What are fascist states?

  • Extremely nationalistic, state is more important than the individual
  • Anti-liberal
  • Anti-communist
  • Militaristic
  • Totalitarian, including censorship 
  • Controlling, but not elimination, of religion
  • Anti-egalitarian

Il Duce

After World War I, Italy did not receive all of "Italia Irredenta," or "unredeemed Italy," as promised from the messy Treaty of Versailles. This included regions in Austria that contained Italian-speaking people. Italy was also afflicted by social unrest, with land and factories seized by farmers and workers. Such disorder seemed perfect for a socialist uprising. In 1921, Benito Mussolini and several of his followers were elected to the Chamber of Deputies, eager to draw on Italian nationalism and quash the socialists. Mussolini then marched to Rome, where King Victor Emmanuel III quickly allowed the takeover. Mussolini used legal stepping stones to gain power, although his Black Shirts terrorized opponents and maintained control. On October 29, 1922, he was appointed Prime Minister, free to impose his unique rule upon Italy labelled fascism. By 1926, Italy was a complete dictatorial state headed by Il Duce, or "leader," and would remain so until the Allies took Sicily during World War II in 1943.


Mussolini with Hitler.
In Germany, the growth of fascism was more prolonged, and Adolf Hitler's rule had notable differences from Mussolini's. Germany's suffering after the Treaty of Versailles contrasted with its partial role in the cause of World War I; France especially sought to never again let Germany disturb the balance of power with the requirements of reparations and demilitarization. The Weimar Republic, the new Germany, was a hopeful project which became muddled with coalitions. Meanwhile, in 1923, France occupied the mining and manufacturing zone of the Ruhr in order to pressure Germany for reparations. Germany resisted passively, and ended up causing hyperinflation, catastrophic for the average worker. Hitler and his Nazi Stormtroopers (SA) were already spreading terror before they had any actual political power. In 1923, soon after Mussolini was appointed prime minister, Hitler attempted an uprising at a beer hall, leading to his imprisonment. Soon after Gustav Stresemann restored confidence and stability in the republic with a new Germany currency and negotiations to reduce the reparations, the Great Depression increased Nazi support. The Nazi party was steadily winning seats in the Reichstag, Germany's parliament, and finally, in 1933, Hitler was named chancellor of Germany. Later that year, he assumed dictatorial power through a Reichstag decree. Although he took more than 10 years longer than Mussolini, Hitler also legally assumed power.

Unlike Mussolini, Hitler employed anti-Semitism, taking away first certain rights and then citizenship in 1935 with the Nuremburg Laws. He had a scapegoat to which economic and social problems could be fixed. Also, Hitler's SS (which replaced the SA) was a far more complex and potent force than Mussolini's Black Shirts. Despite these differences, they shared enough dictatorial, militaristic, and nationalistic tendencies to both be classified as fascist and pose as threats to European stability in the 1930s. Even socially, they both saw women as mothers first to the state, as childbearing was a loyal duty.

The Spanish Civil War

This Republican poster states that "The bear of Madrid will destroy fascism."
The Spanish Civil War, which lasted from 1936 to 1939, was fought purely on ideological grounds. The Nationalists (fascists) led by Francisco Franco sought to overthrow the Republicans. The Soviet Union helped the Republicans, while Italy and Germany supported the Nationalists. The war gave Germany an opportunity to test its new aircraft. The war ended with a fascist victory and cemented distrust of fascism in Europe, as well as bringing Germany and Italy closer together: in 1936, the Rome-Berlin Axis Pact was signed. Their mutual hatred of communism would prove important as World War II approached.