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Fascism facts for kids

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Mussolini and Hitler 1940 (retouched)
Benito Mussolini (left) and Adolf Hitler (right), the leaders of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany respectively, were both fascists.

Fascism is a form of government in which most of the country's power is held by one ruler. Fascist governments are usually totalitarian and authoritarian one-party states. Under fascism, the economy and other parts of society are heavily and closely controlled by the government. The government uses violence to arrest, kill, or otherwise stop anyone it does not like.

Three large fascist countries were Italy under Benito Mussolini, Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler, and Spain under Francisco Franco.

Mussolini invented fascism in Italy in the late 1910s and developed it fully in the 1930s. When Hitler came to power in Germany in the 1930s, he copied Mussolini.

Main ideas

Not all scholars agree on what fascism is. Philosopher Jason Stanley of Yale University says it is "a cult of the leader who promises national restoration in the face of humiliation brought on by supposed communists, Marxists and minorities and immigrantts who are supposedly posing a threat to the character and the history of a nation." This means:

  • Fascism focuses on one person as a leader.
  • Fascism says communism is bad.
  • Fascism says that at least one group of people is bad and has caused the nation's problems. This group could be people from other countries or groups of people within the country.
  • Fascism promises to fix those problems by getting rid of the group of people it sees as bad.

Under Hitler's fascist Germany, the government blamed Jews, communists, homosexuals, the disabled, Roma and other people for Germany's problems. They arrested those people, and took them to camps to be killed.

In 2003, Dr. Lawrence Britt wrote "14 Defining Characteristics of Fascism:"

  1. Nationalism: saying one's own country is better than other countries
  2. Hate for human rights
  3. Scapegoating: blaming someone else for the country's problems
  4. Putting the military first
  5. Sexism: saying men are better than women
  6. Control of mass media: telling newspapers and other sources of news what they can and cannot tell the people
  7. Focus on national security
  8. Close ties between religion and government
  9. Protection of businesses and corporations
  10. Suppression of labor power: preventing labor unions from becoming powerful
  11. Hate for intellectuals and the arts: telling people not to listen to scientists, scholars, and artists
  12. Focus on crime and crimefighting
  13. Corruption
  14. Fraudulent elections: Even if the people vote, the votes are either not counted or otherwise abused. In some fascist governments, leaders will have their opponents killed.


A fasces

The name fascism comes from the Italian word fascio for bundle. This word comes from the Latin word fasces which was an axe surrounded by a bundle of sticks. In Ancient Rome, leaders carried the fasces as a symbol of their power.


A journalist named Benito Mussolini invented fascism. He started Italy's fascist party in 1919. He became Italy's prime minister in 1922. He was not elected. His supporters walked into Rome in large numbers, and the king of Italy made him prime minister. Although, officially, the fascist party in Italy was ruled by a "grand council" from 1922 until the end of World War II, Benito Mussolini really had almost all the power in the country.

According to scholar Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Mussolini believed democracy had failed. He had been a socialist but left the movement because he thought it was not good either. He believed democracy failed because of social class. Mussolini said that under fascism, people would focus on the nation and people would not think about social class.

However, Mussolini also believed that to make fascism work, he and his followers had to remove anything that could distract people from the nation. He also believed he should get to decide who in Italy counted as part of the Italian nation and he should get to throw out or arrest anyone he said did not count as a real Italian. He believed it was right to use violence to remove those distractions and those people. Groups of people with weapons would go out into the streets and beat up or even kill people Mussolini did not like.

Mussolini did not allow journalists to write what they wanted.

Mussolini believed that Italy should be made of white people, so he encouraged white women to have more babies and persecuted people who were not white.

Fascism vs. other types of totalitarianism

One of the reasons fascism spread in the early 20th century was because the Russian Revolution had just happened, and people were afraid of communism. Sometimes landowners and business owners would support fascists because they were afraid of what would happen if the country became communist instead.

In her work, The Origins of Totalitarianism, published in 1951, Hannah Arendt compared National Socialism, Stalinism, and Maoism. She does not talk about these regimes being fascist; according to her, they are totalitarian. In 1967, German philosopher Jürgen Habermas warned about a "left-wing fascism" of a protest movement in Germany of the 1960s, commonly known as Ausserparlametarische Opposition, or APO.


There is more than one reason why people living in democratic states oppose fascism, but the main reason is that in a Fascist government, the individual citizen doesn’t always have the option to vote, nor do they have the option to live a lifestyle that may be seen as immoral, useless, and unproductive toward society.

20th century

The fascist governments in Italy and Germany were removed after they lost World War II, but fascism continued as military dictatorships under Salazar in Portugal; Franco in Spain; and in some parts of Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

21st century

In the 21st century, fascist political movements exist in many countries.

Quick Facts about fascism

  • Fascism controls a country's citizens using one ruler.
  • The economy and other parts of society are also controlled by the government through the powerful ruler. This is different than Communism in that people are still allowed to own property and business, but it is controlled by the State (government).
  • Fascism was used in the early 1900s by Benito Mussolini in Italy. The term "fascism" comes from the Italian word fascio, which means bundle.
  • Adolf Hitler (in Germany) and Francisco Franco (in Spain) copied many of Mussolini's ideas in their countries.
  • Fascism blames something, usually a group of people, for the problems in a country. Fascism becomes accepted because the ruler promises to fix these problems.
  • Citizens of a Fascist country do not always have the option to vote. Even if voting is allowed, votes are often abused or not counted correctly.
  • People who oppose the government are often put in jail or even get killed.

Related pages

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Fascismo para niños

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