|It doesn't stop at the water's edge:|
|Random strands and actors|
“”When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a Bible.
|—Attributed to Sinclair Lewis|
“”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.
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 Britain.
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.
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 where fascism differs from other right-wing dictatorships, that usually rely on little more than oppression and try to shut down public opinion.
 Fascism and Nazism
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.
 Fascism and conservatism
 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 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 transitioned Spain to democracy following Franco's death. In Germany, by contrast, Hitler elbowed the conservatives aside quickly after the death of Hindenburg, creating a much more totalitarian government.
 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 had not been a socialist, but his Nazism followed this pattern to a lesser degree. He also saw the nation (in his case, racially defined) as a unifying point, but instead of seeing this as a solution to the class issue, he saw it as a means of opposing the perceived machinations of "Jewish" bankers and businessmen in favor of the "German" workers.
 Radicalism, spheres
Conservatism does not share the revolutionary or radical nature of fascism, and does not in general make populist appeals as fascism does. 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 the Catholic Church to go against them.
 Fascism and the political spectrum
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, 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 anti-capitalist, supporting redistribution of wealth and other seemingly socialistic economic ideas. 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 were not so radical. This was mostly a question of political expediency, since they had come to power with the cooperation of conservatives who had only done so because they thought the communists were even worse than the Nazis. A large influx of conservatives forced the fascists and the Nazis to moderate their radical 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, which was the partial caused a two-year delay in any codified anti-Semitic measures on the Nazis' part — and marginalize or eliminate more 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.
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.
- "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.
- ↑ Hitler probably saw both as the same thing.
- ↑ In the 20th century. Today, well...
- ↑ http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius11/P11FAC.HTM
- ↑ http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_14031937_mit-brennender-sorge_en.html
- ↑ For a detailed study of this phenomenon with specific regard to fine art, see the book and film, The Rape of Europa.
- ↑ Take WWII, where all the Allies were doing it. (We await the first conservative to call Churchill the spawn of Mussolini.)