World War II: Fascism: Core Beliefs

Figure 1.--One of the core Fascist beliefs was in military power. Fascists saw military power as the preminent measure of a county's greatness and a man's masulinity. This is in keeping with a belief in the survival of the fitest as a measure of national and individual worth. As a result, in Fascist youth groups, para-military training was part of the program. It began from an early age and intensified as the boy got older. Here we see members of the Italian Fascist youth movement. Mussolini bragged about 8 million bayonets. The results of this training varied considerably. Italians proved not to ideologically prepared for war. Germans in part because of the Hitler Youth were prepared.

Fascism developed first in Italy where Mussolini and his Fascist Party seized power after World War I. Mabny of the same political and economic trends which brought the Fascists to power in Italy were also at play in the rest of Europe. There were differences, however, among Fascists in the various European countries. Despite this there were a range of core believes that were found among all Fascist parties. While these core values were prevalent with all Europeans Fascists, the strength of the various elements could vary from country to country. The racial component was, for example, weakest in Italy and strongest in Germany. Other elements varied from country to country and among Fascist authors. These variations were curtailed with the rise of the NAZIs. Many Fascists currying NAZI favor adopted NAZI ideology. The best known element of Fascism is racism, largely because of the Holocaust. The most destructive aspect of Fascism, however, was the rejection of Liberal Democracy and Free Market Capitalism, essentially the core of Western Civilization which took millennia to develop. Racism was less pronounced outside Germany. Rejecting the central tennants of Western Civilization was pronounced among all European Fascists.


Fascism is a totalitarian political system centered on nationalism. Fascist leaders stressed the superority of their countries and dealt with the suposed wrongs at the hands of other countries, pleding to persue national goals. Fascism varied from country to country. This was primarily because of the nature of the nationalist movement. German NAZIism had a central racial theme mixed with messianic and mythological elements. Over the course of several centuries the mapof Europe had chnged many times. As a result most comtries had their own national claims on neighborong countries. Also most countries had some of their nationals living in the territory of other countries. In the long run this would have meant conflictv between Fascist states. (It did occur between Italy and Greece.) Only the overweaming pwer of NAZI Germany prevented more such conflicts.

Opposition to Communism

A core element of Fascism was opposition to the rise of Communism or even Democratic Socialism. It is often expressed as opposition to Bolshevism. Here there was resistantism to Socialist eqalitarianism. There was also fear of violence and mob rule from left-wing agitation. Thus Fascists found support among industrialists and aristocrats as well as the middle class which felt its property threatened. The NAZIs played, however, a major role in breaking down social barriers. This was not the case of other Fascist Govements. This is a much more complicated topic thn it may seem because World War II was so dominated by the titantic struugle between NAZI Germany and the Soviet Union in the East. Today Communists as well as left-leaning revisionists want to depict the War as a struggle between an aggressive right-wing Fascism and peace loving left-wing Communists/Socialists. In fact the truth is very different and far more complicated. It should be remembered that Fascist roots were not just conservtive. Mussolini came frpm the Italian Socialist movement. And he was far from unusual. The name of the NAZI Party (NSDAP) was the National Socialist German Workers Party--Socialist and Workers display the left-wing origins of the Party. And the largest and initially mst important NAZI organization was the Sturmabteilungen (SA) Storm Troopers, men with very left-wing ideas about reordering German society and wealth distribution. Rather than the antitecism of Cpmmunist, the NAZIs and other Fascists were basically very similar totalitarian clones. It is liberal democracy that was the real opposite of both.


Although not a strong element in Italian Fascism, the importance of the Germamn NAZIs in European Fascism made race, especialy anti-Semitism, a major element of European Fascism. Fascism was born in Italy after World War I, but similar political trends were at play throughout Europe. The primary focus of Mussolini and the Fascists were combating the Communists. And included among Mussolini's suporters were Jews who also opposed Communism. While racism was not initially a central element in Italian Fascism, it was almost inevitable to become important thrioughout Europe. Several factors were involved here. First, large numbers of Jews had left-wing view and were active in Communist and Socialist parties. Thuis was natural because of the internationist ideology of Socialist thought, downplaying nationlism. Jews saw clearly that the were threatened by states with a strong nationlist identity. Many Jews thus replaced Judaism wirth Socialism in their lives. Quite a number of the Bolsheviks who made the Russian Revolution were Jews, mostly non-practicing Jews. And this was the case with Comminist and Socialist parties througout Europe. Facists focused on fighting Communism inevitably made this connection. Hitler certainly picked up on this almost immediately. did this with a vengence. It is a theme which appears in Mein Kampf (1924). Second, Fascist parties were ardent nationalists, often xenephonic. Thus it was very naturl for them to view the Jews as outsiders, even dangerous outsiders. Here nearly two millenia of anti-Semitism fed into the toxic mixture. Often Fascists did not see Jews as rel citizens. And in par because of this, many Jews identified themselves as Jews rather than Italians, Germans, Poles, Czechs, ect. This varied from country to countrty, affected by the level of assimilation. (This same basic issue is at play with minority Muslims in various countries today.) Fascist parties did not just target Jews, but also other religious and ethnic communities. The break up of the Austro-Hungarian, German, Ottoman, and Russian empires created a feee-for all among the various ethnic groups throughout Eastern and Central Europe. This proved particularly deadly in the Balkans during World War II. With the rise of Hitler, the NAZI pathological hatred of Jews became increasingly influential with Fascist parties in Europe. These parties had influence and supporters, but were not able to win national elections. Thus developing positive relations with Hitler was vital for their success. At the same time Fascst nationalist thought commonly was in conflict not only with neigboring countries, but with German nationalism and racism. There were various strains of racism and anti-Semitism among Fascists. Anti-Semitism existed in countries with very few Jews. Two British Fascists represented the two main strains, cultural and biological anti-Semitism. British Fascist Oswald Mosley expoused cultural anti-Smitism. He wrote, "We are realist not racist. We believe that races are different and should be preserved, but other races should not be persecuted. .... We do not attack Jews because they are Jews. We oppose some Jews for what they do.' Arnold Spencer Leese and his rival Imperial Fascist League was even more virulently anti-Semetic. He promoted 'Racial Fascism' meaning biological anti-Semitism. There is a strong focus on anti-Semitism when discussing Fascist racism, larely because of the Holocaust. Actually the Jewish Holocaust was only one aspect of NAZI racism. Hitler and the NAZIs had an even more ambitious and deadly racial plan to remake the ethnic map of Europe.


Fascist leaders placed a strong emphasis on the military. Fascists saw military power as the preminent measure of a country's greatness and on an individual plane a man's masulinity. This is in keeping with a belief in the survival of the fitest applied in human society. This Fascist view of survival of the fitist was a major difference with the Communists, at least in ideological terms. The Communist formulation as scientific ordered determinism was in many ways comparable. Actual militarism was pursued by the also Communists. Stalin and the Soviet Uniin as well as other Communist regimes lavished vast resources on the and was just as prepared to use it as Hitler -- although more caustiouslly. The Fascist focus on militarism was more than an ideological matter. It is also a necessary element because the emhpasis on nationalism meant the pursuit of national claims by force. And as an artifact of its tumultous history, virtually every European state had territorial claims on neigboring states. Fascists were prone to use force in both domestic and international affairs. This was a special case of Germany. Not only did Germany have the Prussian military tradition, but Hitler did not have minor border changes in mind. He was determined to redraw the ethnic and political map of Europe. For this a massive military establishment was needede saw the seizure of the East as necessary for Germany. And this meant war with the Soviet Uniion was inevitable. While both Fascists and Comunists built huge militaries and lavished huge resources in the military. There were, however, two differences. First, Fascists openly expoused militarist values and idealized war. Communists did not pubically expouse militarism and war, while building and employing massive armies just like the Fascists using them. Second, Communists primarily used military force on their own people. Most of the victims of Stalin, Mao, the Kims, and Pol Pot were their own people. Even so the victims are in the tens of millions. The Fascists on the other hand primarily victimized foreign people or minorities in their own country.

Messianic Leadership

Ideologically it was the Fascists who promotes messianic leadership--the Führerprinzip. Both Mussolini and Hitler as well as lesser Fascist figures promoted it. The idea that a gifted national leader should be given great power so that he could formulate and pursue policies wihout being questioned or limiting by democratic opposition. This was openly expoused by the Fascists. It had great appeal to lrge numbers od people not only buffeted by modernity, but by World War I and economic crises. This created a desperate need for security and leaders who offered simplistic anserrs to the crisis of modernity.Under different names (Führer, Duce, Caufillo, and others), Fascist leaders presented themselves as ntionlist father figures, as one historin puts it, "... a redeeming saviour figire, a man with healing power, a symbol for a new integration and unity." [Feldman, pp. 78-79.] This in contrast was not a feature of Marxist ideology. Marx, Engles, and other Communist luminaries, never mentioned it. Even so, it was adopted by most Communis leaders, including Castro, Ceaușescu, Chavez, Hoxha, the Kims, Mao, Minh, Pot, Stalin, Tito,and others. The term adopted by Khruschev was Stalin's 'cult of personality which he condemned in his Secret Speech at the XX Party Congress (1956). Rather than an element unique to Fascism, messianic leadership appears to be a feature common to all totalitarian regimes. There are instances in which Communist regimes did not become ruled by strongmen, such as the post-Stalinist Soviet leadership or the post-Maoist leadership, but this eventual leads to the weakening of totalitarian structures. Some figures like Castro, Chavez, Hitler, and Mao seem to have possessed unique personal traits like speaking ability that helped estblish messianic leasership. Others like thge Kims and Stalin seem to have relied more on their organizational abilities and control of a powerful totalitasrian state to create an aura of poweful leadership and indalibility.

Rejection of Liberal Democracy and Free Market Capitalism

Fascists offered to address social problems in a Europe undergoing rapid social change and economic dislocation. Fascists articulate a rejection of both liberal democracy and free market capitalism. The two of course are book ends of the modern world and freedom. Liberal democracy is political liberty. Free market capitalism is economic liberty. The Fascist sollution, at least articulated in public, The Fascists offered immediate, rapid action. And this meant abandoing the rule of law by establishing aolice srate and comncentration camps. Here rather than opposing Communism, the Fascists were adopting elemebts of Communist rule. One Facist response was to create a ethicically based Volk which perpetuated and supported traditional values. The economic sollution was the Corpotrate State expoused by Mussolini. The Fascists found support from traditional elements in society, especially rural areas. This included people from rural areas moving into the growing cities as a result of industrialization. They were often poorly educaed and disoriented by the rapid social change that swirled around them. This was the group most influenced by traditional anti-Semitism.


Feldman, Matthew. Fascism: Fascism and Culture (Taylor & Francis: 2004), 408 p.


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Created: 8:40 PM 6/10/2013
Last updated: 9:06 PM 9/21/2016