Fascism is not regarded as ideology, it is regarded as ‘propaganda’. Fascism is not a coherent, systematic school of thought, it is considered as hodge-podge of ideologies. Whatever fascist rulers found convenient, they incorporated in the ideology of fascism. Hence it is a type of political opportunism. According to Gandhi, fascism is the worst manifestation of modernity, the so-called Machiavellianism. It means complete disregard of ethics, pure power politics. It is to be noted that Gandhi made no difference in Hitler’s Nazism and British imperialism.
The term fascism is used to denote the type of political systems which have emerged in Europe e.g. in Italy, Germany, Portugal, Spain and some countries outside Europe like Japan and Argentina during inter-war period. There are various forms of fascism like fascism (Italy), Nazism (Germany), Salazarism (Portugal), Peronism (Argentina). There may be some variations e.g. fascist emphasized on primacy of state, Nazism emphasized on primacy of race.
Features of the Fascist Political System
Fascism is a type of dictatorship. There is a supremacy of state. Individuals have no rights against state. Instead of rights, fascism focused on duty and discipline.
Mussolini has written the book on PRINCIPLES OF FASCISM. According to Mussolini, there is nothing above the state, against the state or outside state. He also held that man should sacrifice himself at the altar of state. fascists were against democracy. According to Mussolini, democracy is the luxury of rich nations, parliament is a talking shop.
Fascists Economic System.
Fascism is autarky. Autarky means self-sufficient, minimum integration with international economy. Fascism supported corporate state. It is an ambiguous concept but it appears that state has central role in industry. Corporate state acts as a equilibrium builder between the interests of workers and capitalists.
Fascist’s Foreign Policy.
Fascists glorify war. According to Mussolini, “war is to men is what maternity to women.” Hitler also believed in expansionist foreign policy. He wanted ‘greater living space for Germans’. Since state is organic it grows and hence it is natural to expand. ‘lebensraum’ – living space.
They emphasized on social solidarity, solidarity with the race. Hitler described Nazism as creative destruction. Hitler was against the ‘enlightenment’ based social order. He believed that enlightenment has created isolated persons. We have to understand the importance of the volk (community or race). Since he calls for the destruction of the order, which emerged with modernity, fascism is described as, ‘counter enlightenment’ (conservatism) or (extreme right).
Ideological Basis of Fascism
Fascists lack a coherent ideology, they have borrowed from different scholars, manipulated their thoughts to justify their agenda. They have borrowed from following scholars.
1] Plato- leader as a philosopher king, unquestionable obedience. State is a family and all are expected to sacrifice at present in search of some utopia, the perfect state.
2] Machiavelli – politics is power. Ends justify means. Nothing superior than national interest. Imperialism.
3] Hobbes – justification of absolute authority of the state.
4] Rosseau – the concept of general will that general will is always right and man should be forced to be free.
5] Hegel – state is a march of God on earth. Real freedom consists in obeying the state.
6] Nietzsche – Nietzsche gave the concept of superman. Fascist projected leader as a superman.
7] Bergson – Bergson has given the concept of vitality. According to Bergson, we achieve anything because of passion, passion is a living force, reason stops us from doing what we can achieve. Passions have priority over cold-blooded reason.
8] Herder – Herder gave the theory of cultural nationalism.
9] Sorel – REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE. Sorel suggested that in politics myths play most important role. He justified the role of war and violence in politics.
10] Charles Maurus – He gave the concept of integral nationalism.
The causes giving rise to fascism.
There are two theories on the causes.
1] It is given by Nolte. According to this theory, fascism is the product of circumstances. e.g. There were political economic problems in these countries which gave rise to such leaders.
2] It is suggested that fascism emerges when democracy is introduced in the societies which are not democratic.
3] Political Parties, fail to form stable coalitions. Lack of stability creates insecurity and people get attracted towards authoritarian leaders. Thus certain circumstances give opportunity to the demagogic leaders to come to power by fooling people.
4] It is to be noted that, both fascism and Nazism established themselves through the democratic and constitutional means.
1] According to this school, fascism is rooted in human nature.
2] Eric Fromm has given the concept of ‘fear of freedom’.
3] It is wrong to believe that ordinary people like freedom. On the contrary they fear freedom. Freedom is responsible for developing the sense of insecurity in man. Since there is a fear or insecurity in man, man will always be attracted towards strong leaders. This gives opportunity to the leaders to become dictatorial.
4] According to Eric Fromm, circumstance may aggravate the insecurity but roots of fascism are present in human nature. There is a strong attraction towards such leaders. We should not forget that people did not reject fascist leaders, they continued to have mass support. They had to be defeated. Hence, there is always a possibility of rise of fascism.
Analysis of Fascism
According to Karl Mannheim, there is a sociology of knowledge. It means every theory has its social base. If liberalism is an ideology of the middle class, socialism is an ideology of workers, fascism is an ideology of elite class.
‘Fascism’ has become a ‘bad word’. In politics, fascism is used against the opponents, nobody prefers to be known as fascists. Liberals link fascism with socialism or communism. e.g. Western scholars like Karl Popper and Hannah Arendt considered fascism and communism are the varieties of the totalitarianism of 20th century.
On the other hand, anti-capitalists scholars like Laski calls fascism as ‘last attempt by capitalism to protect itself.’ Thus fascism is seen as a philosophy of capitalism. Capitalism is liberal and democratic in normal situations. It becomes authoritarian when it faces crisis.
Other explanations of fascism include Ortega Gasset’s view that fascism represents ‘revolt of masses’. Thus fascism is considered as democracy turning into mobocracy.
Since the support for fascist rulers came from the lower middle class, it is also called as the ideology of ‘center right’.