Fabio Paolo Barbieri (fpb) wrote,
Fabio Paolo Barbieri

A Quora answer: why were there no fascist movements in Britain, France and America?

As I have been saying in various places in Quora, what made Mussolini’s Fascism, and Lenin’s Communism too, was a specific and unique situation, never to be repeated in later history: namely, the presence of enormous masses of disaffected veterans, with recent experience of war at a very high technical level of skill, and angry about the condition of their country. (And of enormous amounts of weapons.) Fascism was not made by speeches or by money, but by tens of thousands of men gathering in armed bands to beat up enemies. And that being the case, what happened to the similar masses of veterans who came home to France, Britain, and America too, after 1918?

Well, France was exhausted. She had fought with her full strength from day one, whereas Britain had taken time to deploy its whole strength, and America and Italy had only entered the war much later. For five years, every man who could be spared had been at the Front. Her losses were larger in proportion than those of any other great power. And on the positive side, France, like Britain and America, was prosperous. The veterans went home to a country that was comparatively able to receive them, give them a place to be, and not foster any dangerous mass disaffection. This is of course relatively speaking. There will have been anger enough, irritation enough, even some disaffection. But the only real case of violence from below due to disaffection was the riot in Paris that followed the Stavisky affair in early 1934, and that, compared to what took place daily in other countries, was a very pussycat of a riot.

ON the other hand, both America and Britain experienced situations that had more than a taste of Fascism, but that failed to develop into freedom-destroying movements. In America, Fascism could have come from above. The last few years of the Wilson administration were horrendous: the Red Scare fanaticized large strata of the population, and the hatred came from the top, from Wilson and his terrible AG Palmer. (Palmer was a Quaker. So was Richard Nixon. Is there a reason why Quakers in politics should prove particularly dangerous?) Hate and fear of “reds” was also the driving force of Italian Fascism; and Wilson and Palmer mobilized it in ways and with goals that Mussolini would have understood. Had Wilson not suffered his famous collapse, he might have been a real danger: he intended to run for a third term in office. And the nationwide spread of the new KKK, well beyond the bounds of the old South, shows that he might have found a pool of willing stormtroopers. Altogether, I think America dodged a bullet the size of a Gatling shot when Wilson collapsed in office.

Britain’s own Blackshirt moment took place in Ireland. Sociologically, culturally, psychologically, the Blacks and Tans were the Blackshirts of Britain - masses of disaffected veterans sent into the streets to harass and terrify political enemies, bullies in non-standard uniforms with a loose relationship with the authorities. Only, their relationship with public opinion developed in an exactly opposite direction. Whereas Italy’s majority, horrified by Socialist violence at home and by Communist brutality abroad, tended increasingly to excuse the Blackshirts and wink at their violence, in Britain - possibly because of the influence of the American media, which were largely against British rule in Ireland - the paramilitary force found itself increasingly isolated from the country’s mainstream, and eventually their evil reputation became an asset to their own enemies and contributed to British acceptance of Irish independence.
Tags: fascism, history, mussolini, woodrow wilson, world war one

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