An Analysis of Fascism
Before analysing the ideology of fascism let us remind ourselves of Andrew Heywood’s definition of an ideology and the various ways in which we may visualise the relationships among different ideologies
“An ideology is a more or less coherent set of ideas that provides the basis for organised political action, whether this is intended to preserve, modify or overthrow the existing system of power. All ideologies therefore offer [a] an account of the existing order usually in the form of a world view; [b] advance a model of a desired future, a vision of the good society and [c] explain how political change can and should be brought about…how to get from [a] to [b].
Relationships between ideologies can be analysed according to a variety of schema which we can use to introduce several key questions in relation to the nature of anarchism.
- The Left-Right schema seeks to classify ideologies according to their positions in relation to economic equality and state involvement in the economy as in the following table.
Straightaway you may not be entirely convinced by the description of Fascism as an extreme right wing ideology given the claims of some fascists to include elements of moderate socialism within their ideology as when they claim that fascism amounts to a third way between the extremes of communism and capitalism .although you may agree that in practice Fascist regimes have persecuted the Left and aligned themselves much more closely with the Right.
- The Horse Shoe Schema [to be drawn in class]
In this view Communism and Fascism are closer to each other than to Socialism, liberalism and Conservatism on the basis that Communism and Fascism are both seen as dictatorial or possibly Totalitarian regimes whereas Socialism, Liberalism and Conservatism as seen as distinctive ideologies which are nevertheless united in their support for the principles of liberal democracy. We shall see that Fascists have described their regimes as totalitarian but in a positive rather than a negative sense and also that it is seen as dangerous to equate Communism and Fascism on the grounds that they are totalitarian regimes because this deflects attention from the differences in these regimes and from the extent to which liberal democracies have qualities of “soft-euphoric totalitarianism” as Herbert Marcuse has expressed it. We shall certainly be using the concept of totalitarianism, but hopefully, with some care.
- The Two Dimensional Schema based upon attitudes to economic equality and government intervention in the economy and attitudes to authority versus liberty. [to be drawn in class]
The Analysis of Fascism
In order to analyse the ideology of fascism we must distinguish between the core principles of generic fascism i.e. the principles that apply to all types of fascism and the differing principles of Italian Fascism and German Nazism noting, for example, that support for racism and anti-Semitism was a central principle of Nazism but not of Italian Fascism.
We shall also need to consider whether regimes such as Franco’s Spain and Imperial Japan should be regarded as “fascist” and also whether political parties such as the French National Front and/or the BNP should be described as “fascist” or “neo-fascist”.
I shall be basing these notes on Heywood’s framework for the analysis of fascism…although there will be more! His chapter is subdivided into the following sections:
Origins and development
Central themes: anti-rationalism, struggle, leadership and elitism, socialism [i.e. its alleged relationships with socialism but practical links with capitalism] and ultra-nationalism.
Fascism and the State: fascism, totalitarianism and the corporate state. [Note that the fascist support for totalitarianism means that they are critical of liberal individualism and the institutions of liberal democracy.
Fascism, tradition and modernity.
Fascism, Nazism and Racialism
Fascism and the peasantry
Fascism in the C21st
[Fairly early on in Heywood’s chapter you will find the following sentence. “Among the attempts to define the ideological core of fascism we have Ernst Nolte’s  theory that it is a resistance to transcendence”; A.J Gregor’s belief that it looks to construct “the total charismatic community”, Roger Griffin’s assertion that it constitutes “palingenetic ultra-nationalism” [palingenetic means rebirth] and Roger Eatwell’s assertion that it is “a holistic-national radical Third Way.”. These are quite tricky phrases but hopefully their meaning will be clarified in the next 3-4 hours]
The Origins and Development of Fascism
The word “fascism” derives from the Latin”fasces which was a bundle of rods with a protruding axe which signified the authority of the magistrates in Ancient Rome. The term “fascio” was used early C20th Italy to describe small mainly left wing political groups while the term fasci di combatimmento refers to the 100 or so people who attended to the first meeting in 1919 of what was to become the National fascist party in 1921.
The early origins of fascist ideology can be seen as a series of negative responses to the emphasis during the Enlightenment on the importance of rationalism, science and the sovereignty of the people as opposed to tradition, religion and the divine right of kings.