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Fascism (in Italian, fascismo), capitalized, refers to the right-wing authoritarian political movement which ruled Italy 1922-1943 under the leadership of Benito Mussolini. The name comes from fascio, 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; Political Colours).

Table of contents
1 Definition
2 The Origin and Ideology of Fascism
3 Italian fascism
4 Fascism vs. socialism
5 Fascism and other totalitarian regimes
6 Anti-Communism
7 Fascism and Christianity
8 Practice of fascism
9 Fascism as an international phenomenon
10 Fascist Motto and Sayings
11 References
12 Related Topics
13 External links
14 General Bibliography


The word fascism has come to mean any system of government resembling Mussolini's, that exalts nation and often race above the individual, and uses violence and modern techniques of propaganda and censorship to forcibly suppress political opposition, engages in severe economic and social regimentation, and espouses nationalism and sometimes racism (ethnic nationalism). According to the libertarian Nolan chart, "fascism" occupies a place on the political spectrum as the capitalist equivalent of communism, wherein a system that supports economic liberty is constrained by its social controls such that it becomes virtually indistinguishable from totalitarianism.

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 or 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 delivered the following maxim which 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".

Nazism is usually considered as a kind of fascism, but it should be understood that Nazism sought the state's purpose in serving an ideal to valuing what its content should be: its people, race, and the social engineering of these aspects of culture to the ends of the greatest possible prosperity for them at the expense of all else. In contrast, Mussolini's fascism held to the ideology that all of these 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 as any priority. The only purpose of the government under fascism proper was to value itself as the highest priority to its culture in just being the state in itself, the larger scope of which, the better, and for these reasons it can be said to have been a governmental statolatry. While Nazism was a metapolitical ideology, seeing itself only as a utility by which an allegorical condition of its people was its goal, fascism was a squarely anti-socialist form of statism that existed by virtue and as an ends in and of itself. The Nazi movement spoke of class based society as the enemy and wanted to unify the racial element above established classes, whereas the Fascist movement sought to preserve the class system and uphold it as the foundation of established and progressive culture. This underlying theorem made the contemporary Fascists and Nazis see themselves and their respective political labels as at least partially exclusive to one another. Today however this difference is not made often in terminology, even when used historically. That is due mostly because both politics have ceased to be a society driven ideology of their own anywhere in the world today. Outside of their internal reasoning their own opposing ideas have no part to play and could even be said to be arbitrarily alien to the liberal states currently dealing in defining political concerns.

As a political science, the philosophical pretext to the literal fascism of the historical Italian type believes the state's nature is superior to that of the sum of the individual's comprising it, and that they exist for the state rather than the state existing to serve them. The resources individuals provide from participating in the community are conceived as a productive duty of individual progress serving an entity greater than the sum of its parts. Therefore all individual's business is the state's business, the state's existence is the sole duty of the individual. In its Corporativist model of totalitarian but private management the various functions of the state were trades conceived as individualized entities making that state, and that it is in the state's interest to oversee them for that reason, but not direct them or make them public by the rationale that such functioning in government hands undermines the development of what the state is. Private activity is in a sense contracted to the state so that the state may suspend the infrastructure of any entity in accord to their usefulness and direction, or health to the state.

The social composition of Fascist movements have historically been small capitalists, low-level bureaucrats and the middle classes. Fascism also met with great success in rural areas, especially among farmers, peasants, and in the city, the lumpenproletariat. A key feature of fascism is that it uses its mass movement to attack the organizations of the working class - parties of the left and trades unions.

Unlike the pre–World War II period, when many groups openly and proudly proclaimed themselves fascist, in the post–World War II period the term has taken on an extremely pejorative meaning, largely in reaction to the crimes against humanity undertaken by the Nazis. Today, very few groups proclaim themselves as fascist, and the term almost universally is used for groups for whom the speaker has little regard, often with minimal understanding of what the term actually means. The term "fascist" or "Nazi" is often ascribed to individuals or groups who are perceived to behave in an authoritarian manner; by silencing opposition, judging personal behavior, or otherwise attempting to concentrate power. More particularly, "Fascist" is sometimes used by people of the Left to characterize some group or persons of the far-right or neo-far-right, or the far left activists as a description of any political or cultural influences perceived as "non-progressive," or merely not sufficiently progressive. This usage receded much following the 1970s, but has enjoyed a strong resurgence in connection with Anti-globalization activism.

Fascism, in many respects, is an ideology of negativism: anti-liberal, anti-Communist, anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian, etc. As a political and economic system in Italy, it combined elements of corporatism, totalitarianism, nationalism, and anti-communism.

The Origin and Ideology of Fascism

Etymologically, the use of the word Fascism in modern Italian political history stretches back to the 1890s in the form of fasci which were radical political groups that proliferated in the decades before World War I. (see Fascio for more on this movement and its evolution).

The Doctrine of Fascism was written by Giovanni Gentile an idealist philosopher and who served as its official philosopher. Mussolini signed the article and it was officially attributed to him. In it, Frenchmen Georges Sorel, Charles Peguy, and Hubert Lagardelle were invoked as the sources of fascism. Sorel's ideas concerning syndicalism and violence are much in evidence in this document. It also quotes from the Frenchman Joseph Renan who it says had "prefascist intuitions". Both Sorel and Peguy were influenced by the Frenchman Henri Bergson. Bergson rejected the scientism, mechanical evolution and materialism of Marxist ideology. Also, Bergson promoted an elan vital as an evolutionary process. Both of these elements of Bergson appear in fascism. Mussolini states that fascism negates the doctrine of scientific and Marxian socialism and the doctrine of historic materialism. Hubert Lagardelle, an authoritative syndicalist writer, was influenced by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who is the inspirer of anarchosyndicalism.

There were several strains of tradition influencing Mussolini. Sergio Panunzio, a major theoretician of fascism in the 1920s, had a syndicalist background but his influence waned as the movement shed its left wing roots. The fascist concept of corporatism and particularly its theories of class collaboration and economic and social relations are very similar to the model laid out by Pope Leo XII's 1892 encyclical Rerum Novarum which 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's concept of class struggle, and their proposed solution to eliminate private property. It called for strong governments to undertake a mission to protect their people from exploitation, and asked Roman Catholics to apply principles of social justice in their own lives.

Seeking to find some principle to replace the Marxist doctrine of class struggle, Rerum Novarum urged social solidarity between the upper and lower classes, and endorsed nationalism as a way of preserving traditional morality, customs, and folkways. In doing so, Rerum Novarum proposed a kind of corporatism, the organization of political societies along industrial lines that resembled mediaeval guilds. A one-person, one-vote democracy was rejected in favor of representation by interest groups. This idea was to counteract the "subversive nature" of the doctrine of Karl Marx.

The themes and ideas developed in Rerum Novarum can also be found in the ideology of fascism as developed by Mussolini.

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 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 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 labor and capital would eliminate 'the clash of economic interests" and thereby neutralise "the germ of class warfare.'"

Renegade socialist thinkers, Robert Michels, Sergio Panunzio, Ottavio Dinale, Agostino Lanzillo, Angelo Oliviero Olivetti, Michele Bianchi, and Edmondo Rossoni furthered this attempt to reconcile socialism and nationalism. .

Italian fascism

Mussolini founded the fascist movement on March 23, 1919 at a meeting in Milan's Piazza San Sepolcro. Among the founding members were the revolutionary syndicalist leaders Agostino Lanzillo and Michele Bianchi.

In 1921, the fascists developed a program that called for a republic, separation of church and state, a national army, as well as progressive taxation for inherited wealth and development of co-operatives.

Mussolini's fascist state was established nearly a decade before Hitler's rise to power. Both a movement and a historical phenomenon, Italian Fascism was, in many respects, an adverse reaction to both the apparent failure of laissez-faire and fear of the left, although trends in intellectual history, such as the breakdown of positivism and the general fatalism of postwar Europe should be of concern.

Fascism was, to an extent, a product of a general feeling of anxiety and fear among the middle class of postwar Italy arising because of 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.

As the same postwar depression heightened the allure of Marxism among an urban proletariat even more disenfranchised than their continental counterparts, fear regarding 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, it evolved into 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, but a new capitalist system in which the state seized control of the organization of vital industries. Under the banners of nationalism and state power, Fascism seemed to synthesize the glorious Roman past with a futuristic utopia.

The appeal of this movement, the promise of a more orderly capitalism during an era of interwar depression, however, was not isolated to Italy, or even Europe. For example, a decade later, as the Great Depression led to a sharp economic downturn of the Brazilian economy, a sort of quasi-fascism would emerge there that would react to Brazil's own socio-economic problems and nationalistic consciousness of its peripheral status in the global economy. The regime of Getulio Vargas adopted extensive fascist influence and entered into an alliance with Integralism, Brazil's local fascist movement.

Founded as a nationalist association (the Fasci di Combattimento) of World War I veterans in Milan on March 23, 1919, Mussolini's fascist movement converted itself into a national party (the Partito Nazionale Fascista) after winning 35 seats in the parliamentary elections of May 1921. Initially combining ideological elements of left and right, it aligned itself with the forces of conservatism by its opposition to the September 1920 factory occupations.

Despite the themes of social and economic reform in the initial Fascist manifesto of June 1919, the movement came to be supported by sections of the middle class fearful of socialism and communism, while industrialists and landowners saw it as a defence against labour militancy. Under threat of a fascist "March on Rome," Mussolini in October 1922 assumed the premiership of a right-wing coalition Cabinet initially including members of the pro-church People's Party.

The transition to outright dictatorship was more gradual than in Germany a decade later, though in July 1923 a new electoral law all but assured a Fascist parliamentary majority, and the murder of the Socialist deputy Giacomo Matteotti eleven months later showed the limits of political opposition. By 1926 opposition movements had been outlawed, and in 1928 election to parliament was restricted to fascist-approved candidates.

The regime's most lasting political achievement was perhaps the Lateran Treaty of February 1929 between the Italian state and the Holy See, by which the Papacy was granted temporal sovereignty over the Vatican City and guaranteed the free exercise of Catholicism as the sole state religion throughout Italy in return for its acceptance of Italian sovereignty over the Pope's former dominions.

Trade unions and employers' associations were reorganized by 1934 into 22 fascist corporations combining workers and employers by economic sector, whose representatives in 1938 replaced the parliament as the "Chamber of Corporations": power continued to be vested in the Fascist Grand Council, the ruling body of the movement.

The 1930s saw some economic achievements as Italy recovered from the Great Depression: the draining of the malaria-infested Pontine Marshes south of Rome was one of the regime's proudest boasts. But international sanctions following Italy's invasion (October 1935) of Ethiopia (the Abyssinia crisis), followed by the government's costly military support for Franco's Nationalists in Spain, undermined growth despite successes in developing domestic substitutes for imports (Autarchia).

International isolation and their common involvement in Spain brought about increasing diplomatic collaboration between Italy and Nazi Germany, reflected also in the fascist regime's domestic policies as the first anti-semitic laws were passed in 1938. But Italy's intervention (June 10th 1940) as Germany's ally in World War II brought military disaster, from the loss of her north and east African colonies to U.S and British invasion of first Sicily (July 1943) and then southern Italy (September 1943).

Dismissed as prime minister by King Victor Emmanuel III on July 25th 1943, and subsequently arrested, Mussolini was freed in September by German paratroopers and installed as head of a puppet "Italian Social Republic" at Salo in German-occupied northern Italy. His association with the German occupation regime eroded much of what little support remained to him, and his summary execution (April 28th 1945) by northern partisans was widely seen as a fitting end against the backdrop of the war's violent closing stages.

After the war, the remnants of Italian fascism largely regrouped under the banner of the neo-Fascist "Italian Social Movement" (MSI), merging in 1994 with conservative former Christian Democrats to form the "National Alliance" (AN), which proclaims its commitment to constitutionalism, parliamentary government and political pluralism.

Fascism vs. socialism

Fascism developed in opposition to socialism and communism although many early Fascists were themselves former Marxists. Thus, in 1923 Mussolini declared, in Doctrine of Fascism?:

...Fascism [is] the complete opposite of ... Marxian Socialism, the materialist conception of history of human civilization can be explained simply through the conflict of interests among the various social groups and by the change and development in the means and instruments of production....

Fascism, now and always, believes in holiness and in heroism; that is to say, in actions influenced by no economic motive, direct or indirect. And if the economic conception of history be denied, according to which theory men are no more than puppets, carried to and fro by the waves of chance, while the real directing forces are quite out of their control, it follows that the existence of an unchangeable and unchanging class-war is also denied - the natural progeny of the economic conception of history. And above all Fascism denies that class-war can be the preponderant force in the transformation of society....

..."The maxim that society exists only for the well-being and freedom of the individuals composing it does not seem to be in conformity with nature's plans." "If classical liberalism spells individualism," Mussolini continued, "Fascism spells government."

--Benito Mussolini, public domain, from The Internet Modern History Sourcebook

While certain types of socialism may superficially appear to be similar to fascism, it should be noted that the two ideologies clash violently on many issues. The role of the state, for example: Socialism considers the state to be merely a "tool of the people," sometimes calling it a "necessary evil," which exists to serve the interests of the people and to protect the common good (in addition, certain forms of libertarian socialism reject the state altogether). Meanwhile, fascism holds the state to be an end in of itself, which the people should obey and serve (rather than the other way around).

Fascism rejects the central tenets of Marxism which are class struggle and the need to replace capitalism with a society run by the working class in which the workers own the means of production.

A fascist government is usually characterized as "extreme right-wing," and a socialist government as "left-wing". Others such as Hannah Arendt and Friedrich Hayek argue that the differences between fascism and totalitarian forms of socialism (see Stalinism) are more superficial than actual, since those self-proclaimed "socialist" governments did not live up to their claims of serving the people and respecting democratic principles. Many socialists and communists also reject those totalitarian governments, seeing them as fascism with a socialist mask. (See political spectrum and political model for more on these ideas).

Italian fascist leader Mussolini's own origins on the left, as a leader of the more radical wing of the Italian Socialist Party, has frequently been noted. After his turn to the right, Mussolini continued to employ much of the rhetoric of socialism, but substituting the nation for social class as the basis of political loyalty. Many other fascist leaders, including Sir Oswald Mosley in Britain and Jacques Doriot and Marcel Déat in France, also began their careers on the political left before turning to fascism.

Socialists and other critics of Arendt and Hayek maintain that there is no ideological overlap between Fascism and Marxism; they regard the two as utterly distinct. Since Marxism is the ideological basis of Communism, they argue that the comparisons drawn by Arendt and others are invalid.

Mussolini completely rejected the Marxist concept of class struggle or the Marxist thesis that the working class must expropriate the means of production.

Mussolini wrote in his 1932 treatise, The Doctrine of Fascism (ghostwritten by Giovanni Gentile): "Outside the State there can be neither individuals nor groups (political parties, associations, syndicates, classes). Therefore Fascism is opposed to Socialism, which confines the movement of history within the class struggle and ignores the unity of classes established in one economic and moral reality in the State." 1

Fascist Italy did not nationalize any industries or capitalist entities. Rather it established a corporatist structure influenced by the model for class relations put forward by the Catholic Church. Indeed, there is a lot of literature on the influence of Catholicism on fascism and the links between the clergy and fascist parties in Europe before and during World War II.

Critics point out that Marxists and trade unionists were the first targets, and the first victims of Adolf Hitler once he came to power. Also to the antagonistic relationship which resulted in street fights between fascists and socialists, including Trotskyists and members of the Communist Party of Great Britain, in London in the form of the 1936 Battle of Cable Street as well as street fights in Germany prior to Hitler's coming to power. A more serious manifestation of the conflict between fascism and socialism was the Spanish Civil War mentioned earlier in this article.

Although Italian fascism proclaimed its antithesis to socialism, Mussolini's own history in the socialist movement had some influence on him. Elements of the practice of socialist movements he retained were the need for a mass party; the importance of building support among the working class; and techniques relating to the dissemination of ideas, such as the use of propaganda. The original Fascist Manifesto contained within it a number of proposals for reforms that were also common among socialist movements and were designed to appeal to the working class though these promises were generally disregarded once the fascists took power.

Fascism and other totalitarian regimes

Some historians and theorists regard fascism and "Soviet" Communism or more specifically Stalinism as being similar lumping them together under the term "totalitarianism". Others see them as being so dissimilar as to be utterly incomparable.

Hannah Arendt and other theorists of totalitarian rule argue that there are similarities between nations under Fascist and Stalinist rule. They condemn both groups as dictatorships and totalitarian police states. For example, both Hitler and Stalin committed mass murder on millions of their country's civilians who did not fit in with their plans.

In 1947, Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises published a short book entitled "Planned Chaos". He asserted that fascism and Nazism were socialist dictatorships and that both had been committed to the Soviet principle of dictatorship and violent oppression of dissenters. He argued that Mussolini's major heresy from Marxist orthodoxy had been his strong endorsement of Italian entry into World War I on the Allied side as a means to "liberate" Italian-speaking areas under Austrian control in the Alps.

Aside from criticisms of co-thinkers of von Mises such as Hayek discussed in the previous section of this article, critics of von Mises' position point out that Marxists and trade unionists were the first targets, and the first victims of Adolf Hitler once he came to power. .

As well, Mussolini imprisoned Antonio Gramsci from 1926 until 1934 after Gramsci, a leader of the Italian Communist Party and leading Marxist intellectual, tried to create a common front among the left and workers to resist and overthrow fascism. Other Italian Communist leaders like Palmiro Togliatti went into exile and fought for the Republic in Spain.

The concept of dictatorship of the proletariat alluded to by Von Mises is not the same as the dictatorship concept employed by fascists. Dictatorship of the proletariat is supposed to mean workers democracy or dictatorship by the working class rather than dictatorship by the capitalist class. This concept had been distorted under Stalin to mean dictatorship by the General Secretary over the party and the working class but that means that Stalin deviated from Marx rather than that the Stalinist form of government is Marxist.

Instead, the fascist economic model of corporatism promoted class collaboration by attempting to bring classes together under the unity of the state.

However, the fact that fascist states, on the one hand, and the USSR and the Soviet bloc, on the other, were police states does not mean that their commonality is a product of socialism. While all one-party states can be said to be police states, there is no correlation between socialism and police states as all one-party capitalist states, such as the Republic of China under Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang or Afghanistan under the Taliban as well as monarchist police states such as Iran under the Shah have also been police states. Conversely, there have been multi-party socialist states that have not been police states.

See also: Nazism and socialism


Fascism and "Soviet" Communism are political systems that arose 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 liberal democracy 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 prompting severe 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 in Germany led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in January 1919 failed. In Bavaria, Communists successfully overthrew the government and established the Munich Soviet that lasted from 1918-1919. A short lived soviet government was also established in Hungary 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 and also appealed to capitalists as a bulwark against Bolshevism. Italian fascism — founded and led by Benito Mussolini — 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 and conservative intellectuals as well as capitalists and industrialists lent their support to fascist movements in their countries which arose in emulation of 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. The Civil War became a proxy war between the fascist countries and their international supporters — who backed Franco — and the worldwide Communist movement allied uneasily with anarchists and Trotskyists — who backed the Popular Front — and were aided chiefly by the Soviet Union.

Initially, the Soviet Union supported the idea of a coalition with the western powers against Nazi Germany as well as 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 Soviets changed their policy and negotiated a non-aggression pact known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939. 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, and fascism and communism reverted to their relationship as lethal enemies with the war, in the eyes of both sides, becoming one between their respective ideologies.

Fascism and Christianity

Another controversial topic is the relationship between fascist movements and Christianity, particularly the Roman Catholic Church. As mentioned above, Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical, Rerum Novarum anticipated much of the doctrine that became known as fascism. Forty years later, the corporatist tendencies of Rerum Novarum were underscored by Pope Pius XI's May 25, 1931 encyclical Quadragesimo Anno which restated the hostility of Rerum Novarum to both unbridled competition and class struggle.

In the early 1920s the Catholic Party in Italy (Partito Popolare) was in the process of forming a coalition with the Reform Party that could have stabilized Italian politics and thwarted Mussolini's projected coup. On October 2,1922 Pope Pius XI circulated a letter ordering clergy not to identify themselves with the Catholic Party but to remain neutral, an act that undercut the party and its alliance against Mussolini. Following Mussolini's acquisition of power the Vatican's Secretary of State met the Duce in early 1923 and agreed to eventually dissolve the Catholic Party (which remained an obstacle to fascist rule) in exchange for guarantees regarding Catholic education and institutions.

In 1924, following the murder of the leader of the Socialist Party by fascists, The Catholic Party joined with the Socialist Party in demanding that the King dismiss Mussolini as Prime Minister stating their willingness to form a coalition government. Pius 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 causing the party's disintegration in rural areas where it relied on clerical assistance.

Then, the Vatican set up 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 regime. Pius ordered all Catholics to join Catholic Action resulting in hundreds of thousands of Catholics withdrawing from the Catholic Party and joining the apolitical Catholic Action. An event that caused the Catholic Party's final collapse.[1]

When Mussolini ordered the closure of the national lay organization Catholic Action in May 1931, Pius issued an encyclical, Non abbiamo bisogno, which opposed the dissolution and argued that the order "unmasked the 'pagan' intentions of the Fascist state". Due to international pressure, Mussolini decided to compromise and Catholic Action was saved.

Aside from doctrinal similarities, the relationship between the church and fascist movements in various countries has been very close such as in Slovakia where the fascist dictator was a Catholic monsignor and Croatia where the Ustashe identified itself as a Catholic movement. These regimes have been seen as examples of clerical fascism.

The Vichy regime in France was also deeply influenced by the reactionary Catholic ideology of the Action Française. Conversely, many Catholic priests were persecuted under the Nazi regime and many Catholic laypeople and clergy played notable roles in sheltering Jews during the Holocaust.

For a further exploration of the relationship between Christianity and Fascism see the article Roman Catholicism's links with democracy and dictatorships.

Practice of fascism

Examples of fascist systems include Nazi Germany, Spain under the Falange Espańola y de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalista (FET y de las JONS) Party of Francisco Franco, and Mussolini's Italy.

Fascism in practice embodied both political and economic practices, and invites different comparisons. 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 (although it should be noted that "totalitarianism" is a catch-all group which includes many different ideologies that are sworn enemies to each other).

However, some analysts point out that some fascist governments were arguably more authoritarian rather than totalitarian. There is almost universal agreement that Nazi Germany was totalitarian. However, many would argue that the governments of Franco's Spain and Salazar's Portugal, while fascist, were more authoritarian than totalitarian.

Writers who focus on economic policies of state intervention in the market and the use of state apparatuses to broker conflicts between different classes make even broader comparisons, identifying fascism as one form of corporatism, a political outgrowth of Catholic social doctrine from the 1890s, with which parallels have been drawn embracing not only Nazi Germany, but also Roosevelt's New Deal United States and Juan Peron's populism in Argentina.

Prominent proponents of fascism in pre-WWII America included the publisher Seward Collins, whose periodical The American Review (1933-1937) featured essays by Collins and others that praised Mussolini and Hitler. The America First movement, funded by William Regnery, among others, took a pro-German view of the world during the 1930s and fought to keep America neutral after Britain entered the war in 1939. Father Charles E. Coughlin's Depression-era radio broadcasts extolled the virtues of fascism.

Fascism as an international phenomenon

It's 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 have openly proclaimed themselves as either fascist or sympathetic to fascism include:

Italy (1922-1943) - The first fascist country, it was ruled by Benito Mussolini, Il Duce until Mussolini was captured during the Allied invasion. Mussolini was rescued from house arrest by German troops, and set up a short lived puppet state in northern Italy under the protection of the 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.

Spain (1936-1975) - After the 1936 arrest and execution of its founder José Antonio Primo de Rivera during the Spanish Civil War, the fascist Falange Española Party was led by Generalissimo Francisco Franco, who became known as El Caudillo, the undisputed leader of the Nationalist side in the war, and, after victory, head of state until his death over 35 years later.

Portugal (1932-1968) - Although less restrictive than the Italian, German and Spanish regimes, the Estado Novo party of António de Oliveira Salazar was quasi-fascist.

Austria (1932-1945) - The Heimwehr of Engelbert Dollfuss led Austria to be allied with Mussolini's Italy and then fall into the hands of Germany (Anschluss). In 1997, Jörg Haider, an extreme nationalist, became popular. Many political commentators believe that Haider's Austrian Freedom Party is a neo-fascist organization.

Greece - Joannis Metaxas' dictatorship (1936-1941) 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' US-supported military dictatorship (1967-1974).

Brazil (1937-1945) - Many historians have argued that Brazil's Estado Novo under Getulio Vargas was a Brazilian variant of the continental fascist regimes. For a period of time, Vargas' regime was aligned with Plínio Salgado's Integralist Party, Brazil's fascist movement.

Belgium (1939-1945) - The violent Rexist movement and the VNV party achieved some electoral success in the 1930s and many of its members assisted the Nazi occupation during World War II. The Verdinaso movement, too, can be considered fascists, but its leader, Joris Van Severen was killed before the Nazi occupation. Some of its adepts collaborated, but others even joined the resistance.

Slovakia (1939-1944) - The Slovak People's Party was a quasi-fascist nationalist movement associated with the Roman Catholic Church. Founded by Father Andrej Hlinka, his successor Monsignor Jozef Tiso became the Nazis' quisling in a nominally independent Slovakia.

France (1940-1944) - The Vichy regime of Philippe Pétain, established following France's defeat against Germany, collaborated with the Nazis, including in the death of 65,000 French Jews.

Romania (1940-1944) - The violent Iron Guard took power when Ion Antonescu forced King Carol II to abdicate. The fascist regime ended after the Soviet invasion.

Croatia (1941-1945) - Poglavnik Ante Pavelić, leader of the infamous Ustaše; movement, came to power in 1941 as the Croatian puppet leader of Nazi Germany.

Norway (1943-1945) - Vidkun Quisling had already during the German invasion on April 9th, 1940, attempted a coup d'état, but was appointed to head a puppet government under Nazi-Germany first from February 1st, 1943. His party had never had any substantial support in Norway.

Hungary (1944-1945) - Ferenc Szálasi headed the extremist Arrow Cross party. In 1944, with German support, he replaced Admiral Miklós Horthy as Head of State; following Horthy's attempt to have Hungary change sides.

Argentina (1946-1955 and 1973-1974) - Juan Perón admired Mussolini and established his own pseudo-fascist regime. After he died, his third wife and vice-president Isabel Perón was deposed by a military junta.

United States Self-proclaimed National Socialist leader George Lincoln Rockwell was active during the 1960s, although he never had much domestic support. His successor Frank Collin was one of the parties in the infamous Skokie case.

South Africa (1948-1994) Many scholars have labelled the apartheid built by Malan and Verwoerd as a type of Fascism, or National Socialism, as well as the system built by Smith in Rhodesia

Fascist Motto and Sayings


Related Topics

External links

General Bibliography

Bibliography on Fascist Ideology

Bibliography on International Fascism