(The opinions expressed here of those of Marc Luzietti.)
What is fascism? Mussolini allegedly said (note, this quote actually first appears in an English translation of a work by Giovanni Gentile, who was one of the theorists of fascism) it was the government + corporations, and as he was the first leader of fascism, we ought to take his word, right? Well, we need to keep in mind that Mussolini, like all fascists, was an opportunist. He said whatever he thought would gain him the most support. So we can't necessarily trust his word on the subject.
Second, corporation in Italian has a different meaning than in English. Sectors of society are considered corporations (it's a medieval view of society). So farmers are a corporation, unions are a corporation, the church is a corporation. So when Mussolini supposedly said fascism is the unity of the state with corporations, it would have meant the fusion of all of society with the state, not just joint stock corporations. Which isn't to say he wasn't the running dog of the joint stock corporations. Again, opportunist, says anything.
Lastly, just as Marx says it's not what a man thinks of himself that defines him, but his relations in society, so too is that true of social movements. Just cuz fascists think something of themselves doesn't make it true.
Many seem to believe that severe authoritarianism is fascism. While it is true that fascism is severe authoritarianism, not all severely authoritarian governments are fascist. We have to look past the forms these governments take, and look at their essence.
So what is fascism?
In a nut shell, fascism is a mass movement of the enraged middle classes ("middle class" as defined by Marxism, not the American understanding of the term). They are getting their ass kicked by capitalism, and in their terror at being ruined, they lash out at all whom they see as responsible for their plight. So in
it was the socialists and communists, the bankers, in Italy ,
them plus the Jews, Roma, gays, foreigners; here, Blacks, Mexicans, Democrats,
bankers, etc. Germany
As capitalism is always kicking the middle classes asses, these reactionary elements always exist in capitalist society. What helps them grow into a mass movement is the support of the ruling class, or rather, the most powerful layers of the ruling class (the ruling class is not homogeneous, capitalism being defined by, among other things, fierce competition among capitalists, even when they seek to damp that down). If the profits of this layer are under threat, and they cannot rely on the usual means of dealing with it (calling out the army or the police) they may begin funding a fascist movement.
The capitalists only do this as a last resort, however, because they are effectively turning the state over to an alien class, and one that contains elements quite hostile to them. Consider the Tea Party's hatred of the bank bailouts and its attempt to tank the American economy just recently. It's only when the capitalists see no other way out that they turn to this insane enraged mass, because once they are in charge, there's no telling what they might do, like invade the USSR.
Like most mass movements, fascism attracts support from many classes. Historically, many of the foot soldiers of fascism were working class folks, farmers, etc. But the main impetus of fascism is the ruination, fear, and rage of the middle classes.
Fascism is not friendly. Fascism is not a policy. Fascism doesn't smile. Fascism is a boot on your face, forever. Fascism allows no opposition. The test to see whether or not you live in a fascist society is whether or not whether or not you are still alive. Since you are, we can be certain we don't live in a fascist society. (I am assuming here you are a leftist, since we're wiped out very quickly when the fascists come to power.)
Doesn't mean it can't happen, but the Tea Party has played out its historic role of saving the profits of the Finance sector of the economy, so they will likely be defeated in the next elections. ... Unless the ruling class fears a mass upsurge of the working class, which there is some indication that they do.