World (PT) – Defining “Fascism” is no simple task. A century of books, articles, and papers are written on the subject. It would be presumptuous to suggest I have succeeded in encapsulating the word.
However, I would — in the interest of public service — like to pass on a few observations that could conceivably save lives. Yes, whether the coming times are a relief or a nightmare, I cannot predict; certainly, I can predict that you will meet a fascist. You will look into the eyes of a man with murder in his heart. He might be your next door neighbor.
Seeing the clues early, I do believe you would agree, might be useful.
After much research, I also do believe I have discovered a few, simple markers that you can use to quickly identify a certain type of dangerous person. I claim no originality or pretense of invention. This is a report based on the work of others. “Fascism” has its signs, and they show up early!
I do not know how many hundreds of pages I read researching this article. A lot. On the web, off the web, in popular pages, obscure journals, and musty old books, everything I could lay hands on. After a good immersion like that, a certain image forms. There are overlaps, and those overlaps tend to draw a few darker lines here and there. It is not “yes” or “no.” It is “more certain,” “less certain.”
I always laugh when it I discover I did not know as much as I thought I did.
I read with an eye to writing a summary of this rich, and terrible subject for popular consumption. This approach will no doubt fail to satisfy scholars; but, I’m not writing for them, and lest that sound bratty, be it known, I am thanking many great scholars for every word here informed by their fine work.
What is Fascism?
The damn word has a lot of definitions. Which Fascism? German Fascism? Italian Fascism? Perhaps Spanish Fascism. Chilean? Or Japanese. There was no doubt in anyone’s minds during WWII that the Japanese regime was Fascist, but this is disputed, so which ones are we even going to study? They all seem to have mightily different characteristics. Yeah, they are always hating on some hated enemy, but the different regimes had different kinds of enemy. In Italy, it was the commies and immigrants, yet the immigrants were not so much racially distinguished as culturally distinguished, yet, given the language of contempt towards Ethiopians, later… most certainly racist. Nor was Italian Fascism so anti-Semitic as it was in Germany. Mussolini only removed high placed Jewish bosses under pressure from Hitler. Nationalists all, not all were expansionist. In early rhetoric, they promise reforms that sound like socialism, later, they are making deals with the the pigs they promised to subsume. And the Japanese remained a titular monarchy.
One can go on and on. I skip along through a few highlights on the waters of a lake to illustrate that this is a huge topic! Yet, despite the difficulty in being precise, when we use the word, it does evoke meaning.
I bet you have a pretty exact idea what the word means when you call someone a “fucking fascist,” right?
At a gut level, we use “fascist” to describe someone who is insufferably overbearing. You can’t stand it. You won’t put up with it. You do not, at all, want them for a friend.
It can ramp up into a fighting word. You could lose your job, standing up to your boss and calling him a fascist, right?
So we DO have that meaning, that way of using the word, and it could be used a million different ways than the fleeting examples I provide, but I think we can agree, “fascism” is a serious word.
I have no wish to tell you how to use the word. Use it loud and proud. Shout it from the rooftops. If you want, make up your own meaning! Linguists will always find natural use reveals fantastic texture and gorgeous evolution. We are “descriptive” in our studies and never “prescriptive”; that is, trying to ordain “correct use” from on high.
This is not that. But the word is powerful! It does have meaning. We are not wrong to explore and define in context; indeed, we should.
Now, if you were reading closely, you may have noticed I used Big “F” Fascism and little “f” fascism. There is a convention among writers to use the Big “F” when specifically talking about societies which have adopted a fascist government. But, read back, see there? Little “f.” That’s because I was not specific enough. Like, “Fascist Germany” and “that fascist pig over there.” Big “F” is talking about a national government; little “f” is variable in meaning. We will get back to that last.
Touching again lightly on topics glanced at above, Early Italian and German Fascism had a lot of Socialist elements in their rhetoric, but both evolved into crony Capitalism at it’s worst. One need not study much to see that Fascists will say anything. Words are a noise people make to them.
Do not listen to a fascist. Watch him.
Fascists are liars. They are instinctual, habitual, pathological liars. This dark mark is a convergence in all their deeds. Always a well orchestrated propaganda machine and as much brutal control over all the media they can dominate. This will be done.
We know this.
And still, were the Japanese in WWII Fascist? As I said, they were certainly regarded so by popular media at the the time, but not everyone agrees. Was Pinochet’s Chile true Fascism? Like Spanish Fascism, it was not expansionist. Aggressive militarism against foreign nations is not a defining characteristic.
You see the difficulty.
I do highly recommend the Wiki on this. A wide variety of viewpoints are expressed. As Wikis go, it is thorough and well written. All — so far as I know — of the widely published scholars on the subject are mentioned along with their core statements.
Another approach is to attempt to define the type of person who is attracted to fascism.
We do get somewhere when we look at it that way, so let’s look at that. You will hear of the “Authoritarian Personality.” While the Freudian theory of the original research is not terribly current, the tests and lists are still used, and a great deal of further research was inspired. We find, for example, in a later work in the field, “Right-wing authoritarianism.” This is not, evidently, limited to right-wing politics, to keep this all too complex, for there are left-wing authoritarians too. (We anti-authoritarians call them “Tankies,” and they hate that.)
Nevertheless, in Bob Altemeyer’s work, cited above, agree or disagree, we do have a three-part metric for the “authoritarian type.” Here it is:
Authoritarian submission — A high degree of submissiveness to the authorities who are perceived to be established and legitimate in the society in which one lives.
Authoritarian aggression — A general aggressiveness directed against deviants, out-groups and other people that are perceived to be targets according to established authorities.
Conventionalism — A high degree of adherence to the traditions and social norms that are perceived to be endorsed by society and its established authorities and a belief that others in one’s society should also be required to adhere to these norms.
That is a broad definition. Too broad, for it includes people who may though they speak aggressively, they yet shy away from pre-emptive violence themselves. If, however, in their tacit support of people who do use pre-emptive violence, such authoritarians are what we antifascists call “crypto-fascists.” In a Fascist regime, they will become the sheep and cows, happily trotting to their slaughter, if they are not lucky enough to be merely shorn or milked. A full blood fascist will always be down to rumble, that’s how he gets RANK! The fascist will want to earn that way. He does not want to be a sheep or a cow! And that is the thing about them, they will use deadly force, usually suddenly and surprisingly, in cruelly murderous onslaughts. They do this in ways calculated to terrify.
The fascist’s willingness to use VIOLENCE is the existential core of who they are. Have you ever been a death situation? Like looking down the barrel of a gun before cold, dead, eyes? And then, “Damn, is that a smile? I’m fucked.”
People piss and shit themselves in situations like that. A fascist gets hard when he has power over you like that.
That is not mere “aggression.”
Their violence is often crafty. Perfectly legal. For example, recently, some videos of ICE agents destroying water caches just north of the Mexican border went viral. In one social media flame war, we had a whole gang who seemed to have no empathy for the people who would suffer — Authoritarian Aggression — and vast rants on the subject of obedience to “law” — Conventionalism and Authoritarian Submission.
What a steaming pile of pompous moralizing! Glorying in the harm inflicted on other humans. If that is not violence, I do not know what is. They glory in violence. They are proud of their “strength” that way. That makes them dangerous, truly dangerous.
So? Is your boss a fascist? He’s willing to threaten your livelihood if you do not obey, and he’s certainly a conformist. So, maybe.
Is a trans-exclusive feminist a fascist? Some argue that such rhetoric does indeed endanger the lives of trans-gendered people, but does that feminist really want to kill them or see them hurt? Some will say, “Yes.” Yet I have seen frighteningly threatening missives directed at my feminist friends. There is definitely bad blood, I’m sorry to report, yet both sides are emphatically anti-authoritarian. And I don’t think anybody wants to kill anybody. So, no.
I’ve seen “fascists!” hurled at so-called Christian groups like the Westboro Baptist Church, and they may qualify given their angry aggressiveness, but so far as I know, they have never initiated actual violence. Highly authoritarian with cult-like characteristics and definite dreams of world domination, it seems the love ethic of Jesus, diluted and perverted though it may be, tends to stop such “Christians” just short of actual killing these days as organized bodies. But if they cross that line? Definitely fascist groups. Certainly “fascistic” rogues.
And the guy calling in to report a possible sighting of an “illegal immigrant?” Definitely. We saw that shit in Germany. If you’re doing that, you are one, motherfucker.
The gang painting swastikas on mosques and synagogues? Oh yeah. But, speaking of gangs.
Violence alone is not enough.
I’ve suggested that it is violence that marks the true fascist type as opposed to a mere authoritarian, and it is their willingness to use violence that makes fascists dangerous, but it is not only violence that drives them. That would be “chaotic evil.” Fascists are “lawful evil.” They will combine into conformist groups and evidently derive great satisfaction from that group identity, always marked by masculine hierarchy and submission to authority, and, in every fascist’s wet dream, a chance to exercise that authority through group-approved violence.
Never mind their their cute little outfits, their ridiculous chanting and sloganeering, their love of icons appealing to whatever “culture” they imagine themselves a part of, all these serve as a fascist aesthetic. That’s the flash and dash of their allure to their kind of killer.
I call it “fascist drag.” They do love their dress up games.
All these overlay the primary components of Authoritarian conformity and violent intent. This is the personality type of the proto-fascist. Finding a group identity, he also finds the force multiplier: The Other. The terrorism starts when the authoritarian-violent type gets aligned with others against however many others there might be. There will always be a target for whom killing is a good thing, in the beginning, perhaps narrow, perhaps not, but always, they mean to kill.
It takes courage to deal with these dudes. You can fucking die.
And watch for this too. Fascist collectivism — the subordination of the individual to the group — is a great and fearsome power. If combined with genuine willingness to kill and die, the morale crescendo can generate a powerful wave of self-feeding destruction.
In practical terms, when studying groups of Nazi fucks, who tend to try to stay in some kind of formation to begin with, look for signs of a tightening and alignment, that is the moment before the surge. Unless you’ve practiced against that with your friends, best to get out of the way. There was some footage out of Charleston that showed that with a little more practice, they could really mow folks down, trample right over ’em, and make sure they got beat on at least six times each as they were also stomped repeatedly.
They get you with their willingness to be scary.
It’s a phalanx formation, by the way, it goes as far back as ancient Sumer for certain. It can be defended against, and it can be broken. There are many and various methods, but that’s another topic…
It takes iron bones and steel will to stand up to such deadly brigades. But that is what they are. And that is what they will do. How do you handle a bully? There was only one way to ever handle a bully. You stand up to him. It’s a public service. Hey, you might get lucky enough to catch a little fascist in the making for whom a good beating short of killing might do him some good, but how you use a schooling opportunity is a personal choice.
Alas, they do only respect force, so don’t get fooled. They are liars.
It is a fair criticism to say I have neglected the Fascist’s sense of being a victim, the cult of masculinity and their misogyny, that creepy adulation of “great leaders.” Well, it is my hope that you will wish to further research this. At least read the Wiki to see the many nuances there are, but, honestly? Fascists are not terribly complex. It is a mistake to read too much ideology into their motives. They are creatures of emotion and action; indeed, this exerts a strong appeal in their recruitment efforts. Thoughtfulness are not important. Yet, make no mistake, they are not necessarily stupid, and their leaders typically are not. They tend to be rather crafty devils whose intelligence, on close observation, will be seen to be only directed towards destructive ends, no matter what is said.
Like I said, it is a rich and terrible subject.
It is also fundamental. The individual’s capacity for violence combined with a group identity, always hierarchal, seem to be the irreducible minimum to describe the fascist type. The “hated other” is the catalyst used to generate the violence. I have searched and searched for exceptions to this in historical Fascism, and I find none.
Regardless, it is an explosive mix. We are wise not to underestimate the capacity of the fascist for murder.
Therefore, be brave. Be powerful. After all, you have better friends than any fascist who ever lived.