The Socialist Roots of Fascism
"Our programs are definitely equal to our revolutionary ideas and they belong to what in democratic regime is called 'left."- Benito Mussolini
Academics and politicians from the political left claim that Fascism is a Right-wing philosophy and its founder, Benito Mussolini, a political conservative. But, the quote above, and others, reveal that Mussolini considered himself a man of the Left. Prior to World War I, he was an active Socialist in both Italy and Switzerland, promoting a Left-wing agenda as editor of multiple newspapers. Vladimir Lenin, himself, scolded the Italian Socialist Party for later losing the talented Mussolini from their ranks. Yet, Fascism, with its national socialism was very different from the international approach of Communism. So, what are the origins of Fascism? Is it a political ideology of the Right, or Left?
"Against individualism, the Fascist conception is for the State." - Benito Mussolini
By the late 1800's, many socialist activists had become disillusioned by the failure of Marxist principles to elevate the working class out of poverty and oppression. There had been no international workers revolution, as promised by Karl Marx, and capitalism and the bourgeoisie seemed as entrenched as ever. Some started looking for a better, more pragmatic socialism that didn't require an international uprising and the erasing of national identity. They sought results, not philosophy, and found it in the ideas of French Socialist Pierre Bietry.
Bietry had been an advocate for Socialist causes in France and a member of the Marxist French Workers Party, before becoming disillusioned, himself, in Marxism's lack of progress in transforming society. Socialism had become stale and a better alternative was needed. So, in 1902, he proposed his vision for Yellow Socialism, named to contrast it with the "Red" Socialism of Karl Marx. He rejected the idea that workers should unite in an international revolution to seize the means of production, advocating instead that workers and business owners should work, cooperatively, for the betterment of society. Both owners and workers would be mandated to belong to unions, called syndicates or corporations, that would be supervised and regulated by the state to serve the national interest. These unions, Bietry believed, would elevate workers out of oppression.
According to Bietry, a strong central government, run by a dictator, or ruling elite, was necessary to manage tensions between workers and management, so that fairness was maintained and society improved. He advocated a managed economy with cooperation between organized labor and nominally capitalist businesses. Private ownership of property was allowed, as long as owners used it to serve the national interest, as defined by the government.
"The State should retain supervision and each property owner should consider himself appointed by the State. It is his duty, not to use his property against the interests of others among his people." - Adolph Hitler
Bietry founded the Federation Nationale des Jaunes de France (National Federation of Yellows of France) in 1902 and its political wing, the National Socialist Party, in 1903. Interestingly, this is the same term that Adolph Hitler used to define his political party, a name that was abbreviated as Nazi.
Because their goal was to elevate the worker through trade unions and a regulated economy, Yellow Socialists became anti-immigrant, fearing that an influx of foreign workers would take jobs from native-born citizens and keep wages low.
Finding himself attracted to the teachings of Edouard Drumont, Bietry incorporated his anti-Semitism into his party's platform, claiming that Jewish bankers were rigging the economy to oppress workers for financial profit. Yellow Socialists tended to also see Jews as the foreigner, within, that couldn't be trusted. Ironically, as a member of the French parliament, Bietry is most well known for his vigorous defense of Alfred Dreyfus, the French Jewish soldier falsely accused of treason and executed.
"Fascism reaffirms the State as the true reality of the individual."
- Benito Mussolini
The positions of Yellow Socialism became especially popular in Italy, where academics, authors and socialist activists, such as Enrico Corridini, promoted its views. Corridini, in his writings, expanded upon the philosophy of Yellow Socialism, with his concept of Proletarian Nations. These were countries that, because of their poverty, found themselves at the mercy of their stronger neighbors. The citizens of strong nations would rise, he argued, and dominate the countries around them. Thus, he justified imperialism as the right of stronger nations.
By 1910, Bietry and his National Socialist Party were fading from the French political scene, but his views continued to exert influence throughout Europe. Benito Mussolini considered both Bietry and Corridini as influential in the development of Fascism, as did the Fascist philosopher Giovanni Gentile.
"Fascism is a form of socialism, in fact, it is its most viable form."
- Giovanni Gentile
Following the collapse of the Soviet economy, Vladimir Lenin included market reforms and corporatist elements, similar to those of Yellow Socialism, into his New Economic Plan of 1921.
Today, we see the influence of Yellow Socialism most prominently in China and Russia where authoritarian rule is justified as the best way to regulate both the economy and workers for the strengthening of the nation and the well-being of its citizens.
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Samuel Griswold is a lifelong student of history and politics, whose studies have given him unique insights into the true nature of totalitarianism in all of its aspects... Fascism, Communism and Socialism. As an American Jew, who lost relatives in the Holocaust, he's lived by the pledges "Never Forget" and "Never Again." But, for him, these pledges mean to never let the policies that led to the Holocaust happen again. To prevent fascism from thriving, we must know how to see and define it. That is the purpose of FightingFascism.com, to draw attention and rally opposition to current fascist policies and governments.