Disclaimer: This dictionary term is meant to act as a red-blue translator to help you understand how people of different political stripes use, think, or feel about the same word or phrase. The Red Blue Dictionary is not meant to provide a concrete, final definition of hot-button words, but rather, to help people better understand one another.
"Fascist" or "fascism" has two meanings. In one case, it is often used loosely to describe individuals and organizations with which one strongly disagrees or of which one strongly disapproves. As such, the word is similar to many other strong pejoratives - like "racist," "bigot," "extremist," or "divisive" - in that it is often applied in indiscriminate ways. It is — at times — simply a way to issue a wholesale condemnation (much like calling someone “another Hitler”). In this concept, people use the word "fascism" to mean "those who seek power that is both total and unjust" and/or those who seek to "eliminate freedom."
The second meaning of fascism is to describe a political belief system that exalts duty to nation, heritage, culture and often ethnicity or race above other metrics, arguing this would lead to a more thriving and meaningful society than individualism or classical liberalism.
Historically, fascism has more often referred to a political system that elevates service to family and nation as more valuable and meaningful than individualistic pursuit. It defines nation and group largely in ethnic terms, declaring blood ties to be the most natural, stable and reliable basis for determining citizenship and nation, and declares many major problems to be caused by subversion of family, ethnicity, culture, and nation that has been introduced by a group that is fundamentally alien to the nation. It rejects equality as a foundation of democratic societies, arguing that equality is a poor ideal around which to order society in that it is largely unachievable and unnatural, arguing that hierarchy, order, and higher moral ideals are necessary for human flourishing. It typically respects and defends religion as necessary for the spiritual well-being of its people and rejects setting up the State as a "god" (as opposed to atheistic, communist states).
Fascism is often considered to be a right-wing ideology because historically fascists — like many other conservatives — have typically dismissed critiques of undemocratic societies as unfounded and instead asserted that life would again be meaningful and fulfilling if authority and nation were respected, the correct family and moral structures were maintained, and the influence of infiltrators or foreign groups who subvert the dominant or ideal culture were suppressed. Thus, "fascism" is seen as negative and is used as a negative charge by those who reject the elevation of specific familial, authoritative or moral structures in favor of moral relativism and/or individualism. Other have argued fascism is a far left system, citing its totalizing nature and belief in government social programs (more on that below). Still others argue fascism is neither left nor right, but synthesizes elements from both the left and right wing.
Many have accused fascism of leading to imperialism and war mongering, while others refute this charge, maintaining that the system's nationalistic structure means respect for the sovereignty of foreign states.
Fascism was popular during the 1920s and 1930s in Europe and the United States, during which time its adherents declared Jews to be a threat to civilization, the family, and high moral values.
Some scholars of the period see fascist movements as intensely nostalgic (charging them as having made up fables of a glorious past that could be regained if subversion or polluting forces were removed). Many scholars consider fascism to have been popular between the World Wars because many working class and middle class people were intensely anxious about the future, thanks to (1) the aftermath of World War I and (2) the elimination of many people’s personal independence due to the rise of modern large-corporation, oligopoly-dominated economies.
Some argue that the fascist movement was led by — and/or supported by — captains of industry who wanted to turn citizens away from communism and socialism by naming Jews (who are often at the forefront of leftist movements) as the enemy of all that is good (God, Family, Country, and Capitalism). Others argue that fascism is not inherently capitalistic, in that it promotes socialist-style government programs — a more nationalistic government that, it is believed, has a duty to take care of its own people first, while still respecting private property. In this view, support for government social programs to elevate families differentiate fascism from pure capitalism or corporatism, while its respect of private property differentiates it from communism, socialism, or anarchism, which reject private property. See: antifa/antifascism.)
In the second decade of the 21st Century, fascism is having a resurgence within many right-wing nationalist political parties. However, today almost no one openly calls themselves a fascist (though some groups do). Instead the word mostly functions, as was said above, as a means to totally denounce a person or group, or to accuse them of unjust totalitarianism.