Stanley G. Payne on Italian fascism

von macchiato

„Fascism was unique among the radical forces produced by the early twentieth century, developing out of World war I without any clear predecessor in the nineteenth century. It first emerged in Italy in 1919… The term fascism, however, would later be applied to an entire cluster or genus of new revolutionary nationalist movements in Europe between the world wars, of which the most important was German National Socialism, or Nazism, for short, so that the Italian origins of the first fascism would often be overlooked, attention focusing primarily on Germany. The initial, or „paradigmatic“ fascism nonetheless had specifically Italian roots and characteristics.

Italian fascism began on the left, seeking to combine strong nationalism with modern developmentalism and an aggressive new style of activism that prized violence, idealism, and anti-materialism. While reinforcing Italian colonialism, Fascism originally embraced national liberation and rejected extreme imperialism and racism. Mussolini did not create the movement but skilfully guided himself to power as its Duce (Dux, or leader), at the same time moving the party to the right and engaging in practical compromise with Italy’s established institutions.

Though Fascists invented the term „totalitarian“ for their new system, Mussolini was unable to complete a Fascist revolution and instead presided over a somewhat limited, semi-pluralist political dictatorship.

Though Fascists were at first wary of and even hostile to Hitlerism, the Nazi leader sought Mussolini as his chief ally. The Duce allowed himself to be convinced by the end of 1937, introducing Nazi-style racist and anti-semitic legislation in Italy despite the membership of many Jews in the Fascist Party.

Though approximately thirteen thousand Fascists were executed by partisans at the end of the war, the official purge of Fascists conducted by the new democratic system in Italy was limited and half-hearted. Thus the great majority of Fascists survived, and for nearly forty years neo-Fascism would be stronger in Italy than anywhere else in Europe.

Italian Fascism has been studied much less than German Nazism, but interest in the topic is increasing among American scholars.“

 (source: From the Introduction to „Italian life under fascism“ = Selections from the Fry Collection (of Fascist documents), an Exhibition in the Department of Special Collections , Memorial Library, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, 1998)