Saturday, September 5, 2009

Europe's Far Right Before the Second World War

From Mussolini's 'Doctrine of Fascism' to the first mentions of Hitler in the Guardian, right-wing extremism gradually gained irresistible momentum

Italy's new leader: Mussolini outlines his 'Doctrine of Fascism'

Anti-individualistic, the fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the state and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with those of the state, which stands for the conscience and the universal will of man as a historic entity. It is opposed to classical liberalism, which arose as a reaction to absolutism and exhausted its historical function when the state became the expression of the conscience and will of the people.Liberalism denied the state in the name of the individual; fascism reasserts the rights of the state as expressing the real essence of the individual. And if liberty is to be the attribute of living men and not of abstract dummies invented by individualistic liberalism, then fascism stands for liberty, and for the only liberty worth having, the liberty of the state and of the individual within the state. The fascist conception of the state is all embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, fascism is totalitarian, and the fascist state – a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values – interprets, develops and potentates the whole life of a people.

Fascism does not, generally speaking, believe in the possibility or utility of perpetual peace. It therefore discards pacifism as a cloak for cowardly, supine renunciation in contradistinction to self-sacrifice. War alone keys up all human energies to their maximum tension and sets the seal of nobility on those peoples who have the courage to face it. All other tests are substitutes that never place a man face to face with himself before the alternative of life or death. Therefore all doctrines that postulate peace at all costs are incompatible with fascism.

Excerpts from Benito Mussolini's The Doctrine of Fascism, ghostwritten by Giovanni Gentile

'The German Mussolini': First mention of Hitler by Guardian's Berlin correspondent FA Voigt

The dreaded gathering of National Socialists in Munich has come and gone without "incidents" of any kind. This was a triumph for Hitler, the National Socialist leader – a success scored despite the fact that the town was placed under martial law. Hitler is not a man of action. The sweeping, expressive gesture is his at will, but not the deed. Like all demagogues, the intoxication of his own oratory may incite him to action, but at the eleventh hour he is likely to draw back.

Hitler's enlightenment was sudden. A pamphlet published by his party relates the tale: invalided in the war, Hitler was still in hospital at the beginning of the revolution. Stricken with sudden blindness, the veil was lifted by a flood of ecstasy that permeated his entire being and set him the task of liberating his country. This revelation turned Hitler into a monomaniac enthralled by a single idea, possessed by a willpower that promised him success. His flow of language bemused his own brain, but has not as yet broken down the thin barrier that divides will from action.

Manchester Guardian, 8 Feb 1923

Ten years later, Hitler is elected chancellor. Voigt travels around Germany to find out why

Motoring through Dresden, I stopped at several village inns and talked to some of the peasants. The peasants in Saxony are not rich; most of them just manage to make ends meet. Nearly all the peasants are either Nazis or Nationalists. The more prosperous and "respectable" peasants are Nationalist and they swear by Herr Hindenburg. They see their salvation in protectionism.

The Nazi influence is also strong among the middle and lower-middle classes in the big towns. Every hotel porter, every shopkeeper with whom I spoke was a Nazi. They all speak confidently of the "better times" that are coming to Germany. That there is a large Nazi public among the burghers of Leipzig and Dresden is undeniable. The bookshops and papershops are full of picture postcards of Hitler, Göring, and the rest, and in the confectionery shops they sell swastika-shaped chocolates.

Manchester Guardian, 25 Feb 1933

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