Political ideologies - Fascism

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Origins and development
Unlike other major political ideologies, fascism erupted in the early half of the twentieth
century. It was defined by a complete opposition to the political ideas and values of the
Enlightenment that had swept across Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, demonstrated in
their embracement of slogans such as `1789 is abolished!' and `Believe, Obey, Fight', in
Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy respectively, which were selected to be in stark contrast to
those of the Enlightenment such as `Liberty, Equality, Fraternity'. The ultimate goal of
fascism was to root out conventional political thought and recreate the political world in its
image, and as O'Sullivan put it it came as a `bolt from the blue' (1983).
The major ideas that fuelled fascism, such as the growth of nationalism into a primarily
conservative and chauvinistic creed, started to develop in the late 19th C. however it was not
until the aftermath of the First World War, due largely to potent mixture of war and
revolution in Europe at the time, that fascism developed into a coherent doctrine and
movement. These changes happened most notably in Italy, where Benito Mussolini, leader
of the Fascist Party formed in 1919 was appointed Prime Minister in 1922 and over the
next four years transformed Italy into a oneparty state and Germany where the National
Socialist German Workers' Party came to power under the leadership of Adolf Hitler in
1933. These victories for fascism led in part to the collapse of democracy and the
establishment of authoritarian and occasionally openly fascist governments across much of
Europe, such as that of General Francisco Franco in Spain, who consolidated power after
1936 following a bitter civil war between his supporters and republicans, anarchists and
communists. Outside of Europe, fascism spread to Japan, who in the 1930s began colonial
expansion into Asia, and notably Argentina under Juan Perón, who became notorious as one
of the main protectors of Nazi war criminals such as Adolf Eichmann following the end of
the Second World War.
The origins of fascism have caused fierce historical debate and it is reasonable to argue that
no individual factor can be attributed to its sudden emergence as a political and ideological
force. Of those most discussed, perhaps the most politically significant is that many
European democracies were still quite undeveloped and appeared weak in the face of
severe crisis so the prospect of strong leadership had great appeal.
Second, rapid industrialisation within Europe had caused large scale economic disruption
and created a new lower middle class of small business owners and shopkeepers who were
caught between the intensifying struggle between organised labour and big business, meaning
that there was a discontented social base from which to draw support and membership
Thirdly, fascism has been viewed by Marxists and those on the Left as a form of
counterrevolution to combat the growing fear amongst the ruling class in the wake of the
Bolshevik Uprising, which left a profound impact on Europe in its aftermath. This was

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Germany, where Marxists were attempting to build a strong revolutionary
movement independent of the SPD, which many saw as having betrayed the working class,
firstly by voting for war credits in 1914 and then by using right wing paramilitaries to crush
workers' uprisings following the downfall of the Kaiser.…read more

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Core themes: strength through unity
One of the issues that makes fascism a difficult creed to carry out in depth analysis on is that
there is major debate as to whether the term ideology is in fact applicable to it given that it
openly rejects political rationality and theory while stressing the supremacy of action. Hitler
described the Nazi view as a Weltanschauung, or worldview, meaning that he considered it
to be inscrutable and almost religious.…read more

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Though the movements and regimes that grew out of fascist ideology did not gain
prominence until the 1920s and 30s the ideas that formed its theoretical structure started
to gain prominence in the late 19th C. While the social and political movements of the
early and mid19th C.…read more

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This gave fascism
the opportunity to present itself as coming from a creative angle. Through destruction of
the old order, they look to usher in a new civilisation.
Thirdly, by abandoning reason fascists placed their faith in the highly emotive concepts
of organic community and shared national heritage, which the Nazis exemplified in their
idea of the Volksgemeinschaft and slogans such as `Strength Through Unity'.…read more

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Russia in 1941, believing that the Slavic
people of Russia were of a lesser class of human, and therefore deserved to be conquered.
Leadership and elitism
Amongst ideological traditions, fascism can be said to be alone in its total rejection of
equality and penchant for elitism.…read more

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Rousseauian belief in the 'general will', which argued that there exists a single, unbreakable
public interest. This notion grew to become what Talmon referred to as 'totalitarian
democracy'.…read more

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SA Ernst Rohm along with much of the membership. As such
Marxists, such as historian and theorist Leon Trotsky in his text Fascism: What it is and
how to fight it, have argued that fascism is effectively a form of counter revolution used by
the ruling class to crush workers' and socialist organisations and shore up capital in times of
crisis. This can be seen, for Marxists, in the fact that traditional authoritarian conservatives
in Germany gave support and funds to the Nazis.…read more

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Though they may have formed an alliance to face the powers of France, the UK and later
the United States, Italy and Germany represented quite different forms of fascism in
practice, which has led to fascism being split into two broad traditions, one following the
example of Italian fascism and extreme statism, the other based around Nazism and extreme
The totalitarian ideal
Totalitarianism has always been a controversial, and to some, essentially contested concept.…read more

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This was drawn
from Catholic social thought, which in contrast to Protestantism's belief in the value of
individual labour was more in favour in continuing social harmony.
However, instead of these coming about naturally through the spread of fascist principles,
attempts to improve class relations were often arranged and invigilated by the state.…read more


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