In light of the Charlottesville riots, the media continues to purport the false equivocation of Nazism and Fascism. While Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that he was inspired by the Fascist movement of Benito Mussolini in Italy, Fascism is no more responsible for Nazism than the American Revolution is for the French Revolution. The tenets and philosophical underpinnings of true Fascism differ significantly from Nazism and their derivative movements.
Often considered a footnote in the rise of Nazi Germany; the Fatherland Front spawned from the Christian Social Party, had a brief period of power from 1933 to 1938 in Austria. Like many of the parliamentary republics in Europe following World War 1, Austria’s democratic system were tumultuous at best with no parties being truly democratic by the current standards. The prevailing political sentiments in Austria were divided among the “Austrofascists,” Socialists, and Nazis. The Fatherland Front was characterized by a type of clerical fascism whereby Christian; and specifically Catholic, religiosity and traditionalism were invoked similar to Falangist Spain. Nationalism, Corporatist Economics, Authoritarianism, and Traditionalism were hallmarks of Austrofascism. The Fatherland Front drew significant support from the clergy, Jewish community, Austrian bureaucracy, military, rural population as well as the bourgeoisie.
As the Christian Social Party gained a control of the Austrian Parliament, Chancellor Engelbert, Dollfuss, suspended the Austrian parliament and later banned the socialist, communist, and Nazi parties along with their respective paramilitary groups. Dollfuss rightfully saw the dual threat of socialism and the expansionist bolshevism as a threat to Christianity, national identity, and economic vitality in Austria. To the north and within his own state, Dolffuss saw the National Socialist movement threatening to usurp Austria into the Reich under the guise of uniting the Germanic peoples. In contrast with Hitler, Dollfuss’ Austrian Nationalism necessitated a separate state from Germany for Austrians. Germany was largely more Protestant than the predominantly Catholic Austria. Dollfuss’ viewed Protestantism’s inability to create a traditionalist state through institutional means as a threat to the values of Austria. History would inevitably show that Nazism had many pagan roots, and Christianity was more of a cultural tool. Further exasperating the differences between Nazism and Austrofascism was the socialistic economic policies among Germanic peoples in the Reich and the managed market economics of Fascist Corporatism.
In February 1934, a sixteen day civil war ensued in Austria between the Fascists and the Socialists as Nazis on both sides of the German-Austria border looked on. With the Heimwher; the paramilitary arm of the Fatherland Front, along with the Austrian military and police, the Fascists succeeded in defeating and disarming the Socialists in country.
Several months later in July, Dollfuss was assassinated in a failed coup by the Nazis. He was denied his request for a priest, and left to bleed out. Mussolini, who had considered Dollfuss and Austria a friend and ally, was outraged at actions of Nazi Germany. Dollfuss and Mussolini believed their combined might could beat back the influence of Nazism and Communism/Socialism. In response, Mussolini mobilized the Italian military along the Austrian border in the event of a German invasion. Several years later, Nazi Germany mobilized into Austria before a referendum permanently declaring Austria free of Germany could be held.
Mussolini had previously discussed alliances with France and England against Germany. Mussolini had long disagreed with Hitler with regard to his racialism. Furthermore, Germany had supplied the Ethiopians in war against Italy. With Austria annexed by Germany, and Falangist Spain weakened by years of Civil War, Mussolini succumbed to a German alliance despite years of an anti-Nazi disposition. Despite Mussolini’s apprehensions that Italy was not ready for war, Germany moved forward with his its invasions. When the Nazi war machine largely defeated France, Italy joined in the conflict of World War 2 to reap the spoils. This proved to be a miscalculation on Mussolini’s end, as Italy was no longer a neutral state in WW2. Mussolini found himself in an alliance where he was treated as a secondary partner kept in the dark of Germany’s plans. Italy’s premature mobilization ultimately led it to become dependent on appeasing Germany. In order subsist, Italy created policies with regards to anti-Semitism that were largely unenforced, token efforts with no teeth behind them.
This piece serves to highlight the historical and philosophical differences between true Fascism and Nazism. The underpinnings of Fascism being rooted in the philosophical teachings of Dr. Giovanni Gentile, and those of Nazism by a failed artist. While the conflicts between the hodgepodge of anarchists and communists in Antifa, and the alt-right racialists may be portrayed as one against Fascism, for Antifa to be fighting Fascism in the streets, there must be a true Fascist present.