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Is there a firm definition of fascism?

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I can't seem to find a definitive definition of fascism and can barely stand to look for one anymore, because all the descriptions of it I've read are obviously written by leftists who want to associate it with corporations and capitalism. Is there a set of essential characteristics that Objectivists ascribe to fascism, or can I conclude that 'fascist' is simply something that certain political 20th century political parties called themselves and that liberals call Republicans now?

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From the Ayn Rand Lexicon:

 

Fascism/Nazism

The difference between [socialism and fascism] is superficial and purely formal, but it is significant psychologically: it brings the authoritarian nature of a planned economy crudely into the open.

 
The main characteristic of socialism (and of communism) is public ownership of the means of production, and, therefore, the abolition of private property. The right to property is the right of use and disposal. Under fascism, men retain the semblance or pretense of private property, but the government holds total power over its use and disposal.
 
The dictionary definition of fascism is:
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Political definitions have been slowly  eroded for years in the same way concepts are eroded as a whole.  People have thrown around the terms Socialism, Communism, Fascism, and Capitalism without even realizing what they were talking about to the point they all seem to be treated as different aspects of some fuzzy landscape people wave off as politics.  It's very frustrating so I understand why the OP is frustrated.  

 

Communism:  Government owns all property and the right to dispose it. Society is the purpose of Government so people do not have rights.  Under communism people are defined by which group they belong to along class definitions. 

 

Socialism: Government owns the means of production.  The "Public GoodTM" is the purpose of Government so people only have rights they are allocated.  Because "means of production" and individual property is not defined this is vague, along with who the "public is", ultimately it is a diet version of Communism and less honest about it's intentions.  

Fascism: People retain ownership of their property but the Government controls disposal.  The purpose of Government is society but more specific with the classic being Race or Nation.  There are not rights since the Government is honest about power being centralized for the "common good".  Since the Government can dispose of property, ownership is a facade meaning Fascism is simply an honest form of Communism with a different definition of who the public is.  

 

Capitalism: Individual ownership, including disposal rights, of property and a Government whose purpose is the protection of individual rights.  Since there is a complete separation of State and Economics in the same we we have a separation of State and Religion there is no crossing over with the above definitions.  

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  • 3 weeks later...

Spiral - you have made an attempt to define these concepts after (as you pointed out) their definitions have been tainted in modern history by people with no respect for, or understanding of concept formation.  I learned many years ago that capitalism and socialism were economic systems, while democracy, fascism, and communism were political systems.  BUT, at this time, after the destruction of these concepts, I believe your definitions above reflect the observed historical truth of these ideas in action.  I also like your tag line about determinism.  Txs.

 

Added: So which definition applies most closely to the US of America today?

Edited by jacassidy2
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I can't seem to find a definitive definition of fascism and can barely stand to look for one anymore, because all the descriptions of it I've read are obviously written by leftists who want to associate it with corporations and capitalism. Is there a set of essential characteristics that Objectivists ascribe to fascism, or can I conclude that 'fascist' is simply something that certain political 20th century political parties called themselves and that liberals call Republicans now?

Another take:

 

For comparison, and contrary to reddit's Anarchism group, anarchists who voluntarily choose to operate under a capitalistic economic system don't suffer any contradiction as capitalism, by definition, does not include government involvement. Also known as laissez-faire or anarcho-capitalism, these economic systems specifically remove government involvement from the marketplace. I often read comments from people complaining that capitalism has proven to be a failure. I am not aware of any country that has operated or currently operates under a real capitalistic system. (Calling a bird a fish doesn't make it so.) All current, purported, capitalistic systems are, by definition, mixed economies. For example, the U.S. does NOT operate under capitalism. At best, the U.S. operates a mixed economy of capitalism and socialism. At worst (and I happen to agree with John Flynn on this), the U.S. really operates under fascism:

...we may now name all the essential ingredients of fascism. It is a form of social organization

  1. In which the government acknowledges no restraint upon its powers - totalitarianism
  2. In which this unrestrained government is managed by a dictator - the leadership principle
  3. In which the government is organized to operate the capitalist system and enable it to function - under an immense bureaucracy
  4. In which the economic society is organized on the syndicalist model, that is by producing groups formed into craft and professional categories under supervision of the state
  5. In which the government and the syndicalist organizations operate the capitalist society on the planned, autarchical principle
  6. In which the government holds itself responsible to provide the nation with adequate purchasing power by public spending and borrowing
  7. In which militarism is used as a conscious mechanism of government spending, and
  8. In which imperialism is included as a policy inevitably flowing from militarism as well as other elements of fascism.

Wherever you find a nation using all of these devices you will know that this is a fascist nation. In proportion as any nation uses most of them you may assume it is tending in the direction of fascism.

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How so? Certainly not definitionally.

In capitalism, people are viewed as being free to work and trade as they please.Under this system, the businessman -- like any other person -- is free to do what he likes with his business and his money.   The only lines are the rights: where they all respect the rights of others. The businessman -- like any other person -- can decide what he thinks is good for him, and he may do it. The state defends his pursuit of his happiness, as an end in itself. The state sees its rationale in guarding the individual's pursuit of his happiness.

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In capitalism, people are viewed as being free to work and trade as they please.Under this system, the businessman -- like any other person -- is free to do what he likes with his business and his money.   The only lines are the rights: where they all respect the rights of others. The businessman -- like any other person -- can decide what he thinks is good for him, and he may do it. The state defends his pursuit of his happiness, as an end in itself. The state sees its rationale in guarding the individual's pursuit of his happiness.

My apologies if I misunderstood dream_weaver's comment. I took it as asserting point #3 as contradictory to the definition of fascism.

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My apologies if I misunderstood dream_weaver's comment. I took it as asserting point #3 as contradictory to the definition of fascism.

Point #3 talks about the immense bureaucracy controlling business, and while it uses the term "capitalism", it isn't. Fascist states tend to be far more totalitarian than the run of the mill mixed-economy. At some point, one can no longer say it is a form of capitalism with some controls. An analogy would be: prisoners who are free to go anywhere the prison rules, and locks, and bars allow, aren't free. So, I think Dream_Weaver is objecting to the use of the term "capitalism" in these descriptions of what a fascist state does. The term "economy" would fit better in the places they used "capitalism". 

 

In morality and practice, socialism, communism and fascism have more in common with each other than they do with capitalism or with a mixed economy that is primarily capitalist.

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My apologies if I misunderstood dream_weaver's comment. I took it as asserting point #3 as contradictory to the definition of fascism.

The 8 essential ingredients are 8 propositional statements used to support the conclusion.

 

#3 In which the government is organized to operate the capitalist system and enable it to function - under an immense bureaucracy

 

Under capitalism, the government is limited to maintaining a political climate within which the capitalist system can operate. Objective law and order is the precondition needed for a capitalist system to operate and thrive.

 

A government that tries to operate the means of production is not the means of production operated by the minds most capable of producing, the latter being closer to my understanding of an essence of capitalism.

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