What is Fascism, and is it a Far-right Ideology?

Updated: Dec 13, 2020

Often, you may hear from the media that this person or that person is a fascist. Everyone is a fascist - if they're Right-wing that is. After all, fascism is a right-wing ideology, right?

Well, not exactly.


Before we begin analyzing whether or not fascism is a "Left" or "Right" wing ideology, we first need to understand what exactly fascism is.


The Miriam Webster dictionary defines fascism as "a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition".


Ok. That is a bit wordier than is necessary, so I'll sum it up for you now. Basically, fascism is a political philosophy that uplifts the state or nation above the individual and their rights. People exist to move their country forward and to broaden their country's influence, by whatever means necessary. Fascism is sometimes confused with nationalism or racism, both of which are different from fascism but are often a product of it. Nationalism is the belief that one's own nation is superior to all others (you can see where it might be confused), whereas racism is the belief that certain races are more superior to others. Racism is often coupled with fascism whenever the fascist country in question is less racially diverse.


The problem with fascism is that it not only produces extremely strong, centralized governments, but those governments are often violent and authoritarian dictatorships. In fascism, since the nation and therefore its leader is the most important authority, they have the power to impose their will on whatever and whoever they want. Every aspect of life is nationalized, whether they be schools, businesses, religious institutions, media outlets, etc. The most prominent examples of fascist nations in history are Adolf Hitler's Germany and Benito Mussolini's Italy, though there were other instances.


So where does fascism lie on the political spectrum? People on both the Left and the Right accuse each other of holding fascist views, so which side is correct? Well, the answer is neither. Let me explain.


The terms "Left" and "Right" on the x-axis are used to describe economic policies. The further right you are on the spectrum, the more capitalistic your beliefs are. The further left you are on the spectrum, the more socialistic your beliefs are. The y-axis refers to authoritarianism and libertarianism. Put simply, these refer to big government and little government ideas. The more libertarian you are, the smaller you want your government to be. The more authoritarian you are, the bigger you want your government to be. I use "bigger" and "smaller" to describe how involved in domestic affairs a government is. A nation with large amounts of government regulation, harsh laws restricting civil liberties, and a strong local police presence is an example of a "bigger" government.


Fascism does not actually have any set economic policies, just that all things are run by the government. This sounds somewhat socialist, which it is in a way, but there are distinct differences between socialism and fascism. The most important difference is that socialism is more focused on "government for the people", as opposed to fascism, which is more focused on "people for the government".


But the clarity that fascism lacks in regards to economic policy is completely made up for with its very clear stance on the strength of the government. Fascism is the epitome of authoritarianism. It would be listed at the very top of the chart.


So what does all this mean? This means that you could, in theory, have both capitalists, and socialists that are fascist, since being fascist only requires that you be authoritarian. That being said, both Hitler and Mussolini were Left-wing fascists. In fact, the term Nazi was the shorthand name for the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei. In English, this means the National Socialist German Worker's Party.


So are any of America's politicians fascists? Well, not really. Right-wing politicians tend to lean more libertarian by nature, and while Donald Trump is portrayed as authoritarian by the media, his actual policies are fairly libertarian. While the Left tend to lean more authoritarian with their policies, even our most Left-wing politicians don't come anywhere close to being fascist. Bernie Sanders is a good example of this. He leans more authoritarian on the political spectrum, but he is by no means looking to make the government an all-powerful machine that destroys all personal freedom as we know it.


Fascism. It is an overused, misunderstood word. Politicians use it frequently, without any grounds to make such claims regarding their opponents. Everyday people hear the term, but maybe don't fully grasp what exactly fascism really is. This article is a fight against these misconceptions, and an attempt to educate Americans about an ideology that was so instrumental in shaping so many nations in the world we live in today.


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Sources:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fascism

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/racism

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nationalism

https://www.britannica.com/topic/fascism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Nazi-Party



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