Fascism was a nationalist and anti-socialist political system that emerged in Italy at the end of the First World War.
Led by Benito Mussolini, he conquered several European countries such as Germany and Spain in the interwar period.
The word fascism comes from the Latin fascio (beam), since one of the first fascist symbols was the fascio littorio.
This consisted of an ax wrapped in a bundle of sticks and was used in the ceremonies of the Roman Empire as a symbol of unity.
After the damage caused by this ideology in World War II, the word fascism was gaining new meanings. Now, in the early decades of the 21st century, it is common to call “fascism” or “fascist” an individual or movement that advocates violent repression to solve societal problems.
However, this definition has nothing to do with what fascism was in Italy in the 1920s and 1930s. For them, violence was a means to power rather than an end.
Although they used violent methods in demonstrations, they were no different from other groups that used the same tactics at the time.
Fascism was characterized by being an imperialist, anti-bourgeois, authoritarian, antiliberal and nationalist political system.
Below we will explain each of these characteristics.
With the end of World War I, the liberal and democratic system was seriously questioned.Thus arise left-wing political proposals such as socialism that frightened the bourgeoisie and more conservative citizens.
Benito Mussolini saluting the crowd in Rome
Fascism is characterized by defending:
- Totalitarian State: The State controlled all manifestations of individual and national life.
- Authoritarianism: The leader’s authority was unquestionable, as he was the most prepared and knew exactly what the population needed.
- Nationalism : The nation is a supreme good, and in its name any sacrifice must be demanded and made by individuals.
- Anti-liberalism: Fascism defended some capitalist ideas such as private property and the free enterprise of small and medium enterprises. On the other hand, it defended state intervention in the economy, protectionism and some fascist currents, the nationalization of large companies.
- Expansionism: Seen as a basic necessity of the nation from where borders must be widened, it must conquer the “living space” for it to develop.
- Militarism: National salvation comes through military organization, struggle, war, and expansionism.
- Anti-communism : Fascists rejected the idea of property abolition, absolute social equality, class struggle.
- Corporatism : Instead of defending the concept of “one man, one vote,” fascists believed that professional corporations should elect political representatives. They also maintained that only class cooperation guaranteed the stability of society.
- Hierarchization of society: Fascism advocates a world view that it is up to the strong, in the name of “national will,” to lead the people to security and prosperity.
Fascism promised to restore those war-torn societies promising wealth, a strong nation with no political parties to feed opposing views.
Fascism in Italy
A deep sense of frustration dominated Italy after the First World War (1914-1918). The country was disappointed that its demands in the Treaty of Versailles were not met and the economic situation was more difficult than before the war.
Thus, the social crisis gained revolutionary aspects with the growth of the left and the right movements.
In March 1919 in Milan, journalist Benito Mussolini created the “Fasci di Combatimento” and the “Squadri” (combat and squad groups respectively). These aimed to combat by political means violent opponents, especially the communists.
The National Fascist Party, officially founded in November 1921, grew rapidly: membership rose from 200,000 in 1919 to 300,000 in 1921. The movement brought together people with varied political tendencies and backgrounds: nationalists, anti-leftists, counterrevolutionaries, former combatants and unemployed.
In 1919, one million workers went on strike. The following year, the strikers totaled 2 million. More than 600,000 northern metalworkers took over factories and tried to run them following the socialist example.
For its part, the parliamentary government, composed of the socialist party and the popular party, could not agree on major political issues. This would facilitate the fascists’ coming to power.
March over Rome
In October 1922, during the fascist party’s congress in Naples, Mussolini announced the March on Rome , where fifty thousand black shirts – the fascist uniform – headed for the capital. Powerless, King Victor-Emanuel III invited the leader of the fascists, Benito Mussolini, to form the Ministry.
In the fraudulent elections of 1924, the fascists obtained 65% of the votes and in 1925, Mussolini becomes the Duce (“leader” in Italian).
Mussolini began to implement his program: it ended individual freedoms, closed and censored newspapers, annulled the power of the Senate and the House of Representatives, created a political police, responsible for repression, etc.
Gradually it was installing the dictatorial regime. The government retained the appearance of a parliamentary monarchy, but Mussolini had full powers.
After securing himself great political authority and surrounding himself with the ruling elites, Mussolini sought the country’s economic development. However, this period of growth was severely affected by the 1929 crisis.
Totalitarianism and Fascism
Totalitarianism represents an authoritarian and repressive political system, where the state controls all citizens, who lack freedom of expression as well as political participation.
The interwar period was a time of political radicalization. This is how totalitarian regimes settled in various European countries, such as Italy from 1922, and Nazism in Germany in 1933.
The expansion of totalitarian regimes was related to the economic and social problems that Europe experienced after World War I. There was also the fear that socialism, established in Russia, would expand.
For many countries, a totalitarian dictatorship seemed a solution, as it promised a strong, prosperous reaction without social unrest. In addition to Italy and Germany, countries such as Poland and Yugoslavia were dominated by totalitarian regimes.
Fascism adapted to the political culture of the countries where it was adapted. Thus earned the name “Franquismo” in Spain and “Salazarismo” in Portugal.
Fascism and Nazism
Benito Mussolini is received by Hitler in Germany
Confusion between the terms “fascism” and “Nazism” is very common. After all, both are totalitarian and nationalist political regimes that developed in Europe in the twentieth century.
However, fascism was implemented in Italy by Benito Mussolini during the interwar period.Nazism, on the other hand, was a fascist-inspired movement that took place in Germany, led by Adolf Hitler and was based mainly on anti-Semitism .
Symbols of Fascism
The bundled ax was the ultimate symbol of fascism.
In Italy, the symbols of fascism were:
- Ax and beam with sticks : the symbol that gave rise to the word appeared on various monuments, stamps and official documents.
- Black shirt . They were part of the fascists’ uniform, so their members were called “black shirts.”
- Greeting: with right arm raised
- Motto : “Believe, Obey, Fight” was said in political speeches and was present in medals, paintings, etc.
Fascism in Brazil
Plínio Salgado speaks with integralist militants
Fascism in Brazil was represented by Plínio Salgado (1895-1975), founder of the Brazilian Integralist Action, in 1932. Salgado adopted a Tupi-Guarani motto “Anauê”, the Greek letter “sigma” as a symbol, and dressed his shirt-shirt supporters. green
He defended a strong state, but publicly rejected racism, as this doctrine was incompatible with the Brazilian reality. Anticommunist, he approached and supported Getúlio Vargas until the 1937 coup, when the AIB was closed, as well as the other Brazilian parties.
In this way, some integralist militants promoted the Integralist Uprising of 1938, but it was quickly stifled by the police. Plínio Salgado was led into exile in Portugal and many of his companions arrested.
Getulio Vargas’s rule during the Estado Novo (1937-1945) had fascist characteristics such as censorship, unipartisanship, the existence of a political police force and persecution of the communists.
However, it was not expansionist nor did it choose any other people to be attacked. Thus, we can say that the Estado Novo was nationalist and not fascist.