Fascism evolved as a heresy within Marxism into a competitor and mortal enemy. As such, anti-Fascism was initially strongly associated with Marxism, both in its Revolutionary Socialist and Communist forms. Anti-Fascism was based on its divergence from and betrayal of Marxism. As mentioned in the previous part, Stalin attacked Fascism on the same ground as Social Democracy. It undermined the class struggle by humanizing the Capitalist system and making it acceptable for the lower classes.
Ironically, while Stalin attacked Social Democracy and Fascism for being similar in abandoning class struggle and preserving Capitalism, Stalinism (and its offshoots like Maoism) have been termed Red Fascism by many of the Left for having rejected many of the same mainstream Left items as Fascism, such as cosmopolitanism and democracy as well as for having embraced de facto dictatorship, violent militia’s and even expansionism. Stalinism received this criticism from both the Social Democrats and Democratic Socialists to his Right and the Trotskyists, Left Communists and Anarchists to his Left.
The anti-fascist movement and charges of Fascism and Red Fascism largely started of as a form of Leftist infighting which slurs and labels eventually being adopted by Centrists, Liberals and Conservatives.
Fascism phase 1: Dissident Left and Syndicalism
Fascism’s origins as a dissident branch of (Marxist) revolutionary Socialism during WWI can be viewed as its first and its proto-phase. At that point it was Nationalist Socialism to an extent but without any racist or volkisch elements and with a strong influence of (national) syndicalism instead. The pull of syndicalism had influenced Mussolini even before WWI and had caused other Socialists such as Cesare Rossi to break with the Italian Socialist Party even before the war.
The influence of syndicalism and the transformation of revolutionary syndicalism into national syndicalism were an essential part of not just the history of Italian Fascism but also of ultra-nationalism in France and it would later influence Falangism in Spain. But it had nothing to do with the start of Nazism in post-WWI Germany.
Ironically National Syndicalism developed in France during the early twentieth century separate from the split of dissents like Rossi from the Socialist Party.
George Sorell went from being a revisionist Marxist to working with the Integralist Nationalists Monarchists of Action Francaise instead. Sorell even stated at one point that Socialism was dead because Marxism was, although he also rejected the corruption and betrayal of Marxism at various points.
This complex relationship with both Marxism and Socialism became a common theme in Fascism and (semi)Fascist movements and was especially strong in its early period.
Another bit of irony is that during his time in the Italian Socialist Party, Mussolini was a leading figure amongst the hardline Marxist Leninists (the future Communists) and successfully had reformists (future social democrats) expelled from the party. For that he received praise from Lenin.
Fascism Phase 2: Sansepolcrismo and Fascism’s unique identity
Fascism entered its second phase and became its own movement and ideology with the transformation of the Fascio d’Azione Rivoluzionaria into Fasci Italiani di Combattimento, often called Sansepolcrismo, in 1919.
It was then that Fascism had evolved from simply being a dissident, interventionist, nationalist and militarist faction within the revolutionary left into a completely separate, new and unique identity.
The Fascist manifesto was also published. One of the co-authors was Futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti whose own new Futurist party was merged into the Fascist movement.
Fascism assembled dissident from across society and the political spectrum. The Doctrine of Fascism would later state that Fascism embraced what worked off past movements.
Fascism’s embrace off Social Democratic support for a reformed market economy and (usually) private property along with support for Communist dictatorship and violence, perfectly indicates its pragmatism and its embrace of meritocratic hierarchy over democracy or horizontal collectivism.
A certain level of pragmatism and realism, even opportunism (subordinate to certain core goals) set Fascism apart traditional ideologies and movements. Mussolini perfectly summed it up by saying:
“We would like to be aristocrats and democrats, conservatives and liberals, reactionaries and revolutionaries, legalists and illegalists, depending on the circumstances of time, place and environment.”
Statist Corporatism was promoted as part of Sansepolcrismo. Variations of either Tripartite Corporatism and/or National Syndicalism would become the dominant economic currents within every form of Fascism.
National Syndicalism and statist corporatism were the ways by which Fascists desired to unite all classes, with class collaboration replacing Marxist class struggle or Liberal individualism.
Fascism embraced hierarchy beyond supposedly temporary things like Lenin’s vanguard, hierarchy as something valuable. But Fascism was not dedicated to preserving (conserving) or restoring traditional hierarchies like the absolute monarchy, nobility of the clergy.
Italian Fascism in 1919 as such was revolutionary but not dogmatically progressive. It can be compared to Bonapartism in that it was born of the revolution but ended up rejecting the mainstream line (of a cliff) and attracted some Reactionaries is the process. Reactionary left, or moderate revolutionary.
This would make later adaptations and compromises by Italian Fascism logical and natural.
While the 1919 Fascist program contained many Leftist elements including call for a progressive tax, republicanism and the confiscation of church properties, its emphasis on corporatism and flexibility firmly laid the basis for Fascist policy and goals.
Mussolini tried to form an alliance with his former comrades of the mainstream Left, but they refused, viewing his eccentric mix movement as a liability.
The Fascist movement failed massively during the 1919 parliamentary elections while the Socialists did extremely well. In accordance with Fascist ideology, Mussolini decided to throw the Right a few bones to try to absorb disaffected Right into the movement and the Fascist rise would start from there.