Fascism is a complex political ideology that emerged in the early 20th century, primarily associated with the regimes of Benito Mussolini in Italy and Adolf Hitler in Germany. It’s characterized by dictatorial power, extreme nationalism, disdain for electoral democracy and political and cultural liberalism, and a belief in natural social hierarchy and the rule of the strongest.
At its core, fascism seeks to embody the unity of the nation through a totalitarian state that seeks to mass mobilize the national community through discipline, indoctrination, physical training, and conflict. It promotes a nationalist agenda, where the state not only seeks to assert power and control within its borders but also often pursues imperialist expansion. The fascist view of a nation is uncompromising; it places the interests of the state above those of individuals, viewing individual interests as subordinate to the needs of the nation.
One of the key elements of fascism is the use of a powerful, charismatic leader, who embodies the national ideal and is presented as the one who holds the solutions to the nation’s problems. This leader often uses populist appeals and claims to represent the “true will of the people,” while simultaneously suppressing opposition and dissent. The regime relies heavily on propaganda, utilizing mass media to create a cult of personality around this leader and promote the state’s ideology.
Fascism also typically involves a strong militaristic approach. The glorification of violence, war, and the military reflects the belief that conflict and war are actions that can bring about national regeneration, strength, and purity. This militarism goes hand in hand with fascism’s disdain for pacifism and its embrace of aggressive nationalism.
Economically, fascist states tend to pursue policies that intertwine government and business leadership. While not inherently against capitalism, fascism opposes economic liberalism (as in laissez-faire capitalism) and Marxism. It supports a state-directed, protectionist economy that serves the national interest. The economy under fascism is often organized along corporatist lines, where government, business, and labor sectors are brought together in collaborative arrangements under state oversight.
It is crucial to understand that fascism is fundamentally anti-democratic. It rejects the concept of equality and believes in the inherent hierarchy and natural social order. Fascism has been widely criticized and condemned for its oppressive practices, including the suppression of democratic and liberal institutions, violation of human rights, and in cases like Nazi Germany, the perpetration of mass genocide. The aftermath of World War II saw the discrediting of fascism as a viable political ideology, although various movements and groups have attempted to revive its principles since then.