Fascism returns to the West
Written by Alfonso Elizondo
Fascism is a very complex social phenomenon that took different forms according to the countries where it emerged. Nevertheless, a set of common features can be identified, with ‘totalitarianism’ ranking highest, as the government and the bureaucracy try to intervene in all areas of the life of the citizen thereby restricting their freedom. It tries to control schooling, youth, work and business life, the world of women and the communication media.
Under fascism, people are completely subordinated to the state, a state that is based on force, leadership and hierarchy, exercising absolute control over a society where the official party is the only political organization allowed. A second feature of fascism is ‘anti-liberalism’ which, for the fascists, is a weak ideology incapable of stopping communism and ineffective for maintaining the course of an economy undergoing a permanent crisis during the period between wars.
Both democracy and universal suffrage are viewed by fascists as artificial and useless methods that attempt to equalize the ‘natural inequality’ that exists between human beings. Individual liberty expressed in the right to freedom of association, expression or assembly is despised by the fascists, who defend the principles of hierarchy, discipline and obedience and see political parties as elements that lead to disorder and social crisis. So in countries where fascism has gained power, political parties are declared illegal and are persecuted by the state as fascism is based on a single party under the leadership of the chief or caudillo.
Another important feature of fascism is its ‘anti-capitalism’. In the specific case of Germany, capitalism was identified with Jewish financiers and bankers who were regarded as degenerate elements of the bourgeoisie. Fascist ‘anti-capitalism’ had its best expression in corporate organizations in the world of work. Both employers and workers were forced to belong to unions controlled by the single party. Nevertheless, both Hitler and Mussolini, like other fascist dictators, received the support of big money during their rise to power. So the alliance between big businessmen and the dictator became even closer, eventually becoming the base on which the economy was built.
‘Anti-communism’ was another feature of fascism, as the class struggle clashed head-on with Marxist ideology which was the opposite of the unifying, nationalist, and totalitarian vision of fascism. That is why the unions and leftist parties were outlawed and persecuted right away. The fury of the fascist attitude towards workers’ organizations earned Hitler and Mussolini the sympathy of many members of the middle classes who feared that a Communist revolution would come about in their countries leaving them unemployed.
Fascism conceived of society as a military organization, where each individual should occupy a particular place and play a specific role. Hierarchy, command and discipline should govern the functioning of the society, and militarism and authoritarianism became two of the most visible features of fascism. The military spirit enveloped fascist society and grandiose military parades became an everyday affair. This situation translated into masculine values and the role of the woman was relegated to her traditional function of mother and wife.
The fascists created a totalitarian vision around the concept of the nation, which gave rise to an exacerbated nationalism in people and which took different forms in different countries. This led to the expansionist dreams of the dictators. While Mussolini dreamed of resurrecting ancient Rome, Hitler was delirious about the third German empire dominated by the superior Germanic race. So the fascist parties and subsequently the fascist states were organized around the figure of a leader with absolute power, endowed with a special charisma that was fed by systematic propaganda of exultation of the leader. This is why fascist regimes invested great effort in controlling the communication media, especially radio and the print media. The major figure in this control activity was Joseph Goebbels, whose graphic history still survives.
In addition, fascist ideology was totally opposed to the idea of equality between human beings, the sexes and nations, so the German version of fascism, National Socialism, was a fundamentally racist ideology. And Nazism was based on a racialized vision of humanity, with the highest position being occupied by the German Aryan race that should dominate and enslave inferior races. In the lowest position among these ethnic groups were the ‘infrahumans’ of the Jewish people, and so ‘anti-Semitism’ became the central axis of Nazi ideology. From harassment they moved to legal discrimination with the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 until the final solution was reached with the barbaric extermination of six million Jews in Central and Eastern Europe.
Addendum: Now that fascism has resurfaced in the Western world, led by the United States, the entire global community must cooperate to prevent this painful social phenomenon of fascism from disrupting human society again.