With the election of Giorgia Meloni as Italy’s new prime minister, the terms “fascist” and “fascism” are being tossed around even more than they were when Trump was president. In almost every case these terms are wrongly defined. Reading all the ignorant garbage “reporting” about Meloni and her “far right-wing” party with its “fascist” ideology, has brought out the political science professor in me. For those who don’t know… yes, I have a Ph.D. in political science. I spent over twenty years teaching college students about not only the American political system, but about political systems throughout the world and over the last two hundred years or so. I worked hard to be this pedantic and sarcastic.
So, let’s get down to it. The mainstream legacy media and progressive leadership use the terms “fascism” or “fascist” to describe any person or policy idea that they don’t like and that they view as even slightly right of center (as they define center, which is usually far to the left of actual center). Oh, and “Nazi” and “Nazism”, but not as much. They labor under the illusion that “fascist” means right-wing or far-right (as they like to say) and that “socialist” is left. But that’s, shall we say, less than accurate.
Briefly, socialism and communism are the brainchildren of Rousseau, Friedrich Engels, and Karl Marx (the most well-known names to the general public). Marx was the one to more fully flesh out what he hoped and expected would be the outcome of the Industrial Revolution. He posited that capitalism would evolve into socialism, the state ownership of all means of production. Socialism was the penultimate step on the road to communism, state ownership of all property (means of production and housing, all business, etc.). Fascism wasn’t even a thing at that point (mid- to late 19th century).
Lenin, in his tweaking of Marx (he had to take an ideology created for an industrial economy and force an agriculturally based economic system into it) announced that any system that didn’t follow his prescriptions was, by definition, right-wing. And the useful idiots (Lenin’s term) among Western intellectuals followed along. See what he did there? Lenin defined those objecting to him before they could define themselves and thus was able to frame all discussions in terms of “we’re the good guys, they’re the bad guys” and “we’re the majority (bolshevik means majority) and they’re the minority (menshevik means minority)” even though numerically and in terms of support, the Bolsheviks were the minority. Stalin continued with this tactic, defining the Nazis as “right-wing” (after they broke the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact) even though the underlying philosophies are the same (just like the Nazis had a superior race and tried to breed for it and eliminate all others, the Soviets did the same with “homo Sovieticus” the perfect Soviet human). Additionally, the Nazi command learned how to build and run their concentration and forced-labor camps from the Soviets.
Fascism didn’t really come into play as a functioning ideology until Giovanni Gentile and Benito Mussolini, defined it as the state as an organic being, controlling everything. “Everything in the state, nothing against the state, nothing outside the state” became the definition of a totalitarian state (total control over the economy, society, and culture). Where Marx envisioned the “withering away” of the state (totally skipping over human nature and the drive for power and control, whether over other people or just your own life), Mussolini and Gentile envisioned the state as the sole arbiter of life, the universe, and everything.
Progressives, modern communists, and the American left like to see themselves as benevolent rulers who will always put the needs of society in general ahead of their own, and the needs of the group against the needs of the few. And here’s where they enjoy entertaining the conceit that anybody who doesn’t view politics that way is a right-wing fascist with totalitarian goals. Because how can they be wrong when they’re so sincere? Clearly, these are the best people with the best ideas. Opposing those people and ideas clearly shows that you are a self-centered, uncaring, knuckle-dragging troglodyte who deserves all the harm the state and society can deliver.
Except that every commune tried has failed, often tragically, usually quickly, in the face of the organizers’ attempt at total conformity and control of needs, wants, and desires of commune members. People, humans, mostly have the same goals, but differ, sometimes dramatically, in the means for achieving those goals. And that’s where things break down. Total control of humans by an external entity run and overseen by other humans (or even aliens for that matter) does not work. Those who wish to impose such controls on society are totalitarians at heart. Yes, they are. Demanding conformity to one’s own made-up rules and regulations is controlling and in a political system, it’s totalitarian. It becomes Calvinball on a national scale.
So, back to Meloni and her supposed fascist policy goals. I’ve listened to and read a few of her speeches. She’s arguing for border controls instead of open immigration. As well she should. Italy is one of the poorer countries in the EU and it is drowning (no pun intended) in migrants from Albania and north Africa. The EU, with its Dublin II agreement, is supposed to be helping the member states on its edges with money and infrastructure for migrants. The EU is also supposed to work to move those migrants into the other 26 EU countries. Guess what? That part of the plan isn’t really working. Those countries away from the borders of the EU are less than willing to take in migrants, preferring to keep them in the border states (sound like any situation in the U.S.? Hmmmm).
In reality, the EU tends to let Italy, Greece, Romania, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, and Ireland flounder around until they get desperate and start enacting their own policies (see Hungary) or screaming loudly and publicly for money (Greece). Meloni, as all heads of government do, wants what she views as best for the citizens of Italy. Those who pay into the social welfare system (which is NOT socialism, btw), rather than those who solely take out of the social welfare system. Before anybody gets their knickers all knotted up, no, I am most emphatically NOT saying that migrants are lazy and don’t work. Most do. But, when they first arrive, none of them do. At arrival and, due to logistics, for the next few years all of them are drains on the system, and with a continual flow of immigrants, that drain never ends.
So, Meloni wants to control the flood of immigrants into Italy, she wants the other EU states to live up to their end of the treaty. She wants to remove a number of EU regulations from the Italian economy, the exact opposite of fascist policy. She wants to support nuclear families, again the opposite of fascist policies which require the state to oversee the raising of children (again, you whingers, we are not talking about allowing child abuse. Sheesh. Start using your critical thinking skills, ffs.) She really isn’t proposing anything that most people don’t support… the ability to make one’s own decisions without a great deal of interference from the state.
The fact that YouTube has removed video of her 2017 speech should be a HUGE red flag to anybody paying attention that what she’s saying goes against the progressive/left agenda. Why don’t YouTube and its overlords want anybody to listen to her speech? Controlling public dialogue is totalitarian. Controlling what information gets to the public is totalitarian. If you truly think that YouTube is not removing videos at the behest of political leaders, you need to rethink things. YouTube, FB, Google, etc. are not the objective platforms they pretend to be. The last three to four years have proven that. They have all appointed themselves as gatekeepers of information… a very totalitarian move.
Meloni is not a fascist. She’s a small government conservative with strong family values. She wants Italian citizens to determine the direction and fate of Italy, not Brussels bureaucrats or immigrants from elsewhere (until and unless those immigrants become citizens).
The other argument that’s been attempted against Meloni is that her party, Fratelli d’Italia, has historical roots in fascism, and therefore, she is, by extension fascist. Because we all know that parties never change from their original roots.
Huh. Really? How does that idea reflect on Democrats, then? The party that created the Ku Klux Klan as the paramilitary arm of the Democrat Party? The party whose senators filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act? The party that lauded the late senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), who got his start in politics by creating and organizing a chapter of the KKK and then rose to Grand Wizard in that organization, as a beloved party leader and elder statesman? Might want to think about that before you go casting accusatory stones at Meloni and Fratelli d’Italia.
Think about how the Democrat party treats blacks and Hispanics who have the nerve to disagree with the Democrat agenda or who actually think that religion matters? Go look up what Democrat leaders have said about Tim Scott (R-SC), or Candace Owens (disagree with her policies, yes, but the name-calling is insanely derogatory and insulting), Herschel Walker (R- running in GA), or any black or Hispanic Republican politician. I could go on and on.
That totalitarian mindset of “you are either with us completely or we will unperson you” is at the core of the progressive/left agenda in the U.S. today. Just pay attention to the whiplash effect you get from watching the news on a regular basis. Today’s hero is tomorrow’s heretic.
Who are the fascists again?
Remember, our mainstream legacy media wouldn’t know an actual fascist if they walked up and introduced themselves.
As always… go read things they don’t want you reading. Listen to videos they try to take offline. Think for yourself.
You may think you are not interested in politics, but politics is surely interested in you.
43 Replies to “Defining Terms”
I will disagree with you on one point – that communism requires the state ownership of all property. That doesn’t go far enough. As practiced throughout the 20th century, communism requires the state ownership of *everything* – including the people, not just the property.
That’s part of Stalin’s add-ons. As proposed by Marx, no, it didn’t.
Yeah right. Like a good academic – splitting hairs when throats are being slit.
This post is a response to those on the American left who are trying to ignore the communists and fascists on their side while claiming fascists are solely on the right. I don’t believe I said anywhere in this post that the definitions were more important than the actions. If you could point that out, I’d appreciate it.
Thanks for the very important primer of definitions. I’ve always considered the -isms that are not capitalism to be points on the continuum towards totalitarianism.
As for Italy, I’ve seen it up close and personally, starting with a boat or two of Albanian refugees entering Italy aping Christmas 1997. Every trip to Italy that I’ve had in the intervening years reveals even more migrants than the previous trip. The strip around the Vatican museum was ringed with the most wretched souls you could imagine. My husband would have to drag me past them with hands over my eyes or I would have given all of our money away. Italy has done its best but they’ve been overwhelmed with migrants and refugees from around the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas. And further south and east. Besides, what’s wrong with wanting to preserve your heritage and culture?
I didn’t realize that Lenin started that “anything that is different than my ideas is Right Wing” thing.
I thought the Glorious Stalin started that. 😉
Using right and left to define political positions comes out of France where those who supported the monarchy at the beginning of the French revolution sat to the right of the president of the assembly and those who opposed the monarchy sat on the left. Lenin used those same terms to describe the positions of monarchists and the Bolsheviks in the Russian revolution, which he then continued when others objected to his ideas and policies. Stalin put that same tactic into use to distance himself from the Nazis. (/end lecture).
Google “Leninthink” – it will lead you to an excellent article explaining exactly what a homicidal maniac Lenin was. The idea that it was all going OK until that wicked Stalin perverted it is pure hokum.
I read an amusing definition of fascism recently on one of those lefty sites, which insisted that the defining feature of fascism was its use of total, unrestrained, unprovoked violence.
The article explains where that idea really comes from.
Very nicely put. I don’t drop in here as often as I should.
Thank you! But I don’t post as often as I feel I should either, so we’re even. 😀
Thanks! This was helpful. Also flagged for later use.
Glad you found it useful!
One additional point. Some people have claimed that she’s anti-semitic. This appears to be based on her frequent criticism of “financial speculators” and various rants about “financial speculators” setting policies. You see “financial speculators” is apparently a code word for JOOZ.
No one who makes that argument pays attention to the way that Italy was forced by the EU to do various things that kept (mostly German) banks solvent while immiserating Italy. Nor do they note that the former PM of Italy Draghi was a senior exec with Goldman Sachs in charge of European trades during the time that GS was helping the Greek government cook the books so they could join the Euro. GS made out like a bandit on that scam and never had to repent or repay as Greece went titsup.com a decade or so later. Draghi claimed he had no knowledge of the scheme, which seems implausible unless he was really at GS as a payoff for efforts while he was at the Italian treasury …
Anyway if I were Italian, I’d be pretty hacked off at “financial speculators” and it wouldn’t be an anti-semitic dogwhistle, it would be the the truth
Where Marx envisioned the “withering away” of the state (totally skipping over human nature and the drive for power and control, whether over other people or just your own life)…
This isn’t quite right. Marx thought that the dictatorship of the proletariat (ie tyranny exercised by the leaders on behalf of the proletariat) was unavoidably required by human nature. Humans would not behave in a proper communist way, until human nature had been reformed during, and by, the dictatorship of the proletariat. Only then could the state wither away.
So he didn’t skip over human nature. He was a firm believer in the possibility and necessity of reforming human nature by force. It’s not like Pol Pot was a whack job who made this stuff up. He was a whack job who had read Marx.
We could add many more points. Fascism is collectivist, statist, socialist, ie., Leftist. Like the Left , it promotes moral relativism (Nietzsche ), political violence (Sorel), Race identity (not nationalism), and hatred and destruction of Judeo-Christian culture. Conservatives do none of that. Finally, it is no mere coincidence or irrelevant happenstance that the modern Left integrated not only the fascists’ favorite philosopher, Nietzsche, into their system, but also two card-carrying Nazi Party members’, Heidegger and DuMan, who taught in Leftist schools like Yale, Columbia, the Sorbonne, inspiring the modern Left’s postmodern version of Marxism.
Yes, I could, but that would be a book and there are already a ton of those out there. This was meant to be a brief overview.
QUOTE: “Remember, our mainstream legacy media wouldn’t know an actual fascist if they walked up and introduced themselves.”
M A Y B E
One can be sure they’d hit it off straight away.
A few quick points:
Marx theorized that societies evolved economically. They began as agrarian, became Capitalist (market based economy), then became Socialist (state CONTROL over the means of production, distribution, and exchange), and finally, after the state withered away, the people/workers/proletariat CONTROLLED the means of production, distribution, and exchange.
Mussolini and Hitler, both ardent Socialist true believers, realized during the first world war that internationally based forms of Socialism would not work because soldiers were Nationalistic and fought for their respective nations regardless of their class. No soldier identified with an amorphous worker class. Mussolini and Hitler saw what many on the Left saw was that the promised worker’s revolution was not happening even though Europe was exposed to several wars and several severe economic depressions.
If these severe economic and military shocks to the system did not ignite a proletarian revolution in Europe’s industrial countries then nothing would.
Mussolini and Hitler recognized this flaw in Marx’s philosophy. This became known as the “Crisis of Marxism”. Both leaders thus set out to create a modified or improved form of Marxism in which the nation, not international classes, became the focus. The result was a combining of Marxism with Nationalism and the creation of National Socialism (Nazism) and functional Fascism.
Fascism and Nazism were organizations of the Left. They are merely “improved” Marxist systems that shift an international focus to a national focus.
Yes, I’m aware of that. But this was meant as a quick overview of the definitions and origins, not a dissertation on the entirety of philosophies.
This is exactly correct. The kooks on the left are communists and fascists, who want the government to run everything. The kooks on the right are, believe it or not, anarchists. Don’t tell them that though, they’ll flip their lids.
One (gentle) quibble though: there is no g in the word “whine”. Drives me crazy.
“Whinge is a British thing. They use it a lot. Picked it up from my ex-sister-in-law. 😀
An excellent article, and excellent while temperate responses to your commentariat …
“Whinge” is a very British expression – it can help to think of a whinge as a cringing whine …
Ironically, Hawkpilot’s penultimate sentence – the “(gentle) quibble” – demonstrates a whinge response quite well …
Also Australian as in “whingeing Pom” to describe, inter alia, the sort of English immigrant to Australia who is always complaining that Australia is not like England.
One thing I would add to the mix is organization for conflict. All authoritarian regimes must designate an enemy. Somebody that they and the designated good guys are fighting against
Marx postulated that conflict in economic terms. The worker against the Bourgeoisie, the capitalists etc.
Fascism, in the historical sense, designated the good guys by their membership in the nation state. Mussolini, despite harboring some racist ideas, assigned “good guy” to Italians in good standing with the state. Race was not a major factor. The bad guys were those outside the state. Hitler also used membership in the state, but he gave it a major racial component. For both, it was mostly about a form of tribalism, rather than purely economic. They realized, for example, that a German factory worker was more likely to link arms and fight alongside a German factory owner than he was with a foreign worker… say a Zimbabwean goat herder.
I think it would be reasonable to say that when a collectivist (socialist) movement seeks to organize for conflict along “tribal” lines (race, nation, sex, sexual orientation, etc.) that it is following a Fascist path. The current left wing fad of Intersectionality is essentially Fascist.
One other aspect I would point out is that Socialists demand government ownership of the means of production. Fascists, at least in the nascent stages, are content with merely having government control the means of production, vice holding title to it. As long as business and labor both support state policy and act in concert with that policy, the state need not have actual ownership. That was Mussolini’s concept of corporate organization. Though, that said, I think Mussolini actually preferred government ownership. But he realized that at least in the beginning, that was too big of a step and would be more disruptive than beneficial.
Enjoyed the essay and even more so the comments. Would you go a little deeper into the separation of socialism and social welfare. I’m a little slow, and didn’t like to write papers, l stopped with a dual major in Political Science and Broadcast Production.
A social welfare system is a capitalist based economic system that through higher taxation provides social benefits & programs to citizens. So, “free” health care, day care, education (think the Scandinavia countries).
A socialist system is a combined economic and political system in which the government owns the means of production (i.e. all major industry and big business), and thus the majority of the citizens work for the government in one form or another. The government also, through high taxes (some of which are not visible to citizens), creates government run “free” health care, education, etc.
The socialist requirement for state OWNERSHIP of the means of production etc marks the lefties’ essential distinction between socialist and fascist economics.
Fascist economic practice was (at least temporarily) OK with private ownership of the means of production etc, so long as the state had COMMAND of the means of production.
Obviously ownership typically also implies command, but the connection between ownership and command is adjusted when the state heavily regulates or directs the activities of privately owned businesses. So fascism can get you half the way there, without actual ownership.
Neither fascist nor socialist economics are efficient, compared to markets, but the residue of discretion allowed to private businesses owners in the fascist scheme makes fascist command somewhat more efficient than socialist ownership.
It follows that those who argue for more, and more binding, regulations on business, many of whom regard themselves as left or socialist, are in fact advocating for the fascist scheme.
Good comment, Lee.
I’ve always defined fascism as: the conscription of private enterprise into the service of a totalitarian government, ostensibly for purposes of national security. Fascism, at its root, is a collectivist ideology and in my mind, would occupy the “right-wing” of the socialist spectrum, with communism occupying the left wing. Further, it’s ludicrous to accuse someone who believes in limited government, individual rights, free enterprise, and the nuclear family of being a “fascist”. It’s just as ludicrous to say that violence as means to achieve political goals is “fascist”, since violence has been used to serve many forms of ideological or economic structures, including feudalism, communism, capitalism, colonialism, etc. America was not born in violence, but it was certainly delivered via violence.
So what is the definition of fascism? You never quite say. My working definition is an ideology with political violence.
Fascism is the idea that everything is of, and belongs to, the state – economic, social, and cultural. The state is organic and has created society and culture, not the other way around. It is a variation of communism but without the proletariat and the withering away of the state. It’s an extremely totalitarian ideology, obviously.
That doesn’t work, Joshua, and was never part of Mussolini’s intent with fascism. The root word, “fasci” or “fascio” means a bundle, in that a single stick is easy to break, but a bundle of sticks cannot be broken. It’s a symbol of the strength of collectivism. This goes to his devout background in socialism.
The trouble with associating defining fascism as “an ideology with political violence” is that you then have to include the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, Communist China, North Korea, Vietnam, the French revolutionaries, indeed all revolutionary insurrectionist movements, not to mention the papal Inquisition, as “fascist.” This seems somewhat overinclusive.
As I mention elsewher ein this thread, google “Leninthink” for some clues as to where the fascists of the 1920s and 30s got the idea that violence was not the last resort but the first.
If you do a search for site:esr.ibiblio.org and fascism, he has a bunch of essays.
I’ve not found the one I recall as being very good, but ‘spotting the wild fascist’ is okay.
Some of his later essays are a bit better than earlier ones when it comes to the taxonomic distinctions.
But, everything in the state is pretty fundamental.
Ideology is kinda a fake word, describing a religion that identifies as not being a religion. Many of the religions pretending to not be religious are cults around theories of power.
One of the bits of magical thinking that you will see in ordinary life is ‘boss theory’, the idea that your supervisor or some other high status person has a lot of power over their surroundings, and therefore it is worth sucking up to them.
Looking at history, ‘king theory’ becomes obvious, the wild overestimation of the power a king actually wields, with the assumption that sucking up to the king, or waiting for the king to fix things, are effective and desirable options.
Many modern ideologies are similar types of magical thinking, except that they focus on a) power held by abstractions or institutions b) hitting human nature hard enough, with a big enough stick, that it fundamentally changes how human behavior works c) raw naked force, unbound by anything d) lying to manipulate people.
If, in fact, all modern ideologies have this focus, and if fascism is an ideology with political violence, all ideologies are fascist. This wastes the utility of having both ideology and fascism as words.
Political violence is a very frequent thing. Because political power attracts seekers with something wrong with them. Where the seekers with something wrong with them are successful, they have some sort of working theory that they use to sort out what they will try next. It would be very common for a power achiever to be working off of a magical theory of power, because in general virtually everyone has a lot of magical thinking assumptions buried in their process for ordinary daily life. Power achievers will often predict that violence will assist in political goals, and perhaps even be correct. It takes peculiar and unnatural philosophies to do much to minimize political violence.
Lots of things can break the minimization of political violence, and fascism is only one of those things.
Great post – thank you.
Really gaining a lot from the essay and the comments, much to digest. Thanks to all for making this a really good, concise thumbnail of the two ‘isms.
Outstanding post. Always enjoy an education and further background on information I may not know the full history of. Even the brief overview is informative.
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