Is di Canio a Fascist?

I haven’t had time to research Mr di Canio’s words and works, but the issue raises the knotty problem of what a Fascist is. Most obviously, is it possible to be a Fascist but not a racist? In practice, most if not all Fascist regimes and movements have been anti-Semitic and anti-black, amongst many other anti-nesses. But racism is not really the defining characteristic of the  ideology.

The defining ideas of Fascism are, surely, more to do with (and its practice the deployment of) leadership, order and force. So it is anti-democratic, anti-libertarian and pro-toughness. Of course, it can be anarchically populist, at least until the disorder it unleashes produces the vacuum a dictator can fill.

But even this characterisation risks demonising the millions who were tempted or seduced or gulled by Fascism in the 1930s and after. For many, communism seemed the greatest threat to social order and good society, and Fascism the only serious antidote for it. It appealed to the millions who had been stung by capitalism’s failures, and especially those who had something to lose from chaos and nothing to gain. And one might argue that Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, a creed which is quite like Fascism, has the merit – and so it seems to many modern idealistic youngsters now – of celebrating self-realisation and self-actualisation over the persuasive and pervasive liberalism they see as destroying society.

I don’t know who or what Mr di Canio admires, or what his famous “Roman” salute meant or implied. But he might be all sorts of nasty pieces of work without being a Fascist, and he might be some sort of Fascist without being all that nasty.

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Publication date

02 April 2013