ITALIAN FASCISM: Its Origins and Development by Alexander De Grand

ITALIAN FASCISM: Its Origins and Development

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KIRKUS REVIEW

There's a lot of good material on Italian fascism for specialists, but little by way of introduction for the general reader. Roosevelt U. historian De Grand has partially filled that gap. With great economy, he first sketches the historical background--Italy's economic backwardness and political fragmentation aggravated by its humiliating WW I experience--and then surveys the history of fascism from ""movement"" to ""regime."" Though De Grand does not present the various interpretations of fascism (see instead Renzo de Felice's book of that title), he does have an interpretation going, and it's a sensible one. De Grand sees fascism as an expression of middle-class opposition to socialism. In its early years (1919-22), Mussolini's movement incorporated lower-middle-class elements squeezed out of a constricted economy or trained for unattainable jobs, together with peasants and disenchanted leftists. As the movement was transformed into a regime-in-power, Mussolini made accommodations with the Church, large landowners, and industry that ran counter to the social demands of the original activists. Corporativism, the organization of workers and owners in horizontal units controlled by the state, remained a dead letter despite claims that it represented a ""third way"" between capitalism and socialism; and during the Great Depression, the Fascist state operated with an ad hoc economic program that included state takeover of the banking sector, despite fascism's antistatist origins. The patchwork that was fascism in power leads De Grand to conclude that there was no fascism, only ""hyphenated fascism""--i.e., a fascism of the technocrats, the Church, the conservatives, etc. The hyphenates were held together by a rough ideology centered on nationalism, elitism, authoritarianism, and a nebulous collectivism--while the regime itself was a shell game, with Mussolini trying to keep everyone from finding out that there was no pea. Largely colorless, but succinct and cogent--and a fine supplement to Denis Mack Smith's recent Mussolini.

Pub Date: Nov. 25th, 1982
Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska Press