A very aggravating trend has seemed to emerge since Barack Obama was elected to office: people, mostly those on the right, throw terms like fascism and liberalism around with absolutely NO regard as to their actual meaning. Worse, these people consistently repeat them to others in debate, thus skewing and muddling any meaningful points that are made. This post will hopefully enlighten those who think terms like "liberal fascism" have any real meaning.
Liberalism, contrary to what some think, does not propagate Communism, deficits, and restriction of speech. Liberalism was a movement that had it's roots in the 17th and 18th century, and has consistently propagated and established democracy, individual freedoms, and the basic rights that all of us continue to enjoy today. This is the formal definition from Merriam-Webster:
1 : the quality or state of being liberal
2: a often capitalized : a movement in modern Protestantism emphasizing intellectual liberty and the spiritual and ethical content of Christianity b : a theory in economics emphasizing individual freedom from restraint and usually based on free competition, the self-regulating market, and the gold standard c : a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties; specifically : such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (as those involving race, gender, or class) d capitalized : the principles and policies of a Liberal party
Knowing this, liberalism, be it moderate or radical, has consistently ensured the freedoms and liberties that people have and continue to enjoy. Be it in the past, such as the creation of our own federal government by our neoclassical liberal Founding Fathers, or in other countries such as France, in which the liberal revolutionaries overthrew the monarchy, led under King Louis XVI, and replaced it with a Democratic government, limited by the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (this is sometimes seen as the precursor to the American Bill of Rights.)
As such, liberalism is in direct and total contrast to fascism, defined as:
-A political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
Notice that many of the championed beliefs of fascism directly contradict that of liberalism?
-The oppression of minorities and ethnic groups
-The lack of freedoms, civil rights, and representation by the people
-The use of government and a central leader to create war and oppression instead of fostering peace and freedom
Benito Mussolini, who is sometimes seen to be the founder of fascism, is quoted as having said:
"Fascism, which was not afraid to call itself reactionary... does not hesitate to call itself illiberal and anti-liberal."
The hyper-nationalistic and oppressive policies/viewpoints of fascism run in direct contrast to liberalism, and it is for this reason that liberalism was seen as its mortal enemy. Anybody who was seen as being remotely liberal was imprisoned, even killed. During the Holocaust, Hitler, who is often seen to be highly fascist in nature, persecuted Communists and left-wing unionists. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocaust_victims) Needless to say, fascism and liberalism cannot co-exist, and to use them in the same sentence is a direct contradiction. Militant leftism, on the other hand, can exist. However, any liberal movement, especially one with more libertarian leanings, won't engage in violence so much as in protest - the only ones that would are those on the more authoritative end of the spectrum.
The military-industrial complex that Fascism is famous for can lead to dominance by corporations - because war is emphasized and glorified for the sake of power and dominance in the world, the fascist environment can foster dominance in the corporate sector, which in tandem with the extreme pro-business stance of the Fascist right, can allow it to take a hold of the country quickly, as opposed to the hard left (e.g Communists), which sees such dominance as an enemy of the people.
These terms are almost always used interchangeably, primarily due to the inter-connected nature of these beliefs. However, what most people fail to realize is that there are some very important differences to consider, and depending on how they are implemented can drastically change the effects they have on a given society. Marxism is formally defined as:
-The system of economic and political thought developed by Karl Marx, along with Friedrich Engels, esp. the doctrine that the state throughout history has been a device for the exploitation of the masses by a dominant class, that class struggle has been the main agency of historical change, and that the capitalist system, containing from the first the seeds of its own decay, will inevitably, after the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat, be superseded by a socialist order and a classless society.
These beliefs are drawn from the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who felt that the success and nature of capitalism would lead to a plutarchy, and only through revolution could class warfare and inequality be removed and a classless, stateless, and equal society emerge. And while some of these beliefs are radical and far-reaching by American standards, Marx's writings didn't advocate an all-controlling government that controlled every economic and societal sector. In fact, Marx calls for just the opposite - there is no government. People who are self-proclaimed Marxists hold philosophical views that are generally critical of capitalism and large governments that concentrate power in the hands of the few, but may not necessarily advocate socialism or Communism as a better alternative to the economic system of capitalism.
Socialism isn't about large government. It is, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary:
"A theory or policy of social organisation which aims at or advocates the ownership and control of the means of production, capital, land, property, etc., by the community as a whole, and their administration or distribution in the interests of all."
Socialism isn't the evil force that is frequently made out to be. It has constantly worked alongside with capitalism in various democratically elected government since the 19th century across various parts of the world. Many of the services we take for granted, such as a police force, our governmental agencies (ensures that our food is safe, our water drinkable, our environment clean, and much more), social programs including Medicare/Medicaid, public education, and other useful public services are the result of socialistic principles brought into action. Paying into these system through taxes (controlling the means of production by the community as a whole) and returning it in the form of services is something that all modern, first-world countries practice. Total government control only arises out of the small anti-capitalistic sect that more or less advocates a totalitarian form of Communism.
Liberalism is often confused with socialism. This is, in a very indirect way, true. One of the many issues liberals advocate is the creation and maintenance of public assistance programs (I'm just using a general example here). These programs need a catalyst to enable the programs to exist and run. The only body with the means and authority to do so is the government - because the assistance programs, alongside with environmental laws, regulation industries, and other similar entities are frequently brought to the table by liberals, they gain the reputation of being in advocacy of socialism and big government - that simply isn't true. The majority of the left doesn't believe that big government is the answer - but their answers frequently require big government.
Communism is essentially a combination of the purest forms of socialism and Marxism, i.e it is a combination of both economic and philosophical viewpoints. Communism is generally seen to be the furthest left of all stances, but the Communism expressed in such countries as the U.S.S.R is arguably a very corrupted stance from what Marx had. While true Communism looks down upon capitalism and big government, the dictators that came into power by supposedly holding to his ideology (most (in)famously Josef Stalin) believed anything but. By taking advantage of the latent anger and fear that the long-oppressed working poor felt, they were able to instill a massive, all-controlling, and anti-capitalist government that ended up destroying itself. True communism does not advocate either, and yet by telling the people that they were working for the greater good, the power concentrated by the elite few in the "Communist" government were able to control and extinguish untold millions of people, and it is because of those atrocities that Communism gained it's negative reputation. One must understand that the actual doctrines and beliefs of Communism and the writings they are based on are not indicative of the horrors that were perpetuated under the authoritative regimes masquerading under its banner.
Hopefully this should clear up all the confusion and misuse of terminology that frequently seems to muddle up meaningful debate. If you're going to call Obama or somebody else some sort of -ism, make sure you actually know what you're taking about. Given how often these terms are used, with both a knowledge of what they are plus the underlying foundations that surround them, hopefully you will be able to engage in better debate with others.