Fascism, in the classical sense, is a national revolutionary ideology which seeks the ethnic-cultural palingenesis of European nations. Its theory of history is centered on the belief in the perpetual struggle between nations as a part of the natural order, transposing the Marxist concept of economic based class struggle with a form of national[ist] class struggle ["socialism of the nations"] in which underdeveloped proletarian nations seek their own emancipation from an hegemonic global hierarchical structure—by means of implementing programs of rapid industrialization and modernization of the national infrastructure—imposed upon the world by a "plutocracy" of democratic-capitalist-socialist states.
In practice, Fascism combines the methods of national syndicalism, corporatism, and totalitarianism [Corporate-Ethical State] as the means of assimilating its citizens into a monolithic national class, to facilitate the abolition of all socio-economic divisions or perceived class distinctions based on material conditions while unifying the masses into a shared "national consciousness" based on a higher moral law, and thus preparing the whole of the nation for its inevitable struggle against the internationalist 'plutocratic order' via combination of militarism and industrial modernization.
National Socialism splinters off from Fascism by replacing its theory of history of the struggle of nations with the struggle of races while focusing more on the revival of Northern European folk culture in general and its rescue from the predatory institutions of international finance. Many fascist intellectuals heavily promoted the cult of Romanità, viewing themselves as the architects of a "Third Rome", a philosophical conception that has influenced the modern 'Third Rome ideology' of many ultranationalist, far-right European political groups today, especially in countries with pre-existing Third Rome claims, most notably Russia. Fascism is a revolutionary nationalist ideology that originates from early 1920s Italy. Below are a few notable quotes from some of the chief architects of fascist ideology.
"The Fascist ethic is born of the Sorelian one, but at the same time marks a break with it by transforming the concept of social class into that of national class, and the economic premiss into a historical one. [...]
We firmly believe that syndicalism will destroy social classes and bring about the emergence of a single class, of a new nation, of a new gens, which subsumes itself, just as in a new race born of mysterious fusion of different and conflicting classes, all the forms and all the ethnic, political, and economic values of our race. We believe in the coming not of a new society, but of a new civilization: and we are certain that it will be neither bourgeois nor proletarian. We have equal contempt for both. [...]
Fascism has appropriated the revolutionary spirit of syndicalist violence to carry out the profound transformation of the modern social order (founded on the economic and political struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat), from which will emerge, welded into a powerful organism, a single national class. Fascism already represents this new class." — Curzio Malaparte 1923, Partito Nazionale Fascista
"Nationalism was perhaps the only the only movement of ideas in Italy which, to Italians absorbed in the problem of internal distribution of wealth, raised the issue of the international distribution of wealth. It proclaimed out loud that, alongside internal justice there also exists international justice, and asked for justice for the Italian nation too. In this sense, Nationalism deserved the name socialism of the nations. Indeed, if there is a nation which has the right and the duty to behave nationalistically, it is precisely the Italian nation, the proletarian nation par excellence, suffocated in a world dominated by the high-handedness and greed of capitalist and plutocratic nations." — The Blueprint for a New Italy 1920, Associazione Nazionalista Italiana
"Nationalism considers the expression of Italy's power in the world not only as a process of promoting national productivity and bringing the highest economic and political benefits to all its citizens, but above all as a duty. It is a moral law which calls upon a people destined, for geographic, historical, and demographic reasons, either to perish or to expand and dominate, to embrace its destiny and be unflinching in the struggle with competing nations, a struggle which will be hard but, with victory assured, also glorious." — Alfredo Rocco 1920, Associazione Nazionalista Italiana and Partito Nazionale Fascista
"Fascism transcends democracy and liberalism; its regenerative action is based on granite foundations: the idea of hierarchy, of the participation of the whole population in the life of the State, social justice in the equitable distribution of rights and duties, the infusion of public life with moral principles, the affirmation of religious values, the prestige of the family, the ethical interpretation of the ideas of order, authority and liberty." — Asvero Gravelli
"We have created our myth. The myth is a faith, a passion. It is not necessary for it to be a reality. It is a reality in the sense that it is a stimulus, is hope, is faith, is courage. Our myth is the nation, our myth is the greatness of the nation! And to this myth, this greatness, which we want to translate into a total reality, we subordinate everything else. [...]
A nation is great when it translates into reality the force of its spirit. Rome becomes great when, starting out as a small rural democracy, it gradually spreads out across the whole of Italy in accordance with its spirit, until it encounters the warriors of Carthage and must fight them. It is the first war in history. Then, gradually, it bears its standards to the ends of the earth, but at every turn the Roman Empire is the culmination of the spirit, since the weapons were aimed, not just by the arms of the Roman legionaries, but by their spirit. Now, therefore, we desire the greatness of the nation, both material and spiritual." — Benito Mussolini 1922, Partito Nazionale Fascista
Some academic interpretations of Fascism and Totalitarianism:
Fascism: a revolutionary species of political modernism originating in the early twentieth century whose mission is to combat the allegedly degenerative forces of contemporary history by bringing about an alternative modernity and temporality (a 'new order' and a 'new era') based on the rebirth, or palingenesis, of the nation. Fascists conceive the nation as an organism shaped by historic, cultural, and in some cases, ethnic and hereditary factors, a mythic construct incompatible with liberal, conservative, and communist theories of society. The health of this organism they see undermined as much by the principles of institutional and cultural pluralism, individualism, and globalized consumerism promoted by liberalism as by the global regime of social justice and human equality (egalitarianism) identified by socialism in theory as the ultimate goal of history, or by the conservative defense of 'tradition.'
The fascist process of national regeneration demands radical measures to create or assert national vitality and strength in the spheres of art, culture, social cohesion, the economy, politics, and foreign policy. In the acute crisis conditions which prevailed in Europe after 1918, fascists saw the natural vehicle for this regeneration, once a critical mass of popular support was achieved, in a nationalist movement with both a mass base and paramilitary cadres that in the transition to the new nation would use propaganda and violence to create the new national community. The charisma of fascist leaders depended on their success in performing the role of modern propheta who offered his followers a new 'mazeway' (world-view) to redeem the nation from chaos and lead it into a new era, one that drew on a mythicized past to regenerate the future.
Fascism can thus be interpreted on one level as an intensely politicized form of the modernist revolt against decadence. Its modernist dynamics in the inter-war period are manifested in the importance it attached to culture as a site of total social regeneration, its emphasis on artistic creativity as the source of vision and higher values, its adherence to the logic of 'creative destruction,' its conviction that a superseded historical epoch was dying and a new one was dawning, and the virulence of its attacks on materialism, individualism, and the loss of higher values allegedly brought about by modernity. They also condition the way it operates as a modern revitalization movement, the extreme syncretism of its ideology, and its draconian acts designed to bring about the cleansing, regeneration, and sacralization of the national community, and create the new fascist man.
Constructed in this way the distinctiveness of fascism can be encapsulated in the shorted definition: 'fascism is a form of programmatic modernism that seeks to conquer political power in order to realize in totalizing vision of national or ethnic rebirth. Its ultimate end is to overcome the decadence that has destroyed a sense of communal belonging and drained modernity of meaning and transcendence and usher in a new era of cultural homogeneity and health. Roger Griffin, The Nature of Fascism and Modernism and Fascism: The Sense of a Beginning under Mussolini and Hitler
Totalitarianism: an experiment in political domination undertaken by a revolutionary movement, with an integralist conception of politics, that aspires toward a monopoly of power and that, after having secured power, whether by legal or illegal means, destroys or transforms the previous regime and constructs a new State based on a single-party regime, with the chief objective of conquering society; that is, it seeks the subordination, integration, and homogenization of the governed on the basis of the integral politicization of of existence, whether collective or individual, interpreted according to the categories, the myths and values of a palingenetic ideology, institutionalized in the form of a political religion, aiming to shape the individual and the masses through an anthropological revolution in order to regenerate the human being and create a new man, dedicated in body and soul to the realization of the revolutionary and imperialistic policies of the totalitarian party, whose ultimate goal is to create a new civilization beyond the Nation-state. — Emilio Gentile, The Origins of Fascist Ideology 1918-1925
Additional explanations of Fascism as a philosophy:
Additional analysis of Totalitarianism as a political concept: