Has every group or nation that is generally considered to be fascist, descended from the nationalist ideology of Mussolini (I don't mean 'fascism' in the sense of just any right wing demagogy), espoused an especially violent politics and political solution?

On the one hand, people have surely been drawn to fascism in the past because the unity it promises seems to promote peace, at least in terms of class conflict. But, on the other, it seems like a belief system that innately emphasizes violence and violent solutions, especially war.

So, which is it?

  • You have too many other hands... Oct 6, 2019 at 8:25
  • haha thanks? @PV22
    – user38026
    Oct 6, 2019 at 8:42
  • 6
    "the unity it promises seems to promote peace". This is true of almost any ideology. The problem is that to achieve that eventual peace, war and violence is almost always used. Communists believe government will eventually no longer be necessary once the world has been enlightened. Palestinians believe there will be peace in the Middle East once Israel has been eliminated. Nazi Germany believed there would be peace in Europe once it had taken complete control of it. Etc. Oct 6, 2019 at 13:50
  • yes, it wasn't a serious counter argument @RayButterworth
    – user38026
    Oct 6, 2019 at 14:09
  • so there's no difference/s in violence at all @jobermark
    – user38026
    Oct 7, 2019 at 15:23

5 Answers 5


One might cite as not inherently violent the Faisceau in inter-war (1918-39) France.

Les Faisceau

The following extract will take us into the subject:

Fascism, violence and storm troopers: in the popular mind the three are inseparable. The same could be said, on a more sophisticated plane, of the scholarly discourse on fascism. In an area in which so little consensus reigns, this seems to be one of the few points of near-universal agreement. Most catalogues of 'fascist minima' have, for example, included paramilitary formations; and fascism has been seen to have a predilection for violence both on the level of ideology and that of tactics.

Despite occasional offhand suggestions by a limited number of scholars that fascists might not always have enjoyed a monopoly of violent talk or behaviour, or even of paramilitary organization, the general assumption that fascist movements were always the most violent actors in their political environment has remained. At the same time, rather than systematically investigating the precise circumstances and functions of fascist violence, scholars have generally preferred to explain the causes of such violent behaviour, be they, for example, authoritarian personality or generational rebellion.

An examination of the conditions and circumstances of violence involving France's first fascist movement, the Faisceau, will show that though these French radical rightists were occasionally caught up in violence, they were rarely directly responsible for it. To gain a more balanced view of Faisceau violence, therefore, we must begin by asking whether these fascists were always the aggressors, as one might suspect, or whether they were more often the victims of violent acts. Similarly, we must examine the conditions under which this violence appeared. What circumstances provoked it? What purposes (or whose) did it serve? This discussion of violence and the Faisceau will also allow us to assess not only the role of violence in the politics of the relatively stable society that was interwar France, but also the conditions under which a radical movement, and particularly a fascist one, had to operate. (Allen Douglas, 'Violence and Fascism: The Case of the Faisceau', Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 19, No. 4, Reassessments of Fascism (Oct., 1984), pp. 689-712: 689-90.)


Contacts and conflicts between fascists and communists took place not only outside but also inside meetings. In these cases, however, the nature of the contacts and of the circumstances governing them were more varied than outside. This was because the communists, far from being unwelcome, were often invited. The invitations stemmed from Valois's consistent policy of trying to recruit communists into his organizations. (A. Douglas: 698.)

[Georges Valois - Alfred-Georges Gressent - 1878 – 1945, journalist and political activist.]

There undoubtedly was occasional violence between the Faisceau and its left-wing opponents but to follow Douglas further:

Violence and politics, particularly radical politics, were familiar bedfellows in the France of the 1920s; and the conflicts of this more peaceful era clearly prefigured the more frequent clashes of the 1930s. Such regular employment of violence as part of the political process included much more than the occasional heckling with which any experienced speaker was expected to be able to deal, and extended to the systematic disruption of meetings. And while it was usually radical groups which were exposed to such practices, a few constitutional politicians, like Georges Mandel, were similarly victimized. Nor was this condition a new one in interwar France. Though one observer has suggested that these 'deplorable mores' started with the conflicts over the separation of church and state, they would be better dated to the Dreyfus Affair if not to Boulangism, that is to the rise of mass politics in France. By contrast, since 1945, political violence of this kind (but not of others) has probably declined. It remains, thus, properly a characteristic of Third Republic France. Though this environment explains much, it does not fully account for the Faisceau's general restraint. One cannot simply look to the relative stability of French society. Other right-wing groups, like the Jeunesses Patriotes and the Action Franfaise, engaged in symbolic violence, and in the case of the royalists, a regular programme of political violence. Nor does it make sense to argue that the Faisceau was not really fascist. Besides formally so labelling itself, it possessed virtually every other major characteristic of fascist movements except anti-semitism. The Faisceau's general avoidance of violence is a fact. Finally, the Faisceau's relative pacifism is probably not an exception on the French right, or at least not a unique one. The Croix de Feu seemingly also avoided aggressive violence. In other countries, with other political environments, violence could be largely avoided, as it was by the pre-war Belgian Rex. Stanley Payne's suggestion that radical rightist groups were at least as violent as 'core fascist' ones also deserves investigation. All this should lead us to take a more nuanced view of fascist violence, assessing each movement in its historical and political context. (A. Douglas: 707-8.)


Allen Douglas, 'Violence and Fascism: The Case of the Faisceau', Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 19, No. 4, Reassessments of Fascism (Oct., 1984), pp. 689-712.

Stanley Payne, Fascism: Comparison and Definition (Madison, 1980).

  • thanks for the reply.
    – user38026
    Oct 6, 2019 at 14:10
  • i will accept the answer, even though it makes me nervous, philosophical nuance!
    – user38026
    Oct 6, 2019 at 14:46

Domestically, fascism is inherently oppressive — it always seeks to cement differential rights and liberties for its core group, over, above, and at the expense of the rights and liberties of other groups — but while oppression always relies on force of one sort or another, it does not necessarily involve outright violence. In practice, fascists have usually aimed to obtain submission through intimidation, resorting to outright violence more as a matter of prestige than necessity. In other words, fascist will frequently engage in uncoordinated small-scale violence against disliked groups to bolster their self-esteem and unity as a group and terrorize other groups.

Internationally, fascists are militaristic and expansionist: a reactionary Colonial moment meant to restore the group's self-perceived hegemony over other nations. But again, this is a matter of prestige more than any real interest in violence.

Violence usually occurs around fascists because fascists are constantly trying to squeeze-out and suppress (in one sense or another) groups and peoples they dislike, and people being squeezed-out will always (eventually) stand up to defend themselves. Fascism is a high school bully mentality projected onto a massive scale. Keep that 'bully' dynamic in mind, and the fascist's relationship to violence is clear.

  • for some communists, antifa and fascism are flip sides of the same problematic. the main difference is obviously that, if fascism wins out, then we slip into a crisis
    – user38026
    Oct 7, 2019 at 15:36
  • 1
    It's a hard context. I understand the antifa position, even though I'm generally against the use of force: sometimes the only way to deal with a bully is to punch him in the nose.but that is not pleasant for anyone, even if it's necessary. Oct 7, 2019 at 15:56
  • not antifa, just think that willful ignorance is harmful
    – user38026
    Oct 7, 2019 at 16:16

Its principle is the unity of the people as signified by its symbol, the fasces, the strength in unity as with the opening sequence of Ran where arrows placed together are shown to be more difficult to split. Liberalism has the opposite principle, strength by scattered individuality. And protection of the minorities, in the extreme case minorities of one person, against the majority. The unity of the people, however, means the putting down of the non-people. The non-people are the minorities, ethnic or political, within the country. Under Franco and Tito and perhaps Viktor Orban one sees fascism without extremes of violence.

Fascism, it should be noted, is generally distinguished from authoritarianism. Which adds the Orwellian dimension of general ideological control. As by Arendt, who considered the latter far the worse evil.

  • 1
    interesting answer/s thanks
    – user38026
    Oct 9, 2019 at 0:53
  • 1
    yes, +1. can't see fascism reappearing in today's surveillance society without authoritarian extremes tho?
    – user38026
    Oct 9, 2019 at 1:35
  • 1
    Many of the Post-Soviet countries might be regarded as fascist regimes with Liberal legal codes. Due to the veiled centralization of the most important economic concerns and firms, their control by a few party leaders and former "nomenclatura" class as "oligarchs" and the de facto "tyrany of the majority." The distinction between regime type and legal code would be the crucial consideration. Oct 9, 2019 at 1:55

It may be part of the definition of fascism that it is hard to define. We usually point to historical instances, Mussolini as the paradigmatic case. But the nature of the power structure is not distributed, defined, and documented, and thus categorically limited, as in the case of monarchies, feudal orders, or constitutional governments.

The sovereign power is highly concentrated in a single, highly visible charismatic personality, and so somewhat arbitrary. Crucially, the unified power extends deeply into the cultural sphere, though is at least functionally compatible with private enterprise. Though Augustus with all his power and iconography may be a forerunner, we think of it as a version of the modern industrial nation state. Also, Augustus was in fact an able statesman, not a stage blusterer.

It is modern also in the sense, perhaps, of requiring "mass" culture and mass media, particularly radio and film, conveying the image of a single orator to a wide "captive" audience. I would suggest that it is a phenomenon of what Walter Ong called "secondary orality," with some of the irrational, dramatic force of heroic oral culture.

Carl Schmitt, legal theorist for the Nazis, emphasized the ultimately arbitrary nature of the sovereign decision, since it alone "decides the new cases." And he regarded the basic political structure as "friend-enemy." Unlike Marxism or Christianity, say, fascism may be expansionist, but isn't really universalist.The enemy is part of structure.

You might call it a kind of modern mass heroism, a Lake Woebegon Effect in which everybody is identically heroic, called to greatness and sacrifice. I would say that violence, or at least a strong proclivity for violence, is baked into the cake. Orality and heroism require drama, which requires identifiable villains. Fascism is unlikely to call upon the nation and its citizens for great acts of compassion.

Precisely because it is not readily defined, one needs to be very alert to family resemblances. And to toss it around too lightly erodes the models by which to judge.


I was reading about the Sturmabteilung & Ernst Rohm's role in the rise of Hitler to power, and subsequent liquidation in the Night Of The Long Knives by the SS. In fact, the attitude of Nazis to homosexuality and prostitution over time give a fascinating insight.

So, defining fascism. The bundle of sticks with an axe is not firewood. It refers to the origins of Doric columns from wood. Admittedly this is speculative, but compelling, given the ubiquity of grooves in early columns. The fascia holds up something greater than individual logs could, a temple, the Parthenon, etc. It was also squarely based on post-democratic Imperial Rome, who's standards of living are thought to have been unmatched from the fall of the Western Empire by any city until London in the 1720 - and specifically, a millennium and a half without the great construction and infrastructure projects that went with that, the 'glories of Rome'.

There were some good things about living in the Roman Empire. The Pax Romana was preferable for many to constant warfare. But what looks justified opposition to oppression, like of Jews or Myceni led to their almost obliteration. And the Germanic tribes eventually sacked Rome, in response to that inability to give ground or reform enough to bring voluntary participation. The power of the senate decreased over time, exactly as capable uncorrupt deputies were most needed to bring about that reform.

Imperial China under the Yellow Emperor was very much a fascist state, but the Qin state ended very shortly after his reign. The bloody Five- and especially Three-Kingdoms periods seem to point to why 'may you live in interesting times' is a curse in China (the war that reunited China after the Three Kingdoms is thought to have killed more than WW1, & when global population was far smaller). The White Lotus & Boxer Rebellions, as well as Genghis Khan's invasion were driven my climatic conditions, flooding and famine, or prolonged winters. The relative resilience of Chinese politics and culture to these perturbations compared to the Romans, seems to be because of their civil service, which allowed some amount of choice of administrators by intelligence, and preserved a large body of written culture. I would directly relate the origins and success of that to Liu Bang and the founding of the Han dynasty who pursued soft-power, rather than the violent, autocratic & short-lived previous Qin state, which first militarily united China, and unified it's written system.

I would apply two arguments to why fascist states tend to instability, which requires violence, despite what appear relative success of Ancient Rome & China.

First is from game-theory, because of the free-rider problem. An individual or group shielded from selection pressure, will tend to become or select for people who don't make good decisions. Hitler made terrible decisions about the retreat from Russia that he should have left to his generals. Although not formally fascist Muammar Gaddafi is another example of unrestricted power/decision making leading to instability. I would argue that many of the Greek myths about kings are warnings about unrestricted power, like Sisyphus & Midus. The shift of chimpanzees from one substantially more powerful male like gorillas, to a leader needing a clique to be able to rule, seems to have been essential to the greater intelligence of chimpanzees, and the track that led to human intelligence - cooperation, reciprocity, and limits on individual power.

Second is from 'The Great Game', the conflict of Russia & the UK over trade routes and influence, recapitulated in the Cold War. Over time the state with less trade routes, less soft power, and less innovation, could not compete. In WW2 it was the cavity magnetron and radar, cracking the Enigma Code, and nuclear weapons (Germany only got as far as heavy water at Telemark). In the Cold War it was the ability of the West to outspend the USSR, on soft power, and the space program, and space-based weapons.

Fascism prioritises the group & it's achievements over the wellbeing of large fractions of individuals. While in some cases these align, for a time, I would argue it is inevitable they will come into conflict, leading to collapse or stasis, and be superceded by better modes of voluntarily cooperative organisation m

You must log in to answer this question.