Robert Paxton’s interpretation of fascism, The Anatomy of
Fascism (2003) concluding chapter or his preceding article “Five Stages of Fascism” The
Journal of Modern History, Vol. 70, No. 1. (Mar., 1998), pp. 1-23 [Ella,
- Previous histories of fascism have over emphasized the use
of terror and policy intimidation to explain the compliance of the Italian
and German populations under Mussolini and Hitler respectively.
- Fascism had no one doctrine and what doctrines were
proclaimed were typically subordinated to “action.” Doctrinal
inconsistencies abounded; theory vs. practice.
- Fascist movements were widespread and not found only in
Germany and Italy but in Spain, Austria, France, Britain, Hungary, etc.
- Fascist movements typically claimed to be hostile toward
industrial capitalism, but in practice the successful movement in Italy
and Germany allied themselves with “big business.”
- Successful fascist movements succeeded, much less through
terror, than by mobilizing the passions and enthusiasms of large segments
of the country’s population, gaining the support of traditional elites as
well. The emotional appeal and content of fascism was a critical
characteristic; ardent fascists decried contemplation and modern “rationality.”
- Previous historians of fascism have neglected the
important role of the Great War on the rise of fascisms.
- Fascism was “the most original political novelty of the 20th
- The future of fascism? More likely to arise in the United
States than in developing countries or Russia.
Stages in the rise of successful fascist movements such as
in Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany
creation of fascism movements combining doctrine, discontent, and growing
numbers of adherents.
of the movement as a regular political party in the country’s political system.
of power. Mussolini in 1921; Hitler in 1933
of power: among other things, the elimination of competing political parties or
organizations such as labor unions, and the “winning over” of the armed forces.
and degeneration, fragmentation, fall. Example in Nazi Germany, the growing
restrictions on Jew, the appropriation of their property, and the destruction
of the civil rights and “state citizenship.” Defeat in World War II.
Conclusion: What is Facism?
Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by
obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood
and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a
mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy
but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic
liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or
legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.
- "mobilizing passions":
·• a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond the reach of any traditional
• the primacy of the group, toward which one has duties superior
to every right, whether individual or universal, and the subordination
of the individual to it;
• the belief that one's group is a victim, a sentiment that justifies
any action, without legal or moral limits, against its enemies,
both internal and external;
• dread of the group's decline under the corrosive effects of individualistic
liberalism, class conflict, and alien influences;
• the need for closer integration of a purer community, by consent
if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary; .
• the need for authority by natural chiefs (always male), culm•·
nating in a national chieftain who alone is capable of incarnating
the group's historical destiny;
• the superiority of the leader's instincts over abstract and universal
• the beauty of violence and the efficacy of will, when they are
devoted to the group's success;
- the right of the chosen people to dominate others without
restraint from any kind of human or divine law, right being
decided by the sole criterion of the group's prowess within a