Fascism: The totalitarian ideal
- Totalitarianism as a concept has been considered bymany to be helpful in analysing fascism. Firstly, the attempt to construct a new ‘fascist man’; intended to be utterly obedient dismantles the public/private divide, as your life becomes a tool for advancing the collective good. The masses are politicised through participation and leads to them becoming mere tools for advancing the interests of the nation. Belief in a single source of truth, means that fascism is firmly at odds with the notion of pluralism both politically and socially.
The Italian fascist vision of the state grew largely from that of the philosopher Hegel, who believed that the state reflects the combined altruism of its citizens, going beyond the self-interests and materialistic drives of individuals to lead civilisation onto higher levels of progression.
· The Nazis, on the other hand, saw the state more of a means to an end in the suppression of opposition forces such as the German labour movement instead of an institution to be revered. However in this process they came much closer than Mussolini of achieving the perfect state as its security forces were brutally efficient and it had control over the media, education and youth organisations, many of which were left independent by the Italians.
· The Italians did not seek to impose rigid collective structures with regards to their economic policy. Mussolini developed the doctrine of corporatism, opposed to both the mechanisms of the market and central planning, and instead concerned with easing class differences by improving the relations between labour and capital in the hope of getting them to view the nation they were part of as an organic and unified society. Given the large amount of influence the Church held onto, this policy was drawn from Catholic social thought which 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 managed by the state. The year following the consolidation of power in 1926 twenty-two different corporations were established to be run by people from big business, the labour movement and government based on a desire to refashion the major industries of the Italian economy. The so-called corporate state was completed when the Chamber of Fasces and Corporations replaced the Italian Parliament, however some argue this was little more than a slogan to disguise the political control of the state which carried out both the smashing of trade unions and threats towards big capital.
· Another factor that led Fascist Italy to embrace the all-powerful state was its capacity to be an agent of modernisation, given that the industrial structure of Italy at the time was somewhat less advanced than its European neighbours. While extolling the lost virtues of the Roman Empire, Italy was also forward looking in its desire for technological advancement and for Mussolini in particular wanted to bring into fascist philosophy from 1922 onwards a belief in dynamism, a cult of the machine and a rejection of the country’s seemingly backward past.