The invention of fascism : Italy, 1919-1922 / by Lawrence Alan Rosenthal.
This study grounds the emergence of fascism in the ideological currents and confrontation of political forces of the post-World War I era. The analysis is keyed to understanding fascism subjectively, as a worldview and as a form of political organization assembled in reaction to, and borrowing elements from, existing political ideas and formations--hence, the "invention" of fascism. Chapters 1 and 2 present fascism, above all, as the product of the confrontation between liberalism and marxism. In Chapter 1, fascism is treated as a central chapter in the development of twentieth century world poltics. Chapter 2 shows show fascism was an incomprehensible political foe for both liberalism and marxism. The cornerstone of fascist consciousness was the perception of liberalism and marxism as having degenerated into an indistinguishable unity, a radicalization of the convergence of progressive liberalism and "evolutionary" socialism that reached its height in social democracy. Fascism reversed the relationship between political ends and means that was a shared element in the political culture of marxism and liberalism. Chapter 3 identifies the positions of classical conservatism and reactionism in Italy and their contributions to fascist thinking. Socialism is treated as a rubric for a variety of tendencies, of which marxism, though dominant, was but one. The development of certain sectors of Italian syndicalism into early fascism is treated in detail. Chapter 4 grounds the development of fascism's social base and the rise of a dissident sector of Italian capital in the social transformations wrought by World War I. The declasse social status of the fascist vanguard is contrasted with mature fascism's middle class constituency. Fascist solidarity is shown to be based not on material interests but in the social community, the "male fighting band," embodied in fascist political organs. Between 1919 and 1922, fascism was constrained to recast its spontaneous and egalitarian vanguard structure into a hierarchical party accomodating a mass membership. Chapter 5 outlines this history. An empirical study of the passing of the vanguard demonstrates how the center of the movement in Milan was already establishing the bureaucratic and organizational structure it would use to control the movement while supporting the "anti-party" mentality of the early fascism.
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