Advances in Historical Studies
2013. Vol.2, No.1, 11-16
Published Online March 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 11
Evaluating National Socialism as a “True” Fascist Movement
Angelo Nicolaides
HOD Department of Hospitality, Tourism and PR Management, Vaal University of Technology,
Vanderbijlpark, South Africa
Email: Pythagoras13@hotma
Received January 10th, 2013; revised Februa ry 8th, 2013; accept e d February 18th, 2013
The terms “Fascism” and “Nazism” are often linked, and at times they are regarded as one and the same
ideology. The question raised is what is the distinction between Fascism and National Socialism or
Nazism? A closer look at the ideas of fascism and National Socialism reveals certain affinities and over-
laps with other ideologies, like Socialism, Liberalism and Conservatism. Fascism had many contradictory
strands and despite deep unresolved tensions between ideas of race, nation and state in both National So-
cialism and fascism, the former is regarded as a “true” fascist movement. This article strives to ascertain
the main differences and similarities between National Socialism and fascism and to ascertain if N ational
Socialism could be considered to be a “true” fascist movement.
Keywords: Fascism; National Socialism; Totalitarianism
The popular view taken concerning the issue of National So-
cialism and Fascism is a paradox one, concerning the mixtures
of populations which on the one hand, looks to a new fascist
individual, and ultra-elitism and contempt for the masses on the
other hand, and this in no way makes National Socialism any
less fascist than say Italian Fascism. Even though there some
intellectual confusions and a lack of coherence between Na-
tional Socialism and Fascism they undoubtedly belong to the
same ideological family (Rocco, 1982: pp. 42-44). In both Na-
tional Socialism and Fascism, ideas were combined with highly
emotive xenophobic and vicious forms of Nationalism. The
“roots of fascism are traceable to the antagonisms between
growing industrial monopolization and the democratic system”
(Marcuse, 1973: p. 410). In order to allow monopoly capitalism
to survive the working class opposition had to be neutralized.
This meant that the existing democratic institutions could no
longer serve as effective vessels for capitalism. For production
to continue and profits to be kept up, totalitarian terror was
required. This was the case in both National Socialism and
Fascism. They were both used to repress the working class in
the interests of big business, banks and various other major
financial concerns. Both National Socialism and Fascism were
mass movements of middle class reaction against Socialism and
Liberalism in a period of serious political and social upheaval
and crisis in Europe (Morgan, 2003: pp. 17-25).
The origins of the Third Reich were to be found in the eco
The origins of the Third Reich were to be found in the eco-
nomic destabilization of the 1920s. The twenties modernization
wave broke up the “old” politics and created political space for
new right-wing movements, except among industrial workers
and the unemployed who were the “most immediately depend-
ent on modernization” (Betz, 1994: p. 25), and failed to rally to
the Italian Fascists and German Nazis in nay great numbers.
The Nazi and Fascist states were “propelled towards ever more
radical measures by their own inherent instability” (Mason,
1990: p. 49). As F. L. Carsten remarked: “There was no ‘Fas-
cism’ anywhere in Europe before the end of the First World
War” (Carsten, 1980: p. 63). Ernst Nolte in his Three Faces of
Fascism, more or less concurs with Carsten’s view. Hugh
Trevor-Roper commented that: “The public appearance of Fas-
cism as a dominant force in Europe is the phenomenon of a few
years only. It can be precisely dated. It began in 1922-1923
with the emergence of the Italian Fascist Party… it came of age
in the 1930s in Germany… it ended in 1945 with the defeat of
two dictators” (Trevor-Roper as quoted in Woolf, 1968: p. 18).
Fascist and National Socialistic thought also originated in
terms of the Communist view, as “the openly terroristic dicta-
torship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most
imperialist elements of finance capital” (Turner, 1975: p. 119).
The psychological character of certain classes, especially the
lower middle class and socially deprived adolescents after the
First World War in Italy and Germany also favored the growth
of Fascism and National Socialism. Richard Koenigsberg in
Hitler’s Ideology: a Study in Psychoanalytic Sociology, also
noted that “Hitler’s ideology offered ‘a means whereby his
fantasies might be expressed and discharged at the level of
social reality’” (Koenigsberg, 1975: p. 85). The lower middle
classes in Germany and Italy after the First World War, suf-
fered alienation, self-hatred and loss of security, which allowed
them to develop sadistic traits of character which moulded the
authoritarian personality (Laquer, 1979: pp. 465-467). However,
neither Fascism nor National Socialism (Nazism), was class-
based. In fact, Fascism always maintained that it was a national
ideology. It rejected class struggles and class antagonisms and
was “leftist” in orientation in terms of propaganda that was
portrayed about it. This is why it was able to achieve what it did
and it appealed to all social classes. It was mainly the working
classes though that joined its ranks. In order to review the de-
gree to which Italian Fascism characterizes a combination of
aspects of nationalism and socialism, it is critical to differenti-
ate between the political ideologies and how they were inter-
preted in different settings.
In Italy
When the Italian Fascist movement was created at the meet-
ing of the Fasci di Combattimento in Milan on March 21st
1919, Mussolini and his then handful of supporters regarded the
new movement as a left wing challenger for the working class
votes which were at that time being handed to the Italian So-
cialist Party (PSI). This primary Italian Fascist movement in-
cluded a combination of socialists who supported Mussolini,
nationalists, forward thinkers, national syndicalists and war
veterans from the First World War. Ideologically viewed then,
Fascism developed out of the convergence of these groups and
predominantly around the belief that Italy could and should be
regenerated to its classical glory. The combination of different
systems of ideological belief or practice namely, nationalism
and socialism into what Mussolini described as “National So-
cialism” or Fascism was what resulted in Italy. The Marxists
view of Italian Fascism was that it was the final drive of a rap-
idly collapsing middle class in its frantic effort to hold onto its
strong socio-economic position in a scenario where the working
class was rapidly gaining ground. The Fascists undoubtedly
included many from the middle class in their ranks but they
also incorporated the working classes and wealthy aristocrats.
Michael Mann, who is a Marxist historian, stated in his book
Fascists, that the rise of right-wing authoritarian movements
between the two world wars is to be understood as “nation-
statism building not a cage but a concentration camp”. This
interpretation is essentially at odds with the Marxist interpreta-
tions of Fascism. Marxism per se, regards Fascism as a brutal
endeavor to preserve capitalism from the challenges of left-
wing mobilizations directly after World War I. Mann is also
averse to regarding Fascism as a totalitarian “political religion”
which emerged as a reaction against modernization and de-
mocracy. By the late 1930s, the basic thought was that Fascism
and National Socialism was an aspect of a moral and religious
crisis in Western civilization and while most of Europe passed
through challenging economic times in the period between the
wars, Fascists did not try to seize power in countries where the
state had well-established democratic institutions and a strong
foundation for infrastructural control. Benedetto Croce and R.
Collingwood saw Fascism and National Socialism as a denial
of human liberty. Croce argued that Fascism was a corruption
of Italian liberty and stated that: “authoritarian governments
endure only among decadent peoples” (De Ruggiero, 1927: p.
Support by industrialists and Capitalists for Fascism was
wide-ranging especially between different countries. A point of
congruence amongst Fascist minded citizenry in countries
where Fascism emerged was to be found in the powerful vested
interests in the growth of the nation-state. The majority of the
military and civil service personnel and especially the public-
sector and manual laborers opted to become Fascists. Fascists
recruited from both the ranks of the proletariat as well as the
bourgeoisie. In this regard, G. L. Mosse regarded Fascism and
especially National Socialism as a: “deeply rooted cultural mal-
aise” (Mosse, 1966: pp. 15-34). De Felice, (1977: p. 176) ex-
presses the opinion that Mussolini established a support base
and also encountered many adversaries in every social class. If
taken in a sociological context, Fascism was the result of a
rapid development and modernization, or even the particular
manner of industrialization in both Italy and Germany (Bar-
rington, 1967: p. 88). Fascism was seen as a possible route to
modernization, but when compared to Germany, industrialize-
tion and modernization came late to Italy. The problem is that
Germany was highly industrialized by the late 1920s, but Italy
lagged relatively far behind. Then in terms of socio-economic
criteria, Italian Fascism and Nazism should not be in the same
category (Turner, 1975: p. 132). If rapid modernization is thus
linked to Fascism then, in this respect, it does not adequately
explain what happened in Italy and Germany.
Fascists were not in the least afraid of the revolutionary
working-classes and in fact recruited vigorously from their
ranks. In fact, in June 1914, Benito Mussolini personally took
part in the violent and confrontational “Red Week” in which
Fascists displayed there power. The advocates of Fascist ideo-
logy intended to display it as an amalgamation of nationalism
and socialism. As early as the late 19th Century, nationalists
including Corradini lambasted liberal Italian politicians on the
basis that they had failed miserably in their feeble attempts to
modernize the Italian economy. They had also not promoted
Italian interests abroad in terms of colonial adventures and
above all else, they had not protected the interests of the work-
ing classes.
Corradini maintained that Italy was a “proletarian nation”
which had become embroiled in the international social Dar-
winist struggle for survival with far more dominant European
states. Italy could only regenerate itself if class conflicts acme
to an end and diverse classes in society began to work together
to build national unity which was essential for economic
growth and meaningful colonial expansion. The latter was es-
pecially needed as it would provide Italy with the much desired
status of a great power. In 1938, Mussolini replaced the Cham-
ber of Deputies with the Chamber of the Fasces and Corpora-
tions (Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni). This Chamber
was constituted of a number of delegates who were appointed
by each of the corporations, plus a number of delegates ap-
pointed by the National Fascist Party.
Mussolini described the institutional transformations as fol-
We have constituted a Corporative and Fascist State, the
State of national society, a State which concentrates, controls,
harmonizes, and tempers the interests of all social classes,
which are thereby protected in equal measure. Whereas, during
the years of demo-liberal regime, labor looked with diffidence
upon the State, and was, in fact, outside the State and against
the State, and considered the State an enemy of every day and
every hour, there is not one working Italian today who does not
seek a place in his Corporation or syndical federation, who
does not wish to be a living atom of that great, immense living
organization which is the national Corporate State of Fascism.
(Lowell Field, 1968: p. 16)
The initial programmes of the Fasci di Combattimento were
in a sense left-wing and the growth of Italian Fascism from
1920 and 1922 was essentially due to the expansion of the rural
and provincial squads which often opted to use violence against
socialist organizations and members as a means of defending
especially upper and middle class interests. By 1922 the Fas-
cists claimed that they would address the restraints of laissez
faire capitalism and this would be by means of a Corporatist
Third Way which was a middle-path between communism and
capitalism. Industries were to be managed in terms of corpora-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
tist principles in which every industry would have corporatist
organizations. The members of these bodies would represent
employers and workers who were mentored by fascist officials.
These would collectively make economic decisions to support
the fascist cause by also improving the wages of workers. In
practice however, the corporatist experiment was relatively
unsuccessful and although there were some minor reforms the
corporatist experiment by and large failed since Mussolini was
under the control of wealthy financiers and industrial elites who
continued to exploit the workers.
Venetian financiers, essentially controlled Mussolini, but in
the eyes of the world he was perceived as Duce of the Fascists
and Head of Government. For Mussolini, the fascist Italian was
to be created on a par with the Renaissance Italian (Smith, 1975:
p. 174). The Grand Council of Fascism (Gran Consiglio del
Fascismo) was a very important organ and ostensibly idiomatic
of the Fascist Party, the government ministers including the
Presidents of the Senate and the Chamber and the commander
of the Squadristi militias. A number of Fascist candidates were
to be voted for and voters had to either accept or reject the no-
tion of a unitary state. It was the Grand Council which was also
tasked with submitting to the King the names of suitable can-
didates who could be elected as Head of Government. There
were wide-ranging parliamentary limitations in Italy and the
power of the fascist dictatorship grew as the independence of
the judiciary became severely compromised. All political par-
ties in Italy, other than the Italian Fascist Party were gradually
abolished and the independent trade unions were replaced by
fascist syndicates. Any other political groups were allowed to
exist only if they remained uncritical of fascism and Mussolini.
The media were very strictly monitored and censured and used
predominantly as a puppet of fascist propaganda which pro-
moted the idea that true identity could be found in the commu-
nity of the nation and the nation preceded the individual. All
class struggles could be counterbalanced by nationalism which
was vehemently opposed to the liberal bourgeois conception of
life, and both Germany and Italy as nations transcended divi-
sion. It was nationalism that would prepare the nation for self-
sacrifice, heroism and conflict. The bourgeois by comparison,
tended to undermine these ambitions and wasted time and effort
on the pursuit of materialistic desires and petty parliamentary
politics. In Nazi Germany, the nation was imbued with a quasi-
religious aura, but this was not the case in Italian fascism.
Ironically, it was the Grand Council which initially supported
Mussolini that decided to oust him in July 1943. Mussolini tried
to justify his ruthless regime through the requirement for effi-
ciency and getting things done effectively in a weakening Ital-
ian state, but the Second World War soon exposed the vast
military and logistical limitations of the fascist corporate state.
Fascism was thus a “conjunctural phenomenon” which com-
bined heterogenous social class and generational support. Juan
Linz expressed it as a “novel response to the crisis… of the
pre-war structure and party systems” in both Italy and Germany
(Laquer, 1979: p. 18). Nolte suggested that: “Fascism is anti-
Marxism which seeks to destroy the enemy by the evolvement
of a radically opposed and yet related ideology” (Nolte, 1969:
pp. 20-21). In his typology Three Faces of Fascism, originally
published in German in 1963, Nolte subdivided it into four
distinct stages of development. Pilsudski’s Poland was regarded
as a pre-Fascist state, while the Action Francaise was seen as a
being in the early fascist phase of development. Mussolini’s
Italy was a “normal” Fascist state, while Germany’s National
Socialists were regarded as extreme, hyper-nationalistic and
almost radical Fascists (Nolte, 1969: p. 21). Nolte saw both
Fascism and Nazism as having originated as “anti-Marxism”,
which set out to destroy the opposition by the use of virtually
identical methods. Both were resistance to practical transcend-
dence and “anti-Christian Catholicism”, but this ignores the fact
that many we re Catholics, especia lly in Italy. Both were driven
by fear or “angst” of transcendence which in both Italy and
Germany was directed against groups who symbolized tran-
scendence. This was anticipated by Friedrich Nietzsche (Nolte,
1969: p. 440).
In Italian fascism, nationalism was more traditional and was
in essence a form of patriotism and xenophobic imperialism.
Fascism represented the seeking out of a “third way” between
communism and capitalism which was intended to free society
from the alienation of an industrial society and so liberal de-
mocracy and parliamentary government were rejected. The
fascist movement was more characterized by what it stood
against than what it stood for.
How Were Fascism and Nazism Totalitarian in
A totalitarian state is one in which the leadership has total
authority and control over every aspect of the lives of citizenry.
There is neither public nor private life and a dictator or ruling
elite who use terror to subdue the masses. In a totalitarian state,
propaganda is used extensively to control the hearts and minds
of people. This was the case in both Fascist Italy and Nazi
Germany. In both states all the individual liberties that liberals’
tended to value, were heavily reduced. Only total obedience to
the totalitarian state would serve the national interests. The
fascist totalitarian state was dominated by the political elite and
especially by Mussolini. Fascists based much of their theories
on the work of the German philosopher Nietzsche and political
scientists including Pareto, Mosca and Michels. Mussolini,
Gentile and Primo de Rivera admitted that their vision of the
state was totalitarian. Hitler shared this vision but linked it to
the notion of control by force. Freedom was not individualistic
but rather coincided with the purpose of the state.
The Nazi state was internally chaotic with no real top-down
control and the Nazis worked with an existing state bureaucracy,
many of whom only joined the ranks of the Nazis in 1939. The
S.S. and other militarized elements worked in tandem with the
state police and the army. Hitler had total control in this “or-
ganizational jungle” (Broszat, 1981: p. 358). Hitler and Musso-
lini thus had vital roles in their respective totalitarian states. A
stated by Gentile: “It is always the few who represent the self-
consciousness and will of an epoch” (Gentile, 1928: p. 291).
Despite the authoritarian nature of each state, both had tradi-
tionally entrenched interests and constantly changing alliances
which forced Hitler and Mussolini to make concessions (Laquer,
1979: p. 411). Although Corporations were part of the ancient
Volk in Germany, Italy had more complex relationships with
the ideas of “syndicalism” and “corporation”. Mussolini’s state
would to a large extent direct and control syndicates for the
ends of the nation but there was nothing comparable in Italy.
It was believed that both Mussolini and Hitler possessed the
requisite political insights to effectively lead their respective
countries and their political powers should thus be virtually
unrestricted. National Socialism was undoubtedly a type of
fascism but it was a lot more racially focused than Mussolini’s
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 13
Fascism. In both states, there were bureaucracies created to
organize and maintain reigns of terror. The citizens of Fascist
Italy and Nazi Germany would live untouched as long as they
were loyal to Mussolini and Hitler respectively. Mass psycho-
logy was the methodology employed to control the citizenry. In
Germany, the state could not be primary once the Fuhrerprin-
zep was created. It was Hitler as the Fuhrer who came to
embody the sovereign authority of the state. Consequently all
state authority was Fuhrer authority. In Italy, parties were
considered to be compromising and they were merely stifling
the national interest. Only propaganda would win them over
(Schmitt, 1985: p. 50).
Differences and Similarities between Fascism and
The most profound difference between Fascism and Nazism
was the centrality of the race issue. In the case of Nazi Ger-
many there was a strong Volk tradition whereas in Italian fas-
cism this is absent. The Germanic Volk factor alienated French
Fascists like Drieu de Rochelle or Spanish Fascists like Primo
de Rivera and even Mussolini. The latter referred to Germany
in the 1930s as a “racialist lunatic asylum” (Mosse, 1966: p.
314). Italian Fascists never reached the intense levels of anti-
Semitism that prevailed in Germany. Another distinguishing
mark is the intensity of terror and controlled violence which
was markedly less in Italy (Turner, 1975: p. 17). The Italian
Fascists vindicated their desire for colonialist expansion into
parts of Africa, for example, in terms of their perceived racial
superiority relative to the Africans and also gradually adopted a
greater anti-Semitic mentality as their alliance with Hitler de-
veloped. Human nature assumed an interesting character in
both Fascism and Nazism. Many young fascists were encourag-
ed to think of violence in almost romantic terms. Violence is
what linked the individual with the unconscious and it encour-
aged the “hero” idea of the Übermensch. Ultimately the idea of
the Übermensch provided a strong theoretical basis for Fascism
in Italy. Proponents of Fascism used Nietzsche’s “Übermensch
or “superman” notion to validate their behaviour. Friedrich
Nietzsche had reasoned that some members of humanity were
endowed with a superior will and imagination, and as a conse-
quence of this would as a matter of course, tend to dominate
society and ruler the weaker masses. Unconditional inequality
was biologically determined and irremovable and all Nazis
accepted an inequality of races. The Aryan who was at one with
the landscape and fellow Aryans, was considered superior in all
respects to Jews, Sla vs and Negroes. Hitler described Aryans as
the “genius” race, but some Aryans were born to be superior to
others. The genius or hero-figure could allow great things to be
accomplished by peoples through his efforts. As Hitler put is:
“The progress and culture of humanity are not a product of the
majority, but rest exclusively on the genius and energy of the
personality” (Hitler, 1939: pp. 310-313).
A related point about genius or leader figures was made in
Italian fascism but it was not premised in accounts of either
racial or biological genius, but rather on the interpretation of
the sociological writings on elitism of inter-alia, Gaetano Mo-
sca, Robert Michels and Vilfredo Pareto. It was these writers
who assisted the generation of suspicions concerning parlia-
mentary democracy which were rife amongst fascists. The ele-
ment of self-deluding pomposity and neurosis was also a strong
feature of both Hitler’s and Mussolini’s visions of their own
roles (Smith, 1975: p. 127). Mussolini regarded himself as a
man excluded from communing with others as if it was a divine
law. He even introduced the Roman salute instead of the hand-
shake as he reviled any physical contacts (Smith, 1975: pp.
128-139). Since fascists believed that human nature was cor-
rupted by liberal democratic ideals, change was necessary. In
the case of National Socialism, this campaign was duty-bound
to produce a “Volk-bound German man” (Pois, 1986: p. 70).
Mussolini desired that the fascist Italian had to be unburdened
of wrong ideas and be recreated to be on a par with the Renais-
sance Italian (Smith, 1975: p. 174). For Germans such as
Rosenberg the Nazis, the Aryan already existed but had to be
protected against racial mixing however for Himmler and the
Waffen SS, the new German man had to be selectively bred for
the future and inferior races had to be eliminated. This was a
popular ideology and as Heiden (1939: p. 98) stated: “The great
masses of the people did not merely put up with National So-
cialism. They welcomed it”.
This notion was developed into the idea of the “superman”
by later Fascists and Nazis. The Fascists and Nazis also accept-
ed that totalitarian dictatorships were justified, as only a
superior leader could fully exemplify the collective will of the
masses. Both Italian and German fascist writers referred to
Fascism as a state of mind or way of being. Nazis often
proclaimed that one should “think with the blood”. The masses
were for the most part viewed as being instinctual or herd-like
and they could thus easily be manipulated by the superior few.
Thus crude forms of social Darwinism combined with the
doctrine of the Herrenvolk or “master-race”. Mussolini believed
that all people were untrustworthy and selfish while Hitler was
distrustful of all and hateful to all (Bullock, 1962: pp. 30-38).
The Nazis believed, as Hitler had stated in Mein Kampf (My
Struggle), that the Aryan Germans were the master race and
where thus superior to all others and were especially far more
advanced than the Jews. Fascists also asserted also that indi-
viduals are all fundamentally competitive by nature rather than
collaborative, and both an individual and a nation are caught up
in a social Darwinist fight for the survival of the fittest where
the “end justifies the means” in a Macchiavelian type approach.
A number of fascists argued that it was only possible for indi-
viduals to arrive at their full potential through there physical
participation in an often brutal struggle against both domestic
and international opponents. Consequently using violence to
crush any domestic political opponents is acceptable, as is re-
sorting to war in order to achieve desired foreign policy objec-
tives. Little attention was given outside Germany to the issue of
living space or Lebensraum. This lay behind Hitler’s foreign
policy for the eastward expansion of Germany into Russia and
the ultimate decimation of the Slavonic races. By contrast, Ital-
ian expansion was usually perceived in terms of European im-
perialism. In Germany it was linked almost obsessively to the
issue of race since National Socialism was irrationalist and
everything was judged from the perspective of race (Nolte,
1969: pp. 570-575). The German state was subservient to the
Volk and to the racial issue, but in Italy, the Fascist movement
strove towards rational modernization. In both Fascism and
Nazism there were marked subdivisions. Alexander de Grand,
in his study on Italian Fascism, speaks of conservative, techno-
cratic, national, syndicalist and Squadrismi typologies of fas-
cism. Nolte speaks of pre, early, normal and radical fascisms.
This gradual evolving of National Socialism and Fascism is
another link between them (Roberts, 1979: p. 318).
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Both National Socialism and Italian Fascism sought to bring
about national and social unity in single-party systems which
were highly totalitarian in nature. In fascism, politics took pri-
ority over economics and the focus was on the nation. Eco-
nomics was thus determined by national objectives. In both
National Socialism and Italian fascism, economic practices
were a combination of soci alist and liberal policies. The corpo-
rate state would integrate employers and employees in Italy and
politics as expressed in the nation state. This was considered to
be spiritually as well as morally superior to economics. In the
case of National Socialism, race and Volk occupied the key
position in thinking. In both Germany and Italy, the idea was
for self-sufficient economy gathering its economic resources
for the national ends. In the case of both states it was linked to
the war footing in the 1030s. In Germany from 1936 onwards,
the aim was for economic self-sufficiency in preparation for
international conflict (Bullock, 1962: pp. 358-359).
The main ambiguity of both the German and Italian fascist
regimes was that they used “a battery of economic controls to
which left-wing governments, outside the Soviet Union, could
still only aspire to”. Yet the beneficiaries of these proposals
were groups which supported more right-wing parties (Milward
in Laquer, 1979: p. 411). Sternhell explains the development of
fascist ideology in both Italy and Germany as a logical and
reasonable response to the pervading practical political circum-
stances. The hatred for the bourgeois order and hatred of their
values is a visible theme in both Italian fascism and Nazism
(Sternhell, 1994: pp. 93-99).Certainly both Hitler and Musso-
lini appeared to have very little interest in economic theories, as
long as their nationalist and imperialist ambitions could be
underpinned. As Mosse noted on National Socialism: “It na-
tionalized when it wanted to nationalize… It allied itself with
big business when it wanted such an alliance”, overall it
seemed to lack any specific economic commitment (Sternhell,
1994: pp. 93-99). Fischer (1996) stated: “In the past fifteen
years, the long-entrenched thesis that National Socialism rep-
resented the revolt of the Mittelstand (the middle-class, bour-
geoisie) has undergone decisive revision. Although few histo-
rians would deny the Nazi partys success among the German
middle classes in recruiting party members and drawing voters,
sophisticated statistical work, much of it drawn from newly-
explored regional archives, has shown that the Nazi constitu-
ency was much more diverse than once imagined. Recent
scholarship now argues that support for the Hitler movement
extended to all social classes. Moreover, although the Nazi
party performed especially well in Protestant regions, it did not
fail to attract Catholics. In short, National Socialism evolved
into a genuine Volkspartei (party of the nation) that tran-
scended the class and milieu-based politics of the Weimar pe-
In the area of Fascist attacks on intellectualism, it is difficult
to isolate Fascist themes or ideologists although the Italians had
Giovanni Gentile who “built” up much of the doctrine of fas-
cism for Mussolini. The National Socialists did not have any-
one as distinguished in their ranks. The National Socialist in-
terpretation of the term “social” was distinct from that of the
Italian fascists as the former focused on the racial Volkisch
dimension rather than on the state. An individual was consti-
tuted through the community which was constituted in terms of
racial soul (Volkseele). Nature was regarded as a life force
which gave both meaning and purpose to humans and their
Volk (Mosse, 1978: p. 15). It was the emotive, instinctive life
of people that linked them to their Volk and also to their inner
life-force of nature. People could be glorified, therefore, ac-
cording to their oneness with nature, and not through their
dominance over it. Unlike the Italian fascists, the Nazis cele-
brated in a bogus, and almost mystical sense, peasant life,
country landscapes and nature. It was the landscape which im-
bued people with their inner life force. Hitler’s love of animals
and the fact that he was a vegetarian are related to this stand-
point. As in the case of leaders in Nazism, the leadership mem-
bership of the Fascist movement was derived from amongst war
veterans and in particular, former commissioned and non-
commissioned officers. Members were also recruited from the
ranks of the white collar workers and the educated middle class.
Madden (1987) has shown that National Socialists emanated
from all social classes in large volumes. Fischer (1978) also
assessed the class orientation of the members of the Sturm Ab-
teilung (S.A., Stormtroopers or Brownshirts) and uncovered
that “the workers are over-represented in the S.A.” (p. 140).
From 1933-1934, some 69.9% of the S.A. emanated from the
working class compared to 53.2% from the German population
in general. Italian Fascists as well as Nazis criticized liberal
democracy on the grounds that political parties and various
pressure groups appealed to the selfish egoism of certain people
and increased social conflicts at a time when national unity was
desirable. Both Hugh Trevor-Roper and Ernst Nolte view fas-
cism as a result of tyranny and megalomania on the parts of
Mussolini and Hitler respectively. Alan Bullock states that
fascism “was to Hitler the instrument of his ambition” (Bullock,
1962: p. 237).
Both Fascism and Nazism were highly totalitarian in nature.
Both had one powerful leader, who came to epitomize the
general will of the nation. The leaders felt at ease in invading
all areas of both public and private life and this was justifiable
as it supposedly served the “greater good”. Each state sought to
bring about national and social unity in single-party systems
which were totalitarian in nature and although there were some
differences between fascism and National Socialism, there were
enough similarities between them for them to be treated as part
of the same movement in which the masses could be won over
by extensive propaganda (Mosse, 1978: p. 128). Sternhell is of
the opinion that Nazism was not “truly fascist” on account of its
form of racism (Sternhell, 1994: pp. 93-97) whereas R. de Fe-
lice viewed Italian fascism as being fundamentally different
from Nazism on account of Nazism’s atavistic tendencies (De
Felice, 1977: pp. 20-26). Philip Moran sees Italian fascism and
German National Socialism as belonging to the same “family”
as both were mass movements of the “middle-class reaction
against liberalism and socialism in an era of severe political and
social crises” (Morgan, 2003: p. 8). This is somewhat distinct
from the view of Reinhard Kuhnl who asserts that “National
Socialism was ‘fascist’ but was also its own movement with its
own criteria which are not directly connected to capitalism or to
capitalist desires” (Mosse, 1996: p. 48) and had an “unquestion-
able revolutionary nature” (De Felice, 1977: p. 191). Vajda, in
Fascism as a mass move ment, sees Ita lian fascism and Nat ional
Socialism as original European phenomena which expressed
the traditions and tendencies of Europe and should thus be un-
derstood as part of the development of the ideological and po-
litical structure of the West. Both are bourgeois and both are
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 15
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
equally opposed to liberalism each had a bourgeois form of
power with aggressive expansionist aims against people with in
similar economic and cultural levels as well almost identical
social systems (Vajda, 1976: p. 26). In both, fascism appealed
to individuals and portions of the mainstream elite whom it
promised to serve more efficiently and effectively than the
ruling existing parties. There were without doubt great linkages
between fascism and National Socialism (Turner, 1975: pp.
84-86). While they have similarities and differences, the dif-
ferences do not preclude National Socialism from being viewed
as a truly Fascist movement. Essentially the congruence be-
tween them far outweighs any dissimilarities. Critically, in both,
violence was a preferred tool to use in harnessing support and
in obtaining desired objectives.
Even though National Socialism was unique in that it had the
Aryan myth and racism and extreme anti-Semitism based on
supposed biological superiority. Some Germans saw Jewish-
ness as a cultural or spiritual problem, but to others it was re-
garded as a racial problem. It was often associated with the
bourgeois life and even Bolshevism. The Jews soon became the
central focus point of nationalistic hatred in Germany. The
frustration with their lives drove many Italians and Germans to
seek new strengthening of their nations in what became hyper-
nationalistic drives to monopolize politics, social organization
and even education and cultural affairs (Turner, 1975: pp.
44-52). It is evident that both Italian Fascist and German Nazi
leaders were able to rise to power as the existing leaders were
unable to halt the threat, perceived or real, from the radical left.
They were essentially unable to forge any consensus top diffuse
the threat from the radical left and attract support to win a ma-
jority in the parliaments, and so fascist movements tended to
develop in nations with strong left-wing movements (Carsten,
1980: p. 233). The use of terror and violence in fascist Italy and
Nazi Germany against enemies of the state and the removal of
pluralism in both states further emphasized that they were very
similar in orientation. Both states used mass psychology and
extensive propaganda campaigns to great effect. Both states
idolized their leaders manipulated the masses. There is no doubt
that National Socialism was a variation of Italian fascism and a
true fascist movement.
Both National Socialism and Italian fascism were revolu-
tionary in nature and were mass movements that mobilized the
populace and both vilified the west as a plutocracy and aimed at
destroying the existing order so that a Volk or nation could
finally triumph and both hated traditional elites. Renzo de Fe-
lice sees Italian fascism as emanating from a radical left-wing
enlightenment (De Felice, 1977: pp. 14-33). Both were inhu-
man as they negated the freedom and dignity of the people and
each was linked to the notion of adaptability and was ascribed
to certain socio-economic conditions in countries transforming
into industrial societies. The researcher believes that there are
thus enough similarities between National Socialism and fas-
cism per se for us to categorize them as being in the same “fam-
ily’ of ideology and National Socialism was thus a truly fascist
movement”. “To the historian fascism is Janus-faced. One face
looks forward, in the spirit of the Enlightenment, to the rational
control and direction of human life; the other face looks back-
wards to a much simpler more primitive life, when men strug-
gled to live”, National Socialism fits the bill (Skidelsky, 1975:
p. 288).
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