The rise and popularity of right-wing nationalism, extremism and religious fundamentalism in the United States, Brazil, India, Europe, and Canada are very troubling. The last one hundred years reveal the danger of tipping the scales too far right leads to fascism. The word fascism conjures up all kinds of emotions when spoken in public, invoking Mussolini and Hitler and dictators and death camps. Italian fascism began with Italian nationalism and a policy based on three principles order, discipline, and hierarchy.
The conglomerates who own mass media are reluctant to use the word fascism or fascist. They have no interest in educating, alarming and exposing the public to the reality that we live under fascist conditions by degrees of academic and scholarly reference. Like the branding of beer, fascism comes under the labels light, regular and full strength.
Fascism and fascist are loaded symbols (words or nouns) that are blurted out in an emotional attempt to express a referent (thing or person or noun) without real or agreed-upon reference (dictionary, historical, or academic and scholarly reference).
The 1993 two-volume New Shorten Oxford English Dictionary defines fascism and fascist as
Fascism: The principles and organization of the Italian fascist, the Italian fascist movement; a similar nationalistic and authoritarian movement in another country; loosely right-wing authoritarianism.
Fascist: A n. A member of a body of Italian nationalist, which was organized in 1919 to oppose communism in Italy and control the country from 1922 to 1943; a member of any similar nationalistic and authoritarian organization in another country, loosely any person with right-wing authoritarian political views. B adj Of, pertaining to, or characteristic of fascism or fascist.
Theodor W. Adorno, a prominent German philosopher and social critic, gave a lecture in 1967 on the far right. He stated that right-wing extremism isn’t a psychological and ideological problem but a political one.
Madeleine Albright suggests in her book Fascism: A Warning, fascism should perhaps be viewed less as a political ideology than as a means for seizing and holding power.
Yale philosopher Jason Stanley writes How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them. He states that fascist politics are running rampant in America today—and spreading around the world. He identifies the ten pillars of fascist politics and charts their horrifying rise and deep history.
Italian Primo Levi, one of the greatest thinkers on fascism, a man who had been to the hell of a Nazi death camp and lived to come home, once noted, “Every age has its own Fascism.” As a professional chemist, he set out the elements neatly. There are at least three key elements that remain virtually the same:
1) An obsession with The Decline of the West,
2) An organized lying or what might be called radical or cynical pragmatism which sees truth as something that can be bent and adjusted to serve its purpose
3) Fascists seek relevance by serving a mass-based political movement seeking to influence politics inside parliaments, e.g. Germany’s AfD, UKIP in Britain, Fidesz in Hungary, Modi’s BJP, Chrysi Avgi, the GOP in America and the various Conservative parties across Canada.
In an article on CounterPunch, Thomas Klikauer writes on Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism, and the rise of Germany’s new right-wing populist party, the Alternative for Germany or AFD [mocked as “A F**** Disgrace”], and the heated debate that is taking place. The article highlights Umberto Eco’s fourteen elements that make up fascism. The cult of tradition is the first item on Eco’s 14-point list. They include;
- The AFD fancies The Cult of Germanic-Mythical Traditions (1) glorifying Germany’s Nazi past in particular. The party wants to return to traditions such as a racially purified and a deeply Anti-Semitic society – the so-called Volksgemeinschaft.
- Secondly, the AFD rejects modernism (2) hating modern liberal society, its art and culture, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, feminism, trade unions, post-1789 democracy, progressive political parties, and most, if not all, international institutions and global NGOs.
- The AFD’s Cult of Action for Action’s Sake (3) is expressed in many ways. All too often the AFD is “action-guided” rather than “thinking-guided”. Favouring actions overthinking often come with a rejection of intellectual discourse and rationality.
The Encyclopedia Britannica summarises, Although fascist parties and movements differed significantly from one another, they had many characteristics in common, including extreme militaristic nationalism, contempt for electoral democracy and political and cultural liberalism, a belief in the natural social hierarchy and the rule of elites, and the desire to create a Volksgemeinschaft (German: “people’s community”), in which individual interests would be subordinated to the good of the nation.
In short, fascism has competing ideologies, but foremost it is a political tactic to grab and hold on to power for the sake of power. Fascists are dependant on the Illiterate and self-serving who drink the Kool-Aid and become self-sacrificing proletarians. The proles buy into the propaganda with full emotional confidence that their prejudices of racism, misogyny, homophobia and xenophobia are justified. In private, party members savour the riches and benefits as they ridicule and humiliate the proles.
In closing, the anecdote of the duck comes to mind. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and for extra measure, swims and flies like a duck, it must be a duck. Therefore if a fascist speaks like a fascist, behaves like a fascist, lies and gaslights like a fascist, it must be a fascist.