One Hundred Years after Fascism
Written by Alfonso Elizondo
According to historian Stanley G. Payne, fascism is still the ‘most indefinite’ of the major political terms. Historian Emilio Gentile states that one must distinguish between historical fascism, one the one hand – the regime branded by Italy in the history of the twentieth century, and spread to Germany and other European countries between the two world wars, – and on the other, fascism after 1945 which refers to those who use violence in movements of the extreme right.
So any movement that opposes the French Revolution principles of equality and freedom and that affirms the supremacy of the nation without having a totalitarian organization or a desire for imperialist expansion cannot be considered fascist.
We can only speak of fascism, says Gentile, if we are referring to historical fascism, when a militarily organized mass movement conquered power and turned the parliamentary regime into a totalitarian state, with a single party that tried to transform, regenerate and even create a new race to achieve its imperialist and conquest objectives.
In the period between the two world wars there was still a desire for conquest and imperial expansion, a situation that does not exist now. We can no longer speak of fascism because the countries that seek to have hegemonic power are doing so through the economy and not through armed conquest.
So Gentile believes that in history nothing comes back, not even in a different form. What exists today is the danger that democracy, in the name of popular sovereignty, could assume racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic characteristics. But popular will and sovereign democracy are the opposite of fascism.
In Europe, these movements are known as ‘liberal democracies’, because they claim to be an expression of popular will but deny that there are rights that could be extended to all citizens, without discriminating against those who do not belong to the national community.
This is where the Kalergi Plan comes in: the conspiracy theory used by far-right parties against the European Union. Some of the world’s top leaders, such as Trump, Putin, Bolsonaro, Víctor Orbán and others have been branded as fascists because of their nationalism or their immigration policies. The common denominator is that in these countries these extremist movements were established on the basis of the popular vote.
Historian Emilio Gentile says it is a great mistake to call these governments fascists since the real danger is that democracy could become a form of repression with popular consent. Democracy is only good if it realizes its ideals of creating a society where there is no discrimination and everyone can express themselves with complete freedom.
The current problem, according to Gentile, is not the return to fascism, but the dangers that democracy can create on its own, when the majority of voters democratically elect leaders who are nationalist, racist and anti-Semitic.
Addendum: The new sciences and technologies have clearly demonstrated that history is never or will never be repeated.