Every year, I hear more American conservatives and liberals call each other Fascists. Each time it makes me lose more faith in humanity, because the more you understand what Fascism is, the less likely you’d be to call someone Fascist.
Recently, a 21 year old told me with righteous confidence that, “Socialism ALWAYS leads to Fascism!” I wasn’t surprised he believed this completely inaccurate statement because conservative pundits have been pushing this narrative for years.
If you don’t know what Socialism or Fascism are, the video above may seem very convincing…. and the video below, which claims Trump is a Fascist, should sound equally convincing.
If that video doesn’t convince you Trump is a Fascist, look at the following two infographics I found on the internet and draw the comparisons yourself:
These lists are pretty scary until you notice they’re made up of truths, half-truths, and falsehoods. Plus, they’re omitting a lot of important facts.
Here are two videos that do a much better job of explaining what Fascism really is:
As good as those videos are, in my opinion, they skim over some critical nuances that you need to understand before you go around calling anyone a Fascist.
There have been dozens of governments, politicians, and political movements who call/called themselves Fascist, but originally, Fascism wasn’t a general term for an authoritarian, ethnocentric type of government. It was the name of Benito Mussolini’s personal political party that he invented to bait-and-switch his way into becoming a dictator.
Strictly speaking, anyone who isn’t a card-carrying member of Benito Mussolini’s party, isn’t technically Fascist. They’re really just Fascist-esque. This may seem like anal retentive nitpicking, but I believe this distinction is important because every country that has copied Mussolini’s methods and policies have cherry-picked them and left just as many out.
It’s equally important to point out that Mussolini didn’t invent all the nefarious methods and policies we associate with Fascism. Dictatorships, theocracies, monarchies, and other forms of government have been using them for centuries.
To fully appreciate the gravity of what I’m getting at, you need to look at the two founding documents of Mussolini’s Fascist party: The Fascist Manifesto and The Doctrine of Fascism.
They’re both surprisingly short. The Fascist Manifesto is a one-page bullet point list that was printed in Mussolini’s personal political newspaper:
Translated to English, it says:
“Italians! Here is the program of a genuinely Italian movement. It is revolutionary because it is anti-dogmatic, strongly innovative and against prejudice.
For the political problem: We demand:
- a) Universal suffrage polled on a regional basis, with proportional representation and voting and electoral office eligibility for women.
- b) A minimum age for the voting electorate of 18 years; that for the office holders at 25 years.
- c) The abolition of the Senate.
- d) The convocation of a National Assembly for a three-years duration, for which its primary responsibility will be to form a constitution of the State.
- e) The formation of a National Council of experts for labor, for industry, for transportation, for the public health, for communications, etc. Selections to be made from the collective professionals or of tradesmen with legislative powers, and elected directly to a General Commission with ministerial powers.
For the social problems: We demand:
- a) The quick enactment of a law of the State that sanctions an eight-hour workday for all workers.
- b) A minimum wage.
- c) The participation of workers’ representatives in the functions of industry commissions.
- d) To show the same confidence in the labor unions (that prove to be technically and morally worthy) as is given to industry executives or public servants.
- e) The rapid and complete systemization of the railways and of all the transport industries.
- f) A necessary modification of the insurance laws to invalidate the minimum retirement age; we propose to lower it from 65 to 55 years of age.
For the military problem: We demand:
- a) The institution of a national militia with a short period of service for training and exclusively defensive responsibilities.
- b) The nationalization of all the arms and explosives factories.
- c) A national policy intended to peacefully further the Italian national culture in the world.
For the financial problem: We demand:
- a) A strong progressive tax on capital that will truly expropriate a portion of all wealth.
- b) The seizure of all the possessions of the religious congregations and the abolition of all the bishoprics, which constitute an enormous liability on the Nation and on the privileges of the poor.
- c) The revision of all military contracts and the seizure of 85 percent of the profits therein.”
This is what the Fascist party ostensibly stood for. So when you accuse someone of being Fascist, technically, you’re accusing them of (among other things), abolishing the Senate, raising taxes on the rich, giving women the right to vote, establishing a minimum wage, lowering the retirement age to 55, making military service mandatory, nationalizing the weapons industry, and spreading Italian culture around the world.
Have you ever heard Donald Trump advocate any of those policies? If not, then, strictly speaking, he’s not a Fascist. He may have some other Fascist-esque tendencies… that aren’t uniquely Fascist… but why call him a Fascist when it would be more accurate to just describe his negative tendencies? I don’t like Trump, but calling him a Fascist would require cherry-picking what it means to be one, and that would be intellectually lazy at best and intellectually dishonest at worse.
As much as you can use The Fascist Manifesto to argue that Trump isn’t really Fascist, you can also use The Doctrine of Fascism to argue liberals, socialists, Marxists, and Communists aren’t either. I’m not going to copy/past the whole document here because it’s 3-4 pages long, but I’ll summarize its 13 main sections.
Before I do that though, it may be worth noting that half of The Doctrine of Fascism is philosophical gibberish that barely means anything, like:
“To know men one must know man; and to know man one must be acquainted with reality and its laws. There can be no conception of the State which is not fundamentally a conception of life: philosophy or intuition, system of ideas evolving within the framework of logic or concentrated in a vision or a faith, but always, at least potentially, an organic conception of the world.“
Whatever. That kind of self-indulgent rambling makes me question how seriously Mussolini and his co-author of The Doctrine of Fascism, Giovanni Gentile, believed their own propaganda. If they were just talking out of their asses to justify a dictatorship, that’s all the more reason we shouldn’t use the term “Fascism” too seriously.
Anyway, below are the 13 sections of the The Doctrine of Fascism. The bold/black headings are Giovani’s and Mussolini’s. They rest are my summaries:
“SPIRITUAL VIEW OF LIFE
- Men should live with purpose and strive to be their best for the sake of the greater good. Being idle and happy for your own sake is weakness, but working for the greater good is strength.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRADITION
- A man’s life is meaningless if he doesn’t contribute to the advancement of society.
REJECTION OF INDIVIDUALISM AND THE IMPORTANCE OF THE STATE
- A man’s life is meaningless if he doesn’t contribute to the advancement of the state.
FASCIST STATE AS A SPIRITUAL FORCE
- You should devote your mind, body, and soul to serving the state… and the state will enforce this standard by using force.
POLITICAL AND SOCIAL DOCTRINE – EVOLUTION FROM SOCIALISM
- I (Geovani Gentile) used to be a socialist, but then I realized Socialism sucks because managing a company is hard. Therefore, there should be class division between workers and upper management. Also, Fascism used to be poorly defined, but now it has a set doctrine.
REJECTION OF PACIFISM
- Pacifism is bad. War is good.
REJECTION OF MARXISM
- Poor, exploited people shouldn’t fight against rich, exploitative people. And nobody should work towards their own interest because ‘well-being does not equal happiness.’ The end-goal of working should be to support the state.
REJECTION OF PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY AS A SHAM AND A FRAUD
- Fascism rejects democracy because the will of the majority isn’t important. Only the health of the state is important.
REJECTION OF EGALITARIANISM
- Fascism rejects the idea that everyone deserves equal political representation.
DEFINITION OF FASCISM AS REAL DEMOCRACY
- A dictatorship is the only true democracy because it’s the best form of government for the people.
REJECTION OF ECONOMIC LIBERALISM – ADMIRATION OF BISMARCK
- Fascism rejects the idea that the goal of the state should be to give people power and happiness. The goal of the people should be to give the state power and health.
THE FASCIST TOTALITARIAN VISION OF THE FUTURE
- Fascism isn’t going to be a dystopian dictatorship. It’s going to be a great dictatorship. Trust us. You’ve never seen anything like this before.
THE ABSOLUTE PRIMACY OF THE STATE
- A man’s life is meaningless if he doesn’t contribute to the advancement of the state. Fascism isn’t going to be a dystopian dictatorship. It’s going to be a great dictatorship. Trust us. You’ve never seen anything like this before.“
This political philosophy is blatantly incompatible with the goals and values of Donald Trump, American conservatives, American liberals, socialists, Marxists, and Communists. Despite their differences, all of these movements believe in the mantra, “Power to the individual.” Fascism fundamentally rejects this philosophy and specifically denounces Socialism, Marxism, and Communism. So anyone who says, “Socialism always leads to Fascism,” has no idea what Socialism or Fascism is.
Trump only cares about making himself and his rich friends richer and more powerful. They don’t want the sole focus of their businesses to be supporting the government. Trump has already lowered taxes on the rich. If he were a true Fascist, he would raise taxes on corporations and insert government officials into the executive boards of his best friends’ companies.
If you look at all the countries that have called themselves Fascist, they never adopted all the tenets of Fascism either. Some of them supported workers’ unions. Others embraced religion. None of them tried to spread Italian culture by the sword. They just used national pride and the promise of strength and stability to intoxicate the masses long enough to establish a self-serving dictatorship… exactly like how every Eastern European dictatorship promised their citizens Socialism and Communism long enough to win the popular support they needed to pull off their bait-and-switch scheme.
Even in Italy, Mussolini was notoriously vague about what Fascism really meant, and like all politicians, he didn’t religiously stick to his campaign promises. For example, he didn’t seize all the Catholic Church’s assets like he promised in his manifesto. He ended up making a neutral alliance with them.
So if you want to call someone Fascist, you’d have to specify whether or not they’re guilty of doing what the Italian Fascist party (or any other self-proclaimed Fascist party) promised or what they actually did. Even if you’re right about one point, I can guarantee, the person you’re accusing of being Fascist doesn’t follow all the tenets of every self-proclaimed Fascist institution, because that would be impossible.
If, after reading this far, you still don’t understand what Fascism is, then congratulations. You’re probably more correct than at least 99% of the people who have ever said the word, “Fascism,” including Benito Mussolini, since he was full of shit.
The most reliable way to use the term “Fascism” is to not use it at all, since, at this point in history, it has become basically meaningless. If a government, politician, or political group is behaving overly authoritarian, then describe them as being “overly authoritarian,” not “Fascist.” If they have the audacity to insist they really are Fascists, then ask them what the ideal retirement age should be. If they say, “55,” then respond, “Well, at least you got that much right.”
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