The term Fascism is used to denote the type of political system which was established under Mussolini in Italy, and Hitler in Germany during the inter-war period. There have been other variants of Fascism also during the same period e.g Japan, Portugal, Spain, and Argentina.
Fascism is a “bad” word. Whatever fascists did cannot be justified at all. Fascism is an enemy of humanity. Fascism is not a political ideology but rather propaganda, a set of myths, manipulations.
Fascists scholars have borrowed its concept from multiple sources. Whatever suited to their interests they have incorporated and manufactured in their ideology. That is why Fascism is called a hodge-podge of ideologies.
Instead of understanding Fascism from the perspective that fascists “stand for what” it is better to understand that fascists are against “what”. Fascism is against rationalism, against progress, against equality, against freedom, against humanity, against capitalism, and against communism.
Fascism is the revolt against the ideas and values that dominated the western world since French Revolution. Fascist’s slogan was “1789 is dead”.
It is “constructive destruction”. It wants to destroy the values of modern society because it is against enlightenment and liberal progress. It is also understood as an extreme form of conservatism. If socialism is the leftist reaction to liberalism, Fascism is the rightest reaction against liberalism.
Fascism talks about the solidarity of a nation and an extreme form of nationalism. It does not possess a liberal concept of nationalism. Ultimately the Nation is not the goal, but the leader of the Nation or government is.
The only difference between Fascism and Nazism is that Fascism projected the supremacy of the State, whereas Nazism talked about the superiority of race.
Features of Fascist Political system:
- Anti-democratic – According to Mussolini, democracy is the luxury of rich nations, and parliaments are nothing but talking shops.
- Fascists do not give recognition to individual rights and liberties. They only talk about the duties of the citizens.
- Fascists states are led by a small section of elites.
- Leaders enjoy supreme authority. The leader is considered superman. You cannot question him, and he has the solution for everything.
- Fascists states justify war. In the words of Mussolini, “war is to men is what maternity to women”.
- Fascists have a conservative view with respect to the family and the role of women.
- A fascist state is a corporate state. The idea of corporatism is not clear, but Fascists projected it as a State who is a friend to both labor and capital. Corporatism is that State which is taking care of the workers and capitalists by establishing the equilibrium and going for conflict resolution but in reality State is not taking care of anyone.
Thus, in a fascist state, the autonomy of the individual is not recognized. The Nation is supreme. The individual is expected to sacrifice himself for the sake of Nation, race, and community.
Fascists State is built up by myths and propaganda. Hitler also believed in racism. Hitler even had a propaganda minister.
Conditions giving rise to Fascism
Some scholars have highlighted historical and political conditions, which gave rise to Fascism, such as when democracy is not mature or where democratic values have not replaced older autocratic order. Also, when there is political instability like democratic governments and coalitions fail to work, or there is an economic crisis like rising unemployment. Sometimes there is frustrated nationalism and a desire for revenge. Wars also generate militaristic nationalism and militaristic values.
Apart from the above conditions, there are theories developed that explain the rise of Fascism. Erich Fromm has given the concept of “fear of freedom”. He says man does not want to be free because freedom gives insecurity, and people prefer security rather than freedom. When one is free and no one is there to take care of, it results in the development of a feeling of insecurity. As a result, one looks for security and strong and authoritarian leaders. One feels that leader is overcoming their insecurity. So people tend to get attracted towards strong leaders and persons with charismatic personalities.
When these weaknesses in human nature meet with the circumstances like political and historical instabilities, the combination of two things becomes the fertile ground for the use of fascists tendencies. Hence, the fear of Fascism is always there because of the weakness of human nature.
“We should actively safeguard against the tendencies of Fascism. It is to be noted that people had not rejected Fascism. Fascists dictatorship could be ended only by the military action in WW2.”
According to some scholars, Fascism is the product of mobocracy when masses go for massive participation.
Western countries have always feared that democracy should not get converted into the tyranny of the majority i.e mobocracy as the masses cannot make rational decisions. Masses will not understand who is the right leader and will have a tendency to elect a leader who may look democratic but is not. So many scholars have always warned against the dangers of mobocracy. It is believed that excessive participation of the people in elections and government is not good.
Excessive participation is good if things are decentralized but otheriwse some leaders may get elected by an exceptional majority to claim exceptional legitimacy.
absolute power corrupts absolutely
Every ideology reflects the interest of a particular class. Many scholars regarded Fascism as an ideology of the frustrated middle class which is squeezed between the growing might of the business class on one hand and the rising power of organized labor on other hand. The lower middle class felt neglected. Fascists drew massive support from the lower-middle classes.
In fact, leaders used the middle class and made them a scapegoat. Leaders tried to utilize their weaknesses and insecurity. At the same time, Fascists got a lot of financial and political support from the capitalists class.
According to one scholar Lipsey, Fascism is an extreme form of rightism. It was an attempt from the capitalist class to maintain their power by supporting fascists leaders.
What Hitler did was madness and cannot be justified. Even if he had concerns for his Nation, what he did was certainly wrong. So with Fascism, we cannot start with a neutral mindset. In other words, a very unbiased understanding of it is not possible. It is not welcomed in any society. One normally links its opponent as fascist.
It is not an ideology because ideologies give some reasoning even if it is partial. Fascism is considered propaganda. There is no logic so they will create a myth and play with man’s passions or utilize man’s weaknesses. Fascism is a bad chapter in human history.
There is an attraction towards Fascism, and this is the main fear. When one goes for the fascist type of politics, one can easily generate mass mobilization. Fascism reflects opportunism, meaning taking advantage of the situation as and when arises.
It is a very dangerous type of politics, and we should be very conscious about such tendencies.