A comparative study of German Nazism and Italian Fascism, by Anglo-American historian (and Vietnam vet) Knox.
In the years following WWI, both Germany and Italy developed revolutionary movements that advertised national renewal and increased opportunities for the lower orders. Germany’s war-weakened nobility, its shattered economy, and its ineffectual representational government helped unleash ideas about competitiveness and merit that the Nazi Party would mix in with stories of Jewish backstabbing and Bolshevik subversion. Hitler argued that the conservatives and aristocrats had allowed Judeo-Bolshevik fiendishness to flourish, and that the ancien regime must be swept aside by a liberation of Aryan energies. Whereas the frailty of the German state could not stop the Nazi revolution, the ideological and institutional strength of the Catholic Church, as well as the staying power of the Italian ruling classes, limited the strength of Mussolini’s populist uprising. Just as the French Revolution found its fullest expression in the continental wars that lasted close to thirty years, Nazism and fascism reached their logical climax in the carnage of WWII. Italy’s lackluster performance during the war was due, in large part, to the failure of Mussolini’s revolt within the military and the government. On the other hand, Hitler’s plan opened up exclusive officer corps, government, and party positions to ambitious men from lower classes. When the dictator assumed command of the Wehrmacht during the retreat from Moscow, he argued that his leadership would finally wipe out old elite entitlements and open the way for men of real battle experience to command the racial and ideological struggle against the Russians. In the end, Nazism created mass expectations that merit would result in a better life. Knox goes so far as to imply that Hitlerism made modern German democracy possible (although he does not mention that it also made 50 years of Soviet rule over millions of Germans possible as well).
An intriguing, if incomplete, account: Knox provides readers with a compelling reconsideration of the European revolutionary tradition, but one hopes that he will follow through with a companion volume that traces the further careers of Nazi opportunists.