Noel Ignatin - "Fascism: Some Misconceptions"
Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital (3).
All students agree that fascism makes its appearance at a time of crisis, a period in which the traditional methods of resolving social conflicts are no longer acceptable to any of the parties involved (3).
Dutt writes that fascism appears at that stage when the breakdown of the olds capitalist institutions and the advance of working-class movement has reached a point at which the working class should advance to the seizure of power, but when the working class is held in by reformist leadership. According to this view, fascism is "a species of preventive counter-revolution.”
This was the standard Comintern line. Thus, Dimitrov sees the drive toward fascism as a "striving to forestall the growth of the forces of revolution. …” (3).
The answer of the Comintern is clear and unmistakable: “Fascism is … a weapon of finance-capital …” (Dutt);
“Fascism is the power of finance capital itself” (Dimitrov).
“…it is the expression of the most reactionary sectors of the bourgeoisie” (Togliatti) (4).
[Fascists are] encouraged by the bourgeoisie, which sees them as a force to use against the left (4).
[Fascist] aims are directed first toward smashing the workers’ organizations. At the same time, they are forced to rein in their own “left wing.”
. . . the fascist regime begins to assume the appearance of an ordinary regime of right-wing dictatorship (5).
[Fascists] are waiting for the proper opportunity to put their program into practice. The outbreak of war gives them that opportunity (5).
It is necessary to recognize the relative autonomy of the fascist movement in relation to all classes, as an important feature that distinguishes it from other right-wing governments (5).
The aim of the Nazis was not the establishment of German supremacy, although they occasionally referred, for mass consumption, to that goal. The aim of the fascists was the establishment of the master race (6).
[Reactionary] is part of the Comintern definition of fascism. … the term “reactionary” applies to those who would go back, who would revert to more primitive social and technological conditions (6).
Fascism, after the first few years of breaking up the opposition parties, moves toward the establishment of the totalitarian state. The characteristic of the totalitarian state is not merely suppression of the opposition, but total domination of the lives of the subjects. This is brought about in part through the use of terror (7).
(deconstruction stage) … after having smashed up the proletarian organizations and having reduced the population to a grouping of atomized individuals with no ties of group interests, it then (synthesis stage) proceeds to reorganize these fragmented beings into mass organizations that reach into every sphere of life … It is not enough that opposition should be suppressed; the masses must be brought to cooperate with the new regime, to participate actively in its mass rallies, sport societies, re-education sessions. (gleichschaltung) No form of autonomous activity can be permitted.
Henry Giroux -
"Against the Dictatorship of Ignorance"
These ideals include the veneration of war, anti-intellectualism, dehumanization, a populist celebration of ultra-nationalism and racial purity, the suppression of freedom and dissent, a culture of lies, a politics of hierarchy, the spectacularization of emotion over reason, the weaponization of language, a discourse of decline, and state violence in heterogeneous forms.
Roger Griffin & Scotty Hendricks -
"What Fascism Really Is and What It Isn't"
Roger Griffin’s definition of fascism:
Ten features of “generic” fascism. They are:
1. Fascism is Anti-Liberal: Fascists oppose pluralism, tolerance, individualism, democracy, the idea of natural rights, and the like. While fascist movements have often used democratic means to achieve power this does not deny their anti-democratic ends. Fascists view liberalism as a decedent and failed ideology.
2. Fascism is Anti-Conservative: The key element of Fascism is that it seeks a “national rebirth” or “new order”, this may make reference to a glorious past but doesn’t call for a return to it. They reject conservative status quo politics.
3. Fascism Tends to Operate as a Charismatic Form of Politics: Fascism tends to rely on personality cults, mass movements, and appeals to collective emotions over reason.
4. Fascism is Anti-Rational: Fascists do not view man’s capacity to reason as the key human ability, but rather the capacity to be driven to heroic action by means of belief, myth, symbols, and the like.
5. Fascist ‘Socialism': Fascists claim that their movement offers the end of class conflict in society along with adequate reward for the productive members of the nation. Fascists reject Marxism and international socialism, but do favor a strong state role in the economy. Syndicalism and Corporatism are strong elements in fascist economics. Self- described socialists are noted haters of fascism in all forms. For their part, Fascists in Italy banned trade unions; the Nazis sent social democrats to concentration camps.
6. Fascism’s Link to Totalitarianism: A fascist utopia would see the state as all powerful, and the population as homogeneous and well regimented to the ends of the state. The machinery required to ensure ideological and behavioral uniformity in that state would be Orwellian in scale. Mussolini put it frankly when he said: “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”
7. Heterogeneous Social Support: In theory, fascism has no bias in support by class. In principle fascism should appeal to all classes equally. Both Italian Fascism and German Nazism made strong rhetorical gestures to all classes. The same could be said of support by gender, though the tendency to emphasize militarism and physical courage could be considered an appeal to chauvinism.
8. Fascist Racism: Griffin says, “By its nature fascism is racist, since all ultra- nationalisms are racist in their celebration of the alleged virtues and greatness of an organically conceived nation or culture”. In the same way, fascism opposes the "liberal vision of the multicultural, multi-religious, multiracial society”.
9. Fascist Internationalism: While focused on issues relevant to its nation, fascism is perfectly capable of supporting and finding solidarity with fascist movements in other nations. Especially when facing common enemies. The Axis Powers are a clear example of this.
10. Fascist Eclecticism: The concepts that make up Fascism are various, and historically ideas have been taken from both the far right (illiberalism, racism) and the far left (syndicalism). This was considered a strength by fascist leaders and these nearly contradictory ideas are always united by their relation to the concept of national rebirth.
Robert O. Paxton -
The Anatomy of Fascism
Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion (218).
Paxton is particularly useful in describing what he calls nine “mobilizing passions” of fascism that provide a common ground for most fascist movements. These include, in abbreviated form, (1) a sense of overwhelming crisis; (2) the primacy of the group and subordination of individuals to it; (3) the belief that one group is a victim, justifying action beyond moral and legal limits; (4) dread of the group’s decline; (5) call for purer community by consent of violence if necessary; (6) need for the authority of a natural leader (7) supremacy
of leader’s instincts over reason; (8) beauty of violence and efficacy of the will devoted to group’s success; (9) right of chosen people to dominate others without restraint (41-42). See also Henry Giroux, American Nightmare, 44.
David Neiwert - Alt-America
Fascism is not just a historical relic. It remains a living and breathing phenomenon that, for generations since World War II, had only maintained a kind of half-life on the fringes of the American right. Its constant enterprise, during all those years, was to return white
supremacism to the mainstream, restore its previous legitimacy, and restore its own power within the nation’s political system (355-356).
Timothy Snyder - On Tyranny
Fascism is not static and expresses its most fundamental attacks on democracy in different forms, which is all the more reason for people to develop an active relationship to history to prevent a normalizing relationship to authoritarian regimes.
Henry Giroux, American Nightmare, 44.
Umberto Eco - Eternal Fascism
In spite of some fuzziness regarding the difference between various historical forms of fascism, I think it is possible to outline a list of features that are typical of what I would like to call Ur-Fascism or Eternal Fascism. These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.
1. The first feature of Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition.
Traditionalism is of course much older than fascism. Not only was it typical of counterrevolutionary Catholic thought after the French revolution, but is was born in the late Hellenistic era, as a reaction to classical Greek rationalism. In the Mediterranean basin, people of different religions (most of the faiths indulgently accepted by the Roman pantheon) started dreaming of a revelation received at the dawn of human history. This revelation, according to the traditionalist mystique, had remained for a long time concealed under the veil of forgotten languages--in Egyptian hieroglyphs, in the Celtic runes, in the scrolls of the little-known religions of Asia.
This new culture had to be syncretistic. Syncretism is not only as the dictionary says, "the combination of different forms of belief or practice"; such a combination must tolerate contradictions. Each of the original messages contains a sliver of wisdom and although they seem to say different or incompatible things, they all are nevertheless alluding, allegorically, to the same primeval truth.
As a consequence, there can be no advancement of learning. Truth already has been spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message. If you browse in the shelves that, in American bookstores, are labeled New Age, you can find there even Saint Augustine, who, as far as I know, was not a fascist. But combining Saint Augustine and Stonehenge--that is a symptom of Ur-Fascism.
2. Traditionalism implies the rejection of modernism (Ur-fascism is irrationalism).
Both Fascists and Nazis worshipped technology, while traditionalist thinkers usually reject it as a negation of traditional spiritual
values. However, even though Nazism was proud of its industrial achievements, its praise of modernism was only the surface of an ideology based upon blood and earth (Blut und Boden). The rejection of the modern world was disguised as a rebuttal of the capitalistic way of life. The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modem depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.
3. Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action's sake.
Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical attitudes. Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Dr-Fascism, from Hermann Goering's fondness for a phrase from a Hanns Johst play ("When I hear the word 'culture' I reach for my gun") to the frequent
use of such expressions as "degenerate intellectuals," "eggheads," "effete snobs," and "universities are nests of reds." The official Fascist intellectuals were mainly engaged in attacking modern culture and the liberal intelligentsia for having betrayed traditional values.
4. The critical spirit makes distinctions and to distinguish is a sign of modernism.
In modem culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason.
5. Besides, disagreement is a sign of diversity.
Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.
6. Ur-Fascism derives from individual or social frustration (Status Anxiety).
That is why one of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups. In our time, when the old "proletarians" are becoming petty bourgeois (and the lumpen are largely excluded from the political scene), the fascism of tomorrow will find its audience in this new majority.
7. To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Ur-Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country.
This is the origin of nationalism. Besides, the only ones who can provide an identity to the nation are its enemies. Thus at the root of the
Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia. But the plot must also come from the inside: Jews are usually the best target because they have the advantage of being at the same time inside and outside. In the United States, a prominent instance of the plot obsession is to be found in Pat Robertson's The New World Order, but, as we have recently seen, there are many others.
8. The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies.
When I was a boy I was taught to think of Englishmen as the five-meal people. They ate more frequently than the poor but sober Italians. Jews are rich and help each other through a secret web of mutual assistance. However, the followers of Ur-Fascism must also be convinced that they can overwhelm the enemies. Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak. Fascist governments are condemned to lose wars because they are constitutionally incapable of objectively evaluating the force of the enemy.
9. For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle.
Thus pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare. This, however, brings about an Armageddon complex. Since enemies have to be defeated, there must be a final battle, after which the movement will have control of the world. But such "final solutions" implies a further era of peace, a Golden Age, which contradicts the principle of permanent war. No fascist leader has ever succeeded in solving this predicament.
10. Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology, insofar as it is fundamentally aristocratic, and aristocratic and militaristic elitism cruelly implies contempt for the weak.
Ur-Fascism can only advocate a popular elitism. Every citizen belongs to the best people in the world, the members or the party are the best among the citizens, every citizen can (or ought to) become a member of the party. But there cannot be patricians without plebeians. In fact, the Leader, knowing that his power was not delegated to him democratically but was conquered by force, also knows that his force is based upon the weakness of the masses; they are so weak as to need and deserve a ruler.
11. In such a perspective everybody is educated to become a hero.
In every mythology the hero is an exceptional being, but in Ur-Fascist ideology heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death. It is not by chance that a motto of the Spanish Falangists was Viva la Muerte ("Long Live Death!"). In nonfascist societies, the lay public is told that death is unpleasant but must be faced with dignity; believers are told that it is the painful way to reach a supernatural happiness. By contrast, the Ur-Fascist hero craves heroic death, advertised as the best reward for a heroic life. The Ur-Fascist hero is impatient to die. In his impatience, he more frequently sends other people to death.
12. Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters.
This is the origin of machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality). Since even sex is a difficult game to play. the Ur-Fascist hero tends to play with weapons--doing so becomes an ersatz phallic exercise.
13. Ur-Fascism is based upon a selective populism, a qualitative populism, one might say.
In a democracy, the citizens have individual rights, but the citizens in their entirety have a political impact only from a quantitative point of view--one follows the decisions of the majority. For Ur-Fascism, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People
is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction. There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.
Because of its qualitative populism, Ur-Fascism must be against "rotten" parliamentary governments. Wherever a politician casts doubt on the legitimacy of a parliament because it no longer represents the Voice of the People, we can smell Ur-Fascism.
14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak.
Newspeak was invented by Orwell, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, as the official language of what he called Ingsoc, English Socialism. But elements of Ur-Fascism are common to different forms of dictatorship. All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning. But we must be ready to identify other kinds of Newspeak, even if they take the apparently innocent form of a popular talk show.
Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier for us if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, "I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Blackshirts to parade again in the Italian squares." Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances--every day, in every part of the world. Franklin Roosevelt's words of November 4, 1938, are worth recalling: "If American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in
our land." Freedom and liberation are an unending task.
Norberto Bobbio - The Hallmark of Fascism
"Unqualified contempt for positivism (not its embrace) is a hallmark of fascism." Correlated with MAUSA³ this would be equivalent to the principle of anti-intellectualism.
Stephen Eric Bronner, Critical Theory: A Very Short Introduction, 61.
Norberto Bobbio, Democracy and Dictatorship: The Nature and Limits of State Power
Dictionary Definition of Fascism
National Socialism is an aspect of fascism, but fascism is not National Socialism.
What Is Fascism?
"Those who study the literature on fascism in the hope of pinning down a precise meaning often throw up their hands in despair..."
Kevin Passmore, Fascism: A Very Short Introduction, 12.
"... capitalists used the mass fascist movement to destroy socialism" (15).
"For totalitarian theorists, fascist ideas are revolutionary, for to construct Utopia all existing structures must be levelled, whether parties, trade unions, families, or churches. Revolution also involves the creation of a ‘new fascist man’ – someone who lives only for the nation. Since real people are in fact diverse and far from perfectible, the only way to make them assume their places in Utopia is by force. Utopianism always leads to terror" (20).
"... Fascists condemn socialism, feminism, capitalism, and any other ‘ism’ on the grounds that these ideologies place some other criteria (class, gender, economic interest, and so on) above the nation. This is why fascism is so often described as a negative ideology – ‘anti this’ and ‘anti that’. In fact, nationalism gives fascism a positive side..." (26).
"... disaffected supporters of right-wing parties provided most, although not all, fascist recruits..." (29).
"... Fascists did not condemn private property itself, so they were, in the eyes of the wealthy, far better than the left" (53).
"... the Fascists engaged in an orgy of violence against the Socialists..." (56).
"Fascism is as deeply opposed to feminism as it is to socialism" (123).
"... workers might oppose fascism because of its antisocialism, yet be attracted by its promise to put the interests of native workers ahead of those of foreigners" (136).
"Ur-Fascism [a term meaning ‘eternal fascism’] is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier for us, if there appeared on the scene somebody saying, ‘I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Blackshirts to parade again in the Italian squares’. Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and point the finger at any of its new instances – every day and in every part of the world."
Umberto Eco, "Ur-Fascism" in The New York Review of Books, 22 June 1995.
fascism | | faSH| izəm | (also Fascism)
An authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.
• (in general use) extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practice.
The term Fascism was first used of the totalitarian right-wing nationalist regime of Mussolini in Italy (1922–43); the regimes of the Nazis in Germany and Franco in Spain were also Fascist. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group, a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach.
1920s: from Italian fascismo, from fascio “bundle, political group”, from Latin fascis (see fasces).
—definition of “fascism” in the Oxford online dictionary
Sheldon Wolin - Fascism Definition
"Fascism ... is the product of democracies gone wrong, that had working constitutional systems which they gave up voluntarily."
Sheldon Wolin, Democracy, Inc., 52.
Robert Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism, 42, 78.