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Definition of Fascism

Reader comment on item: "At War with Islamic Fascists"

Submitted by Prof. Karla Poewe (United States), Aug 17, 2006 at 17:25

Fascism, including German National Socialism, is a relatively coherent worldview and practice, a political religion really, that is determined to erupt, by radical and violent means, through an existing regime, usually a weak democratic one, to a new one. For those who need an image, one could characterize National Socialism, the German form of fascism, as a Hydra, a multi-headed serpent from Greek mythology. Its neck, so to speak, consisted of three vertebrae: 1. Volk (meaning a people that share land, language, culture, history, and a religion specific to this people which either exists or is invented), 2. Volksgemeinschaft (meaning a "classless" community of people who share a strong sense of both nationalism and socialism) and 3. a leader of "genius" and "charisma" who embodies the yearnings and ambitions of "his" people. The core concepts of fascism are mythological concepts of community, folk, and either religion or nature seen as inexorable laws. It gives their worldview the force of religious persuasion and the sense of fatalism, calling, and duty. This sense of fatalism and duty makes these people impervious to doubt and reason.

Finally, because fascism combines a commitment to nation with one to socialism it has always and continues to attract people from both the political right and left. Both Mussolini and Hitler were first socialists who saw fate as having called them to a deep commitment to their people-in-crisis. Fascism is a political religions that grows out of defeat and national humiliation. Germany after WWI and Versailles, for example. See Karla Poewe, 2006, New Religions and the Nazis. New York: Routledge Press.

Karla Poewe


University of Calgary


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