Video: What fascism is...and isn't

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The most succinct definition of modern fascism I’ve heard, can’t remember where:

The merger of state and corporate interests.


Mussolini… that’s kind of how he described it.


I think he went too general here. “The idea that the group is more important than the individual” applies to all kinds of societies throughout history, most of which I don’t think he would identify as fascist.


I actually think this sentence from Wiki has it pretty well:

“Fascism is a form of radical authoritarian ultranationalism, characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and strong regimentation of society and of the economy”

The defining aspect, which the video and the explanation from the first reply miss, is the ultra-nationalism.


Yes, I agree. If you substitute “nation” for “group” and then understand that “nation” means a different thing in, say, Mussolini’s Italy or Hitler’s Germany or Trump’s America, in terms of who is part of that nation, then you’re almost there.


His definition is stupid, he equates populist politics with fascism.


Some say that is a misinterpretation of Mussolini, but I think it fits nicely with a lot of US policy since the Austrian school and Chicago schools got their hooks in. We can trace almost every fascistic tendency of the US state to a bastardization of the profit motive. Private prisons, militarized police, war for profit, etc. That’s just the obvious stuff. Slavery is an extreme historical example of corporate interests steering state policy to horrible ends. You’d think we would have learned by now.


I actually like the in-depth review of what happened and what it means from Step Back History video he mentioned:

Mr Beat’s references to the philosophies underlying fascism is interesting, but things like Social Darwinism is most famously used as the philosophy that proves the slavery is not amoral. Add in the huge industrial interests to push away socialism and you have a political movement rooted in the moral superiority of the few that already hold power over those they blame for their (and their countries) failings, and whose populist front was just that - at each step the fascists cut another slice of other away from the whole that are not fit to hold power.

So it’s not “the idea that the group is more important than the individual” it’s “the idea that everyone should try to emulate the model of a perfect human - just like me.”


It means whatever we use it to mean. Same as every other word.


You are absolutely carpet.


Well, you don’t have to be so fwin about it.


Roger That!


Umberto Eco’s Ur-Fascism is IMO the best primer on fascism

Nevertheless, historical priority does not seem to me a sufficient reason to explain why the word fascism became a synecdoche, that is, a word that could be used for different totalitarian movements. This is not because fascism contained in itself, so to speak in their quintessential state, all the elements of any later form of totalitarianism. On the contrary, fascism had no quintessence. Fascism was a fuzzy totalitarianism, a collage of
different philosophical and political ideas, a beehive of contradictions.


A terrible definition. For example not every possible Democratic Socialists state is fascist, even if they all have the state controlling the means of production. In contrast, Scandinavian socialism there is a government that organizes labor and capitalists together for (hopefully) mutual benefit, but private ownership is still a thing. This is not normally, in itself, considered fascist even though the state does steer corporate interests.

My definition: Fascism is a social revolution that is willing to use any means necessary to achieve its intended goals, whatever those goals may be.

It needs a pretty broad definition because there isn’t a lot of agreement on precisely what Fascism is. Is it authoritarian, is it right-wing, is it left-wing? Yes, usually, sometimes. But why is fascism always authoritarian? because it’s a type of social revolution that is willing to use any means necessary to establish its ideological goals. Violence, atrocities, war, suppression of free speech, personality cults, and more are “on the table” when it comes to fascists trying to reforge a nation.

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"The group is more important than the individual”
“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.”

Clearly, Spock is also a Fascist.


@wait_really is wise, I think, to bring up Eco’s description of Ur-fascism, and I like your more generic version, but if I may, I’d offer my own even more basic definition: Fascism is a totalizing ideology that forms around the central concept of there being humans who do not have moral standing, meaning, their suffering does not matter and is, perhaps, even a good to be actively sought.

I think this definition is helpful because it also encompasses the limited fascisms that exist within specific contexts within societies that are, themselves, not entirely fascist. Consider the prison system which often features on BoingBoing as an example of extravagantly fascist behavior—it all stems from the central premise that there are people (the convicted) whose suffering is an end unto itself or, at a bare minimum, doesn’t really matter.

Any such dismissal of fellow-humans as not really mattering is like a foreign body which slowly poisons everything that comes into contact with it and builds fascism around it, recreating the same patterns over and over because if you have people who don’t matter then it is so very easy to imagine them in a conspiracy against you (they are, after all, victims of your conspiracy against them) and thus meaning you need to defend against that Other and since you need to defend yourself you need to close ranks and establish a firm border and a para-military means of defense and so on and so forth.

This is a maximally broad definition, but I feel it captures most of the variety in the use of the term. I think it may perhaps be marginally more workable than your definition, @OrangeTide, because it can also encompass that particularly American brand of fascism which has no real ideology it wishes to advance either way, no coherent vision, but is merely a Rorschach pattern that servers to show everyone what they wish to see in order to unite them, the Real Americans, against Fake Americans.


Yeah, that’s the problem when one simplifies too much.

So what do we traditionally think of Fascism as-- well, as authoritarianism. Mussolini came up with the name, and that’s what his Italy ended up being, and then they allied themselves with another authoritarian state (who then also got referred to as “the Fascists” despite calling themselves something else.) He makes an important point about “the group” but he should really say “the nation”, because the “enemy within” are basically considered outsiders and non-citizens (see: the Nuremberg Laws), whereas communist authoritarians tended to think of all humanity as a possible member of their movement. Promotion of corporate interests as well is important, so we could say Fascism is an authoritarian oligarchy which uses xenophobia as a rallying tool.


I think that Che Guevara would support that. Was Che a fascist?

What you are calling fascism I think is totalitarianism by another name. “Everything within the state , nothing outside the state, nothing against the state” as il Duce said (although interestingly he never went full bore totalitarian).

Stalin, Hitler, Mao, the Kims, Pol Pot all are fascists by this definition. And Trump is not, or we’d all be in internment camps by now.



From Paxton’s Five Stages of Fascism.