Fascism: What it is, What it isn’t, and its Role in America
Since President Donald J. Trump was elected, you can’t go a day without hearing the word fascism. The word has become an obsession among progressives with well-known liberals using the term every chance they get. Used to negatively describe the current administration and right-wing politicians, the word has caused fear in millennials with many citizens believing America is heading in the direction of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Due to this fear, George Orwell’s “1984” is once again a bestseller and the same with Sinclair Lewis’ “It Can’t Happen Here”. But what exactly is fascism, and are we under fascism rule? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is Fascism?
To begin understanding fascism, one must understand its definition. It’s not an easy task, as the specifics of fascism have been long debated. Historians and political scientists each have their own interpretation, leaving many definitions too wide or narrow. What all definitions of fascism have in common, however, are these three concepts that need to be in place in order for fascism to exist.
1. There needs to be a centralized totalitarian and nationalistic government that strictly controls finance, industry and commerce. Often, this is lead by a dictator.
2. There needs to be pro-dictator propaganda throughout the city (think artwork, busts, statues etc. all praising the leader), mass mobilization of armed forces, and a positive view of violence.
3. There needs to be forcible suppression to any and all opposition, most commonly through the use of secret police.
How Are Fascist Governments Different Than Communist Governments?
I know, you might be saying “Hey! Isn’t that the definition of communism?” Well, both have similarities, in that the government controls all human activities, there’s a total government control of press, there’s a dictator one party rule and both use propaganda to control thoughts and actions of a society. Both also originated in Europe and gained popularity in the early to mid 20th century, but from there the regimes are seemingly opposite ideologies. Communism is a system based around a theory of economic equality and advocates for a classless society. Meanwhile, fascism is a nationalistic, top-down system with rigid class roles.
As an example, communist countries like North Korea believe that all people besides the great leader are the same and therefore social classes make no sense. In communist countries, the government owns all means of production and land among everything else. People work for the government and the collective output is redistributed equally under a socialist economy.
Meanwhile, in fascist countries like Nazi Germany, you support your citizens having private property, there’s union between businesses and the State with the state telling the businesses what to do. Fascist countries are military focused and believe that the state must struggle to survive even if it means war.
How Did Fascist Governments Begin?
The first country that was ruled under a fascist regime was Italy. Between 1922 and 1943, under Benito Mussolini, Italian Fascism rose in power to the people’s desire to restore and expand Italian territories. Italian Fascists believed they were the heir to ancient Rome and its legacy. Part of that legacy was to create an Italian Empire in order to establish control over the entire Mediterranean Sea.
Under the Fascist regime, individuals who did not conform to fascist ways would lose their jobs and be placed under 24-hour surveillance. In the work place, they supported criminalization of strikes by employees and lockouts by employers as illegal acts. At home, civilians were told to adhere to gender roles. Mussolini himself even said, “War is to man, what maternity is to a woman.”
What are other examples of Fascist Governments?
Fascist government were most popular prior to the 1950s. The Nazi Party came to power in Germany under Adolf Hitler in 1933, and in 1940 Japan’s prime minister Fumimaro Konoye established the Imperial Rule Assistance Association to consolidate all political parties under a single umbrella group.
Austria, Brazil, Chile, The Republic of China, Croatia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain and South Africa have all had waves of fascism as well.
Has there Ever Been Fascism in Democratic Nations?
Yes. Fascism movements gained momentum prior to World War II, with many fascist sympathizers taking inspiration from regimes established by Mussolini and Hitler. Groups would often campaign and try to achieve success in local elections, but nothing successfully took off. In fact, groups including the Silver Legion of America which claimed they had over 15,000 members, actually managed to run a candidate for President on a third-party ticket here in the United States, however it was outlawed after Nazi Germany declared war on America in late 1941.
Is America Under President Trump a Fascist Government?
The answer is no. To claim fascism exists within America would be to misunderstand not just the history of the fascism, but also the character of the American society itself. The ideas of fascism, are that people want a centralization of authority. However, what Americans have a tendency to long for is always centrifugal.
The idea that celebrities, the media and everyday Americans can share their displeasure for the president goes to show that there is no fascist censorship. Likewise, protests and riots like the Women’s March following Trump’s inauguration would not be allowed to take place if we were under Fascist control.
America is not under a centralized totalitarian government. There is not a positive view of violence from supporters, and there is no forcible suppression to any and all opposition. America is not a fascist government, but a republic.
If America Isn’t Fascist, What Is It?
As mentioned above, the United States is a republic. While we’re often referred to as a democracy, Americans don’t vote directly on laws, we elect representatives to vote for us. Because of this, the United States is a republic.
Are There Currently Any Fascist Governments?
As of 2017, there are no countries that are considered fascist according to generally accepted definitions of fascism. There are countries that have active fascist movements taking place, but there are none that are completely taking over the national politics. Countries with fascist elements include Syria, Bolivia, Greece and Ukraine among others.