Understanding the definition of Fascism was more complex than I had initially believed. What I thought I knew before setting out on the reading for class this week was; Hitler, Mussolini and Trump are all Fascists. If someone would have asked me what a fascist was my answer probably would have been those three names without any real evidence to back up that claim. What I know now is that it is hard to define what fascism is, and that makes understanding Fascism easier.
In Gilbert Allardyce’s “What Fascism is Not” he explains that historians “have agreed on using the word [fascism] without agreeing on how to define it. I think that this is what makes it so easy to understand what fascism is and who and who not is a fascist. There is no true definition and so it to understand we agree that the word is used. He goes on to compare how Nazi Germany and Italians Fascism differ, and how they are comparatively different in ideology, or in concept. He uses these differences to illustrate fascism is not limited to boundaries. Understanding that to engage with fascism it is easier to deconstruct what everyone thinks it is or should be.
Comparatively the writings of Mudde and Matthews look at populism. The Mudde article focuses on the Populism and its rise throughout the twenty first century. Matthews asks five experts in Fascism if Donald Trump is a Fascist. To which his conclusion is that not he is not a fascist but a right-wing populist. Mudde discusses how the populism of today has populist voters who are voting for parties that undermine the democratic system due to new age media. Something that Matthew’s article states is a characteristic of Fascism. The Matthew article also focuses on how Trump is not a fascist because he does not fit into a certain set of guidelines to be a fascist, but ones that follow the guidelines set out for populism.
Allardyce wrote his piece in 1979, he remarks in his final paragraph to follow the research of fascism without the constraints of the word fascism. It seems that the research has shifted on to Populism. While I understand that using the term Populism helps to separate certain political thoughts from that of Fascism, will we not see the same thing happen to the Populism? Will the term grow with the populists? The Mudde and Matthew article provide two contradicting elements of populism. Are the lines getting blurred or were they already? According to Allardyce even Fascists in Italy did not know the definition of fascism. The proposition of Allardyce, while difficult in practice, allows for a broader understanding of what Fascism is, instead of attempting to explain what it is from inside a box.
Gilbert Allardyce, “What Fascism Is Not: Thoughts on the Deflation of a Concept,” American Historical Review 84 (1979): 367-98.
Dylan Matthews, “I Asked 5 Fascism Experts if Trump whether Trump is a fascist. This is what they said” Vox May 19, 2016 https://www.vox.com/policy-andpolitics/2015/12/10/9886152/donald-trump-fascism
Cas Mudde, “Populism in the Twenty-First Century: an Illiberal Democratic Response to Undemocratic Liberalism” The Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy, University of Pennsylvania, https://www.sas.upenn.edu/andrea-mitchell-center/casmudde-populism-twenty-first-century