For the last two years, the news has been full of topics about Fascism. Political candidates are accused of Fascism, groups have been formed that go about rioting and attacking others supporting a different political viewpoint on the grounds that opposing political demonstrators are Fascist and innocent people have been attacked and/or derided because they allegedly look Fascist. Therefore, I decided that my first blog topic would be Fascism. Defining Fascism today is not as easy as it once was. Some published definitions mix Fascism and Nazism together in the definition of these historic ideologies and end with definitions of their present day counterparts that are so generic, they can apply to almost anyone. Therefore, I resorted to the writings of the initial founders of Fascism for a clear understanding of what it is.
Benito Mussolini was the founder of Fascism.(1) However, in America Fascism is commonly associated with Hitler and the Nazi movement. The symbol of Fascism is the ancient Roman symbol of authority, the fasces, which is a bundle of rods bound together with an ax and its protruding blade.(2) Most of us in America think of the Nazi swastika as the symbol of Fascism. Although Nazism is a type of Fascism, it differs significantly from the ideology begun with Mussolini. Although both have elements of Fascism that I will describe below in common, they significantly diverge in the area of their end goal for the societies they desire to build.
Elements of Fascism they share are:
- Fascism embraces a type of stoicism. Mussolini wrote, “Fascism does not, generally speaking, believe in the possibility or utility of perpetual peace…Therefore, all doctrines which postulate peace at all costs are incompatible with Fascism…Fascism carries this anti-pacifistic attitude into the life of the individual.” “I don’t care a damn…the proud motto of the fighting squads scrawled by a wounded man on his bandages is not only an act of philosophic stoicism, it sums up a doctrine which is not merely political: it is evident of a fighting spirit which accepts all risks…Life as he understands it means duty, elevation, conquest;…”(3)
- Fascism is imperialist. This imperialism is not just meddling in the affairs of other nations as we sometimes think of today, but the actual dominance of nations. Mussolini wrote, “the Fascist State expresses the will to exercise power and to command. Here the Roman tradition is embodied in a conception of strength. Imperial power, as understood by the Fascist doctrine, is not only territorial, or military, or commercial; it is also spiritual and ethical…Fascism sees in the imperialistic spirit – i.e. in the tendency of nations to expand – a manifestation of their vitality. In the opposite tendency, which would limit their interests to the home country, it sees a symptom of decadence. Peoples who rise or rearise are imperialistic; renunciation is characteristic of dying peoples.”(4)
- Resistance to the doctrine and the State must be ruthlessly suppressed. Mussolini wrote, “This explains many aspects of the practical activity of the regime, and the direction taken by many of the forces of the State, as also the severity which has to be exercised towards those who would oppose this spontaneous and inevitable movement….”(5)
- However, the one defining element of Fascism is the all encompassing totalitarian State and its dictator which dominates every aspect of the life of the individual. Individual rights and aspirations must always be subordinate to the State. Mussolini wrote, “the keystone of the Fascist doctrine is its conception of the State, of its essence, its functions and its aims. For Fascism, the State is absolute, individuals and groups relative. Individuals and groups are admissible in so far as they come within the State.”(6) He also wrote, “the Fascist State organizes the nation, but it leaves the individual adequate elbow room. It has curtailed useless or harmful liberties while preserving those which are essential. In such matters the individual cannot be the judge, but the State only.”(7) Hitler wrote, “In this matter, the State must assert itself as the trustee of a millennial future, in face of which, the egotistic desires of the individual count for nothing and will have to give way before the ruling of the State.”(8)
The primary difference between Mussolini’s Fascism and Hitler’s Nazism is that Mussolini describes the State in almost mystical, spiritual terms whereas Hitler describes the State as a racial nation state. Race and “racial purity” are foundational to every part of Hitler’s doctrine and for Mussolini, they are not. Mussolini wrote, “if Fascism were not a creed how could it endow its followers with courage and stoicism only a creed which has soared to the height of religion can inspire such words…” He also wrote, “The Fascist State, as a Higher and more powerful expression of personality, is a force, but a spiritual one. It sums up all the manifestations of the moral and intellectual life of man. ” He described Fascism as “expressing itself in a people as the conscience and will of the few, if not, indeed, of the one and ending to express itself in the conscience and will of the mass, of the whole group ethnically molded by natural and historical conditions into a nation, advancing, as one conscience and one will, along the self same line of development and spiritual formation. Not a race, nor a geographically defined region, but a people historically perpetuating itself; a multitude unified by an idea and imbued with the will to live, the will to power, self-consciousness, personality.”(9)
Hitler wrote, “the paramount purpose of the State is to preserve and improve the race…”(10)
Mussolini wanted to build a totalitarian State that for me brings to mind a modern day Roman Empire. Hitler wanted to build a master race, Aryan empire. Both Fascism and Nazism totally reject the Republic and democracy of our Founding Fathers. Fascism can be recognized by the concept of State and the role it plays in individual lives.
My upcoming white papers will examine Fascism and Nazism in America today and nationalism.
(Further Reading at Amazon Discount Prices)
- Robert O. Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism (New York: Vintage Books), 112.
- R.J.B. Bosworth, Mussolini’s Italy (New York: Penguin Books, 2005), 490.
- Benito Mussolini, The Doctrine of Fascism ( Rome: Ardita Publishers, 1935), 17.
- Mussolini, 30.
- Mussolini, 31.
- Mussolini, 25.
- Mussolini, 29.
- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (White Wolf, 2014), 175.
- Mussolini, 10.
- Hitler, 170.
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