Fascism is a word used a lot these days, but it’s notoriously ill defined, to the extent it appears to mean different things to different people. Furthermore, the definition seems to be substantially different depending on ones political stance. And even the use of the word is politicized with the leftist tendency to accuse everyone to the right-wing of being a fascist, the right-wing tendency to deny this and cry about communist propaganda, and the absurdity of beliefs by self-described fascists that all compete to shape the popular definition of fascism.
What is fascism?
According to Wikipedia, fascism is;
Fascism (/ˈfæʃɪzəm/) is a form of far right-wing, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and of the economy which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe.Fascism – en.wikipedia.org
Fascism as a term was first used by Mussolini in 1915, and as defined by him is a very generalized type of right-wing state power, opposed to liberalism, socialism, and democracy.
Granted that the 19th century was the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy, this does not mean that the 20th century must also be the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy. Political doctrines pass; nations remain. We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the ‘right’, a Fascist century. If the 19th century were the century of the individual (liberalism implies individualism) we are free to believe that this is the ‘collective’ century, and therefore the century of the State.Mussolini in his Doctrine of Fascism
This is pretty much the base definition of fascism, and very easy to equate to most right-wing, anti-liberal, anti-socialist, authoritarian leaders, like a certain orange man, many European populists, and other assorted dictators.
Later in the 20th century the Nazi party basically redefined the idea of fascism to be more specific, since they added their concepts of ethno-nationalism and racialism to their political ideology.
Since the Nazis therefore, it has been held as fact by many that you can’t have fascism without racism, and fascism is often used as a synonym for white supremacy. Now while it is true that white supremacists are fascists, racism is not inherent to the original concept of fascism itself.
What isn’t fascism?
It practically goes without saying that the term is widely misused. Since the Axis powers were at the time of WW2 the only fascists around, propaganda by the allied powers directly targeted the term as a catchall snarl word.
In 1944 George Orwell wrote that “… the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless … almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’ …”
This predictably resulted in a situation where the term fascist can be used as a pejorative perfectly legitimately without any actual fascism being involved at all. Such is the power of language.
Since the two are not synonyms, it is possible for a racist to not be a fascist, but it’s worth noting that since these views often go together there is substantial overlap. The same thing applies to pretty much any viewpoint specifically restricted to the right-wing of politics.
So what about the fascists?
Sadly in today’s world there are a lot of actual fascists around. By the classical definition, many leaders and politicians are undoubtedly fascist. By the more limited Nazi definition there are still significant groups of generally open neo-fascists, alt-right, natsocs, and the inexhaustible army of internet edgelords that just think Hitler was the coolest man to ever the walk the earth, except of course for their favorite modern strongman, who is “going to finally do what Hitler started”.
Is there a need to be concerned?
Yeah probably. Swear allegiance to Antifa today!