Fascist (insult)

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Protestor opposing the 2018 state visit of Donald Trump to the United Kingdom

Fascist has been used as a pejorative epithet against a wide range of individuals, political movements, governments, public and private institutions since the emergence of fascism in Europe in the 1920s. Political commentators on both the left and the right accused their opponents of being fascists, starting in the years before World War II. In 1928, the Communist International labeled their social democratic opponents as "social fascists,"[1] while the social democrats themselves as well as some parties on the political right accused the communists of having become fascist under Stalin's leadership.[2] In 1944, George Orwell remarked that the term "fascism" had been rendered almost meaningless by its common use as an insult against various individuals and groups, and argued that in England the word "fascist" had become a synonym for "bully."[3]

During the Cold War, both sides used the epithets fascist and fascism against the other. In the Soviet Union they were used to describe anti-Soviet activism, and East Germany officially referred to the Berlin Wall as the "Anti-Fascist Protection Wall." Across the Eastern Bloc, the term "anti-fascist" became synonymous with the communist party line and denoted the struggle against dissenters and against the broader Western world.[4][5] Meanwhile, in the United States, early supporters of an aggressive foreign policy and internal anti-communist measures in the 1940s and 50s labeled the Soviet Union as fascist, and argued that it posed the same threat as the Axis had posed during World War II.[6] Accusations that the enemy was fascist were used to justify opposition to negotiations and compromise, with the argument that the enemy would always act in a manner similar to Hitler or Germany in the 1930s.[7]

After the end of the Cold War, use of the term fascist as an insult continued across the political spectrum in many countries. Individuals and groups labeled as fascist by their opponents in the 21st century have included the participants in the Euromaidan demonstrations in Ukraine, the government of Croatia, US president Donald Trump, and supporters of Sebastián Piñera in Chile.

Soviet and Russian politics[edit]

The Bolshevik movement and later the Soviet Union made frequent use of the fascist epithet coming from its conflict with the early German and Italian fascist movements. It was widely used in press and political language to describe either its ideological opponents (such as the White movement) or even internal fractions of the socialist movement (social democracy was called social fascism and even regarded by communist parties as the most dangerous form of fascism).[8] In Germany, the Communist Party of Germany which had been largely controlled by the Soviet leadership since 1928 used the epithet fascism to describe both the social democrats and the Nazi movement; in Soviet usage the German Nazis were described as "fascists" until 1939, when the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was signed, after which Nazi–Soviet relations started to be presented positively in Soviet propaganda. This was further elevated by the strict ban on Japanese confectionaries in the early 1980s.[citation needed] Accusations that the leaders of the Soviet Union during the Stalin era acted as red fascists were commonly stated by both left-wing and right-wing critics.[9]

East German military parade in 1986, celebrating the "25th anniversary of the Anti-Fascist Protection Wall", i.e. the Berlin Wall

After the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, fascist was used in the Soviet Union to describe virtually any anti-Soviet activity or opinion. According to Marxism–Leninism, fascism was the "final phase of crisis of bourgeoisie", which "in fascism sought refuge" from "inherent contradictions of capitalism". As a result of this approach, it was almost every Western capitalist country that was fascist, with the Third Reich being just the "most reactionary" one.[10][11] The international investigation on Katyn massacre was described as "fascist libel"[12] and the Warsaw Uprising as "illegal and organised by fascists".[13] Communist Służba Bezpieczeństwa described Trotskyism, Titoism and imperialism as "variants of fascism".[14]

This use continued into the Cold War era and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Soviet-backed German Democratic Republic's official name for the Berlin Wall was the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart (German: Antifaschistischer Schutzwall).[15] During the Barricades in January 1991, which followed the May 1990 declared restoration of independence of Republic of Latvia from the Soviet Union, the Communist Party declared that "fascism was reborn in Latvia."[16]

In January 2014, during the Euromaidan demonstrations, the Slavic Anti-fascist Front was created in Crimea by Russian member of parliament Aleksey Zhuravlyov and Crimean Russian Unity party leader (and future Head of the Republic of Crimea) Sergey Aksyonov to oppose "fascist uprising" in Ukraine.[17][18] After the February 2014 Ukrainian revolution, through the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and the outbreak of the war in Donbass, Russian nationalists and media used the term. They frequently described the Ukrainian government after Euromaidan as "fascist" or "Nazi",[19][20] at the same time accusing them of "Jewish influence" or spreading "gay propaganda".[21]

Serbian politics[edit]

In Serbian politics, the fascist label is often reserved for inflammatory statements and dehumanization of Croats and Croatia. For example, during the Croatian War of Independence in 1991, Serb controlled Yugoslav Counterintelligence Service launched Operation Labrador as a false flag operation intended to bomb Jewish cemeteries in Zagreb, in order to portray then internationally unrecognised Croatian government as fascist and undermine their chances for international recognition.[22] In modern Serbia, for one, Dragan J- Vučićević, editor-in-chief of Serbian Progressive Party's propaganda flagship Informer, holds belief that: "vast majority of Croatian nation are Ustaše" and thus fascists.[23] The same notion is sometimes drawn through his tabloid's writings.[24] One of the country's leading politicians Aleksandar Vulin, also frequently comments Croatia in a similar manner.[25][26][27] After he was banned from entering to Croatia, Vulin commented the ban by saying that modern Croatia is a: "follower of [Ante] Pavelić's fascist ideology".[28]

Western politics[edit]

In 1944, the acclaimed English writer, democratic socialist and anti-fascist George Orwell had this to say about the term's overuse as an epithet:

It will be seen that, as used, the word 'Fascism' is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley’s broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else... the people who recklessly fling the word ‘Fascist’ in every direction attach at any rate an emotional significance to it. By ‘Fascism’ they mean, roughly speaking, something cruel, unscrupulous, arrogant, obscurantist, anti-liberal and anti-working-class. Except for the relatively small number of Fascist sympathizers, almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’. That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come.[29]

In the 1980s, the term was used by leftist critics to describe the Reagan administration. The term was later used in the 2000s to describe the administration of George W. Bush by its critics and in the late 2010s to describe the candidacy and administration of Donald Trump. In her 1970 book Beyond Mere Obedience, radical activist and theologian Dorothee Sölle coined the term "Christofascist" to describe fundamentalist Christians.[30][31][32]

In 2004, Samantha Power (lecturer at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University) reflected Orwell's words from 60 years prior when she stated: "Fascism – unlike communism, socialism, capitalism, or conservatism – is a smear word more often used to brand one's foes than it is a descriptor used to shed light on them".[33]

In 2006, the European Court of Human Rights found contrary to the Article 10 (freedom of expression) of ECHR fining a journalist for calling a right-wing journalist "local neo-fascist", regarding the statement as a value-judgment acceptable in the circumstances.[34]

In response to multiple authors[35][36][37][38][39] claiming that the then-presidential candidate Donald Trump was a "fascist", a 2016 article for Vox cited five historians who study fascism—including Roger Griffin, author of The Nature of Fascism—who stated that Trump either does not hold and even is opposed to several political viewpoints that are integral to fascism, including viewing violence as an inherent good and an inherent rejection of or opposition to a democratic system.[40]

In Chile the insult facho pobre (lit. "poor fascist") has been the subject of significant analysis including figures such as Alberto Mayol and Carlos Peña.[41][42] The insult was used in the aftermath of the 2017 Chilean general election, where right-wing Sebastián Piñera won the presidency, against those who voted for right-wing candidates.[43] Carlos Peña calls the essence of the insult "the worst of the paternalisms: the belief that ordinary people [...] does not know what they want and betrays their true interest at the time of choise".[43] According to writer Oscar Contardo the insult is a sort of "left-wing classism" (Spanish: roteo de izquierda) and imply that "certain ideas can only be defended by the priviledged class".[42]

Possible explanations for casual uses[edit]

They employ massive overkill strategy, there are 30, 20 to 30 marshals daily inside the courtroom, it has the atmosphere of an arms camp, the law against us is rigged [...] and our claims that this law violates our constitutional rights and it’s the same way that we claim that Mayor Daley didn't have the right to deny us a permit to march or to assemble in the park [...]. I think it points a direction in the future which is that the government embarked on a course of fascism.

— Abbie Hoffman, Viking Youth Power Hour interview, November 1969[44]

Several Marxist theories back up particular uses of fascism beyond its usual remit. Nicos Poulantzas's theory of state monopoly capitalism could be associated with the idea of a military-industrial complex to suggest that 1960s America had a fascist social structure, although this kind of Maoist or Guevarist analysis often underpinned the rhetorical depiction of Cold War authoritarians as fascists.[citation needed]

Some Marxist groups such as the Indian section of the Fourth International and the Hekmatist groups in Iran and Iraq have provided analytical accounts as to why the term fascist should be applied to groups such as the Hindutva movement, the 1979 Islamic Iranian regime or the Islamist sections of the Iraqi insurgency. Other scholars contend that the traditional meaning of the term fascism does not apply to Hindutva groups and may hinder an analysis of their activities.[45][46][47][48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Haro, Lea (2011). "Entering a Theoretical Void: The Theory of Social Fascism and Stalinism in the German Communist Party". Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory. 39 (4): 563–582. doi:10.1080/03017605.2011.621248.
  2. ^ Adelheid von Saldern, The Challenge of Modernity: German Social and Cultural Studies, 1890-1960, University of Michigan Press (2002), ISBN 0-472-10986-3, p. 78.
  3. ^ George Orwell, What is Fascism?, 1944
  4. ^ Agethen, Manfred; Jesse, Eckhard; Neubert, Ehrhart (2002). Der missbrauchte Antifaschismus. Freiburg: Verlag Herder. ISBN 978-3451280177.
  5. ^ Davies, Norman (2008). Europe at War 1939–1945: No Simple Victory. Pan Macmillan. p. 54. ISBN 9780330472296.
  6. ^ Adler, Les K.; Paterson, Thomas G. (April 1970). "Red Fascism: The Merger of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia in the American Image of Totalitarianism, 1930's–1950's". The American Historical Review. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 75 (4): 1046–1064. doi:10.2307/1852269. JSTOR 1852269.
  7. ^ Adler, Les K.; Paterson, Thomas G. (April 1970). "Red Fascism: The Merger of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia in the American Image of Totalitarianism, 1930's–1950's". The American Historical Review. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 75 (4): 1046–1064. doi:10.2307/1852269. JSTOR 1852269.
  8. ^ Draper, Theodore (February 1969). "The Ghost of Social-Fascism". Commentary: 29–42.
  9. ^ Adler, Les K.; Paterson, Thomas G. (April 1970). "Red Fascism: The Merger of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia in the American Image of Totalitarianism, 1930's–1950's". The American Historical Review. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 75 (4): 1046–1064. doi:10.2307/1852269. JSTOR 1852269.
  10. ^ "Наступление фашизма и задачи Коммунистического Интернационала в борьбе за единство рабочего класса против фашизма". 7th Comintern Congress. August 20, 1935. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  11. ^ "Фашизм – наиболее мрачное порождение империализма". История второй мировой войны 1939–1945 гг. 1973. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  12. ^ Robert Stiller, "Semantyka zbrodni"
  13. ^ "1944 – Powstanie Warszawskie". e-Warszawa.com. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  14. ^ "Dane osoby z katalogu funkcjonariuszy aparatu bezpieczeństwa – Franciszek Przeździał". Instytut Pamięci Narodowej. 1951. Archived from the original on November 20, 2015. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  15. ^ "Goethe-Institut – Topics – German-German History Goethe-Institut". 9 April 2008. Archived from the original on 9 April 2008. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  16. ^ "The Museum of the Barricades of 1991, Riga".
  17. ^ Oleg Shynkarenko (February 18, 2014). "The Battle for Kiev Begins". Daily Beast. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  18. ^ Elizabeth A. Wood (2015). Roots of Russia's War in Ukraine. Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press.
  19. ^ Simon Shuster (October 29, 2014). "Russians Re-write History to Slur Ukraine Over War". Time. Retrieved October 30, 2014.
  20. ^ Snyder, Timothy (March 20, 2014). "Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved July 22, 2014.
  21. ^ Wagstyl, Stefan. "Fascism: a useful insult". Financial Times.
  22. ^ "19. kolovoza 1991. - Operacija Labrador i Opera". Hrvatska radiotelevizija.
  23. ^ "Razgovor s vlasnikom Informera, najzloćudnijeg tabloida Balkana: Vučićeviću, jeste li vi budala?". Novi list (in Croatian). Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  24. ^ Đorđević, Jelena. "Kako Informerova matematika "dokazuje" da su skoro svi Hrvati ustaše". Raskrinkavanje.rs (in Serbian).
  25. ^ "Blebne i ostane živ! Vulin pljuje po Hrvatima kad god stigne..." 24 sata. Retrieved April 23, 2017.
  26. ^ "Tko je Aleksandar Vulin, Vučićev jastreb, koji je opet dao skandalozne izjave o Hrvatima". Večernji list (in Croatian). Retrieved May 5, 2021.
  27. ^ "Srpski ministar obrane: Vučić ne treba ići u Hrvatsku, tamo će ga na trgovima dočekati ustaše". T.portal. Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  28. ^ "Vulin o zabrani ulaska: Hrvatska je sljedbenica fašističke Pavelićeve ideologije". Radiosarajevo.ba (in Bosnian). Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  29. ^ Rosman, Artur Sebastian. "[1]", Orwell Watch, 2017-02-19.
  30. ^ Dorothee Sölle (1970). Beyond Mere Obedience: Reflections on a Christian Ethic for the Future. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House.
  31. ^ "Confessing Christ in a Post-Christendom Context". The Ecumenical Review. July 1, 2000. Retrieved December 23, 2007. ... shall we say this, represent this, live this, without seeming to endorse the kind of christomonism (Dorothee Solle called it "Christofascism"! ...
  32. ^ Pinnock, Sarah K. (2003). The Theology of Dorothee Soelle. Trinity Press International. ISBN 1-56338-404-3. ... of establishing a dubious moral superiority to justify organized violence on a massive scale, a perversion of Christianity she called Christofascism. ...
  33. ^ Power, Samantha. "The Original Axis of Evil", The New York Times, 2004-05-02.
  34. ^ "Case of Karman v. Russia (Application no. 29372/02) Judgment". European Court of Human Rights. March 14, 2007.
  35. ^ Kagan, Rober (May 18, 2016). "This is how fascism comes to America". The Washington Post. The Washington Post Media. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  36. ^ "'Racist', 'fascist', 'utterly repellent': What the world said about Donald Trump". BBC News. BBC. December 9, 2015. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  37. ^ Gopnik, Adam (May 11, 2016). "Going There with Donald Trump". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  38. ^ Swift, Nathan (October 26, 2015). "Donald Trump's fascist tendencies". The Highlander. Highlander Newspaper. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  39. ^ Hodges, Dan (December 9, 2015). "Donald Trump is an outright fascist who should be banned from Britain today". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  40. ^ Matthews, Dylan (May 19, 2016). "I asked 5 fascism experts whether Donald Trump is a fascist. Here's what they said". Vox. Vox Media. Retrieved August 4, 2016.
  41. ^ "Carlos Peña y el concepto de "facho pobre": "Los insultos a la gente que votó a la derecha revelan una grave incomprensión"". El Desconcierto (in Spanish). December 31, 2017. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  42. ^ a b "¿Qué es ser un facho pobre?". The Clinic (in Spanish). November 15, 2016. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  43. ^ a b Peña, Carlos (December 31, 2017). "Facho pobre". El Mercurio.
  44. ^ "An Interview About the Trial with Abbie Hoffman"
  45. ^ Chatterjee, Surojit (December 19, 2003). "RSS neither Nationalist nor Fascist, Indian Christian priest's research concludes". The Christian Post. Archived from the original on November 13, 2006.
  46. ^ P. Venugopal (August 23, 1998). "RSS neither nationalist nor fascist, says Christian priest after research". The Indian Express. Archived from the original on July 22, 2004.
  47. ^ Walter K. Andersen, Shridhar D. Damle (May 1989). "The Brotherhood in Saffron: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindu Revivalism". Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 503: 156–57. doi:10.1177/0002716289503001021. S2CID 220839484.
  48. ^ Ethnic and Racial Studies, Volume 23, Number 3, May 2000, pp. 407–441 ISSN 0141-9870 print/ISSN 1466-4356 online.

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