is a totalitarian movement wherein an omnipotent government asserts
control over every nook and cranny of political, economic, social,
and private life – generally in the name of “the public good.”
its original sense, the word “totalitarian” did not carry the
negative connotations it has acquired over time. The Italian fascist Benito Mussolini
first coined the term to describe a society where everyone belonged,
where no one was abandoned socially or economically, and where the
state would take ultimate responsibility for the well-being of all its people. “Everything
in the State, nothing outside the State,” is how Mussolini phrased
it. Because fascism sees no legitimate boundary to its ambitions, it is
expansionist by nature.
A common theme of fascism is its
pledge to restore national pride to countries whose former prestige or power has diminished. As the historian Victor Davis Hanson notes,
"Fascism thrives best in a once proud, recently humbled, but now
ascendant, people [who] are ripe to be deluded into thinking
contemporary setbacks were caused by others and are soon to be erased
through ever more zealotry."
Fascism also tends to promote
and exploit the grievances of “the common man,” portraying
society as the theater of a ceaseless conflict – a class war –
between oppressor and oppressed, victimizer and victim.
Consequently, identity politics is central to fascism.
Yet another hallmark of fascism is its propensity to bring forth powerful, charismatic, even deified figures who are viewed as uniquely
capable – along with their hand-picked advisers – of leading
nations to restored or new-found greatness. Thus the cult of personality historically has been a central element of fascism. (The same has been true of Communist leaders such as Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, and Castro.)
The economics of fascism are
collectivist, socialist and redistributionist – supremely hostile
to free-market capitalism and wealth inequalities. Indeed, fascism is
closely related to communism in both theory and practice. The chief
difference between the two is that fascism is rooted in nationalism
and seeks to create a socialist utopia within the confines of a
particular country's borders; thus the Nazis, for instance, embraced
Socialism.” Communism, by contrast, seeks to transcend national
boundaries and promote a worldwide
proletariat revolution, where the foot soldiers are bound together
not by a common nationality but by their membership in the same
economic class. The communist position was articulated in Karl Marx's famous exhortation
in the Communist
“Workers of the world, unite!”
Apart from this distinction,
communism and fascism are kindred spirits of anti-capitalist
totalitarianism. Author Jonah Goldberg characterizes them as “closely
related, historical competitors for the same constituents, seeking to
dominate and control the same social space.” As the fascist Mussolini put it, in a 1921 speech:
us and the communists there are no political affinities but there are
intellectual ones. Like you [communists], we consider necessary a centralized
unitary state which imposes iron discipline and all persons, with
this difference, that you reached this conclusion by way of the
concept of class, and we by the way of the concept of nation.”
In his book Communism: A History, Richard Pipes has identified a number of additional areas where German and Italian fascism bore striking similarities to Soviet communism:
- Both the fascists and communists had a common enemy, which was liberal
democracy with its reverence for civil rights, property, and peace.
- Both the fascists and communists were totalitarian regimes that regarded human
beings as expendable raw material for the construction of a new
- Both the fascists and communists tried to obliterate all distinctions between the state and the citizenry by penetrating and controlling every aspect
of organized life.
- Both the fascists and communists enjoyed a political monopoly and
governed with the assistance of the security police, which were
endowed with unrestricted powers.
- Both the fascists and communists
viewed pacifism with contempt.
socialist/communist ideals dovetail neatly with the fascist desire to eliminate
class differences among the populace. In many of his speeches, Adolf Hitler
clearly stated his intent to erase all lines of division between rich
and poor. Robert Ley, who headed the Nazis’ German Labor Front,
boasted: “We are the first country in Europe to overcome the class
struggle.” The militarism that became so deeply identified with the
Nazis was actually intended, in part, to help advance the dissolution of class
differences by uniting the members of all social strata in a common cause.
Thomas Sowell, for his part, explains that whereas the
federal government owns the means of production in a socialist/communist system, private
enterprises own the means of production in a fascist system -- but those enterprises operate
entirely according to the government's dictates.
fascism is indeed the repository of all the political, social, and economic traits enumerated above, the fascist
mindset manifests itself in somewhat different ways depending upon the culture in whose psychological soil it sprouts. For example:
- Whereas the
Nazis were genocidal anti-Semites, the Italian fascists were
protectors of the Jews until the Nazis took over Italy, and the
fascist dictator Francisco Franco refused Hitler’s demand to
deliver tens of thousands of Spanish Jews to the latter for
- Whereas the Nazis despised Christianity, the
Italian fascists made peace with the Catholic Church –
notwithstanding Mussolini's passionate contempt for that institution.
- Whereas racism was central to Nazi ideology, Mussolini expressed
his own “sovereign contempt” for the “one hundred percent
racism” of Hitler's government.
Resources: Liberal Fascism, by Jonah Goldberg (2007); "Islamic Fascism 101: On All They've Done to Earn the Name," by Victor Davis Hanson (September 29, 2006).