Wars

What is Fascism?

What is Fascism?

The label “Fascism” is used to describe any movement or political ideology inspired by Benito Mussolini's Italian Fascism. As a rule, Fascism is associated with dictatorship or a strict hierarchical, authoritarian structure where the state gets total control. Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini's beliefs are two prime examples of what people today consider to be fascist.

An Anti-Movement

Fascism developed in Europe, especially Italy, in the early 20th century and is said to be inspired by national syndicalism. The ideology is opposed to Marxism, liberalism and traditional conservatism, but it also borrows practises and concepts of all of these ideologies. Instead of focusing on class conflict, like the socialists, fascists focus more on races and nations. Fascism rejects the liberal thinking of a representative government and individual rights, while at the same time advocating for public participation in politics and making use of parliamentary channels. It rejects conservative views, yet often paints the past in a romantic light to inspire “national rebirth.” Fascists believe in having a mixed economy, with the goal of achieving national independence and self-sufficiency. Imperialism, political violence and war are all seen as a way to achieve national rebirth and many fascists claim that there is nothing wrong with displacing other, weaker nations by expanding your territory.

Left or Right?

Most people place fascism on the far-right spectrum, because of fascist leaders such as Hitler that advocated racial superiority. There are however scholars who say that this description is not accurate as fascism also incorporates certain leftist beliefs. In 1919, Mussolini described fascism as a movement that is against the “backwardness of the right and the destructiveness of the left.”

Use of the Word

Instead of being used as an accurate categorization of an ideology, today, the word “fascist” is most often used as an insult to describe a person that has viewpoints perceived as intolerant, authoritarian or far-right.

This article is part of our larger educational resource on World War Two. For a comprehensive list of World War 2 facts, including the primary actors in the war, causes, a comprehensive timeline, and bibliography, click here.