Any examination of Fascism can be frustrating when trying to place its ideology on our conventional political spectrum using descriptors such as “Left” and “Right.” The labels themselves only came into use as a result of the French Revolution with “Left” being associated with Republicanism and “Right” with constitutional monarchy, generally. After the Russian Revolution during the Great War Communism fully re-defined the “Left” tipping the balance of the scale as liberals and monarchists alike strictly opposed Marxism and the Soviet state.

Fascism, however, came to oppose all these things. It denounced socialism, neoliberalism, democracy, and any alternative to fascist states in the inter-war period. Fascism was not the old “Right.” It was not trying to restore monarchism and the ruling elites of pre-World War I. It was a new “Right” a revolutionary ideology that countered the extremism of Bolshevism and the Proletariat Revolution. Even the labels most fascist parties tended to call themselves, like National Socialist, can be confusing considering its staunch opposition to Communism.

What characteristics do we find common among Fascist states? Fascism was a mass movement that was popular among people across social economic status and professional backgrounds. Anti-socialists, young men from the cities, veterans dissatisfied with social stagnation after WWI, intellectuals who feared the emerging mass culture of the 20th Century, and small business owners were predisposed to the lure of Fascism.[1]

Fascism sought violence against socialists and unions, yet also against geo-corporate interests of global capitalism. Above all Fascism elevated the importance and concerns of the state and the nation. Nationalism was the driving force behind Fascist fears of a world-wide workers revolution as predicted by Karl Marx. Civil liberties and autonomy from the state, tenets of Liberalism, was thrown aside by fascist governments who always placed the state above law and used the law as a political tool for achieving the goals of the state.


Fascist Italy and Bonito Mussolini

Why did some fascism arise in some nations but not in others? Fascism did not occur in nation-states where democratic institutions had historical significance, such as France and Great Britain. Countries that would fragmented politically came to see democracy and parliamentarianism as ineffective and prone to corruption.

Italy was one of the remaining European monarchies after World War I, but due to political division within between nationalists, socialists, the monarchy, and others many disillusioned veterans felt left behind and overall had trouble assimilated back into the drudgery of everyday life. Italo Balbo, an associate of Bonito Mussolini said,

When I returned from the war—just like so many others—I hated politics and politicians, who, in my opinion, had betrayed the hopes of soldiers, reducing Italy to a shameful peace and Italians who maintained the cult of heroes to a systematic humiliation. To struggle, to fight in order to return to the land of Giolitti, who made a merchandise of every ideal? No. Rather deny everything, destroy everything, in order to renew everything from the foundations.[2]


Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party

While Fascism came with the rise of Mussolini in Italy, Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party fought to bring about a fascist state to Germany. The Weimar Republic had done what it could to keep the short-lived Germany democracy alive after the Great War, but the republic was born with a disease as it was forced to accept the harsh terms of the Versailles Peace Treaty after the war.

Hitler had the backing of the remnants of the German military, including famed General Erich Ludendorff, and used violent tactics to attack leftist groups and in the case of the Beer Hall Putsch tried to overthrow the government by violent means. Militant nationalism chipped away the legitimacy of the Weimar Republic’s democratic institutions, weakening its ability to endure the looming global depression of the 1930s.

Liberalism, having finally rose to prominence with the fall of European monarchic states, failed to be established in nations where the public had little experience with democracy, and the vacuum left by the disappearance of autocratic governments was filled with a mixture of the old and new, and experienced a revolution against revolution.

Sources Cited


[1] Paxton, Robert. Europe in the Twentieth Century, 4th ed. New York: Wadsworth, 2002. 218.

[2] Paxton, Europe in 20th Century. 222.