History of Fascism | The Origin & Fascist Ideology

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History of Fascism: Origin, Beliefs & Fascist Ideology

Fascism – Political and social movement of a nationalist and totalitarian character, founded by Benito Mussolini in 1919.

What is Fascism?

Fascism was a nationalist and totalitarian political and social movement that emerged in Italy in 1919, after the end of the First World War. Its creator was Benito Mussolini, who ruled the Italian state from 1922 to 1945.

From Italy, fascism quickly spread to other countries in interwar Europe, including Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Portugal, and Spain. The Nazi Germany ruled by Adolf Hitler (1933-1945) brought fascism to its logical conclusion, obtaining the support of much of society to war, discrimination and racism.

Fascism was based on a far-right ideology that rejected both party-competition liberal democracy and one-party socialist regimes based on Marxism-Leninism.

The Benito Mussolini totalitarian mode of government methods included the cult of the leader’s personality, the persecution of opposition leaders, and the discrimination of minorities.

After the end of World War II, fascism lost popularity and became a minority political movement. In this context, the term fascism began to be used in a pejorative way to describe authoritarian, racist and discriminatory attitudes.

Today, various far-right parties in Europe seek to revitalize fascism in order to come to power.

Benito Mussolini (Italy) and Adolf Hitler (Germany)
Benito Mussolini (Italy) and Adolf Hitler (Germany)

Photograph of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, representatives of fascism and nazism in Italy and Germany, respectively.

Characteristics of Fascism

The main features of fascism were the following:

  • He concentrated all the springs of the State in a supreme leader, who demanded absolute obedience from his subordinates. This leader or conductor (called Duce in Italy, Führer in Germany, Conducator in Romania) was considered infallible, so no one could question his decisions.
  • He rejected the democratic system by proclaiming the official party as the only one authorized to act legally in political life and occupy the positions of the State. This claim that a single party represented the interests of the whole society made fascism a totalitarian movement.
  • He persecuted and repressed the opponents, who had to go into exile to avoid being imprisoned or assassinated.
  • He promoted expansionist policies, which promoted the conquest of neighboring territories in search of a vital space that would ensure the provision of raw materials necessary for economic development.
  • He highlighted the role of the armed forces, which had to be prepared to defend the ideals of the state and fight both internal and external enemies.
  • It was based on an ideology that exalted the corporatist idea over that of individual or class interests. It promoted racist ideals that promoted discrimination and persecution of groups that threatened the idea of ​​a united nation.
  • He manipulated the media to gain popular support. The propaganda in cinema, radio, newspapers and television played a fundamental role in the strategy of fascism to create an ideology that would keep the people united around certain objectives, such as recovering territories lost in the past, stopping the expansion of communism, or expanding the national territory.
  • He controlled education to exalt the ideas of homeland, nation and fascist ideology.

Origin of Fascism

After the end of the First World War, the expectations that the Italians had to extend their territory were frustrated by the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, which established the dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The first nationalist reaction was that of the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio, who led a military adventure that culminated in the occupation of the Croatian city of Fiume, in which he established a free state.

Meanwhile, on March 23, 1919, Benito Mussolini founded the group “Fasci italiani di combattimento” (Italian League of Combatants), which gained visibility for its participation in street fights against strikers and communists, wearing black shirts and wearing military belts.

The fear of the middle classes that a social upheaval similar to the Russian Revolution would take place in Italy was one of the factors that favored the rise of the fascists, since they were seen as the best weapon to prevent the spread of workers’ communism.

On November 9, 1921, Benito Mussolini transformed his group into a political party, founding the National Fascist Party (PNF), which was characterized by its opposition to both liberalism and socialism.

In 1922, the fascists staged the March on Rome, after which King Victor Emmanuel III decided to hand over power to Mussolini.

After the kidnapping and murder of the socialist deputy Giacomo Matteotti, in 1924, Mussolini began to shape a nationalist and authoritarian political regime, which was taken as a model by other political leaders in interwar Europe.

fascism symbol

Symbol of the National Fascist Party of Italy, founded by Benito Mussolini in 1921. It was inspired by the Roman fasces, which were carried by the lictors as a sign of authority of the republican magistrates.

Representatives of Fascism

The main representatives of fascism in Europe were the following:

  • Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) : Italian military and politician. He ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943 as president of the Council of Royal Ministers, during the reign of Victor Emmanuel III. Between 1943 and 1945 he was the leader of the Italian Social Republic.
  • Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) : German political leader, leader of the German National Socialist Party. In 1933 he won the general elections and held the position of chancellor. Between 1934 and 1945 he established a dictatorship and ruled Germany as the Führer of the German people.
  • Miklós Horthy (1868-1946) : Hungarian admiral, who served as regent of the kingdom of Hungary from 1920 to 1944. He adhered to the Tripartite Pact signed by the Axis Powers in 1941.
  • Ion Antonescu (1882-1946) : Romanian general, minister of war to King Carol II. In 1940 he seized power by force supported by the fascist Iron Guard group. He ruled with dictatorial powers until his dismissal in 1944. He was a close ally of Hitler and Mussolini.
  • Francisco Franco (1892-1975) : Spanish military and politician, who led a coup against the Popular Front government in 1936. He led the nationalist side during the Spanish Civil War. He ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975, as a totalitarian and supreme dictator.
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