Fascism: the Meaning and Theory explained

Fascism - Toolshero

Fascism: This article explains fascism in a practical way. The article starts with the definition and meaning. You will also read about fascism regimes in history, and a brief summary. Enjoy reading!

What is fascism?

Fascism can be defined as a political ideology within political movements, characterized by authoritarian ultranationalism (extreme nationalism), dictatorial power and oppression of the opposition. This movement dominated much of Europe between 1920 and 1945, but also had many followers in the United States, South Africa, the Middle East, Japan and Latin America.

Fascists believe that the democracy we know does not work, is outdated and that we live in a great depression.

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They are convinced that the complete organization of a society under a one-party state is necessary to prepare a country for problems.

A fascist state is led by a leader: a dictator. Furthermore, the government consists of members of the sole ruling party. Together they form a national unit whose aim is to develop a strong, orderly and stable society: the law of the strongest.

Fascists do not automatically see violence as negative in nature. In fact, political violence, war and imperialism are seen as key tools in strengthening and rejuvenating a nation.

To achieve the above, a mixed economy is needed, with the ultimate goal of achieving autarky. That means the nation is completely self-sufficient and does not depend on foreign countries in any way. This should be possible through protectionist economic policies.

This extreme form of nationalism almost always manifests in a belief in racial purity: the desire to create a society of one race, thought to be superior to other races. This idea has led governments in the past to commit genocide and mass murders, perform forced sterilizations and carry out deportations.

Fascism, the origin and meaning

The first fascist movements arose in Italy. The term fascism was derived by fascist leader Benito Mussolini from the Latin word fasces, which means a bundle, in the sense of a political grouping.

Fasces occurs in the Latin term Fasces Cum Securibus, the symbol of authority in ancient Rome. The symbol was represented by a depicted ax along with a bundle of wood.

Strictly speaking, therefore, this ideology is Italian and does not include German National Socialism from the Second World War.

Both movements are nevertheless often referred to as fascism. Since the end of World War II, few if any parties have openly presented themselves as fascist durign the rise of fascism. Even in World War II, the extermination of Jews and other people was not openly discussed.

Introduction to Political Science with a Concentration on Political Ideologies  

Hate towards Marxists

Fascists make no secret of their deep-seated hatred of Marxists, Communists and Socialists. They promised in the days of fascist Italy that they would be strict with Marxists.

Mussolini first lived up to his reputation as a fascist in 1920, when he unleashed groups of armed men on striking workers and peasants. Many of these early Nazis had served in paramilitary groups made up of ex-soldiers.

Their aim was to suppress left-wing activism at the end of World War I. When Hitler came to power in Germany, he sent hundreds of Marxists to concentration camps and threatened with police raids and beatings.

The Marxists were also the main enemy of French fascists. In 1925, fascist politician George Valois stated that the objective of his organization was the elimination of socialism and all that resembles it.

Deputy Pierre Taittinger stated that his primary goal was to defeat the progress of communism by any means necessary.

Fascism and the use of symbolism

Members of organized fascist movements often wear uniforms similar to military uniforms, using historical national symbols as symbols of their own movement.

These movements are always led by a “leader”, such as Führer, Duce or Caudilo. This person is idolized in the media and publicly. Some of the movements use an arm salute, such as the Nazi salute.

Fascism versus Nazism

German fascism (Nazism) was ideologically similar to Italian fascism. It therefore used symbolism that resembled the symbolism of the Italian fascists. They both used mass gatherings and a Roman salute. The symbol of the German Nazis was the swastika.

At the time, the swastika was commonly used in society after seeing a resurgence in use in the western world. German nationalists claimed that the swastika was a symbol of the Aryan race, the foundation of German civilization, which was superior to all other races.

The black-white-red tricolor of the German Empire was also used in the colors of the Nazi flag. The color brown was the identifying color because it is the color of the SA paramilitaries, also known as brownshirts.

The swastika is today seen as synonymous with Nazism, despite having a long tradition in other cultures and being a popular symbol in art before the Nazis began working with it.


Fascism is a dangerous, complex and volatile political ideology that emerged in Europe and various fascist governments at the beginning of the twentieth century. The most infamous examples of fascists are Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party in Germany and Bennito Mussolini’s Fascist Party in Italy.

There are many definitions given to the word fascism. Some describe it as a political ideology, others as a philosophy or a mass movement.

Most definitions have in common that it is authoritarian and that it promotes nationalism at all costs. Its basic characteristics are, however, subject to debate.

This ideology is based on a mythical past in which the members of the foreground party played an important role.

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Now it’s your turn

What do you think? Do you recognize the explanation about fascism? Do you think the world has learned from the past and that a fascist regime will never arise and expand again? What similarities with other political ideologies do you see? Do you have any tips or comments?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  1. Griffin, R. (2013). The nature of fascism. Routledge.
  2. Laqueur, W. (1997). Fascism: Past, present, future. Oxford University Press.
  3. Paskhaver, A. (2021). Introduction to Political Science – with a Concentration on Political Ideologies. Retrieved 02/12/2024 from Udemy.
  4. Payne, S. G. (1996). A history of fascism, 1914–1945. University of Wisconsin Press.
  5. Payne, S. G. (1983). Fascism: Comparison and definition. University of Wisconsin Press.

How to cite this article:
Janse, B. (2022). Fascism. Retrieved [insert date] from Toolshero: https://www.toolshero.com/sociology/fascism/

Original publication date: 09/08/2022 | Last update: 02/13/2024

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Ben Janse
Article by:

Ben Janse

Ben Janse is a young professional working at ToolsHero as Content Manager. He is also an International Business student at Rotterdam Business School where he focusses on analyzing and developing management models. Thanks to his theoretical and practical knowledge, he knows how to distinguish main- and side issues and to make the essence of each article clearly visible.


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