There were great similarities in the social and psychological backgrounds of the countries where fascist states were created. Most of the countries involved had been defeated and badly damaged during World War I, and therefore its inhabitants were exhausted and weary, having lost their husbands, wives, children and loved ones during the war. In addition, these countries suffered from a broken economy, political instability and a general feeling that the nation was falling apart. People were suffering materially; the various political parties were incapable of solving the problems of the nations, besides fighting among themselves.
Essentially, the poverty Italy faced as a result of World War I was the most important factor in the rise to power of Italian fascism. More than 600,000 Italians have died from the war and up to half a million people are paralyzed. Most of the population was made up of widows and orphans. The country was in the throes of an economic recession and high unemployment. Although the Italians suffered heavy losses during the war, they had achieved very few of their objectives. Like many other war-exhausted nations, the Italian people longed to regain their former honor and glory.
In fact, it was a feeling that had grown stronger since the end of the 19th century. Modern Italy looked nostalgically at the greatness of the Roman Empire and felt it was entitled to ancient Roman territory. In addition, there was a sense of rivalry with the great powers of the world, and Italy hoped to rise to their rank, or, to rise to “the position it deserved.” Affected by these aspirations, Italians hoped to become as powerful as Britain, France and Germany.
Social, political and economic crises also played a major role in establishing Nazism in Germany, which had been defeated in World War I. Unemployment and a financial crisis added to the disappointment of the defeat. Inflation has reached levels rarely matched. Small children were playing with banknotes worth millions of marks, for money, which was losing value hour by hour, was worth nothing more than pieces of paper. The Germans wanted to restore their lost honor and regain a better standard of living. It was with the promise of fulfilling such wishes that Nazism would emerge and gain support.
Pre-Fascist Spain also demonstrated close similarities with these countries. The loss of its colonies on both sides of the American continent at the beginning of the 19th century had led to a serious decrease in self-esteem. At the start of the 20th century, Spain was in a state of semi-collapse. Its economy was failing and the privileges granted to the aristocracy opened the way to great injustices. The Spaniards remembered the days of a great and powerful Spain with great nostalgia.
Japan is another country where fascism has had a huge influence. In pre-fascist Japan, the upper strata of society were very concerned about the spread of Marxist ideas among young people. But they were unable to determine how to get rid of this pernicious ideology. Moreover, such social changes were very disconcerting for a society so closely tied to its traditions. Family ties are loosened, the divorce rate increases, respect for the elderly decreases, customs and traditions are abandoned, an individualistic tendency begins to emerge, degeneration among young people is reaching dramatic proportions and the suicide rate is increasing dramatically. alarming. Under these conditions, the future stability of Japanese society was considered compromised. All of the above has led to retrospective nostalgia. Nostalgia for the glory days of the past and attempts to revive them was the first trap the people fell into, which led them to become completely trapped in a fascist regime.
Nor should we ignore the threat of communism, which at that time threatened to take over the whole world. It may be that a number of nations have submitted to fascist regimes in order not to fall victim to this brutal, ruthless and oppressive ideology, escaping one evil only to be trapped by another, believing that fascism is the âlesser of two evilsâ.
Another factor that paved the way for fascism was the ignorance and lack of education of many communities. Education suffered greatly during the chaos of World War I. Many educated young men had lost their lives on the battlefield. In general, this has led to a lowering of the level of culture in society. It was largely ignorant people who supported fascism, fought in its name, and became the pawns of its chauvinistic politics. Because the fundamental ideas on which fascism was based (i.e. racism, romantic nationalism, chauvinism and fantasy) could only be widely accepted by uneducated people, sensitive as they were to slogans rude and easy.
Such people, seeing themselves as trapped, were looking for an easy way out. They embraced the fascist rulers, as if they were some kind of lifeline, as Eric Hoffer says in his book The True Believer: to feel that through the possession of a powerful doctrine, an infallible leader or of a new technique, they have access to an irresistible source of power. They must also have an extravagant conception of the prospects and potentials of the future. Finally, they must completely ignore the difficulties of their vast enterprise.
An examination of the societal conditions that preceded fascism sheds light on the fact that many people had just such a psychology. Fascism had its first successes in Italy. Mussolini took advantage of social tensions and the desire for change among Italians and, after the war, mobilized former soldiers, unemployed people and university students, with slogans calling for the return of the glory days of ancient Rome. Mussolini organized his supporters, known as the “Black Shirts,” in a quasi-military format, and whose methods were based on violence. They began to carry out attacks in the streets against groups they identified as their rivals. With their Roman greetings, their songs, their uniforms and their official parades, they aroused the emotion of the ignorant and disenfranchised.
The most important element of fascism is the leader, whose name is prominently displayed in all aspects of society. The regimes of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco were clear examples. The titles used by these dictators, “Der FÃ¼hrer”, “Il Duce” or “El Caudillo” all mean the same thing: “The omniscient leader”. And, indeed, the three ruled their respective states totally according to their own wishes, while their closest colleagues and most senior officers were left out of the decision-making process.
Fascism attributes almost sacred power to the leader, so that he can maintain his appeal and increase his acceptance among the people. The leader is the leader of the whole country and its people, presented as part of him.
However, fascism is certainly not only made up of the leader and the fascist party around him. Both in Nazi Germany and Italy there was enormous popular support for the regime. This has been produced in several ways. Fascist regimes are not simply authoritarian, silencing their people; they are also totalitarian.
The particular characteristic that draws people to a fascist ideology in a totalitarian system is âextreme romanticismâ. People who have irrational, romantic, or emotional attachments to ideals and movements in their time or in history are easily led and manipulated, and may even be tricked into committing crimes. If such people can be convinced that the cruelties imposed on them are being carried out for a sacred cause, such as “the superiority of their own race”, there is no limit to the injustices they can be made to commit. . Fascist regimes recognize this and do everything possible to keep their people in a state of emotional exuberance and irrational turmoil. They present what appear to be sacred values ââto the people and encourage them to sacrifice themselves for the good of the state, to despise other nations or races, and even to torture and kill.
For this reason, fascist regimes have always tended to attach great importance to mass gatherings, marches, meetings and ceremonies. Their aim is to form a sheep-like sense of unity among the people. The people are first turned away from religion with symbols, statues, days of remembrance, flags, torches and uniforms. Large, moving ceremonies are designed to replace the experience of religious ceremonies. These brainwashed crowds conform to fascist ideals, in false joy and excitement, as if performing an act of divine worship. The frequent repetition of written and shouted slogans, shouts, martial music and salutes is a vital part of fascist ceremonies.
These fascist mobs are devoid of any kind of intelligent thinking or behavior. There remains only a group of people fanned by slogans, songs and poems, but deaf for all reason. These masses, who identify themselves and their leaders with heroes from mythology or legends from the past, commit their atrocities with an artificially induced sense of “heroism”. If the day comes when they are called to account for their actions, they say they did it for the nation, and that they are in fact its heroes. Those who followed Hitler and Mussolini did so under the effects of such hypnosis, committing their atrocities in this state of false excitement. control, whereby entire societies are made to kill by exploiting these emotions.
(Extract from: Harun Yahya “The ideology of fascism”)