Fascism Meaning, Characteristics and Examples of Fascists

What is fascism?

Fascism refers to an autocratic political movement that emphasizes a centralized and nationalistic system of government above individual interests. Also, it is a political ideology or philosophy that possesses monolithic characteristics. By implication, fascism has an unchanging and rigid structure that does not give room for individual variation. Under this political system, nations are regimented and are usually under the control of an autocratic ruler.

The belief system and philosophy that fascists have towards democracy is that democracy is obsolete. Based on their perspective, it is a necessity to totally mobilize society under a single party or a totalitarian state. By implication, they look at the above act as a necessary tool for preparing a nation for armed conflicts as well as an effective response to economic difficulties.

Fascism meaning

The word, fascism was derived from the Italian “Fascio“ which means bundle”. According to the ideology of fascists, a bundle refers to a group of individuals that are bound together as one. This is so because of the emphasis of this system on nationalism rather than individualism.

Based on history, Benito Mussolini of Italy had a conclusion that democracy was a failed form of government, so he decided to form fascism in 1915. He pointed out that it is an unreasonable thing for individuals to have the liberty to express their views and also the existence of different political parties. He also stated that fascism should make the people organized under the state, he then created the one-party fascist state.

What does fascism mean?

Fascism is highly authoritative and dictatorial in nature with forcible suppression of opposition, strong societal regimentation, and opposition. It strongly opposed anarchism, liberalism, democracy, and Marxism.

In this system of government, a powerful leader is in charge, and this leader is a dictator oftentimes. In this type of government, martial law is prominent, which includes members of the fascist governing party. The aim is to forge national unity as well as maintain a stable and orderly society. The ideology strongly opposes the saying that “violence is automatically negative in nature”. Fascists, therefore, view political violence, imperialism, and war as a mechanism for achieving national rejuvenation.

Who is a fascist?

Fascists are those individuals that advocate for a  mixed economy with the objective of achieving self-sufficiency for the economy of a nation. They can achieve this through perfectionist and economic interventionist economic policies.

Fascism examples

  • 1925 to 1943; Benito Mussolini headed the National Fascist Party in Italy, he eventually made the country a fascist state.
  • Between 1933 and 1945, Adolf Hitler led the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (or the Nazi Party) and ruled Germany for twelve years.
  • In 1932, Engelbert Dollfuss gained the name, Chancellor of Australia. He had no intention of putting democracy to an end until he was convinced that fascism was needful for a country’s future (1932 to 1934).
  • From 1932 to 1968, António Engelbert Dollfuss ruled for almost four decades after joining the National Union in Portugal.
  • Under Léon Degrelle’s leadership, the Rexist Party succeeded in winning many parliamentary seats from 1935 to 1945.

Characteristics of fascism

Anti-democratic

Fascism opposes the model of democracy because it is a system that operates under a non-democratic principle. The idea is in great opposition to people’s right to vote in an election and looks towards removing other political parties. This has led to dictatorship which was the direct cause of fascist beliefs.

State control of resources

Under this system, the state is in absolute control of resources/factors of production. By implication, the system usually does not permit private ownership and control of resources. The system will only permit private ownership if the properties will serve and benefit the state. In other words, if individual ownership of property will not serve the state, then the system negates it.

The use of propaganda and mass media control

One great characteristic of fascism is the use of propaganda. This means that the mass media disseminates information such as arguments, facts, rumors, incomplete truth, or lies with the aim of influencing public opinion. The system is oftentimes deliberate about manipulating information. They can decide to withhold certain information from members of the public especially if such information will not be beneficial to the government. Due to the fact that the mass media is under government control, they will only release information that stands to benefit them, that is the present administration instead of the masses. Because of this, people face constraints in terms of having a general clarity of what life is all about.

No individual rights

Another notable characteristic of fascism is that it negates individual rights thereby confining the overall freedom of individuals. The government is only interested in those things that will be of benefit to its own administration. In this case, individuals do not have the privilege of enjoying the freedom of speech and expression. Also, because of the fear of enemies, fascist nations have the persuasion that individual rights can be overlooked in some instances because of needs. By implication, fascists can look at the other side and even approve torture, assassinations, imprisonment, summary executions, etc.

No opposing point of view

Fascism does not tolerate any form of opposition or criticism from individuals. Due to the dictatorial nature of this system of government, if anyone openly criticizes or openly opposes a dictator, he may face imprisonment or even a death sentence. There is no freedom of expression of feelings and public opinion.

Loyalty to the government above the individual

The fascist system of government focuses on the people’s loyalty to the government above the individual. The system does not value individuals like it values the present government administration. Because of this, the system tries to manipulate the people to act to the benefit of the government even if the actions will be detrimental to the individuals. However, this polarizes the people’s perspective of the world. People cannot achieve their self-fulfillment under this system.

Single party dictatorship rule

Fascism possesses a feature of national supremacy. This implies that it carries out its operations under a single-party dictatorship rule. In other words, power rests in the hands of a single authority. In essence, a one-party system in existence under this system of government, no multi-party system.

Alleged equality of social status

In a political expression of the fascist right, the economic problems relating to a high level of wealth inequality that is in existence between the rich and the poor were viewed as the problem of social status and prejudice. Instead of the fascists attacking the wealth of the upper class, they attacked the snobbism of the upper class. Instead of maximizing the differences in class, they taught that these differences were unimportant and subjective.

Military values

Military values such as courage, prompt obedience to authority without questioning, physical strength, and discipline. The system adapted to the outward trapping of military organizations such as the Roman salutes and paramilitary uniforms. Even in situations whereby there are widespread domestic problems, the military receives a disproportionate amount of government funding while the domestic agenda is being neglected. It is the soldiers and the military service that receive more glory.

Nationalism

The fascist political system is characterized by a powerful and continuous nationalism. They tend to make constant use of mottos, symbols, slogans, songs, etc. In this instance, patriotism is usually constant. Flags appear everywhere as well as symbols on clothing and public displays

Identification of enemies

Under this system, people hold rallies and unified patriotism in a wild manner. Usually, this happens because of the need to eliminate a common threat or enemy they may have perceived. These threats can include socialists, communists, liberals, terrorists, ethnic, racial, or religious minorities, etc. In this system, fascists are mostly obsessed with national security, they make use of fear as a motivational tool over the people.

Rampant Sexism

Fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated thereby making traditional gender roles to become more rigid. The rate at which the system opposes abortion is high. Also, it involves anti-gay legislation, homophobia, and national policy.

Intertwined religion and government

The government administration tends to make use of the most common religions in the nation as a tool of manipulating public opinion. They make use of common religious terms and languages even when the major principles of religion are contrary to the government policies and actions.

Suppressed labor power

Due to the fact that the organizing labor power is the only threat to fascism, the government either eliminates labor unions entirely or suppresses them severely.

Contempt for the arts and intellectuals

The fascist government tends to promote and tolerate hostile behaviors towards higher education and academia. It is even common for the government to censor or arrest professors and other academicians. The system openly attacks free expression in the arts and the government usually refuses to fund them.

Crime punishment

Fascists are extreme when it comes to the matter of crimes and the punishment for these crimes. Here, the police force has unlimited power to enforce laws. As a result of this, people are ready to overlook police brutality and abuses and even forgo certain civil liberties on account of patriotism.

Cronyism and corruption

In fascist nations, cronyism and corruption are common. To further explain this, favoritism to friends irrespective of their qualifications exists. Usually, it is a group of friends that govern fascist regimes, they appoint each other to government positions. They use their governmental power and authority to protect their friends and relatives from accountability. It is common for political leaders to misappropriate and steal the nation’s resources and treasures.

Fraudulent elections

There are instances in which elections under fascism are totally false. Election manipulation can take place by a widespread campaign against candidates from an opposition party. They can even assassinate such candidates. Also, fascists use legislation to control the number of votes, set political district boundaries, or manipulate the mass media to enable them to manipulate elections. They can also use judiciaries to manipulate and control elections.

Advantages of fascism

National welfare

Fascism prioritizes national welfare, it focuses on improving a country as a whole. Governments make use of their funds on improving national defenses and ensuring the availability of adequate weapons, trained soldiers, and armed vehicles for them to be able to defend themselves against foreign invaders. Governments also spend their fund to improve culture such as making more museums and building national landmarks. This is to help in the preservation of a nation’s culture and making it appear impressive to other countries.

Socio-economic equality

Fascism looks forward to uniting people and getting rid of socio-economic classes thereby creating equality amongst everyone. Because of the fact that the government is in full control over everyone, it may require the rich to give away their wealth for it to be distributed among the poor. Theoretically, this can amount to the dissolution of both the upper class and the lower class thereby equalizing all individuals.

Quick decision-making process

Under fascism, decision-making processes are swift. In this case, there is no need to go through bureaucratic hoops (involving complicated rules and procedures that are bound to cause delays). This is as a result of the fact power is vested in a single authority. Here, a dictator can decide in certain areas of the government such as traffic management and crime control. When a dictator takes decisions, they will be implemented swiftly. This makes it easier for a nation to move forward without any delay and they will enjoy these benefits.

Improves peace and order

There is usually no place for common crimes such as theft and burglary in a fascist government. The government controls everything, therefore, it can decree heavy penalties for crimes. While discouraging crimes, the system also facilitates peace and order maintenance in a country.

promotion of national pride

Countries that operate under fascism have enjoyed national pride. For instance, the Italians were proud to belong to their nation. In Germany also, many believed that the system has restored their national pride. With this, we can conclude that fascism amounts to/or encourages national pride.

Dissolution of social stratification

Fascism concentrates power on a central authority and this authority is in charge of both economic and political activities in a country. This implies that all factors of production remain in the hands of a central authority. This amounts to an equal distribution of resources and this nullifies class distinctions and stratification.

Disadvantages of Fascism

Abuse of power

The fascist system of government paves a straight path to the abuse of power as the control of the entire nation is in the hands of a single person. In turn, this is dangerous to a nation. No matter how good a person’s intentions are, human nature is bound to take over which will cause him to feel superior over every other person. The dictator’s inherent desire to have power and his ability to have it without anyone questioning him can lure him into using his position to satisfy his self-interests rather than the nation’s interests. This is bad because not only the dictator will abuse power but also his close relations, friends, and political allies. It does not stop there as dictators can also make use of their power to abuse certain groups of people especially those they dislike for whatever reason.

Absence of freedom of speech

Under this government, the people are being deprived of enjoying the freedom of speech sd it does not tolerate any form of opposition and criticism. Anyone who openly criticizes and opposes a dictator is bound to face imprisonment or even a death sentence. In this case, the priority of human rights no longer exists. Because the nation is under the control of a dictator, he can do as he wishes to those who do not support him. As a result of this, the ordinary man has the fear of expressing his feelings. Of course, no one wants to face execution. The fascist system is full of military and autocratic ideologies. It respects no form of liberties, it tramples on the rights of individuals.

Wealth gap

Fascism increases the gap that exists between the rich and the poor. Theoretically, it creates a pathway for equality since it erases class divisions but this is not the case in real life. For the rich to retain their wealth, they can do anything they wish to. People can make deals with the dictator of a country to remain in the upper class. The ordinary people will have no choice but to go by what the government wants them to do. In turn, the people will not be able to attain a better future and this will further push them into poverty.

 Damage to the country’s economy

Oftentimes, countries flourish because foreign investors can gain free entrance into the country which helps their economies. This is not the case in fascist countries. Foreign investors are being scared away due to government control over almost all industries. With this, they cannot start a business in such countries. If they do, then they must abide by strict rules such as paying a large amount of money to obtain government permission/license to start their company.

Financial trouble

Fascist countries may potentially end up in financial trouble. Lack of investors can cause the economy to crash. Oftentimes, governments that operate under this system spend most of their money on military defense, leaving a small portion of the national wealth on essential projects such as healthcare, education, and agriculture.

Disregard for international law

Usually, fascism does not regard international laws, it violates international law standards.

Tenets of Fascism

Nationalism

With or without expansionism, nationalism is the basic foundation of fascism. Fascists view a nation as an organic entity that binds people together via their ancestry which is a unifying force of people. This ideology looks towards resolving economic, political, and social problems through the achievement of millenarian national rebirth thereby exalting the nation above the individual and everything else and promoting traits of unity, strength, and purity.

Totalitarianism

Absolute state control is a distinguishing feature of fascism, it opposes liberal democracy and rejects multi-party systems. The view is that it will benefit the nation. To achieve this, fascists pursue policies of social indoctrination through the use of propaganda in education and the mass media. They regulate and control the production of educational materials and mass media materials.

Economy

The fascist system of government has presented itself as both socialism and capitalism. It advocated national self-sufficiency and economic control as a major goal. To secure national solidarity, it advocated for a resolution of domestic class conflict in a nation in order to achieve national solidarity. Though fascists supported the profit motive, they stressed that industries must uphold national interests above private profit.

 Action

The fascist system of government emphasizes direct action which is in support of political violence and also believes in its legitimacy as an integral part of its politics. Fascism basically supports violent actions and this is connected to social Darwinism which believes that a superior race (perceived) has the right to dominate other races that seem to be weaker.

Communism vs Fascism

Fascism and communism are different forms of government with both advantages and disadvantages. Below are some of their differences.

Communism is a stateless and classless society where the community governs the state while under fascism, a single authority (charismatic leader) governs the state.

While communism abolishes the concept of private ownership and replaces it with common ownership, fascism nominally permits it as long as it is useful to the state.

Under communism, central planners coordinate every production decision, investment, and resource allocation. On the other hand, it is the dictator that determines outputs and investments and plans based on projected labor.

While communism eliminates all class distinctions without racial superiority, fascism does the same but with a superior race.

Communism abolishes every form of religion while fascism is already a nationalistic religion as the citizens worship the state through nationalism.

While communism works for the benefit of the entire society, fascism works towards the self-sufficiency of the nation and the government administration.

While decisions take place through collective votes or through the ruler, fascism considers the individual meaningless as it is a must for them to submit to the decisions of the leadership.

Communists believe that war is good for the economy by a rigid production implementation but they should avoid it. Fascism on the other hand believes that the nation must gain glory through war and conquest.

Fascism vs Socialism

Another form of government that can be compared with fascism is socialism. Below are some differences between fascism and socialism. While fascism believes that the state must obtain glory through constant war and conquest, socialists argue against war.

While fascism is authoritative in nature, socialism is democratic. In other words, fascism cannot coexist with democracy while socialism does (democratic socialism).

Fascists believe in a rigid class structure as necessary to prevent chaos while socialism has a diminished class distinction.

While fascism contains a single authority of one charismatic leader, socialism can coexist with other political systems, that is, it is not rigid.

Though fascism does not permit private property ownership, individuals may possess some property if it benefits the state, socialism does not permit private ownership.

While fascism is a nationalistic religion, socialism grants total freedom of religion where the church is separate from the state.

Fascism works for national self-sufficiency, socialism works for the common good of society.

Under fascism, equality theoretically exists yet with a superior nation, socialism considers everyone equal.

While the unequal distribution of wealth exists in a fascist nation, socialism facilitates the equal distribution of wealth to meet basic human needs.

Frequently asked questions

What does fascism mean in simple terms?

Fascism is simply an autocratic political movement that emphasizes a centralized and nationalistic system of government above individual interests. It is a political ideology or philosophy that possesses monolithic characteristics.

What is the main idea of fascism?

The main idea of fascism is totalitarianism where the state opposes democracy, regarding it as obsolete. Fascism believes that it is necessary to totally mobilize society under a single party or a totalitarian state.

Who invented fascism?

Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini invented fascism. To further understand, check the history of fascism.

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