What is Fascism

AUTHOR: Benito Mussolini was a member of the Italian Socialist Party prior to WWI, when he disagreed with the parties advocacy for neutrality during the war he was kicked out. He denounced the party and began to work on his fascist movement.

CONTEXT: At the time of writing What is Fascism in 1932 Mussolini had already been in power for 10 years. He wrote a entry for an Italian encyclopedia at this time defining what exactly fascism was. Despite the fact that he and his party had been in power for 10 years the general public was unclear as to what exactly fascism was and this entry was meant to help define it.

LANGUAGE: Mussolini wrote this piece so that the general public could better understand his ideas, he did not use terribly scholarly language that was meant to overwhelm the people, he wanted them to understand. This piece is also persuasive, Mussolini needed public support for fascism so he was trying to gain it in this piece.

AUDIENCE: Mussolini’s audience was the people of Italy, he needed public support to keep fascism and himself in power so he was trying to persuade the people that fascism was a positive form of government.

INTENT: Mussolini’s intent was to define fascism for the people of Italy in his own way which he hoped would help the people see that they should support him and his political ideas.

MESSAGE: Mussolini’s goal in writing this piece was to show people that fascism was a good thing for Italy and that they would benefit from it, his message was the same and worked to accomplish that goal.

Commonalities vs. Sameness

In Three New Deals, author Wolfganf Schivelbusch  argues how three powerful states were all led by common ideals leading up to WWII.  This is not to confuse with ‘same’ ideals in any sense.  While these terms may seem alike, Schivelbusch clearly states there is a difference.  He argues that while the United States, Germany, and Italy had common features the three cannot be considered identical in any way.  It is difficult to place the United States, a democratic society, in the same category as two authoritative countries, but Schivelbusch continues to explain how they represent one another while being different at the same time.

Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal consisted of a series of acts that were established to help the United States recover from the Great Depression.  While the New Deal looks as it could help the recovery process, it ultimately did nothing but create criticism both internationally and domestically.  Much of the criticism was towards FDR and his Fascist and National Socialist fascinations.  Schivelbusch argues how Germany and Italy identified the similarities of FDR’s economic solutions and supported his dictatorial leadership style.  While these solutions may have been similar to those of the Fascist or National Socialist, they are not identical in any matter.

Another element Schivelbusch recognizes that is common within these three states is the use of  propaganda, particularly war propaganda.  War propaganda was used create a sense of nationalism through the respected states, and Italy and Germany seemed to create a strong idea of nationalism.  Stated, “fascism and National Socialism saw themselves as the continuation of solders’ solidarity, as heroic, messianic movements that would invigorate nations still ruled by outdated ideas with new revolutionary spirit.  Politics was a call to arms on the home front” (39).  FDR and the United States did not have anywhere near the strength of the Germans or Italians, but was convinced he could spread it.

The Demise of Purity

Bread and Wine by Ignazio Silone is a historical novel that follows the journey of Pietro Spina, a young communist revolutionary. Pietro Spina returns to Italy from exile and is being hunted by police, so he takes on the identity of Don Paolo Spada, a priest, to avoid capture. It is clear that this novel’s goal is to denounce fascism and praise communism, while portraying a sympathy for peasants and landowners.

Cristina, Don Paolo’s love interest, is the character that intrigued me the most. In this novel it was obvious to me that Cristina was the symbol of purity. She was the glue that held her family together; she put off her dreams of becoming a nun to take care of her family and their home. In chapter 9, Don Paolo goes to Cristina’s house to meet her family and father, Don Pasquale. There, Cristina, Don Pasquale, and Don Paolo talk about Cristina’s youth. Don Pasquale tells Don Paolo that when Cristina was a baby he left her in the pram, and a wolf came. However, the wolf didn’t eat Cristina, which is strange because she would have been easy prey (98). Contrasting with Cristina’s experience in childhood, at the very end of the novel, Cristina dashes to the mountain to look for Don Paolo, who she now knows to be Pietro Spina. Through the snow she desperately calls out for him, looking for Pietro. Dishearteningly, when she calls out for Pietro, only the howl of wolves is returned.  She knows that they are coming to kill her. She makes a cross and sinks to her knees knowing her death is imminent (270). To me, this contrast symbolized that in a world such as Facist Italy, purity cannot survive. Eventually, the “wolf” will “eat you”, no matter how long you have escaped it before.

Is this symbol an over-dramatization of a socialst’s view of a fascist government?