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‘No Dumb Questions’: What is fascism?

An old question is getting more attention as political leaders and global movements veer to the far right.

One would hope that conversations about fascism were a matter of history, relegated to the dustbin where one finds Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini and others who gave an already nasty political philosophy an even worse name. Sadly, the word has roared back to relevance recently, in part because various political parties around the world have been inching toward, if not actually embracing, policies and behavior that might fit the definition of fascism.

What exactly is fascism? As Grid Global Security Reporter Joshua Keating notes, the word’s derivation (from the Latin “fasces”) dates to the Roman Empire, though its existence as a formal ideology is a more recent phenomenon, dating to Mussolini and his march on Rome. Keating also makes the good point that the adjective “fascist” is rarely a label that a leader or party will embrace; typically it’s an insult thrown — rightly or wrongly — at a political enemy. And it is being thrown often today in many parts of the world.

All of which makes this anything but a “dumb question” — and well worth a deep dive here, on “What is fascism?” and the many questions that follow.

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