Today the word "fascist" is used by many people as not much more than a swear word, due to how World War 2 unfolded. However, what precise meaning did it carry when used to describe a person in the 1930's?
In a novel written and set in the 1930's, the main character is a tourist on a trip in Italy, misses a train, gets lost, and enjoys this experience so much that he intentionally avoids being found for several weeks. Two times is the word "fascist" used in the novel, once a "young fascist" asks him for a light for his cigarette, and another time a "fascist" is described to stop him at a train station, says he recognized him from the newspapers as the lost foreign tourist, and says his wife is looking for him. The main character quickly scribbles a telegraph message to tell his family he is all right, gives this message with some money to cover the telegraph fee, and the "fascist" lets him go, and fulfills the task of bringing the telegraph to the post office.
What kind of person did this word describe? Was it like a job description? If so, what did they do? From the novel it seemed to be like a kind of detective or policeman, but he didn't detain or question the "lost person". If not, then what else could it mean? As fascism was the current political system in Italy at that time, what information could this word carry, would it be similar to call some random person in the Soviet Union a communist, or a random person in a democratic country a democrat (not in the USA, where it is more specific to a political party)? Otherwise what, a political activist? How would he then be recognized as such in a train station, and what kind of information or description would the author want to deliver with it?
The novel itself doesn't seem to carry any kind of political message or sociological commentary. It simply focuses on the private life of a few people without any focus on the political landscape of the era.
I wish to simply know what kind of person I should imagine this character as.