The term Fascism has been derived from Italian word Fascio which means a bundle of wood. In ancient times the national symbol of Roman Empire was a bundle of wood and an axe. The bundle of the wood was the symbol of unity and axe was the symbol of strength. Therefore, in order to exhibit national unity, Mussolini used the word ‘Fascio’.
The following are the principles of Fascism:
(1) Fascism is not based on doctrines but reality:
What is Fascism?
It is difficult to answer this question because it is not a political theory. Mussolini very often repeated, “My programme is action. Fascism is not nursing of a doctrine worked beforehand with detailed elaboration. It was born of the need for action and was from beginning practical rather than theoretical”.
He repeated several times that he hated abstract thinking. He said, “Fascism is based on reality, Bolshevism is based on theory…. We want to be definite and real. We want to come out of the cloud of discussion and theory. My programmes are action and not talk”. On another occasion, he said, “Fascism is a great combination of material and moral forces… It aims at governing the nation”.
The Fascists do not want to enter into any discussion regarding any theory. They change themselves according to the needs and interests of the country and work accordingly. Mussolini himself said, “We permit ourselves the luxury of being aristocrats and democrats, conservatives and progressive, reactionaries and revolutionaries and legalitarions, according to circumstances of time, place and environment”. That is why Sabine has said, “Fascism is a body of ideas taken from different sources put together to fit exigencies of the situation”.
(2) Fascism believed in dictatorship of one national leader and repudiated democracy:
Mussolini said that democracy is not suitable for Italy. He had no belief in three main bases of democracy, liberty, equality and fraternity. He declared that freedom is not the right of the people; it is the kindness of the state. It depends upon the sweet will of the state whether to give rights to the people or not.
The people should care more for the performance of their duties than for launching a struggle for their rights. According to the Fascists, equality is useless, because nature has not made everybody equal and, therefore, the capable and incapable people cannot be considered equals. Mussolini had no faith in universal brotherhood.
Mussolini had a blind faith in dictatorship, because he believed that the Italians were not so capable as to guide their leaders. But the need was that the national leaders should guide them by performing their duties selflessly.
Mussolini imposed restrictions on all political parties except on his own Fascist party. He controlled the press also. In this way, he stopped all criticism of the government. Mussolini emphasised on three elements of dictatorship, i.e., responsibility, obedience to one leader and discipline.
(3) It is opposed to Individualism:
The Individualists believed that individual is an end and the state is a means to an end. Contrary to this, Fascism says individual as a means and the state is end. The Fascists believed that state is a Spiritual Organism. Therefore, according to them, the individual will have the same place in the state as the organs in the body.
According to them the individuals cannot have any spiritual or moral life apart from the state. Mussolini said that every individual should work for the welfare of nation without any selfish motive and he should seek his interest in the interest of the nation.
A famous Fascist writer Rocco says, “We do not, however, accept a Bill of Rights which tends to make individual superior to the state and empowers him to act in opposition to society. Our concept of freedom is that the individual must be allowed to develop his personality on behalf of the State.”
(4) Fascism believes in Totalitarian State:
According to Fascism, state has the right to control all spheres of the state. The state is considered Supreme in social, economic and political fields. Mussolini’s interference and leadership was seen in all walks of life. He established discipline in all the spheres economic, administrative and educational. He said, “All within the state, nothing outside the state.”
(5) It believes in violence, force and imperialism:
The Fascists believe that the solution of international disputes through peaceful means is not possible. Therefore, they believe in violence and force. Mano Carli writes, “Fascism is from war and in war it must find its outlet.” Mussolini was a firm believer in imperialism. He conquered Ethiopia in order to enhance the power, reputation and prestige of his country.
(6) Fascism opposes internationalism tooth and nail:
Mussolini had no faith in universal brotherhood. He said that no co-ordination was possible in the interest of all the nations. That was why he gave up the membership of the League of Nations and adopted the policy of military alliance and victory, as a result of this policy, the Second World War broke out in which there was a heavy loss of men and material.
(7) Fascism believes in the National State:
Fascism believed that sovereignty lay with the national state and not with the individual and it had the right to utilise it without any restriction. The Fascists lay special emphasis on patriotism and nationalism. They believed that war was essential for the enhancement of nation’s prestige and power.
(8) Fascists supported the corporate state:
The Fascists said that the state was not a collection of people but it consisted of many corporations, which could be considered a unit of social and political life. That is why the Fascists were in favour of forming a separate organisation of different professions.
However, they said that all of them should be under the state control and they should function according to the will of the state. Joad is of the view, “Corporations should be subordinate parts of the whole which is the state specialised channels through which the State’s will is canalised and diffused for special purpose.”
(9) Opposition of socialism and Communism:
The Fascists are bitter opponents of Socialism and Communism. They do not believe in Marx’s materialistic interpretation, class struggle and the Theory of Surplus Value, on the contrary, they say that the capitalists and the labourers should give up their selfish interests and should work in the interest of the nation.
They are not in favour of the abolition of capitalism and private property completely, but instead they want a system in which the profits of the capitalists are controlled, and the wages of the workers are fixed by the state. The disputes between the capitalists and the labourers should be decided by Industrial Courts.
(10) New Economic System:
The Fascists neither liked the individualists’ contention that the state should not interfere in the economic affairs of the individual nor believed in the socialist’s policy of the socialisation of industries. They wanted to naiionali.se only a few important industries for the society. As regards the rest, they allowed private ownership. In the larger interest of the country, they wanted to control and regulate it. They said that neither the capitalists nor the workers would be allowed to work against the national interest, because their interests were not above the interests of the nation.
Criticism of Fascism:
Fascism has been bitterly criticised because it encourages violence, dictatorship and bloodshed. It is a symbol of imperialism. It destroys world peace. Because of the Fascists policies of Hitler and Mussolini, the Second World War broke out in which there was a great loss of men and material.
The Fascists’ opposition to democracy is also not proper. Because of their actions, every type of freedom is destroyed. There is no scope of debate in Fascism and complete development of individual is not possible. Everybody has to obey the orders of one leader blindly, whether one likes him or not.
Importance of Fascism:
It orders to evaluate a theory properly, it is essential to keep in view its good and bad aspects. Therefore, we have to take into consideration its importance side by side with its criticism. If there were no good features in it, it would not have appealed to the people of Italy so much.
Fascism laid emphasis on patriotism, discipline and national unity in place of class-struggle. It enhanced the national prestige in the international field by establishing industrial peace and increased production. This enhanced the prestige of the people of Italy. Italy was defeated during the Second World War, Mussolini was killed and Fascism came to an end.