What is fascism?


Summary

Fascism (1) was a branch of socialism called National syndicalism  (a syndicate was a group of workers/unions unifying an industry, and these groups of syndicates/unions uniting the nation) (2). They later became National Socialists German Workers’ Party to better describe their philosophy. Their symbol is a bundle of sticks tied together, often with an axe in the middle representing "all of us, are stronger than any of us" and collective power (3) Fascisms roots, origins and leadership, all came from the left: they were secular-progressive intellectuals, haters of existing society (and especially of its most bourgeois aspects: "eat the rich"), and they frequently used pseudo-science to rationalize their quest for power (Eugenics, Gini-coefficient, belief in top-down command-economies being governed by a "brain trust", and so on). They believed that Socialism (state planning and control) lead to better organization, output, and was more advanced than western liberalism (individualism). By temperament they were neither conservative nor reactionary: fascists despised the status quo and were not attracted by a return to bygone eras (e.g. the opposite of conservatism or right wing movements).

View of individuals and property rights:

  • Communism/Socialism is the idea that you have no property rights, (only the state does), and thus it is the states job to redistribute it’s property (wealth) fairly amongst the people
  • Capitalism (in the extreme) is the idea that only individuals have property rights. You can pool those rights briefly with government or corporate agencies (and let them be stewards of that private property). But property as a concept, is reserved for individuals
  • Fascism was the third position (4): that business (and the individuals) could have property rights, but only as proxies for the state (if they were doing what the state decided was in the public/national good). Thus everyone was part of the collective (and a ward of it). You could have corporations, businesses and private property, but only if they were putting the states interests first (as defined by the political class). Mussolini described it as a  "merger of state and corporate power", over the individual (anti-libertarianism). 

So theoretical capitalism was an individualist ideology, while Communism, Socialism and Fascism were all authoritarian ideologies. The Socialists/Communists supported Fascism with the cry, "First Brown, then Red"… until the fascists went on to purge those that weren’t politially-correct enough to be fascists (including vocal Socialists/Communists).  But this is a common theme in Socialism — they all agree in loose concept to go to socialism, but infighting between the branches and implementations is the norm, once they’ve eradicated the opposition. 

The tenets in common across fascist countries were: a belief in natural social hierarchy and the rule of political elites, the desire to create a Volksgemeinschaft (German: “people’s community” / , "we are the 99%") in which individual interests would be subordinated to the good of the nation, highly controlled (taxed/regulated) collaboration between the state and private businesses. They were against classical-liberalism (individual rights), conservatism (the establishment and prior traditions/religions), and striving to create a regulated economic structure to transform social relations with a focus on youth and charismatic leadership (slogans like, "Change you can believe in!", "Hope and change", "A political revolution is coming" would all fit well with their ideology).

The only thing that doesn’t fit modern western progressivism is militaristic nationalism, and that fit at the time (American progressives were highly supportive of fascist ideology, at the time). However, since WWII, and fascism (the term) fell out of vogue, progressives replaced national-militarism and racism with multinational-militarism and Social Justice Warrior programs (forced equality) as the premise for why they should have supreme national power. This is not a huge stretch — instead of having a nations military forcing your agendas on others (national imperialism), you’d have a super-national organization (the U.N.), using the military force of many nations to force your agendas on others ("New World Order", etc). That’s just replacing national-fascism with super-national fascism; a pretty subtle distinctions that doesn’t require much of a philosophical shift at all.   


Details

There are a few issues with defining fascism: 

  1. Fascism is overloaded and thus can mean different things, simultaneously
  2. Many of the terms that fascisms definition is dependent on, are also overloaded, like the left-right spectrum means different things, in different countries (and different times) (6)
  3. Fascism also has a brutal history (and decades of propaganda for/against it) that no one wants to be associated with — so all sides try to obfuscate their sides commonalities, while proclaiming the other sides similarities. 

So fascisms colored past means any association is taken emotionally, as ad hominem attack, rather than valid observation. Thus, there’s a lot of, "I know you are, but what am I?" But it’s not hopeless; we can clarify conflicting meanings, look at the etymology/origins, a brutal history still involves a real history that we can look at, and we can ask and answer what it meant to people at the time (or today). 

History and it’s origins

Fascism arose from the left (and with the support of the left), not the right (at least not in Italy and Germany), and was a branch of socialism / syndicalism (not a right wing philosophy). They had no alignment with or support from conservatives or the right, at all, while the left supported fascism, and generally support it at their rallies, "first brown, then red". It was anti-Capitalist movement, thus they saw fascism as a progressive step towards their ultimate ideology of a more pure Socialism/Communism as it was a sibling revolutionary philosophy, headed in their direction. 

Similarities to today include leftist movements such as Occupy or Black Lives Matter, which are the same kind of populist uprisings that the Socialists, Communist and Fascists all supported: a remaking of the country because of injustices. They may not be the same causes, but they all sympathize across causes, and have many of the same supporters. Whereas these movements are in direct conflict/contradiction to right wing movements/philosophies, which are trying to move society to more moderation or traditional (past) systems/solutions. (not remake society into something new)

Even the rhetoric of Occupy is amazingly similar to historical fascists. I’ve joked that the only way you can tell the difference between the 30’s fascists speech and todays occupy ones, was if they include the word Jewish when they scapegoat the 1% as, "rich Jewish bankers, media magnates, and industrialists that controlled the system and oppressed the workers". But even back then, Italian fascists didn’t have the anti-semitic streak that the Germans had (making distinction harder), but they weren’t as anti-business/corporate either. The solutions in common is always a new authoritarian government (controlled by the people, this time) to fix things — and pick winning and losing sectors (some deserve subsidies, others penalties), all in the name of the greater good (think "Green Energy and Solar Subsidies).  

Progressives of today, even use the "Gini coefficient" (an arbitrary measure of rich-to-poor income inequality, as if they know what that ratio should be, and non-compliance to their construct is a known problem) to proclaim why we need their authoritarian guidance, while they completely fail to recognize that this ratio was created by Corrado Gini — the guy who literally wrote the book, "The Scientific Basis of Fascism", which was the pseudo-science justification used by both Hitter and Mussolini as economic justification for their policies. 

NOTE: Antisemitism was a German thing (not in Italian or other fascism) — but again, it stemmed from German Socialism. Socialism is about workers uniting and being part of the club. Germans formalized this with paramilitary like organization, and a hierarchy, salutes, symbols, pins, greetings (signals) and ways of showing you were an socialist insider (Nazi’s borrowed these from the Socialists they stemmed from). Having a secure Socialist job was a status symbol (making you more desirable mate/provider/etc). And for there to be secure insiders (Unions/Trades), others had to be outsiders that had unsecured jobs subject to market forces (Capitalism), made worse by the protected parts of the economy (for some to get more, others must get less). Thus the socialists (unions) both excluded Jews and drove the Jews outside of these Trade Unions and Socialism Clubs, and then resented them for not being part of the clubs and being beyond their sphere of influence. Antisemitic resentment was really the same thing as anti-capitalist resentment (and vise versa), "you do things like are the merchants, traders, bankers, insurance men, etc". That Socialists dropped the anti-Jewish sentiment doesn’t change much, because they use the same invectives and disdain in their Anti-Capitalistic rhetoric, they’ve just broadened the terminology to include all the non-Jewish bankers, merchants, and investors as well. 

But isn’t fascism a right wing ideology? 

Fascism is categorized by some as "right wing", because in Europe (historically), left and right isn’t liberalism vs. conservatism, it often means individualism (left) vs. authoritarianism or collectivism (right). So by that definition, British and American Liberalism (Libertarianism) was considered left wing, and Fascism was right wing because it was authoritarian and collectivist (not individualist) – but then practical Socialism and Communism are right wing well. While in America, our terms reversed: individualists (libertarians, classical liberals, conservatives) tend to pool on the right, not the left, so the terms/meanings/roles are directly reversed.

Now some will claim, "but theoretical Socialism/Communism is a left wing ideology". Which is true, individuals vote on everything and get a say (thus it is individualist). But theoretical socialism, only exists in theory. Practical Socialism/Communism (reality) and theoretical Socialism/Communism (fantasy) are on opposite extremes of the spectrum. And if you lose the vote, you get your choices taken away, and you’re back to being an authoritarian society. 

The way it works is: 

In THEORY, socialism/communism is a revolutionary ideology where "the people" voluntarily give up everything they own (to the collective), and run government via direct democracy deciding everything (Occupy’s consensus & hand signal model), thus it is the ultimate left-wing (people’s) ideology. They see every other ideology as to the right of them; since "those other movements" are willing to compromise with private businesses/corporate interests, allow private ownership, install hierarchy of bureaucracy and command economies to get things done, and use force to get what they want. Once they compromises, they’re no longer "pure" SoComs, thus they’re on the fascist/progressive side of the spectrum.

In PRACTICE, the theoretical Socialism/Communism can’t exist in the real world. Consensus for everything doesn’t scale, so they create a command hierarchy. You can NOT get voluntary compliance, the producers demand unequal reward for unequal effort/experience/talent, so they either get better outcomes, or they leave or work less. So they need to be coerced (forced) to comply (taxed/regulated/law), and that force requires a political class and hierarchy (a command structure). Thus all THEORETICAL SoComs either die out, or end up implementing a PRACTICAL So-Com systems of government/laws/regulations (where they became fascist/progressives). So Fascism/Progressivism IS the practical implementation of Socialism/Communism, since pure SocComs can’t exist beyond a small community, for a short amount of time.

SoCom purists claim there are no failures of Socialism/Communism because it’s never been tried in pure form. And if you prove that it is the most tried systems out-there, it’s just that SoCom always collapses into a practical form of Socialism, they say, "See, they’re fascists, not pure Socialists/Communists", ignoring that those compromises are necessary for their system to ever exist. 

 Wikipedia Debate: I watched some great debates in Wikipedia on this topic (in the Talk section on Fascism), that covered all of this. Some political historians were complaining that "right wing" completely deceived the American audience (since the terms were reversed/opposed), and it should be called out or clarified. But once losing the logical/factual argument, the lefty-faction "won" by declaring that it was better to cater to the global definition than the American-centric one, AND it would be a waste of space (confusing) to clarify that distinction for the American or Global audience (so they rejected/removed those edits), AND that they should purge the debate from the talk section (to prevent future education on the topic), AND then they purged/blocked the people that disagreed with them on this and complained about the deception (so they couldn’t bring it up any more). Thus ended my illusions that "anyone with a valid point" could contribute to wikipedia. All the correct points were made, and supported, but it didn’t fit the agenda, so bye-bye. 

What is interesting is that those that claim fascism is a right wing philosophy come in a few flavors: (a) those who are uninformed (b) polemics who know it is misleading to claim it (in the American context), but they don’t care (c) those who are sincere socialists and looking at the world from only their provincial/biased world view. If we give the majority (in the media and history books) the benefit of the doubt, then we know they’re biased/socialists. In order to sincerely believe their view, you must start by adopting the ideology of a theoretical socialist (thus everything is to right of them), or at least be too ignorant to know better. So deniers that Fascism is a left-wing ideology, are proving their own biases.

NOTE: Capitalism is debated as well. Theoretical Capitalism has the invisible hand guiding it (people do the right things out of their long term self interests). SoComs reject that, claiming theoretical capitalism is impractical in the real world (ironic, isn’t it). They feel that in the real world you end up with an oligarchy of industrialists controlling us (crony capitalism). While that’s sometimes true (Capitalism can lead to fascism), what they ignore is that really only happens after you have a strong centralized regulatory government first. And who advocates for that? Progressives believe in centralization (under the auspices of protecting us from corporatism) — but still, that makes them the fascists (right wing), while the conservatives believe in weak central authority (and decentralized government), which makes them more left wing. 

Other dimensions

Of course there are other, mostly less valid for this context, ways to look at political spectrums, and those too can muddle the left-right debate a bit. But they still lead to the same conclusion: the left is more fascist on most of those dimensions. 

Change or change back? Some measure left/right versus "Forward/Backward" direction of progress. Liberalism is hope and change, versus conservatism is change back. Well, fascism was not a change back to what they had before, and all their rhetoric and support was for building something "new", making them a left wing (pro-change) philosophy — using the same appeals to youth, creating some new, and sloganeering that’s still popular amongst our left wing.  

Nationalism and imperialism is a right wing philosophy! Some use the patriotism/nationalism or imperialism to argue that’s what makes the Fascists right-wing. But that makes as much sense as claiming that since their voters walk upright they must be right wing. At the era we’re discussing the left was MORE imperialistic and nationalistic than the right (at least in the U.S., Germany, Russia, Italy). American progressivism and leftism was rife with many examples of both nationalism and imperialism, as exemplified by how many conflicts the left had gotten us involved in for conquest (Mexican-American, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Cuba, Bosnia, Kosovo, LIbya, Somalia, and many other lesser conflicts). Certainly the USSR and China were both hyper-nationalist, imperialist and left wing. Today, imperialism on the left is usually replaced with the idea of a super-state (the U.N.), which displaces nationalism with super-nationalism — but with a similar ideology of tolerance by force, they just want super-nations to rule instead of individual nations.

Remember another dimension of this is Socialism is Nationalism, at its core (National Socialism is almost redundant). Socialism (collectivism), is the idea that you create a group (collective/insiders) and protect them from the market forces of an unjust world. And by nature of that, that means there are outsiders (those not part of the community) that must be protected against. So us vs them is a prerequisite. Thus, ironically, the philosophy of the group, means the exclusions of those "not in the group" — collectivism is about exclusion. Usually, the build these boundaries on culture/country and ideology — but it’s not hard to see how that devolves into race, with contempt for anyone that doesn’t belong. Socialists are NOT fighting for the betterment of humanity, just those in their mean-Girls clique — which explains how they’re not for free trade, and are isolationist and protectionist, even if knowing those policies hurt the poor in other nations They will rail against the 1%, but point out those making more than ≈$30K are the 1% globally and ask them if they willing to redistribute some of their wealth to the people of other nations, and they look at you like you’re a leper asking for oral sex. Look at how they treat people who disagree with them, and their motives don’t reek of raising man, but only redistributing more TO their clique (not at all interested in FROM their group collective). So whether nationalism is build on national borders, or just the borders of their belief, they’re almost always exclusionary nationalists. 

Trends and direction matters. America started as a very non-authoritarian government, that moved more authoritarian over time, thus progressives in America are usually for more centralized control (federalism). While Europe starts as completely authoritarian (autocratic monarchies), that moved more libertarian (individualist) over time — thus their progressives are often more for decentralization (individualism). The same for conservatism — in America it is often resisting a further erosion in liberties (and going back towards traditions of more individualism and local versus central powers), while in Europe, it is often the exact opposite (it can mean going back towards monarchies and traditions of oppression).  So the term progressive/conservative can mean exactly opposite things in the two political systems. Many people in both systems don’t recognize this, so think theres alignments across the ponds based on terms that mean diametrically opposed agendas. 

Religion: This is the only dimension where they might have a minor point. But it’s a minor one. In statist religions (Communism/Socialism), NOTHING can be higher than the state in importance — so most of the purist movements had an intolerance for any religion that didn’t put the state first. The fascists chose to tolerate religion, usurp it, and merge it with their ideology. Thus, SoComs were anti-religion, and the fascists tolerate religious freedom, to differentiate themselves from the SoComs (because otherwise they were hard to distinguish). So in this one dimension, the fascists were less revolutionary, and more tolerant of tradition than the forced secularism of the SoComs. 

But that’s a pretty fuzzy dimensions. To buy this, you have to believe that religion and Socialism/Communism are diametrically opposed (and this wasn’t an implementation detail). But that goes against history, since there have been many Socialist and Communist countries that DID tolerate religion. So this is not a primary tenet of Socialism/Communism that you MUST be secularist (and it must be forced). Either that, or it proves that those countries like China, Italy, France, Scandinavian Countries, Argentina, and other SoComs that tolerate religion, are really fascist countries and they don’t know it. 

Just because you’re enemies, doesn’t mean you’re not alike! Another softer reason for the right/left disassociation, is because the fascist were anti-communist and anti-socialist (who were left wing ideologies). Since the fascists were anti-Communists, many mistakenly assume that means they weren’t alike. E.g. since you don’t like them (left wing), you must be the opposite, and you’re right wing. The problem is that they didn’t start out as enemies ideologically (and were highly aligned philosophically), they were just alike that they were competing for the same votes — so that’s where the rift came from. They attacked because they posed a threat to their power consolidation. (Factions of the same thing, often war with each other). Fascists also attacked the conservative or the old establishments with even more gusto — so to be accurate/consistent, if being against them, made them the opposite of that, then they were more anti-right-wing than they were anti-left wing, making them "left wing" by this reasoning. 

Don’t take my word for it, I list a lot of Hitler and Mussolini quotes below (or study Corrado Gini and his book). Hilter/Nazi’s felt they were people’s workers party Socialists. Mussolini described fascism as a, "merger of state and corporate power", a merging Socialism and Capitalism into something new/better than either. Bernie Sanders uses a similar term as they did, with Democratic Socialism, without realizing that terms origins. Some don’t want to take the fascists word for what they thought of their own party and motives (and ignore their rhetoric, history, policy, and teachings). I think that’s cherry picking to fit a political agenda. But fine, let’s look to the Marxists/Communists, and what they thought of Fascism instead.


Leon Trotsky, one of the preeminent Marxists and contemporaries of that time, watched the whole fascist movement grow and succeed. Trotsky wrote of what he thought of fascism(7). He didn’t think Primo de Rivera (and thus Franco) was a fascist, as he was a dictator brought to power through military coup (and an aristocrat), restoring older institutions. While Germany and Italy were organic workers movements creating something new in the name of the people, making fascism, socialism and communism three aspects of the same loose ideology (jockeying for power). Now he thought the communists as the revolutionary party of hope and change, while the fascist was the revolutionary party of despair and change. But they were both appealing to the same voters, with similar promises of redemption, similar polices/values, with leaders coming from similar belief systems, and it turns out, willing to use the same methods to achieve their ends. The primary differences were the purity tests of allowing private businesses versus none. But from a libertarian point of view, that’s sort of a distinction without a difference: both were trying to cause mass uprisings, using the least educated worker-masses, in order to bring themselves to power, under the guise of helping the 99%. The fact that Communists wanted to abolish private companies and directly control them from a political class, and the fascists (and socialists) wanted to do so more by proxy (use the government to control the private businesses through taxes/regulation/laws), still leads to the same ends. 

Conclusion

The "right" values individualism; where fascism and American liberal progressivism value collectivism and are near identical (at the turn of the century, the 30’s, most of the 60-70’s, and today, in economic policy, there’s a lot of overlap). The progressive movement of the 30’s actively supported the National Socialists and other fascists, because their ideological alignment. Today, progressives advocate for economic fascism, while denying the similarities to it; pro-centralized authoritarianism (federalism), a coupling of government and business (green energy), high regulation/tax state, that picks winners and losers. Being anti-bankers and anti-rich, being willing to sacrifice free speech for a good cause (safe spaces), being anti-individual with gun-control and a pro-statist message, are all identical. Even the techniques and rhetoric used to rise to in power; appeals to youth, pro-change, pro-government, pro-authoritarian (to protect us from industrialists), big symbolism, the use of propaganda (and vilification of the opposition / "the big lie"), control of the media (suppression of free speech and gun rights), intimidation (political correctness), and soaring  rhetoric speeches that brought political prominence to Obama, Occupy and Black Lives matter (as well as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders), is nearly identical to these same techniques used by Hitler/Mussolini in their rise and retention of power/popularity. Thus the right (in America) sees fascism as a left wing movement for many valid reasons. 

However, our progressives see the fascists were nationalist (patriotic), highly militaristic/imperialist and culturalist/racist (pro-eugenicists) that helped motivate the fascists. They are none of those (any more). History, and economics, aren’t of great import, and abstract concept of "rights", in the face of racial or economic injustice just gets in the way of their solutions; so they don’t weigh those points very high, and thus see few similarities that matter. They see the nationalism, militarist, and anti-multiculturalist as the important criteria, and thus anyone that is not as progressive as them, are fascists. Thus they feel the right is fascist, as is anyone not quite as far left as they are.

The left misses (or fails to accept ) the valid examples where super-nationalism and multiculturalism are substitutes for the old-racism/nationalism (a subtle retargeting, not complete flipping of ideology). Our motives for sacrificing our liberty to Federal Government is irrelevant to the argument of authoritarianism, it’s still authoritarian. Whether we use our military directly, or advocate giving its power to the super-state (U.N.), doesn’t change the imperialistic nature. Replacing direct militarism (invasion to force our values on someone else) with using something like the Peace Corps or Community Organizers to do militarized social programs (to force our values on someone else). may change the means slightly, but not the intended ends. And substituting a pro-Arian (and anti-Jewish) sentiment with a pro-multiculturalism or pro-black/latino (anti-White/Asian/Male) message, is a distinction without a difference — both are arguing for favoring one group over the other, even if which groups they’re favoring has changed slightly. In the end, we had individualism before, and the progressives want to displace it with authoritarian-federalism (or super-statism) — and if the individual doesn’t fit the new collective, they lose. 

Most of all, it is nearly impossible to point out that someones views are economically fascist without them taking it personally and their emotions taking over. To them it’s a personal attack, and they shut down the reasoning centers of their brains, and the visceral and emotion parts take over. (You called me a name!). Thus, I find these discussions too intellectual for most of the left to consider. By the points they care about, the similarities to their side doesn’t matter, and the softer similarities with the other side matter more. Thus, in their provincial enclaves, and by their ethnocentric (and egocentric) view of the world, they’re not fascist, and anyone that says otherwise can be ignored. And they will still use the term freely to describe those they don’t agree with, in the name of open-minded tolerance. And still ignore the many more ways that it accurately describes what they believe, what policies they support, and how they would enact them. 


References:

More 


Quotes

Benito Mussolini 
Benito Mussolini was the chief editor for Avanti, the powerful Socialist paper for Italy before coming to power

  • [fascism is a] "merger of state and corporate power", over the people was implied. 
  • "We have buried the putrid corpse of liberty”
  • “It is the State which educates its citizens in civic virtue, gives them a consciousness of their mission and welds them into unity.”  
  • “Democracy is a kingless regime infested by many kings who are sometimes more exclusive, tyrannical and destructive than one, even if he be a tyrant.”
  • "The keystone of the Fascist doctrine is its conception of the State, of its essence, its functions, and its aims. For Fascism the State is absolute, individuals and groups relative."

Adolf Hitler

  •  [My task is to] “convert the German volk (people) to socialism"
  • “I have learned a great deal from Marxism … as I do not hesitate to admit”
  • “What Marxism, Leninism and Stalinism failed to accomplish we shall be in a position to achieve.”
  • "We must “find and travel the road from individualism to socialism without revolution”
  • "We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions." ~ Speech of May 1, 1927 as quoted in John Toland (1976), Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography, p. 306
  • “National Socialism is the determination to create a new man. There will no longer exist any individual arbitrary will, nor realms in which the individual belongs to himself. The time of happiness as a private matter is over” ~ Adolph Hitler as quoted in Joachim C. Fest (1974), Hitler. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, p. 533.

Other

  • "Fascism was a counter-revolution against a revolution that never took place." ~ Ignazio Silone
  • "Unity in faith is theocracy; unity in politics is fascism." ~ Maajid Nawaz



Forward has long been a term used by unions and socialist/left leaning orgs, and now by the President as his slogan. Now I ASSUME most on his campaign that approved, liked the imagery without understanding the history, rather than some grand conspiracy to signal to those "in the know" of their far left intent. But that’s just my view that one should never attribute to malice that which can more easily be explained by incompetence. But with the history of the word and the accusation leveled against him (based on his actions), it might not have been the best choice of slogans. He might have well as innocently gone with, "to each according to his needs", "first brown, then red", or "power to the people", as his campaign slogan, then acted innocent when people reacted.




Written: 2013.10.19
Updated: 2015.12.25