By Stuart Strang
In this week’s readings, I have clustered a few general themes that I thought were the driving forces behind the fascist efforts of tourism, leisure, and consumerism. These themes are: Control, Culture and Technocracy.
Germany under National Socialist rule attempted to spread its message and control consumerism through the KfD (Strength through Joy). To achieve this, Germany dedicated significant monetary resources (free trips, subsidies, etc) as well as manpower (Gestapo agents) to promote and monitor mass tourism. One of the most prominent cases for the ‘success’ of mass tourism was the average German’s exposure (through subsidized travel) to other less fortunate living standards in other countries. By witnessing what other people were accustomed to; Germans saw their circumstances in a different, more favorable light and thus painted the regime in a better light as well.
The fascist regime in Italy faced a different set of circumstances in comparison to Germany, such as a weaker national identity, lesser access to resources to devote towards its programs, and a different approach to implementing a culture of fascism to promote a new national identity. In Italy, the emergence of this “mass leisure” was thus closely tied to the specific ends of the fascist regime. While the regime was able to subsidize some of the costs for events such a movie tickets, radios, and sports; there were other areas where the regime faced clear class divisions such as professional theaters and high-level sports. The regime thus attempted to promote an Italian culture through tying the OND (and in a general sense the regime) to these past times. For example, Victoria de Grazia argues that “the regime in effect appropriated as its own a whole series of popular pastimes, incorporating what had previously been experienced as autonomous expressions of class or community into the social life of the state, associating them with its official activities and infusing them with new competitiveness” (170). I think in comparison to the German or Spanish case, the Italian attempts to promote tourism and culture was the least well received, as there seemed to be a general trend of great interest by the public at the introduction to new activities and events, but was followed with a quick diminish in interest.
As Crumbaugh highlights in Prosperity and Freedom Under Franco: the Grand Invention of Tourism, the Franco government in the late 1950’s underwent a massive change of economic governance, towards a more technocratic economic policy. At the time, tourism in Spain became a prominent success for the country. Crumbaugh argues that “The power exercised through the spectacle of tourism, in other words, was constructive rather than repressive.” (20). Lastly, I found it interesting that tourism may have also contributed to the regimes downfall by allowing for such openness and socialization to democratic ideas. Personally, I found the Spanish case to be the most compelling for the fascist state being able to exert direct influence and control over the public. However, this was likely due to the fact that the policy the regime pursued was heavily economic and constructive.
Question: Other than for pragmatic reasons, were there any common elements of a fascist approach between Germany, Italy, or Spain?