As can be seen, fascism’s rise to power had much to do with the First World War. Italy fought on the side of the Allies as a defense mechanism against Austro-Hungarian aggression; the war left Italy devastated. The country had little money left and the Liberal Party that had been head of the country could no longer hold control. When the Fascist party promised freedom from the current poverty and chaos, they were met with great enthusiasm from the Italian people. The same was the case with Germany. The Treaty of Versailles (1919) had effectually destroyed the country - politically and socially. It humiliated the once mighty powerful Germany putting a tremendous burden on her to pay off the winners of the war. Soon the country became poor and its economy was ruined, thus, breeding only anger, hopelessness and impotency.
Fascism varied in the different countries that it spread to. There were notable Fascist parties in Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Britain, France, and Romania. France had two significant Fascist movements, the Action Francaise and the Juenesse Patriotes. Fascism in Romania took the face of a National-Christian movement (Payne 379). Although Fascism itself has no religious affiliation, various Fascist leaders in Europe all came from Christian background and exploited religious ideologies in an effort to gain the confidence of their people.
Fascists states were characterized by: 1. Blind loyalty to a leader 2. Use of violence and terror 3. Strong military 4. Censorship and government control of news 5. Extreme nationalism 6. State control of the economy 7. Strict discipline 8. Rule by dictator.
In 1922 the Fascists used force to gain control of Italy. They ended free elections, free speech, and the free press. They killed or jailed their enemies. Grasping desperately for order, Italians put the goals of the state above their individual rights.
In 1920, Adolf Hitler headed the National Socialist German Workers, or Nazi, Party. His Party grew. In 1933, Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany. Hitler’s Germany, called the Third Reich, was a totalitarian state. He built a one-party government, ended civil rights, silenced his enemies with force, put businesses under government control, and employed many people in large works programs. Germany’s standard of living rose. Hitler rearmed Germany and built its military which violated the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler used the Jews as a scapegoat for Germany’s problems. He instituted anti-Semitic policies. He used education and the arts as propaganda tools to push these policies. At first, Nazis organized boycotts of Jewish businesses, but by 1938 they were seizing the property and businesses of Jews and selling them to non-Jews. The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 took away the political rights and German citizenship of Jews. Few German citizens worried about Hitler’s policies. Most were pleased at the growth of German pride and Germany’s increased military and economic power.
After the end of World War II, although fascist parties were forbidden in many counties fascism wasn’t completely dead.
Neo-fascist groups continued to emerge throughout the world. In India, RSS - precursor to today's BJP, was highly influenced by fascism since the days of Hitler and Mussolini. Today's fascist members have different views of the values of society.
- They want strict anti-immigration laws. Foreigners should leave the country. (In the USA and some European countries, some politicians through their hatred and bigotry of Muslims and Islam are showing their fascistic mindset.)
- The police should have more rights. There should be more law and order in a country.
- Neo-fascist movements perform acts of violence and are sometimes involved in terrorist attacks but they are too small to start a wide -scale rebellion in a state.
What is causing the rise of fascism in Europe? To understand the subject in France, click here. To understand the rise in other parts of Europe, click here.