation must have a strong, powerful military. The nation displays its power by expanding its territory.
- The future: Fascists love the speed and power of technology. They look optimistically to the future.
- One party: The nation must be unified and speak with one voice. Therefore, only one political party is allowed, and that party rules with absolute power.
- Violence: The government rules its people through violence or the threat of violence.
Fascism usually involves in the following elements:
- Nationalism (based on the cultural, racial and/or religious attributes of a region).
- Totalitarianism (state regulation of nearly every aspect of public and private sectors).
- Statism (state intervention in personal, social or economic matters).
- Patriotism (positive and supportive attitudes to a “fatherland”).
- Autocracy (political power in the hands of a single self-appointed ruler).
- Militarism (maintaining of a strong military capability and being prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests).
- Corporatism (encouragement of unelected bodies which exert control over the social and economic life of their respective areas).
- Populism (direct appeals to the masses, usually by a charismatic leader).
- Collectivism (stress on human interdependence rather than on the importance of separate individuals).
Types of Fascism: There are several kind of fascism. Italian Fascism: It is the dictatorial political movement which administrated Italy from 1922 to 1943 under the headship of Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945). It is the original model which motivated other Fascist ideologies, and is generally denoted as Fascism. It grew out of Mussolini’s desire to re-affirm Italian national identity and pride after several centuries of disagreement leading up to the amalgamation of 1870.
Nazism refers to the philosophy and practices of the German Nazi Party (or National Socialist German Workers’ Party) under the headship of Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945) between 1933 and 1945. It was a powerfully nationalist, totalitarian, racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Communist movement, which grew up in the repercussion of German humiliation after World War I, which was partly blamed on Germany’s Jews. Hitler published his political beliefs in “Mein Kampf” in 1925 and, stimulated by the Italian Fascism of Mussolini, assumed dictatorial powers as Chancellor in 1933.
Another category of fascism is clerical Fascism. It is an ideology that combines the political and economic principles of Fascism with theology or religious tradition. The term initially arose in the 1920s referring to Catholic support for the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, but has since been applied to various regimes and movements, particularly in Europe and South America.
Neo-Fascism is any post-World War II creed that includes noteworthy elements of Fascism, or that expresses specific admiration for Benito Mussolini and Italian Fascism, again particularly in Europe and South America.