All Racists Are Not Fascists and All Fascists Are Not Nazis

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.

Recommended Reading

(Further Reading at Amazon Discount Prices)

The Doctrine of Fascism. Benito Mussolini.

The Color of Fascism. Gerald Horne.

Fascism: A Very Short Introduction. Kevin Passmore.

Notes

  1. Robert O. Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism (New York: Vintage Books), 112.
  2. R.J.B. Bosworth, Mussolini’s Italy (New York: Penguin Books, 2005), 490.
  3. Benito Mussolini, The Doctrine of Fascism ( Rome: Ardita Publishers, 1935), 17.
  4. Mussolini, 30.
  5. Mussolini, 31.
  6. Mussolini, 25.
  7. Mussolini, 29.
  8. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (White Wolf, 2014), 175.
  9. Mussolini, 10.
  10. Hitler, 170.

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4 thoughts on “All Racists Are Not Fascists and All Fascists Are Not Nazis

  1. Fascism and stoicism are fundamental opposites. Stoics are akin to New Testament Christians who believe they should ‘turn the other cheek’ and do unto others as they would behave others do unto them. Fascists are zealots who believe they know what is best for you (and the State) and will use force to indoctrinate and intimidate you into compliance with their views.

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    1. Bill,
      Stoicism originated in Athens in 300 B.C. from a man named Zeno who was born in Cyprus. Zeno developed his philosophy based upon the teachings of the prior philosophers Socrates, Antisthenes, the Milesians and Heracleitus of Ephesus. It quickly spread across Greece and the Roman Empire. Stoicism’s evolution may be divided into three phases 1) Early Stoa, the era of early Greek Stoicism 2) Middle Stoa, the era of Roman Stoicism and 3) Late Stoa where Stoic philosophy was shaped by Lucius Seneca, a Roman Statesman, Epictetus, an ex-slave, and Roman Emperor, Marcs Aurelius. He has been called one of the greatest emperors of the Roman Empire. Although Christianity would eventually replace Stoicism as the dominant influence in Rome, Stoicism has remained influential to this day. Fascism, which originated with Mussolini, is militaristic. Although Seneca did say, “ It is a petty and sorry person who will bite back when he is bitten”, many concepts of Stoicism are in harmony with and appealing to a military minded culture including the qualities that comprise the Stoic concept of Virtue (wisdom/moral insight, self-control, courage and justice – subjective according to the individual). Mussolini, desiring to restore the political system of empire, spoke often of the “morality” of fascism. His descriptions of his ideal for Fascism echo Stoicism. He mentions Stoicism in his writings more than once. Modern American Italian Fascists also echo Stoicism and I also mention this in my white paper. In their writings as in Mussolini’s there is the positive note toward Christianity without embracing it and the echo of Stoicism. To say that Mussolini, in his attempt to restore empire, reached back to a dominant philosophy of the Roman Empire is not an insult to Stoicism which has appealed to diverse groups and individuals since its inception. I also hear the echo of Stoicism in the Serenity Prayer beloved by Christians. Marcus Aurelius’ book, Meditations, has been read over 100 times by former Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis read Meditations while deployed overseas. Thomas Jefferson kept a copy of Seneca’s works on his nightstand. Thanks for your comments, Bill. I have not finished with Fascism. Perhaps the next time I address it in In Focus, I should revisit the topic of Stoicism as well.
      Stacy Edwards

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    1. I try to update frequently, but I’ve fallen a bit behind. I had to change plans from Business to Premium and I’m still making changes. Nevertheless, I hope to have another post soon. If you enter your email address to follow my blog, you will receive notification of new posts by email. Thank you for your kind words.

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