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Fascism (IPA; 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, including Nazism, spread across Europe between World War I and World War II.

The most restrictive definitions of fascism include only one government, that of Mussolini in Italy. However, the term is frequently applied to Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler and is used to refer to similar regimes and movements across Europe in the same time period, such as Hungary's Arrow Cross Party, Romania's Iron Guard, Spain's Falange, and the French political movements led by Marcel Déat and Jacques Doriot. This page discusses Fascism in the broader meaning. Italian fascism is treated on a separate page.


Scope of the word Fascism

The term Fascism is sometimes (by both supporters and opponents) applied to other authoritarian regimes of the same period such as those of Imperial Japan under Hideki Tojo, Austria under Engelbert Dollfuss and Greece under Ioannis Metaxas. Its use for similar but longer-lived regimes such as Spain under Francisco Franco and the Estado Novo of António de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal is widespread among opponents of those regimes but is often disputed by their supporters. This trend toward the term being used only by opponents is amplified in the case of more recent authoritarian regimes such as Indonesia under Suharto, and Chile under Augusto Pinochet.

Although the broadest definitions of fascism may include every authoritarian state that has ever existed, most theorists see important distinctions to be made. Fascism in Italy arose in the 1920s as a mixture of syndicalist notions with an anti-materialist theory of the state; the latter had already been linked to an extreme nationalism. Fascism in many ways seems to have been clearly developed as a reaction against Communism and Marxism, both in a philosophic and political sense, although it opposed democratic capitalist economics along with socialism, Marxism, and liberal democracy. It viewed the state as an organic entity in a positive light rather than as an institution designed to protect collective and individual rights, or as one that should be held in check. It tended to reject the Marxist notion of social classes (and universally dismissed the concept of class conflict), replacing it instead with two more nebulous struggles: conflict between races and the struggle of the youth versus their elders. This meant embracing nationalism and mysticism, and advancing ideas of strength and power as means of legitimacy, a might makes right that glorified war as an end in itself and determinant of truth and worthiness. An affinity to these ideas can be found in Social Darwinism. These ideas are in direct opposition to the ideas reason or rationalism characteristic of the Age of Enlightenment, from which liberalism and, later, Marxism would emerge.

Fascism is also typified by totalitarian attempts to impose state control over all aspects of life: political, social, cultural, and economic. The fascist state regulates and controls (as opposed to nationalizing) the means of production. Fascism exalts the nation, state, or race as superior to the individuals, institutions, or groups composing it. Fascism uses explicit populist rhetoric; calls for a heroic mass effort to restore past greatness; and demands loyalty to a single leader, often to the point of a cult of personality.

Fascism attracted political support from diverse sectors of the population, including big business, farmers and landowners, nationalists, and reactionaries, disaffected World War I veterans, intellectuals such as Gabriele D'Annunzio, Curzio Malaparte and Martin Heidegger to name a few, conservatives and small businessmen, and the poor to whom they promised work and bread.

The word has become a slur throughout the political spectrum since the failure of the Axis powers in World War II, and it has been extremely uncommon for any political groups to call themselves "fascist" since 1945. In contemporary political discourse, adherents of some political ideologies tend to associate fascism with their enemies, or define it as the opposite of their own views. There are no major self-described fascist parties or organizations anywhere in the world.


Template:Political ideology entry points Many diverse regimes have self-identified as fascist, and defining fascism has proved complicated and contentious. Historians, political scientists, and other scholars have engaged in long and furious debates concerning the exact nature of fascism and its core tenets. Since the 1990s, however, there has been a growing move toward some rough consensus reflected in the work of Payne, Eatwell, Griffin, and Paxton. See Fascism and ideology.

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).

Merriam-Webster defines fascism as "a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition"<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>. The American Heritage Dictionary instead describes it as "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."<ref>Template:Cite book</ref>.

Mussolini defined fascism as being a right-wing ideology in opposition to socialism, liberalism, democracy and individualism. He said in The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism:

"Granted that the 19th century was the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy, this does not mean that the 20th century must also be the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy. Political doctrines pass; nations remain. We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the 'right', a Fascist century. If the 19th century was the century of the individual (liberalism implies individualism) we are free to believe that this is the 'collective' century, and therefore the century of the State." [1]

Fascism is associated by many scholars with one or more of the following characteristics: a very high degree of nationalism, economic corporatism, a powerful, dictatorial leader who portrays the nation, state or collective as superior to the individuals or groups composing it.

Stanley Payne's Fascism: Comparison and Definition (1980) uses a lengthy itemized list of characteristics to identify fascism, including the creation of an authoritarian state; a regulated, state-integrated economic sector; fascist symbolism; anti-liberalism; anti-communism <ref>Template:Cite book</ref>. A similar strategy was employed by semiotician Umberto Eco in his popular essay Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>. More recently, an emphasis has been placed upon the aspect of populist fascist rhetoric that argues for a "re-birth" of a conflated nation and ethnic people<ref>Template:Cite book</ref>.

Many scholars hold that fascism as a social movement employs elements from the political left, but eventually allies with the political right, especially after attaining state power. See: Fascism and ideology.

Fascism has expressed itself through both political and economic practices, and academics have examined these elements both together and in isolation. Hannah Arendt, whose focus is largely political, argues that regimes commonly thought of as fascist, such as Nazism, belong to a larger category of totalitarianisms, including communist dictatorships, such as that of Joseph Stalin<ref>Template:Cite book</ref>. Thayer Watkins, a professor of Economics from San Jose State University, identifies fascism as aligned with corporatism, a form of economic oppression that he argues includes most of the world's governments<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>. Watkins, who some accuse of being out of step with the academic mainstream, considers Mussolini's Fascist regime to be merely one example of the corporatist states that emerged during the Great Depression, including such diverse political systems as that of Spain, Argentina and the United States.

After the defeat of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in World War II, the term has taken on an extremely pejorative meaning, largely in reaction to the crimes against humanity committed by the Nazis. 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 and create hate towards the "enemies of the state". Because of the term's use as a pejorative, there is a great deal of controversy surrounding the question of what political movements and governments belong to fascism.

Italian Fascism

Early history


Mussolini's Fascism


Nazism and Fascism

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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 some experts who still argue that Nazism is not fascism, either on the grounds that the differences are too great, or because they disagree that fascism can be 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 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. This seemed to be especially the case in 1934 when Engelbert Dollfuss the Austrofascist leader of Austria was assassinated by Nazi Brown shirts, on Hitler's orders in preparation for a planned Anschluss, which prompted Mussolini to move troops to the Austrian-Italian border in readiness for war with Hitler.


Nevertheless, despite these differences, [2]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 recognized 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)


Template:Main 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 religion

Template:Main Some expressions of fascism have been closely linked with religious political movements. This combination is referred to as Clerical fascism, a prime example of which is the Ustashe in Croatia.

Fascism and the Catholic Church

A controversial topic is the relationship between fascist movements and the Roman 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<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> 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 an 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.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

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 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.

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 overwhelming 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 Müller, 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 Nazis 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.

Fascism as an international phenomenon


Fascism and Sexuality

There has also been a revival of interest in recent times, among many academic historians, with regard to the profound cult of masculinity that permeated fascism, the attempts to systematically control female sexuality and reproductive behavior for the ends of the State. Italian fascists viewed increasing the birthrate of Italy as a major goal of their regime, with Mussolini launching a program, called the 'Battle For Births', to almost double the country's population. The exclusive role assigned to women within the State was to be mothers and not workers or soldiers.

According to Anson Rabinbach and Jessica Benjamin, "The crucial element of fascism is its explicit sexual language, what Theweleit calls 'the conscious coding' or the 'over-explicitness of the fascist language of symbol.' This fascist symbolization creates a particular kind of psychic economy which places sexuality in the service of destruction. Despite its sexually charged politics, fascism is an anti-eros, 'the core of all fascist propaganda is a battle against everything that constitutes enjoyment and pleasure'… He shows that in this world of war the repudiation of one's own body, of femininity, becomes a psychic compulsion which associates masculinity with hardness, destruction, and self-denial." <ref>Anson Rabinbach and Jessica Benjamin in the foreword to Vol II. Klaus Theweleit, Male Fantasies. ppg. xii-xiii. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0816614512.</ref>



Contemporary, meaning after World War II, fascist movements and allegations of neofascism are covered in a number of other articles:

See also


<references />


Further reading


  • De Felice, Renzo Interpretations of Fascism, translated by Brenda Huff Everett, Cambridge ; London : Harvard University Press, 1977 ISBN 0674459628.
  • 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 1400040949
  • Payne, Stanley G. 1995. A History of Fascism, 1914-45. Madison, Wisc.: University of Wisconsin Press ISBN 0299148742
  • 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 0906336007

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.
  • Fritzsche, Peter. 1990. Rehearsals for Fascism: Populism and Political Mobilization in Weimar Germany. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195057805
  • 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.

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.

External links

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Anti-fascist websites

Libertarian and Paleoconservative websites


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