Fascist ideologies are almost always defined as traditionalist, in terms of nationalism and religion.

Would a political ideology that involved the fascist-style authoritarianism and collectivism but did not rely on the traditionalist concept of nationalism and religion (e.g., was secular) and invented its own definition of collective independently of traditional ethnicity, still be considered fascism? Or would that be considered communism?

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    It seems you don't understand what communism nor fascism are. Are you sure you're not reading propaganda? Maybe you should refer to primary sources. Italian Fascism and National Socialism were secular and collectivism does not communism make. Also, what, pray tell, collectivizes a peoples other than nationalism in one form or another? Aug 2, 2016 at 21:27
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    Fascism is authoritarian nationalism. Nationalism is often built on the premise of "the good old days" (= traditionalism), but not necessarily so. Imagine if Germany, after WW2, decided to reform its country to distance themselves from their past. But in doing so, they kick down doors of anyone who even hints at disagreeing with their new and improved ideology. This would be a fascist country that is explicitly anti-traditionalist. Has it occurred in real life yet? I'm not sure of that. But it can exist in theory.
    – Flater
    Nov 17, 2017 at 10:55

2 Answers 2


Defining fascism is a needlessly difficult exercise. One of George Orwell's essays attempts this, explaining that the practical and philosophical differences between the fascist regimes of the time confused the issue. That most people would readily accept "bully" as a synonym for "fascist" makes it harder still. He went on to say:

It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless.

That was true in 1944, and is still true today. Both Bush Jr. and Obama were often referred to as "fascist" by their opponents, further making a mockery of any attempt to use the term meaningfully.

However, here is a link which cites various academics who have published books on the matter. It is worth reading but I shall point out the core ideas and elaborate upon them.

Professor Michael Mann defined fascism's core beliefs: The transcendence of the people and state into one, which cleanses itself of dissent and diversity by force. The fascist view is that the state is not a means to an end; it is the end. Fascists also believe that their nation is superior, and this can be demonstrated by the use of force against its enemies.

RJB Bosworth defined fascism based on what Mussolini said. This is important since Italy was the first fascist regime. Mussolini should not be considered the absolute source of all things fascism; because he wasn't, but he's a good start.

To be still more succinct, as Mussolini told Franco in October 1936, what the Spaniard should aim at was a regime that was simultaneously ‘authoritarian’, ‘social’, and ‘popular’. That amalgam, the Duce advised, was the basis of universal fascism.

Fascism is far more of a unique ideology than many think. Some of these oddities have been summarised by Stanley Payne. Fascists are against individuality; the expression of liberty, and view individuals only in relation to their people.

What's more, fascism regards violence as a moral imperative; which is distinct from other ideologies which accept the use of violence as a means to an end, but do not promote violence in itself as morally good. This is tied to their belief in the necessity of revolutionary rebirth, which is to say that there must be a revolution; because only the strong who can seize power should rule (fascists are anti-democratic).

This belief in national rebirth also opposes tradition; which attempts to return to an imagined past, and should not be confused with fascist veneration of their culture. Fascists want to completely recreate the state and its people in their image; they are radically anti-tradition.

In addition to being anti-liberal and anti-conservative, fascism is opposed to socialism, trade unions, and communism especially. Partly because of the fascist rejection of class conflict, and also because of their rejection of the premise that all people are equal. This is why it is referred to as "third way" politics; neither first (liberal-conservative) nor second (socialist-communist).

Some fascists are often conflated with conservatives; like Franco, and there is a legitimate academic question of whether Franco and the Falangists were quintessentially fascist, owing to their alliance with the aristocracy and church. Nonetheless fascism, like any other thing, can't be defined by its exceptions. So to conclude: fascism is unique and cannot be confused with nationalism per se, it is anti-conservative and so cannot be defined as traditional or religious. Fascism is generally radical and secular.

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    Well put. It's interesting that the Third Way, in most regards, has been driven from public and academic discourse via a combination of propaganda and intimidation. A modern liberal education equates to a near total course of indoctrination into internationalist social-democratic thought. Writings from a socialist (who fought, and lost, in a war against fascism (Spanish Civil War)) such as Orwell that are written during a war against fascism (WWII) would bound to be clouded by the same biases that are prevalent today. Aug 3, 2016 at 13:50
  • It's true that fascism gets very little academic attention, but that's probably because very few people are actually fascist; politically they have almost fallen off the radar. Every society will be more interested in propagating and understanding itself first and foremost, I don't see that as unexpected, nor evidence of bias. Just that being who most people are, and we're a fairly narcissistic species. Perhaps most political studies are just poor in scholarly terms. Which wouldn't surprise me.
    – user8398
    Aug 3, 2016 at 15:19
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    WWII was an ideological conflict. Internationalist capitalism and socialism against nationalist totalitarianism. The 'falling off the radar' was 'losing the war' and the resultant consequences of this falling off has been 50 years of continuous propaganda and the death or political suppression of every school of thought that accompanied the central and western European revolutions in the 20th century. Academic attention simply can not be in this climate. So thorough this campaign has been that two people, on a stimulating board such as this, cannot possibly dis-entangle fascism from 'bad'. Aug 4, 2016 at 14:06
  • " fascism is opposed to socialism, trade unions" German fascists created they own trade unions, which were quite efficient. They were hostile to independent trade unions, but were there any independent trade unions in Soviet Union?
    – user17969
    Nov 14, 2017 at 7:01
  • Tlen: When the fascists set up trade-unions, it was with the stated intention of suppressing their capacity to serve as an organized agitator for worker's interests. The communists, meanwhile, had the stated intention of forming an entire government into what might be tritely characterized as a mega-trade-union, with worker's interests as its principal interest.
    – Eikre
    Nov 15, 2017 at 9:18

Yes, the concept of fascism is fuzzy enough that, while traditionalism is quite an important element, it is not imperative. As a note, since you mentioned religion, consider that Nazism, probabilly the most famous fascism, is usually seen as anti-Christian and neo-pagan.

I suggest reading 1995 Umberto Eco's essay Ur-Fascism. It outlines a list of fourteen features of what Eco calls Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism. They are very useful to recognize new fascisms as they approach.

Cult of tradition is listed as feature #1; specifically a syncretistic cult of tradition, one that combines different forms of believe, even tolerating contradictions. Quoting the essay:

One has only to look at the syllabus of every fascist movement to find the major traditionalist thinkers. The Nazi gnosis was nourished by traditionalist, syncretistic, occult elements. The most influential theoretical source of the theories of the new Italian right, Julius Evola, merged the Holy Grail with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, alchemy with the Holy Roman and Germanic Empire. The very fact that the Italian right, in order to show its open-mindedness, recently broadened its syllabus to include works by De Maistre, Guenon, and Gramsci, is a blatant proof of syncretism.

Rejection of modernism as an implication of traditionalism is feature #2.

Traditionalism implies the rejection of modernism. Both Fascists and Nazis worshiped technology, while traditionalist thinkers usually reject it as a negation of traditional spiritual values. However, even though Nazism was proud of its industrial achievements, its praise of modernism was only the surface of an ideology based upon Blood and Earth (Blut und Boden). The rejection of the modern world was disguised as a rebuttal of the capitalistic way of life, but it mainly concerned the rejection of the Spirit of 1789 (and of 1776, of course). The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.

However, note that not all features need to be present in order to identify a fascist regime, movement or ideology. In fact, Eco explains:

These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.


Fascism became an all-purpose term because one can eliminate from a fascist regime one or more features, and it will still be recognizable as fascist. Take away imperialism from fascism and you still have Franco and Salazar. Take away colonialism and you still have the Balkan fascism of the Ustashes. Add to the Italian fascism a radical anti-capitalism (which never much fascinated Mussolini) and you have Ezra Pound. Add a cult of Celtic mythology and the Grail mysticism (completely alien to official fascism) and you have one of the most respected fascist gurus, Julius Evola.

  • "Every fascist rejects modernism (which is basically is an atheist philosophical movement). X rejects modernism, therefore X is a fascist." I am sorry but that is nothing else but anti-conservative propaganda.
    – user17969
    Nov 14, 2017 at 7:08
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    @Tlen I fail to see how your comment relates to my answer Nov 14, 2017 at 8:38
  • Worth nothing: Evola considers Nationalism to be a degeneration of tradition and a failure on the road to less tradition and more egalitarian collectivism.
    – blud
    Jun 24, 2022 at 16:45

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