Fascism (in Italian, fascismo), capitalized, refers to the 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 group, but also fasces, the Roman authority symbol of a bundle of rods and axe-head.
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). Nazism is usually considered as a kind of fascism.
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. As George Orwell in his 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language" famously complained, "The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies 'something not desirable.'" This negative association makes it unlikely that the fascist label will be used or accepted by any future regimes.
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.
People often characterize a fascist government as "extreme right-wing" and a socialist government as "extreme left-wing". Others point out that the differences between fascism and totalitarian forms of socialism are more superficial than actual.
The most common feature of fascism cited in contrast to socialism is the fact that neither Hitler nor Mussolini nationalized their nations' industries. Some contend that this difference is also more cosmetic than actual, since both leaders used extreme regulation to control industry, while leaving them in the hands of their owners. Hitler commented on this difference in a letter to Herman Rauschning, where he wrote:
It is also possible, since Fascism incorporates corporatism, that a Fascist regime may de-facto nationalize certain key industries, simply by maintaining close personal and/or business relationships with the corporations' owners.
Some attribute to Stalin the characterization of fascism as a diametric opposite to socialism. Stalin was eager to distance his government from those of Hitler and Mussolini, and forbade reference to Nazis as "National Socialists", insisting that they be consistently referred to as "fascists". Individuals who make this attribution generally argue that fascism is actually a variant of socialism, differing superficially from Stalinism.
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 characterise not only Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, but also communist countries such as the Soviet Union, Communist China and Cuba (although fascists and communists identify each other as enemies).
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.
Mussolini's Fascist state, established nearly a decade before Hitler's rise to power, would provide a model for Getulio Vargas' later economic and political policies. 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. 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.
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.
Poland (1926-1939) - Marshal Józef Pilsudski's dictature is maybe more accurately characterized as authoritarian and militarist Nationalism, partially in response to the security threats from Bolshevist Russia, blocking more hard-line Nationalists from influence, curbing the powers of the Sejm, harassing the opposition parties, arresting the opposition leaders, and putting them on trial in 1931. His successor, Marshall Edward Rydz-Smigly[?] (1935-1939), didn't change the course.
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' dictature (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 dictature (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.
Slovakia (1939-1944) - The Slovak Populist 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.
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, he succeeded admiral Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya as Head of State in Hungary. (The government led 1920-1944 by Miklos Horthy, a staunch Conservative, had joined Nazi-Germany in World War II, in hopes of bringing the return of the lost territories of Transylvania, Croatia, and Slovakia, which at the end of the war resulted in German interventions in Hungary, forcing Horthy to abdicate.)
Argentina (1946-1955 and 1973-1974) - Juan Perón admired Mussolini and established his own Fascist regime. After he died, his third wife and vice-president Isabel Perón was deposed by a military junta.