Fascism is a form of revolutionary ultranationalism for national rebirth that is based on a primarily vitalist philosophy, is structured on extreme elitism, mass mobilisation and the Führerprinzip, positively values violence as end as well as means and tends to normative war and/or the military virtues.
The Italian fascism was the first significant force to exhibit these characteristics as a new type and was for a long time the most influential.
Generic Fascism is pluralist, diverse and not easily definable in simple terms: It would be inaccurate to reduce all putative fascisms to one single phenomenon of absolute common identity.
Fascism’s goal…was the creation of a new man, a new style of culture that achieved both physical and artistic excellence and that priced courage, daring and the overcoming of previously established limits in the growth of a superior new culture which engaged the whole man.
Fascism was not nihilistic; rather, it rejected many established values- whether of left, right or center – and was willing to engage in acts of wholesale destruction, sometimes involving the most ghastly mass murder, as „creative destruction“ to usher in a new utopia of its making, just as Communism murdered millions in the name of an egalitarian utopia.
Fascism is one of the major types of revolutionary mass movements since the 1790s. Fascism derived from modern, secular, promethean concepts of the 18th century. These were not anti-enlightenment or anti-1789, but rather by-products of aspects of the enlightenment.
Fascism regretted rationalism, materialism and egalitarianism and replaced it with vitalism, idealism and the metaphysics of the will, all of which are intrinsecally modern.
Fascists strongly reflected a preoccupation with decadence, but they strongly believed it could only be overcome through a revolutionary new culture led by new elites replacing the old elites of liberalism conservatism and the left.
Fascism contained a specific effort to achieve a modern, normally atheistic or agnostic form of transcendance, it encouraged self-assertion and self-transcendence at the same time (Roger Griffin).
Fascism projects a sense of messianic mission, typical of utopian revolutionary movements.
It aims to create a new „civic religion“: a system of all-encompassing myths that would bind together the nation in a new common faith and loyalty: not really a political religion, but rather a post-Christian, post-religious, secular and immanent form of reference, recreating non-rational myth structures for those who had lost or rejected a traditional mythic framework. Fascism was successful only to the extent such a situation existed.
Fascism was a mode of permanent revolution.
Economically, it tended to eliminate the autonomy of large-scale capitalism and major industry, and accelerate economic modernisation.
Violence and struggle are seen as very positive, of a certain positive and therapeutic value in itself: a certain amount of continuing violent struggle, is thought, echoing Sorel and Darwin, necessary for the national health.
Fascism is the most extreme form of modern European nationalism, but not necessarily racist in the Nazi sense, nor even necessarily Anti-Semitic. Fascists are all racists „only“ in the sense of considering blacks or non-Europeans inferior. But all fascists were highly ethnicist as well as extremely nationalist, so they build up and thrive on any potential for feelings of collective superiority.
Fascisms thrive on a novel athmosphere: symbols and various „emoticons“/emotive effects, with great emphasis on meetings, marches, visual symbols, ceremonial rituals. They make politics theatrical, creating a new visual framework for public life, in an increasingly visual age, to be dominated by a visual culture.
Fascists representations of male and female emphasize the dynamic and the muscular, though normally balanced by discipline and self-control. There is an extreme insistence on underlining the masculine principle, in a perpetual fetish of the virility of their movement, continuously pointing to the militarisation of politics and the need for constant struggle (Griffin: flight from the feminine, fearing its softness as uncontrollable) .
Exaltation of youth, of creative leadership, of hierarchy, of subordination: („Führerprinzip“, Il Duce ha sempre ragione“)
The Hitler regime is the most extreme expression of generic fascism and the only completely fascist regime-system. It moved toward the elimination of all pluralism and by its last year of life had nearly achieved that…It realized the inherent tendencies of all fascisms…but it represented only one specific form.
Hitler had an unserving admiration for Mussolini and (more weakly) for fascism. He was convinced that from the March on Rome, fascism and national socialism shared a common destiny. In the process of Europe-wide racial revolution, Hitler soon became convinced that a combination of political characteristics and national interests dictated that Italy would be the most natural immediate ally of National Socialist Germany.
By 1928, the NSDAP was one of several authoritarian nationalist groups being subsidized by the Italian State.
Italian fascism was a more limited and even semipluralist dictatorship in which the party was largely subordinated to the state. The state itself failed to realize its own theoretical aspirations toward totalitarianism (and in practice gave less than total meaning to the term).
While Hitler declared that National Socialism marked a „fascistization“ of Germany (admittedly not his usual terminology), Mussolini applauded the advance of what he eventually termed „German fascism“.
Some Nazis were somewhat critical of Italian fascism: Gregor Strasserconsidered the „Führerprinzip“ to have been pioneered by Mussolini (in a sense that was correct) and resented it as a „fascist„ foreign import. Alfred Rosenberg increasingly deprecated the „racial confusion“ of the fascists, others like Goebbels and Himmler seemed to have the conviction that fascist corporatism was too „capitalist“ or „conservative“.
By 1934, the Italian regime was promoting „universal fascism„, while increasingly dissociating himself from German National Socialism.
(Source: „History of Fascism 1914-45“ by Stanley G.Payne, UCL Press, 1995, esp. pp. 462-470)