"The word Fascism has now no meaning except insofar as it signifies 'something not desirable'" -- "Politics and The English Language", George Orwell
There seems to be quite a bit of confusion about this word and what it signifies. The bewilderment seems to be general -- people on both ends of the political spectrum use it freely and incorrectly -- and it pisses me off beyond all belief. Particularly when it's applied maliciously to people, parties and political positions which are clearly not Fascist, and when de facto Fascism is defended or ignored in the name of political orthodoxy or expediency.
It has been my experience that about 99% of the people who now carelessly throw this word about haven't the slightest clue as to what they're talking about; they are reacting emotionally to people, events, and so forth, that they don't truly understand, and they search for a adjective which is capable of expressing just how awfully evilly disgustingly awfully evil they find whatever offends them and this one fits the bill because of it's connection to Adolf Hitler, the worst human being to ever live before Hillary Clinton hatched and slithered out of the primordial slime.
Far from being a description of a particular form of politics, it has now become a pejorative that is easily and reflexively thrown at an opponent to undermine both their position and their character, while leaving the slinger free from having to explain herself (it's usually a "her"); the emotions the word stirs up are good enough.
There are a variety of reasons for this confusion, and I'll list the most common ones here for the sake of brevity (because the rest of this won't be brief -- it can't be).
1. A very poor understanding of political systems and sciences (i.e. not knowing the differences between democracy, socialism, communism, anarchy, constitutional monarchy, etc). This is most apparent in a tendency to ascribe certain ideologies and methods as "left wing" or "right wing" without regard to whether either is left or right wing. The determining factor seems to be political tribalism -- if you're a Lefty, then Fascism is an ideology of the right, and vice versa.
This tends to blur the distinction between an actual political ideology (a system of belief) and a method of political dissent (a system of action). The truth is that Fascism is not an ideology; one cannot, for example, find a list of "rules" that all Fascists are supposed to follow or a subset of beliefs they're all supposed to hold. Instead, we get a list of all the things Fascist movements may have in common in terms of action without a discussion of ideology.
For example, one can be a Communist without being a Fascist, and one can be a Fascist without being a Communist. Fascist regimes have straddled both ends of the political spectrum, left-wing in the case of the Nazis, Mussolini's Blackshirts, Stalin, Mao, Castro, and Ho Chi Minh, and right wing in the case of Franco, Chiang Kai'Shek and the Japanese Imperialists.
The form of government implemented by Fascism is secondary, as it can be any form of government; the telling factor is the methods Fascists use to acquire power.
2. A very poor understanding of history. This is deliberate; for history has been re-written, primarily by the political Left and for reasons I will get to a bit later on. The average American has about as much knowledge of modern European History as your Dachshund does of Quantum Physics. They have been taught history -- in any form, if they've been taught history, at all -- very badly by two generations of historians who had a rooting interest in seeing Fascism win when it was in it's heyday (since capitalist democracy had no use for them) and then had to cover their own asses when Fascism was thoroughly routed.
It is so well known that the word has been redefined so many times as to have lost all meaning. The American Heritage College Dictionary, up until 2005, defined Fascism (correctly) as:
A system of government marked by a totalitarian dictator, socioeconomic controls, suppression of opposition, and a policy of belligerent nationalism and/or racism.
The latest version of the same dictionary that I could lay hands on (2016), defines Fascism (incorrectly) thus:
Any ideology inspired by Italian Fascism, such as German National Socialism, any right wing nationalist movement or ideology with an authoritarian and hierarchical structure that is fundamentally opposed to liberal democracy.
If you go to the online version of the AHCD, you get this definition:
A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, a capitalist economy subject to stringent government controls, violent suppression of the opposition, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.
You can try this with any dictionaries you have laying about (I have several). You will find this same phenomenon in Webster's and The Oxford Unabridged Dictionary. They all seemed to have changed the definition eerily simultaneously between 2005 and 2010. Conversely, if you have a mess of history books laying around on the subject (and I am a voracious reader of history) written over a course of years, you'll find the same things. Books written about the Second World War in the 1970's ad '80's will cleave to the correct definition; it's hit and miss with anything written after about 1995, depending upon the individual historian (and the size of their ego and status of their professional reputation).
If you're really good, and you have copies of Mein Kampf and Mussolini's Essays on Fascism (because I do), and the like, and you dive into them you'll discover quite a lot of interesting things that would make you wonder why it was that someone would deliberately obfuscate the meaning of the word Fascism. Because within those pages you will find:
1. Nothing overtly "right wing". In fact, both wings are denounced in the worst sort of language.
2. Descriptions of planned systems and methods smell of Socialist and Communist.
3. While Hitler is heavy on both Nationalism and Race, Mussolini lays on a thick layer of Nationalism and practically ignores the subject of Race.
4. Both Hitler and Mussolini describe democracy as "decadent"; capitalism is "hedonistic" and "destructive". Big Business is in bed with the Government (Hitler was to accommodate Big Business, though, for having learned the pivotal lesson of the Soviet Union -- don't kill people who know how to make an economy work, because the proles are retards -- he either terrorized the industrialists or bribed them. This, incidentally, is how economies in "Democratic Socialist" countries still operate).
Does that sound right wing to you?
If you read any of the other "Great Ones" from the Heydays of Fascism, you'll find a similar mixed bag.
The Japanese authors of the day were despicably racist and almost panty-bunched in their Conservatism. The Falangists of Francoist Spain are so conservative and anti-Communist that any Bible Belt inbred would consider himself a RINO by relation. Chiang Kai'Shek's Nationalism is indistinguishable from Mao's, and relies on the same sense of national grievance.
Likewise, the ilk of Leon DeGrelle (Leader of the Belgian Fascists, and an ally of Hitler) preached a social gospel that was indistinguishable from that of Marx. Oswald Mosely (The British Fascist leader) was a former member of the Labour Party; no right winger here. Subhas Chandra Bose (Indian Fascist, and collaborator with both Germany and Japan) had once been a leader of the All India Bloc, an organization dedicated to uniting the Indian Left.
So, a simple examination of the major Fascist figures of history shows they were all over the political map and advocating a wide variety of political ideologies.
But, the committed doofus will retort, they MUST have been right wing because they were mostly anti-Communist. If you're against Communism, you must be a right winger.
The formulation that if one is Objectively Against X it logically follows they are automatically Subjectively In Favor of Y is a load of horseshit. It's a bad thought process. Children think this way.
Yes, most Fascist movements of the 1920's onwards were vehemently anti-Communist. To understand WHY, one must understand the threat posed by the Russian form of Communism (Bolshevism) and the fear it inspired everywhere it raised it's ugly head.
Bolshevism came to be associated with rampant violence; disorder; subterfuge. It promised an Earthly Paradise while constructing a Slave State, and was further associated with Soviet Control of foreign countries through Communist proxies. And the Russians did their best to export this brand of violent revolution throughout post-World War I Europe by means of organizations like the Communist International (Comintern), and by fostering and aiding Communist fighters wherever they could be found (such as during the Spanish Civil War). The Soviet Union would do the same thing during the Cold War, supplying arms and other support to any and all insurgencies that called themselves "Communist" or "Marxist" on every continent.
And yet, every country in Europe had Communist Parties; they sat in Parliaments; they even won elections. They all failed to implement anything resembling Socialism and so failed. Many times before the Second World War, as well.
Another examination of history will tell you exactly HOW Fascist movements came about and WHY they succeeded. It is here that most people fall flat: they don't know the history or the politics.
To be succinct, the Golden Age of Fascism (1922-45) was an era of extreme discontent within Europe. The First World War had devastated many countries demographically, economically and politically. New nations were carved out of the defeated Empires of Austria, Germany, Russia and Turkey, often resulting in the mass dislocation or forced subjugation of millions of people who had, for example, been German yesterday, but now found themselves living inside a newly-created Poland or Czechoslovakia, and surrounded by hostile ethnic groups with superior numbers. Governments, of all stripes, but liberal democracies seemed to be most susceptible to this, found themselves unable to deal with the problems of the common citizen. Bankruptcy, the harsh terms of Versailles, the bitter divisions among the former Allies, economic downturn, political unrest, left many governments paralyzed and incapable of decisive action.
Let's take a look at what was happening in the Fascist nations at the time.
In Italy, home of the Ur Fascists, the end of the First World War left many Italians dissatisfied, poor, and anxious about their futures. The Italians had fought on the Allied side against Germany and Austria on some of the most difficult terrain in the world (the Alps) and were almost defeated. They left 600,000 of their comrades on the glaciers, Italy had not been rewarded for it's efforts by the victorious French, British and Americans, and when these men came home there was no food, no jobs, often they had come home to discover the family had lost the old homestead, as well. Successive democratically-elected governments (including those with Socialists and Communists in them) failed to address these problems. Aggressive "Arms Control" agreements of the 1920's relegated Italy to a second-rate power status surrounded by enemies (the British, French and Turks) in the Mediterranean, a sea the Italian nation had seen as "theirs" since the days of the Roman Empire.
Democracy did not work. When democracy does not work, all bets are off, and in this case the payoff took the form of Benito Mussolini, a former (failed) Communist agitator, newspaper columnist and veteran of the First World War. What Mussolini had discerned was that the reason why liberal democracy was unable to solve problems was because of it's need to compromise various factions and opinions in order to achieve consensus. This need for compromise meant that whenever government did get around to attempting a fix to a problem, the fix was most likely to be a disaster, since it was formulated by a committee whose primary aim was to reconcile all the dissenters. And so he and his followers decided that if democratic government of diffuse interests did not work, then what was needed was an undemocratic government focused squarely upon the interests of the nation.
So the Blackshirts -- consisting mostly of disgruntled veterans -- marched on Rome, the politicians surrendered to this threat of force, and Mussolini becomes Il Duce. And for a while, it seemed to work; Mussolini did improve the lot of the average Italian with a socialist economic program and a command economy. Had Mussolini not been a dipshit, however, and commit Italy to a war it neither could win nor wanted, he might have succeeded beyond most people's wildest dreams.
We come to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, next, who drew their inspiration from Mussolini.
The men of Hitler's generation (although Hitler, himself, was Austrian by birth) had the distinction of being the first to be raised in something that had not previously existed before 1871; a unified German state. This was a German aspiration 1,000 years in the making.
They were socially organized along Clausewitzian principles -- every man a soldier, and military service was the distinctive mark of the full citizen -- educated in the Realschule on the superiority of Germans and German culture. Indoctrinated in the realpolitik of Bismark. They took the ideal of the German Superman in with their mother's milk. The First World War was to be the crucible in which the ore of the superiority of the German was to be refined.
The German experience of that war was this: the German Navy had fought the Royal Navy (then the largest and most-powerful in the world) to a draw. Their U-boats had nearly starved Britain into surrender. On land, the German Army had occupied Belgium, nearly overrun France (and was still in possession of Belgian and French territory when the Armistice took hold). They had defeated the Russians -- the largest army in the World -- and subverted the Czarist Empire by exporting Lenin back to Russia. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which ended the fighting between Germany and Russia, left them in possession of 70% of the Ukraine (including the territory that Versailles would carve Poland and Czechoslovakia from) and the Baltic States. No Allied soldier had set foot on German soil.
And their politicians surrendered while the Army was still fighting.
And much like Italians, the German soldier came home and found his country bankrupt and the conditions of life, with constant food shortages, chronic unemployment, and the heavy burden of war reparations and debts demanded by France, intolerable. The German state was officially disarmed, denied a navy and air force, and it's army limited to barely enough to police the country. Germany was stripped of it's overseas colonies (which were to prove a bone of contention with the Japanese and Italians later on).
Armed bands of men, the Freikorps, made up of ex-soldiers still in possession of their arms, were a scourge on the countryside -- they took to banditry, or sold their services to various political parties, or even undertook to reverse the verdict of Versailles by direct military action (such as an invasion of Poland by a few thousand men in 1920). Chaos reigned in German cities, with much violence and street fighting, much of it fermented by and featuring Communists. This was disheartening and frightening to Germans who made a cultural fetish of order.
It was these ex-soldiers who were to make up the bulk of the Nazi SA (Stormtroopers), with some of the more-radical elements of German politics (in Mein Kampf, Hitler remarks that Communists and Anarchists made the best Stormtroopers because they were used to committing random acts of senseless violence and were typically dumber than a burlap sack full of dogshit. I've paraphrased).
And just as had happened in Italy, elected, democratic government found itself unable to cope with the myriad problems. Every attempt to correct these problems ended in failure. Even the elected democratic governments were forced upon Germans, who had been used to absolute Monarchists lording it over them (like the Kaiser). Hitler was just the most-successful of the reactionaries. Through violence, intimidation of his opponents, and a promise to restore order and German pride, he managed to get his Nazi Party the majority of seats in the Reichstag (yes, the Nazis were democratically elected!). It was through backroom political maneuvering with the "spineless" (as Hitler thought of them) professional democrats that Hitler managed to have himself named Chancellor (President), and then under the auspices of the emergency created by all this civil unrest, to implement his dictatorship.
The Nazis implemented a socio-economic plan that was so socialist (and successful) that it survives to this day in the forms of "The Scandinavian Democratic-Socialist state" and the European Union. The E.U. grew out of the Nazi economic exploitation plan for occupied Europe. i.e. the co-ordination of European industry, labor and finance from Berlin.
We know what happened next.
In Spain, a democratic election had produced the "wrong" result of a Popular Front government (coalition of Communists and Socialists) that greatly disturbed some of the more-conservative elements of Spanish life, particularly the Monarchy, the Army, the Industrialists and the Catholic Church, who foresaw their doom at the hands of a bunch of Bolshevik-inspired assassins and criminals.
And so Franco gathered some troops and set out to suppress the opposition, leading to three years of bloody Civil War, and ended with a military dictatorship under Franco that persisted until his death in 1975.
In Japan, a newly-emergent nation that had deliberately turned it's back on the rest of the world suddenly one day found itself surrounded by hostile nations. The Russians to the North, the Chinese to the West, the Americans to the East. A country with a large, hungry population and no raw materials of it's own, the Japanese performed something of an economic and cultural miracle that turned them from a backwards, isolated, Feudal state to a world power in the course of two generations. If Japan were to continue to be a power and defend itself against it's perceived enemies, it would need an overseas empire to feed raw materials to Japanese industry.
This would lead to a series of wars against China (from 1894-1945) and Russia (1904-05). The Japanese would emerge victorious and the Western powers would force the Japanese to surrender some of their gains in the name of "peace". The Naval Disarmament Treaties of the 1920's and 30's further pressured Japan into accepting the same second-rate status as Italy and France had been forced to accept. The Japanese found this humiliating, as well. (It is interesting to note how often Disarmament has brought about fresh hostilities!).
Japan had fought on the Allied side in World War I. As a result, it received some of the former German possessions in the Pacific Ocean (the Caroline Islands, the Marianas Islands, the Marshall Islands, Palau, New Guinea) and in Mainland China. Japan found this unsatisfactory; the islands provided few economic opportunities. This was another humiliation at the hands of the West.
Convinced the problem was liberal democracy, something else Japan had imported with steam engines, battleships, and heavy industry, elements within Japanese life -- primarily the "Patriotic" societies and the Army -- were convinced that Japan could not fulfill it's destined role as the Premier Power of Asia so long as the politicians were left in charge of things; they tended to compromise principles and hurt the national interest.
Assassinations and bombings became commonplace in Japan, as these more-radical elements terrorized their opponents into silence and surrender, Eventually, the Army began a series of unauthorized border wars and then insist that in the moment of "national crisis", while the nation was at war, that the military should run the government.
And the generals and admirals got their way. The Japanese Imperial system was one of straight up capitalist exploitation of Asia, married to a fanatical belief in the superiority of the Japanese people and the divinity of their Emperor God. The military government implemented a command economy, funded and supplied by the plunder of Asia from Manchuria, China, Korea, Taiwan, the Pacific Islands, the Dutch East Indies and Indochina.
So, we see that Fascism is a method of seizing power, of conducting politics; a critical mass of people becomes disgusted with democracy, which appears incapable of rising to a moment of national crisis, and so decides to replace it with something else, even a dictatorship -- who gives a fig what ideology it practices, so long as it scratches the right itches?
Some might (and have) argue that Fascism, in a way, is a pure form of democracy, in itself. Even Jeffersonian in it's intent and methodology. There's something to that point of view. Jefferson preached that revolution was a necessary evil, if government was to not stagnate nor neglect it's duties. It was an almost obligation to change the form of government in that situation according to Old Tom.
So, why did we need to redefine the word, push Fascism to the right wing, and ensure that people would never discover the truth for lack of study and instruction and deliberate obfuscation?
Because every nation in Europe that was occupied by the Nazis, and then was liberated by the Western Democracies, had a Fascist movement in it. Large ones. Fascism was a popular thing in Europe at the time (it still is, it just chooses to call itself something else, like "Progressive"). It was all wrapped up with the idea of "Progress" and "Building the New Man" (again, does this sound right wing to you? For fuck's sake, Hitler admitted his program for the "undesirables" was lifted directly from the American Eugenicists and Progressives, especially Margaret Sanger).
There were collaborators aplenty; the SS recruited Fascists from every corner of Occupied Europe from Norway to Greece, from France to Finland. They fought in the German Army as Freikorps, usually under the auspices of the SS. Even Bosnian Muslims. There wasn't a single nation in Europe not stained by the presence of fascists, willing and eager to collaborate with the Nazis, within their own ranks.
How could some (if not all) of them be portrayed as "victims"? If they weren't victims, then they were not worthy of the sacrifice of American lives, and that sacrifice had to be justified.
So, history gets whitewashed: we forget Quisling (Norway), Antonescu (Romania) , Lukov (Bulgaria), The Arrow Cross Party (Hungary), DeGrelle (Belgium), Moseley (The UK) , Seyss-Inquart (Austria), Mussert (Holland), The Slovene Home Guard and Ustasha (Yugoslavia), Radolo Gajda (Czechoslovakia), Ukrainian Concentration camp guards. If you don't know about them, they never existed; it never happened.
But why does Fascism get defined as a right-wing ideology?
Because the European left wing, much of it under orders from Moscow at the time, were the biggest obstacle to defeating Fascism in the Second World War era. So long as Germany was in alliance with the Soviet Union (yes, Germany and Russia had signed a non-aggression pact and then carved up Poland between them) the Pan-European left was against war with Germany and was still seeking a negotiated peace right up until June 22, 1941. What happened then? The Germans invaded the Soviet Union.
It was only after Hitler violated his agreement, and invaded the Soviet Union, that the left was all hot for war, the left in many countries, including Britain, was all right with surrender or armistice.
To hide this inconvenient fact -- that a change in alliance had taken place, because the left can never admit it was ever wrong -- Fascism had to be portrayed as a strictly right wing phenomenon, and that they were ALWAYS against it. For Americans who had no real dogs in the European fight, had to fight alongside fascist allies, no less, the true nature and operation of Fascism had to be simplified -- it simply became a sadistic form of dictatorship, easily identified by the number of bodies stacked up and counting the outrages. The rest no longer mattered.
Another reason: because Hitler had actually implemented a form of Socialism that did work. The great mistake the Nazis made was to antagonize the entire planet into war against them on multiple fronts with an inadequate economic structure, a war that could not be won by any method then available to them. The Nazi and Fascist victories over democracy had shown, forever, that "democratic socialism" was just a phrase. Socialism could only work by force and coercion and thus showed itself inimical to and incompatible with democracy; a lesson the softer socialists would like to forget (but continue to practice, anyway, see: How many Brexit votes have we had?).
Now, take a look at Modern America, where apparently all this Fascism is taking place.
People are marching in the streets because democracy "failed" then and delivered the "wrong" result. These people often use violence to terrorize and intimidate their enemies. They attempt to shut down free speech and deny their political opponents open platforms in universities or on the internet. The threat is there: there will be violence. The System has failed and is not paying attention to our problems. This need to accommodate "the Other Side" is offensive, and should be stopped. The Other Side should be killed, jailed without trial, they are labeled a sub-human, and violence against them is condoned.
Now, who does that sound like?
The Black Panthers?
The Democratic party, as a whole?
So, tell me again how fascism is a right wing ideology and not a method?
*Antifa and the Neo-Nazis (ludicrously referred to as "The Alt-Right"...these are declared National Socialists, Numbnuts, almost in line with the policy prescriptions of Bernie Sanders, if you read them, are two sides of the same coin. Antifa is the World Socialist Revolutionary Movement once preached by the Comintern: it has simply re-branded. It wants a one-world, socialist state.
** The Neo-Nazis are National Socialists, i.e. they want a Socialist state, too, BUT ONLY FOR PEOPLE WHO LOOK LIKE THEM. That's what "National Socialism" means; all the benefits are to be reserved for the in-group. If they happen to vote with the right, well, there's a very good reason for it, Dummy: when your whole ideology revolves around the Superiority of the White race, why the fuck would you vote for a democratic party (small 'd' intentional) that has made it clear it detests white people and who preaches a policy of Open Borders and unfettered immigration?