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In recent years, the ideological roots of fascism have been under discussion due to a great deal of confusion about the collectivist principles promulgated by that authoritarian movement. Emmanuel Rincón, editor-at-large at El American, dedicates Culture War to this issue, in which he analyzes the ideological principles of its main promoters.
It is important to know that fascism owes its existence to socialist politicians such as Benito Mussolini and ideologues such as Giovanni Gentile, also a socialist and neo-Hegelian, who had a strong nationalist sense.
World War I was a milestone in Mussolini’s life. “Initially, the Socialist Party leader was part of an anti-interventionist stance that opposed Italy’s participation in the war,” notes Emmanuel, but he was expelled from the party because he joined the interventionist group.
After his participation in the war, Mussolini wanted to capitalize on the enormous dissatisfaction left by the Treaty of Versailles and, after blaming his former co-partisans for the meager benefits obtained after the agreement, he created the Italian Fasces of Combat, thus starting the Fascist movement.
Mussolini’s newly-created party won power by fighting against the traditional socialists, inspired by a strong nationalist sentiment derived from the war and shielded by the so-called Blackshirts squadron.
The philosophy behind fascism
“Almost everyone knows that Karl Marx is the ideological father of communism and socialism, also that Adam Smith is the father of capitalism and economic liberalism, but do you know who is the ideological father of fascism?” asks Emmanuel.
The philosopher behind fascism, contrary to what many think, was also a socialist. “Fascism is a form of socialism. In fact, it is a more viable form,” stated Gentile, co-author with Mussolini of The Doctrine of Fascism. Fascism is, Emmanuel says, “a socialism based on national identity.”
“Gentile believed that all private action should be oriented to serve society. He was against individualism. For him there was no distinction between private and public interest,” he says.
His economic principles, later used by Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist movement, advocated compulsory state corporatism, proposed the creation of an autarkic state, and considered liberal democracy to be a harmful doctrine because it focused on the individual and, according to Gentile, led to selfishness.
Emmanuel tells us that Gentile advocated a form of democracy in which the individual was to be subordinated to the State, not the other way around, “The government said what, how and when to produce.” The end was a corporatist State.
Because of his break with the traditional Marxist movement in which he had militated years before, Mussolini took advantage of the nationalist sentiment, then predominant, to lay the foundations of the new nationalist socialism, which he called fascism.
Mussolini’s movement did not believe that the state should own all the means of production, but it should dominate them, and considered the nationalization of the arms industry to be crucial. The owners of these enterprises could maintain their businesses as long as they served the guidelines of the state, were supervised and paid high tax rates.
“Private property was becoming an instrument of government,” says Emmanuel in his recent installment of Culture War.