Fascism

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The fasces, an ancient Roman symbol appropriated for fascism. It's hard to break. It's also too unwieldy to be used.
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It is usual to speak of the Fascist objective as the "beehive state", which does grave injustice to bees. A world of rabbits ruled by stoats would be nearer the mark.
George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier[1][Note 1]

Fascism was a term coined by Benito Mussolini for his nationalistic and totalitarian political movement, which came to power in Italy between the 1920s and 1940s. The term has been widely used to refer to other right-wing nationalist governments, such as Francisco Franco's rule in Spain, and, prior to World War II there were unsuccessful fascist movements in other European countries, including the UK.

In the 1920s and '30s, 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 (i.e. both being 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 time-honored tradition of using "fascist" as a snarl word to refer to any opponent at all, a practice which has proliferated to the point that the word fascist - as commonly used by people in the vernacular - has, in a sense, lost all specificity to its original meaning.

Contents

[edit] Ideology

All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.
—Benito Mussolini[2]

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.[3] In this way fascism could be considered an extreme (or just different) take on reactionary political philosophies.

While the theory of fascism calls for society to be ordered in a corporatist fashion — favoring collective bargaining for all groups in society, such as workers, farmers, employers, clergymen, etc. — in practice this translated to the fascist states simply favoring 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 (after taxation) going to the owners rather than the state.

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.

[edit] Fascism and Nazism

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[4]

Fascism is often associated with the Nazism of Adolf Hitler's regime in Germany, another oppressive nationalist ideology. However, while there were many similarities, and a very strong alliance between Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, there were subtle differences. 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.[Note 2]

The Nazi party did strive for a unified state and was extremely heavy-handed against dissenting voices and those deemed undesirable or not useful to the state, so Nazism could still be seen as a subset of fascism, whether or not it is a prime example. Furthermore, fascists post-WWII do tend to be antisemites.

[edit] The balance sheet of fascism

In Introducing Facism: A Graphic Guide, Stuart Hood[wp] 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;[5]

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;
  1. A political philosophy which was a compound of radical ideas and mysticism, of left-wing-sounding slogans and conservative policies.
  2. A strong state with a powerful executive which did not require democratic consultation before acting, combined with a hatred of bourgeois democracy.
  3. 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.
  4. The formation of a mass party on paramilitary lines which drew its recruits in part from the discontented and disenfranchised working-class.
  5. 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.
  6. Authoritarian programmes which emhpasized conformity, discipline and submission. Society was militarized and directed by a messianic leader.
  7. 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! - Long live Death!
  8. Nostalgia for the legendary past. For instance, in Italy's case, the Roman Empire. In Germany, an appeal to primitive myths of the Nibelungen[wp]. The initials SS were written in runic letters from Viking times. Japan resurrected the medieval code of the samurai.
  9. Aversion to intellectuals whom Fascism accused of undermining the old certainties and traditional values.
  10. Fascism claimed to honour the dignity of labour and the role of the pesantry as providers of the staples of life. With this went an idealized picture of rural life - the healthy countryside versus the decadent city.
  11. Machismo. Women were relegated to traditional female roles as housewives, servants, nurses, and as breeders of "racially pure" warriors for the state war machine.
  12. Fascism was frequently subsidized by big industrialists and landowners.
  13. Fascism's electoral support came overwhelmingly from the middle-class - in particular the lower middle-class affected by economic crisis.
  14. Fascism needed scapegoat enemies - "the Other" on whom to focus society's aggressions and hates.

[edit] Fascism and conservatism

[edit] In practice

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.

[edit] In theory

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.

Mussolini was originally a democratic socialist, and his original fascism started out as a right-wing spin on this. He continued to accept the idea of class struggle, although changing his ideas on how to end it: for him, it could be ended by all the classes within a certain country working together ("class collaboration"). This unification of classes was to be brought about by emphasizing a shared national heritage; in Italy's case, recalling the days of the Roman Empire. In this way, the fascist program shares many similarities with social conservatism, but the two philosophies approach the question from different angles, social conservatives seeing the preservation of a traditional or pseudo-traditional social order as an end in itself, fascism seeing it as a means to a further end.

Hitler's Nazism also saw the nation (in his case, racially defined) as a unifying point, but instead of viewing this as a solution to the class issue, he saw it as a means of opposing the perceived machinations of "Jewish" communists, bankers and businessmen (yes, he imagined there was a conspiracy between communists and bankers, based on their common Jewishness), and promoting the interests of "pure-blooded" German people. Nazi ideology insisted very strongly on race-based policies and the need for unity among members of the "Aryan race", to the exclusion of everything else (such as individual interests or class interests). Thus, Nazism positioned itself against socialists and communists who focused on class, and also against liberal capitalists who focused on the individual.

[edit] Radicalism, spheres

Conservatism does not share the revolutionary or radical nature of fascism, and does not in general make populist appeals as fascism does.[Note 3] 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.[6][7]

[edit] 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[wp], to which seventy-two bishops and 2,340 priests broke out into shouting: "Duce! Duce! Duce!"[8]

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, while practically being a religion in itself,[Note 4] 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.

[edit] 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[8]

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;[9]

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[wp]: an incorrect dogma of the Incarnation that had been condemned by Pope Leo and the Council of Chalcedon[wp] in 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.

[edit] 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?[10]

Hood comments on the apparent definitional wideness of the term "fascism" in contemporary society, writing;[5]

"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;[5]

  • 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 damn immigrants" in their country.
  • People who think law enforcement is fascist by necessity.[Note 5]

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;[5]

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.

[edit] 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.
—Vasily Grossman[11]

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.[12]

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 6]

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.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Notes

  1. Stoats being natural predators of rabbits.
  2. Hitler probably saw both as the same thing.
  3. In the 20th century. Today, well...
  4. 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.
  5. Be they Freemen or lifestyle Anarchists.
  6. Take WWII, where all the Allies were doing it. (We await the first conservative to call Churchill the spawn of Mussolini.)

[edit] Footnotes

  1. George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), Ch. 12
  2. Speech to Chamber of Deputies (9 December 1928), quoted in Propaganda and Dictatorship (2007) by Marx Fritz Morstein, p. 48
  3. http://www.libraryofsocialscience.com/ideologies/docs/staging-the-nations-rebirth/index.html
  4. https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Fascism#A
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Introducing Facism: A Graphic Guide, Icon Books, 2013, ISBN: 978-184831-612-6, page 88-89
  6. http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius11/P11FAC.HTM
  7. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_14031937_mit-brennender-sorge_en.html
  8. 8.0 8.1 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
  9. Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (p. 235-237)
  10. "George Orwell: What is Fascism?". http://www.orwell.ru/library/articles/As_I_Please/english/efasc. 
  11. Life and Fate (1959).
  12. For a detailed study of this phenomenon with specific regard to fine art, see the book and film, The Rape of Europa[wp].
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