A class of political ideologies (and historical political regimes) that takes its name from the movement led by Benito Mussolini that took power in Italy in 1922. Mussolini’s ideas and practices directly and indirectly influenced political movements in Germany (especially the Nazi Party), Spain (Franco’s Falange Party), France, Argentina, and many other European and non-European countries right up to the present day.
The different “fascist” movements and regimes have varied considerably in their specific goals and practices, but they are usually said to be characterized by several common features:
- Militant nationalism, proclaiming the racial and cultural superiority of the dominant ethnic group and asserting that group’s inherent right to a special dominant position over other peoples in both the domestic and the international order
- The adulation of a single charismatic national leader said to possess near superhuman abilities and to be the truest representation of the ideals of the national culture, whose will should therefore literally be law
- Emphasis on the absolute necessity of complete national unity, which is said to require a very powerful and disciplined state organization (especially an extensive secret police and censorship apparatus), unlimited by constitutional restrictions or legal requirements and under the absolute domination of the leader and his political movement or party
- Militant anti-Communism coupled with the belief in an extreme and imminent threat to national security from powerful and determined Communistforces both inside and outside the country
- Contempt for democratic socialism, democratic capitalism, liberalism, and all forms of individualism as weak, degenerate, divisive and ineffective ideologies leading only to mediocrity or national suicide
- Glorification of physical strength, fanatical personal loyalty to the leader, and general combat-readiness as the ultimate personal virtues
- A sophisticated apparatus for systematically propagandizing the population into accepting these values and ideas through skilled manipulation of the mass media, which are totally monopolized by the regime once the movement comes to power
- A propensity toward pursuing a militaristic and aggressive foreign policy
Strict regulation and control of the economy by the regime through some form of corporatist economic planning in which the legal forms of private ownership of industry are nominally preserved but in which both workers and capitalists are obliged to submit their plans and objectives to the most detailed state regulation and extensive wage and price controls, which are designed to insure the priority of the political leadership’s objectives over the private economic interests of the citizenry. Therefore under fascism most of the more important markets are allowed to operate only in a non-competitive, cartelized, and governmentally “rigged” fashion.