In the article “Ur Fascism”, Umberto Eco highlights the various aspects pertaining to fascism going into specific detail about how it came into existence and eventually evolved into a more general term over time. Eco argues that unlike other totalitarian governments whether it be Nazism or Stalinism, Fascism particularly that of Mussolini lacked any specific ideology and so to say a proper structure instead it is more of a vague collection of different ideas and characteristics which he lists out as “ a charismatic ruler, corporatism, rejection of democracy” and uniformity among people in view of nationalistic ideologies and behavior which he categorically refers to as ‘nation regimented in black shirts’. Furthermore, he entails that it is hard for fascism in its original form to ever return back to the world as he sees it and how now fascism has a much more broader connotation to it as it is referred to several different forms of rule or governments mainly due to the fact of how ambiguous and unsolid the foundation or the basic idea of fascism itself is. It is also elaborated that back when Fascism was first introduced, Mussolini garnered so many supporters solely on the basis of his expertise on ‘rhetoric’ as in convincing people with the way he spoke rather than the actual notion of fascism. As a result, Eco believes that the lack of a particular ideology and only several characteristics, any nation or government that even possesses any one of these characteristics can be termed as fascist. Eco further lists out all these characteristics with a warning of how some of these characteristics contradict one another as a result cannot often be found together in one regime but still the presence of any few of these is enough to label any rule as fascist.
Several aspects of fascism that Eco highlights within his article “Ur-Fascism” can be extensively observed within the world and specifically government of Oceania portrayed within George Orwell’s novel “1984”. And reading both of them consecutively makes it more obvious of how much both the pieces of literature overlap in terms of content. Furthermore, while both these works highlight similar characteristics not only pertaining to fascism but more so a flawed society filled with several in-built issues, they both also portray the idea of a dystopian world as we see it. However, the key thing to notice here is the way both depict it, while 1984 is more of a fiction piece, the article “Ur- Fascism” specifically targets forms of rule or government as actually seen throughout history and even could be to a certain extent seen in present times throughout the world as well. This highlights how dystopias or a dystopian world is not only a situation or world that can be reflected within fiction or imaginary circumstances but there are several instances where such a phenomenon can be observed in real world as well which is exactly what our main focus in this class is about: of not only figuring what a dystopia is and its elements but how it is mirrored within the real world.
Now coming to the ways “1984” could be compared to “Ur-Fascism” and how in a way the government of Oceania can be termed to be purely fascist. One of the main points that Eco illustrates is the idea of fascism containing a concept of “Elitism” which in a sense establishes a system of classes based on the availability of power to the people of these classes. He explains of how certain people are kept weak so as to maintain the power of the ruler himself or the higher class. Similarly, in “1984”, a systematic division of power occurs in a sense establishing a system of social classes where there is the inner party with the most power, then the outer party and the proles. The inner party or especially Big Brother derives its power from the weakness he himself has systematically ordained onto the people ‘so called’ inferior to him. So, clearly as also discussed within the class, one aspect of a dystopia is to have some form of oppression in place particularly mentioned in the two situations above: governmental oppression. Furthermore, to keep this power in place the governments or ‘so called’ rulers have a specific system of fear in place where as mentioned in “Ur-Fascism”, “disagreement is a treason” if they oppose or show any dissent with the way the government functions, people have to face dire consequences, vaporization to mention one in the context of “1984”. And in 1984, the system of fear is so ingrained to the limit that they have to even keep their facial expressions in check to not show any sign of disagreement. Not only is this sense of fear ingrained among people from within but as Eco puts it, it also has a xenophobic aspect to it where while propagating the nationalistic ideologies, fascist governments mostly try to create negative images of the people existing outside of that ‘so called’ nation and this in terms of fascism also mostly has a racist aspect to it especially in Mussolini’s reign, it was more so anti-Semitic. While on one side we do trace such elements of xenophobia put into place within “1984” particularly whenever enemy soldiers whether it be of Eastasia or Eurasia are mentioned it is always done in a caricatural and negative manner, however, throughout the novel the racist or nationalistic aspect was not discovered and this is where Eco’s idea of fascism and Orwell’s world of Oceania don’t completely overlap. While these were just a few examples of how the works depict similarities and slight differences, there are several other places throughout the works where one can find one work better illustrating or expanding onto the other. However, I believe that “Ur-Fascism” not only provides a good criteria to understand the general concept of fascism but it also serves as an integral link in our understanding of the otherwise “huge” idea of dystopia and how it can been observed outside of the conventional settings of where we imagine to normally find it.