Italian Fascism Explained

The term Italian Fascism denotes the authoritarian nationalist Fascismo political movement that ruled Kingdom of Italy from 1922 until 1943 under leader Benito Mussolini.[1] [2] [3] The English fascism derives from the Italian fascio ("league"). Italian Fascism is considered a proper noun, and thus is capitalised; generic fascism is lower-case. Italian Fascism is considered the model for the other fascisms, yet there is no agreement about which aspects of structure, tactics, culture, and ideology represent the "fascist minimum" core. Similar political movements appeared worldwide, including German Nazism, under Adolf Hitler, other movements in Europe, Japan, and Latin America between World War I and World War II. Although Fascism denotes only Italian fascism, the word often is used to describe like ideologies and political movements.

Early years

Fascism was born during a period of social and political unrest following the First World War. The war had seen Italy, born from the Italian unification less than a century earlier, begin to appreciate a sense of nationalism, rather than its traditional regionalism.[4] Despite the Kingdom of Italy being a fully fledged Allied Power during the war against the Central Powers, Italy was given what nationalists considered an unfair deal at the Treaty of Saint-Germain; which they saw as the other allies "blocking" Italy from progressing to a major power.[5] A significant example of this was when the other allies told Italy to hand over the city of Fiume at the Paris Peace Conference, this saw war veteran Gabriele d'Annunzio declaring the independent state Italian Regency of Carnaro.[6] He positioned himself as Duce of the nation and declared a constitution, the Charter of Carnaro which was highly influential to early Fascism, though he himself never became a fascist.[7]

Rise to power

The war had left Italy with inflation, large debts, unemployment aggravated by demobilisation of thousands of soldiers and social unrest with strikes,[8] attempts at insurrection by anarchists, socialists and communists,[9] as well as a breeding ground for organised crime. The democratically elected Liberal government had no means to control the unrest, so when Benito Mussolini took matters into his own hands to combat the social unrest by organising the paramilitary blackshirts, made up of former socialists and war veterans, Prime Ministers such as Giovanni Giolitti allowed them to continue.[10] The government preferred this class collaboration orientated movement, to the prospect of a greatly feared bloody class war coming to Italy by the hand of the communists, following the recent Russian Revolution.[11] Within The Manifesto of the Fascist Struggle the initial stances of Fascism were outlined, requesting amongst other things voting rights for women, insertion of a minimum wage, insertion of an eight-hour workday for all workers and reorganisation of public transport such as railways.[12]

By the early 1920s, popular support for the fascist's fight against "Bolshevism" had increased to around 250,000. The Fascisti were transformed into the National Fascist Party in 1921, with Mussolini being elected to the Chamber of Deputies the same year, enterting legitimate politics.[13] The Liberals retained power but Prime Ministers came and went at a fast pace, Luigi Facta's government was particularly unstable and dithering.[14] The fascists had enough of what they considered a weak parliamentary democracy process and organised the March on Rome in an effort to take power, with promises of restoring Italian pride, reviving the economy, increasing productivity, ending harmful government controls and furthering law and order.[15] Whilst the march was taking place king Victor Emmanuel III made Mussolini Prime Minister and thus the march turned into a victory parade, the Fascists believed their success was both revolutionary and traditionalist.[16] [17]

Economic policies

See main article: Economy of Italy under Fascism, 1922–1943.

Until 1925, when Alberto de Stefani ceased to be Minister of Economics, policies were mostly in line with classical liberalism (suppression of inheritance and luxury tax, suppression of taxes on foreign capital [18] ; life insurance transferred to private enterprises in 1923 [19], state monopoly on telephones and matches was abandoned, etc.). However, this policy did not contradict seemingly opposite-minded ones: various banking and industrial companies were financially supported by the state. One of Mussolini's first act was to fund the metallurgical trust Ansaldo to the height of 400 millions Liras. Following the deflation crisis which started in 1926, banks such as the Banco di Roma, the Banco di Napoli or the Banco di Sicilia were also assisted by the state [20] . In 1924, the Unione Radiofonica Italiana (URI) was formed by private entrepreneurs and part of the Marconi group, and granted the same year a monopoly of radio broadcasts. URI became after the war the RAI.

Starting in 1925, Italy's policies became more protectionist. Tariffs of grains were increased in an attempt to strenghten domestic production ("Battle for Grain"), which was ultimately a failure. Thus, according to historian Denis Mack Smith (1981), "Success in this battle was... another illusory propaganda victory won at the expense of the Italian economy in general and consumers in particular". He also pointed out "Those who gained were the owners of the Latifondia and the propertied classes in general... his policy conferred a heavy subsidy on the Latifondisti".[21]

Affected by the Great Depression, the Italian state attempted to respond to it both by elaborating public works programs such as the taming of the Pontine Marshes, developing hydroelectricity, improving the railways which in the process improved job opportunities, and launching military rearmement.[22] The Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI) institute was created in 1933, with the aim of subsiding floundering companies. It soon controled important parts of the economy, through government-linked companies, including Alfa Romeo.

Economically Italy improved with the GNP growing at 2% a year; automobile production was increasing especially those owned by Fiat,[23] its aeronautical industry was making advances.[24] Mussolini also championed agrarianism as part of what he called battles for Land, Lira and Grain; in aims of propaganda, he physically took part in these activities alongside the workers creating a strong public image.[25] [26]

Relations with Vatican and others

Through various outlets including everything from stamps to monumental architectural and sculptural works, the Fascists made Italians of every social class aware of the country's rich cultural heritage, including Roman, medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods through to the modern age.[27]

Fascism declared war on the Mafia and organised crime, to defeat it the fascists did so on the terms which the Mafia itself had used for so long violence and honour.[28] Mussolini received praises from a wide range of figures, such as Winston Churchill,[29] Sigmund Freud,[30] Mahatma Gandhi(In what appears a facetious remark),[31] George Bernard Shaw[32] and Thomas Edison.[33] It was under Mussolini that the long standing Roman Question was concluded with the Lateran Treaty between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See, this allowed the Holy See to have a tiny microstate within the city of Rome; the move was brought about due to most Italians being religiously Catholic.[34]

Doctrine of fascism

The Doctrine of Fascism is the official presentation of the Fascist ideology; authored by Giovanni Gentile, approved by Mussolini and presented to the public in 1933.[35] Gentile was a Sicilian who was influenced by the likes of Hegel, Plato, Croce and Vico; he introduced the idea of Actual Idealism.[36] The Doctrine presented that the Fascist viewed the world quite apart from the mere constricts of currently political trends, but rather the wider picture of humankind.[37] It rejected ideas of "perpetual peace" as fantasy and accepted man as a species constantly at war and those who met it achieved the stamp of nobility. It accepted that in general men who had made the most significant impact in history were conquerors such as Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Charlemagne and Napoleon Bonaparte; the Roman Empire was of particular inspiration.[38] It looked at Italy and saw that life for the state and by product the everyday person was of a better standard, under a single party fascist system than it had been in 1920 under a democratic liberal party.[39] Mussolini thus spoke of democracy as "beautiful in theory, in practice it is a fallacy"[40] and spoke in speeches of celebrating burying the "putrid corpse of liberty" to rapturous Italian applause.[41]

It was the Acerbo Law of 1923, which had allowed Italy to become a single party system. The National Fascist Party had won the election with 65% of the votes, giving them 2/3 of the parliamentary seats.[42] The socialists were bitter with this defeat and couldn't accept it, especially socialist Giacomo Matteotti who accused the Fascists of fraud.[43] He was killed by Amerigo Dumini, for this Mussolini had Dumini tried and imprisoned but some socialists accused him of foul play, they protested by quitting parliament leaving the Fascists as the sole representatives.[44] The means which Mussolini generally dealt with political dissenters was placing them under arrest and sending them to small Italian islands.[45] Mussolini declared himself Duce from the Roman title dux meaning leader in 1925; though regarded a dictator by most popular historians, the Grand Council of Fascism was still in place and the king had the power to fire Mussolini, as would eventually happen.[46]

Nationalism and Empire building

Influenced by the concepts of the Roman Empire, with Mussolini viewing himself as a modern day Roman Emperor Italy set out to build the Italian Empire.[47] With an expansionist and militarian agenda, their colonialism reached further into Africa in an attempt to compete with British and French colonial empires.[48] Italy had long owned Libya and parts of East Africa but took Ethiopia under Mussolini.[49] The means in which the fascists kept power was sometimes with a strong hand, especially inregards to guerrillas and rebels who attempted to overthrow them; Omar Mukhtar was a notable Libyan example. However, Italian fascism did not directly discriminate in regards to race or religion, so long as the peoples swore fealty to a cultural "Italianisation" and Mussolini.[50] Just as the Italian Jews were permitted to join the NFP back in Italy,[51] [52] Libyan Muslims had their own section of the party called the Muslim Association of the Lictor in the colony.[53] In a ceremony of unity regardless of religion, Mussolini was awarded the ancient Yemeni artifact the Sword of Islam by a Libyan cheifton.[54] In East Africa too the natives had opportunities to serve with the fascists in the MVSN Colonial Militia.[55] However the expansionist ideology did not stop there, the Italia irredenta stance, desired the returning of lands which previous belonged to older states now incorporated inside of Italy, to complete the Italian unification.[56] This included Nice which was part of the Kingdom of Sardinia until 1860 as well as Savoy,[57] Corsica which was part of the Republic of Genoa until 1768,[58] Dalmatia which was part of the Republic of Venice until 1797 and Malta which was part of the Kingdom of Sicily until 1530.[59]

Some have compared Adolf Hitler's nationalistic domestic and foreign policies in Germany as being inspired by Benito Mussolini. Mussolini himself did not hold a consistent view on the role of the concept of race in society. In the 1920s, Mussolini emphasized the importance of race and spoke in racialist terms regarding relations between white and coloured races, claiming that white and coloured people were in racial competition, as shown in this statement in 1928:However when tensions grew between Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany From 1933 to 1934 over Austrian independence, Mussolini opportunistically contradicted his earlier claims of the importance of race and instead claimed that race was insignificant:From the late 1930s to his death, Mussolini returned to endorsing and promoting racialism, including accepting anti-Semitism to gain favour from Nazi Germany.

Influence outside Italy

The Italian model of fascism was influential outside of Italy in the inter-war period and a number of groups and thinkers looked directly to Italy for their inspiration rather than developing an indigenous form of the ideology. Groups that sought to copy the Italian model of fascism included the Russian Fascist Organization, the Romanian National Fascist Movement (an amalgam of the National Romanian Fascia and the National Italo-Romanian Cultural and Economic Movement) and the Dutch group based around the Verbond van Actualisten journal of H. A. Sinclair de Rochemont and Alfred Haighton and, to some extent, Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party.

In Switzerland Colonel Arthur Fonjallaz, who had previously been associated with the more pro-Nazi National Front, became an ardent admirer of Mussolini after visiting Italy in 1932. He came to advocate the annexation of Switzerland by his idol, whilst also receiving some financial aid from the Italian leader.[60] The country also hosted the International Centre for Fascist Studies (CINEF) and the 1934 congress of the Action Committee for the Universality of Rome (CAUR), two Italian-led initiatives.[61]

In Spain early fascist writer Ernesto Giménez Caballero called for Italy to annex Spain in his 1932 book Genio de España, with Mussolini at the head of an international Latin Roman Catholic empire. He would later become more closely associated with Falangism, leading to his ideas of Italian annexation being put aside.[62]

Fascist mottos and sayings

See also

Further reading



Fascist ideology

International fascism

External links

Notes and References

  1. Laqueuer, Walter." Comparative Study of Fascism" by Juan J. Linz. Fascism, A Reader's Guide: Analyses, interpretations, Bibliography. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976. Pp. 15 "Fascism is above all a nationalist movement and therefore wherever the nation and the state are strongly identified."
  2. Laqueur, Walter. Fascism: Past, Present, Future. Oxford University Press, 1997. Pp. 90. "the common belief in nationalism, hierarchical structures, and the leader principle."
  3. Koln, Hans; Calhoun, Craig. The Idea of Nationalism: A Study in its Origins and Background. Transaction Publishers. Pp 20.
    University of California. 1942. Journal of Central European Affairs. Volume 2.
  4. News: Mussolini and Fascism in Italy. 8 January 2008.
  5. News: Mussolini and Fascism in Italy. 8 January 2008.
  6. Book: Macdonald, Hamish. Mussolini and Italian Fascism. Nelson Thornes. 0748733868.
  7. Book: Macdonald, Hamish. Mussolini and Italian Fascism. Nelson Thornes. 0748733868.
  8. News: Mussolini and Fascism in Italy. 8 January 2008.
  9. News: March on Rome. Encyclopedia Britannica. 8 January 2008.
  10. Book: De Grand, Alexander J. The Hunchback's Tailor: Giovanni Giolitti and Liberal Italy from the Challenge of Mass Politics to the Rise of Fascism, 1882-1922. Greenwood Publishing Group. 027596874X.
  11. Book: De Grand, Alexander J. The Hunchback's Tailor: Giovanni Giolitti and Liberal Italy from the Challenge of Mass Politics to the Rise of Fascism, 1882-1922. Greenwood Publishing Group. 027596874X.
  12. News: Flunking Fascism 101. 8 January 2008.
  13. News: Mussolini and Fascism in Italy. 8 January 2008.
  14. News: Mussolini and Fascism in Italy. 8 January 2008.
  15. News: Mussolini and Fascism in Italy. 8 January 2008.
  16. News: Fascist Modernization in Italy: Traditional or Revolutionary. Roland Sarti. 8 January 2008.
  17. News: Mussolini's Italy. 8 January 2008.
  18. [Daniel Guérin]
  19. [Daniel Guérin]
  20. [Daniel Guérin]
  21. [Denis Mack Smith]
  22. Book: Warwick Palmer, Alan. Who's Who in World Politics: From 1860 to the Present Day. Routledge. 0415131618.
  23. Book: Tolliday, Steven. The Power to Manage?: Employers and Industrial Relations in Comparative. Routledge. 0415026253.
  24. News: Mussolini and Fascism in Italy. 8 January 2008.
  25. News: Anno 1925. 8 January 2008.
  26. News: The Economy in Fascist Italy. 8 January 2008.
  27. News: Donatello Among the Blackshirts. 8 January 2008.
  28. News: Mussolini Takes On the Mafia. 8 January 2008.
  29. News: Top Ten Facts About Mussolini. 27 January 2008.
  30. Book: Falasca-Zamponi, Simonetta. Fascist Spectacle: The Aesthetics of Power in Mussolini's Italy. University of California Press. 0520226771.
  31. News: Pound in Purgatory. Leon Surette. 27 January 2008.
  32. Book: Matthews Gibbs, Anthony. A Bernard Shaw Chronology. Palgrave. 0312231636.
  33. News: Pound in Purgatory. LeonSurette. 27 January 2008.
  34. Book: Heater, Derek Benjamin. Our World this Century. Oxford University Press. 0199133247.
  35. Book: Gregor, A. James. Giovanni Gentile: Philosopher Of Fascism. Transaction Pub. 0765805936.
  36. Book: Gregor, A. James. Giovanni Gentile: Philosopher Of Fascism. Transaction Pub. 0765805936.
  37. Book: Gregor, A. James. Giovanni Gentile: Philosopher Of Fascism. Transaction Pub. 0765805936.
  38. Book: Gregor, A. James. Giovanni Gentile: Philosopher Of Fascism. Transaction Pub. 0765805936.
  39. Book: Heater, Derek Benjamin. Our World this Century. Oxford University Press. 0199133247.
  40. Book: Spignesi, Stephen J. The Italian 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential, Cultural, Scientific, and Political Figures,Past and Present. CITADEL PR. 0806523999.
  41. Book: Heater, Derek Benjamin. Our World this Century. Oxford University Press. 0199133247.
  42. News: So Long Ago. 8 January 2008.
  43. News: So Long Ago. 8 January 2008.
  44. News: Mussolini and Fascism in Italy. 8 January 2008.
  45. Book: Farrell, Nicholas Burgess. Mussolini: A New Life. Orion Publishing Group. 1842121235.
  46. Book: Moseley, Ray. Mussolini: The Last 600 Days of Il Duce. Taylor Trade. 1589790952.
  47. News: Mussolini's Cultural Revolution: Fascist or Nationalist?. 8 January 2008.
  48. Book: Copinger, Stewart. The rise and fall of Western colonialism. F.A.Praeger.
  49. Book: Copinger, Stewart. The rise and fall of Western colonialism. F.A.Praeger.
  50. News: Mussolini's Cultural Revolution: Fascist or Nationalist?. 8 January 2008.
  51. News: The Italian Holocaust: The Story of an Assimilated Jewish Community. 8 January 2008.
  52. Book: Hollander, Ethan J. Italian Fascism and the Jews. University of California. 0803946481.
  53. Book: Segrè, Claudio G. Italo Balbo a fascist life: a Fascist life. University of California Press. 0520071999.
  54. Book: Galaty, Michael L. Archaeology under dictatorship. Springer. 0306485087.
  55. Book: Jowett, Philip S. The Italian Army 1940-45 (2): Africa 1940-43. Nelson Thornes. 1855328658.
  56. Book: Lowe, CJ. Italian Foreign Policy 1870-1940. Routledge. 0415265975.
  57. News: Kingdom of Sardinia. 8 January 2008.
  58. News: Pasquale Paoli & Corsican Independence from Genoa. 8 January 2008.
  59. News: The Order of Saint John and the Kingdom of Sicily. 8 January 2008.
  60. Alan Morris Schom, A Survey of Nazi and Pro-Nazi Groups in Switzerland: 1930-1945 for the Simon Wiesenthal Center
  61. R. Griffin, The Nature of Fascism, London: Routledge, 1993, p. 129
  62. [Philip Rees]
  63. A conscious counterpart to the Catholic principle Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (No salvation outside the Church)
  64. Sarti, Roland. 1974. The Ax Within: Italian Fascism in Action. New York: New Viewpoints. p187.