Early influences that shaped the ideology of fascism have been dated back to ancient Greece. The political culture of ancient Greece and specifically the ancient Greek city state of Sparta under Lycurgus, with its emphasis on militarism and racial purity, were admired by the Nazis. Nazi Führer Adolf Hitler emphasized that Germany should adhere to Hellenic values and culture – particularly that of ancient Sparta. He rebuked potential criticism of Hellenic values being non-German by emphasizing the common Aryan race connection with ancient Greeks, saying in Mein Kampf: "One must not allow the differences of the individual races to tear up the greater racial community". Hitler went on to say in Mein Kampf: "The struggle that rages today involves very great aims: a culture fights for its existence, which combines millenniums and embraces Hellenism and Germanity together." The Spartans were emulated by the quasi-fascist regime of Ioannis Metaxas who called for Greeks to wholly commit themselves to the nation with self-control as the Spartans had done. Supporters of the 4th of August Regime in the 1930s to 1940s justified the dictatorship of Metaxas on the basis that the "First Greek Civilization" involved an Athenian dictatorship led by Pericles who had brought ancient Greece to greatness. The Greek philosopher Plato supported many similar political positions to fascism. In The Republic (approx. 380 BC), Plato emphasizes the need for absolute and unlimited authority of a philosopher king in an ideal state. Plato believed the ideal state would be ruled by an elite class of rulers known as "Guardians", and rejected the idea of social equality. Plato believed in an authoritarian state with unlimited powers. Plato held Athenian democracy in contempt, saying "The laws of democracy remain a dead letter, its freedom is anarchy, its equality the equality of unequals". Like fascism Plato emphasized that individuals must adhere to laws and perform duties while declining to grant individuals rights to limit or reject state interference in their lives. Like fascism Plato claimed that an ideal state would have state-run education that was designed to promote able rulers and warriors. Plato, like many fascist ideologues, also advocated for a state-sponsored eugenics program to be carried out in order to improve the Guardian class in his Republic through selective breeding. Italian Fascist Duce Benito Mussolini had a strong attachment to the works of Plato. However, there are significant differences between Plato's ideals and fascism. Unlike fascism Plato never promoted expansionism and he was opposed to offensive war.
Italian Fascists identified their ideology as being connected to the legacy of ancient Rome and particularly the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar and Augustus were idolized by Italian Fascists. Italian Fascism views the modern state of Italy as the heir of the Roman Empire and emphasized the need for renovation of Italian culture to "return to Roman values". Italian Fascists identify the Roman Empire as being an ideal organic and stable society in contrast to contemporary individualist liberal society that they identify as being chaotic in comparison. Julius Caesar has been identified as a role model by fascists because he led a revolution that overthrew an old order to establish a new order based on a dictatorship in which Julius Caesar wielded absolute power. Benito Mussolini emphasized the need for dictatorship, activist leadership style, and the leader cult like that of Julius Caesar, that involved "the will to fix a unifying and balanced centre and a common will to action". Italian Fascists also idolized Augustus as the champion who built the Roman Empire. The fasces – a symbol of Roman authority – was the symbol of the Italian Fascists, and was additionally adopted by many other national fascist movements formed in emulation of Italian fascism. While a number of Nazis rejected Roman civilization that they saw as incompatible with Aryan Germanic culture that they saw as outside of Roman culture, Adolf Hitler personally admired ancient Rome. Hitler focused on ancient Rome during its rise to dominance and at the height of its power as a model to follow and Hitler deeply admired the Roman Empire for its ability to forge a strong and unified civilization, and in private conversations he blamed the fall on the Roman Empire on the Roman adoption of Christianity that he claimed authorized the racial intermixing that he claimed weakened Rome and led to its destruction.
There were a number of influences on fascism from the Renaissance era in Europe. Niccolò Machiavelli is known to have influenced Italian Fascism, particularly his promotion of the absolute authority of the state. Machiavelli rejected all existing traditional and metaphysical assumptions of the time—especially those associated with the Middle Ages, and asserted as an Italian patriot that Italy needed a strong and all-powerful state led by a vigorous and ruthless leader who would conquer and unify Italy. Mussolini saw himself as a modern-day Machiavellian and wrote an introduction to his honorary doctoral thesis for the University of Bologna— “Prelude to Machiavelli.” Mussolini professed that Machiavelli’s “pessimism about human nature was eternal in its acuity. Individuals simply could not be relied on voluntarily to ‘obey the law, pay their taxes and serve in war’. No well-ordered society could want the people to be sovereign.” Most dictators of the 20th century mimicked Mussolini’s admiration for Machiavelli. “Stalin… saw himself as the embodiment of Machiavellian vertù.” Lenin was “very much influenced by The Prince as well, keeping a copy of it on his nightstand,” as did Hitler.
English political theorist Thomas Hobbes in his work Leviathan (1651) created the ideology of absolutism that advocated an all-powerful absolute monarchy to maintain order within a state. Absolutism was an influence on fascism. Absolutism based its legitimacy on the precedents of Roman law including the centralized Roman state and the manifestation of Roman law in the Catholic Church. Though fascism supported the absolute power of the state, it opposes the idea of absolute power being in the hands of a monarch and opposes the feudalism that was associated with absolute monarchies.
During the Enlightenment, a number of ideological influences arose that would shape the development of fascism. During the Enlightenment, the development of the study of universal histories by Johann Gottfried Herder resulted in Herder's analysis of the development of nations, Herder developed the term Nationalismus ("nationalism") to describe this cultural phenomenon; at this time nationalism did not refer to the political ideology of nationalism that was later developed during the French Revolution. Herder also developed the theory that Europeans are the descendants of Indo-Aryan people based on language studies. Herder argued that the Germanic peoples held close racial connections with the ancient Indians and ancient Persians, who he claimed were advanced peoples possessing a great capacity for wisdom, nobility, restraint, and science. Contemporaries of Herder utilized the concept of the Aryan race to draw a distinction between what they deemed "high and noble" Aryan culture versus that of "parasitic" Semitic culture, and this anti-Semitic variant view of Europeans' Aryan roots formed the basis of Nazi racial views. Another major influence on fascism came from the political theories of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Hegel promoted the absolute authority of the state. Hegel promoted a powerful state and said "nothing short of the state is the actualization of freedom" and that the "state is the march of God on earth".
The French Revolution and its political legacy had a major influence upon the development of fascism. Fascists view the French Revolution as a largely negative event that resulted in the entrenchment of liberal ideas such as liberal democracy, anticlericalism, and rationalism. Opponents to the French Revolution initially were conservatives and reactionaries, but the Revolution was also later criticized by Marxists and racist nationalists who opposed its universalist principles. Racist nationalists in particular condemned the French Revolution for granting social equality to "inferior races" such as Jews. Mussolini condemned the French Revolution for developing liberalism, scientific socialism, and liberal democracy, but also acknowledged that fascism extracted and utilized all the elements that had preserved those ideologies' vitality, and that fascism had no desire to restore the conditions that precipitated the French Revolution. Though fascism opposed core parts of the Revolution, fascists supported other aspects of it, Mussolini declared his support for the Revolution's demolishment of remnants of the Middle Ages such as tolls and compulsory labour upon citizens, and he noted that the French Revolution did have benefits in that it had been a cause of the whole French nation and not merely a political party. Most importantly, the French Revolution was responsible for the entrenchment of nationalism as a political ideology – both in its development in France as French nationalism and in the creation of nationalist movements particularly in Germany with the development of German nationalism by Johann Gottlieb Fichte as a political response to the development of French nationalism. The Nazis accused the French Revolution of being dominated by Jews and Freemasons and were deeply disturbed by the Revolution's intention to completely break France away from its past history in what the Nazis claimed was a repudiation of history that they asserted to be a trait of the Enlightenment. Though the Nazis were highly critical of the Revolution, Hitler in Mein Kampf said that the French Revolution is a model for how to achieve change that he claims was caused by the rhetorical strength of demagogues. Furthermore, the Nazis idealized the levée en masse (mass mobilization of soldiers) that was developed by French Revolutionary armies, and the Nazis sought to use the system for their paramilitary movement.
The ideological roots of fascism have been traced to the 1880s, and in particular the fin de siècle theme of that time. The theme was based on revolt against materialism, rationalism, positivism, bourgeois society and liberal democracy. The fin-de-siècle generation supported emotionalism, irrationalism, subjectivism and vitalism. The fin-de-siècle mindset saw civilization as being in a crisis that required a massive and total solution. The fin-de-siècle intellectual school of the 1890s — including Gabriele d'Annunzio and Enrico Corradini in Italy; Maurice Barrès, Edouard Drumont, and Georges Sorel in France; Paul de Lagarde, Julius Langbehn, and Arthur Moeller van den Bruck in Germany — saw social and political collectivity as more important than individualism and rationalism. They considered the individual as only one part of the larger collectivity, which should not be viewed as an atomized numerical sum of individuals. They condemned the rationalistic individualism of liberal society and the dissolution of social links in bourgeois society. They saw modern society as one of mediocrity, materialism, instability, and corruption. They denounced big-city urban society as being merely based on instinct and animality, and without heroism.
The fin-de-siècle outlook was influenced by various intellectual developments, including Darwinian biology; Wagnerian aesthetics; Arthur de Gobineau's racialism; Gustave Le Bon's psychology; and the philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Henri Bergson. Social Darwinism, which gained widespread acceptance, made no distinction between physical and social life, and viewed the human condition as being an unceasing struggle to achieve the survival of the fittest. Social Darwinism challenged positivism's claim of deliberate and rational choice as the determining behaviour of humans, with social Darwinism focusing on heredity, race, and environment. Social Darwinism's emphasis on biogroup identity and the role of organic relations within societies fostered legitimacy and appeal for nationalism. New theories of social and political psychology also rejected the notion of human behaviour being governed by rational choice, and instead claimed that emotion was more influential in political issues than reason. Nietzsche's argument that "God is dead" coincided with his attack on the "herd mentality" of Christianity, democracy and modern collectivism; his concept of the übermensch; and his advocacy of the will to power as a primordial instinct, were major influences upon many of the fin-de-siècle generation. Bergson's claim of the existence of an "élan vital" or vital instinct centred upon free choice and rejected the processes of materialism and determinism, this challenged Marxism.
With the advent of the Darwinian theory of evolution came claims of evolution possibly leading to decadence. Proponents of decadence theories claimed that contemporary Western society's decadence was the result of modern life, including urbanization, sedentary lifestyle, the survival of the least fit, and modern culture's emphasis on egalitarianism, individualistic anomie, and nonconformity. The main work that gave rise to decadence theories was the work Degeneration (1892) by Max Nordau that was popular in Europe, the ideas of decadence helped the cause of nationalists who presented nationalism as a cure for decadence.
Gaetano Mosca in his work The Ruling Class (1896) developed the theory that claims that in all societies, an "organized minority" will dominate and rule over the "disorganized majority". Mosca claims that there are only two classes in society, "the governing" (the organized minority) and "the governed" (the disorganized majority). He claims that the organized nature of the organized minority makes it irresistible to any individual of the disorganized majority. Mosca developed this theory in 1896 in which he argued that the problem of the supremacy of civilian power in society is solved in part by the presence and social structural design of militaries. He claims that the social structure of the military is ideal because it includes diverse social elements that balance each other out and more importantly is its inclusion of an officer class as a "power elite". Mosca presented the social structure and methods of governance by the military as a valid model of development for civil society. Mosca's theories are known to have significantly influenced Mussolini's notion of the political process, and fascism.
Related to Mosca's theory of domination of society by an organized minority over a disorganized majority, was Robert Michels' theory of the iron law of oligarchy that has become a mainstream political theory. The theory of the iron law of oligarchy, created in 1911 by Michels, was a major attack on the basis of contemporary democracy. Michels argues that oligarchy is inevitable as an "iron law" within any organization as part of the "tactical and technical necessities" of organization and on the topic of democracy, Michels stated: "It is organization which gives birth to the dominion of the elected over the electors, of the mandataries over the mandators, of the delegates over the delegators. Who says organization, says oligarchy". He claims that "Historical evolution mocks all the prophylactic measures that have been adopted for the prevention of oligarchy." He states that the official goal of contemporary democracy of eliminating elite rule was impossible, that democracy is a façade legitimizing the rule of a particular elite, and that elite rule, that he refers to as oligarchy, is inevitable. Michels had formerly been a Marxist but became drawn to the syndicalism of Georges Sorel, Édouard Berth, Arturo Labriola, and Enrico Leone and had become strongly opposed the parliamentarian, legalistic, and bureaucratic socialism of social democracy and in contrast supported an activist, voluntarist, anti-parliamentarian socialism. Nonetheless, both Michels and Olivetti “conceived Italy’s proletarian nationalism to be revolutionary, indeed, Marxist in essence.” The early revolutionary syndicalists, including Michels, realized that proletarian internationalism did not suggest an “abandonment on part of the workers class of its national sentiment nor a neglect of national interest.” Under this interpretation, to be in compliance with Marx’s theories for economic development, viewed as “the prerequisite of socialist revolution,” the proletarian class required not only “national independence”, but some sort of commitment “to a program of nationalism,” a movement which Mussolini later referred to as proletarian nationalism Michels would later become a supporter of fascism upon Mussolini's rise to power in 1922, viewing fascism's goal to destroy liberal democracy in a sympathetic manner. According to fascist intellectuals, the proletarian nations of National Socialist Germany and Fascist Italy were to advance a socioeconomic and nationalist structure, designed to avoid the economic collapse experienced by Lenin’s Russia that would “integrate the class into the nation through the nationalization of the masses.” Such a social nationalistic framework was expected to “provide the basis for social justice” wherein “the state is to belong to all classes and will unite the nation with socialism.”
Maurice Barrès, who greatly influenced the policies of fascism, claimed that true democracy was authoritarian democracy while rejecting liberal democracy as a fraud. Barrès claimed that authoritarian democracy involved spiritual connection between a leader of a nation and the nation's people, and that true freedom did not arise from individual rights nor parliamentary restraints, but through "heroic leadership" and "national power". He emphasized the need for hero worship and charismatic leadership in national society. Barrès mixed anti-Semitic nationalism with socialism and identified as a "national socialist" and in 1889 he was a founding member of the League for the French Fatherland and in 1898 he became a member of the National Socialist Republican Committee and was elected to French parliament in 1906—though only after he abandoned ties with anti-Dreyfusard politicians. His national socialism emphasized cross-class interests and emphasized the role of intuition and emotion in politics, and emphasized racial anti-Semitism.
The rise of support for anarchism in this period of time was important in influencing the politics of fascism. The anarchist Mikhail Bakunin's concept of propaganda of the deed that stressed the importance of direct action as the primary means of politics - including revolutionary violence, became popular amongst fascists who admired the concept and adopted it as a part of fascism.
One of the key persons who greatly influenced fascism, the French revolutionary syndicalist Georges Sorel was greatly influenced by anarchism and contributed to the fusion of anarchism and syndicalism together into anarcho syndicalism. Sorel promoted the legitimacy of political violence in his work Reflections on Violence (1908) and other works in which he advocated radical syndicalist action to achieve a revolution to overthrow capitalism and the bourgeoisie through a general strike. In Reflections on Violence, Sorel emphasized need for a revolutionary political religion. Also, in his work The Illusions of Progress, Sorel denounced democracy as reactionary, saying "nothing is more aristocratic than democracy". By 1909 after the failure of a syndicalist general strike in France, Sorel and his supporters left the radical left and went to the radical right, where they sought to merge militant Catholicism and French patriotism with their views - advocating anti-republican Christian French patriots as ideal revolutionaries. Initially Sorel had officially been a revisionist of Marxism, but by 1910 announced his abandonment of socialist literature and claimed in 1914, using an aphorism of Benedetto Croce that "socialism is dead" due to the "decomposition of Marxism". Sorel became a supporter of reactionary Maurrassian integral nationalism beginning in 1909 that influenced his works. French right-wing monarchist and nationalist Charles Maurras held interest in merging his nationalist ideals with Sorelian syndicalism as a means to confront liberal democracy. Maurras famously stated "a socialism liberated from the democratic and cosmopolitan element fits nationalism well as a well made glove fits a beautiful hand". Sorelianism is considered to be a precursor to fascism. This fusion of nationalism on the political Right with Sorelian syndicalism on the Left, around the outbreak of World War I. Sorelian syndicalism, unlike other ideologies on the left, held an elitist view that the morality of the working class needed to be raised. The Sorelian concept of the positive nature of social war and its insistence on moral revolution led some syndicalists to believe that war was the ultimate manifestation of social change and moral revolution.
The fusion of Maurrassian nationalism and Sorelian syndicalism influenced radical Italian nationalist Enrico Corradini. Corradini spoke of the need for a nationalist-syndicalist movement, led by elitist aristocrats and anti-democrats who shared a revolutionary syndicalist commitment to direct action and a willingness to fight. Corradini spoke of Italy as being a "proletarian nation" that needed to pursue imperialism in order to challenge the "plutocratic" French and British. Corradini's views were part of a wider set of perceptions within the right-wing Italian Nationalist Association (ANI), which claimed that Italy's economic backwardness was caused by corruption in its political class, liberalism, and division caused by "ignoble socialism". The ANI held ties and influence among conservatives, Catholics, and the business community. Italian national syndicalists held a common set of principles: the rejection of bourgeois values, democracy, liberalism, Marxism, internationalism, and pacifism, and the promotion of heroism, vitalism, and violence.
Radical nationalism in Italy — support for expansionism and cultural revolution to create a "New Man" and a "New State" — began to grow in 1912 during the Italian conquest of Libya, and was supported by Italian Futurists and members of the ANI. Futurism that was both an artistic-cultural movement and initially a political movement in Italy led by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti who founded the Futurist Manifesto (1908), that championed the causes of modernism, action, and political violence as necessary elements of politics while denouncing liberalism and parliamentary politics. Marinetti rejected conventional democracy for based on majority rule and egalitarianism while promoting a new form of democracy, that he described in his work "The Futurist Conception of Democracy" as the following: "We are therefore able to give the directions to create and to dismantle to numbers, to quantity, to the mass, for with us number, quantity and mass will never be—as they are in Germany and Russia—the number, quantity and mass of mediocre men, incapable and indecisive". The ANI claimed that liberal democracy was no longer compatible with the modern world, and advocated a strong state and imperialism, claiming that humans are naturally predatory and that nations were in a constant struggle, in which only the strongest could survive.
Until 1914, however, Italian nationalists and revolutionary syndicalists with nationalist leanings remained apart. Such syndicalists opposed the Italo-Turkish War of 1911 as an affair of financial interests and not the nation, but World War I was seen by both Italian nationalists and syndicalists as a national affair.
At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the Italian political left became severely split over its position on the war. The Italian Socialist Party opposed the war on the grounds of internationalism, but a number of Italian revolutionary syndicalists supported intervention against Germany and Austria-Hungary on the grounds that their reactionary regimes needed to be defeated to ensure the success of socialism. Corradini presented the same need for Italy as a "proletarian nation" to defeat a reactionary Germany from a nationalist perspective. The beginning of fascism resulted from this split, with Angelo Oliviero Olivetti forming the Revolutionary Fascio for International Action in October 1914. At the same time, Benito Mussolini joined the interventionist cause. The Fascists supported nationalism and claimed that proletarian internationalism was a failure.
At this time, the Fascists did not have an integrated set of policies and the movement was very small. Its attempts to hold mass meetings were ineffective and it was regularly harassed by government authorities and socialists. Antagonism between interventionists, including Fascists, and anti-interventionist socialists resulted in violence. Attacks on interventionists were so violent that even democratic socialists who opposed the war, such as Anna Kuliscioff, said that the Italian Socialist Party had gone too far in its campaign to silence supporters of the war.
Italy's use of daredevil elite shock troops known as the Arditi, beginning in 1917, was an important influence on Fascism. The Arditi were soldiers who were specifically trained for a life of violence and wore unique blackshirt uniforms and fezzes. The Arditi formed a national organization in November 1918, the Associazione fra gli Arditi d'Italia, which by mid-1919 had about twenty thousand young men within it. Mussolini appealed to the Arditi, and the Fascists' Squadristi, developed after the war, were based upon the Arditi.
A major event that greatly influenced the development of fascism was the October Revolution of 1917 in which Bolshevik communists led by Vladimir Lenin seized power in Russia. In 1917, Mussolini as leader of the Fasci of Revolutionary Action praised the October Revolution, however Mussolini later became unimpressed with Lenin, regarding him as merely a new version of Tsar Nicholas. After World War I fascists have commonly campaigned on anti-Marxist agendas. Nonetheless, Mussolini, during his Fascist Revolutionary Party (PFR) leadership, determined that War Communism was leading to economic collapse instead of to a productive proletarian state. Reversing his position, Mussolini criticized Lenin’s actions for failing to uphold Marxist principles, writing that his colleague was “‘the very negation of socialism’ because he had not created a dictatorship of the proletariat or of the socialist party, but only of a few intellectuals who had found the secret of winning power.”
Generally, both Bolshevism and fascism hold ideological similarities: both advocate a revolutionary ideology, both believe in the necessity of a vanguard elite, both have disdain for bourgeois values, and both had totalitarian ambitions. In practice, fascism and Bolshevism have commonly emphasized revolutionary action, proletarian nation theories, one-party states, and party-armies. The former Prime Minister of Italy, Francesco Saverio Nitti, observed the same Bolshevik-Fascist parallels in 1927, writing that under Mussolini’s regime, there is a “greater tolerance” displayed “toward Communists affiliated with Moscow than to Liberals, democrats, and Socialists.”
With the antagonism between anti-interventionist Marxists and pro-interventionist Fascists complete by the end of the war, the two sides became irreconcilable. The Fascists presented themselves as anti-Marxists and as opposed to the Marxists. And yet, Mussolini briefly referred to himself as the “Lenin of Italy” during the 1919 election, where his Fascist Revolutionary Party attempted to “out-socialist the socialists.” Benito Mussolini consolidated control over the Fascist movement in 1919 with the founding of the Fasci italiani di combattimento, whose opposition to non-nationalistic socialism he declared:
We declare war against socialism, not because it is socialism, but because it has opposed nationalism. Although we can discuss the question of what socialism is, what is its program, and what are its tactics, one thing is obvious: the official Italian Socialist Party has been reactionary and absolutely conservative. If its views had prevailed, our survival in the world of today would be impossible.
In 1919, Alceste De Ambris and Futurist movement leader Filippo Tommaso Marinetti created The Manifesto of the Italian Fasci of Combat (a.k.a. the Fascist Manifesto). The Manifesto was presented on June 6, 1919 in the Fascist newspaper Il Popolo d'Italia. The Manifesto supported the creation of universal suffrage for both men and women (the latter being realized only partly in late 1925, with all opposition parties banned or disbanded); proportional representation on a regional basis; government representation through a corporatist system of "National Councils" of experts, selected from professionals and tradespeople, elected to represent and hold legislative power over their respective areas, including labour, industry, transportation, public health, communications, etc.; and the abolition of the Italian Senate. The Manifesto supported the creation of an eight-hour work day for all workers, a minimum wage, worker representation in industrial management, equal confidence in labour unions as in industrial executives and public servants, reorganization of the transportation sector, revision of the draft law on invalidity insurance, reduction of the retirement age from 65 to 55, a strong progressive tax on capital, confiscation of the property of religious institutions and abolishment of bishoprics, and revision of military contracts to allow the government to seize 85% of their profits. It also called for the creation of a short-service national militia to serve defensive duties, nationalization of the armaments industry, and a foreign policy designed to be peaceful but also competitive.
The next events that influenced the Fascists were the raid of Fiume by Italian nationalist Gabriele d'Annunzio and the founding of the Charter of Carnaro in 1920. D'Annunzio and De Ambris designed the Charter, which advocated national-syndicalist corporatist productionism alongside D'Annunzio's political views. Many Fascists saw the Charter of Carnaro as an ideal constitution for a Fascist Italy. This behaviour of aggression towards Yugoslavia and South Slavs was pursued by Italian Fascists with their persecution of South Slavs - especially Slovenes and Croats.
In 1920, militant strike activity by industrial workers reached its peak in Italy, where 1919 and 1920 were known as the "Red Years". Mussolini, a former union organizer, was still at this moment displaying himself “as a left-wing extremist,” who “applauded the strikes.” He and his squads of blackshirts were involved in a number of “creative strikes” in factories such as the metallurgical plant Franchi e Gregorini at Dalmine, but his support was contingent upon the “workers who had seized the factories” possessing “the ‘collective capacity’ to maintain production.” The Fascists offered no special sanctity for private property, only that production, along with worker’s jobs would be secure. Moreover, during this volatile period, Mussolini’s squads were not only organizing and participating in worker strikes but were engaged in armed attacks against the Church “where several priests were assassinated and churches burned by the Fascists.” By October 1920, Mussolini sensed a “profound change in the mood of the proletarian,” professing that the “working masses” were no longer interested in the expropriation of industrial capitalists, but favored solving the problem of production. Moreover, Mussolini maintained that orthodox “Socialists had betrayed the proletariat,”and declared that the “official Italian Socialist Party has been reactionary and absolutely conservative.” Seeking new opportunities for “Fascist syndicalism,” Mussolini turned away from orthodox socialist organizations, assembled a violence-prone militia and employed the pretense of saving Italy from bolshevism, although that possibility “had already ceased to be a threat.” This about-face with orthodox socialists lead Mussolini and the Fascists to ally with various industrial businesses and to attack Socialist Party activists and labor organizers in the name of preserving order and internal peace in Italy.
Nonetheless, Mussolini, who often played both sides to increase his political influence, had issued an open threat in 1921 that if the Italian government attempted to suppress the fascists, he "might move to the other extreme and join the communists in revolutionary action.” In his book 1927 book, Bolshevism, Fascism and Democracy, Francesco Saverio Nitti observed that Mussolini was simply cloaking his true Bolshevik leanings since he had “always retained a great admiration for Bolshevism, though he presented himself to the public as an antidote to Bolshevism.”
Fascists identified their primary opponents as the socialists on the left who had opposed intervention in World War I. The Fascists and the rest of the Italian political right held common ground: both held Marxism in contempt, discounted class consciousness and believed in the rule of elites. The Fascists assisted the anti-socialist campaign by allying with the other parties and the conservative right in a mutual effort to destroy the Italian Socialist Party and labour organizations committed to class identity above national identity. In 1921, Mussolini joined a political alliance with Giovanni Giolitti, Italy’s Prime Minister and leader of the Italian Liberal Party who was considered a left-wing liberal, due to his progressive social reforms and his nationalization of the private telephone and railroad operators. This alliance with the liberals and others helped Mussolini acquire authority, respectability and “freedom from arrest.” In July 1921, Mussolini suggested a different coalition that would be between fascists, socialists and populari. Called the “pacification pact”, Mussolini signed the agreement with the Italian Socialist Party on Aug. 3, 1921, but it was both unpopular and short-lived.
Between 1922-1925, Fascism sought to accommodate the Italian Liberal Party, conservatives, and nationalists under Italy’s coalition government, where major alterations to its political agenda were made--alterations such as abandoning its previous populism, republicanism, and anticlericalism, and adopting policies of economic liberalism under Alberto De Stefani, a Center Party member who was Italy’s Minister of Finance until dismissed by Mussolini after the imposition of a single-party dictatorship in 1925. The Fascist regime also accepted the Roman Catholic Church and the monarchy as institutions in Italy. To appeal to Italian conservatives, Fascism adopted policies such as promoting family values, including promotion policies designed to reduce the number of women in the workforce limiting the woman's role to that of a mother. In an effort to expand Italy’s population to facilitate Mussolini’s future plans to control the Mediterranean region, the fascists banned literature on birth control and increased penalties for abortion in 1926, declaring both crimes against the state. Though Fascism adopted a number of positions designed to appeal to reactionaries, the Fascists sought to maintain Fascism's revolutionary character, with Angelo Oliviero Olivetti saying "Fascism would like to be conservative, but it will [be] by being revolutionary." The Fascists supported revolutionary action and committed to secure law and order to appeal to both conservatives and syndicalists.
Prior to Fascism's accommodation of the political right, Fascism was a small, urban, northern Italian movement that had about a thousand members. After Fascism's accommodation of the political right, the Fascist movement's membership soared to approximately 250,000 by 1921.
Beginning in 1922, Fascist paramilitaries escalated their strategy from one of attacking socialist offices and homes of socialist leadership figures to one of violent occupation of cities. The Fascists met little serious resistance from authorities and proceeded to take over several cities, including Bologna, Bolzano, Cremona, Ferrara, Fiume, and Trent. The Fascists attacked the headquarters of socialist and Catholic unions in Cremona and imposed forced Italianization upon the German-speaking population of Trent and Bolzano. After seizing these cities, the Fascists made plans to take Rome.
On 24 October 1922, the Fascist party held its annual congress in Naples, where Mussolini ordered Blackshirts to take control of public buildings and trains and to converge on three points around Rome. The march would be led by four prominent Fascist leaders representing its different factions: Italo Balbo, a Blackshirt leader; General Emilio De Bono; Michele Bianchi, an ex-syndicalist; and Cesare Maria De Vecchi, a monarchist Fascist. Mussolini himself remained in Milan to await the results of the actions. The Fascists managed to seize control of several post offices and trains in northern Italy while the Italian government, led by a left-wing coalition, was internally divided and unable to respond to the Fascist advances. The Italian government had been in a steady state of turmoil, with many governments being created and then being defeated. The Italian government initially took action to prevent the Fascists from entering Rome, but King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy perceived the risk of bloodshed in Rome in response to attempting to disperse the Fascists to be too high. Victor Emmanuel III decided to appoint Mussolini as Prime Minister of Italy, and Mussolini arrived in Rome on 30 October to accept the appointment. Fascist propaganda aggrandized this event, known as "March on Rome", as a "seizure" of power due to Fascists' heroic exploits.
Upon being appointed Prime Minister of Italy, Mussolini had to form a coalition government, because the Fascists did not have control over the Italian parliament. The coalition government included a cabinet led by Mussolini and thirteen other ministers, only three of whom were Fascists; others included representatives from the army and the navy, two Catholic Popolari members, two democratic liberals, one conservative liberal, one social democrat, one Nationalist member, and the pro-Fascist philosopher Giovanni Gentile, who held substantial “sympathy for the neo-Hegelian Marxist intellectual tradition.” Mussolini's coalition government initially pursued economically liberal policies under the direction of liberal finance minister Alberto De Stefani from the Center Party, including balancing the budget through deep cuts to the civil service. Initially, little drastic change in government policy had occurred and repressive police actions against communist and d'Annunzian rebels were limited. At the same time, however, Mussolini consolidated his control over the National Fascist Party by creating a governing executive for the party, the Grand Council of Fascism, whose agenda he controlled. In addition, the Squadristi blackshirt militia was transformed into the state-run MVSN, led by regular army officers. Militant Squadristi were initially highly dissatisfied with Mussolini's government and demanded a "Fascist revolution".
In this period, to appease the King of Italy, Mussolini formed a close political alliance between the Italian Fascists and Italy's conservative faction in Parliament, which was led by Luigi Federzoni, a conservative monarchist and nationalist who was a member of the Italian Nationalist Association (ANI). The ANI joined the National Fascist Party in 1923. Because of the merger of the Nationalists with the Fascists, tensions existed between the conservative nationalist and revolutionary syndicalist factions of the movement. The conservative and syndicalist factions of the Fascist movement sought to reconcile their differences, secure unity, and promote fascism by taking on the views of each other. Conservative nationalist Fascists promoted fascism as a revolutionary movement to appease the revolutionary syndicalists while, to appease conservative nationalist fascists, revolutionary syndicalist Fascists declared they wanted to secure social stability and insure economic productivity.
The Fascists began their attempt to entrench Fascism in Italy with the Acerbo Law, which guaranteed a plurality of the seats in parliament to any party or coalition list in an election that received 25% or more of the vote. The Acerbo Law was passed in spite of numerous abstentions from the vote. In the 1924 election, the Fascists, along with moderates and conservatives, formed a coalition candidate list, and through considerable Fascist violence and intimidation, the list won with 66% of the vote, allowing it to receive 403 seats, most of which went to the Fascists. In the aftermath of the election, a crisis and political scandal erupted after Socialist Party deputy Giacomo Matteoti was kidnapped and murdered by a Fascist. The liberals and the leftist minority in parliament walked out in protest in what became known as the Aventine Secession. On 3 January 1925, Mussolini addressed the Fascist-dominated Italian parliament and declared that he was personally responsible for what happened, but he insisted that he had done nothing wrong. He proclaimed himself dictator of Italy, assuming full responsibility over the government and announcing the dismissal of parliament. From 1925 to 1929, Fascism steadily became entrenched in power: opposition deputies were denied access to parliament, censorship was introduced, and a December 1925 decree made Mussolini solely responsible to the King. Efforts to Fascistize Italian society accelerated beginning in 1926, with Fascists taking positions in local administration and 30% of all prefects being administered by appointed Fascists by 1929. In 1929, the Fascist regime gained the political support and blessing of the Roman Catholic Church after the regime signed a concordat with the Church, known as the Lateran Treaty, which gave the papacy state sovereignty and financial compensation for the seizure of Church lands by the liberal state in the 19th century. Though Fascist propaganda had begun to speak of the new regime as an all-encompassing "totalitarian" state beginning in 1925, the Fascist party and regime never gained total control over Italy's institutions; King Victor Emmanuel III remained head of state, the armed forces and the judicial system retained considerable autonomy from the Fascist state, Fascist militias were under military control, and initially the economy had relative autonomy as well.
The Fascist regime began to create a corporatist economic system in 1925 with creation of the Palazzo Vidioni Pact, in which the Italian employers' association Confindustria and Fascist trade unions agreed to recognize each other as the sole representatives of Italy's employers and employees, excluding non-Fascist trade unions. The Fascist regime first created a Ministry of Corporations that organized the Italian economy into 22 sectoral corporations, nationalized all independent trade unions, banned workers' strikes and lock-outs, and in 1927 created the Charter of Labour, which established workers' rights and duties and created labour tribunals to arbitrate employer-employee disputes. In practice, the sectoral corporations exercised little independence and were largely controlled by the regime, and employee organizations were rarely led by employees themselves but instead by appointed Fascist party members.
In the 1920s, Fascist Italy pursued an aggressive foreign policy that included an attack on the Greek island of Corfu, aims to expand Italian territory in the Balkans, plans to wage war against Turkey and Yugoslavia, attempts to bring Yugoslavia into civil war by supporting Croat and Macedonian separatists to legitimize Italian intervention, and making Albania a de facto protectorate of Italy, which was achieved through diplomatic means by 1927. In response to revolt in the Italian colony of Libya, Fascist Italy abandoned previous liberal-era colonial policy of cooperation with local leaders. Instead, claiming that Italians were a superior race to African races and thereby had the right to colonize the "inferior" Africans, it sought to settle 10 to 15 million Italians in Libya. This resulted in an aggressive military campaign against natives in Libya, including mass killings, the use of concentration camps, and the forced starvation of thousands of people. Italian authorities committed ethnic cleansing by forcibly expelling 100,000 Bedouin Cyrenaicans, half the population of Cyrenaica in Libya, from their settlements that was slated to be given to Italian settlers.
The March on Rome brought Fascism international attention. One early admirer of the Italian Fascists was Adolf Hitler, who, less than a month after the March, had begun to model himself and the Nazi Party upon Mussolini and the Fascists. The Nazis, led by Hitler and the German war hero Erich Ludendorff, attempted a "March on Berlin" modeled upon the March on Rome, which resulted in the failed Beer Hall Putsch in Munich in November 1923, where the Nazis briefly captured Bavarian Minister President Gustav Ritter von Kahr and announced the creation of a new German government to be led by a triumvirate of von Kahr, Hitler, and Ludendorff. The Beer Hall Putsch was crushed by Bavarian police, and Hitler and other leading Nazis were arrested and detained until 1925. Another early admirer of Italian Fascism was Gyula Gömbös, leader of the Hungarian National Defence Association (known by its acronym MOVE) and a self-defined "national socialist" who in 1919 spoke of the need for major changes in property and in 1923 stated the need of a "march on Budapest". Yugoslavia briefly had a significant fascist movement, the ORJUNA that supported Yugoslavism, supported the creation of a corporatist economy, opposed democracy, and took part in violent attacks on communists, though it was opposed to the Italian government due to Yugoslav border disputes with Italy. ORJUNA was dissolved in 1929 when the King of Yugoslavia banned political parties and created a royal dictatorship, though ORJUNA supported the King's decision. Amid a political crisis in Spain involving increased strike activity and rising support for anarchism, Spanish army commander Miguel Primo de Rivera engaged in a successful coup against the Spanish government in 1923 and installed himself as a dictator as head of a conservative military junta that dismantled the established party system of government. Upon achieving power, Primo de Rivera sought to resolve the economic crisis by presenting himself as a compromise arbitrator figure between workers and bosses, and his regime created a corporatist economic system based on the Italian Fascist model. In Lithuania in 1926, Antanas Smetona rose to power and founded a fascist regime under his Lithuanian Nationalist Union.
The events of the Great Depression resulted in an international surge of fascism and the creation of several fascist regimes and regimes that adopted fascist policies. The most important new fascist regime was Nazi Germany, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler. With the rise of Hitler and the Nazis to power in 1933, liberal democracy was dissolved in Germany, and the Nazis mobilized the country for war, with expansionist territorial aims against several countries. In the 1930s the Nazis implemented racial laws that deliberately discriminated against, disenfranchised, and persecuted Jews and other racial minority groups. Hungarian fascist Gyula Gömbös rose to power as Prime Minister of Hungary in 1932 and visited Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in order to consolidate good relations with the two regimes. He attempted to entrench his Party of National Unity throughout the country; created an eight-hour work day, a forty-eight-hour work week in industry, and sought to entrench a corporatist economy; and pursued irredentist claims on Hungary's neighbors. The fascist Iron Guard movement in Romania soared in political support after 1933, gaining representation in the Romanian government, and an Iron Guard member assassinated Romanian prime minister Ion Duca. During the 6 February 1934 crisis, France faced the greatest domestic political turmoil since the Dreyfus Affair when the fascist Francist Movement and multiple far right movements rioted en masse in Paris against the French government resulting in major political violence. A variety of para-fascist governments that borrowed elements from fascism were formed during the Great Depression, including those of Greece, Lithuania, Poland, and Yugoslavia.
Fascism also expanded its influence outside Europe, especially in East Asia, the Middle East, and South America. In China, Wang Jingwei's Kai-tsu p'ai (Reorganization) faction of the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party of China) supported Nazism in the late 1930s. In Japan, a Nazi movement called the Tōhōkai was formed by Seigō Nakano. The Al-Muthanna Club of Iraq was a pan-Arab movement that supported Nazism and exercised its influence in the Iraqi government through cabinet minister Saib Shawkat who formed a paramilitary youth movement. Several, mostly short-lived fascist governments and prominent fascist movements were formed in South America during this period. Argentine President General José Félix Uriburu proposed that Argentina be reorganized along corporatist and fascist lines. Peruvian president Luis Miguel Sánchez Cerro founded the Revolutionary Union in 1931 as the state party for his dictatorship. Upon the Revolutionary Union being taken over by Raúl Ferrero Rebagliati who sought to mobilise mass support for the group's nationalism in a manner akin to fascism. He even started a paramilitary Blackshirts arm as a copy of the Italian group, although the Union lost heavily in the 1936 elections and faded into obscurity. In Paraguay in 1940, Paraguayan President General Higinio Morínigo began his rule as a dictator with the support of pro-fascist military officers, appealed to the masses, exiled opposition leaders, and only abandoned his pro-fascist policies after the end of World War II. The Brazilian Integralists led by Plínio Salgado, claimed as many as 200,000 members although following coup attempts it faced a crackdown from the Estado Novo of Getúlio Vargas in 1937. In the 1930s, the National Socialist Movement of Chile gained seats in Chile's parliament and attempted a coup d'état that resulted in the Seguro Obrero massacre of 1938.
During the Great Depression, Mussolini promoted active state intervention in the economy. He denounced the contemporary "supercapitalism" that he claimed began in 1914 as a failure due to its alleged decadence, support for unlimited consumerism and intention to create the "standardization of humankind". However, Mussolini claimed that the industrial developments of earlier "heroic capitalism" were valuable and continued to support private property as long as it was productive. With the onset of the Great Depression, Fascist Italy began large-scale state intervention into the economy, establishing the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction (Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale, IRI), a giant state-owned firm and holding company that provided state funding to failing private enterprises. The IRI was made a permanent institution in Fascist Italy in 1937, pursued Fascist policies to create national autarky, and had the power to take over private firms to maximize war production. Not long after the creation of the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction, Mussolini boasted in a 1934 speech to his Chamber of Deputies that “Three-fourths of Italian economy, industrial and agricultural, is in the hands of the state." As Italy continued to nationalize its economy, the IRI “became the owner not only of the three most important Italian banks, which were clearly too big to fail, but also of the lion’s share of the Italian industries.” By 1939, Fascist Italy attained the highest rate of state–ownership of an economy in the world other than the Soviet Union; the Italian state “controlled over four-fifths of Italy’s shipping and shipbuilding, three-quarters of its pig iron production and almost half that of steel.”
In the late 1930s, Italy enacted manufacturing cartels, tariff barriers, currency restrictions, and massive regulation of the economy to attempt to balance payments. However, Italy's policy of autarky failed to achieve effective economic autonomy. Nazi Germany similarly pursued an economic agenda with the aims of autarky and rearmament and imposed protectionist policies, including forcing the German steel industry to use lower-quality German iron ore rather than superior-quality imported iron. In Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany both pursued territorial expansionist and interventionist foreign policy agendas from the 1930s through the 1940s culminating in World War II. Mussolini called for irredentist Italian claims to be reclaimed, establishing Italian domination of the Mediterranean Sea and securing Italian access to the Atlantic Ocean, and the creation of Italian Spazio vitale ("vital space") in the Mediterranean and Red Sea regions. Hitler called for irredentist German claims to be reclaimed along with the creation of German lebensraum ("living space") in Eastern Europe, including territories held by the Soviet Union, that would be colonized by Germans.
From 1935 to 1939 Germany and Italy escalated their demands for territorial claims and greater influence in world affairs. Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935 resulting in condemnation by the League of Nations and widespread diplomatic isolation. In 1936 Germany remilitarized the industrial Rhineland; the region had been ordered demilitarized by the Treaty of Versailles. In 1938 Germany annexed Austria and Italy assisted Germany in resolving the diplomatic crisis between Germany versus Britain and France over claims on Czechoslovakia by arranging the Munich Agreement that gave Germany the Sudetenland and was perceived at the time to have averted a European war, these hopes faded when Hitler violated the Munich Agreement by ordering the invasion and partition of Czechoslovakia between Germany and a client state of Slovakia in 1939. At the same time from 1938 to 1939, Italy was demanding territorial and colonial concessions from France and Britain, demanding the immediate concession of Corsica and Tunisia from France, a secondary set of objectives including the Italian acquisition of Malta and Cyprus from Britain, and a tertiary set of objectives including the long-term goals of eventual Italian control over Gibraltar and the Suez Canal - considered by the Fascist government to be the "keys to the Mediterranean". In 1939, Germany prepared for war with Poland, but attempted to gain territorial concessions from Poland through diplomatic means. Germany demanded that Poland accept the annexation of the Free City of Danzig to Germany and authorize the construction of automobile highways from Germany through the Polish Corridor into Danzig and East Prussia in order to unite the infrastructure of Germany, Danzig, and East Prussia; while aside from Germany's use of the highways, these territories would remain under Polish jurisdiction and a promised twenty-five year non-aggression pact. The Polish government did not trust Hitler's promises and refused to accept Germany's demands. With the strategic alliance between Germany and the Soviet Union against Poland, Germany and the Soviet Union planned to invade Poland in 1939 unless Poland conceded to German demands by 1 September 1939, Poland refused, Germany invaded and was followed by a Soviet invasion of Poland.
The invasion of Poland by Germany was deemed unacceptable by Britain, France and their allies, resulting in their mutual declaration of war against Germany that was deemed the aggressor in the war in Poland, resulting in the outbreak of World War II. Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned Poland between them in late 1939 followed by the successful German offensive in Scandinavia and continental Western Europe in 1940. On 10 June 1940, Mussolini led Italy into World War II on the side of the Axis. Mussolini was aware that Italy did not have the military capacity to carry out a long war with France or the United Kingdom and waited until France was on the verge of imminent collapse and surrender from German invasion before declaring war on France and the United Kingdom on 10 June 1940, on the assumption that the war would be short-lived following France's collapse. Mussolini believed that following a brief entry of Italy into war with France, followed by the imminent French surrender, Italy could gain some territorial concessions from France and then concentrate its forces on a major offensive in Egypt where British and Commonwealth forces were outnumbered by Italian forces. Plans by Germany to invade the UK in 1940 failed after Germany lost the aerial warfare campaign in the Battle of Britain. The war became prolonged contrary to Mussolini's plans resulting in Italy losing battles on multiple fronts and requiring German assistance. In 1941 the Axis campaign spread to the Soviet Union after Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa. Axis forces at the height of their power controlled almost all of continental Europe. By 1942, Nazi Germany annexed Poland to Germany and controlled vast sections of continental Europe, including the occupation of large portions of the Soviet Union. By 1942 Fascist Italy occupied and annexed Dalmatia from Yugoslavia, Corsica and Nice from France, and controlled other territories.
During World War II, the Axis Powers in Europe, led by Nazi Germany participated in the extermination of millions of Jews and others in the genocide known as the Holocaust. In Asia, Japan committed large massacres of Chinese civilians.
After 1942, Axis forces began to falter. By 1943, after Italy faced multiple military failures, complete reliance and subordination of Italy to Germany, and Allied invasion of Italy, and corresponding international humiliation, Mussolini was removed as head of government and arrested by the order of King Victor Emmanuel III who proceeded to dismantle the Fascist state and declared Italy's switching of allegiance to the Allied side. Mussolini was rescued from arrest by German forces and led the German client state, the Italian Social Republic from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany faced multiple losses and steady Soviet and Western Allied offensives from 1943 to 1945.
On 28 April 1945, Mussolini was captured and executed by Italian communist partisans who had his body and those of others executed displayed on a meat hook in front of crowds who celebrated his execution. On 30 April 1945, with the Battle of Berlin between collapsing German forces versus Soviet armed forces, Hitler committed suicide. Shortly afterwards Germany surrendered and the Nazi regime was dismantled and key Nazi members arrested to stand trial for crimes against humanity involving the Holocaust.
Yugoslavia, Greece and Ethiopia requested the extradition of 1,200 Italian war criminals, but these people never saw anything like the Nuremberg trials, since the British government, with the beginning of cold war, saw in Pietro Badoglio a guarantee of an anti-communist post-war Italy. The repression of memory led to historical revisionism in Italy and in 2003 the Italian media published Silvio Berlusconi's statement that the Benito Mussolini only "used to send people on vacation", denying the existence of Italian concentration camps, such as Rab concentration camp.
In the aftermath of World War II, the victory of the Allies over the Axis powers led to the collapse of multiple fascist regimes in Europe. The Nuremberg Trials convicted multiple Nazi leaders of crimes against humanity involving the Holocaust.
However, there remained multiple ideologies and governments that were ideologically related to fascism.
Francisco Franco's quasi-fascist Falangist one-party state in Spain was officially neutral during World War II and survived the collapse of the Axis Powers. Franco's rise to power had been directly assisted by the militaries of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany during the Spanish Civil War, and had sent volunteers to fight on the side of Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union during World War II. After World War II and a period of international isolation, Franco's regime normalized relations with Western powers during the early years of the Cold War, until Franco's death in 1975 and the transformation of Spain into a liberal democracy.
Peronism which is associated with the regime of Juan Peron in Argentina from 1946 to 1955 and 1973 to 1974, was strongly influenced by fascism. Prior to rising to power, from 1939 to 1941, Peron had developed a deep admiration of Italian Fascism and modelled his economic policies on Italian Fascist economic policies.
The South African government of Afrikaner nationalist and white supremacist Daniel François Malan was closely associated with pro-fascist and pro-Nazi politics. In 1937 Malan's Purified National Party, the South African Fascists, and the Blackshirts agreed to form a coalition for the South African election. Malan had fiercely opposed South Africa's participation on the Allied side in World War II. Malan's government founded apartheid, the system of racial segregation of whites and non-whites in South Africa. The most extreme Afrikaner fascist movement is the neo-Nazi white supremacist Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) that at one point was recorded in 1991 to have 50,000 supporters with rising support. The AWB grew in support in response to efforts to dismantle apartheid in the 1980s and early 1990s, and its paramilitary wing the Storm Falcons threatened violence against people it considered "trouble makers".
Another ideology strongly influenced by fascism is Ba'athism. Ba'athism is a revolutionary Arab nationalist ideology that seeks the unification of all claimed Arab lands into a single Arab state. Zaki al-Arsuzi, one of the principal founders of Ba'athism was strongly influenced by and supportive of fascism and Nazism. Several close associates of Ba'athism's key ideologist Michel Aflaq have admitted that Aflaq had been directly inspired by certain fascist and Nazi theorists. Ba'athist regimes in power in Iraq and Syria have held strong similarities to fascism, they are radical authoritarian nationalist one-party states. Due to Ba'athism's anti-Western stances it preferred the Soviet Union in the Cold War and admired and adopted certain Soviet organizational structures for their governments, however the Ba'athist regimes have persecuted communists. Like fascist regimes, Ba'athism became heavily militarized in power. Ba'athist movements governed Iraq in 1963 and again from 1968 to 2003 and in Syria from 1963 to the present. Ba'athist heads of state such as Syrian President Hafez al-Assad and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein created personality cults around themselves portraying themselves as the nationalist saviours of the Arab world.
Ba'athist Iraq under Saddam Hussein pursued ethnic cleansing or the liquidation of minorities, pursued expansionist wars against Iran and Kuwait, and gradually replaced pan-Arabism with an Iraqi nationalism that emphasized Iraq's connection to the glories of ancient Mesopotamian empires, including Babylonia. Historian on fascism Stanley Payne has said about Saddam Hussein's regime: "There will probably never again be a reproduction of the Third Reich, but Saddam Hussein has come closer than any other dictator since 1945". In the 1990s historian Stanley Payne claimed that a prominent Hindu nationalist movement Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) holds strong resemblances to fascism — including its use of paramilitaries and its irredentist claims — calling for the creation of a Greater India. Cyprian Blamires in World Fascism: A Historical Encyclopedia describes the ideology of the RSS as "fascism with Sanskrit characters" — a unique Indian variant of fascism. Blamires notes that there is evidence that the RSS held direct contact with Italy's Fascist regime and admired European fascism. a view with some support from A. James Gregor However these views have met wide criticism, especially from academics specializing Indian politics. Paul Brass, expert on Hindu-Muslim violence, notes that there are many problems with accepting this point of view, and identified four reasons that it is difficult to define the Sangh as fascist. Firstly most scholars of the field do not subscribe to the view the RSS is fascist, notably among them Christophe Jaffrelot, A. James Gregor, and Chetan Bhatt. The other reasons include an absence of charismatic leadership, a desire on the part of the RSS to differentiate itself from European fascism, major cultural differences between the RSS and European fascists, and factionalism within the Sangh Parivar. Stanley Payne claims that it also has substantial differences with fascism such as its emphasis on traditional religion as the basis of identity.
Mussolini saw fascism as opposing socialism and left-wing ideologies: "If it is admitted that the nineteenth century has been the century of Socialism, Liberalism and Democracy, it does not follow that the twentieth must also be the century of Liberalism, Socialism and Democracy. Political doctrines pass; peoples remain. It is to be expected that this century may be that of authority, a century of the "Right," a Fascist century."
Fascism has had complicated relations regarding capitalism, which changed over time and differed between Fascist states. Fascists commonly have sought to eliminate the autonomy of large-scale capitalism to the state. Fascists support the state having control over the economy, although they support the existence of private property. When fascists have criticized capitalism, they have focused their attacks on "finance capitalism", the international nature of banks and the stock exchange, and its cosmopolitan bourgeois character. Under fascism, the profit motive continues to be the primary motivation of contributors to the economy. That policy abruptly changed in Italy by 1934 when Mussolini “reiterated that capitalism, as an economic system, was no longer viable.” Mussolini when so far as to proclaim that the economy of Fascist Italy was to be “based not on individual profit but on collective interest.” Originally, Fascists theoreticians supported limited private property, individual initiative and market economy because it was, as expounded by Sergio Panunzio, a major theoretician of Italian Fascism, “the only economic system that allowed a socialism for the entire nation,” since it was believed to encourage “productionism.” Most Fascist theoreticians and revolutionary syndicalists followed Karl Marx's admonition that a nation required “full maturation of capitalism as the precondition for socialist realization.” Fascist intellectuals were determined to foster economic development in order for a syndicalist economy to “attain its productive maximum” that was identified as crucial to “socialist revolution.” Italian Fascism's position towards capitalism adjusted over time; the Italian Fascist movement in 1919 was radical and anti-capitalist, where he continued to campaign for “nationalization of land” and to have “workers’ participation in the running of factories”, but became more moderate in the 1920s when it sought to consolidate power, and then grew more radical again during the 1930s under its entrenchment of power, and by 1940 again emphasized anti-capitalism.
Mussolini praised the historic developments of "heroic capitalism" - what Mussolini considered the first stage of capitalism, which he found had provided useful economic developments, but he claimed that capitalism had deteriorated, and criticized the contemporary stage of capitalism that he termed "supercapitalism". He argued,
I do not intend to defend capitalism or capitalists. They, like everything human, have their defects. I only say their possibilities of usefulness are not ended. Capitalism has borne the monstrous burden of the war and today still has the strength to shoulder the burdens of peace. ... It is not simply and solely an accumulation of wealth, it is an elaboration, a selection, a co-ordination of values which is the work of centuries. ... Many think, and I myself am one of them, that capitalism is scarcely at the beginning of its story.
To Mussolini, the capitalism of his time had degenerated from original capitalism, which he called dynamic or heroic capitalism (1830–1870) to static capitalism (1870–1914) and then finally to decadent capitalism or supercapitalism, which began in 1914. Mussolini, in 1933 amid the Great Depression, announced that modern supercapitalism was a failed economic system that was the result of the long-term degeneration of capitalism. Mussolini denounced supercapitalism for causing the "standardization of humankind" and for causing excessive consumption. Fascists argued that supercapitalism "would ultimately decay and open the way for a Marxist revolution as labor-capital relations broke down.
Mussolini claimed that supercapitalism resulted in the collapse of the capitalist system in the Great Depression. Mussolini claimed that fascism would preserve those elements of capitalism that were deemed beneficial, such as private enterprise provided that it would be supervised by the state in fascist economics. However Mussolini claimed that fascism explicitly rejected the typical capitalist elements of economic individualism and laissez-faire. Furthermore, Italian Fascism also acknowledged socialist influences, such as revolutionary syndicalism. Mussolini claimed that in supercapitalism, "[it] is then that a capitalist enterprise, when difficulties arise, throws itself like a dead weight into the state's arms. It is then that state intervention begins and becomes more necessary. It is then that those who once ignored the state now seek it out anxiously." Due to the inability of businesses to operate properly when facing economic difficulties, Mussolini claimed that this proved that state intervention into the economy was necessary to stabilize the economy.
Not long after the creation of the Institute of Industrial Reconstruction, Mussolini boasted in a 1934 speech to his Chamber of Deputies that “Three-fourths of Italian economy, industrial and agricultural, is in the hands of the state." As Italy continued to nationalization its economy, the IRI “became the owner not only of the three most important Italian banks, which were clearly too big to fail, but also of the lion’s share of the Italian industries.”
During this period, Mussolini identified his economic policies with “state capitalism” and “state socialism,” which later was described as “economic dirigisme,” an economic system where the state has the power to direct economic production and allocation of resources. Earlier in 1922, Lenin employed the same phrase to favorably characterize “state capitalism” as an appropriate economic system for Soviet Russia that would encompass “a free market and capitalism, both subject to state control," where, according to Lenin, every state-owned enterprises had to operated on a "profit basis."
By 1939, Fascist Italy attained the highest rate of state–ownership of an economy in the world other than the Soviet Union, where the Italian state “controlled over four-fifths of Italy’s shipping and shipbuilding, three-quarters of its pig iron production and almost half that of steel.”
Italian Fascism presented the economic system of corporatism as the solution that would preserve private enterprise and property while allowing the state to intervene in the economy when private enterprise failed. Corporatism was promoted as reconciling the interests of capital and labour. Italian capitalist industrialists had opposed the Fascist government's intervention in arbitration of labour relations, and dominant groups in finance were strongly opposed to Mussolini's decision to revalue the Italian Lira to be the same as the British Pound in 1926-1927. Gino Olivetti, head of the Italian Confederation of Industry, remained suspicious of the possibility of government intervention in the economy to support Fascist trade unions.
From 1937 to 1939, Mussolini encouraged Italians to foster an anti-bourgeois attitude by having Italians send in anti-bourgeois cartoons to be published in newspapers, and by denouncing "social games, five o'clock tea, vacations, compassion for Jews, preference for armchairs, desire for compromise, desire for money" as indulgent bourgeois practices. In 1938, Mussolini excalated a public relations campaign against the Italian bourgeoisie, accusing them of preferring private gain to national victory. Mussolini ordered Fascist party members to detach themselves from bourgeois culture, including abstaining from going to nightclubs, drinking coffee, wearing formal evening dress and starching their collars, which were all considered bourgeois traits. That year, Mussolini's anti-bourgeois theme spoke of removing first-class compartments, dining cars, and sleepers on railroads, and possibly closing the stock exchange. Also in that year, Mussolini appointed Achille Starace to his cabinet. Starace criticized Northern Italian bourgeoisie for Fascism's inability to permeate across the Italian nation, accusing them of being pacifist and pro-England.
Nazi officials, such as Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler, in private viewed Nazism as more radical than Italian Fascism, which they identified as being too supportive of capitalism.
The Nazis argued that capitalism damages nations due to international finance, the economic dominance of big business, and Jewish influences within it. Adolf Hitler, both in public and in private, held strong disdain for capitalism; he accused modern capitalism of holding nations ransom in the interests of a parasitic cosmopolitan rentier class. He opposed free-market capitalism's profit-seeking impulses and desired an economy in which community interests would be upheld. He distrusted capitalism for being unreliable, due to it having an egotistic nature, and he preferred a state-directed economy. By the early 1940s, over 500 companies in key German industries had been nationalized, mostly accomplished through the creation of the Reichswerke Hermann Göring in 1937. Multi-national industries in occupied territory were particularly targeted for state ownership, where the Reichswerke absorbed approximately “50 – 60 per cent” of heavy industry in Czech and slightly less in Austria. Göring industrial empire was a major attempt towards “restricting private industrial capitalism and substituting a ‘völkisch’, state-run industrial economy.” Hitler’s National Socialist regime was committed to an economic “New Order” controlled by the “Party through a bureaucratic apparatus staffed by technical experts and dominated by political interests,” similar to the economic planning of the Soviet Union.
Hitler said: "It may be that today gold has become the exclusive ruler of life, but the time will come when man will bow down before a higher god. Many things owe their existence solely to the longing for money and wealth, but there is very little among them whose non-existence would leave humanity any the poorer." Hitler told one party leader in 1934, "The economic system of our day is the creation of the Jews." In a discussion with Mussolini, Hitler said that "Capitalism had run its course". In another conversation, Hitler stated that business bourgeoisie "know nothing except their profit. 'Fatherland' is only a word for them." Adolf Hitler was personally disgusted with the ruling bourgeois elites of Germany that he obscenely referred to as a "cowardly shits".
The Spanish Falange also held anti-capitalist positions. Falangist leader José Antonio Primo de Rivera in 1935 declared that "We reject the capitalist system, which disregards the needs of the people, dehumanizes private property and transforms the workers into shapeless masses prone to misery and despair". The Romanian Iron Guard espoused anti-capitalist, anti-banking and anti-bourgeois rhetoric. The Arrow Cross Party of Hungary held strong anti-feudal and anti-capitalist beliefs and supported redistribution of property.
Conservatives and fascists in Europe have held similar positions on many issues, including anti-communism and support of national pride. Conservatives and fascists both reject the liberal and Marxist emphasis on linear progressive evolution in history. Fascism's emphasis on order, discipline, hierarchy, martial (military) virtues, and preservation of private property appealed to conservatives. Fascists' promotion of "healthy", "uncontaminated" elements of national tradition such as chivalric culture and glorifying a nation's historical golden age have similarities with conservative aims. Fascists also made pragmatic tactical alliances with traditional conservative forces in order to achieve and maintain power. However, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. saw little conservative influence within fascist ideology or its movement, writing: “Fascists were not conservative in any very meaningful sense… The Fascists, in a meaningful sense, were revolutionaries.” In his 1933 English-translated “Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism”, Mussolini argued that the Fascist state is an “original creation”, maintaining that Fascism “is not reactionary, but revolutionary...” Fascists of Italy and Germany opposed the traditional constituents of conservatism, which included the monarchy, the Church, and Jewish-financed capitalism, alongside “disdain for bourgeois values”, while upholding the Volksgemeinschaft concept of self-sacrifice that was to bring about “social equality”. Hitler enshrined this collectivist ethos under the slogan of the “common good before the individual good,” which was stamped on Nazi Germany’s coinage.
Unlike conservatism, fascism specifically presents itself as a modern ideology that is willing to break free from moral and political constraints of traditional society. The conservative authoritarian right is distinguished from fascism in that such conservatives utilized traditional religion as the basis for their views while fascists based their views on more complex issues such as vitalism, nonrationalism, or secular neo-idealism.
Many of fascism's recruits were disaffected right-wing conservatives who were dissatisfied with the traditional right's inability to achieve national unity and its inability to respond to socialism, feminism, economic crisis, and international difficulties. With traditional conservative parties in Europe severely weakened in the aftermath of World War I, there was a political vacuum on the right which fascism filled.
Fascism is strongly opposed to liberalism. Fascists accuse liberalism as being the cause of despiritualization of human beings and transforming them into materialistic beings in which the highest ideal is moneymaking. In particular, fascism opposes liberalism for its materialism, rationalism, individualism, and utilitarianism. Fascists believe that the liberal emphasis on individual freedom produces national divisiveness. Mussolini directed his criticism not against modern, Keynesian liberalism, but the older form of classical liberalism, due to its individualistic nature, writing: “Against individualism, the Fascist conception is for the State; . . . It is opposed to classical Liberalism . . . Liberalism denied the State in the interests of the particular individual; Fascism reaffirms the State as the true reality of the individual.” Fascists and Nazis, however, support a type of hierarchical individualism in the form of Social Darwinism, because they believe it promotes "superior individuals" and weeds out "the weak".
One issue where Fascism is in accord with liberalism is in its support of private property rights and the existence of a market economy. Although Fascism sought to “destroy the existing political order,” it had tentatively adopted the economic elements of liberalism, but “completely denied its philosophical principles and the intellectual and moral heritage of modernity.” Due to the economic hardships that resulted from “War Communism,” which almost toppled the leadership of Soviet Russia in 1921, fascists in Germany and Italy followed the examples of Lenin’s New Economic Policy (NEP), which had endorsed “state capitalism” and permitted the public to trade, buy and sell for “private profit.” Although the Bolsheviks were averse to the principles of open markets and profit, they were nonetheless forced by dire circumstances to allow “privatization and private initiative” that resulted in a Soviet “mixed economy.” For fascist leaders, following the two economic pillars of Fascism—“productionism” and “syndicalism”—was more important than adhering to ideological commitments that could risk economic collapse and mass unemployment that had plagued Lenin’s nationalization policies. Moreover, Fascism espoused antimaterialism, which meant that it rejected the “rationalistic, individualistic and utilitarian heritage” that defined the liberal-centric Age of Enlightenment.
Both National Socialist Germany and Fascist Italy were welfare states that spent heavily on public works. A former school teacher, Mussolini’s spending on the public sector, schools and infrastructure was considered extravagant. Mussolini “instituted a programme of public works hitherto unrivalled in modern Europe. Bridges, canals and roads were built, hospitals and schools, railway stations and orphanages; swamps were drained and land reclaimed, forests were planted and universities were endowed.” As for the scope and spending on social welfare programs, Italian fascism “compared favorably with the more advanced European nations and in some respect was more progressive.” When New York city politician Grover Aloysius Whalen asked Mussolini about the meaning behind Italian Fascism in 1939, the reply was: “It is like your New Deal!”
By 1925 the Fascist government had “embarked upon an elaborate program” that included food supplementary assistance, infant care, maternity assistance, general healthcare, wage supplements, paid vacations, unemployment benefits, illness insurance, occupational disease insurance, general family assistance, public housing, and old age and disability insurance. As for public works, “the Mussolini’s administration “devoted 400 million lire of public monies” for school construction between 1922 and 1942, compared to only 60 million lire between 1862 and 1922.
Hitler and the German National Socialist spent large amounts of state revenues for a comprehensive social welfare system to combat the ill effects of the Great Depression, promising repeatedly throughout his regime the “creation of a socially just state.” In 1933, Hitler ordered the National Socialist People's Welfare (NSV) chairman Erich Hilgenfeldt to “see to the disbanding of all private welfare institutions,” in an effort to socially engineer society by selecting who was to receive social benefits. Under this state-operated welfare structure, Nazi administrators were able to mount an effort towards the “cleansing of their cities of ‘asocials.’” Nonetheless, the NSV instituted expansive programs to address the socio-economic inequalities among those deemed to be German citizens. Joseph Goebbels remarked about the merits of Hitler’s welfare state in a 1944 editorial “Our Socialism,” where he professed: “We and we alone [the Nazis] have the best social welfare measures. Everything is done for the nation.”
With 17 million Germans receiving assistance under the auspices of National Socialist People’s Welfare (NSV) by 1939, the agency “projected a powerful image of caring and support.” The National Socialists provided a plethora of social welfare programs under Nazi’s concept of Volksgemeinschaft which promoted the collectivity of a “people’s community” where citizens would sacrifice themselves for the greater good. The NSV operated “8,000 day-nurseries” by 1939, and funded holiday homes for mothers, distributed additional food for large families, and was involved with a “wide variety of other facilities.”
The Nazi social welfare provisions included old age insurance, rent supplements, unemployment and disability benefits, old-age homes, interest-free loans for married couples, along with healthcare insurance, which was not decreed mandatory until 1941 One of the NSV branches, the Office of Institutional and Special Welfare, was responsible “for travellers’ aid at railway stations; relief for ex-convicts; ‘support’ for re-migrants from abroad; assistance for the physically disabled, hard-of-hearing, deaf, mute, and blind; relief for the elderly, homeless and alcoholics; and the fight against illicit drugs and epidemics.” The Office of Youth Relief, which had 30,000 branches offices by 1941, took the job of supervising “social workers, corrective training, mediation assistance,” and dealing with judicial authorities to prevent juvenile delinquency.
Fascism opposed the international character of mainstream socialism, but in opposing this international character, it often defined itself as a "nationalist" form of socialism, an alternative to the mainstream form of socialism which it regarded as its bitter enemy. Nonetheless, Hitler told Otto Wagener in private that once other nations saw fit to socialize, international socialism could be considered, remarking: “It is not until the individual nations are socialist that they can address themselves to international socialism. During various times in his life, Mussolini, an avowed Marxist from his early years, publicly pushed for the socialization of Italy. In 1944, as leader of the Nazi-controlled Italian Social Republic (RSI), he announced to Fascist veterans in Milan: “Some still ask of us: what do you want? We answer with three words that summon up our entire program. Here they are…Italy, Republic, Socialization. . . Socialization is no other than the implantation of Italian Socialism…” Israeli historian Sternhell described fascist ideology as “a variety of socialism” that although “rejecting Marxism, remained revolutionary. This form of socialism was also, by definition, anti-liberal and anti-bourgeois, and its opposition to historical materialism made it the natural ally of radical nationalism.” By March of 1945, Mussolini confessed that he had always been a socialist, declaring in one of his last interviews: “For this I have been and am a socialist. The accusation of inconsistency has no foundation. My conduct has always been straight in the sense of looking at the substance of things and not to the form. I adapted socialisticamente to reality.” Hitler freely admitted his commitment to socialism in a 1920 speech, proclaiming that “we are socialists,” who “are convinced that socialism is inseparable from nationalism.” In later years, Hitler reaffirmed his socialist credentials in his 1941 “Barbarossa Proclamation” professing: “I, on the other hand, have tried for two decades to build a new socialist order in Germany, with a minimum of interference and without harming our productive capacity.”
Mainstream socialists have typically rejected and opposed fascism in turn. Beyond its opposition to mainstream socialism's international character, Fascism also opposed mainstream socialism for its universalism, egalitarianism, anti-nationalism, horizontal collectivism and cosmopolitanism. Benito Mussolini considered Fascism as opposed to Socialism, "Therefore Fascism is opposed to Socialism, which confines the movement of history within the class struggle and ignores the unity of classes established in one economic and moral reality in the State; and analogously it is opposed to class syndicalism..." Adolf Hitler at times attempted to redefine the word socialism, such as saying, "Socialism! That is an unfortunate word altogether... What does socialism really mean? If people have something to eat and their pleasures, then they have their socialism." The name that Hitler later wished he had used to describe his political party was “social revolutionary.” According to German Historian Götz Aly, “Another source of the Nazi Party’s popularity was its liberal borrowing from the intellectual tradition of the socialist left,” where many National Socialist leaders “had been involved in communist and socialist circles.” Hitler often voiced support for socialism, both in public and in private, but maintained that it was predicated on unconditional adherence to both anti-Semitism and nationalism. In his 1920 “Why We Are Anti-Semities” speech Hitler declared: “There comes a time when it will be obvious that socialism can only be carried out accompanied by nationalism and antisemitism.”
Fascism is historically strongly opposed to communism. Fascism opposes communism's advocacy of international class revolution. Fascists attack communists for supporting "decadent" values, including internationalism, egalitarianism, and materialism. Fascists have commonly campaigned with anti-communist agendas.
Fascism and communism, however, have common positions in their opposition to liberalism, capitalism, individualism, and parliamentarism. Fascists and communists also agree on the need for violent revolution to forge a new era. While fascism is opposed to Bolshevism, both Bolshevism and fascism promote the one-party state and the use of political party militias.
Both Hitler and Mussolini were heavily influenced by Marxism. Hitler admitted in Mein Kampf that should the “National Socialist movement” fail to understand the fundamental “significance of race,” it “would really do nothing more than compete with Marxism on its own ground.” In a private conversation with Otto Wagener, Hitler professed that “What Marxism, Leninism and Stalinism failed to accomplish, we shall be in a position to achieve,” and that “National Socialists wish precisely to attract all socialists, even the Communists;…” Mussolini, who once “belonged to the Bolshevik wing of the Italian Socialist party”, bragged about his “paternity” to the communist movement in 1921, declaring before the Italy’s Chamber of Deputies, as a newly elected Fascist member: “I know the Communists. I know them because some of them are my children…”
In spite of ideological differences, Fascist Italy was the first western country to recognize the Soviet Union, in 1933 Fascist Italy had signed a friendship and nonaggression treaty with the Soviet Union, and in the late 1930s both Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany supported rapproachment with the Soviet Union. Petroleum from the Soviet Union fueled the Italian navy during Fascist Italy's conquest of Ethiopia when Western powers imposed sanctions on Italy. In support of Hitler's strategy of rapproachment of the Soviet Union in 1939, Mussolini in September 1939 informed fellow Fascist official Giuseppe Bottai that the internal differences between fascism and Bolshevism had grown less acute over time and noted that both fascism and Bolshevism held common contempt of the "demo-plutocratic capitalism of the western powers". In October 1939 Mussolini had considered making a public statement to the Italian people that would announce Fascist Italy's abandonment of hostility to the ideology of Stalin's Soviet Union by claiming that Stalin's regime had effectively dissolved Bolshevism and that it had been replaced by a Slavic fascism. Mussolini's foreign minister and son-in-law Ciano persuaded Mussolini not to make this statement.
As a Fascist leader, “Mussolini never concealed his sympathy and admiration for Communism,” often praising Lenin’s “brutal energy,” and found little “objectionable in Bolshevik massacres of hostages.” In 1931, after greeting Alfred Bingham, son of a U.S. Republican Senator, “Mussolini told the young man of his admiration for Communism—‘Fascism is the same thing’” as Communism.
Fascism denounces democratic socialism as a failure. Fascists oppose it for its support of reformism and the parliamentary system that fascism reject. But social democracy, similar but less socialist than democratic socialism, was denounced by Joseph Stalin and Grigory Zinoviev as a variant of fascism—“social fascism”—and that designation became the “official ideology of the world Communist movement. Stalin described fascism and social democracy as "twin brothers."
Italian Fascism had ideological connections with revolutionary syndicalism, in particular Sorelian syndicalism. The Italian Fascist regime officially acknowledged revolutionary syndicalist Georges Sorel — along with Hubert Lagardelle and his journal Le Mouvement socialiste — as major influences on fascism.
The Sorelian emphasis on the need for a revolution based upon action of intuition, a cult of energy and vitality, activism, heroism, and the utilization of myth was utilized by fascists. Many prominent fascist figures were formerly associated with revolutionary syndicalism, including: Mussolini, Arturo Labriola, Robert Michels, Sergio Panunzio, and Paolo Orano.