Fascism, a manifestation of the post World War One era, had become the newest political phenomenon of the twentieth century. This ideology, founded in 1919, originated out of Italy and was known initially as Italian Fascism.2 Only to be imitated by other European nations, the fascist paradigm, according to many historians, was referred to as, the “entire generation before World War II.”3 Though difficult to define and clarify, Stanley G. Payne attempts to explain and determine a proper definition of this doctrine.
Determining a proper definition of Fascism, according to Payne, is difficult, due to its profound ambiguity, furthermore, stating that, I ”has no implicit political reference, however vague, as do democracy, liberalism, socialism and communism.”4 In addition, many political movements during the interwar era, regarded as “fascist”, had not, in any way, determined themselves as fascist. This confusion has resulted in multiple definitions of the term, hence, historians believe this to be problematic, in nature.
Since no single movement would necessarily be found to have announced a program or self description couched in the exacted terms of this definition5, it would be beneficial to analyze the full concept of fascism in the interwar period and to evaluate all movements as a whole and in doing so, would result in a broader definition. Moreover, the evaluation would leave out the uniquely homogenous characteristics which so acutely distinguishes one movement from the other, thus, the nature of ambiguity would be less skewed and more refined.
Ernst Nolte, a fascist scholar, devised a “six-point fascist minimum”6 that was to be the minimum points of which were a criterion for fascism. These six points were:
4) The Leadership principle
5) A Party Aim
6) The aim of Totalitarianism7
Nolte’s typology refers to fascist negotiations and states that three primary characteristics which are German Fascist specific, cannot be correlated with other varieties of a broader politics species.8
Commonly found in fascist movements, are characteristics of similar negotiations, a formal style, variations of organization and orientation of political ideology.9 Moreover, to sum up an interwar definition, one must identify: a) fascist negotiations b) common points of ideology and c) special common features of style and organization.10 This is to establish a general awareness of simple elements which are most common amongst European interwar fascist movements. Attempting to achieve a more specific definition would only misrepresent the ideology, thus, reinstating its generalization and inhibits bias that would normally redefine the meaning of the doctrine.
Imperialistic elements, Payne suggests, was an integral part of the fascist doctrine as many policies were imperialistic in nature. However, some fascist movements has indeed rejected the notion of an imperialistic following, though, both “sought a new order in foreign affairs, a new relationship or set if alliances with respect to contemporary states and forces , and a new status for their nation in Europe and the world.”11
The general goal of fascism, was an attempt to bring back the humanistic and natural sense of community, deriving from an eighteenth-century phenomenon and raise it to a level of stability, leaving behind the “modern materialism and prudential egotism it had yet achieved.”12 It is from these ideals that man will be able to develop and be entwined in its beliefs. Such ideals opposed materialism and called for more traditional values. Nolte expressed that this was the “resistance to transcendence.”13
Fascism carried many distinct qualities which included meetings, marches, visual symbols and ceremonial liturgical rituals which followed beyond the course of its movements.”14 The goal was to overwhelm the individual with an ethereal cohesiveness that would appeal to religious fanatics and the political layman. However, many movements had not succeeded in catalyzing such mass mobilization, furthermore, deflating hopes of militarization to any extent or degree.
Almost all movements carried with it a version of a youth movement or youth appeal. During the 1920’s, fascist movements began to see specific youth sections from which they had hoped to rise. Placing youth on a higher pedestal than its other generations, made this movement, to a greater degree, unique in its viewpoint of young people. Moreover, youth exaltation arose as a direct result from the timely ending of the First World War, thus, the existing generation were mainly older and in many cases, youth represented a new birth to a new ideology.
A fascist is not complete without the fuehrer type leader which suggests an authoritarian type leadership, although many movements began with the election of a leader or party, This is true with Germany’s National Socialists as well.
In essence, defining fascism provides much difficulty as it contains unique elements with every movement. The “sui generis” nature (unique unto itself) provides ambiguity to the definition of fascism, furthermore, it is extremely difficult to acknowledge a common meaning. Fascism must be analyzed under those basic elements as stated by Nolte’s typology, however, some movements had deviated from those specific suggestions, but are still regarded as a movement with fascist content. While it is clear that a fascist paradigm of he interwar period establishes itself as a difficult term to define, we also note that Payne states its difficulty and attempts to make any sense of the word. Therefore, in nature, fascism can be represented with one main compilation of ideologies with forever changing degrees of unique elements specific to that movement.