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13 Generic Fascism? Not merely has the interpretation or search for causes of fascism generated immense controversy and widely discordant theories, but there is a persistent tendency among historians to conclude that no such unified genus of political movements as a general fascism ever existed. The nominalist position is in some respects on firm ground, for proponents are able to point out significant individual characteristics and differences-some of them genuinely important-between the principal cases that are studied. More probably, a rigorous "either-or" approach toward the problem of generic fascism is fundamentally misleading. That is, the common reduction of all putative fascisms to one single generic phenomenon of absolutely common identity is inaccurate, while a radically nominalist approach which insists that all radical nationalist movements of interwar Europe were inherently different, though correct in the narrow technical sense that not one was a carbon copy of any other, has the opposite defect of ignoring distinctive similarities. Italian Fascists at first denied any intrinsic similarity between their movement and new authoritarian nationalists in Germany or elsewhere. Mussolini, rather typically, failed to adopt a firm and consistent position one way or the other. As early as 1921 he suggested to a Romanian admirer that like-minded activists might form a Romanian equivalent of Fascism (and in fact an ephemeral Romanian Fascist Party was formed in 1923), and in 1923 he responded to the flattery of his first formal state visitors, the king of Spain and the Spanish dictator Primo de Rivera, by suggesting that Fascism did present a series of generalizable characteristics that might be reproduced elsewhere. But when Mussolini visited Germany that same year, he found it politic to deny any fundamental similarity between Fascism and the German authoritarian nationalist groups. In 1925 Giuseppe Bastianini presented an enthusiastic report to the 462 Generic Fascism? 463 Fascist Grand Council, saying that there were already groups in forty different countries which either called themselves fascist or were so termed by others. Yet in the following year Mussolini denied any real similarity to or connection with those who were sometimes called Hungarian fascists, and so it went. In March 1928 he made his famous statement, "Fascism is not for export." I In effect Mussolini always wavered between the notion that Fascism had developed a new style, a new set of beliefs, values, and political forms, that might constitute the basis of Italian hegemony in a broader European fascism . He realized that such ambitions were imprudent, would be difficult to achieve, and would always face conflict and contradiction with would-be fascists elsewhere, who would press their own national interests and exhibit marked national idiosyncracies. Hitler's approach, at least vis-a-vis Italy, was more firm, practical, and consistent. He clearly became convinced, at least from the time of the March on Rome, that Fascism and National Socialism shared a common destiny. Though not considered identical in the sense of point-by-point similarity, they were deemed historical equivalents in their respective countries. While Hitler maintained that general conviction from beginning to end, he did not try to develop a worldwide concept of generic national socialism and did not normally call German National Socialism "fascist." Since the core of Nazism was race, the most specific counterparts of Nazism were to be found less in political forms and characteristics than in the most firm supporters of the Aryan racial principle and Aryan racial revolution, wherever they might be. In the process of Europe-wide racial revolution, however, Hitler soon became convinced that a combination of political characteristics and national interests dictated that Italy would be the most natural immediate ally of a National Socialist Germany . If this conclusion was in one sense contradictory, Hitler proved fully consistent in its prosecution and for some time even respected Italian control of the Alto Adige (the northeastern corner of Italy, inhabited by German-speaking people). This position was much appreciated. By 1928, if not before, the NSDAP was one of several authoritarian nationalist groups being subsidized by the Italian state.2 Hitler's unswerving admiration for Mussolini and by extension (but more weakly) for Fascism was not necessarily shared by other leading Nazis. The ideologist Alfred Rosenberg was interested in an international association of kindred movements but increasingly deprecated the racial confusion and intermittent philo-Semitism ofthe Fascists. Some of the more radical Nazis rejected the Mussolini regime for other reasons-especially for being too conservative 1. See especially M. Michaelis, "I rapporti tra fascismo e...


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