Fascism and National Socialism
After the First World War, throughout much of the Western world there was a turn to authoritarian political figures who promised to provide final solutions to major social and political problems, such as unemployment, inflationary trends, alleged moral decline and political gridlock.  In many cases, the rise to power of these authoritarian leaders, usually dictators, was often aided by the creation of imaginary enemies as scapegoats for a country's problems (for example, Hitler's anti-Semitic propaganda campaigns blaming the Jews for Germany's travails).  Only a few countries, such as the United States, Great Britain and France, remained functioning democracies by the late 1930s, but even democratic countries faced political trouble trying to deal with the effects of the Great Depression.  The emergence of fascism and national socialism did not bode well for peace in Europe, as both movements lauded war as a glorious national activity.  Hitler, in particular, having served in the German army in World War I, possessed a deep belief in the cleansing powers of modern war and was always intent on war.  (See, for example, his Reichstag Speech of 20 February 1938.) 
One of the factors that helped generate increased public support for both Benito Mussolini in Italy and Adolf Hitler in Germany was the widespread fear of Bolshevism present in the West after 1917.  All sorts of lurid stories spread about the Bolshevik regime in Russia; some true (the seizure of all foreign-owned property), some absurdly false (the nationalization of women).  The fact that communist parties were active in Western Europe and the United States (and in non-European areas such as India) led many to fear that it (a communist takeover) could happen again, anywhere, anytime.  Both Hitler and Mussolini claimed that they would end the Bolshevik menace and ensure that public order was maintained.  To a scared and unsettled middle class living in the inflationary period after the First World War, that was appealing.
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This page is copyright © 2008, C.T. Evans
For information contact cevans@nvcc.edu