What is Fascism?

Fascism is a political ideology that is characterized by dictatorial power and authoritarianism. It includes far-right tendencies such as suppression of opposition, rule of Paramilitary forces, and authoritarian ultra-nationalism. It came into prominence in early 20th century Europe and dominated the Continent between 1919 and 1945. Although fascist parties and movements have always differed significantly, a typical repertoire could be associated with them that included contempt for electoral democracy and political and cultural liberalism. This ideology is often bent towards creating a ‘pure’ state or Volksgemeinschaft, which in German means “people’s community.” The subordination of individual interests for the betterment of the nation is what fascists believe in. While understanding the previous statement, we must remember that according to the fascist ideology, one’s nationality is in their blood. If one is a descendant from foreign soil, they cannot be termed a true national of the given country. This leads to the subjugation of interests of such people in a fascist regime. Newspaper reports, online blogs, and various other secondary sources suggest that countries such as Brazil, China, India, Russia, and Japan are staging clear signs of fascism through their policies or utterances

The first fascist leader of Europe was Mussolini. Various fascist parties came into power in several countries, including two of the most famous of all time – The National Fascist Party in Italy led by Mussolini and the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei), or Nazi Party, led by Adolf Hitler. 

Other similar parties which came up around the globe including:

  • The Fatherland Front (Vaterländische Front) in Austria, led by Engelbert Dollfuss and supported by the Heimwehr (Home Defense Force), a prominent right-wing paramilitary organization; 
  • the National Union (União Nacional) in Portugal, led by António de Oliveira Salazar (which became fascist after 1936); 
  • The Party of Free Believers (Elefterofronoi) in Greece, led by Ioannis Metaxas; 
  • The Ustaša (“Insurgence”) in Croatia, led by Ante Pavelić; 
  • The National Union (Nasjonal Samling) in Norway, which was in power for only a week—though its leader, Vidkun Quisling, was later made minister-president under the German occupation; 
  • The military dictatorship of Admiral Tojo Hideki in Japan.

After the Second World War, the major European fascist countries were broken up and were also officially banned from some countries such as Italy and Germany. Despite this, Fascist movements re-emerged in Europe, as well as Latin America and South Africa.

Repertoire of Fascist Movements

There has been a constant debate between political scientists and historians about the true nature of fascism, and as a result, there is a varied range of opinions regarding this. Laurence W. Britt, after detailed research into some of the infamous fascist regimes of Hitler’s Nazi Germany; Mussolini’s Italy; Franco’s Spain; Salazar’s Portugal; Papadopoulos’ Greece; Pinochet’s Chile; Suharto’s Indonesia, came up with thirteen signs of early Fascism listed as under:

  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
  2. Disdain For Human Rights 
  3. Identification of Enemies As a unifying cause 
  4. Supremacy of the military 
  5. Rampant Sexism 
  6. Controlled Mass Media 
  7. Obsession With National Security
  8.  Religion and Government Intertwined
  9.  Corporate Power Protected
  10.  Labor Power Suppressed
  11.  Disdain For Intellectuals & and the Arts 
  12. Obsession With Crime & Punishment 
  13. Rampant Cronyism & Corruption
  14.  Fraudulent Elections

The list mentioned above is non-conclusive but lists down the most prominent similarities between the fascist regimes of all time. Some scholars view that fascism is deeply irrational and constructed on lines of misdirected anger and frustration towards a class of people and merely serves the material interests of its supporters. In contrast, others are deeply impressed by the fascist rationale and regard its aspirations of a cultural ‘regeneration’ and creating a ‘new man’ as principled. Critiques believe that it is the fear of the communist revolution and left-centrist electoral victories that make fascism shape into the form of an authoritarian state as opposed to a liberal one. The fascist hatred for Marxism is not inconspicuous rather openly voiced. We can take the example of Hitler sending Marxists to concentration camps and threatening ‘red neighborhoods’ with police brutality.   

The Concept of Neo-Fascism or Post-Fascism 

Historians and political scientists have pointed out that there has been a rebirth of the conditions that prevailed in Europe in the period between World War I and World War II in some European countries in the 1980s and 1990s. France, Germany, and Italy were among the top countries to be considered in this list.  High unemployment rates, increased conflicts based on ethnic differences, and continuous economic setbacks were significant catalysts in giving rise to fascism in its many national guises. As mentioned above, all of the conditions, coupled with the geopolitical weakness of national regimes, promoted the growth of neo-fascism as a new fascist or post-fascist movement. Intense nationalism has always been a part of fascism, and hence the parties constituting the post-fascist movements are not parties spread throughout Europe but country-specific. Except for a difference in nationality, there are several common traits that can be attributed to them.

Post-Fascism in India

Trends suggest the world’s largest democracy is shifting its status from a democratic state to an autocratic one. In 2019, during her maiden speech to the Parliament, MP Mahua Moitra pointed out seven signs of early fascism exhibited by India. A significant shift from the ideals of liberal democracy to a far right-wing ideology can be witnessed in the politics pan-India. The central authorities are busy promoting ‘Hindutva’ as a prime concept parallel to ‘Indian Nationalism.’ Organizations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) continue to gain a stronger footing at the cost of curbing fundamental rights a resident of a democratic state must enjoy. It has been labeled as a fascist organization by political intellectuals worldwide. The Sangh Parivar, RSS associates, and BJP under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi contribute significantly to the fascist tag. 

In the present circumstance, the independent functioning of the Judiciary is of utmost importance to protect the liberty of the citizens. Unfortunately, the reality is the exact opposite. Benjamin Zachariah, the author of critically acclaimed books such as Developing India (2005), Playing the Nation Game (2011), and After Last Post (2019), in an interview, said that the judiciary does not remain independent anymore, neither is the Police. The parliamentary majority is being used to pass laws in contradiction with the Constitution, and some armed forces personnel even appear to support the ruling party. 

Legislations such as the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) passed by the Centre reflect the xenophobic manifesto of the party. Continuous violations of Human rights, portraying religious minorities as enemies, and the vision of creating a Hindu Rashtra are just a tiny percentage of the feat pointing towards fascist ideologies seeping through the democratic fabric of the Indian National state. Freedom House had published a report reducing India’s status from a ‘free democratic state’ to ‘partly free.’ It stated in the same statement that civil and political rights had seen a severe deterioration in this country through intimidation of journalists, undue pressure on human rights organizations, and a line of attacks, especially against Muslims.

Fascism Around The Globe – The Present Scenario

“Brazil, Romania, Hungary, China, India, Philippines, Russia, Australia, Turkey, Poland, and few other countries are showing fascist tendencies, through their policies, utterances and while dealing with their citizens, intellectuals and world leaders and their citizens.” In the light of this statement and after going through numerous articles containing similar assertions, we can conclude that post-fascism is present in some form or the other across the globe.

Taking the example of Brazil under Jair Bolsonaro’s administration, I believe that it fits the neo-fascism paradigm. The first administrative step he took after being elected was signing up for the removal of all measures that guaranteed the rights of LGBTQ+ groups from the Brazilian Domestic human rights policy. His government further allowed a parliamentary measure (MP 180) that allowed monitoring of non-governmental organizations. The President himself has contributed to anti-human rights rhetoric by defending abuse of force by the Police or curbing the rights of individuals’ fallen prey to crimes committed by the military dictatorship. One can draw a parallel between the behaviors exhibited by Brazil in recent times with previous similar cases of Turkey, Israel, and Hungary, where the rising domestic authoritarianism left a mark on their foreign policy as well.

The Covid-19 pandemic has proved fruitful for the world’s authoritarian powers as they have been able to pass ordinances and regulations disguised as emergency regulations to contain the deadly virus. Such is the condition of Hungary. In the ordinary course, these legislations would be considered as a dangerous expansion of state power. Prime Minister Victor Orban has passed a rule prohibiting anyone from criticizing the Hungarian government. This stands as a grave violation of the democratic rights of the citizens. However, the government has affirmed that the emergency legislation will not last a day longer than the pandemic. But no one can comment anything with complete surety as to over-rule the emergency legislations one-third majority of the Parliament is required, an advantage enjoyed by Orban. Hungary is a solo member of the EU, labeled as ‘partly free’ by the think tank Freedom House.

Putin’s Russia has also been termed as a fascist country in recent times. Russia under Putin’s rule has been compared with that of Mussolini’s Italy or Hitler’s Germany. When Andrei Zubov was fired from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations for opposing Putin’s Ukraine policies in 2015, for opposing Putin’s Ukraine policies, he commented that Putin is trying to build a “corporate state of a fascist type packaged in Soviet ideology, the ideology of Stalinism,” Russian critics while analyzing the fascist regimes came up with some characteristics to which Putin and his Russia fit perfectly. Starting from a charismatic leader appealing to most of the population, imperialist projects, and mass mobilization of the youth or even a cult of violence – all these characters can be assigned to Russia under Putin’s Regime.

“Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Is a Wildly Popular Fascist” was the title of an article published by The Nation shortly after he assumed his presidency in 2016. The reason was the evident signs of neo-fascism put up by him. Before he even assumed his term, extra-judicial killings of thousands of drug users had already been started. The reason was Duterte’s vision of a state free of drug abuse. His main target is the most prevalent form of governance in recent times – Liberal democracy. He has been considered a ‘father figure,’ an ultimate savior who will save the Philippines from chaos. This justifies his popularity even after his complete disregard for fundamental human rights. Duterte has been regarded as one original kind of fascist personality with very few traits common to famous fascists such as Mussolini or Hitler. His ideals are not bent towards restoring bygone days but to establish an authoritarian future. His growth can also be credited to the non-existence of solid and organized opposition. 


According to recent trends, countries around the Globe are slowly turning into authoritarian regimes, which pose a significant threat to the free liberties humankind must enjoy. Fascism manifests itself in diverse ways in different civilizations, thus individuals who expect it to manifest itself in the “traditional” fashion are often surprised when it does. This leads to leaders disregarding human rights and moral values to fulfill their selfish political agendas. With this, we can indeed say Fascism is extant in some form or the other all around the globe. The good news is that now as then, democracy must win.


  1. https://caravanmagazine.in/news/politicians-from-australia-uk-attend-roundtable-whether-india-is-becoming-fascist-state
  2. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/philippine-president-rodrigo-duterte-is-a-wildly-popular-fascist/
  3. https://www.thefreedictionary.com/post-fascist
  4. https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/article_306jsp/
  5. https://www.britannica.com/topic/fascism/Common-characteristics-of-fascist-movements

This article is written byDebasmita Nandi, a first year law student of CHRIST (DEEMED TO BE UNIVERSITY), LAVASA

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