History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2007: Q.7
Q. 7. Discuss the main characteristics of Fascism.
The fascism of Mussolini had the following main characteristics:
Apart from other things, “The Doctrine of Fascism”, an essay attributed to Benito Mussolini and first published in the Enciclopedia Italiana of 1932, gives us main clue about characteristics of Fascism. “The Doctrine of Fascism” as an authoritative document of the fascism emphasised on nationalism, corporatism, totalitarianism and militarism.
The following are main characteristics of Fascism:
Totalitarian system of Government
Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible.
This government attempted to arouse and mobilize the great wars of ordinary people, to control and organize with strong discipline as many aspects of people’s lives as possible. This was necessary to promote the greatness of the state, which was more important, the interests of the individual.
Fascists believed in strict press censorship in which anti-fascist news-papers and magazines were either banned or their editors replaced by fascist supporters. Radio, films and theatre were controlled in the same way. The fascists also supervised the education.
Fascists had to wear uniforms and new text books were written to glorify the fascist system. Children and young people were forced to join the government youth organizations which indoctrinated them with the brilliance of dice and glories of war. The other main message was total obedience to authority which was necessary because everything was seen in terms of struggle – “Believe, obey, fight!”
Benito Mussolini said: “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.”
The corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and useful instrument in the interest of the nation. In view of the fact that private organisation of production is a function of national concern, the organiser of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production. State intervention in economic production arises only when private initiative is lacking or insufficient, or when the political interests of the State are involved. This intervention may take the form of control, assistance or direct management.
The Fascist government believed in cooperation between employers and workers and to end class warfare in what was known as the corporate state. Fascist controlled unions had the sole right to negotiate for workers, and both unions and employers associations were organized into corporations, and were expected to work together to settle disputes over work and pay conditions. Strikes and lockouts were not allowed.
An emphasis on the rebirth of the nation after a period of decline; building up the greatness and prestige of the state, with the implication that one’s own nation is superior to all others.
A one-party state
There was no place for democratic debate, because that made decisive government impossible and held up progress. Only fascism could provide the necessary dynamic action to guarantee Italy a great future. It also involved the cult of the great charismatic leader who would guide and inspire the nation to great things. Mussolini did not see himself as a prime minister or president – instead he took the title il Duce (‘the leader’), in the same way that Hitler called himself Fuhrer.
Fascism was especially hostile to communism, which explains much of its popularity with big business and the wealthy.
Rejection of individualism and importance of the state
Fascism is opposed to all individualistic abstractions based on eighteenth century materialism. Anti-individualistic, the Fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with those of the State
Economic self-sufficiency (autarky)
This was vitally important in developing the greatness of the state; the government must therefore direct the economic life of the nation (though not in the Marxist sense of the state owning factories and land).
Use of propaganda
Great use was made of all the latest modern forms of propaganda – uniforms, marches, songs and displays, all to demonstrate that fascists were a completely new and dynamic alternative to the boring, old-fashioned traditional parties, and to mobilize mass support behind the heroic leader.
Militarism and Social Darwinism
The military strength and violence were considered an integral part of the way of life. Mussolini himself remarked – “Peace is observed: Fascism does not believe in it“. Hence, they fostered the myth that they had sieved power by force, they allowed the violent treatment of opponents and critics, and they pursued an aggressive foreign policy.
The doctrine of survival of the fittest (Social Darwinism) and the necessity of struggle for life is applied by fascists to the life of a nation-state. Peaceful, complacent nations are seen as doomed to fall before more dynamic ones, making struggle and aggressive militarism a leading characteristic of the fascist state. Imperialism is the logical outcome of this dogma.