Although in common usage fascism has often been used simply as a synonym for “bully,” it is a political and social ideology with a history. Fascism is authoritarian nationalism of the far right, opposed to democracy, socialism, and anarchism. Fascism includes a concept of racial purity or superiority, strongly opposing ideas of equality of all people. Fascism generally accepts violence as a tactic to gain or maintain power, or to rid society of those it find inferior. The state, under fascism, uses its power to support corporate power and existing economic elites. Policies range from economic and social protectionism to genocide. Fascism emerged in the early 20th century in Europe, motivated Nazi regimes to expand power leading to World War II, and continues to motivate many political movements today, where it is often labeled “neo-fascism.”

The following quotes describe or define what fascism is.

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When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.

— James Waterman Wise, frequently misattributed to Upton Sinclair, was not a direct Sinclair quote but a description of Sinclair’s point about nationalism and religion

There is an America which needs fascism…. it may come wrapped in a flag or a Hearst newspaper …

— James Waterman Wise, 1936

Fascism, in the beginning, is nothing but the acceptance of order through violence – plus propaganda. After that, it becomes a matter of habit.”

— Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber

I’m afraid, based on my own experience, that fascism will come to America in the name of national security.

— Jim Garrison

Hitler lied shamelessly about himself and about his enemies. He convinced millions of men and women that he cared for them deeply when, in fact, he would have willingly sacrificed them all. His murderous ambition, avowed racism, and utter immorality were given the thinnest mask, and yet millions of Germans were drawn to Hitler precisely because he seemed authentic. They screamed, “Sieg Heil” with happiness in their hearts, because they thought they were creating a better world.

— Madeleine K. Albright, Fascism: A Warning

[Erich] Fromm observed no logic whatsoever in the ideology [of fascism]: ‘Nazism never had any genuine political or economic principles. It is essential to understand that the very principle of Nazism is its radical opportunism.’ What Nazi ideology and practice did have, according to Fromm, was ritual that satisfied the audience’s masochistic craving: ‘They are told again and again: the individual is nothing and does not count. The individual should accept this personal insignificance, dissolve himself in a higher power, and then feel proud in participating in the strength and glory of this higher power.’

And for the sadistic side of the authoritarian character, the ideology offered ‘a feeling of superiority over the rest of mankind’ that, Fromm wrote, was able to ‘compensate them – for a time a least – for the fact that their lives had been impoverished, economically and culturally.

— Masha Gessen, The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia

It was the oldest trick in the book – a constant state of low-level dread made people easy to control, because it robbed them of the sense that they could control anything themselves. This was not the sort of anxiety that moved people to action and accomplishment. This was the sort of anxiety that exceeded human capacity. … You can no longer sit still or reason. You regress, and after a while the only thing you can do is scream, like a helpless terrified baby. you need an adult, a figure of authority. Almost anyone willing to take charge will do. And then, if that someone wants to remain in charge, he will have to make sure that you continue to feel helpless.

— Masha Gessen, The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia

You cannot appease fascism by meeting it in the middle; you cannot beat racism by indulging or excusing it.

— Mehdi Hasan

[O]ne of the great tasks of ecological thinking will be to develop an ecological civicism that restores the organic bonds of community without reverting to the archaic blood-tie at one extreme or the totalitarian “folk philosophy” of fascism at the other.

— Murray Bookchin, Urbanization Without Cities: The Rise and Decline of Citizenship

The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen. Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response.

— Noam Chomsky

Nationalism among nations is like racism among races. Racism and nationalism are forms of tribalism. Tribalism always, always leads to war. Why? Because every nation thinks they’re superior to other nations, and their own self-interest is more important than the self-interest of other nations.

— Oliver Markus Malloy, American Fascism: A German Writer’s Urgent Warning To America

Fascists use patriotism and religion to manipulate dumb people. Fascist propaganda works best on the dumbest of the dumb. They don’t know when they’re being lied to.

— Oliver Markus Malloy, American Fascism: A German Writer’s Urgent Warning To America

The fascist leaders themselves … called their movements ideologies, and many interpreters have taken them at their word. It is commonplace to see fascism defined by extracting common threads from party programs, by analogy with the other “isms.” This works better for the other “isms,” founded in the era of educated elite politics. I tried earlier to suggest that fascism bears a different relation to ideas than the nineteenth-century “isms,” and that intellectual positions (not basic mobilizing passions like racial hatreds, of course) were likely to be dropped or added according to the tactical needs of the moment. All the “isms” did this, but only fascism had such contempt for reason and intellect that it never even bothered to justify its shifts.

— Robert O. Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism

The boundary separating fascism from authoritarianism is more subtle, but it is one of the most essential for understanding…. The fascist-authoritarian boundary was particularly hard to trace in the 1930s, when regimes that were, in reality, authoritarian donned some of the decor of that period’s successful fascisms. Although authoritarian regimes often trample civil liberties and are capable of murderous brutality, they do not share fascism’s urge to reduce the private sphere to nothing.

They accept ill-defined though real domains of private space for traditional “intermediary bodies” like local notables, economic cartels and associations, officer corps, families, and churches. These, rather than an official single party, are the main agencies of social control in authoritarian regimes. Authoritarians would rather leave the population demobilized and passive, while fascists want to engage and excite the public. Authoritarians want a strong but limited state. They hesitate to intervene in the economy, as fascism does readily, or to embark on programs of social welfare. They cling
to the status quo rather than proclaim a new way.

— Robert O. Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism

Whether the mask is labeled fascism, democracy, or dictatorship of the proletariat, our great adversary remains the apparatus — the bureaucracy, the police, the military. Not the one facing us across the frontier of the battle lines, which is not so much our enemy as our brothers’ enemy, but the one that calls itself our protector and makes us its slaves. No matter what the circumstances, the worst betrayal will always be to subordinate ourselves to this apparatus and to trample underfoot, in its service, all human values in ourselves and in others.

— Simone Weil

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.

— Sinclair Lewis, misattributed, was James Waterman Wise: a description of Sinclair’s point about nationalism and religion in It Can’t Happen Here

Fascism is capitalism plus murder.

— Upton Sinclair

The free world cannot afford to accept any form of extremism, whether it is fascism, racism, or religious extremism.

— Widad Akrawi
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