European Journal of Political Theory 11 (4):410-425 (2012)

Marxist theory has always maintained that a strict continuity exists between liberalism and fascism, and has even proclaimed that there is a causal connection between the two. Therefore fascism comes to be portrayed as the ‘armed wing’ of the bourgeoisie. The Marxist thesis is weak for two reasons: first, because the connection between liberalism and fascism, though it doubtless exists, is considerably more complex, mediated and contradictory than it suggests; and second, because it axiomatically denies the revolutionary nature of fascism, which despite what Marxists claim, represents a rupture with the liberal tradition and demonstrates a relative autonomy from it. In the case of Italy, this autonomy arises from the fact that Fascism was born from the turmoil surrounding the genesis, the course and the outcome of the Great War, and was fed by fragments of philosophies and political theories radically opposed to liberalism, democracy and Marxism (though not to socialism) which arose in Europe at the turn of the 19th century. A birth in such a turbulent cultural and political climate could not give rise to an internally consistent and coherent ideology. The theoretical works of philosophers such as Giovanni Gentile encouraged liberalism to fool itself into seeing in fascism an unruly brother who could be put to good use by opposing socialism. This delusion enabled the rise to power of Mussolini. The revolutionary side to Fascism could draw on Italian populism’s latent revolutionary tradition which developed in the 50 years following unification as a transfiguration of ideological currents which contributed to the Risorgimento but which had been defeated by Cavourian liberalism. These included Mazzinianism and a particular type of radical anti-monarchism
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DOI 10.1177/1474885112448241
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