The word fascism has come to mean
any system of government resembling Mussolini's, that
_ exalts nation and sometimes race above the individual,
_ uses violence and modern techniques of propaganda and censorship
to forcibly suppress political opposition,
_ engages in severe economic and social regimentation,
_ engages in corporatism
In an article in the 1932 Enciclopedia
Italiana, written by Giovanni Gentile and attributed to Benito
Mussolini, fascism is described as a system in which "The
State not only is authority which governs and molds individual
wills with laws and values of spiritual life, but it is also power
which makes its will prevail abroad.... For the Fascist, everything
is within the State and... neither individuals nor groups are
outside the State.... For Fascism, the State is an absolute, before
which individuals or groups are only relative...."
Mussolini, in a speech delivered on October
28, 1925, stated the following maxim that encapsulates the fascist
philosophy: "Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello
Stato, nulla contro lo Stato." ("Everything in the
State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State".)
Therefore, he reasoned, all individuals' business is the state's
business, and the state's existence is the sole duty of the individual.
Besides totalitarianism, a key distinguishing
feature of fascism is that it uses a rightist mass movement to
attack the organizations of the working class: parties of the
left and trade unions. This strategy is variously called Corporatism,
Corporativism, or the Corporative State , all
terms that refer to state action to partner with key business
leaders, often in ways chosen to minimize the power of labor unions.
Mussolini, for example, capitalized on fear of an imminent Socialist
revolution , finding ways to unite Labor and Capital, to Labor's
ultimate detriment. In 1926 he created the National Council of
Corporations, divided into guilds of employers and employees,
tasked with managing 22 sectors of the economy. The guilds subsumed
both labor unions and management, but were heavily weighted in
favor of the corporations and their owners. The moneyed classes
in return helped him change the country's laws to raise his stature
from a coalition leader to a supreme commander. The movement was
supported by small capitalists, low-level bureaucrats, and the
middle classes, who had all felt threatened by the rise in power
of the Socialists. Fascism also met with great success in rural
areas, especially among farmers, peasants, and in the city, the
Unlike the pre-World War II period, when
many groups openly and proudly proclaimed themselves fascist,
since World War II the term has taken on an extremely pejorative
meaning, largely in reaction to the crimes against humanity committed
by the Nazis, who were allied with Mussolini during the war.
Today, very few groups proclaim themselves
as fascist, and the term almost universally is used for groups
for whom the speaker has little regard, often with minimal understanding
of what the term actually means. The term "fascist"
or "Nazi" is often ascribed to individuals or groups
who are perceived to behave in an authoritarian manner; by silencing
opposition, judging personal behavior, or otherwise attempting
to concentrate power. More particularly, "Fascist" is
sometimes used by members of the Left to characterize some group
or persons of the far-right or neo-far-right. This usage receded
much following the 1970s, but has enjoyed a strong resurgence
in connection with Anti-globalization activism.
Fascism, in many respects, is an ideology
of negativism: anti-liberal, anti-socialist, anti-Communist, anti-democratic,
anti-egalitarian, etc., and in some of its forms anti-religion.
As a political and economic system in Italy, it combined elements
of corporatism, totalitarianism, nationalism, and anti-communism.
The origin and ideology of Fascism
Etymologically, the use of the word Fascism
in modern Italian political history stretches back to the 1890s
in the form of fasci, which were radical leftist political
factions that proliferated in the decades before World War I.
The adoption of this term by the Fascist Party reflected the previous
involvement of a number of them in radical left politics. (See
Fascio for more on this movement and its evolution.)
of Fascism was written by Giovanni Gentile, an idealist philosopher
who served as the official philosopher of fascism. Mussolini signed
the article and it was officially attributed to him. In it, Frenchmen
Georges Sorel, Charles Peguy, and Hubert Lagardelle were invoked
as the sources of fascism. Sorel's ideas concerning syndicalism
and violence are much in evidence in this document. It also quotes
from Joseph Renan who it says had "pre-fascist intuitions".
Both Sorel and Peguy were influenced by the Frenchman Henri Bergson.
Bergson rejected the scientism, mechanical evolution and materialism
of Marxist ideology. Also, Bergson promoted an elan vital
as an evolutionary process. Both of these elements of Bergson
appear in fascism. Mussolini states that fascism negates the doctrine
of scientific and Marxian socialism and the doctrine of historic
materialism. Hubert Lagardelle, an authoritative syndicalist writer,
was influenced by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon who, in turn, inspired
There were several strains of tradition
influencing Mussolini. Sergio Panunzio, a major theoretician of
fascism in the 1920s, had a syndicalist background, but his influence
waned as the movement shed its old left wing elements. The fascist
concept of corporatism and particularly its theories of class
collaboration and economic and social relations are very similar
to the model laid out by Pope Leo XIII's 1892 encyclical Rerum
Novarum. This encyclical addressed politics as it had been
transformed by the Industrial Revolution, and other changes in
society that had occurred during the nineteenth century. The document
criticized capitalism, complaining of the exploitation of the
masses in industry. However, it also sharply criticized the socialist
concept of class struggle, and the proposed socialist solution
to exploitation (the elimination, or at least the limitation,
of private property). Rerum Novarum called for strong governments
to undertake a mission to protect their people from exploitation,
while continuing to uphold private property and reject socialism.
It also asked Catholics to apply principles of social justice
in their own lives.
Seeking to find some principle to compete
with and replace the Marxist doctrine of class struggle, Rerum
Novarum urged social solidarity between the upper and lower
classes, and endorsed nationalism as a way of preserving traditional
morality, customs, and folkways. In doing so, Rerum Novarum proposed
a kind of corporatism, the organization of political societies
along industrial lines that resembled mediaeval guilds. A one-person,
one-vote democracy was rejected in favor of representation by
interest groups. This idea was to counteract the "subversive
nature" of the doctrine of Karl Marx.
The themes and ideas developed in Rerum
Novarum can also be found in the ideology of fascism as developed
Fascism also borrowed from Gabriele D'Annunzio's
Constitution of Fiume for his ephemeral "regency" in
the city of Fiume. Syndicalism had an influence on fascism as
well, particularly as some syndicalists intersected with D'Annunzio's
ideas. Before the First World War, syndicalism had stood for a
militant doctrine of working-class revolution. It distinguished
itself from Marxism because it insisted that the best route for
the working class to liberate itself was the trade union rather
than the party.
The Italian Socialist Party ejected the
syndicalists in 1908. The syndicalist movement split between anarcho-syndicalists
and a more moderate tendency. Some moderates began to advocate
"mixed syndicates" of workers and employers. In this
practice, they absorbed the teachings of Catholic theorists and
expanded them to accommodate greater power of the state, and diverted
them by the influence of D'Annunzio to nationalist ends.
When Henri De Man's Italian translation
of Au-dela du marxisme emerged, Mussolini was excited and
wrote to the author that his criticism "destroyed any scientific
element left in Marxism". Mussolini was appreciative of the
idea that a corporative organization and a new relationship between
labour and capital would eliminate "the clash of economic
interests" and thereby neutralize "the germ of class
Renegade socialist thinkers, Robert Michels,
Sergio Panunzio, Ottavio Dinale, Agostino Lanzillo, Angelo Oliviero
Olivetti, Michele Bianchi, and Edmondo Rossoni, turning against
their former left-wing ideas, played a part in this attempt to
find a "third way" that rejected both capitalism and
Mussolini founded the fascist movement
on March 23, 1919 at a meeting in Milan's Piazza San Sepolcro.
Among the founding members were the revolutionary syndicalist
leaders Agostino Lanzillo and Michele Bianchi.
In 1921, the fascists developed a program
that called for:
* a democratic republic,
* a separation of church and state,
* a national army,
* a progressive taxation for inherited wealth, and
* a development of co-operatives or guilds to replace labor unions.
As the movement evolved, several of these
initial ideas were abandoned and rejected.
Mussolini's fascist state was established
nearly a decade before Hitler's rise to power. Both a movement
and a historical phenomenon, Italian Fascism was, in many respects,
an adverse reaction to both the apparent failure of laissez-faire
economics and fear of the Left. Trends in intellectual history,
such as the breakdown of positivism and the general fatalism of
postwar Europe, were also a concern.
Fascism was, to an extent, a product of
a general feeling of anxiety and fear among the middle class of
postwar Italy. This fear arose from a convergence of interrelated
economic, political, and cultural pressures. Under the banner
of this authoritarian and nationalistic ideology, Mussolini was
able to exploit fears regarding the survival of capitalism in
an era in which postwar depression, the rise of a more militant
left, and a feeling of national shame and humiliation stemming
from Italy's 'mutilated victory' at the hands of the World War
I postwar peace treaties seemed to converge. Such unfulfilled
nationalistic aspirations tainted the reputation of liberalism
and constitutionalism among many sectors of the Italian population.
In addition, such democratic institutions had never grown to become
firmly rooted in the young nation-state.
This same postwar depression heightened
the allure of Marxism among an urban proletariat who were even
more disenfranchised than their continental counterparts. But
fear of the growing strength of trade unionism, Communism, and
socialism proliferated among the elite and the middle class. In
a way, Benito Mussolini filled a political vacuum. Fascism emerged
as a "third way" - as Italy's last hope to avoid imminent
collapse of the 'weak' Italian liberalism, and Communist revolution.
While failing to outline a coherent program,
fascism evolved into a new political and economic system that
combined corporatism, totalitarianism, nationalism, and anti-Communism
in a state designed to bind all classes together under a capitalist
system. This was a new capitalist system, however, one in which
the state seized control of the organization of vital industries.
Under the banners of nationalism and state power, Fascism seemed
to synthesize the glorious Roman past with a futuristic utopia.
The appeal of this movement, the promise
of a more orderly capitalism during an era of interwar depression,
however, was not isolated to Italy, or even Europe. For example,
a decade later, the Great Depression led to a sharp economic downturn
of the Brazilian economy. A sort of quasi-fascism emerged as a
reaction to Brazil's own socio-economic problems and nationalistic
consciousness of its peripheral status in the global economy.
The regime of Getulio Vargas adopted extensive fascist influence
and entered into an alliance with Integralism, Brazil's local
Founded as a nationalist association (the
Fasci di Combattimento) of World War I veterans in Milan
on March 23, 1919, Mussolini's fascist movement converted itself
into a national party (the Partito Nazionale Fascista)
after winning 35 seats in the parliamentary elections of May 1921.
Initially combining ideological elements of both left and right,
it aligned itself with the forces of conservatism by opposing
the September 1920 factory occupations.
Despite the themes of social and economic
reform in the initial Fascist manifesto of June 1919, the movement
came to be supported by sections of the middle class fearful of
socialism and communism. Industrialists and landowners supported
the movement as a defence against labour militancy. Under threat
of a fascist March on Rome, in October 1922, Mussolini assumed
the premiership of a right-wing coalition Cabinet initially including
members of the pro-church Partito Popolare (People's Party).
The transition to outright dictatorship
was more gradual than in Germany a decade later, though in July
1923 a new electoral law all but assured a Fascist parliamentary
majority. The murder of the Socialist deputy Giacomo Matteotti
eleven months later showed the limits of political opposition.
By 1926, opposition movements had been outlawed, and in 1928,
election to parliament was restricted to fascist-approved candidates.
The regime's most lasting political achievement
was perhaps the Lateran Treaty of February 1929 between the Italian
state and the Holy See. Under this treaty, the Papacy was granted
temporal sovereignty over the Vatican City and guaranteed the
free exercise of Catholicism as the sole state religion throughout
Italy in return for its acceptance of Italian sovereignty over
the Pope's former dominions.
Trade unions and employers' associations
were reorganized by 1934 into 22 fascist corporations combining
workers and employers by economic sector, whose representatives
in 1938 replaced the parliament as the "Chamber of Corporations".
Power continued to be vested in the Fascist Grand Council, the
ruling body of the movement.
In the 1930s, Italy recovered from the
Great Depression, and achieved economic growth in part by developing
domestic substitutes for imports (Autarchia). The draining
of the malaria-infested Pontine Marshes south of Rome was one
of the regime's proudest boasts. But growth was undermined by
international sanctions following Italy's October 1935 invasion
of Ethiopia (the Abyssinia crisis), and by the government's costly
military support for Franco's Nationalists in Spain.
International isolation and their common
involvement in Spain brought about increasing diplomatic collaboration
between Italy and Nazi Germany. This was reflected also in the
Fascist regime's domestic policies as the first anti-semitic laws
were passed in 1938.
Italy's intervention (June 10th 1940)
as Germany's ally in World War II brought military disaster, and
resulted in the loss of her north and east African colonies and
the American-British-Canadian invasion of Sicily in July 1943
and southern Italy in September 1943.
Mussolini was dismissed as prime minister
by King Victor Emmanuel III on July 25th 1943, and subsequently
arrested. He was freed in September by German paratroopers and
installed as head of a puppet "Italian Social Republic"
at Salo in German-occupied northern Italy. His association with
the German occupation regime eroded much of what little support
remained to him. His summary execution on April 28th 1945 during
the war's violent closing stages by the northern partisans was
widely seen as a fitting end to his regime.
After the war, the remnants of Italian
fascism largely regrouped under the banner of the neo-Fascist
"Italian Social Movement" (MSI). The MSI merged in 1994
with conservative former Christian Democrats to form the "National
Alliance" (AN), which proclaims its commitment to constitutionalism,
parliamentary government and political pluralism.
Nazism and fascism
Nazism may be considered either a type
of fascism or a notable offshoot of fascism. It differed from
Italian fascism in the emphasis on the state's purpose in serving
a racial rather than a national ideal, specifically the social
engineering of culture to the ends of the greatest possible prosperity
for the so-called "Master Race" at the expense of all
else and all others. In contrast, Mussolini's fascism held that
cultural factors existed to serve the state, and that it wasn't
necessarily in the state's interest to serve or engineer any of
these particulars within its sphere. The only purpose of government
under fascism proper was to uphold the state as supreme above
all else, and for these reasons it can be said to have been a
While Nazism was a metapolitical ideology,
seeing both party and government as a means to achieve an ideal
condition of its people, fascism was a squarely anti-socialist
form of statism that existed as an end in and of itself. The Nazi
movement, at least in its overt ideology, spoke of class-based
society as the enemy, and wanted to unify the racial element above
established classes. The Fascist movement, on the other hand,
sought to preserve the class system and uphold it as the foundation
of established and desirable culture. This underlying theorem
made the Fascists and Nazis in the period between the two world
wars see themselves and their respective political labels as at
least partially exclusive of one another.
Fascism versus socialism
Fascism developed in opposition to socialism
and communism, although some early Fascists were themselves former
Marxists. In 1923, Mussolini declared in The Doctrine of Fascism:
... Fascism [is] the complete opposite of... Marxian Socialism,
the materialist conception of the history of human civilization
can be explained simply through the conflict of interests among
the various social groups and by the change and development in
the means and instruments of production....
Fascism, now and always, believes in holiness and in heroism;
that is to say, in actions influenced by no economic motive, direct
or indirect. And if the economic conception of history be denied,
according to which theory men are no more than puppets, carried
to and fro by the waves of chance, while the real directing forces
are quite out of their control, it follows that the existence
of an unchangeable and unchanging class-war is also denied - the
natural progeny of the economic conception of history. And above
all Fascism denies that class-war can be the preponderant force
in the transformation of society....
... "The maxim that society exists only for the well-being
and freedom of the individuals composing it does not seem to be
in conformity with nature's plans.... If classical liberalism
spells individualism," Mussolini continued, "Fascism
--Benito Mussolini, public domain, from The Internet Modern
While certain types of socialism may superficially
appear to be similar to fascism, it should be noted that the two
ideologies clash violently on many issues. The role of the state,
for example: socialism considers the state to be merely a "tool
of the people," sometimes calling it a "necessary evil,"
which exists to serve the interests of the people and to protect
the common good. (Certain forms of libertarian socialism reject
the state altogether.) Meanwhile, fascism holds the state to be
an end in and of itself, which the people should obey and serve,
rather than the other way around.
Fascism rejects the central tenets of
Marxism, which are class struggle, and the need to replace capitalism
with a society run by the working class in which the workers own
the means of production.
A fascist government is usually characterized
as "extreme right-wing," and a socialist government
as "left-wing". Others such as Hannah Arendt and Friedrich
Hayek argue that the differences between fascism and totalitarian
forms of socialism (see Stalinism) are more superficial than actual,
since those self-proclaimed "socialist" governments
did not live up to their claims of serving the people and respecting
democratic principles. Many socialists and communists also reject
those totalitarian governments, seeing them as fascism with a
socialist mask. (See political spectrum and political model for
more on these ideas.)
Socialists and other critics of Arendt
and Hayek maintain that there is no ideological overlap between
Fascism and Marxism; they regard the two as utterly distinct.
Since Marxism is the ideological basis of Communism, they argue
that the comparisons drawn by Arendt and others are invalid.
Mussolini completely rejected the Marxist
concept of class struggle or the Marxist thesis that the working
class must expropriate the means of production.
Mussolini wrote in his 1932 treatise,
The Doctrine of Fascism (ghostwritten by Giovanni Gentile):
"Outside the State there can be neither individuals nor groups
(political parties, associations, syndicates, classes). Therefore
Fascism is opposed to Socialism, which confines the movement of
history within the class struggle and ignores the unity of classes
established in one economic and moral reality in the State."
Italian fascist leader Mussolini's own
origin on the left, as a former leader of the more radical wing
of the Italian Socialist Party, has frequently been noted. After
his turn to the right, Mussolini continued to employ much of the
rhetoric of socialism, substituting the nation for social class
as the basis of political loyalty. These rhetorical devices seem
to have been the last remnants of Mussolini's non-fascist past.
It is also frequently noted that Fascist
Italy did not nationalize any industries or capitalist entities.
Rather, it established a corporatist structure influenced by the
model for class relations put forward by the Catholic Church.
Indeed, there is a lot of literature on the influence of Catholicism
on fascism and the links between the clergy and fascist parties
in Europe before and during World War II.
Although Italian fascism proclaimed its
antithesis to socialism, Mussolini's own history in the socialist
movement had some influence on him. Elements of the practice of
socialist movements he retained were:
* the need for a mass party;
* the importance of building support among the working class;
* techniques relating to the dissemination of ideas, such as
the use of propaganda.
The original Fascist Manifesto contained
within it a number of proposals for reforms that were also common
among socialist and democratic movements and were designed to
appeal to the working class. These promises were generally disregarded
once the fascists took power.
Critics point out that Marxists and trade
unionists were the first targets, and the first victims, of both
Mussolini and Adolf Hitler once they came to power. They also
note the antagonistic relationship which resulted in street fights
between fascists and socialists, including:
* the 1936 Battle of Cable Street in London of Trotskyists and
members of the Communist Party of Great Britain against Mosely's
* street fights in Germany prior to Hitler's coming to power.
A more serious manifestation of the conflict
between fascism and socialism was the Spanish Civil War, mentioned
earlier in this article.
Fascism did not spring forth full-grown,
and the writings of Fascist theoreticians cannot be taken as a
full description of Mussolini's ideology, let alone how specific
situations inevitably resulted in deviations from ideology. Mussolini's
policies drew on both the history of the Italian nation and the
philosophical ideas of the 19th century. What resulted was neither
logical nor well defined, to the extent that Mussolini defined
it as "action and mood, not doctrine".
Nonetheless, certain ideas are clearly
visible. The most obvious is nationalism. The last time Italy
had been a great nation was under the banner of the Roman Empire
and Italian nationalists always saw this as a period of glory.
Given that even other European nations with imperial ambitions
had often invoked ancient Rome in their architecture and vocabulary,
it was perhaps inevitable that Mussolini would do the same.
Following the fall of the Western Roman
Empire, Italy had not again been united until its unification
in 1870 by Cavour. Mussolini desired to affirm an Italian national
identity and therefore saw the unification as the first step towards
returning Italy to greatness and often exploited the unification
and the achievements of leading figures such as Garibaldi to induce
a sense of Italian national pride.
The Italian Fascists, like the Nazis,
were greatly influenced by the works of Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche's
idea that "life has to be a struggle" clearly influenced
the rhetoric of Fascist campaigns such as the "battle for
births" and "battle of grain". Nietzsche argued
that liberalism was weak, that war and conquest were noble, and
spoke of the . His construct of the Übermensch, the
"superman" whose will prevailed over "the weaker
man". Similar ideas (though generally without explicit nationalism
and racism) can be found in Charles Darwin's theory of natural
selection and the survival of the fittest. Mussolini, as Il
Duce, can be seen as striving to become the "superman".
The Fascist cult of national rebirth through
a strong leader has additional roots in the romantic movement
of the 19th century, as does the glorification of war. For example,
the loss of the war with Abyssinia had been a great humiliation
to Italians and consequently it was the first place targetted
for Italian expansion under Mussolini.
Not all ideas of fascism originated from
the 19th century; some find their origins in the 20th century;
for example, the use of systematic propaganda to pass on simple
slogans such as "believe, obey, fight" and Mussolini's
use of the radio. Similarly, Mussolini's corporate state was a
distinctly 20th-century creation.
Italian Fascism was flexible. Mussolini's
pragmatic embrace of the Catholic Church was hardly Nietzschean.
Nietzsche saw Christianity as "a slave religion, which caused
people to pity the weak and have no respect for the strong".
Layton describes Fascism as "not
even a rational system of thought", and as "unique but
Fascism and other totalitarian regimes
Some historians and theorists regard fascism
and "Soviet Communism" (or more specifically, Stalinism)
as being similar, lumping them together under the term "totalitarianism".
Others see them as being so dissimilar as to be utterly incomparable.
According to the libertarian Nolan chart,
"fascism" occupies a place on the political spectrum
as the capitalist equivalent of communism, wherein a system that
supports "economic liberty" is constrained by its social
controls such that it becomes totalitarian.
Hannah Arendt and other theorists of totalitarian
rule argue that there are similarities between nations under Fascist
and Stalinist rule. They condemn both groups as dictatorships
and totalitarian police states. For example, both Hitler and Stalin
committed the mass murder of millions of their country's civilians
who did not fit in with their plans.
In 1947, Austrian economist Ludwig von
Mises published a short book entitled "Planned Chaos".
He asserted that fascism and Nazism were socialist dictatorships
and that both had been committed to the Soviet principle of dictatorship
and violent oppression of dissenters. He argued that Mussolini's
major heresy from Marxist orthodoxy had been his strong endorsement
of Italian entry into World War I on the Allied side. (Mussolini
aimed to "liberate" Italian-speaking areas under Austrian
control in the Alps.) This view contradicts the statements of
Mussolini himself (not to mention his socialist opponents), and
is generally viewed with skepticism by historians. Critics of
von Mises often argue that he was attacking a Straw Man; in other
words, that he changed the definition of "socialism"
in his book, for the precise purpose of accommodating fascism
and nazism into it.
In addition, Mussolini imprisoned Antonio
Gramsci from 1926 until 1934, after Gramsci, a leader of the Italian
Communist Party and leading Marxist intellectual, tried to create
a common front among the political left and the workers, in order
to resist and overthrow fascism. Other Italian Communist leaders
like Palmiro Togliatti went into exile and fought for the Republic
The concept of dictatorship of the proletariat
alluded to by Von Mises is not the same as the dictatorship concept
employed by fascists. Dictatorship of the proletariat is
supposed to mean workers' democracy, or dictatorship by the working
class, rather than dictatorship by the capitalist class. This
concept had been distorted under Stalin to mean dictatorship by
the General Secretary over the party and the working class. In
this, Stalin deviated from Marx, and therefore it cannot be said
that the Stalinist form of government is Marxist.
As well, the fascist economic model of
corporatism promoted class collaboration by attempting to bring
classes together under the unity of the state.
Furthermore, the fact that fascist states,
on the one hand, and the USSR and the Soviet bloc, on the other,
were police states does not mean that their commonality is a product
of socialism. While many one-party states can be said to be police
states, there is no correlation between socialism and police states,
and most other one-party states (including some capitalist one-party
states) have also been police states. A few examples:
* Chile under General Augusto Pinochet
* the Republic of China under Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang,
* Afghanistan under the Taliban,
* Iran under the Shah (a monarchist police state).
* South Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, etc. during certain
periods of their recent history.
Conversely, there have been multi-party
socialist states that have not been police states.
Fascism and Communism are political systems
that rose to prominence after World War I. Historians of the period
between World War I and World War II such as E.H. Carr and Eric
Hobsbawm point out that liberalism was under serious stress in
this period and seemed to be a doomed philosophy. The success
of the Russian Revolution of 1917 resulted in a revolutionary
wave across Europe. The socialist movement worldwide split into
separate social democratic and Leninist wings. The subsequent
formation of the Third International prompted serious debates
within social democratic parties, resulting in supporters of the
Russian Revolution splitting to form Communist Parties in most
industrialized (and many non-industrialized) countries.
At the end of World War I, there were
attempted socialist uprisings or threats of socialist uprisings
throughout Europe, most notably in Germany, where the Spartacist
uprising, led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in January
1919, was eventually crushed. In Bavaria, Communists successfully
overthrew the government and established the Munich Soviet Republic
that lasted from 1918 to 1919. A short lived Hungarian Soviet
Republic was also established under Béla Kun in 1919.
The Russian Revolution also inspired attempted
revolutionary movements in Italy with a wave of factory occupations.
Most historians view fascism as a response to these developments,
as a movement that both tried to appeal to the working class and
divert them from Marxism. It also appealed to capitalists as a
bulwark against Bolshevism. Italian fascism took power with the
blessing of Italy's king after years of leftist-led unrest led
many conservatives to fear that a communist revolution was inevitable.
Throughout Europe, numerous aristocrats,
conservative intellectuals, capitalists and industrialists lent
their support to fascist movements in their countries that emulated
Italian fascism. In Germany, numerous right-wing nationalist groups
arose, particularly out of the post-war Freikorps, which were
used to crush both the Spartacist uprising and the Munich Soviet.
With the worldwide Great Depression of
the 1930s, it seemed that liberalism and the liberal form of capitalism
were doomed, and Communist and fascist movements swelled. These
movements were bitterly opposed to each other and fought frequently,
the most notable example of this conflict being the Spanish Civil
War. This war became a proxy war between the fascist countries
and their international supporters - who backed Franco - and the
worldwide Communist movement allied uneasily with anarchists and
Trotskyists - who backed the Popular Front - and were aided chiefly
by the Soviet Union.
Initially, the Soviet Union supported
a coalition with the western powers against Nazi Germany and popular
fronts in various countries against domestic fascism. This policy
was largely unsuccessful due to the distrust shown by the western
powers (especially Britain) towards the Soviet Union. The Munich
Agreement between Germany, France and Britain heightened Soviet
fears that the western powers were endeavoring to force them to
bear the brunt of a war against Nazism. The lack of eagerness
on the part of the British during diplomatic negotiations with
the Soviets served to make the situation even worse. The Soviets
changed their policy and negotiated a non-aggression pact known
as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939. Vyacheslav Molotov claims
in his memoirs that the Soviets believed this was necessary to
buy them time to prepare for an expected war with Germany. Stalin
expected the Germans not to attack until 1942, but the pact ended
in 1941 when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in Operation
Barbarossa. Fascism and communism reverted to being lethal enemies.
The war, in the eyes of both sides, was a war between ideologies.
Fascism and the Catholic Church
Another controversial topic is the relationship
between fascist movements and the Catholic Church. As mentioned
above, Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical, Rerum Novarum anticipated
much of the doctrine that became known as fascism. Forty years
later, the corporatist tendencies of Rerum Novarum were underscored
by Pope Pius XI's May 25, 1931 encyclical Quadragesimo Anno
which restated the hostility of Rerum Novarum to both unbridled
competition and class struggle.
In the early 1920s, the Catholic party
in Italy (Partito Popolare) was in the process of forming a coalition
with the Reform Party that could have stabilized Italian politics
and thwarted Mussolini's projected coup. On October 2, 1922, Pope
Pius XI circulated a letter ordering clergy not to identify themselves
with the Partito Popolare, but to remain neutral, an act that
undercut the party and its alliance against Mussolini. Following
Mussolini's rise to power, the Vatican's Secretary of State met
Il Duce in early 1923 and agreed to dissolve the Partito
Popolare, which Mussolini saw as obstacle to fascist rule.
In exchange, the fascists made guarantees regarding Catholic education
In 1924, following the murder of the leader
of the Socialist Party by fascists, the Partito Popolare
joined with the Socialist Party in demanding that the King dismiss
Mussolini as Prime Minister, and stated their willingness to form
a coalition government. Pius XI responded by warning against any
coalition between Catholics and socialists. The Vatican ordered
all priests to resign from the Partito Popolare and from
any positions they held in it. This led to the party's disintegration
in rural areas where it relied on clerical assistance.
The Vatican subsequently established Catholic
Action as a non-political lay organization under the direct control
of bishops. The organization was forbidden by the Vatican to participate
in politics, and thus was not permitted to oppose the fascist
regime. Pius XI ordered all Catholics to join Catholic Action.
This resulted in hundreds of thousands of Catholics withdrawing
from the Partito Popolare, and joining the apolitical Catholic
Action. This caused the Catholic Party's final collapse. 
When Mussolini ordered the closure of
Catholic Action in May 1931, Pius XI issued an encyclical, Non
abbiamo bisogno. This document stated the Catholic Church's
opposition to the dissolution, and argued that the order "unmasked
the 'pagan' intentions of the Fascist state". Under international
pressure, Mussolini decided to compromise, and Catholic Action
Aside from doctrinal similarities, the
relationship between the Church and fascist movements in various
countries has been very close. For example, in Slovakia, the fascist
dictator was a Catholic monsignor. In Croatia, the fascist Ustashe
identified itself as a Catholic movement. These regimes have been
seen as examples of clerical fascism. (see also Involvement of
Croatian Catholic clergy with the Ustasa regime)
The Vichy regime in France was also deeply
influenced by the reactionary Catholic ideology of the Action
Française. Conversely, many Catholic priests were persecuted
under the Nazi regime, and many Catholic laypeople and clergy
played notable roles in sheltering Jews during the Holocaust.
Practice of fascism
Examples of fascist systems include:
* Mussolini's Italy,
* Nazi Germany,
* Spain under the Falange Española y de las Juntas de
Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalista (FET y de las JONS) Party of Francisco
Fascism in practice embodied both political
and economic policies, and invites different comparisons. As noted
elsewhere in this article, some writers who focus on the politically
repressive policies of fascism identify it as one form of totalitarianism,
a description they use to characterize not only Fascist Italy
and Nazi Germany, but also countries such as the Soviet Union,
The People's Republic of China or North Korea. It should be noted
that "totalitarianism" is a catch-all group which includes
many different ideologies that are sworn enemies to each other.
However, some analysts point out that
certain fascist governments were arguably more authoritarian than
totalitarian. There is almost universal agreement that Nazi Germany
was totalitarian. However, many would argue that the governments
of Franco's Spain and Salazar's Portugal, while fascist, were
more authoritarian than totalitarian.
Writers who focus on economic policies
and the use of state apparatuses to broker conflicts between different
classes make even broader comparisons, identifying fascism as
one form of corporatism. In its Corporativist model of totalitarian
but private management, the various functions of the state were
trades, conceived as individualized entities making up that state.
Further, it is in the state's interest to oversee them for that
reason, but not direct them or make them public because such functioning
in government hands undermines the definition of the state. Private
activity is in a sense contracted to the state so that the state
may suspend the infrastructure of any entity in accordance with
their usefulness and direction. Corporatism was a political outgrowth
of Catholic social doctrine from the 1890s. Some highly controversial
parallels have been drawn embracing not only Nazi Germany, but
also certain parts of Roosevelt's New Deal in the United States,
and Juan Peron's populism in Argentina. Prominent proponents of
fascism in pre-WWII America included the publisher Seward Collins,
whose periodical The American Review (1933-1937) featured essays
by Collins and others that praised Mussolini and Hitler. The America
First movement, funded by William Regnery, among others, took
a pro-German view of the world during the 1930s, and fought to
keep America neutral after Britain entered the war in 1939. Father
Charles E. Coughlin's Depression-era radio broadcasts extolled
the virtues of fascism.
Henry Wallace, wrote in 1944 during his
term as vice president of the United States, "American fascism
will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition
among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information,
and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery."
Fascism as an international phenomenon
It is often a matter of dispute whether
a certain government is to be characterized as fascist, authoritarian,
totalitarian, or just a plain police state. Regimes that are alleged
to have been either fascist or sympathetic to fascism include:
Austria (1933-1938) - Austro-fascism:
Dollfuß dissolved parliament and established a clerical-fascist
dictatorship which lasted until Austria was incorporated into
Germany through the Anschluss. Dollfuß's idea of
a "Ständestaat" was borrowed from Mussolini.
Italy (1922-1943) - The first fascist
country, it was ruled by Benito Mussolini (Il Duce) until
Mussolini was captured during the Allied invasion. Mussolini was
rescued from house arrest by German troops, and set up a short
lived puppet state in northern Italy under the protection of the
Germany (1933-1945) - Ruled by the Nazi
movement of Adolf Hitler (der Führer). In the terminology
of the Allies, Nazi Germany was as their chief enemy the mightiest
and best-known fascist state. See above for a discussion on the
differences and similarities between Nazism and fascism.
Spain (1936-1975) - After the 1936 arrest
and execution of its founder José Antonio Primo de Rivera
during the Spanish Civil War, the fascist Falange Española
Party was led by Generalissimo Francisco Franco, who became known
as El Caudillo, the undisputed leader of the Nationalist
side in the war, and, after victory, head of state until his death
over 35 years later.
Portugal (1932-1968) - Although less restrictive
than the Italian, German and Spanish regimes, the Estado Novo
regime of António de Oliveira Salazar was quasi-fascist.
Greece - Joannis Metaxas' 1936 to 1941
dictatorship was not particularly ideological in nature, and might
hence be characterized as authoritarian rather than fascist. The
same can be argued regarding Colonel George Papadopoulos' 1967
to 1974 military dictatorship, which was supported by the United
Brazil (1937-1945) - Many historians have
argued that Brazil's Estado Novo under Getulio Vargas was a Brazilian
variant of the continental fascist regimes. For a period of time,
Vargas' regime was aligned with Plínio Salgado's Integralist
Party, Brazil's fascist movement.
Belgium (1939-1945) - The violent Rexist
movement and the Vlaamsch-Nationaal Verbond party achieved some
electoral success in the 1930s. Many of its members assisted the
Nazi occupation during World War II. The Verdinaso movement, too,
can be considered fascist. Its leader, Joris Van Severen, was
killed before the Nazi occupation. Some of its adepts collaborated,
but others joined the resistance.
Slovakia (1939-1944) - The Slovak People's
Party was a quasi-fascist nationalist movement associated with
the Catholic Church. Founded by Father Andrej Hlinka, his successor
Monsignor Jozef Tiso became the Nazis' quisling in a nominally
France (1940-1944) - The Vichy regime
of Philippe Pétain, established following France's defeat
by Germany, collaborated with the Nazis, including in the death
of 65,000 French Jews.
Romania (1940-1944) - The violent Iron
Guard took power when Ion Antonescu forced King Carol II to abdicate.
The fascist regime ended after Soviet troops entered the country.
Croatia (1941-1945) - Poglavnik
Ante Paveli_, leader of the infamous Usta_e movement, came to
power in 1941 as the Croatian puppet leader under the control
of Nazi Germany.
Norway (1943-1945) - Vidkun Quisling had
staged a coup d'état during the German invasion
on April 9th, 1940. This first government was replaced by a Nazi
puppet government under his leadership from February 1st, 1943.
His party had never had any substantial support in Norway.
Hungary (1944-1945) - Ferenc Szálasi
headed the extremist Arrow Cross party. In 1944, with German support,
he replaced Admiral Miklós Horthy as Head of State; following
Horthy's attempt to have Hungary change sides.
Argentina (1946-1955 and 1973-1974) -
Juan Perón admired Mussolini and established his own pseudo-fascist
regime. After he died, his third wife and vice-president Isabel
Perón was deposed by a military junta.
South Africa (1948-1994) - Many scholars
have labelled the apartheid system built by Malan and Verwoerd
as a type of fascism.
Rhodesia (1965-1978) - The racial segregation
system by Ian Smith is similarly considered by some to be a form
Lebanon (1982-1988) - The right wing Christian
Phalangist Party, backed by its own private army and inspired
by the Spanish Falangists, was nominally in power in the country
during the 1980s but had limited authority over the highly factionalised
state, two-thirds of which was occupied by Israeli and Syrian
troops. Phalangists, trained and supported by Israel are alleged
to have carried out the Sabra and Shatila Massacre in 1982.