On the Origin and Evolution of European Fascism Introduction by Myra Moss The development of European fascist ideology was inﬂuenced by the nineteenth- and twentieth-century Romantic rebellion against Enlighten- ment philosophies. Intellectually, fascism represents a profound shift from an Enlightenment to a Romantic view of nature and humanity: this shift involves the rejection of a realist theory of an independently existing universe, as composed of distinct and separable material atoms, along with the denial of an a-historical essence of humankind, which remains the same regardless of historical circumstance and diﬀers fun- damentally from nature and from the state; and the acceptance of an idealist conception of a spiritual yet historical, evolving, organically uni- ﬁed reality, which includes the self as a necessary part of it. The Romantic conception of the organic unity among all existents, in contrast to the Enlightenment atomistic way of thinking, became essential, for example, to the fascist conception of the state. The con- cept of reality as a synthesized organism, rather than a collection of dis- crete entities, presupposes that any existent taken as a whole is greater than the numerical summation of its parts. “Greater” means not merely larger in some quantitative sense, but also qualitatively better or more valuable. In the fascist state, moral dilemmas between values of institu- tions—whether political, economic, or sociological—and individuals became settled in favor of institutional values and justiﬁed in terms of the greater value expressed by the organic unity of the institution, of the whole of which the individual forms merely a part. The origin of the term “fascism” lies in the Latin word “fascis” that referred to the bundle of rods surrounding a protruding axe and symbolizing a union of force, which lictors carried before a magistrate. During the nineteenth cen- tury, “fascio,” meaning a union of forces, more or less homogenous, but held together strongly by ideal and disciplinary chains, along with common goals to be reached, denoted extra- and anti-parliamentary groups. See Delzell, below. During the twentieth century, the concept of organic unity, which has been presupposed by both fascists and non-fascists, has been severely criticized by the positivist tradition and deconstructionist theories. The presence of an organic unity requires that the relations between parts of a whole be necessary, not accidental or fortuitous, such that if any part is changed, then the whole organism must also be altered.
On the Origin and Evolution of European Fascism
Introductionby Myra Moss
The development of European fascist ideology was influenced by thenineteenth- and twentieth-century Romantic rebellion against Enlighten-ment philosophies. Intellectually, fascism represents a profound shiftfrom an Enlightenment to a Romantic view of nature and humanity:this shift involves the rejection of a realist theory of an independentlyexisting universe, as composed of distinct and separable material atoms,along with the denial of an a-historical essence of humankind, whichremains the same regardless of historical circumstance and differs fun-damentally from nature and from the state; and the acceptance of anidealist conception of a spiritual yet historical, evolving, organically uni-fied reality, which includes the self as a necessary part of it.
The Romantic conception of the organic unity among all existents,in contrast to the Enlightenment atomistic way of thinking, becameessential, for example, to the fascist conception of the state. The con-cept of reality as a synthesized organism, rather than a collection of dis-crete entities, presupposes that any existent taken as a whole is greaterthan the numerical summation of its parts. “Greater” means not merelylarger in some quantitative sense, but also qualitatively better or morevaluable. In the fascist state, moral dilemmas between values of institu-tions—whether political, economic, or sociological—and individualsbecame settled in favor of institutional values and justified in terms ofthe greater value expressed by the organic unity of the institution, ofthe whole of which the individual forms merely a part.
The origin of the term “fascism” lies in the Latin word “fascis” that referred tothe bundle of rods surrounding a protruding axe and symbolizing a union offorce, which lictors carried before a magistrate. During the nineteenth cen-tury, “fascio,” meaning a union of forces, more or less homogenous, but heldtogether strongly by ideal and disciplinary chains, along with common goalsto be reached, denoted extra- and anti-parliamentary groups. See Delzell, below.
During the twentieth century, the concept of organic unity, which has beenpresupposed by both fascists and non-fascists, has been severely criticized bythe positivist tradition and deconstructionist theories.
The presence of an organic unity requires that the relations between parts of awhole be necessary, not accidental or fortuitous, such that if any part is changed,then the whole organism must also be altered.
What implications did the new Romantic concept of organic unityhave for the idea of self? Romanticism affirmed the syntheses of all dia-lectical opposites that occur within human consciousness. The classicalEnlightenment dualisms between expressions of pure reason and rationalwill became viewed accordingly as indistinguishably merged with oneanother. The Romantic ideal was of man unified in thought and actionor will, as contrasted with the Enlightenment abstract vision of the pureintellectual or disinterested scientist. Friedrich Nietzsche’s conceptionsof human nature as exhibiting a will-to-power and of the superman,who expresses it to the highest degree, especially influenced Hitler’s ideaof the Übermensch, as well as Mussolini’s idea of the uomo fascista.Mussolini also denied that fascism embodied any absolute dogmas orenduring principles, save those of expediency and power. In short, thesuperior man, by exercising his will to power, creates values for the restof society. Sociologically, “fascism” meant a blurring of what had beenrigid class distinctions and thus a lessening of monarchical power. Cultur-ally, fascism celebrated the artist, the athlete, the worker, and the soldier.
Ideas and the external world, considered by the Enlightenment asalso dialectically opposed to each other, were synthesized in Romanticphilosophy to become the phenomena or appearances that form objectsof consciousness. All real objects, whether facts or values, are essentiallymental and spiritual creations of human consciousness. But if the realworld is constructed by the human self, does the self remain window-less, imprisoned entirely in a universe of its own making? Not at all.When the self reflects upon the nature of its consciousness, it realizesthat its essence is organically related to other selves, as well as to thehistory and culture of its nation, by means of vehicles of communica-tion: verbal and non-verbal language. Whereas the Enlightenment pre-supposed an atomistic conception of self that remains autonomous inits relations to other selves and to its state, the Romantics recognizedthe essential unity of a self that includes its links to other humans—both past and present.
The self aims to become aware of its essential unity by means of self-knowledge; and the goal of the state is to express a unified conscious-ness through its citizens. Consistent with the Romantic conceptionof self and nation, fascism called for the construction of a state—withunified political and economic institutions, and definite geographicalborders—upon the nation, composed of persons bound together by lan-guage, history, and culture. This extra-territorial conception of nationcame to justify foreign adventurism—the imposition of a foreign policyof annexation.
We have seen that according to the Romantic conception of reality,all values are creations of self. Consistent with this conception, fascistphilosophy held that rebellion against the state in the name of abstract,permanent ideals that supposedly exist independently of human beings,or in the name of innate natural rights, was not justifiable. Neverthe-less, for fascism, reform or even “revolution,” understood in terms ofthe evolutionary progress of human nature and values occurred con-tinually within the state. Conflict was included within the structure ofall political institutions and was destined to be resolved within moreharmonious political entities. Tragically, fascist conflict often produceddisharmony instead of superior harmony, and at times, even ended inchaos that lacked any positive accomplishment.
What implications did the Romantic concept of organic unity havefor fascist pedagogy? The terms of the classical dualism between educa-tion as theoria and moral instruction as praxis became considered asindistinguishably merged with one another. Educational theorists theninferred that the teacher is not a mere transmitter of “facts,” or a pas-sive instrument of communication. He or she is the originator of cul-ture and values.
Enlightenment philosophy, moreover, had separated the contents ofconsciousness into objective and subjective and thus had presupposedthe objective existence of a reality that existed independently of rationalwill; a reality that was to be observed and verified by an unemotionalobserver. In education, this metaphysical bifurcation between thoughtand reality had led to a division between objective sciences and subjec-tive humanities. However, just as consciousness creates the unity ofobject with subject, the fascist educators reasoned, so should the educa-tional curriculum express a unified scientific humanism.
Inasmuch as the self depends for its existence upon its relations toother selves and upon its nation, fascist pedagogy argued further thatall learning should be considered as national. The school is the primaryinstrument whereby a unified consciousness becomes realized.
By , Giovanni Gentile, the self-proclaimed spokesman for fascist philoso-phy, was considered by some Europeans and Britons to be the most influentialteacher in the Western intellectual world. From to Gentile served asMussolini’s first Minister of National Education (Mussolini had changed thetitle from Public Instruction) and implemented what became known as “la riformaGentile.” In Germany, Martin Heidegger’s acceptance of the Rectorship atFreiburg University provided cultural respectability for the Nazi dictatorship.In , his Rectorial Address, “The self-Affirmation of the German University,”fused classical philosophy with Nazi rhetoric.
Intellectual needs of citizens were to be filled by academic courses thatemphasized a positive patriotic history of action and culture and stressednational contributions to humanity. Like public educational institutionsin all the European fascist countries, art, architecture, and literaturebecame vehicles of propaganda which served to unify citizens with oneanother and with their nation-state.
We have described some of the common roots and ideas of Euro-pean fascisms as residing in the Romantic rebellion against Enlighten-ment philosophy. Indeed, the similarities among the fascisms were farmore profound than the differences between them. The essays thatfollow treat specifically the Italian, German, and Austrian variants ofEuropean fascism. They were taken from a series of five lectures on theideological roots of European fascism, which were delivered during thefall of , and sponsored by The Family of Benjamin Z. Gould Centerfor Humanistic Studies and Claremont McKenna College. Since theseessays will detail the special characteristics of various fascisms, we willmention only two of the most salient to serve as an introduction to them.
In “Fascism in Italy: Origins and Ideology,” Charles F. Delzell dis-cusses the Italian corporate state as distinguished from the national so-cialism that characterized the fascist regimes occurring elsewhere incentral and southeastern Europe. Ideologically its roots lay in Catholicsocial doctrine and in the Sorelian syndicalist tradition. The purpose ofthe corporate state was to end industrial strife by resolving conflictswithin the higher purpose and needs of the nation-state. It was to begoverned by representatives, furnished by corporations and by citizensorganized as producers, which were determined territorially in electedcomizi. Political factors were to dominate economic ones. The corpo-rate order was conceived as a strict coordination of national forces, ameans of greater production, of greater internal harmony and power. Itwas to serve the state in securing its goals.
In “The Origins and Development of the Fascist Right in Germanyand a Critique of the Methods used to Contain It,” Anthony Glees
argues that the most important characteristics of past and present Ger-man fascism are claims of German ethnic superiority and anti-Semitism,rather than, for example, its anti-communist rhetoric. Indeed, in most Italians were dismayed when Mussolini imitated Hitler by intro-ducing a racist and anti-Semitic policy. Certainly, in Italy, ethnic hatred
Dr. Charles F. Delzell is Professor Emeritus and Adjunct Professor of History,Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.
Dr. Anthony Glees is Professor of History and Director of European Studies,The University of West London, London, England.
and cleansing never achieved the degree of virulence that it has expressedin Germany. The situation was quite different, however, in Austria.As Bruce Pauley tells us in “Prelude to Disaster: The Evolution ofAustrian Fascism,” after the Anschluss, the Austrian Nazis were no longerrestrained. “By mid-June ␣ . . . Jews had already been more thoroughlypurged from public life in Austria than in the five years following Hitler’stakeover of power in Germany.” One reason for the Austrian outburstof anti-Semitism, far in excess of anything the Italians ever demonstrated,probably was Austria’s location as a borderland: “Most of its provinceswere located next to states with non-German nationalities, which height-ened the Austrians’ sense of their own ethnicity.” Other causes lay inthe Austrians’ belief that they could not exist as an independent nationand in their wish to unite with Germany. Yet despite the fact that sinceWorld War II, Austria has become one of the most prosperous coun-tries in the world, postwar polls have “revealed that anti-Semitism issubstantially stronger in Austria than in Germany, France, or the UnitedStates.” Nevertheless, as Pauley reassures us, we have reason to hope thateducation will contribute to the disappearance of these irrational eth-nic prejudices.
Dr. Bruce F. Pauley is Professor of History, the University of Central Florida,Orlando, Florida.
Fascism in Italy: Origins and Ideologyby Charles F. Delzell
On March , a new term, “fascism,” entered our politicalvocabulary. On that Sunday afternoon, in the revolutionary atmosphereof postwar Milan, Benito Mussolini’s Fascist movement of young warveterans, the Fasci di Combattimento, or “fighting Fascists,” emerged onthe scene. A revolutionary radicalism of the Right, it espoused anaction-oriented, hybrid mixture of ultranationalism, national syndical-ism, anti-Marxism, anti-liberalism, anti-democracy, and anti-pacifism,among other things. Later, that same year, a similar movement, but afar more racist and violent one, Adolf Hitler’s National Socialism,emerged in Germany. In October , the more moderate Italian ver-sion of Fascism managed to seize political power first. And for a decadeor so, Italian Fascism was to serve as the principal model for kindredmovements elsewhere in the world.
Many of the philosophical roots of Italian Fascism had been growingin western and central Europe since about the turn of the century, whentwo important developments were taking place: an intellectual revolu-tion in social thought, and the entry of the masses into politics. Here Ican allude only to several of the new currents of thought. One certainlyincluded the concept of organic nationalism, which was associated withthe writings of Maurice Barrès, Charles Maurras, Enrico Corradini, and
In English, Italian Fascism is usually spelled with a capital “F.” Analogous move-ments elsewhere are often spelled in lower case “f.” The terms “fascism” comesfrom the Italian word, “fasci” (plural), which means “bundles,” and was adoptedfrom ancient Rome to denote a group or alliance, especially if aspiring to politi-cal power. In –, the Sicilian fasci became virtual peasant leagues. In–, Benito Mussolini organized the Fasci di azione rivoluzionaria as anetwork of pressure groups to campaign for Italy’s entry into the Great War.
The problem of defining Italian Fascism, which was in constant flux, can prob-ably best be done by writing its history, as Angelo Tasca suggested in his pio-neering study, The Rise of Italian Fascism, –, translated by Peter andDorothy Wait (London: Methuen, ; reprinted in by Howard Fertig,Inc., New York). How to define generic fascism is much more controversial. Atleast a dozen interpretations have been suggested. The oldest was that of theComintern, which simplistically perceived fascism to be the “agent” of capital-ism in its final, “imperialist” stage. Variants of this theory have perceived fas-cism as a new kind of “Bonapartism,” and as a function of a particular stage ofeconomic growth. Other writers have interpreted fascism as a revolt by thelower middle-class, which fears status deprivation. Still others have seen fas-cism as the inevitable development of certain countries like Italy and Germany;
Luigi Federzoni. Another current was formed by Georges Sorel’s revo-lutionary syndicalism, which rejected parliamentary government and,with much use of violence and revolutionary myths, advocated insteadgovernment by labor syndicates. Sorel’s philosophy attracted and influ-enced numerous Italians, including Arturo Labriola, Filippo Corradoni,Sergio Panunzio, and not least, Benito Mussolini. These prewar cur-rents also involved Social Darwinism in its many manifestations, alongwith its theory of the struggle between nations. The “will to power”and the notion of a heroic leader, as expounded by Friedrich Nietzscheand his Italian admirer, Gabriele D’Annunzio, were important. So wasHenri Bergson’s perception of the role of intuition and of élan vital.Filippo Marinetti’s noisy Futurist movement in politics and the arts pro-vided one of the radical themes of Italian Fascism. The political soci-ologist Vilfredo Pareto’s critique of liberalism and of parliamentarygovernment and his positive evaluation of the role of elites and force insociety greatly influenced Mussolini. To a lesser degree, he was impressedby the writings of Roberto Michels and Gaetano Mosca. Gustave LeBon’sstudy of the manipulation of crowds also appealed to the Fascists.
The experiences of World War I, however, were required for the crystal-lization of these intellectual currents into “Fascism.” The war demonstratedthe State’s ability to mobilize the masses and the national economy, andrevealed that people often readily accepted quasi-dictatorship. It broughtabout the transformation of revolutionary syndicalism into “nationalsyndicalism,” and encouraged a perception of the importance of those
or as a consequence of the rise of “amorphous masses”; or as “totalitarianism”;or as a “moral sickness” or as the result of psychological disabilities. The mostrecent interpretation is that of Roger Griffin, a British political scientist, whoplays down economic factors and defines generic fascism as “palingeneticultranationalism” that seeks through populist mobilization to create a Utopianrebirth of the nation. It seems unlikely that we shall reach full agreement onany formula that satisfies all conceivable objections. See Griffin, The Natureof Fascism (New York: St. Martins Press, ); Stanley G. Payne, Fascism:Comparison and Definition (Madison, Wisc.: University of Wisconsin Press,): Renzo De Felice, Interpretations of Fascism, trans. by Brenda Everett Huff(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, ); Walter Laqueur, ed.Fascism, A Reader’s Guide: Analyses, Interpretations, Bibliography (Berkeley:University of California Press, ); A. James Gregor, Interpretations ofFascism (Morristown, N.J.: General Learning Press, ); Alan Cassels,Fascism (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., ); Charles F. Delzell, ed.,Mediterranean Fascism, – (New York: Macmillan, ); EugenWeber, Varieties of Fascism (New York: D. Van Nostrand, ); and Ernst Nolte,Three Faces of Fascism: Action Française, Italian Fascism, National Socialism, trans.by Leila Vennewitz (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, ).
groups, who were regarded as the true “producers” in the nation’seconomy. The war sharply exacerbated divisions between those Italianpatriots who supported the war and those who did not, especiallyMarxian Socialists and other pacifists. It also revealed how propagandacould manipulate the masses.
Numerous domestic political and historical factors help to explainwhy Italy was to become especially susceptible to Fascist propaganda.In contrast to Britain and France, Italy had achieved its national unifi-cation only recently (–), and it did not have a long experiencewith parliamentary government. Regional differences remained strong.There was much disillusionment with the new national government,which, for the next half century, was dominated by a small elite of anti-clerical Liberals, who had been elected by a narrow franchise. Italy’s gov-ernment was not efficient. Most of the peninsula lacked a tradition ofvoluntary civic cooperation. The economy remained predominantlyagricultural, and the land tenure system was often medieval in nature.Vast illiteracy and poverty prevailed, especially in the South. A high rateof emigration had occurred by the turn of the century. Only in the north-western “triangle,” Milan-Turin-Genoa, did an industrial revolutionbegin to occur by the s, thereby opening the way for MarxianSocialist and Sorelian syndicalist movements to displace the anarcho-socialists, who had dominated the revolutionary Left after the s.Italy’s industrial revolution, unlike Britain’s, was not spread over a longtime span that would have facilitated an easier accommodation to thenew social tensions.
Political and social disorders were greatly heightened in , whenItaly suffered a humiliating defeat at Adowa during its effort to expandits fledgling colonial empire from Eritrea into Ethiopia. This triggeredfour years of violent turmoil. Fortunately, the situation began to improveduring the era (–) of a more enlightened Liberal premier,Giovanni Giolitti. In the wake of the Libyan War (–), he recog-nized the political necessity of moving toward a democratic suffrage.But in , only one parliamentary election under the new system took
Regarding prewar and wartime tendencies toward Fascism, see Zeev Sternhall,“Fascism,” in The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Thought, ed. David Miller(Oxford and New York: Blackwell Reference, ), pp. –; Zeev Sternhell,Mario Sznajder, and Maia Asheri, Naissance de l’idéologie fasciste (Paris: Fayard,); Roger Griffin, The Nature of Fascism (New York: St. Martin’s Press, ),chs. –; Adrian Lyttelton, ed., Italian Fascisms: From Pareto to Gentile(New York: Harper, ); and David D. Roberts, The Syndicalist Tradition andItalian Fascism (Chapel Hill, N. C.: University of North Carolina Press, ).
place before , when Italy’s belated and controversial entry into theGreat War weakened the entire parliamentary system. Widespread oppo-sition to the war, especially among Socialists and Catholics, as well asItaly’s narrow escape from military disaster at Caporetto in October left, the country dazed and badly divided.
Most Italians were Roman Catholic, but ever since , when the“usurping” new Kingdom of Italy seized Rome from the Papacy, bitterhostility prevailed between Church and State. The Vatican refused torecognize the legality of the Kingdom and instructed the faithful to boy-cott national elections. The ban lasted, for the most part, until ,when the Church, having become afraid that atheistic Marxism mightotherwise dominate the country, allowed a Catholic Popular Party toorganize and participate in the election scheduled for November .
By the end of the war, the Liberals faced a major challenge to theirpolitical hegemony. This watershed in Italy’s political system was causedwhen pressure from Socialists, Catholics, and others forced the Liberalsto agree to a new system of proportional representation in parliament.Going into effect for the elections in , the new system of propor-tional representation produced a badly splintered parliament. TheSocialists and the Popolari emerged as the two largest “parties of themasses.” Ideologically incompatible, they were not willing to form a post-war coalition government. Instead, the Socialists, large segments of whomwere under the spell of the recent Bolshevik victory in Russia, embarkedupon a revolutionary political offensive in Italy’s Po Valley. During the“Red biennium” of –, the Socialists won control in hundredsof northern cities. Much of Italy seemed on the brink of civil war.
Meanwhile, political turmoil was exacerbated by Italy’s failure at thePeace Conference to obtain Fiume and some of the Dalmatian Coast.Many patriots began to feel that Italy’s war effort had achieved only a“mutilated victory.” These frustrated ultranationalists began to look fora more aggressive national leader.
Benito Mussolini, the man who launched the Fascist movement in, was born in the Romagna region of the lower Po valley in .His father was an anarcho-socialist blacksmith. Young Mussolini, havingacquired a high school education, started out as a schoolteacher and thenbecame a journalist. He read voraciously but superficially, and movedabout in northern Italy, Switzerland, and Austria. A chameleon in poli-tics, early in the century he identified himself with Marxian Socialism,often adulterated by revolutionary syndicalism. When in –,Giolitti fought a war to conquer Libya, Mussolini strongly denouncedthis “imperialist” conflict. He was promptly arrested. Afterwards, the
Italian Socialist Party rewarded him with the editorship of its officialnewspaper in Milan, Avanti! In the autumn of , however, Mussolinisuddenly broke with the Socialist Party’s neutralist line and called, instead,for Italy to intervene in the Great War on the side of France and Britain.
Expelled from the Socialist Party, the revolutionary heretic soonestablished his own interventionist newspaper in Milan, Il Popolo d’Italia.Along with Gabriele D’Annunzio and others, in May , Mussoliniplayed a significant role in pushing Italy into the Great War. Duringthat conflict he served for a time in the army. But after being injured inthe explosion of a trench mortar, he was released and sent back to hisnewspaper desk, where he continued to support the war.
In March , the meeting in Milan that founded the Fascist move-ment attracted somewhat more than one hundred people. Most wereyoung veterans, and many were members of crack Arditi units, whichwere formed in the wake of Italy’s military crisis at Caporetto. Alsopresent were anticlerical Futurists such as the iconoclastic FilippoMarinetti, and neo-syndicalists like Michele Bianchi, who had convertedto ultra-nationalism during the war. The new Fascist movement wasvehement in its denunciation of Marxist Socialism and of DemocraticLiberalism, and it did not hesitate to use violence against its foes. Atthe same time, it was partly radical in its program, calling for bothanticlericalism and establishment of a republic. It was also partly“productivist,” with its insistence on support for the country’s genuineeconomic producers. The Fascist movement, extoling the “rights of Italy”and the “values of war,” was defensive about it. This hybrid programfailed, however, to attract many voters. In the elections in November, Mussolini obtained a scant , votes in Milan, the city whichwas his political base. Clearly, something in the Fascist program had tobe changed if the new movement was going to “take off.”
In August and September , the opportunity to achieve a politi-cal breakthrough occurred when Socialist metal workers had raised theRed flag over many factories that they had occupied during “sit-in”strikes. Finally, however, the strikers were forced to accede to the indus-trialists’ terms. The crisis greatly frightened property owners, along withothers, who were angry with the policy of non-interference maintainedby the Giolitti government. The Fascists promised that they would
A. James Gregor, Young Mussolini and the Intellectual Origins of Fascism(Berkeley: University of California Press, ).
James Joll, Three Intellectuals in Politics: Blum, Rathenau, Marinetti (New York:Harper & Row, ); and Emilio Gentile, Le origini dell’ideologia fascista(–) (Rome-Bari: Laterza, ).
restore industrial discipline. As a result of their sudden shift to the right,the Fascists now received increasing financial support from worriedproperty owners.
Simultaneously, a reactionary and brutal new form of Fascism, agrar-ian Fascism, was emerging in the lower Po Valley, where landownerswere alarmed by the efforts of Socialist and Catholic labor leaders toorganize the farm workers. Local Fascist war veterans like Dino Grandi,Italo Balbo, and Roberto Farinacci now began to organize their owntame Fascist labor syndicates to challenge the “red” and “white” syndi-cates of the opposition. They also organized squads of armed FascistBlackshirts. These squadristi carried out punitive raids at night, often incollusion with the police, and with weapons easily obtained from localarmy depots. They set fire to headquarters of the farm workers’ unions,and they beat up and poured castor oil down the throats of those whomthey caught. This aggressive agrarian form of Fascism of the lower Povalley threatened to overpower Mussolini’s own predominantly urbanFascism. He managed, however, to retain control by agreeing to amal-gamate the two currents. No longer could Mussolini, by now the “Duce”of Fascism, toy with the possibility of a truce with either the Socialistsor Liberals.
At the end of , Fascism attracted additional recruits from GabrieleD’Annunzio’s rival organization in Fiume. This demagogic poet-condottiere had seized power in the disputed Adriatic seaport of Fiumefrom until December , when he was finally forced to leave byorder of Premier Giolitti. In Fiume, D’Annunzio had devised many ofthe dramatic public rituals that Mussolini’s Fascism now appropriated:the “Roman” outstretched arm salute; eerie battle-cries; and the liturgi-cal interaction between the Duce speaking from the balcony and hisfollowers in the piazza. D’Annunzio had also experimented with a “cor-porative State,” a political-economic structure that was based on coop-eration among functional categories of “producers.” Adopted byMussolini, this kind of capitalist organization was to be further devel-oped by the Fascist dictatorship in the mid-s.
By , Italy’s “Red biennium” had petered out. The Fascists weregaining the clear advantage in Italy’s quasi-civil war. In November, in a
In addition to Tasca’s book on the rise of Italian Fascism to power, see RobertoVivarelli, Storia delle origini del fascismo: L’Italia dalla grande guerra alla marciasu Roma ( vols.; Bologna: Il Mulino, ); and Adrian Lyttelton, The Seizureof Power: Fascism in Italy, – (New York: Charles Scribner’s, ).
Michael A. Ledeen, The First Duce: D’Annunzio at Fiume (Baltimore: JohnsHopkins University Press, ).
congress held in Rome, Mussolini’s “movement” reconstituted itself asa full-fledged “party,” the National Fascist Party (PNF). Statistics gath-ered at that time revealed that the Fascist Party membership was com-posed predominantly, though not exclusively, of war veterans, youngpeople, property-owners, and persons from the lower middle-class. ThePNF elected to the lower house of parliament Fascists, includingMussolini. But in a chamber composed of deputies, this was notnearly enough to enable the Fascists to form a government. AndMussolini was now in a hurry to seize power. In September , hedecided to go to Udine, one of the battlefields in the recent war. Therehe proclaimed a sharp reversal of some aspects of his program. Herepudiated talk of a republic and promised that Fascism would preservethe monarchy (the House of Savoy). This new policy would neutralizeany resistance from the Armed Forces, which had taken oaths of loyaltyto the King. Mussolini, moreover, extended an olive branch to theVatican, intimating that Fascism was ready to negotiate a settlement ofthe long, bitter conflict between Church and State.
In October , the Fascist Party moved farther down the penin-sula to hold its next congress in Naples. There it voted to have itsBlackshirt militias, under the command of four newly appointedquadrumvirs, converge on Rome and seize political power. Mussolinihastened back to Milan to await the outcome of the Fascist March onRome. If it failed, he could escape to Switzerland.
Before the advancing Fascist militias reached the outskirts of Rome,the timid monarch, Victor Emmanuel III, decided to reject the adviceof Premier Luigi Facta, who wanted the King to proclaim a state of siegeand martial law. Instead, the King ordered that a telegram be dispatchedto Mussolini, which asked him to form a new government. Mussolinidecided to accept the King’s invitation. As the Fascist leader boardedthe overnight train to Rome, the wife of the British ambassador over-heard him tell the station master, “I want to leave exactly on time. Fromnow on everything has got to function perfectly.” Thus originated themyth that Mussolini caused Italy’s trains to run on time. Next morning,the Duce was received by the King. Mussolini was still wearing his black-shirt, rather than the formal attire customary for such important occa-sions. He apologized for his dress and explained, “I have come straightfrom the battle, which, fortunately, was won without bloodshed.”
Ivone Kirkpatrick, Mussolini: A Study in Power (New York: Hawthorn Books,), p. .
Max Gallo, Mussolini’s Italy: Twenty Years of the Fascist Era, trans. by CharlesLam Markmann (New York: Macmillan, ), p. .
On October , Mussolini came to power, legally, At the age of, he was the youngest premier in Italy’s history. He headed a coalitiongovernment composed of Fascists, Popolari, Social Democrats, Liberals,and Nationalists. Leaders of his coalition parties naively thought thatthey could tame and co-opt the Fascists into Italy’s time-honored sys-tem of political trasformismo.
An upturn in the economy helped Premier Mussolini’s new govern-ment. In a move designed to please Army leaders and conservatives,Mussolini converted the Fascist squadristi units into a more disciplinedMVSN (Volunteer Militia for National Security). He bombarded theGreek island of Corfu, and he successfully put pressure on Yugoslaviato relinquish Fiume to Italy. In , the older Nationalist party (theANI: Associazione Nazionale Italiana, which dated from ), unitedwith the Fascist Party, bringing into it a number of prominent andinfluential intellectuals, such as Professor Alfredo Rocco and LuigiFederzoni. But this enlargement of the Fascist Party was still not enoughto alter Italy’s constitutional system. For that, Mussolini would need atwo-thirds majority in parliament. To achieve that goal, he proceededto persuade parliament to enact a new electoral law, which would givetwo-thirds of the seats to whichever party list won a plurality.
In the ensuing parliamentary elections of April , the PNF claimedto have won . percent of the votes. But on May, GiacomoMatteotti, the widely respected leader of the “revisionist” UnitarySocialist Party, citing many instances of irregularities and intimidations,challenged the validity of the outcome. Constant interruptions andthreats from the Fascist benches made it difficult for him to speak. Afew days later, on June , Matteotti was kidnapped by Fascist thugsand brutally stabbed to death.
The ensuing political uproar lasted six months. Many of the opposi-tion deputies, composed of Socialists, Catholic Popolari, Republicans,and Constitutional Democrats, boycotted sessions of parliament andorganized the Aventine Secession. They pinned their strategy on theKing, by expecting him to dismiss the badly compromised premier,dissolve parliament, and call for new elections. But the King refusedto act, even though there existed considerable evidence that Fascistsin Mussolini’s own Press office had given the signal to the gangsters toteach Matteotti “a lesson.” Meanwhile, hard-line squadristi in the Party,like Roberto Farinacci, urged the Duce to launch a violent counter-offensive, Fascism’s “second wave.”
On January , Mussolini decided to carry out a coup d’état. In adefiant speech before parliament, he took personal responsibility for
everything that had happened, including the rubber truncheons and cas-tor oil, and promised that everything would be cleared up within hours. What ensued was establishment of the Fascist dictatorship “onthe installment plan.” With no resistance from the King, the Fascist“regime” was consolidated through press censorship and brutal suppres-sion of opposition groups. One by one, the non-Fascist political par-ties, labor syndicates, and the Masonic Lodge were banned. Severalanarchist plots against Mussolini’s own life provided the Duce with pre-texts for each tightening of the screw. The “exceptional decrees” ofNovember completed the process. As a result, hundreds ofCommunist, Socialist, and other leftist leaders were hunted down andarrested by the secret police. The Fascist Special Tribunal was created toprosecute political foes. During the ensuing years, this Special Tribunalsentenced more than , individuals to , years of imprisonment.
There was no right of appeal. Many other political foes were convictedby regular courts and exiled to desolate islands and towns in the South.The luckier anti-Fascist leaders escaped abroad—clandestinely, becausetheir passports had been cancelled. Most of them headed to France,where they tried to regroup and carry on the struggle as best they could.
Henceforth, Fascist Italy was governed by a “totalitarian,” single-partyregime. Party and State were interlocked in an overlapping structure.Mussolini wore two hats: he was both Il Duce of Fascism and Capo delGoverno (Head of the Government). Before long, he moved his officeinto Palazzo Venezia. From its balcony he frequently harangued thecrowds that were dutifully rounded up by party leaders. The FascistGrand Council, composed of appointed gerarchi (“hierarchs”), becamethe supreme organ of the Party. Loyalty oaths were required of profes-sors. Walls were plastered with Fascist slogans that proclaimed, “Noth-ing above the State, nothing against the State!” “The Duce is alwaysright!” All that now remained of Italy’s old political system was the weak-ened monarchy and the appointive Senate, which, however, was soonto be packed with Fascists. Mussolini’s ingenious compromise with theHouse of Savoy, which was described as the “dyarchy” system, surviveduntil July . King Victor Emmanuel III was still “head of state”and commander-in-chief of the regular armed forces, but Mussolini keptcontrol over the Fascist Militia. Though jealous and often humiliated,the King gave in to the Duce’s wishes on most occasions, including thoseof going to war.
Charles F. Delzell, Mussolini’s Enemies: The Italian Anti-Fascist Resistance(Princeton: Princeton University Press, ; reprint ed., New York: HowardFertig, ), p. .
The Fascist totalitarian regime worked hard and with considerablesuccess to indoctrinate the Italian populace. The regime mobilized mostof the masses in its support by means of almost incessant propaganda,Fascist youth movements, a Fascist leisure-time organization, called“Dopolavoro,” for the workers, and expanded social services. As a result,the charismatic Duce enjoyed widespread popularity both at home andabroad. Many conservatives in Britain, France, and America perceivedMussolini’s Fascism to be an ingenious solution to the industrial prob-lems of the twentieth century and a “bulwark against bolshevism.”
Many foreigners were also impressed by the Duce’s elaborate politico-economic system, the Corporative State, which was designed to put anend to industrial strife. This system had its philosophical roots inCatholic social doctrine and in the Sorelian syndicalist tradition. UnderFascism, however, the Corporative State became a cumbersome bureau-cratic hodgepodge of employers and employees’ “corporations.” Theseco-existed under the watchful eye of the Fascist dictatorship, whichalways retained the “last word,” and which stood ready to “crack thewhip” over both, if necessary. In practice, the Fascist Corporative Statesatisfied employers more than it did the workers; because the employerswere left largely free to organize themselves, whereas the workers wererequired to join tame labor syndicates that were sponsored by the Fascists.Strikes and lockouts were banned. Special labor courts settled indus-trial disputes. Eventually, the cumbersome apparatus of Mussolini’sCorporative State was completed by refashioning the lower house ofthe emasculated parliament into a new Chamber of Fasces andCorporations.
The Corporative State did not safeguard Italy from the GreatDepression. Massive unemployment and underemployment persisteduntil military mobilization in the mid-s siphoned off some of it.Other Fascist economic policies included protective tariffs; economicself-sufficiency, referred to as the “Battle for Grain”; land reclamation;and public works, such as construction of highways, port facilities, sta-diums, and government buildings. Fascism glorified “rural values,” but
See Edward R. Tannenbaum, The Fascist Experience: Italian Society and Culture,– (New York: Basic Books, ); Philip V. Cannistraro, La fabbricadel consenso: Fascismo e mass media (Rome-Bari: Laterza, ); Victoria deGrazia, The Culture of Consent: Mass Organization of Leisure in Fascist Italy (NewYork: Cambridge University Press, ); Doug Thompson, State Control inFascist Italy: Culture and Conformity, – (Manchester and New York:Manchester University Press, ); and John P. Diggins, Mussolini and Fascism:The View from America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, ).
it did nothing to change the medieval land-tenure system in the vastlatifondi estates owned by absentee landlords in Italy’s impoverishedSouth. During the Great Depression, Fascism also sponsored an inno-vative system of “parastate capitalism” designed to finance key sectorsof the economy. These gigantic state holding companies, operating underthe new Institute for Industrial Reconstruction, or the IRI, became theeconomic fiefdoms of Italy’s ruling party; first the Fascists and then, after, the Christian Democrats. The IRI and the historic Church-Stateagreements were to be two innovations of Fascism that outlasted thedictatorship.
The Lateran Pacts with the Holy See were signed by Mussolini on February . These historic agreements brought an end to half acentury of hostility between Church and State. By the terms of theLateran Treaty, Italy and the Vatican now recognized each other diplo-matically. And by the Lateran Concordat, Roman Catholicism becamethe official religion of the state. Italy agreed to enforce Church lawregarding the marriage sacrament. This meant that divorce was illegal.Any effort to annul a marriage had to be processed by Church courts.This greatly angered Italy’s Liberals and anticlericals, and even a minor-ity of Fascist radicals like Filippo Marinetti. The Lateran pacts also calledupon the Kingdom of Italy to make a generous financial settlement withthe Holy See.
The Lateran pacts won Mussolini much praise from devout Catholics,not only in Italy, but all over the world. With Italian Catholics nowfully integrated into the nation, the Fascist regime enjoyed broad domes-tic support for several years, despite a flare-up between rival Fascist andCatholic youth organizations in . This brief squabble between anauthoritarian Church and the would-be totalitarian regime ended withthe Church backing down and restricting its youth groups to purelyreligious activities. Fascism’s “years of consensus,” as the historian RenzoDe Felice has labeled them, lasted from until Italy’s triumph overEthiopia in .
On the Corporative State and Fascist economic policies, one may begin byreading Roland Sarti, “Fascist modernization in Italy: Traditional or revolu-tionary?” American Historical Review . (); and Alexander De Grand,Giuseppe Bottai e la cultura fascista (Rome-Bari: Laterza, ).
See Renzo De Felice, Mussolini il duce: Gli anni del consenso, – (Turin:Giulio Einaudi editore, ). For the Lateran pacts, see also Daniel A. Binchy,Church and State in Fascist Italy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, , );and John F. Pollard, The Vatican and Italian Fascism. –: A Study inConflict (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, ).
Meanwhile, in , as the tenth anniversary of the Fascist “revolu-tion” was approaching, many Fascists were keenly aware that there wasstill no authoritative statement defining the Fascist ideology. When, in, Fascism made its debut, it had lacked the kind of doctrinal claritythat Lenin’s Communism possessed when it seized power in Russia. ItalianFascism seemed amorphous and opportunistic. Indeed, it consisted ofseveral competing fascisms that were cobbled together. It was alwaysmuch easier to identify what Fascism was against than what it was for.
One of the major projects to celebrate the tenth anniversary of theFascist advent to power was publication in Rome of an impressivemultivolume Enciclopedia Italiana. The editors, understandably, wantedto include an authoritative article on “Fascismo.” They turned initiallyto Giovanni Gentile, a neo-Hegelian philosopher who had joined theFascist party in and had served for two years as Mussolini’s firstMinister of Education. But Gentile’s rather ponderous essay did notplease several leaders of the party’s more anti-intellectual wing. Gentile,they complained, had gotten his ideas not from the Fascist Revolution,but from foreigners of the last century such as Fichte and Hegel. Thisgroup insisted that only the Duce should compose and sign so impor-tant an article. Mussolini thereupon agreed to study Gentile’s draft. Hespent the next three days composing his own supplement to it, whichhe subtitled “The Doctrine of Fascism.” Whereas Gentile’s introduc-tory section was essentially a reprise of an earlier essay he had written inacademic style, Mussolini’s supplement was more straightforward andpopular in tone. What the Duce set forth in this famous essay has some-times been termed the “working ideology” of Fascism.
Mussolini began by admitting frankly that, back in , “I had nospecific doctrinal attitude in my mind. . . . I had a living experience ofone doctrine only—that of Socialism from / to the winter of. . . . My own doctrine, even in this period had always been a doc-trine of action.”
See, for example, Lyttelton, ed., Italian Fascisms: From Pareto to Gentile; andGriffin, The Nature of Fascism, ch. .
These and ensuing quotations come from Benito Mussolini, “The Political andSocial Doctrine of Fascism,” International Conciliation, # (Jan. ),pp. –. An English version is also available in Benito Mussolini, Fascism:Doctrine and Institutions (Rome: “Ardita,” ), pp. –, reprinted inNew York by Howard Fertig, Inc. On the evolution of Mussolini’s myth of thenew State, see also Emilio Gentile, Il mito dello stato nuovo dall’antigiolittismoal fascismo (Rome-Bari: Laterza, ); and Pier Giorgio Zunino, L’ideologiadel fascismo: Miti, credenze e valori nella stabilizzazione del regime (Bologna:Il Mulino, .
In earlier essays written by Gentile and Alfredo Rocco on the rootsof Fascism, those authors had pointed to the influence of Imperial Rome,Niccolo Machiavelli, Giuseppe Mazzini, and to theories of the organicstate. To that pedigree, Mussolini now added several publicists who hadbeen active at the start of the twentieth century. Thus, he explained,“in the great stream of Fascism are to be found ideas which began with[Georges] Sorel, [Charles] Péguy, with [Hubert] Lagardelle␣ . . . and withthe Italian trade union movement, which throughout the period –was sounding a new note of [syndicalism].” In addition to Sorel’s chal-lenging ideas on the role of myths, force, and revolutionary syndical-ism, Mussolini underscored the relevance to Fascism of Vilfredo Pareto’selitist anti-liberalism, William James’s pragmatism, Friedrich Nietzsche’s“will to power,” and Auguste Blanqui’s glorification of violence.
Mussolini went on to claim that Fascism had now become a doc-trine with its own individuality. “Above all,” it “believes neither in thepossibility nor the utility of perpetual peace. It thus repudiates the doc-trine of pacifism—born of a renunciation of the struggle and an act ofcowardice in the face of sacrifice. War alone brings up to its highesttension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon thepeoples who have the courage to meet it.” “This anti-pacifist spirit iscarried by Fascism even into the life of the individual: the proud mottoof the Squadrista, ‘Me ne frego!’ [‘I don’t worry about death!’], writtenon the bandage of the wound, is an act of philosophy␣ . . . and a newway of life for Italy. Thus the Fascist␣ . . . conceives of life as duty andstruggle and conquest.”
Fascism, the Duce continued, is “the complete opposite of MarxianSocialism.” “Fascism␣ . . . believes in holiness and in heroism; that is tosay, in actions influenced by no economic motive, direct or indirect. . . .Above all, Fascism denies that class-war can be the preponderant forcein the transformation of society.”
Not only does Fascism combat Socialism, but also “the whole com-plex system of democratic ideology, and repudiates it.” “Fascism deniesthat the majority, by the simple fact that it is a majority, can direct humansociety;␣ . . . and it affirms the immutable, beneficial, and fruitful inequal-ity of mankind, which can never be permanently leveled through themere operation of a mechanical process such as universal suffrage.”
The Duce explained that Fascism, “having first (for reasons of expe-diency) assumed an attitude [favorable to] republicanism, [thereafter]renounced this point of view before the March to Rome.” It did sobecause democracy is a regime “ruled by many kings—more absolute,tyrannical, and ruinous than one sole king.”
Fascism, the Duce continued, is in “complete opposition to the doc-trines of liberalism, both in the political field and the field of economics.”“But the Fascist negation of Socialism, Democracy, and Liberalism,” hehastened to add, “must not be taken to mean that Fascism desires to leadthe world back to the state of affairs before . . . . Fascism has not cho-sen De Maistre for its high-priest,” he explained. Whereas “the nineteenthcentury was the century of Socialism, of Liberalism, and of Democracy,␣ . . .it may rather be expected that [the twentieth] will be a century ofauthority, a century of the Right, a century of Fascism. . . . This will bethe century of collectivism, and hence the century of the State.”
Mussolini then declared that “Fascism conceives of the State as anabsolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are rela-tive, only to be conceived of in their relation to the State.” “The FascistState is itself conscious, and has itself a will and a personality—thus itmay be called the ‘ethic’ State.” It “has drawn into itself even the eco-nomic activities of the nation, and through the corporative social andeducational institutions created by it, its influence reaches every aspectof the national life␣ . . . all the political, economic and spiritual forces ofthe nation.” The State “is the force which alone can provide a solutionto the dramatic contradictions of capitalism.” The individual in theFascist State “is not annulled but rather multiplied, just in the sameway that a soldier in a regiment is not diminished but rather increasedby the number of his comrades,” Mussolini asserted. “The Fascist Stateorganizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the indi-vidual; the latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedombut retains what is essential: the deciding power in this question cannot be the individual but the State alone.”
Turning to the question of the Church, Mussolini asserted that “theFascist State is not indifferent to the fact of religion in general, or tothat particular and positive faith which is Italian Catholicism. The Stateprofesses no theology, but a morality, and in the Fascist State religion isconsidered as one of the deepest manifestations of the spirit of man;thus it is not only respected but defended and protected.”
Finally, the Duce emphasized that “for Fascism, the growth of empire,that is to say the expansion of the nation, is an essential manifestationof vitality, and its opposite a sign of decadence.” Italy must pursue ademographic policy of population growth. “Peoples which are rising␣ . . .are always imperialist; any renunciation is a sign of decay and of death.”“If every age has its own characteristic doctrine, there are a thousandsigns which point to Fascism as the characteristic doctrine of our time,”Mussolini concluded.
Coinciding with publication of this article was the launching of“universal fascism” by Italian Fascists who wanted to see the doctrinecopied elsewhere. An effort was made in Lausanne to promote the inter-nationalization of fascism under Italian auspices, but this did not getfar, chiefly because Hitler’s racist National Socialism was emerging as astronger and more brutal rival to Mussolini’s original brand of fascism.
The Duce’s emphasis in his encyclopedia article on Fascist milita-rism and imperialism was not accidental, because at this very time hewas preparing for an invasion of Ethiopia and establishment of an empirein east Africa. He was also dreaming of expanding Italy’s influence intothe Danubian, Balkan, and Mediterranean regions. By May , hesucceeded in conquering Ethiopia, in spite of the League of Nations’weak economic sanctions imposed against Italy. The Duce now hadreached the height of his popularity at home. But his triumph went tohis head. He really began to believe all of the myths he had sedulouslypromoted. The cult of ducismo got underway. Mussolini now dreamedof creating a new warrior breed of “Fascist man,” the uomo fascista.
Moreover, because of his anger toward Britain and France which hadpromoted the League’s sanctions program, Mussolini decided to seekno new accommodation with them. Instead, he would align Fascist Italywith Nazi Germany. The resulting Rome-Berlin Axis of October was solidified by the two dictators’ joint intervention in the Spanish CivilWar on the side of General Franco’s Insurgents. The Axis agreementsignaled the beginning of Mussolini’s decline. During the costly SpanishCivil War, which dragged on until March , the Duce sacrificed Italy’sair force, as well as its tanks and artillery. Within Italy, the increasinglyunpopular Axis policy became obvious when Hitler annexed Austria in, thereby depriving Italy of the strong influence it had formerlyenjoyed in that state.
In the autumn of , most Italians were even more dismayed whenMussolini imitated Hitler by foolishly introducing a racist and anti-Semitic policy. He tried to justify this partly on a perceived need toprevent racial miscegenation in Italy’s new African Empire. Mussolinifound it hard to whip up animosity against the Jews. Only some ,Jews lived in Italy. Most of these families had been living there for cen-turies and had become thoroughly assimilated during the period of Italy’snational unification. Numerous Italian Jews had also been supporters
See Michael A. Ledeen, Universal Fascism: The Theory and Practice of the FascistInternational, – (New York: Howard Fertig, ).
Regarding Mussolini’s aggressive foreign policy, see Denis Mack Smith,Mussolini’s Roman Empire (New York: Viking, I ).
of Fascism in its early years. One of Mussolini’s former mistresses,Margherita Sarfatti, was Jewish. After , foreign Jews who had escapedfrom Nazi Germany were subject to internment. But most native ItalianJews, though henceforth severely restricted in their activities, did notface a threat to their very lives until September , when Hitler’sGermany seized control of northern Italy. Thereafter, all Jews in thenorthern half of the country were brutally rounded up, and more than, were hauled away to Nazi extermination camps. We must empha-size that the Duce launched his racial policy entirely on his own.
By , Mussolini was visibly losing his grip. He suffered from achronic ulcer and was beginning to look like an old man. He was alsobeing repeatedly upstaged by Hitler. The Duce had made no plans for apolitical successor. His son-in-law and foreign minister, Count GaleazzoCiano, aspired to succeed the Duce, but Ciano was disliked by rivalhierarchs. King Victor Emmanuel, for his part, was increasingly unhappywith the “dyarchy.” Mussolini’s latest mistress, Clara Petacci, wasunpopular. Rumors abounded that the Petacci clan was deeply involvedin the financial corruption that was now pervasive in the regime.
In April , only a few weeks after the end of his costly interven-tion in the Spanish Civil War, Mussolini ordered the invasion of Albania.And a month later, he agreed to a military alliance with Nazi Germany,named the “Pact of Steel.” But in September , when Hitler launchedWorld War II with his invasion of Poland, Mussolini was in no posi-tion to help his ally. It was not until June , when Hitler had drivenBritish forces off the Continent at Dunkirk, and France was on its knees,that the Italian jackal decided to declare war in order to gain some ofthe booty. Once again, the King acquiesced. Hitler treated the Duce’sintervention with contempt, and he permitted Italy to gather up only afew territorial crumbs from defeated France.
Soon, British forces in east Africa began to throw the Italians outof their short-lived empire on that continent. At the same time, Britishnaval units wrote “finis” to Mussolini’s dreams of converting theMediterranean Sea into a new Roman mare nostrum. Mussolini’sill-starred invasion of Greece in October quickly bogged down.Hitler came to the Duce’s rescue in the spring of . That same year,the Germans and Italians carved up Yugoslavia between them. In June, when Hitler invaded Soviet Russia, Mussolini tagged along.
See Meir Michaelis, Mussolini and the Jews: German-Italian Relations and theJewish Question in Italy, – (Oxford: Clarendon Press, ); and SusanZuccotti, The Italians and the Holocaust: Persecution, Rescue, Survival (New York:Basic Books, ).
On December , three days after the Japanese attacked PearlHarbor, Mussolini and Hitler foolishly declared war on the United States.For Mussolini, the military struggle now went quickly from bad to worse.By May , Italian forces had to surrender all of Libya, their last foot-hold in Africa. In July , a huge Anglo-American amphibious forceinvaded Sicily. The Duce’s dictatorship now faced its greatest crisis.
In Rome, interlocking conspiracies involving Fascist hierarchs, whoincluded, among others, Dino Grandi and Count Ciano, as well as theKing and Army leaders, led to the coup d’état of July . The sicklyDuce was easily arrested. His Fascist regime and Corporative Statecrumbled apart amid mass jubilation. In its place emerged a new royaldictatorship headed by King Victor Emmanuel III and Marshal PietroBadoglio. Six weeks later, this new government signed an armistice withthe Anglo-Americans in Sicily. The armistice was suddenly announcedlate in the night of – September, just as Allied forces were landing onthe mainland at Salerno. With Allied help, the poverty-stricken south-ern half of Italy, now dubbed the “Kingdom of the South,” slowly beganto re-establish the democratic parties and institutions of the pre-Fascistera. Within a few weeks, the Allies recognized the liberated South as a“co-belligerent” on their side.
But in the northern, more industrialized half of Italy, the story wasvery different. Immediately after the coup d’état in Rome on July ,Hitler had anticipated that the Badoglio government would defect fromthe Axis. Consequently, he had dispatched massive German forces acrossthe Brenner Pass. When Italy’s armistice was clumsily announced dur-ing the night of September , Hitler’s forces quickly overwhelmed anddisarmed the bewildered Italian units. Simultaneously, Nazi commandosrescued Mussolini from the Apennine ski lodge where the Badoglio gov-ernment had confined him. Hitler peremptorily ordered the ex-dictatorto form a new Fascist government under the strict supervision of theNazi SS. This miserable, -months epilogue to Mussolini’s Fascism wasknown as the Italian Social Republic, or more commonly as the“Republic of Salò,” which took its name from the resort on Lake Garda,where the Duce improvised his headquarters. Soon, Mussolini ordereda trial in Verona of those Fascist hierarchs, who, in July, had dared tovote against him. Most of them, including his own son-in-law, CountCiano, were executed by a firing squad.
See F. William Deakin, The Brutal Friendship: Mussolini, Hitler, and the Fall ofItalian Fascism (New York: Harper & Row, ).
The Duce’s puppet regime ordered conscription of new armies andlabor forces to help the Third Reich. He also tried, demagogically, towin the support of northern industrial workers by reverting to Fascism’sradical program of . But in vain, because most of the workers werenow looking instead to the anti-Fascist Armed Resistance, which, afterSeptember , was mushrooming throughout the north. The ArmedResistance was coordinated by Committees of National Liberation thatwere composed of resurgent anti-Fascist political parties: Communists,Socialists, Actionists, Christian Democrats, and Liberals. The Resistanceforces, which often received supply drops from the Allies, played a sig-nificant role in liberating many of Italy’s northern cities in the final daysof the war.
In April , when Allied forces had at last crossed the Po River, anItalian Resistance unit near Lake Como captured Mussolini and hisdwindling band of last-ditch supporters who were desperately seeking toescape with a retreating German convoy. A few hours later, on April,a Communist partisan leader who was sent up to Lake Como fromResistance headquarters in Milan executed Mussolini and his mistress,Clara Petacci. Other captured Fascist leaders were executed nearby. Nextday, the bodies were hauled to central Milan. There, in a disgusting scene,a mob strung up the corpses of the ex-dictator and his mistress by theirheels in Piazzale Loreto; the same square in which the Fascists hadexecuted fifteen captured partisans a few months before. Thus, in thevery city in which the Fascist movement had been born in March ,Italy’s by now thoroughly despised Fascist regime reached its violent andsordid end in April .
Delzell, Mussolini’s Enemies: The Italian Anti-Fascist Resistance, Part II.
The Origins and Developmentof the Fascist Right in Germany and
a Critique of the Methods Used to Contain Itby Anthony Glees
. Introduction: German Fascism in
Since October , when Germany again became a nation, butparticularly after the summer of , racist violence has increased. Attimes, this increase is attributed to “right wing extremists”; on otheroccasions, to “fascists.” My essay seeks to explain fascism primarilyin terms of organized political activity that opposes the processes of lib-eral democracy, acts violently, and preaches racism. We shall see thatthere is no difficulty in calling current German extreme right-wingbehavior “fascist.”
Fascism, traditionally, has been described in terms of its virulent nation-alism and of its opposition to Marxism and Bolshevism. Today, how-ever, Marxism and Bolshevism are virtually dead. Yet German fascism,and other fascist movements, still live. Although residual resentment ofcommunism may inspire some to political action, present-day Germanfascism is motivated by something other than active anti-communism.After all that has happened in this century, it is remarkable that thereshould be a right-wing extremist problem in Germany.
German fascism’s claim to the ethnic superiority of Germans gives itpolitical continuity. The core tenet of German fascism is racialism, ratherthan anti-Bolshevism. In the s and s, what distinguished Germanfascism from the fascism of other western European states was the insis-tence that the German “race” was superior to other “races,” in particu-lar, to the Jewish “race.” The evidence compiled since , and especiallytoday, indicates that the same views are still held by German fascists.
It is more than mere coincidence that German national unity has ledto increased fascist activity in Germany. For many Germans, this observa-tion has prompted a discussion of the German quality of fascism. Whileall European nations are currently suffering from its re-appearance andthe case of Germany should not cause us particular alarm, the German-specific nature of German fascism has generated an increase in sympa-thy for it within Germany. For those not concerned with German affairs,its fascism may not require a response that is any different from theresponse to fascism anywhere else, including the United Kingdom. Thosewho do have a special interest in Germany, however, must regard German
fascism in a special light, because, historically, fascism in Germany hasmeant something particular.
The notions of German “superiority” and of “ethnic other,” as trig-gers to violent political action, did not die with Hitler, who most pow-erfully articulated it. If German fascism is still able to exploit “ethnicother,” then existing methods of suppression (which, as we shall see,simply follow procedures that before were tried but failed) must bestrengthened by ethical and moral action, along with political and eco-nomic measures. We need to re-imagine the Europe that confronts uson the threshold of the twenty-first century; to re-invent the values thatmake liberal democracy the most successful form of government; andto re-state the case for transnational and supranational cooperation asan antidote to the virulence of aggressive pseudo-nationalism. We mustnot only uphold the rights of mankind by legal and political means, wemust also learn to act decently towards each other, regardless of race orsocial position.
. The Debate on the Ideological Roots of German Fascism
What is German fascism? Is it Nazism? It seems fair to state that therewere many varieties of German fascism, but that Nazism quickly gainedleadership over them. After , the terms, “German fascism” and“National Socialism” or “Nazism” have been used synonymously. YetNational Socialism was but one expression of German fascism. Whatwere its intellectual or ideological roots? If German fascism was simplya variant of European fascism, then these alleged roots would have littlesignificance, unless they led directly to the growth of fascism in nationsother than Germany. If, however, German fascism is unique, then itsorigins become important.
It has long been established that “National Socialism was not anaccident of German history. Rather it was the terminus of a broad andinvitingly laid-out path␣ . . . Hitler’s rise to power did not initiate thecrisis; it made it apparent␣ . . . the political and economic conditions ofthe Weimar Republic␣ . . . destroyed the forces of resistance and thus en-abled the disease [which had] a long incubation period, to speed so speed-ily. . . .” Indeed, for Hermann Glaser, Hitler’s personal contribution tothe rise of Nazism should not be exaggerated: “the crisis would havecome to a head even without Hitler. . . .␣ it would have taken prolongedtherapy to neutralize the poisonous seeds of the th and th centuries.”
Herman Glaser, The Cultural Roots of National Socialism, (London: CroomHelm, ), pp. , .
We cannot say with certainty that Nazism was the only and inevi-table outcome of the tradition of German nationalist political thought.That it did not come out of the blue, however, seems obvious: the rootsof fascism go deep and it would be surprising if they had died out with-out trace. The existence of intellectual roots to German Fascism doesnot imply that th century German philosophers are to “blame” for itsexcesses, or that its appeal was, and is, intellectual. Nevertheless, onesinister feature of ethnic hatred is that over the years, many attemptshave been made to justify it on rational or scientific grounds.
More to the point, and perhaps more frightening than the notion ofan intellectual heritage that has generated continuity, students of contem-porary German fascism must evaluate the academic discussion of theGerman-specific nature of German fascism, the so-called Historikerstreitof the middle and late s. One of several striking features of the recentGerman attempt to reinterpret German fascism was a lack of new fac-tual material. What was new were the extreme and inconsistent inter-pretations of German fascism, along with the unsavory political impacton German life that they generated.
Fascism, which includes the German, Italian and French variants,has been defined by the controversial German historian, Ernst Nolte,as anti-Marxist radicalism, which propounds what he calls “national selfassertion.” Nolte concluded that “Fascism is anti-Marxism which seeksto destroy the enemy by the evolvement of a radically opposed and yetrelated ideology and by the use of almost identical␣ . . . methods, always,however, within the unyielding framework of national self-assertion andautonomy.” This definition has been widely accepted, and a numberof scholars argue that its racialism, culminating in the Holocaust, mustoccupy a central place in its definition. The theory and practice of geno-cide must set German fascism apart from other European ones, even ifother fascist movements went happily along with German plans. Germanfascism was the motor for genocide, although non-German nationali-ties often supplied the means.
German fascism also has had a particular relationship with democ-racy as a form of government. It had the capacity to operate within thedemocratic political system, while at the same time seeking to destroythat system; it was, thus, both revolutionary and yet also quasi-democratic. Prior to its seizure of power in , and subsequently,German fascism sought and gained popular support, particularly for its
Ernst Nolte, The Three Faces of Fascism, translated by Leila Vennewitz (NewYork: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, ), pp. , –.
leader, Hitler. After , the Nazis were obliged to “use democracy todestroy democracy.” The fact that a party has participated or does par-ticipate in what seems to be normal democratic activity, therefore, doesnot imply that it does not seek the overthrow of liberal democracy. AsHitler himself made clear in a speech in September , Nazis neededto “educate the German people to fight against the idiotic systems ofdemocracy and parliamentarianism.
In the s, German fascism tended to be seen, particularly byGerman scholars, simply as a variant of European fascism, which opposeddemocracy and communism. By the s, German scholars began toreevaluate German fascism. They concluded that communism was notthe opposite of fascism: both fascism and communism were comple-mentary, and the real opposition occurred between liberalism and total-itarianism. This new perspective, which was developed by academicsand politicians, actually helped to promote a revival of fascism. Germanfascism was no longer considered as uniquely German, and fascism itselfwas viewed as another form of the other vile totalitarianism, communism.
. The Uniqueness of German Fascism: the Question of Genocide
One problem raised by the German historians’ debate, the Historikerstreit,is also a central concern of this essay: the uniqueness of German fas-cism. Twenty years earlier, Ernst Nolte had already argued that fascismwas the product of a distinct epoch, not tied specifically to Germany.Although his book offended many persons who were accustomed to themore simplistic and convenient analysis that fascism was Italo/Germanand a by-product of the political failures of these two nations, the validityof a comparative analysis of the phenomenon is now wholly accepted.The debt that Hitler owed to Italian Fascism was plain, as Hitler him-self demonstrated in private and public until Mussolini’s death.
In the s, however, the debate focused on the central ideologicalplatform of Nazism, the war of genocide. For German historians, theissue at stake was whether genocide, as practiced by the Nazis, was aspecifically German phenomenon, or whether it was part of a wider abuseof political power, common to other totalitarian movements. How cen-tral was it to the theory and practice of German fascism? If, on the onehand, the war against the Jews was a German invention, then the con-sequences for the interpretation of German political development weredire. If, on the other hand, the war of genocide was but a German
Quoted by Alan Bullock in Hitler (Dusseldorf: Droste, ), p. .
example of a wider practice, then it was wrong to attribute special blameto Germany. Such an assertion implied the relativisation of Nazism.
It was not coincidental that the loudest voice pleading for the revi-sion of the German-specific view of Nazism was that of Ernst Nolte,who was about to publish Der Europaeische Buergerkrieg –. Herehe argued that Nazism both learned from Soviet Communism andreacted against it. He suggested further that Nazi genocide was to beunderstood as a preemptive strike against putative Soviet genocide againstGermans. There was no new real evidence to back up these surprisingassertions, but his interpretations had both academic and politicalconsequences.
The statement that “Hitler was no worse than Stalin” would be taken,in Germany, to mean not that both men and both states were equallyevil; but that the Germans of the Third Reich and the German politywere not uniquely evil. They, therefore, were less evil than has been sug-gested. And if the Germans of the Third Reich and the German politywere not uniquely evil, it might follow that aspects of the Third Reichwere actually positive. Indeed, Nolte argued in favor of a more positivereinterpretation of the Third Reich by using this analogy. Had the PLOdestroyed Israel, he contended, its history of Israel would have merelycatalogued the negative aspects of Israeli history. He did not say so explic-itly, but his meaning was plain: until now German history has beenwritten from the point of view of those who defeated the Third Reich.Thus its “negativeness” has never been “expressed in a different way.”
Nolte was strongly supported by the late Andreas Hillgruber and J.C. Fest, an influential senior editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.They suggested, first, that genocide, that is, the extermination of an eth-nic group and of an economic or social class, was a relatively commonphenomenon in central and eastern Europe. “Genocide” signified“Asiatic” rather than “European” behavior. Second, they proposed thatboth the notion and the trigger for genocide came from the RussianCommunists. Nolte even asserted that Hitler’s anti-Semitic measuresbefore were justified, because in , Chaim Weizmann had saidthat Jews would fight on England’s side; this statement “entitled Hitlerto treat Jews as prisoners of war.”
One of the outcomes of the debate was a highlighting of the centralimportance of genocide for an interpretation of German fascism. WasGerman fascism truly no more than a political response to Marxism; or
E. Nolte, Der Europaeische Burgerkrieg –: Nationalsozialismus undBolschewismus (Berlin: Propylaen Verlag, ), pp. , , , , , –, .
was its obsession with race and an ethnically regulated “New Order inEurope” as important, or even more important, than its anti-Marxism?Is there any evidence to suggest that historians may have underplayedthe ethnic aspects of Nazism and overplayed its anti-Marxist ones? Theanswers to these questions are vital. If ethnicity can be demonstrated tohave been more significant than we have assumed in the past, then thedangers of current ethnically driven political behavior become even moreserious. Furthermore, if this is so, then the demise of political Marxismin Europe after does not mean that today’s German right-wingextremism cannot be fascist. It is its ethnicity that provides the histori-cal continuity between the phenomenon we see today, and what occurredduring the period between the wars.
It can be argued plausibly that race is more important in explainingNazism than is anti-Marxism. Today’s German hostility towards “for-eigners” replicates the Nazis’ concern with ethnic others. This may seema statement of the obvious, because anti-Semitism has often been thefocus of academic and public interest in Nazism. Although there alwayshas been an understanding that for the Nazis, the concept of race wascentral, this understanding was always qualified by the widespread beliefthat the concept itself was meaningless; as meaningless as the Nazi notionof the “Aryan.” Nazi racialism was thus often reduced not to the oppo-sition “German/ethnically other” but to “Aryan/Jew”, and also seen assomething inherently crazy, even idiosyncratic, the product of a few,mad, leading Nazis.
We shall see that although in the ls and subsequently, “the Jews”were considered by the Nazis to be the least acceptable ethnic group,the Jews were not the only ethnic group believed inferior to the “Aryans.”Both before and after, race, then, lay at the very heart of Nazism.Nowhere is this fact seen more clearly than in the views expressed byHitler. The idea of ethnicity as a trigger for violent political action, how-ever, did not die with Hitler, even if he most powerfully articulated it.
. Hitler and Genocide
Nolte and his allies were offering not merely a reinterpretation, butalso a rehabilitation of Hitler’s image. Some historians insisted that Hitlerand his closest comrades played a secondary and subsidiary role in the␣ pro-cess of genocide. The impact, which such theories might have on Germanpolitical life, is plain: if Hitler was wicked primarily because he hadordered the extermination of the Jews and if this claim was not true,then Hitler might not be as wicked as had been alleged. Fest, approvingly,showed that both Martin Broszat and Hans Mommsen had proved that
the Nazi leaders had not opted for extermination at the beginning oftheir period in power, but were “prisoners in a process which their phrase-ology, their laws and a complex of activities had set in motion.”
Mommsen even argued that although “his fanatical hatred of Jewswas of decisive importance for Hitler’s general political conduct␣ . . . hedid not show much interest, and certainly no active involvement, inthe individual steps of anti-Jewish policy␣ . . . In general, he would avoidcommitting himself directly to anti-Jewish actions, especially since hewas aware that these were received rather negatively by the Germanpeople.” We learn that “Hitler never sympathized with the course ofexcluding the Jews from social life by legislative means” which wasexecuted by “bureaucrats.” Mommsen quoted from Gerald Fleming’sand David Irving’s work to suggest that Hitler avoided any direct“identification” with genocide and that it was never discussed in hisimmediate circle. Mommsen alleged that there was no order from Hitlerto exterminate Jews.
Most non-German scholars were entitled to be shocked by these over-elaborate theories. After all, Hitler never concealed his aim of destroy-ing the Jews. The supposition that there is no direct order linking himwith the technical achievement of the “final solution” may be explainedby the need for utmost secrecy in realizing it: Hitler clearly believedthat genocide was the right policy for the Third Reich. He was neverwholly certain that the German people would support him on it.Himmler, who did not balk at speaking to his SS men about the policyof genocide, also made it quite clear that the Nazis wished it to be asecret policy whose history would never be written.
Hitler’s views on ethnicity may well have been one of his most sig-nificant contributions to German fascism. He articulated them with suchgreat conviction and force that they became part of it. Genocide, more-over, was German-specific. In short, German fascism was a German vari-ant of a European phenomenon, wherein the ethnic superiority of theGerman Aryan and the desire to exterminate the Jews were the key com-ponents. Hitler’s anti-Semitism was specifically German-Austrian, whilealso fitting into a wider European context: German fascism does notneed to be feared any more, or any less, than other fascisms, which incitecitizens to ethnic violence and bloodshed.
Central to Hitler’s thought were the notions of German ethnic supe-riority and the need to subject Jews to “racial cleansing.” In , he
Hans Mommsen, “Anti-Jewish Policies,” in Hedley Bull, ed., The Challengeof the Third Reich (Oxford: Oxford University Press, ), pp. ff., ,–, .
told a Munich journalist that “when I really am in power, then the anni-hilation of the Jews will be my first and most important task. As soonas I have the power to do it, I shall, for example, have erected in theMarienplatz in Munich gallows and more gallows␣ . . . The Jews will behanged, one after the other, and they will stay hanging until they stink.They will hang as long as the principles of hygiene permit. As soon asthey have been taken down, the next ones will be strung up and thiswill continue until the last Jew in Munich is destroyed. The same willhappen in other German cities until Germany is cleansed of the lastJews.” The content of his speech of January followed directly:“if international finance Jews outside Europe succeed in pushing theGerman people again into a world war, the result will not be theBolshevization of the earth and thus the victory of the Jews but theextermination of the Jewish race in Europe.” This passage was oftenquoted by Hitler.
Hitler’s anti-Semitism was not marginal, but central to his public andprivate acts as Germany’s political leader. Hitler tells us where he thinkshe picked the idea up, but even if, as seems unlikely, Hitler got the ideaof extermination from the Bolsheviks or Turks, this hardly contradictsthe German character of genocide or exonerates German politicaldevelopment from complicity in it. Furthermore, it was a doctrine sharedby his paladins and more widely in Germany and German Austria atthe time.
Hitler begins the very first page of Mein Kampf with a statement ofthe significance of ethnic bonding amongst Germans. He also gives it aforeign policy value: “German-Austria must be returned to its greatGerman motherland and not for economic reasons. No, no. Even if thisunion—in economic terms—had no impact, yes even if it was economi-cally harmful, it would still have to take place. The same blood [writtenin emphasis] belongs in the same Reich␣ . . .”.
Mein Kampf also offers early insights into Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Helearned it in Vienna rather than at home or at school (or Munich): “itwas only when I was fourteen or fifteen that I came across the term‘Jew,’ often in a political context. I experienced mild feelings ofunease␣ . . . Linz had few Jews. Externally they become Europeanized
Quoted in Charles Bracelan Flood, Hitler (London: Hamish Hamilton, ),p. .
Speech printed in Max Domarus, Hitler Reden und Proklamationen, ii, (Munich: ), pp. ff.
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, translated by Ralph Manheim (Boston: HoughtonMifflin Co., ), p. .
and human [menschlich]; indeed, I held them to be Germans␣ . . . Andthen I went to Vienna␣ . . . which has a population of two hundred thou-sands of them␣ . . .” He concludes: “Was there ever some wickedness,some act of shamelessness in one form or another, particularly in cul-tural life, in which at least one Jew did not play a part? Even as onemight cut cautiously into a cyst, one would find, like a maggot in arotting corpse, quite often blinded by the sudden light, a little Jew␣ . . .”Hitler later adds that during the First World War, he preferred to hidebehind trees rather than salute Jewish officers.
After the war, his hatred of the Jews became an integral part of hispolitical message. There is no real evidence that those who flocked tolisten to him were unsettled by what he had to say. In , for example,when Walter Rathenau was made foreign minister, Hitler told a crowdof Bavarians that the appointment of a Jewish foreign ministerwas simply unacceptable to true Germans and then, in the same breath,called for the capital punishment of all Jews who “polluted” Aryan girls.The audience showed their approval by chanting “Rathenau—Judensau”which, though hardly eloquent, nevertheless served to demonstrateclearly that they liked what Hitler was saying. Hitler believed that hisanti-Semitism was popular. Certainly, Nazis and others involved in theexecution of genocide seemed content with the policy.
For Hitler personally and his version of fascism, anti-Semitism occu-pied a central place. Most of what he sought to do, whether insideGermany or beyond its frontiers, was motivated by a desire to destroythe Jews of Europe. Hitler’s earliest statements to his first policies ingovernment (the burning of books, the purging of political institutions),to the plans for genocide and the accompanying war on the SovietUnion, demonstrate that genocide was a necessity. Hitler’s anti-Semitismwas thus a key contribution to the shaping of German fascism. In ,other German fascists might have won power if Hitler had been deador in prison, and they might have been less keen on genocide. Yet thefact is that it was Hitler and no other Fascist leader who was successful.
Hitler never changed his views on Jews. Indeed, during his entirepolitical career, there is a remarkable consistency about what he saidand wrote about Jews. Almost twenty years after his outpourings in MeinKampf, he could still tell his dinner-table circle that Jews were a virusand that the work the Nazis were doing in exterminating them wason a par with the achievement of Louis Pasteur. In his final will andtestament of April , Hitler repeated his belief that the war hadbeen caused by the Jews and not by him.
. Anti-Semitism as the Expression of German Ethnic Superiority
Hans Frank, Hitler’s lawyer and later in charge of German-occupiedPoland, was seen by early contemporaries as a “well educated attorney,highly cultured and cultivated.” He, too, had a clear vision of what heregarded as the necessity of ethnic cleansing. Hans Frank informed aNazi journalist, a visitor from Berlin, “If I were to have one poster printedfor every seven Poles I’m going to have shot, all the trees in Polandcouldn’t provide the paper␣ . . . After the war, you can make mincemeatout of the Poles and Ukrainians and anybody else hanging around hereas far as I am concerned.” He told a gathering that “we must obliteratethe Jews wherever we can find them and wherever the opportunity isafforded us␣ . . . We cannot shoot the . million of them, we cannot killthem with poison but can proceed with the necessary steps which some-how or other will lead to their successful extermination.” On August, he spoke to German troops and a delegation of Polish and Ukrai-nian Nazi sympathizers. He thanked Hitler for having given him con-trol of “this ancient nest of Jews␣ . . . Once, there were thousands of Jews,hideously repulsive Jews, but now I can’t seem to find any. Don’t tellme you’ve been treating them badly␣ . . .” The stenographer noted thatthe audience reacted to these remarks with “great hilarity.”
Heinrich Himmler explicitly recognized that genocide would be sup-ported, if it were presented as an act of “ethnic cleansing.” Even so, hebelieved, many Nazis might be unwilling to see policy converted intopractice. He accepted, too, that the secrecy with which genocide wasbeing executed, denied the SS their rightful place in German history.As he put it to his SS leadership at a speech in Posen on October: “one principle applies absolutely to every SS man: he must be hon-est, decent, loyal and comradely to members of his blood but to no oneelse␣ . . . if by the building of an anti-tank ditch , Russian womendie is of interest to me only because the anti-tank ditch needs to becompleted for Germany␣ . . . As far as the evacuation of Jews is concerned,the extermination of Jews, it belongs to the things that are easy to say.‘The Jewish race will be exterminated,’ says every Party member ‘noquestion, it’s in our program, removal of Jews, extermination, we’ll do.’And then along come million Germans and each one has their decentJew. It’s clear—the other Jews are swine but this one is a tip-top Jew.But none of those who speak in this way has watched, has had to standthrough what you have stood through. Most of you know what it meansif bodies lie there, if or are there and you, apart from acts
Gerald Posner, Hitler’s Children (London: Mandarin, ), pp. , , , .
of human weakness, have remained decent. That has made us hard. Thatis a glorious chapter of our history that has never been written and neverwill be.” Himmler’s anti-Semitism was every bit as deeply held asHitler’s and, according to a recent biography, was not learned from Hitlerbut resulted from his own musings.
. German Ethnic Superiority and the German People
We cannot claim that genocide was popular. It seems probable thatmany Germans hated it. Himmler believed that even Nazi party mem-bers might not support it. Genocide was executed under conditions ofsecrecy. Yet the evidence is not only that many of the peoples controlledby the Germans after , Poles, French, Dutch, Balts, Russians andso on, willingly took part in the Nazi crusade against the Jews, but thatthe many hundreds of thousands of Germans who became involved inthe extermination process gave it their passive support, or worse.
The message that the Germans were ethnically superior to the Jewsseems to have been widely accepted. Interestingly, one of Hans Frank’ssons related how his mother took him to visit the Warsaw Ghetto. Histestimony is a stark description of ethnic otherness. The boy asked hismother, “why the people had stars and who were the men with whips␣ . . .And when our [official] car stopped, I looked out of the window, andan older boy was standing outside, staring at me␣ . . . And I made facesat him, he looked very sad and then ran away␣ . . .”.
The imposed and invented ethnic otherness of Jews was also pickedup by quite ordinary, even simple Germans who were Nazi supporters.A war diary, kept by a simple Luftwaffe officer, Juergen Flick, made thefollowing entry for March : “Visit to Warsaw␣ . . . I repeatedlyfound myself coming up against the walls of the Ghetto and decided tosee it. The tram is the only way; it travels through the Ghetto withoutstopping. The impression I retain is very strong. I’ve never seen any-thing like it—people [Menschen] sealed off from other people by wallsand gates. How justified it is that they be separated like this is clear toanyone who has seen the Ghetto. Jews, just Jews, forced now to relyonly on themselves. From outside you can hear the chanting of Jewishpeddlers, praising their wares␣ . . . everywhere people are haggling. Manyare selling arm bands with the Jewish star and little bits of cake. Thestreets were full of Jews. And of the stench that goes with Jews. Jews
Richard Breitman, The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and the Final Solution(London: Bodley Head, ), p. .
Posner, op. cit., p. .
like a normal European has never seen them. Old one with beards andfatty, lumpy eyes, eyes dark with evil. Young men, without moral con-sciences, with hatred and wickedness etched on their foreheads␣ . . .Corpses lie on the pavements. We went to supper to the Black ForestRestaurant. Otherwise nothing special happened today.” What is sostriking about this account is not merely how unreflective it was (couldhe not understand that what he was seeing, that is that the misery, thepoverty, the death and the hatred were the outcomes of Nazi policy andnot of Jewish volition), but how fully he accepted the idea that the Jewswere not like himself.
At the heart of German fascism, then, there lay the idea of the supe-riority of the Germanic or Aryan race, along with the alleged ethnicinferiority of the Jews. Philosophers like Fichte, Arndt, Lagarde, andTreitschke gave German nationalism a spin, into which Hitler’s politi-cal thought may be fitted. Langbehn had talked about “clean, good Aryanblood; of all human bloods, it is the blood that contains the most gold.”
Nazi philosophy was quick to appreciate the significance of thisethnicity. Robert Ley wrote of his “two dogmas”; the first was the “naturallaw of blood, race, energy, courage and motherhood”; the second “theauthority of the Führer, the representative of the German people. Whenhe orders me to do something, I have to obey␣ . . . the Führer is alwaysright, in all situations and always.” For Himmler the “one principle ofthe SS man is to be honest, decent, loyal and comradely to our ownblood and to no one else␣ . . . a decent attitude to animals and will havea decent attitude to these human animals. What we care about [Sorge],our duty is our blood.”
. German Nationalism and German Fascism
German nationalism was more than nationalism. Hitler himself, how-ever, was not a nationalist in any meaningful sense. His table talk givesmany clues as to where his affections lay: with his dogs, for old partycomrades, for certain artists, musicians, and historical cities, but chieflyfor young members of the armed services, especially those at the front.Hitler displays an obvious amusement for local habits and customs. Atno time does he demonstrate any genuine affection for those whom the
Quotation from Juergen Flick, Diaries, privately published in Bremen by ArendVollers, p. .
Glaser, op. cit., p. . Quoted in Leon Poliakov and Josef Wulf, Das Dritte Reich und seine Denker
(Munich: K. G. Saur, ), pp. –, .
Nazis regarded as German “folk comrades” (Volksgenossen). Indeed, heis often found musing on how they could be regimented and evenintimidated more successfully.
Would a genuine nationalist have condemned his country to the sortof defeat that befell Germany? Would he have accepted such massiveloss of life? Would he have proposed the establishment of baby farmsand the killing of imbeciles? At first, Hitler had attempted to keep thedeprivation of Germans to a minimum (and was happy to make otherEuropeans suffer on their behalf ); but as Germany’s defeat becameinescapable, Hitler cared less and less about the horrors that he wasinflicting on his countrymen. In the final analysis, even though it wasnot done in the same systematic way, Hitler was quite ready to see theGermans go under much as millions of non-Germans had beendispatched.
. German Fascism since
We have established the central importance of the concept of ethnicsuperiority for German fascism before . What of the period from to the present? Since , at least twenty-five people been mur-dered, that is, beaten or burned to death for racial reasons, in both east-ern and western Germany. According to official statistics, in thereoccurred racially motivated fascist attacks on individuals, in whichseventeen persons were murdered, as compared with in ; anincrease of per cent. In , two of the worst cases included theSeptember attack on an asylum seekers’ hostel in Hoyerswerda, where people were injured, and the October fire-bombing of a Lebanesefamily’s home in Huenxe, where two children suffered appalling burns.The following year, some of the worst cases were the August riots inRostock, when several hundreds of extremists, encouraged by a largecrowd of spectators, attacked an asylum seekers’ hostel. In May ,three Turkish women were burned to death in a fire-bomb attack ontheir home in Solingen in the Ruhr. In , two dozen Hamburg police-men were suspended following their attack on an immigrant wearingan anti-Nazi badge; and the Bundestag felt it necessary to pass a lawpunishing neo-Nazis and historians who denied the existence of theHolocaust, with up to five years in gaol.
Chancellor Kohl condemned the Solingen fire-bombing but dismissedit too by suggesting it was the work of a “few weak-minded individuals.”The evidence suggests that those behaving in this way do, in fact, believethey are executing the wishes of the German people. Opinion pollsin Germany have consistently shown that almost half the German
population ( per cent in the west, per cent in the east) feel “dis-turbed” by “foreigners” and only ten per cent fewer (in the same pro-portion) think “foreigners” should “get out” of Germany. It is plain thatthe huge influx of aliens into Germany after the collapse of Commu-nism (numbering almost one million in ) caused very real socialpressures and understandable (if not excusable) resentment.
Yet what is very worrying about extremist behavior is that it findsnurture in political groupings and parties who exist within the politicalsystem but yet are able to inflame their sympathizers so that both thesympathizers and the parties are able to eschew liberal political meansfor articulating and addressing grievances and, ultimately, are part ofprocess which ends in the commission of political murders.
The most active radical fascist groups now include Die Republikaner,led until the summer of by Franz Schoenhuber, Rolf Schlierer, andHarald Neubauer; Die Deutsche Volksunion (DVU), led by Dr. GerhardFrey; Die “Fascho-Skins” and Die Deutsche Alternative, led by MichaelKuehnen, now dead, Frank Huebner and Rainer Sonntag. Neverthe-less, in North-Rhine Westfalia, one local study has indicated that onlythree to six per cent of those responsible for these racist attacks areorganized skin-head associations. Yet there is no doubt that these indi-viduals justified their actions by recourse to right-wing extremist views.In this sense, these figures imply the problem is more serious than mightat first be thought, since for every organized extremist, there are as manyas ten unorganized ones, prepared to act in an extremist way.
Although German fascism assumes a variety of faces, it is not helpfulto seek to differentiate between the “old” and the “new” ones. The faceof today’s fascism bears a strong resemblance to Nazism. Its roots lie inNational Socialism, and it repeats Nazi claims to ethnic superiority.Present-day fascists are dedicated to the promotion of the ideas of eth-nic otherness and of Aryan supremacy, fundamentally indistinguishablefrom the notions developed in the s, but adapted to the s andpropagated in appropriate ways.
Public opinion polls have shown that as late as , twenty-six percent of West Germans agreed with the statement that Nazism was basi-cally a good idea, just poorly carried out. In , forty-eight per centsaid if it had not been for the war, Hitler would have been one of thegreatest German statesmen; in there were still thirty-one per centwho said this. Polls undertaken in and indicated that aboutthirteen per cent held fixed right wing views.
Those who are on the receiving end of Fascist violence are chiefly mem-bers of the . million “foreigners” or “guestworkers” and their families,
or asylum seekers, or economic refugees from eastern and central Europe.Of these almost one-third are Turkish in origin. Sixty per cent of thesepeople have lived in Germany for ten years or more; their legal statuswas changed by the nationality act which made it somewhat easierfor them to become German nationals. Yet what is significant aboutthese “foreigners” is not that they are actually foreign qua foreign. Italian“guestworkers” do not appear to merit attacks, even though they con-stitute ten per cent of the total number of “foreigners.” As such, “for-eigners” are to be considered the contemporary equivalent of the Jewsof pre-war Europe, along with their surrogates. When attacking “for-eigners,” German fascists are re-enacting anti-Jewish pogroms. The per-sons who commit the violence are no different from their antecedentsin the s and later, who were members of the SA and other organi-zations. Nor should we forget that, for various reasons, Jews bore thebrunt of Nazi racialism but were, by no means, the only recipients of it.What is genuinely frightening, therefore, is the capacity of German fas-cists to identify other “races” as ethnically inferior.
. The Response to the Fascist Threat:Containment, Suppression and Repression
Before and since, the actual response to the German fascist threathas been the attempted containment of German fascism by legal, police,and security service means. In , Hitler was sentenced to the mini-mum of five years in prison for high treason, after the abortive putsch. He was released on December . Hitler was banned fromspeaking in Bavaria from until May and in other Laender untilSeptember . None of this had much impact on Hitler’s politicalfortunes, although two qualifying statements need to be made: first, thatlegal means were taken sufficiently seriously by the Nazis to force themto abandon their putsch strategy and to turn to pseudoparliamentar-ianism, and, second, that had legal means been even tougher, Nazismcould have been more successfully suppressed, certainly before . HadHitler been executed for high treason in , German Fascism mightstill have come to power but led by others, whose particular contribu-tion might have been different.
These measures against the Nazis were by no means the only attemptto contain German fascism by legal means. Twenty years ago I workedon the problem of the containment of fascism by the SPD, and con-centrated in particular on Prussia. Prussia was important for two rea-sons: it was the largest Land of the Weimar Republic (of million
Germans in , some million were citizens of Prussia); and, second,from until the SPD both led and participated in the PrussianLand government (but were in the government of the Reich for roughlyonly four years). As Minister, Grzesinski had to address the fact thatlarge sections of the population openly supported fascism. It should notbe forgotten that there were many fascist and para-fascist organizationswooing their support. As Arnold Brecht has pointed out, “prior to ,the Nazis played a minor role amongst various shades of oppositionto the democratic form of government.” The Stahlhelm, Wikingand Olympia organizations did much to foster anti-Republicanism andanti-Semitism. Wiking was led by Captain Ehrhardt, an anti-Semite andex-Freikorps leader, who demanded the creation of an ethnic “voelkisch”Germany. On April , Wiking and Olympia were banned anddissolved in Prussia. Grzesinski urged the Prussian police to prosecuteNazis who had attacked Jewish-looking Berliners in . He evenattempted to extradite Hitler, who was still an Austrian national at thistime, and to ban the Nazis. These attempts, however, proved impossible.
The Stahlhelm, which by claimed , members, also provedhard to tackle. It urged all non-Jews, “Deutschstaemmige,” to join it,and named von Hindenburg as an honorary member. In October ,the Stahlhelm was banned by Grzesinksi. Hindenburg then intervened:he asserted that the Stahlhelm were simply “nationally minded,” andthe ban was rescinded.
The resistance to these policies was enormous. Grzesinski had triedto punish a man who called the Weimar Republic’s flag a “Jew flag.”He could not get a conviction, because the judge insisted that a Jewhad written Weimar’s constitution. The Stahlhelm newspaper claimedthat Grzesinski was really a Jew called Cohn; it incited children to singa song encouraging them “to defecate on the flag of the Republic.”
After , legal means were again employed to contain the problemof German fascism. First, war crimes trials were designed to criminalize,punish, and make examples of Nazis; and second, fascist groups werebanned and repressed. In , a storm was caused when a neo-Naziparty, the Socialist Reich Party, won percent of the vote in LowerSaxony. One of its leaders was Major Remer, who had put down the coup in Berlin. The Federal Government applied to the constitu-tional court with a view to gaining a ban; the court decided that theSRP was neo-Nazis, but it appears to have dissolved itself to avoid almostcertain banning by the West German constitutional court.
Arnold Brecht, Prelude to Silence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, ), p. .
The British took special interest in the danger of a resurgence ofGerman fascism. They had led the hunt for Hitler, together with theNKVD, because they feared that were he alive, he might inspire a Nazirebirth. In his memoirs, Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick, at that time British HighCommissioner in Germany, relates how in he organized the arrestof Dr. Naumann, formerly Goebbels’s state secretary, who was trying toenter German politics via the Free Democratic party. Having tried toenlist Adenauer’s help, Kirkpatrick then decided to act on his ownauthority (the west Germans were still subject to their victors for mat-ters affecting German security).
In , four organizations were banned as offending against para-graph of the German Constitution. Three of them were national group-ings; one confined to Lower Saxony. These were the National Front(banned on November ), the German Alternative (banned on December ), the National Offensive (banned on December), and the German Comrades Association (banned on December). The Government in Bonn, citing article of the GermanConstitution, also acted against individual fascists.
On September , the German Interior Minister announced thathe was seeking to ban the “Free German Workers’ Party” (FAP) andthat Bavaria, Hesse, and Lower Saxony had announced similar policies.On the same day, the Land of North Rhine-Westfalia banned anothersplinter group, the FFD. Legally, a party can be banned only by an appli-cation of the Federal Government to the Constitutional Court, althoughassociations can be banned by Laender governments. Also on this day,Joerg Petritsch, the lead singer of the pop group Stoerkraft, was sen-tenced to two years suspended gaol for having shouted “Sieg Heil” tohis fans at gigs and for singing a song with the following lines “We areGermany’s right [wing] police; we will clear up the streets.” On May, David Irving was fined DM . in Munich and banned fromspeaking in Berlin on May and in Sindelfingen on May.
There are, however, serious problems with such courses of action, asthe history of the Weimar demonstrates. First, measures to criminalizeand to suppress may backfire. They may be viewed as repression whichitself, in a democracy, can fuel further discontent. Second, it has beenargued by German political scientists and others that German fascismhas been taken too seriously by both German authorities and Germany’spartners. This criticism was made before . Richard Stoess argues
that since German fascism today is not the same as it was in the sand s, there is no point in seeking to suppress it: the only effectsuch containment would have, would be the suppression of democraticactivity, which would undermine the values of German democracy.
The real threat to democracy, Stoess says, comes not from Germanfascist violence but from the “dismantling of democratic rights.” Bansare “are highly problematic in terms of democratic theory” and are justas “ineffective as other administrative sanctions in overcoming the realcauses of right wing extremism.” Yet he concedes that banning does makeit harder for extremists to join right wing organizations and can there-fore be justified.
The difficulty with Stoess’s liberal argument is that it uses democratictheory to combat anti-democrats. It can be argued that the legal meansof the s failed, not because they were too harsh, but because theywere not harsh enough. Liberal democracy cannot allow its opponentsto utilize the benefits of free speech and free assembly as weapons tooverthrow democracy. It is impossible to ignore the lessons of the col-lapse of the Weimar Republic, even though Bonn/Berlin is certainly notWeimar. The situations are different in almost every respect, save thepresence of German fascism and the unleashing of German nationalenergies. Nor may we forget the fact that by in Germany, a liberaldemocracy could be quickly undermined by fascism. German fascismhas been able to exploit weaknesses in German political life, which werein part the result of national unification in and in part the out-come of the failure of the great, democratic, German parties: a failurenot merely to act decisively against fascism, but also to develop a coher-ent strategy for acting against it. Firm legal measures against fascistactivity are certainly called for; but so are measures designed to take onthe underlying forces militating in favor of fascism. Some of these forcescannot ever be contained, let alone defeated. Germany remains the pris-oner of its own history. Yet a re-statement is needed of the values ofliberal democracy, along with an explanation of why liberal democracyprovides an answer to the needs of the st century. The crazy notion ofethnic superiority must be exposed. Fascism is not just a German prob-lem; it was, and remains, a problem that is common to all Europeanpolitical cultures. The whole of Europe needs to rise to the challengethat it poses.
Richard Stoess, Politics against Democracy: Right Wing Extremism in West Ger-many (New York; Oxford: Berg, ), pp. , , –.
Prelude to Disaster: The Evolution of Austrian Fascismby Bruce F. Pauley
Austria’s importance in the history of fascism far outweighs its smallsize: , square miles and . million people. Its Nazi Party wasfounded nearly sixteen years earlier than its German counterpart whichHitler joined in . The Austrian NSDAP was proportionately largerthan the German party until at least , and produced such luminar-ies as Adolf Eichmann, who was put in charge of deporting Jews fromthe entire Reich in , and Ernst Kaltenbrunner, head of the Nazis’secret police after . Austrians comprised percent of Eichmann’sstaff and were associated with half the murders of the Holocaust (ofwhom , were Austrian Jews). Three-quarters of the commandantsof the Nazi extermination camps, as well as percent of their staffs,were Austrians.
The Austrian Nazis were not that country’s only fascists. Austria’slocation on the crossroads of Europe made it a veritable laboratory fordifferent types of fascism. Most of the Austrian Nazis looked north fortheir inspiration and leadership and passionately favored a union orAnschluss between Germany and Austria. But the equally fascist, if lesserknown, paramilitary Heimwehr, or Home Guard, looked to Mussoliniand Fascist Italy for financial and moral support. Most of its membersfavored Austria’s independence.
Like most other European fascists, those in Austria claimed to repre-sent a “movement of renewal,” which would reunite their socially dividedpeople into a “people’s community or Volksgemeinschaft. To this end theydeveloped a number of subsidiary organizations to appeal to both gen-ders and a wide variety of occupational groups. Their strongest sup-port, however, came from the middle class and peasantry. Again, likefascists elsewhere, the Austrian fascists stressed the value of emotion andsentiment over reason, of action instead of words, and of violence inplace of peace. They were passionately opposed to liberalism,parliamentarianism, individualism, and especially to Marxism, whichincluded both socialism and communism. Austrian fascists, like nearlyall other fascists, were more or less anti-Semitic. Because Austrian fas-cists deliberately appealed to a wide spectrum of social and politicalgroups, any specific program of action, which they might propose beforegaining power, was almost certain to destroy the tenuous bonds thatheld their movement together. Consequently, positive programs whichstated clear principles were avoided; propaganda was directed instead
against nearly universally hated phenomena, such as the post-World WarI Paris Peace Treaties, crime in the streets, political corruption, economiccrises, and the Jews.
. The Historical Foundations of Austrian Fascism
All of the components which later were to constitute fascism couldbe found prior to the First World War in the Habsburg Monarchy. InAustria, as well as in other European countries, religious anti-Semitismcan be traced to the beginning of the Middle Ages, if not to Antiquity.In its more modern, political, and especially racial form, however,it dates only from the last quarter of the nineteenth century. By thelate s, Austrian university students, organized in so-calledBurschenschaften or fraternities, were already espousing a new creed ofracial anti-Semitism that was imported from Germany at the very timewhen Jewish enrollments in Austrian universities were exploding. Bythe eve of the First World War, Jews made up over a quarter of the stu-dents at the University of Vienna and by , over percent. Mostuniversity students rejected religious anti-Judaism as reactionary andunenlightened. Racial anti-Semitism seemed modern and scientific.Moreover, the treatment of Jews as a separate race and not merely asbelonging to a different religion, would eliminate the opportunities forsocial and economic advancement which Jews had enjoyed in CentralEurope when they converted to Christianity.
Universities were by no means the only source of modern, racial, andpolitical anti-Semitism in fin-de-siècle Austria: another was the pan-German politician, Georg von Schönerer. In , he advocated in theso-called Linz Declaration “the removal of Jewish influence from all sec-tions of public life.”
Why did Schönerer suddenly develop such a strong aversion to Jews?The answer may lie in the broadening of the franchise in , whichSchönerer himself promoted. The new franchise tripled the number ofvoters in Vienna. The primary beneficiaries were anti-capitalistic arti-sans, who regarded big business and mass producing industries, whereJews were highly overrepresented, as threats to their economic well-being.The sudden rise of political anti-Semitism after was a result of thepartial democratization of Austrian politics. Schönerer was not aloneamong the politicians who now tried to appeal to the new voters throughanti-elitist, anti-individualist, and anti-intellectual demagoguery.
Schönerer, one of Hitler’s childhood heroes, thought of himself as aGerman messiah. He was known as the Führer of his Pan-German Party,
and he called for the union of all German-speaking people. Schönererdenounced Jews on “racial” grounds and demanded unconditional obe-dience from his followers, an obedience which, later on, would also beenjoined by all Austrian fascist leaders.
A quite different form of anti-Semitism, which emerged in latenineteenth-century Austria, was the cultural type favored by the Viennesemayor and founder of the Christian Social Party, Dr. Karl Lueger. LikeSchönerer, he used anti-Semitism to appeal to the same unstable groups:artisans and university students, which forty years later would be greatlyoverrepresented in the Austrian Nazi Party. Lueger also favored politi-cal platforms that denounced the emancipation of Jews. For half a cen-tury, Lueger’s old-fashioned brand of religious, cultural, and economicanti-Semitism remained the integrating force of political Catholicism,because it was far more in accord with Viennese traditions than wasSchönerer’s more modern racial anti-Semitism.
Together, Schönerer and Lueger demonstrated the appeal of anti-Semitism to the masses, especially to lower middle-class artisans. To sug-gest, however, that a straight line could be drawn between theanti-Semitism of these two men and post-World War I Austrian fas-cism would be a mistake. In , Lueger’s election coincided with thereturn of prosperity that undermined the roots of economic anti-Semitism. Lueger himself referred to anti-Semitism as “an excellentmeans of getting ahead in politics, but after one [had] arrived, one[could] not use it any longer␣ . . .” Consequently, during his thirteenyears in office, Jews suffered no discriminatory legislation, were facedwith no mass violence and experienced little physical abuse. Unfortu-nately, one generation later, many Austrian Jews believed that Hitlerwould follow in Lueger’s footsteps.
Another, completely different source of Austrian fascism lay in thecountry’s authoritarian tradition and its imperfect democratization priorto the World War. Except for the brief interlude during the Revolu-tions of , Austria was an absolute monarchy up to the s. Finally,in , after two failed constitutions, the Habsburg Monarchy wasdivided into a Hungarian and Austrian dual state, with Austria receiv-ing its first permanent constitution guaranteeing equal rights to all citi-zens, including Jews. Even then, the franchise was severely restricted,until it was broadened in and most especially in , when itincluded all males over the age of twenty-four. However, these actions
Quoted in Robert A. Kann, A Study in Austrian Intellectual History: from theLate Baroque to Romanticism (New York: Praeger, ), p. n.
served only to increase nationalism among the Monarchy’s dozen or soethnic groups. Nowhere was this national competition more obviousthan in the country’s Parliament or Reichsrat that was divided intotwenty-eight factions and seventeen major parties, all but two of whichlimited their appeal to just one nationality. Collectively, the parties wereeven less responsible than before the reform. The new Lower Housedegenerated into little more than a circus, where the delegates tried todrown each other out with shouts and noisemakers. The spectacle onlydiscredited parliamentary democracy, especially in the eyes of one of itswitnesses, Hitler. The state machinery was only able to continue withthe help of the well-oiled civil bureaucracy and a partial return ofEmperor Franz Joseph’s absolutistic powers, which he had surrenderedover four decades earlier.
. The Impact of the First World War
The Great War of – provided the final ingredients for therise of Austrian fascism by reviving anti-Semitism, inflaming national-ism, and impoverishing the new republic that emerged from the ruinsof the Austrian Empire. The World War vastly accelerated the migra-tion of Jews from the eastern and more backward provinces of theAustrian half of the Dual Monarchy—Galicia and Bukovina—to Vienna,where in a matter of months the city’s Jewish population increased byas much as ,, or almost percent. This population explosion,consisting mainly of penniless peddlers, artisans, and cattle dealers, wascaused mostly by the Russian invasion of northeastern Austria at thebeginning of the war. The usually ultra-Orthodox Jewish inhabitants ofwhat was once (and became later) the southern part of Poland, werewell aware of the anti-Semitic policies of the Russian government andfled their homelands in terror. Unfortunately, their arrival in Viennaonly aggravated the wartime shortages of housing, food, and fuel. By–, most of the problems of the war and early postwar periodwere being blamed on the Eastern Jews, even though by that time allbut about , of them had returned to their homelands, leaving thecity with , Jews or . percent of the population in .
It was between the fall of the Habsburg Monarchy in and theestablishment of the “corporative state” by Chancellor Engelbert Dollfusin that anti-Semitism enjoyed its most luxuriant expressions. Free-dom of speech and assembly also meant freedom to shout anti-Semiticslogans, to defame “das Judentum” in the press, and to hold massive anti-Semitic demonstrations. However much democracy may have made the
expression of anti-Semitic sentiments easier, it was not the primary causeof anti-Semitism. On the contrary, anti-Semites were the enemies ofdemocracy. In general, Austrians who were the strongest supporters ofdemocracy were the least likely to be anti-Semitic, and in some casesthey were philo-Semitic. Those people who were the most fanaticallyanti-Semitic were also the most likely to be arch-enemies of democracy,and the most likely candidates for fascism.
. Crippled from Birth:the Early Years of the First Austrian Republic
Although the new state bore a faint resemblance to the medievalcrownlands that belonged to the Habsburgs before , it was in real-ity a new and, to most of its citizens, an unwelcome creation. ForGerman-Austrians, their state represented not liberation, but punish-ment for losing the war. That the victorious Western powers regardedthe German-Austrians as a vanquished foe was only too apparent fromtheir treatment at the Paris Peace Conference. The Treaty of St. Germain,which officially ended the war between Austria and the Allies, was farharsher than the Treaty of Versailles. In contrast to Germany, which hadlost only about percent of its territory and population, Austria wasforced to cede all but percent of the territory of just the Austrian halfof the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, and all but percent of its formerpopulation. Austria lost not only all of its outlying and predominantlynon-German-speaking provinces, but also territories inhabited by about. million German-Austrians, , of whom lived just across itsnew boundaries.
Even though nearly every Austrian was adversely affected by thebreakup of the Habsburg Monarchy, the middle class was by far thehardest-hit social group, because it had made up the largest proportionof civil and military servants in the Empire. An administrative person-nel, which had been too large even for the million people living injust the Austrian half of the Dual Monarchy, now served a state withonly . million inhabitants. Thousands of surplus civil servants weredismissed as a condition for Austria receiving a loan of $ millionfrom the British, French, and Czechoslovakian governments in .Thus, one of the major ingredients of a successful democracy—a strong,prosperous, and self-confident middle class—was missing in Austriabetween the world wars. The proletarianization of the middle class,or at least the fear of becoming proletarian, which was aggravated byhyper-inflation during the early ls and the depression of the s,
made the Austrian bourgeoisie vulnerable to political extremism andNational Socialism.
Difficult as its economic problems were, an even worse dilemma forthe young Austrian Republic was the repudiation of its very existenceby the majority of its citizens. It was this rejection, more than any otherfactor, that later aided the Nazis’ cause. The heart and soul of the AustrianNazis’ program was their desire for a union with Germany, somethingwhich was forbidden by the Treaty of St. Germain and the Treaty ofVersailles. Far from creating the issue, however, or even monopolizingit, the Nazis merely succeeded in exploiting its value more effectivelythan any other Austrian party.
Major flaws in the new Austrian constitution of also weakeneddemocracy. It contributed to the growth of fascism by decentralizingthe country and according the federal states a wide degree of local auton-omy. Vienna was separated from Lower Austria and became one of thenine states. Its large working-class population enabled the Social Demo-cratic Workers’ Party (SDAP) to dominate the government and to enactWestern Europe’s most advanced social welfare program, which waslargely paid for by the taxes of Vienna’s middle and upper classes.
The bourgeoisie, already stunned by the passing of the Monarchyand its own relative impoverishment and unemployment, were horri-fied that the dreaded Socialists were now in positions of authority. Butwhat alarmed them still more was the Social Democrats’ radical rheto-ric. In Austria, in contrast to most other postwar European countries, asplit between Socialists and Communists, for all practical purposes, neveroccurred, making the Social Democrats the most leftist of any partywest of the Soviet Union. Most of the radicals stayed in the SDAP, bybeing appeased with a large dose of hard-line Marxist slogans about classwarfare and the eventual dictatorship of the proletariat. Although theparty was more moderate in its actual practices than its propaganda sug-gested, its dogmatism and rhetoric alienated the bourgeoisie and peas-antry. Its elaborate, tight, and almost totalitarian organization found anadmirer and follower before , in the young Hitler. The Socialists’strident advocacy of democracy and republicanism helped the anti-Socialists become anti-democratic and anti-republican. Perhaps per-cent of the party’s intellectual leadership was, moreover, of Jewish origins,in part because no other major Austrian party would accept Jews in lead-ership positions. Anti-Socialists had, thus, a new excuse to fear and tohate the party.
Proportional representation in the National Assembly, the LowerHouse of the new Austrian Parliament, also hampered the consolidation
of democracy. The voter was required to cast his ballot for a single partylist of candidates selected by the party chairman; he was denied an oppor-tunity to vote for individual politicians. Proportional representation gavethe political parties so much power that many frustrated voters, unableeither to choose or to oust individual politicians, began calling Austriaa Parteienstaat (party state). Change required a reformation of the con-stitution. But only the political parties had the power to do this; andthey were the very groups that profited from the status quo. Many oppo-nents of the system believed that the only solution to this impasse wasa dictatorship.
. The Rise of the Austrian Nazi Party
The Austrian Nazi Party eventually became the most dangerous oppo-nent of Austrian democracy. Like anti-Semitism, its roots and politicalvalues were well established before the First World War. After the turnof the century, the dissolution of Georg von Schönerer’s Pan-GermanParty paved the way for the founding of a new German nationalist partyin –. The German Workers’ Party was in large measure a prod-uct of a fierce political and economic rivalry between Czechs andGerman-speaking people in northern Bohemia, which was still part ofthe Habsburg Monarchy. The German workers, displaced by relativelyunskilled and lower-paid Czechs, quickly developed a burning hatredof their rivals. By , the party had expanded into the provinces ofUpper Austria, Salzburg, and the German-speaking part of the SouthTyrol, all areas that included strong ethnic clashes. In April theparty’s name was extended, for propaganda purposes, to GermanNational Socialist Workers’ Party, a slightly different arrangement ofwords from that of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party ofGermany, which was founded in January .
Striking similarities between the pre-war Austrian Nazis and the post-war German Nazis may be more than simply coincidental. Both wereanti-liberal, anti-capitalist, anti-Marxist, and anti-Semitic. Even the ter-minology and the militancy of the two parties were much the same. AsHitler confessed in a speech in Salzburg in August , “I am ashamedto say that not until today, after so many years, the same movementwhich began in German-Austria in has just begun to gain a foot-ing in Germany.”
Quoted in Georg Franz-Willing, Die Hitlerbewegung; Der Ursprung, –(Hamburg: R. von Decker’s Verlag), p. . Emphasis by Franz-Willing.
The disintegration of the Habsburg Monarchy, a disaster for theGerman-Austrians in general, was particularly devastating for theAustrian Nazis. Roughly three-quarters of their membership was cut offin the new Republic of Czechoslovakia. Consequently, the whole decadeof the ls saw the Austrian Nazis struggling to build a sizeable mem-bership. Yet until or , they were far larger on a per capita basisthan their brother party in Germany, with which they were affiliateduntil through a National Socialist Bureau of the German LanguageTerritory with its headquarters in Vienna. In the first postwar Austrianelections of February , the Nazis won just . percent of the vote.Aided by runaway inflation and a sharp increase in anti-Semitism, how-ever, the Nazis managed to triple their membership to , betweenAugust and August of the following year.
Philosophical differences between the younger and more radical mem-bers and the older, mostly trade unionist members who favored a demo-cratically-organized party came to a head in May , when severallocal groups in Vienna, consisting of younger members, were expelledafter refusing to recognize the leadership of the democratically-electedKarl Schulz. Two hundred of the dissidents responded to the expulsionby founding the NSDAP (Hitlerverein) on May and subordinatedthemselves directly to Hitler. Efforts by Schulz to head off a confronta-tion and to work out a modus vivendi with Hitler gained him nothingbut insults when the two men met in Munich in , and again inPassau (on the German side of the Austro-German border) in August. At the Passau meeting, Hitler demanded “unconditional loyalty”from the “Schulz Party.” Austria, he said contemptuously, was nothingmore than a German Gau (district) to which he would send aReichskommissar (deputy) and later name a leader. This was an ominouspreview of what was in store for Austria as a whole in .
Although there were two attempts to reunite the Austrian Nazis, theyremained divided until the dissolution of the Schulz faction in . Inthe interval they fought like mortal enemies until September , whenthe Hitler Movement gained the upper hand after Hitler’s startling elec-toral success in Germany. The Nazi vote then increased from ,to . million. Until that time, although both sides claimed to be by farthe larger group, they were about equally weak; the Hitlerians, forexample, were able to win only , votes in the parliamentary elec-tions of April and gained no parliamentary mandates.
After the split among the Austrian Nazis, Hitler provided his follow-ers with ideological guidance. He, however, was prohibited from enter-ing Austrian territory and was too preoccupied with German affairs to
furnish the Austrian Nazis with practical day-to-day leadership. Thereturn of a modest degree of prosperity between and mid-dampened anti-Semitic passions and proved detrimental to both Nazifactions. Therefore, the late s were a time of frustration and stag-nation for both wings of the Austrian Nazi Party.
. The Austrian Heimwehr
Although the Nazis eventually became the most important Austrianfascists, they were by no means the only ones. The second most impor-tant group was the Austrian Heimwehr or Home Guard. The Heimwehrwas much younger than the Austrian NSDAP. A purely postwar phenom-enon, like the Austrian Nazis and many other fascist movements, it origi-nated in an area with extreme ethnic conflicts. The Heimwehr’s earlystrength occurred in Carinthia and Styria, where in it foughtYugoslav territorial ambitions. Almost from the beginning, however, andincreasingly as the external danger waned, the Heimwehr and other right-wing paramilitary formations in Austria concentrated their energiesagainst the internal “Marxist threat.”
The modest size of the Republic’s army, which remained well belowthe ,-man maximum imposed by the Treaty of St. Germain andby the Socialist war minister, Julius Deutsch, prompted many veteransto continue their military pursuits outside the regular army in theHeimwehr. They were joined by peasants, lower-middle-class shopkeep-ers, teachers, and other professional people in rural areas, along witharistocrats, who were still angry over being declassed by the Republic.
In October , socialist participation in the Austrian governmentended, and in , subsequent to the reestablishment of the currencyand several years of hyper-inflation, the Austrian economy began to im-prove. A degree of stability returned to Austrian politics. No longer pro-posing major unifying issues or offering an effective leader, in early ,the Heimwehr divided into a clerical faction that drew its greatest strengthfrom the more rural states of Upper Austria and the Tyrol; and a radicalpan-German wing, concentrated in Styria, Vienna, and Lower Austria.
After barely surviving the peaceful middle years of the s the twowings of the Austrian Heimwehr were revived by two events that alarmedthe Austrian middle class. In , the Social Democrats created theirofficial “Linz Program,” which reaffirmed the possibility (under highlyunlikely circumstances) of a “proletarian dictatorship” to defend democ-racy. Alarm changed to panic the next year following a July uprising inVienna, where workers rioted and set fire to the Palace of Justice after
the acquittal of a group of Front Fighters (another right-wing veterans’organization concentrated in Vienna) accused of murder. The nation-wide general strike, called by the Social Democrats in the aftermath ofthe riot, was quickly squelched by several provincial Heimwehr units,above all by the one in Styria. The Heimwehr could now claim to havesaved Austria from “Bolshevism,” especially because the Nazi Party wastoo divided to exploit the situation. The grateful bourgeoisie soon rushedto join the Heimwehr’s ranks.
The Heimwehr’s unity was restored in October when RichardSteidle and another lawyer, the Styrian Dr. Walter Pfrimer, began serv-ing as its co-leaders. The movement grew rapidly during the next twoyears and contributed to the Nazis’ lackluster growth rate. The swiftprogress of the Heimwehr served to mask serious internal problems.Neither Steidle nor Pfrimer was effective as a leader. Steidle, the leaderof the more moderate, clerical wing of the Heimwehr and a talentedspeaker, was popular with his own Tyrolean followers. But he had a repu-tation for extreme laziness and indifference. Pfrimer, who led the radi-cal, pan-German wing was overweight, balding, nearly deaf, and a poorpublic speaker.
In , the Heimwehr began receiving financial assistance fromMussolini in exchange for pledges to overthrow the Austrian govern-ment and to establish a right-wing, pro-Italian dictatorship, which wouldrenounce any claim to the South Tyrol, annexed by Italy in . Thisalliance with Mussolini was just one of the issues which divided theAustrian Heimwehr. In the spectrum between the demagogic, religious,but usually non-racial anti-Semitic values of the Christian Social Party,to which the majority of the Heimwehr belonged, and the racial, some-times violent, anti-Semitism of the Nazis, the Heimwehr stood squarelyin the middle, with one foot in each camp. Steidle’s followers tended toprefer the more traditional, Catholic form of anti-Semitism thateschewed racial anti-Semitism. Steidle himself claimed that the move-ment was not anti-Semitic, but that it merely opposed Jewish Marxistsand destructive Eastern Jews. Patriotic Jews were welcome comradesagainst Marxism. The Pfrimer wing, however, was much less equivocalabout anti-Semitism. On numerous occasions, Pfrimer said that Jewsought to be treated as a foreign race, and he complained about Steidle’smore moderate views on the Jewish question.
As the fear of Marxism again began to dissipate in the late s, theHeimwehr movement seemed to require a more “positive” program thanmere anti-Marxism and anti-Semitism to maintain its raison d’être.Although Heimwehr leaders began formulating specifically fascist
objectives as early as , it was not until May that they made analmost official avowal of typically fascist principles in the notorious“Korneuburg Oath.” Announced by Richard Steidle, the Oathdenounced “Western” democracy, liberal capitalism, and political par-ties. It demanded the establishment of economic corporations (similarto those in Italy), a “new German national outlook,” and the creationof a Heimwehr dictatorship. Although there was no overt mention ofJews, references to serving the German Volk had anti-Semitic overtones.Nevertheless, the Oath also included an apparent compromise with theHeimwehr’s pan-German wing which would have preferred endorsementof an Anschluss.
The Oath marked both the peak of the Heimwehr’s power and itsdrift toward fascism on the one hand, and the beginning of its declineon the other. It was far too radical for the more clerical members of themovement and yet not radical enough to please the pan-German fac-tion. The Oath, along with the controversial election of the playboyprince, Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg as federal leader in September ,and Starhemberg’s decision to enter the parliamentary elections ofNovember , reopened the old schism between the clerical and pan-German wings. The elections were disastrous, because the Heimwehrcaptured only , votes and eight deputies, thus falling far shortof its members’ unrealistic expectations.
Walter Pfrimer, who briefly replaced the discredited Starhemberg asfederal leader in May , saw a “March on Vienna” (in the style ofMussolini’s March on Rome in ) as the only way to revive theHeimwehr’s flagging fortunes and to gain dictatorial power. The PfrimerPutsch in September turned out to be a fiasco (in many respects, resem-bling Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch of ), because the other provincialHeimwehr leaders refused to join the escapade. Failing to achieve powerthrough the ballot box or violence, and unable to unite behind a char-ismatic leader, many frustrated members of the Heimwehr now becamereceptive to the call of Nazism.
. The Austrian Nazi Party at Its Zenith, –
The spring of proved to be one of the major turning points inNazi-Heimwehr relations and during the whole history of the FirstAustrian Republic. At a time when there were about , unem-ployed workers in Austria, or well over a third of all workers, the Nazismade impressive gains in local elections, held in three federal states andseveral municipalities in April, by amassing , votes or over
percent of those cast. In Vienna alone, their vote jumped from ,in to ,, a year and a half later.
The Nazis’ success combined with the recent electoral failure of theHeimwehr made the Austrian Nazi Party irresistible in the eyes of thepan-German wing of the Heimwehr, with its center in Styria. For thesepeople, the Heimwehr’s position on anti-Semitism and the Anschluss wassimply too wishy-washy. Whereas the anti-Semitism of most Heimwehrmembers resembled the relatively easygoing anti-Judaism of Karl Lueger,no such “compromises” could be found within the Nazi ideology. Onthe Anschluss as well, the Heimwehr’s clerical wing was at best lukewarm,whereas the pan-German wing adamantly advocated a union withGermany. Moreover, in January , when the anti-clerical and anti-Socialist Nazis came to power in Germany, the Christian Socials andSocial Democrats dropped the Anschluss from their party programs, thusleaving the Nazis as the only major Austrian party still unequivocallyfavoring the union. Anyone regarding the merger of the two German-speaking countries as Austria’s most important objective had little choicebut to join the Nazis. The Styrian section of the Heimwehr allied itselfto the Nazis in the spring of , a move which, during the remainderof and , was soon followed by similar actions by other pan-German and anti-Semitic groups.
. Fascism and the Dollfuss-Schuschnigg Regime
When Hitler came to power in Germany, the Austrian Nazis weresupremely confident that it was only a question of time, perhaps just afew months, until they too were in power. They met unexpected resis-tance, however, in the person of the Chancellor Dollfuss, who had beenappointed in May . As a practicing Catholic and a patriotic Austrian,he had no desire to see his country swallowed up by the anti-CatholicNazi regime in Germany. Following a series of Nazi attacks against Jewsand government property, he outlawed the party on June . Inearly October , he also suppressed anti-Semitic violence at theUniversity of Vienna, albeit after having been subjected to pressure bythe American minister to Austria.
Despite Dollfuss’s resolute opposition to both Nazism and anti-Semitism, there were some definite fascist-like characteristics of theDollfuss government and that of his successor, Kurt von Schuschnigg.Dollfuss and Schuschnigg emphasized what Dollfuss called the “goodand healthy” values in National Socialism, by incorporating some aspectsof National Socialism and Italian Fascism, in order to “take the wind
out of the Nazis’ sails.” In March , Dollfuss allowed the AustrianParliament to “dissolve itself,” after a ridiculous dispute involving vot-ing procedures. The Social Democratic Party was outlawed after anuprising by Socialist extremists in Linz. On April , the Austrianchancellor, aping Hitler’s pseudo-legality, insured that a new authori-tarian constitution was confirmed by the Christian Social and Heimwehrmembers of the old Parliament. This constitution, never fully imple-mented, provided for a highly centralized state possessing few powers,either for the state parliaments, or for a new federal assembly that rep-resented seven fascist-style economic corporations. The assembly couldnot initiate or even debate legislation. Under the new regime, only asingle party was tolerated, the Fatherland Front, which, with its hugerallies and mass display of flags, resembled fascist parties in other coun-tries. The Fatherland Front, however, never became genuinely popularin Austria, even though it included a nominal membership of over twomillion. Obviously it was created from the top down, rather than fromthe bottom up, as was the case with the German Nazi and the ItalianFascist Parties. Dollfuss and his successor did go so far as to suppressdemocratic elections, as well as freedom of the press and speech. Theyestablished detention areas for their political enemies, although thesecamps were a far cry from the concentration camps in Germany.
The differences between the values of the “authoritarian” regimes ofDollfuss and Schuschnigg and those of Hitler and Mussolini were prob-ably more significant than the similarities. Neither man persecuted Jewsor Catholics, although they tolerated anti-Semitic articles in newspa-pers. They almost certainly did not intend to establish a permanent dic-tatorship. They saw their governments, instead, as a kind of necessaryevil, until the twin challenges of Marxism and National Socialism couldbe contained. There was no talk about making the new system last for a“thousand years.”
Neither Dollfuss nor Schuschnigg, moreover, fit the mold of a typi-cal fascist or totalitarian dictator. Both men were sincere, practicingCatholics. They did not reveal the slightest interest in military glory(even if Austria had possessed the capacity); nor is there any evidencethat they lusted for sheer power. They wanted a government strongenough to subdue Nazi radicals (and Socialists), but mild enough toappeal to the more moderate Nazis, as well as to Jews. They succeededin retaining the loyalty of the latter, but not the former. Their dictator-ship can be described, at most, as only semi-fascist.
. The Triumph of Austrian-Fascism
The Austrian Nazis, frustrated by their prohibition by Dollfuss,attempted to come to power through a Putsch in July , only to failagain when Mussolini and the Western democracies, outraged by themurder of Dollfuss, finally showed signs of resistance. Another chancedid not appear before March , when Hitler felt that German rear-mament had proceeded to the point where he could take stronger actionagainst Austria without fear of foreign intervention. In February, Hitlermet Chancellor Schuschnigg at Berchtesgaden and browbeat him intoappointing two pro-Nazis to his cabinet, including Arthur Seyss-Inquart,as Minister of the Interior in charge of police. Encouraged bySchuschnigg’s weakening position, the Nazis of Styria, many of whomwere former members of the Styrian Heimwehr, revolted and made Styriaa virtual Nazi province. These developments forced Schuschnigg to makea desperate attempt to save his country’s independence through an ill-fated plebiscite. Sensing an embarrassing outcome, Hitler unleashed theWehrmacht, and the rest, as they say, is history.
After the Anschluss, the Austrian Nazis were no longer restrained bythe Austrian government. They created an anti-Jewish rampage far worsethan anything yet seen in Germany proper. Jewish stores were looted.Jews were robbed on the streets of Vienna, and their apartments wereinvaded and plundered. In short, Jews were humiliated in every con-ceivable way by their Nazi tormentors. Within a few hours or at most afew days, all Jewish actors, musicians, and journalists had lost their jobs.By mid-June , just three months after the Anschluss, Jews had alreadybeen more thoroughly purged from public life in Austria than in thefive years following Hitler’s takeover of power in Germany.
Why was this Austrian outburst of anti-Semitism so much moreextreme than anything yet seen in Germany proper? The most likelyanswer lies in Austria’s location as a Grenzland or borderland. Most ofits provinces were located next to states with non-German nationali-ties, which heightened the Austrians’ sense of their own ethnicity. (Thesame anti-ethnicity can now be seen with horrifying consequences, inthe former Yugoslavia.) Many Austrian Nazis themselves, like the exter-mination camp commandant, Odilo Globocnigg, and six of the sevenAustrian Gauleiters, possessed non-German names or non-Aryan fea-tures, which made them all the more eager to prove to their ReichGerman superiors that their German nationalism was second to nonein its fanaticism.
. Fascist Values in Post-World War II Austria
The end of the Second World War saw the practical end of Austrianfascism. Already in , the Austrian Heimwehr had been legally, if notpractically, prohibited by Chancellor Schuschnigg, and at the end ofthe war the Allies outlawed the Nazi Party. Nevertheless, a few rem-nants of fascism and its values have survived up to the present day inthe Second Austrian Republic.
Many of the , former Austrian Nazis were eventually absorbedby the two major postwar parties, the Austrian People’s Party—in manyrespects the successor to the Christian Social Party, except much lessclerical and right-wing—and the Social Democrats. In , otherex-Nazis, disgruntled at their temporary exclusion from the franchise,founded their own party, the League of Independents (Verband derUnabhängigen or VDU). For most of its members, National Socialismwas a dead issue, with one exception: the party’s avowal of the unity ofthe German Volk. In , however, when the VDU further declaredthat Austria was “a German state␣ . . . its policy must never be directedagainst another German state and must serve the entire German Volk,”it suffered a crushing defeat in the next elections.
In more recent years the Freedom Party of Austria (Freiheitliche ParteiÖsterreichs), the successor to the VDU, led by the charismatic formergovernor of Carinthia, Jörg Haider, has also displayed a few fascist val-ues, especially an espousal of German nationalism. However, a plebi-scite he promoted in , which was aimed at stopping immigration,won only a disappointing , votes, a little more than half the, he had predicted. Although Haider’s nationalism is directed atforeigners in general, anti-Semites have gravitated to his party. No fewerthan . percent of its members, who were polled in , expressedhard-core anti-Semitic views, as compared to only percent of thePeople’s Party and . percent of the Social Democrats.
In general, all the postwar polls have also revealed that anti-Semitismis substantially stronger in Austria than in Germany, France, or theUnited States. About percent of all Austrians, according to a pollconducted in , articulated at least some anti-Semitic views; about to percent had fairly strong prejudices against Jews; and about to percent could be described as hard-core anti-Semites. Neverthe-less, one especially encouraging sign is that anti-Semitism is weakest
Max E. Riedlsperger, The Lingering Shadow of Hitler: The Austrian IndependentParty Movement since (New York: Columbia University Press, ),pp. , .
among the youngest generation and intellectuals. The Waldheim affairin , although it brought latent anti-Jewish prejudices into the open,did not substantially change these figures. It was followed by a massiveprotest against anti-Semitism.
It is extremely improbable that Austria will ever experience again thepassionate, violent, and nearly universal anti-Semitism that existedbetween and ; likewise, it is unlikely that anything approach-ing the fanatical fascism of the inter-war years is likely to reappear inthe future. Almost none of the conditions that made anti-Semitism sovirulent in the First Republic still exists today. Secularism has largelyeliminated religious and cultural anti-Semitic values, and the decima-tion of the Jewish population has removed the causes of economic anti-Semitism. Racial anti-Semitism has been discredited by its closeassociation with Nazi atrocities. What remains in Austria are old stereo-types, especially those concerning alleged Jewish financial power andcontrol over the mass media. Nevertheless, there is reason to hope thatwith education, these views will gradually disappear, although the pro-cess is likely to be a lengthy one.
If the roots of anti-Semitism—one of the most powerful antivaluesin fascism—have been greatly weakened in postwar Austria, the samecan not be said of one of the major aims of the Austrian fascists: a unionwith Germany. The Anschluss had been fostered after by the nearlyuniversally held belief, even by people like the Christian Socialists whowere anything but pro-German, that Austria was simply not viableas an independent state. To some extent this conviction became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Today, Austria is one of the most prosperous coun-tries in the world, and even the Anschluss of East and West Germany in did not find an echo in the Alpine state.
Finally, most of the passion and ideological dogmatism that dividedAustria into three bitterly opposed camps—Catholics, Socialists, andpan-German nationalists—is missing in the Second Republic. ThePeople’s Party has given up its close ties to the Catholic church, and theChurch has renounced an active role in politics. The Social Democratshave given up their radical Marxism in favor of a left-of-center welfarism.Only in the Freedom Party can one find significant remnants of bothpan-German nationalism and anti-Semitism, but even there they areheld only by a minority of its members.
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