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Fascism series.

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Varieties and derivatives of fascism

Clerical fascism
Japanese fascism
Greek fascism
Liberal fascism

Fascist political parties and movements

List of fascist movements by country

Fascism in history

March on Rome
Italian Social Republic
Greek Fascism

Relevant lists

List of fascists

Related subjects

Fascist symbolism
Roman salute
National syndicalism
Black Brigades
Actual Idealism
Fascist unification rhetoric
Conservative Revolutionary movement
Adolf Hitler
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International Third Position
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Neofascism and religion

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Fascism (in Italian, fascismo), capitalized, was the authoritarian political movement which ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943 under the leadership of Benito Mussolini. Similar political movements spread across Europe between World War I and World War II and took several forms such as Nazism and Clerical fascism. Neo-fascism is generally used to describe post-WWII movements seen to have fascist attributes.

More generally, uncapitalized, fascism is typified by attempts to impose state control over all aspects of life: political, social, cultural, and economic. The definitional debates and arguments by academics over the nature of fascism, however, fill entire bookshelves. There are elements of both left and right ideology in the development of Fascism, but it generally attracts political support from right-wing and ultra-conservative movements and electoral parties. More contemporary examples are discussed on the page Neo-fascism. For a discussion of different ideological debates concerning fascism, see Fascism and ideology.

Modern colloquial usage of the word has extended the definition of the terms fascism and neo-fascism to refer to any totalitarian worldview regardless of its political ideology, although scholars frown on this. Sometimes, the word "fascist" is used as a hyperbolic political epithet to describe one's opponents.

The word "fascism" comes from fascio (plural: fasci), which may mean "bundle," as in a political or militant group or a nation, but also from the fasces (rods bundled around an axe), which were an ancient Roman symbol of the authority of magistrates. The Italian 'Fascisti' were also known as Black Shirts for their style of uniform incorporating a black shirt (See Also: political colour).

Italian Fascism is often considered to be a proper noun and thus denoted by a capital letter "F", whereas generic fascism is conventionally represented with the lower-case character "f". Italian Fascism is considered a model for other forms of fascism, yet there is disagreement over which aspects of structure, tactics, culture, and ideology represent a "fascist minimum" or core.



The term fascism has come to mean any system of government resembling Mussolini's, that in various combinations:

  • exalts the nation and party above the individual (which is worthless), with the state apparatus being supreme.
  • stresses loyalty to a single leader, and submission to a single nationalistic culture.
  • engages in economic intervention through the creation of a Corporatist State, where the divergent economic and social interests of different races and classes are combined with the interests of the State, such as industry and union "corporations" ("industrial boards", cartels) run by the State.

As a political and economic system in Italy, fascism combined elements of corporatism, totalitarianism, nationalism, militarism and anti-Communism. 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.

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 National Socialist Nazis, who were allied with Mussolini during the war.

Today, very few groups proclaim themselves fascist, and the term is often used to describe individuals or political groups who are perceived to behave in an authoritarian or totalitarian manner; by silencing opposition, judging personal behavior, promoting racism, or otherwise attempting to concentrate power. Fascism may be understood as being anti-liberalism, anti-Communist, anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian, anti-rationalist etc., and in some of its forms anti-religion and anti-monarchy.

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 left-wing political factions that proliferated in the decades before World War I. (See Fascio for more on this movement and its evolution.)

One of the first of these groups were the Fasci Siciliani who were part of the first movement that consisted of the Italian working-class peasants that made real progress. The Fasci Siciliani dei lavoratori, were revolutionary socialists that were led by Giuseppe De Felice Giuffrida.

Italian Fascism

A Doctrine of Fascism was written by Giovanni Gentile, a neo-Hegelian philosopher who served as the official philosopher of fascism. Mussolini signed the article and it was officially attributed to him. In it, French socialists 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 Ernest 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 historical materialism. Hubert Lagardelle, an authoritative syndicalist writer, was influenced by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon who, in turn, inspired anarchosyndicalism.

There were several strains of tradition influencing Mussolini. Sergio Panunzio, a major theoretician of fascism in the 1920s, had a syndicalist background. The fascist concept of corporatism and particularly its theories of class collaboration and economic and social relations have similarities to the model laid out by Pope Leo XIII's 1892 encyclical Rerum Novarum[1]. 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. Its analogy of the state as being like a body working together as "one mind" had some cultural influence on the early Fascists of Catholic nations. It also indicated the state had a right to suppress "firebrands" and striking workers. Further Rerum Novarum proposed a kind of corporatism that resembled medieval guilds for an industrial age. This relates far more directly to Brazilian Integralism form of Fascism than anything in Italy. There are also disputable claims that it influenced The New Deal. The encyclical intended to counteract the "subversive nature" of both Marxism and liberalism.

Themes and ideas developed in Rerum Novarum can also be found in the ideology of fascism as developed by Mussolini. Although it also contains ideas like "the members of the working classes are citizens by nature and by the same right as the rich" or "the State has for its office to protect natural rights, not to destroy them; and, if it forbid its citizens to form associations, it contradicts the very principle of its own existence," that never fit easily with Italian Fascism.

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 warfare.'"

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 socialism.

Many historians claim that the March 23, 1919 meeting at the Piazza San Sepolcro was the historic “birthplace” of the fascist movement. However, this would imply that the Italian Fascists “came from nowhere” which is simply not true. Mussolini revived his former group, Fasci d'Azione rivoluzionaria, in order to take part in the 1919 elections in response to an increase in Communist activity occurring in Milan. The Fasci di Combattimenti were the result of this continuation (not creation) of the Fascist party. The result of the meeting was that Fascism became an organized political movement. Among the founding members were the revolutionary syndicalist leaders Agostino Lanzillo and Michele Bianchi.

In 1921, the fascists developed a program that called for:

As the movement evolved, several of these initial ideas were abandoned and rejected.

Mussolini capitalized on fear of a Communist revolution [2], finding ways to unite Labor and Capital to prevent class war. 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, and were represented in a chamber of corporations through a triad comprised of a representative from management, from labour and from the party. Together they would plan aspects of the economy for mutual advantage. 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 lumpenproletariat.

Mussolini's fascist state was established nearly a decade before Hitler's rise to power (1922 and the March on Rome). 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.

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.

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 defense 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 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. 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 under command of Otto Skorzeny 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

Benito Mussolini giving the Roman salute standing next to Adolf Hitler
Benito Mussolini giving the Roman salute standing next to Adolf Hitler

The extent and nature of the affinity between Fascism and Nazism has been the subject of much academic debate. Although the modern consensus sees Nazism as a type or offshoot of fascism, there are many experts who argue that Nazism was not fascist at all, either on the grounds that the differences are too great, or because they deny that fascism is generic.


Nazism differed from Fascism proper in the emphasis on the state's purpose in serving its national ideal on the basis of a national race, specifically the social engineering of culture to the ends of the greatest possible prosperity for German 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 governmental statolatry. Where Nazism spoke of "Volk", Fascism talked of "State".

While Nazism was a metapolitical ideology, seeing both party and government as a means to achieve an ideal condition for certain chosen 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, although this is not to say that Fascists rejected the concept of social mobility. Indeed a central tenet of the Corporate State was meritocracy. This underlying theorem made the Fascists and National Socialists in the period between the two world wars sometimes see themselves and their respective political labels as at best partially exclusive of one another, and at worst diametrically opposed to one another.


Nevertheless, despite these differences, Kevin Passmore (2002 p.62) observes:

There are sufficient similarities between Fascism and Nazism to make it worthwhile applying the concept of fascism to both. In Italy and Germany a movement came to power that sought to create national unity through the repression of national enemies and the incorporation of all classes and both genders into a permanently mobilized nation.

Hitler and Mussolini themselves recognised commonalities in their politics.

The second part of Hitler's Mein Kampf, "The National Socialistic Movement", first published in 1926, contains this passage:

I conceived the profoundest admiration for the great man south of the Alps, who, full of ardent love for his people, made no pacts with the enemies of Italy, but strove for their annihilation by all ways and means. What will rank Mussolini among the great men of this earth is his determination not to share Italy with the Marxists, but to destroy internationalism and save the fatherland from it. (p. 622)

Mussolini's influences

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 final unification in 1870. 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 Fascist cult of national rebirth through a strong leader has 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 targeted for Italian expansion under Mussolini.

Not all ideas of fascism originated from the 19th 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 both were techniques developed in the 20th century. Similarly, Mussolini's corporate state was a distinctly 20th-century creation.


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 Francisco 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 included doctrines that fascists used or admired. Forty years later, the corporatist tendencies of Rerum Novarum were underscored by Pope Pius XI's May 25, 1931 encyclical Quadragesimo Anno[3] restated the hostility of Rerum Novarum to both unbridled competition and class struggle. The criticism of both socialism and capitalism in these encyclicals was not fascist per se, but by weakening support for either alternative such writings arguably opened the door to fascism.

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 and institutions.

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. [4]

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 was saved. For Catholics, the encyclical's disapproval of any system that puts the nation above God or humanity remains doctrine.

Aside from certain ideological similarities, the relationship between the Church and fascist movements in various countries has often been deemed close. An early example is Austria which developed a quasi-fascist authoritarian Catholic regime some call the "Austro-fascist" Ständestaat between 1934 and 1938. There is little debate over Slovakia, where the fascist dictator was a Catholic monsignor; and the Independent State of Croatia, where the fascist Ustashe identified itself as a Catholic movement. The Iron Guard in Romania identified itself as an Eastern Orthodox movement (with no connection to Roman Catholicism), and had particularly strong leanings toward clerical fascism. (See also Involvement of Croatian Catholic clergy with the Ustaša regime.)

The Vichy regime in France was also deeply influenced by the reactionary Catholic-influenced ideology of the Action Française. This group had actually been led by an agnostic and condemned by the Catholic Church in 1926. Many of its members were reactionary Catholics so this condemnation damaged the group, but then in 1938 the condemnation was lifted. 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.

For a further exploration of the relationship between Catholicism and Fascism, see the article article on Clerical Fascism.

Fascism and the Protestant churches

Protestantism in Italy and Spain was not as significant as Catholicism. The connection between the German form of Fascism, Nazism, and Protestantism has long been debated, with some saying that the Protestant denominations, especially the German Lutheran Church, was close. According to some scholars, especially Richard Steigman-Gall (The Holy Reich: Protestantism and the Nazi Movement, 1920-1945) the relationship was collaborationist. Hitler, in his manifesto, Mein Kampf, listed Martin Luther as one of Germany's great historic reformers. In Luther's 1543 book On the Jews and Their Lies, Luther advocated the burning of synagogues and schools, the deportation of Jews, and many other measures that resemble the actions later taken by the Nazis.

The overwhleming majority of Protestant church leaders in Germany made no comment on the Nazis' growing anti-Jewish activities. Many Protestants opposed the governments of the Weimar Republic in the 1920s which they saw as coalitions between the Socialists and the Catholic Centre party. In 1932, many German Protestants joined together to form the German Christian Movement which enthusiastically supported Nazi propaganda, and sought to join Church and State. 3,000 of the 17,000 Protestant pastors in Germany were to join the movement. Hitler wished to unite a Protestant church of 28 different federations into one nationalist body. Pastor Ludwig Muller, the leader of the German Christian Movement, was soon appointed Hitler's advisor on religious affairs. He was elected Reich's Bishop in charge of the German Protestant churches in 1933.

An "Aryan Paragraph" was introduced to the constitution which stated that no one of non-Aryan background, or married to anyone of non-Aryan background, could serve as either a pastor or church official. Pastors and officials who had married a non-Aryan were to be dismissed. Much of the Lutheran and Methodist establishment in Germany had fallen behind Hitler in his promise to oppose Bolshevism and instability.

The new measures began to raise some opposition to the German Christians from a minority of Lutherans and Evangelicals who had become increasingly disillusioned with unethical practices of the Nazies and disliked state interference in church affairs. Dietrich Bonhoffer, a Lutheran pastor (though arguably of a liberal theological persuasion), was vocal in his opposition of the Nazis. Though there is some debate as to his actual involvement in planning the assassination attempt of Hitler, he was found guilty and executed for his alleged part in the conspiracy. A small group of Protestant clergy under Martin Niemoeller and Dietrich Bonhoffer separated from the main churches to form the Confessing Church. The group had limited effect, however, as it was forced to meet secretly and was dispersed by the Nazis by 1939, and the effect of Protestantism on inhibiting Nazism in Germany was limited at best.

Practice of fascism

Examples of fascist systems include:

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.

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 fascistic, were more authoritarian than totalitarian. Spain under the Falange Española y de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalista (FET y de las JONS) Party of Francisco Franco, was a coalition that included fascists.

Those who focus on economic policies and state intervention in the economy, identify fascism as corporatism. In this corporatist model of private management, the various functions of the state were controlling and regulating trade, while maintaining de jure private ownership. This contrasts with state socialism, in which the state controls industry through outright nationalization. Private activity is controlled by the state, so that the state may subsidize or suspend the activities of any entity in accordance with their usefulness and direction. Corporatism was a political outgrowth of Catholic social doctrine from the 1890s. Some contested examples of fascism are Franklin D. 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 anti-war movement fought to keep the US neutral after Britain entered the war in 1939, but was not supportive of fascism. 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." [Wallace, 1944]. A discussion on the

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 he was dismissed and arrested on the 25 July 1943. Mussolini was then rescued from prison by German troops, and set up a short lived puppet state named "Repubblica di Salò" in northern Italy under the protection of the German army.

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 allied to and ultimately came to be dominated 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. However, it was best described as an autocracy based on the Falangist fascist principles in its early years. By the mid-50s, the Spanish Miracle and the rise of the Opus Dei in the Franco regime led to Falangist fascism being discarded and fascists minimized in importance.

Portugal (1932-1974) - Although less restrictive than the Italian, German and Spanish regimes, the Estado Novo regime of António de Oliveira Salazar was quasi-fascist. However, it was closer to the Spanish example of paternal authoritarianism than the Italian fascist or German Nazi model.

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 States.

Brazil (1937-1945) - Many historians have argued that Brazil's Estado Novo under Getúlio 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. However, it also showed great affinity with organized labour and leftist ideas, leaving its classification open to interpretation.

Belgium (1940-1945) - 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. These collaborationist movements are generally classified as belonging to the National Socialist model or the German fascist model because of its brand of racial nationalism and the close relation with the occupational authorities.

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 independent Slovakia. The clerical element lends comparison with Austrofascism or the clerical fascism of Croatia, though not to the excesses of either model. The market system was run on principles agreeing with the standard Italian fascist model of industrial regulation.

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. However, the minimal importance of fascists in the government until its direct occupation by Germany makes it appear to seem more similar to the regime of Franco or Salazar than the model fascist powers. While it has been argued that anti-Semitic massacres performed by the Vichy regime were more in the interests of pleasing Germany than in service of ideology, anti-semitism was strong in France before World War II.

As early as October 1940 the Vichy regime introduced the infamous statut des Juifs, that produced a new legal definition of Jewishness and which barred Jews from certain public offices. Worse still, in May 1941 the Parisian police force had collaborated in the internment of foreign Jews. As a means of identifying Jews, the German authorities required all Jews in the occupied zone to wear the Star of David on their clothing. On the 11th June, they demanded that 100, 000 Jews be handed over for deportation.

The most infamous of these mass arrests was the so-called grande rafle du Vél' d'Hiv' which took place in Paris on the 16th and 17th July 1942. The Vélodrome d'Hiver was a large indoor sports arena situated on the rue Nélaton near the Quai de Grenelle in the 15th arrondissment of Paris. In a vast operation codenamed vent printanier, the French police rounded up 12,884 Jews from Paris and its surrounding suburbs. These were mostly adult men and women but there were around 4,000 children amongst them. The rounding up was made easier by the large number of files on Jews complied and held by Vichy authorities since 1940. The French police, headed by René Bousquet, were entirely resonsible for this operation and not one German soldier assisted.

Romania (1940-1944) - The Iron Guard, turned more and more into a pro-Nazi and pro-German movement, and took power in September 1940 when Ion Antonescu forced King Carol II to abdicate. However, the cohabitation between the Iron Guard and Ion Antonescu was short-lived.

The Antonescu regime that followed hardly qualifies as fascist, as it did not have a clear political program or party. It was rather a military dictatorship. The regime was characterized by nationalism, anti-semitism, and anti-communism, but had no social program. Despite the Iaşi pogrom and a near-liquidation of the Jews of many parts of Moldavia, the regime ultimately refused to send the Romanian Jews to German death camps. The regime was overturned on the 23rd of August 1944 by a coup lead by the king Mihai of Romania.

Independent State of Croatia (1941-1945) - Poglavnik Ante Pavelić, leader of the infamous Ustaše movement, came to power in 1941 as the Croatian puppet leader under the control of Nazi Germany. Under the indirect control of Germany, the Ustaše regime was based heavily upon both upon clerical fascism and the Italian model of fascism, with elements of racial integrity and organic nationalism drawn from Nazism.

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, undermining his attempts to emulate the Italian fascist state.

Hungary (1932-1945) - By 1932, support for right-wing ideology, embodied by Gyula Gömbös, had reached the point where Hungarian Regent Miklós Horthy could not postpone appointing a fascist prime minister. Horthy also showed signs of admiring the efficiency and conservative leanings of the Italian fascist state under Mussolini and was not too reluctant to appoint a fascist government (with terms for the extent of Horthy's power). Horthy would keep control over the mainstream fascist movement in Hungary until near the end of the Second World War. Starting in 1938, several racial laws were passed by the regime, but the extremist Arrow Cross party, led by Ferenc Szálasi, was banned until German pressure lifted the law, and until Germany occupied Hungary within Operation Margareta on March 19, 1944, no Jews were in direct danger of being annihilated. In July 1944, armour-colonel Ferenc Koszorús and the First Armour Divison, under Horthy's orders, resisted the Arrow Cross militia and prevented the deportation of the Jews of Budapest, thus saved over 200,000 lives. This act impressed upon the German occupying forces, including Adolf Eichmann, that as long as Hungary continued to be governed by Horthy, no real Endlösung could begin. Following Horthy's attempt to have Hungary change sides on October 13, Szálasi, with German military support, replaced Admiral Horthy as Head of State. The regime changed to a system more in line with Nazism and would remain this way until the capture of Budapest by Soviet troops. Over 400,000 Jews were sent by Hungary to German death camps from 1944 to 1945.

Examples from after World War Two are at: Neo-Fascism.


Contemporary neo-fascism and allegations of neofascism are covered in a number of other articles rather than on this page:

Fascist mottos and sayings

  • Me ne frego, literally "I rub myself about it," closer, in meaning, to "I don't give a damn": the Italian Fascist motto.
  • Libro e moschetto - fascista perfetto, "The book and the musket - make the perfect Fascist."
  • Viva la Morte, "Long live death (sacrifice)."
  • The above mentioned 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."
  • Credere, Obbedire, Combattere ("Believe, Obey, Fight")

See also


General bibliography

  • De Felice, Renzo Interpretations of Fascism, translated by Brenda Huff Everett, Cambridge ; London : Harvard University Press, 1977 ISBN 0674459628.
  • Hughes, H. Stuart. 1953. The United States and Italy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Payne, Stanley G. 1995. A History of Fascism, 1914-45. Madison, Wisc.: University of Wisconsin Press ISBN 0299148742
  • Eatwell, Roger. 1996. Fascism: A History. New York: Allen Lane.

Bibliography on Fascist ideology

  • De Felice, Renzo Fascism : an informal introduction to its theory and practice, an interview with Michael Ledeen, New Brunswick, N.J. : Transaction Books, 1976 ISBN 0878551905.
  • Laqueur, Walter. 1966. Fascism: Past, Present, Future, New York: Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Griffin, Roger. 2000. "Revolution from the Right: Fascism," chapter in David Parker (ed.) Revolutions and the Revolutionary Tradition in the West 1560-1991, Routledge, London.
  • Schapiro, J. Salwyn. 1949. Liberalism and The Challenge of Fascism, Social Forces in England and France (1815-1870). New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Laclau, Ernesto. 1977. Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory: Capitalism, Fascism, Populism. London: NLB/Atlantic Highlands Humanities Press.
  • Sternhell, Zeev with Mario Sznajder and Maia Asheri. [1989] 1994. The Birth of Fascist Ideology, From Cultural Rebellion to Political Revolution., Trans. David Maisei. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Fritzsche, Peter. 1990. Rehearsals for Fascism: Populism and Political Mobilization in Weimar Germany. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195057805
  • Gentile, Emilio. 2002. Fascismo. Storia ed interpretazione . Roma-Bari: Giuseppe Laterza & Figli.

Bibliography on international fascism

  • Coogan, Kevin. 1999. Dreamer of the Day: Francis Parker Yockey and the Postwar Fascist International. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Autonomedia.
  • Griffin, Roger. 1991. The Nature of Fascism. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
  • Paxton, Robert O. 2004. The Anatomy of Fascism. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
  • Weber, Eugen. [1964] 1982. Varieties of Fascism: Doctrines of Revolution in the Twentieth Century, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, (Contains chapters on fascist movements in different countries.)

Further reading

  • Seldes, George. 1935. Sawdust Caesar: The Untold History of Mussolini and Fascism. New York and London: Harper and Brothers.
  • Reich, Wilhelm. 1970. The Mass Psychology of Fascism. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
  • Mises, Ludwig von. 1944. Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War. Grove City: Libertarian Press.

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