Modern History Sourcebook:
What is Fascism, 1932
Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) over the course of his lifetime
went from Socialism - he was editor of Avanti, a socialist
newspaper - to the leadership of a new political movement called
"fascism" [after "fasces", the symbol of bound
sticks used a totem of power in ancient Rome].
Mussolini came to power after the "March on Rome"
in 1922, and was appointed Prime Minister by King Victor Emmanuel.
In 1932 Mussolini wrote (with the help of Giovanni Gentile)
and entry for the Italian Encyclopedia on the definition of fascism.
Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the
development of humanity quite apart from political considerations
of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility
of perpetual peace. It thus repudiates the doctrine of Pacifism
-- born of a renunciation of the struggle and an act of cowardice
in the face of sacrifice. War alone brings up to its highest tension
all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples
who have courage to meet it. All other trials are substitutes,
which never really put men into the position where they have to
make the great decision -- the alternative of life or death....
...The Fascist accepts life and loves it, knowing nothing of and
despising suicide: he rather conceives of life as duty and struggle
and conquest, but above all for others -- those who are at hand
and those who are far distant, contemporaries, and those who will
...Fascism [is] the complete opposite of
the materialist conception of history of human civilization can
be explained simply through the conflict of interests among the
various social groups and by the change and development in the
means and instruments of production.... Fascism, now and always,
believes in holiness and in heroism; that is to say, in actions
influenced by no economic motive, direct or indirect. And if the
economic conception of history be denied, according to which theory
men are no more than puppets, carried to and fro by the waves
of chance, while the real directing forces are quite out of their
control, it follows that the existence of an unchangeable and
unchanging class-war is also denied - the natural progeny of the
economic conception of history. And above all Fascism denies that
class-war can be the preponderant force in the transformation
After Socialism, Fascism combats the whole complex system of democratic
ideology, and repudiates it, whether in its theoretical premises
or in its practical application. Fascism denies that the majority,
by the simple fact that it is a majority, can direct human society;
it denies that numbers alone can govern by means of a periodical
consultation, and it affirms the immutable, beneficial, and fruitful
inequality of mankind, which can never be permanently leveled
through the mere operation of a mechanical process such as universal
...Fascism denies, in democracy, the absur[d] conventional untruth
of political equality dressed out in the garb of collective irresponsibility,
and the myth of "happiness" and indefinite progress....
...iven that the nineteenth century was the century of Socialism,
of Liberalism, and of Democracy, it does not necessarily follow
that the twentieth century must also be a century of Socialism,
Liberalism and Democracy: political doctrines pass, but humanity
remains, and it may rather be expected that this will be a century
of authority...a century of Fascism. For if the nineteenth century
was a century of individualism it may be expected that this will
be the century of collectivism and hence the century of the State....
The foundation of Fascism is the conception of the State, its
character, its duty, and its aim. Fascism conceives of the State
as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups
are relative, only to be conceived of in their relation to the
State. The conception of the Liberal State is not that of a directing
force, guiding the play and development, both material and spiritual,
of a collective body, but merely a force limited to the function
of recording results: on the other hand, the Fascist State is
itself conscious and has itself a will and a personality -- thus
it may be called the "ethic" State....
...The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient
margin of liberty to the individual; the latter is deprived of
all useless and possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is
essential; the deciding power in this question cannot be the individual,
but the State alone....
...For Fascism, the growth of empire, that is to say the expansion
of the nation, is an essential manifestation of vitality, and
its opposite a sign of decadence. Peoples which are rising, or
rising again after a period of decadence, are always imperialist;
and renunciation is a sign of decay and of death. Fascism is the
doctrine best adapted to represent the tendencies and the aspirations
of a people, like the people of Italy, who are rising again after
many centuries of abasement and foreign servitude. But empire
demands discipline, the coordination of all forces and a deeply
felt sense of duty and sacrifice: this fact explains many aspects
of the practical working of the regime, the character of many
forces in the State, and the necessarily severe measures which
must be taken against those who would oppose this spontaneous
and inevitable movement of Italy in the twentieth century, and
would oppose it by recalling the outworn ideology of the nineteenth
century - repudiated wheresoever there has been the courage to
undertake great experiments of social and political transformation;
for never before has the nation stood more in need of authority,
of direction and order. If every age has its own characteristic
doctrine, there are a thousand signs which point to Fascism as
the characteristic doctrine of our time. For if a doctrine must
be a living thing, this is proved by the fact that Fascism has
created a living faith; and that this faith is very powerful in
the minds of men is demonstrated by those who have suffered and
died for it.
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(c)Paul Halsall Aug 1997