1980s >> 1989 >> no-1018-june-1989
Letter: What is fascism?
Can you please supply a fascist’s definition of the term “fascist? I have heard it used perjoratively and as an insult in this country by young people, but when I asked them what it meant they were not able to give a clear explanation.
Christchurch, New Zealand.
Don’t worry, it’s the same in this country too, but there are not many people around these days who would call themselves fascists. Originally, the term (derived from an Italian word meaning bundle and organised band) referred to the followers of Mussolini, who was dictator of Italy from 1922 to 1945. Mussolini denounced parliamentary democracy and liberal individualism and preached the need for a strong state ruled by a single political party (“a party which governs a nation in an absolute and total way”, as he put it) and the subordination of the individual to the state (“the individual only exists in so far as he is part of the state and remains subordinated to the necessities of the state”).
Mussolini had his admirers and imitators in other countries. Mosley in Britain called his party the British Union of Fascists and the term came to be used generally of those holding similar anti-democratic political views, including Hitler and the Nazis. In short, fascism was a dangerous and openly anti-democratic, anti-working class doctrine. Someone who favours a one-party, totalitarian dictatorship is perhaps the best definition that can be given of a fascist.
The word was devalued when used as a general term of abuse applied to all their opponents by supporters of the Stalin regime in state capitalist Russia which, being itself a one-party totalitarian dictatorship, was badly placed to pose as ‘anti-fascist”. In fact the Stalin regime came to be labelled by some of its opponents, not entirely inaccurately, as “red fascist”.
Nowadays, fascist is used of anyone holding racist views or exhibiting authoritarian attitudes, even though most such people would reject being so described. As we said, nobody’s a fascist now!