• The Unification of Italy in 1870 could not bring about the desired changes in the economic conditions of Italy. Instead, it got even worse in early part of the 20th century when Italy got involved in a costly World war I. Economic crisis was very much intertwined with political instability as an unstable government was unable to provide a solid way out of economic crisis that Italy was in.
  • However, the tipping point for Italy was the unfair treatment it received in the ‘Paris Peace Conference’. High rate of unemployment made situation even more volatile as there was severe discontentment among the masses against the incumbent government. It was in this condition that Mussolini rose to the power through an organized mass demonstration, popularly known as ‘March on Rome’.
  • Fascism was never defined properly by philosophers as an ideology. It emanated as a set of policies that collectively defined a regime that can be called as a Fascist regime. Mussolini adopted certain set of principles and policies that was called as a Fascist regime, but that can be different from Fascism of other power like such as Hitler, Franco (Spain), Salazar (Portugal) and Peron (Argentina).
    • The term Fascism is derived from Latin word fasces which stood for ‘symbols of authority’ in Ancient Rome. Also, the German version of Fascism is known as Nazism.
Political Spectrum

Definition of Fascism

Mussolini’s Fascist Doctrine

Stable and Authoritarian Government

  • The Fascists believed that an authoritarian government would help in curbing divisive factions and would provide sole leadership to the people. It will ensure stable government and control as many aspects of people’s lives as possible with strong discipline.

Extreme Nationalism

  • The Fascists believed in the concepts of racial superiority and according to them, a race which was superior had every right to govern the inferior races. For the development of humanity, a developed and culturally superior race had every right to develop the resources of culturally inferior and underdeveloped nations.
  • As per them, Superiority among the nationalities for their nation would usher the new wave of confidence in the country and its policies. This will bring back the lost luster of the past ages.

One-party State

  • Democratic ideals were not in line with the demand of the then economic scenario which demanded quick and firm decision making. They presumed only fascism could provide the necessary dynamic action to guarantee Italy a great future.
  • Presence of charismatic leader was one of the prime features for the success of Fascism as it symbolized the uniformity in principle and firmness in action. Therefore, Mussolini did not see himself as a Prime Minister or President – instead he took the title “II Duce (the leader)“.

Economic Self-Sufficiency (Autarky)

  • It can be defined as an economic system of self-sufficiency and limited trade. A country is said to be in a complete state of autarky if it has a closed economy. In this system, government must direct the economic life of the nation.

New Medium were Used for Propaganda

  • Different methods were used to disseminate fascists propaganda. For example, uniforms, marches, songs and displays were used to demonstrate fascist’s novelty and superiority over the boring and old-fashioned traditional parties in order to mobilize mass support behind the heroic leader.

Military Strength and Violence

  • Opponents and dissents were suppressed and threatened by the use of power. They believed that aggressive foreign policy could only be taken through the portrayal of massive army strength.
Characteristics Of Fascism

Growth of Fascism: Reasons

Reasons that contributed to Mussolini’s rise and maintain his long term control on the state, are:

Political Reason

Unfair Treatment by Allies in Paris Peace Conference

  • Italy entered into World War I on the promise of being given the territory demanded by her. However, this did not happen on stipulated line and Italy was not given the territory as promised. For example, Albania, a promised territory, was made independent and some others were given to Yugoslavia. This was a matter of shame for Italy government.

New Form of Election

  • System of proportional representation was adopted which ensured a certain number of seats in the parliament to many different parties with their varied ideologies (Liberal, communist, Socialist, Nationalist, Catholic). This resulted in weaker form of government, as coalition form of government generally did not come to coherent views on any national issue. This created a lot of frustration with the government as it failed to put the economy on track.

Waves of Strikes in 1919 and 1920

  • The industrialization of Italy in the years after unification led to the development of a strong socialist party and trade unions. Their way of protesting at the mess the country was in was to organize a wave of strikes in 1919 and 1920.
  • These were accompanied by rioting, looting of shops and occupation of factories by workers. In Turin, factory councils reminiscent of the Russian soviets were appearing. In the south, socialist leagues of farm workers seized land from wealthy landowners and set up co-operatives.

Mussolini’s Swing of Character

  • Politically he began his career as a socialist. In 1919, he founded the fascist party with a socialist and republican programme. Fascist implied a bunch of thing which was against monarchy, Church and big businesses. By the end of 1921, even he started to gain confidence of property owners in general, because they saw him as a guarantee of law and order and as a protector of their property.
  • Consequently, as the communist party came into existence, his anti business stand started to lose its strength. Mussolini also began to make conciliatory speeches about the Roman Catholic Church, as he knew that the power could not be wielded completely without good relationship with the church. Since, church also saw communist rise as a threat to their religious ethos, they found in him the security to their religious tradition and culture. Also, once Mussolini assured the Pope of non-interference of religion and state, they got naturally swayed by his propositions (Lateran Treaty). He also had dropped the republican part of his programme, thus, eliminating any fear to the Monarchy. This convinced the king to his favor. Mussolini had swung from the extreme left to the extreme right. He, thus, provided an alternative to the existing system with the promise of a strong and stable government at the centre.

Laws that favored Mussolini Regime

  • Acerbo Law 1923: This law ensured the long term stay of Fascist regime in Italy. It ended the system of proportional representation in parliament and the party with maximum votes will get automatically two-third of seats in the parliament. This ensured that he could utilize his popularity among the electorate to assume absolute power.
  • Constitutional Amendment: Prime Minister was made responsible to the King and not to the parliament. Parliament approval was not required for passing laws. Number of electorate was reduced to make sure that only few (wealthy) people could vote, thus favouring the anticommunist, Fascist party.
  • Lateran Treaty (1929): It was meant to increase the understanding between Pope and Mussolini. Under this Treaty, Vatican City was given a sovereign status and Italy adopted catholic faith as the state religion and religious instruction was made compulsory in school. In return, Pope recognized the Kingdom of Italy. It was a master stroke by Mussolini as he finally ensured no resistance from religious society.
  • Corporate State: To end the class warfare between the workers and the employer , he formed a corporate state which was a platform for the trade union and employer association to solve any dispute and grievances amicably. Strikes were made illegal and only Fascist trade union was allowed to negotiate any terms on this platform. However, to lure workers and to convince them of a better deal, lots of sops were given in terms of leisure , increased wages etc.
  • Administrative Changes: Local government was to be no more ruled by councils and mayor . Instead of that, appointed officials were to govern the city. Anything that was published or broadcasted against the Fascist party was censored and editors were gradually replaced by pro-Fascist editors. Propagandist approach was adopted in school where children were indoctrinated with Fascist ideologies and were encouraged to join youth organizations . Extremist Nationalism was promoted among them.

Lack of Cooperation Among his Opposition

  • The communists refused to cooperate with the socialists. Giovanni Giolitti (Nationalist bloc), the then Prime Minister, ignored the violence created by his party expecting his support in the parliament to achieve majority in the next election. Had the Socialists cooperated with the nationalists, fascists might have lost its popularity. This spate among them worked in favor of Mussolini Fascist party.

March on Rome

  • The Communists had announced a general strike in 1922 against the apathetic conditions of workers. However, Mussolini opposed it vehemently and declared his open warning to government that if they cannot prevent the country from such mass strike, he will do it by himself. Supported by his “black shirt” squads, he was successful in reflecting the inefficacy of the strike.
  • However, it was not Mussolini control tactics that made strike ineffective, rather the strike itself could not gather mass support. He used this opportunity to show himself as the savior of Italy and a strong force against the communism. This not only undermined the popularity of then Prime Minister but also made him famous among masses. In effect, the King invited him to form the government.

Economic Reasons

Poor Economic State

  • Effects of the war on the economy was disastrous. Not only did the manufacturing sector take a big hit but also there were lot of loans on Italy that mandated huge amount of interest pay-off. Standard of living was massively compromised and widespread unemployment had created mass dissatisfaction among masses for incumbent government.

Communist Role

  • Frequent strikes called in factories by the Communists had a weakening effect on the economy. It also led to looting, rioting and a state of social unrest in Italy. Landlords were evicted from their estate and soviet type of organisation started to crop up.
  • Also, formation of the communist party in 1921 indicated growing clout of communist force, which was a threat to the existing industrial class present in Italy. Business class community started to support Mussolini who started to raise voice against the communists.

Social Reasons

Racial Policy

  • It was never a reason for his rise to the power in the state, but later on, his Radical Nationalist idea took the form of a racial basis. Much was done under the influence of Hitler, as they collaborated in Second World War. He was not at all anti-Jewish at the beginning of his government. In fact, he was very critical of the Nazis’ anti-Semitism.
  • However, he considered that the Italians belonged to the Aryan race that was superior to such nationalities as Spaniards and Greeks, as well as to the Africans in the Italian territories of Abyssinia and Libya. He was afraid that as their descendants intermarried with the pure Aryans over many generations, a wrong impression of the Italian national character would be given to the rest of the world.
  • As he moved towards the full alliance with Germany with the signing of ‘the Pact of Steel’ in May 1939, Mussolini moved quickly to emulate Hitler. In July 1938, the Charter of Race was published which claimed that Arabs, Africans and Jews were all inferiors.

Fascism: A Critical Analysis


Economic Growth

  • Industrial growth dominated development was a peculiar aspect of the Fascist government of Mussolini. Subsidies were given to some of the critical industries which were genuinely in need of some state help.
  • Iron and steel industries, artificial silk, textile sector and hydropower, all received a boost in their growth.


  • Principle autarky implied self-sufficiency, of which food growth production increment was extremely critical. He initiated a programme- “battle of wheat” to increase the production of wheat, even at the cost of dairy farming or horticulture. He was successful in increasing the wheat production enormously.

Land reclamation

  • More land was required to increase the production, thus marshes were drained to claim more land under crop production.

Public Programme

  • The idea was to increase investment in public goods so as to provide employment on mass scale and also increase the human and physical infrastructure of the country .

After-Work Organizations

  • The ‘after work’ organization attempted to provide multiple sources to spend time in leisure. This was a mechanism to reflect the high living standard of the masses and provide labour class a reason not to get disenchanted with the rule .

Currency Manipulation

  • Manipulation of currency value to make trade in favor of Italy. Value of Lira (currency of Italy) was increased in comparison to pound, so as to make import cheaper and export costlier. Idea was to promote industries with cheap import of raw materials and capital goods.


Shortage of Raw Materials

  • By 1940, it was clear that Italy had failed to become self-sufficient in coal, oil and steel, which was essential if Mussolini was serious about waging a war. This failure meant that Italy became increasingly dependent economically on Nazi Germany.


  • Currency manipulation hit the exports significantly. Although few industries like chemical, iron and steel gained momentum, but many others suffered big losses, due to non-competitive prices in the international market.

Economic Crisis of 1929

  • Huge amount of loans were taken from US and the Wall Street crisis had a direct impact on supply credit to Italy. It also led to a slump in the industrial output leading to a massive increase in unemployment. Since country was not export dependent, there was no easy way out of this economic mess. Living standard started dropping fast and inflation rose astronomically.

Failure of Social Security

  • No official Health insurance until 1943 and infective unemployment insurance.

Corrupt Regime

  • Officials were corrupt and single leader control was not able to put restrictions on people’s greed.

Over Centralization

  • Mussolini’s idea of taking every small thing under his personal control was a disaster. Delegation of power was inadequate and extremely slow. Rome formed the place to administer the entire country.


  • Industrial north got richer while the south was left behind because of its agricultural economy, which itself was changed to monoculture cropping system (wheat) from profitable horticulture and dairy farming.

Benefits Fascism Brought to Italy

  • Much of fascist policy was concerned with the economy, though Mussolini knew very little about economics. The big drive was for self-sufficiency which was thought to be essential for a warrior-nation. A great nation must not be dependent on any other nation for vital commodities like raw materials and food supplies. He liked to see things in terms of struggle – hence the various battles for the lira, wheat and for births. The early years seemed successful or so the government propaganda told people.
    • Industry was encouraged with government subsidies wherever necessary.
    • Mussolini believed that Italy must have a strong currency if it wanted to be a strong state. He revalued the lira at 90 to the pound sterling instead of 150. This policy made imports cheaper while making Italian exports costlier.
    • The battle of wheat encouraged farmers to concentrate on wheat production and raised tariffs on imported wheat as part of the drive for self-sufficiency.
    • The battle of births launched in 1927 was a campaign to increase birth rate. It was believed that for a country like Italy the then population was really less and for a better army growing population was important.
    • An impressive public works programme was designed among other things to reduce unemployment.
    • To promote the image of Italy as a great power, Mussolini pursued a robust foreign policy, although in the later 1920 s and early 1930s he was much more cautious.

Reasons for Overthrow of Mussolini

Entry into the Second World

  • People were getting restless by the end of 1930’s. Mussolini’s inclination towards Hitler’s ideology was evident by his step to discriminating against the Jews. It had not been Fascist ideologue. Moreover, Mussolini’s decision to fight with Germany, when it was economically and militarily ill prepared for any long drawn war was disaster.

Suffering of Masses

  • Mussolini rose to the power by making governance as the issue. However, even to the end of his regime there was no stark improvement in standards of masses. Taxes were increased to pay for the war, there was food rationing, massive inflation and a 30 percent fall in real wages. After November 1942, there were British bombing raids on major cities.

Loss of Charismatic Appeal

  • Mussolini refused to make peace because that would have meant deserting Hitler. The Fascist Grand Council turned against Mussolini and the king dismissed him.

Humiliating Defeats in World War II

  • Italians suffered string of defeats culminating in the surrender of Italian troops in North Africa.

Weimar Republic

Weimar Republic and Hitler

  • The defeat of “Imperial Germany ” in World War 1 and the abdication of the emperor Kaizer Wilhelm II to Holland gave an opportunity to reconfigure German polity. In January 1919, a general election was held, the first completely democratic one ever to take place in Germany. The Social Democrats emerged as the largest single party and Friedrich Ebert became the first President of the German republic. It was not famous among the masses and a recurrent attempt to bring it down was made. Even before the government could be formed by social democrats, a communist uprising “Spartacist rising” had attempted to seize the power in January 1919.
  • A National Assembly met at Weimar and established a democratic constitution with a federal structure. Deputies were now elected to the German Parliament or Reichstag. This republic, however, was not received well by its own people.

Anti-Weimar Feeling

  • Many Germans held the new Weimar Republic responsible for not only the defeat in the war but also for the disgrace at Versailles. Primary reason for the unpopularity of new form of government structure was:
    • The peace treaty at Versailles was not only strident but also humiliating for the people of Germany.
    • The War guilt Clause held Germany responsible for the war.
    • The treaty also demanded Germany to demilitarize to a great extent which not only made it vulnerable to future aggressions but also inflicted moral defeat on them.
    • Germany was forced to pay heavy and unfair compensation amounts.
    • To make the matter worse, even the source of income for Germany , the resource rich Rhineland , which could have been used to pay the heavy amount of indemnity it was supposed to pay , was overtaken by the allied nations.
  • Weimar form of government lasted till 1933, when Hitler finally took over. Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazis – NSDAP) were constantly raising voices against the inefficacy of the incumbent government and claimed to provide an alternative form of solution to the problems of Germany.

Reasons for Failure of Weimar Republic

Political Reasons

  • Inherent Weakness in the System
    • German nationalists could never forgive the authority at the helm of the system for accepting humiliating treaty of Versailles.
    • Traditional lack of respect for democratic government as people firmly believed that army would not have been defeated, had the democrats not accepted the Treaty of Versailles.
    • There was a problem with the new Parliamentary system as the proportional representation system, though intended to provide representation to all section of society. It moreover led to the coalition politics thus, impeding the fast policy legislation and execution.
    • Multiple parties formed a government in German parliament (Reichstag) which always tried to promote their own agenda. Before the Weimar system, chancellor was responsible to no one, and could take any final decision. However, in the present system, the chancellor was responsible to Reichstag.

Violent Outbursts

  • Spartacist Rising (1919): It was a communist uprising against the government. It had occupied almost every major city in Germany, except Berlin, where they were defeated by the private anti-communist force (Freikorps ), hired by the Chancellor of Germany. It not only reflected weakness in the state police machinery but also the increasing power held by the private army.
  • Kapp Putsch (March 1920): It was in defiance of an order passed by the government to ban the private right wing armies (Freikorps). It tried to bring down the government by conducting a coup and seize the power. Berlin was eventually occupied by them and they declared Dr Wolfgang Kapp as the Chancellor. The German army (Reichswehr) took no action against the Putsch (coup)as they favored right wing too.
  • Political Assassinations by ex-Freikorps members and the impunity enjoyed by the army and the court made them attack communists without any fear. This was not considered as an act of terrorism and they faced hardly any hindrance from government.
  • Hitler ’s Beer-Hall Putsch: Hitler was helped by General Ludendorff, in its pursuit to take control of the Bavarian state government in Munich in 1923, and then lead a national revolution to overthrow the government in Berlin. It was a revolt against the French occupation of Ruhr valley. Though, he could not succeed in his ambition, he provided an alternative vision to the common people.
  • Private Armies’: Idea of keeping a standing private army to protect their political party and to an extent spoil other such political groups. There were constant clashes between communist and Nazi groups. All this showed that the government was incapable of keeping law and order.
  • Alternative-Hitler and the Nazis: Poor economic condition of Germany increasingly made Nazis famous among the masses as they seemed to be the only way out. More unstable the economy became the more seats the Nazis won in the Reichstag.

Hitler: A Chancellor

  • In 1932, the Nationalist party won the largest vote share but could not achieve majority in the parliament. So, they invited Nazi party to form coalition. Though Hitler was initially offered vice chancellorship , he could manipulate the situation to be finally offered the designation of Chancellor.
  • The right wing was in favor of Hitler because they were afraid of increasing power of Hitler and the eventual coup that may take place. Also, right wing party wanted political power of a kind that existed before Weimar Republic came into being. Beside, Nazis also belonged to right wing ideology, thus would provide stability to the government.
  • Controlling communist growth would be made much easier with Hitler on their side. There was a common perception that Hitler could be persuaded as a friend but could not be controlled once outside the party.
  • Hitler was, therefore, able to come to power. All the other parties were so preoccupied with the threat from the communists that they did not sufficiently recognize the danger from the Nazis, and so failed to unite in opposition to them.

Economic Reasons

  • Economic Problems: This was one of the prime reasons for failure of republic, as it failed to control inflation and generate employment opportunities.
  • In 1919, cost of World War I was too much for Germany to bear easily. Germany was under huge burden of war indemnity. Also, loans further taken for its national growth had brought her in heavy financial burden of regular interest payment . Over that, prosperous industrial area like Rhur was taken by Allied forces that further crippled Germany of any continuous source of income. Inflation was so high that the currency lost its value and employment opportunities were scarce. The working classes were badly hit as wages failed to keep pace with inflation and trade union funds were wiped out. The worst affected were the middle classes and small capitalists who lost their savings. Many began to look towards the Nazis for improvement.
  • The Dawes plan (besides other things, it relaxed the fixed reparation payments and in effect allowed the Germans to pay what they could afford) brought some sort of immediate relief and brought the much needed stability to the German economy. Another plan, known as Young plan reduced the reparation burden.

Devaluation of Currency

  • This economic stability was very much US dependent as all loans that were being advanced were primarily financed by them. The Wall Street crisis had direct impact on the quantum and quality of loan terms. A brief period of economic relief soon disappeared. Again, confidence in currency was shaken. Its export felt due to the global demand slump and unemployment started to soar as industries were being closed. Stresemann, who had been forerunner in economic resurgence of Germany for last 8 years, died in 1929.
  • Government of Catholic Centre Party started to reduce social services, unemployment benefit, the salaries and pensions of government officials and also stopped reparations payments. Moreover, high tariffs were introduced to keep out foreign foodstuffs and thus help German farmers, while the government bought shares in factories hit by the slump . However, the working-class support was lost because of increasing unemployment. The reduction in unemployment benefit was a serious blow to the republic.

Social Reasons

  • Reasons for popularity of Nazis among the masses:
    • They offered economic solution to the masses by exposing the real culprit – Marxist, Jesuits, Freemasons and Jews for all dreadful conditions of Germany post- World War I. He popularized the idea that army could have fought more, but the execution of the armistice was the cause of all problems.
    • National pride was to be brought by overthrowing of the Versailles settlement, which was so unpopular with most Germans. Also, to make Germany great again, it was decided to include all Germans ( in Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland) into the Reich.
    • Nazi private army, the SA (Sturmabteilung – Stonn Troopers), was attractive to young people out of work; it gave them a small wage and a uniform.
    • Business class and landlord favored Nazis as they feared communists more than anything. In Nazis, they saw protection from the communists by provision of law and order.
    • Hitler’s personal abilities were remarkable. He could easily vocalize all his emotion in much directed way through his fiery oratory skill. He not only provided an alternative of strong leadership but also provided a chance to create an anti-communal, strong and stable government.
    • Striking contrasts between the Nazis and government of Weimar republic made choice for the people much easier as they could easily take one side or another.
    • Nazis private troops were successful in suppressing the opponents and dissident. Loyalty to Hitler was of utmost important.

National Socialism

  • It is commonly known as Nazism. It is the ideology and set of practices associated with the 20th century German Nazi Party. Usually characterized as a form of fascism that incorporates scientific racism (justifying racism) and anti-Semitism (prejudice against the Jews), Nazism’s development was influenced by German nationalism the Volkisch movement and the anti-Communist Freikorps paramilitary groups that emerged during the Weimar Republic after Germany’s defeat in the First World War.
  • It is a totalitarian system, characterized by intense nationalism. It believed in the idea of social Darwinism, which is a philosophy underlining “survival of the fittest ” theory. It is simply one of several varieties of socialism.
  • As a political party, it controlled Germany from 1933-1945 under Adolf Hitler, resulting in World War II and a campaign of mostly anti-Jewish and racist politics, resulting in genocide.
  • It entailed a blend of nationalist ideology and national identity with social radicalism, in which liberal values were subjugated to the will of the state, which was in turn, concentrated in an individual.

General Principles

  • Radical Nationalism: Radical nationalism was a trademark of his party. Idea to bring entire social class under one national identity was its prime objective. All classes in society must be united into a ‘national community ’ (Volksgemeinschaft) to make Germany a great nation again and restore the national pride.
  • State was Supreme: Individual interest was subservient to national interest. It was a totalitarian state in which propaganda had a vital role to play. Central government would play an important role.
  • War a means to Greatness: War was a means to achieve the greatness, hence military strength was critical. Racial Discrimination: He divided mankind into Aryan and Non Aryan race. The Aryans were the Germans, ideally tall, blond, blue eyed and handsome. They were the master race destined to rule the world. All the rest, such as Slaves, coloured people and particularly Jews, were inferior.

Consolidation of Hitler’s Power

  • In January 1933, he was the Chancellor of a coalition government of National Socialists and nationalists. However, he aspired absolute power which he could achieve only through another general election.
  • Election of 5 March 1933: Since they already formed the part of coalition, the Nazis were able to use all the apparatus of state, including the press and the radio to influence the majority in favor of the Nazis. Senior police officers were replaced by SA (Schutzstaffel) and SS (Schutzstaffel), which owed loyalty to Hitler and not to the government in Berlin. Police was asked not to deal with SA and SS harshly while communists should be dealt ruthlessly.
  • Reichstag Fire: A Dutch anarchist was blamed for the fire hazard that took over the Reichstag. However, it is also believed that SA knew about this plan and did not do anything to prevent it. In fact, it is believed to be complicit in this fire “accident”. Idea was to create the common sense of fear and anger against the communists, who were to be blamed for this. Since the historic building was burnt, so it was reflected, symbolically as an attack on the principles it had stood for.
  • Even these political tactics could not win him absolute majority in the election. Thus, he resorted to all of a different approach to gather complete strength. He came up with set of laws that were to advance his idea of absolute authority.

Enabling Law (1933)

  • Hitler wanted official accountability to be limited only to the Nazis and not to any other political party or the parliament. He convinced the President Hindenburg to grant set of absolute power urgently for the better execution of the policies and prevent Germany from the immediate abyss that it was destined to, if not taken care of . Hitler apparently persuaded him that emergency legislation was vital to prevent a communist uprising.
  • Known as the Enabling Law, this legislation was forced through the Reichstag on 23 March 1933, and it was this that provided the legal basis of Hitler’s power. Such a major constitutional change needed approval by a two-thirds majority, which the Nazis did not have, yet they used force to let the bill being passed forcibly. The Bill primarily stated that
    • The government was empowered to introduce laws without the approval of the Reichstag for the next four years.
    • Constitutional supremacy was diluted and power to sign agreements with foreign countries was granted.
    • All laws would be drafted by the Chancellor and come into operation the day they were published.
    • Since his will was now law, he would be able to extend the four-year period indefinitely.
  • This implied that Hitler gave himself absolute power for the next four years and laid the ground for a dictatorial regime. To make his regime from authoritarian to totalitarian, he introduced the policy of Gleichschaltung (forcible coordination) which turned Germany into a totalitarian or a fascist state. It abolished the chancellorship and ministerial role. Public life was to be regulated by using state secret police force (Gestapo).

Features of Nazism

Political Features

  • It became a single party state (Nazi party) as all other parties were banned.
  • Separate state parliaments (Lander) still existed but their power were of nominal nature. Most of their functions were taken over by a Nazi Special Commissioner appointed by the central Berlin government. It implied that all provincial and local elections were stopped.
  • Civil Services were made free of all “anti-state” elements like Jews as they were considered enemies to the state.
  • Germany was a police state SS and the Gestapo formed two adjunct arms of the state police. Any form of opposition or dissent was suppressed brutally. The law courts were partial thus inflicting unfair treatment to ‘enemies of the state”. Concentration camps introduced by Hitler in 1933 was ghastly representation of a police state.
  • He projected himself as a divine leader with strong ethics and firm attitude. He adopted the title of “fuhrer”.

Social Features

  • Education system was highly regulated and indoctrinated school children with radical ideals.
    • Pro-Hitler propaganda and information pertaining to racial supremacy of Aryans and hatred for homophobic people and Jews were imparted.
    • State Secret Police kept close look-out on the dynamics between teacher and child. Any sort of anti-Nazi stance, either by teacher or by a student was to be severely punished.
    • Separate organizations for Boys (Hitler Youth) and Girls (League of German Maidens)were made to train them from a young age of 14.
    • Jews children were taken out of school.
    • Sloganeering was promoted among them to promote loyalty towards their “Fuhrer”.
  • Media was highly regulated and was used for personal advantage through broadcasting the Nationalist ideology of Nazi party.
  • Religion was under the state control to avoid any form of resistance from them. According to concordat Treaty signed between Hitler and Pope, mutual interference was avoided. However in 1937, Pope Pius XI issued an Encyclical (a letter to be read out in all Roman Catholic churches in Germany) in which he condemned the Nazi movement for being ‘hostile to Christ and his Church’. Hitler on his part started sending priests and nuns to the concentration camps.
  • Hitler’s anti-Semitic (anti-Jewish) policy:
    • Although Jews constituted less than 1% of Germany population, Hitler still used them as an excuse for everything bad happening to Germany viz., the humiliation at Versailles, the depression, unemployment and communism. He began by talking in terms of racial purity – the Aryan race, especially the Germans, must be kept free from contamination by the non-Aryan Jews. This is why they must be cleared out of Germany. He linked communism primarily with Jews, as leading Russian Bolsheviks were Jewish. The campaign against the Jews was authenticated by passing Nuremberg laws (1935). It deprived Jews of German citizenship, barred marrying any non-Jew to a Jew and a person with even single lineage of Jew ethnicity were to be considered as Jew.
    • Until 1938, discrimination and injustices met to Jews were implicitly done, so as to prevent any unnecessary foreign reaction. However, after 1938, he adopted overt and rigid line to, literally torture Jews. Eventually, what Hitler called his ‘Final Solution’ of the Jewish problem was to exterminate the entire Jewish race. The Holocaust, as it came to be known, was the worst and most shocking of the many crimes against humanity committed by the Nazi regime.

Economic Features

  • Trade Union was replaced by a single German Labour Front under Nazi control. All workers compulsorily had to be affiliated with it. Strikes were banned and government adopted the responsibility of addressing all the problems of worker class.
  • Economic self sufficiency was to be attained by reducing unemployment and increasing export over its Import. (The policy is known as autarky). The idea was to put the economy onto a war footing, so that all the materials necessary for waging war could be produced, as far as possible, in Germany itself. The Four – Year Plan was introduced in 1936. The purpose of the plan was:
    • Regulating industrial produce,
    • Encouraging farmers to increase agricultural yields,
    • Controlling food prices and rents,
    • Engineered foreign exchange rates to avoid inflation,
    • Increasing expenditure on armaments,
    • Heavy Public expenditure etc .


  • Hitler policies had mass appeal:
    • Farmer: Self sufficiency in food was emphasized with reasonable prices fixed for their produce.
    • Workers: Subsidized holidays, sops for leisure expenditure etc. made him famous among the worker class. Also, unemployment was brought largely under control.
    • Businessman: Better law and order condition provided them stability of the economy. Also, they were protected from communist ideals which could have been a great threat for private property.
    • Army: Hitlers policy of keeping aside the restrictions of the Versailles Treaty by rearmament and expansion of the army to its full strength made him famous among high generals . Nazis were inducted in heavy number in lower ranks of army, which provided them mass army support.
  • He was tactical in dealing with some of the convoluted problems (ex Rhom killing), which brought him into a good image of army.

Fascism in Japan

  • After the Fascists came into picture in Italy, several other countries which faced severe economic troubles turned to right-wing nationalism or Fascism. Japan was one such nation which came under Fascist rule as the democratic government, after economic boom till 1921, faced severe political and economic issue. Japan came under military dictatorship in the early 1930’s as the Japanese military got involved in the war with China which gave a boost to its imperialistic campaigns in China.
  • For the next 13-14 years, the Japanese army more or less ran the country and used similar methods to those adopted in Italy and Germany. The rule witnessed ruthless suppression of communists, assassination of opponent leaders, tight control of education with a focus on extreme form of nationalism, a build-up of armaments and an aggressive foreign policy which aimed at territorial expansion in Asia to serve as markets for Japanese exports and to get cheap raw materials for its industries.

Reasons for Growth of Dictatorship in Japan

Political Reason

  • Democracy became Unpopular Among Elites: American economic success had convinced Japanese that the form of a polity had a great and direct relation to the economic success of a nation. Thus, attempt was made to outsource the American system of polity, bringing in the constitutions and representative form of government. In Japan, it took the form of an elected lower house of parliament (the Diet).
  • The first elections were held and the Diet met in 1890. However, emperor still maintained the real power over many critical issues. After the First World War 1, the army and the conservatives, who were strongly entrenched in the house of Peers and in the Privy Council, became extremely critical of democratic government.
  • Corrupt Politicians: Political class became corrupt and complicit in unfair practices. This eroded faith in the system.

Economic Reason

  • End of Trade Boom: Japan had prospered enormously by exporting during war times . However, by 1921, when Europe started to recover, demand for Japanese product started falling. In Japan, unemployment and industrial unrest developed, and at the same time farmers were hit by the rapidly falling price of rice caused by a series of bumper harvests. This created lot of unrest among masses who could not find any solution from the government.
  • World Economic Crisis: Japanese export fell enormously and trade protectionism throughout the world made Japanese products even more expensive. America that formed its prime market was badly hit by the recession, thus demand for consumer goods got reduced to a miniscule amount. Even farmers, who relied on rice and silk export, were badly hit. There was massive poverty, especially in the north, for which factory workers and peasants blamed the government and big businesses.

Strategic Reason

  • Situation in Manchuria; By 1931, China had started to crush Japanese investments in Manchuria, a large province of China, in which Japan had valuable investments and trade. It was happening at the time when Japan was already suffering from economic crisis and was hit by the depression. To gain control over Manchurian situation, Japanese army units invaded and occupied Manchuria ( September 1931) without permission from the government.
  • This was a reflection of the authoritarian power of army, which did not value the government of the nation. The Japanese Prime Minister Inukai was assassinated by army once he opposed this unlawful act of army.
  • Once Manchuria was won over by army, their ambition started to increase and they adopted an aggressive foreign policy which aimed to capture territories in Asia to serve as markets for the Japanese exports. This motivated army to invade further into different Asian countries. Attack on china in 1937 and involvement in World War II was a part of this long term objective. Initially, the emperor was reluctant to participate in World War II but easy victory got by Germans in initial stages of war persuaded them to be a part of the World War.


  • Spain was a constitutional monarchy under Alfonso XIII (king since 1885). In 1921, the Spanish army was sent to put down a revolt in Morocco. It was a failed venture and the army was massacred by the Moors.
  • However, in 1923 , General Primo de Rivera, was successful in bringing down the revolt. He ruled for the next seven years, until he had to resign in 1931 when army withdrew its support from him, in the backdrop of widespread protests by masses against the economic misery. King was also made to abdicate in 1931 thus paving way for the republic in place of monarchy.

Reasons for Spanish Civil War

Political Reasons

  • Problems with the Republican System:
    • Catalonia and the Basque provinces wanted independence.
    • Church and Republic were in constant feud.
    • Army held too much of power and there was a constant fear of coup.
    • Falling wages, unemployment and declining standards of living affected masses. They gradually started to lose faith in the republic.

Catalonia and Basque

  • Right-Wing Opposition: The left increasingly got unpopular and there was regular confrontation with the right wing. Some of the major points of opposition were:
    • Compulsive retirement of many army personnel,
    • Nationalization of large estates,
    • Plan to increase the wages of industrial workers.
    • Right-wing groups like – Church , army , landowners and industrialists were the prominent challenges.
  • Left-Wing Opposition: Two powerful left-wing groups, the anarchists and the syndicalists (a group of powerful trade unions), were completely against the capitalist economy and wanted to use general strikes as a tool for political purpose. They disliked the socialists for co-operating with the middleclass radical groups. They organized strikes, riots and assassinations. There was constant squabble regarding this.
  • New Right-Wing Government: A new right-wing party, the Ceda, was formed to defend the Church and the landlords. It was against the progressive policies of the then Prime Minister and interfered with the working of Catalan government . However, they opposed the creation of independent government in Basques (although they were once supporters of far right). Left group (socialists, anarchists, syndicalists and now communists) in order to oppose the right inclining government, formed the Popular Front. Left got more revolutionary and there were many public revolt of violent nature. There was a general strike in 1934 and there were rebellions in Catalonia and Asturias. However, General Franco was able to curtail rebellions Asturias.
  • New Government Turned out to be Ineffective: In 1936, the Popular Front emerged victorious. A guard of the Republican ( left winger ) killed Calvo Sotelo, a right wing politician in 1936. This sent impression of left using state machinery to crush right dissent. In its defiance, a right wing Fascist party “Falange ” emerged under the leadership of Jose Antonio de Rivera. Their idea was to use army to throw the atheistic communists from government. Franco started to revolt in Morocco.

Civil War (1939)

  • It was a conflict between the left (republican ) and the right ( nationalist) . The Right controlled regions in north and area around Cadiz and Seville in south. Their attempt to capture Madrid and Barcelona was repressed by the republicans.
  • Republicans were responsible for killing innocent nuns and priests as they were supposedly on the side of right wing. General Franco was the one who revolted in Morocco and also provided a strategic leadership for the right . They (army, monarchist, church, Falangist) were prevented from being divided on different lines.
  • Different countries supported the faction of their ideologies. Right were supported by Italy and Germany. They provided help with troops, armaments, food and raw materials. In fact Germany was also involved in shelling bombs in of the region of Spain, killing around 1600 people. Russia, on the other hand supported the Republicans, despite declaring its non-interventionist role in war, along with France and Britain.
  • Around half million people lost their lives. The Republicans eventually started to lose and; Barcelona and the whole of Catalonia were captured in January Only Madrid remained in Republican hands and the war ended in March 1939 when Madrid surrendered to Franco’s forces.

Reasons for Nationalist Victory

  • Franco was not only skillful General but also an able leader.
  • Left failed to provide a united front prevented by internal squabbles ( for ex., Anarchist and Socialist fought over Barcelona).
  • External support to Franco was extremely critical.

Fascism in Spain

  • Franco had emerged as the undisputed leader of the right and he adopted extreme right position after the end of civil war. Though he adopted Fascist ideologues, still he allowed Church to prosper in his regime. Republicans tried to escape to France, but not everyone was successful and was captured and killed.

Features of Fascism in Spain

  • He took the title of Caudillo (leader) much like Fuehrer adopted by Hitler in Germany or II Duce by Mussolini. He established government on the same line as in Germany and Italy where repression, military courts and mass executions were common.
  • His regime supported the Church very much unlike the other Fascist rulers of that time. The Roman Catholic Church became the state Church.
  • Single party rule was attained by combining all the right wing under one regime (Falange) and banning all other political parties.
  • Strict censorship was imposed on all media and critics of the regime were sent to a concentration camp.
  • Nationalism was linked to traditional Spanish culture, for ex Sardana, the national dance of Catalonia, was banned because it was ‘not Spanish’. The use of the Galician, Catalan and Basque languages in official documents were forbidden.
  • Homosexuality and prostitution were made criminal offences. The entire Republic ’s legislation designed to improve the position of women in society was cancelled.
  • Economic isolation of Spain at least until 1950, after which it started to open up gradually.
  • Agriculture and Industry were promoted.
  • Franco kept Spain out of World War 2, despite the request by Hitler.
  • In 1960s, he got gentler with administration and reduced repressiveness of regime. For ex -military courts were abolished and elections were introduced for Parliament.
  • When Franco died, Juan Carlos became king, and soon showed that he was in favour of a return to allparty democracy. The first free elections were held in 1977.

Nazism, Fascism and Communism: A Comparison

Similarities between Nazism and Fascism

  • Supremacy of State: Fascism was essentially an extreme form of “Statism” i. e. focused on unquestioned respect and absolute elegance to a totalitarian state. They believed in militant nationalism, “Nothing against state and nothing above state”. Nazism also believed in the glorification of state, for them every individual merge himself in the state.
  • Opposition to Democracy: Both Fascism and Nazism were opposed to democracy because they both wanted centralized power unlike in a democracy where decentralization and delegation of powers is an essential feature.
  • Supremacy of Leader: Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler were the two most important and influential leaders of the Fascist Italy and the Nazi Germany respectively. The authority of the leader was not to be challenged and he was to be obeyed at any cost.
  • No Scope for Individual Liberty: According to Nazism, the state represents all individuals and their collective results and there was no place for individuals. Fascism considered liberty as a duty not as right; one cannot claim any liberty against the state.
  • Racial Superiority: Both Fascists and Nazis considered themselves as a superior race. They believed that it was their moral obligation to govern inferior races.
  • One Party System: Both believed in one party system as Fascist party and Nazi party were the only main parties in Italy and Germany respectively. They eliminated their rivals soon after getting into the power. They believe that more parties will destroy unity.
  • Anti-Communist: Both Nazis and Fascists were anticommunist.

Differences between Nazism and Fascism

  • Though there were many similarities in Nazism and Fascism but there were many differences between the two. Some of the important differences were:
  • Nazi Germany presented the theory of ‘Blood and soil’ (Blood and Boden in German). Blood symbolizes war and Soil symbolizes the country land and peasants were considered as the most refined quality of German race and were treated generously. Peasants had the highest birth rate in Germany and that was significant from military point of view. This kind of theory was absent in the Fascist Italy.
  • The Fascist Italy made compromise with religion. Mussolini signed Lateran treaty 1929 with the Vatican Pope. Though the Vatican was accepted as sovereign and Catholic faith was accepted as official religion, the Nationalist Socialist Germany made no compromises and it resorted to even brutal suppression in the conflict between the Nazi doctrine and clutches of church.
  • Nazism was constructed largely on ‘Racialism’ which had two core aspects i.e., Aryanism (German as master race) and anti-Semitism (anti-Jews).
  • The doctrine of ‘Racism’ was very dominant in Nazi Germany. Such dominance was not seen in Fascist Italy. The constitutional positions of Hitler and Mussolini were different. While Mussolini was the Prime Minister accountable to the King in theory i.e. He was the Head of Government and not of state whereas Hitler was both i.e. Head of Government as well as Head of State. Hitler was more powerful.
  • While the Fascist Italy supported the Capitalism and creation of a corporate state, such moves were absent in Nationalist Socialist Party as Nazi Germany was neither in favour of Communism nor Capitalism.
  • Nazism was more dogmatic, brutal and fanatical i .e. filled with excessive and single minded zeal. It was deeply entrenched. Fascists were also in support of war and took it as a natural duty of state.

Similarities between Communism and Fascism

  • Communism and Fascism, each gained popularity in various forms in the aftermath of the World War 1 and played an important part in the history of 20th century.
    • Both believed in state ownership of means of production.
    • Both believed in a totalitarian regime i.e. every aspect of socio-economic life of its people was regulated by the state. The state directed what needs to beproduced and how much was to be produced.
    • Both believed that society should be happy with better production of goods and services.
    • Both believed in single party system.
    • Both focused on self-sufficiency with regards to food production.
    • Both believed in aggressive foreign policy using war as a tool for enhancing nation’s glory.
Communism and Fascism
Nazism and Fascism

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