I went to a sick kid in a local school today (not particularly ill, easy job, nothing of note). When I was walking out there was a display on the wall that gave definitions of different belief systems. For example there was Nilhilism, Materialism and Animist. However I did find it worrying that they defined Fascism as “A far right wing government that is sexist or racist”.

Still it doesn't surprise me, my brother is forced to teach falsehoods purely because it is in the National Curriculum.

10 thoughts on “Fascism”

  1. I hope you're not implying that reading newspapers “educates” one in politics… :DIf more schoolkids read newspapers all you'd get is more schoolkids with received opinions, spurting off arugments they read in some column that morning but not really understanding any of it, let alone realising about bias and spin and how that affects what gets printed. Pretty much like most adults really…. doh.

  2. Forgive my ignorance but what's wrong with that definition? We were just taught pretty much the same thing….

  3. 'Forgive my ignorance but what's wrong with that definition? We were just taught pretty much the same thing….'It's incredibly reductive to start with. Fascism more or less meant total state control over the lives of citizens, and the elevation of the 'nation' or 'race' above the individual (and thus has much in common with socialism, which, although internationalist in outlook, elevates the 'proletariat to a similar position). It was accompanied in Germany with persecution of 'out-groups', most obviously Jews, but also Roma, political dissidents and intellectuals (although that was particular to the German version of fascism, which was racist, as opposed to the Italian version, which was nationalist). A key aspect of fascism is the close ties between state and private business — economically, it's really an extreme form of state capitalism, which is usually geared toward military armament and war.

    The reason it's not quite on to call it 'extreme right-wing' is that, although fascists and nazis considered themselves 'right-wing', in that they were opposed to communists, who were 'left-wing', fascism doesn't have anything in common with what we usually think of as 'extreme right wing' today, in the political sense. One would tend to associate that with political libertarians, who believe in a minimalist state, designed only to protect citizens from each other. All other services which in most Western nations are carried out by the state, such as health, education, social welfare, and electricity supply, would be carried out by private enterprise. It's an idealist form of radical individualism. This is quite contradictory to 'fascism', in which, as I said, the state is the be all and end all.

    The fascist state could be said to be 'right-wing' in that, historically, it has made appeals to traditionalist conservatism, usually based on the historical greatness of the nation, but that's a bit too hard to align with modern concepts of left and right. It is fair to say that, except where fascists pitched themselves as the opposite of communists, socialists, and anarchists, they more of less transcended what we consider the traditional spectrum of left-wing and right-wing.

    I'm just guessing, but another problem Reynolds might have with it is that sexism or racism is not necessarily an aspect of the fascist state, and is certainly not exclusive to the fascist state, even if it has usually been a part of it.

    So, when left-wingers call right-wingers 'fascists', it's usually a pretty nasty, and just plain wrong thing to say. But when you're told in high school that 'fascism' is 'extreme right wing', it does do a fairly good job of maligning everyone who is right wing, if you never think about it again.

    I guess it's a form of 'lies to children', where the real thing is too hard to explain, so you give an easier, untrue version — like what we were taught of the structures of atoms in high school, with valences and orbitals, which all turns out to be wrong when you get to university. But this example is a bit insidious, because it is basically political and could be taken as propoganda, designed to maintain the status quo and indoctrinate students, thus forestalling the libertarian revolution, given that it appears in a state-run institution.

  4. Coo, nice one anon. that was very interesting. I too find this story a bit worrying. This is clearly one person's perspective and nobody has questioned it or even gone and looked it up in a dictionary. Probably because they don't want to call attention to themselves. I wonder what the definitions of the other belief systems were? Were they as dismissive? Was this a religious school or one that has a lot of students of the same religion? Curious now.

  5. Actually, I think it is fair to describe fascism as right wing, because I don't agree that your identification of the right with American liberatian style politics is sufficient.The original right wing – those delegates who sat to the right of the podium in the French National Assembly of 1789 – were conservative: royalist, clerical, even feudalist in outlook. The left, across the room, believed themselves to be republican, anti-clerical and rationalist. Now every variety of fascism has always endorsed highly conservative social policies, whatever its economic strategy, and however radical its organisation. Moreover, the founding myths of fascist movements tend to look backwards to an earlier golden age. So in this sense fascism lies in the grand tradition of the right much more clearly than modern libertarianism, which is a bit sui generis.

    Having said, that, I agree that the definition Reynolds quoted is appallingly superficial, and entirely misses the main points about fascism, which you so accurately describe.

  6. Thank you! I feel more educated now. Any sort of teaching we've gotten about politics does seem shamefully simplistic, but when only about 5 people of a year group of well over 100 admit to reading a newspaper I guess what can you do?

  7. Don't children have/know how to use/know where to obtain dictionary's in your country? Worse than that, do they take everything they learn from teacher as 'gospel'?*shudder*

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