The Perversion of “Fascism”
Fascism – what does it really mean?
An ideology popularized by 20th century Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, fascism is believed to be an ideology bent on oppressing enemies of the state by removal of civil liberties, free speech, and total government control of industry, commerce, and other sectors. Yet today the word has become almost a weapon, and its true historic meaning been lost to the practice of labeling any of one’s political opponents as ‘fascist.’
In recent years, fascism as a label has often been given to figures of significant right-wing policy, such as Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders, two controversially well known right-wing figures in Europe. Due to the highly authoritarian nature of opposing egalitarianism alongside an extreme sense of social conservatism, Fascism is generally believed to be a right-leaning ideology.
Throughout the 1920s-30s, communists often lumped their radical opponents together under the label of fascism, often targeting defenders of capitalism, and imperialists. However, this is not quite the case, as by nature fascism was both anti-capitalist as much as it was anti-socialist.
The Popularization of Fascism
Fascism’s origins can largely be found in growing Italian groups post-world war one, in which the great war was observed as a total revolution that inflicted drastic changes to the very nature of war, society, the state, and technology. In times of conscription, a ‘military citizenship’ would arise, wherein every able-bodied citizen would be primed and ready to serve the needs of the state at any time, either through industry or warfare. Countries soon found themselves able to mobilize millions of soldiers to battlefields, as well as providing consistent economic production to support them. A total disregard for liberal democracy, fascism truly defines a totalitarian one-party state capable of massive and immediate mobilization of a military state.
While Mussolini’s movement certainly brought Fascism to the forefront of international understanding, its roots stem as early as 1919, in the Fascist Manifesto – The Manifesto of the Italian Fasci of Combat, created by Italian syndicalist Alceste De Ambris, and Futurist movement leader Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. This manifesto became the centerpiece for Mussolini’s movement, Fasci Italiani di Combattimento.
The manifesto’s main policies included;
- Universal Suffrage for men and women
- Proportional representation with regional autonomy
- Government representation through a system of corporatism, National Councils consisting of skilled professionals, entrepreneurs and tradesmen, elected to represent and be given legislative power over respective areas
- Abolition of the Italian Senate
- Fixed minimum wage, 8-hour work day, worker representation in industrial management and equal confidence in labor unions as in industrial executives and public benefactors
- Strong progressive tax on capital
- Confiscation of religions bodies, and abolishment of bishoprics
- Short-service national militia to serve defensive duties
- Nationalization of armaments industries
- Neutral but competitive foreign policy
In simple summary, the manifesto certainly promotes the key qualities of fascism that outlined a very populist economic program with much state intervention. It is however difficult to place fascism on the broad economic left-right, due to being by nature opposed to both socialism and capitalism. In Mein Kampf, Hitler pinned capitalism and socialism as two sides of the same coin, as well as largely highlighting the massive popularity of fascism to the right as a result of strong nationalism, heavy anti-communist sentiment, and reactionary social views. Yet by opposing ‘two sides of the same coin’ is fascism arguably an ideology of radical centrism?
Realistically, it is implausible to place Fascism on a Left/Right dichotomy. Being rife with syncretism as an approach to governance makes it pretty much impossible to accurately place on a scale of left/right.
Frankly, fascism as an active ideology has all but died out from front-line politics since the decay of the regimes of Hitler, Mussolini and the like. Without a noticeable corporatist appeal in its economic theory and practice, a fascistic initiative can’t truly emulate its Italian archetype and therefore falls outside of the objective definition
Ultraconservative authoritarian regimes that promote traditionalism through state force often are wrongly labelled as “fascist”, because by nature, true fascistic movements incorporate vast elements of radicalism and populism, which once gave fascism its broad appeal.
The most popular target for such a label has undeniably become Donald J. Trump. Certainly a populist, and certainly controversial, but is he in any way a “fascist”? Or is such a label merely an epithet that has become easy to misuse in practice?
With beliefs of shortening levels of middle-eastern immigrants entering the United States over quality of life concerns, Trump certainly appeals to the more nationalistic voters valuing traditionalism. Many UKIP officials share this same concern, over a mass influx of migrants entering the UK creating a melting pot of disorganized diversity that does not lead to unity, but only divisiveness and disarray. Yet this is simply unfair to label as fascistic.
In the sense of favouring high state interference in economic affairs, Trump does not fit this bill.Trump has favored less regulations against private enterprise, very much a capitalist in the biggest sense of the word. Civil liberties are not being infringed upon for the state’s interests, and in no way could Trump surpass the intricacies laid out in 1931 by fascist journalist Curzio Malaparte in his piece: Coup D’etat: The Technique of Revolution. Malaparte made clear that the requirements to create a fascist state entailed seizing state power suddenly and with a coordinated effort and force – without this plan to obliterate and oppose liberal democracy, Fascism would not exist. Being supported by big businesses does not make Trump a fascist.
A fascist was not shy of opposing democracy in public, Mussolini even boasting to reduce Italy’s Parliament to what he titled ‘a fascist barrack.’ Despite President Trump’s questionable viewpoints over accepting or not accepting a democratic result, it is unreasonable to label him a true fascist, fascistic or even an Ur-fascist, due to the intricacies of his economic stance and insistence on empowering the individual. A fascist would not promote gun ownership that gives the ordinary people the power to overthrow an oppressive regime, the same oppression that fascism freely fetishizes as the right way to govern.
One can only hope that the true definition of the ideology of fascism is one day remembered, and not be gleefully yet ignorantly used as a non-sequitur to discredit a political opponent on no premise other than differing radical mindsets.