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11 World War II: Climax and Destruction of Fascism Fascism was the most overtly militarist of all the modern revolutionary ideologies in its style, rhetoric, and goals. In practice it was no more violent than Marxism-Leninism and in fact did not promote so high a degree of structural militarism as contemporary and subsequent Communist regimes, but the fascist movements and regimes (with some minor exceptions) placed a high positive evaluation on violence, emphasizing its necessary creative role as intrinsic to their doctrine of the "new man," and usually proclaimed national war as the highest commitment and test of a nation. By contrast, Marxist-Leninist regimes qualified violence as an indispensable means to an end-while gratuitously employing it en masse-and almost always preached peace as ideal and goal, while massively militarizing their systems in practice. Just how violent and aggressive individual fascist movements and regimes were, however, often depended on circumstances. The weaker ones employed much less violence, while those in either weak or satisfied countries did not necessarily promote war as practical policy. Mussolini was a relatively good citizen for more than a decade and only turned to aggression in 1935, and then in Africa, not in Europe. No such equivocation characterized Adolf Hitler. Not merely did Nazism preach war and violence as a necessary form of activity to bring out the intrinsic qualities of the master race, but Hitler held specific goals that required major war as soon as possible. While some historians have doubted whether Hitler possessed a grand design, it is clear from his words and writings that he sought to acquire vast Lebensraum in the east for the accomplishment of the racial revolution and the full construction of the Thousand-Year Reich, in the process destroying the Soviet Union and totally eliminating France as a power 355 356 PART I: HISTORY factor in the west. The extent of these ambitions, together with the racial war involved, constituted the revolutionary or ultra-"fascist" quality of Nazi expansionism , compared with the more limited expansionist goals of traditional German foreign policy.I The causes of World War II were basically twofold: the mutual competition of power politics and imperial interests, compounded by the effects of the new revolutionary ideologies in Germany, Italy, Japan, and the Soviet Union. The chief aggressors were the "new nations of the 1860s," latecomers who had failed to achieve imperial status equivalent to the main powers of western Europe, or to the United States and the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, the ambitions of Germany, Italy, and Japan would not have provoked such a war had it not been for the rise to power of Hitler, Mussolini, and the Japanese military, who felt impelled to achieve historic greatness and revolutionary goals through foreign conquest. War was also a necessity of Marxist-Leninist ideology, which saw the path to the expansion of communism arising from the results of a "second imperialist war" which would wear down the capitalist world. The only kind of operational plan which Hitler seems to have possessed was to proceed in a general way through fairly obvious phases of the expansion of German power. The first involved the consolidation of the regime at home and rearmament, followed by the expansion of German power in central and east central Europe, climaxed by major struggles to destroy the Soviet Union in the east and, if necessary, France in the west. The sequence in which the last two decisive developments might take place was not rigidly determined and would depend on events.2 Despite the brutality of his designs, Hitler expected to find indispensable allies and/or complicity abroad. The most important would be the British Empire , which he proposed to support in exchange for the return ofthe old German colonies and a free hand on the Continent.3 Anglo-Saxon "racial cousins" were not targets of Nazi expansionism and racial revolution, and in some undetermined fashion they might be helpful allies in the eventual ultimate struggle for world power, probably directed against the mongrelized United States by a greatly expanded Reich of the future, even after Hitler's own death.4 Italy I. Similarly, Nazism broke with the tradition of nationalist "geopolitics" before 1933, the former having been grounded in cultural, historical, and environmentalist doctrines rather than racialism. M. Bassin, "Race contra space: The conflict between German Geopolitik and National Socialism," Political Geography Quarterly 6:2 (April 1987): 115-34. 2. The best overall treatment of Hitler's expansionist policies is N. Rich...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780299148737
Related ISBN
9780299148744
MARC Record
OCLC
45733847
Launched on MUSE
2012-06-26
Language
English
Open Access
No
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