Fascism is a form of government which is run from the top down by one man or one party that has complete control. Fascists control the population with strict laws and punishments. They control the economy and the media. Fascism uses propaganda to keep people believing what the leaders want. Fascists push nationalism, discourage immigration, dislike foreigners, are racist, and approve of violence if needed. The ideals of Democracy are a stumbling block to the dictator's plans and goals. Fascists despise any form of government not run by a strongman or a small party which restricts freedom and rules with an iron fist.
Fascists see their citizens as a unit which must be under control. The state decides the values which must be shared by all. They develop, interpret, and direct the entire life of the individual. They suppress any opposition. The military controls everything. Criticizing Nationalism and Patriotism is a crime punishable by treason. Fascists don't like international trade deals. They want their country to be self-sufficient and strong on its own. Unions are illegal as are any organizations which may question the ruling elite. It is an accepted belief that Fascism is a totalitarian form of government, one that is in total control.
The word "fasces" comes from ancient Rome. Fasces are a bundle of sticks tied together, containing an ax. It was used by the bodyguards of a Roman ruler to protect him. They thought that one stick could easily break, but a number tied together would remain whole. Later, it became a term for a nation bound together under the will of a dictator.
Gabriele D'Annunzio is known as the architect of fascism. He is a poet from after World War 1. Italy lost a half million soldiers and a half-million civilians during the war, and the treaty at the end gave the country very little. D'Annunzio took 2000 former soldiers and grabbed the city of Fiume, belonging to Yugoslavia. He ruled for 15 months and during which he invented fascism. D'Annunzio spoke charismatically and promised to bring back the city to the glory of ancient Rome. He held rallies and marches to encourage nationalism in his citizens. D'Annunzio wrote a constitution which gave him economic power and abolished unions. He hired bodyguards who wore black shirts and were told to protect him from anyone threatening his power.
Eventually, his behavior became unstable, and a new treaty between Italy and Yugoslavia ended his rule.
Mussolini saw the situation in Fiume. He agreed with D'Annunzio that the treaty hurt Italy following the war. In 1922, the Italian government collapsed and Mussolini, along with his army of black shirts, marched into Rome. They asked King Emmanuel III to form a new government, of which Mussolini named himself Prime Minister. He ruled democratically for three years, then threw aside democratic institutions to become the dictator or Il Duce. His black shirt police force brutally squashed any opposition. He remained as Prime Minister until 1943.
Meanwhile, another Fascist leader rose in Germany.
Adolph Hitler watched when Mussolini took power and ruled with an iron fist. Hitler was also a veteran of World War 1. He studied propaganda and became a charismatic speaker while learning how to be a soldier. Later, Hitler joined the German Workers Party which later turned into the Nazi party. In 1921 he became the leader. He led a failed attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government and landed in jail, where he wrote Mein Kampf or My Struggle.
In it, he outlines his political philosophy and his study of propaganda techniques. In 1934, when he became Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor of Germany, he squashed all opponents within his party. Because of this the population lost all their freedom. He controlled much of the economy, outlawed all groups that were critical, kept a very close watch on the media through his propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels. Hitler also fired teachers who were in any way critical in schools and rewrote textbooks, discriminated against any ethnic groups who were non-Aryan, and pushed nationalism above individuals' rights.
The Holocaust is the manifestation of the strong anti-Semitic beliefs of the Nazi party. In November 1938, the Nazis and their collaborators destroyed 7500 Jewish shops and burned 400 synagogues. This event marked the beginning of the Holocaust. Shortly after, the Nazis started a program of harassment and social ostracism, which eventually led to imprisonment in concentration camps and the systematic murder of 6 million Jews. The Holocaust is the worst genocide in history. Although the Jews were the most persecuted group, another 5 million people were murdered. Among them were gypsies, gays and lesbians, priests, mentally and physically disabled persons, communists, Jehovah's Witnesses, unionists, anarchists, and others.
Francisco Franco seized power in Spain in the 1930s with the help of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. He rose to power during a bloody civil war where tens of thousands of opponents were murdered or executed by his followers. Franco also ruled as a fascist, controlling the press, repressing various ethnic groups and gays. However, as he aged, he eased the repression, preferring to stay away from politics.
Other nations also had fascist leaders during this period. They were Engelbert Dollfuss in Austria, Antonio Salazar in Portugal, Ioannis Metaxas in Greece, and Tojo Hideki in Japan.
Friedrich Nietzsche is German philosopher of the 19th century who believed that people could overcome their flaws and weaknesses and develop strong and heroic values through courage and self-denial. He refers to people like this as supermen. These people are self-sufficient, lived by their own rules, and were not hindered by others, especially the weak. He said science and reason were becoming more accepted and felt that religion had become unnecessary. Religious values were not necessary. These ideas attempted to justify the strongman ruler.
Giovanni Gentile, a fascist philosopher, wrote in 1932, "Fascism reasserts the rights of the state as expressing the ideal essence of the individual." In other words, the ruler or state is the model for everyone.
Fascists are traditionally on the far right side of the political spectrum due to their complete control of all aspects of life in their nations. Some far-right conservatives place the Nazis on the left with socialists and communists. However, the Nazis hated the communists and the socialists and even the conservatives. The Nazis and other fascist dictators wanted a strict top-down structure with economic and social classes defined. Communists wanted equal classes who would share in the country's wealth. Socialists wanted government control of some aspects of society but not all. Capitalism can coexist with socialism. Fascists hated democracy. However, fascists themselves didn't want to be known as either left or right wing.
There are no countries today in which pure fascism is the ruling philosophy. Although some countries have sectors of their governments or have political parties that have fascist aspects. In America today there are fringe groups which actually consider themselves fascist, such as neo-Nazis. Although their numbers are few, the general public views them as hateful oddballs. They also exist in Europe and seem to be gaining some support in some areas.