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How the Shadows of Fascism Falls Unseen: The Dangers of Ignorance – Part 12

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not Jewish. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.”

 Poem at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Why is it so hard to call out Fascism as Fascism in modern history? One of the reasons is there is no clear, singular, universally-accepted definition of the term. It is loosely defined because it is a complex ideology showing multiple symptoms. You may ask, is it an ideology? Or a political movement? Or some mad activism? It’s no black and white and that’s what makes calling out a spade a spade in case of Fascism tricky. 

Mussolini’s Fascism is not the same as Hitler’s Nazism. Mussolini didn’t believe in what Hitler believed – in anti-semitism, in being a Master, in the superiority of a race. While Mussolini’s party identified themselves as Fascists, Hitler’s Nazii party didn’t. They identified themselves as National Socialists.  

That’s incoherent. No clear-cut definition is available. 

But for sure, Fascism is a combination of nationalism, militarism, authoritarianism and populism. Much of today’s Fascism exhibits one or more of these symptoms, sometimes not blatantly but in a very subtle manner. 

For example, in today’s Fascist regimes, at least in not all of them, streets are not filled with paramilitary forces to control the masses and deface the opposition. But in a very subtle manner, dissent is not tolerated in those regimes. Force is used to destroy dissent and political opposition in an elusive manner. 

Not an ideology yet?

The main reason Fascism doesn’t have to be blatantly displayed by use of power in the public  is because the events that led to the rise of Fascism are less prevalent and dangerous today as it was in the first half of the 20th century. For example, Fascism was the result of reactionary politics to the rise of Communism, which was perceived as the biggest threat in many parts of Europe then.

Today, communism is not menacing. The middle class woes are not as bad as it was after the two World Wars. So what Fascism did was evolve to its present day form. Like a smoothly crawling silent serpent.   

A Fascist leader doesn’t have to discredit their image and become a monster in the public’s eye. They adopt Fascist tactics that are not overtly Fascist. Instead, they may adopt more palatable language or utilize populist rhetoric to gain support. In essence, isn’t it Fascist? 

Modern day scholars say that regimes across the world that follow Fascist ideologies are not purely Fascist; instead, they argue, they only deploy Fascist techniques to gain power. These techniques are, as we have seen in the previous posts, dehumanizing a minority group, spreading propaganda and misinforming the majority and evoking anger in them against the democratic institutions and the elite left and so on. Isn’t that an ideology? The scholars are not yet convinced to call it out as an ideological belief? 

Evolving into a silent killer

While the left of the political spectrum believes that Fascism is an extreme form of right wing reactionary, the right believes that Fascism is an overprotective mechanism deployed by a Big Brother. Or you can say a nanny-state which patriarchally takes care of its citizens even if it causes them discomfort, and endangers lives of the minorities.   

If it’s not explicitly exhibited,if it’s not out in the streets, why would anyone believe that Fascism exists? 

For the same reason that it is not overtly displayed, one should understand that Fascism has transformed from being right wing activism to a right wing ideology. 

It’s not out there in the streets but it’s being sown in people’s minds. It has evolved into a silent killer of democracy. 

To be continued..

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