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Fascism: A Political Ideology

The term fascio is derived from a Latin word meaning a bundle of axe headed rods. This word denoted the authority of the Roman republic and was used when creating a new system of governmental authority fascism. When defining the word fascism many things come to mind. There is not a clear cut definition however; there are many ideals which fascism upholds. In the following paragraphs I will go into some fascist components. Moreover, I will define this political ideology as it relates to the state and citizens of a country under fascist governmental leadership. Fascism as a political ideology places the needs of the state above the needs of the individual. In many instances the state within fascism is defined by a particular race or culture, thus creating a unification of the society. Nationalism is then formed and the democratic systems of government are no longer needed. "The Italian nation is an organism possessing a purpose, a life and instruments of action superior in power and duration to those possessed by the individuals or groups of individuals who compose it. The nation is a moral, political, and economic unity integrally embodied in the Fascist State."1 Mussolini, the father of Italian fascism began his political career sympathizing with the socialist left. As he developed politically he worked to create a new form of activism which praised violence, technological development, idealism, and national identity. Initially fascism rejected imperialistic ideals and cultural superiority. Mussolini placed himself in power through

Italian Charter of Labor- Giovanni Gentile/ Benito Mussolini

various compromises and machinations while moving the party to the right removing the need for democratic leadership while creating totalitarianism. The democratically elected form of leadership came with many issues causing many arguments within parliament and an inability to create effective governing policies. During the 1920s the Italian people became increasingly disheartened with the constant anarchy within their system of government. In creating a system of government Mussolini declared Fascism denies, in democracy, the absurd conventional untruth of political equality dressed out in the garb of collective irresponsibility2 In addition, the Italian people were not pleased with the territory allotted after World War One Ended. Mussolini promised to restore Italian greatness and retrieve cities and land which were rightfully Italian. In order to achieve this form of greatness as Mussolini envisioned, the government and the country itself required totalitarian control. A fascist leader is seen as knowing the will of the people and as such the leader deserves total control. Control in this way alleviates the need for parliament, democratic elections, or political parties. Such political divisions would hinder the focuses of the state. Also, having political division would likely prevent fascist control by allowing others to have a voice in the political arena, creating competition. Totalitarianism was not only seen in government. Totalitarianism was present in every aspect of citizens lives: education, employment, media, political choices, leisure time, crop growth and etcetera. The labor charter of 1927 declared all strikes to be illegal3. In addition, language and greetings were influenced from a more formal form of greeting to an informal form


Giovanni Gentile/Benito Mussolini Italian Encyclopedia: Definition of Fascism

of address. Even traditional greetings of handshakes were changed to a Roman salute. Even reproduction was influenced, with many families being praised for having many children. Population growth was seen as a method to greatness of the state. Even religious life was regulated by the fascist state. Mussolini, in his younger years did not align himself with the Roman Catholic Church, considering himself an atheist. However, in developing his political alignments he saw the international power of the Catholic Church and chose not to maneuver against it. The Fascists state does not attempt, as did Robespierre at the height of the Revolution, to efface God from the soul of man.4 In addition, the church controlled the Bank of Rome, which Mussolini later saved. 5 Creating a division with an institution that the people already had submitted to would have been counterproductive for Mussolini. In an act of unification with the church Mussolini created the Lateran Treaties. The treaties allotted 109 acres to the church to establish the Vatican, the new papal state. In addition another part of the agreement was known as the Concordat, which established Catholicism as the national religion. Although the church did have the power to appoint bishops and other officials, anyone appointed to a position of power required government approval.

Unification of the fascist government and the Catholic Church remained on good terms until Mussolini created the Manifesto of Race in 1938. This document barred Jewish-Italians from becoming employed as teachers, have state jobs, or be a member of the fascist party. This

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Giovanni Gentile Doctrine of Fascism 1932

document also denied Jewish Italians the rights to Italian nationality and the right to marry nonJewish Italians. Although Pope Pious XII disputed these new laws his protest was to be ignored. Although it is difficult to define fascism in a single sentence, fascism can be summarized as placing the needs of the state above the individual. This type of total control must be implemented from a societal level controlling education, religion, leisure, politics and every aspect of life. Moreover, nationalism and separatism are key elements of fascism, creating a superiority of the state and culture of the governing body. Such views of nationalism and control led to racial, religious, political, and cultural persecution of those who did not fit the ideal of what the fascist government dictated as acceptable. Such views of nationalism and cultural superiority bred pacifist ideologies towards individual liberty and persecution. Pacifism ironically was one of the many ideologies Mussolini fought against. The question becomes not what is fascism? but how do we prevent fascist ideologies within ourselves and our society?