Fascism v. Nazism

Fascism and Nazism have often been grouped together with little, if any differentiation. In reality, there are significant differences between the two ideologies, which are clearly seen by examining Benito Mussolini’s What is Fascism, and Hitler’s The 25 Points 1920: An Early Nazi Program. Reading these two sources in conversation with each other reveals that the reasoning was different for both ideologies.

Mussolini’s What is Fascism was written in 1932 with the help of Giovanni Gentile. With this definition, Mussolini stove to define what Fascism was, and how it would bring Italy back into it’s former glory. The essence of Fascism was defined as the state, which was absolute.  Additionally, Mussolini believed that individuals were only to be conceived of in their relation to the State.1 Furthermore, Mussolini noted why Fascism was different than other ideologies, (and therefore better in his mind). He stated that Fascism now and always, believes in holiness and in heroism; that is to say, in actions influenced by no economic motive, direct or indirect.2 In addition, he discussed how Fascism was an ideology that would be able to organize the state, and allow it to expand. He continues with the idea of expansion as essential for the growth and subsequent success of the nation.

While Mussolini remained focused on expansionism and creating a national fervor for a better Italy, Hitler demonstrated through The 25 Points 1920: An Early Nazi Program that purification of the nation was his ideological goal to better the nation. A significant number of points deal in some way with race and purifying the German population down to the ideal citizen. Hitler discusses how citizenship should be defined by one’s race, and that only those of German blood could reap the benefits of citizenship. Foreigners and Jews specifically are not included as citizens. Hitler believed that through purification of the population, Germany would cleanse itself of any impurities, and return again to it’s former glory.

Both Hitler and Mussolini arguably had a common goal in asserting their ideologies. They both wanted to restore their respective nations to their former glory. However, the methodology for each leader was significantly different. Mussolini believed that fascism was defined by an absolute state, while Hitler believed that success could be achieved through purification of the German race.

What I found intriguing about reading these sources was specifically looking at the language and word choice in Mussolini’s definition. He writes fascism, now and always, believes in holiness and heroism.3 I find it interesting that he used the word “holy” in his definition. I believe in class we discussed that Mussolini was not religious. However, perhaps the choice in wording here was deliberate. Creating a mission to make a “holy and heroic” population would arguably attract both the Church and the population in general, most of whom were Roman Catholic. Thoughts? What other instances do you see where language and word choice was significant in either the Mussolini or Hitler document?

  1. “Modern History Sourcebook: Benito Mussolini: What is Fascism,” Fordham University, accessed September 19, 2014, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/mussolini-fascism.asp []
  2. Ibid []
  3. Ibid []

3 thoughts on “Fascism v. Nazism

  1. I wouldn’t say that Hitler and Mussolinis methodology were significantly different but rather just different. I would say that both were similar in that they needed absolute control to gain what they wanted. However, Hitler wanted to go beyond Mussolinis goal of an absolute state. Hitler wanted to ‘purify’ the state of ‘unwanted’ peoples he saw unfit to the German state. However, in order to do so, Hitler had to obtain an absolute state by changing the laws of the state and removing political enemies, much like Mussolini. Where they differed is that Mussolini stopped at an absolute state and that he wanted to make Italy great like the old Roman Empire. Hitler had desires beyond an absolute state. That was to cleanse the ‘arian race’ of undesirables from his empire.

  2. The point you make about language/word choice is an interesting one. I think the language reflecting religion were deliberately chosen to appease to a largely roman catholic population. Another example I found of such wording was at the end where he states “that Fascism has created a living faith”. The pairing of the words “living” and “faith”, in my mind definitely are associated with religious beliefs and practices.

  3. Your point about his word choice (specifically his appeal to religion) distinctly shows Mussolini’s conviction towards his Italian heritage.

    Mussolini’s manifesto (and, in a larger sense, his policies when ruling Italy) appealed heavily to the national pride of Italy as a whole , and a major part of the Italian makeup (especially in the north) connected to a Roman Catholic identity, therefore Mussolini’s religious word choice in this explanation of Fascism makes complete sense.

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