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On Fascist Ideology
Federico Finchelstein

Comprendere e saper valutare con esattezza il nemico, significa possedere gi` una cona dizione necessaria per la vittoria.

Antonio Gramsci1 Fascism is a political ideology that encompassed totalitarianism, state terrorism, imperialism, racism and, in the German case, the most radical genocide of the last century: the Holocaust. Fascism, in its manyforms did not hesitate to kill its own citizens as well as its colonial subjects in its search for ideological and political closure. Millions of civilians perished on a global scale during the apogee of fascist ideologies in Europe and beyond. In historical terms, fascism can be defined as a movement and a regime. Emilio Gentile – who, with Zeev Sternhell and George Mosse,2 is the mostinsightful historian of fascism – presents fascism as a modern revolutionary phenomenon that was nationalist and revolutionary, anti-liberal and anti-Marxist. Gentile also presents fascism as being typically organized in a militaristic party that had a totalitarian conception of state politics, an activist and antitheoretical ideology as well as a focus on virility and anti-hedonistic mythical foundations.For Gentile a defining feature of fascism was its character as a secular religion which affirms the primacy of the nation understood as an organic and ethnically homogenous community. Moreover, this nation was to be hierarchically organized in a corporativist state endowed with a war-mongering vocation that searches for a politics of national expansion, potency and conquest. Fascism, in short,was not a mere reactionary ideology. Rather, fascism aimed at creating a new order and a new civilization.3 The word fascism derives from the Italian word fascio and refers to a political group (such as the political group lead by Giuseppe Garibaldi during the time of Italian unification.) Fascism also refers visually and historically to a Roman imperial symbol of authority. Its place of birth as amodern political ideology was northern Italy, the year was 1919, and its founder was Benito Mussolini. Thus, fascism as a term as well as a political movement was born on the Italian peninsula. Its ideological origins, however, predated its name. The fact that fascism was born as a concept before its explicit birth as a movement is central to any understanding of fascism. The ideology of radicalnationalism that made it possible was part of a larger intellectual reaction to the Enlightenment.4 This tradition was both European and, in the Latin American case, “non-European” as well. To be sure, the original ideology behind fascism was born as a reaction to the progressive European revolutions of the long nineteenth century (from the French revolution of 1789 to the American and LatinAmerican revolutions of 1776 and the 1810s). Fascism represented a post-revolutionary attack against equality. The ideology of the anti-Enlightenment is the major root of the longstanding ideological tradition that created fascism. Its branches constituted a reaction against liberal politics and a rejection of democracy. And yet fascism did not oppose the market economy and put forward a corporatistorganization that aimed to be functional to capitalist accumulation. Equally important, fascism is a philosophy of political action that ascribes value to absolute violence in the political realm. This ascription was boosted by one radical outcome of the
Constellations Volume 15, No 3, 2008. C The Author. Journal compilation C Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.

On Fascist Ideology: Federico Finchelstein


Enlightenment: Soviet Communism. The rise of Bolshevism in 1917 encountered global opposition as well as emulation. By presenting itself as the opposite of Communism, fascism took advantage of this widespread rejection and fear of social revolution and at the same time incorporated some of its...
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