Fascism refers to an authoritarian political ideology that puts national interests ahead of individual and social interests. The term originated inItalywhen it was coined by Benito Mussolini who was an Italian dictator. It was originally applied to the Italian political movement that was in power as from 1922-1943. This movement was steered by Mussolini himself. As a political ideology, fascism seeks to develop economic, cultural and social life of a country basing these on extreme senses of national belongings. Fascism also refers to suppressing or down playing all liberal ideas like democracy, elections, and freedom as well as individual rights. Basically, it seeks to destroy all forms of democracy: Legislature and liberal ideas. As such, the concept is highly connected with right-wing fanaticism, violence, racism and authoritarianism. Etymologically, the term comes from an Italian word ‘fascio’which stands for “union” or “league”.
Fascist movement emerged in European nations. They were also there in former colonial or overseas European territories in the 20th century. These movements mainly focused and took advantage on the social and political uncertainty that occurred after the wake of the First World War in 1919. It also surfaced itself in Italy during the Russian revolution of 1917. Giovanni Gentile in his book the encyclopedia Italiana, fascism holds that, “The state not only is authority which governs and molds individual wills with laws and values of spiritual life, but it is also a power which makes its will to prevail abroad”. Simply put, fascism is characterized as one party rule, centralized control of financial and industrial institutions by the government. It is also refers to militant nationalism and as that, it advocates for socialism.
The development of fascism ideology in Europe(Roger G. 1991) was greatly influenced by the romantic rebellion against enlightment philosophies in the 19th and 20th century. There are various characteristics of fascism: media is sometimes either directly or indirectly controlled by the government in influencing the public opinion, Censorship was very common during war time and is the motivational tools that was used by these governments. Most countries that supported fascism were obsessed with the national security and they highly valued militarism. Military funding exceeded the funding on domestic agenda. Another feature of fascist government was that there was male domination and things like divorce, homosexuality and abortion are suppressed in the name of preserving the family institutions. In fascism, religion and government are inter-woven in that the government uses the most common religions in the country as a tool to manipulate the public opinion of the country. Fascism is also a belief that labor power consolidation is a threat to its existence. Therefore, labor unions are either banned or suppressed. Fascism does not support higher education, Professorship and other academic achievers are either arrested or censored. Finally in fascism governments, elections are fraudulent sometimes they are manipulated or opposition members are assassinated.
As noted above, the best fascist economy if ever there was one was achieved by Mussolini’s regime who said that free markets and freedom must cease to be historical functions. According to Mussolini’s the world is not just the material world. Fascism (Sowett P.S., 2001) grew inItalybecause of two movements: that is, nationalism and syndicalism. The syndicalists maintained that economic institutions should be manned by groups representing workers in various fields especially in crafts and industries while on the other hand, the nationalists after the First World War incorporated the idea of class struggle in the national struggle. Italians believed that a proletarian nation likeItalyhad to unite all its classes for it to win a significant share in the world’s wealth. Before the war, Mussolini was a syndicalist but in the First World War period, he turned to be a nationalist.
From 1922 to 1925, his government pursued a laissez-faire economic policy under his liberal finance minister. Taxes and regulations were reduced and trade restrictions also were reduced. Competition in businesses was promoted but his failure to protect businesses and to provide business subsidy led to alienation of businesses by some of his leaders. For these reasons, he was forced to resign.
Some nations were favored by this nationalism while others were highly affected. In fact only inItalyand inGermanythat fascism succeeded .One good thing about fascism is that crime is significantly reduced because of a very large police force but some people argue that there is no democracy and liberty thus making these governments to lack support from the masses.
During war periods, fascism works well because at this time people need to be directed but when there is no crisis or tension, people prefer democratic leadership. Fascism had greatly influenced many states in the Middle East, Asia Latin America andSouth Africaand is blamed for political crises which were in some countries ofEurope. These governments had already been weakened by political and ideological differences were much affected by the economic depression (Schapiro J. Salaryn, 1949)
Fascism creates gangs of men as a result of its policy to increase the police force. It was against the development of literature, culture and art. This is what resulted to authoritarianism. Another defect of fascism is the way it glorified war and violence. It should be known that no society that is based on fear can survive. It is bound to collapse at any time or to stage a revolution. Fascists created false ideas and believe in national unity. Only among decadent people that regimes of force can survive. It cannot be supported because of the way it criticized those who are educated on the ground that they talked too much without caring about their role. It was the negation of democracy and liberalism. These parties were voted in by many people but never cared for these people. They hold that the masses should always follow their leader.
Fascism thrived inEuropein 1930s as the world entered the world war period. Fascism inGermanywas being used by Hitler who as from 1933 was a German chancellor. After getting to power, Hitler transformed his country in to a war machine. He influenced other European countries to join and to support his forces.
Fascism is great and that is why every country needs nationalism. Hitler was able to exercise his powers and tactics in winning the fight. Fascism is capable of keeping crime level down and keeps the economy stable unlike communism that destroys work incentives. People feel less motivated to work hard because the fruits of their labor are shared amongst all people. Nobody can work extra hard if the returns are equal to all. This is one of the reasons that greatly contributed to the collapse of these governments.
Nazism which was closely related to fascism (Stanley P.G., 1995) had two features which when combined made became destructive and barbaric. These were the Nazi’s myth of natural greatness which held that the country was destined to great power. The other one was the blended romantic ideas with pseudo scientific theories of race natural selection and genetics led to the desire of all German population within other nations. These caused the eruption of unprecedented war accompanied with inhumanity and violence.
In Nazi’s bid to create and make German a new empire, about 6 million people during the 1940s were killed and still others were killed in various conflicts that erupted. The Nazi’s eliminated the disabled, religious minorities and homosexuals thus they failed to protect their citizens. This made people to suffer greatly. Again fascism failed to bring to an end apathy that had developed in its regime for example Mussolini’s regime was unable to fight corruption and violence in his country. He also failed to create a stable political process that would have solved some of the social problems. It was also unable to address the problems thatItalywas facing but instead ledItalyto the war that it was not well prepared for (Brooks T.R., 2002)
After the world war one, the economies of almost all the European nations were destabilized even those that never participated in the war. Fascism become popular inEuropeespecially it attracted attention in papers and radio news though the movement never threatened the existing political system. This took place inCzechoslovakia,Denmark,England,Holland,IcelandNorway,SwedenandSwitzerlandbut it did not materialize as there was no enough electoral support.
Fascism was established inSpain,Portugal,Austria, France Hungary andRomaniabut was never given the atmosphere it would have required in order for it to take shape. It was denied political space which it needed to unveil itself. These movements were resisted by strong coalitions from the radical right- wing. These forces either destroyed or assimilated them thus making conservative regimes to acquire fascism characters so as to become popular.
InSpainthe fascist movement was slowed down and weakened by lack of coherent nationalist historical tradition. In Portugal Antonio de Olivera Salazar; a dictator was the leader of the right- wing authoritarian government in the 1930s that had character traits of a fascist nation. His conservative behavior was not supported by national syndicalism movement. The movement wantedPortugalto be radically transformed by fascism. This never happened because its leader Rolao Preto was sent to exile in 1934 and the national syndicalism was banned.
InAustriafascism never developed roots though Marxist force and Quasi-fascist polarized the politics ofAustria. InFrance, theVichygovernment ensured that the fascist got no support but in other parts Nazi were supported by fascists thoughGermanynever gave these radical forces the full power they needed.
Due to the cooperation, competition and interaction between fascism and other sections of right hybrid movements, regimes were born. Though fascism protects capitalism from collapsing, sometimes it pursues goals that do not go in line with capitalism principles. Fascism is an independent body that has its own social base and has a relationship with elites and the non-fascist right that is complex.
Fascism seeks to acquire power and is not willing to share it with others. This is why a very strong government employs many policemen and a very strong army so that they could hold on to power tightly. As a national movement and regime, it organizes movement for all citizens so as to bring people from all walks of life together to promote integration and control while at the sometime suppressing any resistance that might be there. Fascism never allows class struggle and workers unions as they are threats to national security and unity (Paxton R.O., 2004)
They way fascists approach politics is both populistic, People were united by this movement such that any aggressor who would appear on the way was perceived as an enemy. Sometimes fascism can be said to be good as it brings some form of ideological solidarity and positive change across boundaries but on the other hand it is not gender sensitive as it employs males and leave women out. This creates male dominated societies with little or no respect for women.
Fascism embraces the social Darwinian principle of survival or the fittest. This makes nations to make unwarranted advances against other peaceful nations. Military operations take place and the final results are the imperialism and deaths. By fascism rejecting intelligence and reasoning, they ignorantly destroy the existing social order. This trend is seen in the leadership of Friedrich Nietzsche, Thomas Carlyle and Wagner Richard.
The modern fascism cannot compare with that in the past that was being used by dictators like Hitler and Mussolini. Today’s governments though they use violence, they employ it effectively and not openly. We can’t forget the role fascism played in 20th centuryEurope in an attempt to bring into shape the literal and non-humanistic perspective of modern technology. We have seen that even though Hitler and Mussolini who were the key players in the field of fascism died, its principles and ideologies are still in use nowadays. The modern version of fascism is referred to as neo-fascism.
Schapiro J. Salaryn, 1949. Liberalism and the Challenge of Fascism: Social Forces in English and France (1815-1870)New York: Mc Graw Hill.
Roger G. 1991. The Nature of Fascism.New York: St Martins Press.
StanleyP.G., 1995. A History of Fascism 1914-45.Madison Wisc:University ofWisconsin Press
Paxton R.O.2004. The Anatomy of Fascism.New York. ISBN: 1400040949
Brooks T.R., 2002 The War North of Rome (June 1944 -May 1945) ISBN O785814000
Sowett P.S., 2001 The Italian Army (1943-1945) Osprey Pub Company.