Fascism is a political ideology that believes in the superiority of the nation promoted by radical authoritarian nationalism. The term ‘fascism’ is of Italian origin and its prevalence started in Italy under the leadership of Benito Mussolini. The term is derived from the Latin word fasces, a bundle of rods that were tied around an axe, symbolic of the strength through unity: a single rod is easily broken, while the bundle is difficult to break.
Although fascist parties and movements differed significantly from each other, they had many characteristics in common, including
Fascists sought to unify their nation through a totalitarian state that promoted the mass mobilization of the national community through extreme militaristic nationalism to promote primacy of the state.
contempt for electoral democracy and political and cultural liberalism, socialism, and communism. They believed that democracy promoted self interest and not national interests
a belief in natural social hierarchy (social Darwinism),the rule of elites and a devotion to a strong leader
the desire to create a Volks-gemeinschaft (German: “people’s community”), in which individual interests would be subordinated to the good of the nation.
Fascism views political violence, war, and imperialism as a means to achieve national rejuvenation and asserts that stronger nations have the right to expand their territory by displacing weaker nations.
Fascism supports what is sometimes called a Third Position between capitalism and Marxist socialism. It advocates a mixed economy, with the principal goal of achieving autarky to secure national self-sufficiency and economicindependence through protectionist and interventionist economic policies.
Fascism borrowed theories and terminology from socialism but applied them to what it saw as the more significant conflict between nations and races rather than to class conflict, and focused on ending the divisions between classes within the nation.
Fascist movements have commonly held social Darwinist views of nations, races, and societies. Fascists argued that nations and races must purge themselves of socially and biologically weak or degenerate people, while simultaneously promoting the creation of strong people, in order to survive in a world defined by perpetual national and racial conflict.
Their success in Italy and Germany had the most serious consequences.
The nascent democracies and socialist ideas could not survive in Europe. Some of the reasons for same are:
The growth of politics of mobilization of people, institutionalized through elections, parties and representation in 18th and 19th century led to whole lot of political choices from left to right. This also brought out the latent social cleavages in open. The people in these transformed societies had huge expectations but the changes that were being brought about were either slow or unable to reach them. These reasons belied their expectations and fueled their dissatisfaction.
Social Darwinism is the application of concept of survival of the fittest, to everyday social circumstances i.e. strong should see their wealth and power increase while the weak should see their wealth and power decrease. Such views stress competition between individuals in laissez-faire capitalism; but similar concepts have motivated ideas of racism, imperialism, fascism, Nazism and struggle between national or racial groups.
There were movements in other parts of Europe for improvement in living conditions. The political situation in almost every country in Europe was complicated. The period saw the growth of socialist and communist parties in almost every country of Europe
The growth of monopolistic capitalism and resultant intense imperialistic rivalriesfuelled extreme nationalistic ideologies and militarism after 1870s should also be seen as background of growth of extreme right wing fascist dictatorships in Europe after the first phase of World War I. Economic crises emerging after change in economic institutions, defects in new constituents and absence of any great statesmen also deepened this crisis. The miseries caused by the First World War influenced the political developments in many countries.
The revolution in Germany towards the end of the war forced the German emperor to flee the country and Germany became a republic. The proclamation of the republic did not satisfy the German revolutionaries who attempted another uprising in January 1919. The uprising was, however, suppressed and two leaders of the German revolutionary movement, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, were assassinated.
There was an uprising in Hungary but the revolutionary government which came into being was over thrown within a few months. Inspired by the Russian Revolution, there were revolutions in many other countries of Europe such as Finland, and Baltic States of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania which had earlier been parts of the Russian empire. But all these revolutions were shortlived.
However, within a few years in many countries of Europe, the socialist movements were defeated and dictatorial governments came to power. These governments not only suppressed socialist movements but also destroyed democracy. The emergence of dictatorial governments in Europe in this period had dangerous consequences not only for the peoples of Europe but for the whole world. The most dangerous development was the triumph of fascism in Italy and Germany which paved the way for the Second World War.