What was European fascism?

What conditions of the 1920s and early 1930s facilitated the rise of fascism in Europe? 

What are some characteristics of European fascism in the 1920s and 1930s?

How might European fascism be related to Bolshevism/ Communism?

What were some key events in the rise of fascism in Europe?

Was fascism “revolutionary”? If so, what was the nature of the revolt/revolution?

How did fascism differ from Communism?

Fascism across Europe

The term comes fasci, an Italian or Latinate term meaning “bundle” and representing in political terms unity, or a closely knit band, as opposed to a bureaucraticized party.

Facism: New interpretation by Robert Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism


Fascism not limited to Italy and Germany, but it succeeded to acquire power in both countries :

Common origins and character (based on historian George Mosse, "The Genesis of Fascism"):


FASCISM AS The NEW RIGHT on the political spectrum but it was in many ways different than the “Old”

Unlike the traditional right, fascist movements


But like old guard conservatives, fascist movements


19th Roots of Fascism

1. Liberal intellectuals declining faith in progress, growing pessimism about human nature (Freud), spread of racialism, challenges to liberal order. (compare Hobbes.).

2. Rise of mass electorates sanctioned by conservatives, sometimes conservative authoritarians like Napoleon III and Bismark who cultivated popular support and devised ways of controlling it.

3. Rise of salaried middle class as the largest segment of the population, who felt unrepresented by traditional liberal parties and longed for a new way between organized big business and organized labor.  Economic insecurity and cultural uneasiness with the feeling of decadence.

4.  Sharpening of exclusivist nationalism hand in hand with increasing popularity of racial ideas as explanations for human diversity (rediscovered via Imperialism) and as justifications for ethnic and racial unity.  Led to growing anti-Semitism, pogroms in Russia, Dreyfus, etc.

5. Darwinism vulgarized in the form of social darwinism: struggle for the survival of the fittest.


Crystallization of these elements in the War

1. Intensified the disillusionment with liberalism, liberal and conservative regimes.  Most visibly among disenchanted veterans.

2.  Proof of human irrationality, human evil (Compare the 17th crisis and Hobbes.).

3.  War time and postwar inflation undermined or destroyed the economic security of the middle classes.

4.  Threat of Bolshevism in the Russian Revolution and Soviet State.


Nazi Party Platform of 1920:

Nationalist in calling for breaking the Versailles Treaty and union with Austrian in Greater Germany that went beyond the 1914 boundaries.

Anti-Semitic: Jews to be denied citizenship and office.

Anti-capitalist: not socialist in the Marxist sense of abolishing private property, but aiming to redress the grievances of ordinary men’s against creditors and the rich: confiscation of war profits, abolition of unearned income, nationalization of corporate trusts (monopolistic businesses), and regulation of big business profits.  Also called for conversion of some land and some department stores to communal purposes, and the prevention of land speculation. 

Reflected the aim of appealing to lower middle class interests.


Radicalism of German National Socialism made it distinctive

1,  Racism--elimination of the Jews.

2.  Millennialism:  Hitler was committed not only to overthrowing the Treaty of Versailles, regaining Alsace-Lorraine, but overturning the consequences of the great migrations of the early middle ages:  re-conquering an empire for the pure Aryan race that stretch from the Atlantic to the Urals, from Finland to Egypt.  Not merely a delusion: he was willing to breed people to do so, and to destroy any resistors, Jews and otherwise.

3.  Hitler was always able to find obedient people and institutions that would carry out his will.

4.  His followers believed as did Hitler that this program served a higher "moral" purpose.


Hitler and Nazi Germany