Fascism is a militant Nationalist ideology. Fascist movements emerged out of working-class movements in Europe around the time of World War 1. Fascist movements called themselves "National Syndicalist" (the case of Italy) or "National Socialist" (the case of Germany), however Fascism and Socialism are on opposite sides of the political spectrum.
Tenets of Fascism are:
- Class Collaboration
- Mercantilism & Protectionism
What is important to note about "Socialism" is that it is typically associated with Marxism or Anarchism, and aims for a Communist society where there are no states or classes. Fascism, on the other hand, emphasises "National Socialism" - which indicates that they focus more on their national identity than the class identity of workers. Fascists reject the Communist idea of class struggle, and embrace class collaboration instead.
Leftists often talk about the idea that "Fascism is Capitalism in decay." - While many Leftists understand this to mean that Fascism is just a variant of Capitalism, that is a dangerous and lazy assumption that makes it difficult to truly understand Fascism, and it therefore makes it more difficult to combat Fascism. The tree of Fascism must not simply be chopped down; it must be uprooted as well.
Just like Socialism, Fascism is a reaction to the failure of Capitalism. The main difference is the context of understanding. Socialism is a reaction to the failure of Capitalism to satisfy the working class, while Fascism is a reaction to the failure of Capitalism to satisfy the nation. Both Socialism and Fascism are driven by discontent with Capitalism, and they both draw most of their support from members of the working class. The difference is that Socialists focus on their class identity, while supporters of Fascism will focus more in their ethno-national identity and collaborate with those who are in the upper class.
One major difference between Capitalism and Fascism is that Capitalism involves free trade, whereas Fascism involves heavy state intervention in the economy. Fascists aim to return to Mercantilism, the economic policy that was practiced under Feudalism, where the state had near total control of production and trade.
Ideally, Capitalism involves a perfect market where there is competition that naturally regulates everything. However, in reality, there is a tendency towards monopolies. Competition drives companies out of business, until there are only a few companies left. The contradictions of Capitalism cause it to implode near the end, when Capitalist reality fails to match up to the ideology of Liberalism which it was built on. What develops is corporate elitism, something that shocks and puzzles libertarian Capitalists. At this point, corporate elitism is not limited to a single country, as large corporations extend across national borders to operate in multiple countries. What happens, then, is a discussion around jobs, loyalty, national identity, etc. - Fascism appeals to the working-class demand to reclaim the economy, specifically through a strong state.
The problem, however, is that Fascism is not led by the workers. Workers are merely pawns for the national elite class. The elites at this point, are divided between the national elites and the global elites. The national elites are feudal-minded opportunists who take this opportunity to appeal to the national working class. The workers who believe in class collaboration will follow, while the workers who believe in dismantling Capitalism on a global level will reject the offer and fight for Socialism instead.
While Capitalists traditionally oppose state intervention in the economy, the national elites will not oppose it at this point because they will be the ones who control the state under Fascism. Under Fascism, they will even set up a planned economy, running the state like a single business. They may ensure that public services are subsidised or even free. There was usually 'productive Capitalism' which refers to production that is driven by labour, but without the complicated financial markets. There is also a heavy emphasis on protectionist policies, which are traditionally anti-Capitalist. Fascism undoubtedly provides benefits for the masses of a nation, but one must understand that their idea of "the nation" is an exclusive one. Persons of certain identities may be excluded.
Marx's theory of class struggle is relevant, here. Capitalism is a result of a class struggle between feudal lords and a merchant class, which brings and end to Feudalism. Capitalism itself, however, has its own classes; a new working class struggles against the Capitalist class. What was expected is that the workers would struggle against the Capitalist class and establish Socialism, but that is not inevitable. What can happen instead of the rise of Socialism is the rise of Fascism, where there is a struggle between the national elites and the global elites.
Liberalism inevitably gives rise to Fascism, as Liberal Democracy allows those with wealth to hold more power and influence in society, while deceiving the people that they have power. What results is that the political competition allowed within Liberal Democracy is between the national elites and the global elites, because they have more wealth. Political entities which benefit the working class are alienated by the liberal nature of the political system.
What we see is that much power belongs to those who control the economy, or "the means of production" as Marx puts it. To prevent Fascism, we must encourage class consciousness so that the national elite class is debased of their support, and the workers must organise and mobilise themselves to seize control of the economy. They cannot continue to depend on weak populists and their false promises.