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Fascism refers to the philosophy of having a dictator rule the country, with the dictator having full power over the people and having the ability to suppress those who oppose and criticize him. It also refers to a government that follows the principles of the fascism philosophy. Fascists do not believe in liberal democracy; rather, they prioritize totalitarianism and military citizenship to help the country prepare for armed conflict and economic struggles.
The word “fascism” comes from the Italian word “fascismo”. This, in turn, is derived from the word “fascio”, which means “a bundle of rods” and refers to the fact that a bundle of rods is more difficult to break than a single rod. The term “fasci” is derived from this word and is used to refer to Italian political groups that lean toward the political left.
Fascism has been around since the 1880s, although it gained prominence during World War I as the philosophy that was practiced by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Since then, fascism has existed in many forms around the world, although not all of these governments openly call themselves fascists.
Fascism has gained a negative connotation, although its philosophy also has several positive aspects to it. Read on to know more about the advantages and disadvantages of fascism.
List of Pros of Facism
1. It prioritizes the welfare of the country.
One of the best things about fascism is that it focuses on the improvement of the country as a whole. Government funds will be spent on increasing the nation’s defenses and ensuring it has enough weapons, trained soldiers, and armed vehicles to defend itself against foreign invaders. The government will also spend money on cultural improvements (which can including making more museums and building national landmarks) to preserve the nation’s culture and make it appear impressive to other countries.
2. It promotes socio-economic equality.
Fascism aims to unite the people by getting rid of socio-economic classes and creating equality among everybody. Since the government is in full control of everybody, it can demand that the rich give up their wealth so it can be distributed among the poor. Theoretically, this will result to the dissolution of the upper class and lower class and make everyone in the country equal to each other.
3. It speeds up the decision-making process.
In a fascist government, there’s no need to jump through bureaucratic hoops since one person is in control of everything. The dictator can make a decision about a certain aspect of government (such as traffic management or crime control), and his decision will be implemented right away. As a result, the country can move forward without any delays and enjoy the benefits of progress and modernization.
4. It improves peace and order.
Common crimes like theft and burglary usually have no place in a fascist government. Since the government is in full control of everything, it can decree heavy punishment for these crimes, discouraging people from committing them and maintaining peace and order in the country.
List of Cons of Fascism
1. It paves the way to the abuse of power.
Fascism hands over the control of the entire nation to one person. This can be dangerous since, no matter how well-intentioned a person can be, human nature can still take over and cause him to feel entitled and superior to everybody. His inherent desire for power and his ability to have it without question can push him to use his position to do things for his own benefit and not for the nation’s.
What’s even worse is that it’s not only the dictator who will abuse power. His family, his close friends, and his political allies can also abuse their position to fill their coffers and get what they want.
2. It prevents people from enjoying free speech.
As mentioned above, fascism does not tolerate criticism and opposition. Those who do criticize and openly oppose the dictator can be imprisoned or, worse, sentenced to death. At this point, human rights are no longer a priority and, since the entire country is under the control of the dictator, he can do whatever he wants with those who do not support him. This can leave ordinary people afraid to practice free speech and express their feelings and opinions, since doing so can result to their incarceration or death.
3. It can widen the divide between the rich and the poor.
Theoretically, fascism can pave the way to equality among the people since it can erase the divisions between socio-economic classes. However, in reality, this doesn’t always happen. Rich people will do everything to retain their wealth and status, which can lead them to making deals with the country’s dictator just to stay in the upper class. Poor people, meanwhile, have no choice to follow what the government wants them to do, which can prevent them from striving towards a better future and further ensnare them in poverty.
4. It can damage the country’s economy.
Many countries nowadays flourish because foreign investors can freely enter their economy and contribute to its growth and development. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in fascist nations. The fact that the government has full control over almost all industries can discourage foreigners from investing and starting businesses in the country since they will have to abide by overly strict rules. They may also have to pay large amounts of money to get the government’s permission to start their company.
5. It can be used to abuse certain groups of people.
The dictator and his allies can use their power to abuse people they don’t like for whatever reason. This happened in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s. Hitler, who ruled the nation during the time, believed that Jews were “subhumans” and saw them as socially undesirable, and he used his power to kill millions of Jews simply to eradicate them from the country.
6. It can drain the country’s funds.
Fascist nations can potentially end up in financial trouble. As mentioned above, the country’s economy can take a nosedive because of the lack of investors. Fascist dictators usually spend most of the country’s funds on military defense, leaving only a small portion for other essentials like agriculture, healthcare, and education.
Fascism has both pros and cons, and these must be weighed carefully before a nation decides to adopt the fascist philosophy.
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Common characteristics of fascist movements
There has been considerable disagreement among historians and political scientists about the nature of fascism. Some scholars, for example, regard it as a socially radical movement with ideological ties to the Jacobins of the French Revolution , whereas others see it as an extreme form of conservatism inspired by a 19th-century backlash against the ideals of the Enlightenment . Some find fascism deeply irrational, whereas others are impressed with the rationality with which it served the material interests of its supporters. Similarly, some attempt to explain fascist demonologies as the expression of irrationally misdirected anger and frustration, whereas others emphasize the rational ways in which these demonologies were used to perpetuate professional or class advantages. Finally, whereas some consider fascism to be motivated primarily by its aspirations—by a desire for cultural “regeneration” and the creation of a “new man”—others place greater weight on fascism’s “anxieties”—on its fear of communist revolution and even of left-centrist electoral victories.
One reason for these disagreements is that the two historical regimes that are today regarded as paradigmatically fascist—Mussolini’s Italy and Nazi Germany—were different in important respects. In Italy, for example, anti-Semitism was officially rejected before 1934, and it was not until 1938 that Mussolini enacted a series of anti-Semitic measures in order to solidify his new military alliance with Hitler . Another reason is the fascists’ well-known opportunism—i.e., their willingness to make changes in official party positions in order to win elections or consolidate power. Finally, scholars of fascism themselves bring to their studies different political and cultural attitudes, which often have a bearing on the importance they assign to one or another aspect of fascist ideology or practice. Secular liberals, for example, have stressed fascism’s religious roots; Roman Catholic and Protestant scholars have emphasized its secular origins; social conservatives have pointed to its “socialist” and “populist” aspects; and social radicals have noted its defense of “capitalism” and “elitism.”
For these and other reasons, there is no universally accepted definition of fascism. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify a number of general characteristics that fascist movements between 1922 and 1945 tended to have in common.
Opposition to Marxism
Fascists made no secret of their hatred of Marxists of all stripes, from totalitarian communists to democratic socialists. Fascists promised to deal more “firmly” with Marxists than had earlier, more democratic rightist parties. Mussolini first made his reputation as a fascist by unleashing armed squads of Blackshirts on striking workers and peasants in 1920–21. Many early Nazis had served in the Freikorps , the paramilitary groups formed by ex-soldiers to suppress leftist activism in Germany at the end of World War I . The Nazi SA (Sturmabteilung [“Assault Division”], or Brownshirts) clashed regularly with German leftists in the streets before 1933, and when Hitler came to power he sent hundreds of Marxists to concentration camps and intimidated “red” neighbourhoods with police raids and beatings.
For French fascists, Marxism was the main enemy. In 1925, Valois , leader of the Faisceau, declared that the guiding principle of his organization was “the elimination of socialism and everything resembling it.” In 1926 Taittinger declared that the primary goal of his Patriotic Youth was to “defeat the progress of communism by any means necessary,” adding that “We defend the hierarchy of classes.…Everyone knows that there will always be different social levels, the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, the governing and the governed.” In 1936 French Popular Party leader Doriot announced that “Our politics are simple. We want a union of the French people against Marxism.” Similarly, La Rocque, head of the Cross of Fire/French Social Party, warned that communism was “the danger par excellence” and that the machinations of Moscow were threatening France with “insurrection, subversion, catastrophe.”
In 1919–20 the Heimwehr in Austria performed the same function that the Freikorps did in Germany, its volunteer militia units (Heimatschutz) doing battle with perceived foreign enemies and the Marxist foe within. Many of these units were organized by members of the landed gentry and the middle class to counter strikes by workers in the industrial districts of Linz and Steyer. In 1927 violent clashes between the Heimwehr and the Schutzbund , a socialist defense organization, resulted in many deaths and injuries among the leftists. In 1934 the Heimwehr joined Dollfuss’s Fatherland Front and was instrumental in pushing Dollfuss toward fascism.
Many Finnish fascists began their political careers after World War I as members of the anticommunist paramilitary group the White Guards. In Spain much of the Falange’s early violence was directed against socialist students at the University of Madrid . Portuguese Blue Shirts, who called themselves “national syndicalists,” regarded systematic violence against leftists to be “revolutionary.” During the Spanish Civil War , Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and German fascists joined forces to defeat the Popular Front, a coalition of liberals, socialists, communists, and anarchists who had been democratically elected in 1936.
In 1919 a number of fascist groups emerged in Japan to resist new demands for democracy and to counter the influence of the Russian Revolution of 1917 . Although there were important differences between these groups, they all opposed “bolshevization,” which some Japanese fascists associated with increasing agitation by tenant farmers and industrial workers. Fascists acted as strikebreakers; launched violent assaults on left-wing labour unions, peasant unions, and the socialist Levelling Society; and disrupted May Day celebrations. In 1938 Japanese fascists, having become powerful in the national government, supported the mass arrest of leaders of the General Council of Trade Unions (Nihon Rodo Kumiai So Hyogikai) and the Japan Proletarian Party (Dai Nippon Seisan-To) and of professors close to the Labour-Peasant Faction. Celebrations of May Day in Japan were prohibited in 1938, and in 1939 Japan withdrew from all international labour organizations.
Despite the fascists’ violent opposition to Marxism, some observers have noted significant similarities between fascism and Soviet communism. Both were mass movements, both emerged in the years following World War I in circumstances of political turmoil and economic collapse, both sought to create totalitarian systems after they came to power (and often concealed their totalitarian ambitions beforehand), and both employed terror and violence without scruple when it was expedient to do so. Other scholars have cautioned against reading too much into these similarities, however, noting that fascist regimes (in particular Nazi Germany) used terror for different purposes and against different groups than did the Soviets and that fascists, unlike communists, generally supported capitalism and defended the interests of economic elites.
Learn More in these related Britannica articles:
- 20th-century international relations: Fascism and Italian realityThe peoples of east-central Europe enjoyed a degree of freedom in the 1920s unique in their history. But the power vacuum in the region resulting from the temporary impotence of Germany and Russia pulled in other Great Powers—chiefly Mussolini’s Italy and…
- Italy: The Fascist eraThe political crisis of the postwar years provided an opportunity for militant, patriotic movements, including those of ex-servicemen and former assault troops, students, ex-syndicalists, and former pro-war agitators. D’Annunzio in Fiume led one such movement, but the ex-Socialist journalist…
- political party: The fascist modelFascist parties in a single-party state have never played as important a role as communist parties in an analogous situation. In Italy, the Fascist Party was never the single most important element in the regime, and its influence was often secondary. In Spain…
- Benedetto Croce: The struggle with fascismThe test was to be fascism, the political attitude that places the nation or race at the centre of life and history and disregards individuals and their rights. So gradual was this preparation that Croce himself did not at once perceive it. He confessed…
- history of Europe: The trappings of dictatorship“For the Fascist,” wrote Mussolini, “everything is the State.” His own regime, partially established in 1924 and completed in 1928–29, had its bullyboys and castor-oil torture, its murders and aggressive wars. But, for sociological and cultural, as well as political, reasons, it was both less systematic and…
More About Fascism
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- In Italy: Literature
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- In socialism: Postwar socialism
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- In L’Osservatore Romano
- policy towards dictatorship
- In political system: Dictatorship
- In Italy: The Fascist era
- In Blackshirt
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- In Bosnia and Herzegovina: Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Yugoslav kingdom
- European dictatorship
- In history of Europe: The trappings of dictatorship
- The Canadian Encyclopedia – Fascism
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- fascism – Children’s Encyclopedia (Ages 8-11)
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- National fascisms
- Common characteristics of fascist movements
- Opposition to Marxism
- Opposition to parliamentary democracy
- Opposition to political and cultural liberalism
- Totalitarian ambitions
- Conservative economic programs
- Alleged equality of social status
- Military values
- Mass mobilization
- The leadership principle
- The “new man”
- Glorification of youth
- Education as character building
- Decadence and spirituality
- Extreme nationalism
- Revolutionary image
- Sexism and misogyny
- Varieties of fascism
- Acceptance of racism
- Identification with Christianity
- Support for Germany
- Intellectual origins
- Social bases of fascist movements
- Fascism and nonfascist conservatisms: Collaboration and crossover
- The postwar period to the end of the 20th century
- Neofascism outside Europe
- Later developments
- The postwar period to the end of the 20th century
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