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Published by Mohammed Ali Mukri

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Published by: Mohammed Ali Mukri on Nov 28, 2007
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Fascism as an ideology emerged after World War I as a reaction to the leadingpolitical ideologies of the time, liberalism and socialism. According to fascismboth liberalism, with its emphasis on individualism, and socialism, by stressingconflict between the social classes, pit the members of society against eachother, thus creating an weak state. The state can only be strong when all membersand classes of society unite behind a single party and supreme leader. This wasthe ideological core of fascism as it developed in Italy under Benito Mussolini(1883 -1945) and under Adolf Hitler (1889 -1945) in Germany .It is important to note that fascism is a 20th century ideology and is a revoltagainst the ideas and values that have dominated Western politics since the FrenchRevolution. Fascists are basically against every major idea behind liberalism,socialism, and anything that arose out of the Enlightenment. For fascists, freedomis defined as complete submission to the state. Progress is only possible throughstruggle and war. And because fascism rejects the basic ideas of theEnlightenment, it is not a rational philosophy, but favors action instead.In the late 1800's some social theorists began to question the ideals of theEnlightenment. Of these thinkers, a man named George Sorel wrote a book calledReflections on Violence which focused on the significance of political myths.According to Sorel, these myths were not objective reflections of politicalreality, but simply expressions of the will. They are emotionally based. Even ifan idea does not make rational sense, said Sorel, if enough people believe it,then it can work. Fascism used this as a basis to promote itself. According tofascism, the really important truths of life defy rational thought. The source ofhigher truth is instinct, rather than rationality, as the Enlightenment thinkerswould have us believe. A good fascist leader simply knows instinctively what isright, and makes his or her decisions that way, as opposed to using reason. Aleader of a fascist state will not rise to the top out of luck though. They mustwin power through struggle.Struggle:To the extent that struggle plays a large part in the fascist philosophy, theSocial Darwinists had a fairly large influence. Struggle to the fascist isnatural, both at home and in the international arena. Only struggle and constantcompetition promote human progress according to fascist doctrine. War is, in fact,an ultimate goal of the fascist state. Hitler described war as "an unalterable
 law of the whole of life." As a result of the necessity of struggle and war,fascism opposes sympathy, caring, kindness, and other principles based onconventional morality because they only promote weakness, and should therefore beeliminated. (One example of this kind of thinking put into action was thesterilization, and later execution, of the physically and mentally handicapped inGermany under Hitler's rule). Finally, it was thought that the national identityarose out of struggle, and struggle was therefore important to the existence ofthe state.Elitism:According to fascism the rule of the elite class is inevitable, and thereforeneither liberal democracy nor socialism are possible (according to elitetheorists). Fascists felt that elite rule was natural and desirable, and thosewith the rare qualities of leadership would rise to the top (by struggling andvying for power). The fascist leader did not derive power from a constitution, butwas the embodiment of the people. Mussolini said a leader was "the living sum of
 untold souls striving for a goal." In short, the elite class was desired andneeded because they would lead the people to greatness.Fascism and the State:The fascist concept of the state was most prevalent in Italian fascism, although
it can be seen in the German version as well. In Italy, Mussolini sought to createa national consciousness by using the power of the state. According to fascism,the state is the focal point of human existence, and all citizens should give thestate absolute obedience. Only the state gave people their identity, and onlythrough the state could people achieve what Mussolini called the "higher life."(Mussolini never really went into any detail as what this "higher life" entailed).Mussolini also argued that the state drew its personality from the personality andwill of each individual in the state and then developed its own unique personalityand will. Therefore, thought Mussolini, the state has the greater will and shoulddominate the individuals that live in it. The will of the state then becomes themeasure of value and wisdom for its people. Mussolini attempted to form atotalitarian state, in which every aspect of society is controlled by the state.Mussolini and other Italian fascists thought the state could be used to modernizeItaly, and they promoted technology and industrial life. Economically, corporationwas important to the state. Fascists opposed a free market because it resulted inindividuals working for their own gain. In theory, fascists also opposed centralplanning, although this is pretty much what developed in Italy.The development of fascism, and its eventual popular support, was a totalrejection of Marxism, which was a growing movement at the time. In fact, Germanywas the birthplace of Marxism, as it is where Karl Marx was born and schooled andwhere his ideologies were first accepted. Germany, at the time of the fascisttakeover, had one of the strongest Marxist traditions in the world with a largeand organized Marxist labor movement. Fascism ultimately rejected all of the ideascontained in Marxism and took action to break Marxist labor movements.The principle tenets of Marxism are equality, democracy and atheism/materialism.Marxism champions the pursuit of the equality of race, gender, and economicstatus. Marxism stated that democracy as it was practiced was not trulyrepresentative of all people, it was only representative of establishmentinterests, and thus Marxism was a call for "true" and total democracy where everycitizen was totally equal in their political influence. Marxism, of course, statedthat religion was the "opium of the people" and a barrier to solutions for worldlyproblems, and Marxism, as an atheist ideology, acknowledges nothing supernaturaland held that the only things that exist are material; that all of reality issimply the material reality that we see and experience. Additionally, Marxism heldthat "class struggle" was the driving force of social progress, and that classstruggle was the appropriate means by which a just society would be created.It is important to note that not every form of fascism involves racism. Italianfascism did not necessarily involve racism, and although Mussolini passed anti-Semitic laws, he did so to please Hitler, not as an idea from his concept offascism. So where did Hitler get his ideas about race? Not a tremendously originalthinker, Hitler got most of his racial theory from a man named Joseph-Arthur deGobineau (1816 -1882) who argued in his Essay on the Inequality of Human Races(1853 -1855) "that the mingling of races led, and must continue to lead, to thedownfall of great civilizations." (Ball & Dagger, 1999, p.317). Gobineau said thehighest white race was the Aryan race, a nomadic people. The Aryans had, over thecourse of history, imposed their will on inferior peoples and established newcivilizations. However, this race had a tendency to inter-marry and weaken theirbloodline. Gobineau, a French diplomat, argued that the purest strain of Aryansleft were the German people, and therefore had an advantage over everyone else.The Germans would only be able to maintain this advantage, though, if theymaintained racial purity. Although Hitler got quite a few of his ideas about racefrom Gobineau, anti-Semitism is much older than the 19th century.

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