Rise of fascism summary and notes



Rise of fascism summary and notes


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Rise of fascism summary and notes


The Rise of Fascism in Italy and Germany


There are many similarities, as well as important differences, between the fascism that emerged in Italy and Germany during the 1920s and 1930s.  Read the following overview and identify/define the terms that follow:


 Fascism - Militant political movement that emphasized loyalty to the state and obedience to the leader.  It had no clearly defined theory or program.

  • Basic Principles - Authoritarianism a system of government in which the government attempted to control and organize with strong discipline as many aspects of people’s lives as possible. Fascism promoted the greatness of the state over the interests of the individual, and depended on a Charismatic leader who was action oriented. 
  • Political - Extreme Nationalism - an emphasis on building up the greatness and prestige of the state, with the implication that one’s own nation is superior to other. Used racism to defend claims of superiority. One-Party State - there was no place for democracy. Fascism was particularly hostile to communism, which accounts for much of its popularity. The fascist party members were the elite of the nation and great emphasis was places on the cult of the leader/hero who would win mass support with thrilling speeches and skilful propaganda.
  • Economic - believed in Self-sufficiency (autarchy) which was vitally important in developing the greatness of the state; the government must therefore direct the economic life of the country (though not in the Marxist sense of the government owing factories and land) but rather, through the corporate state. The government preserved capitalism and allowed huge corporations to form, thereby giving industrialists great control. 
  • Social - Fascism was supported by the industrialists, middle class and the military.
  • Cultural - used censorship, indoctrination, propaganda, intimidation, and the secret police to keep the population under control and supportive of Fascist policies.

Because Fascism was not a clearly developed theory it could appeal to all groups irrespective of status.  Its emphasis upon law and order was an appealing alternative to the social unrest that ensued with the post WWI era; people were willing to turn to alternative forms of government due to the immense economic problems that occurred during the Great Depression. Weak governments were easy prey of the Fascist movement and Fascism was also a staunch opponent of Communism and found a base of support in the middle and industrialist classes, who feared loss of economic wealth if their nations moved towards Communism. 



Mussolini’s Rise to Power

The new state of Italy was far from being a great success in the years before 1914 however; the strain of the First World War on her slumping economy and the bitter disappointment at her treatment by the Versailles Treaty, because Italy did not receive the territorial gains it wanted caused growing discontent. Between 1919 and 1922 there were five different governments, all of which were incapable of taking decisive action that the situation demanded. In 1919 Benito Mussolini founded the Fascist party promising to rescue Italy.  The newly formed party won 35 seats in the 1921 elections. Mussolini was supported by the wealthy industrialists and landowners who feared socialist changes.  As Italy’s economy continued to decline and unemployment grew Mussolini’s popularity increased. Mussolini began to openly criticize the Italian government. At the same time there seemed to be a real danger of a left-wing seizure of power, fascists wearing black shirts began to attack Socialists and Communists in the street.  In an atmosphere of strikes and riots, the fascists staged a ‘March on Rome’ where 30,000 fascists demanded that Mussolini be put in charge of the government.  In order to preserve his dynasty King Emmanuel III invited Mussolini to form a government in October 1922. Mussolini took the title Il Duce which means the leader.  Mussolini remained in effective power until July 1943.


Mussolini’s Italy


  • All parties except the fascists were suppressed. Opponents of the regime were either exiled or murdered. Socialist leaders Giacomo Matteotti and Giovanni Amendola were both beaten to death by the fascists. After 1926, when Mussolini felt secure in power the violence was greatly reduced. Although the parliament still met, all important decisions were taken by the fascist Grand Council which did as Mussolini told it; in effect Mussolini, who adopted the title Il Duce (the leader), was the dictator.
  • In local government elected town councils and mayors were abolished and towns run by officials appointed from Rome. In practice the local fascist party bosses, known as ras, often had as much power as the government officials.
  • A strict press censorship was enforced in which anti-fascist newspapers were either suppressed or their editors replaced by fascist supporters. Radio, films and the theatre were similarly controlled.
  • Education in schools and universities was closely supervised, teachers had to wear uniforms, new textbooks were written to glorify the fascist system. Children were encouraged to criticize teachers who seemed to lack enthusiasm for the party. Children and young people were forced to join the government youth organizations which indoctrinated them with the brilliance of the Duce and the glories of war.
  • Corporate State - The government tried to promote co-operation between employers and workers and to end class warfare in what was known as the Corporate State. Fascist controlled unions had the sole right to negotiate for the workers and both unions and employers’ associations were organized into corporations and were expected to co-operate to settle disputes over pay and working conditions. Strikes and lockouts were not allowed. By 1934 there were 22 corporations each dealing with a separate industry, and in this way Mussolini hoped to control the workers and direct production. To compensate for their loss of freedom, workers were assured of such benefits as free Sundays, annual holidays with pay, social security, sports and theatre facilities and cheap tours and holidays.
  • Catholic Church - Mussolini passed laws to make swearing in public a crime and allowed crosses to be hung in public buildings. He made religious education compulsory in Italy. In 1929 he signed a treaty with Gasparri. The Lateran Treaty gave the Pope 750 million lire in compensation for the land taken from him when Italy was united in 1870. It made the Vatican City an independent state with its own army, police force, law courts, and post office. The ending of the long lasting breech between the church and Italian government was Mussolini’s most lasting and worthwhile achievement.



Conditions and Hitler’s Rise to Power

The Treaty of Versailles that officially ended WWI was extremely harsh on Germany.  The treaty’s conditions left Germany excluded from participating on the League of Nations, it forced Germany to give back the territories of Alsace-Lorraine that it seized from France in the Franco-Prussian War, and forced Germany to give up all of its overseas colonies in Africa and the Pacific. Further, it limited the size of the German army and forbid them from manufacturing weapons and war materials, but by far the most extreme condition of the Treaty of Versailles was the War Guilt Clause which stated that Germany had to take sole responsibility for starting WWI and pay $33 billion (in American Dollars) for war damages, or reparations to Britain and France. Germany made the first payment of the reparations in 1921 and in 1922 Germany failed to pay the second installment to France and Belgium. The French refused to believe that Germany did not have the money and decided to take what they were owed by force. They invaded the Ruhr valley, Germany’s richest industrial area. Within days the French had taken over coal mines, railways, factories and steelworks. The German government called on the Germans to passively resist the French. The shut down of the richest industrial region of Germany brought an economic crisis to Germany by bringing about hyperinflation. In 1918 a loaf of bread cost just over half a mark. By 1922 the cost had risen to 163 marks for a loaf of bread. By November of 1923 a loaf of bread cost 201,000 million marks.
Millions of people faced starvation as a result of the hyperinflation. People such as pensioners who were living on fixed incomes found that prices rose so much faster than their earnings. Even if they could afford to buy food they could not afford the gas to cook it.
Adolf Hitler was a little known politician prior to WWI.  In 1919 he joined a small right wing political group as the propaganda chief.  This group believed that Germany had to overturn the Treaty of Versailles and combat communism.  This group became called the Nationalist Socialist German Workers Party (NAZI). The Nazi’s set up a private militia called the Storm Troopers or the Brown Shirts (S.A.).  In August of 1921, Hitler became the leader (de Fuhrer) and introduced a more centralized system with all branches of the Nazi party subject to the original branch in Munich.  Inspired by Mussolini’s March on Rome Hitler and the Nazis plotted to seize power in Munich in 1923. Munich Putsch (putsch is an attempt to take power by force) Hitler, supported by the World War One hero General Ludendorff attempted to overthrow the German government. Hitler was able to gain the support of a large number of people and the Putsch started at a Beer Hall in Munich. The government of Bavaria (Munich Area) had Hitler arrested. He was charged with treason and sentenced to 5 years in jail. He only served 9 months and during this time he wrote the book Mein Kampf (My Struggle) which outlined his beliefs and hopes for Germany. Even though the Putsch was a failure the event had made Hitler a national figure.

After leaving prison in 1924 Hitler revived the Nazi party. The majority of Germans considered too radical until the onslaught of the Great Depression.  Once American loans from the Dawes Plan stopped the German economy collapsed and civil unrest ensued.  The Weimer Republic which was a liberal democratic regime constructed after the German empire was defeated in WWI was weak and suffered collapse under the pressure of economic failure.  This collapse left people searching for security and a strong leader. Hitler and the Nazi party offered what seemed to be an attractive alternative just when the republic was at its most incapable. The fortunes of the Nazi party were closely linked to the economic situation; the more unstable the economy, the more seats the Nazis won in the Reichstag (German Parliament).


March                      1924 - 32 seats        (economy still unstable after 1923 inflation)

December                1924 - 14 seats        (economy recovering under Dawes Plan)

                                1928 - 12 seats        (comparatively prosperity)

                                1930 - 107 seats      (unemployment mounting)

                                                                                Nazis second largest party

July                          1932 - 230 seats      (massive unemployment)

                                                                                Nazis single largest party


In 1930 conservative leaders mistakenly believed that they could control Hitler and use him for their own purposes. In January 1933, they advised President Hindenburg to name Hitler Chancellor.  Hitler came to power legally. Six days after the elections a fire destroyed the Reichstag building.  The Reichstag Fire: Feb. 27th 1933 was blamed on a communist (Although it was most likely the Nazis). The Nazis claimed it was a beginning of a communist takeover.  This resulted in the banning of the Communists from the Reichstag and the Nazis in coalition with the Nationalists obtained a majority. Hindenburg passed the ‘Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State’.  Hitler could ignore restrictions on police power and take over the power of the German states.  Using this, the Nazis arrested communists and other political opponents. Hitler was then able to pass the enabling laws through the Reichstag. The Enabling Laws gave Hitler the right to make laws and not have them approved by the Reichstag. They effectively set him up as a dictator. The Night of the Long Knives - On the Night of June 30th/July 1st: arrest of the main S.A. leaders by the SS (Gestapo- or secret police which was an elite unit loyal only to Hitler) the SS killed the SA leaders and others that Hitler considered his enemies.  This event shocked most Germans into total obedience.  On Aug. 2nd 1934 Hindenburg dies and Hitler replaces him without an election and is now referred to as the Fuhrer.

Hitler’s Germany

  • Professions are ‘synchronized’ with Nazi beliefs. Disseminated a Nazi Ideology (i.e.: teachers / judges )
  • Purges of Gov. workers of communist sympathizers, Jews and replacement by party members.
  • Nazis tried to restrict the influence of the Church and the application of the 1933 concordat (allowing the Catholic Church to have its own school & property but to keep out of politics)

Nazis took more direct control over the Protestant churches…soon swastikas were displayed alongside the Christian Cross.

  • Membership of one Nazi youth group was obligatory for all Germans until age 18.
  • Toward workers: labor unions abolished, establishment of ‘Strength Through Joy’ movement which provided subsidized holidays, sporting activities, etc.
  • Creation of Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda — bringing under control the mass media and using them towards Nazi propaganda. Books that did not conform to Nazi beliefs were burned in huge bonfires.
  • Rapid expansion of the SS (w/ Himmler) In 1934 the SS became an independent org. answerable to Hitler and Himmler only. Gestapo was placed under its control.
  • In 1933, the Nazi’s began passing laws depriving Jews of their rights.  In 1935 Hitler passed the Nuremberg Laws which denied Jews of their citizenship and forbade the intermarriage of Jews and non-Jews. Violence against Jews mounted on the Night of November 9 1938.  After a Jewish youth that was visiting a family member in Paris learned of his father’s deportation from Germany to Poland the youth shot and killed a German diplomat in Paris.  After hearing of the incident Nazi mobs attacked Jews in their homes and on the streets.  They systematically destroyed thousands of Jewish owned businesses.  This rampage became known as Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass).  This event signaled the start of the process of eliminating Jews from Germany.



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Rise of fascism summary and notes

Looking back on the 20th century, many historians trace the causes of World War II, including the rise of totalitarian leaders, to factors created by World War I and the treaties signed at the end of the “Great War” (as WWI originally was called).  After WWI, many countries faced severe economic problems.  Germany was particularly hard hit economically.  According to the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was required to pay large sums of money, called reparations, to the countries that had won the conflict.  By 1930, mass unemployment and economic depression led to bitter poverty in Germany, Britain, Japan, Italy, and the United States, as well as other countries around the world.  In Germany and Italy, the economic depression weakened the existing governments.  As people demanded change, a political movement that believed in an extremely strong, national government, called fascism, became popular in these countries.  Fascism included a sense of nationalism (a powerful sense of patriotism) and leaders were often dictatorial, ruthless in suppressing opposition, and interested in centralizing power.  Economic problems and ethnic tensions contributed to instability and helped fascist rulers to gain power.


  1. What is fascism?



After World War I, Italian nationalists were outraged when Italy received just some of the territories promised by the Allies.  Chaos ensued as peasants seized land, workers went on strike, veterans faced unemployment, trade declined, and taxes rose.  The government could not end the crisis.  Into this turmoil stepped Benito Mussolini, the organizer of the Fascist party.  Mussolini’s supporters, the Black Shirts, rejected democratic methods and favored violence for solving problems.  In the 1922 March on Rome, tens of thousands of Fascists swarmed the capital.  Fearing civil war, the king asked Mussolini to form a government as prime minister.

Mussolini soon suppressed rival parties, muzzled the press, rigged elections, and replaced elected officials with Fascists.  Critics were thrown into prison, forced into exile, or murdered.  Secret police and propaganda (any technique that attempts to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, or behavior of a group in order to benefit the sponsor) bolstered the regime.  In 1929, Mussolini also received support from the pope.  Mussolini brought the economy under state control, but basically preserved capitalism.  His system favored the upper class and industry leaders.  Workers were not allowed to strike and their wages were kept low.  In Mussolini’s new system, loyalty to the state replaced conflicting individual goals.  “Believe!  Obey!  Fight!” loudspeakers blared and posters proclaimed.

Mussolini built the first modern totalitarian state.  In this form of government, a one-party dictatorship attempts to control every aspect of the lives of its citizens.  Today, we usually use the term fascism to describe the underlying ideology of any centralized, authoritarian government that is not communist.  Fascism is rooted in extreme nationalism.  Fascists believe in action, violence, discipline, and blind loyalty to the state.  They praise warfare.  They are anti-democratic, rejecting equality and liberty.  Fascists opposed communists on important issues.  Communists favor international action and the creation of a classless society.  Fascists are nationalists who support a society with defined classes.  Both base their power on blind devotion to a leader or the state.  Both flourish during economic hard times.  Fascism appealed to Italians because it restored national pride, provided stability, and ended the political feuding that had paralyzed democracy in Italy.

Known as el Duce (“El Doo-chay,” the Leader), Mussolini wanted to establish the greatness of Italy and create an empire.  In order to do this, Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in 1936. The Italians, fighting with modern weapons against poorly equipped Ethiopians, conquered this African nation that same year.


  1. Who was the Fascist leader of Italy that created the first totalitarian state?



  1. What was the result of the March on Rome?



  1. What is propaganda?  Along with propaganda, what was used to bolster the fascist regime?



  1. What was the slogan the Fascists used to promote loyalty to the state?



  1. Describe the characteristics of a totalitarian state.



  1. How are Fascism and Communism similar?  How are they different?



  1. Why did Fascism appeal to Italians?



  1. What did Mussolini do to expand the Italian empire?


Beginning in the 1930s, many Germans supported the Nazi Party, a violently nationalistic organization.  The Nazi Party declared that Germany had been unfairly treated after WWI, and that the Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1919, caused the economic depression. Many Germans believed that energetic leader, Adolf Hitler, would solve Germany’s problems.  As head of the Nazi party, Hitler promised to end reparations, create jobs, and rearm Germany.  In 1933, Hitler was elected chancellor of Germany and within a year he was dictator over the new Fascist state in Germany. 

Hitler believed that the western powers had no intention of using force to maintain

the Treaty of Versailles.  Subsequently, Hitler built up the military forces in Germany in violation of the Treaty.  Most, but not all, Germans believed that Hitler brought strength and courage back to their country, as well as prosperity.  Those who opposed Hitler were targeted by the Gestapo, Hitler’s secret police.  Most people were proud to be Germans and proud to be Nazis.  In 1936, Hitler sent troops to the Rhineland, an old section of Germany along the Rhine River, where they were not allowed according to the Treaty of Versailles.  This act, another violation of the Treaty, was a clear indication that Hitler wanted to prove his own superiority over the western leaders.  Many Germans and Austrians were proud of this violation of the hated treaty and other countries did nothing to stop it. 

Known as der Fuhrer (the Leader), Hitler preached that the Germans were a superior race and that many minorities, including Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, and communists, should be oppressed, exiled, or worse.  A persuasive speaker, he convinced his followers that Jews and other minorities were inferior and were the root of Germany’s problems.  The efficient ruthlessness and brutality of Hitler and his devoted followers and Hitler’s spell-binding effect as a speaker, created a horrifying and powerful government dedicated to the superiority of the Aryan race (white, northern Europeans) and the establishment of a new German empire.  Hitler’s radical beliefs included: anti-semitism (persecution or hatred of Jews), extreme nationalism, aggression (occupying nearby countries to create a German empire), lebensraum (union of all German nations), anschluss (German union with Austria), and a hatred of Communism.


  1. What was the Nazi party?


  1. What did Hitler promise?


  1. How did Hitler rise to power?


  1. How did Hitler violate the Treaty of Versailles?



  1. How did Hitler suppress opposition?


  1. How did Hitler convince his followers that Jews and other minorities were inferior to Germans?


  1. What is meant by the “Aryan” race?


  1. Identify the six radical beliefs (of Hitler) listed in the last paragraph.



            Under Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Union grew into a totalitarian state that controlled all aspects of life, including agriculture, culture, art, and religion.  The state also developed a command economy, in which it made all economic decisions.  Stalin pushed for rapid industrialization in order to catch up with the west.  To do this, Stalin developed three 5-Year Plans that set high production goals.  Despite great progress in some sectors, products such as clothing, cars, and refrigerators were scarce. 

Stalin forced changes in agriculture too.  He wanted peasants to farm on either state-owned farms or collectives, large farms owned and operated by groups of peasants.  Through collectivization, Stalin seized goods from peasant farmers and sold the goods for profit.  He used the capital gained from collectivization to finance his industrialization drive.  Some peasants resisted collectivization, which resulted in Stalin taking their land and sending them to labor camps where many died.  In 1932, Stalin’s policies led to a famine that caused millions to starve.

            The ruling Communist party used secret police (KGB), torture, and bloody purges to force people to obey.  Those who opposed Stalin were rounded up and sent to the Gulag, a system of brutal labor camps.  Fearing that rival party leaders were plotting against him, Stalin launched the Great Purge in 1934.  During the Great Purge, the KGB killed thousands of army officers and prominent Bolsheviks who opposed Stalin.  Among the victims of this and other purges were some of the brightest and most talented people in the country.

            Stalin feared the growing power of Nazi Germany.  Soviet leaders had two foreign policy goals.  They hoped to spread world revolution through the Comintern, or Communist International.  At the same time, they wanted to ensure their nation’s security by winning the support of other countries.  These contradictory goals caused Western Powers to mistrust the Soviet Union.


  1. Who became a totalitarian leader in the Soviet Union?


  1. What were Stalin’s 5-Year Plans?



  1. What was collectivization?  What did Stalin do with the profits he gained from collectivization?



  1. How did the Communist party force people to obey?



  1. What was the Gulag?



  1. What was the Great Purge of 1934?



  1. How were the Soviet Union’s foreign policy goals contradictory?



Like Germany and Italy, Japan was intent on creating an empire.  This small island nation resented the way western countries and heads of state determined that Japan should not expand.  Although Japan had an emperor, Hirohito (Hiro-he-tow), the military had taken control of the government.  Emperor Hirohito could not stand up to the powerful generals; however, he was worshipped by the people who often fought in his name.  Like the Germans, the Japanese shared a strong military tradition.  The army, navy, and air force grew in size and strength, and serving in the armed forces became an even more desirable and honorable goal for young men than it had been previously.  

Industrialization in Japan led to a need for raw materials.  How would Japan, a small island nation in the Pacific, obtain raw materials that it did not have access to?  Imperialism!  Japan was the first of the fascist countries to successfully expand its empire by invading Manchuria (in northern China) in 1931.  Japan occupied most of eastern China by 1938, eventually seeking to bring all of Asia and the Pacific Ocean under its control.  Japan’s aggressive imperialistic policies in Asia were ignored by the League of Nations, which did not have the power to stop the militaristic government.


  1. What did Japan, Italy, and Germany have in common?



  1. Although Japan had an emperor, who controlled the government?


  1. How did Japan obtain the raw materials needed for industrialization?



  1. How did the League of Nations respond to Japan’s invasion of Manchuria?



Overall Comprehension Questions


  1. Much of the world was undergoing a severe economic depression, beginning in 1929.  How might poverty and unemployment have contributed to the rise of totalitarian leaders in the 1930s?



  1. Many people don’t realize that Hitler came to power legally; he did not overthrow an existing government or seize power through the military.  Hitler was elected by the German people.  Do you think that people in the United States would ever elect someone like that?  Why or why not?



  1. Describe the government of Japan.  Is it surprising that Japan, Italy, and Germany became partners in World War II?


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Rise of fascism summary and notes

What is Fascism:

Fascists favoured:

  • Nationalism
  • Powerful Leader or dictator
  • One-part government
  • Paramilitary organisations
  • War

Fascists opposed:

  • Internationalism
  • Liberal Democracy
  • Marxist Socialism/Communism
  • Pacifism


Section One - Why did Mussolini come to power?

a) How secure was Liberal Italy in 1914?

Below are the key features of the Italian unification:

  • Prime minister of Piedmont, Cavour, deal with Emperor of France, Napoleon for help in expelling Austria
  • French and Piedmontese troops defeated the Austrians. Piedmont took over Lombardy and the Central Duchies
  • Garibaldi organised nationalist expedition to unify Italy, and march on Rome. Joining a peasant revolt in Sicily and conquering it and Naples.
  • Piedmontese troops occupy Papal States to link with Garibaldi and ensure conquests with king Victor Emmanuel
  • 1861: New Kingdom of Italy proclaimed in Turin
  • Prussia and Italy fight Austria. Italy loses, Prussia wins, Venetia goes to Italy.
  • 1862/67: Garibaldi leads two failing marches to gain control of the capital
  • 1870 Prussia defeats France who withdraws troops from Rome to protect pope. Italian troops move in. Rome becomes the capital of a fully united Italian State.

Risorgimento: The name given to the process that Italy became united.

b) Had Liberal governments created a more united nation by 1900?

There were many problems facing the Italian Governments such as:

  • The North was industrial. Engineering centres of Milan, Turin and Genoa.
  • 1880’s widescale migration to growing towns
  • Po Valley: area of advanced agriculture based around river
  • Medium sized farms for commercial farming only
  • Dialects varied from North to South
  • Majority of population was rural
  • Majority of population were working in small agricultural farms as labourers.
  • In the south there was little industry, used to be a “grain basket” but now exhausted.
  • Frequent social unrest in the south
  • Many powerful clans and mafias: south.

Government efforts to unite Italy:


  • Liberal politicians believed that ordinary people shouldn’t be able to take part in political affairs.
  • Believed in a parliament but of upper classes and the elite, not the masses.
  • Thought balancing budget and building Italys military might was more important
  • Constitution laid down freedom of speech and religious freedom: basic rights. However few people had the vote making political parties unable to reflect the populations wishes
  • Instead the parties made deals to form governments: Transformismo
  • Prefects ran the provinces: bribery was widespread within the administration
  • As a result of all this there was a line between “legal italy” (political populations) and “real Italy” (the rest of the masses)

Economic and Social:

  • Industry developing but restricted in the north from lack of resources such as coal and iron
  • United italy economically by abolishing tariffs (internal free trade) which harmed the little industry that existed in the south. Unable to compete with north.
  • Economic divide between north and south
  • Priorities on balancing budget: new state got high debts from funding the wars of unification so raised taxes.
  • Taxes fell on the poor
  • When workers striked, the governments rejected demands
  • However education was considered important and improved

Catholic Church:

  • Land of papal states were taken from the pope leaving him bitter towards Liberalism
  • Denounced the new state as it allowed religious freedom and pope believed Catholicism was the only real religion
  • Pope instructed Catholics not to vote or participate in new state
  • Then with the advance of Socialism, it worried the pope so changed his mind and they were allowed to vote against socialism.

Did foreign policy create a sense of nationalism?

  • Italy wanted to gain more than they could handle
  • Wanted to rival the great powers of Europe: gaining colonies
  • Wanted control of Tunisia but France got to it first in 1881
  • Next year, Italy joined the anti-French triple alliance with Austria-Hungary and Germany which built up influence in the Horn of Africa.
  • In 1896 Italy attempted to take over Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) and was defeated humiliatingly.

1890’s: Crises decade for the Liberal State:

Left:  1892-94: Mass peasant unrest in South was put down by 40,000 troops

         1898: Strikes and riots in northern cities, 100 shot

         1900: Anarchists assassinated King Umberto

Government: Adowa defeat

Right: Move to set up a more authoritarian government restricting individual liberty led to help “real italy” and “legal italy”.

c) How far did Giolitti succeed in bring Italians together?


  • Giolitti faced the growth of socialism: frightened elites and catholic church
  • Development of industry in the north reflected the founding of trade unions and organisations. By 1900 a party had been formed and was winning seats
  • Splits between moderates and revolutionaries

Italian Nationalists

  • Italian National Association set up who wanted an authoritarian government to inspire the masses, extinguish class warfare and lead the nation forward to greatness.


  • Mood of revolt against the existing boring world.
  • Rejected Liberal view of a comfortable bourgeois existence and favoured a life of speed, action, conflict and violence




  • United Italy had been created without the involvement of the masses
  • Liberal politicians represented a narrow and educated elite but their disagreements led to frequent changes
  • Liberal Italy failed to make sufficient social reforms – Nationalism remained weak
  • Catholic church remained opposed to Liberal Italy
  • Formal unification failed to fix the social divides, north and south
  • Italy failed to gain Italia Irridenta once unified
  • In search for great power, humiliating defeat in the Battle of Adowa
  • Giolitti’s limited reforms tried and failed to overcome fully Italy’s deep-seated problems
  • Italy was wracked with crisis in 1890’s and again in 1914
  • By 1914 the Liberal regime was being challenged by the socialist Left and nationalist Right


How great a challenge did the First World War and Socialism pose to the Liberal State?


May 1915 – Italy goes to war

  • d’Annunzio was very enthusiastic about Italy’s declaration of war, and many of Italy’s population shared this, However some were opposed.
  • The political aware classes took part in debates over what Italy should do; a minority favoured entering the war. Most supported joining Britain and France however some favoured Italy’s ally, Austria.
  • Nationalists wanted to join the war.
  • April 1915: Government made the secret Treaty of London with Britain and France and then declared war on Austria. Mussolini saw this as the founding moment of Fascism.

a) How was Italy affected by the First World War: 1914 – 1918

  • There were two key battles:
    • October 1917: Italy defeated by Caporetto. Government coped by promising major reforms after the war. Expectations were raised.
    • October 1918: Austro-Hungarian Empire on the verge on collapsing. Italy won a victory at Vittorio Veneto.


  • Most southern peasants who didn’t understand the aims of war. Industrial workers were producing war equipment. Low rations, low pay, lack of equipment, thousands killed by cholera, typhus and frostbite

b) Why were the post-war years so turbulent?

Was Italy’s victory in the First World War “mutilated”:

  • Italy was in the winning side of WW1.
  • In 1915 Italy was secretly promised massive territorial gains at the expense of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
  • Times had changed by 1919 and this was no longer possible.
  • At the end of it all Italy’s liberal government were saddled with the blame for the “mutilated victory”
  • Many Italians now felt bitter with their limited rewards for their 600,000 dead, massive debts and a huge increase in the cost of living.

D’Annunzio’s occupation of Fiume:

  • Italian nationalists, led by d’Annunzio, seized control of the city in September 1919. 300 ex-soldiers occupied it and the Allied troops who were previously guarding it left.
  • The government did nothing. Made it look weak and its willingness to avoid violence.
  • They occupied the city for over a year until Giolitti sent in troops and d’Annunzio fled.
  • The Fiume incident showed Italy that they could use force to achieve political aims in post-war Italy.

Potential rival to Mussolini:

  • d’Annunzio was more famous than Mussolini.
  • He led heroic air raids, commander of Fiume, and consideration of marching on Rome.
  • Criticised Mussolini for his “lukewarm support” of Fiume.
  • Tolds his followers not to be involved with “thug fascism”
  • 1922 d’Annunzio conveniently “fell” from a balcony so was out of action and Mussolini gained power first and d’Annunzio became known as the “lost leader”

Why was there an economic and political crisis in post-war Italy?

  • D’Annunzio inspired people to want a new beginning for Italy.
  • Continued social divides
  • Government promises not met; territorial gains and expectations of a better life.
  • War produced thousands of soldiers who then missed it, therefore they turned to Fascism.
  • Liberal regime under attack from Left and Right. Soviet Revolution in Russia inspired Socialists. Workers wanted better positions so they held various strikes and returning peasant soldiers seized unoccupied land. Socialists made major gains in local and national elections.
  • Government made concessions but this upset the right without stemming the unrest
  • Economic problems; industry hit by war orders. Demobilisation of 2mill soliders, and continuing inflation

1919 Election: Lost opportunity?

  • Political developments and changes in the systems offered hope of the Liberal Government.
  • Introduction of universal male suffrage and the system of Proportional Representation.
  • The party, Catholic Populari, was set up representing Catholic views, therefore representing a large proportion of the Italian population.
  • Another party, of course the Socialists were also doing well.
  • Two parties couldn’t agree therefore Liberal politicians remained in power by just being able to form 5 breif governments between 1918 and 1922. Again it was Transformismo rather than democracy.
  • Government tried to help with bread subsidies and eight-hour days and began making tax system fairer.
  • However this didn’t please radicals and worried the elite.
  • Overall, the Liberal Government failed to fix Italy’s social, political and economic problems. This gave opportunities to radical reforms on the Right and Left.

c) Could there have been a Socialist revolution in Italy in 1919-1920?

  • By 1920 the PSI (Italian Socialist Party) had won the elections and the country was purely socialist. Many believed a social revolution was close approaching
  • The socialist party first talked of them being a Marxist party in favour of a Socialist Republic.
  • This party was made up of two groups, minimalists and maximalists…these did not agree so then split into three, Maximalist. Minimalist, And Communist.

What strategies did the Socialists adopt?

  • Socialist agricultural unions were making economic demands on wages and hours and looking to control labour and employment: challenging manager’s property rights and management.
  • Used violence which these strong-arm methods were later used within Fascism.
  • Increased power of socialism brought strikes in 1919-1920: September 1920 half a million workers in Turin and Milan occupied 300 factories and ran them for a month. Red flags flew, armed workers protected the factories – some saw it as the first step to a revolution or maybe to gain concessions.
  • After promises of reform, workers withdrew: this was the peak of socialist unrest because of unemployment made them weak.
  • PSI (socialist) had talked of revolution however were incapable of organising it.



  • Italy was divided over whether to enter the war
  • Some Italians profited and others suffered from the war
  • During the war great expectations were raised of social reform and territorial gains
  • There was great anger over the so called “mutilated victory”
  • D’Annunzio in Fiume anticipated many aspects of Fascism
  • The war left serious economic problems
  • In 1919 the mass parties (PSI and PPI) gained majority in the elections but didn’t form a government
  • A series of Liberal Governments struggled to cope with the mounting problems of 1919-1922
  • There was a wave of pose-war Socialist-inspired unrest
  • The Socialists raised great hopes but failed to take their opportunities, and only frightened the elite.



Why was Mussolini, the Fascist Leader, appointed Prime Minister of Italy in 1922?


A) Why did Mussolini become a Fascist?

  • From a very young age teachers realised he was a natural rebel. He was described as “passionate and unruly” and people claim “he wants to rule and dominate”

The First World War: Mussolini’s dilemma:

  • Mussolini was displeased with being a side-line in the First World War.
  • Mussolini was expelled from the Socialist party for promoting entrance into the war.
  • He was then conscripted into the Italian army in August 1915 but then left with 40 pieces of shrapnel in his body. He spent 4 months in hospital and then returned to his newspaper “Il Popolo d’Italia” but this time instead of focusing on class, the emphasis was on welcoming people who wanted to fight and work to save the country.

B) Fascism 1919-1922: an overview:

  • Stage 1- 1919: Mussolini set up a combat group. They were a movement, not a party, expressing radical social ideas from war.
  • Stage 2 - 1919: Movement attracted people unsatisfied with the current state. Mouthpiece was the paper. Failed in the elections.
  • Stage 3 - 1920: People worried by Socialist threats turned to Fascism. Gave funds to Fascist squads who were fighting Socialists.
  • Stage 4 - 1920: Mussolini saw an opportunity and wanted power. Attract people scared of Socialism: meant playing down left0wing ideas and shifting to right.
  • Stage 5 – 1920-21: Late 1920’as Fascism took off, in rural northern areas and central Italy. Attracted agrarian elite and small landowners
  • Stage 6 – 1921: With some of the bourgeoisie joining and movement to the right, many dropped out of the movement. Several ras protested until they realised how important Fascism was for unity and strength.
  • Stage 7 – 1921: Giolitti thought he could absorb the movement so risked putting members of Fascism on recommendations for the government. They gained 35 seats. Mussolini entered parliament. Giolitti wanted to tame the Fascists but Mussolini wanted more.
  • Stage 8 – 1921: Tension developed between those who wanted to seize power and those who wanted to be given power. Fascist violence threatened his respectable position in parliament. Fascism became right wing. Signed pact of pacification with the socialists.
  • Stage 9 – 1922: Fascists assisted by authorities broke socialist power in the north and central Italy. Mussolini under pressure from the ras to seize power. If Fascism didn’t soon gain power it would collapse.  Hoped to use ras pressure to become appointed legally. In 1922 announced his support for the monarchy.
  • Stage 10 – 1922: Pressure was increasing but on the 29th October King Victor Emmanuel invited Mussolini to form a government. Fascists marched to Rome to celebrate.






  • Mussolini, a radical socialist, broke from PSI for supporting the war
  • In 1919 he set up his own Fascist movement with a nationalist but left-wing programme; gained little support
  • Fascism then attracted groups scared by the Socialist threats. It moved Right politically.
  • Fascisms genuine mass base was in the petty bourgeoisie but also had key support from the elite.
  • Fascist squads, led by ras, attacked socialists, often with the compliance of the authorities.
  • 1921 elections Fascists gained 7% of the vote and gained 35 seats
  • Mussolini then formed PNF (Fascist Party) with a right wing programme
  • October 1922, Fasicsts planned a march on Rome and seized control in northern cities.
  • King Victor Emmanuel hesistated to take firm action, and decided to appoint Mussolini as Prime Minister.
  • The March on Rome happened after Mussolini was appointed.




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Rise of fascism summary and notes

The Rise of Fascism

Between the First and Second World Wars, fascist parties emerged across Europe. The main idea of fascism was to destroy the will of the individual in favor of the “people.” Fascists wanted a unified society, but they were not concerned with eliminating private property or class distinctions. Instead, fascists pushed for another identity, one rooted in extreme nationalism, which often relied on racial identity.

Fascism is a division of totalitarianism. A totalitarian ruler rules absolutely, attempting to control every aspect of citizens’ lives. Fascists are a little different because they rely heavily on nationalism. Their particular brand of nationalism is racism. This means that all the power was in the hands of one militaristic leader. There are a few countries in which fascism rose, in Russia under Stalin, Italy under Mussolini and Germany under Hitler.


  1. Define fascism.


  1. Define totalitarianism.


Italy: The First Fascist State

Italy was going through many problems after World War I. Italy had 600,000 deaths and received nothing in the Versailles Treaty. The lack of acknowledgement by the Allies, coupled with Post-war problems like national debt, high unemployment, poverty, anger, strikes, riots, and demands for land reform caused Italy to need a change.

Italy was the first state to have a fascist government. The founder of this government was Benito Mussolini, who created the Nationalist Fascist Party in 1919. Mussolini recalled the glories of the ancient Roman Empire, in contrast to the defeat and poverty of the new 20th century. The members of the party, known as Blackshirts, fought against the violent movements of Socialists and Communists on the Left. This won them wide support among all of whom feared disorder. By 1921, the party seated its first members in the Italian parliament.

Although the fascists were just starting out and had limited representation, Mussolini demanded that King Victor Emanuel III give him and several other fascists some positions in government. To rally support, Mussolini organized his parliamentary thugs to march to Rome and seize power. Rather than cause a fight between the army and the fascists, the king named Mussolini Prime Minister.

Mussolini faced very little opposition to his consolidation of political power. He took over parliament in 1922.  When he did take over Mussolini limited the power of parliament, banned labor unions, abolished rival political parties, set up a secret police, and used the Black Shirts to intimidate opponents. He also used propaganda. He was called "Il Duce" (the Leader), and propaganda photos and documentary films, music, education, television, and parades to help his image. In addition he rejected Democracy, Capitalism, Liberalism, Free Trade, Marxism, and just about everything else, “only the Duce can solve your problems.”


  1. What were some problems in post-war Italy?


  1. What did Mussolini do when he received all political power?

Fascism in Germany

Immediately following World War I, a revolt occurred that left Germany in a mess. But because of the large number of Germans favored democracy and this was the beginning of the Weimar Republic.

The Weimar Republic was in trouble from its inception. With the unsteady government many new political parties began to form. Corporal Adolf Hitler was ordered in September 1919 to investigate a small group in Munich known as the German Workers' Party. In 1920 the party was renamed the Nationalist Socialist German Workers’ Party, or the Nazis. Hitler joined the party and would slowly rise to the head of the party.

In 1923 things became bad in Germany. They could no longer pay reparations to the Allied countries. On 8th November, 1923, the Bavarian government held a meeting with about 3,000 officials. Adolf Hitler and armed storm troopers entered the building. Hitler jumped onto a table, fired two shots in the air and told the audience that the Munich Putsch or (Beer Hall Putsch) was taking place and the National Revolution had begun. It was a failed attempt and Hitler was sent to prison, however it was in prison that Hitler’s true voice would be heard and published in his book Mein Kampf or My Struggle. This book would be the key to his success after prison.


  1. How did Hitler become a member of the Nazi Party?


  1. What was Mein Kampf?


The Nazi Party

By May of 1926, Hitler was released and had defeated any rivals within the Nazi Party and assumed the title of supreme leader (Führer).  From the years 1926-1929, the Nazi Party was relatively small and quiet. On October 29, 1929, the Wall Street stock market crashed with disastrous worldwide effects. The whole world suffered, companies bankrupted, banks failed and people lost their life savings. Unemployment soared; poverty and starvation became real for everyone. Governments seemed powerless to help. Adolf Hitler knew his time had come.

Hitler had a large support base with the peasants and workers. He used the uncertainty of the government to gain more power by claiming he could do it better. By the 1930 Reichstag (legislative house) election the Nazi’s were beginning to gain substantial support. The election gave them 107 seats in the Reichstag, which made them Germany’s second largest party. In 1932 Hitler decided to challenge Paul von Hindenburg the current president, for his seat. Hitler was defeated. But two years later, Hitler used Germany’s suffering to his advantage. Hitler became chancellor in 1933, and concentrated power to the Nazi Party. The German leaders seriously underestimated Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.


  1. How did the Wall Street crash help Hitler rise to power?

An old comrade of Hitler's sent a telegram to President Hindenburg regarding his new chancellor. Former General Erich Ludendorff had once supported Hitler and had even participated in the failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923.

"By appointing Hitler Chancellor of the Reich you have handed over our sacred German Fatherland to one of the greatest demagogues of all time. I prophesy to you this evil man will plunge our Reich into the abyss and will inflict immeasurable woe on our nation. Future generations will curse you in your grave for this action." - General Erich Ludendorff


Adolf Hitler Becomes Dictator

Adolf Hitler, the new Chancellor of Germany, used the rules of democracy to legally establish himself as dictator. Hitler's plan was to establish a majority of elected Nazis in the Reichstag which would become a rubber stamp, passing whatever laws he desired while making it all perfectly legal.

The burning down of the Reichstag happened on February 27, 1933. The Reichstag Fire was blamed on the Communists, and Hitler used this event to obtain Hindenburg's signature to suspend a number of constitutional civil liberties. This would allow the Nazi government to take swift and harsh action against the communists. On his first day as chancellor, Hitler manipulated Hindenburg into dissolving the Reichstag and calling for the new elections.


After the new elections, the Nazis began a systematic takeover of the state governments throughout Germany. Armed SA and SS thugs barged into local government offices to throw out legitimate office holders and replace them with Nazi Reich commissioners. Hitler proposed the Enabling Act, which gave him dictatorial powers for four years. With his new powers Adolf Hitler becomes dictator of Germany in March 1933.


  1. How did the Reichstag fire help Hitler?


  1. What was the Enabling Act?


The Consolidation of Nazi Power

This was the birth of the Third Reich in German history. When Hindenburg died in 1934, Hitler had abolished the Presidential Office and merged it with his own to become the official Chancellor of Germany.

In May 1933, the Nazis ordered the abolition of the independent labor unions. Both strikes and lockouts were forbidden. Later during the spring of 1933, the Nazis banned all other political parties making the Nazi Party the only legal party. Hitler put big business under government control. The government had also outlawed freedom of the press and held a massive book burning. The Germans burned all books with "UnGerman" ideas. Some writers were Einstein, Freud, Hemingway, and Karl Marx. The formation of the Gestapo (secret state police) hunted down enemies and opponents of the government. Some were jailed and shot on suspicion alone. 1933 also saw the birth of the first concentration camps for enemies of the state.

Hitler had a plan to rebuild Germany. To deal with the Depression Hitler launched large public works including the construction of superhighways (autobahns), and established a labor service to provide jobs. He also built houses and replanted forests.

Hitler also focused on rearming Germany, in violation of the Versailles Treaty. The need for hardware stimulated the economy and started to end unemployment. Because of this Germany was the first country to rise up from the depression.


  1. What did Hitler do to rebuild Germany?


  1. How did Hitler violate the Versailles Treaty?


The Night of Long Knives

By 1934 Adolf Hitler appeared to have complete control over Germany, but he constantly feared that others wanted his power. To protect himself, Hitler used the tactic of divide and rule and encouraged other leaders such as Goering, Goebbels, Himmler and Rohm to compete with each other for senior positions.        

Rohm was particularly hated because as leader of the Sturm Abteilung (SA) he had tremendous power and had the potential to remove any one of his competitors. Hitler was aware that Rohm and the SA had the power to remove him and decided to stop it.

In June 1934, Hitler, accompanied by the SS, arrived at Wiesse, where he arrested Rohm. During the next 24 hours 200 senior SA officers were arrested, however many were murdered. Fearing Rohm’s strength, he was also shot by SS soldiers.

Hitler called the purge of the SA the Night of the Long Knives. In his speech Hitler explained why he had not relied on the courts to deal with the conspirators:

"In this hour I was responsible for the fate of the German people, and thereby I become the supreme judge of the German people. I gave the order to shoot the ringleaders in this treason."

The Night of the Long Knives was a turning point in the history of Hitler's Germany. Hitler had made it clear that he was the supreme ruler of Germany who had the right to be judge and jury, and had the power to decide whether people lived or died.


  1. What was the purpose of the Night of Long Knives?


  1. Why was this event a turning point in German History?





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