Recent Italian political election brought to power three political parties which are generally referred to as “the Right”. The bigger party (headed by current PM Giorgia Meloni) is actually the one that stands to the right of the other two allied parties, and it is often referred to as “fascisti” by current opponent parties. Now the term “Fascismo” has deep and dramatic implications in Italian history and it is often used as a term of “offense” to refer to the far right parties, including the Giorgia Meloni’s one.

My question is:

Are the term, fascism, fascist and the like used in contemporary American political debate? If so with what sort of connotations are these term used?

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    Have you looked at our numerous questions about fascism? I don't think this is a very productive question and we've been here before (not least with someone is going to ask for a formal definition of the term and even that is a matter of ... opinion). Jun 27, 2023 at 18:18
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    And if the Q is only asking if the term is used is US politics, a cursory google search "trump" fascism will go a long way to answering that question. Jun 27, 2023 at 18:20
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica - none of those questions actually answer mine. My point is to understand if the term is used in the same way as it is in Italy. I agree there is space for personal opinions, anyway if users think it is not productive I can remove it.
    – user 66974
    Jun 27, 2023 at 18:22
  • Some introductory reading without making any claim that this is a full answer to your question: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascist_(insult)#American
    – wonderbear
    Jun 27, 2023 at 21:00
  • It should be pointed out that the U.S. does have a minority of political supporters of actual fascist movements and policies in the U.S. that is larger than most nations when controlled for population, owing to strong protections for political speech. That said, those who advocate openly for fascism in the U.S. are still a minority that has never captured an election poll of over 1% so it's not likely they're policies if elected will be enacted.
    – hszmv
    Aug 7, 2023 at 13:57

5 Answers 5


The term is used both politically and descriptively. When it is used politically, it is done to stigmatize someone. Effectively, it's an insult that people believe to be appropriate.

A good comparison would be the word "pedophile." It is also a word which can be used descriptively and which can be used as an insult towards those who don't fit the precise definition of the word.

The stigmatizing sense of the word, of course, works because the people who do fit the description tend to be remembered with disgust. So the words are effective at expressing the notion of disgust.

The logical question is what is the "descriptive" use of the word "fascist"?

Well, it was coined by Mussolini, so describing what Mussolini meant by it is a good start. It's main components are

  • nationalism
  • irredentism (desire to restore, usually by military mean, territory lost in conflicts which have since been settled) and expansionism
  • corporotism that goes beyond merely a state protecting corporate interests, but goes as far merging of corporate and public functions
  • racism as state policy, not necessarily of suppression, but as a social pecking order; not necessarily outright antisemitism (by many accounts Mussolini was not antisemitic and was generally reluctant to oblige Hitler's demands for participation in the Holocaust activities)
  • totalitarianism
  • opposition to classical liberalism with the view on it as a hyper-individualism which must be suppressed for the benefit of the abstract state

Also while it hasn't been described as an essential part of the Fascist doctrine, another element which is traditionally present in Fascist states is multiple competing security forces which ensure loyalty through extra-legal repressions.

For example, I've argued in a different answer on this site that the social order in the modern Russian Federation is best described as "Classical Fascism."

I was recently surprised to see that Timothy Snyder, a Yale history professor, who researches Eastern Europe, has written the following:

if Russia today is not a fascist regime, it is really difficult to know what regime would be fascist. It is more clearly fascist than Mussolini's Italy, which invented the term.

And while you can mis-attribute my opinion to the ease with which anonymous internet accounts use foul language, the same cavalier attitude is generally not observed among the Ivy League professors.

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    "P*do" absolutely doesn't seem like a good comparison. That's used by the right for pretty much anyone who's guilty of the crime of having been born with the "wrong" gender identity or sexuality, or anyone who promotes tolerance or acceptance of such people. That's accusing people of one of the worst crimes, with no justification other than because they exist. "Fascist", on the other hand, is used to refer to those seemingly holding at least some fascist values (sometimes this is based on many similarities, sometimes it's based on few similarities).
    – NotThatGuy
    Jun 28, 2023 at 8:36
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    @NotThatGuy I think you took it too literally. Both terms have a correct use, but both are used derogatorily to people not necessarily fitting the definition. I think that's the point of the OP
    – clabacchio
    Jun 28, 2023 at 12:36
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    @clabacchio "P*do" refers to a very specific set of acts, and is commonly (mis)used to allude to this, despite it not in any way matching reality and not being based on any actual evidence. "Fascist" refers to a more general set of values, and is commonly used to refer to people possessing one or more of those values (which may or may not add up to the person being a fascist). The former is usually just a disgusting defamatory lie, whereas the latter is sometimes justified and sometimes exaggerated.
    – NotThatGuy
    Jun 28, 2023 at 13:22
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    "politically and descriptively" is an odd differentiation. What is "politically" supposed to mean here? Can you not use a term descriptively in politics? Can you not use a term non-descriptively outside of politics? Being used in politics doesn't really tell you anything ("politics" has become somewhat of a catch-all term to hand-wave away anything that happens in politics). If it's used as an insult, it's still either accurate (descriptive?) or not. If someone "doesn't fit the precise definition", they either roughly fit the definition, or they don't. There's a lot of vagueness here.
    – NotThatGuy
    Jun 28, 2023 at 13:41
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    @NotThatGuy Perhaps a better dichotomy might be "descriptively" and "rhetorically". The latter corresponds to "politically" because the purpose is to score political points, not make an accurate argument.
    – Barmar
    Jun 28, 2023 at 14:47

In Soviet literature, 'fascism' was the word to name the fighter of Nazi Germany, regardless of the rank. It has been used this way in breadth and width, from school textbooks till patriotic songs. It seldom appeared in other contexts over that time.

I recall seeing 'Nazism' much less often, even it was mostly seen as a synonym without obvious differences.

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    It may have been due to the fact that Nazism is the short form of national socialism, their party was called National Socialist Workers' Party and Hitler claimed to be a socialist himself. Not something you want people to talk about in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
    – Riwen
    Jun 28, 2023 at 15:33
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    @Riwen yep. Most people in the Soviet Union probably didn't even know that Nazi was a portmanteau. Because in the Soviet Union the German Nazis were usually described either as "National Democrats" or by the NSDAP acronym. Because the USSR didn't claim the title of a "democracy," this didn't interfere with the dogma. And they would never, ever, ever allow the term "socialist" to be in any way applied to the Nazi Germany in any cultural references. You are probably right that they made Fascist and Nazi equivalent just to avoid getting too particular on what "Nazi" stood for.
    – wrod
    Jun 28, 2023 at 18:52
  • @Riwen Though if you read how Hitler defines it the rift between what he calls it and what he wants is very apparent. Though yeah entirely possible that Stalin/USSR leadership didn't want to grant them that name especially as his own "socialism in one country" could be described as "national socialism" and there had been collaborations to attack Social Democrats (social fascist theory) and Poland (Molotov-Ribbentrop pact) so especially after being attacked any such connection and confusions might have been very damaging.
    – haxor789
    Jun 29, 2023 at 12:12

In American politics "Fascist" is a term of abuse usually directed against parties of the right when they adopt "illiberal" or "authoritarian" positions, by supporters of the left. Occasionally used by right wing libertarians against parties of the left.

Consider this article in the New Yorker. Note that it uses the term "f-word", suggesting that the word "fascist" is an insult (compare "n-word" or "c-word")

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    Joining up the dots, it seems to be primarily a term which liberals (whether they consider themselves left or right) call non-liberals (whether considered to be of the left or right).
    – Steve
    Jun 28, 2023 at 6:17
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    I've avoided saying "Liberal" since it means something different in America to the rest of the world.
    – James K
    Jun 28, 2023 at 16:49

The term Fascism has transformed over the years.

Originally it was used when referring to extreme left totalitarins:

Now it is used by people on the left to refer to the far-right. Also the far-right uses it to refer to the far-left.

Over the years the term has changed its definition to match Hitler/Nazi's. For example, Hitler exterminated homosexuals so 'fascism' definition broadened to include hate crimes.

Today people not only use it to describe people who are homophobic they extend it's usage to include people who don't support same sex marriage and a range of other social progressive issues. More recently this adaption of the term fascist has been used by some progressives to refer to anyone on far-right of politics.

Strictly speaking "left/progressive" fascist are referred to as Red fascism however I do not hear that term used colloquially.

Generally speaking, the original meaning of the term has been lost and people use it to refer to anyone that strongly disagrees with their political/social views.

This video shows 10 traits of fascism

As mentioned in the video

  • 2:38 Propaganda
  • 3:15 Anti-intellectuals
  • 4:42 Hierarchy
  • 5:23 Victimhood

According to the above definition the term could be applied to a range of people / political ideologies.

Post-WW2 Anti-Fascist Educational Film' also shows a good definition https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8K6-cEAJZlE

Finally the below video shows extreme left also meet this definition https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgFyP_EGrUw

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    You are very wrong. Mussolini started out as a socialist, but had stopped being one by the time he started referring to himself as a fascist. Stalin was never, ever, a social democrat and never referred to himself as such. Mao was actively opposed to both the Koumintang, who were nationalists with a lot of fascist characteristics, and the completely fascist Japanese Empire. The rest of your answer is wrong as well, but I don't have the time or interest in going in to that as well. Jun 29, 2023 at 7:31
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    @EmilKarlsson regarding Stalin: Stalin joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in 1901, Was personality cult within the international Marxist–Leninist movement, which revered him as a champion of the working class and socialism. Stalin devoted himself to Marx's socio-political theory, Marxism. See here en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Stalin Same goes for Mussolini and Mao Zedong
    – Daveo
    Jun 29, 2023 at 23:38
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    Mussolini was the first to use the term and by the time he did he had already been kicked out of the socialist party for being pro-war. And going further he and fascism developed more and more in the direction of nationalism and away from socialism. "Fascism is a far-right, authoritarian, ultranationalist political ideology and movement, characterized by a dictatorial leader, centralized autocracy, militarism, forcible suppression of opposition, belief in a natural social hierarchy, subordination of individual interests..." (Wiki on fascism)
    – haxor789
    Jul 3, 2023 at 13:27

George Orwell, in an article "What is Facism?" suggested that the term, because of its wide use as an insult, has become "almost entirely meaningless".

I expect that is true today.

This is because the term was historically used for two pathological regimes - Nazi Italy and Mussolini's Italy. In this sense the term is very particular. However, because of everyone knows that these two regimes, without question, were evil, it's easy to turn the term into an insult for any other party or regime who bears only the faintest resemblence to them. And this is what has happened.

US fascism, as the philosopher Bertrand Russell termed it, was not directed towards their own people, but to Vietnam. After the second world war, with the European based colonial order crumbling, the USA saw itself as the power to step into the boots once worn by Europe and kick down any brown natives who dared to think that they could take advantage of the in-fighting between the European powers, and make a bid for freedom. This they did in Vietnam with great ferocity and as Bertrand Russell said, with nothing to distinguish them from the Nazi's.


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