June 3, 2020-
The word “fascism” has been bandied about so freely, these days, it seems useful to take a look at what the term means (Part 1); how it has been applied in the past (Part 2); how, if at all, it is being applied now (Part 3).
Here is a commonly-accepted definition of the term:
“One common definition of the term, frequently cited by reliable sources as a standard definition, is that of historian Stanley G. Payne. He focuses on three concepts:
- the ‘fascist negations’: anti-liberalism, anti-communism, and anti-conservatism;
- ‘fascist goals’: the creation of a nationalist dictatorship to regulate economic structure and to transform social relations within a modern, self-determined culture, and the expansion of the nation into an empire; and
- ‘fascist style’: a political aesthetic of romantic symbolism, mass mobilization, a positive view of violence, and promotion of masculinity, youth, and charismatic authoritarian leadership.“
Fasci were bundles of sticks, fastened together around an axe handle, in Roman times. The tool was used by lectors, who served Imperial Magistrates, as a means of corporal or capital punishment. Although Fascism, as a system, is not commonly associated with the Roman Empire, the ‘fascist style’ certainly could describe the cults of personality that sprung up, during the rules of Julius Caesar, Octavian (Augustus), Claudius and, even more to the extreme, in the days of Caligula and Nero.
Thus has Fascism come to suggest a regime that purports to signify a government of high efficiency, yet often is marked by high levels of caprice and corruption-with the chief civil authority figure and the chief operating officer, underneath him (so far, no women have been identified as Fascist figures), running the affairs of state, virtually by decree.
NEXT: A look at three Fascist states of the Twentieth Century