The pejorative term ‘Fascist’ has been bandied about a lot recently particularly in the direction of certain people and their governments. This week we thought we’d take a little look at what the word means. Historically the word is derived from the Latin ‘fasces’ which was a bundle of sticks around an axe and was a symbol of authority in Ancient Rome. The symbol was co-opted by Mussolini who formed the Fascio Di Combattimento group in the early 20th century and it is from here that we derive the word as we know it now. Other notable fascist regimes include Hitler’s Germany, Franco’s Spain and Peron’s Argentina.
So that is where the word originates but what does it mean? This can get tricky. Initially at least Mussolini considered himself to have socialist leanings and of course Hitler’s version of fascism manifested itself as ‘National Socialism’. Today it is obvious that socialism and fascism are polar opposites with nothing whatsoever in common. To define fascism it is probably best to see how it works at basic levels.
The overriding identifier of fascism is that of nationalism and extreme nationalism at that. The nation-state or country is at the heart of everything and everything must be done to preserve it. Individuality can only be expressed by identification with the larger group. Liberalism is seen as decadent, leading to poor morals and lack of ‘purity’. We can also define Fascism in two further ways – playing on the sense that its adherents are victims and that they are also naturally superior to their enemies. Hence the rise of the ideology in Europe following the First World War – both Italy and Germany felt aggrieved at their post-war situations and that certain groups (racial in respect of Germany and political in respect of Italy) were to blame. All of this is used to justify the violence that often, if not always, accompanies fascism. Any means justify the ends.
Two facets of fascism might at first glance appear odd. Firstly, given the primacy of the group over the individual, fascist regimes are always lead by a dictator (usually male since fascism is essentially patriarchal in nature). This can be explained by fascism’s preference for ‘Elites’ – those who embody the spirit of the nation above all others and the highest of those is the leader or dictator within whom all good values and attributes exist (the ‘fuhrerprinzip’ – leader principle in German). Secondly, again seemingly at odds with the notion of all people in a single group, is fascism’s relationship with capitalism. Again we must look the idea of ‘elites’ – those who by fortune or design have the necessary means to control production. The moneyed class are useful to fascism in this respect and dictators have always been supported by ‘big business’ historically.
Unfortunately the term fascist is somewhat overused today. By using the term lightly it has lost some of its meaning and power – the extreme violence and brutality of the philosophy has caused untold misery to millions. So before you do use it have a look at this checklist to identify is someone is indeed a fascist: a man in thrall to capital (and probably extremely rich in their own right) who favours making their country great again and has no compunction in using the power of the state to violent ends against its own people. A man so deluded that they consider themselves the best example of a being that the nation has to offer. A man who will truck no opposition in his goals (i.e. the pursuit and enjoyment of power). If you find such a man let us know.