Political Evolution: Fascism in hindsight

Calling someone a fascist is infinitely easier than describing what sort of person really IS a fascist. That is one of the critical parts of this weeks readings, especially covering the Vox article by Dylan Matthews surrounding whether Donald Trump is a fascist. This article is interesting for a number of reasons, but it’s important to summarize things first. All in all, the argument is no, he may be any number of unsavoury things but primarily due to the fact he does not advocate for the active destruction of all democratic tradition. The suggestion made then is that he is instead a populist, another term that is very often used to target Trump.

To summarize populism in contrast to fascism, there is another excellent article in the readings. This article proposes that populism is a longstanding worldview, rather than a newfound ideology. It supposes that populism is not the same as extreme fascism, instead being simply the concept of a corrupt ruling elite that puts down upon the lower class, working masses. There is a suggestion that fascism has, thanks to the Second World War, been more or less eradicated, and that populism is simply a twist of democracy in an illiberal manner. It is important also, then, to challenge these assertions.

Rather than try to argue if Donald Trump is a fascist, it’s instead important to raise questions as to the nature of populism and fascism. For example, in the Cas Mudde article, populism is defined as not a political ideology, but instead a sort of parasitic element, requiring a host ideology. But what is there in that that distinguishes it from Fascism? Fascism is often defined as closer to a worldview than a concise treatise on politics. Fascism indeed comes in many forms as well, with Francoism being distinct from Mussolini’s Fascism, being itself distinct from Nazism. Nazism as an example pulls from elements of nationalism, economic independence, pan-nationalism, shares elements of socialism and state enterprise, promotes public healthcare in various forms, private enterprise, and a meritocratic system. This is, evidently, somewhat nonsensical in a traditional political manner. So it seems both Fascism and Populism share, to some degree, the need to be integrated with other political systems. Even further, Nazism evolved through a degradation of democracy, with Hitler being an elected official first. Populism’s lack of wholehearted anti-democracy then seems, again, not entirely dissimilar from one form of fascism. It seems, then, that while fascism and populism may still be distinct in nature, there are undeniable similarities regardless.

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