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Chapter 7 - Fascism
It is concerned more with action than ideas.
Liberalism: Sees society as a political community produced through agreement by free individuals.
Considers humans as fundamentally equal, if a person battles inequalities he is said to be truly fulfilling
his or historic role in setting free his fellow human beings from oppression of authoritative rule or
In contrast Fascism: Sees society as an organic “national” or “racial” whole to which its members belong
by birth. Believes in the division of society through legitimate and correct hierarchical structures where
some groups are by nature superior and others are inferior. One who defends and guards these differences
through varied forms of disciplined behaviour under society and its leadership is said to be most
Thus liberal modernity claims that Fascism does not believe that the human beings express their most
valued living potential when they use their reason for the purposes of individual and collective
enlightenment. In contrast fascism believes in disciplining ordinary human beings through obedience.
Human beings are at the peak of their human potential only when they assert themselves on behalf of the
organic, national or racial whole. This includes sometimes using brutal violence.
Fascism feels the capacity of human beings assertion of power and identity of their social group through
violence is a potential that liberalism, conservatism and Marxism seem to have neglected or not fully
understood. Although, Marxism grasped the potential revolutionary value of violence, fascism gives
violent activity further meaning. Fascism’s use of violence is cruel, penal and humiliating. Though its
legacy cannot be termed as genocidal but it sees human beings most alive when they are being most
Its attachment to, almost love for violence is a significant departure from other ideologies. Many scholars
thus feel it lacks any ideological principles due to it self-conscious and purposeful hostility to reason and
intellectual reflection promoting itself as being only action oriented.
Fascist regimes stress the role of leader so much so that Benito Mussolini declared late in life “What
would Fascism be, if I had not been?” A great deal can be understood through the study of its
phenomenon than the ideas that underlie or constitute it. Renowned scholar of the phenomenon Stanley
Payne said “Though an exact and elaborate codification of doctrine was never achieved, it is now
becoming recognized that Italian Fascism did function on the basis of a reasonably coherent set of ideas”.
In this regard, Fascism may be viewed as a set of ideas that attempts to say something meaningful about
human beings, their society and their future development. Fascist acts are not definitive of fascism. Rather
they are undertaken with certain purposes and goals in mind, with a certain outlook and set of ideas-
truths for humanity and a goal culture towards which it should strive.
Some additional and related preliminary notes: The first is that fascism, like Marxism is neither a dead
nor a dying phenomenon. It is intended to depict the enemthas the face of what President George W. Bush
has described as “the murderous ideologies of the 20 cent”. Tsts he does see it as an ideology but
presents the phenomenon as if it does not belong to the 21 cent. The strong implication in such usage is
that the fascists of the present have somehow risen from the dead of the past, and since they were defeated
once before under the mighty power of the civilized world, they shall be defeated again. To counter argue,
it cannot simply be regarded as a dying or passing phenomenon. It draws its emphases from aspects of
humanity that have been underrated by alternative ideological systems. These aspects continue to remain
to be mobilized by organized fascism. As Mussolini once said: “political doctrines pass, humanity
remains.” Thus basic material for any well organized ideological effort is always in place. They P a g e | 2
frequently display a capacity to determine the agenda-sometimes under the names of the far right, or
extreme or ultra nationalism sometimes as more centrist parties. They described their purposes in moral
terms. Early fascists in Europe spoke of holy wars and crusades when it was not unpopular to do so, and
Mussolini described his violent imperial conquest and subordination of Ethiopia as a victory for
“civilization over barbarism”. As Mussolini through his speeches invoked democracy, conscience,
spirituality and religion fascists similarly claim to occupy the higher ground by invoking the good of
civilization, culture, humanity and of course of homeland nation and race.[
Fascism does not always change the specific terms of the ideological debate, but it does change their
meanings and uses the terms with different emphases.
In many ways Mussolini’s Italy does provide us with an ideal model of a regime that put into place the
fascist outlook on humanity. Fascism is often used to refer to the past pol structures in both Italy and
Germany. It does become difficult to separate a doctrine from its application in any nation.
As with other ideologies, different ideological elements show up in varied dosages rather than in their
entirety, with deviations that give localized manifestations of the phenomenon particular character. In this
context, National-Socialist Germany can be, at best, seen as a most radical form of fascism, but it can
more appropriately be characterized as the worst, most heinous form of biological racism the modern
world has ever seen.
Evolution of the doctrine:
As the development of Marxist doctrine followed a rather consistent pattern, at least from 1844 onward,
such is not the case with fascism. Mussolini began his political career as a confirmed Marxist socialist,
added some rather vague voluntarist (emphasizing willful action) and elitist elements at an early date,
took a seemingly abrupt turn from international socialism to Italian nationalism during World War 1, and
emerged from that war proclaiming the existence of something called fascism-
From the Italian word fascio, meaning a tightly knit bundle and referring to a unified political group.
Further developments in this ideology include:
1. Emergence of an ethical dimension to the conception of the state.
2. The creation of the idea of corporativism
3. Insertion of social Darwinism which can take the form of racism.
Critical change in Mussolini occurred in 1914 as editor of the major socialist paper Avanti! He
abandoned the socialist line of international class war and called for the intervention of Italy in the
“bourgeois” World War.
Benito Mussolini (1883-1945)
His early Marxism was in many ways similar to that of Lenin. The intellectual battle against the
revisionist tendencies within the international communist movt found Mussolini and Lenin on the same
side. Both were uncompromising in their advocacy of the necessity of violent class warfare. Both were
disgusted by the nationalist sentiments that seemed to be undermining the internationalism of classical
Marxism, and both thought the adventurism of capitalist armies to be but a device for delaying the
revolution. During the period between 1902 and 1914, Mussolini constantly used Marxist terms, cited
Marx as an authority for his action, and thought in categories that can only be called Marxist. Mussolini’s
place in the ideological spectrum was rather close to that of Lenin; he too opposed revisionism
(unorthodox opinion especially in religious matters).and called for revolutionary agitation, but, most
important, he also shared Lenin’s distrust of a mass spontaneous revolution.
Mussolini shared Lenin’s skepticism concerning the leaderless revolutionary potential of the masses, and
he argued with increasing frequency for the need for a force to guide the supposedly spontaneous
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Two most prominent advocates of elitist theories of the state Gaetano Mosca and Vilfredo Pareto
advanced theories of pol participation that denied any imp role for the masses in politics and thought govt
was best seen as the rule of successive elite groups.
Pareto had a direct influence on Mussolini who called Pareto’s theory of elites “the most ingenious (
clever) sociological conception of modern times.” If mass participation in pol life was to become a fact of
the 20 cent there must be an elite leadership group to mobilize and to guide the masse. Here, then, is an
initial deviation from classical Marxism in Mussolini’s thought.
Mussolini’s emphasis on human will had a crucial impact on the develpt of fascism. Mussolini was
desperately concerned with creative action and firm in his belief that it was well within the power of
properly directed human beings to create their own history. By asserting that human will is itself capable
of altering the environ by the sheer determination to change it, Mussolini was implicitly undermining
Marx’s “scientific” laws of development. For Marxism-Leninists, human consciousness and will are in
large measure shaped and determined by objective economic conditions and the class circumstances
obtaining in particular periods of history. Marx did not dismiss the will, only that he understood it to be
conditioned or structured by material conditions. Marxist revolutionary consciousness is indeed a form of
willful determination, but it is said to take shape under very specific conditions of crisis for capitalism. A
revolution cannot simply be willed into existence, as desirable as that may be for many Marxists.
In implying that the creative acts of human violation could radically alter history, Mussolini was saying
that human will was independent of economic conditions. There is then an extreme emphasis on
voluntarism in the young Mussolini, which is distinctly un Marxian, and it emerges full blown in later
This voluntarism led Mussolini to an interest in the role of myth in human affairs and how they could be
used to mobilize masses to engage in acts of change and creation. Mussolini claimed Georges Sorel
(1847-1922) had an influence on him. Sorel said myths were the prime force in human affairs, and violent
activity in pursuit of the fulfillment of a myth is not be feared.
Characteristics of Fascism:
During World War 1 the first real test of Marxism’s internationalism, and in general the human subjective
component of the doctrine failed to pass the test. Mussolini here was in the mainstream of socialist action.
As a consequence while Italy remained neutral during the early stages, Mussolini’s Avanti in Oct 1914
called for the abandonment of neutrality and the entry of Italy in the war on the side of the Allies. Given
the tendencies toward Voluntarism and violence in his thinking where human will was seen capable of
performing tremendously heroic actions, even remaki