Fascism has found adherents in all countries. Its essentially vague and emotional nature facilitates the development of unique national varieties, whose leaders often deny indignantly that they are fascists at all. In its dictatorial methods and in its use of brutal intimidation of the opposition by the militia and the secret police, fascism does not greatly distinguish itself from other despotic and totalitarian regimes. There are particular similarities with the Communist regime in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. However, unlike Communism, fascism abhors the idea of a classless society and sees desirable order only in a state in which each class has its distinct place and function. Representation by classes (i.e., capital, labor, farmers, and professionals) is substituted for representation by parties, and the corporative state is a part of fascist dogma.
Although Mussolini's and Hitler's governments tended to interfere considerably in economic life and to regulate its process, there can be no doubt that despite all restrictions imposed on them, the capitalist and landowning classes were protected by the fascist system, and many favored it as an obstacle to socialization. On the other hand, the state adopted a paternalistic attitude toward labor, improving its conditions in some respects, reducing unemployment through large-scale public works and armament programs, and controlling its leisure time through organized activities.
Many of these features were adopted by the Franco regime in Spain and by quasi-fascist dictators in Latin America (e.g., Juan Perón) and elsewhere. A variation of fascism was the so-called clerico-fascist system set up in Austria under Engelbert Dollfuss. This purported to be based on the social and economic doctrines enunciated by Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius XI, which, however, were never put into operation.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.