Political Environment In need of assistance Introduction to Fascism Fascism, as a political ideology, usually has a harsh and negative connotation. It

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Introduction to Fascism

Fascism, as a political ideology, usually has a harsh and negative connotation. It stands

for radicalism, authoritarianism and ultra-nationalism. Fascism aims at creating a nation

in which all individuals should have a common ancestral and cultural identity and it

should a totalitarian form of government. It presupposes the existence of a national

community having purity of race as its distinctive quality and abhors the presence of

people of other races or the progenies of inter-racial marriages. In political terms, it

detests pluralism and imagines establishing a monolithic society comprising of a people

who are considered to be physical fit, disciplined and ever prepared to sacrifice

everything for the enrichment and glory of the nation. It advocates ideological

indoctrination of the common masses and to use their force either for subjugation or

annihilation of the minorities whose members are perceived to be “the other” belonging

to foreign races, religions and culture.

Fascism had played havoc in Europe immediately after its appearance as a political

ideology first in Italy and later in Germany in the first half of the twentieth century. It was

started as an ideological movement in Italy during the course of World War I by a

political group who preferred to call itself as national syndicalists. Fascism reject the

political views of both the Rightists and the Leftists because its political programme

differs completely with the two ideological groups. Its major thrust is to establish a

totalitarian rule of a national community whose members are perceived to be naturally

superior than the people belonging to other races and culture whom the fascists

consider people of low or inferior races. Though Fascist maintain that their political

agenda is different from the Rightists, their programmes and practices reveal that they

can actually be called a far-right ideological group.

The term ‘Fascism’ is derived from the Latin root word fasces that stands for the

description of an image, a bundle of rods tied around an axe, which was a symbol of the

civic magistrate in ancient Rome. The image of the fasces epitomized strength through

unity. It is matter of common knowledge that a single rod in itself remains weak and can

be easily broken into pieces but it becomes the part of a strong entity when it joins with

other rods to create a bunch which cannot be easily broken. Thus by adopting the name

of Fascism, the proponents of the ideology in twentieth century aimed at emotional unity

of the people of Italy by reminding them of the past glory of the Romans when all the

members of the nation were supposed to be uni-racial, disciplined, strong, political

masters of the entire Europe and parts of Asia and Africa, warriors and much superior

than all other races. The Fascists of Italy had also claimed that their nation could regain

its lost glory and grandeur if their political agenda was wholehearted supported by the

genuine and pure Italians. It was a shrewd and cunning move on the part of the

pioneers of Fascism to emotionally blackmail the people of Italy.

Fascism is defined in different terms by the scholars mainly because after its first

appearance in Italy in the beginning of the twentieth century, similar concepts appeared

in other countries which obviously differed in details with the original Italian version.

Roger Griffin defines fascism as “a genuinely revolutionary, transclass form of anti-

liberal, and in the last analysis, anti-conservative nationalism”, which is rooted in the

imaginary racial and cultural superiority of a nation. In the words of Mussolini “Fascism

is a revolutionary doctrine against liberalism since it wants to reduce the size of the

State to its necessary functions.” Another expert Robert Paxton in his book, The

Anatomy of Fascism, expresses that fascism is “a form of political behavior marked by

obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by

compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of

committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with

traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence

and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external


On account of these representative definitions we can discern a few features of fascism

like it is a political ideology that rejects liberalism, communism and conservatism. The

other feature is that it aims in building up a nation that is consisted of the ostensibly

superior people in terms of race and culture and to govern such a state with the help a

totalitarian and dictatorial authority. Thirdly, fascism despise the presence of racial,

religious or ideological minorities in their nation. “The other” people should either be

enslaved or completely annihilated. Fourthly, fascism stands for regulation of economic

activities by the despotic authority so as to transform the fascist state into a prosperous

and industrially advanced state. Fifthly, fascists present a very romantic albeit imaginary

description of the past glory and prominence of its nation in order to emotionally exploit

the susceptible common people to mobilise their support for the implementation of their

ideology. Sixthly, fascism recommends use of violence against people of other races,

religion and culture to cleanse the nation of the fascists and it also prescribes war as a

desirable means for the conquest and annexation of other states that are under the

control of the ‘low and inferior people’. Lastly, fascism propagates and promotes the

idea of society dominated by a masculine, virile and macho traits especially to attract

the youths.

Basic Principles Associated with Fascism

On account of its theory and its application in Benito Mussolini’s Italy and Adolf Hitler’s

Nazi Germany we can identify certain core principles of fascism. The foremost principle

is nationalism. An obsessive attachment with the geography and people of an organic

nation, which is defined as nationalism is very dear to the fascists. Fascism believes

that a nation remains weak and oppressed because of the presence of people of inferior

and foreign races, religions and cultures in the midst of a superior nation which forms

the bulk of the majority of a state. The presence of ‘the other’ within the boundaries of a

state leads to racial and cultural conflicts that weaken a nation. Thus, instead of the

class struggle as propounded by the communists, the fascist emphasise racial and

cultural struggle that goes on in a society. The fascist definition of a nation is a group of

people who belong to one race, one religion and one culture and in a given

geographical territory they constitute the majority. The fascists argue only the members

of such a nation can share an emotional and spiritual bond with each other and with the

territory they reside in. Mussolini declared in 1922: “For us the nation is not just territory

but something spiritual… A nation is great when it translates into reality the force of its


In respect with foreign relations a fascist state openly advocates expansionism and

occupation of foreign lands as an integral part of the foreign policy. The fascists regard

imperialism as a necessity as well as the characteristic of an energetic and spirited

nation. According to Italian Encyclopedia of 1932: “For fascism, the growth of empire,

that is to say the expansion of the nation, is an essential manifestation of vitality, and its

opposite a sign of decadence.” It was this particular principle of fascism that created

huge devastation in terms of life and property not only in Europe but the world over in

the two World Wars in the first half of the twentieth century. Hitler and his Nazism had

emerged as the worst face of fascism in the inter-war period in Germany and under the

leadership of Hitler the Nazis blatantly pursued a policy of expansionism because, as

per their logic, they were creating a ‘living space’ for the German nation. Related to a

foreign policy that unabashedly believes in the occupation of foreign lands for the

benefit of the fascist state, are the principles of violence and militarism without which the

conquests of foreign states cannot be possible. Use of force and promotion of militarism

are the virtues of a state as per the ideology of the fascists. The ideals like nonviolence

or pacifism are, according to the fascists, signs of a coward and meek nation. On this

issue Mussolini spoke: “War alone brings up to their highest tension all human energies

and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have the courage to meet it.”

The third important principle of fascism is that it favours a totalitarian state ruled over by

a despotic authority and vigorously opposes liberal democracy. Delineating the

totalitarian feature of a fascist state Mussolini stated: “The fascist conception of the

State is all-embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less

have value. Thus understood, fascism is totalitarian, and the fascist State—a synthesis

and a unit inclusive of all values— interprets, develops, and potentiates the whole life of

a people.” Such a totalitarian state for being effective should have a strong and forceful

form of political rule. It is for this reason fascism rejects democracy, which can neither

be strong nor an effective form of government to implement the fascist political agenda.

In Germany, the Nazi fascists propagated during the inter-war period that it was

because of pluralism that the German nation suffered in the World War I and it would

suffer again if a strong political order was not opted for. Carl Schmitt, a theorist of

Nazism observed that a “strong state which guarantees a totality of political unity

transcending all diversity” was needed to do away with a “disastrous pluralism tearing

the German people apart.” The fascists prefer a ruthless demagogue to take charge of a

fascist state. His commands should be indisputably obeyed by all and whose actions as

‘the leader’ of a fascist state must be beyond public censure or accountability.

Therefore, Mussolini was such a leader, Duce in Italy and Hitler was Fuhrer in


Fourthly, social Darwinism, according to which a socially and biologically strong nation

can alone have the right to rule and subjugate the lands and people belonging to

weaker nations, is a significant principle of fascism. Fascists recommend the creation of

such a nation by annihilating the members of foreign stock because they are not only

‘the other’ but also necessarily belong to inferior and weak races. As Darwin had

suggested that the biologically fittest specie alone can survive, the fascists too argued

that the strongest and the ablest race had the natural right to dominate the people of

weaker races. According to Alfred Rocco, an Italian fascist writer, “Conflict is in fact the

basic law of life in all social organisms, as it is of all biological ones; societies are

formed, gain strength, and move forwards through conflict; the healthiest and most vital

of them assert themselves against the weakest and less well adapted through conflict;

the natural evolution of nations and races takes place through conflict.” In Nazi

Germany, the Aryan race to which most Germans belonged was projected as the

martial race that had a natural right to subjugate the people of weaker races and rule

over the entire world. In order to create a strong and healthy nation of the Germans the

Nazis, as per an estimate, massacred close to three lakh physically weaker and

disabled people.

Fascism can thrive only on propaganda and a concerted programme of indoctrination.

Therefore, the fifth significant principle of fascism is to indoctrinate people by making

extensive use of media, education, public speeches and written material. Propaganda

had been an effective means of indoctrination for the fascists of Italy and the Nazis of

Germany. Complete control over education is a prime objective of the fascists because

by disseminating false stories about the past glory and grandeur of a so-called pure and

fittest nation through school text books the fascists planners make attempts to create a

new race fully committed to fascist ideals. Besides, spreading falsehood about their own

greatness and prominence, the fascists also accuse the members of the minority races,

religions and cultures for their socalled crimes, betrayals and seditious activities.

Fascism badly needs ‘the other’ who can be portrayed in the worst possible terms as

the enemy and the traitor in the midst of the ‘naturally superior nation.’ Since fascist

indoctrination is only possible through falsehood and hypocrisy, the fascists hate every

attempt to study ideology, especially historical account, in an objective, scientific and

dispassionate manner. Fascism is the antithesis of academic and intellectual culture.

Hitler detested intellectuals and university professors. He opined: “When I take a look at

the intellectual classes we have – unfortunately, I suppose, they are necessary;

otherwise one could one day, I don’t know, exterminate them or something – but

unfortunately they’re necessary.”

Sixthly, on economic issue the fascists rejected both the capitalism and communism.

Instead they declared that they preferred a ‘third position’, that may have features of the

two economic systems depending on the economic conditions prevalent in a state. The

kind of economy that was developed in fascist Italy was called the corporatism wherein

the national economic affairs were collectively managed by the employers, workers and

the government officials. Though fascism is exceedingly anticommunist, it

simultaneously aims at the destruction large-scale private enterprises. The fascists

recommend state regulation of privately owned means of production and properties and

not their nationalisation. However, as already has been pointed out, the fascists may not

have a consistent economic policy. They are like to change it in view of the demands of

the situation. For instance, in Nazi Germany, some businesses were nationalised while

close regulation was recommended for other business ventures. Theoretically, the

fascist economic system, the corporatism, is supposed to empower workers along with

employers and bureaucrats, in reality it leads to absolute control of the employer and

the government officials over businesses.

Hitler was deadly against empowering workers. Consequently, he made a law in 1934,

Law for the Ordering of National Labour, according to which the workers factory

organisations were badly suppressed and were denied to play any role even in matters

of fixation of wages and determination of working conditions. In Italy, the economic

policies were designed in such manner that they enhanced state power and helped

disseminate party ideology. Consequently, almost all the trade unions and related

organisations of the workers came to be controlled by the fascists. Though, the fascists

were never receptive to free-market economy or laissez-faire, they became its

vehement critics after Great Depression. They strongly condemned finance capitalism,

the practice of charging interest and profiteering. In Germany, the condemnation of free-

market economy was more intense because financial activities were majorly controlled

by the Jews, the people of an ‘inferior race, religion and culture’, who were supposedly

fleecing the martial Aryan race of its material resources. The ‘parasitic’ Jews were

intensely despised and so was the profession they were engaged in. Since fascism

attaches much more importance to the community rather than individuals, it

recommends that private property should be regulated in such manners that its benefits

should largely help the nation rather than individuals. At the same time fascism does not

favour complete nationalisation or workers empowerment. Like every other thing

economic activities too should be created, promoted and utilised exclusively for the

benefit of the so-called ‘superior organic nation.

In conclusion it can be said that fascism is essentially an inhuman and dangerous

political ideology. It presupposes the existence of a ‘pure’, ‘superior’ and ‘martial’ race

that has a natural right to be the ruler of the world. This so-called martial race also has

the natural right to subjugate ‘the other’ people and their lands precisely because ‘the

other’ people are supposedly belong to the ‘weaker’ and ‘inferior’ races. Such ridiculous

claims do not stand the tests of history and science. Since the time of the invention of

wheel, the populations across the world had been on the move. With tremendous

growth of science and technology the mobility of the people increased many fold. The

wars, international trade and imperialism have resulted in intermixing of races. In view

of this there is hardly any stock of people which can rightfully claim the absolute racial

purity and superiority. Fascism is an extremely violent and militant political ideology that

had caused unimaginable miseries and devastation to the world in general but to the

continent of Europe in particular. The two most popular proponents of fascism had been

Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. They also happened to be the most hated historical

characters by most of the civilised people.

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