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Fourteen Defining Characteristics Of Fascism

By Dr. Lawrence Britt

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Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

False Guru Groups

It seems that many of the attributes of authoritarian regimes, listed above, also define authoritarian cults and cultic and abusive guru movements. The reason is that in both cases there is a highly narcissistic but also fearful and shadow-projecting individual or individuals at the top, who through giving in to adverse entities, acts in a way to supress any creativity, originality, individuality, authentic spirituality or anything else that threatens the ideology, belief-system, personal worldview, or hypersensitive ego of the leader or leadership.

Consider also charismatic demagogues like Hitler, Mussolini, Mao, Khomeiny, and others who constitute interesting parallels with "gurus" who had an abusive relationship with their followers, but were widely loved even so.

How much did external link Rajneeshpurim resemble a fascist state? What about Andrew Cohen's Foxhollow community? Or even (although this is obviously much less the case!) Ken Wilber's Integral Institute?

The following then is a modified list for a totalitarian guru organisation, using the above categories:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia - Replace with merchandise, photos of the guru, the logo of the organisation etc.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - See Abusive Guru - The people tend to look the other way or even approve - See pages on the antagonistic and slanderous devotee.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe - consider the attitude to critics and scapegoating of perceived enemies in the Scientology, Sai Baba, and many smaller sects.

4. Supremacy of the Military - This point is not as applicable as others. While some abusive gurus (Muktananda, Mataji Nirmala Devi) seem to use bully-boys with threats of or even actual violence against critics, personal psychological manipulation is more universal.

5. Rampant Sexism - traditional gender roles are made more rigid. While this is the case in cults based on fundamentalist exoteric religions and neo-traditionalist groups like the Hare Krishnas, it does not apply to most Guru sects

6. Controlled Mass Media - while in some guru sects discussion on forums seem to be given a pretty free reign, with others less questioning of the guru or teachings are allowed.

7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses. This is also characteristic of almost all cultic groups; there was a lot of paranoia and shadow-projection, the impression may be of the "persecuted elect"

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - In a religious sect or cult this goes without saying.

9. Corporate Power is Protected - creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite. In some cases this is not applicable, as especially small sects generally have little to do with commerce. But this is not always the case, especially with large establishe dorganisiations and thos ebased strongly on manipulation. Groups like Scientology, EST, and Avatar all placed or place great emphasis on making heaps of money from workshops, course, or (in Scientology) auditing. Often much of the New Age is based on expensive weekend workshops, even basic ones cost several hundreds of dollars. This is sop even for relatively mild groups like Siddha Yoga, or even progressive spiritual philospphy (see external link Matthew Dallman's comments and experiences regarding the Integral Institute and Integral University as marketting strategy)

10. Labor Power is Suppressed - labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed. Consider that often in cults and negative guru movements many followers work as slave labour for little or no wages, all the earnings going to the cult or organisation.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked. This is not as specifically applicable, but may be tied in with these cultic organisations not allowing intellectual questioning or free thought and enquiry if it contradicts the teachings of their false guru. Followers of Rajneesh may have a problem with the intellectual side of things, as indicated by the famous sign "shoes and minds are to be left at the gate". The Osho Deck, which in every other way is an extraordinarily insightful tarot deck, is curiously lacking in any refernce to the mental faculty.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. Here there is an obvious analogy with excessive rules and discipline within any cultic group. While this is much less the case with eastern and nonduality style gurus, there is still frequently the justification of abusive behaviour as so-called "crazy wisdom" and the statement that the (false) guru or master knows best (see external link Jim Chamberlain on the "Three Cards" trick).

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. This may well be a frequent occurance with abusive gurus with large organisations where there is a lot of cronyism and jockeying for power and influence among the inner circle of followers (e.g. Rajneesh, Adi Da)

14. Fraudulent Elections. How much democracy is there in guruist and cultic organisations? Do any of the followers have any say, or is it the false guru or cultic leader who makes all the decisions? In general, cultic organisations are totally authoritarian, there is no democracy at all. Democracy only emerges with rationalism (ancient Athens) and modernity (the secular West)



See also Robert Priddy's blog post blog page The International Sathya Sai Organization, which covers many of the same concerns mentioned here



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