Fascism is a form of government that was popular between 1919 and 1945, but became taboo after the Holocaust and the defeat of the Axis powers in 1945. Since 1945, few groups have applied the term to themselves, and the term has become a universal epithet for anything bad. In 2005, scholar Richard Griffiths stated that the word is the most "misused, and over-used term of our times." In particular, fascism is frequently considered synonymous with white power, though many non-white and racially mixed countries have had fascist governments at one time or another, including Brazil, Mexico, Japan, and Zaire.
In its original meaning, "fascism" referred to the Italian Fascists under Benito Mussolini. The authoritative document on this topic is "The Doctrine of Fascism," which appeared as the entry for the term in the Italian Encyclopedia published in 1932. The author was listed as Mussolini, but the more likely author is the philosopher Giovanni Gentile, who helped Mussolini formulate his political philosophy.
The defining features of the philosophy are nationalism (including economic nationalism), corporatism (including economic planning), totalitarianism (including dictatorship and social interventionism), and militarism. According to the Doctrine of Fascism, "The Fascist conception of the State is all-embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State—a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values—interprets, develops, and potentiates the whole life of a people." The philosophy is summarized by the mottos "Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State," "Believe, Obey, Fight," "The book and the musket — make the perfect Fascist," and "War is to man as motherhood is to woman."
During its heydey, fascism was marketed as the "Third Position" between communism and capitalism. In Italy, its symbol was a bundle of rods tied around an axe, which symbolized the solidarity and strength of the state. The word "fascist" comes from the Italian word fascio, which means a bundle or union. These regimes respect power above all else, and rise to political prominence through bullying, threats, and torture.
Most everyone is aware that fascism is a bad political system, but not everyone knows exactly what the system even is, and consensus on the central elements of the philosophy was not even reached among scholars until the 1990s. To understand why fascism is bad, one must first understand what exactly it is. This is a wide scholarly topic, and there are several other interesting examples of it outside of the Axis powers during WWII.