By William Walter Kay
The Oxford Handbook of Fascism (2009) should prove a well-read upper year university text for years to come. This project drew on 31 historians from seven countries; authors who had cumulatively published over 100 volumes on this topic. What follows is a condensation of Handbook of Fascism. As specialized historical writing takes for granted an advanced understanding of the subject, it was necessary to supplement this condensation with certain basic historical facts. Sources of the supplemental information are the standard encyclopaedias and reference books listed in the bibliography.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Addendum: Fascism and Environmentalism
France was fascism’s laboratory. Both the Counter-Revolutionary Army and Napoleon’s dictatorship had fascist attributes. Napoleon III’s regime had more. The bishops and Bourbons of the Party of Order rescued Napoleon’s disastrous political careering by selecting him to be their presidential candidate. He became president in 1850. In 1852 he declared himself Emperor and arrested thousands of pro-democracy activists. His regime pioneered many modern police state and mass propaganda techniques. The sound track for Napoleon III was partly scored by Comte Arthur de Gobineau whose sensational hit four-volume The Inequality of the Human Races (1853-5) reduced history to racial struggle. Aryan success, according to the Gobinists, depended on their preserving their purity from other races. They viewed democratization activists as racial degenerates.
The Third Republic (1871-1940) endured several illiberal populist ultra-nationalist challenges. Defeat by Prussia in 1871 and the subsequent loss of Alsace and Lorraine nurtured xenophobia and placed the nation-aggrieved discourse squarely on the agenda. A late-1880s authoritarian cult around General G. Boulanger, funded by the Duchess d’Uzes, might have seized power but for the leader’s erratic behaviour culminating in his 1891 suicide while standing on his mistress’s grave. The similarly inclined League of Patriots tracked the rise and fall of Boulangism. Also in this crop was the ultra-Catholic, anti-Semitic Action Francaise, which began as a journal devoted to Integralism in 1899 but turned into the Royalist Party’s daily paper in 1908. Attached to Action Francaise was a large network of shock troops, the Kings of Camelot, who committed violent acts while spreading propaganda connecting unemployment to immigration.
In 1910 the reactionary movement consisted of: hard-core monarchists rejecting the entire revolutionary inheritance; the Orlean dynasty who were monarchist but accepted economic liberalism and cooperated with republicans; and the Bonapartists who popularized authoritarianism while aggressively positioning themselves on the street to secure the movement’s radical flank. The early risers of the 1920s anti-parliamentary drive were the Bonapartesque milieu.
Movement intelligentsia followed Bergson, Le Bon, Maurras, and Sorel. The wealthy Henri Bergson became a celebrity by weaving mystifications of science into subtle defences of traditional religion. Gustave Le Bon’s socio-psychological theories maintained that elites possessed balanced sentiment while masses behaved instinctually. Charles Maurras was born unto a prominent Royalist and Roman Catholic family. He wrote novels and short stories and founded and ran Action Francaise. Georges Sorel saw economic classes evolving into national masses through processes that left distinct subconscious trails of prejudice, which elites manipulate to steer mass behaviour. To resist overthrow elites instil mythologies into the masses. Myths like “class-war” or “nation-aggrieved” were dubious but useful “mobilizing passions” capable of inspiring voluntary political action. Sorel’s mobilizing passion was medievalism. Pre-industrial artisans reconciled technique and beauty, claimed Sorel, and Gothic cathedral builders produced magnificence without a thought of material reward. All of the above were influenced by the collective psychology school whose tenets were: the social body is greater than the sum of its organs; crowds and masses as primitive organisms with unconscious motivations; crowds and masses internalize directives if subjected to hypnotic repetition of simple images.
WWI was more “total” for France than most combatants. On August 2, 1914 President Poincare declared a state of siege, closed parliament for four months and ruled as a dictator. Governance was broadened to include mainstream parties but civil liberties remained suspended. The army rounded up civilians on national security violations. Private property was requisitioned. Censors screened all publications. The government became sole importer and distributor of raw materials. The Minister of Commerce and Industry directed all industrial production. Priests preached war propaganda. 8.4 million men were mobilized. 1.4 million French soldiers died. 2 million came back with some disability; 300,000 mutiles de guerre. As traumatizing as this was, Total commitment was more aspiration than reality. The Army was rocked by mutinies and there were bitter accusations of war profiteering. (The phrase “total war” gained currency shortly after the war with the publication of The Total War – by a French fascist.)
Fascism spread from the post-WWI demobilization to the late-1920s currency stabilization and economic recovery. After WWI socialists were trusted pillars in democratic governance, and the far Left openly mobilized pickets and provocative demonstrations. The Communist takeover of the Socialist Party’s assets in 1924 rang alarms in the halls of reaction. A drumbeat of clashes between demonstrators and counter-demonstrators vibrated Paris. Turmoil fed anti-parliamentarianism. Paramilitaries sprang like mushrooms after a thunderstorm. Among the several fascist battalions jostling for attention, the new were less monarchist and pious than the old. Newer groups sought to siphon support away from the Left by calling for a spiritual anti-capitalist revolution, not a material one.
1920s fascism was: Action Francaise (AF), League of Patriots, Young Patriots, and Faisceau. AF was a presence in the presses, parliaments, and pavements long before WWI. AF was held back by their King of Camelot’s brutality and by Papal disapproval of Maurras’ religious doctrine. Nevertheless, AF went from having one Deputy (parliamentarian) after the 1919 elections to having 5% of Deputies by 1926. Dozens of military commanders, industrialists, and intellectuals were among AF’s 30,000 members. The League of Patriots’ 1924 programme eschewed economic radicalism and concentrated on overhauling governance, starting with suspending democracy. By 1926 the League had 10,000 members, mostly war vets from the provinces. Young Patriots was founded in 1924 by a champagne magnate-cum-parliamentarian whose men dressed in blue shirts, gave Roman salutes, and fought street rumbles. By 1929 he had 100,000 members and 27 Deputies. Also sporting blue were the Faisceau; a party founded amidst Mussolini-mania. They extolled the modernizing genius of Corporatism to the point of alienating donors. Faisceau put out trendy but mixed messages regarding anti-Semitism and monarchism and poached recruits from the AF while mocking AF traditionalism. Faisceau were far less willing to instigate violence than were the AF’s Kings of Camelots for whom the Faisceau became the prime target.
The fascist surge set off by the Depression gathered momentum from leftist electoral gains and increased Jewish immigration from Germany. Existing parties benefitted – Young Patriots claimed 70 Deputies in 1935 – and several new outfits muscled in. French Solidarity splashed and sank in 1934. Francistes showed promise but never recruited more than 2,000. The People’s Party, (est. 1934) led by a former communist called for class collaboration to defeat the anarchy of strikes and the impending revolution. They led a bitter anti-Semitic campaign to deny citizenship to recent immigrants. People’s peaked in 1938 at 100,000 members. The most significant 1930s fascist formation was Colonel Francois de La Rocque’s Cross of Fire.
In January 1934 Cross of Fire had 35,000 members. In February Prime Minister Daladier intervened in a scandal involving a Ukrainian-Jewish fraudster by firing Paris’s police chief. In protest 40,000 fascists from various parties besieged the Chamber of Deputies demanding Daladier’s resignation. The protest exploded into the bloodiest riot since the Paris Commune. Daladier resigned. His replacement was so accommodating to the fascists he horrified others into forming a massive anti-fascist coalition, the Popular Front. This in turn radicalized the fascist movement, benefitting Cross of Fire.
Months before becoming Prime Minister in 1936 Socialist Leon Blum was dragged from his car and beaten by Royalist thugs who had been marching in the funeral procession of a monarchist historian. Consequently, AF’s Maurras was given eight months in jail for incitement and various fascist leagues such as Cross of Fire and the Francistes were outlawed. They did not disband, and violence continued. In 1937, five died in a Parisian suburb after thousands of leftists stormed a Cross meeting. The fascist 6,000-man Secret Revolutionary Action Committee planted bombs and pinned them on anarchists. This Committee also murdered leaders of the émigré Italian Resistance.
By 1936 Cross of Fire had 500,000 members. Its electoral arm, the Social Party, recruited from all classes, both genders, and in rural and urban areas. The Social Party had hundreds of offices and was France’s fastest growing party. Cross of Fire/Social Party promised to terminate democracy. They did not stoop to promise collectivist economics. They were ferociously anti-Semitic and routinely engaged in violence. Members drilled for an ever-imminent coup called “H-Hour.” By late 1938 their 1,000,000 members outnumbered the combined memberships of the Socialist and Communist Parties. Colonel La Rocque claimed the sympathy of 3,000 mayors.
The Third Republic fell not to a coup. One crisis was averted in 1937. A newly formed landowners’ paramilitary, the Greenshirts, prepared for armed confrontation to put down an unprecedented wave of labour strikes in northern France. The state, under Popular Front direction, suppressed these strikes on the landowners’ behalf, thereby removing a key constituency’s need for fascism. Further taking wind from fascist sails was the 1938 demise of the Popular Front and the subsequent lessening of the communist threat.
The Third Republic fell to the German Army June 22, 1940 after the six weeks of combat that Maurras christened “the divine surprise.” Marshal Philippe Petain signed the armistice. After Petain was voted dictatorial powers by 569 of 649 Deputies on July 10, he relocated the seat of government to the resort town of Vichy. Maurras and La Rocque took up residence nearby.
The Vichy regime was Petain’s court. He operated without a party. A cult of Petain was well financed but without mass rallies or a Petain Youth. Corridors of power were crowded with bishops and generals. Vichy was the most militarized French regime since 1832. Petain’s pick for Industry Minister was a wealthy supporter of fascist causes. Petain’s Information Minister, Labour Minister, and ambassador to Germany were well-known fascists. His top radio propagandist was an inflammatory extremist who enrolled his son in the SS. Petain’s cabinet needed no German prompting to remove communists, freemasons, and Jews from public life. Action Francaise men drafted anti-Jewish legislation and coordinated the asset-stripping of Jews. Vichy’s “family, work, patriotism” motto was the Cross of Fire’s motto. Petain’s call to erase class conflict through “national revolution and spiritual renewal” was a fascist cliché. Vichy France was second only to Germany in material contributions to the Axis war effort.
Petain’s appointees and the collaborationists appointed directly by the Germans were indistinguishable. A Paris-based collaborationist press had hundreds of thousands of regular readers. Papers were staffed by French fascist stalwarts who defended the Nazi presence and pitched the New Order’s merits. They printed demented anti-Jewish and anti-communist literature.
Another fascist surge, unleashed in 1941, tossed up a few also-rans and one monster. Little came of the National Popular Assembly founded by men frustrated by their failure to convert Petain to explicit fascism, nor from the Revolutionary Social Movement, founded by a naval engineer who accused Petain of foot-dragging and whose thuggery got him expelled from his own party. Far more importantly, collaborationists and fascists flocked back into the People’s Party. Their membership surged to 40,000 as they held recruitment rallies for the Eastern Front. In 1943, under Petain’s guidance, People’s Party members with war experience were drafted into an anti-Resistance vanguard, the Militia. In January 1944 the Militia, with German backing, assumed control of all police forces. By 1945 the Militia had 30,000 heavily armed men, draped in chivalric medieval icons, running a national torture and terror dragnet. After the Allied invasion in 1944 even the fascists joined the Resistance. In 1945 Colonel La Rocque and the chief of the Faisceau were arrested by the Gestapo.
At the dawn of the 20th century East European monarchs resorted to dictators and militias to counter rising democratic expectations. In Russia Tsarist militias, the Black Hundreds, committed pogroms to which Orthodox Bishops added an anti-Jewish spin. As WWI’s chaos flattened the Eastern political landscape, dictatorships like Finland’s Mannerheim and Bulgaria’s Tsankov became the norm. Mannerheim, a Swedish aristocrat and former Tsarist cavalry officer, assumed dictatorial powers in Finland in 1918 after killing 27,000 ‘Reds.’ These regimes relied on a paid soldiery pep-talked with Christian-nationalism diatribes.
In 1859 Prince Alexander, of the Moldavian Cuza dynasty, became prince of both Moldavia and Walachia, thus uniting the Kingdom of Romania as a personal fief before its formal, and reluctant, recognition by the major powers in 1861. In 1863 Alexander expropriated monastic estates and distributed the land freely to small farmers. In 1866 a conspiracy of great landowners forced him from power and replaced him with Carol I of the House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen to whom they awarded vast landholdings – the largest in the country.
The Kingdom of Romania’s founders were reactionaries and anti-Semites. They imposed an unusually high voting tax and constitutionally limited Romania’s peasantry, 80% of the population, to 20% of parliamentary seats. With predictable rhythm, the King dismissed Prime Ministers and picked new administrations from an opposition party. The new party in power would marshal the benefits of office before calling elections where incumbents invariably won landslides. Parties that in opposition won 6% of the vote could, with state resources, win 60%. Kings preferred parties appealing to Romanian nationalism. Top parties were: National Christian Party, Nationalist Party of the People, National Liberal Party, National Peasant Party, Nation’s Party, and the Nationalist Party.
In the mid-1920s a gaggle of Mussolini-wannabes circled Romania honking out policies like solving labour strife by forcing workers into Christian education programmes. “Productive classes” were distinguished from the “dirty business world” dominated by “usurious vagabond” Jewish bankers. In fact, Jews were a marginalized 4% of the population n. Their other bugaboo, the Romanian Communist Party, never had 1,000 members. Freemasons were ascribed satanic characteristics. No serious analysis was attempted because communication was never expected to rise above invective, falsification, and incitement.
A. Cuza flew a swastika flag to express his anti-Semitism in 1910. He founded the League of National Christian Defence (LANC) in 1923 to promote monarchism and the nationalization of foreign-owned businesses.
In 1927 LANC Youth leader, C. Codreanu, split to form the Legion of the Archangel Michael. The Legion changed its name to Iron Guard in 1930, to All For The Country in 1937, then back to Iron Guard in 1940. (Hereafter referred to as Legion.) They called for: corporatist economics, a New Man, and the primacy of peasants. Legionnaires studied other European fascists, especially the doctrinaire racists, but were a truly home-spun cult of xenophobes rejecting everything foreign, especially anything Jewish. They denounced parliamentarianism as “a British present which confused the world for many decades...it must be destroyed.” (Similar views were expressed by Orthodox bishops.)They spoke of the “biology of culture” and defined a nationas “a fluid that takes its source from the very substance of natural things and is realized in concrete facts.”
The Legion was peasant-supremacist. The village was pure; the city corrupt. Agricultural toil was physiotherapy. In their utopia, every man worked his half-hectare and renounced riches. Legionnaires, flaunting a mystical reverence for soil, travelled village to village ritualistically kissing the ground and tying bags of local dirt around their necks before meetings. The Legion’s New Man was to “stand forward against knowledge and schools” because: “ignorance which anchors us to the most admirable land in the world is a mystical guarantee of wisdom of energy of victory...let a country of illiteracy be an ideal.” Peasants were naturally superstitious and resisted education to preserve their purity. The Legion intelligentsia were short on peasants and long on effete urban middle-class intellectuals. Legion rank and filers were urban lumpens.
Mircea Eliade, a fanatical follower of Codreanu, saw the Legion as a new aristocracy whose mission was Christian Revolution and feudal restoration. Eliade’s goal was a Romania where “the centre of gravity of the new man becomes salvation and spiritual accomplishment.” He called for a “nationalist Romania, frenzied and chauvinistic, armed and vigorous, pitiless and vengeful.” A colleague added, “We do not want a logical ordered dutiful and well-behaved Romania, but a Romania that is agitated, contradictory, furious and menacing.” Eliade called Hungarians “the most imbecile people that ever existed in history, after the Bulgarians.” He regretted Bulgarians in one province had not been destroyed, and he opposed any speaking of non-Romanian languages. He saw Jews infiltrating other ethnic minorities.
In 1935 Cuza’s LANC merged with the party of Transylvanian poet O. Goga to form the National Christian Party (PNC). (Transylvania was given to Romania after WWI.) PNC called for censorship, class harmony, suppression of Jews and a greater role for the Church in the state. PNC paraded under the swastika. Despite diplomatic protests, Cuza’s son had earlier visited Hitler and received a large amount of propaganda material. (PNC were Reich favourites but Himmler was fond of the Legion.) PNC’s blue-shirted thugs and their elite militia were renowned for Jew-baiting and brutality. On November 8, 1936 PNC marched 200,000 Blueshirts down Bucharest’s streets.
In the December 1937 elections, the two main fascist parties took 25% of the vote and 105 parliamentarian seats. PNC captured 280,000 votes, the Legion: 480,000. Of 103 Legion candidates, 33 were priests. King Carol II named PNC co-founder, the poet Goga, Prime Minister. During Goga’s short term, 200,000 Jews were deprived of citizenship.
In February 1938 Carol established his own corporatist dictatorship. He banned all parties save the Legion, but he incarcerated many of their leaders including Codreanu. In November Carol ordered Codreanu murdered, then installed a puppet as the new Legion leader. Carol became the centre of the same adulatory cult the Legion earlier whipped up around Codreanu. (However Codreanu’s ghost was frequently spotted by Legionnaires convinced he was the reincarnation of Joan of Arc. A cult of the dead pervaded Legion mythology. Martyrs’ ghosts were often sighted, particularly those of two Legionaries killed in the Spanish Civil War.) In 1939 Carol summarily martyred 250 troublesome Legionnaires.
In September 1940, generals led by Legion-supporter General Ion Antonescu overthrew Carol and placed Carol’s son Michael on the throne. In their National Legionary State, the Legion was to be the only party. However, Legion solidarity with peasants and artisans led them to anti-capitalist activism. Capitalist meant Jew; anti-capitalist meant robbing Jews. The first Legion law transferred to Romanians all tobacco and liquor licences held by Jews. Weeks into governance Legionnaires rampaged through Bucharest looting 1,000 Jewish stores and houses and murdering 120 occupants. The elite were shocked by the Legion’s radical, undisciplined rank and file so in January 1941, Antonescu, with German support, crushed the Legion.
Antonescu presided over the killing of 280,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews and the forcible relocation of 25,000 Roma, half of whom perished. Under Antonescu, Romania became the third largest European Axis military power and a substantial player in the Eastern invasion. In 1943, as casualties mounted, the elite pressed for peace. In August 1944, as the Soviet Army crossed the border, King Michael ousted Antonescu and withdrew Romania from the Axis.
By 1903 the Karadordevic dynasty felt sufficiently consolidated to declare itself the Royal house of the new Kingdom of Serbia. In 1911 a clique of army officers, instrumental to the Karadordevics’ rise, founded a terrorist society called “Unification or Death” (a.k.a. “Black Hand”) with the aim of uniting all Serbs living under the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. In 1914 Black Hand’s assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austrian Hapsburgs triggered WWI. During the war, Serbian Crown Prince Alexander dispatched trusty General Zivkovic to recruit a dissident faction within Black Hand called “White Hand.” After three years of infiltration, White Hand arrested Black Hand.
After WWI the Karadordevics proclaimed a Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes over the south (“yugo”) Slav territories of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. This polity was soon renamed Kingdom of Yugoslavia. There existed no south-Slavian identity among their subjects. The Karadordevics imposed south-Slavian nationalism onto a patchwork of pre-existing ethno-linguistic-religious identities. The 1921 constitution guaranteed perpetual conflict by entrenching a centralising Serb-dominated state. In anticipation of conflict with Croats, King Alexander established a paramilitary led by men who praised Italian Fascism. This paramilitary inspired rivals. Alexander’s experiments in accelerated nation-building generated such strife that by 1929 he was forced to dissolve parliament and ban parties and unions. Assuming total power, he relied on family loyalists and Serb fascists for administrators.
Before 1918 Croatia was ruled by Hungarian Kings who deployed a divide-and-conquer strategy privileging Croatia’s Serb minority, thus engendering Croatian oppositionists. Before 1918 the Croatian Party of the Right (HSP) was a conservative Catholic party opposed to the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the 1920s King Alexander drove HSP into exile in Hungary and Italy, two countries covetous of Yugoslav territory. In 1928 A. Pavelic, head of HSP’s youth wing, exploited a fracas following the assassination of a prominent Croatian farmer-politician to launch the Ustasha (Insurgent) paramilitary. Ustasha operated with meagre popular support from bases in Italy.
Alexander’s 1931 constitution tolerated parties. Alexander founded his own, the Yugoslavian Radical Peasant Democracy Party. Only parties running candidates across Yugoslavia were allowed to participate in elections, and only Radical Peasants had the capacity to do this. For a semblance of democracy, Alexander created puppet opposition parties. Actual opposition parties were mostly Serbian groupings such as Yugoslav Action, Fighters of Yugoslavia, and Zbor (“Assembly”) who found Alexander too liberal. This milieu congealed into the People Party, modelled after the German Nazis.
On October 9, 1934 the Ustasha assassinated Alexander. Sovereignty passed to a regency under Prince Pavle, who chose M. Stojadinovic as Prime Minister. Two new parties emerged. Stojadinovic’s Radical Union wore green shirts and held rallies to salute Stojadinovic and shout “one king, one nation, one state.” A second party convened after Prince Pavle gave the go-ahead to family-loyalist and Justice Minister, D. Ljotic to fuse several small fascist groups into Zbor, which oozed Serb-centric Yugoslavism, Orthodox mysticism, anti-parliamentarianism, anti-Semitism, anti-Westernism, and anti-capitalism. They were very unpopular. While these two parties fought bitterly over a limited constituency, they also cooperated closely in governance. In 1937 Stojadinovic appointed several Zbor people to top positions. Stojadinovic also reached out to the fascist world. A 1937 Friendship Treaty with Fascist Italy required Italy to stop helping the Ustasha. Yugoslav-Nazi Germany rapprochement slightly pre-dates Stojadinovic, but he was in Berlin in 1938 to receive promises from Hitler of Yugoslavian territorial integrity in exchange for acquiescence in German annexation of Austria.
The December 1938 elections went badly for Stojadinovic so Prince Pavle fired him and assumed full control through a puppet. Pavle steered a crooked course between Axis and Ally. He banned Zbor and sacked Defence Minister General Nedic for their pro-German views but at the same time restricted the rights of Jews in education and business. The Prince eventually capitulated to Berlin and, despite serious opposition, signed on with the Axis, March 25, 1941. On March 26 Serb military officers ousted Pavle. Two weeks later German military forces, with some support from Hungary and Italy, defeated the coup forces and occupied the Kingdom.
In Serbia, German Commissars banned all parties save Zbor. Ljotic initially played a central role in the Commissar’s administration but, being a religious zealot with little ambition, he turned down their offer of head of state. He successfully nominated a relative, the recently sacked General Nedic. The Commissars, impressed by Serbian help in crushing an uprising, expanded Serbian autonomy. In August 1941 they transferred power to Nedic’s National Salvation government and approved a 37,000-troop Serbian State Guard. Germans facilitated the formation of a separate force out of the Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland, a.k.a. the ‘Chetniks’: a loose confederacy of nationalist paramilitaries, not all of whom collaborated. (In Italian-occupied Yugoslavia, Chetniks were legalized and re-named the Volunteer Anti-Communist Militia.) The Zbor Party was also allowed to create a Serb Volunteer Corps with 10,000 troops. Their flag pictured St. George slaying the Dragon (communism). Serb military formations rounded up partisans and turned them over to the Germans. Serb Volunteers helped massacre 2,000 in the city of Kragujevac in October 1941. Chetnik pogroms against Muslims and Croats killed tens of thousands.
General Nedic preached Aryanism and anti-Semitism but mostly anti-communism. Suspected communists were incarcerated – thousands killed. His New Serbia would be a Peasant State because peasants were “Serbia’s essence.” This was consistent with Nazi plans to turn Slavs into a race of docile farm hands. Nedic’s Greater Serbia ambitions however were muzzled because they conflicted with Greater German ambitions. To indoctrinate youth, Nedic founded a Serbian Union of Work modelled after the German Labour Front. Agents monitored school and university classes to ensure New Serbia Thought was dispensed.
The Independent State of Croatia (NDH, est. April 1941) possessed a Home Guard, Ustasha Militia, Surveillance Service, and gendarmerie – in total 250,000 troops. All parties but Ustasha were banned. An unelected parliament met a dozen times over several months, then ceased functioning. The Ustasha ran secret police forces and concentration camps. Ustasha propaganda claimed Croatians were Aryans and that the peasantry were the “foundation and source of all life” and the “carrier of all political power in the Croatian state.” Ustasha’s utopia was an ethnically homogenous, uniformly pious, nation of farmers each tilling their own soil. However, only half NDH’s population was Croat; a third was Serbian. Catholic priests within Ustasha forcibly converted Orthodox Serbs. Many Bosnian Muslims became honorary ‘Croats of the Muslim Faith’; some became enthusiastic Ustashas. (Himmler also had a division of Bosnian Muslims.)
The only thing independent about NDH was the first word of its name. The Italian Duke of Spoleto was King of Croatia. He never visited. Italy completely annexed NDH’s coveted central coastal strip (Dalmatia). In Italian-occupied areas, Croatian forces were expelled and civilian governance was carried by Italians and Chetniks. Both Italy and Germany plundered Croatian resources and exploited Croatian labour in conditions approaching slavery. Croatian taxpayers had to pick up the bill for the occupying soldier’s expenses. NDH had no independent foreign policy. After Pearl Harbour NDH declared war on the USA because of “the blatant endeavours of the United States of America to establish itself a hegemonic position, on the basis of which it would in ever greater measure impose its plutocratic domination on all other nations.” The Ustasha’s genocide, in conjunction with the Nazi Holocaust with which it overlapped, killed 30,000 Jews, 30,000 Gypsies and 300,000 Serbs. A two month German-Ustasha operation in Kozara, Bosnia killed 25,000 Serbs. At the Ustasha’s Jasenovac camp, 90,000 people, including Croatians, were killed.
The Hungarian Kingdom was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s collection of states. Internally, the Hungarian Kingdom was a goulash of ethnicities (Romanians, Germans, Slovaks, South-Slavs, Romani and Jews) with a Magyar majority. Rural Hungary was defined by enormous inequalities of land ownership. Much of the population worked, at least seasonally, for aristocrats.
A symbiosis of fascist and conservative movements governed Hungary from 1919 to 1945. This fluid alliance arose from intra-aristocratic rivalry in the 1890s where factions divided over the Empire’s pro-capitalist tendencies. To reactionaries, among whom capitalism was always “Jewish international capitalism,” the liberalism in vogue in royal circles surrendered Hungary to “alien spirits.” Liberalism begat capitalism and capitalism begat labour unions, and they hated unions. Reactionaries also tasked themselves with protecting Magyars from hostile neighbours. Around 1900 socialist parties began recruitment drives in Hungary’s industrial centres. Separately, but in parallel, non-Magyar minorities grew assertive. By 1910 a crisis atmosphere prevailed among those aristocrats outside the royal loop. These malcontents launched a National Christian crusade.
While WWI shattered the Austro-Hungarian Empire geographically, the Hungarian ruling elite persisted with economic liberalization. Politics polarized along class lines. Amidst the post-war chaos the church, the army, and landowner’s associations formed paramilitaries. Most of these forces espoused ultra-nationalist, anti-socialist, anti-Semitic programmes, and many signed on with the Anti-Bolshevik Committee of Vienna.
In 1919 Bela Kun’s communist militia seized Budapest and proclaimed a Worker’s Republic. After 133 days Kun was overthrown by an alliance of foreign-funded paramilitaries and remnants of the regular army under Miklos Horthy: a protestant noble and former Admiral in the Empire. During the subsequent terror, Horthy’s death-squads murdered 5,000 labour activists. Parliament affirmed the monarchy but named Horthy the Regent until the monarch could be restored. Horthy prevented King Karoly IV’s return.
The 1920 Treaty of Trianon reduced Hungarian territory by 66% and its population by 40%. To Magyar nationalists Trianon was a stab in the back. Horthy privately committed himself to scrapping Trianon and grabbing as much former Hungarian territory as possible.
In October 1921 King Karoly damned the “regency” and led a March on Budapest to reclaim his throne. He was repulsed at the city gates by Horthy loyalists bolstered by paramilitaries and right-wing student groups cobbled together by G. Gombos.
Horthy withdrew from direct governance, leaving matters in the hands of Transylvanian Count Istvan Bethlen who quickly ended land redistribution and restricted voting rights. Paramilitaries persisted, but a 1921 attack on Austria proved the last flare-up for a decade as the regime stabilized and the militia milieu drifted into passivity. Bethlen balanced a base of tradition-authoritarians against a sanguine right-wing while slowly marginalizing the latter. His oligarchic parliamentarianism resembled the last years of the Empire. Elections were neither free nor fair. Communist parties were banned and Social Democrats and their unions, harassed. A single party, albeit one that mutated rapidly, was an arm of the administration.
The Depression tipped balances rightward. Industrial dislocation caused mass unemployment. Falling food prices worsened the plight of agrarian workers. The Depression’s activation of the landed interest gave rise to nebulous formations like Scythe Cross and National Socialism Hungarism. Both promoted land reform, anti-Semitism, and ultra-Maygarism. Scythe Cross recruited poor farmers. Nazi-Hungarism recruited artisans, tradesmen, and farmers.
In 1931 Horthy fired Count Bethlen. His replacement lasted several months before Horthy replaced him with the “hero of Budapest” Gombos. An admirer of Mussolini, Gombos was an ardent statist and anti-liberal protectionist: “Capitalism which is not national, which is not Christian, which does not take into account higher national considerations, but which is simply selfish, I hate and see as dangerous.” He sought to transform the governing party into a mass organization by purging stodgy conservatives and hiring trendy fascists. He died in office, 1936, mission unaccomplished.
In 1935 General Szalasi was cashiered from the Army only to reappear atop the pro-Nazi Hungarist Movement. Szalasi acknowledged ethnic pluralism but argued minorities could be united under Magyar leadership. His Movement buoyed as the Third Reich’s armament-driven boom lured Hungarians into Germany with high wages and made Germany a model for a slowly recovering Hungary. Of the Movement’s 500,000 members in 1938, half were secret due to a ban on civil servant and army officer politicking. When the Movement was banned in 1939, Szalasi and company regrouped into Arrow Cross and soon re-captured their 500,000 members. 10% of the population supported them.
Less perceptibly between 1935 and 1938, an internal government mobilization allowed for the implementation of Nazi policies without major changes in senior personnel. With bishops cheering, Hungary became an explicitly racist state. In 1938 Jewish soldiers were restricted to labour battalions, the confiscation of Jews’ property began, and state propagandists stigmatized Jews and Romani. Hungary joined the Axis and in so doing regained regions of Slovakia, Ruthenia, and Transylvania. In each region the Army rushed in to suppress civilians while ideologues penned nationalist justifications.
In the May 1939 election fascists collectively won a quarter of the vote. Support was mainly rural, but in some industrial areas they outpolled Social Democrats. While German-speaking citizens spoiled their ballots by marking swastikas on them, the rising ethnic tensions generally enhanced Magyar fascist fortunes. The election brought a surge in violence against the property of Jewish businessmen. Arrow Cross built on their electoral success by pursuing support from poor farmers, manorial servants, and rural labourers to whom they promised a Peasant State to break the power of the large landowners. They made similar promises to industrial workers. In 1940 an Arrow Cross-organized national miners’ strike ended with a wage increase. Oligarchs found this threatening.
Arrow Cross isolation aired in 1940 when their bill defending minority cultural autonomy was roundly denounced as treason by the state elite. Moreover, Arrow Cross support rested on German prestige, and the German-led war alienated a farming constituency loathing conscription. The war antagonized industrial relations and led to requisitions and high taxes.
Violence consumed Hungary. In 1941, 16,000 stateless Jews were deported to camps in the Ukraine. By 1942 Hungary’s war against ethnic guerrillas degenerated into Army sweeps leaving thousands of corpses in their wake. In 1943 the Hungarian Second Army got annihilated in Russia. In March 1944 Horthy’s new Prime Minister implemented a full Nazi program. Labour unions were liquidated. 400,000 Jews (from everywhere but Budapest) went to Auschwitz.
In October 1944 Horthy pulled Hungary out of the war. The Germans abducted Horthy and put Arrow Cross in power. The Cross, far less popular than four years previous, had little time to savour power. The Red Army crossed Hungary’s eastern border in time for their swearing-in. Red Army brutality caused panic. City populations tripled. By Christmas a bloated Budapest was being surrounded by Russian tanks. Arrow Cross terrorized civilians into fighting to the end. Party zealots, in police uniform, trawled for draft-dodgers. They tried evacuating industrial plants and workforces to Germany, but workers responded, “If we have to starve and freeze we might as well do it at home.” 76,000 Budapest Jews were force-marched in the snow to work on fortifications. After the Red Army encircled Budapest, Arrow Cross bitter-enders resolved to kill as many traitors and Jews as possible with whatever means handy. For six weeks these ragged bands of serial killers bludgeoned and stabbed to death over a hundred people a day on the wintery war-worn by-ways of Budapest.
March 23, 1919: a dozen men sit down to a meeting in a spacious sunlit office with a spectacular view of Milan’s San Sepolocro piazza. The office has been made available by a prominent businessman. The meeting is chaired by ex-army commando Ferruccio Vecchi. As the 12 gaze upon the piazza they discuss the overlapping assembly of ephemeral groups and currents comprising their social movement. The bricks and mortar of this movement, the goon squads and veteran’s clubs, are patronized haphazardly by landowners and industrialists vexed by strikes. The 12 bemoan the failings of this ad hoc system. The opportunity nesting in this crisis beckons a brave platoon to unite the goon squads into a national “league.” They discuss deploying elite war vets in the suppression of labour unions. They cautiously mention the political vistas which may open if their league succeeds. Their business plan involves offering a service to aristocrats and industrialists: a league mimicking the left-labour movement while annihilating the left-labour movement. Fasci di Combattimento (League of Combatants), with Vecchi in charge, is launched. Around the table are, amongst others, Giuseppe Bottai, Achilles Starace, and Benito Mussolini.
Through the 1850s and 1860s, through diplomacy and war, the Savoy family created Italy. After unification the Savoyards set about “creating Italians.” Italianism was disseminated through the educational system and the armed services. The Florentine dialect was upgraded and promoted as the Italian language to displace the Kingdom’s myriad of languages and dialects. Italianist propaganda was incorporated into sporting events, parades, and monuments. Patriotic artists were patronized. Critics complained the Savoyards were not going far enough toward creating a religion of Italianism.
A shifting composite of regional parties and parliamentarian alliances known as the Liberal Party dominated parliament from 1861 to 1922. Their first leader, Count di Cavour, was instrumental in the Kingdom’s unification and earned the label “liberal” by supporting free trade. After the Liberals split into Left and Right factions, the Left-Liberals gained control in 1876 under Prime Minister Crispi who, although moderate and modernizing, fiercely crushed rural uprisings and socialistic activists. In the 1890s Crispi assumed the positions of Prime Minister, Interior Minister and Foreign Minister and, while being roundly denounced as a dictator, launched a disastrous military campaign in East Africa. From Crispi’s ashes rose Giovanni Giolitti who captured the Prime Minister’s chair five times over 25 years, often by relying on corruption and election-day violence. He too united the positions of Prime Minister and Interior Minister. Giolitti was notably, and controversially, disinclined to interfere in labour disputes.
By 1900 the Italianist movement had grown to the point of segmentation. A sub-movement concentrated on countering the rise of labour militancy, anarchism, and land occupations. Their journal, Il Regno (est. 1903), combined ultra-nationalism with anti-socialism, anti-feminism, anti-humanitarianism, and anti-liberalism. They wanted a religion of nature and heroism. In 1908 Il Regno began promoting pseudo-syndicalism. (Syndicalism is a decentralized, anarchistic type of labour organizing.) Another Italianist sub-movement fixated on foreign policy. They were outraged by Ethiopia’s defeat of the Italian Army at Adowa in 1896 and were inspired by Gabriele D’ Annunzio’s best-selling La Nave (1909), a novel proclaiming Italy’s divine right to rule the Mediterranean. Italy’s only non-fiction colonial triumph during this period was the snatching of Libya from a faltering Ottoman Empire after a brief war ending in 1912.
In 1919 most Italians lived in settlements of fewer than 10,000 people. Ten million were employed in agriculture – twice the number employed in industry. Agriculture accounted for over 25% of GNP. 70% of farmland was rented. Average farm size was two hectares, but many worked smaller plots. Four million agricultural labourers were either landless or owned plots too small to allow for self-provisioning. Patterns of rural life varied from single family farms to dormitories housing hundreds. Aspirations reflected local particularities. Sicilian peasants’ supreme ambition was escaping feudal constraint. Northern farm labourers simply wanted higher wages. Landowners too were divided. The interests of those owning mechanized farming operations differed from those whose affairs were structured around low-tech share-cropping. The north modernized. The south and the islands were trapped in a time warp.
The “peasants” were everyone’s dormant volcano. They were the auxiliary army of papal-royalist reaction and the hope of revolutionaries. In the late 1800s the rural south repeatedly slipped into open banditry verging on guerrilla war followed by repression verging on planned massacre. Bakunin led a peasant rebellion in Bologna. Marx-quoting Sicilian peasants organized land occupations. Across Italy efforts to collect taxes on the milling of grain ignited wild riots. By 1900 syndicalists were fomenting general strikes in rural areas, and a brazen presence of landowners’ enforcers, often with state back-up, became normal during wage negotiations. Elaborately named professional enforcers built reputations for eliminating unions. Strike-breaking in the northern grain-belt was notorious. The enforcement gangs won battles but slowly lost the war against a growing web of cooperatives and solidarity networks within an increasingly literate rural world. People’s Libraries popped up across north and central Italy, staffed by people who saw education as a step to political activism.
The oligarchy was in a state of morbid irritation. Parliament offered no relief. Coalition after coalition fell apart. The 1913 elections introduced universal male suffrage and 5,000,000 voted. Liberals, lacking cohesion and consent to govern, hung on with old rule-by-notable tactics typified by Barone Sidney Sonnino, a nostalgic traditionalist who wore his cuffs and stiff collar proudly. Sonnino was either Prime Minister or Foreign Minister for much of the 1906-1915 period, near the end of which Italy agonized over whether to enter the European war and if so, on which side. The Vatican was non-interventionist. In 1915 Italy joined the Western alliance.
WWI Italy pre-figured Fascist Italy. During WWI the government directed industrial activity and oversaw employer-employee relations. Millions were pressed into the Army. A government-orchestrated propaganda campaign appealed to the “national blood”; used “the peasant” as a role model; and demonized domestic opponents, especially leftists, as “traitors.” After blaming socialist agitators for the humiliating defeat at Caporetto, the government launched a secret political police force. WWI killed 650,000 Italian soldiers in three years.
Post-war foreign policy discussion was pressurized by reactionary ultra-Italianists who used the war’s enormous casualties to inflate public expectations about Italy’s impending share of the spoils. The Treaty of Rapallo conformed to the Secret Treaty of London (1915) that had lured Italy into the war. Rapallo awarded Italy several Aegean Islands and the German-speaking territory of South Tyrol. Such paltry booty was an outrage. Most annoying was not getting the port city of Fiume; widely thought to be Italy’s. Ultras dubbed Rapallo the “mutilated victory.” During treaty negotiations D’ Annunzio led veterans in a March on Fiume. Allied forces in Fiume allowed him to enter and proclaim his “Regency of Carnaro” – a statelet lasting a year before being replaced by the Free State of Fiume. Most foreign policy wonks were too preoccupied with Africa to worry about Fiume. During WWI Libyans pushed the Italian Army back to coastal garrisons. Giolliti responded with a redoubled campaign to regain lost ground wherein butchery of natives abounded.
1915 to 1920 were banner years for farming. Lavish subsidies, high food prices, and capped rents caused a growth in farmer purchasing power. Landowners, fearing upheaval especially after 1919 reforms legitimizing land occupation, dumped their land on the market. 100,000 farms were purchased by landless workers. These farms constituted 6% of Italy’s cultivated land. 300,000 small farmers bought additional land. Between 1911 and 1921 there was a 14% rise in the number of agriculturalists, a doubling of small farm proprietorships, a 10% fall in the number of day-labourers, and a 32% decline in rented farms. Among farmers remaining tenants, economic security ended long-established practices such as landlord’s helping themselves, without payment, to tenants’ eggs and vegetables, etc.
The bienno rosso (“two red years”, 1919 and 1920) witnessed massive labour mobilizations, urban and rural, led by a political movement that came out of WWI’s crucible glowing red. Liberal efforts to woo workers away from socialism with expanded voting rights backfired when the newly enfranchised voted socialist. During the November 1919 elections, the Socialist Party doubled their party branches and increased their membership tenfold. They took 32% of the vote and tripled their parliamentary seats. Socialists won 63% of the vote in Bologna. Union membership rose to 2,000,000. Half a million manufacturing and metal workers occupied factories and set up councils. In rural areas another 500,000 workers (many of whom were promised farms for war service) occupied land. A counter-campaign to restore traditional patterns of commerce began during the two ‘Red’ years. Aristocrats, accusing Liberals of having abandoned them, built up their private militias, particularlyin the north. Ultra-nationalist war vets assaulted socialist demonstrations, often in city squares. Onto these troubled wine-dark waters Vecchi and his Argonauts set sail.
Three weeks after their founding meeting, the Fascists kicked off their venture by torching the offices and printing works of the Socialist Party’s Avanti! newspaper, killing four. They attacked Avanti! again in May. Attacks on Socialist Party premises spread across northern cities while across rural areas landowner enforcement gangs took up the Fascist banner and became “squadristi.” These early Fascist cells were infused with ultra-nationalism by an injection of army vets from elite arditi troops. One third of early Fascists had been previously active in the reactionary Italianist movement.
Mussolini was born in 1883 unto an educated and not too poor family in Romagna. During a wayward youth he toured Europe in the company of radicals, pausing in Switzerland to study philosophy under Russian aristocrat Angelica Balabanoff. In 1911 he supported a general strike to end the Libya War. During 1913-1914 he co-edited Avanti!. After being removed from their editorial board, he quickly set up Italian People – a newspaper funded by French intelligence. In early 1915 Mussolini was still making statements like “socialism is in my very blood”; however, within months he decisively dropped socialism for nationalism. He split with the Socialist Party over their “neither support nor sabotage” policy during the 1915 Intervention Crisis. His “Down with Parliament” article said of the pacifists, “For the health of Italy a few dozen deputies should be shot: I repeat shot in the back.” In September 1915 he volunteered to fight in the mountain trenches where he remained until wounded in March 1917. His war diary, serialized in Italian People, increased his popularity while chronicling his intensifying opposition to pacifism. Responding to the Vatican’s 1917 Peace Note, he called the Pope “Judas” and suggested booting him out of Rome. Italian People caught the attention of the commanding heights of agriculture and industry. In late 1918 a platoon of war vets under Vecchi became Mussolini’s bodyguard, and Mussolini’s editorials began calling for a “trench-ocracy” of war vets to rule. On January 11, 1919 Mussolini, together with the artist Marinetti, emboldened by the presence of Vecchi’s men, shouted down a Socialist minister at a meeting in Milan. Weeks later, in the office overlooking the San Sepolocro piazza, Mussolini was tasked with using Italian People to articulate and disseminate “Fascism” and to liaise between the founding 12 Fascists and certain oligarchs anxious to negotiate with them.
Mussolini used anti-clerical and radical motifs to make Fascism appear youthful and rebellious. He described Fascism as “revolutionary” while simultaneously denouncing Russian Bolsheviks and Italian Socialists. An aura of novelty was further facilitated through association with Futurist artists.
(Mussolini hardly introduced racism into Italy. Many Italians already believed in Euro-Mediterranean cultural and racial superiority and were well-versed in Social Darwinism, eugenics, and physiognomy. Anti-Semitism had deep, sprawling Catholic roots. After WWI acute anxieties swirled around Jewish conspiracy theories like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Bolshevik Revolution was widely seen as a Jewish crime. Protocols was translated into Italian in 1921 by two priests, one destined for the Fascist Party’s inner sanctum. Although Mussolini in 1919 accused “Jewish international bankers” of seeking revenge on Aryans, he was a relative moderate on this issue. Italian racism also arose from the administering of African colonies. Sex between colonizer and concubine was strictly policed.
Urban Fascist recruiters, targeting campuses and unemployed hang-outs, found prospects among younger brothers of war vets who, being too young to have served, craved a soldier’s camaraderie and respect. These men were attracted to elaborate rites, symbols, and uniforms. Arditi black coats became Fascist black shirts. Violence was justified by framing victims as traitors.
Many Fascists looked to D’Annunzio or Marinetti for a leader. D’Annunzio was part of the vogue Continental Nietzsche cult. D’Annunzio believed the “nobility” and the “plebeians” to be different “races.” The Fascist Student Vanguard (est. January 1920) was filled with D’Annunzio fans; however, D’Annunzio was out of sync with Fascism. He called the squadristi “agrarian slaves.” In any event, D’Annunzio’s waning energy and creativity denied him a role in the Fascist era except through his disciple, Giovanni Gentile. Marinetti and his fellow pro-technology Futurists were sidelined within Fascism by 1921. Fascists basked in Futurism’s glow but were instinctively reactionary, not Futurist. Writing from the trenches, Mussolini pined: “Modern civilization has mechanized us. The war has driven the process of mechanization of European society to the extreme.”
The autumn 1919 election was hammered by Fascist violence. Three socialists were publically murdered for whistling at a meeting for the Fascist candidate, Enzo Ferrari, (head of the automobile company). The elections went poorly for Fascists despite their having been well endorsed. Their sole, and inconsequential, victory was achieved through voter intimidation. After the election thirty Fascists, including Mussolini, were arrested for weapons stockpiling and rioting. Mussolini was immediately released at the intercession of Prime Minister Nitti. The next months were discouraging for Fascists, but the squadristi soldiered on.
In spring 1920 the northern industrial triangle and Po Valley erupted in labour militancy. Mussolini called Socialist Party members “cannibals” and enticed landowners to switch from the staid Confederation of Agriculturists to its Fascist counterpart. More private militias re-branded as squadristi and assaults on unions ramped up.
In the summer of 1920, 2,000,000 workers occupied worksites. Fascists stopped dreaming about putsches and focussed on physically exterminating labour movement leaders. By late summer Fascists were operating in all cities. Hysterical patriotic and anti-Bolshevik propaganda preceded stormings of Socialist Party premises. Squadristi outgrew their local origins and projected themselves province-wide. Convoys of squadristi, brimming with violence and certain of impunity, decimated labour organizations. Fascists celebrated the second anniversary of WWI’s end with coordinated assaults on Socialist Party branches and with a purging of the Bologna Chamber of Labour and parading one provincial Socialist Party leader through the streets with a tricolour cockade sown into his hair. Squadristi did not spare Catholic peasant organizations, and the Vatican condemned this.
Between March 1919 and October 1922 squadristi killed several thousand union militants. 1,000 union organizers were taken out by targeted assassination. This violence was mercenary. Out-of-work commandos and professional criminals formed death teams. Industrialists and bankers joined aristocrats in financing these teams. A memo from the Prefect of Milan to the Interior Minister details how cliques of bankers from provincial cities were pooling funds for Fascist squads. Other squads were more centralized. Prince Piero Ginori-Conti of Pisa, owner of a conglomerate embroiled in a labour conflict, enlisted his pre-existing security service into a Fascisti squadristi. After wiping out the union, he founded another squad at Larderello. Prince Piero’s living-room was the squad’s headquarters; his cheque book was its treasury. He later enrolled his entire workforce into the Fascist Party.
Big money allowed Fascist squads to muster overwhelming force. Motorized troop transport was a WWI technological innovation. Fascists had fleets of trucks. Fascists made full use of a national telegraph system owned by the state and controlled by the Interior Minister. Trucks and telegraphs allowed local squads to assemble into battalions. Worker and farmer militias were, by comparison, static and lacking in military-style planning, mobility, and firepower.
Fascism’s power was state power. Prime Minister Giolliti gave the squads ample room to demolish leftist strongholds. As his own Interior Minister, he was well apprised of their behaviour. Judges were biased. Violence by leftists was punished inexorably, often with early arrests, drawn-out prosecutions, and pre-trial detentions. Leftists accused of threatening landowners or possessing weapons were certain of punishment. After a skirmish in Sienna, 106 Fascists and six leftists were arrested. All leftists went to jail; none of the Fascists did. As well, judges bankrupted unions by ordering them to pay damages to employers. Uniformed police routinely accompanied Fascist squads on punitive expeditions. Many police officers wore Fascist badges on their uniforms. Florence’s police chief was an outspoken Fascist. In one province 200 uniformed Carabinieri sang Fascist anthems outside Fascist headquarters. (The Carabinieri or Meritorious Army were the Savoyard’s private army before 1861 and Italy’s main national police force thereafter.) By 1922 most Carabinieri were working with Fascist squads. Those who refused, like Rimini’s police chief, were transferred after Fascist protests. In Pavia, an army colonel commanded a large mobile squadristi made up of off-duty police. No cops resigned after the Fascists assumed power.
Italy was 99% Catholic and the seat of the papacy. Fascists were 99% Catholic. The Fascist-Catholic ceremonial synthesis of litanies and rituals reflected the sacralised mindsets of the many devout Catholics in the Party. Fascism and Catholicism shared communism as their main enemy, and they shared a contempt for capitalism as well. Catholics regarded individualism, profit-making, and brute market force as un-Christian, and they were hostile to money lending. Capitalism was liberalism’s evil child. Industrialism was capitalism’s evil child, and it begat the greater evil, urbanization. Both denounced “cosmopolitanism” as a Freemason conspiracy. Freemasonry, a key Liberal Party institution, was condemned by Popes Pius IX (1864) and Leo XIII (1884). The Canon Law (1917) excommunicated Freemasons. The Fascist state outlawed Freemasonry.
(Traditional religion overlapping with reactionary politics happened not just in Italy but across agrarian, small-town Europe. The heartland of reaction was the heartland of Catholicism, Orthodoxy, or Lutheranism. Since 1800 the Vatican, and other traditional Christian centres, waged a cultural war to prevent their cultural capital – their investment in Christianity – from being abandoned in the democratic flood. Irish General Eoin O’Duffy’s paramilitary Blueshirts were a clear expression of Catholic-fascism as was the Slovakian People’s Party. The Slovakian priesthood, from the Bishop of Spiss on down, offered no opposition to 1942 laws sanctioning the deportation of Jews to Auschwitz. Monsignor Tiso, Priest-President of Slovakia, facilitated the deportation. The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, Swedish Clerical People’s Party, and the Finnish Lapau were rural, religious, and fascist.)
Not piazza demagoguery but contrite appeals to Pope and King teased free the keys of power. Despite earlier anti-clerical, even anti-Christian, rhetoric, the original Fascist strategy included reaching out to the Church. In 1921 anti-Catholic Fascists were purged or muzzled as Gentile chirped on about Catholicism and Fascism being natural partners in national regeneration. Top Catholics, including Pius XI, thought Fascism as just a hip variant of traditional authoritarianism. Catholics had been preaching what became known as “agrarian-fascism” since Vatican’s Rerum Novarum encyclical proposed a Third Way between “godless communism” and “heartless capitalism” in 1891. Such views were widely held by the countryside literati.
Agrarian-fascist politics required turning small proprietor-farmer against landless labourer. The Fascist’s Agrarian Programme (1921) duplicitously warned about the coming Soviet Commissars but also promised “democracy on the land.” The entire discourse was a charade. Farmer and tenant associations were being violently taken over by Fascists. The squad bosses placed in charge of these associations spouted all manner of pseudo-radical rhetoric they had no intention of implementing. They signed rent and employment agreements filled with harsh conditions favouring landlords. Pretences of radical peasantism, believed by no one, survived after these associations were fully taken over by aristocrats.
Fascists entered 1921 in quarrelsome clusters. Local squad bosses enjoyed freedom of action and took up different issues. Po Valley and Tuscan Fascists focussed on destroying rural unions. Urban-based chapters focussed on leftist parties. Florence had rival Fascist bosses separated by wild polemics.
In a move clearly endorsing squadristi behaviour, Prime Minister Giolitti invited Fascists into his National Block coalition. Other parties within the Block held internal votes on whether to accept the Fascists. Fascists physically prevented opponents from voting and won acceptance.
The big winners in the spring 1921 election were the Socialist Party and the Peoples’ Party (a newly formed Catholic front). The Fascists’ disappointing 7% (35 seats) led to more bickering. Mussolini tried to remain above the scrimmage, then resigned in a tantrum. He soon returned and continued purging anti-clerical and anti-monarchist elements. Baseline consent for any regime was deposited with the King, armed forces, the aristocracy, elite businessmen, and the Church. In his maiden parliamentary speech, Mussolini claimed, “Fascism neither preaches nor practices anticlericalism...The only universal values that radiate from Rome are those of the Vatican.” Such was the thinking when Fascists coalesced into an independent structured electoral party, the National Fascist Party, after a congress in Rome in December 1921. To weaken the D’Annunzio camp, students were not invited.
Giolliti’s last term ended July 1921. His last accomplishment was a pact between industrialists and unions ending factory occupations. Days after Prime Minster Bonomi assumed office, two truckloads of Fascists were ambushed in Grosseto province. In retaliation, Fascists randomly pulled nine workers from nearby fields and shot them. Days later in Sarzana, Fascists responded with violence after being ordered to disperse by the Carabinieri who then opened fire, killing three. Days later in Modena, Fascists accosted the police commissioner, touching off a riot ending when the Royal Guard shot dead six Fascists. These “martyrdoms” were exploited with exotic funeral rites surrounded by seas of Blackshirts. The whitened skull of the martyr became an icon.
Squadristi violence surged to unprecedented levels after a November 15, 1921 issue of Italian People pronounced Giolliti’s labour pact dead. Within weeks, in Bologna alone, 2,000 labour activists were beaten or wounded, 19 murdered. In Arezzo province, five days of military-style raids on Socialist Party premises went unopposed by police. Bonomi vacillated between a cabinet majority who tolerated Fascist violence and a minority urging repression. He sided with the majority.
Fascists assaulted their opponent’s newspaper distributors, vendors, even subscribers. They intercepted shipments of newspapers and burned them in city squares. Letter-carriers were threatened. Club-wielding thugs loitered outside journalists’ offices. Editors were assaulted. If editors had body-guards, their families were assaulted. Authorities offered no protection. By late 1922 only newspapers having Fascist protection circulated. Major papers, not just socialist ones, shut down. Italian People expanded while gloating over its competitors’ demise.
In February 1922 Pope Benedict died and Pius XI was elected. Pius was obsessed with communism to the point of developing suspicions about the People’s Party, more so for it being led by a priest. Pius XI launched a populist renaissance mobilization, Catholic Action, with a sense of apocalyptic urgency. Within months of Pius’s election he endorsed the National Concentration – a parliamentary coalition including Fascists. In exchange, Fascists fought to reintroduce religious education in state-run secondary schools; to restore the crucifix to public buildings, and to increase priests’ salaries. The Church prepared for life under Fascism. The Church prepared for life after Fascism.
On February 26 1922 Bonomi was replaced by Luigi Facta, whose administration constantly verged on collapse. The aristocracy sniffed the wind and hurried change. When Prime Minister Facta learned how methodically squads were committing crimes, he ordered counter measures. His underlings did not lift a finger. In May the Prefect of Bologna, a symbol of steely legalism, refused to cooperate with Fascists. Blackshirts surrounded his office. Within two days Facta transferred the Prefect.
Tuscany was the first to be overwhelmed. By 1922 the Fascist Party had 51,372 Tuscan members spread over 411 squads. 20% of all Fascists lived in Tuscany. Elsewhere, a mid-July night of terror scorched Romagna. On August 1 an ad hoc Worker’s Alliance called a general strike. Prime Minister Facta fired all government employees who participated. The death-blow began with a third torching of Avanti! offices. After the Socialists had been destroyed, the Fascists turned on the Liberals. Blackshirts occupied public spaces and buildings. In Parma a “people’s army” drove out the Fascists only to see them replaced by the King’s Army.
By October the Fascist Party had 320,000 members – a party size never before seen in Italy. On October 7 the Interior Minister told Facta that orders to repress Fascism were being ignored. On October 28 Facta, pressured by a shocked Liberal Party, belatedly ordered a state of siege. King Victor refused to sign. Facta resigned. On October 29 Victor anointed Mussolini as his Prime Minister. The March on Rome was a theatrical pseudo-revolutionary victory parade held on October 31. Blackshirts, led by three Army Generals, marched past the Quirinal to pay respects to the King. When the sun went down, Blackshirts ravaged Rome’s poorer neighbourhoods.
Once in power the Fascists soon clashed with the People’s Party over electoral reform. In January 1923, Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Gasparri, having secured favours from the new regime including the rescue of the Vatican’s bank, ordered the People’s Party leader to resign. The electoral reforms sailed through. Thereafter any party winning 25% of the vote got 66% of the seats. In April 1924 the Fascists relied on these laws, and rampant intimidation and fraud, to secure a vast majority in the Chamber. Some People’s Party leaders went on to play important roles within the Fascist Party.
Fascists restored landowner power first by rescinding WWI-era reforms and by expelling squatters. Lands were returned without compensation for the often valuable improvements made. Landowners restored old relations. Some reverted to payment in food not money. Similarly on the urban front, Fascists banned independent unions and criminalized work stoppages. Workers’ movements, rural and urban, were scattered.
As the Party elite transmogrified into public officials, the Party elite redoubled their party-building efforts, now with state funds. Early Party-State initiatives included the Voluntary Militia for National Defence, a national organization for 8-to-14-year-olds, and a national university student society network. Local Party boss autonomy undermined the Party executive, and relations worsened when it became clear the executive was going to rely on the existing civil service to run the state; not Party loyalists. The executive purged 100,000 members including many “squadrists of the first hour.”
Top Fascists, believing regular police would not eradicate high-profile anti-Fascists, recruited a select organization, the Ceka, from “squadrists of the first hour.” Mussolini assured these men that any violence they committed would be well cloaked. In September 1923 the Ceka went abroad to attack leading anti-Fascist exiles. Inside Italy they tried to lynch former Prime Minister Nitti but settled for destroying his house. They beat, almost to death, a leading ex-Fascist on a crowded railway platform. In June 1924 they were ordered to attack parliamentarians. This operation culminated in their abducting opposition leader Giacomo Matteotti, stabbing him to death in the back of a car, and dumping his corpse outside Rome. The resulting revulsion might have toppled the Fascists had not Pope and King rushed to their defence. In January 1925, while denying the Ceka existed, a chastened Mussolini took responsibility for the “stupid” violence and promised future repression would be “surgical, intelligent and chivalrous.” Ceka members were arrested and their paymasters let them rot in jail. From the Matteotti Crisis to November 1926, Fascists maintained a legalitarian aura and denied planning a police state.
As top Fascists planned their police state they consolidated control over the Party. Popular local bosses were neutralized with comfortable postings. Others were purged. A. Carosi, of Tuscany, was the sort of local boss the Party wanted rid of. A murderer before he joined the Party, squad activity gave Carosi an outlet for his brutality. According to a Prosecutor, “(Carosi) terrorised the local population by murder, threatened murder and blackmail. He was always saved from any charge in that regard because of the fear he aroused in witnesses or because he could rely on political amnesty. As a result, although from poor origins, he lived like a lord.” In 1925 2,000 such leaders and 140,000 of their crew were purged.
In 1926 the Chamber passed the Thoroughly Fascist Laws. By November all parties but the Fascist Party were outlawed. Criticizing the idea of a one-party state became a crime. This proud launch of “totalitarianism” was accompanied by one more wave of violence aimed at lobotomizing a prostrate working class.
Mussolini never spelled out a coherent set of principles. Insights into his views are gleaned from a number of his writings such as the mystical statement on statecraft, “Fascism,” he penned for Gentile’s Italian Encyclopedia.Mussolini accepted Le Bon’s axiom that the best intentioned social reforms get nullified by nature’s laws. Statecraft involved using myths to popularize political goals. Fascism’s myths were: Italy’s past grandeur; the mutilated victory; and Mussolini’s semi-divinity. By exaggerating the power of ideas Mussolini saw Fascism as a quasi-religious synthesis of spiritual-socialism and Italianism whose goal was “anthropological revolution;” the making of a New Man. He endorsed “totalitarianism.”
Totalitarianism meant secret police. In November 1926 the Liberal’s Directorate of Special Affairs was reorganized with one part becoming the Political Police (Polpol). These men were already trained in repression and already possessed a network of spies. Polpol was limited to a svelte 50 officers but they commanded a legion of infiltrators some of whom rose to prominence in the main anti-Fascist exile group. One Polpol spy became correspondence supervisor at the exile group’s Paris HQ. Another spy assumed control of the pro-Republic Italian contingent in the Spanish Civil War and thus compiled a full membership list. Polpol was notified if any dissident crossed Italian borders. All emissaries from resistance movements were shadowed.
Polpol initially shared info with local police and relied on them for arrests. Not satisfied, they brought this service in-house by founding of the Organization for the Vigilant Repression of Anti-Fascism (OVRA) in 1927. By 1940 OVRA’s 815 informants were each equipped with a network of spies. Total OVRA spies numbered 3,500. (Local police spies added over 1,500.) OVRA spies were often former members of anti-Fascist organizations who switched sides after being arrested, threatened with long prison terms and told they had been betrayed by their comrades – which was often true. 10% of arrested anti-Fascists turned.
OVRA’s first goal was preventing the Communist Party of Italy (PCI) from setting up a stable centre in Italy. One OVRA spy wormed his way to the top of the PCI’s internal welfare program and later became PCI archivist. He accumulated directories of PCI members. A paranoid PCI published a list of 504 members suspected of being spies. Only 60 were spies. OVRA acquired the list.
When PCI was neutralized OVRA switched to controlling other aspects of political life. They created a new network of informants whose identity was kept from local police and Polpol. These spies were found wherever workers congregated. They eavesdropped and sounded public opinion, even monitored jokes in circulation. They infiltrated universities, businesses and Fascist Party organizations. OVRA tightened its control over the Post Office. They also trained linguists and stenographers to record telephone calls. They focussed on communications to and from Fascist leaders.
Totalitarianism means coercion. Of the 5,600 persons brought before the Special Tribunal (for political suppression) between 1927 and 1943 4,600 were found guilty. Average jail terms were 5 years. 20 were executed. In addition, the Fascists expanded and perfected Liberal-era anti-Anarchist measures like ‘internal exile’ and ‘compulsory residence’ which confined dissidents to small towns in remote areas. 17,000 confinos experienced considerable hardship and were politically neutralized. Between 1943 and 1945 people died from malnutrition and unsanitary conditions in Italian camps but not from gassing. (The gas chamber camp at Trieste was German-run.) Of 40,000 Italian-born and 10,000 foreign-born Jews about 7,500 were killed. More camps were under construction when the regime collapsed.
Totalitarianism meant indoctrinating youth. In April 1926 the Party re-grouped youth programs into a comprehensive system. There was a Sons of the She-Wolf program for young boys and Vanguard Musketeers for teenagers. Analogous girl’s groups existed but boys got more attention. In 1929 control of youth organizations was transferred from the Party to the Education Ministry. Over the next decade participation in youth groups gradually became mandatory. Organizationally the youth system was an immense pyramid with teachers, priests and Fascist militia officers occupying the middle stratum. By 1939 4,000,000 18-to-21 year olds were being trained by 150,000 Party militia officers. Youth organization enrolment stood at 8,800,000 in 1942. 99.9% of high school students participated. Post high school participants were mostly middle class youth seeking upward mobility.
Youth programs were similar to the Boy Scouts but more geared to indoctrination. Younger boys spent long afternoons marching up and down streets clad in black shirts. Teenager’s courses were boring and useless: flag-waving, parading, choreographed gymnastics and sermons. Sports however, were popular and useful. Elite youth were channelled into alpine activities. These skiers later participated in the invasions of France, Greece and Russia. Fascists dreamed of perfecting the techniques of indoctrinating youth with self-less devotion to Italo-Catholicism and then exporting these programming techniques to Austria, Portugal and Spain.
(During the purges of the Fascist Party, it was temporarily decided to restrict Party admission to Party youth program graduates. This policy was reversed by Achilles Starace: Party Secretary from 1931 to 1939 and a furious anti-Semite and champion of African colonization. Rules limiting Party recruitment to Party youth interfered with Starace’s hyper-fascistizing drive to press the entire civil service into the Party. (After Starace’s term military officers were herded into the Party, boosting membership to 2,600,000.)
Totalitarianism meant controlling women. ONMI (National Mother and Child Agency) was founded in 1925 to disseminate pro-natalist propaganda and assist mothers. Subsidies to unwed mothers kept OMNI perpetually broke. Other pro-natalist initiatives included family allowance benefits and marriage loan programs where couples paid off government loans with the birth of successive children. Fascists also sought to reverse declining birth rates through bachelor taxes and through privileging large families. Pro-natalist propaganda honoured prolific mothers. The lean Hollywood starlet icon clashed with the pro-natalist’s rotund prolific mother icon. Contraceptive advertizing was banned. Homosexuals and abortionists were suppressed. Daughters of the She-Wolf were given doll-drills. A 1927 “health of the race” campaign sterilized undesirables and educated mothers about diet. A “women’s place”, propaganda stressed, was “in the home” raising lots of kids. Motherhood was a patriotic mission because more Italians were needed for colonies and wars. “Strength in Numbers!” shouted Mussolini. Fascist family law reforms consisted of slight variations to the patriarchal pro-natalist Pisanelli Code of 1865. Fascist policy on gender roles, family, contraception, abortion, and divorce concurred with Pius XI’s encyclical on marriage.
After Mussolini’s Depression-era “Machinery and Women” article blamed unemployment on mechanization and women workers, legislation was introduced to restrict female employment. Poor families would have starved if all women were full-time housewives. Many urban women worked as laundresses, street-sellers, domestic servants, seamstresses, factory hands, silk-spinners and tobacco rollers. Rural women toiled ceaselessly. Thus Fascist legislation only blocked women from being office managers, school principals and a variety of civil service, professional and teaching positions. Female teachers were considered bad role models. This legislation was a dead letter because warfare soon preoccupied so many men that female participation in these fields increased as did female education.
In pre-Fascist Italy about 10,000 women attended feminist meetings. By 1929 Fasci Femminili (FF, the Party’s women’s auxiliary) boasted 100,000 members. Troublesome feminists were purged. Each Party chapter had an FF auxiliary run by a female secretary answering to a female provincial overseer who answered to a male national Fascist Party official. By 1942, FF had 1,000,000 members. FF subsidiary, Rural Housewives, had 2,500,000 participants. FF urban subsidiary, Homemakers, had 1,500,000 participants. These enormous memberships resulted from small material incentives amidst pervasive desperation. Homemakers ran: domestic science and sewing workshops; holiday camps for poor children; nurseries for field-workers; and paediatric/obstetric clinics. Rural Housewives facilitated state efforts to squeeze more work from rural women by giving them tips in handicrafts, silkworm-rearing, rabbit-ranching and bee-keeping. Rural Housewives were dressed in pseudo-traditional regional costumes and paraded at Party banquets.
Totalitarianism meant sculpting culture. In 1926 the regime closed the People’s Libraries. In the same year the regime became supreme patron of high culture through the new Italian Academy presided over by Mussolini and enhanced by Marconi’s collaboration. Mussolini’s personal press office ballooned to ministerial size and in 1937 was re-named the Ministry of Popular Culture after Goebbels’ propaganda machine. Also borrowed from Goebbels was the six directorate system: propaganda, press, music, film, theatre, and radio. (Italy had 500,000 radio owners; mostly in the north and center of the country.)
Party ideologues swarmed film production. Mussolini’s eldest son published Cinema magazine and played a central role in the show business. The Fascist regime produced 700 films; many through their Experimental Centre for Cinematography. A. Basseti became Italy’s most famous film-maker by glorifying rural culture. His big hit chronicled Fascism’s rise in a provincial town. (Basseti’s last film was pacifist. Goebbels, after viewing the premiere at the Venice Film Festival, departed declaring that any German director making such a flick would be shot.) An experimental documentary commemorating the March on Rome’s 10th anniversary premiered in European capitals on the same night. The Ministry also produced an array of concerts and plays in a land overflowing with starving artists eager to help the Cause.
The Culture Ministry’s press directorate controlled private newspapers through a welter of telegraphs; some censorial, others merely recommending slants for front page articles. Censorship was tightened and made preventive in 1934 after Mussolini’s horrified reaction to a magazine cover showing a mixed-race couple. Secret funds from the Culture Ministry (and the Interior Ministry) secured collaboration through bribes. “Incentives” rose from 1.5 million Lira in 1933 to 163 million Lira in 1942. Bribes to journalists rose from 400,000 Lira in 1933 to 3.6 million Lira in 1942. Publishers queued for patronage. A. Mondadori used his Party connections to dominate the publishing industry.
Centralizing culture created a new profession and new professors. The “intellectual functionary” – a formulator and deliverer of state cultural directives – became a regular job description. Professors were controlled or silenced. Gramsci died in jail. Benedetto Croce was given enough freedom for the regime to boast about its tolerance. Mussolini prevented Croce’s journal from closing and he allowed a libertarian economist to run a publishing house; neither gesture resulted from open-mindedness. Education Minister Gentile, in his capacity as founder-president of the National Institute of Fascist Culture, hosted a three day convention in Bologna in 1925. The conference’s pre-arranged outcome, the Manifesto of Fascist Intellectuals, was endorsed by all but a few university professors. Croce’s ‘Counter-Manifesto’ petition did not go far after one prominent signatory was beaten to death. In 1931 professors were asked to swear allegiance to Fascism; all did. Gentile was paymaster for academics working on his Italian Encyclopedia and on a raft of new text-books for secondary schools.
The museum exhibit, The Fascist Revolution, was part of the 10th anniversary of the March on Rome festivities. Visited by hundreds of thousands, the exhibit enshrined a mythology about Fascism’s rise to power especially about the “saints” (Fascists killed between 1919 and 1922). The official saint count of was revised from 425 to 870. (Mussolini eulogized the 3,000 martyrs.)
Fascists continued the Liberal policy of suppressing regional dialects in literature and public life however, as dialects were a cherished medium of communication, this effort was largely ignored. Poems in dialect written by famous scholars were published. Fascists purged the Italian language of foreign expressions but non-conformity persisted.
After Mussolini’s 1926 call for truly “Fascist art,” Bottai’s Critica Fascista journal hosted a series of exchanges on what constituted “Fascist art.” No consensus emerged. Futurists influenced regime self-representation but never monopolized its symbolic agenda. Mussolini’s art advisor, Margherita Sarfatti, favoured the Novecentisti school. Modernists were useful but their relativism clashed with Fascist pretences of certainty. Fascists picked from various artistic schools and draped themselves in the avant-garde as a surrogate for revolution. Bottai concluded Mussolini was “the only great artist of the regime”. Mussolini did co-author three plays each of which was made into a film and each likened Mussolini to a great historic figure (Napoleon, Julius Caesar and the Roman General, Scipione). The last film, lavishly financed, drew parallels between Scipione’s and Mussolini’s African campaigns. Elsewhere, the hit play Piave used a 6 metre high photo of Mussolini for a backdrop. To the extent to which there was an identifiable Fascist art it tended to be decadent, coarse and tainted with sexual deviance. Fascist art celebrated rural life and colonial war. Fascist architecture fused modern and classic styles.
It was all for naught. When WWII turned gloomy loyalty to the regime evaporated. Mussolini exploded when he discovered Fascist University Student Group’s were attacking Fascist polices in Party publications. In June 1943, as dread spread, the Culture Minister regretfully informed Mussolini there had been a complete withdrawal of support from professors. The regime had long lost the loyalty of the Army.
To the annals of force and fraud through which the productive lives of rural labourers are moulded, the Fascists added the Battle for Grain and Total Reclamation. The former was launched in 1925 to expand domestic cereal production and to end Italy’s “slavery to foreign bread.” High tariffs, it was hoped, would rectify balance of payments deficits caused by grain imports. Trade deficits devalued the Lira. Mussolini wanted to revalue the Lira to 90 per British pound; “capturing hill 90.” The Church blessed the Battle for Grain hoping it would stop rural out-migration. Propaganda photos showed a begoggled Mussolini, stripped to the waste, sweating over a threshing machine.
Battle for Grain helped increase domestic breadstuff production from 73% of national consumption in 1925 to 99% in 1938. Northern farmers expanded and mechanized wheat, rice and sugar-beet cultivation and increased yields per acre. By 1938 three Northern provinces possessed two thirds of Italy’s tractors and accounted for the bulk of national staple production. Conversely, on southern estates yields per acre fell during the Battle for Grain. By the late 1930s, there were 10,000 fewer threshing machines in the south. Also, Lira revaluation priced many agricultural exports out of foreign markets. The 1915-20 agricultural boom created many small producers serving niche markets in: olives, fruit, flowers, baby-vegetables, livestock, cheese and wine. The high Lira hurt these farmers severely. The growth of new small farms was halted then reversed. Farmers who had borrowed to buy land resorted to super-exploitation of family members to hang on. Finally, the Battle for Grain drove up the price of breadstuffs – the largest household budget item for landless rural labourers. Farm worker’s calorie intake declined. Survival strategies for the rural poor narrowed to increased self-provisioning/self-exploitation or escape to the city.
The land reclamations of 1927-35 and 1939-40 were grand deceptions. In 1927 Mussolini, declaring himself pro-village, floated a grandiose re-ruralization scheme. The Law for Total Reclamation (December, 1928) would “empty the cities.” Such rhetoric catered to “anti-bourgeois” Fascists in whose vocabulary “bourgeois” meant an abstract spirit not necessarily connected to owning a business. They alleged Italy’s dignified feudal culture was submerged under the apathy and decadence of “bourgeois” culture. They glamorized small town life. Real Italians were muscular, cynical peasants. Anti-bourgeois militants were a choir within the Party but were kept from positions of power, even culturally. Party tops appreciated the facade of defending country folk but accepted industrialization.
Reclamation programs consisted of state-funded upgrades of under-used parcels of land on aristocratic estates. Aside from two showcase townships built in reclaimed marshes there was little to show for the money. 85% of reclaimed land was retained by aristocrats and rented out. Large sums vanished into aristocratic hands in exchange for unmonitored promises. 8,000,000 Lira went to a Codigoro noble who did nothing in return. In the early 1930s some reclamation officials campaigned to force landowners to shoulder part of the cost of their land’s improvement. These people were purged in 1934. In the following year funds were cut and the reclamation idea lay fallow until 1939 when a scheme to break up southern estates was announced. Southern aristocrats scooped a billion Liras without noticeably re-distributing their land. Both reclamation programs combined, reclaimed only 32% the land purchased for that purpose. Of 1.7 million hectares reclaimed half was annexed to large northern farms. The reclamation programs created 20,000 farms; most less than 2 hectares. The boom of 1915-20 created many times more farms and farmland than these programs did.
1930s agricultural policy turned evermore statist. Keeping folk down on the farm became a matter for the Internal Migration Police. Landowner’s associations merged with state agencies. Control over a compulsory requisitioning and stockpiling program, set up by the government, was transferred to the Confederation of Agricultural Cartels.
During Fascism’s first 14 years (1922-36) the number of people employed in agriculture increased while the number of small farm operations declined (from 3,400,000 to 2,700,000). 47% of the national workforce (8,500,000 workers) remained in the field. The 1936 census artificially shrank the “landless” category to 2,500,000 households by defining anyone with a kitchen garden as a “farmer” and ignoring former proprietor-farmers who had returned to share-cropping.
Giuseppe Bottai’s Ministry of Corporations became corporeal in 1926. Bottai claimed to possess “the formula for solving the crisis of capitalism.” Pooh-poohing classical economics he declared his Ministry to be a vanguard for “transcendending” market forces and class conflicts.
To Fascists a “Corporation” was an organization set up to govern an entire industry or sector (steel, cotton, construction etc). Directors of these Corporate bodies represented employers, labour union bosses and government officials. The latter two representatives were selected by the Fascist Party. “Corporatism” became a Fascist logo and part of the myth of the “Fascist revolution.” Pius XI sanctioned Corporatism in Quadrageissmo Anno (1931) but criticized the Italian variant while Catholic economists across Europe praised the Italian Corporatism theory and practice.
Bottai’s new Corporate order was in fact a piecemeal, erratic proliferation of organizations by a regime insufficiently consolidated to implement any coherent policy. Macro-economic decision-making was strewn across: a) the established Ministries: Finance, Agriculture, Foreign Affairs, Army, Navy and Air Force (each force procured its own armaments); b) Bottai’s Ministry of Corporations (and provincial subsidiaries); c) the Institute of Industrial Reconstruction (a state-owned but privately-managed business conglomerate); d) several small armament and autarky agencies answering to Mussolini; e) a few dozen industrial and agricultural cartels; f) several Fascist Party economic hybrids; g) and numerous privately-owned conglomerates (Fiat, Pirelli, Ferrari etc.).
Bottai’s first job was using Party-controlled unions to manage discontent during wage compressions arising from the Lira’s revaluation. (Fascist unions repeated the function during the Depression.) When Bottai settled in to his grand plan he soon hit stonewalling by industrialists suspicious of any encroachment onto their domain. (Industrial entrepreneurs placed little faith in Corporatism.) Bottai also had turf wars with the Finance and Agriculture Ministries and other economic institutions tethered to the old state and fearful of his parvenu Ministry. Keeping his new bureaucracy small was the one thing they agreed on. Bottai’s opponents included one Party leader, who in 1930, dubbed the Ministry of Corporations the “corpocracy” and dismissed “Corporatism” as “an over-complex complex of organs which justify their existence solely by complicating things.” These views were justified. The Ministry’s cumbersome consultative machinery proved so ill-suited to crisis that when emergencies happened the state created agencies just to bypass them.
The Institute for Industrial Reconstruction (IRI) was set up during the Depression to bail out key industrial enterprises. Through deals done over Mussolini’s desk, IRI lent funds to troubled companies in exchange for shares. IRI accumulated major stakes in steel, ship-building, telephone and electrical firms. IRI President, A. Beneduce, remained a director of several electricity, insurance and chemical companies. This profile, businessman/bureaucrat, was replicated many times in the murky quangos where government farmed out operations. From inception, IRI planned for autarky (national self-sufficiency) and war. IRI reorganized the steel industry by restricting production to a few firms and by switching from reliance on imported coal to Italian hydro-power.
Other Depression-era initiatives survived the Depression by morphing into autarkic warmongering commissions. Autarky, war and imperialism were an inter-dependent syndrome characterized by increases in: armament expenditures, taxes, regulation, subsidization and inter-fascist barter. (Germany provided 40% of Italy’s imports by 1940.) The main obstacle to a war-ready autarkic Italy was the lack of indigenous raw materials, especially energy resources. Overcoming this obstacle led to market-obtuse strategies such as subsidizing Italian aluminum mines then smelting the aluminum with subsidized hydro-electricity.
When the National Council of Corporations (NCC) was founded in 1930 it had 7 Corporations. 15 were added in 1934. Each Corporation represented an economic sector. A Central Corporative Committee was the NCC’s working arm, however neither this Committee nor the NCC commanded a capillary-style organizational system. Two centres but no periphery led to many protocols but no enforcement. Conversely, the Fascist Party became an important economic regulator precisely because its capillary structure reached into the nooks and crannies of economic life. Provincial Party committees ratified and enforced wage cuts and mitigated acute hardships arising from price changes.
In 1939 the regime replaced the neutered Chamber of Deputies with the Chamber of Fasces and Corporations consisting of representatives from the NCC, Fascist Party National Council, and the Fascist Grand Council. This new Chamber was yet another dysfunctional bureaucracy.
Fascist Italy was a dictatorship. Major decisions were made in backrooms then rubber-stamped by the organs of government. Planning went on outside official venues. IRI’s creation set a pattern wherein Mussolini hammered out deals privately with Ministers, Party tops and interested businessmen. When the silk industry needed investment, Mussolini met with producers and bankers and struck a deal; then sent the matter through Bottai’s byzantine approval process. In 1931 the NCC was in the middle of an agonizing tariff policy review process when Mussolini announced new tariffs.
Corporatism was state-imposed cartelization. Corporatism’s main intent was to stabilize prices and wages by restricting output and competition. Many businesses preferred voluntary cartelization over official Corporate re-organization. The Italian Cotton Institute voluntarily set up a cartel to pre-empt a state-run Corporation from being formed. Cartels and Corporations were welcomed, and controlled by, firms enjoying dominant market positions within the subject industry. In 1936 cartels became obligatory and answerable to the Ministry.
By 1933 all plant expansions required Corporation Ministry approval. When a company near Venice applied for a permit to expand pig iron output other iron producers complained to the Minister that they still had spare capacity. Permit denied. A 1936 building construction Corporation meeting dealt with issues so contentious Mussolini imposed himself as chair. Construction firms were going bankrupt because the licensing system discouraged “unnecessary” building and because of price-gouging by the building materials Corporations. Mussolini growled that the licensing system worked fine and adjourned the meeting before the issue of prices could be addressed.
WWII heaved up: a Supreme Commission for Autarky; a General Commissariat for War Production; and a Supreme Commission for Defence – each with overlapping and overarching mandates. The entire strung-together “system” unravelled when Italy started losing battles. Meetings degenerated into mutually recriminating slanging matches. At an August 1940 Council of Ministers meeting Mussolini threw a tantrum over having to resort to the hand-to-mouth scrambling of some ramshackle regime mere months into the war. He blamed “a culture of imprecise responsibilities” and “the climate of general irresponsibility.” Ministers stared at the table while, according to Bottai, “Mussolini argued against Mussolini.”
Mussolini loved power. Sleepless nights were spent stemming an avalanche of documents crossing his desk. He read reports, underlined what he thought mattered, wrote orders in the margins and returned the documents to underlings. During mornings and afternoons he received a stream of visitors. Communication was verbal, no minutes were taken and no standardized system of moving from idea to practice followed. Dramatic changings-of-the-guard further warped governance. Mussolini accumulated the portfolios of: Prime Minister, Secretary of State, Party Militia Commander, Supreme Defence Council Chairman, and Minister of War, the Navy and Air Force. In 1938 the Fascist Grand Council granted both Mussolini and King Victor the rank of First Marshal. Mussolini also deployed family members in key positions. His brother ran Italian People and collected political intelligence. Mussolini’s son-in-law and dauphin was Culture Minister then Foreign Minister.
Mussolini survived through working toward the Savoyards, the Church, the oligarchy and the General Staff – each a law unto itself; each exempt from his meddling and more loyal to their fraternity than to him. The cult of Il Duce, even with constant feeding, was upstaged by the cults surrounding King and Pope. Mussolini was overshadowed by the numerous, fertile and activist Savoyards and he was painfully aware that he held office at the sufferance of Victor. Mussolini described his relationship with Victor as part of a ‘diarchy’. The middle classes were more devoted to Victor than to “Il Duce” and devout Catholics were more enamoured with the Pope.
The 1929 Lateran Pacts transformed the Vatican City into an independent state and relegated all other religions in Italy to a lower status than Catholicism in matters of governance, especially education. Soon after, the Vatican stopped the political activism of Catholic Action student groups in exchange for an enhanced role for priests in state schools. Catholic scouting organizations were dissolved. This meeting of the minds intensified Fascist opposition to the Soviet Union which the Fascists initially viewed ambivalently. Perceptions hardened due to aristocratic horror at Stalinist hyper-industrialization and due to Pius XI’s strident anti-communism. While the Pacts muzzled anti-Fascists within the lower ranks of the Church they did not prevent the Vatican from reaching out to West, especially after Germany’s annexation of Austria. Pius XII further embarrassed Mussolini by refusing to anoint the Nazi’s east-bound Operation Barbarossa as a Christian crusade.
The Italian Army was the “King’s Army” in name and fact. Generals and admirals were high-born monarchists who consented to Fascist governance out of allegiance to the King. Rigid promotion procedures and caste solidarity dug a moat between officers and soldiers thus thwarting the rise of Fascist activists. Party militias played minor roles in war-fighting. Blackshirts were dissolved into the soldiery and denied independent action. The Italo-Catholicism dispersed by chaplains was a more prevalent ideology in the Army than Fascism.
Big business was scarcely cowed. Agnelli quipped that a capitalist is always on the side of the government. To the extent to which there was an independent big business ideology it was an ambitious Italianism with a German-hating streak. In any event, traditional business-funded patron-client networks flourished under the Fascists.
Finally, Fascists never lassoed the civil service. Party activists suffocated in bureaucracies where habits of obfuscation foiled agenda-bearers.
Fascist foreign policy fruit fell not far from the Liberal foreign policy tree. Fascist’s inherited a vision of a greater Italy with a sphere of influence in the Balkan-Danube region and an empire in Africa. Colonial possessions in Libya and Eritrea were part of this inheritance as were border disputes in north-eastern Italy where Germans and Slavs resisted Italianization. Fascist originality is found in bombastic claims about Italy being the modern Sparta destined to smash Western decadence. Their militaristic jingo had a neurotic tone as though beneath the blather lay a fear they really were a nation of travelling mandolin players and statuette peddlers. Fascists showed greater reluctance to enter a European War in 1940 than the Liberals did in 1915. Fascists did not decree a general mobilization as the Liberals unhesitatingly did and Fascist prosecution of war resisters was less severe than the Liberals.
The first Fascist foreign policy move was the late-1922 re-occupation of Fiume. An attempt to annex Corfu in 1923 was thwarted by the British. For the next several years the Army vetoed adventurism in favour of a strategy of steady rearmament and superficial pacifism. Italy signed the Treaty of Locarno, the Kellogg-Briand Pact and an accord with Yugoslavia ratifying the annexation of Fiume. They also secretly financed and hosted militias from Croatia, Austria, Hungary and Spain. After 1926 secret meetings were held, with Mussolini and Army Chief of Staff Pietro Badoglio in attendance, where wars of aggression were plotted.
Badoglio had been Army Chief from 1919 to 1921 but, being lukewarm to Fascism, he withdrew from public life. Mussolini re-appointed him Chief in 1925. In Badoglio’s brain Mussolini was no military man. Mussolini had never led troops into battle. Mussolini was a sawdust Caesar; a bantam commander in a field marshal’s uniform; a ham actor rolling his eyes, waving his hands, jutting his chin – a bellowing bullfrog begging comeuppance.
By 1931 Italy’s air force was one of the worlds largest and the generals of an up-graded Army perused African maps. The war party encompassed Foreign and Colonial Ministries, Fascist Party executives and various aristocratic houses notably the Savoyards. The war party argued Italy’s growing population and dynamism required more territory, more resources – more “living room.” They coveted the full Mediteranean coast and eastern Africa. Bottai anticipated a Lira Bloc of countries controlled by Italian cartels. Militarism became the Fascist Party’s raison d’être. Mass mobilizing for domestic political violence blossomed into mass mobilizing for war. The Party formed a militia for 18-to-21 year olds and placed it under the command of a notorious squadristi boss. Military training became compulsory for able-bodied men. Official sports became marching, wrestling, boxing, shooting and bomb-throwing.
Libyan pacification intensified in 1930 and wrapped up in 1932. Under the command of the Marquis of Neghilli, General Graziani, Italian forces used concentration camps and chemical weapons to reduce the local population by a third. In Italian-controlled Eritrea and Somalia an apartheid-type system increasingly relied on mass deportations, incarcerations without trial and torture. To Eritrea and Somalia’s west lay the vast domains of the Ethiopian Empire. In 1932 the Fascist Grand Council agreed to invade Ethiopia but public statements were held back until 1934. Reticence within the charmed circle was limited to King Victor’s worries about alienating Britain and a few old generals fearing over-extension abroad causing vulnerability at home. The war-hawks won them over by arguing air supremacy ensured quick victory.
By 1935 the King’s Army guarded impressive amounts of materiel in East Africa. Over summer hundreds of thousands of soldiers hastily arrived. In October combat operations against Eritrean and Somali resistance groups near Ethiopia’s border escalated into open war with Ethiopia. The League of Nations named Italy the aggressor and imposed economic sanctions (which enabled Fascism’s autarkic drive and were lifted in a year). Italian air supremacy and superior artillery led to quick decimation of the Ethiopian Army. After Italians marched into Addis Ababa (May, 1936) Mussolini bellowed his Declaration of Empire address from a balcony overlooking a sea of screaming supporters in the Palazzo Venezia. This speech, and Papal blessings, was heard across Italy. But the war was not over. The Army continued to fight a three-year, quasi-genocidal counter-insurgency. While aerial bombardment terrorized, artillery massacred. Both air and artillery attacks used mustard gas and phosphorous munitions on civilian population centres. The initiative for using such weapons came from Generals Graziani and Badoglio and behind them: the Royal family, the colonial investment community, and Air Force commanders. The hands-on perpetrators of chemical warfare were the long-serving Colonels ordering howitzer barrages and the young scions piloting bombers. About 500,000 Ethiopians were killed. Occupying Ethiopia still required 200,000 Italian troops in 1939.
Before intervening in the Spanish Civil War (1936) Mussolini may not have had the King’s approval but he had Badoglio’s blessing. (Such consultations were, by tradition, secret.) Propaganda played up the intervention’s anti-Bolshevik angle and played down imperial motives such as acquiring Mediterranean islands or satellitizing Spain. Italy’s first battle was a defeat inflicted by Italian exiles. By 1939 Italy had sent 29,000 militia men and 21,000 Army troops (men were drawn by high pay not ideology). 3,266 Italians were killed, 11,000 wounded. 6 billion Liras was spent on unrecovered materiel.
Italy hitched itself to the Third Reich via the 1936 Rome-Berlin Axis Treaty and the 1937 Anti-Comintern Pact. When Hitler toured Rome, May 1938, anti-Soviet propaganda was ubiquitous and the King’s Army goose-stepped (“Roman stepped”). As the Ethiopian and Spanish campaigns had rendered Italy a military paraplegic Mussolini told Hitler during Pact of Steel (1939) negotiations that if the impending war on Poland remained contained Germany could count on Italian support but if the war spread Europe-wide Italy would need 17,000 train-loads of materiel from Germany to participate.
(The alliance with Germany brought on a persecution of what had been a patriotic, conservative, even pro-Fascist, Jewish community. The Jewish Communities Union had been welcomed into the state in 1930. As late as 1932 Mussolini claimed to be a pro-Zionist “friend of the Jews” and denied an Italian anti-Semitism existed. Jews played a role in his personal life as in his mistress/advisor Margherita Sarfatti. However, in 1937 Mussolini denounced “the bourgeoisie.” In 1938 he repeated to the Party National Council: “I have identified an enemy, an enemy of our regime. The enemy is called bourgeoisie.” As the Jews were “bourgeois par excellence” ridding Italy of “bourgeois influence” quickly twisted into purifying Italian blood. The Manifesto of the Racial Scientists came out in 1938 and was hyped into a must-read. Publishers were ordered to revise catalogues and exclude books written, edited or translated by Jews. In 1940 foreign-born Jews in Italy were interned. A 1942 Culture Ministry directive listed 912 unwelcome authors, most were Jews. While Pius XI at times denounced the “exaggerated nationalism and racialism” rising across Italy, the Archbishop of Milan and many Catholic lay leaders endorsed anti-Semitic laws. In the twilight of his pontificate Pius XI commissioned an American Jesuit to pen a condemnation of biological racism. His successor, Pius XII, however, suppressed this document’s publication and kept quiet as a church mouse while racist genocides raged across Europe.)
With the Axis destined to rule Europe, Italians turned to countering German influence. Mondadori was given subsidies to publish Tempo magazine in 8 European languages as a competitor to Germany’s Signal and Alder. Fears of German encirclement severing Italy’s access to Romanian oil and Bulgarian timber led to an alliance between Austria’s pro-independence President Dollfuss and Italian-financed Austro-Fascist militias. Pro-Berlin Austro-Nazis assassinated Dollfuss in 1934. Competition escalated until Germany’s 1938 annexation of Austria. Fascists averted their eyes from a nightmare come true.
After German occupation of Denmark, Norway, Holland and Belgium and after France’s collapse appeared imminent, Italy entered WWII. On June 10, 1940 Italy declared war on France and Britain. On June 17 after Hitler told Mussolini that France had sued for peace, Mussolini ordered France invaded within 3 days. The attack’s only surprise was the resistance it met. Italy suffered 600 dead and 2,000 wounded to capture one village and two Alpine farming communes.
Military commanders, assured by Victor’s acquiescence, planned to upstage the Germans with a series of lightning wars beginning in Greece. An invasion force was readied in neighbouring Albania (recently converting into an Italian protectorate). 500,000 Italian troops graced the Albanian-Greek border on October 1940. In a masterpiece of ineptitude these ill-equipped troops marched into Greece through narrow mountain passes during a harsh winter with zero element of surprise. The Greeks drove them back into Albania killing 30,000 and wounding 100,000. Concurrently, the British Navy scored two resounding victories over the Italy’s Mediterranean fleet. Mussolini phoned Hitler for help. In April 1941 a German army knifed through the Balkans defeating the exhausted Greeks in weeks.
In the summer of 1940 Graziani dithered under the Libyan sun while the British gathered in Egypt. On September 13, at Mussolini’s insistence, Graziani attacked British bases. In December a crushing British counter-offensive exposed the nonsense of fighting open-field battles without armoured vehicles. Mussolini phoned Hitler. By the time Rommel’s 5 armoured divisions arrived in Africa (February 1941) the Italians had lost most of their territory and vehicles and 1,000 aircraft. 130,000 Italians had been rounded up like stray cattle. Graziani attributed the defeat to their inability to tear through British steel with their fingernails. The death blow came after 18 months of Rommel’s increasingly desperate manoeuvres. In November 1942 German-Italian forces suffered a decisive defeat at El Alamein clearing the northern African coast for Allied landings. Rommel retreated headlong into a defensive shell in Tunisia where, in a rare instance of Italians fighting tenaciously, Axis powers held out until May 1943.
In 1942 Mussolini told Hitler the Soviet invasion was a big mistake and that they should make peace with Stalin and concentrate on their true nemesis, the West. Despite this, 200,000 Italians went to the Eastern Front; most perished.
After Italy annexed parts of Yugoslavia in 1941 the local people rose up in armed revolt. Italian 2nd Army General Roatta’s collective punishment programmes fanned burning hatred. Roatta’s ‘Circular 3C’ stated: “no more an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth but a head for a tooth.” Officers were directed to mistrust locals and treat them as inferiors. Italians funded local militias to whom counter-insurgency meant race war. Italian military and police brigades committed mass evacuations and interments, village-burnings, hostage-takings, massacres of insurgent’s families, and livestock seizures. In the Balkans at least, Italian violence rivalled that of the Germans.
The King’s Army was designed to re-fight WWI not to fight a guerrilla war. They groped about in large formations, dragging mammoth artillery antiques up mountains while suffering ambushes from insurgents about whom they knew nothing. Creating a counter-intelligence service to monitor guerrilla activity was an afterthought. Italy’s economic breakdown aggravated provisioning problems. Wrecked equipment was not replaced. The Guerrillas were better equipped than the Italian Army. Hitler, via Instruction No. 47 (December 28, 1942) banged the gong and placed Italian forces in Greece and Yugoslavia under German command.
Army dysfunction arose from aristocratic dilettantism and the concomitant lack of ambition, resistance to modernization and doctrinal lethargy. Trapped in operational conservativism, the generals entered WWII doubting the value of battle tanks, radar and all-metal monoplanes. The officer caste’s notoriously corrupt relations with suppliers coupled with Italy’s backward industrial plant led to Italy producing the least effective, most expensive, and fewest armaments of any major combatant. Italy produced 6% of Axis machine guns, 8% of its aircraft, 5% of its tanks, and 5% of its steel. (Axis totals were 40% of Allied output).
Fearing an Allied invasion of France, Italy rushed forces to the French Mediterranean. Thus by July 1943 Italy had 650,000 troops in the Balkans, 250,000 in France and 200,000 on the Russian Front. This left little for home defence. On July 10 the Allies landed on Sicily practically unopposed.
On the night of July 25 1943 King Victor had Mussolini arrested. Victor appointed General Badoglio as Prime Minister. The military brass, with the exception of Graziani, obeyed Victor. In September Italy split between Allied and German zones each with puppet governments claiming to represent all Italy. Mussolini, sprung from prison by SS Colonel Skorzeny, was placed in charge of the ‘Social Republic of Italy’ (SRI). (Hitler, who kept a bust of Mussolini in his office and defined himself as a Mussolini disciple, stood by his mentor after many Nazis deemed him a liability.)
Fascists returned to 1919-era radicalism. SRI’s Verona Manifesto promised a non-monarchical one-party state with welfare programs. Paramilitary recruiters again appealed to “squadristi of the first hour.” Youth were lured with propaganda daring them to risk all for Italy. In October 1943 the new Black Brigades helped round up 1,023 Jews in Rome for shipment to death camps. At a town near Rome they massacred 335 people (75 Jewish) in retaliation for an attack on Germans. Black Brigades numbered 20,000 by early 1944. In late-1944 SRI tried conscripting all males 19 and older. Only 50% answered the call and those who did protested, deserted and dragged their feet. In 1945 SRI punted anew with fanatical White Flames, 12% of whom were under 16.
SRI men spiral-danced the depths of criminality. Intelligence officer, M. Finizio, was happily terrorizing Roman factory workers before the advancing Allies forced him to flee. On the road north he had the revelation that, while torturing hapless proles was a living, another stratum of victims might be more remunerative. While working for SRI intelligence in Milan, Finizio set up an extortion racket targeting businessmen for arrest and torture. The Prefect of Milan had him arrested but he soon secured a release then redoubled efforts. G. Bernasconi earned a reputation in Florence as a cocaine-addled thief and fraudster. Fired from Polpol in 1930s he was hired by SRI in 1943 and given his own team inside an SS office in Milan. They committed a catalogue of crimes against Milanese citizens. Bernasconi’s gang overlapped with E Pennacchio’s Inspectorate. In 1944 Polpol officer, Pennacchio, took over Tuscany’s Interior Inspectorate – with 400 subordinates. Sporting black leather trench-coats and whitened skull emblems, they sacked villa after villa often torturing and killing their prey. In Italy’s northeast where a special force suppressed Slavs, commander G. Geuli grew addicted to torturing women. At Bellosgaurdo Castle he experimented with torture along with a lieutenant known to authorities as a “psychopath of the criminal type.” Inmates at Bellosgaurdo were seldom charged with any crime; many “committed suicide” in custody. In 1943 the agent in charge of repression in Pola fled before an angry mob protesting his torture of their family members. Geuli returned this agent to Pola where, with SS help, he mounted a Dracularian vendetta.
The backdrop for these horrors was anarchy. Air raids ravaged cities. Anti-aircraft weaponry, bomb-shelters and emergency preparations were woeful. Food scarcity spread as farmers switched to the black market and stopped bringing produce to government stockpiles. Urban women organized food scrounging excursions to the countryside. Urban gardens and illegal networks of food traffickers proliferated. Rural labourers looted and torched state property. Unused land was again occupied and militant negotiations resumed. North African soldiers accompanying the Allies ran amok directing their vengeance at women. Liberals, Socialists and Communists climbed from their graves to stalk and kill some 10,000 Fascist Party members.
The Spanish oligarchy entered the 20th century with corporatist economics texts under one arm and Maurras’ political tomes under the other. When Spain’s democratic movement surged after 1930 the oligarchy took up arms. Oligarchs started and finished the Civil War.
The Marquis of Estella, Miguel Primo de Rivera, grew up in a military family, graduated from Toledo Military Academy then served in the colonies for several years before becoming military governor of Cadiz at age 45 (1915). In 1922 Primo firmly suppressed disorder in Barcelona and in the following year seized power in a coup d’état blessed by King Alfonso XIII. Primo closed parliament and suspended constitutional safeguards. His motto was “Country, Religion, Monarchy.” Men were expected to take up arms in defence of the Fatherland and all citizens were expected to demonstrate patriotism by attending parades decaled with Spanish symbols. Primo launched a state party, the Patriot’s Union. However his exclusive reliance on landlords as a political base alienated urban businessmen and the rural poor. Financial crises and mass protest led Primo’s fellow generals to withdraw support. In January 1930 Primo suffered a breakdown, fled to Paris and died.
The proclamation of the Second Republic, April 1931, knocked monarchists sideways. King Alfonso moved to Italy. Temporarily derailed, monarchists regrouped but in the process many dropped public demands for the King’s return. While never abandoning monarchist values they adopted a superficial republican discourse to facilitate mass mobilizing. Even the Carlists broadened their appeal. (Spain’s monarchist movement split in two in 1833 when Queen Isabella II and her uncle, Don Carlos, both Bourbons, both laid claim to the throne. Isabella’s line became the ‘Alfonsists’ while Don Carlos’ camp became ‘Carlists.’)
Numerous arch-conservative groups came out in 1931. One was the entourage of Jose Antonio de Rivera; Primo’s eldest son. Another group, Dr. Albinana’s Legionnaires, used fascist symbolism but lacked even pseudo-modernism. Albinana held up Primo as the model dictator. The wealthy J. de Ariezla, financier of many fascist initiatives, also praised Primo.
Spain’s first stable fascist organization was founded by Germanophile R. Ledesma. His newspaper, State Conquest, pushed Nietzsche and national regeneration. He translated Mein Kampf into Spanish. While Ledesma focussed on promoting economic statism, his ally, E. Caballero, dreamed of uniting the artistic vanguard of the Mediterranean world. Caballero, too mod for Ledesma’s crowd, split to write Genius of Spain (1932): a manifesto for reactionaries. Ledesma then allied with O. Redondo whose followers were an ultra-pious circle from a small Castilian city who published the newspaper Liberty. Redondo trembled when he took communion. His utopia was medieval Castile, “Spain’s cradle”. Liberty serialized The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (a Carlist fave). In October 1931, pronouncing the old politics dead and the only hope for the future to be youthful fascist violence, Redondo and Ledesma forged Juntas Ofensivas National-Sindicales (JONS). Their respective followers remained distinct factions in this tiny party.
On October 29 1933 Jose Antonio de Rivera held the founding Falange meeting in a Madrid theatre. There was little unique about Falange. Jose Antonio’s views were mainstream conservativism. The Falange wore no uniforms, displayed no fascist aesthetics.
Fascist theatrics were much in evidence months later when Falange and JONS merged. Their inaugural joint-rally had banners, insignia, blue-shirts and Roman salutes. Jose Antonio’s oligarchic background and militarism complimented Redondo’s sacralised hyper-nationalism. Neither resorted to socialist rhetoric inconsistent with their membership in a larger anti-republican movement dominated by traditionalists. Falange-JONS gave this larger movement a shimmer of dynamism.
Falange accepted Catholicism as intrinsic to Spain but their original program declared the State supreme over the Church. With Redondo and Jose Antonio co-piloting Falange-JONS, Catholicism crept back and secularism was forgotten. Odd man out, Ledesma, promoted a mild secularism and described Catholicism as a positive Spanish attribute but not the motor of Spanish history.
The oligarchy’s main hope lay not with the explicit fascists but with the electoralist Confederation of Derechas Autonomous (CEDA) who systematically enlisted Catholic agricultural syndicates, Catholic newspapers, Catholic women’s auxiliaries and parish organizations. Much effort went into CEDA’s youth auxiliary which in 1934 held two massive rallies; one on the battlefield where Christian kings first defeated the Arabs and the other at Philip II’s monastery-palace. Khaki-shirted CEDA youth exchanged quasi-Roman salutes and volunteered en masse for police duty during the 1934 general strike. Despite their ideological proximity CEDA youth and Falange-JONS youth vigorously competed for recruits among university students and among devout middle-class teenagers in the provinces.
Both Falange-JONS and the Carlists stockpiled firearms and drilled militias. The Italians began financing Falange-JONS in April 1935. They were already financing Alfonsists and providing weapons, training and bases for Carlists. With aid came ideology. Fascism titillated Bourbons.
Despite extensive use of the miracle of radio, CEDA lost the February 1936 election to the Popular Front coalition. Spain polarized into republican versus anti-republican. Only a parliamentary majority could legally dismantle the Republic. Only CEDA had a prayer of winning a majority. CEDA failed. The oligarchy dropped elections for coups. CEDA youth dropped khaki for Falange blue. Falange-JONS dropped Ledesma in order to better appeal to the traditionalists. Jose Antonio dropped his former cautiousness and called for an Army coup. He was arrested. Falange-JONS joined CEDA remnants in coup preparations but the heavy lifting was done by aristocratic generals. Falange-JONS was a conspiracy outrider. When the shooting started Falange-JONS and Carlist militias were subordinated to the rebel Army.
The shooting started July 18 1936. After a weekend most cities and rural areas remained under Republican control and most Falange-JONS leaders were either dead or incarcerated and their premises were padlocked. Jose Antonio was summarily executed.
The rebel generals were saved by Italian and German assistance. Staunch anti-republican, General Franco, was stranded in Morocco with his Africa Corps because the naval officers who were to ferry him to Spain refused to do so. Thus Italian and German transport planes ferried Franco’s forces over. Upon landing Franco’s men went about their business of isolating and suppressing pockets of rural dissent. Republicans could hold cities but could not protect the countryside. Village by village, and with abundant Axis support, Franco conquered Spain. After the bulk of the rebel generals pronounced Franco their leader (September 1936) he ordered Falange-JONS transformed into a mass party.
During the early period of clandestinity sisters and girlfriends of incarcerated Falange-JONS leaders kept their men informed and in contact. These women were organized by Pinar De Rivera (Primo’s daughter) into the Falange Women Section. During the Civil War they ran laundries, clothing depots, soup kitchens, hospitals and orphanages. By war’s end they numbered 580,000.
Franco’s New State was inaugurated in 1939 after a blood-letting surpassing any domestic Italian repression. Franco perched at the apex of the New State’s military and civilian pyramids. Falange-JONS and Carlists militias dissolved into the Army. The new Falange-Spanish Traditionalist-JONS (a.k.a. The Movement) became Franco’s preferred state-building machine but was not Spain’s only party. The Movement was an adjunct of the regime; its citizen mobilization agency. Franco loved spectacular rallies of Blueshirts in city squares; his “democracy of the streets.”
As The Movement embedded itself in the civil service some “old-shirt” Falange members abandoned 1930s fascist rhetoric while some Franco loyalists took it up. Other old-shirts, led by Pinar de Rivera and Franco’s brother-in-law, demanded The Movement have more influence in decision making and greater autonomy from the encroaching hegemony of National-Catholicism. The struggle boiled over in 1941 after which old-shirts garnered a few cabinet posts but most of their senior activists, including Pinar, resigned. The tempest confirmed Franco’s unshakeable grip. The Movement was then kept busy marshalling a Blue Legion for the Russian Front. The old-shirts threw themselves into this project spouting a line that was as Catholic as it was fascist and more patriotic than either. Old-shirts persisted as a tolerable opposition current barely discernable from conservatives. Old right and new right were of a piece. Fascism was a continuation of a reactionary tradition. Hyper-Spanish-Catholic propaganda was as important to Franco as it had been to the old-shirts or to Primo or to Alfonso XIII.
Throughout the early 20th century, certainly between 1932 and 1945, the variant of fascism prevailing in Japan had little need for lower-class mobilization or Euro-fascist literature. Emperor System fascism was army-managed fascism. The seizure of power crept in small steps, escorted by the unchallengeable Hirohito.
The ultimate legitimizing symbol of governance, the Emperor, was quarantined from all but a handful of people. At times the controllers of the quarantine steered policy and at other times the Emperor was in charge. Within Empire System culture, loyalty to one’s commander meant shielding that commander from accountability for his crimes. Thus, the quantum of agency exerted by Hirohito and his brother is unknown.
Japan was a late industrializing country undergoing rapid, lopsided modernization. Sprawling cities cut into a backward famine-stricken countryside. Industrial conglomerates mingled with feudal estates. Never having experienced a capitalist-republican revolution marooned Japan upon a cusp. Emperors identified with, and protected, feudal vestiges. A clique of wealthy conservative aristocrats, the Hambatsu, from southern agrarian prefectures had a lock on executive government positions until 1919. Thereafter, the Hambatsu persisted as a force within the constitutionally powerful House of Peers, Elder Statesmen and Privy Council and as a supra-party of meddlers and conspirators.
A state-building nationalist movement launched in the 1860s escaped its masters in the 1880s. To placate the over-agitated masses Emperor Meiji and the Hambatsu offered a modern constitution. The 1889 “Gift from the Emperor” affirmed the Emperor as the supreme legal and religious authority but also opened space for elected politicians to “rule without reigning.” Approximately 1% of the population were enfranchised to vote for a House of Representatives. This legislative house remained boxed in by the Elder Statesmen, Privy Council, House of Peers, the aristocrat-led military and the Emperor.
The Hambatsu had no answers for world market disruptions following either the post-WWI demobilization or the Crash of 1929. These disruptions were a gift to a left-labour movement spurred by the Russian Revolution into a galloping recruitment drive. The Hambatsu were still shooting arrows at nationalist republicans when the 1918 Rice Riots knocked them from the saddle. Then up-popped ultra-nationalist groups often recruited out of the enforcement gangs employed by industrialists and landlords. All Japan seemed on a precipice. The 1923 earthquake triggered frenzied right-wing mob attacks on Anarchists and Korean immigrants.
For much of 1918 to 1932 Prime Ministers and cabinets were drawn from members of the party having the most seats in the House of Representatives. At the same time un-elected councils maintained a presence in cabinet and neither the Army nor Navy were under civilian control. Prime Ministers were often Admirals or Generals. For five months in 1924 anti-democratic forces completely controlled the state before the pendulum swung forward again and party-dominated cabinets fully established themselves.
High tide for democracy was Prime Minister Kato’s term. Kato was a lifelong Anglophile and promoter of British parliamentarianism (and the son-in-law of Mitsubishi’s owner). In 1925 Kato implemented two countervailing measures. First, he sated the universal suffrage movement’s 30-year quest by enfranchising all non-indigent adult men. This increased the electorate to 12 million (20% of pop). Secondly, he implemented the Peace Preservation Law and dispatched the Thought Police to suppress left-labour leaders. This failed to appease reactionaries who blamed democracy and liberalism for every economic crises and political after-shock. After Kato died in office (1926) his pro-democratic successor was soon forced out by the Privy Council amidst a banking crisis. His replacement, General Tanaka followed through on Kato’s program by ordering the mass arrest of around 4,000 leftists. Thus the first national elections under universal male suffrage laws proceeded (February 1928) without danger of being hijacked by revolutionaries.
In 1928 a Young Officer Movement was seeded into the Army by a semi-secret clique of senior officers called Imperial Way. These officers hailed from the same prefectures as did the Hambatsu. Imperial Way deified the Emperor. Militarily, they considered spiritual education more important than technology. After Imperial Way’s General Araki was put in charge of the Army War College in 1928 he regularly subjected his charges to ringing calls for a revival of the Japanese spirit and for a war on Bolshevism at home and abroad. Araki’s disciples were the driveshaft of the Young Officer Movement. In 1931 the General Staff promoted Araki to Chief of the Army Educational Administration facility in Tokyo.
Manchuria is a Texas-sized area of Eastern China bordered by Korea to the south and Russia to the north. Manchuria belonged to China but the Chinese government had been disintegrating for decades. After the Russo-Japanese War (1905) Japan was awarded all Russian assets in Manchuria including their recently constructed South Manchuria Railway. Japan annexed Korea in 1910 but their plans to use Korea as a base for the annexation of Manchuria were shelved because of WWI. Japan sat at the winner’s table after WWI but failed to share in the spoils. In the 1920s Chinese and Japanese clashed over the exact width of the right-of-way attached to the South Manchuria Railway and over Japanese capitalists’ use of the railway to gain control of Manchurian markets. While the Chinese Army offered little resistance, some Chinese warlords did. By the mid-1920s one warlord consolidated control over much of southern Manchuria. In 1928 commandos dispatched by the Japanese Army in Korea assassinated this warlord by bombing his private train.
Hirohito leapt on this assassination to mobilize opposition to Prime Minster General Tanaka. In July 1929, the Privy Council took issue with the phraseology in the recently signed Kellogg-Briand Pact and joined the campaign to oust Tanaka. With conservatives in disarray power swung back to the House of Representatives.
The next Prime Minister, Hamaguchi, was a pro-democracy plough-horse. His pro-Anglo-American tilt led him, at the London Naval Conference (1930), to commit Japan to a smaller Pacific fleet than either the British or American. The Navy, Privy Council and the far right threw a fit. Underlying this were two colliding socio-tectonic plates: a popular business-based anti-tax movement and an insatiable military-industrial complex. A right-wing extremist shot Hamaguchi in a Tokyo railway station in November 1930. He stayed in office for a few months before succumbing to his wounds.
So began government by assassination. Simultaneously, Imperial Way and their allies mobilized loud and thuggish civilian auxiliaries whose propaganda played on fears of economic insecurity and anxieties about European colonization of Asia. These groups self-defined as “anti-fascist” (meaning anti-white) but replicated the Blackshirts, sound and fury. Their unifying slogan was “Showa Restoration.” (Showa was Hirohito’s reign name). They wanted Hirohito to reassert Imperial power as had been done during the 1860s Meiji Restoration. On the radical flank of this civilian mobilization was national socialist demagogue Kita Ikki whose writings fused the mythology of the Emperor’s sacred origins with arguments favouring Japanese expansion. Ikki wanted an absolutist Emperor. Emperors could make tough decisions. Parliamentarians lacked guts and long-term perspective. Ikki also preached a variant of collectivist-peasantism.
In March 1931 General Staff uncovered a coup d’état being meticulously planned by the Cherry Blossom Society whose members included many field level officers, two generals and several right-wing parties. Cherry Blossoms planned to capture politicians and government buildings across Tokyo with rebel Army units and 10,000 right-wing civilian auxiliaries. The General Staff kyboshed the plan but prosecuted no one. The public first heard of this plot 15 years later.
The democracy movement brought back Wakatsuki for a second term as Prime Minister in April 1931. A few months later the Japanese Army in Korea secretly sabotaged South Manchuria Railway tracks near Mukden. They blamed the attack on Chinese soldiers from Mukden Garrison then attacked the Garrison in “retaliation.” What initially appeared to be an isolated act of retribution grew quickly into a major invasion. Prime Minister Wakatsuki tried in vain to rein in the Army.
On October 16 1931, if not before, General Araki (who was very pro-Manchurian colonization) met the Cherry Blossoms to talk coup. On October 17 some junior Cherry Blossoms were arrested for coup-plotting but the Army Chief pardoned them on the grounds they acted out of patriotism. Inscrutably, Araki then became Army Chief.
By December 1931 the Japanese Army controlled southern Manchuria’s three largest cities. Wakatsuki’s cabinet was paralyzed by the fact that their Army was taking over another country and no one was taking responsibility for this. His cabinet fell apart on December 13.
Prime Minister Inukai was sworn in determined to solve the Manchurian problem by bringing the Army under civilian control. Inukai, a former reporter, was a lifelong and popular member of the pro-democracy movement. Inscrutably, he kept General Araki on as Army Chief. On February 9 1932 a key ally of Inukai was assassinated by a zombie from the League of Blood death cult. This group, set up by a former Japanese Army intelligence agent, brainwashed destitute farm-boys into “one person one death” philosophy which required each recruit to commit one murder. League of Blood struck again March 5 killing the chairman of Matsui. Police raids disrupted the League but remnants were welcomed into a new conspiracy by the Young Officer Movement. This conspiracy came to fruition on May 15 when Prime Minister Inukai was murdered in his living room. General Araki seized the day by leading Imperial Way into a full-court press on the oligarchy to get them to terminate the practice of having cabinets drawn from elected politicians. Neither Hirohito nor the Elder Statesmen needed much convincing. Hirohito appointed Admiral Saito Makoto as Prime Minister (all cabinets from this date until 1945 were selected by the Hirohito in consultation with the military-industrial complex). Saito mitigated the retrenchment by consulting civilian parties but he also kept Araki as Army Chief even though Araki was widely believed to have been party to the conspiracy to kill Prime Minister Inukai.
Araki placed Imperial Way men atop whatever Army departments he could but Imperial Way remained a minority within the officer corps. (The Army numbered 250,000.) An oppositional current developed among senior officers. This opposition was not organized. Individual generals obstructed Imperial Way’s politicization of young officers in minor but regular ways. The Imperial Way camp had a name for these stiffs; they called them the Control-freaks.
The demise of civilian governance narrowed the political contest to Imperial Way and the Control-freaks. Their clash was not over Araki’s efforts to expand the Army or over war-mongering against the Soviet Union. Neither faction expressed dismay when Japan quit the League of Nations in 1933 after the League condemned the Manchurian invasion. The first of two main points of contention was Imperial Way’s preference for the old system of regional representation within Army appointments. Control-freaks liked the modern nation-wide system where promotions were based on merit and not on the prefecture of one’s birth. The second issue arose from Imperial Way’s elevating of their spiritual-anti-tech ideology into a central military doctrine. The spiritualism drive antagonised the military-industrial complex and bolstered the ranks of the Control-freak camp. While remaining a minority within the overall military hierarchy, Imperial Way had General Araki sitting in the Army Chief’s chair; they dominated the Army educational system and they controlled Tokyo First Division – a bee-hive of Young Officer Movement activism.
In 1934 the Control-freaks coalesced sufficiently to oust Araki as Army Chief. A purge of Imperial Way men began and met resistance. In late 1935 the Control-freaks ousted Araki’s right-hand man from his position as Inspector-General of Military Education. In response, Tokyo First Division dispatched a Lt Colonel to murder the Control-freak general who ordered the dismissal. This Lt Colonel turned himself in and Tokyo First Division made a show trial out of this alleged patriot’s persecution. The General Staff, now wall-to-wall Control-freak, told Tokyo First Division to grab their gear because they were shipping out to the Manchurian front.
In the wee hours of February 26 1936 out from Tokyo Garrison crept 1,400 soldiers. They separated into smaller units and proceeded onto an assassination rampage killing several top politicians, including three cabinet ministers. Five Tokyo police officers were killed and many wounded trying to protect the politicians. The Prime Minister cheated death only because the soldiers invading his home mistakenly murdered a visiting brother-in-law. Rebels captured key buildings but attempts to encircle Hirohito’s residence were thwarted by fierce resistance from the palace guard. After sunrise the coup leaders demanded an entirely new cabinet be appointed. Initially, Tokyo First Division commanders backed the coup but they changed their tune as they watched the Control-freaks pour columns of armoured vehicles into downtown Tokyo and as warship after warship lined up in Tokyo Bay. Hirohito opposed the coup and was furious at the efforts to entrap him. The assassinated politicians were men he had approved of. On February 29 the Army subjected the surrounded rebels to psychological operations via loudspeakers, balloons, banners, and airdropped leaflets. The Army offered amnesty to those who surrendered and a firing squad for those who did not. They surrendered. A few committed suicide (all had pledged to). 19 young officers (no senior ones) were court-martialled in secret then shot. The civilian activist Kita Ikki was executed so his Emperor could shine above all. Military education facilities were relocated out of Tokyo and Tokyo First Division shaped up and shipped out.
February 1936 marks the triumph of the military within both the fascist movement and the state. Afterwards, the rightist intellectuals were integrated into government propaganda and military intelligence agencies. General Araki was soon appointed civilian Education Minister where he imposed militarism from kindergartens to high schools. The leader of League of Blood was released. With the anti-technological faction purged, and with civilian oversight of the budget gone, the armed forces embarked on a wide open recruitment and armaments acquisition program that multiplied the size of the army and navy in a few years.
In 1937, with state officials boasting of their totalitarian grip on the masses, Emperor Hirohito issued his Cardinal Principles of National Polity. Its core ideas were: Emperors descended from gods; the Japanese were a racial family; Emperors were the fathers of the Japanese family. Emperor System ideology was absolutist and theocratic. Emperor System taught: “The Emperor is always right never accountable.” Emperor System rejected individualism, liberalism and democracy. Militarism and imperialism were justified by proclamations about Japanese spiritual superiority over Europeans and racial superiority over other Asians. In 1940 to fully choreograph political behaviour all parties were folded into the Imperial Rule Assistance Association. Once the Association’s subordinate role to the Emperor was clarified it played a humble, supportive role.
The Japanese colonization of Manchuria broke into open war with China in 1937. In 1940 the Japanese joined the Tripartite Alliance with Germany and Italy. After Japan occupied French Indochina in July 1941 the USA declared embargoed petroleum and war materiel shipments to Japan. Five months later, at 7:00 am Hawaiian time, 6 aircraft carriers dispatched 360 war-planes en route to the US Naval Base on Oahu Island where they wrecked 12 warships; destroy 180 aircraft and kill 2,300 US servicemen.
Austro-fascism’s divergence from Italian and German master copies is partly rooted in the unique nationalisms incubated in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Before WWI nationalism was used by progressive movements seeking liberation from the reactionary Russian, German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. Lenin was a nationalist. So was Woodrow Wilson. When WWI’s victors re-drew Europe’s map, racially homogenous nations were a proclaimed ideal. Aligning boundary with race was said to improve governance. Oddly, the victors, Britain, France and USA, did not resemble this ideal. The USA hardly aligns race and border. While liberating other empire’s captive nations the victors captured new nations for themselves. France pounced on Syria and Lebanon. The victorious nation’s statesmen voiced deep-seated anti-German and anti-Semitic prejudices during the negotiations and shot down racial equality clauses in the League of Nation’s Covenant. While the new border-drawers claimed an ability to quantify nations according to objective criteria, they could never agree where one nation began and another ended. Little thought was given to how these new states were supposed to survive economically. Wilson, Lloyd George, Clemenceau, “scrawled over maps, squabbled over dinners, and then made up their minds.” German-speaking/German self-identifying peoples were divided across nine states. In six of these states Germans were a minority.
WWI consigned the Austro-Hungarian Empire to history. A ‘Republic of German-Austria’, proclaimed November, 1918, went unrecognized until the 1919 Treaty of Saint Germaine christened the ‘Republic of Austria’. Treaty writers talked about unifying the Empire’s German-speaking regions into one state but Saint Germaine dispersed these regions among Austria, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Poland and Yugoslavia.
The Republic of Austria had 8 provinces: Upper and Lower Austria, Carinthia, Salzburg, Tyrol, Styria, Vorarlberg and Burgenland. Also granted provincial status, Vienna, was an industrialized, multicultural city of 2,000,000 (a third of Austria’s population). Aside from Vienna and Graz, Austria was an agrarian world where parochial loyalties superseded national ones. Many Tyrolians wanted to leave Austria and join Germany. Provincial aristocracies feared and loathed Vienna’s modernity.
In 18 years Austria went through 24 governments and 14 heads of state. Catholic priest, Father Seipel, headed 5 governments. With 90% of Austrians Catholic the Church dominated rural politics. There were many parties but the main political contest was between a socialist labour movement, led by the Social Democratic Party, and a conservative Catholic movement, led by Seipel’s Christian Social Party. CSP’s core was bishops and bureaucrats; its rank and file were self-employed tradesmen and farmers. CSP relied on the Greater German People’s Party and the Agricultural League to form the government after the 1919 elections but soon after, when aristocrats and industrialists shifted to the right, the CSP lost power.
Austrian’s fear that their landlocked rump of a country was not viable was borne out by persistent 10% unemployment. Economic hope centered on union with Germany or in a Danubian Federation. Economic discussion was informed by the much-read The True State (1921): an updated case for “Corporations” reminiscent of medieval guilds. Austrian economic treatises recommending guilds as an alternative to capitalism date to 1800.
Austro-Nazism dates to the 1903 founding of the Austrian-German Workers Party in the environs of Bohemia and Graz. After the division of this area between Austria and Czechoslovakia the Austrian half of the party renamed itself the National Socialist Workers Party and recruited a cadre of students and civil servants. They garnered 23,000 votes (0.8%) in the 1919 elections. They were checked by rival Nazis and by the Home Guards. In the mid-1920s Austro-Nazis split into moderate and pan-German (Hitlerite) camps with the moderates dissolving after several years of infighting while the Hitlerites emerged as Austria’s third largest party in 1932 albeit internally divided between provincial leaders, Hitler Youth, and Brownshirts.
Provincial paramilitaries, called Home Guards, sprang up in disputed border areas after WWI. Home Guards also attacked domestic enemies particularly Social Democrats and their militia. While many Home Guards consisted of farmers and farm-labourers marshalled by disaffected nobles, Styria’s Home Guard was set up by a steel conglomerate to counter a militant labour union. In 1921 Vorarlberg’s Guard numbered 2,200 while Upper Austria’s numbered 23,000.
Home Guards and Nazis uniformly rejected parliamentarianism, socialism and capitalism and uniformly dreamed of a racially homogenous nation. However, both tendencies were cursed with inter-provincial rivalry and competing foreign patrons. Home Guards in Carinthia and Tyrol, being Italian-financed, opposed union with Germany and ignored Austrian claims to Italian-held South Tyrol. Styria’s Guard, after attracting Deutschmarks, put out a pan-German line. Some Guards were pro-Catholic Social Party while others derided the CSP as backward.
In January 1927 a Social Democrat demonstration in Vienna was fired upon leaving one dead, four wounded. The acquittal, in July, of the Home Guardsmen accused in this shooting sparked a riot culminating in the Palace of Justice’s torching. 7 police and 77 demonstrators were killed. Social Democrats called a transport strike. Home Guards, deputized as police, played a crucial role in defeating this strike. This was the beginning of the end of Social Democrats and a new beginning for Home Guards. Italy sent more funds to the Guards and instructions to stop squabbling and concentrate on elections.
In the 1930 election Home Guards received 6% of the vote. (Nazis took 3%.) To build unity the Tyrolean Guard proposed all Guards take the Korneuburger Oath. This pledge implored “men of our movement” to “reject democratic parliamentarianism” and to accept governance by “self-administering corporations.” It called for an “indigenous economy” and for a war “against the corrosion of our Volk through the Marxist class struggle and the organization of the country by liberal capitalism.” The Oath extolled faith in god, faith in leaders and faith in faith. Promoting the Oath only deepened schisms. Many Guards had already sworn exclusive oaths to their provinces. Many aristocrats feared the Oath’s variant of Corporatism favoured interests other than the landed interest.
In 1931 the Vatican’s Quadrageissmo anno (“The 40th anniversary” – of Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum) placed the word “Corporatism” on Austrian tongues like communion wafers. Class conflict would be eclipsed by a Third Way: a community working together for the common good because their shared religion superseded all divisions. Enthusiasm whipped up around Quadrageissmo invigorated the CSP.
A September 1931 putsch by the Styrian Home Guard failed due to opposition from the Upper and Lower Austrian Guards. This resulting bickering split the Guard movement with one faction joining the resurgent CSP.
In 1932 former agriculture and forest minister, Chancellor Dollfuss, pulled together a CSP-Home Guard coalition government and began imposing fascism by instalments. Guard leaders were appointed to the positions of Vice-Chancellor, Interior Minister and Secretary of State. Guards were consolidated into one force. Dollfuss signed a concordat with the Vatican giving the Church supremacy over the state in religious matters; guaranteeing Church property; entrenching Catholic indoctrination in state schools and giving the Church the right to own schools. He gave the Church a monopoly on weddings and holidays and promised additional funds. Dollfuss appointed himself Fuhrer of the new Fatherland Front and he destroyed rival parties with a view to making the Fatherland Front Austria’s only party. The Front held mass uniformed rallies where they flew the Krackenkruz. Together with its youth and mothers’ auxiliaries the Front eventually boasted 2,000,000 members. However the non-committal nature of Front membership gave rise to the joke: half Austrians are Reds, half are Nazis, but all are in the Fatherland Front.
In 1934 Social Democrats exposed Italy’s channelling of weapons through Home Guard units to Hungarian fascists. In the resulting uproar the National Assembly President resigned to vote against the government. Dollfuss suspended both Assembly and constitution and ordered the construction of camps. Social Democrats and their unions responded with a railway strike. This was crushed. Dollfuss ruled by decree until summer when his German Social Christian Corporate State replaced parliamentarianism with an estates-based governance system wherein legislators were appointed not elected (except to the Federal Diet for which restricted elections were to be held). Seven Corporations were to be set up to manage: industry, trade, finance, professions, small business, public services and agriculture; only the last two were founded.
The main opposition, the Austro-Nazis, had 80,000 members in 1934. When Dollfuss banned Nazism (and the Styrian Guard) they responded with a bombing campaign. On July 25 1934 the Nazis assassinated Dollfuss and besieged the Federal Chancellory. This coup attempt was suppressed by the Home Guard after three days of urban combat with both sides sporting flamboyant fascist regalia. The Austrian Brownshirts remained on the sidelines. Yugoslavian and Italian troops marshalled on the borders. Dollfuss’ successor, K. von Schuschnigg, defused the situation.
In 1936 German economic improvement increased Nazism’s popularity. Berlin ratcheted up tension. To appease, Schuschnigg freed Nazi prisoners and welcomed Nazis into his cabinet. By 1938 there were 164,000 Austro-Nazis. In February, after a Nazi was appointed Interior Minister, agitation spiralled. On March 9, Schuschnigg proposed a referendum to ask Austrians if they really wanted anindependentcountry. Hitler demanded the referendum be cancelled. Schuschnigg refused. On March 12 German troops entered Austria unopposed. Austro-Nazis and Home Guard leaders embraced the Third Reich.
19th century Germany strayed from the Western way. Archaic interests and values survived to an unusual degree. Industrialization’s victims – artisans and small farmers – hung on in large numbers. Champions of pre-industrial values – aristocrats and their artsy entourages – pandered to these victim’s grievances. Businessmen mimicked aristocratic lifestyle and ideology. Neo-feudalism was always in style. The liberal-republican movement sputtered then settled for a junior role in an aristocrat-led state-building and industrialization project. Nevertheless by 1930 Germany was the Continent’s most industrialized country with consumption patterns and social expectations on par with Britain’s. The portion of workers employed in agriculture fell from 50% in 1900 to 33% in 1930. Germany was far more urbanized than Italy. Modernization endowed Germany with Europe’s largest left-labour movement. The Depression caught Germany between the anvil of an organized working class and the hammer of world capitalism.
WWI Germany prefigured Nazi Germany. The declaration of war came with a declaration, pursuant to the 1851 Prussian Law of Siege, that divided civilian governance among the 24 Generals in charge of the 24 Imperial Army districts. The military realm engulfed the civilian realm. Party squabbles disappeared. Censors ruled. Public opinion was managed. Lutheran clerics contributed to “Germany’s holy war” by preaching that the “German crusade” was a “work pleasing to God.” At the war’s outset an “Appeal to the World of Culture” from 93 of Germany’s most respected scientists and artists rejected Allied claims of German aggression. Two weeks later 4,000 German professors, the vast majority, expressed solidarity with the Kaiser’s Army and defended the invasions of Belgium and French. (Academie Francaise repudiated the Appeal while in Britain The Times published a reply by 100 intellectuals calling Germany “the common enemy of Europe”.)
Before WWI planners thought resource limits restricted major wars to a few months duration. WWI swallowed hitherto unimaginable resources and necessitated unprecedented centralization of production. Old taxes went up, new taxes came in. The state borrowed unheard of sums. By 1916 bureaucratic controls blanketed labour and commodities markets. Regulations submerged the capitalist economy. Every phase of food production and distribution was policed. The black market fed a substantial portion of the citizenry.
WWI’s two fronts were two wars. The Eastern Front barely resembled industrial warfare. The Western Front’s triumph of insanity debuted: battle tanks, poison gas, submarines, and aerial bombing. In July 1916 a British-French push to dislodge Germans from a 20-mile front in northern France’s hilly Somme area resulted in ten weeks of artillery exchanges and tank attacks. The Germans held the Somme but suffered 650,000 casualties (Allies - 620,000). The German Army Chief lost his mind.
In the post-Somme shake-up Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff established a semi-dictatorship. Hindenburg, of ancient Prussian aristocratic stock, went to cadet school aged 11 and was an officer during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1). Fellow Prussian, Ludendorff was born in 1865 unto an impoverished aristocrat father and wealthy aristocrat mother. He too went straight to military school and rose rapidly in rank. Uniquely, around 1912 Ludendorff broke tradition by becoming a stump politician promoting increased armament expenditure. Ludendorff was the pro-active junior partner for the twice-retired Hindenburg. They declared “total mobilization” meaning intensified exploitation of human and material resources with minimal regard to civilian well-being, especially in occupied territories. Trainloads of Belgian and Polish workers pulled into forced-labour camps.
The switch to Total War was largely imaginary. Generals shuffled papers, issued orders but never really controlled industry. Similarly, while Total War came to mean terrorizing civilians, blasting undefended towns and eroding the distinction between combatant and non-combatant – the German Army had been doing this since 1914. Total War justified Ludendorff’s embarking on a wild spring 1918 counter-attack through the Somme, beginning with a 6,000 gun chemical ordnance bombardment followed by waves of infantry and armour, coming to within 2 miles of the Paris-Calais railway before being clobbered back. Two weeks of fighting: 230,000 German casualties. Ludendorff sought psychiatric help. (In Ludendorff’s retrospective, The Total War, he claimed Germany lost WWI because commitment was not total enough.)
Another, less perceptible, WWI-related change resulted from officers returning from the sparsely populated East dreaming of territorial gains. Professors soon published appeals demanding the expulsion of Eastern populations to make room for Germans.
Near war’s end Ludendorff and Hindenburg brought about the dismissal of Chancellor Hollweg in the blind hope a mythic “strong man” might miraculously emerge to re-invigorate the masses. This never happened and Ludendorff remained at the centre of critical decisions. As he found Allied peace terms unacceptable, he insisted the war continue. After a range of civilian politicians refused to cooperate, Ludendorff handed his resignation to Kaiser Wilhelm on October 26 1918 and went to Sweden to convalesce.
WWI traumatized Germany. Demobilization transformed Germany. 13,000,000 men performed military service. By contrast, only 12,000,000 voted in the 1912 Reichstag elections. Even after women got the vote, veterans comprised 25% of the electorate. 1,700,000 were killed in action. 2,700,000 were wounded. 800,000 received invalid pensions. One third of the post-war Reich budget went to war dependants and war invalids. After the war 8,000,000 soldiers melted away leaving a hardcore of career officers and fanatics. Berliners attended massive demonstrations demanding the monarchy’s permanent abolition. After a fluid revolutionary period a constituent assembly dominated by the Social Democrats, the Catholic Centre Party and the pro-business People’s Party met in Weimar, February to August 1919. This three-party coalition won the majority of seats in the 1920 election. To the oligarchy the Kaiser’s abdication was less bearable than the defeat. General von Einem suffered aphasia (inability to speak) upon hearing the news. A shipping magnate committed suicide.
Despite its drafter’s praise for national sovereignty the Versailles Treaty itself torpedoed German national sovereignty. 13% of pre-WWI German territory and 10% of its citizenry were transferred to neighbouring states. The valuable Alsace-Lorraine region went to France and a Polish Corridor divided East Prussia from Germany. In annexed territories a German’s private property could be expropriated without compensation. Germany was required to pay 6 billion British pounds in reparations. In 1920-1, after Germany failed to make payments, France occupied Germany’s industrial Ruhr area. In 1923 both France and Belgium invaded the Ruhr. Within Germany there was wide-spread, vehement opposition to Versailles.
Fascism rose from the ashes of monarchism and flared in assassinations, uprisings and coup attempts. In December 1918 oligarchic circles formed the Union for Struggle against Bolshevism to prevent thousands of armed freebooting, “Free Corps”, veterans from re-entering civilian life. Free Corps were hired to aid “White” forces fighting “Reds” around the Baltic. The Social Democrat-led government used Free Corps to attack the revolutionary left. The city of Munich contracted Free Corps to liquidate insurrectionists. Many local and regional governments set up Home Corps. Parties and unions followed suit by forming militias. By 1920 1,000,000 Germans belonged to paramilitaries.
In early 1920 the fledgling Republic ordered the disbanding of a Free Corp brigade garrisoned near Berlin and affiliated with Admiral von Tirpitz’s German Fatherland Party (est. 1917). In the morning of March 13 five thousand soldiers from this brigade, each with a swastika emblazoned on his steel helmet, marched triumphantly through Berlin’s Brandenburg Gates. (The Army troops protecting Berlin refused orders to block their entry.) Brigade commanders, supported by Generals Luttwitz and Ludendorff, announced a new cabinet. The civilian government fled to the provinces leaving behind instructions to Berliners to “stop working, stop the return of bloody reaction.” The civil service walked off en masse as did those running Berlin’s water, gas, transit and electricity services. After five days of watching a million Berliners mill about at political rallies the coup leaders fled to Sweden. The Republic was restored. Ludendorff was absolved of his crimes.
Munich was home to a private army marshalled by Ernst Rohm: an Army Major thrice wounded (twice in the head) who took up the mercenary life because he considered himself “a bad man.” The Nazi Party came to life as a propaganda detachment within Rohm’s brown-shirted Assault Troops. (Fellow early builders of the Nazi Party include military intelligence officers and the aristocratic-spiritualist Thule Society.) Rohm’s WWI vets were joined by muddle-minded youth craving the soldier’s front-line fraternity, and money. Into this milieu the Nazis preached that Bolshevism was a Jewish conspiracy and that the Soviet Union was the main enemy. The Judeo-Bolshevism hypothesis, from its inception, was a cover for politicide on the entire labour movement.
Ludendorff maintained a fanatical following. One Munich evening, November 8 1923, he was honoured guest at a right-wing convention that had tumbled into a beer hall. Nazi Party members including Himmler, Hess, Count Goring and Hitler relied on Rohm’s SA to force their way in to the hall. Hitler fired his sidearm into ceiling to get everyone’s attention then announced a plan, endorsed by Ludendorff, to begin a putschist ‘March on Berlin.’ The next morning 3,000 fascists, followers of Ludendorff and Rohm, marched toward the Munich government buildings until they were hit by a fusillade of bullets from a police line. 16 fascists and 3 police died. Many were arrested. Ludendorff was immediately released. Hitler turned his prosecution into a show trial and became a celebrity. He was given the minimum 5 year sentence for treason and served 8 months during which he and Hess wrote the best-seller Mein Kampf. From 1924 to 1928 Ludendorff was a Nazi member of parliament.
Hitler was a corporal in WWI and was wounded. In Mein Kampf, he described his war service as “the greatest and most unforgettable time of my earthly existence.” Hitler returned from the front squawking like Ludendorff’s parrot: modern war is a People’s war to be fought Totally – victory depends on Will – those undermining Will must be crushed.
In February 1925, after President Ebert (Social Democrat) died the Reich government, under pressure from the aristocracy, chose 78-year old monarchist General Hindenburg as President. In 1927, under pressure from labour, the Reich government introduced a generous unemployment insurance program. After the Crash of 1929 the cost of these programs, when added to international debt obligations, became unbearable. The Social Democrats and the People’s Party dominated parliament but could not agree on what to do. Germany entered a permanent election spin cycle.
In March 1930 President Hindenburg, citing emergency powers sections of the Weimar constitution, arbitrarily appointed Catholic Centre Party’s Heinrich Bruning as Chancellor. Bruning remained Chancellor (and Foreign Minister) without a parliamentary majority until May 1932. President Hindenburg’s signature was required on every Bruning decree thus Hindenburg levered huge expenditures onto the Army, Navy and onto bail-outs to the hopelessly indebted estates of his buddies.
When Prussian-born Alfred Hugenberg chaired Krupp Industries from 1909 to 1918 he found time to acquire a personal media empire encompassing a significant share of German newspapers, a wire service and the UFA film company. Hugenberg co-founded the Pan-German League and the German National People’s Party. For his 1929 campaign against reparations he decided to give Hitler unprecedented media exposure including appearances in weekly newsreels shown before feature films in cinemas across Germany. The exposure shrapnelled the Nazi Party from its rural Bavarian base into every major urban market. In the September 1930 election the Nazi vote spiked sevenfold. At 18% and with 107 seats the Nazis were suddenly Germany’s second largest party. In 1931 Hugenberg founded the Harzburg Front – a confederacy of reactionaries dedicated to ousting Bruning. Large contributions flowed from industrialists to the Nazis as a result of the Nazi’s inclusion in Harzburg Front activities. Rohm’s prowess at street level mobilizing impressed this constituency. Brownshirt violence on the left-labour movement was approved by the oligarchy but was something they wanted to be insulated from. Nazi membership before Hugenberg’s benevolence stood at 170,000; two years later it was 1,400,000. By this time the Nazis were openly supported by leading aristocratic houses including the Hohenzollerns.
Rivalling Rohm’s Brownshirts within the Nazi Party was Himmler’s “SS” (Protective Echelon). The SS evolved from a 200-man bodyguard service for top Nazis in the late-1920s to an elite black trench-coated party-within-the-party numbering tens of thousands by 1932.
The Depression’s laying off of millions of German workers intensified political conflict. In the April 1932 presidential run-off election against Hindenburg, Hitler garnered 37% of the vote. In July’s parliamentary elections the Nazis held at 37% and won 230 seats making them the largest parliamentary bloc. Nazis attracted rural and urban, middle and working class, voters. Businessmen were divided but most did not support the Nazis. In November elections Nazi support declined noticeably. The crest has passed.
Chancellor Bruning loyally and successfully fought for Hindenburg in the 1932 election but still fell victim of the intrigues of General Kurt von Schleircher: a fervent source of machinations aimed at freeing the central organs of government from parliamentary control. At Schleicher’s urging Hindenburg sacked Bruning in May 1932. The final straw was Bruning’s decision to break up some bankrupt estates and divide the land among tenants. Hindenburg called this “Bolshevism.”
The next chancellor, Bavarian land-magnate and cavalry officer Franz von Papen, had been parliamentary spokesmen for the Catholic Centre Party’s rightwing. Papen was an unreconstructed monarchist determined to end democracy. He immediately lifted the ban on Brownshirt activity and deposed the Social Democratic government in Prussia. In the resultant turmoil his Defence Minister, Schleicher, saw an opportunity to out-flank Papen and organized an opposition faction in the cabinet.
Hindenburg replaced Papen with Schleircher on December 1, 1932 but Schleircher was unable to garner sufficient support from parliament. Schleircher offered to transfer the chancellorship to Hitler providing that he, Schleicher, would retain control of the military. Hitler refused. Schleicher tried to go around Hitler and form an alliance with Nazi moderate, G. Strasser. This too was shot down by Hitler. Strasser, the number two Nazi, resigned.
Every political party, Nazis included, was now financially bankrupt due perpetual campaigning during the Depression. Putschist elements in the Brownshirts were getting restless and left-right street battles assumed civil war dimensions.
On January 30, 1933 a roomful of reactionaries listened to Papen explain why only the Nazis had the capacity to destroy the Left. He convinced the assembled to entrust the Nazis with limited power so they could do the dirty deed. After which, he proffered, the Nazis would be shuffled from office and the Hohenzollern monarchy restored. Hitler was named Chancellor on condition that Papen be Vice-Chancellor and that the Nazis be limited to two cabinet positions. In addition, Goring took charge of the Prussian police force (soon the Gestapo) while Himmler indirectly engineered a similar takeover of Bavarian police forces. In February 27-8 1933 the governing coalition (Centre Party, Hugenberg’s German National People’s Party and the Nazis) exploited the torching of the Reichstag to have Hindenburg sign, and parliament sanction, emergency decrees terminating the Republic. In a subsequent unfair election Nazis took 44% of the vote. Thereafter most parties were dissolved; many conservative parties dissolved gladly.
The Nazi poured taxpayer’s money into Rohm’s SA. By mid-1933 over 1,000,000 Brownshirts were in the streets helping police round up the left-labour movement. The first concentration camp opened at Dachau, March 1933. By December 100,000 socialists, leftists and union militants were interned. The reactionary-aristocratic social movement swallowed and digested the left-labour social movement. In 1934 camps were modified into permanent prisons.
With the Left destroyed, the oligarchy pressed the Nazis to demobilize the lawless, plebeian SA. An anti-SA faction led by Goring, Himmler and Goebbels convinced Hitler that his fifteen year ally, Rohm, was plotting a coup. On June 30 Hitler surprised Rohm in the morning before a scheduled meeting and had him arrested and summarily shot. Throughout the day top SA officers were liquidated. Hess called an emergency meeting of the Munich SA at their Brown House. As the building was secretly cordoned off, all SA lured in met their death. In Berlin Himmler and Goring’s men stuffed 150 SA in the coal cellar at a cadet school then pulled them out 4 at a time, charcoaled X’s over their hearts, and had junior officers fire rifle rounds into the Xs. The SA had no clue about what was happening. Many shouted “Hiel Hitler” before they died. Other victims included G Strasser and the left faction of the Nazi Party. General Schleicher and wife were shot to pieces over their breakfast table. Over 200 assassinations were committed in 24 hours. Law professors rushed forth with elaborate defences for this purge. Media mogul Hugenberg had dissolved his German National People’s Party into the Nazi Party four days before the purge and assumed a low profile for the remainder of the Third Reich. Vice-Chancellor Papen was kept under lock-step surveillance for several days during which his speech-writer and principal secretary were both shot; the latter while at work down the hall from Papen, who then resigned.
Ludendorff’s psychiatric treatment brought him into contact with a renowned mystic-neurologist whom Ludendorff then married (after divorcing his first wife). His new bride converted him to Divine German Faith – a religion claiming the angelic German race was beset upon by disembodied spirits taking the form of Jews, Freemasons, and Catholics. During his last years Ludendorff preserved a following but nobody what he was talking about. His significance declined in the early 1930s. He died 1937.
President Hindenburg became a warm supporter of Hitler. On his deathbed, August 2 1934, Hindenburg signed a decree uniting the presidency and chancellorship thus making Hitler a dictator. A snap plebiscite legitimized this.
Hitler did not assume command of Army, Navy and Air Force until February
Nazi ideology was a re-hash of medievalism, Romanticism, conventional Christianity and pseudo-scientific racist-nationalism. The Counter-Enlightenment dug the Romantic pond whereupon fascist ideology surfaced. Romantics, favouring subjectivism over reason, used fiction to glamorize and mystify national-folk identity. In Wagner’s folk mythology Germans descended from nature-gods and were by essence conservative. Wagner, whose left-to-right shift was symptomatic, preached harmony between capitalist and landlord; town and prince. In the 1870s and 1880s leading German intellectual, Paul Lagarde (nee Botticher), was a “radical conservative” out to save Germans with a new religion and a new constitution wherein a caste of country gentlemen would mediate between king and subject. Lagarde’s rightward trajectory landed him in the established churches fight against secular education. Nazi bio-politics dates to E Haeckel (1834-1919): a biology professor at Jena who claimed racial struggle yielded natural aristocracies and who advocated killing the sickly in the interests of the race. Conservatives, embracing Social Darwinism (actually Social Lamarckism), considered criminals to be genetic misfits and a strong nation’s crushing of a weak one to be a progressive act. A popular 1875 tome (dedicated to Haeckel) also claimed survival of the fittest pre-ordained aristocratic governance and furthered that militarism, absolutism, slavery and the yoke of religion were indispensible tools for Germany’s survival. Wagner’s son-in-law, Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s Foundation of the Nineteenth Century (1899) blended Darwinism with medieval mysticism to legitimize the ancient regime. A turn-of-the-century retro-Romantic craze saw well-patronized artists herald yet another death of Reason and attacked science with scientific jargon. A prize-winning 1900 essay argued for forced sterilization of weaklings. The top-selling, If I Were Kaiser (1913) made the case for shooting striking workers and restricting the vote to the rich. Rank prejudice wedded modern demographics. Social engineers spoke of husbanding the herd. Establishment politicos exploited exclusionary potentials in socio-biological jargon to justify domination of the Poles. Hitler’s pathological obsession with race loses salience against the xenophobic-authoritarian credos of his day. He quoted Chamberlain a lot.
Blood-and-soil diatribes circulated in the late 1700s. 1920s blood-and-soil propaganda pandered to the prejudices of the rural landed interest. According to this doctrine, peasants, because of their healthy rural environment, had good genes. Preserving the rural way of life preserved the race. Blood-and-soilers were agrarian utopians wishing to turn back the clock; to re-ruralise Germany. 1930s government market manipulations sought to give rural labour a living wage, hence keep them down on the farm. (Neither subsidies nor propaganda prevented rural people from being lured away by better conditions in the cities.) Agrarian utopianism was the dominant ideology as the Axis rolled East in the 1940s. These utopias presumed the subjugation of local populations. Settlement schemes in the East were modern social engineering projects directed toward a neo-feudal fantasy. The controlling mind of the Eastern conquest was Himmler’s Circle of Friends. These SS Generals regularly convened at Wewelsburg Castle in an Arthurian-themed hall with a round table around which each General’s chair was adorned with invented runic coats of arms. They played Camelot while plotting genocide.
The Nazis’ needed support from the oligarchy (aristocratic and industrial), the Lutheran Church, the military and the civil service. Large sectors of the economy remained in private, profit-driven hands. Business took advantage of labour’s decapitation, queued for government contracts and adapted to autarky. (Once in power the Nazis soon forgot the distressed artisans, hitherto a main concern.) Nazi Ministers did not wantonly purge civil servants, generals or judges. Policemen kept their jobs while police forces were taken over. Until 1938 economic policy was steered by a long-serving conservative technocrat and the Foreign Minister was an aristocratic conservative overseeing a staff of high-born diplomats.
Lutheranism’s acceptance of the Third Reich’s Positive Christianity was in keeping with Lutheranism’s 400 year tradition of cooperating with the state. “Deutschen Christen”movements in Germany and Scandinavia extended traditional Lutheran anti-Semitism into full-blown Aryanised Christianity. Their Sunday school classes taught that Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew-hating German. Nazi hatred of Catholicism was a continuation of this alliance between German Prince and Lutheran preacher. Ludendorff’s “Away From Rome” crusade decried Catholicism as subversive. Ex-Catholics like Goebbels, Himmler and Hitler, even more so pagans like Rosenberg, trashed the Vatican. Some Nazis claimed: “The Roman pope’s church is just as terrible enemy of a Volkish Germany as the Jew.” The initial response of Catholic Church was to ban their flock (a third of the German population) from joining the Nazis. A change of heart came after meetings between top Nazis and Cardinal Pacelli, Vatican Secretary of State, who was eager to sacrifice the Catholic Centre Party, and democracy in general, to make a deal. Neither this agreement, nor the Centre Party’s casting of the decisive votes to kill the Republic, ended Nazi hostility to the Vatican. Nazis closed Catholic schools, newspapers and youth organizations. They confiscated church property, especially monasteries, and persecuted clergy, especially monks. Hundreds of priests ended up in the camps. While in 1937 Pius XI denounced the violations (but not the anti-socialist or anti-Jewish persecutions) Catholic opposition to the Third Reich was negligible.
Goebbels’ propaganda machine misrepresented Hitler as having absolute power. Hitler was an incorrigible bohemian who slept late and rarely got down to business before noon. He concealed his dilettantism by surrounding himself with men whose educational level was lower than his own. Except for military and architecture matters he was contemptuous of the idea he should master administrative detail. He was seldom seen reading government papers or even sitting at a desk. Because he eschewed paperwork talking assumed vital significance. His erratic work practises and emotionalism worsened after 1938. He no longer held cabinet meetings and hid in his villa. As the war deteriorated he grew incapable of addressing difficult issues.
The Third Reich was a hexumvirate. Goring, Goebbels, Himmler and Darre each ran ‘states-within-states’ collectively accounting for most of the Reich budget for most of the Third Reich. As well, first Hess then Bormann built power bases as Hitler’s gate-keeper. Hitler was not without power.
In 1938 when certain aristocratic generals conspired to wipe out the Nazi elite they confronted the fact that one-party-states are two-edged swords. The Hitler Youth, the SS, the Gestapo, and the cultural industry were jealously commanded by the Nazi inner ring. Himmler’s SS was developing battle tank and artillery divisions soon to rival those of the Army. Goebbels’ Ministry of Propaganda and Chamber of Culture overwhelmed Germans with a torrent of films, books, and press releases. Film production was controlled from script to screen. Every movie pushed Nazism. Radio became another principal medium for mass indoctrination as 5,000,000 Germans owned radios. Under the direction of B. von Schirach (a scion of the cosmopolitan financial aristocracy) the Hitler Youth grew to count 80% of teenagers as members. The Hitler Youth were, among other things, a creaming system for Himmler’s SS and for the ultra-loyal body-guards surrounding elite Nazis.
Within the Hitler Youth “young Gestapo” clubs monitored teenage drinking, music-listening and clothing habits. While 100,000 teenagers participated in young Gestapo, other teenagers rebelled against Nazi gender segregation and Nazi music by gathering in mixed groups to listen to pop music. Young Gestapo gathered evidence until 1944 then led police raids against these rebels. Hundreds were arrested – ringleaders shot. After Stalingrad, the Hitler Youth went to war. By late-1943 there were 60,000 17-year-olds on the frontlines. In its death throes, the SS drafted 150,000 adolescents 5,000 of whom saw combat in the Battle of Berlin – 90% died.
There were 500,000 Jews in Germany when the Nazi-led boycott of Jewish businesses began on April 1 1933. A litany of anti-Jewish regulations followed, beginning with a ban on the employment of non-Aryans in government. By September 1935 Jews were excluded from any claim to equal rights. (A ‘Jew’ was a person having 3 or more Jewish grandparents, or 2 Jewish grandparents if married to a Jew or observant.) State-incited mob violence in November 1938 ended Jewish commercial activity. Weeks later Hitler told the Reichstag the impending war would result in: “the annihilation of the Jewish people in Europe.”
Third Reich criminal courts condemned to death 16,650 citizens. On doctors orders 300,000 genetic defectives were sterilized and 200,000 disabled citizens euthanized. In 1941 the Final Solution was christened by Goring and launched by Himmler. The SS’s 3,000-strong Einsatzgruppen, operating behind the invasion force in the East, shot or drowned 800,000 people in 6 months. They experimented with piping truck exhaust fumes into sealed trailers to combine killing and transportation. In December 1941 the first extermination camp (Chelmno) opened. The January 1942 Wannsee Conference approved three more death camps (Belzec, Sobidor, and Treblinka). All four camps were operational mid-1942 and were the collective venue for 1,700,000 murders. Zyklon-B gas chambers were pioneered at Auschwitz where another 1,000,000 were murdered. By 1943 the Third Reich had over 1,000 slave camps and 7 death camps. By mid-1945 they had murdered 5,700,000 Jews; 2,000,000 Polish civilians, 3,000,000 Soviet P.O.W.s and untold additional numbers of civilians amidst their sacking of 70,000 Eastern villages.
Belgium became a kingdom in 1831 after an aristocratic parliament in Brussels declared independence from the short-lived greater Dutch Kingdom. Leopold Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was Belgium’s first king. His kingdom had a Flemish (Dutch) north and Walloon (French) south. Leopold favoured the French.
The introduction of universal male suffrage in 1893 increased voters tenfold. Constitutional provisions giving owners of land and capital additional votes led to Socialist Party underrepresentation and Catholic Party overrepresentation. Electoral reform became a main electoral issue and the object of massive urban demonstrations. In 1913 general strikes were used to pressure for “one man one vote.”
During WWI Socialists threw themselves into the war effort against the German invader and were thus welcomed into King Albert’s National Unity Government. At war’s end Albert summoned all party leaders to his military headquarters at Loppem where he bypassed constitutional norms and decreed a one-man-one-vote system. In the next election Socialists emerged the equal of the Catholics who lost a 30 year parliamentary majority. Part of the Walloon aristocracy, unable to stomach “le coup d’ etat d’ Loppem,” and unable to resign themselves to co-existence with an anti-clerical and left-wing labour movement, exited democratic discourse and entered paramilitary politics. As well, Flemish politics was wrenched right-ward by expatriates in Germany who encouraged Nazi-Flemish contacts and sent Nazi propaganda.
Walloon fascism dates to 1914 when Action National was created by a young lawyer with a more-authoritarian-than-thou attitude toward the Catholic Party. His anti-democratic ideas were expressed in a Brussels daily newspaper and in For Authority magazine. He later sympathised with Italian Fascism but was primarily indebted to Maurras. Action National literature was mess-hall reading for Walloon war vets re-activated to fight internal enemies. In 1927 Action National dissolved into the Catholic Party.
The Flemish nationalist movement provided entry points for militant separatists and anti-democracy activists. Pro-Mussolini and anti-German, P Hoornaert, wanting nothing to do with parliament, established the Legion National militia in 1922. They numbered 7,000 by 1930. The rival separatist Front Party garnered 5% of the Flemish vote in 1919 and 6% in 1925. Front founder, romanticist Van Severen, shifted to Catholic-Integralism in 1922 then abandoned his own Party in 1925 to better study Maurras and champion Mussolini and D’ Annunizio. The newsweekly, Jong Dietschland, chronicled Van Severen’s self-re-invention into an ardent pan-Dutch nationalist – an objective he stressed could not be achieved via parliament. In 1931 he founded Pan Dutch Union – a militia-centered party wherein recruits agreed to blindly follow leaders. Van Severen inspected thousands of troops at theatrical rallies. He described Flemish nationalists as a Total Catholic nobility rising up through liberating their people from the twin evils of a greedy bourgeoisie’s democracy and a radical labour movement’s collectivism. Walloons, in his Greater Netherlands, would be a tame minority. Competing with Hoornaert and Van Severen was S De Clerq who, in April 1933, launched the Flemish National League to oust the confused Front Party. His political soldiers participated in elections but opposed democracy in principle.
In 1934 a sinkhole of bankruptcies left 800,000 Belgians unemployed – half uninsured. Fascists accused the government of saving “banksters” but forsaking the People. Also in 1934, King Albert died. The new king, Leopold III, said if democracy could not solve modern problems then a more authoritarian state was required. As Leopold pushed constitutional limits fascists appeared before him on bended knee offering to his loyal henchmen; except De Clerq who was bent on dividing the kingdom. Van Severen too wanted to divide the kingdom but in a strategy that alienated his base, Pan Dutch Union marched behind Belgian flags and publically honoured Leopold. In any event, Leopold avoided public dealings with fascists and acquiesced in parliament’s efforts to suppress militias.
On May 1, 1935 29-year-old Leon Degrelle used the first Rex Party meeting to earn a reputation as an orator. (Degrelle had grown up in a Walloon town reading Catholic Action literature and dreaming of a Renaissance. In 1933, after managing Editions Rex (Catholic Action’s press) for a few years Degrelle assumed control of the firm.) Rexists won 11.5% of the vote in the 1936 elections and 21 of 102 parliamentary seats. In this election the Catholic Party haemorrhaged supporters then fell into Flemish and Walloon factions leaving the Socialists the biggest party. Communists tripled their seats to 9. A confrontation between left and right seemed unavoidable after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.
Degrelle attributed Catholic Party decline to marginalization of the Party’s aristocratic-conservative faction by a Catholic workers’ movement and the Catholic Farmer’s Union. He interpreted Quadrageismo anno as a call to replace capitalist-parliamentarianism with a centralized-authoritarian system. His appeal for foreign support won funds from Mussolini but only fruitless audiences with Hitler. Degrelle mis-stepped by grandiloquently announcing a 250,000 man March on Brussels in 1936. The march was banned and only a handful showed up. He mis-stepped again by colluding with Flemish supremacists. His run for parliament drew direct fire from the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Brussels. The latter’s pastoral letter calling Degrelle a threat to Kingdom and Church hit like a torpedo. In 1939 Rexist electoral support dropped to 4%. Support for extremist parties declined across the board as older parties re-claimed 80% of the vote. After 1939 Degrelle yodelled praise of the Third Reich and begged Hitler for cash.
De Clerq, who enjoyed the benefits of a late-1930s fascitizing trend within Flemish nationalism, also conspired with the Germans. In 1938 he ordered several hundred political soldiers to occupy a Walloon town on the language border and provoke brawls. Such actions readied men for insurrection. In 1939 his Flemish National League won 15% of the Flemish vote and boasted 25,000 members (one third secret). People and State, the only paper supporting the League, was secretly owned by German agents. Until it was banned People and State consistently labelled France the warmonger. De Clerq told the Germans he was recruiting a secret order within the Belgian Army who in the event of war would obey his commands to commit sabotage. This secret order was embryonic in May 1940.
Germany invaded Belgium May 10, 1940. De Clerq’s claim that his men facilitated Belgium’s collapse is controversial because Belgian security forces arrested thousands of suspected fifth columnists at the war’s outset. Degrelle and Van Severen were arrested and shipped to France where Van Severen was murdered. De Clerq was not arrested but many in his secret order were.
Some sabotage was committed by Belgians in German pay and by members of smaller fascist groups but the supreme saboteur was Leopold III. As Supreme Commander he ordered the Army to surrender in May 28 while fighting raged. Leopold’s refusal to join the government-in-exile caused a disabling constitutional crisis and undermined the Resistance’s legitimacy and coordination. Leopold sipped tea with Hitler in November at a meeting arranged by Leopold’s sister (wife of the Italian Crown Prince.) Belgium’s main parties were prostrate. Socialists declared democracy dead, disbanded their unions and joined a coalition requesting Corporatism under Leopold. The Germans ignored the jockeying and imposed a government of German Army commissars.
As Germans favoured Flemish over Walloon, Flemish fascists collaborated while Walloon fascists resisted. An exception, the Flemish Legion National, was banned by the Germans. Founder, Hoornaert, then joined the Belgian Legion - a pro-fascist, anti-Nazi guerrilla force. He starved to death in a camp.
Pan Dutch Union broke in three after Van Severen’s demise. One faction toadied to Leopold; another followed Hoornaert into the Belgian Legion while the third morphed into a pro-German Flemish SS.
De Clerq met the Germans after Leopold’s surrender and offered full cooperation. His first post-occupation speech proclaimed faith in Hitler. Subsequent articles described Nazism as core Flemish League doctrine. He emphasized his Christianity but harboured grudges against political Catholicism. Anti-Semitism, a minor refrain pre-1940, acquired saliency. Jews had to be removed from the Flemish body. Flemish blood also had to be protected from Walloon impurities.
Flemish League members staffed the collaborationist government at all levels and many rural communes were managed by League appointees. By 1941 the League, renamed Unity Movement, absorbed the Pan Dutch Unionists thus ballooning its membership to 50,000. They lobbied the German Commissars for tighter controls on employment and provisioning and they recruited Belgians for the Eastern Front.
Suddenly, in 1942, German front groups began snapping up Flemish literary, academic and other cultural assets. By mid-1943 the Unity Movement, seeing the quicksand, hastily re-defined themselves as defenders of Flemish culture against Germanization. This caused confusion but mattered little because within months the Unity Movement consisted of 15,000 low rank soldiers inside a German Army.
Degrelle pined to be a prominent collaborator but the Germans deemed him a charlatan and denigrated his Rexists as “Catholic-fascist.” In January 1941 his newspaper ended an editorial with “Hiel Hitler”. Embracing Hitler alienated moderate Rexists but party membership grew to 15,000 after Rexists became eligible for government jobs. The Soviet invasion was Degrelle’s big chance. His leadership of the Walloon Anti-Bolshevik Legion and his personal escapades on the Eastern Front won credibility. After he orchestrated a bloody escape from a Red Army siege his Legion was integrated into the SS, Hitler anointed him ‘Fuhrer of the Walloon-German Movement’ and Rexism became a recognized expression of National Socialism.
In September 1944 as the Allies pushed into Belgium the Resistance began assassinating collaborators by the hundreds. 15,000 Flemish and 10,000 Walloon collaborators fled with their families to Germany to form governments-in-exile.
The Dutch seemed allergic to fascism. Their fascists consisted of dubious Fuhrers jousting over a small constituency. Lack of right-wing radicalism mirrored lack of left-wing radicalism.
In the 1920s Father Lutkie’s journal, Aristo,offered a mix of traditional Catholicism and fascist dynamism as an antidote to democracy. A rival fascist journal was distributed by a society on whose board sat a lieutenant-general, a baron and 5 professors. The first fascist newspaper aimed at the public appeared 1927 edited by 21-year-old H. A. Sinclair de Rochemont and funded by the heir to an insurance fortune. The two had earlier founded a party that attracted .08% of votes in the 1926 election. They adored Mussolini.
Of the three fascist parties emerging in the 1930s, one was led by an Army Major advocating union with Germany who received 1,000 votes in 1937. Another party, founded by a Catholic journalist, garnered 8,000 votes in the 1939 election – one fifth of the votes came from the leader’s home town.
More successful was the Dutch Nazi Party (NSB, est 1931) whose combination of anti-Marxism and anti-liberalism gained purchase during the Depression. Supported by hard-pressed independent farmers and small businessmen NSB took 8% of the vote in the 1935 provincial elections. NSB membership peaked in 1936 at 52,000 (5,000 from the Dutch East Indies). After NSB membership was declared incompatible with government service voter support fell to 4%. Their pro-German stance undermined them as did their leader, A. Mussert’s, lack of charisma and oratory skill. Mussert further embarrassed NSBers by insisting on marrying his aunt, 18 years his senior. The dump-Mussert faction within NSB was led by M. Rost van Tonningen - a latecomer and an advocate of union with Germany.
German conquest of the Netherlands was a boon for fascists. NSBers filled vacant mayoralties and civil service positions. NSB soon had 50,000 members and 50,000 sympathizers. Van Tonningen became Secretary-General for Financial Affairs and Nederlandse Bank president. Mussert thought he was destined to be head of state but his Dutchism antagonised Hitler whom he met 4 times only to come away with the honorific title: ‘Fuhrer of the Dutch.’
NSBers were pressed into paramilitaries. The Dutch SS sent 3,000 to the Eastern Front. Another militia set up to protect NSB leaders was commandeered by the Germans. 25,000 Dutchmen served the Third Reich’s military. 10,000 perished.
NSB popularity plummeted in 1943 as German demands for forced labour kindled resentment. Mussert sat stoically at his desk in The Hague, awaiting arrest, on liberation day and the Dutch epicurusly celebrated the liberation’s first anniversary by executing him. Van Tonningen, arrested during liberation, committed suicide in prison days later. Other would-be Dutch Fuhrers fared little better. Most were killed by the Resistance or received long prison terms.
The withholding of official documents to shield crypto-fascists has obscured British fascism’s history. As well, police records, inherently and through their selective release, misleadingly narrow attention onto fascism’s paramilitary and urban aspects. The Royal family’s relationship to fascism is a taboo topic but there was clearly a major connection. Fascist activity was left out of the obituaries of parliamentarians. Entries in the Dictionary of National Biographies deleted fascist activity.
Anti-Semitism, eugenics, racial phobias, conspiracy theories and elitist critiques of democracy frolicked in 19th century Britain and not just in conservative pastures. Liberals used racist justifications for hegemony over Ireland; moaned about mass politics eroding elite leadership; championed the market as a Darwinian proving ground; and derided parliamentarians as first-career failures out for a quick penny.
Britain took a statist turn during WWI and pacifist-leftist turn thereafter. The Defence of the Realm Act (1914) authorized the government to direct and requisition factory output. By 1918 British industry operated on socialist principles. The case for pacifism was presented by 600,000 British fatalities and 600,000 disability pensioners – 41,000 missing at least one limb.
Socialists were welcomed into government and class relations were calmed through democratization and welfare. Reactionaries expressed shocked at how liberal and democratic Britain had become.
Fascism put down an organizational base in the 1920s. Rotha Lintorn Orman was a Royalist daughter of an influential military officer. She was also an outspoken anti-Bolshevik who wore exotic uniforms and carried a sword. She founded British Fascisti in May 1923 to fight unions, subversion and illegitimate parliamentarianism. She attracted disgruntled peers, landowners and ex-military men suffering marginalization and declining income.
Conservative MP Sir Patrick Hannon joined. Fascisti splintered into: British Empire Fascists, Empire Fascist Movement, Empire Fascist League and National Fascisti. Separately, in 1928, Arnold Leese established the elaborately anti-Semitic, Imperial Fascist League.
The Russian Revolution enlivened conspiracy theorists. The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion circulated widely after 1920 as did the Zinoviev Letter after 1924.
A greater gift to the movement was the 1926 General Strike. Government weakness dismayed conservatives. Fascist membership peaked during the Strike. Afterwards police tolerated illegal fascist paramilitary drilling because the Strike convinced the oligarchy of the need for a semi-official back-up force.
George V performed a stunning display of royal power in 1931 following the collapse of Macdonald’s Labour government. Through his summoning of a National Government, George effectively chose the Prime Minister and key cabinet members.
Sir Oswald Mosley resigned a junior minister’s portfolio in Macdonald’s Labour government in 1930 to found the New Party only to be humiliated in the 1931 election. (Moseley had enjoyed a typical upper-class upbringing before entering parliament in 1918 as a Conservative, aged 21.) Moseley’s spring pilgrimage to Italy in 1932 was blessed by funding from the Fascist state. Upon return he steered sharply toward the issue of unemployment. He completed his ultra-protectionist manifesto, The Greater Britain, over the summer and launched British Union of Fascists (BUF) in October. Liras helped pay for staff and publishing.
BUF always boasted a violent fringe. An English Rugby captain recruited a battalion of upper-class Biff Boys while in working class neighbourhoods Stewards were recruited by a former welterweight boxing champion. These men fended off attacks on BUF events perpetrated by communists, socialists and even the Labour Party – the latter despising the “traitor” Moseley.
In January 1934 Lord Rothermere ordered his newspaper chain (including Daily Mail and Sunday Dispatch) to praise BUF and publicize their meetings. In April Moseley spoke at Albert Hall to an audience of 9,000. By June 1934 BUF had 500 branches and 45,000 members.
The January Club, an important BUF front, was presided over by a Scots landowner and ex-cavalry officer, Captain Luttman-Johnson, who was well-spooled into the upper-class banquet circuit. The January Club held dinner lectures for respectable Brits “in sympathy with the fascist movement” and who “believed that the present democratic system of government in this country must be changed.” The Club attracted Conservative MPs, peers, writers and directors of major businesses.
Many high society figures were among the 12,000 attending the Olympia rally in May 1934 and many of them were consequently shocked by the extreme violence meted out to hecklers by black-shirted Stewards. Criticism flapped across mainstream conservatism. The Morning Post wrote: “At this stage in our political evolution we certainly have no need of private armies marching about in exotic costume.” Some Tory MPs defended BUF methods and for days after Olympia young thugs queued at BUF’s Chelsea recruitment desk. However the urban thug image alienated BUF’s rural property-owner base. Membership plummeted after Olympia and never fully recovered. During 1935-6 membership fell below 5,000. Sales of the weekly, The Blackshirt, dropped to 23,000 and of Action magazine to 26,000. BUF was further checked by the 1936 Public Order Act’s banning of uniformed parades and paramilitary training.
Mosley returned to touring provincial market towns where large crowds cheered his attacks on international finance. BUF rallies in rural England took place with little disorder. BUF voiced the grievances of landlords suffering falling rents and farmers suffering falling prices. BUF leaders Jorian Jenks, Reynall Bellamy and Robert Saunders started out as conservative agrarian activists.
Fascism, to A. K. Chesterton, meant the return to medieval relationships like guilds in order to foster stable communities. The Corporate State’s revival of these traditions would protect workers, merchants and consumers by regulating output, prices and wages. To Sir Charles Petrie ‘Feudal State’ and ‘Corporate State’ were synonyms. Medieval England fell when society broke into antagonistic classes. Medievalism’s glory was swept aside by liberalism following the French Revolution. Subscribing to this view were the wealthy men of English Mystery – founded by Viscount Lymington in 1930 and giving rise to English Array in 1936. Other neo-feudal aristocrats replicated past splendours in the ‘White Highlands’ of Kenya and other such places.
Prominent among them were: Lord William Scott, (son of the Duke of Buccleuch), the Earl of Erroll and the Marquess of Graham (heir to the Duchy of Montrose). Scott, while a parliamentarian, joined the January Club. Erroll was BUF delegate from Kenya.
The Marquess of Graham was among the aristocrats too pro-German and too fascist for BUF. He and his brother, Lord Ronald Graham, joined the rival Right Club to fight for British alignment with the Third Reich. Also flanking BUF on the right was Colonel Graham Seton Hutchinson’s British Empire Fascists who advocated abolition of political parties; imposition of Corporatism; and re-imposition of British governance over Ireland and India. (Fascists generally opposed the “scuttling” of the Empire and were outraged by Ireland’s partitioning.) While BUF described Jews as unpatriotic profiteers flooding Britain with cheap foreign goods, many fascists considered BUF soft on Jews. Even within BUF Joyce, Chesterton and Fuller’s pathological anti-Semitism made Mosley look liberal. Some BUF cadre jumped ship to the extreme Jew-hating Nordic League.
Mosley differentiated BUF from extremer expressions of fascism including English Array. He cultivated a left-wing veneer by blaming big business for wrecking Britain. Patriotism plus socialism was the ticket. Ex-Communists became some of the best BUF activists.
British fascists were overwhelmingly Protestant but the movement was not militantly anti-Catholic. Leading fascist sympathizers, Douglas Jerrod and the English Review clique, were political Catholics.
Fascists wished to stem Hollywood’s influence on youth. Jewish-dominated American cinema was seen as a threat to race and empire. “One of the duties of Fascism will be to recapture the British cinema for the British nation” wrote Chesterton. Fascists loved Shakespeare.
George V died January 1936. Fascists cheered Edward VIII’s coronation. Edward insisted on his right to meddle in foreign affairs particularly regarding his pet project, peace with Nazi Germany. Edward cavalierly spouted on about the need for dictatorship and he trashed government economic policies. Fascists treated Edward with great affection. BUF’s Jenks claimed Edward VIII “clearly believed in many of the things we believe in.” BUF’s Bellamy gloated that with: “a kindred spirit on the Throne there would be a close understanding of our hopes and aspirations.” Reviving royal power was enthusiastically endorsed by high-society maven Lady Lucy Houston, owner of the Saturday Review, who ran articles praying for a monarch-dictator. “Italy has her Mussolini; he is her man of Destiny” she wrote “We need to hail (Edward VIII) as our man of destiny who will free us from our perplexity”. To fascists the nub of all crises was the House of Commons. The constitution was entangled by unpatriotic trends only a liberated king could untie. To English Array fascism was the restoration of medieval kingship. They held monarchy in mystical awe and bemoaned its conversion into a figurehead by party politicians. Kings earned loyalty by protecting subjects. Kings designed parliament to represent distinct localities not mere numbers. To Petrie Italy’s experience proved fascism and monarchy were one. Monarchy and fascism cared for the whole nation unlike the narrow class interests of other parties. Petrie praised King Victor for navigating past democracy with minimal bloodshed, adding: “The case for dictatorship in times of crisis can hardly be overstated.” Leese proposed Kings choose cabinets from lists drawn by an oligarchic Grand Council.
In October 1936 Mosley was in Goebbels’ drawing room marrying Diana Mitford. Around this time a rolling riot roared down London’s Cable Street. The riot exploded after thousands of leftists and Jews stormed a BUF demonstration. Disorder again discredited BUF.
When the abdication crisis broke in November 1936 fascists rushed to Edward’s side. Westminster was rife with speculation. “Are we going to have a fascist monarchy?” asked one parliamentarian. Because Mosley anticipated being invited into government by Edward, BUF went all-out to keep Edward on the throne, painting ‘STAND BY THE KING’ in three-foot letters on walls and pavements across Britain. Thousands attended Mosley’s pro-Edward speech at Bethnal Green. He had the nation’s ear. BUF appeared on power’s doorstep when Edward suddenly, mysteriously abdicated. Die-hards sojourned in mournful depression praying for the return of the once and future king.
After the abdication BUF concentrated on electioneering. They planned to have a candidate, trained agent, and a squad of women canvassers in every constituency before the next election. By 1937 they had 100 constituency associations in place. Candidates like Viscount Downe, Lady Pearson, Major-General Fuller and Admiral Powell gave BUF respectability. Fuller, in particular, pushed to erase BUF’s vulgar image. Conservatives MPs L. Moore-Brabazon, Henry Wolff, Patrick Donner, Lord Lymington and Lord Erskine were personally close to Mosley.
To lower-classes BUF displayed an anti-Establishment facade. They appealed to shopkeepers by accusing big retailers of undercutting corner-stores with bulk purchases of cheap imports. In the future Corporate State, they promised, store numbers would be fixed, big retailers restricted, and businesses not selling British goods: closed. BUF gathered momentum in 1938 as their peace campaign struck a chord with Brits fearful of another war. In 1939 membership hit 36,000.
BUF never expected to win a majority. They hoped to establish a minority presence in parliament and then be invited into power during a crisis. Moseley never plotted a coup but bragged about BUF’s support in the armed services, especially the Royal Air Force. Air Commodore Sir J. Chamier was a January Clubber. (Air power fascinated those scanning for new ways to suppress popular revolt. Mosley was a flying fascist as were his comrades: L. Moore-Brabazon, Lord Semphill and the editor of The Aeroplane, Charles Grey).
The fascists’ war resistance was unconscionable to most Brits. In 1940 Churchill’s coalition government detained 700 fascists from various parties, including Mosley. They were released in stages in 1942-3 after fascism had been discredited. No fascist aristocrat saw the inside of a jail.
In the summer of 1945 WWII ended. Churchill gave his “Iron Curtain” speech in March 1946. Cold War fascism is unwritten history but the fascist movement clearly hurdled 1945 scraped but coherent. A galaxy of fascist political and cultural organizations carried on, often using elaborate fronts. Western intelligence agencies recruited from this movement. As repressing international communism required policing dozens of national labour movements, fascism’s original function became neo-fascism’s lifeline. At the same time European pacification was facilitated by economic development, conservative mastery of electioneering and boundary stabilization. Anglo-American imposed economic liberalization led to a decline in traditional farming practises and increased migration from rural to urban areas.
West German Chancellor Adenauer made the release of certain Nazi war criminals a condition precedent for his cooperation with NATO. West German judges acquitted 88% of accused war criminals. (Officers charged with massacring Italian soldiers were allowed the defence that pursuant to the Pact of Steel uncooperative Italians were “traitors.”) Management-level functionaries from the Nazi era ran Adenauer’s government. In 1964 half West Germans did not consider the Nazi regime criminal. In 2002 half admitted their relatives supported Nazism.
US intelligence services enrolled Nazis as soldiers and spies. General Reinhard Gehlen, the Third Reich’s Eastern Front intelligence boss, re-assembled his network on US taxpayer’s dime. This network, including many war criminals, embedded itself into West German intelligence services. Gehlen helped found the CIA’s Radio Free Europe, a major instrument in the anti-communist campaign. The US-funded ODESSA group, under SS Colonel O Skorzeny, helped war criminals escape justice. Another Skorzeny outfit, Palidin Inc., ran a multi-national mercenary business from head offices in Spain. Palidin Inc. fought wars in Africa with German vets unabashedly faithful to Nazi ideals.
In 1943 the Catholic People’s Party of Italy regrouped as the Christian Democrats. While they dominated Italian politics during the Cold War, in the shadows, Christian Democrats kept wires open to, and influenced, the neo-fascist movement. Pope Pius XII’s anti-communist crusade also shaped neo-fascism.
In 1944 Italy’s pro-Allied government ordered the capture of Fascist leaders. 8 were arrested while most fled to Mussolini’s Social Republic. As that regime collapsed last-minute surrender deals quietly absolved many of their crimes. Those who were arrested were often found innocent on the grounds they had no choice but to commit crimes because their families were threatened.
Of the few found guilty most benefitted from a 1946 amnesty broadly interpreted by Fascist-era judges. Men responsible for gruesome atrocities walked.
Graduates from Fascist Party indoctrination programs governed post-war Italy. Until the 1960s police forces were staffed by former Fascists including criminals. Rome’s police chief in the 1950s was a violent OVRA veteran. One of Italy’s most prominent post-war publishers was a former squadristi and former head of the Press Directorate where he specialized in anti-Semitic propaganda.
After WWII Italian-Americans Leo Pagnotto and Joe Luongo set up an intelligence network in Italy for the CIA consisting of former Fascists who were actively re-grouping on their own. In January 1946 the clandestine Revolutionary Armed Forces was forged under the command of: Graziani, Rauti, Almirante, Romualdi and Evola. After December 1946, when the electoral party, Italian Social Movement (MSI), was launched, Revolutionary Armed Force cadre joined MSI en masse. Graziani became MSI leader while Almirante and Romualdi formed MSI’s spiritualist Evolian faction. (International art celebrity, Julius Evola, used books such as Revolt against the Modern World, Orientalism and Men among the Ruins to spread spiritual-fascism from the movement’s fringes in the 1920s to its mainstream in the 1950s.) In 1949 the CIA engineered the release of Class A war criminal, Prince Junio Valerio Borghese: former commander of the notorious 25,000-man counter-insurgency division, X Mas. (Colonel Skorzeny and Prince Borghese were pals.) Upon release, the Prince founded the National Front. In 1949 Joe Luongo told the Italian government that in the event of a left-wing uprising they could count on support from neo-fascist paramilitary brigades to whom, Joe said, the CIA had paid big bucks.
In the 1950s MSI accepted Italian membership in the Western alliance and their wordsmiths crafted a new nationalist-conservative-vaguely-fascist party line. They remained ostracized but with a firm base in the south’s nostalgic constituency. Rival neo-fascists steadfastly stuck to an intransigent anti-Western, anti-capitalist line. Some neo-fascists embraced self-exclusion. In the late-1950s terrorism was taken up by New Order Study Centre, founded by P Rauti in 1956, and by National Vanguard, launched in 1959 by Prince Borghese associate, S Delle Chiaie. MSI men shared the terrorist’s devotion to Evola and, at least secretly, their love for SS and Iron Guard symbols.
Neo-fascists, believing the “Opening to the Left” sanctioned by President Kennedy and Pope John XXIII to be a fatal mistake, proposed an alternative: the “strategy of tension.” NATO’s south-European counterpart, FTASE, extended a benevolent hand to “strategy of tension” as did MSI and the conservative fringes of both the Liberal and Christian Democratic Parties. French neo-fascist Guerin Serac figured centrally in “strategy of tension” planning which began at a 1965 conference in Rome on unorthodox counter-revolutionary warfare hosted by the Italian Army’s Political Institute. Conference participants included Rauti, Delle Chiaie, numerous academics, generals and businessmen. Neo-fascists entered the “strategy of tension” on the understanding they would occupy important positions in the future authoritarian state. Plotters included: Prince Borghese’s National Front, Masonic Lodge Propaganda 2 and certain Mafia clans. The CIA sanctioned the coup, using Skorzeny as liaison. The strategy involved provoking the Left into a civil war then using the chaos as a pretext for an Army coup, planned for December 1970, that would replace civilian governance with an emergency administration. Assassination and bombing campaigns by Delle Chiaie’s National Vanguard and Rauti’s New Order created dread and disorder. Rauti quit New Order and returned to MSI in 1969 just as New Order bombed Milan’s Piazza Fontana killing 17, injuring 88. When December 1970 came the coup-plotters got cold feet and Prince Borghese fled to Spain. A second plot came to the brink in 1972 and a third fizzled in 1974 but not before two more bomb massacres. In 1974 the National Vanguard dissolved itself and Prince Borghese died mysteriously in Cadiz.
After the Communists almost won the 1976 election efforts were redoubled to keep them from office. In 1978 the Red Brigades, a mysterious syncretic polymorph, kidnapped and murdered top Christian Democratic politician Aldo Moro - the personification of “Opening to the Left.” The brutal treatment of Moro demolished sympathy for the Left and ended the left-liberal rapprochement.
Mobilizing ideas change to accommodate organizational trajectories. Neo-fascists won admittance into governance by shrugging off their past; by declaring themselves “post-fascist.” Even the MSI dropped the “F” word. Now called National Alliance they sometimes espouse economic liberalism. The successful Northern League started out as an apparently centrist party but later embraced New Right ethno-regionalism. Northern League and National Alliance are both sometime allies of Prime Minister Berlusconi who panders to the medusa-like neo-fascist movement by claiming “Mussolini never killed anyone” and that the sending of dissidents into “confino” was no worse than sending them to summer camp.
Neo-fascism varies much from one European country to another. Purges and trials of 100,000 collaborators drove Dutch fascism underground. The incarcerated mostly received short sentences and were free by 1950, albeit condemned to society’s margins. A charity, Society of Political Delinquents (SOPD), was sanctioned in 1952 but banned soon after. SOPD men were implicated in a 1952 prison break springing seven serious war criminals. In 1953 two former SOPD members teamed up with a former SS officer to found NESB, the Dutch franchise of the European Social Movement. NESB clipped its propaganda to skirt anti-fascist laws but openly espoused Corporatist economics. NESB was deemed a Nazi reunion and its leaders were given prison terms but higher courts overturned these sentences noting the absence of leadership-principle and racism in NESB literature. Another charity, Help for Former Eastern Front Soldiers, emerged only to have its politically orientated members split to form a party that received 0.3% of the vote in the 1956 election. In 1958 the Farmer’s Party injected xenophobic peasantist ideas into an aggrieved rural constituency but exhibited no explicit racism. Farmer’s peaked in 1967 winning 7% of the vote in provincial elections; 10% in Amsterdam. Their sole parliamentarian was exposed as an anti-Semitic writer and Neo-Nazi activist. Further investigations revealed Farmer’s to be a Neo-Nazi barn.
Overt neo-fascist parties appeared on Dutch radar after 1970. Many were fly-by-night. The Party of the New Right ran for Amsterdam council in 1974 under the slogan ‘Amsterdam free of foreign taints’ but dissolved when their leader vanished amidst accusations he bombed a housing project while employed by West German intelligence. National Socialist Action, a flagrantly racist affair linked to likeminded German and Belgian groups, promoted skinhead culture through neo-Nazi music events. This swastika tattooed endeavour peaked in the 1980s with 10,000 Dutch participants but its appeal was limited to rebellious teens of whom only a small fraction became activists. Their media coverage exceeded their threat. More urbane was Netherland Volk Unity (NVU) who prophesised the biological extinction of the Dutch. NVU’s public face was its young recruits and less reputable old fighters hid in the back until a 1973 changing of the guard placed known Nazis centre stage. The party had no funds. An NVU latecomer won the leadership with speeches praising Hitler’s military genius. In the 1974 provincial elections NVU used extensive leafleting to protest immigration policy and received 4,000 votes. In 1976, after riots erupted near Rotterdam following a Dutchman’s murder by a Turk, NVU activists swarmed Rotterdam handing out inflammatory leaflets. In the 1977 national elections they got 33,000 votes. In the late 1970s NVU spokesmen were arrested for inciting racial hatred, their meetings were disrupted by anti-racists and their electoral support plunged.
The main 1980s Dutch neo-fascist venture, the Centre Party (CP), accused the government of implementing apartheid against its white majority and of drowning Dutch culture in immigrants. With propaganda mindful of the censor they concentrated on recruiting whites in areas impacted by immigration. CP meetings were often disrupted and their founder resigned after being forced to choose between his academic and political career. When his replacement won a seat in the Second Chamber a riot greeted his arrival. CP garnered 0.1% of the vote in the 1981 national elections. Running in all districts in 1982 entitled them to television broadcasts which bumped their tally to 68,000 votes (0.8%). In the uproar after a Turk’s shooting of 6 Dutchmen in a cafe, CP grabbed 8% of the vote and seven council seats in Rotterdam’s civic election and 9% of the vote and 2 council seats in a commuter town populated with whites re-housed from Amsterdam. One CP councillor renounced his party membership after uncovering within the CP a controlling cabal of old Nazis devoted to solving overpopulation with abortions and sterilizations, one race at a time. CP support declined in the 1980s because of a revitalized NVU and because fragments from both parties merged into yet another rival. CP lost its only seat in 1986 amidst allegations their leader’s bodyguard was a bomber but regained it in 1989 when CP captured 1% of the vote.
In the 1990s opposition to immigration and Islam spawned Liveability Parties. Liveability Rotterdam harnessed discontent arising from the sheer number of immigrants in the city and the stresses they placed on school and welfare systems. Liveability leader, the media-hyped and flamboyantly gay Pim Fortuyn, argued Islamic immigration threatened gays and feminists. Assimilation was the issue, not race. Fortuyn was expelled from Liveability Netherland but not from Liveability Rotterdam which, in 2002, won 17 of 45 Rotterdam council seats. List Pim Fortuyn ran in the next national election but Pim was assassinated 9 days before the poll by a deep ecologist.
After Yugoslavia’s break-up in 1990 Serbia and Croatia each claimed areas populated by crazy quilts of ethnicities and each then sought to homogenize (“ethnically cleanse”) these areas. In the subsequent Bosnian War neo-fascist mercenaries from Russia and Greece fought on the Serb side; neo-fascists from Catholic Europe were hired by the Croats, and Islamists linked to al-Qaeda fought for Bosnia’s Muslims.
Remnants of WWII fascist militias, supported by émigrés, carried on a guerrilla war against the Yugoslavian government for 30 years. In 1972 a 19-man Ustasha commando platoon landed in Bosnia, survived six weeks of skirmishes and killed 13 people before being caught. Franjo Tudman’s Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), bankrolled by exiled Ustasha, won the 1990 Croatian elections fairly but quickly mutated into a monolithic authoritarian-nationalist party. In subsequent elections HDZ harassed newspapers and manipulated results, notably in the 1995 Zagreb mayoralty election. Tudman, a historian and Holocaust sceptic, brought back the Ustasha’s red chequerboard emblem and re-named the currency “kuna” after the Ustasha’s. HDZ’s war of conquest in Bosnia involved concentration camps, massacres and expulsions of Muslims and Serbs. HDZ also led two large anti-Serb sweeps in Croatia.
Slobodan Milosevic’s trek from socialism to nationalism began in 1987 when as Serbian Communist League President he secured state power. In 1988 he ordered the mobilization of massive Serb nationalist rallies. During Yugoslavia’s breakup he secured the presidencies of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and the Serbian Republic. SPS control of the media made a mockery of electoral legitimacy as did the wholesale infiltration of opposition parties by secret police. SPS’s pick for the honorary title of Yugoslav President, D. Cosic, had written: “Serbs are ruined, assimilated, persecuted and brought to revolution to destroy the spiritual trash-heap of the Titoist system.” Cosic called for: “Burning all the books, all the texts and newspapers written by the Communists and under their government”. SPS also allied with the Serbian Renewal Movement leader who pioneered the “Serbian renaissance” with novels graphically depicting Muslims torturing Serbs and who sent his own regiment to the Bosnian War. SPS allied with the Serbian Radical Party leader who, on public television, called for murdering Croats with rusty spoons. His militia fought under the SPS-controlled Yugoslav People’s Army as did the “Tigers” – the private army of Belgrade crime boss, Arkan (assassinated in 2000). These forces, along with the militias of Serbs living in Croatia and Bosnia, massacred and expelled non-Serbs. Half the population were expelled from the “Serbian enclave” in Bosnia. In Srebrenica 8,000 Muslims were shot. Milosevic was overthrown in 2000 after his grip on power was loosened by military defeat, economic collapse and Western support for the opposition.
In France the violent clandestine, Young Nation, came together in 1949 but lacked influence until France’s 1954 defeat in Indochina let them play their anti-communist card. Triumphs of the Algerian resistance in 1961 spawned the Secret Army Organization (OAS): a neo-fascist terrorist command center targeting Algerian leaders. OAS lured mainstream conservative nationalists into a web of organizations with a neo-fascist centre. OAS founder, Catholic zealot Guerin Serac, had fled France in 1945 for Salazar’s Portugal which allowed him to operate the international resource centre, Aginter Press. In the 1960s and 1970s, Aginter subsidiary (Order and Tradition) dispatched mercenaries to perpetrate bombings and assassinations around the world with US dollars and Portuguese blessings.
On the French domestic front, M. Bardeche’s 1961 cult classic, What is Fascism, spelled out neo-fascism’s goals as destroying socialism and capitalism. A revitalized Nietzsche cult appeared in campus culture chaperoned by trendy lefty-anarcho-post-modernists like M. Foucault. Electorally, the fascist-riddled Union for the Defence of Tradesmen and Artisans peaked in the 1956 national election winning 52 of 595 seats but declined rapidly thereafter. They campaigned for tax breaks for antiquated economic enterprises. Neo-fascists were without a serious electoral vehicle until the Front National (est. 1972) and it took them a decade to achieve a ballot box breakthrough.
Hungary’s “little Arrow Crossers,” released from prison in the late-1940s, resurfaced in incidences of anti-Semitic violence during the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising. Post-1989 neo-fascists enjoy the same symbiotic relationship with conservatives that Horthy-era fascists did. One dividing line between neo-fascists and conservatives is over the Hungarian Socialist Party whom conservatives treat as just another party but whom neo-fascists treat as a communist remnant hence a treasonous enterprise. A greater divide is over the issue of returning real estate confiscated after WWII. Property restitution is the main issue of the demagogic Independent Smallholders Party and a myriad of neo-fascist direct action youth groups. (Conservative youth groups tend to follow the neo-fascist lead.) The Justice for Life Party took 5.5% of the vote in the 1998 elections mostly from elderly middle class residents of Budapest’s wealthier districts. The party name recalls the Horthy-era Life Party and its propaganda recalls Horthy-era anti-Semitism. Neo-fascist youth, disavowing the 2006 election (because a politician allegedly misrepresented statistics) occupied state television headquarters until evicted by the police. In the following month (the 50th anniversary of the 1956 uprising) neo-fascist violence rocked Budapest. Calls to overthrow the government alienated conservatives who otherwise did not denounce the violence.
British fascists were vilified as Hitler-lovers and fifth columnists. The 1946 hanging of William Joyce for treason was a restrained gesture. The Holocaust also impacted British conscience but the overarching fact was Anglo-American liberal democracies had slain fascism in mortal combat. Moseley and Chesterton’s careers survived the war but the label “fascism” did not. Moseley founded the Union Movement in 1948 to unite conservatives and the extreme right around a program of: European unification, European control of Africa and an end to coloured immigration. More extreme elements flocked to the National Party, National Workers Movement, and Chesterton’s League of Empire Loyalists. The latter gave rise to: White Defense League (1956), British National Party (1960), Nationalist Socialist Movement (1962) and the National Front (1967). Colin Jordan, who was patronized by Arnold Leese, gained a following among Nordic League chapters across Europe with his Deltmoid Programme: opposition to coloured immigration, Christianity and democracy. Overt neo-fascists are addled by infighting and the only issue giving them purchase in the British political market is immigration.
Franco ruled until Franco died in his bed in 1975. In 1969 Franco named Alfonso XIII’s grandson as his successor and as such King Juan Carlos recovered the throne for the Bourbons. Pope Pius XII consider Franco the very model of a modern Mediterranean ruler. Fascist rhetoric was common among Franco’s appointees and Franco’s Spain was a sanctuary for fascist combatants and collaborators. Franco welcomed Croatian Ustasha leader A Pavelic, Skorzeny’s ODESSA gang, L Degrelle and many other Belgian and French fascists. Spain hosted a dense network of international and local neo-fascist organizations like New European Order and Circle of Spanish Friends of Europe (CEDADE). Italian neo-fascists facing charges stemming from “strategy of tension” fled to Spain. Explicit fascist rhetoric remains a badge of honour among the quasi-conspiratorial cabals embedded in post-restoration Spain.
Flemish ultra-nationalism flourished after WWII however major manifestations like Flemish Nationalist Party (est. 1954) professed a commitment to parliamentary democracy; an ambiguity shared by the Flemish Bloc who won electoral respectability in the 1970s. Less ambiguous fascism surfaced in the 1980s. In 2004 the fascistic Flemish Interest took 24% of the Flemish vote.
The fall of Romania’s Communists was followed by a cultural barrage aimed at rehabilitating the Iron Guard and Antonescu. Romania faces a visible neo-fascism and well-connected crypto-fascists pretending to be apolitical and pro-Western.
Outside Europe there were few unambiguously fascist regimes. On the other hand, most post-colonial or developing world regimes have multiple fascist features. Brazilian dictator Vargas had fascist attributes. His suppression of Integralism was merely intra-movement violence. Argentina’s Peron also suppressed Integralism and also possessed fascist attributes. Moreover, Peron’s career involved personal cooperation with Mussolini, Franco and Wehrmacht Generals. Argentine Generals created a haven for Nazi war criminals and massacred oppositionists. Another fascistic tendency is on display in Syria where the Assad dynasty (with fascist origin) enjoys a quasi-royal dictatorship. North Korea also had a dictator son succeed a dictator father. Jean Bokassa, dictator-cum-emperor of Central African Republic (1966-79) invented the only post-1945 monarchy.
European neo-fascism is a two winged beast. Both wings promote a United Europe independent of the American-led West. Both resent the outcome of WWII and denounce US imperialism for spreading liberal capitalism. One neo-fascist wing is identifiable by the vice-like fascination Nazi symbols still hold on its members. This wing tends to clandestinity, para-militarism and terrorism. Its main cause celebre is immigration. (Violence against immigrants is committed but seldom openly theorized about.) The other wing is crypto-fascist. They subordinate appearance, including verbal appearance, to a pragmatic strategy. They shun Nazi symbols and focus on art, media and academia. Crypto-fascists are eclectic and routinely over-haul their rhetoric. Many passed through an “existentialist” craze before falling in love with Third World revolutionary movements.
In the 1960s and1970s one feather of the crypto-fascist wing appeared as Maoists. Belgian Jean-Francois Thiriart rose to prominence in the early 1960s as the founder of an OAS front, Young Europe. In 1965 Thiriart suddenly disassociated himself from colonialism, and the OAS, in order to champion anti-American revolutionary movements worldwide. His “Third Way” followers pointed out how Mao Tse Tung’s nationalist peasantism read much like inter-war fascist propaganda. With “Hitler and Mao United” as a motto Third Way cells spread to many lands. Their public face was often Maoist or Third World solidarity activist. Thiriart was popular in Italy where a party called People’s Struggle surfaced in Rome in 1969 and soon jettisoned an extremist splinter, the Third Position, whose wild acts of armed spontaneity parodied revolutionary movements. Fellow Maoist-fascists, the Armed Revolutionary Nucleus, murdered many Italians between 1977 and 1981. Thiriart’s latter energies went to European unification.
Also in the 1960s and 1970s other crypto-fascists self-identified as the New Right (a label also claimed by a quite separate economic-liberalist current). The neo-fascist New Right paid deference to Evola but declared earlier strategies obsolete. In 1968 Alain De Benoist, the New Right’s man in Paris, piloted the European Civilization Research Group: an exclusively academic cabal who chose the dead Italian Marxist Gramsci as their hero. They cut and pasted Gramsci’s ramblings about “cultural hegemony” into a neo-fascist discourse. Gramsci’s “communitarian-differentialism” became code for the right of races to self-identity. New Right’s man in Italy, M. Tarchi, rejuvenated neo-fascism through the journal, Voice of the Sewer (est. 1974), and he led youth into discussions about literature, pop music, feminism and the environment. His Hobbit Camps introduced Tolkien to Italian neo-fascism. The New Right in Germany focussed on rewriting history, undoing the post-war consensus and critiquing republicanism.
Cocooned in “sixties culture” crypto-fascism metamorphosized into the New Social Movements now fluttering about campuses as ultra-feminists, homosexualists and environmentalists. The late 1990s anti-globalization wave, with its anti-Western cultural xenophobia, was partly a manifestation of this project.
The “Fascist Internationale” is a mythical beast. There were ensembles of overlapping neo-fascist organizations but never a tight federation. On Italian Social Movement initiative conferences took place in Rome (1950) and Malmo (1951) to unite national neo-fascist movements. The outcome was the European Social Movement. Many conference goers, outraged at strictures toning down racism and radicalism, held a subsequent conference in Zurich to found New European Order and declare war on mongoloid Bolshevism and Negroid capitalism. Other international neo-fascist confederacies elbowed in: Jeune Europe, Northern European Ring and most importantly World Anti-Communist League (WACL).
Circa 1960 Western intelligence agencies, anti-communist orgs and unreconstructed fascists began building international coordinating capacity. WACL, founded in 1966 in South Korea, was a US-led contribution to this effort. WACL chapters were established in many countries but were particularly dense in Europe where many neo-fascists, unable to carve out autonomy, settled for subordinate positions within the NATO system. WACL convention delegate lists were neo-fascist directories. WACL was a lighthouse in the foggy netherworld of Croatian terrorists, Norwegian Neo-Nazis, Japanese war criminals, American ultra-rightists, the Italian Social Movement and CEDADE etc. Anti-liberal, anti-democratic capacity-building was paid for with suitcases of cash from agents of liberal democracies.
Collaboration between governments and neo-fascists peaked in the late-1960s/early-1970s and overflowed into Latin America. Collaboration was palpable in Greece when the Colonels seized power to face down increasing demands from the Left. Australian Neo-Nazis were consistently deployed by the state against a revitalized Left. In the Chilean coup, and in the perennial Italian coup-plotting, neo-fascists were the acknowledged partners of the generals. The nightmare befalling Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and Venezuela was partly the handiwork of international neo-fascist networks. During Operation Condor – the secret inquisition claiming the lives of thousands in South America’s southern cone – European neo-fascists undertook lethal covert missions funded by intelligence services, including the CIA. The mercurial mobility and chameleon-like covers of the neo-fascists bamboozled victims and investigators. Neo-fascist terrorists were mercenaries but rejected this definition preferring to see themselves as wandering warrior spirits fighting demons.
The operational alliance between neo-fascists and governments weakened due to cutbacks in Western funding and due to neo-fascism’s loss of sanctuaries in Spain, Portugal and Greece. When prospects of socialist revolution diminished to the vanishing point the relationship between the neo-fascist movement and Western intelligence agencies changed. Neo-fascists swung their sights westward.
Cloud the past – fog the present. Historical narratives are formulated, and culpability assigned, with contemporary politics in mind. The notorious neo-fascist historians are the Holocaust deniers but there are other efforts to obscure fascism’s history. For example, before 1989 Hungarian historians defined Horthy’s regime as fascist even if they scripted its crimes into the tragedy: ‘Hungary: victim of fascism.’ After 1989 Hungarian historians took to splitting hairs between fascism and conservative-authoritarianism. The official French history of fascism, endorsed by Gaullist and Communist, is that collaboration did not result from ideological support for fascism. Sartre reduced fascism to mere admiration of the Third Reich and claimed fascism to be toxic to the French body-politique. Most German academics dispute the Third Reich’s categorization as “fascist.”
A clique gathered around The Journal of Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions in the 1950s amidst a cross-disciplinary ‘totalitarian studies’ trend in university humanities departments. Led by Cold Warrior Zbigniew Brzezinski, totalitarian theorists endeavoured to make fascism appear identical to communism. Moreover, the totalitarian school used the myth of the all-powerful dictator to give an alibi to the aristocracies of fascist regimes. The idea of a totally controlling quasi-magical leader was a fascist propaganda tenet. The idea that such leaders were totally responsible for the crimes of those regimes is a neo-fascist propaganda tenet. No fascist dictator controlled his society, few controlled their desks.
Totalitarian theory begat another cross-disciplinary network, the ‘fascism-as-political-religion’ school. In their narrative fascism arose amidst the psychic ruins of industrialization and urbanization. Modernization weakened Christendom, the masses strayed, and fascism was sucked into the secular vacuum. Disrupted traditional thought patterns left the masses vulnerable to the charismatic one’s spell-binding words. Political religion theorists resemble the object of study in their irrational-masses/rational-elite mindsets; in their fondness for collective psychology and in their belief that the masses need religion. Political religionists bring a semi-religious fervour to a quasi-totalitarian crusade to impose a consensus onto academia regarding fascism’s essence. One political religionist writes history for those “who may think atomistic pluralism and multiculturalism have gone too far.” Political religionists are dismissive of intellectuals who focus on fascism’s socio-economic base and function, preferring instead to slavishly track the “cultural studies” meta-trend toward uncritical description and linguistic tire-spinning. Fascism is approached as a system of symbols, myths and male fantasies. Fascism becomes a dead poet’s society; an ideological genre with ultranationalist renaissance-through-violence as its core. Fascism is kept separate from “parafascism” i.e. archconservative dictatorships with fascist trappings but without the distinctive cry of re-birth through fire.
To Italians Fascism and neo-fascism are mysterious shrouds. In the 1960s, “post-fascists” re-depicted Mussolini as a bizarro accident. The Fascist regime became a concerto played by Mussolini and a few henchmen; a regime oddly lacking any social base. An official Myth of Resistance casts the false impression that there was mass organized resistance throughout the Fascist era. In addition, former Fascists insist their allegiances had honourable motives. One widely cited historian wrote that his youthful loyalty to Fascism was merely loyalty to his father (a prominent Fascist) and loyalty to Italy. Academic comprehension of Fascism was headed off at the pass by the American-supported anti-communist Renzo De Felice whose tortuous 6,000 page biography of Mussolini is a much-cited but seldom read reference work. De Felice could not squeeze in a page to account for Fascism’s Ethiopian victims. In a derivative rash of revisionist biographies even the villainous Achille Starace is re-cast as a loyal, honest war hero.
The Association of German Historians generally ignored the Nazi period except for elite resistance; promoted the heroic Wehrmacht myth; and taught not just German innocence during the Third Reich but German honour. In their crafted narrative of “the Resistance” half-invented tales of a tiny number of people are magnified into an archetypal national experience. The glamorization of the Kreisau Circle (the conspirators behind the July 1944 assassination attempt on Hitler) is predicated on the greater myth that German officers performed honourably during WWII. The Kreisau Circle’s Christian motives are emphasised but these men were Class A war criminals. Focussing on the military’s inability to overthrow Nazism justifies less powerful citizen’s acquiescence. The entire discourse deflects attention from the fact that more Germans, particularly elites, supported Nazism than opposed it. Protests against the Third Reich were as common as attempts on Hitler’s life. Totalitarianism theory dissolved the crimes of Nazism into the homogenizing vat of ‘evils of extremism’ then drained this admixture into every school-child’s cranium. The Third Reich was all Hitler’s idea. He had all the power. Hitler was an accident in the workings of an otherwise okay society. President Weizsacker (a Christian Democrat and the son of a powerful Nazi) gave a celebrated speech in 1985 decrying how Hitler transformed Germans into hapless tools for his insane persecution of Jews. Such was the dogma of the historical fraternity until 1970 when things loosened enough to allow for select publication of studies suggesting the Nazis were not omnipotent. However it remained vorboten to depict Nazism as an extension of conservativism. Chancellor Kohl (a professional historian) pushed the official history through two new museums. A Day of Tribute to the Resistance is now celebrated annually with a gathering at the new German Resistance Memorial. Cinema is a major medium for this endeavour. The 1982 film The White Rose romanticized a resistance group. (The film’s ambiguities compelled the government to delay foreign distribution.) The 2005 Sophie’s Scholl broadened “resistance” to include everyday acts of insubordination. The film, filled with religious symbolism, casts Christianity as the great comforter and likens Germans to children lost in the woods for having strayed from their God. There are numerous award-winning big budget movies in the resistance-magnification genre such as Schindler’s List, Valkrys and Inglorious Bastards.
Addendum: Fascism and Environmentalism
There is no Devil, according to songwriter Tom Waits, that’s just God when he’s drunk. Focussing on fascism’s ephemeral symbolic appearances conjures an image of a shape-shifting political pariah adapting to different eras and lands. A more enlightening focus is on fascism’s base and function. Fascism’s base is always the oligarchy, particularly the land magnates. Fascism’s universal function is the rolling-back of parliamentary democracy and economic liberty. Oligarchic oscillation between conservativism and fascism makes these two isms sibling rivals in a coveted social location. Memberships overlap and strategies adapt to temporary circumstances. Permanent is the oligarch’s need of populists to push unpopular causes. Oligarchs prefer passive citizens to massive mobilizations and resort to violent plebeian parties if they cannot govern through conservative parties.
Labels illuminate differences along the quest for descriptive accuracy. Fascists cannot agree on the meaning of “fascism.” The label’s enduring slipperiness mocks efforts to resolve protracted disputes with a common definition.
Distinguishing the fascist from the merely right-wing or conservative usually involves a classificatory schema along the conservatism-authoritarianism-fascism spectrum. Such taxonomies trap political parties and social movement organizations in a flicker of history; but these are dynamic opportunistic organisms capable of quick mutation. Another source of confusion results from disconnecting the expendable rabble-rousing sub-movement from its oligarchic-reactionary master movement. A greater explanatory obstacle is fascism’s flatly contradictory discursive trail. A sketchy program is evidence of fascism. Fascists love paradox: reactionary agendas dressed in revolutionary rhetoric; cutting-edge public relations technology promoting archaic economic practices; anti-capitalist sermons from big business; and intellectuals marching in anti-intellectual parades because for things to remain the same everything has to change.
While there are no fixed borders between fascism and conservativism, the latter tends to appeal to elites valuing stability over all. Conservatives distrust foreign intervention; fascists throw the dice. A reactionary movement adhering to legalism suggests conservativism while one engaging in illegality suggests fascism. An octopine party recruiting in several conflicting and often impoverished social locations distinguishes fascism from traditional monarchies and primitive military juntas.
Fascism’s main shtick was the oligarchic-led illiberal, anti-democratic populist mobilization. While this mobilization often sounded racist or ultra-nationalist in motivation, fascism was an international movement traversing many countries at once where the protagonists pursued explicit internationalist, even globalist, aims. A call for territorial revision, often with a racist rationale, was a fascist trait as was the targeting of races for annihilation, plunder, or helotage. However, the attack on the Jews was inextricable from the attack on economic liberalism just as fascism’s hysterical anti-communism was inextricable from sweeping attacks on the labour movement and democratic rights in general. Moreover, while nationalism is an abstract rhetorical resource capable of legitimizing any behaviour, in Europe it mostly involved broadcasting racial legends and invented traditions to facilitate aristocrat-led state-building projects. Racism was not fascism’s common denominator; it was Euro-nationalism’s common denominator.
Fascists rejected socialism and capitalism. They advocated a central planned economy where most of the wealth remained in private hands but where the state delineated markets and established councils to manage them. Fascist economic nostrums were: anti-market, anti-consumer; anti-economic.
Fascists advocated political systems other than one-person-one-vote parliamentarianism. They usually pushed some form of an estates system favouring the landed interest. Fascists struggled to transform dictatorial parties into one-party states.
Fascists were eager to use state terrorism and media monopolization. They propagated engrossing ideologies complete with demonic scapegoats and semi-divine leaders. A cult of the dead manifested in ubiquitous skulls and exotic crosses was definitely a fascist trait as were: proclamations of a New World; a determination to control Africa; an obsession with decline; spiritualism, opposition to mechanization, a mobilizing passion of victimhood and compensatory cults of energy and purity. Fascist ideology was embroidered with misanthropism and nihilism. Fascists exhibited an unusual propensity for violence before and after acquiring power. Success in acquiring power was not a fascist trait. Military prowess was definitely not a fascist trait.
Fascism was, and environmentalism is, a social movement. Such phenomena can survive and mutate for long periods. The environmental movement is the lineal descendant of the fascist movement. The core commonality is the central role played within each by aristocratic oligarchs. Both movements arose, not as noisy populist mobilizations, but as assiduous recruitment campaigns inside the aristocracies, churches, oligopolists, and military. Just as fascism arose to counter a leftist surge, environmentalism burst upon a 1960s scene where union membership and campus radicalism were at unprecedented levels. Both fascism and environmentalism first targeted the Left from whom they borrowed a revolutionary facade. As they climbed the steps of power both movements dropped radical veneers and cooperated openly with elites.
Fascists assembled capillary-structured organizational matrices reaching into every village and neighbourhood. ‘Local’ enviro-NGOs claim to protect every watershed, air-shed, forest, desert, archaic village, and under-privileged neighbourhood. Today there are tens of thousands of enviro-NGOs attending to pet local projects inside an international environmental movement that is far more centralized than it appears.
Fascist movements were all colour-coded. Early on the environmental movement chose green.
Environmentalists, like fascists, make much use of extra-parliamentarian activism often of a criminal nature. A judiciary unwilling to prosecute fascist violence was a precondition of fascist success. Judges are notoriously slack on eco-activists who block roads, trespass, and commit all manner of mischief and harassment on up to bombings and murder. This criminality is important to environmentalist strategy.
Fascists directed their misanthropic impulse at all but a select few races. Environmentalists call for mass population reduction and they claim wilderness rights trump human rights. The environmental movement and population control movement overlap at a thousand points. Population control consists of persons from one race shrinking the population of another race through: abortions, contraception, homosexualism and sterilization.
Environmentalist propaganda psychologically coerces citizens into changing their personal values and habits. Environmentalists have swarmed radio, television, and film production and have colonized education. University professors universally profess a commitment to the environment. University humanities programs repudiate the Enlightenment tradition in both its liberal and socialist forms; just like the fascists. Environmentalists, like their forbearers, disdain science but don scientific guise. Social Darwinism, a fascist trait, likens human behaviour to wilderness phenomena in order to advance a reactionary agenda – ecologists and socio-biologists repeat this practise in tomes.
Environmentalists share the fascists’ fascination with: paganism, occultism, folklore, indigenous myths, medievalism, and anti-western Orientalism – each discourse a shill for pre-industrial authoritarianism. In spite of such heresy, both fascism and environmentalism were endorsed by the establishment churches of Europe.
Fascists made keen use of the sense of victimhood; environmentalists strum the same chords in their save-the-tiger and adopt-a-tribe campaigns. An ‘animals rights’ faction was/is a feature of both movements. Soil worship and tree-hugging are common traits as are related obsessions with the ecological relationship between species and the land; and races and the land. Indigenous land rights are a shared and crucial mobilizing passion. Overt European neo-fascists deploy the indigenous discourse in their agitprop around immigration. Throughout the colonial world environmentalists cultivate auxiliaries of indigenous sovereigntists with obvious mono-cultural, ethnic-cleansing impulses and ingrained hostility to both industrialization and to the basic sovereignty of colonial states.
Westerners presume an economy’s purpose is to gratify consumer desires for food, shelter, clothes, etc. Fascists care less about the multitude and see the economy’s job as gratifying elephantine oligarchic desires while maintaining state-of-the-art military, police, and cultural capabilities. Environmental economics replicates fascist anti-economic sophistry by always seeking to demonstrate how the cost-effective choice is not the best. Environmentalists rail against the marauding bovine consumer and their piggish capitalist suppliers. A tantalizing glimpse of fascism can be seen in the jet-setting eco-billionaires preaching the virtues of the simple life.
The fascist function of subjugating the landed interest’s nemesis, the industrial entrepreneur, lives on in policies requiring all industrial proposals to run a gauntlet of environmental agencies. Environmentalists want taxation to fall heaviest on industry, to “make the polluter pay.”
Western states prevent businesses from cornering markets and jacking up prices. Fascists imposed such cartels on business. What environmentalists promote as “sectoralism” (i.e. the grouping of firms by industry type or ‘sector’ and subjecting each sector to supervision by a panel dominated by environmentalists) is what fascists called “Corporatism.” In either instance an opaque stratum of regulatory quangos suppresses growth, development and competition.
Fascists were hostile to international free trade. Environmentalists oppose trade liberalization and support protectionism, particularly in agriculture. They champion shopping locally and extreme forms of autarky like autonomous bio-regions (mono-ethnic state-lets).
Nazis invented the organic foods industry which is now a core built constituency within the environmentalist movement. Greens dogmatically denounce “factory farming” and “chemicals in the food” (just as the Nazis did).
The Third Reich pioneered industrial scale wind-generated electricity to overcome an inherent energy crisis. Environmentalism, like its predecessor, is bent on accommodating Europe’s dearth of natural energy resources. Shifting world electricity generation away from hydrocarbons and toward wind and solar power helps former Axis-area states overcome a comparative disadvantage in hydrocarbon endowment. Environmentalist energy economics is predicated on ecological claims trumping cost-benefit analysis.
Human settlements are containment ponds. Without properly maintained embankments people spill out and settle surrounding areas. Land prices and rents are propped up by vigilant suppression of development in the settlement’s environs. Similarly, agricultural land values are propped up by preventing the clearing of wilderness for farmland. The greatest-happiness-for-the-greatest-number weathervane points to the fast growth, high employment, low rent, and cheap food benefits of wide open land use policies. Even in metropolitan areas there is much farmland to be urbanized and much wilderness to be put to plough or pavement. In land magnates’ nightmares such lands get thrown open to wiles of the market. The landed interest needs a social movement to convince the masses that increasing the available amount of land is a bad idea, i.e. to indoctrinate urbanites with an irrational, religious hostility to land development.
Two cardinals of 20th century land worship were Evola (1898-1974) and Eliade (1907-86). Rome-born Julius Cesare Evola’s attitude toward land was one facet of his involvement in the pan-European Traditionalist meta-cult. These anti-modernity “spiritualists” opposed philosophical materialism and rejected the very idea of progress. Their methodology of “intellectual intuition” permitted them to expound upon myths and legends unrestrained by the profane history of facts and chronologies. Evola believed primordial man’s impressions of the land were real psychic sensations of supernatural powers. Fascinated by pagan mythology, Evola helped revive the craft of geomancy: the divination of area in order to select sites for battles, rituals, and temples. (Generally, the use of the sacred-land argument to block land development is more common around the artefact-rich Mediterranean than in the new world where the pristine-ecosystem argument remains the main refrain.) Evola glorified certain remote natural lands uncontaminated by industry. He pushed his disciples to test their spirits in mountain climbing and claimed only wilderness excursions could complete spiritual training. As Evola neared death in 1971, he instructed his disciples to take him to a hill so he could die overlooking the former site of the Temple of Janus. His ashes were scattered over the site of a legendary village.
The writings of Mircea Eliade, including the autobiographical, are filled with miracles, alchemy, fate, and premonition. Eliade dug into the symbolic language of religious traditions searching for the primordial myths underlying mystical phenomena. He sought to reconstruct the pre-modern, religiously activated mind. The great religions, according to Eliade, eclipsed a pre-existing basic cosmic religion that persisted into modern times as a common nostalgia for things sacred. The Romantic movement set in motion a revival of the cosmic religion. At times he advocated “planetary humanism” but always he lamented the universalization of Western ideas. Much of his writing formulated a discourse revolving around the struggle for control of sacred space. Certain places were treated by humanity as “sacred” (Stone Henge, Jerusalem, Arlington Cemetery) thus were of a different character from “profane” places. The process of sacralisation requires marshalling a collective emotional investment into a specific area. Cosmic shamans magically charged mountains, trees, and waterfalls with holiness. The entire cosmos ironically often reserved its most humble parts as axis mundi (world centres) for spiritual manifestation. This dichotomy between the “sacred and the profane” was central to Eliade’s project and the title of his most influential book. The plot of Eliade’s most popular novel, Forbidden Forest, dwells on meetings in sacred forests on summer solstices. Eliade stressed that Nature was the abode of demons and he encouraged his apprentice shamans to go on vision quests into the wilderness to engage in spiritual warfare and win the favour of a divine patron.
Julius Evola became a celebrity in the early 1920s as the leader of a circle of avant-garde intellectuals and artists. His poetry and paintings were the main Italian expression of the Dada movement. In the mid-1920s Evola led his flock into the occult. He bolstered his Magical Idealism school with books reviving Orientalist mysticism and he founded the occultist order: UR Group. His most influential work Revolt against the Modern World (1935) is an anti-technological, anti-urban Traditionalist manifesto. Evola continued writing into the 1960s attracting a global audience in scholarly and occultist milieus. The Julius Evola Foundation has translated his writings into all European languages and campaigns to draw attention to their hero.
The enormity of Mircea Eliade’s influence is discounted by his convoluted, contradictory message. Deploying the morphological method of Herder and Goethe, he disdained empirical chronologies and facts in favour of swirling quests for superficial similarities among various religious mythologies. His cosmopolitanism contradicted his commitment to the Romanian Orthodox Church. Nevertheless, in 1946 the Sorbonne invited Eliade to sit as a visiting professor of religious history. Over the next decade he published Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return and Patterns of Comparative Religion and was invited by many universities to deliver lectures. He appeared at seminars and conferences including the annual Ascona (Switzerland) gatherings. In 1956 the University of Chicago summoned him to deliver the Haskell Lectures (later published as Birth and Rebirth, 1958) In 1957 he got the call to fill the boots of Joachim Wach; the professor who made the University of Chicago an international centre for History of Religion studies. North American and European universities were experiencing a mushrooming of religious studies departments, and the disciples of Wach were seeded throughout. Eliade knew History of Religion departments were destined to play an important role in culture and he hoped they would revive the cosmic religion. In 1958 Eliade helped found the American Society for the Study of Religion. In 1961 he founded the internationally renowned journal, History of Religion. From his Chicago pulpit Eliade wrote, and the sixties counter-culture devoured,: Yoga (1958); Myths, Dreams and Mysteries (1960); Forge and Crucible (1962); Myths and Reality (1963); Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (1964); Mephistopheles and Androgyny (1965); From Primitive to Zen (1968); Images and Symbols (1969); The Quest: History and Meaning in Religion (1969); Australian Religions (1973); Occultism, Witchcraft, and Cultural Fashion (1976). For the academic community he wrote the three volume History of Religious Ideas (1978-85). His last project was as editor-in-chief of the 16 volume Encyclopedia of Religion (completed in the year of his death and published in 1987). Editing this Encyclopedia sat Eliade in the captain’s chair of an intellectual juggernaut employing scores of religious studies profs. This Encyclopedia adorned university and public library shelves around the world and was a first-stop source for religious information for 20 years. Upon his death two well-attended adulatory academic conferences were held in his honour. His books remain in print in several languages and continue to sell in both popular and academic markets.
Mussolini officially endorsed Julius Evola’s spiritualized racial formula in 1942 but Evola did not return an endorsement of Mussolini’s fascism. Evola craved a “transcendental fascism” purely for the elite and free from any pandering to the plebeians. In rare contrast to Western secularism, Evola explicitly endorsed theocracy but not a Christian theocracy – a new-age-pagan-occultist one. After WWII, Evola’s apartment in Rome was a venue for meetings of young neo-fascists. In 1951 Evola was arrested for glorifying fascism and inciting extremism. Coterminous with Evola’s theorizing about the sacralisation of land there emerged a network of activists in northern Italy fighting to suppress new land developments and often relying on the heritage preservation argument. This activist network later coalesced into the neo-fascist Northern League. In the 1960s Evola zeroed in on the overpopulation issue which he described in racial terms.
Mircea Eliade was a Royal Romanian Army officer’s son who took an MA philosophy at Bucharest U in 1928 before accepting a grant from the Maharaja of Kassimbazar to study in India under a famous scholar. The Indian adventure was a font of cultural capital first exploited in his debut novel Isabel and the Devil’s Water (1930). Most of his early 1930s fiction had Indian themes while his later novels, Hooligans (1935) and his 1940 hit, The Secret of Doctor Honinberger, concerned European politics. In 1933 he flogged his Indian adventure academically with a doctorate entitled Yoga: Origins of Indian Mysticism (released as a book in 1935). Eliade also contributed articles about oriental studies, alchemy, symbology and ethnology to a journal edited by his mentor Professor Nae Ionescu (an outspoken fascist who was arrested on suspicion of conspiring against King Carol). Eliade’s ingrained devotion to Romanian Orthodox Christianity conflicted with his new-found affinity for pre-Aryan Indian spiritualism. He claimed Romanian Orthodoxy constituted a total conception of the world. At the same time he claimed the pre-Aryan culture of Romania’s peasants was a universal theology capable of liberating peasants across Eurasia. World Romanianism would end provincial chauvinism.
In 1931, Eliade joined the Criterion group – a manifestation of Romania’s “young generation” who sponsored lectures and symposia on contemporary issues. A prominent faction of the Criterion group published the journal, Axis,in support the ultra-fascist Legion of the Archangel Michael (a.k.a. Iron Guard). By 1935 Eliade was in contact with, and supportive of, Legion founder Codreanu. In that year Eliade led a campaign of artists protesting royalty taxes. He argued culture creators were Romania’s most potent force and accused “the bourgeoisie” of indifference. He denounced the state for refusing to fund a national Oriental Studies institute as the Italian Fascists had done. Eliade was attracted to the Legion’ religious traditionalism, a disposition enhanced by his June 1936 trip to England to meet the revivalist Oxford Group. Three of Eliade’s articles in the Legion press were anti-Semitic. Other articles contained explicit racist denunciations of Bulgarians and Hungarians, calling for their expulsion and/or suppression. In March 1938 Eliade arranged a meeting in Bucharest between Codreanu and Julius Evola. (Eliade corresponded regularly with traditionalists like Evola and Ananda Coomaraswamy.) In 1938 the Legion was outlawed, Codreanu was executed and Eliade joined fellow Legionaries in a concentration camp for four months. Upon release he founded the Review of Religious Studies and worked for the Office of Press and Propaganda in what was a very pro-Nazi Romanian regime. In April 1940 Eliade was appointed attaché to the Royal Romanian Cultural Legation in London where he boasted about his sacrifices on behalf of the Legion. In 1941 he was transferred to Lisbon where he continued pro-Axis propaganda work until the end of the war.
British Union of Fascist membership peaked twice in the 40,000 range. BUF was but one of dozens of British fascist parties and movement organizations whose total membership (to the commitment level of donating labour or money and attending meetings regularly) probably peaked at around 80,000. One fascist was hung; several hundred were imprisoned for a year or two; many dropped out; many soldiered on.
From the late-1940s to the mid-1960s this social movement fragmented, experimented and sustained itself in certain activist redoubts. One faction clung to Nazi symbolism and to explicit racism and was thus isolated and suppressed. Other factions fared better. Academic fascists found comfortable niches in burgeoning university humanities departments creating cults around T. S. Eliot, Carl Jung, Ezra Pound, W.B. Yeats, Martin Heidegger, Robert Graves, D.H. Lawrence, and J.R.R. Tolkien. The pre-WWII organic foods movement was a fascist constituency built amongst anti-industrial rural land-owners in both Germany and Britain. The post-WWII organic food movement retained the same membership and leadership. Jorian Jenks, BUF agriculture critic, became editor of Mother Earth magazine – the Soil Association’s journal which peppered its organic food huckstering with broadsides against industrial pollution. Northern European fascism, British included, overlapped widely with the wilderness conservation movement and its academic detachment in the wilderness sciences (biology, ecology). This overlap survived WWII. The overall British fascist movement, albeit closeted and divided, was probably as large in the mid-1960s as it was a quarter century earlier. At no time between these dates did the Isle of Britannia, or the British landed interest, shrink.
In the mid-1960s the British landed interest came out of hiding through a series of conferences and events revolving around the word “Countryside.” This phase of the mobilization culminated in the passing of various Countryside Acts in 1967/8. For the land-owners and their activists the Countryside blitz was a staging area for an intense campaign to follow; the groundwork for which had been laid well in advance. New strategies had been developed to preserve Britain’s pristine heritage. Major British newspapers were bursting with headlines about pollution, over-population, and extinction. A noisy campus-based sub-movement surged forth with a clear anti-industrial and spiritualist orientation but with sufficient anti-capitalist coloration to allow it to blend in with the Left. The main ideology of this sub-movement, much hyped by the media, was: back-to-the-land, organic, tree-hugging, au natural, mystical, libertine, neo-Luddite Hippyism. Professional land conservation/anti-industrial activist organizations rose up blessed with philanthropic fuel and media bellowing. This phase of the movement’s struggle culminated in the early 1970s with the consolidation of a commanding beachhead within the state: the Ministry of the Environment. As the Environment Ministry assumed a movement command and control function, the Hippies donned business suits.
The crypto-fascist Green Party also came together in the early 1970s primarily through the efforts of the billionaire Goldsmith clan, most visibly Edward (1928-2009), publisher of Ecologist magazine. In the 1990s Edward Goldsmith permanently alienated long-term associates by undertaking a systematic campaign of wooing explicit neo-fascist organizations into the environmentalist tent. This campaign involved high profile appearances by Goldsmith at neo-fascist conventions in France and Belgium. The subsequent anti-globalization flash-in-the-pan resulted from the fusion of these clusters. Goldsmith was a raving traditionalist, Malthusian, anti-industrialist, and indigenous rights activist.
The British National Party has BUF pedigree and appearance. BNP claims to be Britain’s “true Green party.” Their platform commits them to: converting Britain to organic farming and suppressing “factory farming”; replacing petroleum as an energy source; stopping “the building of ever-more houses”, and reducing Britain’s population. The BNP defends the rights of indigenous people in the colonial world.
King Edward VIII was a full-on treasonous Nazi and a hero to British and international fascists. The de facto King for the last 57 years, Philip, and the future king, Charles, are both authentically committed, hard-working environmental activists whose contribution to the movement is incalculable. Philip led a successful campaign in the 1950s to create parks around Britain. In 1961 Philip, with Prince Bernard of the Netherlands, took this effort global by founding the world’s largest conservation organization, the WWF. “Control Africa” has been the mantra of almost every European fascist and neo-fascist party. A WWF led drive created hundreds of African parks whose governing bodies are far removed from the locals. Scores of these parks have land masses in excess of 5,000 square kilometres.
British neo-fascist strategy appears to be: a) mainstreaming the British National Party; b) circling the Greens around the population-environment connection; c) BNP, and like organizations, focussing on the immigration-population-environment connection; d) the nationalists, locally, and the environmentalists, globally, increasing their use of the indigenous land rights/anti-colonization discourse; e) media disparaging of the House of Commons; f) minority governments; g) Green-National rapprochement; and h) politely and patiently waiting for the coronation of Charles III.
BBC coverage of the BNP varies inversely with its “global warming” coverage. As British neo-fascism slinks away from the climate change campaign and toward the immigration-environment campaign, photos of the angry sun are eclipsed by photos of Nick Griffith’s chubby mug.
The Goddess of History blessed the 2009 release of the Handbook of Fascism with two portends. The first regards Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi – a Propaganda 2 member who accumulated a vast media empire with pennies from heaven. Berlusconi’s media empire when combined with the media assets at his disposal as Prime Minister produce 90% of Italian television programming. He also publishes numerous newspapers and magazines, etc. The National Alliance (formerly Italian Social Movement) is the direct descendant of the Italian Fascist Party. In 2009 the National Alliance merged with Berlusconi’s party to form the People of Liberty Party.
The second omen catapults us back to the Middle Ages when several families gradually acquired the real estate in and around a slowly resuscitating Rome. In the subsequent centuries, these families, when not pre-occupied with feuds, used their wealth and proximity to the Vatican to secure good Church jobs for their sons. Through intrigue and nepotism this “black nobility” made itself the source of a many Cardinals and Popes. The black nobilities’ gift to the 20th century was Eugenio Pacelli (1876-1958). Pacelli was born and educated in Rome. His father was senior legal counsel for the Vatican – a position owned by the Pacellis since 1816. In 1917 Archbishop Pacelli became nuncio (diplomat) to Bavaria and later to Berlin. In 1929 Cardinal Pacelli was made the Vatican’s Secretary of State. Pacelli’s brother, as a senior legal counsel for the Church, negotiated the Fascist-Vatican Accords of 1929. Pacelli himself, as Secretary of State, negotiated the Nazi-Vatican accords. Both accords sacrificed democracy to fascism. Throughout his career Pacelli aided various fascist parties in their acquisition and consolidation of power. As Pope Pius XII, Pacelli socialized and corresponded with scores of men actively engaged in the Holocaust – an event he did next to nothing to prevent. He continued to aid fascists after 1945. In 2009 Josef Ratzinger (a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI, the 82 year old son of a Bavarian police inspector) announced that Eugenio Pacelli was a prime candidate for beatification; i.e. that he should be declared a Saint; a miraculous instrument of God.
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