If "feminist" is one political f-word, "fascism" is certainly the other.
Even I am guilty of possessing the immediate assocation. Just like we're used to thinking of post-apocalyptic chaos and beating up senior citizens when someone says "anarchy", the f-word brings it's own connotations. Hitler in a pair of Gap khaki's and knee boots just waiting to shove a riding crop up the nearest ass is the usual favorite.
Granted, Hitler was fairly good at operating in fascist style, but rather poor at making decisions for his state. Stalin took a much better crack at it.
My preferred model of fascism though, is mid-period Rome. Fascism itself is unrelated to cruelty, slavery, and total control of all human behaviour. If ever there was a jovial, celebratory society, it would have to be Rome. Yes, even *you* could frolick down the street wearing blue lipstick, with an entourage of naked eunuchs without the bat of any government eyelash! Infact, the government itself was guilty of this indulgence, but he was a fairly short-lived emperor.
Fascism at it's simplest just means higher priority government. More state. More direction, more organization. It doesn't mean infringement upon your individuality, general freedom or creativity.
Mid Rome is my favorite example of functional fascism, because it worked well. It outlasted any other fascist regime by a longshot. The common populace was happy, the state prospered, conquered, and occupied Europe up until the feudal period. All citizens were required to do a few of years of mandatory military or social service and pay their taxes. Beyond those obligations, the government didn't require much of the citizenry, and people were generally free to do as they pleased. With the manpower that the mandatory service provided, Rome could offer alot in exchange for the citizen's duties: Roads for the merchants, public baths, protection from barbarians, the aqueduct, buildings, health, social security. Excessively advanced by the previous standards of the time! The citizens could conduct their businesses, purchase sex slaves if they felt so inclined, and use the amenities of the city at will...
A fascist state possess the power to demand and receive anything from it's people, but a smart fascist state that wants to last does not demand excess. Several years of state service and taxes isn't bad exchange for lifelong security, a real pension, cleanliness, a plot of land. The beauty of state service is that it frees capital - not having to hire people to get the dirty work done, the state saves money. A smart state spends the money on the desires of the people, who if satisfied, won't conspire and oust the government. It's a fair balance of comfort to discomfort, freedom to subjugation. The nineteenth and twentieth century models of Italian and German fascism have been horribly lopsided and didn't last long as a result.
When the state assumes greater control of the operations of it's own people, the concept of a "larger whole" can be actualized. The citizens can contribute to something greater than themselves, and the state can mobilize an entire empire of people to accomplish a goal. In this way, the state is more important than the individuals inside it because the state is larger than the sum of it's parts. In a fascist state, things can get done because you've got a huge pool of workers at your disposal, and reasonably content taxpayers who can fund their projects. Taking over most of Europe wasn't just a coincidence.
The other part of classical fascism that turns my crank is that it lends well to meritocracy. I think most of us cling to the idea that "all humans are fundamentally equal" when really, deep down inside somewhere, we know this isn't true. We can look around and acknowledge that some people are more productive, more intelligent, more capable, dexterous, talented... Some exemplify qualities that others do not. Some of these qualities are more functional to a state than others. In this way, the social/military service acts simultaneously as a great equalizer to all people, and a system of selection and reward to those who are more innovative and productive. Out of the entire population fed through the government work force, those who are superior are rewarded. Those who aren't, aren't. The Roman inferior were kept satisfied, fed and amused, and those of greater capacity could reap greater rewards. Cruelty and exploitation are not implicit functions of meritocracy - it does not demand that those of less quality be used or abuse. Meritocracy in this sense just means that those who can take on more responsibility, and in return, they get more goodies. Those who cannot? It is in the best interest of those higher on the food chain to keep them happy, after all, a happy populace is much easier to govern. A happy populace does not feel exploited, a happy populace will not oust the government.
A state that provides for you and otherwise leaves you alone, and a system where the smart ones might actually make the decisions. Perhaps even some long term planning. What isn't there to love?