Fascism in Italy appears to have stemmed from a deep-seated sense of a loss of international supremacy and world power. Twice in Italy’s long and respected history has it gained unquestionable world prestige and power and twice squandered it in a failure to adapt with the ages. By this I am referring to the the fall of the infamous Roman Empire, and their demise from their central position in the economic advancement and the Renaissance in the 16th and 17th century in Florence and Venice. By the 1930s, Italy had lost a World War and was being comprehensively punished by the Paris Peace treaty of 1919. After reading Ruth Ben-Ghiat’s chapter of the emergence and progression of Italian fascism, it appears clear that fascism was a reaction to their repeated falls from power in history. The Abyssinian crisis in 1936 exacerbated this: it led to them leaving the League of Nations and creating an Axis-Alliance with Germany. Originally, this led to a feeling of empowerment in Italy, as it was as if they had acquired central Europe in an equal alliance with Germany. However, this was not the case: the alliance made Italy even more extreme fascists (evident by the increase in anti-semitic laws and the increase in support for Mussolini in this year) and Germany had no intention of making Italy an equal. Italians saw this Axis alliance as a success for Italy as a fascist nation. However Hitler, who had gained a lot of his insight from the ideas of Mussolini, made sure that this was not the case.
A couple of questions clearly appeared for me from the reading from Ben-Ghiat, and these were:
Was the alliance between Italy and Germany beneficial or obstructive for the progression of fascism?
Is Fascism inherently anti-semitic or was it something that was developed with the atmosphere of the 1930s?
I found Finkelstein’s chapter also particularly interesting in observing how the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917, which made it the communist Soviet Union, increased the popularity of fascism in Italy and in other places, such as Ireland. This was because it did not reject the idea of capitalism or the free market, but it made it a totalitarian state.
Had the Bolshevik revolution not happened, do you think that fascism would have spread as quickly and as powerfully as it did in the interwar period?