It is one of the ironies of the age that, even though WWII was fought to defeat fascism and usher in a brave new world of democratic governance, we are witnessing the return of fascism through the mechanism of democratic elections. In a small country such as ours – with less than a million citizens – we will inevitably encounter, or even become enmeshed with, these rising fascist tendencies. So, it behooves us to become aware of the characteristics of fascism, and its dangers that demanded a world war to confront it within living memory.
A fascist state, first of all, envisages having total control over all major sections of society, and is this sense, seeks absolute power. One technique used is to articulate a rabid nationalism through the creation of myths that purport to define a “common will”, but those myths exclude defined minorities and persecute them. They preach the superiority of the “chosen” people, and prove their greatness by conquering weaker nations. With the key role played by the economy, it is not surprising that fascists seek to control labour and ban strikes.
Because of the inherent logic of centralized power, fascist states also are typically ruled by a dictator – such as Hitler or Mussolini – who uses a charismatic personality and oratory to win over the masses of people. In Italy, we have seen a fascist regime being formed by Georgi Meloni, an unapologetic defender of Mussolini, with three far-right parties that have unfurled heavily xenophobic policies. Very openly, she proudly defends a potent party symbol — a flame in the red, white and green colours of the Italian flag. The flame has its roots in the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement which was founded by Mussolini nostalgists right after World War II. Her “Brothers of Italy” party embedded the symbol into its own emblem. From a programmatic standpoint, along with other budding fascists in Europe, Meloni takes a hard line against Black and coloured immigrants by couching her stance as one on “security”.
We see these fascist tendencies not only in Hungary and Poland, which historically have discriminated against minorities such as the Roma people, but even in Sweden, France and Germany. Couching their rhetoric as “populist”, they hark back at their “glorious” history to exclude newcomers by closing ranks against them. We see these tendencies even in the U.S, where the right wing has divided and polarised political participation by pitting those who are “real” Americans, who want to “Make America Great Again”, against the corrupt woke liberals who would have America destroyed from within.
But the most extreme example of fascism today is, ironically, Israel, whose Jewish people experienced a holocaust in which six million of them were murdered by the German Nazis under Hitler.
Since the formation of Israel in 1948, when over 900,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes, this was justified so that the Jews could have that which Hitler demanded for Germans in Europe: Lebensraum, or “living space”. In place of the ghettoes, where the Jews were forced to live for centuries, Israel created the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, which were virtual concentration camps for Palestinian refugees. The Israelis control the entire economy of the West Bank and Gaza, and Palestinians who work in Israel have to decamp at nights.
The politics of Israel is now controlled by Mizrahi Jews, who are descended from Jews originating in the Middle East or North Africa, and they have a messianic view of themselves as a “chosen people”. By definition, Palestinians and others are at best “children of a lesser god”, and not equals, according to this new exclusivist nationalism that has taken on a whole new level. They have now used their numbers to democratically install in Israel right-wing governments that would toe their fascist line.
In our part of the world, we have to be careful of those politicians who also consider their support base as “chosen”. As our folk wisdom advises: “we don’t need flambeau to see in bright daylight”.