Northern Arizona University
POS 254 Political Ideologies
I. Fascist Ideology
Fascism is a political ideology that supports a strong nationalist state in which all aspects of society are controlled by the government. It advocates rule by a single leader that has complete, total and unquestionable authority. Individuals are forced to respect and completely support the government leader(s), who is to unify and guide their nation. Therefore, fascism is a combination of totalitarianism and nationalism. This is the basis for single party, fascist nations. Fascism considers individual liberty to be merely an obstacle to freedom because it distracts people’s true mission to “believe, obey, fight”; true freedom is found only from serving the state. Fascism takes away the individual rights and freedom in order to apply them to the state. Because it is in such conflict with ideals such as universalism, democracy and individual autonomy it is often thought of as the antithesis to enlightenment ideologies. In a fascist state, every activity is subordinate to the state. The state's collective well-being trumps individual needs or desires.
The Rise and Spread of Fascism
Italian socialists during World War I were deeply divided about whether or not their country should intervene in the war against Germany, Hungary and Austria. The interventionists, who would later become the first fascists, supported an Italian effort to defeat the reactionary block so that progress and socialism could prevail. This deep rift in ideology led to violent clashes between the pro-intervention fascists and the anti-intervention socialists. World War I ended but the political differences between the two factions would never be resolved. Authoritarian regimes were not always the tenets of Fascism. The "Fascist Manifesto" by Alceste De Ambris and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti advocated universal suffrage, proportional representation, workers' rights, a peaceful foreign policy and other ideals that we would usually associate with liberalism or socialism. Strikes in 1919 and 1920 were exploited by Benito Musollini, a prominent fascist, who turned on the proletariat class in favor of business. This move away from progressive policies in favor of a conservative ideology united the fascists with Italian conservatives. As fascist leaders re-tailored their politics to attract conservatives and reactionaries the once small fringe movement exploded and had over a quarter of a million members by 1921. The 1920s saw fascists sweeping the nation, taking over cities and towns, infrastructure and transportation. It wasn't long before Mussolini was appointed Prime Minister and fascism became inescapable. By World War II the once socialist feared reactionary state of Germany was now the most powerful fascist state. Chancellor Adolf Hitler rode to power on a wave of economic turmoil and anti-minority hysteria and scapegoating. He dissolved the German parliament and put an end to democratic rule. The result was a massive German invasion of Europe and the attempted extermination of all people who were not "aryan" Fascism has also enjoyed limited rule in several Latin American and Asian nations including Argentina and Japan.
III. Views on Freedom, Equality and Democracy
A.) Fascist ideas of freedom vary between the fascist leaders. Mussolini’s idea of freedom was that, “freedom... was not, and is not, individual liberty but the freedom of the nation, the integrated organic whole that united all individuals...” (Ball and Dagger, Pg.202) On the contrary, he thought that individual freedom was not good for a state because a nation could not become powerful if individuals thought of themselves, their individual rights and interests before thinking about their nation. Since unity was the main goal for Mussolini, he believed that in order for his society to be truly free they had to become united first by following the simple steps... “Believe, obey, fight”. So is obvious that for Mussolini the obstacles to achieve a powerful nation were “individualism, independent groups and class divisions” (Ball and Dagger, Pg. 202)
B.) Nazi freedom parallels Italian fascism in that individual freedom would only prejudice the state; instead everyone should believe that their freedom is to serve the state. An important factor that distinguished Hitler from Mussolini is that according to Hitler the state should only consist of those in the Aryan Nation. In order for this freedom to occur inferior races, such as the Jewish community must first be eliminated.
The political theorist Roberto Michels was the creator of “Iron Law of Oligarchy” which stated that, “power cannot be shared equally among all members. For the organization to be effective true power must be concentrated in the hands of “an elite, or oligarchy” (Ball and Dagger, Pg. 197) Even if, as in a liberal society, there were a majority, these theorists believed that a small elite group would always hold power over the society. We can see that neither Mussolini nor Hitler believed in equality, especially Hitler. He believed in equality of rights for “his people”, the Germans, “We demand equality of rights for the German People in its dealings with other nations”, “None but those of German blood, whatever their creed, may be members of the nation. No Jew, therefore, may be a member of the nation.” (Program of the National Socialist German Workers Party) This led to the murder of millions of Jews.
As stated previously, the structure of a fascist society is based on an elitist point of view. According to this point of view, “Democracy did expand opportunities and possibilities for the common people... but it also posed a threat to individuality- the threat of the “tyranny of the majority” ” (Ball and Dagger, Pg. 196) Democracy means government by the people and both Mussolini and Hitler as fascist did not believe in democracy, “in their view the masses were to exercise power not by thinking, speaking, or voting for themselves, but by blindly following their leaders to glory.” According to fascist ideas, “democracy is merely another word for division and weakness in a world where unity and strength are what truly matter.” The democratic ideal of individualism is counterproductive in the fascist view because the interest of the individual are often opposite of that of the state. In a fascist state, the ideas of the leader of the state are the only ones of importance.
IV. Benito Mussolini & Adolf Hitler
A.) Benito Mussolini (1883-1945)
A Brief Biography
Benito Mussolini was born in a small village in Italy with an atheist father and Catholic mother. Originally, he was a school teacher but eventually began work as a political journalist. Before World War I he was a "revolutionary socialist" (Ball and Dagger 199) but after the outbreak of the war in August of 1914 and the overwhelming support of citizens to the wars of their countries, Mussolini began to realize that "nationalism was a far stronger force in human life than loyalty to one's social class." (Ball and Dagger 200) Speaking in favor of Italy joining the war cost Mussolini his editing position at the Italian political paper Avanti and was drafted into the war Italy eventually entered until he was severely injured in battle. After World War I Mussolini began to for fasci di combattimento, combat groups, and eventually the Fascist party. Many in Italy felt that at the end of the war they had not received their dues and the Fascists played on this bitterness.
In October of 1922, Mussolini, or Il Duce, as his followers called him, lead the fascists on a march to Rome with the intent of taking control of the Italian government if the power was not given to them. The Italian king willing gave Mussolini the seat as prime minister of Italy. Mussolini began to lead and act in his own beliefs by ignoring the parliament as well as joining forces with the Catholic church, banning all political entities that were not fascist and prohibiting freedom of speech. Mussolini's intent of "war and conquest" was not hidden from the people of Italy and he began his efforts to expand Italy's military power to again create a great empire in Italy. Upon the rise of Nazi Germany, Mussolini entered alliance with Adolf Hilter and brought Italy into World War II. In 1943, with the approval of the Grand Council of Fascists, the Italian king released him of his political position and detained him. The Nazis rescued Mussolini from his state of house arrest and put him in control of a pro-Nazi government in the northern region of Italy. As World War II came to a close, antifascist Italians captured and shot Mussolini and his mistress and hung their bodies over a city square in Milan.
B.) Arguments of Mussolini and Hitler
I. Benito Mussolini
Mussolini was originally a socialist up until World War I. During World War I, he had come to the realization of how wrong Marx and socialism was. He then initiated his first move by taking the political advantage of the widely shared sentiment of nationalism by forming the fasci di combattimento, also known as the combat groups, that consisted of WWI veterans and the Fascist Party itself. No matter how revolutionary or conservative this party seemed to be at times, they were always nationalistic. The people of Italy were not satisfied with share they received among England and France when the war ended. Therefore, the Fascist Party took this opportunity and made a promise to the people that they will end the “bickering” between the various political parties by taking forceful action and violence in order to become a part of the major powers of Europe. (Ball and Dagger 200)
The word fascism is originated by the Italian word, fasciare, which means to fasten or bind. The intentions of the Fascist Party were to bind the people together, so they can try to eliminate the elements that had weakened their country. Mussolini and the Fascist Party had a few obstacles that they were to overcome in order to bind the Italian people together and form a unity. They strongly believed that the Italian people were not to think of themselves as individuals or members of a social class, but to think of themselves as Italians first, foremost, and forever. (Ball and Dagger 200)
According to Mussolini, “Italian Fascism has not only been a political revolt against weak and incapable governments who had allowed State authority to decay and were threatening to arrest the progress of the country, but also a spiritual revolt against old ideas which had corrupted the sacred principles of religion, of faith, of country.” He then also states how the Fascist conception of life is a religious one because he believes, “Those who perceive nothing beyond opportunistic considerations in the religious policy of the Fascist regime fail to realize that fascism is not only a system of government but also and above all a system of thought.” (Mussolini “Doctrine of Fascism”)
Mussolini constantly reiterates the importance of the State. Fascists have a totalitarian State where the State has complete control over all aspects of the nation. Since the Italian people are to ultimately live their lives by supporting their nation, individual liberty was unnecessary because it confuses and misguides them from their true mission of supporting the state. Mussolini states how individuals exists only in so far as he is within the State and subjected to the requirements of the state and that, as civilization assumes aspects which grow more and more complicated, individual freedom becomes more and more restricted. On freedom, he says the concept of freedom is not absolute because nothing is every absolute in life. Freedom is not a right, it is a duty. It is not a gift, it is a conquest; it is not equality, it is a privilege. (Mussolini “Doctrine of Fascism”)
Fascists strongly follows the idea of no individuals or groups outside the state because under Italian Fascism, the State controls all forces acting in nature. The Fascist Party controls the political forces, moral forces, and economic forces. Basically, it can be concluded that the Fascist Party is very much a Corporative state. Mussolini believed that, “if a people wish to live they should develop a will to power, otherwise they vegetate, live miserably and become prey to a stronger people, in whom this will to power is developed to a higher degree.” Also stated, “It is Fascism which has refashioned the character of the Italians, removing impurity from our souls, tempering us to all sacrifices, restoring the true aspect of strength and beauty to our Italian face.” (Mussolini “Doctrine of Fascism”)
II. Adolf Hitler
Hitler’s political career began a little after the World War I ended. He was a part of the German army and fought very bravely and was in the hospital when the war ended. The German people could not help but to think that they were betrayed by traitorous politicians because they thought that their country was not yet defeated and that they could have kept fighting. Hitler definitely agreed with the rest of the German people. Once he recovered from the hospital, he remained in the army as a spy for a group called the German Workers’ Party. He joined this party because he was able to see an opportunity from this group. He soon became the party’s leader and renamed their group to National Socialist German Workers’ Party, also known as the Nazi Party.
This Nazi Party was very much alike to the Fascist Party. The only difference was that the Fascist Party was purely fascist; where as the Nazi Party was not only fascist, but also racist. Hitler and the Nazi Party organized a paramilitary organization that was called the storm troopers. The storm troopers wore brown shirts and broke up the Socialist and Communist meetings. The Nazi’s attempted a Beer Hall Putsch to overthrow the government of the German province so that the Nazi’s would come to power. Even though this attempt failed, and Hitler was put into prison under a five year sentence, this imprisonment gave him the opportunity to begin writing his autobiography called the Mein Kampf, meaning My Battle.
This autobiography made his basic ideas of his ideology clear. Such as how Germany has the great destiny, if the German people were to join together and move enemies out of their way, such as the communists and Jews. He also states that the German people would need a single party and a supreme leader to unite them, to become an invincible force. It can be comprehended in Hitler’s Mein Kampf that the Nazi’s and fascists are associated with strength, action, and dominance.
Once when Hitler was released from prison, he continued to approach his political ways. He wanted to build a Third Reich that would much surpass the previous two. Therefore it would be a Thousand Year Reich and bring Germany the power to become the political and cultural leader of Europe. In order for Hitler to achieve this, he decided that there were two important things that needed to be done.
The first important factor was to provide Germany with Lebensraum, in other words living space so they can become the next empire. Hitler believed that the countries of Poland’s and Soviet Ukraine’s land were to become Germany’s “breadbasket”, as well as their people who Hitler thought were inferior, to be enslaved. The moment his plans of obtaining land was initiated by invading Poland, World War II had begun. The second was to eliminate everything that would stand in their way or have the potential threat of holding them back. Their enemies would include communists, Jews, the handicapped, and the mentally ills, just because they were inferior.
Hitler truly believed that there were two superior races above all. One was the ultimate race for human beings that were called the “Aryans”, and the other race was the German’s. Since this belief of his was very strong, this was the reason why he believed Jews were inferior. The Jews were socialists that intertwined the human race, therefore, leading countries to weaken and decay because of the mixing of races. The nation with purest race was to be the strongest nation according to Hitler and his beliefs. In the “Extracts From Mein Kampf by Hitler”, this can be seen when he says, “With satanic joy in his face, the black-haired Jewish youth lurks in wait for the unsuspecting girl whom he defiles with his blood, thus stealing her from her people. With every means he tries to destroy the racial foundations of the people he has set out to subjugate. Just as he himself systematically ruins women and girls, he does not shrink back from pulling down the blood barriers for others, even on a large scale. It was and it is Jews who bring the Negroes into the Rhineland, always with the same secret thought and clear aim of ruining the hated white race by the necessarily resulting bastardization, throwing it down from its cultural and political height, and himself rising to be its master.” (Extracts From Mein Kampf by Hitler pg. 2)
C.) Criticisms of Philosophies
I. Fascism and Mussolini
Fascism is a political ideology that places a strong emphasis on nationalism and totalitarianism. Mussolini was one of the most influential advocates of fascism and was the leader in Italy prior to and during World War II. Fascism follows the ideal that the individual is weak, and that economical, political and social decisions should not be subject to the tyranny of the majority but made in order to protect and benefit everyone in a nation. “For the fascist, an individual human life only has meaning insofar as it is rooted in and realized through the life of the society or the nation as a whole” (Ball and Dagger pg. 201). The criticism of democracy by Mussolini discourages the majority of a nation making all decisions in that nation. However Mussolini’s belief that the state and leader have total control over all decisions does not allow a single voice to be heard in the political processes only his own or leading party members.
II. Nazism and Hitler
Hitler in Nazi Germany also recognized fascism in much the same way Mussolini did. Hitler however incorporated an extreme view of biological determinism. Hitler’s form of fascism was called Nazism, a large different being the racism involved in his form of government. Hitler followed the ideal that only pure blood Germans should have equal rights and that inferior races of people existed. The Jewish community was the main target of Hitler’s attacks on those he considered inferior to the German people. He put fourth hate propaganda in his book Mein Kampf, or my struggle. Here is a passage that defines how the Jewish Community are economically ruining Germany “In economics he undermines the states until the social enterprises which have become unprofitable are taken from the state and subjected to his financial control”(Mein Kampf pg. 295). Hitler goes on to describe how the Jewish community destroys political, cultural, and social aspects of the nation.
Hitler’s ideologies go against all humanitarian and moral values of today’s society. Hitler was able to influence the masses by placing reason on the loss of World War I on the Jewish and also blaming the state of depression Germany was in at the time on them as well. Humans of different ethnicities, countries, and cultures have no biological differences, internally humans are the same. This proves that simply being Jewish does not change an individual’s biology but purely ones religious aspect, and to base political and social ideologies on racism would be to do so without credibility.
V. Fascism and Enlightenment
Though fascism did not evolve fully until the twentieth century, the base of it began around the time Enlightenment ideals came to surface in the eighteenth century. With the Enlightenment came the Counter-Enlightenment which dismissed “…the major premises of the Enlightenment as fanciful, false and politically dangerous.” (Ball and Dagger 193) The early Counter-Enlightenment thinkers held ideas that fascist ideologists would later agree with and add to.
The fascism that Benito Mussolini developed called for an all powerful state with totalitarian control of all aspects of the nation’s citizens personal and public lives. Individuals make up the state, but those individuals are completely controlled by that state. Mussolini states that fascism “stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with those of the State.” (Mussolini 3) This is very much opposite to Enlightenment ideas about the individual who is born with the right to be an individual. Enlightenment assumes that all humans are equal, where fascism denies this statement in that not all humans are equal by nature. Enlightenment ideals call for a secular government that is chosen by the people while fascism demands a government that collaborates with and is influenced by Catholicism as well as made up of a few elites leading the rest of the nation. Fascism also denies the Enlightenment ideal that reason, not emotion, is the best quality man can have for making decisions and actions. Fascism claims that myths and emotions drive humans to act and they are less likely to act when following their reason. Enlightenment ideals also are in favor of capitalistic revenue in which all persons would have equal opportunity create such income. Fascism wills that all capital be for the benefit of the state.
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