Fascism can come from any direction – from the right or the left, out of religious, revolutionary or activist groups. And as a moderate consensus around individual rights, democracy and the rule of law seems to be under increasing pressure every day, what are the signs we should be looking for to identify emerging fascism?
Based on past fascist movements – both those that took power and those that have tried but failed – here is a list of tell-tale signs to watch for:
- A philosophy of action – taking decisive action while being careless of the impacts on individuals
- Exaggerated appeals to patriotism based on portraying the country as being a victim of internal and external enemies
- A pose of standing up for ‘the little man’ while drawing existing powerful interests into positions of power
- Building on the image of victimhood an aggressive agenda to restore or recreate a past ideal state
- A view that constitutional rights and the rule of law should not impose restraints on necessary executive action
- Creating artificial crises in order to concentrate more power in the executive
- Demonising minority groups, especially those powerless to respond
- Increasing violence of language of leader and supporters in denouncing these enemies and all who oppose their politics
- Extra-judicial and judicial measures to limit freedom of expression
- Being led by someone who believes he embodies the will of the people, though without securing a majority of votes
- Disregard of facts when launching big initiatives
- Leaders believe willpower and determination will triumph over the facts on the ground – careful deliberation is seen as a sign of weakness
- Purging of individuals in state institutions
- …. Leading to ‘harmonisation’ of institutions with the outlook and structures of the regime
- Almost manic insecurity on taking office, until a point is reached where a crisis – real, exaggerated or artificially created – is used to establish complete domination of the executive over representative institutions and the bureaucracy.
Is it possible to see any of these signs around the world today?
Fascism at root as coined by Mussolini means essentially ‘togetherness’, maybe even ‘solidarity’. It’s about the strong bond that ties ‘us’ together. And it’s about taking strong and punitive action against ‘them’ when ‘they’ oppose us.
In practice it always draws together a coalition of interests – the true believers, powerful opportunist interests, and various shades of anger that often seek to pull the movement into new and extreme directions.