The Political Traction of the Ambiguity of Fascism


Totalitarianism, populism, extremism, and the plethora of isms on the right and left of the political spectrum seem to shoot from the mouth of political commentators at increasing rates. Populist, Extremist and indeed Fascist are terms that find themselves inside people’s homes and minds; with each person having a different understanding of Fascism from the rest. This is why Gilbert Allardyce has argued that “the concept of Fascism should be de-modeled, de-ideologized, de-mystified, and, above all, de-escalated”.

While Allardyce, attempts to “deconceptualizing” Fascism he has equated Fascism to a movement and argues for the separation of the fascist concept from that movement.  Federico Finchelstein wrote that Fascism is associated with evil, authoritarian regimes, and racism. It celebrates dictatorship, destroys democracy and uses violence to spread its message. Allardyce has argued that these elements are “retained to refer to a particular movement of men and ideas,” acknowledging that a collective understanding of the elements at play is only superficially imposed. Yet to speak about the “political movement” of Fascism as Allardyce himself referred to it as, one must codify specific markers of Fascisms and by this action give credence to the term.

It is important to ask if Fascism is the exclusive domain of politics, for if it is a Political movement does the discourse and memory around it need to change over time? Zeev Sternhell, much like Robert Paxton, and Allardyce associated the emergence of popular Fascism with the regime of Benito Mussolini in the 1930s. If this was the genesis for Fascism as we know it today, we must also acknowledge the political realm in which the term operated. With Fascism extending to other regions and other leaders perhaps it is necessary to maintain the ambiguity of the term to keep its utility in the political realm of which it derived.

Allardyce has argued that Hitler and Mussolini operated regimes that were different in their objective and their genesis. Yet still they stand as the two greatest examples of Fascist regimes. The agreement to use the word has connected Hitler and Mussolini and have allowed these regimes to be remembered and re-remembered by political actors. The lack of consensus on the phrase allows for Populist movements and right-wing extremism to create an illusive distance from Fascism and allow leaders to be “not technically a fascist”.



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