Survey: the problem with fascism
Instead of relitigating different theories, let's just look at what people tend to say when you ask them what they object to about fascism.
It’s often been difficult to tell what exactly is at stake in the arguments over fascism that have overrun US political discourse in recent years. Sometimes the question seems to be “what was fascism” — typically when asking whether the communist governments of the twentieth century were properly described using that term. Sometimes it’s been closer to “what is fascism today,” particularly when litigating how to describe the Trump administration. Sometimes it’s something like “how have the scholars described fascism,” which is a much more objective question, though one which usually segues over to the more subjective “and which scholars were right?” And sometimes it’s put as a kind of pseudo-philosophical or pseudo-scientific problem which is really just definitional: “what is the essence of fascism?”
That last question, of course, often determines our answer to the other ones. But instead of playing that language game, I’d like to propose thinking about this in a somewhat different way. Just about everyone, as far as I can tell, seems to agree that the Holocaust was the paradigm historical expression of “fascism”, whatever that word actually means. So with that in mind, a while back I conducted a little survey asking respondents to ranks the “worst” to “least-worst” aspects of the Holocaust. Here are the results:
A few notes…