This essay examines the basic ideas of fascism and answeres the question why it attracted so many people. Fascism is an anti-liberal and anti-democratic ideology, which emerged in 1920. I will argue that the basic ideas of fascism are anti-rationalism, social Darwinism, elitism, socialism, ultranationalism, totalitarism, modernisation, racialism and corporatism. Fascist ideology believes in the supremacy of the nation over the individual and glorifies the state. I argue that fascism attracted many people because for many reasons. The first is the difficult period of the economic crisis and unemployment. People wanted that their lives to be improved and supported the Fascist party, which promised it. The second reason was that states on the 1920’s and 1930’s did not have stable governments. So, people disliked democracy, which did not bring economic stability. The third reason was peoples’ fear about social revolution as in Russia. People supported an ideology which was different from Soviet socialism, which they feared so much. The fourth reason was nationalism. After the First World War in Germany nationalism was frustrated. So, fascism was accepted within the basic idea of nationalism. The fifth reason is the successful fascist propaganda and brainwashing of people.
Basis of argument
My basic argument is based upon three different views of fascist ideology and its basic ideas. Harun has a very critical view of fascism. He claims that fascism is based upon Darwinist theory and the basic ideas came from Darwinism. He blamed Darwinist theory, which was responsible for violence and bloodshed (Harun, 2002: 10). He used citation from Koran. Harun wrote his book Fascism the bloody ideology of Darwinism so that all people did not forget about morality and would never support this ideology. I think Harun is very critical of Fascism because it rejected all religions and the existence of God. I argue that we can find some positive moments in this ideology, such as modernization and nationalism, which could bring national identity, self-determination and patriotism. Gregor has a different opinion about fascism. He claimed that Fascist totalitarianism has its roots in Marxist theory (Gregor, 2009: 12). He believes that fascism is a variant of Marxism. Fascism developed because of the uncertainty of classical Marxism. He argues that the basic ideas of fascism as elitism, nationalism and developmentalism appeared before the Italian war in 1911. These concepts engaged the Austro-Marxists’ attention and this helps us understand the attraction of fascism (Gregor, 2009:160). I could accept that Marxism and fascism has some similarities, but I argue that they have more differences than simmilarities. I do not agree with Gregor that fascism is a variant of Marxism. I think that fascism is a form of nationalism and Marxism is a form of internationalism. Internationalism leads to a mix of national societies. Nationalism leads to a belief in the superiority of the nation and the right to elimininate other nations. Heywood neither critises fascism or nor justifies it. He describes the basic ideas of fascism without emphasis on either Darwinism or Maxism. I argue that, whether, fascism was based on Darwinism or Marxism, its basic ideas are the glorification of the totalitarian, corporatist state, the belief in supremacy of nation over the individual, elitism, ultranationalism anti-rationalism.
The term ‘Fascism’ came from the Italian word ‘fasces’, which means a bundle of rods with an axe-blade. By the 1890s, the word ‘fascia’ refered to a political group, usually of revolutionary socialists. From the early 20th Century, under Mussolini, this term had a clear ideological meaning. It emerged in 1920 against modernity, against the principles of the Enlightenment and wanted a new political world, destroying the inheritance of old political thought. The ideas of fascism come from the 19th Century, and were shaped by the First World War, revolutions and wars. Fascism emerged most successfully in Germany and Italy. The leader of a Fascist Party was Benito Mussolini. It was formed in 1919. By 1926 a fascist state was established. In 1919 The National Socialist German Workers’ Party was formed under Adolf Gitler, adopting the style of Mussolini’s Fascism. By 1933 Germany had a Nazi dictatorship (Heywood, 2003: 214-215).
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Some people believed that Fascism was interwar phenomenon. However, other argued that it is an ever-present danger, ‘the fear of freedom’ (Heywood, 2003: 216). Fascism is an ideology which difficult to analyse. Firstly, because fascism does not have a rational core. Hitler described fascism as a ‘world view’ rather than an ideology. The fascism emphasis upon action not ideas. Heywood claimed that it is almost religious set of concepts which demand faith and order.
It could be also describes as political movement or even political religion. Secondly, there is no exact answer about fascism. Where does fascism begin and end? In which countries were fascist movements? Doubt, Franco’s Spain, Hitler’s Germany, Vichy France, and Peron’s Argentina can be called as fascist. There are a lot of opinions and theories about the core of fascism. Nolte’s theory that fascist’s core is a ‘resistance to transcendence’. Gregor argued that it should create ‘the total charismatic community’. Griffin’s belief that it established ‘palingenetic ultranationalism’. We can see that these different
Formulas have highlights for features of fascism and no one separately can characterise the shapeless ideology of fascism (Heywood, 2003: 217).
However, I tried to allocate the basic ideas of fascism, dividing fascist ideology on the most significant of these: anti-rationalism, social Darwinism, elitism, borrowed issues from socialism, ultranationalism, and the glorification of the state.
Basic ideas of fascism
Fascist movements have arisen from the First Worl War upheavals. The most significant ideas were anti-rationalism and extreme counter-Enlightenment concepts. Anti-rationalism influenced fascism in three ways. Firstly, it gave anti-intellectualism: the principle is to execrate thinking and revere action. For example, Mussolini’s slogans were ‘Acton not Talk’, ‘Inactivity is Death’. Intellectual life was despised. Fascism based on the emotions and the instincts. The major leaders of fascist ideology, Hitler and Mussolini, were interested in ideas because they wanted that their power had the emotional response and provocated society into action. Fascism practised ‘the politics of the will’. Secondly, because of rejecting the Enlightenment fascism has a negative character. It is clearer about what they oppose, rather than support. Fascism is anti-rational, anti-capitalist, anti-conservative, anti-communist, anti-liberal, etc.
Thirdly, fascism abandoned the universalism, so placed its faith in culture, organic community and history. Fascists believe that the national community is indivisible and the strength of the nation is a cultural unity. Nazi slogan
‘Strength through Unity’ confirms that (Heywood, 2003: 217-220).
The second concept of fascism has the theory of Darwinism. In the 19th century Darwin’ ideas had effect upon political thought. Belief that the life is based on struggle was very attractive. However, fascists regarded struggle as natural condition of life. Fascists believed that competition and conflict promote human progress and reward hard-working people and punish the weak. Hitler told ‘Victory is to the strong and the weak must go to the wall’. Human existense is struggle, where the test is war. Hitler claimed that war is ‘an unalterable law of the whole of life’. Fascism opposes kidness, compation, caring and all positive moral characteristics because it led to the weakness, which should be rejected. However, fascists respect these kinds of values as loyalty, obedience and duty. To sum up, the idea of life as an unending struggle gave to fascism expansionist character (Hetwood, 2003: 220-221).
According to Harun, Darwinist theory gave the chance for fascist ideology birth. He argue that fascism oppose morality rules, which religion gave to people. Fascism replaced it by racist, cruel and bloody paganist ideology. Harun claimed that Darwin, Haeckel and Galton have support to paganism by denying existentence of God and the theory that all our life consists from the struggle (Harun, 2002: 56). A good example of it is Nazi Germany, nazists killed the sick people, handicapped, Jews and the elderly because they thought that the strong have the right to live and crush the weak. These ideas are the reason of war, shedding the blood and lead to cruelty (Harun, 2002: 54-55). Harun blaimed Darwinism for the birth of fascism and claimed that basic ideas of fascist ideology is going from Darwinism. Firstly, Darwinism provided the ideas of racism because of the theory of struggle and that some races are more superior than others. It gave the rise of racism. Secondly, Darwinism provided a reason of bloodshed. In theory, it was normal and usual that strong eliminated weak or others races. Thirdly, Darwinism provided the idea of eugenics. Fascists wanted to improve the nation, eliminating the other races. The war is the biological necessity. Harun claimed that Darwinism is a formal reason for the First World War and other cruel war-tendencies of fascism (Harun, 2002: 37-39).
Fascism is elitist and patriarchal ideology, which reject equality of people. The belief is that elite rule is always desirable led to the idea of supreme leadership. Fascist leaders, Mussolini and Hitler, proclaimed themselves as ‘the Leaders’. The leader was viewed as tallanted individual and his athority was absolute. These slogans: ‘Hitler is Germany, Germany is Hitler’, ‘Mussolini is always right’ confirmed that. The principle of fascist state was ‘the leader principle’, which means that all athority depends on the leader. Parliaments, elections were abolished (Heywood, 2003:223).
Mussolini was a member of the Italian Socialist Party; Nazi Party shared the issues from ‘the national socialism’ theory. We can say that fascism has borrowed issues from socialist ideology. Gregor believes that fascism based on Marxism and the basic ideas of fascism came from Marxism (Gregor, 2002: 160). I do not agree with Gregor, because fascists rejected materialism. Because of the desire for wealth is very far from the fascist idea of world conquest. To compare with socialism, both fascism and socialism supported collectivism. Fascist regime used socialist-style economy to control, using capitalism for ‘its own purposes’. The economic policy was very pragmatic. The revolution which fascists brought was not social. It was the ‘psychological’ revolution with the aim to create a ‘new fascist’ man, who is self-sacrifice with honour and motivated by duties. Fascism was anti-communism because wanted to create the stronger nation rathen than social class (Heywood, 2003: 225).
Fascism has the idea of chauvinistic nationalism. It believed in supremacy of nation over individual. It demands the allegation of power over the nations through war and expansionism. It has more than just patriotism and national pride; it has the militant and aggressive character (Heywood, 2003: 225). Peyne believed that the crisis of World War I, social conflict and economic problems which resulted in spiritual collapse gave a chance to nationalism to flourish (Larsen, 1980: 15). This belief linked to imperialism. If liberalists claimed that economic improves because of international trade and interdependence, fascists argued that economic improves then it based upon the capacity of the nation to control directly the resources. Conquest is used for gaining security. Economy linked with millitary power. For example, in Nazi Germany Hitler claimed that preparation for war is a political priority (Heywood, 2003: 225-226).
Fascism and the State
The one of the fascist idea is to create a totalitatian state. It was most relevant in Italisn fascism. Fascists argued that the state is the greatest idea of human existence. The slogan “Everything is for the state” confirmed it. Hegel claimed that the civilization could be achieved only if the state develops. In contrast, in Germany Hitler believed that the main power is going not from the state but from the race, the German people. However, Hitler more realized totalitatian regime than Mussolini did. In Germany fascists political controlled the state over the media, culture and education more than in Italy. However, Italy practised more a traditional dictatorship. For example, in Italy monarchy survived after the fascist period and political leaders continued in power (Heywood, 2003: 227-228).
Fascism had the feature of corporatism. Mussolini claimed that corporatism is the ‘third way’ between capitalism and socialism. It opposes the free market. It is for creating profits by indvidual, which led to the idea of class war. Corporatism is based on the idea that labour and business linked together. Thus, social classes can work together for national interests. Good relations between labour and business led to economic and moral progress. But, these relations should be regulated by the state. In Italy 22 corporations were created, which represented government, workers and employers. These corporations concerned industries’ development in Italy. In 1939 these corporations replaced the Parliament in Italy. But, corporatism was more than a mean which the Fascist states controlled the economy (Heywood, 2003: 229-230). However, corporatism in Nazi Germany never was takes seriously by Nazi theorists (O’Sullivan, 1983: 134).
Fascists saw the state as an agent of modernization. This feature of Italian fascism influenced of futurism, movement in the art, with the factories as machinery and industry. Mussolini was interested in modernization, because wanted to break with traditions and create an industrial country (Heywood, 2003: 230).
Not all fascists are necessary rasialists. For example, Italisn fascism was based on the supremacy of state over individual and in theory, no matter what the race and colour of people who lived in the state. In 1937, Mussolini legalized anti-semitic laws. But, fascism often mathes with racialism; Nazi Germany is a good example where the link between racialism and fascism was very evident.
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Nazists created the racial stereotype of the tall, blue-eyed blonde Aryan; however, Hitler did not fit this stereotype. Nazists could never agreed which stereotype is correct. Hitler divided people into three groups. The first is the Aryans, the best race category, which is responsible for all creativity, whether in music, politics or literature. Second, the group of people who could utilize the ideas of German people but did not have the capacity for creatvity. The thirs group is Jews, “the destroyers of culture”. Hitler believed that conflict between good and evil is the struggle between the Jews and the Germans. He claimed that this struggle could only end either in German world domination or Jews victory. Thus, In Nazi Germany anti-semitism existed. This ideology and belief that Aryans is the ‘master race’ led to war. If the Aryans are the best race, it means that they should dominate. The Nazis claimed that Germany could never be secure if Jews existed. Nazi regime led to the death of 6 million Jewish people (Heywood, 2003: 230 -239).
Why did fascism attract so many people?
After the First World War, Italy was in economic and political crisis. The war brought unemployment, uncertainty and disorder. Uncertainty in the economic and political world opened the opportunity for right-wing extrimism (Heywood, 2003: 237-239). So, the first reason why fascism attracted so many people was the economic crisis, pessimistic atmosphere and unemployment. Fascism was supported by the poor and the working class because people wanted that their conditions of life to improve. For example, in Italy in 1919 Mussolini promised reforms: land for peasants, improvement of life and working conditions and a strong foreign policy. People liked the idea of a high level of employment and to become equal. The second reason is the basic ideas of fascism. People enjoyed the idea that their race was superior. People believed in this and supported the fascist party. The third reason was that Italian government failed in dealing with domestic affairs, so society wanted a different and stable government (Heywood, 2003: 216). The fourth reason was the peoples’ fear about social revolution in Russia spreading to Europe. Fascism was the extreme opposite of Soviet socialism (Gregor, 2009: 2). So, people supported an ideology which was different from Soviet socialism, of which they were afraid so much. The fifth reason was peoples’ dislike of constitutional government and democracy which could not deal with economic crisis. The sixth reason is that the First World War did not solve international conflicts. Germany disliked the Versailles pease settlement and wanted to have revenge. The experience of war brought frustrated nationalism. Fascism was easily accepted by Germans. The seventh reason was successful propaganda and censorship. The public was brainwashed very much, in schools, newspapers, etc. One way of brainwashing was by burning books which contained ‘un-German ideas’. Students participated in this, with the accompaniment of Nazi songs and salutes (Harun, 2002: 83). Rich people did not support very much fascist party. The eighth reason is that Mussolini was an opportunist and could easily change his party programme to please the propertied class and win. The nineth reason, according to Harun, was the lack of education in many communities. He suggests that fascism, which is based on nationalism, chauvinism and racism, could only be accepted by the uneducated. They were trapped because they saw the fascist party as a lifebelt (Harun, 2002: 69).
In this essay I analysed different opinions and views of fascism’s basic ideas. I have argued that the main principles of this ideology are the glorification of the totalitarian, corporatist state, the belief in the supremacy of nation over individual, anti-rationalism, social Darwinism, elitism, socialism and ultranationalism. Fascism as ideology and ultranationalistic movement attracted many people. The first reason was the disorder and unemployment of that time. The second reason was political instability, which could not cope with economic crisis. The third reason was propaganda and the brainwashing of people, in which fascist ideology was very successful. The fourth reason was a fear of Soviet socialism, which could spread to Europe. The fifth reason was nationalism, which had been frustrated in Germany. The sixth reason was the ideas of fascism which people liked. For example, the idea that their nation was superior
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