Sir: Felipe Fernandez-Armesto (Essay, 9 October) is right. Fascism is too complex a monster to be amenable to hair-splitting definition. Why? Partly because historians habitually identify fascism with extreme right- wing ideologies.
Looked at from a purely psychological perspective, fascism is first and foremost a state of mind that readily adapts itself not only to the far right, but also to an endless spectrum of political and religious belief systems, including Communism, Islam and Christianity.
Stalin, despite his Communist credentials, was a fascist dictator differing little from Hitler. He meets all of Felipe Fernandez-Armesto's defining criteria: he
put the group before the individual, order before freedom, cohesion before diversity, revenge before reconciliation, retribution before compassion, the supremacy of the strong before the defence of the weak.
The institutionalisation of the fascist mentality marks the transition of primitive Christianity into Roman Catholicism so that the persecuting popes can be lined up beside Hitler and Stalin.
Khomeini likewise. He, like his illustrious European counterparts, was driven by what may be described as a purification compulsion. His sanitising crusade was launched to purge Islam of all who resisted the spread of his own idiosyncratic brand of Shi'ism; Stalin launched pogroms against any who might pollute his paranoid notions about the nature of Soviet Communism; the persecuting popes instigated their orgy of doctrinal cleansing by burning heretics; we don't need to be reminded how assiduously Hitler's most ardent disciples implemented his policy of "ethnic cleansing''.
The point is this: fascism will not - indeed cannot - even begin to make sense until we strip it of all political and religious connotations and begin to see it for what it initially is - a state of mind searching for an ideology.
Cult Research International
10 OctoberReuse content