What Is Fascism?
"Fascism" is one of those terms that many people use when they want a word to describe a political ideology that they don't like. To call someone a "fascist" has become an attack on someone's character and morality. Consequently I have heard people on the left, middle and right of politics call each other "fascists" on regular occasions. But what does it actually mean and how would someone be able to identify a fascist? Is fascism the sort of political ideology to be aspired to, or is it always something to be confronted and despised?
People seem to be able to understand easily that a communist is someone who believes that the state should control aspects of society including the economy. They seem to understand that a capitalist is someone who believes that means of production are mostly privately owned and operated for profit and that the various ideologies of socialism are somewhere in between. (For more complete descriptions of communism, capitalism and socialism click on the links.) But what do people mean when they call someone a fascist? The word seems to be used more often than not as a way to say - "I don't like you and what you stand for."
One thing that many people will agree about fascism is that it is anti-democratic. That it opposes liberalism. A couple of quotes express this view.
" The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to the point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That in its essence is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group or any controlling private power. " - President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Mussolini defined fascism as being a right-wing collectivistic ideology in opposition to socialism, liberalism, democracy and individualism. He wrote in The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism: -
"Anti-individualistic, the fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only insofar as his interests coincide with those of the State, which stands for the conscience and the universal will of man as a historic entity.... The fascist conception of the State is all embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value.... Fascism is therefore opposed to that form of democracy which equates a nation to the majority, lowering it to the level of the largest number.... We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the 'right', a Fascist century. If the nineteenth century was the century of the individual (liberalism implies individualism) we are free to believe that this is the 'collective' century, and therefore the century of the State."
I prefer the simple version stated by Robert A. Heinlein: -
"Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire." - Robert A. Heinlein