Meaning of Fascism

What is Fascism:

As fascism it is called a movement and political-social system of totalitarian, nationalist, militarist and anti-Marxist ideology that emerged in the 20th century in Italy, and spread in other countries. The word comes from Italian fascio, which means 'beam' or 'fasces', symbol of this movement.

Fascism was founded by Benito Mussolini in 1921. As a political system, it was proposed as a third way to the prevailing communism and liberalism at the time. Its objective was to vindicate a corporate idea of ​​society, based on the principles of fatherland, order and tradition under the command of a charismatic leader.

This ideology had enormous political repercussions in the first half of the 20th century, and it became established as a regime in countries such as Italy and Germany. It also inspired the Franco dictatorship in Spain, the Salazar dictatorship in Portugal, and other authoritarian regimes.

In general, fascist regimes were characterized by having a charismatic leader, by their radical nationalist ideology, by the centralization of power and by forming military dictatorships, contrary to individual and collective freedoms. They were also characterized by outlawing any type of opposition, controlling the media, manipulating the educational system and having an effective propagandist apparatus at the service of the maximum leader.

Symbol of Italian fascism.

The symbol of fascism is known as fascio or fasces. It is a bundle of thirty rods and an ax, tied with a red ribbon. In Ancient Rome, this object was used by lictors, a type of public officials who escorted magistrates. Therefore, the fasces are a representation of force, order and discipline.

Currently, the word fascism is often used in a pejorative way to designate authoritarian and undemocratic attitudes or positions. However, while all fascism is authoritarian, not all authoritarianism is fascist.

Characteristics of fascism

  • Rejection of liberalism, democracy and socialism. Fascism claims to be a patriotic alternative to liberalism, democracy and socialism. On the one hand, it is at odds with individualism and the plurality of liberalism and democracy. On the other hand, it is at odds with the Marxist concept of class struggle.
  • Radical nationalism. Everything is governed by the principle of homeland, patriotic duty and the restoration of tradition and national founding myths.
  • Charismatic personalism and leadership. Patriotic duty demands the presence of a charismatic leader who rallies the masses around the ultra-nationalist ideal.
  • Corporatism. Fascism conceives of society as a whole articulated around the State. To do this, it establishes a single party and unified institutions that submit to it.
  • Propagandism. Fascism needs society mobilized in its favor. For this reason, it controls the media, manipulates the educational system and establishes an effective propagandist apparatus.
  • Militarism. Fascist politicians rely on the military authorities as a mechanism for citizen control. Therefore, they militarize society.
  • Totalitarianism. Fascism intervenes in all areas of public and private life, guarding the political and moral order alike.
  • Racism or xenophobia. Race is invoked as part of the principles of cultural unity or national identity.

They can delve into: Characteristics of fascism

Origin of fascism

Fascism had its origin in Italy after the First World War. It was founded in 1921 by Benito Mussolinni, who came to power in 1922. From there, he influenced the rest of Europe.

Among the causes of fascism are the First World War, the triumph of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, and the breakdown of liberalism. The First World War resulted in the Treaty of Versailles, after which Italy was harmed in the division of territories and Germany was relentlessly punished. This exacerbated nationalism in both countries.

Communism in Russia, established in 1917, represented a threat due to the concept of class struggle, of international scope. This was later compounded by discontent over the so-called Crisis of 1929, which the fascists saw as proof of liberalism's inability to respond to unemployment and shortages.

Declared an ultra-nationalist ideology, seeking unity and progress, fascism established one-party militaristic regimes. He exploited the people's feelings of frustration through charismatic leadership and propaganda. At the same time, it instilled fear through violence and state repression. Finally, he developed expansionist and imperialist policies.

It may interest you: Causes and consequences of the First World War

Consequences of fascism

The fascist regimes left a series of grave consequences in their wake. Among the most important we can mention:

  • Destruction of liberal and democratic institutions. The fascist leaders completely dismantled the institutions with a liberal and democratic vocation during their mandates, and promoted a reactionary and conservative ideology.
  • End of political and civil liberties. During the fascist regimes, political freedoms were totally restricted, as were civil liberties, especially in certain ethnic groups.
  • WWII. The exacerbated nationalism of Germany and Italy, as well as the imperialist vocation of their leaders, brought with it the start of the Second World War, which left millions of dead and broke the European economy.

Fascism in Italy

Fascism in Italy, where it arose, was in power from 1922 until the end of the Second World War, in 1945. It was strongly nationalist and sought to establish a state corporatism, with a dirigiste economy. It had its antecedents in Milan in 1919, when Benito Mussolini founded the Fascis italiani di combattimento (Italian combat fascios).

Find out more at: Italian Fascism

Fascism in Germany

Fascism in Germany was expressed with Nazism. The representative of German fascism was Adolf Hitler. He held power between 1933 and 1945, a period during which fascism spread across Europe, unleashing World War II. German fascism had a very exacerbated racist component. Its end was marked by the defeat of Germany before the allied bloc.

See also Nazism

Fascism in Spain

Fascism in Spain manifested itself through the Spanish Falange (Falangism) party, founded by José Antonio Primo de Rivera. Later, Francisco Franco established a regime with fascist features after the fusion between Falangism and the so-called Traditionalist Communion.

The Franco regime survived until 1975. However, since the end of the Second World War in 1945, the Franco dictatorship assumed a national-Catholic identity and gradually differentiated itself from fascism proper, although without losing authoritarianism.

See also: Spanish civil war.

Fascism in Portugal

In Portugal, Antonio Salazar promoted a dictatorial regime with fascist features during the period known as the New State. This regime remained in power until it was overthrown by the Carnation Revolution, which occurred on April 25, 1974.

Difference between fascism, authoritarianism and dictatorship

Fascism is considered an ideological movement of the extreme right. Very often, it is often confused with authoritarian regimes and right-wing dictatorships. However, fascism differs from other authoritarian regimes in several respects.

As for political mobilization: fascism needs the mobilization of the masses around an ideology to sustain its legitimacy, and therefore requires a charismatic leader. In other words, fascism feeds on the adherence and fanaticism of the masses around the leader. In contrast, authoritarian regimes or common dictatorships prefer that society be demobilized and individualized.

Regarding private life and institutional autonomy: all institutions fulfill functions of political intermediation. This includes churches, academic institutions, associations, economic groups, and even the family. In contrast, authoritarian regimes or dictatorships are not interested in controlling private life.

Regarding the economic intervention of the State: fascism intervenes directly and openly in the national economy, reorienting economic practices to its ideological ends. In contrast, authoritarian regimes or dictatorships intervene little in the economy.


  • Militarism
  • Dictatorship
  • Authoritarianism

Difference between fascism and communism

The values, ideology and purposes of fascism and communism are very different, although in practice, both promote the single party and are anti-pluralist and anti-liberal. To better understand what fascism is, we will point out three differences with communism.

As for its ideological discourse: fascism appeals to the restoration of the tradition and the founding myths of the nation, since it sees them as guarantors of order. Communism wants to create a new society and a new man. Therefore, it is proposed as a revolution.

Regarding its scope: fascism is an extreme nationalist movement, which summons all "nationals", regardless of the social classes to which they belong, to redeem the nation. Instead, communism is based on the Marxist principle of class struggle and is therefore internationalist.

Regarding the hierarchy of power: fascism openly defends the vertical descending hierarchy. The line of command comes from the charismatic leader. In communism, power is centralized in the ruling party that, in theory, includes the interests of the proletariat (unions, cooperatives, communal councils, etc.).

See also:

  • Communism
  • Socialism

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