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What is fascism?

Fascism is a way of organising society along the following lines:

  • glorification of the nation or race, usually on the basis that it is superior to lesser nations or races
  • rule by force rather than by the free and democratic consent of the majority of the population
  • abolition of parliament and all forms of representative democracy
  • concentration of all political power in the ruling party or movement and, within that, in the hands of a supreme leader
  • no freedoms of speech, assembly or organisation for independent political parties, trade unions or social, cultural and religious groups-especially for those which oppose fascism-leading to the imprisonment and extermination of political opponents
  • legalised persecution of racial, national and cultural minorities (who are seen as potential threats to the unity of the nation or the 'purity' of the race)
  • state control over every aspect of life and society in order to ensure that fascist rule and fascist ideas go unchallenged
  • protection of the wealth and status of the business, state and church elites provided they comply with fascist rule and are not members of persecuted minorities
  • denial of equal rights to women, who are usually driven back into the home as carers and as the bearers of the next generation of the master race or nation
  • a foreign policy based on hostility to non-fascist states, ruthless exploitation of existing colonies or a drive for new ones, war and preparations for war which involve the militarisation of society
  • the regimentation and brainwashing of young people on a mass scale

Where and why did fascism arise?

The first mass fascist movement arose in Italy after the First World War (1914-18). Mussolini and his Blackshirts embraced extreme nationalism, wanting to re-establish a Roman Empire based on dictatorship and conquest. (The word 'Fascist' comes from the Latin 'fasces', namely a bundle of sticks around an axe-one of the symbols of ancient imperial Rome). During the post-war upheavals, the Fascists attacked the trade unions and parties of the left, seizing power in 1922 with the support of big landowners, industrialists and leading elements in the Catholic Church.

Another fascist dictator, Salazar, took power in Portugal in the early 1930s, supported by similar sections of society.

In Germany, the Nazi movement sprang up after the country's defeat in the First World War against a background of socialist and Communist revolution. In order to gain a hearing among the large working class population, Hitler and his extreme nationalists called themselves the National Socialist German Workers Party and chose red as the main colour of their party's banner. Nevertheless, the Nazis aimed most of their violence and propaganda at the parties of the left. Support from top bankers, industrialists and press barons in the late 1920s transformed Hitler and his Brownshirts from a fringe party into a paramilitary mass movement. Blaming 'traitors' at home and - above all - the Jews for Germany's problems, the Nazis gained power in 1933 with the help of leading right-wing politicians.

Fascist movements also came to power in the 1930s in Rumania and Spain. Again, their appeal was to extreme nationalism and hatred of minorities (especially Jews and Romanies). They banned all opposition parties and trade unions, and maintained society's status quo against the threat of reform or revolution. War-time Nazi occupation also enabled fascist regimes to take power in Hungary and Croatia.

In Britain in the 1930s, the main fascist organisation was the British Union of Fascists led by Sir Oswald Mosley, a former Labour MP who turned to extreme nationalism. His violent Blackshirt movement met massive resistance in many working class and Jewish areas, eventually losing it the support received from small sections of the aristocracy, business and the press.

World war two and the holocaust

Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939 in order to gain 'living space' in the east, having already annexed Austria and taken control of Czechoslovakia. This drew Britain and France into the war, along with Italy and fascist powers in eastern Europe. Following its attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, Nazi Germany occupied much of Europe, the Baltic states, western Russia and the Ukraine. This enabled Hitler to begin to implement his 'final solution' to eliminate the Jewish population of Europe.

Between 1941 and 1945, about 6 million Jews were murdered in the extermination camps, died in the concentration camps and enforced ghettoes, or were killed by SS death squads in the east. Almost three-quarters of the Jewish population of Europe was wiped out, along with millions of Slavs, Russians, Romanies, homosexuals, Communists, socialists and the mentally and physically disabled.

Since 1945, fascists have recognised they will never win mass support while people remember the war and the Holocaust. That is why, as the millions of living witnesses die out, they have taken to rewriting history. In particular, fascists seek to downplay the scale of the Holocaust or deny that it took place at all. Although proof of the Holocaust is overwhelming, and has been upheld in every independent inquiry, study and court case across the world, the fascists have no option but to continue to dismiss or deny it:

French National front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen dismisses the Nazi death camps and gas chambers as 'a point of detail in the history of the Second World War'.

BNP leader Nick Griffin has referred to the Holocaust as 'the Hoax of the Twentieth Century' and wrote: 'I am well aware that the orthodox opinion is that 6 million Jews were gassed and cremated or turned into lampshades. Orthodox opinion also once held that the earth is flat I have reached the conclusion that the 'extermination' tale is a mixture of Allied wartime propaganda, extremely profitable lie, and latter-day witch-hysteria'.

Fascism today

In recent decades, fascist and extreme right-wing parties and movements have gained significant support in France (the Front National), Italy (the National Alliance and the Northern League), Germany (the National Democratic Party and the Republican Party) and Austria (the People's Party) as well as in some eastern European countries. Economic and social crisis, hostility towards immigrants and migrant workers and loss of national sovereignty have all been issues exploited by the fascists.

In the same way, the British National Party has increased its membership significantly, won council seats and established branches in many areas for the first time.

Like others, these parties may now claim to be 'patriots' or 'nationalists' who care about their country. But what makes them different is their history, their outlook and their real beliefs. Scratch the surface, and fascism soon reveals itself.

Unlike other parties of the right or left, fascist organisations support discrimination against minorities. They talk of the voluntary 'repatriation' of immigrants or foreigners-but they know that this would eventually be done by force and violence. Fascists in local or central government in France, Austria and Italy have constantly tried to enact measures aimed at national, racial or ethnic minorities. They oppose equal rights for women. Their supporters have used violence to try to silence political opponents wherever they think they can achieve it.

Of course, nobody who wants to win electoral support will admit to being a fascist. They no longer argue openly that there is a 'Jewish world conspiracy', or that 'Hitler was right', or that political opposition will be destroyed when they win power. But they still say such things in private, or in unguarded moments, or by using codewords (such as 'cosmpolitanism' or 'international money power' when they mean Jews). Of course, they don't deny in private that the Holocaust happened-they know it did, and their only regret is that the Allies cut it short.

The founder of the BNP, John Tyndall, openly admired Hitler and wanted his policies copied in Britain. His second-in-command at the time, Nick Griffin, publicly ridiculed the Holocaust as the 'Holo-hoax' and wrote about the so-called 'Jewish conspiracy'. But now that the Nazis want to win votes, BNP leader Griffin has gone shy about his Hitlerite beliefs-at least in public.

History should teach us what happens when fascists come to power, whether by elections or otherwise.

Is the BNP fascist?

The BNP espouses extreme nationalism and racism (posing as the champions of 'native Britons'-by which they mean white people, and especially the white working class).

BNP leader Nick Griffin, like the party's founder John Tyndall before him, hold the same views about Jewish people as Hitler and the Nazis.

While all political parties can sharply disagree with one another, the BNP often uses the most violent language to denounce all other parties. It regards them as 'traitors' to the British nation and the white race, and behind closed doors BNP leaders make clear what the penalty for treason should be.

In classic fascist style, the BNP opposes free trade unionism, equality for women and rights for gays and lesbians.

As in all fascist movements throughout history, the BNP invests supreme personal power in its leader. According to the 'fuhrer' principle, the leader appoints his 'advisory council' and all national officials to run the organisation, while any challenge to his judgement is regarded as disloyalty and sabotage.

From the top down, many leading BNP members and activists have criminal convictions for violent offences involving bombs, guns and physical attacks, as well as for incitement to racial hatred.

There can be little doubt that an organisation built by racists and violent criminals will not respect the rights and freedoms of minorities, political opponents, trade unionists or the mass of ordinary citizens should fascism take power in Britain.

For more information, go to Truth about the BNP.

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