Today we loosely throw around the hated label of fascist (or NAZI) toward those we disagree with. I try not to do that; but still the adjective is apt in this day and age… especially in this day and age. The human race never learns the lessons of the past even as we pretend and even believe otherwise. Those who commit, those who appease, those who suffer, and those who abdicate fall right into line to play their parts.
So What is Fascism? What the World Says:
Trying to define fascism can be a quite an undertaking unto itself. Everyone (sane) agrees it’s bad… some of us agree it is worse; that it is evil. But what is IT exactly?
Looking at what the all knowing man behind the curtain (Google) tells us… a fascist is “an advocate or follower of fascism.” Wow :) that was helpful.
Google adds the following synonyms to clear things up: authoritarian, totalitarian, dictatorial, despotic, autocratic, undemocratic,
illiberal; Nazi, extreme right-wing, rightist, militarist; nationalist(ic), xenophobic, racist… Google add the similarly helpful antonym (meaning the opposite of fascist): liberal
You might notice that I stuck through a few of Google’s “helpful” synonyms and one antonym. That it is to identify the ones Google (and most of the world) got wrong. :). Google’s mistake (causing the inaccuracy) is in allowing worldly (leftist) precepts to influence their response.
The Merriam Webster dictionary does a much better job.
fascism (noun): a way of organizing a society in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of the people and in which people are not allowed to disagree with the government : very harsh control or authority : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition : a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control
Now that’s a pretty accurate definition.
So What is Fascism? What does TexasLynn say? Fascism is almost like the classic Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography; “I know it when I see it.”
The Core of Fascism:
To get a proper understanding of fascism I agree that it is a useful exercise to examine the Party that was at the core of defining the movement back in the early to mid-twentieth century (the NAZIs). But the key to doing this is to look at what is at the core of fascist behavior, what lies below the implementation.
I think Google and Merrian Webster get it right in that the core of fascism is authoritarianism, specifically government authoritarianism. It is this core that leads to totalitarianism, and dictatorial, despotic, and autocratic regimes. By definition authoritarianism (and thus fascism) is undemocratic. That doesn’t mean that a democratic system can’t be fascist, but such a “democratic” system can only be fascist when it is hypocritical. I might also add my opinion that the emphasis on government control and ownership inherent in socialism naturally breeds fascism as socialism progresses through its natural course of suppressing and destroying liberty.
Another core aspect of fascism that stems from this authoritarian power is suppression and persecution of opposition; using the power of the state. This is true even when the stated laws of the state prohibit the behavior. Fascist in power believe they (or their cause) are above the law. They believe they have might and right on their side.
So far… fascism at it’s core is government authoritarianism (at all levels) that uses its power to suppress and persecute. But I agree it’s more than that. Fascism is not a synonym of authoritarian; authoritarian is an attribute of fascism.
Moving forward, let’s look at what it’s not… what Google (and the world) got so wrong.
Not Right (or Left):
The big mistake Google makes is assigning fascism to “right-wing” and for extra measure disassociating it from the left. Left and right have nothing to do with being fascist (or not). This fallacy has been successfully pushed by the left for generations (and Google is happy to continue the tradition).
This leftist propaganda is the act of smearing an idea and movement with the tar of a far distance and extreme cousin; maliciously transferring an attribute of one to another despite logic that might point otherwise. In defense of the left, here they make a common mistake. It’s what they want to be true, so it is.
Basically the argument goes… Ducks swim so all birds found in the water are ducks OR the NAZI’s (fascist) believed in social hierarchy and inequality so if you believe in some semblance of those concepts the label may be applied, and thus intuitively if you reject those concepts you in no way can be considered fascist. The older traditional definition of right-wing being “…political positions or activities that view some forms of social hierarchy or social inequality as either inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable, typically justifying this position on the basis of natural law or tradition.” — Wikipedia
The NAZIs definitely believed in social hierarchy and inequality from a strictly racists and antisemitic creed. I, as a conservative, believe that social hierarchy and inequality are natural, and inevitable (having nothing to do with race). These things are simply a law of nature, like gravity. The left would have you think those two concepts are one and the same. The argument is intellectually and morally bankrupt.
Not Militarist, Nationalistic Xenophobic, or Racist:
I hate to even mention this one because it’s so stupid; but Google included it. A fascist state or system need not be militaristic. It needs the ability to apply its authority towards its citizens and sometimes others; but that need not be a military. It can be any combination of executive, legislative, or judicial force; and that force need not extend beyond its own borders.
Google (and the World) again associate the NAZIs implementation of militarist fascism with the definition. Hitler was a megalomaniac bent on world domination. A fascist state need not include such a leader; he may be perfectly content with control of his little piece of the world. Indeed, while leaders are necessary in any movement, the movement itself can have fascist tendencies.
Nationalistic also was a NAZI trait, but again not a requirement to fascism. True, the fascist state (like any political system) needs some banner (high idea) on which to gather it’s supporters but nationalism need not be it. The NAZIs did it with pride in nation, and race. That was simply their implementation. Any ideal can supplement that nationalism… even anti-nationalism.
Xenophobic (hatred of other nations)? Racist? (Same thing):
It is useful for the fascist state to put up a bogyman to rally supporters against; but that could be anything. The hatred of other races and nations complemented nicely with NAZI pride. Again though, it was their implementation. I believe fascists could just as easily embrace other nations, and not be outwardly racist.
The Definition of Fascism:
Thus we come to my identification of what key characteristics that make up fascism.
1. Government authoritarianism instinctively abusive of life and liberty
2. A systemic use of power to suppress opposition
3. An overwhelming hatred of some groups of people (racial, religious, ideological, regional…)
4. A systemic use of power to suppress and persecute those hated peoples (in addition to opposition)