Nazism and Fascism
There has been much debate on whether Nazism can be described as a generic form of fascism. For instance writers such as Tim Mason have disagreed with the view that Nazism is a true form of fascism “I always felt that a comparative dimension was missing from the writing on German fascism, and I thus usually preferred to use the terms National Socialism or Third Reich. “1 However other authors such as Michael Mann appear to agree that Nazism can be defined as a fascist movement “the Nazis were the world’s largest fascist movement.
In this essay I will mainly be focusing my attention on Nazi Germany in comparison to Fascist Italy to determine the answer to the question “To what extent was Nazism a German variant of a generic Fascism”. This is because it is mainly these two areas that have effected what can now be said to be the general consensus of fascism. Additionally the fascist “movement was founded by Mussolini in 1919. “3 Therefore the differences between the two parties will assist in establishing the true definition of what can be said to fascist.
I will be arguing against the idea that Nazism is an unpolluted generic Fascist movement, because of the fact that there are so many dissimilarities; the main one being the issue of racism. I will begin by describing the seemingly generic form of fascism (Italy) and then make comparisons between the two movements. However I will also be questioning the idea of generic fascism and look at whether it really can be said to exist. Fascism There are many different views on what classifies a movement as fascist.
Many historians have tried to define fascism, each individual coming up with similar and different points. For example Ernst Nolte introduced six point criteria: Anti-Communism, Anti- Liberalism, Anti-Conservatism, Leadership principle, Party Army, Aim of Totalitarianism. 4 On the other hand Zeev Sternhell goes against Nolte’s idea and describes fascism as “a synthesis between organic nationalism and a revision of Marxism in an anti-material, non internationalist direction. 5 It can be concluded that the definition of fascism as a vague one. Therefore we can only rely on the basic view of what most historians have found when enquiring into fascism.
Firstly the fascist ideology relies on the dedication of the public; “The definitive character of fascist dictatorship is that is sprang from a mass movement and, as a capitalist form of rule, depended on this movement for support. 6 This illustrates the notion that fascism in a way is a form of socialism as “it is quite consistent for fascist governments to improve the wellbeing of the master race as far as possible, while treating other races as sub-human”7 as it aims is to achieve a sense of community among its nation. Additionally this can also be said to lead to racism; which can be seen in some forms of supposed fascism.
This however does not generally have to be anti-Semitism but “racist only in the general sense of considering blacks and non Europeans inferior. 8 Therefore fascism can also be described as a nationalist movement; “The fascist movement represented the most extreme expression of modern European nationalism. “9 This may be because Mussolini was a “young nationalist journalist”10 before he became the leader of the Italian fascist movement. This appears to have influenced the fascist ideology which is why one of its main aims can be said to be, to develop a perfect unified nation. Furthermore Vajda explained that the need for a strong leader plays as important role in fascism;
The classic fascist dictatorship are those in which power is exercised by the party, or its leadership… Before seizing power this movement launches organised attacks on working class organisations; its strength increases in the course of these struggles to the point where it is able to take over the state apparatus. 11 This illustrates the next aim that a fascist regime also requires a supreme leader, “the idea of a strong leader seems implied by fascism’s theoretical views on hierarchy. “12 Furthermore the attack of organisations and parties is also prominent in fascism.
As it is only by eliminating all the traditional parties and organisations that fascism can create an appearance of national integration9; consequently the fascist movement became stronger because of the “breaking down of democratic regimes. “13 Moreover fascism can also be described as an ideology that focuses its attention on the use of propaganda to influence its supporters. For example in Italy women were expected to be home makers this was drilled into them as “they spent longer at school where propaganda was intense and were more likely to read magazines and official publications”14.
This continuous manipulation stopped people from reflecting on what was actually occurring around them. Nazism Hitler’s Nazism has been described as a fascist movement. However the differences are evident. To begin with Hitler’s approach to nationalism had similarities to fascism, such as, German Nazism considered itself to be “national socialists” in the sense that it represented all members of the national community; and nationalist as it only achieved its objectives at the expense of other nations.
However this seems to be where Nazism differs; as although “all fascist movements were nonetheless highly ethicist as well as extremely nationalistic16” Hitler seemed to believe mass murder was necessary, for no sufficient reason at all; “nor was Hitler’s genocide programme any more or less rational since the goal of mass murder is always political, ideological or religious and not a matter of practical economic ends. “17 His reasons appear to be that he simply desired a “racial revolution16” not just one based on militant power.
Furthermore on this matter Mussolini did not begin fascism with the intention of racism, “there was little anti-Semitism in Italy. Nor was it a major feature of the early fascist movement. “18 This only followed after he was influenced by Hitler By the late 1930s Mussolini wanted to launch a second revolution, to give fascism a new lease of life. As he was by this time falling increasingly under Hitler’s influence, he almost certainly saw anti-Semitism as a major factor in regenerating fascist radicalism.
However “Italian anti-Semitism was still far less as virulent then the Nazi strain. 18 The reasons behind this may be said to be that he was hungry for power and knew that Hitler’s regime was successfully working. Therefore it can be said that anti-Semitism should not in fact be included in the definition of generic fascism. On the other hand Nazism similarly used propaganda to its advantage as well; “journalists fed the vast anti-Semitic machine convincing citizens that Jews were the enemy and the cause of all their troubles. ” 20 However it appears yet again that Nazism takes it a step too far as it uses its propaganda to suppress the Jews, which Mussolini did not do.
Furthermore Mussolini’s fascism was not intended to take over the state but merely “integrate the state processes”21. Hitler however would “not settle for the limited pluralist dictatorship of Mussolini, where the party in effect was subordinate to the state. ” Instead Germany developed into a somewhat “dual system which featured an ever increasing number of new Reich boards eventually amounting to some sixty special state commissions, bureaus and agencies… presided over by Hitler alone. ”
Additionally Mussolini wanted to come together with socialists; he “wished to include a socialist trade union leader. 23 Unlike Hitler he tried to build bridges with the left wing24 rather than completely destroy them; “they murdered members of their own party who had actually believed in the left aspect of their rhetoric. “25 This can be said to illustrate the concept that Nazism again cannot be said to be fascist; as it took every fascist point to a complete new extreme. In addition Nazism can be described as a totalitarian ideology whilst “the Italian derived term totalitarianism was rarely used. 26” in correspondence with fascism.
Eatwell explains that; Most Italian fascists in the inter war period never sought a totalitarian economy if by this it meant a high level of state ownership or control. Rather they sought to produce a growing economy which would act in the national interest and integrate the workers into the nation and state. 27 In comparison Nazism “with its efficient police, military power, concentration camp system and eventual extermination policies in conquered territories… is a dominant model of what political analysts tend to call totalitarianism. 27 Mussolini’s fascism never reached this condition.
Furthermore it may be said that Mussolini when discussing totalitarianism was not in fact defining it in the same terms as we do today. His definition according to Payne appears to be referring to “preeminent authority of the state in areas of conflict, not to total or in most cases even approximate day to day control. “28 Therefore it can be said that fascism and Nazism differ on the basis that one was a form of totalitarianism. In conclusion it appears that there is no generic definition of fascism.
As stated before in my introduction. this idea has been debated about by many historians, but the most apparent answer appears to be that there is no definite characterisation of what a fascist ideology must contain; “lack of conceptual clarity, competing methodological approaches and failure to generate a solid theoretical framework for research have contributed to a conspicuous absence of a lasting consensus about what fascism represents. “29 Additionally each country in their fascist movement has had similarities, but each differs on some issue.
For example Germany took the radical approach of nationalism as it annihilated thousands of Jews; whilst Italian Fascism according to Roger Eatwell, although nationalistic did not agree to such extremities. Therefore the racist approach of anti-Semitism can only be seen to be a true tenet of Nazism not fascism; “the Nazi regime with its well documented excesses (anti-Semitism, total war, genocide) has frequently served as the basis of the argument that the German case is singular.
Therefore it appears that although Nazism in some ways is similar to fascism; it seems unmerited to classify it as a variant of fascism. However it can be said that the question here is not to what extent is Nazism a variant of generic fascism, but does this idea of generic fascism in fact exist at all; as there was never a manuscript written on its exact details. Overall it can be said then that for some people Nazism is simply a form of fascism, whilst for others it is not. The answer then is one based on opinion rather than research.
Get access to
Guarantee No Hidden