Home Living Today Culture Just Whom Are You Calling ‘Fascist’? By James Tennant

Just Whom Are You Calling ‘Fascist’? By James Tennant

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So everyone is a fascist. Voices on the right apply the term to leftists rioting in the streets demanding the results of a democratic election be reversed or to those burning university campuses in protest over free speech. The Left affixes the label to anyone who supports vetting to remove jihadists from the immigrant population or who opposes the sheltering of foreign felons. But what is fascism, exactly?

The answer is surprisingly difficult to discover. It’s one of those “When you ask me not what fascism is, I know. But when you ask me what fascism is, I know not” concepts. Scanning Kevin Passmore’s Fascism, A Very Short Introduction seeking a “very brief” definition we find, “scholars doubt the usefulness of a definition of fascism, even if it was possible to agree on one.” It is a strange undertaking, to write a book about a phenomenon one cannot even define. But Professor Passmore is hardly alone in his confusion.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary has: “a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) 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.”

Let’s compare that with socialism: “Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” From this we might suppose that both fascism and socialism are economically collectivist but that the two can be distinguished because the latter neglects to rule by dictate, enforce strict social regimentation or suppress opposition (as Webster says, the “racist” requirement is optional, otherwise Mussolini could not be said to be a fascist) and it is not necessarily nationalistic.

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