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  Fascism is a term used to describe historically specific interwar (1919-45) European political movements and doctrines. Its derivation is from fasces, the ceremonial bundles of rods containing an axe with its head protuding, symbolizing the authority of the ancient Roman republic (which many Fascist governments wished to emulate). Fascist is also used more loosely to describe any form of right-wing authoritarian régime which is not explicitly socialist. In its most loose usage fascism is employed to denigrate people espousing either right-wing or left-wing views with which the speaker or writer disagrees.

Interwar European fascism is easiest to define by what its exponents opposed. They were anti-democratic, anti-Marxist, anti-liberal and anti-conservative: although they were prepared to make temporary alliances with their enemies, normally with conservatives. They rejected cultural and economic conservatism, including its Christian foundations, but also the internationalism, pacifism and materialism of liberals and the left. They invariably embraced an extremely chauvinistic form of nationalism, usually in a form which emphasized the racial or ethnic foundations of national identity, and committed them to the imperial aggrandisement of their nations and to militaristic doctrines and practices. They were generally in favour of totalitarianism: the total control of the polity, economy and society by a fascist party which would create a new national and secular culture, and indeed a new (or revived) people. Fascists were élitists, emphasizing the role of charismatic and authoritarian leaders: although they claimed that fascism represented the interests of all the nation and they mobilized mass political parties.

Many of the characteristics of interwar European fascist ideas and movements have been found elsewhere, in Europe, both before and after the interwar period, and in Latin America, Asia and South Africa. However, most historians and political scientists tend to see fascism as a uniquely interwar European phenomenon, and one utterly discredited by the defeat of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. Whether they are right to be so sanguine remains a moot point. BO\'L

See also conservatism; liberalism; Marxism.Further reading W. Laqueur (ed.), Fascism: a Reader\'s Guide; , S.G. Payne, Fascism: Comparison and Definition; , S.J. Woolf (ed.), Fascism in Europe.



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