On Wednesdays I like to write about theoretical topics and so today I thought, why not focus on the theoretical assumptions and underpinnings of fascism? Apparently the world is going up in flames, with a massive group of self-proclaimed Anti-Fascists at the helm, making it the perfect time to write a short overview of what fascism actually is.
I find that most people have no clue what they’re talking about when it comes to political philosophy. Likely, most of the individuals running around claiming to be Anti-Fascists have no idea what they are anti or what the better alternative to what they are opposing, should be.
You see, being anti something is fine, but it really doesn’t get humanity anywhere. The only thing it will ever accomplish is getting rid of something some people disapprove of…but with nothing to build or grow or take its place, it usually leaves humanity worse off than it was before. Being pro something is a bit more logical. The only thing that will accomplish anything is the active pursuit of building or creating something new and better. I may take the Anti-Fascists more seriously if they had a clear solution in mind for their perceived problem.
But the trouble is, we can’t even begin discussing solutions when most individuals don’t even know how to define what it is they are anti!
Now, I realize I’m preaching to the crowd here. But understanding more clearly what it is that many of the rioters claim to hate, may help you better engage with them should you digitally cross paths. Maybe you can help educate them about what it is they are really against and what it is they stand for.
The Difficulties of Defining Fascism
Unlike communism, fascism does not have well thought out, theoretical or philosophical origins, which makes it rather hard to define. There is no Fascist Manifesto. All we have to go on are the raging speeches of some of the world’s most infamous dictators, specifically Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler and how they enacted a “fascist” state. But neither wrote a clearly laid out manifesto explaining in detail the theoretical assumptions and expectations of fascism.
From an article in the Policy Review, the author quotes, “Anyone who reads many studies of fascism as a multinational problem cannot but be struck by the frequency with which writers who begin by assuming they are dealing with a unitary phenomenon end up with several more-or-less discrete sub-categories. Regardless of what criteria are applied, it seems very difficult to keep fascism from fragmenting.
In spite of this, there has been a general reluctance to consider what must be regarded as a definite possibility: namely, that fascism as a generic concept has no validity and is without value for serious analytical purposes. . . . The generic term fascism is in origin neither analytical nor descriptive.”
In other words, there is no set definition for fascism. This is why labeling people as fascists is so effective. You can’t disprove or defend yourself against something that has no clear definition or description.
What many argue however, is that fascism, is, for all intents and purposes, just another form of communism or total state control.
From the same author: “Fascist theoreticians pointed out that the organization of Soviet society, with its inculcation of an ethic of military obedience, self-sacrifice and heroism, totalitarian regulation of public life, party-dominant hierarchical stratification all under the dominance of the inerrant state, corresponded in form to the requirements of Fascist doctrine.”
So, please keep all of this in mind as I do provide a brief overview of what fascism is. There is no settled definition of fascist. But there are some proposed tenets, based on what we can deduct from “fascist” governments, which I will briefly review.
First, the word “fascism” is actually derived from the Latin word “fasces” , which was the name of a bundle of sticks carried by judicial officers in Roman processions as an emblem of authority. So, the obvious first impression is that people are joined together as one under the authority of one.
The basic Merriam-Webster definition is “a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.” and “a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control”
Essentially, fascism is anti-individual (which America stands for), for centralized government control over the economy and society at large (again, everything America is not) and for suppression of those who oppose the leading ideas (again, everything America is not).
So, why are the most patriotic, liberty-loving, anti-government, pro-individual Americans being labeled fascists? I could get into the arguments made by those who believe this is the case, but for now just digest what it is that we and most conservative Americans are being labeled.
Paxton, the author of the “Five Stages of Fascism” wrote that there were seven different “feelings” that fascist regimes use to mobilize their followers:
The primacy of the group. Supporting the group feels more important than maintaining either individual or universal rights. Fascinating. Something I don’t recall the political right doing.
Believing that one’s group is a victim. This justifies any behavior against the group’s enemies. Sound familiar?
The belief that individualism and liberalism enable dangerous decadence and have a negative effect on the group. Hmmmm.
A strong sense of community or brotherhood. This brotherhood’s “unity and purity are forged by common conviction, if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary.” Sounds about right.
Individual self-esteem is tied up in the grandeur of the group. Paxton called this an “enhanced sense of identity and belonging.” Just getting worse.
Extreme support of a “natural” leader, who is always male. This results in one man taking on the role of national savior. Interesting… explains why so many on the left claim that Trump is a fascist dictator.
“The beauty of violence and of will, when they are devoted to the group’s success in a Darwinian struggle” The idea of a naturally superior group or, especially in Hitler’s case, biological racism, fits into a fascist interpretation of Darwinism. Perhaps where the left is getting the fascist label from. (I pulled this exact list from this link)
Notice how many of the definitions here are much more akin to the ideals being espoused by the anti-fascists? Ironic right?
You see, at its root, fascism is the same at communism and socialism. It is the elimination of private property and the individual for the good of a superior idea, race, group, or for the good of the “whole”. They may vary in how they get to complete tyranny, but in the end, it is complete tyranny.
The unfortunate misunderstanding of the anti-fascists today is that they are actually responding in the exact way that fascist followers are expected to respond. They are espousing the primacy of a certain group, claiming to be the victims—essentially using this as their blanket justification for all illegal and/or unethical actions—-, working to irradiate individualism, buying into a false sense of brotherhood in their “affliction”, and a sense of self-esteem that is based in the grandeur of the group.
You see, if people aren’t careful, they end up becoming the very things they fear. This couldn’t be on better display than with those who claim to be anti-fascists.
It’s better to know what you are fighting and why, than to try to fight an indefinable enemy with no solution or alternative.
Perhaps no anti-fascists will read this post, but for those of us who do read this post: learn what it is that those you disagree with claim to be fighting against.
Because, here’s the real kicker. If ANTIFA and those who agree with them are truly anti-fascists, then guess what, they’ve found common ground with us. 🙂
The Liberty Belle