How Should We Define Fascism Today? (worksheet)

Fascist leaders Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler in 1940. CREDIT: National Archives and Records Administration (CC)

Political ideologies such as democracy, socialism, and fascism have flexible definitions that can depend on the government you are describing, the point in history, and the person who is explaining the term, among many other variables. For example, the type of socialism that was practiced in the Soviet Union in the 1950s is different than the current platform of the Socialist Party in France. Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs has gathered excerpts from archived lectures and articles so that students can analyze and build their own understanding of political ideology terms.

Fascism is commonly defined in context of the Third Reich of Germany and Italy under Mussolini. Fascist governments have appeared since then, but how similar are they to their World War II-era predecessors? The attached worksheet analyzes a definition of fascism from 1978 and has students compare it to the ideology found in the 1940s and the one that is more prevalent today. Is there anything students would add to the definition for the 21st century? What countries could be classified as fascist during the 20th and 21st centuries?

This worksheet is based on an excerpt from "The Fascist Century" written by Anthony James Joes for the May 1978 edition of Worldview Magazine.