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Nazism vs Fascism

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Compare and contrast Nazi and Italian Fascist views on race and national identity

Despite both pertaining to the political ideology of fascism and sharing many similar characteristics, the regimes of Nazi Germany and Italy under Mussolini can be seen to differ slightly. One aspect where this becomes apparent is views on race; the differences in attitudes and policy with regards to race for both examples must be discussed as it provides a key distinction between Nazism and Italy’s own brand of Facismo. With regards to national identity, it is possible to concede that both regimes share similar characteristics; however they attempt to achieve their goals of national identity in fundamentally different ways. The central thesis of this paper will contend that Italian Fascism’s views on race contradict that of the Nazi’s, and that while similar aspects and views of national identity are held, there are differing means of establishing national identity. Moreover, this paper will illustrate that Nazism and Italian Fascism are in fact unique phenomena. Examples and evaluative comment will be provided in order to provide a clear comparison and distinction.
Firstly, comparison between Italian and Nazi views on race must be discussed at they provide notable differentiation. Racial theory proved to be of paramount importance to 19th century German science and academics which strongly influenced Nazi ideology, ‘Volkish theorists found a theory of race in the writings of Kant which was based primarily on geographic factors and held that geographically determined racial characteristics were accompanied by an “inner life force”, this Kantian tenet was applied in correlating landscape and the Volk soul’ (Mosse 1981:89). Volkish theory such as this thereby set the scene for Social Darwinism as values of superiority and inferiority became established and ultimately the creation of an Aryan criterion as ‘various techniques were applied in order to relate external characteristics to internal qualities in a more systematic way’ (Mosse 1981:89). Moreover, De Gobineau’s theory stated races would rise to power if they were in their purest form, however must not be ‘contaminated’, thus emphasising the need for a pure race. This Volkish philosophy and discourse combined with Social Darwinism and influence from the likes of H.S Chamberlain provided huge inspiration for the identification of a Jewish enemy, an enemy which the Third Reich would attempt to destroy during the Holocaust. The creation of the Herrenvolk or ‘master race’ and Untermenschen or ‘underclass’ illustrated Nazi obsession with the socially constructed concept of race and this thereby paved way for the implementation of brutal racial policy. ‘The basic ideology of National Socialism grounded in the racist (Volkisch) laws of life and custom has general validity for the interpretation and assessment of existing laws and agreements. and it defines the content of the concepts of 'good faith' and of 'good morals' (Ruthers 1973:219) therefore illustrating the way in which race played such as huge part in the cultivation of German identity.
‘In the theory of the folk-Reich (volkisches Reich), people and state are conceived as an inseparable unity. The people is the prerequisite for the entire political order; the state does not form the people but the people moulds the state out of itself as the form in which it achieves historical permanence’ (Huber 1939:155). In this excerpt from his work Constitutional Law of the Greater German Reich, Huber advocates the desire for national unity; the Volk would form part of the union of the party and the Fuhrer. It was the combinations of these concepts by which the Nazi’s believed the means to cultivate national consciousness and reinforce their concept of national identity. This in turn becomes racialised as those deemed not Volk are immediately excluded from the political union. Similarly, Beck’s commentary on race provides evidence for the awakening of national consciousness through pre-determined biology; ‘Race and people belong together. National Socialism has restored the concept of the people from its modern shallowness and sees in the people something different from and appreciably greater than a chance social community of men, a grouping of men who have the same external interests. By people we understand an entire living body which is racially uniform and which is held together by common history, common fate, a common mission, and common tasks, through such an interpretation the people takes on significance’ (Beck 1936:20). National Socialist rhetoric as illustrated by Huber and Beck clearly illustrate the obsession Nazism had with race, race was therefore not only important, but it provided the key to instilling senses of national identity and state consciousness.
In comparison, it is possible to concede that Fascism in Italy was significantly less concerned with race however it would be wrong to negate their views altogether. Despite not sharing the same degree of extremist racial views as the Germans, it can be argued that all fascism is inherently racist. Roger Griffin stipulates that in order to create a strong state and protect the national community from anarchic forces as ‘the attempts to create a uniqueness and common destiny of this community means that fascism is essentially racist, just as all forms of chauvinism, imperialism and colonialism are whether military, economic or cultural’ (Griffin 1991:48). It is of course important to remember Italy did in fact pass racial laws in 1938 as to be discussed. Advertised through the Manifesto of Race, stringent racial laws were passed in September of 1938 significantly infringing the civil rights of the Jewish community as well as minority groups. The manifesto declared the Aryan race to be superior, thus providing a direct parallel to the views of Nazi Germany. It is however very much possible to argue that the implementation of Mussolini’s racial policy was an act of appeasement to Hitler, therefore not providing a true reflection of Italian racial views. De Donno (2006:400) is able to contend that ‘Undoubtedly, the Italo-German alliance played a central role in the fascist racist turn’. Evidence to suggest that prior to 1938 Mussolini’s views were dissimilar to that of the Germans as he provided significant criticism to the idea of a pure Germanic race (De Donno 2006:396) and stressed how the fascists’ approach to the ‘political problem of race’ revealed a ‘balanced Mediterranean realism’ as opposed to ‘Nordic mysticism’ (Pende 1933:227). The inconsistencies of Italian racial policy is further criticised by Steinberg who concedes that they were ‘Nuremberg Laws but Italian-style, shot through with inconsistences’ (Steinberg 2002:220), it therefore cannot be said that articles and policy such as the Manifesto of Race were wholly endorsed.
Now let us consider the how closely related Italy and Germany’s views on national identity were. The palingenetic myth combined with populist ultra-nationalism characterises both Nazism and Italian fascism. The idea of a re-birth or palingenetic myth, Griffin argues, can be seen to ‘denote the visionary of a revolutionary new order which supplies the affective power of an ideology’ (Griffin 1991:35). Combining this palingenetic myth with populist ultra-nationalism, we see the creation of a ‘fascist minimum’ meaning an ideological pre-requisite (Griffin 1992:37). It is however, the means to achieve the new order where Nazism and fascism differ, despite both Nazism and Fascism displaying ultranationalistic tendency, the basis for the notions of national identity between the two differ greatly. It is possible to concede that Nazism is predominantly ethnocentric in its outlook; this idea is further developed by the concept of cultural relativity. It can be argued that Nazism attempts to achieve is national goals of unification and rebirth through objective factors such as race and genetics; this is personified by the Volksgemeinschaft and obsessions with racial ‘purity’, any social group not adhering to the Nazi ethnocentric ideal were immediately excluded and persecuted. Fascism on the other hand endorsed subjective factors to create the nation’s re-birth; culture conscious feelings provided the means for being ‘Italian’ rather than obsessions with racial biology. The Italians evoked memory of their rich and glorious Roman history; Italian Fascism saw the need for a ‘return to Roman values’ (Edwards 1999:207), these values in turn provided contradiction to traditional ideological forms such as liberalism, which they viewed to be ‘chaotic in comparison’ (Edwards 1999:207) thus establishing Fascism as very much an anti-ideology. Fascist obsession with imperial Rome’s history illustrates the subjective quality of Italy’s notions of national identity; Davies and Lynch (2002:121) emphasise ‘fascist movements have a noticeable tendency to glorify the past; in particular, a ‘Golden Age’ in the history of their nation or civilization’, thus illustrating that a history and myth is hugely responsible for the rise of ultra-nationalism in Italy. National chauvinism provided a key component of both Nazism and Italian Fascism; both regimes exercised a distinct sense of national superiority. This national chauvinism manifests itself in expansionist policies; the German invasion of Poland in 1939 and the Italian invasion of Abyssinia both illustrated the need for an expansion of empire. Aristotle Kallis explains that militaristic expansionism was synonymous of both Nazi and Italian foreign policy; ‘In legitimising the notions of spatial expansion and historic irredentism, the fascist regimes introduced territorial expansion as a central element of their worldview’ (Kallis 2000:104). We understand the expansionist vision shared between Italy and Germany to be atypical of fascism due to the underpinning principle that weaker nations are to be conquered by superior ones therefore demonstrating a strong vein of national chauvinism. Kallis does however concur that Mussolini’s dealings with other ultranationalist groups within Europe ‘did not reflect any wider scheme for a new fascist order in Europe; they were rather exercises in political activism which originated from the traditional Italian great power ambitions’ (Kallis 2000:104). Whilst it can be said both nations exercised expansionist policy; it must be said that Germany’s goals were significantly larger.
It is possible to conclude that it would be wrong to characterise Nazism and Italian fascism as fundamentally different with regards to race and national identity. Fascism is inconsistent and unsystematic therefore meaning we cannot confine each example to certain requisites. It is very much possible to describe generic fascism as a revolutionary ideology therefore it is not surprising that each examples characteristics will vary Every ultranationalist movement is different as it reflects the particular circumstances of the nation, and that is why the differing views on race and some notions for the basis of national identity for Germany and Italy occur; this idea is echoed by Sternhell who contends ‘Fascism in power was something to which fascist parties made remarkably different contributions, depending on the country concerned’ (Sternhell 1976:318). Both Italian fascism and Nazism are unique phenomena yet share ‘a political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is a palingenetic form of populist ultra-nationalism’ (Griffin 1993:26). It should therefore be of no real surprise that there are certain discrepancies with regards to issues such as race as ultimately there is a common ultra-nationalistic goal between the two; that of rebirth and national strength meaning the similarities are more fundamental than the differences.

Beck, F (1936) Die Erzieheng im dritten Reich p20
Davies, D and Lynch, L (2002). Fascism and the Far Right. 2nd ed. London. Routledge p121
De Donno. (2006). La Razza Ario-Mediterranea: Ideas of Race in Colonial and Fascist Italy. Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies . 8 (3), 396-411.
Edwards, C (1999). Roman Presences: Receptions of Rome in European Culture, 1789-1945. Cambridge, England, UK;. p. 223
Griffin, R (1991). The Nature of Fascism. London: Psychology Press. p37.
Huber, R (1939) Verfassungsrecht des gross-deutschen Reiches (Constitutional Law of the Greater German Reich) p. 155
Kallis, A (2000). Fascist Ideology: Territory and Expansionism in Italy and Germany, 1922-1945. London: Routledge. 104.
Mosse, G L (1981). The crisis of German ideology : intellectual origins of the Third Reich . New York: H Fertig. p89
Pende, Nicola. (1933). Bonifica umana e razionale e biologia politica, Bologna: Cappelli p227
Ruthers, B (1973) Die unbegrenzte Auslegung. Zum Wandel der Privatrechtsordnung in Nationalsozialismus (Frankfurt,), p. 219.
Steinberg, J (2002). All or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust 1941-43. 2nd ed. London: Routledge. 220.
Sternhell, Z and Lacquer, W (Eds.) (1976). Fascism, a Reader's Guide: Analyses, Interpretations, Bibliography. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Univeristy of California Press. p318.…...

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