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Defining Fascism, Then and Now

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The Bush Administration continues its irrational endeavor into re-defining fascism, but does the disparaging label of 'Islamofacists' accurately depict the radical extremists that now occupy a portion of the Middle-East?

The term Fascism has been treated to quite a renaissance lately. Donald Rumsfeld's latest use of fascism in several slanderous speeches, in a decidedly hazy framework, forces us to take a look back into history and the birth of fascism. In doing so, we need to look at fascism the term, fascism as a philosophy and how the current re-working of this word into our language laboriously attempts, but fails to adequately convey, the essence of this early 20th Century governmental model.

The Bush Administration's effort at re-defining fascism by using polarizing propaganda slogans such as, "Islamofacists" and misleading claiming that Bush critics are trying to appease a "'New type of fascism" are contemporary examples of how an erstwhile ideology can be revitalized and used for coercion and extorting the masses. Hitler took fascism to new, dizzying heights using an amalgamation of a central authoritarianism influence and corporate monopolization of militaristic build-ups. This begets the question, "Does the pejorative label of 'Islamofacists' accurately depict the radical extremists that now occupy a portion of the Middle-East?"

To offset and explore these probable inaccuracies; we must first define fascism, using the classical characterization of the expression. By defining fascism, I refer to the literal translation of the word. Fascism, almost always identified with former Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, was in fact coined by Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile. The classical definition of fascism and the one Gentile had in mind when he conjured up the concept was this,

"A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."

Fittingly, Gentile is credited with the 1928 Encyclopedia Italiana entry that states,

"Fascism should more appropriately be called 'corporatism' because it is a merger of state and corporate power."

By contrast, today's definition, found in the MS Encarta dictionary, paints a vague but distinguishably different idea,

"Any movement, ideology, or attitude that favors dictatorial government, centralized control of private enterprise, repression of all opposition, and extreme nationalism."

While the similarities between the two meanings cannot be overlooked, what often goes unnoticed is the watering-down and softening of the corporatism component. The stark contrast of these two spanning descriptions is the transit from a "system of government" to "any movement". Upon developing the idea of fascism, Giovanni Gentile place tremendous importance on the centralized control of monopolistic corporate entities and thusly it became the cornerstone of his fascist philosophy.

It is this centralization of corporate power, which today spans the gamut in the U.S. from news and media to banks and energy companies, and not the dictatorial element that is most often associated with the movement within today's United States. Gentile's fundamental belief was that once the corporate monopoly was complete that deception, and therefore control, would come naturally and with little resistance. This of course occurs under the ruse of extreme national arrogance and fittingly, an imaginary "enemy of the state" to create hysteria within the populous.

Using this new, looser interpretation of "any movement", the current administration has taken a leap of liberty to try and summon an image of a stateless, decentralized faction with little or no corporate component as the entity of the "face of new fascism." It is not difficult to see how this inaccurate portrayal of the Al Qaeda network lacks the fundamental elements, statehood and corporatism, to be a genuine working model of fascism. This fairytale fascism, purported by U.S. administration hacks, even lacks the modern euphemistic designation of "business leadership." Al Qaeda is not a business, but an example of religious zealousness run amuck among a narrow-band of extremists.

The irony of course, is that the very same U.S. leaders that cry out fascism has re-taken root -- in a new form in Al Qaeda and terrorists -- fail to see that they have become, by classical definition and actions, a very authentic model of Giovanni Gentile's fascism. "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right.... together with belligerent nationalism", pertinently paints a precise mural of the current U.S. administration that has nearly wrestled away almost all people-powered-politics.

Consequently, by reviewing the then and now definitions of fascism, it cannot be ignored that today's multinational corporations, predicated on predatory capitalism, bear far more a resemblance to Giovanni Gentile's original fascism. That Rumsfeld's vapid cataloging of "Islamofacists" as true fascists more than misses the mark. In fact, the amorphous and largely unstructured terrorists are the antithesis of fascism.

Al Qaeda is without question a real danger, but fascists they are not. To see true fascists, America's currently leaders need only to hold up a mirror and examine the faces reflecting back.
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Frank J. Ranelli is an independent scholar, skeptic and critic, author and essayist. His erudite and iconoclastic style of provocative writing has been extensively published in a variety of news outlets and across (more...)
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