What is fascism?

The term refers to a unique form of government that is totalitarian, and employs ultra-nationalistic rhetoric to gain legitimacy. Political freedom is largely absent, and power centralised. Fascism is usually placed at the far-right end of the spectrum

Only the right?

The word 'fascist’ was infamously adopted by history’s second favourite villain Benito Mussolini, and brought in vogue. For this reason, fascism has always been held to be far right, or a derivative of nationalism.

However, there are enough voices that depart from this mainstream view. German philosopher Jurgen Habermas coined the term ‘left fascism’, which he used to highlight the authoritarian tendencies of the extremists on the left.

Alarmism

In his essay Politics and the English Language, George Orwell talks about meaningless words — words that are used heavily, and so, have lost all meaning. Fascism, he says, is one such word (Democracy is one too).

Orwell’s insights seem truer for today. The f-word is thrown around without much care — and no one's really sure what to make of it. Such alarmism is not only vague, but also dangerous. Our present, no matter how distraught, cannot (yet) be compared to the barbarity of the likes of Mussolini or Hitler. Drawing such comparisons is irresponsible and misleading.