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What Is Fascism?

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What is Fascism?

Fascism is a 20th century form of nationalistic, militaristic, totalitarian dictatorship that seeks to create a feasible society through strict regimentation of national and individual lives. Total subordination to the service of the state and unquestioning loyalty to its leader would adjust conflicting interests. It is a modern political ideology that looks to regenerate the social, economic, and cultural life of a country by basing it on a heightened sense of national belonging of ethnic identity. Fascism rejects liberal ideas of freedom and individual rights, it often presses for the destruction of elections, legislatures and other elements of democracy. Despite fascism's idealistic goals, attempts to build fascist societies have led to wars and persecutions that have caused millions of deaths (notably WWII and the Holocaust). As a result, fascism is strongly associated with right-wing fanaticism, racism, totalitarianism and violence. Fascist movements oppose such doctrines as liberalism, individualism, materialism, communism and conservatism. In general, fascists stand against all scientific, economic, religious, academic, cultural and leisure activities that do not serve their vision of a national political life. Fascism emphasised nationalism, but its appeal was international. Fascist political parties and movements capitalised on the intense patriotism that emerged as a response to widespread social and political uncertainty after World War I (1914-1918) and the Russian Revolution of 1917. It flourished between the so called fascist era of 1919 and 1945 in many countries mainly Italy, Germany, Spain and Japan. Even such liberal democracies as France and England had important fascist movements.

Scholars disagree over how to define the basic elements of fascism, some even insist it was limited to Italy under Mussolini. When the term is capitalised as Fascism, it refers to the Italian movement. Beginning in the 1970's, some scholars began to develop a broad definition of fascism and by the 1990's many had embraced the new approach. This new approach emphasises the way in which fascist movements attempt revolutionary change and their central focus on popularising myths of ethnic or national renewal. Seen from this prospective, all forms of fascism have three common features: anticonservatism, a myth of national or ethnic renewal and a conception of a nation in crisis. Fascist movements usually try to retain some supposedly healthy parts of the nations existing political and social life, but they place more emphasis on creating a new society. Fascist movements set out to create a new type of total culture in which values; politics, art, social norms and economic activity are all part of a single organic community. In this way fascism is directly opposed to consevatism. The fascist movements in Italy and Germany also represented attempts to create revolutionary new modern states. Even though fascist movements try to bring about revolutionary change, they emphasis the revival of a mythical ethnic, racial or national past. They revise conventional history to create a vision of an idealised past. The mythical histories claim that former greatness has been destroyed by such developments as the mixing of races, the rise of powerful business

groups and a loss of a shared sense of the nation. A fascist movement always asserts that the nation faces a profound crisis. The fascists present the national crisis as resolvable only through a radical political transformation. They claim the nation has entered a dangerous age of mediocrity, weakness and decline. They are convinced that through their timely action they can save the nation from itself. Fascists promise that with their help the national crisis will end and a new age will begin that restores the people to a sense of belonging, purpose and greatness. They believe that the end result of a fascist revolution will be the emergence of a new man and woman. This new man and new woman will be fully developed human beings, uncontaminated by selfish desires for individual rights and self-expression and devoted only to an existence as part of the renewed nation's destiny.

When and where did it begin?

Before World War I, several writers, among them Gabriel D'Annunzio, an Italian, and Georges Sorel, Maurice Barres, Charles Maurras and Comte Joseph de Gobineau, all French, had expressed fascist ideas. However it took postwar economic dislocation, the threat of communism arising from the Russian Revolution and the Great Depression of the 1930's to transform fascism into a serious political force. For many people, the death and brutality of World War I showed that rationality and progress were not inherent in humanity and that a radically new direction had to be taken if society were to survive, it also helped to arouse intense patriotism that continued after the war. As a result of these feelings, people turned to national socialist movements that promised to confront the disorder in the world.

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini first used the term fascism in 1919. The term comes from the Italian word fascio, which means "union" or "league." It also refers to the fasces, the ancient Roman symbol of power, a bundle of sticks bound to an ax. It represented civic unity and the authority of Roman officials to punish wrongdoers. The first fascist movement developed in Italy after the World War I. Benito Mussolini, the founder of fascism in Italy, a journalist and war veteran, served as the guiding force behind the new movement. Mussolini began his political career as a Marxist. In 1912 as the editor of the country's leading socialist newspaper Avanti!, he opposed both capitalism and militarianism. In 1914, however, his attitude had changed, as he aroused the anger of Socialist Party leaders by urging Italy to enter the war against Germany. As a result he was expelled from the Socialist Party in 1914. Immediately after his expulsion from the party, he founded his own newspaper, Il Popolo d'Italia (The People of Italy), which later became the organ of the fascist movement. He wrote violent editorials trying to drive Italy into the war. When Italy did enter the war, he enlisted in the army and served from 1915 until he was wounded in 1917. Influenced by the ideas of Sorel and German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche, he glorified action and vitality and denounced antiwar Marxists for their lack of pragmatism. In turbulent postwar Milan, Mussolini and other young war veterans founded the Fasci di Combattimento in March 1919. This was the first political group to be called fascist. At first, its program was strongly nationalistic, antiliberal and antisocialist, intending to appeal to war veterans. Mussolini urged the



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