What is Fascism? (Without the Spin)

Fascism

Can We Stop With The B.S. Please?

Fascism has become a catch phrase; a buzz word. When making a case that the government is abusing its power we easily explain it away as Fascism. When we see ultra-nationalist groups prowl the streets of Russia shouting “Russia for Russians!” we call them Fascists.

Fascism has become synonymous with abusive authority, with absolute totalitarian dictatorship, with ruthless oppression, and with genocide. The truth is that today we live amongst modern day Fascists all over the globe from America, to Greece, to Russia, and onwards (to be explored in my next post).

The truth is that Fascism succeeded in convincing us several of its key arguments about human nature and Fascism has changed the way popular culture portrays military service, nationhood, and the way citizens relate to its government.

picture-172If this doesn’t convince you that Fascism is bad, nothing will

But the truth is, learning about Fascism is a difficult experience. Even mentioning it is taboo. We are told that Fascism is so evil that to even learn about it means you must be a Nazi sympathizer. So if you want to learn about Fascism you have to dig deep into literature. But not just any literature, a very rare kind that isn’t made by angry Marxists or Liberals. The problem with our Marxist/Liberal friends is that these accounts are normally not very objective. Every other page is full of the atrocities of Fascism and how irrational/self-contradictory it is.

Certainly an argument can be made to say this may be true, but it does not help us understand what Fascism is; instead it obscures the picture. So, with the help of a great author (James A. Gregor) I have synthesized some Fascist principals down into simpler, nonacademic terms.

Here are the main tenants of this elusive ideology, Fascism.

Anti-Individualism

Actualists at the time (the philosophy of what is ‘actual’ or ‘real) had argued that the individual self of liberalism was ‘unreal’ and a fiction. Our Fascist philosophers saw classical liberalism, regarding the empirical self as the ‘true’ self, to be a facade. In a political sense the individual did not exist. It is through the communal self that we gain an identity and a purpose in life. It is through these social interactions that we transform from an animal to a human.

main-italy-defendiloUnfortunately our Fascist friends were not very good at propaganda…
Italy is a screaming child?

At the core of this argument is the premise that humans cannot even think without language to translate raw thought into action. Language does not exist in a bubble, a child evolves to a human once it can utilize public language internally to understand the social world. There are no “private” languages.

It is through friendship (allowed for by language) and unity with our tribe that we gain our desire to better ourselves. Therefore Fascists are not supporters of individualism and, unsurprisingly, are not big fans of democracy either. Let’s see why.

Totalitarian Democracy [Who Governs?]

The state operates on something called the “transcendental will,” but that word is annoyingly large and vague. We’ll use “national ideal” instead. I think it explains the concept better. The national ideal is the collective desire of the nation. The urge to expand the nation’s historical boarders, to generate economic power, to assert itself on the world stage, and to be respected as an Italian. Fascist society is built on the back of the commonly shared national will.

In order to synthesize this national ideal (and make it more apparent to the ruling elite) it is important to use a uniform education system to raise society’s new members under. The theory being that similar inputs equate to similar outputs. If all Italians have a uniform system of education then the resulting beliefs and ideals will be harmonized. The result is that the national ideal will become clear to our governing elite who may then direct the nation.

This is ‘democratic’ in the sense that the beliefs of our youngsters are not coerced by the government; the beliefs are generated by the willful participation of the student. So since all students had a similar upbringing then their beliefs are going to synergize. This allows for a corporatist economic scheme (explained next). It is the collective will of ALL members of society that allows for this totalitarian democracy. The Fascist argues that in most democracies it is the wealthy or the 51% mob who determines policy. They see this and reasonably claim it is hardly harmonious or democratic.

fascistitalymussoliniMussolini would attempt to represent the national ideal of an entire Nation

Additionally, our democratic populous are generally uninformed about their un-democratic political representatives. But, the Fascist claims, what is unique in every voter is that they possesses in themselves the national ideal. It is this national ideal that allows for consensus rule, which is infinitely more powerful than majority rule. So we use this as a basis for who rules the Fascist nation.

Now we all agree that democracy is out because it does not reflect this national ideal. What will replace it? Well it should be clear that any community in crisis does NOT elect a representative and hold a great vote. Political communities are ruled by an elite group (either by consensus of the population, existing military power, or something else.). In life-or-death situations, society leadership does not change. Instead we commonly see a “rotation of elites” who are trusted to gather their countrymen and provide true leadership in an epic struggle for survival.

During these situations we see incredible unity and solidarity for our nation. Every class, every profession is working toward a singular collective purpose: survival. It is in this moment that the national ideal becomes clear and that a Fascist Democracy, or Totalitarian Democracy may arise.

To maintain rule, our ruling elites must maintain a popular consensus (continuously represent the national ideal) of its people. To do so it may need to rule by a threat of external enemies (real or perceived), or exploit a desire for domestic security, or impose upon its citizens a supreme sense of accomplishment.

Using these tools the Fascist leadership will continuously keep the nation unified under its rule and our national ideal will remain visible so that they may represent it. As long as the nation is unified under this national ideal then heroic feats of strength (unimaginable in a typical democracy) are possible.

While the Fascist wants a small group of elites to run society, they also want one singular individual to represent it. They need someone who can be instantly recognized as an Italian, someone who will personify the national ideal by anyone who views him. Someone with unflinching loyalty and devotion to his nation. They need a great leader who inspires its populace… and under this great leadership our Totalitarian Democracy is formed. Under this leadership we can guide the economic policy of the nation.

The Economics Question

The consensus of Fascists in Italy at the time was that it needed rapid industrialization in order to catch up with Europe and maintain its sovereignty. The Bolshevik revolution (and the famine and devastation that came after) was a lesson to Mussolini that the command and control policies of Russian Communists would not work for Italy. He stated,

“The state must maintain all imaginable possible controls, but it must renounce every form of economic management” -Mussolini 1921.

This was early on in Fascism’s implementation. As time went on the free market approach faded and the tendency of the Fascist to demand a powerful state prevailed. They wanted an alternative to socialism and capitalism, they wanted a ‘third way’ out of economic obscurity.

monopolyguyAs it turns out, wealthy capitalists got to keep their cigars. Sweet!

Capitalism was seen as inharmonious. The laborer worries only about his wage and his working conditions. The stockholders worry only about the creation of profit. The administrators care only about their narrow field of special concerns. Who is to organize and structure society? Who bears the immense responsibility to push Italy toward its greater national ideal? It is the state.

The realities of post-world war one industrialism proved to Fascist leadership that liberalism was too slow in its ability to rise Italy from the whipping boy of Europe. Therefore the state must work toward the collective interest of the nation. They wanted to do this through a new form of economic policies called corporatism, learning from the Bolshevik experience.

This corporatism was seen as a revised and new socialism. It was seen as a “Third Way.” The state would not become a centralized bureaucratic web repressing capitalists, but instead, the desire was that all facets of society work toward the national idea. The State is indistinguishable from the economy. It would be organically integrated in every facet of life.

James Gregor summarized this complicated topic best,

“A corporativist economy would recognize the social character of production, with individual initiative governed by social needs and social goals… In the final analysis, the true freedom of the individual does not find expression in the primitive pursuit of private interests, but in the collaborative effort to achieve collective ends.”

b679e3ddb1d4cc366e2571b344b138a3Obama, Marx, and Hitler walk into a bar…
They agree on everything and become best friends

You may think “Okay, how is that any different from socialism.” The difference lies in the goals they have.

The socialist’s goal is to repress the wealthy class of factory owners and aristocrats by giving ownership (and economic gains) to the working class.

The corporatist’s goal is to unite the economy in a singular collective unit, the national ideal. Classes still exist so the Fascist doesn’t repress the wealthy aristocrat or ‘raise up’ the poor worker. The Fascist merges the aristocrat’s actions with that of the worker, this is done through the shared interests of nationhood and personal sacrifice… Or by force, if necessary.

Conclusion

The Italian Fascist wanted to witness an Italy worthy of Roman glory. He was sick of the weakness, indecision, and disunity of the feudal era. The Fascist wanted unification of all economic classes. He did not care about class warfare, about state power, or about individualism. The nation was tempered, like fine steel, by warfare and hardship. From this perspective one may see that military service personifies everything the Fascist admires in man (leading to its importance in Fascist society).

The nation is united through a collective purpose exemplified by a single leader who epitomized everything it meant to be Italian. He would rise to power and be immediately recognized as one who represented the collective will of the nation.


1200027789_fHe seems legit to me

There is no purpose in having different political parties or figureheads. They are illusions. The Fascist party IS the nation. It represents everything that was and will be. The truth is that men are not selfish. Men are communal. Men willingly sacrifice themselves for the good of their tribe; the good of their nation; the glory of heroic deeds.

Reality is not objective, reality is subjective. Reality changes in the minds of men with the willpower to do so. Those with the strength can change the world.

Our cause is to finally participate in the great drama of nations. To once more feel the glory of military greatness, prestige, and economic power that had so long ago been taken. Fascism is about rebirth, it is about the renewal of a society from the ashes of the weak and frail. Fascism gives purpose those who feel their birthrights are being taken away by Liberal materialism or Communist scientism.

The Fascist does not care about race or class. The nation is all that matters. For those who are integrated into the fabric of the Italian community, for those who feel the very ethos of what it means to be Italian, for those who breath and die for their countrymen, heritage and economic power are not relevant.

The Fascist cares about consensus rule, not majority rule. But the only way to achieve a consensus is to ‘force’ the national ideal of the nation into the public sphere. This can only be done by  mortal struggle (for survival), economic strife (painful industrialization), or fervent devotion to the nation.

Once the national ideal is on the forefront, nations are capable of changing the very world we live in. They are capable greatness previously thought impossible. Fascism is power.

 640px-MAN_Atlante_fronte_1040572Oh Atlas, how heavy a burden we place upon you

We read about those fancy political types relating Plato’s ideal city state to Fascism. They all wonder, what would Plato say to the arguments made by Fascists on who governs in society? The Fascist would present his case, make all relevant notations in his book, The Republic. The Fascist would point out that the ruling elite would be quite similar to our philosopher kings and await the response.

I imagine Plato would would observe and make note of the similarities, take a long pause and think once more. But then, after a long wait, a knowing smirk would cross his lips and our Fascist would finally see… That at this moment we all witness what happens when we try to validate our political thoughts through the credibility of others who no longer have a voice.

That after dealing with this great weight, Plato can do nothing but endure, as we place yet another 5 ton brick on the back of bronze age Plato we see that he cannot cease to exist, he does only what he can do…

Plato Shrugs.

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17 comments

      1. And the United States of America, she just doesn’t know it yet. Too busy with her toys and all the distractions of life to care about the ‘whole’ just ‘me and mine’ and that is how we lose what our forefathers fought for us to have and gave us a Constitution of which our POTUS swears to uphold, not reinvent, when he is sworn in ~ twice! Ok.. I’ll stop ranting! Great article!

  1. There are major errors in your analysis.
    1. In the Soviet Union leaders also said that an individual is not important (and millions were killed by them after it).

    2. There is no such thing as a national ideal. The only ideal everywhere is desire to live happily in peace. All other things come from people who govern and want more power or more wealth.

    3. Socialism and communism did not take everything from the rich and gave it to the poor. They physically eliminated rich and made poor slaves. All wealth and power were shared by a small group of people who took power in their hands and some of their supporters.

    Actually, there is no big difference between socialism, communism and fascism. That’s why stalags were born in the USSR and then used by Hitler. That’s why there are many fascists in Russia today.

    1. Hello JF, thanks for your comments!

      1. I don’t see how this is an error in my analysis. The article is about fascism not the Soviet Union. Ideologies are not completely unique from each other, as my article states. There is a lot of Marxist influence in fascism.

      2. The national ideal occurs in the fascist philosophical literature of the time, similar to Rousseaus “General will.” If you don’t agree that it exists that’s okay, but the article is about what fascists believed not what I think exists/does not exist.

      3. There is a clear difference between the ideology and how it actually manifests in society. There can certainly be a strong case made that these ideologies are prone to evil, but the point of the article is to explain the roots of fascism, not argue it’s uniqueness or what it ends up creating when followed. As an example, Revolutionary France was founded on Liberal ideals and yet created a culture of paranoia and slaughter, resulting in napoleanic dictatorship. Few people would claim that classical liberalism is therefore a totalitarian, despotic, warmongering ideology because of this.

      Once again I appreciate your thoughts. I enjoy it when people disagree with me so thanks for your time!

  2. I’m thrilled to have discovered an intelligent discussion of political theory:) Ideologies that we’ve never examined too often become “buzzwords” for what he hate. Attempts to understand what we may or may not oppose should not be discouraged. It is a shame that someone reading Marx would receive some angry glares from people who only know that Marx=bad; the assumption that people endorse whatever they study is a dangerous one. Thank you for raising such important points.

    1. Thank you very much for your comment. I think it says a lot about society when there are “taboo” topics to even learn about. Personally it makes me want to read more into them just out of spite!

  3. Thank you for following my blog! I am enjoying yours: Your analyses are sound- don’t you think that somehow this is how we can all move forward? by really looking at what is out there and leaving preconception out of it? Good job, anyway!

  4. If you have not yet you would enjoy reading about Franco’s fascist Spain and the Spanish revolution of the mid 1930’s. I would definitely say that chance are Plato’s acceptance of enlightened monarchs would lighten his feeling towards fascism. He would like you said simply argue the leader makes or breaks the state (city or nation)

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