World War II: Totalitarian Political Parties--Fascism


Figure 1.-- Italian Youth give the Fascist Salute To Mussolini in an officia; photograph. We are not sure where this photograph was taken or when. We suspect it was made during World War II in the early 1940s.

Fascism is a totalitarian political system centered on nationalism. The first Fascist state was created by Mussolini in Italy which gave its name to the movement as a whole. A core element of Fascism was opposition to the rise of Communism or even Democratic Socialism. Although not a strong element in Italian Fascism, the importance of the Germamn NAZIs in European Fascism made race, escpecialy anti-Semitism a majoe element. The promotion of the nation through a strong state which put the promotion of the nation above any individual rights. A tightly controlled political party is used to mobilize mass support for the state. The Party rules without meaniful elections. There are no individual rights or the rule of law. All organizations such as labor unions, professional organizations, are placed under Party control as well as the police. The state controls the educational sydtem and youth movement. The state also controls all media so a carefully controlled version can be presented to the public. Fascism varied from country to country. This was primarily bevcause of the nature of the nationalist movement. German NAZIism had a central racial theme mixed with messianic and mythological elements. Fascist states also differed in their relation to religion. The NAZIs took measures to undermine churches whereas Italian Fascists reached an accomodation with the Catholic Church. Spanish Falangests strongly supported the Church. Facists had no faith in democratic elections and sought to govern by a preminant leader and strong ruling party. Fascists were prone to use force in both domestic and international affairs.

Philosophical Origins


Historical Origins

The rise of Fascism in Europe is inextricably intertwined with industrialization. It succeded in seizing control of those countries which had industrialized late and at a fast pace--Italy and Germany. [Paxton] These countries were also the last major European countries to unify, meaning that nationalist passions were especially strong. Fascist Parites formed and seized power in the power vaccume created after World War I by the breakup of the three great empires (Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Russia). This meant socaila disorder and emmense change in peoples' lives. This hreatened the propertied classes. The Fascists found support among industrialists, aristocrats, and the middle class. Italians felt cheated even though they had joined the Allies. The Germans were humiliated by the loss of the War and the terms of the Versailles Treaty. The Great Depression was also a factor.

Terminology

The first Fascist state was created by Mussolini in Italy which gave its name to the movement as a whole. Roman fasces were used as the party emblem thus giving the movement the name Fascists.

Core Beliefs

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 poweer 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. Theracial 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 bes known element of Fascism is racism, largely becauseof 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 millenia to develop. Racism was less pronounced outside Germany. Rejectging the central tennants of Western Civikization was much more pronounced among all European Fascists.

Religion

Fascist states also differed in their relation to religion. The NAZIs took measures to undermine churches and would have ultimately turned the party into a state religion. Italian Fascists in contrast reached an accomodation with the Catholic Church. Spanish Falangests strongly supported the Church.

Methods

Individual leadership

Fascism was most successful in European experiencing rapid social growth where important elements of the population dispaired of democracy addressing their concerns. The Facists offered a strong leader to deal with the seemingly insurmountable problems.

State preminence

The promotion of the nation through a strong state which put the promotion of the nation above any individual rights.

A governing party

Fascist parties formed uniformed militias to helpn them seize power. These milituias were then institutionalized after the Fascists seized power. The various Fascists parties were tightly controlled and organized so so as to mobilize mass support. The Party ruled without meaniful elections. Facists had no faith in democratic elections and sought to govern by a preminant leader and strong ruling party.

Mass politics

Facism was not preordanined to succeed in Europe following World War I. One reason they did suceed was that they grasped how fundamentally Europev had been changed by World War I and embraced mass politics. It was clear after the sacrifices of r=the War that Europe could not return to a narrow sufferage. [Paxton] The Fascists embraced mass politics. Hitler in his campaign conducted a feverish effort, using the new medium of radio and flying from city to city. After they seized power the Fascists developed carefully orchestrated mass events to give the ellusion of power o the people.

Abolition of civil liberties

There are no individual rights or the rule of law. All organizations such as labor unions, professional organizations, are placed under Party control as well as the police.

Emphasis on youth

The Fascist state controled the educational system and youth movement. Private schools were brought under the authority of the state. A single all encompasing Fascist youth movement was establidshed. Competing youth organizations both political and non-political (like the Scouts) were abolished in incorporated into the Fascist youth movement which was made a mass movement. The idea of survival of the fittest and nationalist struggle were promoted by the youth movement

Media control

The state also controls all media so a carefully controlled version can be presented to the public.

State paternalism

The state initiated public works and relief programs to gain mass support. The state assumed a paternalistic stance but power was maintained by the party elite.

National Fascist Parties

Fascism was born in the chaos of the aftermath of World War I. There were no Fascist parties in Europe before the War. The first Fascist party was Mussolini's Italian Fascists which rapidy grew in power in Italy after the War. The best known Fascist Party was the NAZI Party in Germany. It also was created after World War I, but was a relatively minor party until the Great Depression. Fascist parties were organized in other European countries, although they were relatively minor parties in most countries. Most of the support for these parties can be traced to World War I, both the destruction and suffering and the nationalist passions unleashed. The collapse of the great European empires created many small countries, many with territorial designs on their neighbors. There was considerable mixing of nationalities within these empires. As a result, the new nations commonly had minority populations of neighboring countries as well as large number of their people living in other countries. Such irrendentist issues became major Fascist issues, especially in the Balkans (Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia) . Fascist parties also organized in the Western democracies (Belgium, Britain, France, and the Netherlands). Fascist parties only took power in Italy and Germany. Some Fascist-like parties did take power in other countries (Portugal and Spain). The Japanese militarists shared many fundamental political and social trends with the Fascists. Fascists influenced the political outlook in several Latin American countries. Fascism strongly influenced the Arab and Persian nationalist movements. And the Fascist outlook has been a continuing influence in the Middle East.

Sources

Paxton, Robert O. The Anatomy of Fascism (Knopf, 2004), 305p.






CIH -- WW II







Navigate the CIH World War II Section:
[Return to Main totalitarian page]
[Return to Main World War II page]
[Return to Main nationalism page]
[About Us]
[Aftermath] [Biographies] [Campaigns] [Children] [Countries] [Deciding factors] [Diplomacy] [Geo-political crisis] [Economics] [Home front] [Intelligence]
[Military forces] [POWs] [Resistance] [Race] [Refugees] [Technology] [Totalitarian powers]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Return to Main World War II page]
[Return to Main war essay page]
[Return to CIH Home page]





Created: April 5, 2004
Last updated: 6:51 PM 6/10/2013