What is fascism? These days, it seems like it’s mostly an insult to be hurled at political opponents. The English author, journalist, and essayist George Orwell once wrote that “the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless”, though he conceded that underneath all the “mess” of definitions “there does lie a kind of buried meaning”.
At it’s heart, fascism might be defined as the collective use of violence against individuals, minorities, and outsiders. Most would accept that fascism is authoritarian, and that its appeal to legitimacy is based on the monolithic “will of the people” (always embodied by the leader and his or her party). Different political opinions are often considered “treasonous”, and democratic institutions are “thwarting the will of the people”.
Fascism calls for extreme pride in one’s nation (and often race). It condemns liberal values as decadent and unnatural, and seeks to return the nation to a purer, more virile imagined past. Where fascism breaks with other political traditions is, perhaps, in its willingness to resort to collective violence (both street violence and state brutality).
At the moment, no government in Europe could truly be called “fascist”. The “Golden Dawn” party in Greece is genuinely neo-fascist, though its electoral fortunes have waned in recent years after its leaders were arrested for forming a criminal organisation responsible for multiple murders. In Hungary, critics argue the country’s democracy has been dismantled and replaced with a “hybrid regime” which some have labelled “soft fascism”, though it is wrong to call Hungary a “fascist” state because state violence is not systemic there.
Could fascism ever make a comeback? Or was it consigned to the ideological dustbin of history after the 1940s? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!