Ur Fascism

Umberto Eco Makes a List of the 14 Common Features of Fascism

This abridged list (available in full at The New York Review of Books) comes to us from Kottke, by way of blogger Paul Bausch, who writes “we have a strong history of opposing authoritarianism. I’d like to believe that opposition is like an immune system response that kicks in.”

  1. The cult of tradition. “One has only to look at the syllabus of every fascist movement to find the major traditionalist thinkers. The Nazi gnosis was nourished by traditionalist, syncretistic, occult elements.”
  2. The rejection of modernism. “The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.”
  3. The cult of action for action’s sake. “Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation.”
  4. Disagreement is treason. “The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge.”
  5. Fear of difference. “The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.”
  6. Appeal to social frustration. “One of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.”
  7. The obsession with a plot. “Thus at the root of the Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged.”
  8. The enemy is both strong and weak. “By a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.”
  9. Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. “For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle.”
  10. Contempt for the weak. “Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology.”
  11. Everybody is educated to become a hero. “In Ur-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death.”
  12. Machismo and weaponry. “Machismo implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality.”
  13. Selective populism. “There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.”
  14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak. “All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.”
Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco[a] OMRI (5 January 1932 – 19 February 2016) was an Italian medievalist, philosopher, semioticiancultural critic, political and social commentator, and novelist. In English, he is best known for his popular 1980 novel The Name of the Rose, a historical mystery combining semiotics in fiction with biblical analysis, medieval studies, and literary theory, and Foucault’s Pendulum, his 1988 novel which touches on similar themes.[2]

Eco wrote prolifically throughout his life, with his output including children’s books, translations from French and English, and a twice-monthly newspaper column “La Bustina di Minerva” (Minerva’s Matchbook) in the magazine L’Espresso beginning in 1985, with his last column (a critical appraisal of the Romantic paintings of Francesco Hayez) appearing 27 January 2016.[3][4] At the time of his death, he was an emeritus professor at the University of Bologna, where he taught for much of his life.[5]

The Five Stage of Fascism

Historian Robert Paxton argues that fascism is best understood, not as a coherent political ideology, by rather as a series of political and social techniques for exploiting weaknesses in existing political power structures and subverting them to acquire and wield political power. Fascist movements go through 5 stages of development, which outlines, the tracing of which is more helpful in understanding fascism than the search for any ‘fascist minimum.’