"Begin at the beginning,and go on till you come to the end: then stop." (Lewis Carroll, 1832-1896)

Alice came to a fork in the road. "Which road do I take?" she asked."Where do you want to go?" responded the Cheshire cat."I don't know," Alice answered."Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."

"So long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation. "Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

"All right," said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone. "Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin," thought Alice; "but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!"

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Friday, June 08, 2007

What Is Fascism?

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



Blogger Plonka said...

Ah, Lazarus Long I see. A wise man indeed...

It's been a long time since I read that one and I had to read through both intervals to find it. Thanks Beep, I enjoyed that as much as I did the first time around...:)

8/6/07 8:09 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

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.

Ironically, few actual communists believe this. By the book communism is a form of anarchism, a stateless and classless society. What the USSR had and what China sorta has, tho' it's moving away from it, was a form of state socialism (it was even in the USSR's name -- Union of Soviet Socialist Republic). ;)

The definition of fascism I generally use is a right-wing merger of industry and state, usually with support of reactionary religious elements, under a charismatic leader. That seems to catch most of the "fascist" governments, like Hitler's Germany, Mussolini's Italy, Franco's Spain, blah, blah, blah.

The definition of state socialism I use is a left-wing merger of industry and state, usually anti-religious, under a charismatic leader. This seems to cover most state socialist governments like the USSR, Red China, Cuba, Vietnam and, increasingly, Venezuela. (I think the biggest challenge facing international socialism is how to create a leaderless socialist movement; IMO, that's where it all goes wrong, that some "hero of the revolution" comes along and gathers all the power in their person).

Both are functionally forms of monarchy.

I suspect we need a new term. Because what what has hitherto happened is the state has absorbed business. But what we're seeing, nowadays, is the opposite -- transnational corporations are absorbing the government. That's not fascism. That's something new.

9/6/07 3:58 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...


RE: "I suspect we need a new term. Because what what has hitherto happened is the state has absorbed business. But what we're seeing, nowadays, is the opposite -- transnational corporations are absorbing the government."

Perhaps it can be described as global corporatism or corporate globalization. Either way, corporations become more powerful entities than governments.

9/6/07 10:23 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...


It seems that a lot of the science fiction writers were adept at making social comment.

9/6/07 10:24 am  
Blogger Plonka said...

Beep: Couldn't agree more. Tilley, Farmer, Doc Smith, Niven, Pournelle, Hamilton, etc. It isn't always a good thing though. There's one that stands head and shoulders above the rest after all, good ol' L. Ron Hubbard (*shudder*).

9/6/07 9:16 pm  
Blogger Blueberry said...

Fascism is quite a serious concern here in the States especially since Bush took over. He IS a thinly veiled Fascist and so are all his people (Cabinet, advisors, etc.)

These 14 points are laid out and discussed in this article by Laurence Britt at the Council for Secular Humanism:

1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism.
2. Disdain for the importance of human rights.
3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause.
4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism.
5. Rampant sexism.
6. A controlled mass media.
7. Obsession with national security.
8. Religion and ruling elite tied together.
9. Power of corporations protected.
10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated.
11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts.
12. Obsession with crime and punishment.
13. Rampant cronyism and corruption.
14. Fraudulent elections.

... and expanded upon further in this bit of writing by our UU minister, (who I fully believe has a Humanist viewpoint) so don't be scared off by the fact that it's a "sermon". It's a kick-ass talk called "Living Under Fascism" that ended up being widely circulated over the net, even cross-posted by Al-Jazeer, and eventually became part of a book called "America, Fascism and God". There's a "prayer" at the beginning, but you may notice it's not directed toward anyone. Anyway, I'm trying to get you past the ugly terminology of prayer and sermon for a good read. I am a godless reformed christian myself so i know that certain words are a turn-off.

9/6/07 11:52 pm  
Blogger breakerslion said...

One good Heinlein quote deserves three others that are relevant:

"When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result is tyranny and oppression no matter how holy the motives."

"One man's theology is another man's belly laugh."

and my personal favorite:

"Theology is never any help; it is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn't there. Theologians can persuade themselves of anything."

Sadly, the problem is not that theologians and other ideologues can convince themselves of anything, it is that they can lead others down their garden path with the same talent for appearing valid, rational, and authoritative as a pathological liar. The jingoistic and "spiritual" buttons they push have been implanted in the human race through years of clergy-instituted mob rule and selective breeding.

10/6/07 1:13 am  
Blogger Baconeater said...

Blueberry, how has the media or free speech been suppressed in the US?
I can go on and rip your comment one point at a time, but I think you are most likely a brainwashed nut ball.
There is a free election coming up. Are the Democrats fascist too?
Oh, and Canada as identified a common enemy too.

Beep, I like the last quote too. I guess theists fall into the want to be controlled category. Some more than others. Or at least they think they are under control ultimately.

10/6/07 2:06 am  
Blogger Blueberry said...

beaj: I am not brainwashed. I am an atheist and I got this way by thinking. As for being a nutjob, you wouldn't be the first person to think that about me, and I'm sure other people have thought that about you, and all of us (for one reason or another). It doesn't make it the truth. Everyone has their own opinion.

10/6/07 7:46 am  
Blogger Krystalline Apostate said...

Blueberry, how has the media or free speech been suppressed in the US?
Free speech zones is the example that springs to mind.

10/6/07 8:33 am  
Blogger Plonka said...

KA: Sheez... I thought America was supposed to be the bastion of free speech. How was that allowed to happen?

When G.W. got heckled giving a speech in our parliament, he told us all "I love free speech." It seems that article has made a liar of him...again...

10/6/07 9:35 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...


RE: "Theology is never any help; it is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn't there. Theologians can persuade themselves of anything."

I used that one in the blog against theocracy video I made.

10/6/07 10:20 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

On the subject of fascism, these quotes seem to be relevant.

"It should also be evident that exhibitions of the native brand of fascism are not confined to any section, class or religion." - Henry A. Wallace

"While communism is the control of business by government, fascism is the control of government by business." - Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Under the last definition, both political parties in the US and probably here as well, could be termed fascist.

10/6/07 10:35 am  
Blogger Plonka said...

Beep:fascism is the control of government by business.

Then we live in a facist state ourselves...

10/6/07 1:51 pm  
Blogger breakerslion said...

"fascism is the control of government by business"

Nice sound bite, but it misses the mark as a good definition. I would say that fascism is complete control of government, and control of the governed by a power elite. What's missing from your government and mine is the creation of an underclass without rights, and the use of paramilitary force against the general population in order to advance a political ideology. While we are trending in that direction at every excuse, the world of Nehemiah Scudder has yet to be achieved here in the US.

10/6/07 10:18 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE: "I would say that fascism is complete control of government, and control of the governed by a power elite."

It's more than this as well as complete control of government and the governed is often with the consent of the governed.

This is why to discuss what fascism is, is so interesting to me.

Perhaps a plutocracy or an oligarchy have elements of fascism as well.

10/6/07 11:02 pm  
Blogger Michael Bains said...

Excellent, if brief, post. I especially love the way you ended it with Heinlein puttin' it plain.

People decide our fate, even if only by abstinence of deciding.

11/6/07 9:22 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

Nice to see you michael and thanks for your comment.

11/6/07 10:59 pm  
Blogger Mikayla Starstuff said...

beaj asked:
"Blueberry, how has the media or free speech been suppressed in the US?"

Even though the government and corporate entities can not directly tell the media what to say, they have the power to apply pressure. Especially corporate entities that provide the sponsorship for programming. News stations have been turned into cash cows that care more for ratings and money than truth and substantial programming (Anna Nichole Smith, need I say more?) For this sort of reason I have a really hard time really trusting the media anymore.

12/6/07 9:51 pm  
Blogger Baconeater said...

I don't think I would call the type of suppression fascism.
I don't argue that suppression of certain things in the media is attempted or has been attempted for quite some time.
I'd like to know of a country where it hasn't.
Maybe the whole Western world is Fascist.

14/6/07 4:32 am  
Blogger Krystalline Apostate said...

BBIM - I've put my worth in, case anyone's interested.

18/6/07 11:28 pm  
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