What is fascism? What is the actual definition of fascism? Folks throw the term about freely, to the point that it seems to means so many different things to so many different people that it doesn’t mean anything anymore. I have heard people literally say it. That’s a dangerous development — when folks shrug off warnings about fascism as meaningless, democracy itself is in peril.
The term “fascism” does have a definition; the fact that so many people use the word incorrectly doesn’t change that. Sure, there isn’t just one definition of fascism; the definitions are numerous, all varying slightly. So what is fascism?
1: A political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition; 2 : A tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control.
A political system based on a very powerful leader, state control, and being extremely proud of country and race, and in which political opposition is not allowed.
1. An authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization. 1.1 (in general use) extreme authoritarian, oppressive, or intolerant views or practices.
Those are short dictionary definitions. I list fifteen tenets and other elements of fascism most respected historians and political scientists can agree on a little further down. Altogether, along with the dictionary explanations, I hope they form a more precise and concrete definition of fascism.
Donald Trump alone, both in his actions and in his intentions and desires as revealed in his many rallies and tweets, ticks off all of them. He ticked them all off during his election campaign, and his crowds roared their approval. Yet when he was elected president of the United States on November 11, 2016, the left was gobsmacked! Shocked! Never saw it coming!
To me as a Dutch person, as I consider American history and as I have seen America in action for myself over the last twenty-five years, it came as no surprise — it was just a matter of time.
Here are fifteen elements of fascism:
- Protectionism and isolation — Inward-looking; very little, if any, participation in international organizations and efforts;
- Consolidation of government— Only a central, strong leader and a single party can provide unity and order;
- Contempt for the democratic process — and for political and cultural liberalism;
- Central control of industry and commerce, by the government or by corporations in close concert with the government;
- Extreme nationalism — the country is superior to other countries, it’s people superior to other people;
- Romanticism of national history, historical figures and national symbols;
- Totalitarianism — the country is more important than the individual — ultimately the individual has no rights;
- Authoritarianism: enforcement of and belief in strict obedience to authority;
- The end justifies the means — the law is fluid, ethical and legal restraints are used only when convenient;
- Racism — and a belief in a natural social hierarchy, discrimination of minority groups.
- Economic hardship or humiliation are played up — vulnerable minorities are made scapegoats;
- Toxic masculinity and anti-intellectualism — aggressive, forceful men who act first and maybe ask questions later are seen as the ideal, bookish, thoughtful men are seen as weak;
- Violence can be useful — war and chaos can lead to rebirth, a breakdown of the present order and new beginning;
- An armed citizenry — which can be mobilized and encouraged to intimidate the population;
- Oppression of dissent — no freedom of the press, censorship, spies in the workplace, etc.
I don’t argue on this blog that America is a fascist country or that Americans are fascists. I want to point out when and where the different elements of fascism have been and are — today — in play, to a more or lesser extent. If these elements combine and become a cohesive national movement and policy, then you have a fascist country. It’s important to recognize the signs when they pop up, small as they might sometimes be, and even though they often occur individually. If not, they coalesce to become part of the American psyche, and then Americans will be fascists.