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Summary Article: fascism
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Political ideology that denies all rights to individuals in their relations with the state; specifically, the totalitarian nationalist movement founded in Italy in 1919 by Mussolini and followed by Hitler's Germany in 1933.

Fascism came about essentially as a result of the economic and political crisis of the years after World War I. Units called fasci di combattimento (combat groups), from the Latin fasces, were originally established to oppose communism. The fascist party, the Partitio Nazionale Fascista, controlled Italy 1922–43. Fascism protected the existing social order by suppressing the working-class movement by force and by providing scapegoats for popular anger such as minority groups: Jews, foreigners, or blacks; it also prepared the citizenry for the economic and psychological mobilization of war.

The term ‘fascism’ is also applied to similar organizations in other countries, such as the Spanish Falange and the British Union of Fascists under Oswald Mosley.

Neo-fascist groups still exist in many Western European countries, in the USA (the Ku Klux Klan and several small armed vigilante groups), France (National Front), Germany (German People's Union), Russia (Pamyat), and elsewhere. Germany experienced an upsurge in neo-fascist activity in 1992 and again in 1998, with rioting in several major cities. The winning of a London local-government seat by the British National Party in 1993 raised fears of the growth of right-wing racism in Britain. In Italy the discrediting of the Christian right-of-centre parties resulted in a triumph for right-wing groups, including the neo-fascist National Alliance, in the 1994 elections. However, by 1998 the National Alliance had adopted a less extremist programme and claimed to be a mainstream conservative party.

Fascism in Italy The fascist movement in Italy was led by Benito Mussolini, and successfully dominated administration in Italy from 1922 until 1943. The symbol of fascism (Fascismo) was the fasces and the Fascista salute was the outstretched arm reminiscent of ancient Rome. The military organization of the National Fascista party was on pseudo-Roman lines and used Roman names like legion, consul, centurion, triarii, and senior.

Despite this imitation of ancient forms, fascism was sociologically speaking a new phenomenon. It seems to have been a common response to the disappointment felt in most countries after World War I, and was strongest in those countries which had suffered psychologically the most. Another factor is claimed to be the degree of economic mobility experienced by the society. Commentators have claimed that fascist-style movements are prevalent where populations are changing from a predominantly rural, to a predominantly urban and industrial pattern of life. It has been suggested that the appeal of fascism is to those people who, for whatever reason, feel that their sense of community (for example as soldiers in the trenches, as members of threatened villages, or of minority ethnic communities) is being threatened. For such people, its has been argued, fascism provides a total, highly-structured, intellectually-undemanding, yet psychologically-satisfying, resort.

In Italy the army was secretly or openly in favour of fascism, and, contrary to the hopes of the communists, would never have marched against the Fascisti. The generals of the regular army wore the black shirts of the organization, and themselves directed the March on Rome. Finally, in 1922, after a great meeting at Naples and after the March on Rome, Mussolini and his influential quadrumvirate, formed by de Bono, de Vecchio, Balbo, and Bianchi, the secretary general of the party, were summoned by the King to form the first fascist cabinet.

The fascist party (as in other European totalitarian states) was the only authorized political organization in Italy during the period of the prevalence of fascism. The social system aimed at was the corporative state. Fascism claimed to be neither capitalist nor socialist. It maintained private property but subjected its use to state control. Trade unions and manufacturers' associations, both fascist-controlled, were bound to cooperate in the corporation. Spirit and organization in the party were militaristic.

The statute of the party described it as a civil militia at the orders of the Duce, leader, and dedicated to the service of the state, with its chief aim the achievement of the greatness of the Italian people. The party was anti-liberal and antidemocratic, and stood for nationalism and imperialism. Fascism upheld violence, rejected civil liberties, and claimed the monopoly of education in its youth organizations. The party maintained its own army with a training and standing almost equal to those of the regular army. Italian fascism served as a model to a number of similar political movements in other countries, although the form which fascism took was much influenced by the particular circumstances of the different countries in which it occurred.

Fascism elsewhere between the warsNazism, an ideology promoted by the German National Socialist, or Nazi, Party, evoked a different, Teutonic, mythological past to that of Mussolini's Rome.

Fascist movements flourished in varying degrees in most European countries between the wars, including Britain (British Union of Fascists), France (Croix de Feu, L'Action Français), Spain (Falange), Austria (NSDAP), Hungary (Arrow Cross), Romania (Iron Guard), Norway (Nasjonal Samling), Yugoslavia (Orjuna). The term has also been applied to the Salazar regime in Portugal and the Peronist movement in Argentina. Fascism is not a discrete phenomenon but merges into other forms of right-wing authoritarianism. Its loose employment as a term of abuse for political opponents of whatever complexion to the right has tended to erode the analytical utility of the term.

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Nationalism and Citizenship

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Mussolini and Hitler

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