Understanding fascism

Fascism refers to the political ideology that considers an individual’s, a group’s or a societies’ interest to be subordinate to that of the interests of the state. The objective of such an ideology is to unify the state and its constituents to forego their interests that are often self-serving.

At the same time, Payne (27-32) considers it as a counter-movement to liberalism and rose to prominence in Europe in the 1920’s to the 1930’s.  The movement grew with the decline of European states economically and politically and a general loss of faith in the ability of governments to control and stabilize markets because of commercial interests (73-79).

It is considered to be the inspiration behind Adolf Hitler’s Nazism and has helped shaped post-war philosophies and doctrines such as Islamofascism, Neo-fascism, Rexism and Social fascism among others and provided a foundation of socio-political reform worldwide particularly in communist and socialist states (120-127).

It is critical to understand the significance and impact of fascism not only in countries, movements and governments that adopted its ideologies but also its value to international politics, economics and history (359).

Mussolini and Fascism

Andrea Benito Amilcare Mussolini was named for socialists and reformists Andrea Costa, Benito Juárez and Amilcare Cipriani. His father, Alessandro was a known social activist and was associated filially and by association to many known social activists of the time.

Mussolini’s rise in the Italian Socialist Party can be traced with his editorship of L’Avvenire del Lavoratore in 1909, the subsequent publication of his book titled Il Popolo, reformation and control of the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento and was cemented when he became Italy’s youngest prime minister in history in 1922 (220-229).

Fascism was coined by Benito Mussolini on the Italian word “ fascio” which in turn is based on the Latin word “ fasces” which refers to rods packed around an axe. It represented the maxim of standing together versus standing individually.

One particular source of doctrine that guided Italian Fascism and consequently fascism in general was based on the 1891 encyclical written by Pope Leo XIII titled Rerum Novarum which also is considered a major basis of modern Catholic teachings. The use of the text, particularly its emphasis on the value of corporatism and labor, and the Romanization of the Roman Empire was used to validate fascism to the public (218-222).

Mussolini’s rise to the premiership was an effort on the part of King Victor Emmanuel III to avoid acivil warthe abolition of the monarchy similar to France (112). Payne points out that fascism rose from the lack of effectivity of the Italian government to direct the country during the economic and political crisis with the overall decline of Europe as a world power in the turn of the twentieth century (218).

The sentiment was that there was a need for decisive action to solve the country’s problems and bring back its position as a leader in Europe. Themotivationwas to protect not only Italy’s future but also to preserve its history andculturewhich was considered under threat because of the social developments in the region.

Italian Fascism

The development of the Fascism in Italy is credited by Payne to the economic and social conditions after World War I, theGreat Depressionand the collapse of governments in the European continent for creating the platform and the support for the movement (72-77).

At the beginning of his government, there was significant representation in the parliament however Mussolini granted greater representation to his political allies with the objective of developing a totalitarian state with himself as the head. Using fascist ideologies and propaganda, the Fasci di Combattimento was integrated to become part of the Italian army Italy was unified to become a single state under the Acerbo Law as well as the allowed for the liberalization of market, rent and labor unions.

Though there were existing opposition to Mussolini that were prompting King Victor’s dismissal of the prime minister, Mussolini was able to maintain power through intimidation and the use of fascist propaganda.