Saturday, February 12, 2011


Adolf Hitler, in 1939, age 50,
with Benito Mussolini.
Fascism (in Italian, fascismo), capitalized, was the authoritarian political movement which ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943 under the leadership of Benito Mussolini. Similar political movements, including Nazism, spread across Europe between World War I and World War II.

The most restrictive definitions of fascism include only one government, that of Mussolini in Italy. However, the term is frequently applied to Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler and is used to refer to similar regimes and movements across Europe in the same time period, such as Hungary's Arrow Cross Party, Romania's Iron Guard, Spain's Falange, and the French political movements led by Marcel Déat and Jacques Doriot.

More broadly, it is sometimes (by both supporters and opponents) applied to other authoritarian regimes of the period such as those of Imperial Japan under Hideki Tojo, Austria under Engelbert Dollfuss and Greece under Ioannis Metaxas. Its use for similar but longer-lived regimes such as Spain under Francisco Franco and the Estado Novo of António de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal is widespread among opponents of those regimes but is often disputed by their supporters. This trend toward the term being used only by opponents is amplified in the case of more recent authoritarian regimes such as Indonesia under Suharto, and Chile under Augusto Pinochet.

Although the broadest definitions of fascism may include every authoritarian state that has ever existed, most theorists see important distinctions to be made. Fascism in Italy arose in the 1920s as a mixture of syndicalist notions with an anti-materialist theory of the state; the latter had already been linked to an extreme nationalism. Fascism in many ways seems to have been clearly developed as a reaction against Communism and Marxism, both in a philosophic and political sense, although it opposed democratic capitalist economics along with Socialism, Marxism, and liberal democracy. It viewed the state as an organic entity in a positive light rather than as an institution designed to protect collective and individual rights, or as one that should be held in check. It tended to reject the Marxist notion of social classes (and universally dismissed the concept of class conflict), replacing it instead with two more nebulous struggles: conflict between races and the struggle of the youth versus their elders. This meant embracing nationalism and mysticism, and advancing ideas of strength and power as means of legitimacy, a might makes right that glorified war as an end it itself and determinant of truth and worthiness. An affinity to these ideas can be found in Social Darwinism. These ideas are in direct opposition to the ideas reason or rationalism characteristic of the Age of Enlightenment, from which liberalism and, later, Marxism would emerge.

Fascism is also typified by totalitarian attempts to impose state control over all aspects of life: political, social, cultural, and economic. The fascist state regulates and controls the means of production. Fascism exalts the nation, state, or race as superior to the individuals, institutions, or groups composing it. Fascism uses explicit populist rhetoric; calls for a heroic mass effort to restore past greatness; and demands loyalty to a single leader, often to the point of a cult of personality.


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