The Rise and Fall of Fascism

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Fascism may be defined as “a political ideology that encompassed totalitarianism, state terrorism, imperialism, racism, and in the German case, the most radical genocide of the last century: the holocaust (Finchelstein, p.1). Fascism also presents, a system of government that is dictatorial, requiring complete subservience to the state. In essence, Fascism is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism that regulates every aspect of public and private life, “[eliminating] the distinction between the public and the private, swallowing and eventually destroying civil society (Adorno, p. 324). For example, Benito Mussolini advocated to establish a totalitarian state and favored the concept of being the ideal superior man of the future who could impose his own values and disregard views against fascism. “Fascism, in short, was not a mere reactionary ideology. Rather, fascism aimed at creating a new order and a new civilization”. (Adorno. P. 320).

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Attributes of fascist ideologies are said to be often developed at a young age through economic and social factors. However, extreme cases are usually brought upon by parents shaming or punishing their child for little mistakes. As a result, this constant abuse shapes the child into a person that holds an aggression towards adults and any form of authority. Theodore Adorno sought out to understand why people developed the personalities that were seen in fascists and came up with the conclusion that this was a result of what he called “psychological frailties” and he believed that these issues must be dealt with at an early stage. Adorno and his assistants began a questionnaire that had questions which would seek out fascists. They invented a Fascist Scale (F-scale) that was meant to show the personalities that would shape up an individual to be more reliant on fascist tendencies. The F-scale was made up of questions that included conventionalism, authoritarian aggression, superstition, stereotypy, power and “toughness”. Therefore, all these personalities on the scale represented some form of the fascist personality. Conventionalism questions were meant to bring upon how strongly the majority of the middle-class exemplified fascist ideas. If they scored high on conventionalism they portrayed fascist predispositions. Furthermore, Authoritarian aggression were a reflection of individuals who had a great amount of animosity towards minorities and they believed they deserved punishment. Superstition and stereotypy is the belief that an individual cannot affect the outcomes of their given circumstances. Lastly, power and toughness are very relatable to Authoritarian personalities who prefer strong leaders who can maintain order or show their “toughness” by severe punishment of those who step out of line. Therefore, one of the discoveries was that people with fascist personalities hold a lot of pent-up aggression and are waiting to act upon it.

Although fascism is a form of authority that may be predisposed strongly in an individuals core belief, the daunting experience may cause a society to completely change their ideologies. What the majority of the German population experienced is nothing short of collective trauma and this was a result of fascist beliefs that haunted the citizens of Germany after World War 2. “Cultural trauma occurs when members of a collectivity feel they have been subjected to a horrendous event that leaves indelible marks upon their group consciousness, making their memories forever and changing their future identity in fundamental and irrevocable ways” (Alexander, 2004, p. 3). After the loss of Nazi Germany during world war 2, Germany was stripped of much of its land and was divided into four military occupation zones: France in the southwest, Britain in the northwest, the United States in the south, and the Soviet Union in the east. Several million Germans were forced to migrate and were given no choice but to participate in labour activities, which left an everlasting affect on the citizens of Germany. Consequently, the aftermath of the war left most citizens traumatized and isolated from one another. As explained in the article, Germans as victims?

“In these years, Germans—East and West—devoted considerable energy to assessing their losses and incorporating their victim status into public memory and politics. It is worth remembering how extensive those losses were. The bombing war left as many as 600,000 civilians dead and wounded over 800,000. Some 7.5 million Germans who survived were left homeless at the war’s end, the vast majority of the ten million or so evacuated from cities to avoid the bombs” (Moeller, 2005 p. 151).

The Germans faced a great deal of adversity and the youth, specifically 17- to late 20’s, were not very compliant to the orders that were given to them by police and coerced regulations that were instilled. Instead, they were very active in protesting and challenging these government enforced ideals. Therefore, it is clear that the ideals shifted from very extreme right-wing parties to more liberal & social groups.

In the book “Post war Germans”, there are numerous studies and unbiased reports of real-life situations of German citizens and how their attitudes changed post-world war 2. The main objective of the book is to provide the readers with some first-hand insight on how most people dealt with the adversities they faced during and after the war. The information is very unbiased, given the fact that a few anthropologists were brought into Germany to do research for a duration of 5 months to observe, interview and get a great deal of surveying of the German cultural patterns. That being said, in the book, 17-year-old Karl Huber, a member of a National Socialist group who represented the active youth in Germany during the late 1960s said the following: “We German youth at present do what we are told, but we are very skeptical about the orders given to us and we are not all satisfied with the so-called present peace. Instead of four parties, the German youth want but one unified party. It’s time to shout again, “Germany, awake!” (Rodnick,1948, p. 84). Therefore, the constant protest and activity in the political sphere presented by the majority youth, certainly encouraged a great deal of the youth who fought to change the authoritative control that was taking place in Germany.

Moreover, some of the resentment parents faced from their children was due to the difference in the political spectrum they had. Growing up as a child in Germany everything is divided, from upper class to middle to lower class. Parents typically made sure at an early age their children had to follow their political views in a biased manner and any other ideologies against their views were considered wrong. However, schools, religious, political and social groups taught children other ideals that usually did not comply with what the children were taught at home, which caused a lot of confusion. In addition, only a few Germans have an interest in any group or class outside their own. It is possible for an individual to go through life without having any intimate contact with persons outside his class. (Rodnick, 1948, p.4). Depending on the specific class structure, the children tend to conform to a certain pattern. For instance, as carefully explained in the book Post war Germans, the author explicitly divides the children into 3 groups, that is- working class children, peasant children and middle-class children. In each class, there is a certain way that parents bring up their children and expect them to follow the way they are brought up, but that is not always the case. For example, as Rodnick explains his observations: “in the working class, the child is told by both parents that he is a worker and, as such, must give his future allegiance to the Social Democratic party, or in rare instances, to the communists; that non-working-class organizations are not for him; that as a future “exploited” worker he must not give aid or comfort to those who are mainly interested in preserving the rights of the class above him” (Rodnick, 1948, p. 31). It is clear that there is a sense of pressure and confusion that a child faces from birth all the way until he is a young adult and is fully aware of the decisions he can make for himself. Furthermore, the division between the classes is what ultimately leads to isolation. A large portion of children are home-schooled but the child feels secure in his classroom where he develops friendships. “Not until they reach adolescence do they become rebellious against the outside world and attempt to find a way of life which will enable them to retain the gratifications they received as children in a little world filled with companionship and love” (Rodnick,1948, p.39). The middle-class children are conditioned to believe, at an early age, by their parents, of the lower and higher-class system and they should strive to be the highest they can be. Overall, the struggle that most children endured was the alienation and lack of German identity which only lead to the youth rebelling against their parents and higher forms of authority.

Furthermore, a very productive method that assisted in dealing with the fascist ideologies, was the complete reconstruction of Germany from the laws to the leadership in government. From the disbandment of Nazi laws, to the transition of the state from dictatorship to democracy, reconstruction of the free trade agreement and the economy’s call for peace. A great example of the productivity postwar is described by Clark Kerr in the article Collective bargaining in postwar Germany. Throughout the article, he describes the political efforts and developments of the German unions to gain a greater share of control in the industrial life. The High commissioner for Germany provided the information: “Negotiations have been eased also by the reasonable nature of union demands and the willingness of employers to make moderate concessions. Since bargaining was resumed generally in 1947 and 1948, economic conditions have been improving, and this has given the employers some freedom in agreeing to increases” (Kerr, 1952, p. 12). With this in mind, the economic conditions portray to be constantly excelling and the ISA and RSAs moving towards a completely different direction from the once widespread fascist state.

In summary, fascist ideologies are created in order to generate a new, stronger society, and get rid of all its weaknesses. In addition, the main objective is to become an independent nation, and be extract resources from foreign countries and use it towards the military. That being said, the construction or growth of fascism begins with politicians feeding off the fears of the people and providing with the alternative hopes of a new world order. On the other hand, history has shown us that countries that have suffered fascist ideologies all end up coming back to the realization that in the end there is no upside and there must be a change in order for their country to go towards the right direction.

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