Who is a NAZI and who is a Fascist? A Clarification.

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I have written about Nazi-ism and Fascism before. However, in light of these two terms having become the standard pejoratives in our time to smear and discredit political opponents or, as for that, just opponents, I have to come back to this issue once again and at the risk of repeating myself.

Fascism comes from the Italian term ‘fasci’, which goes back to the Latin term ‘fascia’ meaning ‘tie’, ‘band’, ‘belt’, ‘wrap’. It refers to the symbol of power of Romans dignitaries, the ‘fascis’, a bundle of sticks tied together around a double-edged axe carried by the ‘lictors’. A Consul was entitled to an escort of 12 lictors, a Praetor to six, and a Dictator to 24. The lictors functioned mainly as a personal protection detail, but they also served as punishers and executioners. Hence the axe. Decapitation was the only capital punishment a Roman citizen could be subjected to.

But the Latin term ‘fas’ also means ‘law’ and ‘justice’, which makes the term ‘fascia’ a pun symbolizing the power of government to enforce the law by punishing perpetrators.

Mussolini started out as editor of the periodical “Avanti” (Forward), the journal of the Italian Socialist Party. When Mussolini broke loose from the Italian Socialist Party and founded the Italian Fascist movement adopting the philosophical revivalist ideas of the mental father of Fascism, the Italian General and poet Gabriele d’Annunzio, he also adopted the fasci symbol adding to its meaning that the sticks also stand for “the state” and the collectivist principle that the collective is stronger and more important than the individual.

Mussolini’s ideology was centered around state or government power. His following words were the gospel of his followers:

“Lo Stato è un assoluto, davanti al quale individui e gruppi sono il relative … per il fascista, tutto è nello Stato, e nulla di umano o spirituale esiste, e tanto meno ha valore, fuori dello Stato.”

“The State is an absolute, before which individuals and groups are relative … for the Fascist, all is within the State and nothing human or spiritual exists, and even less, has any value, outside the State.”

In other words: Fascism is extreme state-ism.

This form of government and society at first greatly impressed many statesmen worldwide and initially Mussolini and his politics of strong-armed statism were in high regard and considered worth imitating even in the USA.

But Italian Fascism soon developed into a brutal form of totalitarian rule. While Mussolini officially maintained a capitalist economy it was no longer controlled by capitalists or the open market but by strict, oppressive, and comprehensive government regulation.

It is important to note that Mussolini’s Fascism was not racist or anti-Jewish. In fact, Mussolini protected Jews in Italy at least for a while, until the Germans took over the country and started persecuting Italian Jews.

It is also interesting that the key symbol of Fascism, the bundle of sticks with the axe inside, is found frequently on and in architecture and monuments in the USA.

Fasces on the coat of arms of the US Senate.
Fasces to the right and left of the flag in the House of Representatives, in Washington DC.
Fasces on the coat of arms of the US Courts.
Fasces on the coat of arms of the Department of Defense.

For context and contrast,

Fasces (on the left) on a post stamp showing Mussolini and Hitler together as friends.

While Nazi-ism contains Fascist statism and totalitarian government as key components, racism, and in particular the brutal persecution of the Jews with the final goal of exterminating them completely, was not originally part of the Fascist ideology. In fact, the absence of racism in Fascism and its dominating presence in Nazi-ism is the key differentiating feature between the two ideologies.

NAZI’ is a variation of ‘SOZI’, which is short for “SOZIalist’ (Socialist). NAZI, then, is short for ‘NAtionalsoZIalist’ meaning ‘National Socialist’. It is probably correct to say that Fascism and Nazi-ism are both collectivist ideologies that promote an overwhelmingly powerful central government while at the same time considering the individual as meaningless and negligible and that Nazi-ism is Fascism + racism, mainly anti-Judaism.

What brought Fascism to power in Italy was mainly the political Chaos and ineffectiveness of the Italian parliamentary democracy. The rise of Nazi-ism in Germany had three main causes:

  1. Extreme inflation and wide-spread poverty resulting in collective depression and desperation of the people
  2. The conservative Hugenberg press group that had monopolized media in the Weimar Republic and was systematically tearing down democracy as an association of big-mouth talkers
  3. Hitler’s violent SA bully troopers who beat up or assassinated his political opponents

Recently, a local politician accused my wife of undermining trust in government through her intense and incessive questioning of local politics, which, in her opinion, were and are rather authoritarian and not always in the best interest of the local population. He drew a parallel between her government-critical words and the destructive opposition to any form of democracy of Hitler’s NAZI followers, effectively, if not verbally, equating her to a NAZI. He accused her of undermining trust in government by criticizing it in a way he disliked.

This shows a pathetic ignorance of what Nazi-ism is and of what brought it to power. It also shows a tragic lack of understanding of what kind of Republic the founding father of this Nation wanted: The entire Constitution is based on distrust in government and on the profound doubt in the ability of humans to wield political power responsively and with humility and respect for the governed.

Questioning or criticizing the governing or government is not Nazi-ism but practicing democracy and government by the people for the people. It is exercising our 1st Amendment rights.

Just for clarification: My wife was born in 1946, when WWII and NAZI rule were over. Her father had been drafted as a soldier into the Army Corps of Engineers against his will. He was a pious Catholic. My mother was Jewish. My father was a movie actor for the German UFA and he was used by Goebbels for “bad guy” parts. It was a “We make you a proposition you cannot refuse” situation. He was never a German. Never held a German passport. Instead, he held on to his Luxembourg passport and citizenship during the entire NAZI time and resisted all pressures to even change the spelling of his first name “René” to the German “Rainer” or at least remove the French “accent aigu” from the second “é” of his name. This is how he preserved his pride, his national identity as a Luxembourger, and the lives of his wife and his children.

I have never made much of my Jewish heritage, nor am I a religious Jew, but in 1967, I volunteered as a soldier in the Israeli Army during the so-called 6-Days War, because I felt an obligation to help Israel survive. To insinuate that my wife is a NAZI implies that the insinuator knows very little about NAZIs and German history, and nothing about key facts of my wife’s life and mine.

Nazi-ism is Fascism + anti-Judaism. Obviously, my wife being married to a Jew, she hardly fits the profile of an anti-Judaist. I am therefore giving my wife’s opponent the benefit of the doubt assuming that what he really wanted to express is that she is a Facist, not a NAZI.

However, Fascism is not doubting or questioning government or the governing, Fascism is believing in and exercising authoritarianism and replacing fact-based discussion with personal attacks. Fascism is not engaging in and demanding open debate; it is preventing and avoiding open debate. Fascism is not demanding minimal government; it is ever expanding government and public administration. Fascism is not limiting police power; it is sabotaging it in order to allow SA-type groups to terrorize the people and/or abusing police power turning police organizations into Gestapo-like instruments of government terror. Fascism is not dissent and criticism. It is the lack thereof and the “Gleichschaltung” (synchronization) of the media.

It is a tragic fact that mainstream leftism of our days and its political ideologies (Green New Deal, Man Made Global Warming, CRT, Wokeness, ESG, 1619, social media censorship etc.) are closer to Fascism and its core concept of all-powerful government than mainstream conservatism. What is even more tragic is that left-wing activists seem to be blissfully unaware of this fact.

I trust that based on the above readers can decide for themselves who is a NAZI and who is a Fascist and who is neither – and why.

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