Does Fascism Inherently Oppose Internationalism?

Fascists have historically occupied a unique place in the international community. While they are often thought of as insular and isolated from other countries, they also understand that international collaboration between ideologically similar states can act as a countering force to less desired forms of internationalism, namely imperialism and communism. As Motadel observes, the Second World War saw a peculiar collaboration between the Nazi Party and various factions which were opposed to the imperialism of the western Allies or the communism of the Soviet Union. The degree to which this was based in a genuine affinity for each others’ causes is questionable. The Nazis certainly had practical reasons for forging alliances with other nationalist or anti-colonialist groups. In strengthening these elements, the Nazi’s enemies would be forced to concentrate more energy on subduing them instead of fighting Germany. It can also be argued that Nazi Germany did not truly oppose imperialism, evidenced by their expansionist plan in executing Generalplan Ost. They simply had disdain for the multiethnic, cosmopolitan imperialism, of which the British Empire was a prime example. However, as Ruth Ben-Ghiat points out regarding Mussolini’s Italy, the fascist’s views on expansionism was not monolithic. In fascist Italy’s case, they portrayed their occupation of Ethiopia not as a war of extermination, but as a civilizing mission. Still, the similarities to Nazi expansionism are clear because both were based in a shared view of “Aryan” superiority and not the materialistic motivations of capitalism or communism. In other words, fascists are ambivalent towards internationalism because they don’t consider it to be inherently positive or negative. If it takes the form of international capitalism or communism, then it must be opposed. If, on the contrary, the international community serves to strengthen each individual nation, then it is a desirable goal.   

2 Replies to “Does Fascism Inherently Oppose Internationalism?”

  1. Overall I really enjoyed your take on this. I also like how you brought up that arguably it was Nazi Germany’s disdain of the cosmopolitan imperialism of which the British empire was a huge example for, which was a rather unifying factor for other likeminded states to embrace this sort of nationalism push regardless of whether they had a particular fondness to the area/region in question. I also agree with your conclusion with the fact that “fascists” here are more than happy to unify in a common goal of supporting nationalism in individual states, though I do wonder to what extent this fondness would continue should the states (receiving said support in question) take a different approach if it entered a more combined capitalist (for example) and nationalist realm.

  2. I would definitely agree that the fascist states were not opposed to imperialism as a concept. They only agitated against it when they thus hoped to distract their enemies – riling up nationalists in farflung parts of the British or Soviet empires in order to force a diversion of their military forces. I saw an interesting parallel here to Great War-era Germany’s strategy of helping Lenin back to Russia specifically so he could undermine the regime on its home turf.
    Indeed, my read is that their complaint against Britain (otherwise described by Hitler as the ideal leaders of a world empire) was that their imperialism was not being imposed harshly enough. The ‘cosmopolitan imperialism’ you describe is contrasted to the Italian segregaration where, per Ruth Ben-Ghiat, African actors were typically not even credited in Italian cinema. There was a narrative of a ‘civilizing mission’, as you describe, but that seems directed at the homeland audience more than at anybody else, and maintains an irremovable barrier between the ‘originally civilized’ and – however much a non-Italian might change their customs – those who had to be inducted into it.

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