It is normal and healthy for people who are discontented to want change. Fascism is a usurpation of the revolutionary impulse which deflects it against itself and eventually serves to preserve and enhance the status quo ante, that is to say, oppression and exploitation of the majority for the benefit of an oligarchy.
Fascism as a specific political doctrine has its origins in the regimes of Mussolini and Franco. It is often used interchangeably with Nazism with which it was aligned and shared many characteristics. Nowadays fascism is often used as a general term of political denigration of ones opponents without paying too much attention to its characteristics and mode of operation.
We are here neither referring to fascism as the specific tranche of political ideologies that were promoted by the Axis powers nor to the generalised post-war term of political abuse but rather to the socio-psychological characteristics and methods which are shared by a number of ideologies, movements and regimes, many of which may be in deadly conflict with each other and which are often nowadays called ‘authoritarian’, ‘totalitarian’ or ‘centrist’; particularly when a distinction is to be made with ‘liberal democracy’.
The terms, ‘authoritarian’, ‘totalitarian’ and ‘centrist’ relate only to very limited aspects of this phenomenon and tend to give the impression of a loose collective grouping of very disparate and opposing ideologies. From a socio-psychological perspective they do form a very closely related set. It is easier mentally to envisage the characteristics of that set by bringing to mind the regimes of Mussolini, Hitler and Franco.
It would also be misleading to what is here referred to as fascist trends or tendencies as ‘authoritarian’ ‘totalitarian’ or ‘centrist’ when they are in their developing stages because they have not yet reached a position of power and, indeed, they may well find it inexpedient to display those characteristics then. Yet it is in the developing stages of fascism that its appeal is greatest and when it must be exposed and attacked.
‘Fascism’ is also a much more neutral and at the same time accurate word to use. Since the defeat of the Axis, few regimes or movements openly describe themselves as fascist. The fasces from which the word fascism derives is symbolic of authority and physical force. Symbolism, authority and physical force are common characteristics.
Ideologies such as communism are now used, particularly since the collapse of the Soviet Empire, synonymously with oppression, and particularly in Muslim spheres, with atheism which is counted as far worse. In the Industrialised world Islamic terrorism is the ogre. Latin
America looks to its past and memories of military rule and disappearances and finds its nightmares there. The true horrors of the South East Asian autocracies do not, as yet, have a collective name.
But if all of these collective insanities are treated as separate springs their commonality is hidden. It is the common nature of the oppressive regimes that is the most important for recognition and fighting them. Marxist theory was merely the mask for Stalinist and post-Stalinist fascism and for Maoist and post-Maoist fascism; anti-Marxism for the identical Pinochetist and Soehartoist fascism and their ilk; Arab Nationalism and Islam the mask for the fascist regimes in the Middle East. Naming the mask does not expose the demon within and the demon is the same. Let’s call it one name and explore its anatomy.