Umberto Eco: 14 Common Features of Fascism

Umberto Eco grew up under Mussolini’s fascist regime. In 1995 he wrote the essay "Ur-Fascism".

1. The cult of tradition. “One has only to look at the syllabus of every fascist movement to find the major traditionalist thinkers. The Nazi gnosis was nourished by traditionalist, syncretistic, occult elements.”

2. The rejection of modernism. “The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.”

3. The cult of action for action’s sake. “Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation

4. Disagreement is treason. “The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge.”

5. Fear of difference. “The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.”

6. Appeal to social frustration. “One of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.”

7. The obsession with a plot. “The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia.”

8. The enemy is both strong and weak. “By a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.”

9. Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. “For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle.”

10. Contempt for the weak. “Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology.”

11. Everybody is educated to become a hero. “In Ur-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death

12. Machismo and weaponry. “Machismo implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality.”

13. Selective populism. “There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.”

14 Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak. “All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.”

Another link to the article:

mountainmoma's picture

The counter examples to many of the points are numerous

(12) I have heard plenty of facist statements and actions from groups who consider themselves very non-macho, etc.... the most facist-acting groups in my area specifically consider themselves women or non gender conforming identity groups, along with gun restriction groups

(2) There are many examples of facists rejecting tradition and going very modern. Have you read JMG's comments this week ? Since political power changes run on campaigns of change, then, in that sense, sure, any new group looking to entice new recruits is going to talk about change form the current status quo

(1) Again, so many facist groups are anti traditional !

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

I have to agree with Mountain Momma here. Perhaps, because he lived through the days of Mussolini he wrote this up, but I wouldn't take it as gospel.

(Funny that we are talking about someone whose last name is "Eco")

That being said I love "The Name of the Rose" and "Foucault's Pendulum" & some of his non-fiction about language is brilliant, such as "The Search for the Perfect Language". It was Eco and Samuel R. Delany who I owe and salute my self-taught intro courses to the field of semiotics.

In fact, I've been wanting to re-read Delany's Neveryona series for awhile now.

Eco lists 14 components that may comprise fascism He says plainly that not all 14 components may be found in a fascist society. But traditionalism is number one on his list. And number two is a rejection of modernism. If a group does not focus on traditionalism and reject modernism, it is probably not fascist.

And no, I quit reading Greer about the time he moved to Rhode Island. I read the ADR for close to 10 years, read probably read 8 or more of his books, and watched hours of his videos on Youtube. I'm sorry, his writing has changed. And not in a good way.

Eco's essay has been widely published over the last 25 years. I picked it up in Chris Hedges's book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. It was written in 2005. He was concerned about the influence of Christian Dominionists on American politics. Mainly the Christian Reconstructionists.

Wikipedia says:
Christian reconstructionism
Main article: Christian reconstructionism

An example of dominionism in reformed theology is Christian reconstructionism, which originated with the teachings of R. J. Rushdoony in the 1960s and 1970s.[7] Rushdoony's theology focuses on theonomy (the rule of the Law of God), a belief that all of society should be ordered according to the laws that governed the Israelites in the Old Testament. His system is strongly Calvinistic, emphasizing the sovereignty of God over human freedom and action, and denying the operation of charismatic gifts in the present day (cessationism); both of these aspects are in direct opposition to Kingdom Now Theology.

Full adherents to reconstructionism are few and marginalized among most Christians.[8][9][10] Dave Hunt,[1] Albert James Dager [2] Hal Lindsey,[3] and Thomas Ice[4] specifically criticize Christian reconstructionism from a Christian viewpoint, disagreeing on theological grounds with its theocratic elements as well as its Calvinism and postmillennialism. J. Ligon Duncan,[11] Sherman Isbell,[12] Vern Poythress,[13] Robert Godfrey,[14] and Sinclair Ferguson[15] analyze reconstructionism as conservative Calvinists, primarily giving a theological critique of its theocratic elements. Michael J. McVicar has noted that many leading Christian reconstructionists are also leading writers in paleolibertarian circles.[16]

Some social scientists have used the word dominionism to refer to adherence to Christian reconstructionism.

(Paleolibertarianism is a political philosophy and variety of right-libertarianism developed by anarcho-capitalist theorists Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell that combines traditional conservative cultural values and social philosophy with a libertarian opposition to government intervention.)

Now, under the rubic of "critical thinking" we--as Green Wizards--had been invited to enter the minds of a number of different groups, from the "intellectuals of the Dark Web" to the followers of Kek. We've been asked how environmentalist should approach "hunters" (as if they are separate groups.)

Well, I am saying Green Wizards should start thinking about how we are going to "interact" with the fascists in general and the Dominionists in particular. Because I don't think we are going to mix well with the Dominionists. A government increasing focused on "theonomy (the rule of the Law of God), a belief that all of society should be ordered according to the laws that governed the Israelites in the Old Testament"is probably not going to be receptive to a bunch of Green Wizards. People who care to look will quickly find our Druid roots. How exactly do we communicate with a people who have a radically different view of both the past and the future?

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

On the subject of Modernism, I'm not as opposed to it as JMG is. I love the avant-garde music from the 20th century (Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, etc.) JMG has railed against this in his more recent essays on art from a few years ago in favor of traditionalism. I've been wanting to write an article on what John Cage has to teach Green Wizards... so I may get around to that before to long. There is a lot in those areas of art that could be carried forward, and would be beneficial. JMG thought Cage was a charlatan and artistic swindler. I thought he was a true explorer of possibilities.

I also like Modernist literature. James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound. T.S. Eliot etc. There is so much value in their work. I do not think it all has to be discarded the way JMG thinks. I love William S. Burroughs and the Beats in general (all this stuff JMG scoffs at).

It creates a little cognitive dissonance but thats okay, because it also fosters dissensus.

I do like the more traditional buildings, something he's written about in his essay last week on architecture, so I'm in agreement with him there.

That's pretty interesting about the Christian Dominionism though (sounds pretty close to demonism ;). But although I agree it seems people on the Right, and in the government, may have some roots in this Chrisitian Dominion way of thinking, that they follow this theology, there are also a lot of other forms of spirituality brewing in this country that other people are taking too like ducks in a pond. I'm thinking here of the Heathens (Scandinavian paganism and its various flavors) that is also very much on the rise.

On the Wikipedia page you linked to it even says "Some have applied the term dominionist more broadly to the whole Christian right. This usage is controversial. There are concerns from members of these communities that this is a label being used to marginalize Christians from public discourse."

In general though I do agree that as Green Wizards in this time we have to be on the lookout for these kind of fascist groups. But maybe the real problems are just as likely to arise from criminal biker gangs and gangs in general.

I come from a very liberal background. Politically I've always thought of myself as an Anarchist on the leftward side of that philosophy. Yet the voices of the left have become increasingly shrill in my opinion, and it seems that a lot of people in the social justice movement, which had done so much good on many fronts of race, sexuality, gender now wants to tell other people how they need to think and is policing the way people talk and has corrupted the media with this kind of "one true way" of thinking about issues. And from that I start to distance myself. It's kind of the opposite of free speech. The dangers of fascism from within that rhetoric are just as real as from the right.

Since I joined a ham radio club four years ago I'm around a lot more conservative christian than I had been since I was a kid & had to go to church whether I wanted to or not. (I think the hams in other areas might be more of a mix politically, but I'm in Ohio). Most of them whom I've talked to about political or religious issues seem to be of the opinion, of "mind your own business and I'll mind mine. I don't care what you do as long as it's not illegal or causing harm to others, etc." That seemed like it used to be the position of those on the left, but to me its sounding more and more like, "let me mind your business and tell you how to think and what to do." Is it any wonder people are rebelling against that?

I also know some Christian biker / skateboarding / anarchist punks. There are a couple of "home church" communities in my neighborhood of this variety and one of their ministers married my wife and I in a non-christian ceremony. Their views couldn't be more different than the dominionists you talk of.

There is just too much variety in spirituality in America for me to worry about that...

Also, I don't love Trump. I think he is a plutocrat and an oligarch. But I began to question the sheer rudeness and lack of courtesy on the part of those who oppose him. In that way I do hope to see more of an Esc-Center come back into being.

Again, I love Eco's novels, I've read at least four of them, and he is amazing writer. But just as with any writer, thinker, or artist I love, they can say and do things that I'm not in 100% alignment with. That includes JMG who has many points that I love, many ways he's opened my mind, and other points where we won't ever see eye to eye. And that's ok.

Alacrates's picture

Agreed that I definitely wouldn't want to dismiss all of modernism... in terms of literature, Franz Kafka was a huge influence on me (who I would classify as an early modernist)... I also really got a lot from Ezra Pound, not so much from his own poetry but from his literary criticism, books of his like "ABC of Reading" I found to be really great when I was in university, as well as his translations of the Confucian Odes...

I also really liked Joyce's Ulysses, to me it seemed like the most fully realized depiction of regular, daily life, (seen in relation to history & tradition) that has ever been written...

I do remember J.M.Greer having praise for T.S.Eliot though, he's mentioned him along with Yeats before, several times... I found one example here:

"old texts on the magical philosophy that forms the usually unmentioned foundation from which all my thinking unfolds; and a great deal more. Poets, as often as not, these days: Robinson Jeffers, William Butler Yeats, T.S. Eliot. Without the contributions of all these other voices, the conversation and thus my contributions to it would not be what it is. "

So there's at least one Modernist that Greer appreciates! ;)

I've never read Burroughs, though I've liked the novels & poems from Kerouac and Ginsberg... I actually used to have an album that Ginsberg did with Philip Glass... the opening track was "Wichita Vortex Sutra":

As for Eco's list of points related to fascism, I think these are for the most part pretty good...

I gathered together a few books on fascism in the summer, intending to do a deep dive on the ideology and try to make sense of the political arguments occurring now where fascism/Nazism is regularly invoked... I didn't get too far in these studies, but I did get a sense of the political currents that fascism arose out of, thinkers like Nietzsche, Georges Sorel, etc., and the international political situation that followed the end of WW1...

And it made me think that looking into fascism might not have a lot to offer in terms of clarifying our own political situation, we are in a much different scenario now than the world face in the 1920s... I'm not sure the study of fascism has all that much to offer to us at this moment (though I personally do aim to continue reading about the fascists and their rise to power, in Italy, Germany, & Japan)...

One far left/Marxist podcast that I've been listening to recently is the "What is Left" podcast, which did an episode on fascism, which I thought was pretty informative:

In general, I feel like focusing on fascism in our current political climate is to be preparing for a political phenomenon that has already came & went, I think our current political situation is different than what happened in the 1920s-40s, I personally think it would be better to try to work out what has happened between the various working classes, the professional-managerial classes, and the ownership classes, rather than to look back to old political struggles to try to make sense of our current political troubles...

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

Hello there!

I think you are spot on with what you wrote in your last paragraph there Alacrates. I had a dream a couple months back about the Spanish Civil War. Following the dream it was something I started researching this war and surrounding events. At its heart was the conflict between the "Republicans loyal to the left-leaning Second Spanish Republic, in alliance with anarchists, of the communist and syndicalist variety, fought against a revolt by the Nationalists, an alliance of Falangists, monarchists, conservatives and Catholics, led by a military group among whom General Francisco Franco." (wikipedia). While there may be echoes of the harmonic overtones of history that still resonate and reverbate today, they are echoes happening over the new notes being played now, and over more recent history.

I see in people whom I know who work for the elite & managerial classes deeper resentments beginning to build around entitlement and its discontents. It's a real pressure valve. I've been lucky enough to have good bosses for the most part who will do the grunt work with the rest of us (it applied more when I was entry level at the library -shelving, sorting, moving books) but I've seen others who won't lift a finger to help...and that don't help morale. I know it's worse other places. My Dad worked for the city as a welder in the water works and has seen nepotism and all kinds of other stuff, and even though they are union, it didn't help. The union actually made it worse for people to get fired, and those who didn't do any work at all could just hang onto their jobs.

My dad said they had a phrase about in the city "Whip the willing and let sleeping dogs lie."

We should still study and read history, but remember that nuances and flavors of the dish now being served have changed over time, even if some of the ingredients are the same.

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mountainmoma's picture


I question whether AntiFa could technically be defined as Fascist - I would argue that they would be posited more in the Stalinist camp of absolute rigorous thought control, and that what they are conducting is a fairly unorganised kind of Stalinist purge.
Although there are widely diverging definitions of Fascism, right-wing and nationalist seem to be key points, and AntiFa is far left and globalist. The techniques of social control at both ends of the spectrum have a similar effect, I mean really, if the Fascist secret police come after you or the Stalinist secret police come after you, the result is going to be the same, as is the crime, ie disagreeing with whichever is in power. Which is why i support centrist politics with plenty of checks and balances to keep it there. I think that is going to be the safest place for green wizards, as I suspect we would be annoying both extremes of the political divide what with all the thinking of our own thoughts. Preferencing trees over the economy is also going to annoy both sides..

mountainmoma's picture


mountainmoma's picture

The real problem with this thread is trying to figure out how it contributes to the concept of critical thinking in the context of Green Wizardry.

Is this just a way to interject politics ? Is that helpful ?

What we are getting is just comments on divergent viewpoints on political idealogy, as the original post is just a slanted viewpoint on a particular political ideology.

And how does this serve us as Green Wizards ? Does it make us grow closer or cause division ? Does it enhance or distract from making this site a resource ?

What was the point in the original post to begin with ? Was it posted because of architecture and politics and not likeing the present administration..... how is this helpful

Ooh, yes, interesting and useful questions. Sophie's follow-up question to her first post - How exactly do we communicate with a people who have a radically different view of both the past and the future? - is one I have been pondering today. And it's not just the Fascists and Christian cults but every radical group from the far left to the far right to the extreme of every ideology. JMG has always said, ask 3 druids the same question and you'll get 6 answers. I think that is maybe the strength of green wizardry. It doesn't promote ideology but asks, does it work? Is this going to get me closer to where I want myself, my society and the planet to be? This answer is going to be different for every green wizard. And it means that on the whole we are not going to head to the extremes of any ideology, because at some point an ideology stops being useful, if it ever was, and becomes a tool of oppression instead.
I think another strength of green wizardry is being able to listen to other points of view just in case we might learn something useful. For instance, I once had ideological leanings much further to the left than I do now. I am currently quite sceptical of what the left are up to, but can't come at the whole-hog neo-liberal policies of the right either. However I am able to live in complete harmony with my very right-leaning climate-change sceptic neighbour because what we both agree on is gardening, chickens, pooling our resources, picking up each other's mail and generally being good neighbours (although he threatened to withdraw my red-wine-on-the-deck privileges when he heard I voted green.. but thankfully he was joking).
I can see that dynamic happening here on this forum as well. I very much appreciate the know-how and practical resources of the folks on this site, but also see the value in respectfully discussing politics and our views of the world. I have learned as much from the comment section on Ecosophia as i have from the essays, probably more, and the respectful give and take of intelligent folks such as those on this site, as commenters try to tease out an idea, have really shaped my thinking on many issues. The insights gained from reading the thoughts of people whose lived experience and ideas are far away from mine has been invaluable in helping me to become a more balanced person and nuanced thinker. Having said that, I am only a very little way down the road of really teasing out my thoughts about the world, and reserve the right to change my mind every six months or so in true druid tradition.
So, this is just a very long-winded way of saying that I think that expressing divergent viewpoints on political ideology, if it can be done in a way that dissents respectfully, does make us more likely to be the kind of people who can tolerate dissensus, who are the kind of people who are unlikely to be radicalised to any extreme end of any political spectrum. And that seems like a good thing to me.