The Difficulties of Finding Fascism – Andrew Devenish

This week I found the reading by Allardyce to be the most interesting of the readings. Rather than attempting to define fascism as others such as Paxton, Allardyce sets out to strike down others’ attempts to define fascism. In his chapter, Allardyce runs through many different arguments about what fascism might be and shows how they are all flawed. The types of arguments he sets up in front of himself in order to then knock down all seem to be trying to place fascism within a box, and make it easily definable for use with contemporary and future occurrences of what one might call fascism, and at the same time attempting to reconcile the differences between the Italian and German formations of fascism as they arose in very different circumstances. There is a strong connection between the kind of argument that Allardyce is making and pieces such as the Vox article by Matthews. It is common in today’s discourse to call leaders like Trump a fascist, but when a journalist sets out to ask historians and fascism experts, the answer is not so simple. However, despite how effective Allardyce is at defeating attempts to create a mold of fascism into which we can place personalities and ideologies to test whether they really are fascist, I find an issue with his conclusion. Although it is clear that Allardyce does not set out to define fascism properly and instead explains why it cannot be defined so easily, I find his conclusion about the definition of fascism too weak. Allardyce says “there is no such thing as fascism. There are only the men and movements that we call by that name.” My issue with this statement on fascism is that it leaves us very little room to call fascistic entities or people fascist. Allardyce seems to agree that the Italian and Nazi systems of the 1930s and 40s were indeed fascist, but it seems harder for him to nail down any other movement in Europe before or after this decade as fascist. If there is no such “thing” as fascism, then how can we call anything fascism? He acknowledges there are “men and movements we call by that name” but seems hesitant to apply the label anywhere else. Allardyce is correct in that the term has been widely misused constantly, but unless fascism truly did die with Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, then Allardyce does not know where it went or where it came from.

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