Italian fascism

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Italian fascism (in Italian, fascismo) was the authoritarian political movement which ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943 under the leadership of Benito Mussolini. Similar political movements, including Nazism, spread across the rest of the world, particularly in Europe, Japan and Latin America, between World War I and World War II. Although Fascism, strictly speaking, refers only to Italian fascism, the word is often used to describe similar ideologies and movements. 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.


[edit] Doctrine

Further information: Fascism  and Fascism and ideology

Fascism combined elements of corporatism, nationalism, militarism, anti-liberalism, anti-Communism, racism and anti-Semitism. After World War II, several authors forged the concept of totalitarianism to refer both to Fascism and Nazism and, in some cases, Stalinism (although the latter point, in particular, has been controversed). Another central theme of Italian fascism was the struggle against what it described as the corrupt "plutocracies" of the time, France and Britain in particular.

Fascist philosopher Giovanni Gentile wrote in 1932, in the Enciclopedia Italiana, an article titled "The Doctrine of Fascism," which has been later attributed to Benito Mussolini.[citation needed] Gentile had previously coined the term "statolatry" to refers to his doctrine. In this 1932 article, written a year before Adolf Hitler's rise to power, 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... Liberalism denied the State in the name of the individual; Fascism reasserts the rights of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual."[1]

The article discussed other political and social doctrines of the time by describing fascism as: "the resolute negation of the doctrine underlying so-called scientific and Marxian socialism... and as rejecting (in democracy) "the absurd conventional lie of political equalitarianism, the habit of collective irresponsibility, the myth of felicity and indefinite progress".[1]

"Fascism is definitely and absolutely opposed to the doctrines of liberalism, both in the political and economic sphere. ... The Fascist State lays claim to rule in the economic field no less than in others; it makes its action felt throughout the length and breadth of the country by means of its corporate, social, and educational institutions, and all the political, economic, and spiritual forces of the nation, organised in their respective associations, circulate within the State."[2]

In the essay, French anarcho-syndicalists Georges Sorel and Hubert Lagardelle, and the writer Charles Peguy (close to the socialist movement before turning to Catholicism after a mystical revelation) are 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 philosopher Henri Bergson. Bergson rejected the scientism, mechanical evolution and materialism of Marxist ideology. Also, Bergson promoted the élan vital energetic and vitalist concept as an evolutionary process. Such spiritualism ideas have had a role in the ideological formation of Fascism (see Zeev Sternhell). Mussolini stated that Fascism negated Marxism and its theory of historical materialism.

Ironically, some of the strongest anti-fascist movements were formed in the anarcho-syndicalist movement. In terms of ideology, Anarchism is generally regarded as the polar opposite of Fascism.

[edit] Rerum Novarum, anti-communism

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 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum[3]. 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 Marxist 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. 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.

[edit] Syndicalism and the 'Third Way'

Fascism also borrowed from Gabriele D'Annunzio's Charter of Carnaro for his ephemeral Regency of Carnaro in the city of Fiume.

Sergio Panunzio, a major theoretician of fascism in the 1920s, had a syndicalist background, but his influence waned as the movement shed all connection to the working-class autonomy of syndicalism.

Syndicalism had a strong 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.'"

Thinkers such as Robert Michels, Sergio Panunzio, Ottavio Dinale, Agostino Lanzillo, Angelo Oliviero Olivetti, Michele Bianchi, and Edmondo Rossoni played a part in this attempt to find a third way that rejected both capitalism and Marxism.

[edit] History

[edit] Early history

Main article: Fascio

[edit] Rise to power

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 could be considered false. 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 Combattimento 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 1919, 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[4], 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 Partito Nazionale Fascista. 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.[citation needed]

[edit] Establishment of the Fascist state

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 Communism.

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.

In this fluid situation, Mussolini took advantage of the opportunity and, rapidly abandoning the early syndicalist and republican program, put himself at the service of the antisocialist cause. The fascist militias, supported by the wealthy classes and by a large part of the state apparatus which saw in him the restorer of order, launched a violent offensive against the syndicalists and all political parties of a socialist or Catholic inspiration, particularly in the north of Italy (Emiglia Romagna, Toscana, etc.), causing numerous victims though the substantial indifference of the forces of order. These acts of violence were, in large part, provoked by fascist squadristi who were increasingly and openly supported by Dino Grandi, the only real competitor to Mussolini for the leadership of the fascist party until the Congress of Rome in 1921.

The violence increased considerably during the period from 1920-1922 until the March on Rome. Confronted by these badly armed and badly organized fascist militias attacking the Capital, King Victor Emmanuel III, preferring to avoid any spilling of blood, decided to appoint Mussolini, who at that moment had the support of about 22 deputies in Parliament, President of the Council. Victor Emmanuel continued to maintain control of the armed forces: if he had wanted to, he would have had no difficulties in booting Mussolini and the completely inferior fascist forces out of Rome. Therefore, it is not appropriate to refer to Mussolini's rise as a "coup d'état" since he obtained his post legally with the blessing of the sovereign of the nation.

[edit] Rule

As Prime Minister, the first years of Mussolini's reign were characterized by a coalition government composed of nationalists, liberals and populists and did not assume dictatorial connotations until the assassination of Matteotti. In domestic politics, Mussolini favoured the complete restoration of State authority, with the integration of the Fasci di Combattimento into the armed forces (the foundation in January 1923 of the Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale) and the progressive identification of the Party with the State. He supported the wealthy industrial and agrarian classes through the introduction of legislation that provided for privatization, the liberalization of rent laws, and the banning of unions.

In June of 1923, a new majoritarian electoral law was approved which assigned two thirds of the seats in Parliament to the coalition which had obtained at least 25% of the votes. This law was punctually applied in the elections of 6 April 1924, in which the fascist "listone" obtained an extraordinary success, aided by the use of shenanigans, violence and intimidatory tactics against opponents.

The assassination of the socialist deputy Giacomo Matteotti, who had requested the annulment of the elections because of the irregularities committed, provoked a momentary crisis of the Mussolini government. The weak response of the opposition (the Aventine secession), incapable of transforming their posturing into a mass antifascist action, was not sufficient to distance the ruling classes and the Monarchy from Mussolini who, on 3 January 1925, broke open the floodgates and, in a famous discourse in which he took upon himself all of the responsibility for the assassination of Matteotti and the other squadrist violence, proclaimed a de facto dictatorship, suppressing every residual liberty and completing the identification of the Fascist Party with the State.

From 1925 until the middle of the 1930s, fascism experienced little and isolated opposition, although that which it experienced was memorable, consisting in large part of communists such as Antonio Gramsci, socialists such as Pietro Nenni and liberals such as Piero Gobetti and Giovanni Amendola.

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 Roman 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.

[edit] Invasion of Ethiopia

La Difesa della razza ("The Defence of the Race"), cover of the eponym magazine, September 1938. The anti-Semitic aspects of Fascism were frequently seen in the media.
La Difesa della razza ("The Defence of the Race"), cover of the eponym magazine, September 1938. The anti-Semitic aspects of Fascism were frequently seen in the media.

The invasion of Ethiopia (formerly Abyssinia) was accomplished rapidly (the proclamation of Empire took place in May of 1936) and involved several atrocities such as the use of chemical weapons (mustard gas and phosgene) and the indiscriminate slaughter of much of the local population to prevent opposition.

[edit] Fascism and anti-Semitism

The Fascist regime passed in autumn 1938 anti-Semitic laws, which excluded foreign Jews, prohibited all Jews from teaching and excluded them from the Fascist Party. Legislation enacting racial discrimination were progressively put in place, in accordance to the "scientific racism" theories upheld in Fascist political reviews, such as La Difesa della Razza. Jews were excluded from the military and from the administration, while an "aryanisation" of Jewish goods was put in place — actually, an expropriation of their goods. An anti-Semitic hate campaign was put in place, while the legislation was strictly applied. Neither the monarchy nor the Church protested against the latter.

Many authors have interpreted these anti-Semitic laws as an imitation by Mussolini of Nazi racist legislation. However, historian Marie-Anne Matard-Bonucci (2007) has upheld, to the contrary, the idea that anti-Semitism founded its roots in the Fascist movement itself: with the establishment of the Fascist state and Mussolini's anthropological project of creating a "new (Italian) man," the needs arose of creating the figure of the "anti-Italian," symbolized by the Jewish people. "The persecution of the Italian Jews was one of the inner components of the totalitarian logic," thus wrote Matard-Bonucci [5].

50,000 Jews then lived in Italy. Despite this anti-Semitic policy, Mussolini did not implement an extermination program similar to Hitler's decision, the so-called "Final Solution to the Jewish Problem." Thus, 3/4 of the Italian Jews survived World War II. 8,000 Jews died in extermination camps, deported by Nazis and Fascists, but after Italy's reddition to the Allies and during the Salo Republic starting in December 1943 [5].

Surprisingly though, when Hitler first began his descriminatory policies, Mussolini sent an ambassador to Germany, to tell Hitler to tone it down.

[edit] World War II

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. From that year on, with the publication of the Manifesto degli scienziati razzisti (Manifesto of the Racist Scientists) (in reality about 90% written by Mussolini himself), fascism declared itself explicitly anti-Semite.

Italy's intervention (June 10, 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.

After a fateful gathering of the Gran Consiglio del Fascismo (Italy's wartime Cabinet) Mussolini was forced to submit his resignation as prime minister in the hands of King Victor Emmanuel III on July 25th 1943. He hoped that the King would reappoint him and allow him to reshuffle the Cabinet, but he was instead arrested on the King's orders as he was leaving the Quirinale palace. He was freed in September by German paratroopers under command of Otto Skorzeny and installed as head of a puppet "Italian Social Republic" at Salò 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.

[edit] Mussolini's influences

Mussolini and Hitler
Mussolini and Hitler

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".[citation needed] 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 foreign policy, architecture and vocabulary, it was perhaps inevitable that Mussolini would do the same. This included creating a new Roman empire, demolishing medieval Rome to create grand vistas of ancient monuments (eg connecting Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum with the Via dei Fori Imperiali), co-opting original sites (for example, the Ara Pacis) and using ancient Roman architectural styles, with or without a modern twist (for example, the Museum of Roman Civilization at the EUR).

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 under the influence of the artistic and literary movement called futurism. Futurism was an early twentieth century intellectual movement in Italy which forcefully emphasized three main ideas: technology, speed, and violence. Similarly, Mussolini's corporate state was a distinctly 20th-century creation.

[edit] Fascist mottos and sayings

  • Me ne frego, literally "I frig myself about it," closer, in meaning, to "I don't give a damn": the Italian Fascist motto. Best rendered, "I couldn't give a crap."
  • 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")
  • Se avanzo, seguitemi. Se indietreggio, uccidetemi. Se muoio, vendicatemi, ("If I advance, follow me. If I retreat, kill me. If I die, avenge me")

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ a b 1932 Enciclopedia Italiana
  2. ^ "The Doctrine of Fascism", from Fascism Doctrine and Institutions, by Benito Mussolini
  3. ^ Rerum Novarum. Retrieved on November 17, 2005.
  4. ^ Fascist Italy. The Corner. Retrieved on November 17, 2005.
  5. ^ a b Marie-Anne Matard-Bonucci, L'Italie fasciste et la persécution des Juifs (Fascist Italy and the Persecution of Jews), Perrin, 2007 (French)

[edit] Further reading

[edit] References

[edit] General

  • De Felice, Renzo Interpretations of Fascism, translated by Brenda Huff Everett, Cambridge ; London : Harvard University Press, 1977 ISBN 0-674-45962-8.
  • Eatwell, Roger. 1996. Fascism: A History. New York: Allen Lane.
  • Hughes, H. Stuart. 1953. The United States and Italy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Mises, Ludwig von. 1944. Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War. Grove City: Libertarian Press.
  • Paxton, Robert O. 2004. The Anatomy of Fascism. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, ISBN 1-4000-4094-9
  • Payne, Stanley G. 1995. A History of Fascism, 1914-45. Madison, Wisc.: University of Wisconsin Press ISBN 0-299-14874-2
  • Reich, Wilhelm. 1970. The Mass Psychology of Fascism. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
  • Seldes, George. 1935. Sawdust Caesar: The Untold History of Mussolini and Fascism. New York and London: Harper and Brothers.
  • Alfred Sohn-Rethel Economy and Class Structure of German Fascism,London, CSE Bks, 1978 ISBN 0-906336-00-7

[edit] 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 0-87855-190-5.
  • Fritzsche, Peter. 1990. Rehearsals for Fascism: Populism and Political Mobilization in Weimar Germany. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-505780-5
  • 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.
  • Laqueur, Walter. 1966. Fascism: Past, Present, Future, New York: Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • 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.

[edit] 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] 1985. Varieties of Fascism: Doctrines of Revolution in the Twentieth Century, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, (Contains chapters on fascist movements in different countries.)
  • Wallace, Henry. "The Dangers of American Fascism". The New York Times, Sunday, 9 April 1944.

[edit] External links

[edit] Anti-fascist websites

[edit] Libertarian and Paleoconservative websites

[edit] Proponents

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