Fascism- Political Ideologies of the 20th Century

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Fascism remains one of the least understood a political ideologies of the 20th century. While the term fascist is thrown around as a political slur to describe any political movement that may appear oppressive, the reality is that merely being oppressive does not create a fascist ideology. One of the most common examples of the misconstrued notion of what is a fascist ideology can be seen in the comically silly term “Islamo-Fascist.” A fascist government is inherently anti-religious in nature and a state that emphasizes the Islamic religion simply cannot be fascist.

Part of the reason behind this misunderstanding of what is or isn’t fascism derives from the fact that fascism, for all intents and purposes, has been dead as a political system for several decades. With the passing of Francisco Franco in 1975, the last remaining fascist rule on earth had disappeared. Not that fascism had ever been a successful political ideology. Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy only lasted very short periods of time and both collapsed in spectacular faction. “The term fascism, however, would later be applied to an entire cluster or genus of new revolutionary nationalist movements in Europe between the world wars, of which the most important was German National Socialism, or Nazism, for short, so that the Italian origins of the first fascism would often be overlooked, attention focusing primarily on Germany. The initial, or ‘paradigmatic’ fascism nonetheless had specifically Italian roots and characteristics. (Payne)

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While there had been legitimate fascist movements in other European such as Hungary, France and Rumania in the 1920’s and 1930’s, these movement, no country saw the same “fascist success” as Italy, Germany or Spain. While most can clearly define the dominating traits of capitalism, socialism and communism, most can not provide clear and complete definitions of fascism, a dead political system more known for the destruction it brought to the world and its own spectacular failure than any positives.

So, this brings the obvious question, “What are the components that make up the ideology of fascism?” Fascism is not a chaotic system that has no visible definition. There are certain traits that fascism must have because, without these traits, it ceases to become fascism and, instead, becomes a different political ideology altogether.

Fascism, on a baseline level, is most closely related to socialism. While socialism is a left leaning ideology, fascism is a right leaning ideology. While there are obvious similarities between fascism and socialism in terms of redistribution of wealth, origins found in the labor unions, etc, the differences are far more pronounced. “Fascism began on the left, seeking to combine strong nationalism with modern developmentalism and an aggressive new style of activism that prized violence, idealism, and anti-materialism.”(Payne) While this definition would seem very similar to socialism, fascism would slowly develop a separate ideology that was far to the right of socialism. The differences between fascism and traditional socialism are seen in the main components of fascism: 1.) Dictatorship and a Cult of Personality; 2.) Militarism and nationalism; 3.) Irredentism; and 4.) Totalitarianism and the Expansion of the State

Dictatorship and a Cult of Personality

Fascism is not a democracy nor does it condone any dissenting point of view. Even in the totalitarian USSR of old, the communist party was made up of a collective of individuals. In a fascist state, the center of all authority is the dictator. There is no balance of power nor is there a system of checks and balances in place. The only individuals who have any power in the system are those who are subordinates to the dictator. There was no Nazi Germany without Hitler and there was no fascist Italy without Mussolini. The governments of those respective countries lived and died with their leaders. When Hitler and Mussolini were disposed of, the governments of each country abandoned fascism.

The Cult of Personality is one of the stranger aspects of the dictatorial rule of these nations. What this term refers to is when the dictator takes control of the mass media and creates a bizarre larger than life presentation of himself that is forced upon the masses. Usually this strangeness centers around a public relations campaign that sings praises to the leader. The most recent example of this can be seen in Kim Jong Il’s North Korea where thousands gathered in a public square to sing dozens of songs in praise to him. In Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, the Cult of Personality did not rise to such levels of nonsense, but there were constant replications of images of the dictators present all over the country as a means of reminding the populace of their leaders’ glory.

Militarism and Nationalism

This does not refer to a pride in the armed forced nor a love for one’s country. In a fascist state, these terms take on a more ominous meaning. With regards to militarism, a fascist state will expand its military capabilities to the fullest not for defensive purposes, but rather for intimidation and offensive measures. Furthermore, the militarism of a fascist state will not be guided by any basis in moral authority other than what the dictator defines. In other words, there is no clear definition of what is good or evil, what is acceptable or unacceptable. All that exists is that the directives of the state must be followed.

In his famous work, “What is National Socialism?” Leon Trotsky likened

fascism’s militarism to a warped version of the socialist revolution:

The Nazis call their overturn by the usurped title of revolution. As a matter of fact, in Germany as well as in Italy, fascism leaves the social system untouched. Taken by itself, Hitler’s overturn has no right even to the name counterrevolution. But it cannot be viewed as an isolated event; it is the conclusion of a cycle of shocks which began in Germany in 1918. The November Revolution, which gave the power to the workers’ and peasants” soviets, was proletarian in its fundamental tendencies. But the party that stood at the head of the proletariat returned the power to the bourgeoisie- In this sense the Social Democracy opened the era of counterrevolution before the revolution could bring its work to completion.

Under fascist ideology, nationalism does not refer to pride in one’s country. It refers to the belief that there is a racial superiority present within the members of the nation and that the rest of the world must yield to the will of the nation. Within the domestic boundaries of a fascist state, there will be ethnic prejudices present that are fully endorsed by the state as well as a common anti-immigrant fervor.


This ties heavily into militarism and nationalism. By definition, irredentism refers to a longing for lost territory in the nation’s history. This plays to certain prideful emotions in the population as there is a promise made to the people that they will regain past glory when the military annexes territory that “rightfully” belongs to the fascist state. In Hitler’s Germany, the Third Reich referred to Germany’s third world rule in reference to prior conquests in Germany’s ancient history. In Italy, Mussolini would frequently make references to the Roman Empire of ancient days and made note of the fact that Italy would once again rule over the world.

While irredentism appealed to the prurient impulses of the masses, it really was nothing more than imperialism packaged in a more “noble” form. That is, fascism, at its core, seeks to invade and colonize other nations because, quite simply, it lacks a feasible economic model that can actually support a socialist sponsored population and a massive military buildup. Without colonizing other territories, Germany and Italy both would have run the risk of running out of vital raw materials that they would have needed to maintain their fragile economies, economies that were already in terrible shape and carrying the weight of a starved and pressured middle class.  While the nationalization of the means of production was a stop gap measure to keep the economies alive, nationalization was only going to work for so long before resources would become depleted.


The central authority is the state and the individual will always be suppressed by the needs of the state. There is neither liberty nor any individual rights. The individual serves the state and the state will expand into every aspect of the lives of the private citizenry. In order to do this, a police state will be set up where any dissent that seeks to jeopardize the control of the state will be brutally suppressed.

While the term “fascist” has been used liberally in recent decades, the actual concepts that comprise fascism are not loose nor chaotic. There are clear concepts that define fascism and the ability to recognize such concepts is what prevents nations from ever descending into the fascist traps of old before they reach fruition.

Works Cited

Payne, Stanley G. 01 September 1998 “Italian Fascism.” 20 November 2006

URL http://www.library.wisc.edu/libraries/dpf/Fascism/Intro.html

Trotsky, Leon. 2 November 1933. “What Is National Socialism?” 20 November 2006

            URL http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/1930-ger/330610.htm

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Fascism- Political Ideologies of the 20th Century. (2017, Jan 15). Retrieved from


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