The word Fascism is derived from the Italian word ‘fascio’, which means ‘group’. Its etymology stems from the Latin word ‘fasces’, which means ‘bundles’. The ancient Roman ‘Fasces Lictoriae’ (bundles of the Lictors) was a bundle of white birch rods tied together with a red ribbon (Livius). The Fasces represents ‘strength through unity’ – since rods bundled together possess more strength than one individual rod. The axe represents the power of the state to punish the people (Livius). Many populist movements in Italy, ranging from socialist to nationalist, used the symbol of fasces for their movements, but the symbol is now recognized almost entirely for the Fascist political ideology of Benito Mussolini. Unlike the Nazi swastika, there is no stigma against fasces since it is a long and well establish symbol in the West. The fasces symbol is still in use today, including on the United States Senate Seal, Coat of Arms of France, Coat of Arms of the Swiss provence Canton St. Gallen, and on the emblem of the Knights of Columbus (Languedoc).
What is Fascism?
Fascism is an ultranationalist, anti-communist, authoritative political ideology that began in Italy after the outbreak of World War I in 1914. It is a political philosophy that cannot be described as either left or right on the political spectrum. Rather, it incorporates the most radical ideas from both sides. Fascism demands for a strong totalitarianism leader that can reenergize national identity (Fascism Info). It emphasizes a myth of national rebirth after a period of decline. Fascists do not care about class struggle, but actually embrace all of the sections of society to form the country into a single entity. It promotes state capitalism and strong people involvement in politics.
Fourteen Points of Fascism
- Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
- Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
- Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
- Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
- Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.
- Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
- Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
- Religion and Government are Intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.
- Corporate Power is Protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
- Labor Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
- Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.
- Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
- Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
- Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections. (Fourteen Points of Fascism provided by Favreau Info)
Famous Fascist Italian Mottos
- Me ne frego (“I don’t give a damn!”)
- Libro e moschetto — fascista perfetto (“Book and Musket — Perfect Fascist”)
- Viva la Morte (“Long live Death!”): symbolizing the importance of sacrifice.
- Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato (“Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State”).
- Credere, Obbedire, Combattere (“Believe, Obey, Fight”)
- Se avanzo, seguitemi. Se indietreggio, uccidetemi. Se muoio, vendicatemi (“If I advance, follow me. If I retreat, kill me. If I die, avenge me”)
- Viva Il Duce (“Long live the Leader”)
- ‘War is to Man as Motherhood is to Woman.”
- Boia chi molla (“who abandons the struggle is a hangman/executioner”), leaving the fight is seen as killing your own comrades. “Boia” was commonly used as an insult in Italy for centuries.
- Molti nemici. Molto onore (“Many enemies. Much Honor”)
(Italian Fascist mottos and their english translation provided by Wikipedia)
Fascism on Race
Fascists are hyper-nationalist, so they always claim that their country is superior to all other nations. This does not mean that all fascists are racists. As Fascism was forming in Italy under Benito Mussolini, the questions on racial superiority were almost entirely absent. But when Adolf Hitler rose and started the Third Reich in Germany, he brought race on the table. Benito Mussolini had been scornful of Hitler’s obsession about race and found it unproductive to institute racial laws (History Learning Site). A leading historian on the topic, Richard Bessel, says that ‘the key contrast between Fascist and Nazi regimes is the latter’s fixation upon race and its determination to put racialist ideology into practice’ (Koori History). The Nazi were extremely anti-Semitic and caused the Holocaust, the killing of 5 to 7 million Jews (Jewish Virtual Library) along with 3 million Catholics, communists, Romas and the mentally ill (Koori History). Click this link to download a great paper on the differences between Italian Fascism and the National Socialism of Nazi Germany.