Comparing Tourism in Germany, Italy and Spain

Tourism was used as a tool for fascist regimes to promote a collective identity, improve the standard of living and/or project a strong outward image of prosperity. While the common goal was self-promotion, my impression from the readings was that Germany, Italy and Spain each used tourism to achieve different ends. 

Strength Through Joy (KdF) was a German Nazi leisure organization that was established to bridge the class divide by making “middle class” activities available to the masses. Rather than bringing Europeans into Germany, KdF used opportunities for citizens to travel abroad as a way to reinforce German supremacy. According to Baranowski, visiting other countries with a seemingly lower standard of living worked in the regimes favour to contrast the “superiority of Germany’s way of life under Adolf Hitler.” 

Italy, on the other hand, looked internally when looking to establish a new national identity through tourism. The National Recreation Club (OND) was similar to KdF in that it operated as a leisure and recreational organization for adults in fascist Italy. De Grazia highlights how the OND transformed scenic Italian villages into “national commodities of a new mass leisure.” The regime thereby turned internal excusions to the mountains or countryside as a tool to strengthen a national collective identity, connecting peoples from different regions. While there was some degree of class and regional intermingling on German KdF excursions, Mussolini’s Italy used  domestic tourism as a tool for evoking unity to progress of the “new” Italy. 

Spain also used tourism as a tool to strengthen dictatorial rule, but Franco’s approach differed significantly from other fascist regimes. Instead of sending Spaniards into the world, the regime sought to build the tourism industry within Spain. According to Crumbaugh, tourism in the 1960s Spain created the impression that the task of development was a “collective and collaborative effort involving the active participation of the entire Spanish population.” By bringing the world to them, Spain not only showed Europeans their newfound strength, but further appealed to the average citizen by projecting an economic resurgence under Franco’s rule.

So which approach is best? Is showing your population how the rest of the world lives work to increase their appreciation in the fascist state apparatus? Will promoting internal travel lessen the “us vs. them” mentality between the social classes and geographic regions? Does building a tourism industry that attracts foreign visitors increase a nation’s legitimacy and contribute to positive diplomacy?  

Exporting Fascism

Nation-states are in a constant competition to elevate their economy above that of every other economy to have a monopoly and hegemony on innovation. 20th century Spain followed these highly competitive attempts at innovation using tourism. Tourism did not act solely to render Spain as an economic beneficiary – Mediterranean scenery and culture speak to their own prowess –  but also acted as a soft power that included civilians and government. Crumbaugh focuses on the relationship between the business of tourism and fascism. Not only does it discuss the ability to maintain fascism through enterprise and the socioeconomic changes that ensue.

The changes of an economic landscape originated to solidify the Spanish dictatorship with this new impressive wave of revenue that was unparalleled by anything else observed in Europe at the time. The unrest of the 1960s on a global scale had Spain projecting its economic insecurities into a new format. A combination of leftist resistance movements, nationalist movements in Catalonia and the Basque regions, and student protests caused an uneasy government to embark on tourism. The introduction of tourism correlated with a massive economic increase and per capita income increase from $300 to $1500 in only a decade. Spanish civilians used this opportunity methodically – the new ability to accrue vast sums of wealth had a massive labour shift. Fishermen began to abandon their fishing rods and use their boats to ferry tourists around scenic coasts. The new economic freedoms under a once stringent regime simultaneously advanced Spain’s economy and removed previous barriers. Spaniards could now travel in and out of Spain, experience new cultures, and were subsequently exposed to new ideology through travel. The government had intended tourism to be methodical to export Spain’s brand of dictatorship. Similarly to not being able to avert one’s eyes from a car crash, being able to experience a totalitarian regime in real time has the same affect. Spain may be the propagator of dictator tourism, especially in its ability to expose on a civilian level political abilities, but this concept has transcended borders and boundaries. The Spanish model of economic advancements highlight a positive correlation between thriving industry and overall freedom. As Cumbaugh suggests, the acceleration of money and freedom of jobs translated into freedom of movement which gave civil society unpredicted access to overall advancements and led to the decline of the regime.

Contemporary Spain is no longer a dictatorship. Cumbagh accurately suggests that tourism simultaneously propelled Spanish freedoms while undermining the government that introduced them, however he fails to address the overall citizen opinion.

Fascist Commodification of Leisure, and the Purchasing of Popular Consent

By Absalom Sink

In 1926, shortly before his arrest by Mussolini’s Fascists, the Italian Marxist politician and philosopher Antonio Gramsci laid out his theory of hegemony, that is, the ruling class’ domination and imposition of its worldview onto a society. This domination depended in part on coercive means (ie. violence), but to an even greater extent on the consent of the ruled. Without sufficient buy-in from the non-ruling classes, the hegemonic class would be unable to maintain its control over the state. All four sources this week deal with the ways in which the ruling parties in a trio of fascist states—Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and Falangist Spain—manufactured or purchased the consent of their nations’ populaces.

Maiken Umbach’s “Selfhood, Place, and Ideology in German Photo Albums, 1933-1945” describes a particular socio-cultural discourse between hegemon and subaltern in Nazi Germany: the “appropriations and reappropriations of visual templates” between state propaganda and amateur photography in the Third Reich. On the one hand, Hitler’s photographer Heinrich Hoffman mimicked the snapshot form of amateur photographers as a means of creating an artificial intimacy between the Fuhrer and the viewer, “as a counterpoint to the calm composedness of more obviously staged propaganda imagery that usually documented official occasions.” On the other, Hitler’s pensive, nature-bound poses were adopted by the German masses in their own snapshots, subconsciously buying in to Nazi propaganda of the Germans’ connection to the land (contrasted with the “rootlessness” of diasporic Jews and Roma). Combined with Germany’s position at the forefront of camera technology—typified by Leica, Zeiss, Rolleiflex—Umbach concludes that the interplay between state and private photography “did not turn people into Nazis per se, but it did prove conducive to the ambitions of totalitarianism: as a form of affective and performative political behavior that transcended that which had traditionally been defined as the business of politics.”

Shelly Baranowski’s Strength through Joy, by contrast, is much more direct, as it investigates the titular organization within the Third Reich, the Kraft durch Freude (KdF). The KdF was, in essence, an attempt by the Reich to weaponize the leisure time of the working- and middle-classes, both to “prove” the extent to which the regime had improved the lives of its workers, and to inculcate in ethnic Germans a sense of racial superiority. Its primary method of achieving those goals was the organization of heavily subsidized and heavily regimented tourist travel, both within Germany and throughout Southern Europe and North Africa. And in spite of some persistent problems in the program—inter-class and inter-regional strife, for instance—the KdF was largely successful in its aims. AAs Baranowski explains, “the images of smiling tourists traveling to previously inaccessible places became a metaphor for the regime’s ‘achievements’.”

Both Crumbaugh and de Grazia’s pieces examine similar methods by which Francoist Spain and Mussolini’s Italy, respectively, attempted to buy the consent of their people. In de Grazia’s it was through state appropriation, reorganization, and codification of traditional Italian pastimes, while in Crumbaugh’s it was through Spain’s opening to foreign and domestic tourism. Both states were less effective than the Third Reich in coopting leisure in such a manner; the Italians simply never received the same level of buy-in from the ruled classes, particularly the working class, while in the case of Spain, Crumbaugh argues that the state’s attempt to dupe the people into a sense of freedom actually did lead to gradual economic and even political liberalization, wholly contrary to the state’s goals.

If we can accept the premise that these three fascist states resorted to means other than the coercive power of state terror to rule—specifically, by purchasing the consent of the masses—we’re left with an important question: to what extent were they successful in actually being granted that consent, as opposed to taking it by force? In the case of the so-called “Good Germans,” for instance, were those who claimed after the war to have opposed the Reich but been too afraid resist telling the truth? Or had they willingly sold their consent?

Works Cited:

Baranowski, Shelly. Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third Reich. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Crumbaugh, Justin. “Prosperity and Freedom Under Franco: the Grand Invention of Tourism” in Destination Dictatorship: the Spectacle of Spain’s Tourist Boom and the Reinvention of Difference, 15-41. New York: SUNY Press, 2009.

de Grazia, Victoria. The Culture of Consent: Mass Organisation of Leisure in Fascist Italy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

Ramos, Valeriano, Jr. “The Concepts of Ideology, Hegemony, and Organic Intellectuals in Gramsci’s Marxism.” In Theoretical Review 27 (March-April 1982).

Umbach, Maiken. “Selfhood, Place, and Ideology in German Photo Albums, 1933-1945.” In Central European History 48, 3 (2015): 335-365.

Nationalizing Relaxation

By Alex Wittmann

The blog post that I will be writing on today will be on Selfhood, Place, and Ideology in German Photo Albums 1933-1945. The author of the article argues that personal photographs could demonstrate the ideals of Nazi Proganda just as much as state run propaganda pictures would. This article ties into the course theme of fascist culture because it sheds light on how Nazi ideology was able to penetrate into the everyday life Germans. I believe that Fascist culture varies across the nations who succumb to its practice, but the ideology remains uniform. It is a culture of the collective nation state and those who contribute to it, essentially build the strength of the nation at whatever cost. Nazi ideology is unique in the sense that collective nationalism was very much centered on race. It often centered around the racist theory of the “master ayran race” as the “real German” and anyone who was not white was deemed to be inferior. On that note, I believe that the author makes a very interesting point on personal and propaganda photos. The author said that there was a common theme of white Germans relishing vacation and relaxation. Most photos show Germans sitting and reading out in nature, going on leisure road trips, and performing recreational leisure activities. The author said that with these photographs the Nazis could use it to show relationship between public ideology and private life, showing that in relaxation and leisure, the aryan demonstrated its supremacy. The author also said that there was a link to “race and place” in photos of relaxation. In other words it showed the aryan race in its natural habitat of nature and its “superior” habits. Creating a sense of community identity that the Volksgemeinschaft espoused. What I find particularly dark and sinister about these pictures is while it might show what appears to be a very peaceful country, this same “peaceful” country was also was also carrying out deep systematic extermination of political opponents, jews, and gypsies. This sense of racial superiority can be seen in a trip to Belgrade by 17-year old German students in which pictures taken show people of the Balkans to be lazy and poor. This set a contrast between how white Germans were portrayed. By reading this article I can say that Nazi version of facsist culture was unique, it was built upon race as the central theme. The reading shows that Nazi propaganda and invented culture reached further than the public sphere, private leisure activities were nationalized as the ideal form of “purley German and Aryan” activity. It shows that German propaganda infiltrated the private lives of Germans.

Work Cited

Maiken Umbach, “Selfhood, Place, and Ideology in German Photo Albums, 1933-1945” Central European History Vol. 48, Special Issue 3 (Photography and Twentieth-Century German History): 335-365.

Consumerism as a Tool to Advance Fascist Movement: Contrast Between Italy and Germany

BY Vadzim Malatok

When Benito Mussolini ascended to power, Italy was in political turmoil. Although the fascist insurgency was gathering momentum, the Duce’s overriding objective was to form a national identity that hinged on the relations of various social classes and that of the citizens with the state. According to Victoria de Grazia, the totalitarian regime resorted to indoctrination by means of “expansion of a mass consumer market and growth of the mass media.” Conversely, Nazism’s solution to the social question lay in the regime’s need for public support and legitimization, which is reflected in the state’s policy intended “to deliver a high standard of living to working-class Germans.” The contrast in approaches between the two authoritarian regimes can be explained in terms of economic sustainability.

First off, the newly elected Nazi Party chiefly concerned itself with the eradication of the cultural diversity and reduction of unemployment, which were regarded as the by-product of the Weimar Republic. To accomplish this, the Nazi regime “aggressively promoted production over consumption”and according to Shelley Baranowski, “[honored] workers according to their ability to produce for nation and race.” In Italy, on the other hand, deep economic slump led to the government’s commitment to promote the “modern” approach to consumerism that would “supplement the inadequate social security coverage by the state pension” and provide “another source for government investment programs.”

Thus, the Italian government appraised its workingmen on the basis of their accessibility “to a slowly developing national mass market”as opposed to their relationship to production as was done in Germany. Moreover, the prolonged economic stagnation created a few obstacles for the Fascist Party to increase the consumer purchasing power and the authoritarian regime resorted to dissemination of propaganda through written publications and state-run radio that “taught” its citizens how to modestly spend and increase savings. Ultimately, the only beneficiary from this policy was the regime itself.

In Germany, on the other hand, the honoring of workers was done through Strength through Joy– the Nazi leisure-time organization. Baranowski elucidates that the organization’s primary goal was to “guide workers to purposeful and restorative leisure that stimulated productivity.” Tourism became one of the main distinctive features of the Nazi mode of consumption. Not only tourism allowed Germans to observe the dire economic conditions that foreigners lived in, it created positive images of Nazism, domestically and abroad, due to its perceived “accomplishments.”

While both regimes strived for the indoctrination of its citizens, only one proved to be more effective than the other, and Baranowski succinctly summarizes it by indicating that a “greater opposition to fascism existed in Italy than in Germany.” However, is that a compelling enough measurement of effectiveness? 

Nationalist Internationalism, or Internationalist Nationalism?

By Absalom Sink

(Note, this piece was posted nearly a week late, thus any references to “this week” actually pertain to the week ending on Saturday, September 20)

As David Motadel points out in his New York Times opinion piece from July 3, 2019, there is an apparent paradox at play in the international cooperation between the far-right, ultranationalist parties of Europe. In the EU Parliament, a broad assortment of far-right Eurosceptic nationalist parties—including France’s National Rally, Italy’s Lega Nord, Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland—has coalesced into a more-or-less united bloc. Motadel quickly moves to the obvious question: “Why are nationalists so eager to embrace an ethos of international cooperation?” These are, after all, the people who frame international politics as a zero-sum game, in which a nation only wins through another nation’s loss. Why would a French nationalist ally with a German nationalist?

Of course, as a number of this week’s readings make clear, far-right nationalists have a long of forging international bonds. In his opinion piece, Motadel quotes George Orwell as pointing out in 1937 that “fascism is now an international movement, which means not only that the Fascist nations can combine for purposes of loot, but that they are groping, perhaps only half-consciously as yet, towards a world system.” In particular, arch-nationalists are able to coalesce into international alliances when confronted with a common foe. For Germany and Japan in 1935—with the addition of Italy and Spain in 1937, and a handful of other nations in 1941—the common enemy was the Comintern. For today’s European far-right, the primary adversary is the European Union itself, upon which they project a plethora of grievances, both shared and local: the EU’s supposed ‘softness’ on immigration from the Middle East, the supposed influence of international Jewish finance, fiscal austerity, liberalism, etc.

As Motadel makes clear in another of this week’s readings, “The Global Authoritarian Moment: The Revolt Against Empire,” this particular form of internationalism can make for some strange ideological bedfellows. The piece highlights the Third Reich’s support during World War II of anti-colonial and anti-imperial movements throughout the British and French colonial empires, which presents another strange, apparent paradox: a regime founded on the claimed racial superiority of white Northern Europeans, helping to foment revolutions by colonized populations against other white Northern European states. In reality, the Nazis were drawing on a still-older playbook, reviving a tactic used during WWI of supporting colonial revolts against their colonizers. The Reich’s support for the Indian nationalist Subhas Chandra Bose or the Palestinian Amin Al-Husayni did not spring from ideological alignment—although Al-Husayni was an ardent cheerleader for the Nazis’ antisemitism—but rather from cynical expediency.

Paul Hanebrink’s A Specter Haunting Europe: The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism highlights a second feature of nationalist internationalism: the need for a central myth. The particular myth on which Hanebrink focuses reveals the internal inconsistency of far-right mythologizing, the incongruous idea that Jews simultaneously control world finance, and are responsible for the Bolshevik system which sought to overthrow financial capitalism. It’s a tension that has never been adequately resolved, and yet the twin conspiracies of Judeo-Bolshevism and a shadowy, world-dominating cabal of Jewish financiers that provided a cornerstone for the Nazi political structure are still held up—contradictions and all—by the Third Reich’s ideological descendants. Far-right groups need an ‘other’ on which to hang their grievances, and the Judeo-Bolshevik myth “offered its users a way to interpret the multiple dislocations caused by economic modernization, democratization, and cultural pluralism”

We see these two factors today in the coalition of Europe’s far right: the “pragmatic” necessity of banding together against a common enemy, and the reliance on myth to create that enemy. These days, it’s less about Judeo-Bolshevism—though that remains a common refrain—and more about alternative myths, like the so-called “great replacement theory.” The song the EU’s Eurosceptic bloc is singing isn’t a new one after all. It’s just a variation on a theme.

Works Cited:

Hanebrink, Paul. A Specter Haunting Europe: The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism. Boston: Harvard University Press, 2018.

Motadel, David. “The Global Authoritarian Moment: The Revolt Against Empire.” In American Historical Review 124, Issue 3 (July 2019): 843-877.

Motadel, David. “The Far Right Says There’s Nothing Dirtier Than Internationalism – But They Depend on It.” New York Times, July 3, 2019.

Do We Need Fascists?

In the early 20th century Mussolini became a master of narrative construction as he sought to reform Italy. However, Mussolini did not rise to power simply owed to factors outside his own control but, with the aid of narratives. Narratives that conjured fear the hearts and minds of the Italian people and painted an image that required their response. Fascism as a movement utilized the trope of a sick patient (as many veterans of war at the time once were) to argue that Italian nation had been taken by disease. As Ruth Ben-Ghiat wrote in her 2004 book Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945, Alfredo Rocco, and other nationalist thinkers such as Scipio Sighele and Enrico Corradini argued a need for “order and collective discipline at home” given the “ ‘congenital Italian illness’ of excessive individualism that had supposedly hindered Italy’s progress as an imperial force” (Ben-Ghiat 2004, 18). Mussolini continued these tropes calling Italy “unhealthy”, “sick”, “infected” and calling for “necessary hygienic action”.

Ultimately, Mussolini rose to power as the great healer that would bandage the Italian nation and pull the state from the brink of death. However, in the lead up to and the duration of Mussolini’s fascist administration there were great measures enacted to ensure that the Italian people would continue to choose the Mussolini regime as the surgical hand by which they would be rid of ‘infection’. The ‘infection’ of individualism and a troubled nation that Italians were told that they had.

This gave credence to policies enacted from 1925-1929, as Ben-Ghiat wrote, to effectively create a police state in Italy, autonomous organization such as the mafia were made to organize in line with the objectives of the nation-state. Fascist Italy made and re-made organizations and the histories that went along with them to ensure one collective narrative was shared among the Italian people. This narrative was indoctrinated by the national fascist organization known as Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro (OND), State controlled media, and intellectuals such as Luigi Pirandello whose careers benefited from the intervention of the Fascist regime. In the case of Pirandello, Ben-Ghiat pointed out that he was recommended to the Italian Academy for his support to the nation.

The very people those being intellectuals, thinkers and artists who work to critically analyze the business of those in positions of power accepted that the “world of ideas ran on a strictly parallel course with that of the dictatorship” (Ben-Ghiat 2004, 23) and not in opposition to it. The work of intellectuals within the system were Mussolini declared it “permissible to advance objective judgments on art, prose, poetry, and theater without the threat of a veto due to an irregular party card” (quoted in Ben-Ghiat 2004, 23) kept the surgical hand of Mussolini steady.

The Italian nation ultimately needed a fascist solely because the Italian people were told they needed one. The push for intellectuals and policy makers to speak with the same breath put Italy, in the eyes of the Fascist regime, in a “privileged position” over other states. But the limits of Fascism was tested from within as the old men and ideas were faced with modernity in a Fascist sphere.

Fascism’s Relationship with Internationalism: Paradoxical or a Means to an End?

By Julia Aguiar
In interrogating the question posed this week in the syllabus, the readings provided rich in further characterizing the ambivalence posited. In her analysis of Italian fascism, Ben-Ghiat grapples with Italian fascism’s relationship to modernity, intellectualism, and its struggle to deploy the arts. I found that Ben-Ghiat makes clear the paradoxical nature of fascism’s relationship to internationalism. Motadel characterizes fascism’s relationship to internationalism in a different way, underscoring the way that anticolonial internationalism was used by Nazi Germany’s fascist regime to weaken the sovereignty of adversaries’ empires. However, paradoxes are nonetheless revealed in Motadel’s articles. Above all, these readings make clear that fascism’s relationship to internationalism is constantly under flux and dependent on specific context.

Ben-Ghiat writes about the debate over how to best create a distinct “fascist art” which sought to be free of international influence while inviting the admiration and respect of the international world which would in turn legitimize its regime. This was especially true in the struggle against Americanization in Italy, and in the case of the Novecento movement, a desire to create an acutely Italian style of art which looked to the past so as to create historical continuity and remind the world of Italy’s long cultural traditions. The larger implications of Mussolini using art and culture as a tool of Italy’s fascist regime was that it gave the illusion that fascism cared about art and culture, encouraged artistic expression, and was a “regime of liberty”. However, this was far from the truth as can be seen through the regime’s heavy practices of censorship, violence, and surveillance. Italy’s fascist desire to create a purest Italian form of art and culture that was further legitimized by the attention of the international community while refusing to participate in an international exchange or dialogue of art is one of the ways that Ben-Ghiat makes clear fascism’s paradoxical relationship with internationalism.

Motadel considers fascism’s relationship to internationalism by looking to Nazi Germany’s support of anticolonialism during the interwar and WWII periods. He contends that the anticolonial network that operated in Berlin and was supported by Nazi Germany very much relied on internationalism. In assisting nations in their anticolonial work, Nazi Germany was able to further fulfill its fascist goals. However, inherent in this practice is a profound paradox. As Motadel writes, Nazi Germany was at once working to free the oppressed while committing genocide against Jewish and other marginalized people. Put another way, Nazi Germany had a complicated relationship with race in the way that it was willing to overlook the race of some groups if it was to its benefit while waging a war that was based so fundamentally on race. In this way, it is clear that Nazi Germany used internationalism as a means to an end. In his New York Times article, Motadel acknowledges the contradictory nature of “nationalist internationalism” in analyzing the contemporary alliance of Europe’s leading far-right nationalists groups. 

In further considering fascism’s ambivalent relationship to internationalism in a paradoxical sense and as an aid to fascism’s goals, I do not think one can be chosen over the other nor should it be given that fascism is ambiguous in nature. Instead, maybe we can see internationalism as a paradoxical tool of fascism.

Works Cited:

Ben-Ghiat, Ruth. “Conquest and  Collaboration” in Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945, (University of California Press, 2004), pp. 17-45, pp. 123-70.

Motadel, David. “The Global Authoritarian Moment: The Revolt Against Empire” American Historical Review Vol. 124, Issue 3 (July 2019): 843-877.

Motadel, David. “The Far Right Says There’s Nothing Dirtier Than Internationalism but they Depend on it,” The New York The New York Times, July 3, 2019.

Christine Collins: Who Holds the Brush? Considering the Impacts of State-Controlled Cultural Production on National Identity

Propaganda comes in many forms. National calls of “Deutschland über alles” and “Make America Great Again” blatantly send messages that go beyond gathering a country together, but rather mobilizing to defeat all those who may challenge a region’s supremacy. While taking a more nuanced tone, state-controlled cultural policy and cultural production similarly impact citizen values and international outlook. 

In 1938, a campaign of cultural reclamation known as bonifica della cultura was launched in Italy with the purpose of promoting Italian values by banning outside influences. The Propaganda Service Directorate bolstered their staff with photographers, filmmakers, artists and architects whose goal was to put greater state control in Italian cultural life. At the same time, the Press Directorate hired writers, critics, and journalists to censor their colleagues. The result, according to Ben-Ghiat, was the “efficient policing of cultural production” that gave state access to the otherwise non-political areas of creative life. 

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was established in 1936 to combat the growing influence of America media, as US based networks began to expand north. Although under non-fascist rule, the Government of Canada’s motives for creating a state-run media strike a similar cord to that of Mussolini’s Italy: protect the state from outside influencers that do not fit the characteristics of our national identity. But who decides what is or is not Canadian? 

While Canada may not use the same strategies of continental cultural domination as the Axis alliance in the early 20thcentury, can state-run media have similar impacts on influencing national values and ideas? 

Spanning from sea to sea to sea, I think most Canadians agree there is a need for a publicly funded media agency to connect those who may otherwise be isolated. But at what cost? Are Canadians willing to sacrifice foreign coverage by private sector organizations in order to make room for the CBC? 

Beyond media, Ben-Ghiat acknowledges that democracies and dictatorships alike are interested in promoting their national heritage. In modern day Canada, this takes the form of various grants and prizes in Canadian art, literature, and even academic research that shed light on our history or answer questions deemed important by a selection committee. On the surface, these public foundations work to highlight a collective history and promote Canadian identity. However, former Italian Academy official Carlo Formichi considers the result rather dangerous, deemed “artistic nationalism that goes hand in hand with political nationalism, and is certainly no less consequential.” 

If we can agree the purpose of art is to stimulate feelings, thoughts and discussion beyond aesthetic appeal, can we argue the Government of Canada chooses to support those artists that serve their broader political goals? At what point does a state-run media cross the line into state propaganda? 

Was There a Fascist Culture in Italy ?

Fascist Italy did not happen overtime. From the need for Mussolini to restore an order that he considered absent to the modern Italy that looked toward the future, many different steps were crossed with a certain hesitation in regard to how fascism should rally a population that was not entirely favourable to support its ideology. Ruth Ben-Ghiat details in the first chapter of Fascist Modernity: Italy (2004) how compromises have been made and how political propaganda used culture and art to disseminate ideas for both the sake of internal unity but also transnationally by comparing to other nations who in the eyes of the fascists captured a darker side of modernity.

The issue for Mussolini was to be able to integrate the intellectuals in his ideology firstly at a national level then at an international scale as his aspiration for expansion grew stronger. The author navigates between these two goals by using references to culture and art in general. Through control of the press and by carefully choosing members for organizations that ensured that individualism was not detrimental to the collectivity, censorship drew a model for fascist art and culture that very much resembled the one that was taking place in Germany in the 1930s and which culminated in 1937 with the “ Degenerate Art” exhibit in Munich. The term “degeneration” was wildly used as well as “non-productive” to describe a society that relied on too much individualism and not enough collective effort. Mussolini in his 1927 Ascension Day speech used medical terms to support his statement on the necessity to regenerate the nation which resembles the Nazi ideology very much without targeting a specific race at that time yet.

But with openness to other countries come comparison and fear of the other. The author dedicates a sub-part of the chapter to the experience that Italian travellers encountered in the USA, Soviet Union or Germany. She greatly highlights the conflict that Italy faced especially with the USA which has always been admired and an important emigration land for many Italians and unfortunately how the mass-consumerist society perverted its culture. In this passage, it is interesting to see how Italians perceived these dystopian countries as a downfall to avoid. The strength of this chapter is to explain how politics played a role in culture and art to disseminate an ideology based on modernity whilst keeping it on a short leash. The distorted ideas about the American society are the proof that Italy was struggling between adopting a new attitude toward modernity and staying conservative with the patriarchal traditions and national identity.


Ruth Ben-Ghiat, “Conquest and Collaboration” in Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945 (University of California Press, 2004), pp. 17-45.