Today, the adjective “fascist” is an epithet—often mixed promiscuously with “white supremacist,” “sexist,” etc.—that the ruling class uses to besmirch whoever challenges them, and to provide emotional fuel for cowering, marginalizing, and disempowering conservatives.
This maneuver consists of defining fascism in terms of unpopular ideas, political practices, and personality traits observable in many times and places; then, having cited Hitler’s Nazi movement as fascism’s quintessence, of pinning those deplorable characteristics on the intended targets. This reductio ad Hitlerum aims at no less than to outlaw conservatives. As the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin exclaimed: “these people are not fit for polite society…. I think it’s absolutely abhorrent that any institution of higher learning, any news organization, or any entertainment organization that has a news outlet would hire these people.” And the New Republic explains “why fascist rhetoric needs to be excluded from public discourse.” The establishment doesn’t seem to realize that they are preaching some of fascism’s practices.
This essay looks behind fighting words to fascism’s reality. Although Benito Mussolini, fascism’s artificer and personifier, died discredited in 1945, fascism’s socio-political paradigm, the administrative state, is well-nigh universal in our time. And as the European and American ruling class adopted Communism’s intellectual categories and political language, the adjective “fascist” became a weapon in its arsenal.
We begin with how fascism developed in Mussolini’s mind and praxis from 1915 to 1935, how it was hardly out of tune with what was happening in the rest of the Western world, as well as how it then changed and died. After considering how fascism fit in the 20th century’s political warfare doctrines, we explore its place in contemporary political struggles.