Posted: March 10th, 2022
Rise of Fascism
The world we know now has changed along the years; has suffered mutations that left everlasting imprints. Captured by our daily activities, we seem to forget the tremendous efforts made by our ancestors, their fight for the general good and their bravery acts. But aside from these acts, the world’s history is filled with infinite examples of man’s cruelty, misconception or misinterpreted facts to the benefit of the few and the wrong of the many. Fascism is but one of such situations in which most of the parties involved had to suffer negative implications. Fascism represents a “totalitarian philosophy of government that glorifies the state and nation and assigns to the state control over every aspect of national life” (the Columbia Encyclopedia, 2007). The current was most common in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Germany.
But what is most interesting about fascism is its ability to combine both the positive aspects of history along with its negative ones. To better explain, most of the success with which fascist movements were received was due to the initially favorable aspects. In other words, these movements came to revive the monotonous cities and gave people hope for better lives. In time however, the failure to respect human rights and the imposed autocracy led to acts of an unimaginable cruelty; as a result, fascism is generally presented as a dark time in the world’s history. And probably this is why the positive aspects of fascism are often neglected. Without supporting the movement, it can however be said that, in the beginnings, Italian and German fascism had rather favorable implications for the populations. The current paper will succinctly present the features that characterize the rise of fascism, rather than the wounds it had caused towards its fall.
2. The Rise of Fascism in Italy (1920)
Italy was actually the country that introduced fascism as a word. “The name was first used by the party started by Benito Mussolini, who ruled Italy from 1922 until the Italian defeat in World War II” (the Columbia Encyclopedia, 2007). The primary reason why fascism was so well received by the Italian population was based on that the country’s government was unable to offer the citizens the promised benefits with the victory during World War I. Poor and out of jobs, the Italians would often riot against the weak government. By appealing to the masses and ensuring them they would be able to offer them the much desired benefits, such as social justice or better economic perspectives, Mussolini managed to transform the people in his allies and ultimate proclaimers by developing an agenda based on the well-being of the individuals and of Italy as a whole. “In Italy, particularly, social unrest was combined with nationalist dissatisfaction over the government’s failure to reap the promised fruits of victory after World War I” (the Columbia Encyclopedia, 2007).
The Fascist Party was officially formed and came into power in 1922 and its first actions had some of the beneficial effects so much desired by the people. In this order of ideas, Mussolini’s party improved the transportation within the country; he reconditioned and even built new roads and railroads. Then, he supported the industry, created new factories and consequently more jobs, all to reduce the unemployment rate and the poverty. The Fascist party would also place an increased emphasis on agriculture; they had more land cultivated and improved the irrigation systems, all to result in larger quantities of agricultural products that offered more and better food supplies. “It was through such measures that Mussolini and the Fascists won the support of the working class” (Mangion). However the list of topics to present in terms of early fascism in far from being exhaustive, a final argument in the current discussion is that of the appeal fascism had generated upon the Italian youth. “The movement especially attracted the youth of this class, who found in it a substitute for the emotional excitement of war to which they had come either late or not at all” (Lyttelton, 2004).
3. The Rise of Fascism in Germany (1930)
The specialized literature contains vast information on Nazism and the approaches vary based on the angle of observation or the personal experience and beliefs of the authors. One author highly interested in the study of Nazism is William Sheridan Allen, who in the Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town, took a new perspective and decided to only analyze the impacts upon a small community in a Hanoverian town. Thalburg was not the ordinary German town; it adopted Nazism long before the country as a whole had; but it considered it a respectable political agenda, and it was less anti-Semitic. Foremost, in the first two years of adopting it, the region had been met with industrial and economic growth, most often materialized in the creation of more jobs and a significant reduction in the unemployment rates. Also, political opponents were treated mildly and the freedom of the population was limitedly threatened. “Allen has given us, therefore, an interesting and valuable vignette of the early 1030s. It reminds us that in the drama of history the local and the commonplace share the stage with broader and more spectacular scenes” (Beck, 1966).
Just like in Italy, the average population was living in relative poverty, with the number of jobs decreasing, in the background of weak governments and a recently lost war. Hitler rose from within the masses and attracted their trust by giving them confidence in the German race, the superior Arian race, which was invincible and could quickly regain its status. His agenda was built on economic revival and the power of the people, including social justice and various public work projects, all ideas which attracted the population. Hitler “inflamed the crowds by promising a strong Germany, freed from the humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles and reconciled with its past military grandeur. Through propaganda, manipulation and terror, Hitler eliminates all forms of opposition and on January 30, 1933, is named Chancellor. The following year, after a bloody repression, he takes on the title of Fuehrer (Supreme Leader) of the Third Reich” (the Juno Beach Center, 2003).
4. Similarities between Italy and Germany
There are numerous similarities between the fascist movements in the two European countries, the primary one being observed even with the beginning and causes that generated the occurrence and success of the movements. In this order of ideas, the populations in both Italy and Germany were increasingly frustrated with the state officials’ incapability to revive the countries’ economic status. “The Russian Revolution (1917), the collapse of the Central Powers in 1918, and the disorders caused by Communist attempts to seize power in Germany, Italy, Hungary, and other countries greatly strengthened fascism’s appeal to many sections of the European populace” (the Columbia Encyclopedia, 2007)
Then, another major similarity resides in that both movements had a central figure, a charismatic, charming and highly convincing leader that presented himself as the savior. They were Adolf Hitler in Germany and Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini in Italy, who both came from humble backgrounds. They made increased efforts to gain the trust of the population by promising them better lives, and mostly, by identifying themselves with the masses and their problems. A third similarity revolves around the people surrounding the two dictators. In this particular instance, they both only trusted a limited number of individuals, and tried to remove most of the people they saw as threats. As such, militias were formed and in both countries, they came to rule by fear and in a way that physically and mentally damaged the populations. And these militias were generally formed from individuals in the working class who were dissatisfied with the current conditions, and mostly, by former military men, or “reserve officers, economically and psychologically unable to return to peacetime conditions, (who) constituted a special category, without which the success of fascism cannot be explained” (Lyttelton, 2004)
The ultimate similarity between the Italian and German fascism is that in both cases, the true intentions of the leaders and the movements had been concealed from the public. It was only later on that the real intentions became obvious, and by that time, the two dictators had already gained far too much power.
5. Differences between Italy and Germany
However in both countries fascism was installed in the background of public frustration and dissatisfaction towards the state officials, even at this state, differences can be observed. In this particular instance, the German population was frustrated that, despite they were in tremendous debt, most of the country’s resources had been transformed into financial support for the armed forces, the war had still been lost and now they would have to work even harder in more miserable conditions. “Germany, humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles, stripped of its colonies and forced to compensate the allies for war damages, is also facing a major crisis.” (the Juno Beach Center, 2003). In Italy on the other hand, the population was joyful for winning the war, but were frustrated that the benefits promised alongside with the victory failed to materialize.
Another difference worth mentioning is also of economic nature and refers to the Great Depression of 1929-1933. While the Italian fascism emerged in the context of internal problems, the German fascism was driven by international economic crisis. The fall of the American market, the primary creditor of the defeated countries, meant that the financial resources would stop coming from across the ocean, and the economic condition was in even grater danger.
Not many differences can be found between the two, at least not many major and distinctive differences, ever more when the rules controlled the masses is similar manners, followed similar agendas and had the same enemies (the communists). However, one strong difference resides in the approach taken by the leaders. Whereas Mussolini emphasized on Italy as a whole, with all of its inhabitants, Hitler emphasized on Germans as a race. In other words, behind the Italian fascism lays a nationalist propaganda, whereas behind the German fascism lays a racial propaganda.
Fascism and its “offsprings,” such as Nazism, are most often regarded as stains on the pages of human history. However the topic of the paper was not to present the movement in more favorable light, it did try to look at it in its early stages, which were rather positive for the general population. Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini emerged in a background of political instability and populous dissatisfaction. Driven by frustrations, poverty and riots, the Germans and the Italians found it easier to trust a common man, a man originating from the masses, a man who acknowledged and identified with their sorrows and a man who saw politicians and communists as enemies. As the people were generally inexperienced in political maneuvers (Lyttelton, 2004), the two dictators found it quite easy to manipulate them. “For many, Mussolini’s Italy, Hitler’s Germany are showing the way to economic and social reconstruction, through radical but — apparently — efficient doctrines” (the Juno Beach Center, 2003). From this angle, it can easily be said that Italian and German fascism emerged from similar origins and were generated by the same causes. The specialized historians have failed to reach an agreement relative to the similarities and differences between the Italian and the German fascism; however, the primary argument remains that Mussolini’s movement was nationalist and patriotic, whereas Hitler’s was racial. From this angel then, it can be said that the German fascism, however implemented on similar propaganda, was distinctive and unique as it promoted the superiority of the Arian race.
Allen, W.S., 1973, the Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town 1930-1935, Scholastic Library Publishing, 2nd Edition
Beck, E.R., March 1966, Review of William Sheridan Allen’s “The Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town,” the Journal of Modern History, Volume 38, Number 1
Littelton, a., 2004, the Seizure of Power: Fascism in Italy, 1919-1929, Routledge
Mangion, J., the Rise of Fascism in Italy, http://schoolnet.gov.mt/history/Options/Italy/RiseFascism.html. Ast accessed on June 5, 2008
2003, the Rise of Fascism, the Juno Beach Center, http://www.junobeach.org/e/2/can-eve-eve-fas-e.html. Ast accessed on June 5, 2008
2007, Fascism, the Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Edition
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