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Fascism as a Social Movement in a Transnational Context

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The History of Social Movements in Global Perspective

Part of the book series: Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements ((PSHSM))

Abstract

To treat fascism as a social movement in a transnational context is to buck the trend in studies of so-called ‘generic fascism’. The purpose of the latter is to derive a ‘model’, ‘definition’, or ‘ideal-type’ of fascism from observation of its primary ‘case’, the Fascist movement in Italy, perhaps supplemented with features of German National Socialism. This model would capture the essence of the phenomenon and its dynamic and permit us to recognize ‘cases’ of fascism even where protagonists rejected the label. Theories of generic fascism suffer from general and specific problems. Generally, they exaggerate the explanatory power of models of any type and they take for granted that ‘cases’ of fascism are national variants of the same essence. They also harden concepts that were contested and fluid in practical politics. Specifically, and directly relevant to this essay, models of generic fascism rely unwittingly on understandings of social action derived from late nineteenth-century crowd psychology, from which social movement theory has—in principle—liberated itself.

I should like to thank Holger Nehring and Garthine Walker for their comments on the article and Federica Ferlanti for help with the section on China.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    I use ‘Fascism’ to designate the Italian movement and regime and ‘fascism’ to refer to the generic concept.

  2. 2.

    Kevin Passmore, ‘The Gendered Genealogy of Political Religions Theory’, Gender & History 3 (2008), pp. 644–668.

  3. 3.

    Leonard Schapiro, Totalitarianism (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1972), pp. 45–58.

  4. 4.

    Roger Griffin, The Nature of Fascism (London: Pinter, 1991).

  5. 5.

    Roger Griffin, ‘“Consensus ? Quel Consensus ?” Perspectives pour une meilleure entente entre spécialistes francophones et anglophones du fascisme’, Vingtieme Siècle: Revue d’histoire 108 (2010), pp. 53–69; Emilio Gentile, The Sacralisation of Politics: Definitions, Interpretations and Reflections on the Question of Secular Religion and Totalitarianism (London: Frank Cass, 2000).

  6. 6.

    Annette Becker and Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau, 14–18, retrouver la guerre (Paris: Gallimard, 2000).

  7. 7.

    Georg Mosse, De la grande guerre au totalitarisme. La brutalisation des sociétés européennes (Paris: Hachette, 1999); Antoine Prost, ‘TheImpact of War on French and German Political Cultures’, Historical Journal 1 (1994), pp. 209–217; for a critique see Benjamin Ziemann, ‘Germany after the First World War—A Violent Society? Results and Implications of Recent Research on Weimar Germany’, Journal of Modern European History 1 (2003), pp. 80–86.

  8. 8.

    Geoff Eley, Nazism as Fascism: Violence, Ideology, and the Ground of Consent in Germany 1930–1945 (London: Routledge, 2013), pp. 212–213.

  9. 9.

    There is no space here to explore the complex relationship between Foucauldian theory and modernization narratives.

  10. 10.

    For example, Christopher Duggan, Fascist Voices: An Intimate History of Mussolini’s Italy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), p. 22, pp. 47–52.

  11. 11.

    see Dieter Rucht, ‘Social Movements—Some Conceptual Challenges’, Chap. 2 in this volume.

  12. 12.

    Crisis occurred in France in May 1968 without prior economic catastrophe or de-legitimation of the system.

  13. 13.

    Michel Dobry, Sociologie des crises politiques : la dynamique des mobilisations multisectorielles, 3rd edn (Paris: Science Po, 2009), pp. 170–171; Michel Dobry, ‘La thèse immunitaire face aux fascismes’, in Michel Dobry (ed.), Le mythe de l’allergie française du fascisme (Paris: Albin Michel, 2003), pp. 17–67.

  14. 14.

    Rucht, ‘Social Movements—Some Conceptual Challenges’, Chap. 2 in this volume.

  15. 15.

    Patricia Clavin, ‘Defining Transnationalism’, Contemporary European History 4 (2005), pp. 421–440, p. 431.

  16. 16.

    Ziemann, ‘Germany after the First World War’, pp. 80–86.

  17. 17.

    Peter Fritzsche, Germans into Nazis (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), pp. 39–82.

  18. 18.

    Robert Gerwarth, ‘The Central European Counter-Revolution: Paramilitary Violence in Germany, Austria and Hungary after the Great War’, Past & Present 1 (2008), pp. 175–209; Robert Gerwarth and John Horne, ‘Vectors of Violence: Paramilitarism in Europe after the Great War, 1917–1923’, The Journal of Modern History 3 (2011), pp. 489–512.

  19. 19.

    Dobry, Sociologie des crises politiques, p. 140, pp. 150–158.

  20. 20.

    Adrian Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power: Fascism in Italy, 1919–1929, 2nd edn (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1987), p. 28, p. 42; Richard J. B. Bosworth, The Italian Dictatorship. Mussolini and Fascism (London: Arnold, 1999), p. 38.

  21. 21.

    Richard J. B. Bosworth, Mussolini (London: Arnold, 2002), pp. 154–166.

  22. 22.

    Duggan, Fascist Voices, pp. 46–47.

  23. 23.

    Bert Klandermans, ‘The Demand and Supply of Participation: Social-Psychological Correlates of Participation in Social Movements’, in David A. Snow, Sarah A. Soule and Hanspeter Kriesi (eds), The Blackwell Companion to Social Movements (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006), pp. 360–379.

  24. 24.

    Duggan, Fascist Voices, p. 37, p. 42, p. 52.

  25. 25.

    Sven Reichardt, ‘Fascist Marches in Italy and Germany: Squadre and SA before the Seizure of Power’, in Matthias Reiss (ed.), The Street as Stage: Protest Marches and Public Rallies Since the Nineteenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 169–193.

  26. 26.

    Paul Corner, Fascism in Ferrara, 1915–1925 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975); Frank M. Snowden, The Fascist Revolution in Tuscany, 1919–1922 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Frank M. Snowden, Violence and Great Estates in the South of Italy: Apulia, 1900–1922 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986); Frank M. Snowden, ‘On the Social Origins of Agrarian Fascism in Italy’, European Journal of Sociology 2 (1972), pp. 268–295.

  27. 27.

    Victoria De Grazia, How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy, 1922–1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 30–34; Perry Willson, ‘Italy’, in Kevin Passmore (ed.), Women, Gender and the Extreme Right in Europe (1919–1945) (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), pp. 11–32, here pp. 12–15.

  28. 28.

    Bosworth, Mussolini, p. 138; Grazia, How Fascism Ruled Women, pp. 31–32.

  29. 29.

    Bosworth, Mussolini, p. 136.

  30. 30.

    Reichardt, ‘Fascist Marches’, pp. 169–189.

  31. 31.

    Duggan, Fascist Voices, pp. 22–25.

  32. 32.

    Bosworth, Mussolini, p. 145.

  33. 33.

    Bert Klandermans, The Social Psychology of Protest (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997).

  34. 34.

    Robert Nye, The Anti-Democratic Sources of Elite Theory: Pareto, Mosca, Michels (London: Sage, 1977).

  35. 35.

    Tracy H. Koon, Believe, Obey, Fight: Political Socialization of Youth in Fascist Italy, 1922–1943 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1985), p. 5.

  36. 36.

    Reichardt, ‘Fascist Marches’, p. 180.

  37. 37.

    Grazia, How Fascism Ruled Women, pp. 236–237.

  38. 38.

    Gerwarth, ‘The Central European Counter-revolution’; Gerwarth and Horne, ‘Vectors of Violence’, pp. 493–495.

  39. 39.

    Gerwarth, ‘The Central European Counter-revolution’, pp. 190–191.

  40. 40.

    For a fine survey of the issues, see Arnd Bauerkämper, ‘Transnational Fascism: Cross-border Relations between Regimes and Movements in Europe, 1922–1939’, East Central Europe 2–3 (2010), pp. 214–246, here p. 216.

  41. 41.

    Dante L. Germino, Antonio Gramsci: Architect of a New Politics (Louisiana State University Press, 1990), p. 120; Mark Meyers, ‘Feminizing Fascist Men: Crowd Psychology, Gender, and Sexuality in French Antifascism, 1929–1945’, French Historical Studies 1 (2006), pp. 109–142.

  42. 42.

    Peter Fritzsche, Germans into Nazis, pp. 85–136.

  43. 43.

    Christian Goeschel, ‘Italia Docet? The Relationship between Italian Fascism and Nazism revisited’, European History Quarterly 3 (2012), pp. 480–492.

  44. 44.

    Peter Longerich, Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 11–15.

  45. 45.

    Goeschel, ‘Italia Docet?’, p. 487.

  46. 46.

    Richard F. Hamilton, Who Voted for Hitler? (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982); Thomas Childers, The Nazi Voter: The Social Foundations of Fascism in Germany, 1919–1933 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983).

  47. 47.

    Michel Dobry, ‘Hitler, Charisma and Structure: Reflections on Historical Methodology’, in António Costa Pinto, Roger Eatwell and Stein Ugelvik Larsen (eds), Charisma and Fascism in Interwar Europe (London: Routledge, 2006), pp. 19–33, here pp. 28–31.

  48. 48.

    Jeremy Noakes and Geoffrey Pridham (eds), The Rise to Power 1919–1934, Documents on Nazism, 1919–1945 (London: Cape, 1974), pp. 66–67.

  49. 49.

    Matthew Stibbe, Women in the Third Reich (London: Bloomsbury, 2003).

  50. 50.

    Peter H. Merkl, Political Violence under the Swastika (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975), p. 12.

  51. 51.

    Reichardt, ‘Fascist Marches’, p. 185; Sven Reichardt, ‘Violence and Community: a Micro-Study on Nazi Storm Troopers’, Central European History 2 (2013), pp. 275–297, here p. 280.

  52. 52.

    Longerich, Holocaust, pp. 18–25.

  53. 53.

    Ian Kershaw, The ‘Hitler Myth’: Image and Reality in the Third Reich (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).

  54. 54.

    Kershaw, The ‘Hitler Myth’, pp. 14–47; Sven Reichardt, Faschistische Kampfbünde: Gewalt und Gemeinschaft im Italienischen Squadrismus und in der deutschen SA (Köln: Böhlau, 2002).

  55. 55.

    Merkl, Political Violence under the Swastika, pp. 539–553; Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889–1936: Hubris (London: Allen Lane, 1998), p. 193.

  56. 56.

    Kershaw, The ‘Hitler Myth’, p. 39.

  57. 57.

    Reichardt, ‘Violence and Community’, pp. 286–289.

  58. 58.

    Ziemann, ‘Germany after the First World War’, p. 93.

  59. 59.

    Kershaw, The ‘Hitler Myth’, p. 20–23.

  60. 60.

    Otto Strasser, Hitler and I (Boston: Haugthon & Miflin, 1946), p. 146, cited in Noakes and Pridham, The Rise to Power 1919–1934.

  61. 61.

    Kershaw, Hitler, pp. 182183.

  62. 62.

    Goeschel, ‘Italia Docet?’, p. 486.

  63. 63.

    Bernd Weisbrod, ‘The Crisis of Bourgeois Society in Interwar Germany’, in Richard Bessel (ed.), Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 23–39.

  64. 64.

    Reichardt, ‘Fascist Marches’, pp. 172–174, p. 184.

  65. 65.

    Peter Fritzsche, Germans into Nazis, pp. 139–143.

  66. 66.

    Bauerkämper, ‘Transnational Fascism’, p. 234.

  67. 67.

    Gabriella Ilonszki, ‘Hungary: Crisis and Pseudodemocratic Compromise’, in Dirk Berg-Schlosser and Jeremy Mitchell (ed.), Conditions of Democracy in Europe, 1919–1939 Systematic Case Studies (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000), pp. 242–262; J. Erös, ‘Hungary’, in Stuart J. Woolf (ed.), Fascism in Europe (London: Methuen, 1968), pp. 118–150; Mark Pittaway, ‘Hungary’, in Richard Bosworth (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Fascism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 380–397.

  68. 68.

    Kevin Passmore, The Right in France from the Third Republic to Vichy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 208–209.

  69. 69.

    Théodore Aubert, Une forme de défense sociale. Les Unions civiques (Paris: Marx Texier, 1921); Maurice Moissonnier and André Boulmier, ‘La bourgeoisie lyonnaise aux origines de l’Union civique de 1920?’, Cahiers d’histoire de L’institut de recherches marxistes 4 (1980), pp. 106–131; Andreas Wirsching, ‘Political Violence in France and Italy after 1918’, Journal of Modern European History 1 (2003), pp. 60–79.

  70. 70.

    La République française, 12 October 1922. See also, L’Indépendent (cantons of Pont-a-Mousson, Nomeny and Thiaucourt), 13 September 1923; Bulletin de l’ALP, 1 January, 15 April, 1 August, 15 October 1923; Action nationale républicaine, 3 May 1923.

  71. 71.

    Eugen Weber, Action Française: Royalism and Reaction in Twentieth-Century France (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1962), pp. 155–159; Joel Blatt, ‘Relatives and Rivals: the Responses of Action française to Italian Fascism, 1919–1926’, European Studies Review 3 (1981), pp. 263–292.

  72. 72.

    Le Drapeau, 20 April 1924.

  73. 73.

    Le Nouveau siècle, 28 January 1926.

  74. 74.

    Bruno Goyet, ‘La “Marche sur Rome ” : Version originale sous-titrée. la réception du Fascisme en France dans les années 20’, in Michel Dobry (ed.), Le mythe de l’allergie française du fascisme (Paris: Albin Michel, 2003), p. 100ff.

  75. 75.

    Michel Dobry, ‘France: an Ambiguous Survival’, in Dirk Berg-Schlosser and Jeremy Mitchell (eds), Conditions of Democracy in Europe, 1919–1939 Systematic Case Studies (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000), pp. 157–183.

  76. 76.

    Brian Jenkins, ‘The Six Fevrier 1934 and the “Survival” of the French Republic’, French History 3 (2006), pp. 333–351; Passmore, The Right in France, pp. 292–297.

  77. 77.

    Philippe Secondy, La Persistance Du Midi Blanc. L’Hérault (1789–1962) (Perpignan: Presses Universitaires de Perpignan, 2006), pp. 237–238.

  78. 78.

    Didier Leschi, ‘L’étrange cas La Rocque’, in Michel Dobry (ed.), Le Mythe de L’allergie Française Du Fascisme, (Paris: Albin Michel, 2003), pp. 155–194.

  79. 79.

    La Petite Gironde, 27 October 1935.

  80. 80.

    La Petite Gironde, 27 October 1935.

  81. 81.

    Gentile, The Sacralisation of Politics; François de La Rocque, Service Public (Paris: Grasset, 1934), p. 19.

  82. 82.

    La Rocque, Service Public, pp. 14–19; Le Flambeau, 1 April 1934; AN 451, 5 February 1934.

  83. 83.

    Kevin Passmore, ‘“Planting the Rricolor in the Citadels of Communism”: Women’s Social Service in the Croix de Feu and Parti social français’, Journal of Modern History 4 (1999), pp. 814–851, here p. 820.

  84. 84.

    Kevin Passmore, ‘Boy-scouting for Grown-ups? Paramilitarism in the Croix de Feu and PSF’, French Historical Studies 2 (1995), pp. 527–557.

  85. 85.

    Reichardt, ‘Fascist Marches’, pp. 175–176, pp. 177–179, pp. 181–182.

  86. 86.

    Archives nationales, Fonds François de La Rocque, 193, 2 January 1936.

  87. 87.

    Leonard A. Gordon, Brothers against the Raj: A Biography of Indian Nationalists Sarat and Subhas Chandra Bose (Calcutta: Rupa, 2008).

  88. 88.

    Lloyd E. Eastman, ‘Fascism in Kuomintang China: The Blue Shirts’, The China Quarterly 49 (1972), pp. 1–31; Frederic Wakeman, ‘A Revisionist View of the Nanjing Decade: Confucian Fascism’, The China Quarterly 150 (1997), pp. 395–432; Federica Ferlanti, ‘The New Life Movement in Jiangxi Province, 1934–1938’, Modern Asian Studies 5 (2010), pp. 961–1000.

  89. 89.

    Frank D. McCann, ‘Vargas and the Destruction of the Brazilian Integralista and Nazi Parties’, The Americas 1 (1969), pp.15–28; Ricardo Silva Seitenfus, ‘Ideology and Diplomacy: Italian Fascism and Brazil (1935–1938)’, The Hispanic American Historical Review 3 (1984), pp. 503–534.

  90. 90.

    Brian Owensby, Intimate Ironies: Modernity and the Making of Middle-Class Lives in Brazil (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001), pp. 136–137.

  91. 91.

    Owensby, Intimate Ironies, pp. 130–158.

  92. 92.

    Owensby, Intimate Ironies, pp. 138–139. Le Bon’s La psychologie des foules had been translated into Portuguese in 1941, but doubtless analogous categories were circulating in the Portuguese language well before that.

  93. 93.

    McCann, ‘Vargas and the Destruction of the Brazilian Integralista’, pp. 28–34; Seitenfus, ‘Ideology and Diplomacy’, p. 529.

  94. 94.

    Owensby, Intimate Ironies, pp. 157–158.

  95. 95.

    Matteo Millan, ‘The Institutionalisation of Squadrismo: Disciplining Paramilitary Violence in the Italian Fascist Dictatorship’, Contemporary European History 4 (2013), pp. 551–573.

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Further Reading

Further Reading

Studies of fascism as a category have not especially emphasized its social movement dimension, because their primary objective is to develop an abstract theory of the origins and development of fascism, and/or because they consider social movements to be primarily left wing. Nevertheless, some of these theories do share certain assumptions with older social movements theory, notably in the assumption that fascism is a response to rapid change, anomie, and the search for a messianic ideology. This theory is present in Roger Griffin, The Nature of Fascism (London: Pinter, 1991). Studies of Fascism as a political religion make similar assumptions, notably Emilio Gentile, The Sacralisation of Politics: Definitions, Interpretations and Reflections on the Question of Secular Religion and Totalitarianism (London: Frank Cass, 2000). The most useful empirical work to use political religion theory to study fascism as a social movement is Christopher Duggan, Fascist Voices: An Intimate History of Mussolini’s Italy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

Michel Dobry has advanced the most important critique of the strain-breakdown approach to social movements, as applied to fascism, but little of his work is available in English. Some of his ideas may be found in Michel Dobry, ‘France: An Ambiguous Survival’, in Dirk Berg-Schlosser and Jeremy Mitchell (eds), Conditions of Democracy in Europe, 1919–1939. Systematic Case Studies (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000), pp. 157–183 and in Kevin Passmore, Fascism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2nd edn, 2014).

Of studies that have approached Fascism and Nazism from a more explicitly social movement perspective. Peter Fritzsche, Germans into Nazis (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1998) remains essential. Alf Lüdkte, The History of Everyday Life: Reconstructing Historical Experiences and Ways of Life (Cambridge, Mass.: Princeton University Press, 1995) presents in English some of key essays considering popular support for Nazism. Benjamin Ziemann, ‘Germany after the First World War—A Violent Society? Results and Implications of Recent Research on Weimar Germany’, Journal of Modern European History 1 (2003), pp. 80–86, takes issue with the view of post-war Germany as ‘brutalized’.

An enormous number of local studies of Fascism and Nazism that had been published since the 1960s, and some of the older examples remain useful. While these studies often treated fascism as reactionary, they rooted it in local conditions and more or less popular mobilizations. The best local studies on Italy are, Paul Corner, Fascism in Ferrara, 1915–1925 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975); Frank M. Snowden, The Fascist Revolution in Tuscany, 1919–1922 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Frank M. Snowden, Violence and Great Estates in the South of Italy: Apulia, 1900–1922 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986). On Germany, see the classic, William Sheridan Allen. The Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town, 1922–1945 (New York: Echo Point Books & Media, revised edn 2014, first published 1966); Claus-Christian W. Szejnmann, Nazism in Central Germany: The Brownshirts in ‘Red Saxony’ (New York, Oxford: Berghahn, 1999). Local studies inform Richard J. Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich (London: Allen Lane, 2003) and Roderick Stackelberg, The Routledge Companion to Nazi Germany (London: Routledge, 2007), summarizes recent research on Nazism.

For fascism outside Europe, the most interesting book from a social movement perspective is Stein Ugelvik Larsen (ed.), Fascism Outside Europe: The European Impulse Against Domestic Conditions in the Diffusion of Global Fascism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001).

Women’s history provides important insights into fascism as a social movement. Two classics are Claudia Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family and Nazi Politics (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988); Victoria De Grazia, How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy, 1922–1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993); Kevin Passmore (ed.), Women, Gender and the Extreme Right in Europe (1919–1945) (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), includes chapters on the role of women in far right movements in most European countries.

Some of the most interesting recent works on fascism focus on its culture of violence. The best work is Sven Richardt’s comparing Italy and Germany. The following are available in English: Sven Reichardt, ‘Fascist Marches in Italy and Germany: Squadre and SA before the Seizure of Power’, in Matthias Reiss (ed.), The Street as Stage: Protest Marches and Public Rallies Since the Nineteenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 169–193; Sven Reichardt, ‘Violence and Community: A Micro-Study on Nazi Storm Troopers’, Central European History 2 (2013), pp. 275–297; Sven Reichardt, ‘Violence, Body, Politics: Paradoxes in Interwar Germany’, in Chris Millington and Kevin Passmore (eds), Political Violence and Democracy in Interwar Europe, 1918–1940 (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2015).

Other works are more explicitly transnational in focus. For instance, Robert Gerwarth, ‘The Central European Counter-Revolution: Paramilitary Violence in Germany, Austria and Hungary after the Great War’, Past & Present 1 (2008), pp. 175–209, defines a space of violence in Germany and Hungary; Robert Gerwarth and John Horne, ‘Vectors of Violence: Paramilitarism in Europe after the Great War, 1917–1923’, The Journal of Modern History 3 (2011), pp. 489–512.

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Passmore, K. (2017). Fascism as a Social Movement in a Transnational Context. In: Berger, S., Nehring, H. (eds) The History of Social Movements in Global Perspective. Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-30427-8_20

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