fascism: Emergence after World War I
Emergence after World War I
The Russian Revolution (1917), the collapse of the Central Powers in 1918, and the disorders caused by Communist attempts to seize power in Germany, Italy, Hungary, and other countries greatly strengthened fascism's appeal to many sections of the European populace. In Italy, particularly, social unrest was combined with nationalist dissatisfaction over the government's failure to reap the promised fruits of victory after World War I. The action of Gabriele D'Annunzio in seizing Fiume (Rijeka) was one manifestation of the discontent existing in Italy. Appealing to the masses and especially to the lower middle class through demagogic promises of order and social justice, the fascists could depend upon support, financial and otherwise, from vested interests, who could not muster such popularity themselves.
Governmental paralysis enabled Mussolini in 1922 to obtain the premiership by a show of force. As leader of his National Fascist party, he presented himself as the strong-armed savior of Italy from anarchy and Communism. Borrowing from Russian Communism a system of party organization based on a strict hierarchy and cells, which became typical of fascism everywhere, he made use of an elite party militia—the Black Shirts—to crush opposition and to maintain his power.
In Germany at about the same time a fascist movement similar to that in Italy steadily gathered strength; it called itself the National Socialist German Workers' party (Nazi party). Its leader, Adolf Hitler, won support from a middle class ruined by inflation, from certain elements of the working class, especially the unemployed, and from discontented war veterans; he also gained the backing of powerful financial interests, to whom he symbolized stability and order. However, it was not until 1933 that Hitler could carry through his plans for making Germany a fascist state and the National Socialists the sole legal party in the country.
The military aggression so inherent in fascist philosophy exploded in the Italian invasion (1935) of Ethiopia, the attack (1936) of the Spanish fascists (Falangists) on their republican government (see Spanish civil war), and Nazi Germany's systematic aggression in Central and Eastern Europe, which finally precipitated (1939) World War II.
Sections in this article:
- Fascism in the 21st Century
- Fascism since World War II
- Emergence after World War I
- Origins of Fascism
- The Fascist State
- Characteristics of Fascist Philosophy
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