What is Fascism?

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

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.

Militarism is one aspect of Fascism.
Militarism is one aspect of Fascism.

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.

Hitler and Mussolini are two of the best known fascist dictators.
Hitler and Mussolini are two of the best known fascist dictators.

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."

Fascism is a form of government that was abandoned after the Holocaust and the defeat of the Axis powers in 1945.
Fascism is a form of government that was abandoned after the Holocaust and the defeat of the Axis powers in 1945.

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.

Jackboots, once used by the Nazi military, are often associated with fascism.
Jackboots, once used by the Nazi military, are often associated with fascism.
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime wiseGEEK contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

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Discussion Comments


I have been studying Fascism for quiet a while, and I have been very interested in the subject. However, I disagree with the idea that fascism is evil. Like all forms of government, it has its pluses and minuses.

Those who say that Fascism and Nazism are the same have a very poor understanding of Fascism. The biggest mistake people make is consider Fascism to be racist, when in reality, until 1938 and the German influence, Italy did not favor the race ideology as Germany did. Nazism is the most extreme form of Fascism and should not be allowed to grow, as is happening in Greece with the Golden Dawn.

Franco of Spain and Estado Novo were both Nationalist and Fascist states that had little interest in outside conquest like Germany. Italy was robbed from their victory after World War I and I support their invasion of Africa. After all, they did more fighting than the Americans and were left in the back of the room betraying their ally, Germany.

Fascism is not evil, but Nazism is the wickedest thing you can summon to this world as they see everyone except their people of their nation as filth. Educate yourselves.


Fascism is socialism in bed with bureaucratic 'crony' business. Gee, that's the USA today. Note that Mussolini and Hitler were both Socialists. Indeed, "Nazi" stood for National Socialism, The National Socialist Party. Yep.


OK, correct me if I am wrong, but I believe I read somewhere that under a Fascist government, businesses that do not perform some sort of public good will be banned, such as the porn industry. I thought I was very impressed by this when I first read it.

This article stinks. I feel like the author is trying very hard to convince the readers that fascism is bad, except he can't really articulate why either. He just keeps associating fascism with Nazism and hopes that everybody else will be automatically swayed to his side and agree with him mindlessly that fascism is bad.


The term Facism was coined in the 20th century, but its demeanor of totalitariansm, militarism, corporatism, brainwashing and absolute power over everything and everyone comes from the year 3000 BC. -- and still counting.


Fascism is capitalism in a three piece suit. Americans often don't understand fascism because their empty, illusory representative democracy is actually much closer to a form of fascism than anything resembling an actual people's government/servant government. And good luck attempting to get brainwashed Americans to understand that.


The US is far from a fascist regime. We are most definitely headed for the miry pit of socialism or somewhere between socialism and communism, thanks to all the swelled misguided friends we have in DC.


Fascism is so confused within itself. Fascists don't know what they want. They want to mind their own business and focus on their country. Then, they want to destroy their enemies. They want everything to be 100 percent government powered.

They call a fascist country a state so when they say state power they mean what we would call federal power. They want all federal power, but people not to be dependent. What? Just accept the fact these people don't know what they want.


Fascism a bad word? Stands for anything negative?

Someone down the street puts garbage on the street

but it isn't in a bag; that is bad. Fascism means more

than that. But the statement was in Google results.

So I understand. I understand.


@anon130440: It takes a lot to stay on top.


I believe america made the decision maybe because other powerful and developed countries in the world do not want to take the responsibility of looking after other small and developing countries needs in terms development.

That is why america is known as the world's police because they care about events that happen around the world and the people.


I still don't understand the term fascism. Is it just a nationalist totalitarian leader but over the top, if you get me?


@anon155775: I think, critically, that you are a fascist.


@Tina: Using critical thinking instead of parroting the lib line might help you in the long run. Liberalism is a pathology.


America is far from fascism because everyone still has control over what goes in and what goes out in regards to small or big business or the economy. Why? Because as an individual, I have the power to not only vote, but influence other people as well.

So, if a business is bad then you inform others and not buy their products.

Your best friend can be your worst enemy. Conformity kills.


I think it is pretty ironic how Israel is fascist.


Fascism is anti-humanism. Fascism and nazism are the same. The state with vertical structure of power is fascism.


Wow, by this definition, America seems rather fascist. Does anyone agree? We "rise to political prominence through bullying, threats, and torture". Land of the free and home of the 'my way or the highway' school of thought? We Americans are proud to be American and yet we are not completely blind to the flaws our "leaders" seem determined to force upon the world. --Tina



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