Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The World Wars and Interwar Period 



The first half of the 20th century saw the world entangled in two global wars, conducted with an unprecedented brutality. The First World War developed from a purely European affair into a conflict involving the colonies and the United States. It altered Europe's political landscape and shifted the power balance worldwide. In World War II, the nations of Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa were drawn into the conflict through the aggressive policies of an ambitious Nazi Germany. The war was conducted with the most up-to-date weapons technology and cost the lives of more than 55 million people. The Holocaust, the systematic annihilation of the European Jews, represented an unparalleled moral catastrophe for modern civilization.


Pablo Picasso "Weeping Woman", 1937




Ideologies of the 20TH Century

National Socialism

see also:

Socialist Realism
National Socialist Art


After the social and moral upheavals of World War I, the proponents of two opposing totalitarian political models for the restructuring of society came to power. With National Socialism, inhuman fascism triumphed over the democratic movement that had established the unstable and weak Weimar Republic in Germany. The other ideology that came to influence world politics was Communism. Both models saw themselves as a radical counterpoint to the "Western" model of a liberal democracy.


Democracy: Self-Determi-nation of the Citizens



Abraham Lincoln described democratic rule, which is based on the principle of sovereignty of the people and the equality of all, as a "government of the people, by the people, for the people."

The 6 United States under President 4 Woodrow Wilson justified its entry into World War I ideologically, stating that its aim was "to make the world safe for democracy."

After the war, demands for greater self-determination by groups sharing a cultural or national heritage led to electoral reforms in almost all countries of Europe.

Initially the predominant form of democracy was that which relied on nonviolent party competition, guaranteed individual rights and minority rights, and let each citizen participate in elections according to the 2 rule of the majority.

In the face of the social crises of the postwar societies, however, many democratic governments were crushed between the radical right and radical left-wing parties. Of the major powers, only the traditional democracies of Great Britain and the United States proved immune to totalitarian promises of Utopias for world happiness.

After World War II, liberal democracies reasserted themselves in Western Europe. Since the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1989-1991, almost all of Eastern Europe and many other parts of the world have committed to democratic principles, although many struggle to establish a true democratic form of rule.

6 Stamp with the New York
Statue of Liberty

4 Woodrow Wilson

2 Polling station in Spain, 1936




Form of government in which supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodic free elections.

In a direct democracy, the public participates in government directly (as in some ancient Greek city-states, some New England town meetings, and some cantons in modern Switzerland). Most democracies today are representative. The concept of representative democracy arose largely from ideas and institutions that developed during the European Middle Ages and the Enlightenment and in the American and French Revolutions. Democracy has come to imply universal suffrage, competition for office, freedom of speech and the press, and the rule of law. See also republic.

literally, rule by the people. The term is derived from the Greek dēmokratiā, which was coined from dēmos (“people”) and kratos (“rule”) in the middle of the 5th century bc to denote the political systems then existing in some Greek city-states, notably Athens.

Fundamental questions
The etymological origins of the term democracy hint at a number of urgent problems that go far beyond semantic issues. If a government of or by the people—a “popular” government—is to be established, at least five fundamental questions must be confronted at the outset, and two more are almost certain to be posed if the democracy continues to exist for long.

(1) What is the appropriate unit or association within which a democratic government should be established? A town or city? A country? A business corporation? A university? An international organization? All of these?

(2) Given an appropriate association—a city, for example—who among its members should enjoy full citizenship? Which persons, in other words, should constitute the dēmos? Is every member of the association entitled to participate in governing it? Assuming that children should not be allowed to participate (as most adults would agree), should the dēmos include all adults? If it includes only a subset of the adult population, how small can the subset be before the association ceases to be a democracy and becomes something else, such as an aristocracy (government by the best, aristos) or an oligarchy (government by the few, oligos)?

(3) Assuming a proper association and a proper dēmos, how are citizens to govern? What political organizations or institutions will they need? Will these institutions differ between different kinds of associations—for example, a small town and a large country?

(4) When citizens are divided on an issue, as they often will be, whose views should prevail, and in what circumstances? Should a majority always prevail, or should minorities sometimes be empowered to block or overcome majority rule?

(5) If a majority is ordinarily to prevail, what is to constitute a proper majority? A majority of all citizens? A majority of voters? Should a proper majority comprise not individual citizens but certain groups or associations of citizens, such as hereditary groups or territorial associations?

(6) The preceding questions presuppose an adequate answer to a sixth and even more important question: Why should “the people” rule? Is democracy really better than aristocracy or monarchy? Perhaps, as Plato argues in the Republic, the best government would be led by a minority of the most highly qualified persons—an aristocracy of “philosopher-kings.” What reasons could be given to show that Plato’s view is wrong?

(7) No association could maintain a democratic government for very long if a majority of the dēmos—or a majority of the government—believed that some other form of government were better. Thus, a minimum condition for the continued existence of a democracy is that a substantial proportion of both the dēmos and the leadership believes that popular government is better than any feasible alternative. What conditions, in addition to this one, favour the continued existence of democracy? What conditions are harmful to it? Why have some democracies managed to endure, even through periods of severe crisis, while so many others have collapsed?

Democratic institutions
Since the time of the ancient Greeks, both the theory and the practice of democracy have undergone profound changes, many of which have concerned the prevailing answers to questions (1) through (3) above. Thus, for thousands of years the kind of association in which democracy was practiced, the tribe or the city-state, was small enough to be suitable for some form of democracy by assembly, or “direct democracy.” Much later, beginning in the 18th century, as the typical association became the nation-state or country, direct democracy gave way to representative democracy—a transformation so sweeping that, from the perspective of a citizen of ancient Athens, the governments of gigantic associations such as France or the United States might not have appeared democratic at all. This change in turn entailed a new answer to question (3): Representative democracy would require a set of political institutions radically different from those of all earlier democracies.

Another important change has concerned the prevailing answers to question (2). Until fairly recently, most democratic associations limited the right to participate in government to a minority of the adult population—indeed, sometimes to a very small minority. Beginning in the 20th century, this right was extended to nearly all adults. Accordingly, a contemporary democrat could reasonably argue that Athens, because it excluded so many adults from the dēmos, was not really a democracy—even though the term democracy was invented and first applied in Athens.

Despite these and other important changes, it is possible to identify a considerable number of early political systems that involved some form of “rule by the people,” even if they were not fully democratic by contemporary standards.

Democratic institutions » Prehistoric forms of democracy
Although it is tempting to assume that democracy was created in one particular place and time—most often identified as Greece about the year 500 bc—evidence suggests that democratic government, in a broad sense, existed in several areas of the world well before the turn of the 5th century.

It is plausible to assume that democracy in one form or another arises naturally in any well-bounded group, such as a tribe, if the group is sufficiently independent of control by outsiders to permit members to run their own affairs and if a substantial number of members, such as tribal elders, consider themselves about equally qualified to participate in decisions about matters of concern to the group as a whole. This assumption has been supported by studies of nonliterate tribal societies, which suggest that democratic government existed among many tribal groups during the thousands of years when human beings survived by hunting and gathering. To these early humans, democracy, such as it was practiced, might well have seemed the most “natural” political system.

When the lengthy period of hunting and gathering came to an end and humans began to settle in fixed communities, primarily for agriculture and trade, the conditions that favour popular participation in government seem to have become rare. Greater inequalities in wealth and military power between communities, together with a marked increase in the typical community’s size and scale, encouraged the spread of hierarchical and authoritarian forms of social organization. As a result, popular governments among settled peoples vanished, to be replaced for thousands of years by governments based on monarchy, despotism, aristocracy, or oligarchy, each of which came to be seen—at least among the dominant members of these societies—as the most natural form of government.

Then, about 500 bc, conditions favourable to democracy reappeared in several places, and a few small groups began to create popular governments. Primitive democracy, one might say, was reinvented in more advanced forms. The most crucial developments occurred in two areas of the Mediterranean, Greece and Rome.

Democratic institutions » Classical Greece
During the Classical period (corresponding roughly to the 5th and 4th centuries bc), Greece was of course not a country in the modern sense but a collection of several hundred independent city-states, each with its surrounding countryside. In 507 bc, under the leadership of Cleisthenes, the citizens of Athens began to develop a system of popular rule that would last nearly two centuries. To question (1), then, the Greeks responded clearly: The political association most appropriate to democratic government is the polis, or city-state.

Athenian democracy foreshadowed some later democratic practices, even among peoples who knew little or nothing of the Athenian system. Thus the Athenian answer to question (2)—Who should constitute the dēmos?—was similar to the answer developed in many newly democratic countries in the 19th and 20th centuries. Although citizenship in Athens was hereditary, extending to anyone who was born to parents who were themselves Athenian citizens, membership in the dēmos was limited to male citizens 18 years of age or older (until 403, when the minimum age was raised to 20).

Because data is scanty, estimates of the size of the Athenian dēmos must be treated with caution. One scholar has suggested that in the mid-4th century there may have been about 100,000 citizens, 10,000 resident foreigners, or metics, and as many as 150,000 slaves. Among citizens, about 30,000 were males over 18. If these numbers are roughly correct, then the dēmos comprised 10 to 15 percent of the total population.

Regarding question (3)—What political institutions are necessary for governing?—the Athenians adopted an answer that would appear independently elsewhere. The heart and centre of their government was the Assembly (Ecclesia), which met almost weekly—40 times a year—on the Pnyx, a hill west of the Acropolis. Decisions were taken by vote, and, as in many later assemblies, voting was by a show of hands. As would also be true in many later democratic systems, the votes of a majority of those present and voting prevailed. Although we have no way of knowing how closely the majority in the Assembly represented the much larger number of eligible citizens who did not attend, given the frequency of meetings and the accessibility of the meeting place, it is unlikely that the Assembly could have long persisted in making markedly unpopular decisions.

The powers of the Assembly were broad, but they were by no means unlimited. The agenda of the Assembly was set by the Council of Five Hundred, which, unlike the Assembly, was composed of representatives chosen by lot from each of 139 small territorial entities, known as demes, created by Cleisthenes in 507. The number of representatives from each deme was roughly proportional to its population. The Council’s use of representatives (though chosen by lot rather than by election) foreshadowed the election of representatives in later democratic systems.

Another important political institution in Athens was the popular courts (dikasteria; see dicastery), described by one scholar as “the most important organ of state, alongside the Assembly,” with “unlimited power to control the Assembly, the Council, the magistrates, and political leaders.” The popular courts were composed of jurors chosen by lot from a pool of citizens over 30 years of age; the pool itself was chosen annually and also by lot. The institution is a further illustration of the extent to which the ordinary citizens of Athens were expected to participate in the political life of the city.

In 411 bc, exploiting the unrest created by Athens’s disastrous and seemingly endless war with Sparta (see Peloponnesian War), a group known as the Four Hundred seized control of Athens and established an oligarchy. Less than a year later, the Four Hundred were overthrown and democracy was fully restored. Nine decades later, in 321, Athens was subjugated by its more powerful neighbour to the north, Macedonia, which introduced property qualifications that effectively excluded many ordinary Athenians from the dēmos. In 146 bc what remained of Athenian democracy was extinguished by the conquering Romans.

Democratic institutions » The Roman Republic
At about the same time that popular government was introduced in Greece, it also appeared on the Italian Peninsula in the city of Rome. The Romans called their system a rēspūblica, or republic, from the Latin rēs, meaning thing or affair, and pūblicus or pūblica, meaning public—thus, a republic was the thing that belonged to the Roman people, the populus romanus.

Like Athens, Rome was originally a city-state. Although it expanded rapidly by conquest and annexation far beyond its original borders to encompass all the Mediterranean world and much of western Europe, its government remained, in its basic features, that of a moderately large city-state. Indeed, throughout the republican era (until roughly the end of the first century bc), Roman assemblies were held in the very small Forum at the centre of the city.

Who constituted the Roman dēmos? Although Roman citizenship was conferred by birth, it was also granted by naturalization and by manumission of slaves. As the Roman Republic expanded, it conferred citizenship in varying degrees to many of those within its enlarged boundaries. Because Roman assemblies continued to meet in the Forum, however, most citizens who did not live in or near the city itself were unable to participate and were thus effectively excluded from the dēmos. Despite their reputation for practicality and creativity, and notwithstanding many changes in the structure of Roman government over the course of centuries, the Romans never solved this problem. Two millennia later, the solution—electing representatives to a Roman legislature—would seem obvious (see below A democratic dilemma).

As they adapted to the special features of their society, including its rapidly increasing size, the Romans created a political structure so complex and idiosyncratic that later democratic leaders chose not to emulate it. The Romans used not only an extremely powerful Senate but also four assemblies, each called comitia (“assembly”) or concilium (“council”). The Comitia Curiata was composed of 30 curiae, or local groups, drawn from three ancient tribus, or tribes; the Comitia Centuriata consisted of 193 centuries, or military units; the Concilium Plebis was drawn from the ranks of the plebes, or plebeians (common people); and the Comitia Tributa, like the Athenian Assembly, was open to all citizens. In all the assemblies, votes were counted by units (centuries or tribes) rather than by individuals; thus, insofar as a majority prevailed in voting, it would have been a majority of units, not of citizens.

Although they collectively represented all Roman citizens, the assemblies were not sovereign. Throughout the entire period of the republic, the Senate—an institution inherited from the earlier era of the Roman monarchy—continued to exercise great power. Senators were chosen indirectly by the Comitia Centuriata; during the monarchy, they were drawn exclusively from the privileged patrician class, though later, during the republic, members of certain plebeian families were also admitted.

Democratic institutions » The Italian republics from the 12th century to the Renaissance » “Constitutional oligarchies”
After the western Roman Empire collapsed in 476, the Italian Peninsula broke up into a congeries of smaller political entities. About six centuries later, in northern Italy, some of these entities developed into more or less independent city-states and inaugurated systems of government based on wider—though not fully popular—participation and on the election of leaders for limited periods of time. In this respect, their governments may be viewed as small-scale precursors of later representative systems. Such governments flourished for two centuries or more in a number of cities, including Venice, Florence, Siena, and Pisa.

Drawing on Latin rather than Greek, the Italians called their city-states republics, not democracies. Although membership in the dēmos was at first restricted mainly to the nobility and large landowners, in some republics in the first half of the 13th century groups from lower social and economic classes—such as the newly rich, small merchants and bankers, skilled craftsmen organized in guilds, and foot soldiers commanded by knights—began to demand the right to participate in government at some level. Because they were more numerous than the upper classes and because they threatened (and sometimes carried out) violent uprisings, some of these groups were successful. Even with these additions, however, the dēmos in the republics remained only a tiny fraction of the total population, ranging from 12 percent in 14th-century Bologna to 2 percent or less in 15th- and 16th-century Venice, where admission to the ruling nobility had been permanently closed during the 14th century. Thus, whether judged by the standards of Classical Greece or those of Europe and the United States in the 18th century and later, the Italian republics were not democracies. A more accurate characterization, proposed by the historian Lauro Martines, is “constitutional oligarchies.”

After about the mid-14th century, the conditions that had favoured the existence of independent city-states and wider participation in government—particularly their economic growth and the civic loyalty of their populations—gradually disappeared. Economic decline, corruption, factional disputes, civil wars, and wars with other states led to the weakening of some republican governments and their eventual replacement by authoritarian rulers, whether monarchs, princes, or soldiers.

Democratic institutions » The Italian republics from the 12th century to the Renaissance » A democratic dilemma
The Greeks, the Romans, and the leaders of the Italian republics were pioneers in creating popular governments, and their philosophers and commentators exercised enormous influence on later political thought. Yet their political institutions were not emulated by the later founders of democratic governments in the nation-states of northern Europe and North America. As the expansion of Rome had already demonstrated, these institutions were simply not suited to political associations significantly larger than the city-state.

The enormous difference in size between a city-state and a nation-state points to a fundamental dilemma. By limiting the size of a city-state, citizens can in principle, if not always in practice, directly influence the conduct of their government—e.g., by participating in an assembly. But limiting size comes at a cost: important problems—notably defense against larger and more powerful states and the regulation of trade and finance—will remain beyond the capacity of the government to deal with effectively. Alternatively, by increasing the size of the city-state—i.e., by enlarging its geographic area and population—citizens can increase the capacity of the government to deal with important problems, but only at the cost of reducing their opportunities to influence the government directly through assemblies or other means.

Many city-states responded to this dilemma by forming alliances or confederations with other city-states and with larger political associations. But the problem would not finally be solved until the development of representative government, which first appeared in northern Europe in the 18th century.

Democratic institutions » Toward representative democracy: Europe and North America to the 19th century
Until the 17th century, democratic theorists and political leaders largely ignored the possibility that a legislature might consist neither of the entire body of citizens, as in Greece and Rome, nor of representatives chosen by and from a tiny oligarchy or hereditary aristocracy, as in the Italian republics. An important break in the prevailing orthodoxy occurred during and after the English Civil Wars (1642–51), when the Levelers and other radical followers of Puritanism demanded broader representation in Parliament, expanded powers for Parliament’s lower house, the House of Commons, and universal manhood suffrage (see below England). As with many political innovations, representative government resulted less from philosophical speculation than from a search for practical solutions to a fairly self-evident problem. Nevertheless, the complete assimilation of representation into the theory and practice of democracy was still more than a century away.

Democratic institutions » Toward representative democracy: Europe and North America to the 19th century » Regional developments » Continental Europe
About ad 800, freemen and nobles in various parts of northern Continental Europe began to participate directly in local assemblies, to which were later added regional and national assemblies consisting of representatives, some or all of whom came to be elected. In the mountain valleys of the Alps, such assemblies developed into self-governing cantons, leading eventually to the founding of the Swiss Confederation in the 13th century. By 900, local assemblies of Vikings were meeting in many areas of Scandinavia. Eventually the Vikings realized that to deal with certain larger problems they needed more-inclusive associations, and in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark regional assemblies developed. In 930 Viking descendants in Iceland created the first example of what today would be called a national assembly, legislature, or parliament—the Althing (see thing). In later centuries, representative institutions also were established in the emerging nation-states of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, and The Netherlands.

Democratic institutions » Toward representative democracy: Europe and North America to the 19th century » Regional developments » England
Among the assemblies created in Europe during the Middle Ages, the one that most profoundly influenced the development of representative government was the English Parliament. Less a product of design than an unintended consequence of opportunistic innovations, Parliament grew out of councils that were called by kings for the purpose of redressing grievances and for exercising judicial functions. In time, Parliament began to deal with important matters of state, notably the raising of revenues needed to support the policies and decisions of the monarch. As its judicial functions were increasingly delegated to courts, it gradually evolved into a legislative body. By the end of the 15th century, the English system displayed some of the basic features of modern parliamentary government: for example, the enactment of laws now required the passage of bills by both houses of Parliament and the formal approval of the monarch.

Other important features had yet to be established, however. England’s political life was dominated by the monarchy for centuries after the Middle Ages. During the English Civil Wars, led on one side by radical Puritans, the monarchy was abolished and a republic—the Commonwealth —was established (1649), though the monarchy was restored in 1660. By about 1800, significant powers, notably including powers related to the appointment and tenure of the prime minister, had shifted to Parliament. This development was strongly influenced by the emergence of political factions in Parliament during the early years of the 18th century. These factions, known as Whigs and Tories, later became full-fledged parties. To king and Parliament alike it became increasingly apparent that laws could not be passed nor taxes raised without the support of a Whig or Tory leader who could muster a majority of votes in the House of Commons. To gain that support, the monarch was forced to select as prime minister the leader of the majority party in the Commons and to accept the leader’s suggestions for the composition of the cabinet. That the monarch should have to yield to Parliament in this area became manifest during a constitutional crisis in 1782, when King George III (reigned 1760–1820) was compelled, much against his will, to accept a Whig prime minister and cabinet—a situation he regarded, according to one scholar, as “a violation of the Constitution, a defeat for his policy, and a personal humiliation.” By 1830 the constitutional principle that the choice of prime minister, and thus the cabinet, reposed with the House of Commons had become firmly entrenched in the (unwritten) British Constitution.

Parliamentary government in Britain was not yet a democratic system, however. Mainly because of property requirements, the franchise was held by only about 5 percent of the British population over 20 years of age. The Reform Act of 1832, which is generally viewed as a historic threshold in the development of parliamentary democracy in Britain, extended the suffrage to about 7 percent of the adult population (see Reform Bill). It would require further acts of Parliament in 1867, 1884, and 1918 to achieve universal male suffrage and one more law, enacted in 1928, to secure the right to vote for all adult women.

Democratic institutions » Toward representative democracy: Europe and North America to the 19th century » Regional developments » The United States
Whereas the feasibility of representative government was demonstrated by the development of Parliament, the possibility of joining representation with democracy first became fully evident in the governments of the British colonies of North America and later in the founding of the United States of America.

Conditions in colonial America favoured the limited development of a system of representation more broadly based than the one in use in Great Britain. These conditions included the vast distance from London, which forced the British government to grant significant autonomy to the colonies; the existence of colonial legislatures in which representatives in at least one house were elected by voters; the expansion of the suffrage, which in some colonies came to include most adult white males; the spread of property ownership, particularly in land; and the strengthening of beliefs in fundamental rights and popular sovereignty, including the belief that the colonists, as British citizens, should not have to pay taxes to a government in which they were not represented (“no taxation without representation”).

Until about 1760, most colonists were loyal to the mother country and did not think of themselves as constituting a separate nation of “Americans.” After Britain imposed direct taxation on the colonies through the Stamp Act (1765), however, there were public (and sometimes violent) displays of opposition to the new law. In colonial newspapers there was also a sharp increase in the use of the term Americans to refer to the colonial population. Other factors that helped to create a distinct American identity were the outbreak of war with Britain in 1775 and the shared hardships and suffering of the people during many years of fighting, the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the flight of many loyalists to Canada and England, and the rapid increase in travel and communication between the newly independent states. The colonists’ sense of themselves as a single people, fragile as it may have been, made possible the creation of a loose confederacy of states under the Articles of Confederation in 1781–89 and an even more unified federal government under the Constitution in 1789.

Because of the new country’s large population and enormous size, it was obvious to the delegates to the Constitutional Convention (1787) that “the People of the United States,” as the opening words of the Constitution referred to them, could govern themselves at the federal level only by electing representatives—a practice with which the delegates were already familiar, given their experience of state government and, more remotely, their dealings with the government in Britain. The new representative government was barely in place, however, when it became evident that the task of organizing members of Congress and the electorate required the existence of political parties, even though such parties had been regarded as pernicious and destructive—“the bane of republics”—by political thinkers and by many delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Eventually, political parties in the United States would provide nominees for local, state, and national offices and compete openly and vigorously in elections (see below Factions and parties).

It was also obvious that a country as large as the United States would require representative government at lower levels—e.g., territories, states, and municipalities—with correspondingly limited powers. Although the governments of territories and states were necessarily representative, in smaller associations a direct assembly of citizens was both feasible and desirable. In many New England towns, for example, citizens assembled in meetings, Athenian style, to discuss and vote on local matters.

Thus, the citizens of the United States helped to provide new answers to question (1)—What is the appropriate unit or association within which a democratic government should be established?—and question (3)—How are citizens to govern? Yet, the American answer to question (2)—Who should constitute the dēmos?—though radical in its time, was by later standards highly unsatisfactory. Even as the suffrage was broadly extended among adult white males, it continued to exclude large segments of the adult population, such as women, slaves, many freed blacks, and Native Americans. In time, these exclusions, like those of earlier democracies and republics, would be widely regarded as undemocratic.

Democratic institutions » Toward representative democracy: Europe and North America to the 19th century » Democracy or republic?
Is democracy the most appropriate name for a large-scale representative system such as that of the early United States? At the end of the 18th century, the history of the terms whose literal meaning is “rule by the people”—democracy and republic—left the answer unclear. Both terms had been applied to the assembly-based systems of Greece and Rome, though neither system assigned legislative powers to representatives elected by members of the dēmos. As noted above, even after Roman citizenship was expanded beyond the city itself and increasing numbers of citizens were prevented from participating in government by the time, expense, and hardship of travel to the city, the complex Roman system of assemblies was never replaced by a government of representatives—a parliament—elected by all Roman citizens. Venetians also called the government of their famous city a republic, though it was certainly not democratic.

When the members of the United States Constitutional Convention met in 1787, terminology was still unsettled. Not only were democracy and republic used more or less interchangeably in the colonies, but no established term existed for a representative government “by the people.” At the same time, the British system was moving swiftly toward full-fledged parliamentary government. Had the framers of the United States Constitution met two generations later, when their understanding of the constitution of Britain would have been radically different, they might have concluded that the British system required only an expansion of the electorate to realize its full democratic potential. Thus, they might well have adopted a parliamentary form of government.

Embarked as they were on a wholly unprecedented effort to construct a constitutional government for an already large and continuously expanding country, the framers could have had no clear idea of how their experiment would work in practice. Fearful of the destructive power of “factions,” for example, they did not foresee that in a country where laws are enacted by representatives chosen by the people in regular and competitive elections, political parties inevitably become fundamentally important institutions.

Given the existing confusion over terminology, it is not surprising that the framers employed various terms to describe the novel government they proposed. A few months after the adjournment of the Constitutional Convention, James Madison, the future fourth president of the United States, proposed a usage that would have lasting influence within the country though little elsewhere. In Federalist 10, one of 85 essays by Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay known collectively as the Federalist papers, Madison defined a “pure democracy” as “a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person,” and a republic as “a government in which the scheme of representation takes place.” According to Madison, “The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic, are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater the number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.” In short, for Madison, democracy meant direct democracy, and republic meant representative government.

Even among his contemporaries, Madison’s refusal to apply the term democracy to representative governments, even those based on broad electorates, was aberrant. In November 1787, only two months after the convention had adjourned, James Wilson, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, proposed a new classification. “[T]he three species of governments,” he wrote, “are the monarchical, aristocratical and democratical. In a monarchy, the supreme power is vested in a single person: in an aristocracy … by a body not formed upon the principle of representation, but enjoying their station by descent, or election among themselves, or in right of some personal or territorial qualifications; and lastly, in a democracy, it is inherent in a people, and is exercised by themselves or their representatives.” Applying this understanding of democracy to the newly adopted constitution, Wilson asserted that “in its principles, … it is purely democratical: varying indeed in its form in order to admit all the advantages, and to exclude all the disadvantages which are incidental to the known and established constitutions of government. But when we take an extensive and accurate view of the streams of power that appear through this great and comprehensive plan … we shall be able to trace them to one great and noble source, THE PEOPLE.” At the Virginia ratifying convention some months later, John Marshall, the future chief justice of the Supreme Court, declared that the “Constitution provided for ‘a well regulated democracy’ where no king, or president, could undermine representative government.” The political party that he helped to organize and lead in cooperation with Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence and future third president of the United States, was named the Democratic-Republican Party; the party adopted its present name, the Democratic Party, in 1844.

Following his visit to the United States in 1831–32, the French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville asserted in no uncertain terms that the country he had observed was a democracy—indeed, the world’s first representative democracy, where the fundamental principle of government was “the sovereignty of the people.” Tocqueville’s estimation of the American system of government reached a wide audience in Europe and beyond through his monumental four-volume study Democracy in America (1835–40).

Democratic institutions » Toward representative democracy: Europe and North America to the 19th century » Solving the dilemma
Thus, by the end of the 18th century both the idea and the practice of democracy had been profoundly transformed. Political theorists and statesmen now recognized what the Levelers had seen earlier, that the nondemocratic practice of representation could be used to make democracy practicable in the large nation-states of the modern era. Representation, in other words, was the solution to the ancient dilemma between enhancing the ability of political associations to deal with large-scale problems and preserving the opportunity of citizens to participate in government.

To some of those steeped in the older tradition, the union of representation and democracy seemed a marvelous and epochal invention. In the early 19th century the French author Destutt de Tracy, the inventor of the term idéologie (“ideology”), insisted that representation had rendered obsolete the doctrines of both Montesquieu and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, both of whom had denied that representative governments could be genuinely democratic (see below Montesquieu and Rousseau). “Representation, or representative government,” he wrote, “may be considered as a new invention, unknown in Montesquieu’s time.… Representative democracy … is democracy rendered practicable for a long time and over a great extent of territory.” In 1820 the English philosopher James Mill proclaimed “the system of representation” to be “the grand discovery of modern times” in which “the solution of all the difficulties, both speculative and practical, will perhaps be found.” One generation later Mill’s son, the philosopher John Stuart Mill, concluded in his Considerations on Representative Government (1861) that “the ideal type of a perfect government” would be both democratic and representative. Foreshadowing developments that would take place in the 20th century, the dēmos of Mill’s representative democracy included women.

Democratic institutions » Toward representative democracy: Europe and North America to the 19th century » New answers to old questions » Suffrage
Representation was not the only radical innovation in democratic ideas and institutions. Equally revolutionary were the new answers being offered, in the 19th and 20th centuries, to some of the fundamental questions mentioned earlier. One important development concerned question (2)—Who should constitute the dēmos? In the 19th century property requirements for voting were reduced and finally removed. The exclusion of women from the dēmos was increasingly challenged—not least by women themselves. Beginning with New Zealand in 1893, more and more countries granted women the suffrage and other political rights, and by the mid-20th century women were full and equal members of the dēmos in almost all countries that considered themselves democratic—though Switzerland, a pioneer in establishing universal male suffrage in 1848, did not grant women the right to vote in national elections until 1971.

Although the United States granted women the right to vote in 1920, another important exclusion continued for almost half a century: African Americans were prevented, by both legal and illegal means, from voting and other forms of political activity, primarily in the South but also in other areas of the country. Not until after the passage and vigorous enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were they at last effectively admitted into the American dēmos.

Thus, in the 19th and 20th centuries the dēmos was gradually expanded to include all adult citizens. Although important issues remained unsettled—for example, should permanent legal foreign residents of a country be entitled to vote?—such an expanded dēmos became a new condition of democracy itself. By the mid-20th century, no system whose dēmos did not include all adult citizens could properly be called “democratic.”

Democratic institutions » Toward representative democracy: Europe and North America to the 19th century » New answers to old questions » Factions and parties
In many of the city-state democracies and republics, part of the answer to question (3)—What political institutions are necessary for governing?—consisted of “factions,” including both informal groups and organized political parties. Much later, representative democracies in several countries developed political parties for selecting candidates for election to parliament and for organizing parliamentary support for (or opposition to) the prime minister and his cabinet. Nevertheless, at the end of the 18th century leading political theorists such as Montesquieu continued to regard factions as a profound danger to democracies and republics. This view was also common at the United States Constitutional Convention, where many delegates argued that the new government would inevitably be controlled and abused by factions unless there existed a strong system of constitutional checks and balances.

Factions are dangerous, it was argued, for at least two reasons. First, a faction is by definition a group whose interests are in conflict with the general good. As Madison put it in Federalist 10: “By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” Second, historical experience shows that, prior to the 18th century, the existence of factions in a democracy or republic tended to undermine the stability of its government. The “instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils” by factionalism, Madison wrote, have been “the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished.”

Interestingly, Madison used the presumed danger of factions as an argument in favour of adopting the new constitution. Because the United States, in comparison with previous republics, would have many more citizens and vastly more territory, the diversity of interests among its population would be much greater, making the formation of large or powerful factions less likely. Similarly, the exercise of government power by representatives rather than directly by the people would “refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country.”

As to political parties, Madison soon realized—despite his belief in the essential perniciousness of factions—that in a representative democracy political parties are not only legally possible, necessary, and inevitable, they are also desirable. They were legally possible because of the rights and liberties provided for in the constitution. They were necessary in order to defeat the Federalists, whose centralizing policies Madison, Jefferson, and many others strongly opposed (see Federalist Party). Because parties were both possible and necessary, they would inevitably be created. Finally, parties were also desirable, because by helping to mobilize voters throughout the country and in the legislative body, they enabled the majority to prevail over the opposition of a minority.

This view came to be shared by political thinkers in other countries in which democratic forms of government were developing. By the end of the 19th century, it was nearly universally accepted that the existence of independent and competitive political parties is an elementary standard that every democracy must meet.

Democratic institutions » Toward representative democracy: Europe and North America to the 19th century » New answers to old questions » Majority rule, minority rights, majority tyranny
The fear of “majority tyranny” was a common theme in the 17th century and later, even among those who were sympathetic to democracy. Given the opportunity, it was argued, a majority would surely trample on the fundamental rights of minorities. Property rights were perceived as particularly vulnerable, since presumably any majority of citizens with little or no property would be tempted to infringe the rights of the propertied minority. Such concerns were shared by Madison and other delegates at the Convention and strongly influenced the document they created.

Here too, however, Madison’s views changed after reflection on and observation of the emerging American democracy. In a letter of 1833, he wrote, “[E]very friend to Republican government ought to raise his voice against the sweeping denunciation of majority governments as the most tyrannical and intolerable of all governments.… [N]o government of human device and human administration can be perfect; … the abuses of all other governments have led to the preference of republican government as the best of all governments, because the least imperfect; [and] the vital principle of republican governments is the lex majoris partis, the will of the majority.”

The fear of factions was eased and finally abandoned after leaders in various democratic countries realized that they could create numerous barriers to unrestrained majority rule, none of which would be clearly inconsistent with basic democratic principles. Thus, they could incorporate a bill of rights into the constitution (see the English Bill of Rights and the United States Bill of Rights); require a supermajority of votes—such as two-thirds or three-fourths—for constitutional amendments and other important kinds of legislation; divide the executive, legislative, and judicial powers of government into separate branches (see separation of powers); give an independent judiciary the power to declare laws or policies unconstitutional and hence without force of law; adopt constitutional guarantees of significant autonomy for states, provinces, or regions (see federalism); provide by statute for the decentralization of government to territorial groups such as towns, counties, and cities; or adopt a system of proportional representation, under which the proportion of legislative seats awarded to a party is roughly the same as the proportion of votes cast for the party or its candidates. In such a multiparty system, cabinets are composed of representatives drawn from two or more parties, thus ensuring that minority interests retain a significant voice in government.

Although political theorists continue to disagree about the best means to effect majority rule in democratic systems, it seems evident that majorities cannot legitimately abridge the fundamental rights of citizens. Nor should minorities ever be entitled to prevent the enforcement of laws and policies designed to protect these fundamental rights. In short, because democracy is not only a political system of “rule by the people” but necessarily also a system of rights, a government that infringes these rights is to that extent undemocratic.

Democratic institutions » The spread of democracy in the 20th century
During the 20th century, the number of countries possessing the basic political institutions of representative democracy increased significantly. At the beginning of the 21st century, independent observers agreed that more than one-third of the world’s nominally independent countries possessed democratic institutions comparable to those of the English-speaking countries and the older democracies of Continental Europe. In an additional one-sixth of the world’s countries, these institutions, though somewhat defective, nevertheless provided historically high levels of democratic government. Altogether, these democratic and near-democratic countries contained nearly half the world’s population. What accounted for this rapid expansion of democratic institutions?

Democratic institutions » The spread of democracy in the 20th century » Failures of nondemocratic systems
A significant part of the explanation is that all the main alternatives to democracy—whether of ancient or of modern origins—suffered political, economic, diplomatic, and military failures that greatly lessened their appeal. With the victory of the Allies in World War I, the ancient systems of monarchy, aristocracy, and oligarchy ceased to be legitimate. Following the military defeat of Italy and Germany in World War II, the newer alternative of fascism was likewise discredited, as was Soviet-style communism after the economic and political collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990–91. Similar failures contributed to the gradual disappearance of military dictatorships in Latin America in the 1980s and ’90s.

Democratic institutions » The spread of democracy in the 20th century » Market economies
Accompanying these ideological and institutional changes were changes in economic institutions. Highly centralized economies under state control had enabled political leaders to use their ready access to economic resources to reward their allies and punish their critics. As these systems were displaced by more decentralized market economies, the power and influence of top government officials declined. In addition, some of the conditions that were essential to the successful functioning of market economies also contributed to the development of democracy: ready access to reliable information, relatively high levels of education, ease of personal movement, and the rule of law. As market economies expanded and as middle classes grew larger and more influential, popular support for such conditions increased, often accompanied by demands for further democratization.

Democratic institutions » The spread of democracy in the 20th century » Economic well-being
The development of market economies contributed to the spread of democracy in other ways as well. As the economic well-being of large segments of the world’s population gradually improved, so too did the likelihood that newly established democratic institutions would survive and flourish. In general, citizens in democratic countries with persistent poverty are more susceptible to the appeals of antidemocratic demagogues who promise simple and immediate solutions to their country’s economic problems. Accordingly, widespread economic prosperity in a country greatly increases the chances that democratic government will succeed, whereas widespread poverty greatly increases the chances that it will fail.

Democratic institutions » The spread of democracy in the 20th century » Political culture
During the 20th century, democracy continued to exist in some countries despite periods of acute diplomatic, military, economic, or political crisis, such as occurred during the early years of the Great Depression. The survival of democratic institutions in these countries is attributable in part to the existence in their societies of a culture of widely shared democratic beliefs and values. Such attitudes are acquired early in life from older generations, thus becoming embedded in people’s views of themselves, their country, and the world. In countries where democratic culture is weak or absent, as was the case in the Weimar Republic of Germany in the years following World War I, democracy is much more vulnerable, and periods of crisis are more likely to lead to a reversion to a nondemocratic regime.

Democratic institutions » Contemporary democratic systems
Differences among democratic countries in historical experience, size, ethnic and religious composition, and other factors have resulted in significant differences in their political institutions. Some of the features with respect to which these institutions have differed are the following.

Democratic institutions » Contemporary democratic systems » Presidential and parliamentary systems
Whereas versions of the American presidential system were frequently adopted in Latin America, Africa, and elsewhere in the developing world (where the military sometimes converted the office into a dictatorship through a coup d’état), as European countries democratized they adopted versions of the English parliamentary system, which made use of both a prime minister responsible to parliament and a ceremonial head of state (who might be either a hereditary monarch, as in the Scandinavian countries, The Netherlands, and Spain, or a president chosen by parliament or by another body convoked specially for the purpose). A notable exception is France, which in its fifth constitution, adopted in 1958, combined its parliamentary system with a presidential one.

Democratic institutions » Contemporary democratic systems » Unitary and federal systems
In most older European and English-speaking democracies, political authority inheres in the central government, which is constitutionally authorized to determine the limited powers, as well as the geographic boundaries, of subnational associations such as states and regions. Such unitary systems contrast markedly with federal systems, in which authority is constitutionally divided between the central government and the governments of relatively autonomous subnational entities. Democratic countries that have adopted federal systems include—in addition to the United States—Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Canada, and Australia. The world’s most populous democratic country, India, also has a federal system.

Democratic institutions » Contemporary democratic systems » Proportional and winner-take-all systems
Electoral arrangements vary enormously. Some democratic countries divide their territories into electoral districts, each of which is entitled to a single seat in the legislature, the seat being won by the candidate who gains the most votes—hence the terms first past the post in Britain and winner take all in the United States. As critics of this system point out, in districts contested by more than two candidates, it is possible to gain the seat with less than a strict majority of votes (50 percent plus one). As a result, a party that receives only a minority of votes in the entire country could win a majority of seats in the legislature. Systems of proportional representation are designed to ensure a closer correspondence between the proportion of votes cast for a party and the proportion of seats it receives. With few exceptions, Continental European countries have adopted some form of proportional representation, as have Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea. Winner-take-all systems remain in the United States, Canada, and, for parliamentary elections, in Britain.

Democratic institutions » Contemporary democratic systems » Two-party and multiparty systems
Because proportional representation does not favour large parties over smaller ones, as does the winner-take-all system, in countries with proportional representation there are almost always three or more parties represented in the legislature, and a coalition government consisting of two or more parties is ordinarily necessary to win legislative support for the government’s policies. Thus the prevalence of proportional representation effectively ensures that coalition governments are the rule in democratic countries; governments consisting of only two parties, such as that of the United States, are extremely rare.

Democratic institutions » Contemporary democratic systems » Majoritarian and consensual systems
Because of differences in electoral systems and other factors, democratic countries differ with respect to whether laws and policies can be enacted by a single, relatively cohesive party with a legislative majority, as is ordinarily the case in Britain and Japan, or instead require consensus among several parties with diverse views, as in Switzerland, The Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, and elsewhere. Political scientists and others disagree about which of the two types of system, majoritarian or consensual, is more desirable. Critics of consensual systems argue that they allow a minority of citizens to veto policies they dislike and that they make the tasks of forming governments and passing legislation excessively difficult. Supporters contend that consensual arrangements produce comparatively wider public support for government policies and even help to increase the legitimacy and perceived value of democracy itself.

Here again, it appears that a country’s basic political institutions need to be tailored to its particular conditions and historical experience. The strongly majoritarian system of Britain would probably be inappropriate in Switzerland, whereas the consensual arrangements of Switzerland or The Netherlands might be less satisfactory in Britain.

The theory of democracy » Democratic ideas from Pericles to Rawls » Pericles
In a funeral oration in 430 bc for those who had fallen in the Peloponnesian War, the Athenian leader Pericles described democratic Athens as “the school of Hellas.” Among the city’s many exemplary qualities, he declared, was its constitution, which “favors the many instead of the few; this is why it is called a democracy.” Pericles continued: “If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences; if to social standing, advancement in public life falls to reputation for capacity, class considerations not being allowed to interfere with merit; nor again does poverty bar the way; if a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by obscurity of his condition. The freedom which we enjoy in our government extends also to our ordinary life.”

The theory of democracy » Democratic ideas from Pericles to Rawls » Aristotle
A century later, Aristotle discussed democracy in terms that would become highly influential in comparative studies of political systems. At the heart of his approach is the notion of a “constitution,” which he defines as “an organization of offices, which all the citizens distribute among themselves, according to the power which different classes possess.” He concludes that “there must therefore be as many forms of government as there are modes of arranging the offices, according to the superiorities and the differences of the parts of the state.” Ever the realist, however, he remarks that “the best [government] is often unattainable, and therefore the true legislator and statesman ought to be acquainted, not only with (1) that which is best in the abstract, but also with (2) that which is best relatively to circumstances.”

Aristotle identifies three kinds of ideal constitution—each of which describes a situation in which those who rule pursue the common good—and three corresponding kinds of perverted constitution—each of which describes a situation in which those who rule pursue narrow and selfish goals. The three kinds of constitution, both ideal and perverted, are differentiated by the number of persons they allow to rule. Thus “rule by one” is monarchy in its ideal form and tyranny in its perverted form (see tyrant); “rule by the few” is aristocracy in its ideal form and oligarchy in its perverted form; and “rule by the many” is “polity” in its ideal form and democracy in its perverted form.

Aristotle’s general scheme prevailed for more than two millennia, though his unsympathetic and puzzling definition of democracy—which probably did not reflect the views of most Greeks in his time—did not. Aristotle himself took a more favourable view of democracy in his studies of the variety, stability, and composition of actual democratic governments. In his observation that “the basis of a democratic state is liberty,” Aristotle proposed a connection between the ideas of democracy and liberty that would be strongly emphasized by all later advocates of democracy.

The theory of democracy » Democratic ideas from Pericles to Rawls » Locke
Nearly 20 centuries after Aristotle, the English philosopher John Locke adopted the essential elements of the Aristotelian classification of constitutions in his Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690). Unlike Aristotle, however, Locke was an unequivocal supporter of political equality, individual liberty, democracy, and majority rule. Although his work was naturally rather abstract and not particularly programmatic, it provided a powerful philosophical foundation for much later democratic theorizing and political programs.

The theory of democracy » Democratic ideas from Pericles to Rawls » Locke » The legitimacy of government
According to Locke, in the hypothetical “state of nature” that precedes the creation of human societies, men live “equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection,” and they are perfectly free to act and to dispose of their possessions as they see fit, within the bounds of natural law. From these and other premises Locke draws the conclusion that political society—i.e., government—insofar as it is legitimate, represents a social contract among those who have “consented to make one Community or Government … wherein the Majority have a right to act and conclude the rest.” These two ideas—the consent of the governed and majority rule—became central to all subsequent theories of democracy. For Locke they are inextricably connected: “For if the consent of the majority shall not in reason, be received, as the act of the whole, and conclude every individual; nothing but the consent of every individual can make anything be the act of the whole: But such a consent is next to impossible ever to be had.” Thus no government is legitimate unless it enjoys the consent of the governed, and that consent cannot be rendered except through majority rule.

Given these conclusions, it is somewhat surprising that Locke’s description of the different forms of government (he calls them “commonwealths”) does not explicitly prescribe democracy as the only legitimate system. Writing in England in the 1680s, a generation after the Commonwealth ended with the restoration of the monarchy (1660), Locke was more circumspect than this. Nevertheless, a careful reading of the relevant passages of the Second Treatise shows that Locke remains true to his fundamental principle, that the only legitimate form of government is that based on the consent of the governed.

Locke differentiates the various forms of government on the basis of where the people choose to place the power to make laws. His categories are the traditional ones: If the people retain the legislative power for themselves, together with the power to appoint those who execute the laws, then “the Form of the Government is a perfect Democracy.” If they put the power “into the hands of a few select Men, and their Heirs or Successors, … then it is an Oligarchy: Or else into the hands of one Man, and then it is a Monarchy.” Nevertheless, his analysis is far more subversive of nondemocratic forms of government than it appears to be. For whatever the form of government, the ultimate source of sovereign power is the people, and all legitimate government must rest on their consent. Therefore, if a government abuses its trust and violates the people’s fundamental rights—particularly the right to property—the people are entitled to rebel and replace that government with another to whose laws they can willingly give their consent. And who is to judge whether the government has abused its trust? Again, Locke is unequivocal: the people themselves are to make that judgment. Although he does not use the term, Locke thus unambiguously affirms the right of revolution against a despotic government.

Less than a century later, Locke’s views were echoed in the famous words of the United States Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The theory of democracy » Democratic ideas from Pericles to Rawls » Locke » Answers to fundamental questions
Although Locke’s ideas were radical—even quietly revolutionary—in his time, his answers to questions (1) through (3) would need further elaboration, and even some alteration, as the theory and practice of democracy continued to develop.

Regarding question (1)—What is the appropriate association within which a democratic government should be established?—despite the generality of his conclusions, Locke clearly intended them to apply to England as a whole, and presumably also to other nation-states. Departing from views that still prevailed among political philosophers of his time, Locke held—as the Levelers did—that democracy did not require a small political unit, such as a city-state, in which all members of the dēmos could participate in government directly. Here again, Locke was at the forefront of the development of democratic ideas.

Regarding question (2)—Who should constitute the dēmos?—Locke believed, along with almost everyone else who had expressed an opinion on the issue, that children should not enjoy the full rights of citizenship, though he maintained that parents are morally obliged to respect their children’s rights as human beings. With almost no substantive argument, Locke adopted the traditional view that women should be excluded from the dēmos, though he insisted that they retain all other fundamental rights. More than a century would pass before “the consent of the people” was generally understood to include the consent of women.

Unlike the men of Athens or the small male aristocracy of Venice, obviously the men of England could not govern directly in an assembly. In this case, then, the answer to question (3)—What political institutions are necessary for governing?—would have to include the use of representatives chosen by the people. Yet, though it seems clear that Locke’s government by consent requires representation, he provided little guidance as to the form it might take. This is perhaps because he, like his contemporary readers, assumed that democracy and majority rule would be best implemented in England through parliamentary elections based on an adult-male franchise.

The theory of democracy » Democratic ideas from Pericles to Rawls » Montesquieu
The French political theorist Montesquieu, through his masterpiece The Spirit of the Laws (1748), strongly influenced his younger contemporary Rousseau (see below Rousseau) and many of the American Founding Fathers, including John Adams, Jefferson, and Madison. Rejecting Aristotle’s classification, Montesquieu distinguishes three ideal types of government: monarchy, “in which a single person governs by fixed and established laws”; despotism, “in which a single person directs everything by his own will and caprice”; and republican (or popular) government, which may be of two types, depending on whether “the body, or only a part of the people, is possessed of the supreme power,” the former being a democracy, the latter an aristocracy.

According to Montesquieu, a necessary condition for the existence of a republican government, whether democratic or aristocratic, is that the people in whom supreme power is lodged possess the quality of “public virtue,” meaning that they are motivated by a desire to achieve the public good. Although public virtue may not be necessary in a monarchy and is certainly absent in despotic regimes, it must be present to some degree in aristocratic republics and to a large degree in democratic republics. Sounding a theme that would be loudly echoed in Madison’s Federalist 10, Montesquieu asserts that without strong public virtue, a democratic republic is likely to be destroyed by conflict between various “factions,” each pursuing its own narrow interests at the expense of the broader public good.

The theory of democracy » Democratic ideas from Pericles to Rawls » Hume
The destructive power of factions was also strongly emphasized by the Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume, whose influence on Madison was perhaps even greater than Montesquieu’s. For it was from Hume that Madison seems to have acquired a view about factions that turned the issue of the desirability of larger political associations—i.e., those larger than the city-state—on its head. For the purpose of diminishing the destructive potential of factionalism, so Hume and Madison argued, bigger is in fact better, because in bigger associations each representative must look after a greater diversity of interests. It is also likely that Madison was influenced by Hume when in Federalist 10 he rejected the term democracy for the type of government based on representation, preferring instead to call it a republic.

The theory of democracy » Democratic ideas from Pericles to Rawls » Rousseau
When compared with Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau sometimes seems the more radical democrat, though a close reading of his work shows that, in important respects, Rousseau’s conception of democracy is narrower than Locke’s. Indeed, in his most influential work of political philosophy, The Social Contract (1762), Rousseau asserts that democracy is incompatible with representative institutions, a position that renders it all but irrelevant to nation-states. The sovereignty of the people, he argues, can be neither alienated nor represented. “The idea of representatives is modern,” he wrote. “In the ancient republics … the people never had representatives.… [T]he moment a people allows itself to be represented, it is no longer free: it no longer exists.” But if representation is incompatible with democracy, and if direct democracy is the only legitimate form of government, then no nation-state of Rousseau’s time or any other can have a legitimate government. Furthermore, according to Rousseau, if a political association that is small enough to practice direct democracy, such as a city-state, were to come into existence, it would inevitably be subjugated by larger nation-states and thereby cease to be democratic.

For these and other reasons, Rousseau was pessimistic about the prospects of democracy. “It is against the natural order for the many to govern and the few to be governed,” he wrote. “It is unimaginable that the people should remain continually assembled to devote their time to public affairs.” Adopting a view common among critics of democracy in his time, Rousseau also held that “there is no government so subject to civil wars and intestine agitations as democratic or popular government.” In a much-cited passage, he declares that, “were there a people of gods, their government would be democratic. So perfect a government is not for men.”

Despite these negative conclusions, Rousseau hints, in a brief footnote (Book III, Chapter 15), that democratic governments may be viable if joined together in confederations. Some years later, in a discussion of how the people of Poland might govern themselves, he allowed that there is simply no alternative to government by representation. However, he left the problem of the proper size or scale of democratic political associations largely unsolved.

The theory of democracy » Democratic ideas from Pericles to Rawls » Mill
In his work On Liberty (1859) John Stuart Mill argued on utilitarian grounds (see utilitarianism) that individual liberty cannot be legitimately infringed—whether by government, society, or individuals—except in cases where the individual’s action would cause harm to others. In a celebrated formulation of this principle, Mill wrote that

the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection.… The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.

Mill’s principle provided a philosophical foundation for some of the basic freedoms essential to a functioning democracy, such as freedom of association (see below Ideal and representative democracy), and undermined the legitimacy of paternalistic laws, such as those requiring temperance, which in Mill’s view treated adult citizens like children. In the area of what he called the liberty of thought and discussion, another freedom crucial to democracy, Mill argued, also on utilitarian grounds, that legal restrictions on the expression of opinion are never justified. The “collision of adverse opinions,” he contended, is a necessary part of any society’s search for the truth. In another work, Considerations on Representative Government (1861), Mill set forth in a lucid and penetrating manner many of the essential features of the new type of government, which had not yet emerged in Continental Europe and was still incomplete in important respects in the United States. In this work he also advanced a powerful argument on behalf of woman suffrage—a position that virtually all previous political philosophers (all of them male, of course) had ignored or rejected.

The theory of democracy » Democratic ideas from Pericles to Rawls » Dewey
According to the American philosopher John Dewey, democracy is the most desirable form of government because it alone provides the kinds of freedom necessary for individual self-development and growth—including the freedom to exchange ideas and opinions with others, the freedom to form associations with others to pursue common goals, and the freedom to determine and pursue one’s own conception of the good life. Democracy is more than merely a form of government, however; as Dewey remarks in Democracy and Education (1916), it is also a “mode of associated life” in which citizens cooperate with each other to solve their common problems through rational means (i.e., through critical inquiry and experiment) in a spirit of mutual respect and good will. Moreover, the political institutions of any democracy, according to Dewey, should not be viewed as the perfect and unchangeable creations of visionary statesmen of the past; rather, they should be constantly subject to criticism and improvement as historical circumstances and the public interest change.

Participation in a democracy as Dewey conceived it requires critical and inquisitive habits of mind, an inclination toward cooperation with others, and a feeling of public spiritedness and a desire to achieve the common good. Because these habits and inclinations must be inculcated from a young age, Dewey placed great emphasis on education; indeed, he called public schools “the church of democracy.” His contributions to both the theory and practice of education were enormously influential in the United States in the 20th century (see also education, philosophy of).

Dewey offered little in the way of concrete proposals regarding the form that democratic institutions should take. Nevertheless, in The Public and Its Problems (1927) and other works, he contended that individuals cannot develop to their fullest potential except in a social democracy, or a democratic welfare-state. Accordingly, he held that democracies should possess strong regulatory powers. He also insisted that among the most important features of a social democracy should be the right of workers to participate directly in the control of the firms in which they are employed.

Given Dewey’s interest in education, it is not surprising that he was greatly concerned with the question of how citizens might better understand public affairs. Although he was a proponent of the application of the social sciences to the development of public policy, he sharply criticized intellectuals, academics, and political leaders who viewed the general public as incompetent and who often argued for some form of democratic elitism. Only the public, he maintained, can decide what the public interest is. In order for citizens to be able to make informed and responsible decisions about their common problems, he thought, it is important for them to engage in dialogue with each other in their local communities. Dewey’s emphasis on dialogue as a critical practice in a democracy inspired later political theorists to explore the vital role of deliberation in democratic systems.

The theory of democracy » Democratic ideas from Pericles to Rawls » Habermas
In a series of works published after 1970, the German philosopher and social theorist Jürgen Habermas, employing concepts borrowed from Anglo-American philosophy of language, argued that the idea of achieving a “rational consensus” within a group on questions of either fact or value presupposes the existence of what he called an “ideal speech situation.” In such a situation, participants would be able to evaluate each other’s assertions solely on the basis of reason and evidence in an atmosphere completely free of any nonrational “coercive” influences, including both physical and psychological coercion. Furthermore, all participants would be motivated solely by the desire to obtain a rational consensus, and no time limits on the discussion would be imposed. Although difficult if not impossible to realize in practice, the ideal speech situation can be used as a model of free and open public discussion and a standard against which to evaluate the practices and institutions through which large political questions and issues of public policy are decided in actual democracies.

The theory of democracy » Democratic ideas from Pericles to Rawls » Rawls
From the time of Mill until about the mid-20th century, most philosophers who defended democratic principles did so largely on the basis of utilitarian considerations—i.e., they argued that systems of government that are democratic in character are more likely than other systems to produce a greater amount of happiness (or well-being) for a greater number of people. Such justifications, however, were traditionally vulnerable to the objection that they could be used to support intuitively less-desirable forms of government in which the greater happiness of the majority is achieved by unfairly neglecting the rights and interests of a minority.

In A Theory of Justice (1971), the American philosopher John Rawls attempted to develop a nonutilitarian justification of a democratic political order characterized by fairness, equality, and individual rights. Reviving the notion of a social contract, which had been dormant since the 18th century, he imagined a hypothetical situation in which a group of rational individuals are rendered ignorant of all social and economic facts about themselves—including facts about their race, sex, religion, education, intelligence, talents or skills, and even their conception of the “good life”—and then asked to decide what general principles should govern the political institutions under which they live. From behind this “veil of ignorance,” Rawls argues, such a group would unanimously reject utilitarian principles—such as “political institutions should aim to maximize the happiness of the greatest number”—because no member of the group could know whether he belonged to a minority whose rights and interests might be neglected under institutions justified on utilitarian grounds. Instead, reason and self-interest would lead the group to adopt principles such as the following: (1) everyone should have a maximum and equal degree of liberty, including all the liberties traditionally associated with democracy; (2) everyone should have an equal opportunity to seek offices and positions that offer greater rewards of wealth, power, status, or other social goods; and (3) the distribution of wealth in society should be such that those who are least well-off are better off than they would be under any other distribution, whether equal or unequal. (Rawls holds that, given certain assumptions about human motivation, some inequality in the distribution of wealth may be necessary to achieve higher levels of productivity. It is therefore possible to imagine unequal distributions of wealth in which those who are least well-off are better off than they would be under an equal distribution.) These principles amount to an egalitarian form of democratic liberalism. Rawls is accordingly regarded as the leading philosophical defender of the modern democratic capitalist welfare state.

The theory of democracy » “Ideal democracy”
As noted above, Aristotle found it useful to classify actually existing governments in terms of three “ideal constitutions.” For essentially the same reasons, the notion of an “ideal democracy” also can be useful for identifying and understanding the democratic characteristics of actually existing governments, be they of city-states, nation-states, or larger associations.

It is important to note that the term ideal is ambiguous. In one sense, a system is ideal if it is considered apart from, or in the absence of, certain empirical conditions, which in actuality are always present to some degree. Ideal systems in this sense are used to identify what features of an actual system are essential to it, or what underlying laws are responsible, in combination with empirical factors, for a system’s behaviour in actual circumstances. In another sense, a system is ideal if it is “best” from a moral point of view. An ideal system in this sense is a goal toward which a person or society ought to strive (even if it is not perfectly attainable in practice) and a standard against which the moral worth of what has been achieved, or of what exists, can be measured.

These two senses are often confused. Systems that are ideal in the first sense may, but need not, be ideal in the second sense. Accordingly, a description of an ideal democracy, such as the one below, need not be intended to prescribe a particular political system. Indeed, influential conceptions of ideal democracy have been offered by democracy’s enemies as well as by its friends.

The theory of democracy » “Ideal democracy” » Features of ideal democracy
At a minimum, an ideal democracy would have the following features:

Effective participation. Before a policy is adopted or rejected, members of the dēmos have the opportunity to make their views about the policy known to other members.

Equality in voting. Members of the dēmos have the opportunity to vote for or against the policy, and all votes are counted as equal.

Informed electorate. Members of the dēmos have the opportunity, within a reasonable amount of time, to learn about the policy and about possible alternative policies and their likely consequences.

Citizen control of the agenda. The dēmos, and only the dēmos, decides what matters are placed on the decision-making agenda and how they are placed there. Thus, the democratic process is “open” in the sense that the dēmos can change the policies of the association at any time.

Inclusion. Each and every member of the dēmos is entitled to participate in the association in the ways just described.

Fundamental rights. Each of the necessary features of ideal democracy prescribes a right that is itself a necessary feature of ideal democracy: thus every member of the dēmos has a right to communicate with others, a right to have his voted counted equally with the votes of others, a right to gather information, a right to participate on an equal footing with other members, and a right, with other members, to exercise control of the agenda. Democracy, therefore, consists of more than just political processes; it is also necessarily a system of fundamental rights.

The theory of democracy » “Ideal democracy” » Ideal and representative democracy
In modern representative democracies, the features of ideal democracy, to the extent that they exist, are realized through a variety of political institutions. These institutions, which are broadly similar in different countries despite significant differences in constitutional structure, were entirely new in human history at the time of their first appearance in Europe and the United States in the 18th century. Among the most important of them is naturally the institution of representation itself, through which all major government decisions and policies are made by popularly elected officials, who are accountable to the electorate for their actions. Other important institutions include:

Free, fair, and frequent elections. Citizens may participate in such elections both as voters and as candidates (though age and residence restrictions may be imposed).

Freedom of expression. Citizens may express themselves publicly on a broad range of politically relevant subjects without fear of punishment.

Independent sources of information. There exist sources of political information that are not under the control of the government or any single group and whose right to publish or otherwise disseminate information is protected by law; moreover, all citizens are entitled to seek out and use such sources of information.

Freedom of association. Citizens have the right to form and to participate in independent political organizations, including parties and interest groups.

Institutions like these developed in Europe and the United States in various political and historical circumstances, and the impulses that fostered them were not always themselves democratic. Yet, as they developed, it became increasingly apparent that they were necessary for achieving a satisfactory level of democracy in any political association as large as a nation-state.

The relation between these institutions and the features of ideal democracy that are realized through them can be summarized as follows. In an association as large as a nation-state, representation is necessary for effective participation and for citizen control of the agenda; free, fair, and frequent elections are necessary for effective participation and for equality in voting; and freedom of expression, independent sources of information, and freedom of association are each necessary for effective participation, an informed electorate, and citizen control of the agenda.

The theory of democracy » “Ideal democracy” » Actual democracies
Since Aristotle’s time, political philosophers generally have insisted that no actual political system is likely to attain, to the fullest extent possible, all the features of its corresponding ideal. Thus, whereas the institutions of many actual systems are sufficient to attain a relatively high level of democracy, they are almost certainly not sufficient to achieve anything like perfect or ideal democracy. Nevertheless, such institutions may produce a satisfactory approximation of the ideal—as presumably they did in Athens in the 5th century bc, when the term democracy was coined, and in the United States in the early 19th century, when Tocqueville, like most others in America and elsewhere, unhesitatingly called the country a democracy.

For associations that are small in population and area, the political institutions of direct democracy seem best to approximate the ideal of “government by the people.” In such a democracy all matters of importance to the association as a whole can be decided on by the citizens. Citizens have the opportunity to discuss the policies that come before them and to gather information directly from those they consider well-informed, as well as from other sources. They can meet at a convenient place—the Pnyx in Athens, the Forum in Rome, the Palazzo Ducale in Venice, or the town hall in a New England village—to discuss the policy further and to offer amendments or revisions. Finally, their decision is rendered in a vote, all votes being counted equal, with the votes of a majority prevailing.

It is thus easy to see why direct democracies are sometimes thought to approach ideal democracy much more closely than representative systems ever could, and why the most ardent advocates of direct democracy have sometimes insisted, as Rousseau did in The Social Contract, that the term representative democracy is self-contradictory. Yet, views like these have failed to win many converts.

The theory of democracy » The value of democracy
Why should “the people” rule? Is democracy really superior to any other form of government? Although a full exploration of this issue is beyond the scope of this article (see political philosophy), history—particularly 20th-century history— demonstrates that democracy uniquely possesses a number of features that most people, whatever their basic political beliefs, would consider desirable: (1) democracy helps to prevent rule by cruel and vicious autocrats; (2) modern representative democracies do not fight wars with one another; (3) countries with democratic governments tend to be more prosperous than countries with nondemocratic governments; and (4) democracy tends to foster human development—as measured by health, education, personal income, and other indicators—more fully than other forms of government do. Other features of democracy also would be considered desirable by most people, though some would regard them as less important than (1) through (4) above: (5) democracy helps people to protect their fundamental interests; (6) democracy guarantees its citizens fundamental rights that nondemocratic systems do not, and cannot, grant; and (7) democracy ensures its citizens a broader range of personal freedoms than other forms of government do. Finally, there are some features of democracy that some people—the critics of democracy—would not consider desirable at all, though most people, upon reflection, would regard them as at least worthwhile: (8) only democracy provides people with a maximum opportunity to live under laws of their own choosing; (9) only democracy provides people with a maximum opportunity to take moral responsibility for their choices and decisions about government policies; and (10) only in a democracy can there be a relatively high level of political equality.

These advantages notwithstanding, there have been critics of democracy since ancient times. Perhaps the most enduring of their charges is that most people are incapable of participating in government in a meaningful or competent way because they lack the necessary knowledge, intelligence, wisdom, experience, or character. According to Plato, for example, the best government would be an aristocracy of “philosopher-kings” whose rigorous intellectual and moral training would make them uniquely qualified to rule. The view that the people as a whole are incapable of governing themselves has been espoused not only by kings and aristocratic rulers but also by political theorists (Plato foremost among them), religious leaders, and other authorities. The view was prevalent in one form or another throughout the world during most of recorded history until the early 20th century, and since then it has been most often invoked by opponents of democracy in Europe and elsewhere to justify various forms of dictatorship and one-party rule.

No doubt there will be critics of democracy for as long as democratic governments exist. The extent of their success in winning adherents and promoting the creation of nondemocratic regimes will depend on how well democratic governments meet the new challenges and crises that are all but certain to occur.

Problems and challenges
At the beginning of the 21st century, democracy faced a number of challenges, some of which had been problems of long standing, others of which were of more recent origin.

Problems and challenges » Inequality of resources
Although decentralized market economies encouraged the spread of democracy, in countries where they were not sufficiently regulated such economies eventually produced large inequalities in economic and social resources, from wealth and income to education and social status. Because those with greater resources naturally tended to use them to influence the political system to their advantage, the existence of such inequalities constituted a persistent obstacle to the achievement of a satisfactory level of political equality. This challenge was magnified during regularly occurring economic downturns, when poverty and unemployment tended to increase.

Problems and challenges » Immigration
After World War II, immigration to the countries of western Europe, Australia, and the United States, both legal and illegal, increased dramatically. Seeking to escape poverty or oppression in their homelands and usually lacking education, immigrants primarily from the developing world typically took menial jobs in service industries or agriculture. Differences in language, culture, and appearance between immigrant groups and the citizens of the host country, as well as the usually widespread perception that immigrants take jobs away from citizens and use expensive social services, made immigration a hotly debated issue in many countries. In some instances, anti-immigrant sentiment contributed to the rise of radical political parties and movements, such as the National Front in France, The Republicans in Germany, the militia movement in the United States, and the skinhead movement in the United States and Britain. Some of these groups promoted racist or neofascist doctrines that were hostile not only to immigrants but also to fundamental political and human rights and even to democracy itself.

Problems and challenges » Terrorism
Acts of terrorism committed within democratic countries or against their interests in other parts of the world occurred with increasing frequency beginning in the 1970s. In the United States remarkably few terrorist attacks had taken place before the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City. The deadliest single act of terrorism anywhere, the September 11 attacks of 2001, destroyed the World Trade Center and killed some 3,000 people, mainly in New York City and Washington, D.C.

In response to such events, and especially in the wake of the September 11 attacks, democratic governments adopted various measures designed to enhance the ability of police and other law-enforcement agencies to protect their countries against terrorism. Some of these initiatives entailed new restrictions on citizens’ civil and political liberties and were accordingly criticized as unconstitutional or otherwise inconsistent with democratic principles. In the early 21st century it remained to be seen whether democratic governments could strike a satisfactory balance between the sometimes conflicting imperatives of ensuring security and preserving democracy.

Problems and challenges » International systems
At the end of the 18th century, in response to the dilemma of size described earlier, the focus of both the theory and the practice of democracy shifted from the small association of the city-state to the far larger nation-state. Although their increased size enabled democracies to solve more of the problems they confronted, there remained some problems that not even the largest democracy could solve by itself. To address these problems several international organizations were established after World War II, most notably the United Nations (1945), and their numbers and responsibilities grew rapidly through the rest of the 20th century.

These organizations posed two related challenges to democracy. First, by shifting ultimate control of a country’s policies in a certain area to the international level, they reduced to a corresponding extent the influence that citizens could exert on such policies through democratic means. Second, all international organizations, even those that were formally accountable to national governments, lacked the political institutions of representative democracy. How could these institutions be made democratic—or at least more democratic?

In their struggle to forge a constitution for the new European Union at the beginning of the 21st century, European leaders faced both of these challenges, as well as most of the fundamental questions posed at the beginning of this article. What kind of association is appropriate to a democratic government of Europe? What persons or entities should constitute the European dēmos? What political organizations or institutions are needed? Should decisions be made by majority? If so, by what kind of majority—a majority of persons, of countries, of both countries and persons, or of something else? Do all the conditions necessary for satisfactory democratic government exist in this huge and diverse association? If not, would a less-democratic system be more desirable?

Problems and challenges » Transition, consolidation, breakdown
For many of the countries that made a transition to democracy in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the problems and challenges facing democracy were particularly acute. Obstacles in the path of a successful consolidation of democratic institutions included economic problems such as widespread poverty, unemployment, massive inequalities in income and wealth, rapid inflation, and low or negative rates of economic growth. Countries at low levels of economic development also usually lacked a large middle class and a well-educated population. In many of these countries, the division of the population into antagonistic ethnic, racial, religious, or linguistic groups made it difficult to manage political differences peacefully. In others, extensive government intervention in the economy, along with other factors, resulted in the widespread corruption of government officials. Many countries also lacked an effective legal system, making civil rights highly insecure and allowing for abuse by political elites and criminal elements. In these countries the idea of the rule of law was not well established in the prevailing political culture, in some cases because of constant warfare or long years of authoritarian rule. In other respects the political culture of these countries did not inculcate in citizens the kinds of beliefs and values that could support democratic institutions and practices during crises or even during the ordinary conflicts of political life.

In light of these circumstances, it is quite possible that the extraordinary pace of democratization begun in the 20th century will not continue long into the 21st century. In some countries, authoritarian systems probably will remain in place. In some countries that have made the transition to democracy, new democratic institutions probably will remain weak and fragile. Other countries might lose their democratic governments and revert to some form of authoritarian rule.

Yet, despite these adversities, the odds are great that in the foreseeable future a very large share of the world’s population, in a very large share of the world’s countries, will live under democratic forms of government that continue to evolve in order to meet challenges both old and new.

Robert A. Dahl

Encyclopaedia Britannica



Communism: Deliverance Claims and Paternal Dictatorship



With their 1848 Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels conceptualized a new historic-philosophical theory that was used as the ideological foundation of the revolutionary workers' movements of the 20th century. The manifesto instructed the workers that their historical duty was to free all of mankind from repression and injustice ("Proletarians of the world, unite") inherent in society as it was in the early 20th century.

Marx and Engels interpreted history as a series of 5 class struggles between rulers and the ruled.

Only with the historically necessary victory of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie would the free self-development of every human be possible. The middle-class capitalist society had to be overcome and the means of production converted to common property—only this would free humankind from all pressures.

In the name of communism, the October Revolution led by Vladimir Lenin in 1918 triumphed in Russia, but the 3 Union of Socialist Soviet Republics remained the only socialist country until 1945.

There, a socialist "dictatorship of the proletariat" through a revolutionary party cadre was supposed to create the conditions for a future true communist "classless society." With their self-conception as the historical vanguard of a communist world revolution, the Soviet Communists under Lenin legitimized their absolute claim to leadership of all other 1 Communist parties. Under Josef Stalin, the Soviet Union became a totalitarian dictatorship and systematically eliminated its political opponents.

Only after the central role of the Soviet Union in World War II in the victory and the spread of Communism throughout the world did certain states seek their own, national form of communism. During the Cold War after 1945, a particular movement referred to as "Eurocommunism" emerged in many countries of the West. It evolved into socialism, represented throughout Europe by socialist parties within the democratic system.

With the upheaval in Eastern Europe in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Communism lost its power base. As the only major Communist power remaining, China ostensibly bases its authority on the state teachings of Marx and Engels.


5 Call for the class struggle, 1919

1 Communists Marx, Engels, Lenin,
Stalin and Mao, Chinese poster

3 Soviet propaganda poster, 1945




the political and economic doctrine that aims to replace private property and a profit-based economy with public ownership and communal control of at least the major means of production (e.g., mines, mills, and factories) and the natural resources of a society. Communism is thus a form of socialism—a higher and more advanced form, according to its advocates. Exactly how communism differs from socialism has long been a matter of debate, but the distinction rests largely on the communists’ adherence to the revolutionary socialism of Karl Marx.

Like most writers of the 19th century, Marx tended to use the terms communism and socialism interchangeably. In his Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875), however, Marx identified two phases of communism that would follow the predicted overthrow of capitalism: the first would be a transitional system in which the working class would control the government and economy yet still find it necessary to pay people according to how long, hard, or well they worked; the second would be fully realized communism—a society without class divisions or government, in which the production and distribution of goods would be based upon the principle “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Marx’s followers, especially the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Ilich Lenin, took up this distinction.

In State and Revolution (1917), Lenin asserted that socialism corresponds to Marx’s first phase of communist society and communism proper to the second. Lenin and the Bolshevik wing of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party reinforced this distinction in 1918, the year after they seized power in Russia, by taking the name All-Russian Communist Party. Since then, communism has been largely, if not exclusively, identified with the form of political and economic organization developed in the Soviet Union and adopted subsequently in the People’s Republic of China and other countries ruled by communist parties.

For much of the 20th century, in fact, about one-third of the world’s population lived under communist regimes. These regimes were characterized by the rule of a single party that tolerated no opposition and little dissent. In place of a capitalist economy, in which individuals compete for profits, moreover, party leaders established a command economy in which the state controlled property and its bureaucrats determined wages, prices, and production goals. The inefficiency of these economies played a large part in the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the remaining communist countries (excepting North Korea) are now allowing greater economic competition while holding fast to one-party rule. Whether they will succeed in this endeavour remains to be seen. Succeed or fail, however, communism is clearly not the world-shaking force it was in the 20th century.

Historical background
Although the term communism did not come into use until the 1840s—it is derived from the Latin communis, meaning “shared” or “common”—visions of a society that may be considered communist appeared as long ago as the 4th century bce. In the ideal state described in Plato’s Republic, the governing class of guardians devotes itself to serving the interests of the whole community. Because private ownership of goods would corrupt their owners by encouraging selfishness, Plato argued, the guardians must live as a large family that shares common ownership not only of material goods but also of spouses and children.

Other early visions of communism drew their inspiration from religion. The first Christians practiced a simple kind of communism—as described in Acts 4:32–37, for example—both as a form of solidarity and as a way of renouncing worldly possessions. Similar motives later inspired the formation of monastic orders in which monks took vows of poverty and promised to share their few worldly goods with each other and with the poor. The English humanist Sir Thomas More extended this monastic communism in Utopia (1516), which describes an imaginary society in which money is abolished and people share meals, houses, and other goods in common.

Other fictional communistic utopias followed, notably City of the Sun (1623), by the Italian philosopher Tommaso Campanella, as did attempts to put communist ideas into practice. Perhaps the most noteworthy (if not notorious) of the latter was the theocracy of the Anabaptists in the Westphalian city of Münster (1534–35), which ended with the military capture of the city and the execution of its leaders. The English Civil Wars (1642–51) prompted the Diggers to advocate a kind of agrarian communism in which the Earth would be “a common treasury,” as Gerrard Winstanley envisioned in The Law of Freedom (1652) and other works. The vision was not shared by the Protectorate led by Oliver Cromwell, which harshly suppressed the Diggers in 1650.

It was neither a religious upheaval nor a civil war but a technological and economic revolution—the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries—that provided the impetus and inspiration for modern communism. This revolution, which achieved great gains in economic productivity at the expense of an increasingly miserable working class, encouraged Marx to think that the class struggles that dominated history were leading inevitably to a society in which prosperity would be shared by all through common ownership of the means of production.

Marxian communism
Karl Marx was born in the German Rhineland to middle-class parents of Jewish descent who had abandoned their religion in an attempt to assimilate into an anti-Semitic society. The young Marx studied philosophy at the University of Berlin and received a doctorate from the University of Jena in 1841, but he was unable, because of his Jewish ancestry and his liberal political views, to secure a teaching position. He then turned to journalism, where his investigations disclosed what he perceived as systematic injustice and corruption at all levels of German society. Convinced that German (and, more broadly, European) society could not be reformed from within but instead had to be remade from the ground up, Marx became a political radical. His views soon brought him to the attention of the police, and, fearing arrest and imprisonment, he left for Paris. There he renewed an acquaintance with his countryman Friedrich Engels, who became his friend and coauthor in a collaboration that was to last nearly 40 years.

The son of the co-owner of a textile firm with factories in Germany and Britain, Engels was himself a capitalist who helped to manage the firm’s factory in Manchester. Like Marx, Engels was deeply disturbed by what he regarded as the injustices of a society divided by class. Appalled by the poverty and squalor in which ordinary workers lived and worked, he described their misery in grisly detail in The Condition of the English Working Class (1844).

Marx and Engels maintained that the poverty, disease, and early death that afflicted the proletariat (the industrial working class) were endemic to capitalism: they were systemic and structural problems that could be resolved only by replacing capitalism with communism. Under this alternative system, the major means of industrial production—such as mines, mills, factories, and railroads—would be publicly owned and operated for the benefit of all. Marx and Engels presented this critique of capitalism and a brief sketch of a possible future communist society in Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), which they wrote at the commission of a small group of radicals called the Communist League.

Marx, meanwhile, had begun to lay the theoretical and (he believed) scientific foundations of communism, first in The German Ideology (written 1845–46, published 1932) and later in Das Kapital (1867; Capital). His theory has three main aspects: first, a materialist conception of history; second, a critique of capitalism and its inner workings; and third, an account of the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and its eventual replacement by communism.

Marxian communism » Historical materialism
According to Marx’s materialist theory, history is a series of class struggles and revolutionary upheavals, leading ultimately to freedom for all. Marx derived his views in part from the philosophy of G.W.F. Hegel, who conceived of history as the dialectical self-development of “spirit.” In contrast to Hegel’s philosophical idealism, however, Marx held that history is driven by the material or economic conditions that prevail in a given age. “Before men can do anything else,” Marx wrote, “they must first produce the means of their subsistence.” Without material production there would be no life and thus no human activity.

According to Marx, material production requires two things: “material forces of production”—roughly, raw materials and the tools required to extract and process them—and “social relations of production”—the division of labour through which raw materials are extracted and processed. Human history is the story of both elements’ changing and becoming ever more complex. In primitive societies the material forces were few and simple—for example, grains and the stone tools used to grind them into flour. With the growth of knowledge and technology came successive upheavals, or “revolutions,” in the forces and relations of production and in the complexity of both. For example, iron miners once worked with pickaxes and shovels, which they owned, but the invention of the steam shovel changed the way they extracted iron ore. Since no miner could afford to buy a steam shovel, he had to work for someone who could. Industrial capitalism, in Marx’s view, is an economic system in which one class—the ruling bourgeoisie—owns the means of production while the working class or proletariat effectively loses its independence, the worker becoming part of the means of production, a mere “appendage of the machine.”

Marxian communism » Critique of capitalism
The second aspect of Marx’s theory is his critique of capitalism. Marx held that human history had progressed through a series of stages, from ancient slave society through feudalism to capitalism. In each stage a dominant class uses its control of the means of production to exploit the labour of a larger class of workers. But internal tensions or “contradictions” in each stage eventually lead to the overthrow and replacement of the ruling class by its successor. Thus, the bourgeoisie overthrew the aristocracy and replaced feudalism with capitalism; so too, Marx predicted, will the proletariat overthrow the bourgeoisie and replace capitalism with communism.

Marx acknowledged that capitalism was a historically necessary stage of development that had brought about remarkable scientific and technological changes—changes that greatly increased aggregate wealth by extending humankind’s power over nature. The problem, Marx believed, was that this wealth—and the political power and economic opportunities that went with it—was unfairly distributed. The capitalists reap the profits while paying the workers a pittance for long hours of hard labour. Yet it is the workers who create economic value, according to Marx’s labour theory of value, which holds that the worth of a commodity is determined by the amount of labour required to produce it. Under capitalism, Marx claimed, workers are not paid fully or fairly for their labour because the capitalists siphon off surplus value, which they call profit. Thus, the bourgeois owners of the means of production amass enormous wealth, while the proletariat falls further into poverty. This wealth also enables the bourgeoisie to control the government or state, which does the bidding of the wealthy and the powerful to the detriment of the poor and the powerless.

The exploitation of one class by another remains hidden, however, by a set of ideas that Marx called ideology. “The ruling ideas of every epoch,” he wrote in The German Ideology, “are the ideas of the ruling class.” By this, Marx meant that the conventional or mainstream ideas taught in classrooms, preached from pulpits, and communicated through the mass media are ideas that serve the interests of the dominant class. In slave societies, for example, slavery was depicted as normal, natural, and just. In capitalist societies the free market is portrayed as operating efficiently, fairly, and for the benefit of all, while alternative economic arrangements such as socialism are derided or dismissed as false or fanciful. These ideas serve to justify or legitimize the unequal distribution of economic and political power. Even exploited workers may fail to understand their true interests and accept the dominant ideology—a condition that later Marxists called “false consciousness.” One particularly pernicious source of ideological obfuscation is religion, which Marx called “the opium of the people” because it purportedly dulls the critical faculties and leads workers to accept their wretched condition as part of God’s plan.

Besides inequality, poverty, and false consciousness, capitalism also produces “alienation.” By this, Marx meant that the worker is separated or estranged from (1) the product of his labour, which he does not own; (2) the process of production, which under factory conditions makes him “an appendage of the machine”; (3) the sense of satisfaction that he would derive from using his human capacities in unique and creative ways; and (4) other human beings, whom he sees as rivals competing for jobs and wages.

Marxian communism » Revolution and communism
Marx believed that capitalism is a volatile economic system that will suffer a series of ever-worsening crises—recessions and depressions—that will produce greater unemployment, lower wages, and increasing misery among the industrial proletariat. These crises will convince the proletariat that its interests as a class are implacably opposed to those of the ruling bourgeoisie. Armed with revolutionary class consciousness, the proletariat will seize the major means of production along with the institutions of state power—police, courts, prisons, and so on—and establish a socialist state that Marx called “the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.” The proletariat will thus rule in its own class interest, as the bourgeoisie did before, in order to prevent a counterrevolution by the displaced bourgeoisie. Once this threat disappears, however, the need for the state will also disappear. Thus, the interim state will wither away and be replaced by a classless communist society (see classless society).

Marx’s vision of communist society is remarkably (and perhaps intentionally) vague. Unlike earlier “utopian socialists,” whom Marx and Engels derided as unscientific and impractical—including Henri de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, and Robert Owen—Marx did not produce detailed blueprints for a future society. Some features that he did describe, such as free education for all and a graduated income tax, are now commonplace. Other features, such as public ownership of the major means of production and distribution of goods and services according to the principle “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” remain as radical as they were in Marx’s time. But for the most part, Marx believed that the institutions of a future communist society should be designed and decided democratically by the people living in it; it was not his task, he said, to “write recipes for the kitchens of the future.” Yet, though Marx was reluctant to write such recipes, many of his followers were not. Among them was his friend and coauthor, Friedrich Engels.

Communism after Marx
After Marx’s death in 1883, Engels became the chief expositor of Marxist theory, which he simplified and in several respects transformed. His version of Marxism, which he called “scientific socialism,” made Marxist theory more rigid and deterministic than Marx had intended. Thus, Marx’s historical materialism became a variant of philosophical materialism—i.e., the doctrine that only physical matter and its motions are real. According to Engels’s science of “dialectics,” everything—nature, history, even human thought—is reducible to matter moving in accordance with the same timeless “iron laws” of motion. This emendation of Marxist theory provided the basis for the subsequent development of dialectical materialism in the Soviet Union.

Communism after Marx » Revisionism
After Engels’s death in 1895, Marx’s followers split into two main camps: “revisionist” Marxists, who favoured a gradual and peaceful transition to socialism, and revolutionary Marxists, among them the leaders of the communist Russian Revolution of 1917. The foremost revisionist was Eduard Bernstein, a leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, who fled his homeland in 1881 to avoid arrest and imprisonment under the antisocialist laws of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Bernstein spent most of his exile in Britain, where he befriended Engels and later served as executor of his will. Bernstein’s experiences there (including his association with the gradualist Fabian Society) led him to conclude that a peaceful parliamentary transition to socialism was possible in that country—a conclusion he defended and extended beyond Britain in his Evolutionary Socialism (1899).

Bernstein revised Marxian theory in four interrelated respects. First, he added an ethical dimension that had been largely lacking in Marx’s thought; specifically, he held, following the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, that human beings should be treated as ends in themselves and never as means or instruments, whether by capitalists (who used workers as human machines) or by communists (who were prepared to use them as cannon fodder in the future revolution). Second, he argued that the emergence of trade unions and working-class political parties in late 19th-century Europe presented opportunities that required revisions in Marx’s theory and therefore in Marxian political practice. Third, Bernstein noted that rising wages and better working conditions meant that—contrary to Marx’s prediction of the immiseration of the proletariat—the lives of workers in advanced capitalist countries were actually improving. This trend he traced not to the kindness of capitalists but to the growing power of unions and working-class political parties. Fourth, however, he also warned of the danger of a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat, which was likely to become a dictatorship of “club orators and writers.” On the basis of these four revisions, then, Bernstein advocated gradual, piecemeal, and peaceful reform—“evolutionary” socialism—rather than violent proletarian revolution.

Orthodox Marxists branded Bernstein a bourgeois and a counterrevolutionary traitor to the cause. Chief among his communist critics was Lenin, who had devoted his life to the revolutionary transformation of Russia.

Communism after Marx » Bolshevism: Lenin’s revolutionary communism
Russia in the early 20th century was an unlikely setting for the proletarian revolution that Marx had predicted. Its economy was primarily agricultural; its factories were few and inefficient; and its industrial proletariat was small. Most Russians were peasants who farmed land owned by wealthy nobles. Russia, in short, was nearer feudalism than capitalism. There was, however, growing discontent in the countryside, and Lenin’s Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party saw an opportunity to harness that discontent to overthrow the autocratic tsarist regime and replace it with a radically different economic and political system.

Lenin was the chief architect of this plan. As head of the revolutionary Bolshevik faction of the party, Lenin made two important changes to the theory and practice of communism as Marx had envisioned it—changes so significant that the party’s ideology was later renamed Marxism-Leninism. The first, set out in What Is to Be Done? (1902), was that revolution could not and should not be made spontaneously by the proletariat, as Marx had expected, but had to be made by workers and peasants led by an elite “vanguard” party composed of radicalized middle-class intellectuals like himself. Secretive, tightly organized, and highly disciplined, the communist party would educate, guide, and direct the masses. This was necessary, Lenin claimed, because the masses, suffering from false consciousness and unable to discern their true interests, could not be trusted to govern themselves. Democracy was to be practiced only within the party, and even then it was to be constrained by the policy of democratic centralism. That is, full and vigorous debate would lead to a decision that would determine the party’s “line” on an issue, whereupon the party’s central leadership would close off debate and require adherence to the party line. Such strict discipline was necessary, Lenin maintained, if the party was to guide the masses to revolution and establish the socialist workers’ state that would follow. In short, the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat had to be a dictatorship of the communist party in the name of the proletariat.

A second and closely related change appears in Lenin’s Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916), in which he implied that communist revolution would not begin in advanced capitalist countries such as Germany and Britain because workers there were imbued with reform-minded “trade-union consciousness” instead of revolutionary class consciousness. This, he argued, was because the most direct and brutal exploitation of workers had shifted to the colonies of imperialist nations such as Britain. The capitalists reaped “superprofits” from the cheap raw materials and labour available in these colonies and were thus able to “bribe” workers at home with slightly higher wages, a shorter workweek, and other reforms. So, contrary to Marx’s expectations, communist revolution would begin in economically backward countries such as Russia and in the oppressed and exploited colonial countries of the capitalist periphery (later to be called the Third World).

Communism after Marx » The Russian Revolution
The Russian Revolution of 1917 came about in a way that no one, not even Lenin, had predicted. Its immediate impetus was World War I, which was taking a heavy toll on Russian soldiers at the front and on peasants at home. Riots broke out in several Russian cities. When Tsar Nicholas II ordered soldiers to put them down, they refused. Nicholas abdicated, and his government was replaced by one led by Aleksandr Kerensky. Committed to continuing the war against Germany, Kerensky’s provisional government was almost as unpopular as the tsar’s. Lenin returned to Russia from exile in Switzerland barely in time to lead the Bolsheviks in seizing state power in October (November, New Style) 1917. He then became premier of a new government based on soviets, or workers’ councils.

The Soviet government moved quickly to withdraw from the war in Europe and to nationalize private industry and agriculture. In the name of the people and under the banner of War Communism, it seized mines, mills, factories, and the estates of wealthy landowners, which it redistributed to peasants. The landowners and aristocrats, aided by troops and supplies from capitalist countries, including Britain and the United States, mounted a “White” counterrevolution against the “Red” government. The Russian Civil War ended in 1920 with the victory of the Reds, but the war in Europe and the war at home left the Soviet Union in shambles, its economic productivity meagre and its people hungry and discontented. Desperate for room to maneuver, Lenin in 1921 announced the New Economic Policy (NEP), whereby the state retained control of large industries but encouraged individual initiative, private enterprise, and the profit motive among farmers and owners of small businesses.

Communism after Marx » Stalinism
Lenin’s death in 1924 left Joseph Stalin, Leon Trotsky, and Nikolay Bukharin as the leaders of the All-Russian Communist Party. Before he died, Lenin warned his party comrades to beware of Stalin’s ambitions. The warning proved prophetic. Ruthless and cunning, Stalin—born Iosif Djugashvili—seemed intent on living up to his revolutionary surname (which means “man of steel”). In the late 1920s, Stalin began to consolidate his power by intimidating and discrediting his rivals. In the mid-1930s, claiming to see spies and saboteurs everywhere, he purged the party and the general populace, exiling dissidents to Siberia or summarily executing them after staged show trials. Bukharin was convicted on trumped-up charges and was executed in 1938. Trotsky, who had fled abroad, was condemned in absentia and was assassinated in Mexico in 1940 by one of Stalin’s agents. Those who remained lived in fear of the NKVD (a forerunner of the KGB), Stalin’s secret police.

As a variant of Marxism-Leninism, Stalinism had three key features. The first was its reliance on dialectical materialism as a way of justifying almost any course of action that Stalin wished to pursue. For example, in a report to the 16th Congress of the Communist Party in June 1930, Stalin justified the rapid growth of centralized state power as follows:

We stand for the withering away of the state. At the same time we stand for the strengthening of the…strongest state power that has ever existed.…Is this “contradictory”? Yes, it is contradictory. But this contradiction…fully reflects Marx’s dialectics.

But Stalin omitted mentioning that Marx believed that contradictions were to be exposed and overcome, not accepted and embraced.

A second feature of Stalinism was its cult of personality. Whereas Lenin had claimed that the workers suffered from false consciousness and therefore needed a vanguard party to guide them, Stalin maintained that the Communist Party itself suffered from false consciousness (and from spies and traitors within its ranks) and therefore needed an all-wise leader—Stalin himself—to guide it. This effectively ended intraparty democracy and democratic centralism. The resulting cult of personality portrayed Stalin as a universal genius in every subject, from linguistics to genetics.

A third feature of Stalinism was the idea of “socialism in one country”—i.e., building up the industrial base and military might of the Soviet Union before exporting revolution abroad. To this end, Stalin rescinded the NEP, began the collectivization of Soviet agriculture, and embarked on a national program of rapid, forced industrialization. Specifically, he insisted that the Soviet Union had to be quickly, and, if need be, brutally, transformed from a primarily agricultural nation to an advanced industrial power. During the collectivization, millions of kulaks, or prosperous peasants, were deprived of their farms and forced to labour on large collective farms; if they resisted (or were even thought likely to do so), they were shot or sent to forced labour camps in Siberia to starve or freeze to death. In the food shortages that resulted, several million people (the precise number remains unknown) starved, and many more suffered from malnutrition and disease.

In foreign policy, socialism in one country meant putting the interests of the Soviet Union ahead of the interests of the international communist movement. After World War II, as Winston Churchill famously remarked, an Iron Curtain descended across Europe as Stalin installed communist regimes in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Romania, Albania, and Soviet-occupied East Germany as a buffer zone against an invasion from western Europe. He also subordinated the interests and aspirations of communist parties there and elsewhere to the interests of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). A few dissident leaders, notably Josip Broz Tito in Yugoslavia, were rather reluctant allies; but most were pliant, perhaps out of fear of Soviet military might. Beyond Europe, the Soviet Union supported anticolonial “wars of national liberation” in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and gave economic and military support to communist regimes in North Korea, North Vietnam, and Cuba.

After Stalin’s death in 1953, there was a slow liberalization within the CPSU and in Soviet society at large, though the Cold War with the West continued. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin’s crimes in a secret speech to the 20th Party Congress in 1956. Khrushchev himself was deposed in 1964, after which a succession of Soviet leaders stifled reform and attempted to impose a modified version of Stalinism. In the 1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost (“openness”) and perestroika (“restructuring”) began a new liberalization of Soviet society. Yet the ghost of Stalin was not exorcized completely until the collapse of the Soviet Union and the effective demise of the CPSU in 1991.

Communism after Marx » Chinese communism
The People’s Republic of China is the only global superpower still ruled by a communist party, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as it has been since the communists came to power in 1949. Even so, the official Chinese version of communism—Maoism, or “Mao Zedong thought”—is a far cry from Marx’s original vision. Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic and China’s first communist leader, claimed to have “creatively” amended Marxist theory and communist practice to suit Chinese conditions. First, he invoked Lenin’s theory of imperialism to explain Chinese “backwardness” and to justify a revolution in a poor agricultural society without the sizable industrial proletariat that Marx believed was generally necessary to instigate a workers’ revolution. Second, Mao redefined or replaced key concepts of Marx’s theory. Most notably, he replaced the Marxist concept of a proletarian “class” of industrial wage labourers exploited by the capitalist ruling class with the idea of a proletarian “nation” of agricultural peasants exploited by capitalist countries such as the United States. Mao envisioned the proletarian countries encircling the capitalist countries and waging wars of national liberation to cut off foreign sources of cheap labour and raw materials, thereby depriving the capitalist countries of the ever-expanding revenues that are the lifeblood of their economies.

Mao also planned and oversaw several industrial and agricultural initiatives that proved disastrous for the Chinese people. Among the most important of these was the Great Leap Forward (1958–60), his version of Stalin’s policy of rapid, forced industrialization. Aiming to produce steel in backyard blast furnaces and to manufacture other commodities in hastily erected small-scale factories, it was a spectacular failure.

As Mao consolidated his power, he became increasingly concerned with ideological purity, favouring ideologically dedicated cadres of “reds” over technical “experts” in education, engineering, factory management, and other areas. The Cultural Revolution (1966–76) attempted to enforce ideological orthodoxy, and it too proved disastrous. Young Red Guards attacked bureaucrats, managers, teachers, and others whose ideological purity was suspect. Widespread chaos ensued, and eventually the People’s Liberation Army was called in to restore order.

Mao also aspired to being the “great helmsman” who would lead China out of poverty and into a bright communist future. His cult of personality, like Stalin’s, portrayed him as larger than life and endowed with unrivaled wisdom—as found, for example, in the sayings and slogans in his “Little Red Book” (Quotations from Chairman Mao). After Mao’s death in 1976, the Chinese communist leadership began to experiment with limited free-market reforms in the economy but continued to keep a tight lid on political dissent.

Non-Marxian communism
Although Marx remains the preeminent communist theorist, there have been several varieties of non-Marxist communism. Among the most influential is anarchism, or anarcho-communism, which advocates not only communal ownership of property but also the abolition of the state. Historically important anarcho-communists include William Godwin in England, Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin in Russia (though both spent much of their lives in exile), and Emma Goldman in the United States. In different ways they argued that the state and private property are interdependent institutions: the state exists to protect private property, and the owners of private property protect the state. If property is to be owned communally and distributed equally, the state must be smashed once and for all. In Statism and Anarchy (1874), for example, Bakunin attacked Marx’s view that the transitional state—the dictatorship of the proletariat—would simply wither away after it had served its purpose of preventing a bourgeois counterrevolution. No state, said Bakunin, has ever withered away, and no state ever will. To the contrary, it is in the very nature of the state to extend its control over its subjects, limiting and finally eliminating whatever liberty they once had to control their own lives. Marx’s interim state would in fact be a dictatorship “over” the proletariat. In that respect, at least, Bakunin proved to be a better prophet than Marx.

Communism today
Despite the difficulties and dislocations wrought by the transition to a capitalist market economy, Russia and the former Soviet republics are unlikely to reestablish communist rule. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the successor of the CPSU, attracts some followers, but its ideology is reformist rather than revolutionary; its chief aim appears to be that of smoothing the continuing and sometimes painful transition to a market economy and trying to mitigate its more blatantly inegalitarian aspects. In China, Maoism is given lip service but no longer is put into practice. Some large industries are still state-owned, but the trend is clearly toward increasing privatization and a decentralized market economy. China is now on the verge of having a full-fledged capitalist economy. This raises the question of whether free markets and democracy can be decoupled, or whether one implies the other. The CCP still brooks no opposition, as the suppression of pro-democracy student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989 made clear. But the views of a new generation of leaders that arose in the early 21st century were unknown, which makes the direction of Chinese policy difficult to predict.

Mao’s version of Marxism-Leninism remains an active but ambiguous force elsewhere in Asia, most notably in Nepal. After a decade of armed struggle, Maoist insurgents there agreed in 2006 to lay down their arms and participate in national elections to choose an assembly to rewrite the Nepalese constitution. Claiming a commitment to multiparty democracy and a mixed economy, the Maoists emerged from the elections in 2008 as the largest party in the assembly—a party that now appears to resemble the pragmatic CCP of recent years more closely than it resembles Maoist revolutionaries of the 20th century.

Meanwhile, North Korea, the last bastion of old Soviet-style communism, is an isolated and repressive regime. Long deprived of Soviet sponsorship and subsidies, Cuba and Vietnam have been reaching out diplomatically and seeking foreign investment in their increasingly market-oriented economies, but politically both remain single-party communist states.

Today Soviet-style communism, with its command economy and top-down bureaucratic planning, is defunct. Whether that kind of regime was ever consistent with Marx’s conception of communism is doubtful; whether anyone will lead a new movement to build a communist society on Marxist lines remains to be seen.

Terence Ball
Richard Dagger

Encyclopaedia Britannica



Fascism: Violence and the Cult of the Leader



The right-wing Italian nationalists around 9 Benito Mussolini called themselves fascists, after the old Roman power symbol, the fasces—rods bundled around an ax.

When he came to power in Italy in 1920, Mussolini set up a new type of dictatorship that was the forerunner and example— though never a totally emulated model—for fascist movements throughout the world.

In some European states, diverse authoritarian groupings with fascist traits won control over the state apparatus.

After the 7 civil war in Spain in 1939, General Francisco Franco set up a dictatorship.

In Portugal, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar created the "Estado Novo" ("New State"), while in Austria a particular form of Austro-fascism developed. In South America there were also authoritarian regimes with fascist characteristics. Notable similarities among these fascist movements included hierarchical organizational structures, the cult around a socially integrative leader figure, suggestive symbolism, and total mass mobilization that left hardly any rights to the individual. The state controlled all areas of life with its political police force.

Ideologically, the fascist state increasingly followed an "anti" ideology: antidemocratic and antiliberal, anticommunist and anticapitalist, antimodern, yet extremely nationalistic and prone to use violence as the decisive measure of politics. Racism, however, was not a central element of fascism. After World War II, fascism lost practically all significance.

9 Benito Mussolini, 1935

7 Victory Parade of the fascist Falange in Spain, 1939





political ideology and mass movement that dominated many parts of central, southern, and eastern Europe between 1919 and 1945 and that also had adherents in western Europe, the United States, South Africa, Japan, Latin America, and the Middle East. Europe’s first fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, took the name of his party from the Latin word fasces, which referred to a bundle of elm or birch rods (usually containing an ax) used as a symbol of penal authority in ancient Rome. Although fascist parties and movements differed significantly from each other, they had many characteristics in common, including extreme militaristic nationalism, contempt for electoral democracy and political and cultural liberalism, a belief in natural social hierarchy and the rule of elites, and the desire to create a Volksgemeinschaft (German: “people’s community”), in which individual interests would be subordinated to the good of the nation. At the end of World War II, the major European fascist parties were broken up, and in some countries (such as Italy and West Germany) they were officially banned. Beginning in the late 1940s, however, many fascist-oriented parties and movements were founded in Europe as well as in Latin America and South Africa. Although some European “neofascist” groups attracted large followings, especially in Italy and France, none were as influential as the major fascist parties of the interwar period.

National fascisms
Fascist parties and movements came to power in several countries between 1922 and 1945: the National Fascist Party (Partito Nazionale Fascista) in Italy, led by Mussolini; the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei), or Nazi Party, led by Adolf Hitler and representing his National Socialism movement; the Fatherland Front (Vaterländische Front) in Austria, led by Engelbert Dollfuss and supported by the Heimwehr (Home Defense Force), a major right-wing paramilitary organization; the National Union (União Nacional) in Portugal, led by António de Oliveira Salazar (which became fascist after 1936); the Party of Free Believers (Elefterofronoi) in Greece, led by Ioannis Metaxas; the Ustaša (“Insurgence”) in Croatia, led by Ante Pavelić; the National Union (Nasjonal Samling) in Norway, which was in power for only a week—though its leader, Vidkun Quisling, was later made minister president under the German occupation; and the military dictatorship of Admiral Tojo Hideki in Japan.

Spain’s fascist movement, the Falange (“Phalanx”), founded in 1933 by José Antonio Primo de Rivera, never came to power, but many of its members were absorbed into the military dictatorship of Francisco Franco, which itself displayed many fascist characteristics. In Poland the anti-Semitic Falanga, led by Boleslaw Piasecki, was influential but was unable to overthrow the conservative regime of Józef Piłsudski. Vihtori Kosola’s Lapua Movement in Finland nearly staged a coup in 1932 but was checked by conservatives backed by the army. The Arrow Cross Party (Nyilaskeresztes Párt) in Hungary, led by Ferenc Szálasi, was suppressed by the conservative regime of Miklós Horthy until 1944, when Szálasi was made a puppet ruler under the German occupation. In Romania the Iron Guard (Garda de Fier)—also called the League of Christian Defense, the Legion of the Archangel Michael, and All for the Fatherland—led by Corneliu Codreanu, was dissolved by the dictatorial regime of King Carol II in 1938. In 1939 Codreanu and several of his legionaries were arrested and “shot while trying to escape.” In 1940 remnants of the Iron Guard reemerged to share power but were finally crushed by Romanian conservatives in February 1941.

In France the Cross of Fire (Croix de Feu), later renamed the French Social Party (Parti Social Français), led by Colonel François de La Rocque, was the largest and fastest-growing party on the French right between 1936 and 1938. In 1937 it was larger than the French communist and socialist parties combined (one scholar estimated its membership between 700,000 and 1.2 million), and by 1939 it included some 3,000 mayors, about 1,000 municipal councilmen, and 12 parliamentary deputies. Other fascist movements in France included the short-lived Faisceau (1925–28), led by Georges Valois; the Young Patriots (Jeunesses Patriotes), led by Pierre Taittinger; French Solidarity (Solidarité Française), founded and financed by François Coty and led by Jean Renaud; the Franks (Francistes), led by Marcel Bucard; the French Popular Party (Parti Populaire Français), led by Jacques Doriot; and French Action (Action Française), led by Charles Maurras. After the German invasion in 1940, a number of French fascists served in the Vichy regime of Marshal Philippe Pétain.

The British Union of Fascists, led by Oswald Mosley, had some 50,000 members. In Belgium the Rexist Party, led by Léon Degrelle, won about 10 percent of the seats in the parliament in 1936. Russian fascist organizations were founded by exiles in Manchuria, the United States, and elsewhere; the largest of these groups were the Russian Fascist Party (VFP), led by Konstantin Rodzaevsky, and the All Russian Fascist Organization (VFO), led by Anastasy Vonsiatsky.

Outside Europe, popular support for fascism was greatest in South Africa and the Middle East. Several fascist groups were founded in South Africa after 1932, including the Gentile National Socialist Movement and its splinter group, the South African Fascists; the South African National Democratic Party, known as the Blackshirts; and the pro-German Ox-Wagon Sentinel (Ossewabrandwag). By 1939 there were at least seven Arab “shirt” movements, including the Syrian People’s Party, also called the Syrian National Socialist Party; the Iraqi Futuwa movement; and the Young Egypt movement, also called the Green Shirts.

Several rival protofascist and fascist movements operated in Japan after 1918, and their activities helped to increase the influence of the military on the Japanese government. Among the most important of these groups were the Taisho Sincerity League (Taisho Nesshin’kai), the Imperial Way Faction (Kodo-ha), the Greater Japan National Essence Association (Dai Nippon Kokusui-kai), the Anti-Red Corps (Bokyo Gokoku-Dan), the Great Japan Political Justice Corps (Dai Nippon Seigi-Dan), the Blood Brotherhood League (Ketsumei-Dan), the Jimmu Association (Jimmu-Kai), the New Japan League (Shin-Nihon Domei), the Eastern Way Society (Towo Seishin-Kai), and the Great Japan Youth Party (Da-nihon Seinen-dan).

Following the Mukden Incident and the wider invasion of Manchuria by Japanese troops in 1931, several fascist-oriented patriotic societies were formed in China; the largest of these groups, the Blue Shirts, formed an alliance with the Kuomintang (National People’s Party) under Chiang Kai-shek. At Chiang’s order in 1934, the Blue Shirts were temporarily put in charge of political indoctrination in the army and given limited control of its educational system.

European fascism had a number of imitators in Latin America, including the Nacis, founded in Chile by Jorge González von Mareés; the Gold Shirts, founded in Mexico by Nicolás Rodríguez; and the Revolutionary Union (Unión Revolucionaria) of Peruvian dictator Luis Sánchez Cerro. The Brazilian Integralist Action party (Ação Integralista Brasileira), which had some 200,000 members in the mid-1930s, was suppressed by the Brazilian government in 1938 after a failed coup attempt.

In the United States the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist organization founded at the end of the Civil War and revived in 1915, displayed some fascist characteristics. One of its offshoots, the Black Legion, had some 60,000 members in the early 1930s and committed numerous acts of arson and bombing. In 1930 Catholic priest Charles E. Coughlin began national radio broadcasts of sermons on political and economic subjects; his talks became increasingly antidemocratic and anti-Semitic, as did the journal he founded, Social Justice. After running unsuccessfully for the U.S. presidency in 1936, Coughlin became an apologist for Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco. In 1942 Social Justice was banned from the U.S. mails for violating the Espionage Act, and in the same year the American Catholic church ordered Coughlin to stop his broadcasts. The pro-Nazi German-American Bund, founded in 1933, staged military drills and mass rallies until it disintegrated with the U.S. entry into the war in 1941.

Common characteristics of fascist movements
There has been considerable disagreement among historians and political scientists about the nature of fascism. Some scholars, for example, regard it as a socially radical movement with ideological ties to the Jacobins of the French Revolution, whereas others see it as an extreme form of conservatism inspired by a 19th-century backlash against the ideals of the Enlightenment. Some find fascism deeply irrational, whereas others are impressed with the rationality with which it served the material interests of its supporters. Similarly, some attempt to explain fascist demonologies as the expression of irrationally misdirected anger and frustration, whereas others emphasize the rational ways in which these demonologies were used to perpetuate professional or class advantages. Finally, whereas some consider fascism to be motivated primarily by its aspirations—by a desire for cultural “regeneration” and the creation of a “new man”—others place greater weight on fascism’s “anxieties”—on its fear of communist revolution and even of left-centrist electoral victories.

One reason for these disagreements is that the two historical regimes that are today regarded as paradigmatically fascist—Mussolini’s Italy and Nazi Germany—were different in important respects. In Italy, for example, anti-Semitism was officially rejected before 1934, and it was not until 1938 that Mussolini enacted a series of anti-Semitic measures in order to solidify his new military alliance with Hitler. Another reason is the fascists’ well-known opportunism—i.e., their willingness to make changes in official party positions in order to win elections or consolidate power. Finally, scholars of fascism themselves bring to their studies different political and cultural attitudes, which often have a bearing on the importance they assign to one or another aspect of fascist ideology or practice. Secular liberals, for example, have stressed fascism’s religious roots; Roman Catholic and Protestant scholars have emphasized its secular origins; social conservatives have pointed to its “socialist” and “populist” aspects; and social radicals have noted its defense of “capitalism” and “elitism.”

For these and other reasons, there is no universally accepted definition of fascism. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify a number of general characteristics that fascist movements between 1922 and 1945 tended to have in common.

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Opposition to Marxism
Fascists made no secret of their hatred of Marxists of all stripes, from totalitarian communists to democratic socialists. Fascists promised to deal more “firmly” with Marxists than had earlier, more democratic rightist parties. Mussolini first made his reputation as a fascist by unleashing armed squads of Blackshirts on striking workers and peasants in 1920–21. Many early Nazis had served in the Freikorps, the paramilitary groups formed by ex-soldiers to suppress leftist activism in Germany at the end of World War I. The Nazi SA (Sturmabteilung [“Assault Division”], or Brownshirts) clashed regularly with German leftists in the streets before 1933, and when Hitler came to power he sent hundreds of Marxists to concentration camps and intimidated “red” neighbourhoods with police raids and beatings.

For French fascists, Marxism was the main enemy. In 1925, Valois, leader of the Faisceau, declared that the guiding principle of his organization was “the elimination of socialism and everything resembling it.” In 1926 Taittinger declared that the primary goal of his Patriotic Youth was to “defeat the progress of communism by any means necessary,” adding that “We defend the hierarchy of classes.…Everyone knows that there will always be different social levels, the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, the governing and the governed.” In 1936 French Popular Party leader Doriot announced that “Our politics are simple. We want a union of the French people against Marxism.” Similarly, La Rocque, head of the Cross of Fire/French Social Party, warned that communism was “the danger par excellence” and that the machinations of Moscow were threatening France with “insurrection, subversion, catastrophe.”

In 1919–20 the Heimwehr in Austria performed the same function that the Freikorps did in Germany, its volunteer militia units (Heimatschutz) doing battle with perceived foreign enemies and the Marxist foe within. Many of these units were organized by members of the landed gentry and the middle class to counter strikes by workers in the industrial districts of Linz and Steyer. In 1927 violent clashes between the Heimwehr and the Schutzbund, a socialist defense organization, resulted in many deaths and injuries among the leftists. In 1934 the Heimwehr joined Dollfuss’s Fatherland Front and was instrumental in pushing Dollfuss toward fascism.

Many Finnish fascists began their political careers after World War I as members of the anticommunist paramilitary group the White Guards. In Spain much of the Falange’s early violence was directed against socialist students at the University of Madrid. Portuguese Blue Shirts, who called themselves “national syndicalists,” regarded systematic violence against leftists to be “revolutionary.” During the Spanish Civil War, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and German fascists joined forces to defeat the Popular Front, a coalition of liberals, socialists, communists, and anarchists who had been democratically elected in 1936.

In 1919 a number of fascist groups emerged in Japan to resist new demands for democracy and to counter the influence of the Russian Revolution of 1917. Although there were important differences between these groups, they all opposed “bolshevization,” which some Japanese fascists associated with increasing agitation by tenant farmers and industrial workers. Fascists acted as strikebreakers; launched violent assaults on left-wing labour unions, peasant unions, and the socialist Levelling Society; and disrupted May Day celebrations. In 1938 Japanese fascists, having become powerful in the national government, supported the mass arrest of leaders of the General Council of Trade Unions (Nihon Rodo Kumiai So Hyogikai) and the Japan Proletarian Party (Dai Nippon Seisan-To) and of professors close to the Labour-Peasant Faction. Celebrations of May Day in Japan were prohibited in 1938, and in 1939 Japan withdrew from all international labour organizations.

Despite the fascists’ violent opposition to Marxism, some observers have noted significant similarities between fascism and Soviet communism. Both were mass movements, both emerged in the years following World War I in circumstances of political turmoil and economic collapse, both sought to create totalitarian systems after they came to power (and often concealed their totalitarian ambitions beforehand), and both employed terror and violence without scruple when it was expedient to do so. Other scholars have cautioned against reading too much into these similarities, however, noting that fascist regimes (in particular Nazi Germany) used terror for different purposes and against different groups than did the Soviets and that fascists, unlike communists, generally supported capitalism and defended the interests of economic elites.

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Opposition to parliamentary democracy
Fascist movements criticized parliamentary democracy for allowing the Marxist threat to exist in the first place. According to Hitler, democracy undermined the natural selection of ruling elites and was “nothing other than the systematic cultivation of human failure.” Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda, maintained that the people never rule themselves and claimed that every history-making epoch had been created by aristocrats. Primo de Rivera wrote that “our Spain will not emerge from elections” but would be saved by poets with “weapons in their hands.” In Japan the Tojo dictatorship dissolved all political parties, even right-wing groups, and reduced other political freedoms.

Before they came to power, Hitler and Mussolini, despite their dislike of democracy, were willing to engage in electoral politics and give the appearance of submitting to democratic procedures. When Hitler was appointed chancellor in 1933, he abandoned his military uniform for a civilian suit and bowed profusely to President Paul von Hindenburg in public ceremonies. In 1923 Mussolini proposed an electoral reform, known as the Acerbo Law, that gave two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to the party that received the largest number of votes. Although Mussolini insisted that he wanted to save Parliament rather than undermine it, the Acerbo Law enabled the Fascists to take control of Parliament the following year and impose a dictatorship.

In France, La Rocque declared in 1933 that no election should take place without a preliminary “cleansing of [government] committees and the press,” and he threatened to use his paramilitary squads to silence “agitators of disorder.” In 1935 he called elections exercises in “collective decadence,” and early in 1936 he told his followers that “even the idea of soliciting a vote nauseates me.” A few months later, faced with the prospect that the Cross of Fire would be banned by the government as a paramilitary organization, he founded a new and ostensibly more democratic party, the French Social Party, which he publicly claimed was “firmly attached to republican liberties.” He privately made it clear to his followers, however, that his conversion was more tactical than principled: “To scorn universal suffrage,” he said, “does not withstand examination. Neither Mussolini nor Hitler…committed that mistake. Hitlerism, in particular, raised itself to total power through elections.” With the collapse of the Third Republic in 1940 and the creation of the Vichy regime, La Rocque returned to condemning democracy as he had before 1936: “The world situation has put a halt to democracy,” he wrote. “We have condemned the thing as well as the word.” In 1941 La Rocque insisted that the French people obey Vichy’s new leaders the way soldiers obeyed their officers.

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Opposition to political and cultural liberalism
Although circumstances sometimes made accommodation to political liberalism necessary, fascists condemned this doctrine for placing the rights of the individual above the needs of the Volk, encouraging “divisiveness” (i.e., political pluralism), tolerating “decadent” values, and limiting the power of the state. Fascists accused liberal “fellow travelers” of wittingly or unwittingly abetting communism. In 1935 the Cross of Fire berated “moderates”—i.e., democratic conservatives—for indirectly aiding the communists through their taste for “compromise and hesitation.” La Rocque urged the French people to stand up against revolution and its “sordid ally” moderation, warning that, on the final day of reckoning, complicit moderates—“guardians unfaithful to their charge”—would be “at the head of the list of the guilty.”

Fascist propagandists also attacked cultural liberalism, claiming that it encouraged moral relativism, godless materialism, and selfish individualism and thereby undermined traditional morality. Anti-Semitic fascists associated liberalism with Jews in particular—indeed, one precursor of Nazism, the political theorist Theodor Fritsch, claimed that to succumb to a liberal idea was to succumb to the Jew within oneself.

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Totalitarian ambitions
Although Hitler had not revealed the full extent of his totalitarian aims before he came to power, as Führer (“Leader”) of the Third Reich, he attempted not only to control all political power but also to dominate many institutions and organizations that were previously independent of the state, such as courts, churches, universities, social clubs, veterans groups, sports associations, and youth groups. Even the German family came under assault, as members of the Hitler Youth were told that it was their patriotic duty to inform on anti-Nazi parents. In Italy, Mussolini adopted the title of duce (“leader”), and his regime created billboards displaying slogans such as “The Duce is always right” (Il Duce ha sempre ragione) and “Believe, obey, fight” (Credere, obbedire, combattere). It should be noted that, despite their considerable efforts in this direction, neither Hitler nor Mussolini succeeded in creating a completely totalitarian regime. Indeed, both regimes were riven by competing and heterogeneous power groups (which Hitler and Mussolini played off against each other), and the Fascists in Italy were significantly limited by the wishes of traditional elites, including the Catholic church.

Before fascists came to power, however, they often disavowed totalitarian aims. This was especially true in countries such as France, where conservatives were alarmed by reports of the repression of dissident conservatives in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. After Hitler’s crackdown on Roman Catholic dissidents in Germany in 1934 and 1935, French fascists took pains to deny that they were totalitarians, lest they alienate potential Catholic supporters in France. Indeed, they attacked “statism” and advocated a more decentralized government that would favour local economic elites. However, La Rocque’s claim in 1936 that he supported republican liberties did not prevent him in 1941 from demanding “unanimity” under Pétain and a purge of practitioners of Freemasonry from all government departments.

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Conservative economic programs
There were a few, usually small, fascist movements whose social and economic goals were left or left-centrist. Hendrik de Man in Belgium and Marcel Déat in France, both former socialists, were among those who hoped eventually to achieve a fairer distribution of wealth by appealing to fascist nationalism and class conciliation. In Poland the Camp of National Radicalism (Oboz Narodowo-Raykalny) supported land reform and the nationalization of industry, and fascists in Libya and Syria advocated Arab socialism. In Japan, Kita Ikki, an early theorist of Japanese fascism, called for the nationalization of large industries, a limited degree of worker control, and a modern welfare program for the poor.

However, the economic programs of the great majority of fascist movements were extremely conservative, favouring the wealthy far more than the middle class and the working class. Their talk of national “socialism” was quite fraudulent in this respect. Although some workers were duped by it before the fascists came to power, most remained loyal to the traditional antifascist parties of the left. As historian John Weiss noted, “Property and income distribution and the traditional class structure remained roughly the same under fascist rule. What changes there were favored the old elites or certain segments of the party leadership.” Historian Roger Eatwell concurred: “If a revolution is understood to mean a significant shift in class relations, including a redistribution of income and wealth, there was no Nazi revolution.”

Mussolini, a leading member of the Italian Socialist Party (Partito Socialista Italiano) before World War I, became a fierce antisocialist after the war. After coming to power, he banned all Marxist organizations and replaced their trade unions with government-controlled corporatist unions. Until he instituted a war economy in the mid-1930s, Mussolini allowed industrialists to run their companies with a minimum of government interference. Despite his former anticapitalist rhetoric, he cut taxes on business, permitted cartel growth, decreed wage reduction, and rescinded the eight-hour-workday law. Between 1928 and 1932 real wages in Italy dropped by almost half. Mussolini admitted that the standard of living had fallen but stated that “fortunately the Italian people were not accustomed to eating much and therefore feel the privation less acutely than others.”

Although Hitler claimed that the Nazi Party was more “socialist” than its conservative rivals, he opposed any Marxist-inspired nationalization of major industries. On May 2, 1933, he abolished all free trade unions in Germany, and his minister of labour, Robert Ley, later declared that it was necessary “to restore absolute leadership to the natural leader of the factory, that is, the employer.” Nazi “anticapitalism,” such as it was, was aimed primarily at Jewish capitalism; non-Jewish capitalists were allowed to keep their companies and their wealth, a distinction that was made in the Nazi Party’s original program and never changed. Although Hitler reduced unemployment in Germany, most German workers were forced to toil for lower wages and longer hours and under worse conditions than had been the case during the Weimar Republic. His solution to the unemployment problem also depended on the recruitment of thousands of men into the military.

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Corporatism
The fascist economic theory corporatism called for organizing each of the major sectors of industry, agriculture, the professions, and the arts into state- or management-controlled trade unions and employer associations, or “corporations,” each of which would negotiate labour contracts and working conditions and represent the general interests of their professions in a larger assembly of corporations, or “corporatist parliament.” Corporatist institutions would replace all independent organizations of workers and employers, and the corporatist parliament would replace, or at least exist alongside, traditional representative and legislative bodies. In theory, the corporatist model represented a “third way” between capitalism and communism, allowing for the harmonious cooperation of workers and employers for the good of the nation as a whole. In practice, fascist corporatism was used to destroy labour movements and suppress political dissent. In 1936, for example, the economic program of the French Social Party included shorter working hours and vacations with pay for “loyal” workers but not for “disloyal” ones, and benefits were to be assigned by employers, not the government. The Nazi “Strength Through Joy” program, which provided subsidies for vacations and other leisure activities for workers, operated on similar principles.

Extensive corporatist legislation was passed in Italy beginning in the late 1920s, creating several government-controlled unions and outlawing strikes. The Salazar regime in Portugal, using the Italian legislation as its model, outlawed the Trade Union Federation and all leftist unions, made corporatist unions compulsory for workers, and declared strikes illegal—all of which contributed to a decline in real wages. Croatian, Russian, Argentine, Brazilian, and Chilean fascism also proposed corporatist solutions to labour-management strife.

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Alleged equality of social status
In the political discourse of the fascist right, economic problems related to large disparities of wealth between rich and poor were treated as problems of social status and class prejudice. Rather than attacking upper-class wealth, fascists attacked upper-class snobbism. Rather than narrowing class differences, they taught that these differences were subjective and unimportant. National “socialism” was said to occur when a Hitler Youth from a rich family and a Hitler Youth from a poor family became comrades; no wealth had to be shared. This conception of socialism was in part an outgrowth of the Nazis’ attempt to transfer military values to civilian life: In war it did not matter if the soldier next to you came from a poor or a wealthy background as long as he fought loyally for the combat unit.

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Imperialism
Many fascist movements had imperialistic aims. Hitler hoped that his Drang nach Osten (“drive toward the east”), by conquering eastern Europe and Russia, would not only prove the racial superiority of Aryans over Slavs but also provide enough plunder and Lebensraum (“living space”) to overcome continuing economic difficulties at home. Mussolini’s imperial ambitions were directed at North Africa, and his armies invaded Ethiopia in 1935. Polish fascists advocated retaking all the lands that had ever been ruled by Polish kings, including East Prussia. Finnish fascists wanted to create a “Greater Finland” at the expense of Russia, and Croatian fascists advocated a “Greater Croatia” at the expense of Serbia. Japanese fascists preached military conquest on behalf of their plan for a “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.” French fascists were strong defenders of the French empire in Indochina and North Africa, and during the interwar period they attracted considerable support among the ruling European minority (colons) in Algeria. Portuguese fascists waged colonial wars in Guinea, Angola, and Mozambique. Syrian, Iraqi, and Egyptian fascist movements also supported territorial expansionism. However, there were some “peace fascisms” that were not imperialistic, such as the Integralist Action movement in Brazil.

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Military values
Fascists favoured military values such as courage, unquestioning obedience to authority, discipline, and physical strength. They also adapted the outward trappings of military organizations, such as paramilitary uniforms and Roman salutes. Hitler imagined a God who presided over military conflicts and ensured the survival of the fittest. Mussolini was famous for slogans such as “A minute on the battlefield is worth a lifetime of peace,” “Better to live an hour like a lion than a hundred years like a sheep,” and “Nothing has ever been won in history without bloodshed.” Similarly, a pamphlet published by the Japanese War Ministry in 1934 declared: “War is the father of creation and the mother of culture.” The songs of Spanish Falangists extolled the nobility of death in war. Like many fascists, the French writer Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, author of the fascist novel Gilles, prided himself on his “tough-minded” realism, which accepted killing as a principle of nature. La Rocque’s organization, originally a war veterans’ movement, prided itself on the martial “spirit of the Cross of Fire,” and its spokesmen made nefarious comparisons between “virile” combat soldiers and “decadent” civilian politicians.

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Volksgemeinschaft
Hitler envisioned the ideal German society as a Volksgemeinschaft, a racially unified and hierarchically organized body in which the interests of individuals would be strictly subordinate to those of the nation, or Volk. Like a military battalion, the people’s community would be permanently prepared for war and would accept the discipline that this required. The Italian, French, and Spanish versions of this doctrine, known as “integral nationalism,” were similarly illiberal, though not racist. The Japanese version, known as the “family-system principle,” maintained that the nation is like a family: it is strong only when the people obey their leaders in the same way children obey their parents.

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Mass mobilization
Fascists characteristically attempted to win popular support and consolidate their power by mobilizing the population in mass meetings, parades, and other gatherings. Exploiting principles borrowed from modern American advertising, which stressed the importance of appealing to the audience’s emotions rather than to its reason, fascists used such gatherings to create patriotic fervour and to encourage fanatic enthusiasm for the fascist cause. The Nazi rallies at Nürnberg, for example, were organized with theatrical precision and featured large banners, paramilitary uniforms, martial music, torchlight parades, bonfires, and forests of fascist salutes accompanied by prompted shouts of “Sieg Heil!” Hitler believed it best to hold such gatherings at night, when audiences would be more susceptible than in the daytime to irrational appeals. Fascists also sought to regiment the population, especially young people, by infiltrating local social networks—tavern groups and veteran, sports, church, student, and other organizations—and providing soup kitchens, vacation outings, and nationalistic ceremonies for townspeople. In France, La Rocque’s French Social Party dispensed meals to the unemployed and offered workers access to swimming pools, social clubs, and vacation grounds in order to entice them into the movement.

Mussolini’s regime in Italy and Salazar’s government in Portugal also held government-organized mass rallies. After 1936 Japanese fascists paid less attention to mass mobilization than to working directly with the nation’s elites. The dictatorship that followed was based on a coalition of military leaders, industrialists, state bureaucrats, and conservative party politicians.

Common characteristics of fascist movements » The leadership principle
Fascists defended the Führerprinzip (“leadership principle”), the belief that the party and the state should have a single leader with absolute power. Hitler was the Führer and Mussolini the Duce, both words for the “leader” who gave the orders that everyone else had to obey. The authority of the leader was often enhanced by his personal charisma.

The leadership principle was also conceived to apply at lower levels of the political and social hierarchy. Fascist organizations sometimes exhibited the so-called “corporal syndrome,” in which persons willingly submit to the authority of those above them in exchange for the gratification they derive from dominating those below. Japanese fascists believed that owners of stores and workshops should exercise “paternal” authority over their assistants, clerks, workers, servants, and tenants. Subordinates were not permitted to organize themselves into unions, and the small bosses assumed the leadership of town and village councils. As historian Masao Maruyama notes, this mind-set affected the way many Japanese shop masters viewed their nation’s foreign policy in the 1930s: “The resistance of the East Asian peoples to Japanese imperialism aroused the same psychological reactions among them as the resistance of their subordinates in the shops, workplaces, and other groups under their control. Thus they became the most ardent supporters of the China Incident [the Mukden Incident (1931), in which Japanese troops seized the Manchurian city of Mukden] and the Pacific War.”

Common characteristics of fascist movements » The “new man”
Fascists aimed to transform the ordinary man into the “new man,” a “virile” being who would put decadent bourgeoisie, cerebral Marxists, and “feminine” liberals to shame. The new man would be physically strong and morally “hard,” admiring what was forceful and vigorous and despising everything “weak” and “soft.” As Hitler described him, the new man was “slim and slender, quick like a greyhound, tough like leather, and hard like Krupp steel.” The new man was a man of the past as well as the future. Italian fascists held up the soldiers of ancient Rome as models, and Bertrand de Jouvenel praised the “brutal barons” of the Middle Ages and the original conquerors of Europe, the Franks. “Fascist man,” he wrote, was “a throwback to the warrior and property holder of yesteryear, to the type of man who was the head of a family and a clan: When this type of man ceases to win esteem and disappears, then the process of decadence begins.”

Drieu La Rochelle believed Hitlerian man to be superior to Democratic man, Marxist man, and Liberal man. “The Hitlerian,” he wrote, “is a type who rejects culture, who stands firm in the middle of sexual and alcoholic depravity and who dreams of bringing to the world a physical discipline with radical effects.” The new man was also a Darwinian “realist” who was contemptuous of “delicate” souls who refused to employ harsh military or political measures when they were required.

During World War II, in a speech to an SS unit that had executed many Jews, SS chief Heinrich Himmler reminded his “new men” that they needed to be emotionally as well as physically hard: “Most of you know what it means when 100 corpses are piled up, when 500 or 1,000 are piled there. To have gone through this and—with exceptions due to weakness—to have remained decent, that is what has made us hard. I have to expect of you superhuman acts of inhumanity.…We have no right to be weak.…[Our men] must never be soft. They must grit their teeth and do their duty.”

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Glorification of youth
Fascists praised the young for their physical strength and honoured them for their idealism and spirit of self-sacrifice—qualities, they said, that were often lacking in their elders. Fascists often presented their cause in generational terms. As the young Goebbels declared, “The old ones don’t even want to understand that we young people even exist. They defend their power to the last. But one day they will be defeated after all. Youth finally must be victorious.” De Jouvenel described fascism as a “revolution of the body” that reflected youth’s hunger for discipline, effort, combat, and courage. The young, who loved “strong and slender bodies, vigorous and sure movements, [and] short sentences,” consequently detested middle-aged, pot-bellied liberals and café verbosity.

Partly because they made concerted appeals to young people, fascist parties tended to have younger members than most other rightist parties. The leadership of the Nazi Party, for example, was relatively young, and junior officers in the German army often went over to fascism sooner than senior officers. Corneliu Codreanu, leader of the Iron Guard in Romania, was only 31 when he founded the movement in 1930, and his major lieutenants were in their 20s. Similarly, Primo de Rivera was only 30 when he founded the Falange, and in 1936, 60 to 70 percent of his followers were under 21.

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Education as character building
Fascist educators emphasized character building over intellectual growth, devalued the transmission of information, inculcated blind obedience to authority, and discouraged critical and independent thinking that challenged fascist ideology. According to Nazi writer Herman Klaus, the teacher “is not just an instructor and transmitter of knowledge.…He is a soldier, serving on the cultural and political front of National Socialism. For intellectuals belong to the people or they are nothing.” The ultimate aim of Nazi education was not to make students think more richly but to make them war more vigorously. As the Nazi minister of culture in Prussia wrote, “The National Socialist revolution has replaced the image of the cultivated personality with the reality of the true German man. It has substituted for the humanistic conception of culture a system of education which develops out of the fellowship of actual battle.” Teachers who did not practice these principles or who appeared skeptical of Nazi “idealism” were subject to dismissal, often as a result of reports by student informers.

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Decadence and spirituality
Some of the ugliest aspects of fascism—intolerance, repression, and violence—were fueled by what fascists saw as a morally justified struggle against “decadence.” For fascists, decadence meant a number of things: materialism, self-indulgence, hedonism, cowardice, and physical and moral softness. It was also associated with rationalism, skepticism, atheism, humanitarianism, and political, economic, and gender democracy, as well as rule by the Darwinian unfit, by the weak and the “female.” For anti-Semitic fascists, Jews were the most decadent of all.

The opposite of decadence was “spirituality,” which transcended materialism and generated self-discipline and virility. The spiritual attitude involved a certain emotional asceticism that enabled one to avoid feelings of pity for one’s victims. It also involved Darwinian notions of survival of the fittest, a belief in the right of natural elites to upward social and political mobility, and accommodation with members of the upper classes. It prized hierarchy, respect for superiors, and military obedience. It was forceful toward the weak, and it was “male.” The spiritual attitude was also hateful. In 1934 Ernst Röhm, leader of the SA, worried that Germans had “forgotten how to hate.” “Virile hate,” he wrote, “has been replaced by feminine lamentation. But he who is unable to hate cannot love either. Fanatical love and hate—their fires kindle flames of freedom.” De Jouvenel agreed: “Any sentiment less vigorous than hatred indicates a lack of virility.”

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Violence
Fascists reacted to their opponents with physical force. Primo de Rivera maintained that “no other argument is admissible than that of fists and pistols when justice or the Fatherland is attacked.” Before he came to power, Mussolini sent his Blackshirts to assault socialist organizers throughout Italy, and later he sent many leftists to prison. Hitler’s storm troopers served a similar function, and Nazi concentration camps at first interned more Marxists than Jews. Nor were dissident conservatives spared Nazi violence. Hitler’s infamous “Blood Purge” of June 1934, in which Röhm and other SA leaders were summarily executed, also claimed the lives of Kurt von Schleicher, the last chancellor of the Weimar Republic, and his wife, who were murdered in their home. To his critics Hitler replied, “People accuse us of being barbarians; we are barbarians, and we are proud of it!” In Romania, Codreanu’s “death teams” engaged in brutal strikebreaking, and, in France, Drieu La Rochelle glorified military and political violence as healthy antidotes to decadence. Beginning in 1931 Japanese fascists assassinated a number of important political figures, but in 1936, after a government crackdown, they renounced such tactics. In the United States in the 1920s and ’30s, the Ku Klux Klan and other groups sought to intimidate African Americans with cross burnings, beatings, and lynchings.

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Extreme nationalism
Whereas cosmopolitan conservatives often supported international cooperation and admired elite culture in other countries, fascists espoused extreme nationalism and cultural parochialism. Fascist ideologues taught that national identity was the foundation of individual identity and should not be corrupted by foreign influences, especially if they were left-wing. Nazism condemned Marxist and liberal internationalisms as threats to German national unity. Fascists in general wanted to replace internationalist class solidarity with nationalist class collaboration. The Italian, French, and Spanish notion of integral nationalism was hostile to individualism and political pluralism. Unlike democratic conservatives, fascists accused their political opponents of being less “patriotic” than they, sometimes even labeling them “traitors.” Portuguese fascists spoke of “internal foreigners” who were “antination.” In the 1930s some French fascist organizations even rejected the label “fascist,” lest they be perceived as beholden to Germany.

In France, immigrants—particularly left-wing immigrants—were special targets of fascist nationalism. Jean Renaud of French Solidarity demanded that all foreigners seeking residence in France be rigorously screened and that the unfit be denied entry “without pity”—especially social revolutionaries, who made France “not a refuge for the oppressed but a depository for trash.” In 1935 La Rocque blamed Hitler for driving German refugees into France and condemned the “foolish sentimentality” that prompted the government to accept them. He also criticized France’s naturalization policies for allowing cities like Marseille and Paris to be inundated by a rising tide of “undesirables.” France, he declared, had become the shepherd of “a swarming, virulent mob of outlaws,” some of whom, under the pretext of fleeing Nazi persecution, were really infiltrating France as spies.

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Scapegoating
Fascists often blamed their countries’ problems on scapegoats. Jews, Freemasons, Marxists, and immigrants were prominent among the groups that were demonized. According to fascist propaganda, the long depression of the 1930s resulted less from insufficient government regulation of the economy or inadequate lower-class purchasing power than from “Judeo-Masonic-bolshevik” conspiracies, left-wing agitation, and the presence of immigrants. The implication was that depriving these demons of their power and influence would cause the nation’s major problems to go away.

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Populism
Fascists praised the Volk and pandered to populist anti-intellectualism. Nazi art criticism, for example, upheld the populist view that the common man was the best judge of art and that art that did not appeal to popular taste was decadent. Also populist was the Nazi propaganda theme that Hitler was a “new man” who had “emerged from the depth of the people.” Unlike left-wing populism, fascist populism did not attribute workers’ hardships to big business and big landowners and did not advocate measures such as progressive taxation, higher pay for industrial and farm workers, protection of unions, and the right to strike. In general it spared the wealth of the upper classes—except that belonging to Jews.

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Revolutionary image
Fascists sometimes portrayed their movements as “new” and “revolutionary,” an image that appealed not just to the young but to older literary modernists such as Filippo Marinetti, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, William Butler Yeats, D.H. Lawrence, and Paul de Man. However, dozens of fascist writers also praised cultural traditionalism, or “rootedness.” Under the Third Reich, Goebbels subsidized an exhibition of modern art not to celebrate its glory but to expose its decadence; he called it simply the “Exhibition of Degenerate Art.” Fascism’s claims to newness did not prevent its propagandists from pandering to fearful traditionalists who associated cultural modernism with secular humanism, feminism, sexual license, and the destruction of the Christian family.

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Antiurbanism
Fascists also pandered to antiurban feelings. The Nazis won most of their electoral support from rural areas and small towns. In Nazi propaganda the ideal German was not an urban intellectual but a simple peasant, and uprooted intellectualism was considered a threat to the deep, irrational sources of the Volk soul. Jews were often portrayed—and therefore condemned—as quintessential city dwellers. In 1941 La Rocque commented: “The theory of ‘families of good stock who have their roots in the earth’ leads us to conclusions not far from [those of] Walter Darre, Minister of Agriculture for the Reich.” Romanian fascism relied heavily on the support of landed peasants who distrusted the “wicked” city. The agrarian wing of Japanese fascism praised the peasant soldier and denigrated the industrial worker.

Common characteristics of fascist movements » Sexism and misogyny
Under fascist regimes women were urged to perform their traditional gender role as wives and mothers and to bear many children for the nation. Mussolini instituted policies severely restricting women’s access to jobs outside the home (policies that later had to be revised to meet wartime exigencies), and he distributed gold medals to mothers who produced the most children. In Germany the Nazis forbade female party members from giving orders to male members. In a speech in 1937, Charles Vallin, vice president of the French Social Party, equated feminists with insubordinate proletarians: “It is not with class struggle that the social question will be resolved. Yet, it is toward a sort of class struggle, opposing the feminine ‘proletariat’ to the masculine ‘capitalist,’ that feminism is leading us.”

De Jouvenel equated women with hedonism and hedonism with decadence. Europe, he wrote in 1938, had grown soft and feminine from pleasure seeking, becoming “like a woman who had just escaped a frightening accident. [She] needed light, warmth, music.” According to de Jouvenel, an atmosphere of “facility” corrupted everything, and people had become increasingly unwilling to take on painful tasks. In short, he believed the feminization of Europe had been its downfall. In a similar vein, Drieu La Rochelle claimed that educated women undermined his manhood. He characterized political movements he disliked as feminine and those he admired as masculine—fascism, for him, being the most masculine of all.

Varieties of fascism
Just as Marxists, liberals, and conservatives differed within and between various countries, so too did fascists. In some countries there were rivalries between native fascist movements over personal, tactical, and other differences. Fascist movements also displayed significant differences with respect to their acceptance of racism and particularly anti-Semitism, their identification with Christianity, and their support for Nazi Germany.

Varieties of fascism » Acceptance of racism
Although not all fascists believed in biological racism, it played a central role in the actions of those who did. Nazism was viciously racist, especially in its attitude toward Jews. The Nazis blamed the Jews for almost everything wrong with Germany, from the Great Depression and the rise of Marxism to the evils of international capitalism and decadence in art. The Holocaust, culminating in the “final solution to the Jewish question,” was the immensely cruel outcome of this hatred. From 1933 to 1945 some six million Jewish men, women, and children were exterminated by gassings, shootings, hangings, and clubbings, and about three million Slavs (whom the Nazis regarded as only slightly less racially inferior than Jews), as well as approximately 400,000 Gypsies (Roma), were murdered as well.

Croatian fascists preached the racial inferiority of Serbs, and in the late 1930s they became increasingly anti-Semitic. When Germany invaded Yugoslavia in 1941, Ante Pavelić, the Ustaša’s leader, became head of a German puppet state, the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), and established a one-party regime. The NDH moved against the more than one million Orthodox Serbs in Croatia, forcing some to convert and expelling or killing others in campaigns of genocide. About 250,000 Serbs in Croatia were eventually liquidated, many in village massacres. The regime also murdered some 40,000 Jews in concentration camps, such as the one at Jasenovac.

Elsewhere in Europe and in South Africa, Latin America, and the United States, fascist movements were racist, and sometimes specifically anti-Semitic, to varying degrees. In Poland members of the Falanga attacked Jews in the streets and created “ghetto benches” for Jewish students in the lecture rooms of the University of Warsaw. In the United States, the Ku Klux Klan and other groups preached the supremacy of the white race. Some fascists in Japan taught that the Japanese were a superior race, and Syrian fascists claimed superiority for their people as well.

In contrast to fascists in most other European countries, Mussolini opposed anti-Semitism during the first 12 years of his rule. After 1933, however, he sometimes allowed anti-Semites within his party to condemn “unpatriotic” Jews in the press. In 1938 the Italian government passed anti-Semitic legislation, and later it abetted the Holocaust. Prior to the German takeover of Austria, the fascist regimes of Dollfuss and Schuschnigg also rejected anti-Semitism, and many Austrian Jews—including Sigmund Freud—supported them for resisting Nazism.

During the early interwar period, France’s largest fascist parties—the Faisceau, the Young Patriots, the Cross of Fire, and the French Popular Party—rejected anti-Semitism, and right-wing Jews were accepted into these movements until at least 1936, when the left-wing Popular Front, under the premiership of the Jewish socialist Léon Blum, came to power. Other fascist groups, such as French Action and French Solidarity, were more openly anti-Semitic, though they claimed to object to Jews on “cultural” rather than racial grounds. In 1941 La Rocque placed responsibility for the “mortal vices” of France on Jews and Freemasons. Although British fascism was not anti-Semitic at the outset—Mosley’s Blackshirts were trained by the British boxer Ted (“Kid”) Lewis, who was Jewish—it became so by 1936.

Varieties of fascism » Identification with Christianity
Most fascist movements portrayed themselves as defenders of Christianity and the traditional Christian family against atheists and amoral humanists. This was true of Catholic fascist movements in Poland, Spain, Portugal, France, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, and Brazil. In Romania, Codreanu said he wanted to model his life after the crucified Christ of the Orthodox church, and his Legion of the Archangel Michael, a forerunner of the Iron Guard, officially called for “faith in God” and “love for each other.”

In France, Valois, Taittinger, Renaud, Bucard, and La Rocque were all Catholics, and Doriot, previously an atheist, appealed to Catholic sentiments after he became a fascist. Although Maurras was an agnostic, he defended the Catholic church as a pillar of social order, and there were many Catholics among his followers. The fascist intellectual Robert Brasillach described the Spanish Civil War as a conflict between Catholic fascism and atheistic Marxism. Drieu La Rochelle rejected liberal Catholicism but praised the “virile, male Catholicism” of the Middle Ages and the “warrior Christianity of the Crusades.”

Although fascists in Germany and Italy also posed as protectors of the church, their ideologies contained many elements that conflicted with traditional Christian beliefs, and their policies were sometimes opposed by church leaders. The Nazis criticized the Christian ideals of meekness and guilt on the grounds that they repressed the violent instincts necessary to prevent inferior races from dominating Aryans. Martin Bormann, the second most powerful official in the Nazi Party after 1941, argued that Nazi and Christian beliefs were “incompatible,” primarily because the essential elements of Christianity were “taken over from Judaism.” Bormann’s views were shared by Hitler, who ultimately wished to replace Christianity with a racist form of warrior paganism. Although Hitler was cautious about dangerously alienating Christians during World War II, he sometimes permitted Nazi officials to put pressure on Protestant and Catholic parents to remove their children from religious classes and to register them for ideological instruction instead. In the Nazi schools charged with training Germany’s future elite, Christian prayers were replaced with Teutonic rituals and sun-worship ceremonies.

Despite the many anti-Christian elements in Nazism, the vast majority of Nazis considered themselves to be religious, and most German anti-Semites supported Christianity purged of its “Jewish” elements. The pro-Nazi German Christians, who were part of the Lutheran church in Germany, held that Christ had been a blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan, and male members called themselves “SS men for Christ.” In many German families children began their prayers before meals with the phrase, “Führer, my Führer, bequeathed to me by the Lord.”

In Italy, Mussolini signed a concordat with the papacy, the Lateran Treaty (1929), which, among other things, made Roman Catholicism the state religion of Italy and mandated the teaching of Catholic doctrine in all public primary and secondary schools. Later, many practicing Catholics joined the conservative wing of the Fascist Party. In 1931, however, Pope Pius XI issued an encyclical, Non abbiamo bisogno, that denounced fascism’s “pagan worship of the State” and its “revolution which snatches the young from the Church and from Jesus Christ, and which inculcates in its own young people hatred, violence and irreverence.” Although many Italian fascists remained Catholic, the regime’s mystique contained pagan elements that glorified the spirit of ancient Rome and the military virtues of its soldiers.

Varieties of fascism » Support for Germany
Many non-German fascists were just as nationalistic toward their countries as Hitler was toward his. Many Polish fascists fell resisting the German invasion of 1939, and others were later condemned to Nazi concentration camps—as were some Hungarian fascists after 1942. Before he was assassinated in 1934, the Austrian fascist Dollfuss sought Mussolini’s support against Hitler, and the Heimwehr received important financial support from Mussolini to create a fascist government in Austria that would resist the Germans.

Before 1940 all French fascists opposed a German invasion of France. Doriot enlisted in the French army when war broke out between France and Germany in 1939, and in 1940, as a sergeant, he commanded a unit that held back the enemy for several hours (he was later decorated for his exploits). Following France’s military defeat, some French fascists, including Doriot, subordinated their nationalism to Hitler’s crusade against bolshevism, as did many Hungarian, Croatian, and other non-German fascists. Others, such as Philippe Barrès, a former member of the Faisceau, crossed the channel in 1940 to serve under Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French movement. Eugène Deloncle, one of the leaders of the Cagoule, France’s major right-wing terrorist organization of the 1930s, was killed in 1944 while shooting at Gestapo agents who had come to arrest him. Another Cagoulard, François Duclos, was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his heroism in the Resistance. Salazar’s Portugal and Franco’s Spain remained officially neutral or nonbelligerent during World War II, despite the fascist characteristics of their own regimes.

Fascist Italy and fascist Japan were allies of Germany during the war, though Mussolini’s autonomy in this alliance was lost when German divisions occupied Italy in 1942 following the landing of American and British troops in North Africa. In the mid-1930s, other non-German fascists, including members of the British Union of Fascists and the German-American Bund, expressed admiration for Hitler’s forceful leadership without inviting a German invasion of their countries. Indeed, in 1938 La Rocque suggested that the best way for France to avoid such an invasion was to become more fascist itself. In 1941, following France’s defeat by Hitler’s armies, La Rocque called for “continental collaboration” with Germany and criticized de Gaulle and his British allies for threatening to “enslave” France. He soon became disillusioned with Germany’s treatment of France, however, and in early 1942 he formed a resistance organization that provided military information to the British.

Intellectual origins
Mussolini and Hitler did not invent fascist ideology. Indeed, fascism was neither a 20th-century creation nor a peculiarly Italian or German one. Originating in the 19th century, fascist ideas appeared in the works of writers from France as well as Austria, Germany, and Italy, including political theorists such as Theodor Fritsch, Paul Anton de Lagarde, Julius Langbehn, Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels, Joseph de Maistre, Charles Maurras, and Georges Sorel; scientists and philosophers such as Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Giovanni Gentile, Gustave Le Bon, Friedrich Nietzsche, Vilfredo Pareto, Karl Vogt, and Ernst Haeckel; historians and social thinkers such as Joseph-Arthur, comte de Gobineau, Hippolyte Taine, and Heinrich von Treitschke; artists, writers, and journalists such as Gabriele D’Annunzio, Richard Wagner, Édouard Drumont, Maurice Barrès, and Guido von List; and conservative politicians such as Otto Böckel and Adolf Stoecker.

Many fascist ideas derived from the reactionary backlash to the progressive revolutions of 1789, 1830, 1848, and 1871 and to the secular liberalism and social radicalism that accompanied these upheavals. De Maistre condemned the 18th-century Enlightenment for having subverted the dominance of traditional religion and traditional elites and paid homage to the public executioner as the protector of a divinely sanctioned social hierarchy. Taine lamented the rise to power of the masses, whom he suggested were at a lower stage of biological evolution than aristocrats. Le Bon wrote a primer on how to divert the barbarism of the masses from revolution to reaction. Barrès fused ethnic rootedness with authoritarian nationalism and contended that too much civilization led to decadence and that hatred and violence were energizing remedies.

German populist politicians and writers such as Stoecker, Böckel, and Fritsch extolled the idea of racially pure peasants close to the soil who would one day follow a charismatic leader able to intuit the Volk soul without benefit of elections. Anti-Semitism was a staple in the work of Drumont, Maurras, Lagarde, Langbehn, and a host of other best-selling authors. Britain’s Houston Stewart Chamberlain preached Aryan racism, and many of the anti-Semitic ideas espoused by Carl Lueger’s Christian Social Party and Georg von Schönerer’s Pan-German movement in Austria were later adopted by Hitler.

Racial Darwinists such as Vogt, Haeckel, Treitschke, Langbehn, Lagarde, and Chamberlain glorified the survival of the fittest, scolded humanitarians for attempting to protect the racially unfit, and rejected the idea of social equality (“Equality is death, hierarchy is life,” wrote Langbehn). Chamberlain saw no reason to give inferior races equal rights. Treitschke raged against democracy, socialism, and feminism (all of which he attributed to Jews), insisted that might made right, and praised warrior imperialism (“Brave peoples expand, cowardly peoples perish”). Lagarde said of the Slavs that “the sooner they perish the better it will be for us and them,” and he called for the extermination of the Jews—a sentiment that was shared by his contemporary Langbehn. As John Weiss remarked of Lagarde and Langbehn, “The two most influential and popular intellectuals of late nineteenth century Germany were indistinguishable from Nazi ideologists.” Weiss also noted that “the press and popular magazines of Germany and Central Europe had fed a steady diet of racial nationalism to the public since the last quarter of the nineteenth century, and anti-Semitic stereotypes were nothing if not commonplace in German mass culture.”

In the late 19th century many conservative nationalists were philosophical idealists who accused liberals and socialists of materialism and thereby portrayed their own politics as more spiritual. Other 19th-century thinkers propagated some protofascist ideas while rejecting others. Nietzsche rhapsodized about the heroic vitality of elite souls who were uninhibited by Christian ethics or liberal humanitarianism, but he was appalled by völkisch nationalism and anti-Semitism. Similarly, Sorel preached violence as an antidote for decadence—an idea that Mussolini admired—but his economic thought was too socialistic for most fascists.

Social bases of fascist movements
Despite their long history in European thought, fascist ideas prospered politically only when perceived economic threats increased their appeal to members of certain social groups. In 1928, before the onset of the Great Depression in Germany, Hitler received less than 3 percent of the vote; after 1930, however, far more voters—many of them middle and lower-middle class individuals fearful of “proletarianization”—gave him their support. The economic anxiety underlying the success of Nazism was reflected to some extent in party membership, which was drawn disproportionately from economic elites and other high-status groups—especially for leadership positions. These posts also contained large numbers of university professors, high school teachers, higher civil servants, former military officers, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and landed aristocrats. In the lower ranks of the party, white-collar workers were overrepresented and blue-collar workers were underrepresented. Similarly, in Italy, as historian Charles Maier has shown, fascism originally received most of its support from large and small landowners who felt beleaguered by landless farm workers and from businessmen and white-collar workers who felt a similar threat from industrial workers. In 1927, 75 percent of the membership of Mussolini’s party came from the middle and lower-middle classes and only 15 percent from the working class. Nearly 10 percent came from Italy’s economic elites, who represented a much smaller portion of the general population.

The Nazis drew more support from small towns than they did from large cities. In rural areas, Protestants were overrepresented in the party, and Catholics were underrepresented. In less-industrialized countries—such as Spain, Portugal, Poland, Romania, and Hungary—fascists relied more heavily on rural support. In Japan many fascist activists were originally young army officers, low-level civil servants, small landowners, small factory owners, masters of small workshops, primary school teachers, and Shintō and Buddhist priests.

Fascism and nonfascist conservatisms: Collaboration and crossover
Although in principle there were significant differences between fascism and nonfascist conservatism, the two camps shared some of the same goals, which in times of crisis led some nonfascists to collaborate with fascists. As Weiss observed, “Any study of fascism which centers too narrowly on the fascists and Nazis alone may miss the true significance of right-wing extremism. For without necessarily becoming party members or accepting the entire range of party principles themselves, aristocratic landlords, army officers, government and civil service officials, and important industrialists in Italy and Germany helped bring fascists to power.” Without the aid of President Paul von Hindenburg, Chancellor Franz von Papen, and other German conservatives, Hitler, who never won an electoral majority, would not have been appointed chancellor.

During the Great Depression, thousands of middle-class conservatives fearful of the growing power of the left abandoned traditional right-wing parties and adopted fascism. The ideological distance traveled from traditional conservatism to Nazism was sometimes small, since many of the ideas that Hitler exploited in the 1930s had long been common currency within the German right.

In Italy thousands of landowners and businessmen were grateful to Mussolini’s Blackshirts for curbing the socialists in 1920–21, and many in the army and the Catholic church saw fascism as a bulwark against communism. Before the beginning of Franco’s rule in Spain, many monarchists had close relations with the Falange. Although the Franco regime arrested some of its fascist rivals, it gave others important positions in its propaganda agencies. Horthy’s government in Hungary was soft on fascism, and in its early stages it employed fascist methods itself, sending strong-arm squads to raid leftist trade unions, clubs, and newspaper offices and countenancing the slaughter of hundreds of communists and socialists throughout the country. In Greece, King George II and conservatives in the parliament helped Metaxas to establish his dictatorship in 1936.

Fascists also received support from Christian conservatives. Between 1930 and 1932 Hitler was supported by many Protestant voters in rural Prussia, and after 1933 the Catholic church in Germany largely accommodated itself to his regime. In 1933 the Vatican, which had previously interdicted Catholic membership in socialist organizations, signed a concordat with Germany that forbade priests to speak out on politics and gave Hitler a say in naming bishops.

In France the leading Catholic newspaper, La Croix, expressed early support for Hitler’s crusade against bolshevism, and the largest Catholic parliamentary party, the Republican Federation (Fédération Republicaine), included fascists in its ranks. In 1936, when the Cross of Fire became an electoral party (changing its name to the French Social Party), it absorbed much of the Republican Federation’s membership.

Although fascism was largely discredited in Europe at the end of World War II, fascist-inspired movements were founded in several European countries beginning in the late 1940s. Similar groups were created outside Europe as well, primarily in Latin America, the Middle East, and South Africa. Like their fascist predecessors, the “neofascists” advocated militant nationalism and authoritarian values, opposed the liberal individualism of the Enlightenment, attacked Marxist and other left-wing ideologies, indulged in racist and xenophobic scapegoating, portrayed themselves as protectors of traditional national culture and religion, glorified violence and military heroism, and promoted populist right-wing economic programs.

Despite these similarities, however, neofascism was not simply a revival of fascism. Neofascist parties differed from earlier fascist movements in several significant respects, many of them having to do with the profound political, economic, and social changes that took place in Europe in the first decades after the end of the war. For example, whereas fascists assigned much of the blame for their countries’ economic problems to the machinations of bolsheviks, liberals, and Jews, neofascists tended to focus on non-European immigrants—such as Turks, Pakistanis, and Algerians—who arrived in increasing numbers beginning in the 1970s. After decades of postwar decolonization, neofascists in western Europe lost interest in taking Lebensraum through military conquest of other states. Instead, they fought battles for “urban space,” which in Germany involved conflicts over government-subsidized housing for immigrants. With increasing urbanization also came a shift in the electoral bases of fascist-oriented movements and a consequent decline in the importance of rural romanticism (“blood and soil”) in neofascist political rhetoric. Finally, the gradual acceptance of democratic norms by the vast majority of western Europeans reduced the appeal of authoritarian ideologies and required that neofascist parties make a concerted effort to portray themselves as democratic and “mainstream.” Some neofascists even included words like “democratic” and “liberal” in the titles of their movements. Most neofascists abandoned the outward trappings of earlier fascist parties, such as paramilitary uniforms and Roman salutes, and many explicitly denounced fascist policies or denied that their parties were fascist. Noting this transformation, in 1996 Roger Eatwell cautioned: “Beware of men—and women—wearing smart Italian suits: the colour is now gray, the material is cut to fit the times, but the aim is still power.…Fascism is on the move once more, even if its most sophisticated forms have learned to dress to suit the times.” Similarly, historian Richard Wolin described these movements as “designer fascism.”

As with fascist movements of the interwar period, neofascist movements differed from one another in various respects. The rhetoric of neofascists in Russia and the Balkans, for example, tended to be more openly brutal and militaristic than that of the majority of their Western counterparts. Most neofascist movements in Europe pandered to anti-Semitism, though neofascists in Italy and Spain generally did not. Spanish neofascists also differed from most other neofascists in Europe in that they did not make a major issue of immigration. Portuguese, British, and (for a time) Italian neofascists advocated corporatism, in contrast to French and many other Western neofascists, who promoted free-market capitalism and lower taxes. In the 1990s in Russia and eastern Europe, neofascist movements were generally more leftist than their counterparts in western Europe, emphasizing the interests of workers and peasants over those of the urban middle class and calling for “mixed” socialist and capitalist economies.

Neofascism » Italy
One of the largest neofascist movements in western Europe in the 1990s was the Italian Social Movement (Movimento Sociale Italiano [MSI]; renamed the National Alliance [Alleanza Nazionale] in 1994). Founded in 1946, it was led at various times by Giorgio Almirante, Augusto De Marsanich, Arturo Michelini, and Gianfranco Fini. As an official in Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic, a puppet state established by the Germans in northern Italy in 1944, Almirante oversaw the regime’s propaganda machinery. When the MSI was launched in 1946, Almirante sought to give it a modern image, urging its members to “beware of representing fascism in a grotesque way, or at any rate, in an outdated, anachronistic, and stupidly nostalgic way.”

Although Italy’s postwar constitution forbade the reorganization of a fascist party, and although Almirante discouraged MSI members from wearing paramilitary black shirts and performing the Roman salute, the propaganda of the MSI echoed a number of themes dear to interwar fascism. First and foremost was its call for the “vital forces” of the nation to resist the communist menace. The MSI contended that not only were communists gaining footholds in the press, in the schools, among intellectuals, and in the trade unions but they were behind the breakdown of law and order and left-wing terrorism. In the 1950s MSI members entered schools to assault leftists and provoked violent confrontations with socialist and communist activists during election campaigns and strikes.

The MSI extolled the virtues of virility, courage, action, and patriotism. Like the National Fascist Party before it, the MSI also called for a corporatist solution to class conflict and the subordination of individual interests to the good of the nation. As a defender of “Christian civilization,” it supported the Lateran Treaty, which made Roman Catholicism the state religion of Italy (Catholicism ceased to be the official religion with the signing of the concordat of 1984), and the legal prohibition of divorce.

Although at times the MSI cultivated a benign image and obscured its fascist imagery, at other times it called attention to its continuity with the fascist past. The practice of avoiding direct references to fascism virtually disappeared from MSI propaganda in the 1980s and ’90s, as illustrated by the declaration of Fini, elected party secretary in 1987: “Fascism was part of the history of Italy and the expression of permanent values.” At a campaign rally in October 1992, Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of the duce, stood in the balcony of the 15th-century Palazzo Venezia (Venice Palace) shouting, “Grazie nonno!” (“Thanks, Granddad!”) as thousands of MSI supporters, many wearing black shirts and giving the fascist salute, marched below her and chanted, “Duce! Duce!”

MSI electoral fortunes varied greatly according to circumstances, ranging from about 2 percent of the vote in 1948 to 13.5 percent in 1994. In local elections in 1993, Fini and Mussolini were nearly elected mayor of Rome and mayor of Naples, respectively, and the party won almost a third of the vote in both cities.

Immediately after these elections, Fini subsumed the MSI into a new and allegedly more respectable party, the National Alliance (AN). Officially rejecting “any form of dictatorship or totalitarianism,” he replaced the old slogan of a “third way” between capitalism and communism with praise for the free market and individual initiative. In March 1995 the AN won about 14 percent of the vote and five ministerial posts in a coalition government led by Silvio Berlusconi. Later that year the AN led an attempt to repeal the clause in the Italian constitution forbidding the reorganization of a fascist party, but the effort failed. Although Fini described the AN as “postfascist,” following the 1994 elections, he declared that Mussolini was the greatest Italian statesman of the 20th century and that fascism before 1938—i.e., before Mussolini formed a military alliance with Hitler—was “mostly good.”

Neofascism » Germany
In 1949 Fritz Dorls and Otto Ernst Remer, a former army general who had helped to crush an attempted military coup against Hitler in July 1944, founded the Socialist Reich Party (Sozialistische Reichspartei; SRP), one of the earliest neofascist parties in Germany. Openly sympathetic to Nazism, the SRP made considerable gains in former Nazi strongholds, and in 1951 it won 11 percent of the vote in regional elections in Lower Saxony. The party was banned as a neo-Nazi organization in 1952.

Among legal neofascist parties in Germany, the most important were the National Democratic Party of Germany (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands; NPD), founded in 1964 by Waldemar Schütz, a former member of the Nazi Party and the Waffen-SS (the elite military wing of the Nazi Party, which served in combat alongside the regular German army); the German People’s Union (Deutsche Volksunion; DVU), founded in 1971; and the Republicans (Die Republikaner; REP), founded in 1983 by another former Waffen-SS member, Franz Schönhuber. Like Almirante in Italy, Schönhuber strove to give his party a more respectable image, and his efforts extended to denying his own previous connection with the Waffen-SS. “I have no Nazi past,” he said. “I regard the National Socialist state as absolutely incompatible with the rule of law. Racism and fascism led us into the most horrible catastrophe in our national history.”

Neofascist parties in Germany focused much of their energies on campaigns against immigrants, and they were most successful in areas where immigrant communities were large. Running on slogans such as “Germany for the Germans, the boat is full,” the REP gained 7.5 percent of the vote in West German elections in 1989 and more than 7 percent of the vote in elections for the European Parliament in the same year. Neofascist parties also won significant support among disaffected youth in parts of the former East Germany, where there were high levels of unemployment, poor housing, and severe environmental problems in the years immediately following unification.

In 1992–93 gangs of neo-Nazi youth in eastern Germany, most of whom did not belong to political parties, staged attacks on Turkish and other immigrants and desecrated Jewish cemeteries. Public revulsion at the attacks contributed to a temporary dip in the far-right vote in 1993. At the end of the 1990s, the REP was torn by personal, generational, and tactical divisions, with some members favouring a blatantly pro-Nazi platform and others urging more moderate and mainstream positions.

Neofascism » Austria
In 1999–2000 a series of electoral successes by the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (Freiheitlichen Partei Österreichs; FPÖ), founded in 1956 and led from 1986 by Jörg Haider, created a storm of controversy and produced widespread protests in Austria and abroad, largely because of perceptions that the leadership of the party, including Haider himself, was sympathetic to Nazism. Haider, whose father had been a leading member of the Austrian Nazi Party before and during World War II, became notorious for his praise of Hitler’s employment policies and his remark, made to a group of Austrian veterans of World War II, that the Waffen-SS deserved “honour and respect.” Arguing for stricter controls on immigration, he warned against the “over-foreignization” of Austrian society, pointedly borrowing a term—Überfremdung—used by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda.

Haider became governor of Carinthia, his home province, in March 1999, when the FPÖ won regional elections there with 42 percent of the vote. In general elections in October, the FPÖ narrowly outpolled the conservative Austrian People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei; ÖVP) with 27 percent of the vote and thereby became the second largest party in Austria (the Social-Democratic Party of Austria [Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs; SPÖ] finished first, with more than 33 percent). The prospect that the FPÖ would be included in a new Austrian government prompted a threat by the other member states of the European Union (EU) to suspend all bilateral political contacts with Austria. Despite the warning, the ÖVP, with considerable reluctance, formed a government with the FPÖ in February 2000, granting the party five cabinet ministries (Haider himself was not given a cabinet post).

The new government was greeted by widespread demonstrations, diplomatic protests, and calls for boycotts on travel to Austrian tourist destinations. Facing intense international pressure, Haider resigned his leadership of the FPÖ at the end of February, only three weeks after his party entered the government.

Neofascism » France
In the 1980s and ’90s, neofascism in France was dominated by the National Front (Front National; FN), founded in 1972 by François Duprat and François Brigneau and led beginning later that year by Jean-Marie Le Pen. After 10 years on the margins of French politics, the FN began a period of spectacular growth in 1981. Campaigning on the slogan “France for the French” (as had French fascists in the 1930s) and linking high unemployment and increased crime to the presence of immigrants, the FN increased its support from 1 percent of the vote in 1981 to 14 percent in 1988. In 1984 the FN gained 11 percent of the vote in elections for the European Parliament and thereby became the largest extreme-right group within that body. In municipal elections in 1989 the FN won city council seats in more than one third of cities exceeding 20,000 inhabitants, and in 1995–97 it gained control of four southern cities—Marignane, Orange, Toulon, and Vitrolles. Le Pen won 15 percent of the vote in presidential elections in 1995, and the FN also took 15 percent in legislative elections in May–June 1997. In areas of its greatest strength—southern and eastern France—the FN won more than 20 percent.

The FN’s rapid increase in popularity occurred despite Le Pen’s previous association with extreme right-wing causes, his cavalier remarks about the Holocaust (in 1987 he told a television interviewer that the Holocaust was only “a detail of history”), the presence of former fascists in his organization, and other neofascist aspects of his movement.

The FN’s popular anti-immigrant themes included the claim that non-French immigrants, especially Muslims, threatened French national identity and culture—a threat that had been compounded, according to the FN, by the huge influx of films, music, and television programs from the United States. The FN also called for a return to traditional values—family, law and order, hard work, and patriotism—and claimed that these values had been eroded by liberal permissiveness and multiculturalism.

Although Le Pen described himself as a “Churchillian democrat,” his commitment to political democracy was similar to that of La Rocque in the 1930s and ’40s—more tactical than principled. “We must be respectful of legality while it exists,” he declared in 1982. Just as La Rocque had admired Mussolini, so Le Pen admired Franco in Spain and Augusto Pinochet in Chile. Le Pen praised Pinochet’s overthrow of socialist president Salvador Allende in 1973, and he declared that the French army should follow Pinochet’s example if a similar leftist government were to arise in France.

The FN attempted to portray Le Pen as a plain-speaking man of the people, and it emphasized his physical strength and virility. Although Le Pen’s bodyguards sometimes wore helmets and battle gear similar to those of France’s national riot police, and although party supporters were sometimes involved in street violence against immigrants and ethnic minorities, the FN had no official party uniforms or paramilitary organizations.

The FN imposed censorship when it had the power to do so. Mayors of cities governed by the FN removed left-wing journals from municipal libraries, forbade librarians to order “internationalist” books, and required the purchase of materials supporting the FN’s views. The mayor of Toulon, Jean-Marie Le Chevallier, canceled the award of a literary prize to a Jewish writer and tried to shut down a well-known performance festival in the city because of its leftist political orientation.

The FN’s positions on economic issues fluctuated during the 1980s and ’90s. In the 1980s it sided with conservatives who stressed individual entrepreneurship and opposed state intervention in the economy. However, in 1993, in an attempt to attract more working-class voters, Le Pen described free-market economics as “harmful” unless balanced with state intervention, and he called for a 39-hour workweek, five weeks of paid vacation, and other social benefits—all measures the FN had previously opposed. In 1996 he reversed himself again, calling for lower taxes and criticizing trade unions for engaging in strikes.

By the 1990s the FN had acquired a broad-based and diverse following, including small businessmen and self-employed artisans, unemployed white-collar and blue-collar workers, socially conservative Catholics, and young people. In 1998 Le Pen’s associate Bruno Mégret split from the FN to form a new party, the National Movement (Mouvement National; MN), taking with him most of the FN’s departmental secretaries and city councillors. For Le Pen, Mégret’s action was not only a “crime against the National Front” but a “crime against France.” In elections for the European Parliament in 1999, the two parties received a total of only 9 percent of the vote, a major setback for Le Pen and French neofascism.

Neofascism » Russia
After the end of World War II, few Russians needed to be reminded of the evils of German fascism. Nevertheless, several fascist groups emerged in Russia after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Resentment over the loss of the Soviet empire, concern for the fate of ethnic Russians in the successor states, bad economic conditions, the breakdown of law and order, the desire for a strong leader, and the fact that democratic institutions were not deeply rooted in Russia all combined to make fascist ideas appealing to some segments of the Russian population.

Some Russian fascists attempted to revive the reactionary ideology of the Black Hundreds, a loose association of extreme right-wing organizations formed in Russia during the early years of the 20th century. Black Hundred ideology was highly nationalistic, anticosmopolitan, anti-Semitic, anti-Masonic, anti-Western, antidemocratic, antiegalitarian, antiliberal, and anti-“decadence.” The Black Hundreds were strong supporters of the Russian Orthodox church, the army, and authoritarian government (favouring either monarchy or military dictatorship), and they indulged in conspiracy theories that blamed most of Russia’s troubles on Jews and Freemasons.

In the 1980s the leading group espousing Black Hundred ideology was Pamyat (“Memory”), whose main spokesman after 1984 was Dmitry Vasiliev. During the communist era Pamyat worked for the restoration of churches and national monuments in Moscow, and Vasiliev generally supported the Communist Party and praised Lenin, Stalin, and the KGB for defending national traditions. After 1989, however, Vasiliev increasingly supported the Russian Orthodox church and began to advocate monarchism. Pamyat writers denounced communists as “godless,” “cosmopolitan,” and “antipatriotic,” and they criticized the neglect of national traditions, anti-Russian sentiment in the Baltic countries, the moral decline of youth, increased crime, the weakening of the family, and alcoholism. Although Pamyat had a near monopoly on the extreme right in 1987–88, by 1991 it had been overtaken by rival movements.

One of these movements was the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (Liberalno-Demokraticheskaya Partiya Rossi; LDPR), led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Founded in 1990, the party grew rapidly, and in presidential elections in 1991 Zhirinovsky won almost 8 percent of the vote, which placed him third after Boris Yeltsin and Nicolay Ryzhkov. In parliamentary elections in 1993, the LDPR gained nearly 23 percent of the vote, more than the Russian Communist Party (12.4 percent) did. However, by 1996 Zhirinovsky’s support had declined precipitously, and in presidential elections that year he managed to win only 6 percent of the vote.

Most neofascists denied that they were “fascists,” and Zhirinovsky was no exception. On various occasions he asserted his adherence to democratic values, the rights of man, a multiparty system, and the rule of law. However, in 1991 he declared: “I say quite plainly, when I come to power there will be a dictatorship. Russia needs a dictator now.” He added: “I’ll be ruthless. I will close down the newspapers one after another. I may have to shoot 100,000 people, but the other 300 million will live peacefully. You want to call it Russian fascism, fine.”

Zhirinovsky also indulged in racism and anti-Semitism, even though his own father was apparently Jewish and he himself had been active in a Russian Jewish group in 1989. When asked about his parents in 1993, he replied, “My mother was Russian, my father a lawyer”—a comment that became a popular joke in Russia about people who try to conceal their origins. Zhirinovsky also claimed that the Russian Revolution of 1917 was mainly the work of “baptized Jews” and that the state of Israel and Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, were engaged in anti-Russian conspiracies. Although he sometimes complained that the United States was becoming a nonwhite society, he declared that only an alliance between the United States, Germany, and Russia could “preserve the white race on the European and American continents.”

Zhirinovsky wanted to ensure Russia’s greatness by retaining control of the constituent republics of the former Soviet Union, and he condemned independence movements in the Baltic states and Chechnya and threatened harsh measures against them. As he told a Lithuanian newspaper in 1991, “I’ll destroy you. I’ll bury nuclear waste…along the border [with the Baltic states].…You Lithuanians will die from diseases and radiation.… Soon there will be no Lithuanians, Estonians, and Latvians in the Baltic. I’ll act the way Hitler did in 1942.” Zhirinovsky made similar threats to Western countries, which he believed were working against Russia’s interests. On a visit to Belgrade in 1994, he warned the West to stay out of the conflict in the Balkans or risk a Russian nuclear attack. After being denied a visa to Germany in the same year, he threatened to completely destroy that country and occupy it with 300,000 Russian troops.

Like many fascists of the interwar period, Zhirinovsky had little regard for women, and he was openly contemptuous of women with education or political power. Following a television debate with a representative of the Women’s Movement of Russia in 1995, he remarked that women such as her enjoyed being beaten and had fantasies about being raped, though they were too ugly for their fantasies to come true. Such comments were consistent with the negative portrayal of women—especially younger women—in Black Hundreds literature.

Zhirinovsky’s economic program favoured a mixed economy. He proposed both that taxes on industry be reduced and that 70 percent of the economy be controlled by the state, including transportation and communication. However, he blamed most of Russia’s economic problems on scapegoats, claiming that Russia was so poor because the country had been robbed of its natural resources by Jews, Freemasons, and Americans.

The Russian National Unity (Russkoe Natsionalnoe Edinstvo; RNE), a paramilitary organization founded in 1990 by Aleksandr Barkashov, claimed to have an extensive network of local branches, but its electoral support was significantly less than that of the LDPR. Barkashov, a former commando in the Russian army, touted his blackshirts as a reserve force for the Russian army and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He blamed many of Russia’s economic problems on Jews, claimed that two RNE blackshirts had been victims of Jewish ritual murder, insisted that only a “few hundred” Jews had perished in German concentration camps, and said that the Holocaust was a “diversion” created to conceal a Jewish-inspired genocide of 100 million Russians. The RNE’s symbol was a left-pointed swastika together with a four-pointed star. The RNE emphasized the “primary importance” of Russian blood, accused “internationalists-communists” of undermining the “genetic purity” of the nation with a program of racial mixture, and called for a rebirth of “Russian-Aryan traditions.” Although Barkashov denied that he was a fascist, he admired Hitler enormously, once stating that “I consider [Hitler] a great hero of the German nation and of all white races. He succeeded in inspiring the entire nation to fight against degradation and the washing away of national values.”

Barkashov insisted in 1994 that he would come to power by “absolutely legal means.” Nevertheless, the RNE’s program stated that conventional democracy was inefficient, and it called for an “ethnic democracy” in which the right to vote would be restricted to those who had demonstrated their loyalty to the nation. As part of Barkashov’s program of racist nationalism, he insisted that the state should protect motherhood to ensure the growth of the ethnic Russian population. Families with many children should be rewarded, and a “cult of the family” should be encouraged on a “traditional patriarchal basis.” Farmers, he said, were the best part of the nation, representing as they did a union of blood and soil. A major plank in the RNE’s platform was its defense of ethnic Russians outside Russia proper. Barkashov denounced the oppression of ethnic Russians in Estonia and Latvia and later supported Russian military intervention in Chechnya to protect Russian citizens “from force and arbitrary rule,” calling for harsh measures—ranging from temporary internment to deportation—against the 80,000 Chechen “criminals” who lived in Russia.

Neofascism » Serbia
Following the collapse of communism in the former Yugoslavia and the secession of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Yugoslav federation in 1991–92, units of the Yugoslav army and Serbian paramilitary forces engaged in campaigns of “ethnic cleansing” aimed at driving out non-Serb majorities in northeastern Croatia and parts of northern and eastern Bosnia and establishing nominally independent Serb republics in the vacated territories. The attacks, which were compared in their ferocity and cruelty to the Nazi invasions of eastern Europe and Russia, involved mass executions (mostly of men and boys), forced marches, torture, starvation, and systematic rape. These tactics were aimed at creating irreversible ethnic hatreds that would permanently prevent the development of multiethnic states in the areas under attack. In 1998–99 similar tactics were employed in Kosovo, a province of Serbia in which 90 percent of the population was ethnically Albanian and predominantly Muslim.

Organized and directed by the regime of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia (Socijalisticka Partija Srbije; SPS), the campaigns in Croatia and Bosnia were undertaken in part to bolster Milosevic’s image as a staunch nationalist and to consolidate his power at the expense of Vojislav Seselj’s Serbian Radical Party (Srpska Radikalna Stranka; SRS), then the largest neofascist party in Serbia. Although the SPS had won 65 percent of the vote in elections to the Serbian assembly in 1990, deteriorating economic conditions and perceived threats to Serbian enclaves in Croatia and Bosnia (where Serbs constituted 12 percent and 31 percent of the population, respectively) resulted in a significant loss of support for Milosevic’s SPS and a corresponding growth in the SRS and other extreme nationalist and neofascist groups. In 1992 the SPS won only 40 percent of the vote and was forced to enter into an unofficial “red-brown” alliance with the SRS, which finished with 20 percent. To counter the growing threat from the right, Milosevic gradually adopted many of the neofascists’ policies, including support for the creation of a “Greater Serbia” that would incorporate Montenegro, Macedonia, and large areas of Croatia and Bosnia.

In May 1993, after a year of severe economic hardship caused by UN-imposed sanctions, Milosevic accepted an international agreement for the division of Bosnia into 10 ethnic cantons. The Vance-Owen plan (named after its principal negotiators, former U.S. secretary of state Cyrus Vance and former British foreign minister David Owen) was rejected by the self-styled parliament of the Bosnian Serbs and condemned by Seselj, who attacked Milosevic for “selling out” and called for a parliamentary vote of no confidence. Milosevic responded by launching an “antifascist” campaign against Seselj and the SRS, charging Seselj with profiteering and committing war crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and arresting several members of the SRS’s paramilitary wing, the “Chetniks” (named after the Serbian nationalist guerrilla movement that battled the Nazis and later the communist Partisans in Yugoslavia during World War II; see Chetnik). Milosevic subsequently attempted to weaken nationalist support for the SRS by allying himself with the notorious paramilitary leader Zeljko Raznjatovic (popularly known by his nom de guerre, Arkan) and his new Serbian Unity Party (Srpska Partja Jedinstva; SJP). In elections in December 1993, the SPS increased its representation in the Serbian assembly at the expense of the SRS, taking 49 percent of the vote, compared with the SRS’s 14 percent.

In early 1998 Serbian military and police forces began attacks in Kosovo on alleged strongholds of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), an ethnically Albanian guerrilla movement fighting to end Serbian control of the province. The Serbs’ harsh repression of the Albanian civilian population drew international condemnation and resulted in renewed UN sanctions on Yugoslavia. On March 24, 1999, after a Serbian delegation at peace talks in Rambouillet, France, rejected an accord that had been signed by representatives of Kosovar Albanians and the KLA, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) began an intensive bombing campaign directed at Yugoslav military targets and later also at civilian infrastructure and government buildings in Serbia. In response, Serbian security forces in Kosovo conducted a massive campaign of ethnic cleansing, including large-scale massacres of civilians, and eventually forced more than 850,000 Kosovars to flee to border areas in Albania, Macedonia, and Montenegro. The bombing came to an end in early June after Milosevic agreed to the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosovo, the deployment of NATO peacekeeping troops, and the repatriation of Albanian refugees. In the meantime, Milosevic and four top officials of his government were indicted for crimes against humanity by the UN International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague.

Neofascism » Croatia
In the early 1990s the main spokesman for neofascism in Croatia was Dobroslav Paraga, founder in 1990 of the Croatian Party of Rights (Hrvatska Stranka Prava; HSP). A former seminary student and dissident under the communist regime in Croatia in the 1980s, Paraga believed that Serbia was a mortal danger to Croatian national survival, and he called for the creation of a “Greater Croatia” that would include much of Serbia and all of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He insisted that war with Serbia was inevitable and had to end in the “total defeat” of the enemy with “nothing left of Serbia except Belgrade and its surroundings.”

Paraga’s followers openly endorsed the pro-Nazi Ustaša regime, which had carried out large-scale exterminations of Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies (Roma) in Croatia during World War II. Reflecting the enthusiasm for Ustaša symbolism that swept Croatia after the outbreak of the Bosnian war in 1991, HSP members often wore caps marked with a U and donned black shirts in imitation of the former Ustaša paramilitary; they also gave fascist salutes and repeated the old Ustaša slogan “Ready for the homeland.” The HSP’s paramilitary wing, the Croatian Defense Association (Hrvatska Obrambeni Savez; HOS), was heavily involved in fighting against Serbia.

The economic program of the HSP was vague, maintaining that the principal solution to all social and economic problems was the creation of a Greater Croatia. In elections in 1992, the HSP received only about 7 percent of the parliamentary vote and Paraga only 5 percent of the presidential vote. The party’s electoral impact was reduced by its insistence on continuing the unpopular war against Serbia and by Paraga’s refusal to join forces with other neofascist parties in Croatia, such as the Croatian Party of Pure Rights (Hrvastska Ci sta Stranka Prava; HCSP), the Croatian Democratic Party (Hrvatgska Demokratska Stranka Prava; HDSZP), and the National Democratic League (Nacionalna Demokratska Liga; NDL).

Like the SRS in Serbia, the HSP was opposed by a larger ruling party—the Croatian Democratic Union (Hrvatska Demokratska Zajednica; HDZ), founded in 1989 by Franjo Tudjman—that eventually adopted neofascist policies in order to undercut the appeal of its extreme nationalist and neofascist rivals. Like the HSP, the Tudjman regime employed many Ustaša symbols, and it even rehabilitated many Ustaša leaders and nominated some of them to government posts. The HDZ incorporated into its ranks the Croatian National Committee, a group founded by Ranimir Jelic, a close associate of Ante Pavelić, the founder of the original Ustaša. In 1995 Tudjman’s troops undertook extensive ethnic cleansing campaigns in western Slavonia and the historically Serbian region of Krajina, forcing the evacuation of some 150,000 Croatian Serbs to Serbia and Serb-held areas of Bosnia.

Beginning in 1991, Tudjman took various repressive measures against the HSP, including the arrest of Paraga on charges of having formed an illegal paramilitary group and the formal incorporation of the HOS into the regular Croatian army. In 1993 the government launched a largely successful “antifascist” campaign aimed at curbing the influence of HSP supporters in the military. In the same year, Paraga was brought to trial for having allegedly plotted a coup, though he was later acquitted.

Neofascism » Neofascism outside Europe
The largest neofascist movements outside Europe after World War II emerged in Latin America, South Africa, and the Middle East. Juan Perón, who ruled Argentina as the legally elected president in 1946–55 and again in 1973–74, served as a military attaché to Italy in the 1930s and was a great admirer of the duce. As he later said, “Mussolini was the greatest man of our century, but he committed certain disastrous errors. I, who have the advantage of his precedent before me, shall follow in his footsteps but also avoid his errors.”

Perón won the support of poor industrial workers (the descamisados, or “shirtless ones”) as well as many wealthy businessmen by promoting higher wages and benefits as well as industrial development. He also had the backing of many middle-class nationalists and a large portion of the army officer corps. His charismatic wife, Eva Perón, popularly known as Evita, attracted a cult following for her charitable activities and her storybook rise from “rags to riches.” However, owing to inflation, corruption, and Perón’s conflicts with the formerly dominant landowning class and the Catholic church, the military eventually turned against him, and he was ousted in a coup in 1955.

After a long exile in Spain, Perón returned to Argentina in 1973 and, in a special election in October of that year, was elected president with his second wife, Isabel Perón, as vice president. Succeeding her husband after his death in 1974, Isabel Perón could not prevent a split between rightist and leftist factions of the Peronist coalition. The economy deteriorated dramatically, with inflation reaching triple digits by 1975, and the country was plagued by waves of kidnappings and assassinations of government and business leaders by leftist guerrillas—violence that was soon answered in kind, and on a much larger scale, by the military and secret police. Having lost all popular support, Isabel Perón was overthrown in a military coup in March 1976.

The most significant neofascist group in South Africa after 1945 was the South African Gentile National Socialist Movement (the “Greyshirts”), which changed its name to the White Workers Party in 1949. Although the party did not succeed in creating a mass movement, it did encourage the adoption of policies of white supremacy and apartheid by the dominant National Party of South Africa.

In the Middle East the regimes of Muammar al-Qaddafi in Libya and Ṣaddām Ḥussein in Iraq were neofascist in several respects. A charismatic dictator and devout Muslim, Qaddafi came to power in 1969 in a military coup that overthrew King Idris. He advocated what he called “true democracy,” characterized by state ownership of key sectors of the economy, strict adherence to Islamic law, and the mobilization of mass support through “people’s congresses,” government-controlled labour unions, and other organizations. In Iraq, Ḥussein’s Baʿth movement defended an extremely nationalistic brand of socialism that rejected Western liberalism as well as “materialistic communism.” Ḥussein’s regime, which came to power in a coup in 1968, was essentially a personal dictatorship based on an Arab version of the Führerprinzip.

In the 1990s a number of racist “militia” groups were active in the United States, and many of them made use of paramilitary uniforms and neo-Nazi symbolism. However, they lacked the popular support necessary to launch a strong political movement or to engage in electoral politics on their own.

Robert Soucy

Encyclopaedia Britannica



National Socialism: Anti-Semitism and Ideology



German National Socialism or Nazism, with its leader (Fuhrer) 11 Adolf Hitler, was in its state structure a particular variety of fascism.

However, due to the central significance of anti-Semitism, race ideology, and the doctrine of 8 Lebensraum ("living space"), in its political ideology, it had an unprecedentedly all-encompassing worldview.

Nazism defined history as the battle between peoples for the expansion of each nation's Lebensraum. Ultimately the "racially most valuable" people, the Aryans, would rule as the master humans over the inferior peoples. Nazi propaganda defamed particularly the Poles, Russians, and Slavs as "subhuman." Hitler promoted the war in the East as the battle for Lebensraum.

The main enemy, in the National Socialist worldview, was 10 "world Jewry," which did not want to recognize these "natural laws."

The Jews were said to control international movements of all kinds—of democracy, pacifism, communism, and capitalism—and had destroyed the national "purity" of nations, according to Nazi philosophy.

The central aim of the Nazis was therefore the persecution of Jews. Directly after coming to power in Germany, the Nazis began to force citizens of Jewish belief out of all areas by legal, economic, and criminal means, discriminating against them, disenfranchising them, and locking them up.

During World War II, the Nazi regime organized a factory model of mass murder of the European Jews. In the extermination camps, hundreds of thousands of Jews were systematically killed. In total, the number of Jewish victims was around six million. Further victims of Nazi terror included minorities such as the Sinti and Roma, homosexuals, and political opponents such as communists and socialists. After the victory of the Allies over Nazi Germany, the ideology of National Socialism was internationally outcast.

11 Adolf Hitler, NS painting, 1935

8 "Blut und Boden"-The Lebensraum
myth: Sword over the swastika, 1933

10 Anti-semitic NS Propaganda, 1942



National Socialism

political movement, Germany
German Nationalsozialismus, also called Nazism or Naziism

totalitarian movement led by Adolf Hitler as head of the Nazi Party in Germany. In its intense nationalism, mass appeal, and dictatorial rule, National Socialism shared many elements with Italian fascism. However, Nazism was far more extreme both in its ideas and in its practice. In almost every respect it was an anti-intellectual and atheoretical movement, emphasizing the will of the charismatic dictator as the sole source of inspiration of a people and a nation, as well as a vision of annihilation of all enemies of the Aryan Volk as the one and only goal of Nazi policy.

The roots of National Socialism
National Socialism had peculiarly German roots. It can be partly traced to the Prussian tradition as developed under Frederick William I (1688–1740), Frederick the Great (1712–68), and Otto von Bismarck (1815–98), which regarded the militant spirit and the discipline of the Prussian army as the model for all individual and civic life. To it was added the tradition of political romanticism, with its sharp hostility to rationalism and to the principles underlying the French Revolution, its emphasis on instinct and the past, and its proclamation of the rights of Friedrich Nietzsche’s exceptional individual (the Übermensch [“Superman”]) over all universal law and rules. These two traditions were later reinforced by the 19th-century adoration of science and of the laws of nature, which seemed to operate independently of all concepts of good and evil. Further reinforcements came from such 19th-century intellectual figures as the comte de Gobineau (1816–82), Richard Wagner (1813–83), and Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1855–1927), all of whom greatly influenced early National Socialism with their claims of the racial and cultural superiority of the “Nordic” (Germanic) peoples over all other Europeans and all other races.

Hitler’s intellectual viewpoint was influenced during his youth not only by these currents in the German tradition but also by specific Austrian movements that professed various political sentiments, notably those of pan-Germanic expansionism and anti-Semitism. Hitler’s ferocious nationalism, his contempt of the Slavs, and his hatred of the Jews can largely be explained by his bitter experiences as an unsuccessful artist living a threadbare existence on the streets of Vienna, the capital of the multiethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire.

This intellectual preparation would probably not have been sufficient for the growth of National Socialism in Germany but for that country’s defeat in World War I. The defeat and the resulting disillusionment, pauperization, and frustration—particularly among the lower middle classes—paved the way for the success of the propaganda of Hitler and the Nazis. The Treaty of Versailles (1919), the formal settlement of World War I drafted without German participation, alienated many Germans with its imposition of harsh monetary and territorial reparations. The significant resentment expressed toward the peace treaty gave Hitler a starting point. Because German representatives (branded the “November criminals” by National Socialists) agreed to cease hostilities and did not unconditionally surrender in the armistice of November 11, 1918, there was a widespread feeling—particularly in the military—that Germany’s defeat had been orchestrated by diplomats at the Versailles meetings. From the beginning, Hitler’s propaganda of revenge for this “traitorous” act, through which the German people had been “stabbed in the back,” and his call for rearmament had strong appeal within military circles, which regarded the peace only as a temporary setback in Germany’s expansionist program. The ruinous inflation of the German currency in 1923 wiped out the savings of many middle-class households and led to further public alienation and dissatisfaction.

Hitler added to Pan-Germanic aspirations the almost mystical fanaticism of a faith in the mission of the German race and the fervour of a social revolutionary gospel. This gospel was most fully expressed in Hitler’s personal testament Mein Kampf (1925–27; “My Struggle”), in which he outlined both his practical aims and his theories of race and propaganda.

Posing as a bulwark against communism, Hitler exploited the fears aroused in Germany and worldwide by the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and the consolidation of communist power in the Soviet Union. Thus, he was able to secure the support of many conservative elements that misunderstood the totalitarian character of his movement.

Hitler’s most important individual contribution to the theory and practice of National Socialism was his deep understanding of mass psychology and mass propaganda. He stressed the fact that all propaganda must hold its intellectual level at the capacity of the least intelligent of those at whom it is directed and that its truthfulness is much less important than its success. According to Hitler:

It is part of a great leader’s genius to make even widely separated adversaries appear as if they belonged to but one category, because among weakly and undecided characters the recognition of various enemies all too easily marks the beginning of doubt of one’s own rightness.

Hitler found this common denominator in the Jews, whom he identified with both Bolshevism and a kind of cosmic evil. The Jews were to be discriminated against not according to their religion but according to their “race.” National Socialism declared the Jews—whatever their educational and social development—to be forever fundamentally different from and inimical to Germans.

National Socialism attempted to reconcile conservative, nationalist ideology with a socially radical doctrine. In so doing, it became a profoundly revolutionary movement—albeit a largely negative one. Rejecting rationalism, liberalism, democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and all movements of international cooperation and peace, it stressed instinct, the subordination of the individual to the state, and the necessity of blind and unswerving obedience to leaders appointed from above. It also emphasized the inequality of men and races and the right of the strong to rule the weak; sought to purge or suppress competing political, religious, and social institutions; advanced an ethic of hardness and ferocity; and partly destroyed class distinctions by drawing into the movement misfits and failures from all social classes. Although socialism was traditionally an internationalist creed, the radical wing of National Socialism knew that a mass base existed for policies that were simultaneously anticapitalist and nationalist. However, after Hitler secured power, this radical strain was eliminated.

Totalitarianism and expansionism
Working from these principles, Hitler carried his party from its inauspicious beginnings in a beer cellar in Munich to a dominant position in world politics 20 years later. The Nazi Party originated in 1919 and was led by Hitler from 1920. Through both successful electioneering and intimidation, the party came to power in Germany in 1933 and governed through totalitarian methods until 1945, when Hitler committed suicide and Germany was defeated and occupied by the Allies at the close of World War II.

The history of National Socialism after 1934 can be divided into two periods of about equal length. Between 1934 and 1939 the party established full control of all phases of life in Germany. With many Germans weary of party conflicts, economic and political instability, and the disorderly freedom that characterized the last years of the Weimar Republic (1919–33), Hitler and his movement gained the support and even the enthusiasm of a majority of the German population. In particular, the public welcomed the strong, decisive, and apparently effective government provided by the Nazis. Germany’s endless ranks of unemployed rapidly dwindled as the jobless were put to work in extensive public-works projects and in rapidly multiplying armaments factories. Germans were swept up in this orderly, intensely purposeful mass movement bent on restoring their country to its dignity, pride, and grandeur, as well as to dominance on the European stage. Economic recovery from the effects of the Great Depression and the forceful assertion of German nationalism were key factors in National Socialism’s appeal to the German population. Further, Hitler’s continuous string of diplomatic successes and foreign conquests from 1934 through the early years of World War II secured the unqualified support of most Germans, including many who had previously opposed him.

Despite its economic and political success, National Socialism maintained its power by coercion and mass manipulation. The Nazi regime disseminated a continual outpouring of propaganda through all cultural and informational media. Its rallies—especially its elaborately staged Nürnberg rallies—its insignia, and its uniformed cadres were designed to impart an aura of omnipotence. The underside of its propaganda machine was its apparatus of terror, with its ubiquitous secret police and concentration camps. It fanned and focused German anti-Semitism to make the Jews a symbol of all that was hated and feared. By means of deceptive rhetoric, the party portrayed the Jews as the enemy of all classes of society.

National Socialism’s principal instrument of control was the unification, under Heinrich Himmler and his chief lieutenant, Reinhard Heydrich, of the SS (the uniformed police force of the Nazi Party) and all other police and security organizations. Opposition to the regime was destroyed either by outright terror or, more frequently, by the all-pervading fear of possible repression. Opponents of the regime were branded enemies of the state and of the people, and an elaborate web of informers—often members of the family or intimate friends—imposed utmost caution on all expressions and activities. Justice was no longer recognized as objective but was completely subordinated to the alleged needs and interests of the Volk. In addition to the now-debased methods of the normal judicial process, special detention camps were erected. In these camps the SS exercised supreme authority and introduced a system of sadistic brutality unrivaled in modern times.

Between 1938 and 1945 Hitler’s regime attempted to expand and apply the Nazi system to territories outside the German Reich. This endeavour was confined, in 1938, to lands inhabited by German-speaking populations, but in 1939 Germany began to subjugate non-German-speaking nationalities as well. Germany’s invasion of Poland on September 1, which initiated World War II, was the logical outcome of Hitler’s plans. His first years were spent in preparing the Germans for the approaching struggle for world control and in forging the military and industrial superiority that Germany would require to fulfill its ambitions. With mounting diplomatic and military successes, his aims grew in quick progression. The first was to unite all people of German descent within their historical homeland on the basis of “self-determination.” His next step foresaw the creation, through the military conquest of Poland and other Slavic nations to the east, of a Grosswirtschaftsraum (“large economic unified space”) or a Lebensraum (“living space”), which thereby would allow Germany to acquire sufficient territory to become economically self-sufficient and militarily impregnable. There the German master race, or Herrenvolk, would rule over a hierarchy of subordinate peoples and organize and exploit them with ruthlessness and efficiency. With the initial successes of the military campaigns of 1939–41, his plan was expanded into a vision of a hemispheric order that would embrace all of Europe, western Asia, and Africa and eventually the entire world.

The extravagant hopes of Nazism came to an end with Germany’s defeat in 1945, after nearly six years of war. To a certain extent World War II had repeated the pattern of World War I: great initial German military successes, the forging of a large-scale coalition against Germany as the result of German ambitions and behaviour, and the eventual loss of the war because of German overreaching. National Socialism as a mass movement effectively ended on April 30, 1945, when Hitler committed suicide to avoid falling into the hands of Soviet troops completing the occupation of Berlin. Out of the ruins of National Socialism arose a Germany that was divided until 1990. Remnants of National Socialist ideology remained in Germany after Hitler’s suicide, and a small number of Nazi-oriented political parties and other groups were formed in West Germany from the late 1940s, though some were later banned. In the 1990s gangs of neo-Nazi youths in eastern Germany staged attacks against immigrants, desecrated Jewish cemeteries, and engaged in violent confrontations with leftists and police.

Encyclopaedia Britannica



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