For the purposes of this article, fascism will be treated as a politicized and revolutionary form of ultranationalism bent on mobilizing all remaining "healthy" social and political energies to resist the perceived onslaught of decadence so as to achieve the goal of a regenerated national community. It is a project that involves the rebirth (palingenesis) of both the political system and the social and moral culture that underpins it.
In discussing fascism's place within the history of ideas two basic issues must be addressed: first its genesis as a new "generic" political force that emerged at a particular point in the evolution of Western society, and second the various ideological components that it subsumes in the individual permutations it forms, in particular in national and political contexts. It will then be possible to offer some observations about fascism's evolution since 1945, one that has led some of its contemporary variants to be arguably of more interest to the history of ideas than to conventional political analysis.
The Origins of Generic Fascism
The ideological core of fascism postulated here contains one timeless component that cannot be said to have a historical source as such, while the other component originates in a relatively specific time and place within the history of ideas. The vision of rebirth, of palingenesis, of a new cycle of regeneration and renewal growing out of what appeared to be an irreversible linear process of decay, dissolution, or death, appears to be an archetype of human mythopoeia, manifesting itself, for example, as much in the Christian faith in the Resurrection of Christ and of all true believers as in the Hindu cosmology, which computes in mathematical detail the universe's infinite cycle of creation and destruction.
Ultranationalism, on the other hand, could only appear in countries where populist notions of sovereignty as the inherent property of a national community had already firmly established themselves. Fascism was able to emerge as a modern political ideology only after nationalism had arisen as a major ideological force in an increasingly secular Europeanized world where the foundations of traditional social systems (tribal, feudal, or absolutist) had been extensively eroded. In the wake of the French Revolution, several variants were formulated by intensely patriotic ideologues who imagined the nation as a supraindividual community subject to organic processes such as decay and growth and destined to rise to greatness. Though such a concept of the nation had already been formulated in the early nineteenth century by Germans such as Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814) and Ernst Arndt (1769–1860), it was the widespread obsession in fin-de-siècle Europe with the degeneracy of liberal civilization and its urgent need for moral regeneration that first made possible the conjuncture of palingenetic myth with ultranationalism that together formed the ideal climate within which fascism was incubated.
A major contributing factor in the evolution of organic conceptions of the nation was the rise of cultural, biological, and political racism, Aryan theory, and anti-Semitism in eighteenth-and nineteenth-century Europe. These had no single source, but drew both on the widespread and highly diverse preconceptions about race first articulated by such figures as Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744–1803), Joseph-Arthur de Gobineau (1816–1882), Robert Knox (1798–1862), Richard Wagner (1813–1883), Cesare Lombroso (1836–1909), Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919), Herbert Spencer (1820–1903), Vacher de Lapouge (1854–1936), Houston Chamberlain, (1855–1927), and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), as well as on currents of humanistic, scientific, and scientistic thought such as national histories, philology, physical and cultural anthropology, criminology, sociology, genetics, demography, eugenics, Social Darwinism, and vitalism. Once blended in with ultranationalism and palingenetic myth, racism could provide a pseudoscientific (scientistic) rationale to the myth that a nation in decline can only fulfill its transcendent historical mission once purged of forces allegedly compromising the "purity of the race" (for example, materialism, individualism, cosmopolitanism, immorality, miscegenation, "alien" ideological elements, or some combination of these).
It was in the first decade of the twentieth century that artists and cultural commentators such as the numerous writers of
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völkisch literature in Germany, Charles Maurras (1868–1952) and Maurice Barrès (1862–1923) in France, Giovanni Papini (1881–1956) and Gabriele D'Annunzio (1863–1938) in Italy, and Nicolae Iorga (1871–1940) in Romania provided poetic or theoretical expression to the importance of reawakening the national soul from the debilitating slumber induced by liberal modernity. Some attempts to turn these ideas into political movements were made before World War I, notably by Maurras' Action Française (1897–), the Pan-German League (1886–1914) under Heinrich Class (1868–1953), the Christian Social Party (1893–1938) founded by the Austrian anti-Semite Karl Lueger (1844–1910), and the Italian Nationalist Association (1910–1923). But it was the shattering impact of the "Great War" itself that transformed marginalized and essentially cultural movements for national rebirth into political formations with a serious revolutionary strategy based on a blend of populist rally for change, a democratic party, and an extra-parliamentary paramilitary movement. It was the war that simultaneously nationalized the masses subjectively while creating localized pockets of objective political, social, and economic upheaval in many European countries, not least the collapse of the Hohenzollern, Habsburg, and Romanov dynasties and the Russian Revolution itself, that were indispensable for new forms of revolutionary nationalism to thrive. The first of these new "militia parties" to seize power was Fascism, which conquered the Italian state in two stages, 1922–1925 (when Mussolini was head of state) and 1925–1929 (when he established a dictatorship), and it is from this movement and regime that the generic term takes its name. Since the 1920s, fascist has been applied by historians, political commentators, and activists to a number of dictatorial regimes that emerged in interwar Europe and in the wider Europeanized world, notably in Latin America. However, significant differences of opinion persist between experts about which regimes are embraced by the term, the inclusion of the Third Reich being especially contentious.
An Overview of the "Fascist Epoch"
The period 1918–1945 has become widely known as "the fascist epoch." Certainly by the autumn of 1941, after the recent triumph of Francisco Franco (1892–1975) in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) and the apparently inexorable success of Adolf Hitler's (1889–1945) Blitzkrieg in France, Scandinavia, and Poland, and with victory in Soviet Russia seemingly imminent, there were good grounds for this, however problematic the phrase may have become for later historians. By this time Benito Mussolini's (1883–1945) Partito Nazionale Fascista (PNF) and Hitler's Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP, whose core ideology correspond closely to the generic definition given above) had created the templates of organization and style for revolutionary nationalists to emulate all over the Europeanized world. Even democracies as stable as Switzerland, Denmark, and Iceland, or new nations still confident in their future such as the United States and Australia, hosted minute fascist parties attempting in vain to emulate the performance of mass revolutionary movements. More significant (though safely contained) fascist movements developed where the structural conditions of crisis were sufficiently strong, notably in Finland, France, Hungary, Romania, Brazil, Chile, and South Africa, and some abortive fascist movements achieved prominence under Nazi occupation, notably Vidkun Quisling's Nasjonal Samling in Norway, Léon Degrelle's Rex in Belgium, and (in 1944) Ferenc Szálasi's "Hungarist" Arrow Cross movement. Thus José Streel, a leading spokesman of the collaborationist Belgian Rex movement, had not succumbed to delusions of grandeur when he asserted in 1942 that, whether it was called "fascism," "national socialism," or "the new order," "a new force" able to "synthesize the needs of the age" was "everywhere at work giving birth to the revolution of the twentieth century" (quoted in Griffin, 1995, p. 206).
In the final analysis the fascist assault on modern history was abortive. Only two fascisms managed to conquer state power and attempt to turn their revolutionary vision into reality, and eventually both met with crushing military defeat having failed to realize their revolutionary objectives. All other fascisms were successfully marginalized by liberal democracies or fended off by conservative authoritarian states by being either crushed or absorbed. It was nevertheless a tribute to the degree to which fascism had come to be associated with the future of civilization by the 1930s that a number of authoritarian states modeled themselves on the style of fascism.
A number of other authoritarian states chose to simulate the "real thing" by such ploys as organizing "from above" nationwide single parties, youth movements, and other mass organizations, proliferating nationalistic symbols, declaring the inauguration of new eras in the life of the nation or the creation of "new states," staging theatrical political events, and engineering phony leader cults. This pattern was most prominent in Franquist Spain (1938–1975), Antonio de Oliveira Salazar's Estado Novo in Portugal (1926–1974), Philippe Pétain's Vichy France (1940–1944), Ion Antonescu's National Legionary State in Romania (1940–1941), Ioannis Metaxas's dictatorship in Greece (1936–1940), Karlis Ulmanis' authoritarian Latvia (1934–1940), and Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya's authoritarian state in Hungary (1919–1944). It was equally a sign of the times that the ultimate victor was liberalism (or liberal capitalism), apparently the weakest of them all.
Spain and Portugal progressively defascistized themselves once the tide of war started to turn against the Axis powers. Once parafascism is taken into account and with the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that interwar Europe was dominated not by fascism at all, but by a titanic struggle between liberalism, conservatism, communism, and fascism, in which fascism, which at one point looked like carrying all before it, eventually came off worst.
Traditionally, comparative fascist studies have focused almost exclusively on fascism as a European phenomenon. However, it should be noted that, while the emphasis on the totalitarian bid of fascism to create a new type of society distinguishes it from conservative regimes, whether traditionalist or military, there were in the "fascist epoch" a small number of non-European countries that hosted attempts to emulate the achievements of revolutionary nationalism in Italy and Germany. The most important examples are the Ossewabrandwag and the Greyshirts in South Africa, the National Socialist Movement (MNS) in Chile, and the Brazilian Integralist Action (AIB) Page 798 | Top of Article movement that arose under Getúlio Vargas's dictatorship in Brazil (1937–1945). All of them suffered the fate of most of their European counterparts by being marginalized or crushed.
Breaking with the European pattern, two military dictatorships seem to have made a genuine bid to fascistize the nation from above rather than using fascism as a means of generating mass conformism and passivity: Chiang Kai-shek's (1887–1975) nationalist regime in China, eventually overwhelmed by Japanese imperialism, and the military dictatorship of the Grupo de Oficiales Unidos (GOU) in Argentina (1943–1946). GOU created a legacy that Juan Péron would build on after the war during his rule (1946–1955), which was in ideological and organizational terms an eclectic blend of political elements of which fascism was only a muted part.
It should also be noted that the most highly developed, dynamic, and destructive parafascist nation of all arguably emerged not in Europe but when imperial Japan entered its most totalitarian and expansionist phase between 1937 and 1945. Despite its alliance with Italian Fascism and German Nazism, it carried out its aggressive scheme of territorial expansion under a divine emperor and with its feudal social system intact rather than under a charismatic "new man" in a "reborn" nation. Nor did the defeat of Italy in 1943 and then of Germany in 1945 cause it to relent in the radicalness of its prosecution of the war, a fact that underlines the need to recognize that fascism by no means has a monopoly of right-wing totalitarian violence.
The Diversity of Individual Fascisms
We now turn to the second aspect of fascism that impinges on the history of ideas, its ideological constituents. A central premise behind the definition applied in this article is that fascism is to be treated on a par with the other major political "isms" of the modern age, such as liberalism and socialism, as an ideology in its own right with its own agenda for creating the ideal society. A corollary of this is that it can be conceived for analytic purposes as a cluster of core ("ineliminable") ideological components, which we have identified here with just two components: the conception of the people as an organic organism, and a palingenetic concept of history that envisages national decay giving way imminently or eventually to a process of regeneration and renewal. This core can become associated in particular times and places with many varied and even conflicting secondary ("adjacent" or "peripheral") concepts, with the result that fascism is externalized itself in a wide range of specific manifestations shaped by particular conjunctures of historical forces.
Another implication of this approach is that it is futile to search for the sources of generic fascism in the work of a particular thinker, such as Georges Sorel's thesis of the primacy of myth, Ernst Haeckel's organicism, Vilfredo Pareto's theory of the circulation of elites, Friedrich Nietzsche's calls for a new breed of superman, or Oswald Spengler's scheme of the decline and "Caesarist" renewal of the West, however much they may have influenced individual ideologues or movements. For the same reason it is fallacious to see all forms of fascism drawing on the same currents of thought or driven by the same process, such as Social Darwinism, eugenics, corporatism, Marxist revisionism, modernization, or antimodernity, let alone to attribute it to generic forces such as "irrationalism," "capitalism," or "moral decline," which have minimal heuristic value as explanatory concepts.
In fact, one of fascism's outstanding traits is its eclecticism, the propensity of its numerous individual variants to accommodate or synthesize ideological components from a wide range of sources taken from any part of the left-right spectrum. Italian Fascism, for example, merged elements of right-wing politics (nationalism, imperialism, authoritarianism) with left-wing syndicalist claims of creating social justice and abolishing class conflict, and the cult of the Roman past with elements of the Futurist cult of hypermodernity. It also attracted a number of former Marxists in Italy and Germany, hosted left-wing and right-wing variants of corporatist theory, and accommodated currents of philosophical idealism and technocratic modernism; clerical Fascism and neopaganism; cultural racism (which treated patriotic Italian Jews as full members of the re-born Italy, although a more "biological" current eventually led to the adoption of anti-Semitic race laws); and the full spectrum of aesthetics from neoclassicism to futurism, from anti-cosmopolitan ruralism to international modernism. Even Nazism was far from homogeneous ideologically, embracing ruralist and technocratic visions of the new order, varying degrees of paganism and accommodation with Christianity, several varieties of racism, an anticapitalist ("Strasserite") current, and even a strand of promodernist aesthetics. Fascism's animus against communism and the degenerative impact of liberalism on the organic national community nevertheless makes it sensible to locate fascism within the tradition of right-wing politics rather than simply "beyond" left and right (as it sometimes claims to be).
Fascism can also manifest itself in a variety of organizational forms. It does not necessarily take the form of a properly constituted movement, let alone a full-fledged party-political movement, and has only twice formed a regime. This is why attempts to elaborate or extend the fascist minimum identified here (for example, by adding such elements as para-militarism, the leader principle, corporatism, or territorial expansionism) severely restrict its heuristic value.
Once we move from the synoptic panorama of the whole fascist epoch to consider individual fascisms in close-up, the heterogeneity of their fascist ideology emphasized here soon becomes apparent. The sense of national identity promoted by Italian Fascism, for example, was originally little more than an antiliberal version of heightened patriotism, which attempted to present the current generation as heirs of the same genius that had created the Roman Empire, the Roman Catholic Church, and the artistic and scientific Renaissance. Partly because of the powerful presence of organized Christianity in social life, "modern" biological or eugenic concepts of racial purity were relegated to a subordinate position, even if they were implicit in the demographic campaign and in the laws against miscegenation introduced in the wake of the colonization of Ethiopia. Certainly an Italian equivalent of the Nazi Page 799 | Top of Article "euthanasia" campaign to cleanse the national community of its "hereditarily ill" was unthinkable, and though a current of anti-Semitism existed in Fascism independently of Nazism, when anti-Semitic race and citizenship laws were eventually introduced in 1938 declaring the Italians to be of Aryan stock they were widely experienced as both un-Italian and un-Fascist.
Long before coming to power, Nazism was notorious for disseminating a vision of the national community based on a concept of race that included cultural, Social Darwinian, and eugenic components. As a result, decadence was considered at least partly the product of racial decay, which in turn meant that the nation had to be purged of both ideological and physical enemies before it could be reborn. It followed from the same racial concept of the nation that its boundaries "naturally" extended to cover the whole geopolitical area in which ethnic Germans constituted a majority, and ensured that the Third Reich's plans for territorial conquest were based on a hierarchical conception of racial superiority and inferiority familiar from European imperialism overseas, but never applied before to peoples in mainland Europe.
If the abortive fascist movements are taken into account, yet more permutations of the nationalist myth come into view. The Romanian Iron Guard was viscerally anti-Semitic, elaborated its own myth of Romanian racial purity, and planned to set up an anthropological institute to build up a database on the variegated racial makeup of those living on Romanian soil. Yet its outstanding feature was its stress on the importance of Romanian Orthodox Christianity as an indicator of national and cultural identity. Other fascisms that, in contrast to the overtly neopagan Fascism and Nazism, incorporated local versions of Christianity into their concept of national belonging were the Spanish Falange, the Finnish Isänmaallinen Kansanliike (Patriotic People's Movement), and the Afrikaner Ossewabrandwag.
A different permutation of fascist racial myth again is exhibited by the ABI (the Brazilian Integralist Action), whose membership grew to 200,000 before it was outlawed by Getúlio Vargas's parafascist military regime. This highly original permutation of fascism attributed the national genius and potential for rebirth not to any one of the many ethnic groups that make up modern Brazil, but to its unique blend of peoples and cultures, a concept that precluded the pursuit of racial purity through eugenic or exterminatory policies. This avenue was also barred by the powerful presence of Catholicism in Brazil's social and political culture, though it is significant that the ABI developed an elaborate form of "political religion" for its meetings and rallies. It is also consistent with the ABI's essentially pagan conception of renewal that its leader, Plìnio Salgado, published his philosophy of history according to which his movement was leading Brazilians into the "fourth era of humanity."
Although Marxists have always seen fascism as driven by a crisis of the capitalist economic system and the rise of socialism, and some non-Marxist experts identify interwar fascism with corporatism, the truth is predictably more complex. The relationship between fascism and finance capital, big business, or the bourgeoisie is far from straightforward, and there were currents within Nazism and Fascism that were anticapitalist to the extent that they took seriously the idea of a "national socialism." Contemporary fascism contains currents that are, at least on paper, extremely hostile to (Jewish, U.S., globalizing, corporate) capitalism, notably the New Right, Third Positionism, and National Bolshevism, and some prominent "Strasserite" Third Positionists, striving to develop a stance beyond both capitalism and communism, currently use fascist as a pejorative term for national revolutionaries not prepared to reject capitalism.
As for corporatism, only Italian Fascism attempted to install a corporatist state, which failed in practice to fulfill the ideals of any of the rival theories of corporatism that jostled for position under Mussolini. These included a "left-wing" syndicalist current, an authoritarian nationalist strand, and a version promoted by Catholics encouraged to do so by the Catholic Church, which saw in corporatism a way of mitigating the evils of unbridled materialism and individualism. However, such was the appeal of a "third way" between laissez-faire capitalism and the Soviet planned economy that the British Union of Fascists adopted the theory of the corporatist state, and a number of interwar fascisms (e.g., in Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Brazil, and Chile) advocated a fusion of nationalism with the power of organized labor, whether it was termed "national syndicalism" or "national socialism." It should also be pointed out that the parafascist states (both Catholic countries) of Salazar and Franco retained corporatist elements in their economic systems well into the postwar period, and during the 1940s these achieved some degree of success, though at the cost of organized labor, which was forced to forfeit much of its political and economic power.
On the other hand, Nazi Germany rejected the idea of the corporatist state except in the sphere of cultural production. Nevertheless, in tune with the spirit of the age, which favored the strong state and the planned economy, the Third Reich ruthlessly applied the principle of the primacy of politics over economics that legitimized unlimited state intervention in the running of the economy. It should be added that the British strand of one of the most consistently anticapitalist forms of postwar fascism, namely Third Positionism, attempted in the 1990s to resuscitate one of the interwar "alternative" economic theories, namely distributionism, but with no prospect of practical application to date, and that many contemporary fascisms are influenced by radical Green critiques of the unsustainability of the global economy.
Fascism's relationship with modern culture is even more resistant to generalizations than its economics. One of the more unusual features of Brazil's AIB was that its ideology grew out of currents of Latin American cultural theory developed by an intelligentsia influenced by European modernism and the "revolt against positivism." In this it had parallels with Italian Fascism, which hosted a number of currents of modernism, notably futurism, whose artists believed that the innovative dynamic or conceptual dimension of their style expressed the energy that was creating the New Italy. At the same time it was possible for the experimental, anarchic, taboo-breaking thrust of modernism to be seen as embodiments of the very Page 800 | Top of Article decadence that it was fascism's mission to banish from modern life. As a result, fascism also attracted support from those who looked to a revitalized neoclassicism, vernacular, or ruralist art to create the iconic statements of healthy values that were to be an integral part of the reborn nation. Under Mussolini both interpretations of modernism coexisted and a rich variety of aesthetics resulted. Rather than promote an official Fascist style, the regime was content to be associated with creativity under all its aspects, a principle known as "hegemonic pluralism."
In stark contrast to Brazil and Italy, in 1935 Nazi Germany launched a campaign to purge Germany of modernism, henceforth officially declared the expression of cultural and biological degeneracy. Yet even here a campaign had been fought to have expressionism classified as Aryan, and a number of artists with highly modernist temperaments, notably Gottfried Benn and Ernst Jünger, were initially attracted to the regime. The diverse subject matter of some Nazi painting, which included motorway bridges, sporting events, factories, bombing raids, and battle scenes, also underlines the need to avoid simplistic generalizations about the antimodernity of fascism or the longing to return to the idylls of peasant existence allegedly at the heart of Nazi art. It is also significant that the Nazis paid even more attention to encouraging a "healthy" national cinema industry than the Italian Fascists, hardly the sign of a compulsive anti-modernity. While some films under both regimes were overtly propagandistic, the majority were made without direct state interference and dealt with the emotional and social comedies and dramas of modern Italian and German existence against the backcloth of the new order. By endorsing the values, normalcy, and modernity of fascist society they bear witness to the way the power of the film to create an aesthetic illusion of wholeness was seamlessly adapted to the new societies, thereby contributing to the routinization of the fascist revolution in the experience of "ordinary" Italians and Germans.
The architecture of the two regimes reflected their different relationships to modernism. Despite a marked tendency toward monumentalism and the increasing use of neoclassicism for many civic buildings by the late 1930s, Fascist architects worked in a number of styles, some of them deeply indebted to the international modernism of the day. Its protagonists saw the bold use of steel and glass as reflecting the future-oriented, hypermodern dynamic of the New Italy, its urge to throw off the dead weight of tradition. This was unthinkable in Nazi Germany, where the Bauhaus was considered the symbol of "cultural Bolshevism," and the prescribed style for civic buildings was a Spartan neoclassicism whose symmetry, lack of ornament, and gargantuan proportions supposedly evoked the "purity" and heroic "will to construct" of the Aryan.
However, the Third Reich's retention of elements of modernism for such projects as bridges, factories, high-density holiday accommodation, and power stations, as well as the fact that Ludwig Mies van der Rohe tendered an unashamedly modernist design for the Dresden Bank before leaving Nazi Germany for the United States, invites a more complex reaction to its state architecture than simply dismissing it as philistine reaction. Rather, its neoclassicism is to be seen as the expression of the aesthetic correlation to the eugenics and "racial hygiene" applied in social and demographic policy. The austere, lifeless pseudoclassical buildings and sculptures whose aesthetics it determined betoken not a nostalgia for a bygone age, but the belief in the ongoing rebirth of the German people from the quagmire of Weimar decadence. They embody in permanent plastic form the presence of "eternal values."
The anthropological revolution.
When considering individual spheres of art it is important to bear in mind that art for fascists was no longer to be a separate sphere of human endeavor remote from the mainstream of political and social life in the same category as leisure or sport and prey to the forces of commercialization. For the cultural theorists of Fascism, Nazism, the British Union of Fascists, the Falange, the Iron Guard, or the AIB, whatever their stance on modernism, realism, or the celebration of rural life, art was meant to express the uncorrupted soul of the people, and made manifest the health or decadence of the entire culture. They assumed that just as the chaos and commercialism of modern art reflected the current decadence of the West, so the regenerated nation would spontaneously produce an artistic renaissance. This would come about once artists were no longer concerned with "self-expression," innovation, or experimentation; their reunion with their people and nation naturally ensured that each sculpture, film, novel, musical composition, or building expressed the values of the new age.
Art was only one of the spheres of social activity that were supposed to contribute to this ethos of palingenesis. Schools, universities, youth and leisure organizations, mass rallies, news-reels, newspapers, sporting events, national holidays, local festivals, the organization of work, business, and industry, in fact any context in which the public sphere impinged on the private became sites for the further integration of the individual into the national community. In this sense the deepest level of the fascist revolution was not political or military, but cultural. As long as fascism remained a genuinely charismatic force in Italy and Germany it was not a revolution simply imposed on society, but was fed by the spontaneous enthusiasm of many thousands of creative individuals who wanted to contribute to the transformation. This interpretation is fully consistent with recent theories of totalitarianism that place an emphasis on its bid to bring about an anthropological revolution, and on seeing the political religion that it institutes not as an exercise in collective brainwashing but as a means to transform society's political and moral culture.
This attempted anthropological revolution had particular implications for women. True to the spirit of an age that had recently experienced World War I, the interwar fascist image of the new man embraced elements of the archetypal warrior and knight, and the celebration of militarism, war, and the new order was pervaded by values that would now be recognized as male chauvinist. The corollary of this was that fascism was hostile to feminism as a force that destroyed the "natural" roles dictated by biology, and both Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany introduced legislation to remove women from the workplace, criminalize abortion, encourage big families, and glorify motherhood and domestic functions as the true vocation of women. The demographic campaign in both countries was backed up Page 801 | Top of Article by antenatal, maternity, and childcare services that anticipated some of the best practice of the modern welfare state.
However, it is erroneous to dismiss such measures as proof of fascism's reactionary bid to turn the clock back to traditional family values. The creation of mass organizations for women of all ages and social categories, including auxiliary units for those drawn to life in the armed services, were symptomatic of an attempt to free the female population from the constraints of domesticity and motivate it into playing an active, if subordinate, role within the new national community on a par with the Soviet mobilization of women. A physically and morally healthy motherhood was celebrated as a key element in the triumph over decadence and the regeneration of the nation. A "new woman" would arise to assist the "new man" in his heroic revolutionary task. It might also be pointed out that the stereotype of women destined to breed new members of the national community is no more degrading than the stereotype that declared the destiny of men lay in their readiness to kill and be sacrificed for the sake of the new order.
A far more terrible fate than that which befell female members of the Nazi national community awaited the millions of those, male and female, adult and children, who were excluded from it on grounds of hereditary illness, asocial behavior, or membership of an inferior race, and thus were subjected to sterilization, enslavement, torture, experimentation, or extermination. It was in the fanatical persecution and mass elimination of "life unworthy of life" and "subhumans" by the Third Reich under the cover of World War II that fascism's archaic palingenetic logic of "cathartic destruction" reveals its most chilling potential for impacting on modern history.
The Survival Strategies of Postwar Fascism
The ideological definition of fascism adopted in this article leads to an interpretation of its development that sees the defeat of the Axis powers not as putting an end to fascism, but forcing it to adopt new strategies to survive in a political environment no longer characterized by the upheaval and crises that were the precondition for Fascism and Nazism to take the form of mass movements producing spectacular displays of charismatic politics. The Allied victory over fascism inaugurated the sustained recovery of liberal capitalism, which eventually outlived the state socialist experiment in creating a new order conducted by the Soviet Union and its satellites. The massive loss of life caused by World War II and the horrors committed by the Third Reich and imperial Japan in the alliance with Fascism utterly discredited the rhetoric of militarism, ultranationalism, imperialism, and new orders for all but a small, highly marginalized minority of fanatics. The mass constituency of potential trans-class support for revolutionary brands of nationalism simply evaporated (although it reemerged quickly in the chaotic conditions of post-Soviet Russia).
In such conditions any attempts to emulate the PNF or NSDAP were doomed to have even more pathetic results than those achieved by the many abortive movements in the "fascist epoch." Even the most successful postwar fascist party, Italy's Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI), had to dissociate itself from any paramilitary activity and strictly abide by the democratic
"rules of the game." This strategy put it in the position to emerge from the political ghetto reconstituted as the Alleanza Nazionale in 1994, though only after it had renounced any attachment to its revolutionary and totalitarian past.
Meanwhile, faced by the almost complete disappearance of its natural interwar habitat, "real" fascism demonstrated a remarkable capacity for adaptation. While at the level of the general public, xenophobia and anxieties over the erosion of national identity in some countries found an outlet in a new type of party, the right-wing populist party embodied in Jean–Marie Le Pen's National Front and Jörg Haider's Austrian Freedom Party, intransigent national revolutionaries could follow several tactics to keep the revolutionary vision alive. One was to concentrate on forming small cadres of fanatics dedicated to "the cause," some of whom in the 1970s and 1980s carried out a series of terroristic outrages in pursuit of what was known as the "Strategy of Tension" designed to bring down the Italian state.
A second tactic was for fascists to abandon narrow nationalism and place their concern with the decadence of society in a wider geocultural context, whether that of the white or Aryan race, or of Europe, conceived as a federation of cultural homogeneous nations or ethnies. A third was to withdraw from the political sphere altogether and concentrate on civic space, the realm of ideas and culture, thus turning fascism into a largely "metapolitical" force, made up not of full-fledged movements, but of numerous atomized formations known collectively as the "groupuscular right." An outstanding example of this is the pan-European vision of rebirth advocated (in conflicting terms) by the European New Right and by Third Positionism. The latter still has not abandoned political activism and the use of violence in theory (or rather in rhetoric), even if the transition to a new era has by implication been indefinitely postponed, leaving a few stoic spiritual warriors to resist the forces of cultural suicide true to the principle of Page 802 | Top of Article "leaderless resistance." The logical consequence of this process of extreme atomization is the type of "lone wolf" terrorist act committed by Timothy McVeigh (in Oklahoma) or David Copeland (the London nail bomber), both of whom internalized and acted on the fascist critique of the state without belonging to any formal organization.
The Struggle for "Cultural Hegemony"
The most sophisticated incarnation of fascism in the "postfascist" epoch is the New Right. This is an umbrella term for a movement with a local base in a number of European countries but important international linkages, and consists of both groupuscules and some high-profile cultural think tanks such as GRECE in France and networks of associations such as Thule-Netz in Germany. In Russia a particularly influential form of the New Right is known as "Euroasianism." In it the fascist attack on the degeneracy of liberalism as an increasingly globalized cultural and economic system combined with the call for an entirely new order has been thoroughly "metapoliticized," while the ultranationalist nostalgia for roots and organic ethnic communities has undergone extensive "Europeanization."
Many scholars, and certainly New Right intellectuals themselves, would strenuously disagree that an ideology that operates purely in the realm of ideas and has abandoned belligerent nationalism and racism can be classified as a form of fascism at all. However, the French New Right, which under the aegis of the extraordinarily prolific Alain de Benoist (b. 1943) pioneered the international movement, demonstrably grew out of a fascist milieu that by the mid-1960s despaired of seizing power through conventional political or violent means. Moreover, the war against decadence and longings for rebirth, which were the hallmarks of interwar fascism, can still be shown to form the ideological core of the sophisticated discourse of cultural criticism it has evolved since then, even if the palingenesis of the organic cultures and communities of Europe is no longer imminent.
By dedicating itself exclusively to the struggle to win "cultural hegemony" (a tactic known as "right-wing Gramscism"), the New Right has been able to exert influence on right-wing populism and neofascist activism at one stage removed. This it does by providing elaborate ideological critiques of the prevailing "system," as well as disseminating a subtle form of "differentialist" racism that preaches not racial superiority but the value of all cultures and the need to preserve them from the corrosive effects of multiculturalism, mass immigration, egalitarianism, and the "leveling" of society by cultural globalization.
The Conservative Revolution
In adapting itself so thoroughly to the prolonged "interregnum" before the next "rebirth," New Right fascism has systematically shed every external aspect of its interwar manifestations. There is no hint of charismatic leader, paramilitarism, expansionist imperialism, or theatrical politics. Yet fascism's ideological nucleus remains intact: the longing for a new order based on the restoration of organic communities, the defeat of liberalism, the transcendence of communism, materialism, chaos, and decadence, remains intact. It is no coincidence if the New Right draws extensively on the same ideologues of the Conservative Revolution, notably Friedrich Nietzsche, Ernst Jünger (1895–1998), Carl Schmitt (1888–1985), and Martin Heidegger (1889–1976), that helped prepare the way for the Nazis' war on Enlightenment values, even if one of the pioneers of the New Right, Armin Mohler (1920–2003), was careful to dissociate them from Nazism by calling them "the Trotskyites of the German Revolution" (Hitler being its Stalin).
Some thinkers of the New Right have also been influenced by the "Traditionalist" philosophy of history elaborated by the Italian "philosopher" Julius Evola (1898–1974), which posits a Hindu-like cycle of rebirth and decadence shaping human history. In his canonical diagnoses of the postwar world (which also influenced both "black" terrorism of the Strategy of Tension and contemporary Third Positionism) Fascism and Nazism are indicted with failing to inaugurate the process of rebirth, with the result that those with a sense of higher values are now condemned to stay faithful to the cause of a higher metapolitical order with no immediate prospect of inaugurating the new age. Another fruitful source of inspiration of the New Right crusade against the "decadent" Judeo-Christian, materialist, U.S.-dominated West are carefully edited liberal and far left critiques of the "totalitarianism" and metaphysical vacuousness of contemporary capitalist society. In the New Right, fascism has in a sense returned to its fin-de-siècle roots as a current of radical cultural criticism lacking any concrete political vehicle or clear strategy for gaining power other than that of taking over what one of their main spokesmen, Pierre Krebs, calls "the laboratories of thinking" (quoted in Griffin, 1995, p. 349).
The Future of Fascism
Fascists of any denomination are not alone in believing that deep structural problems threaten the sustainability of the present "hegemonic system" in the West, notably escalating ecological and resources crises, and the demographic explosion in the "two-thirds world" (often called the "third world," even though in terms of population it is far bigger than the first world). Nor can it be denied that mass immigration and globalization pose threats to established national and cultural identities. There will thus be no shortage of empirical data to convince those with a fascist mind-set that we live in an age of decadence and that "our" only hope lies, sooner or later, in a total palingenesis capable of pioneering a new type of modernity while preserving ethnic roots, cultural identity, and belonging. Given the unusual capacity of fascism for eclecticism and adaptation, it seems likely that, at least in its metapoliticized, internationalized, and groupuscularized permutations, it will continue to thrive as a permanent, though marginalized and ineffectual, part of the political and social subculture of civic society throughout an increasingly Europeanized (or Americanized) world. It will thus continue to generate a steady flow of fresh ideological specimens to occupy political scientists and historians of ideas for the foreseeable future.
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Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3424300275