Transatlantic Fascism: Ideology, Violence and the Sacred in Argentina and Italy, 1919-1945

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Transatlantic Fascism: Ideology, Violence and the Sacred in Argentina and Italy, 1919-1945' By Federico Finchelstein. (Durham: Duke University Press. 2010. Pp. xiv, 330. $89.95 clothbound, ISBN 978-0-822-34594-7. $24.95 paperback, ISBN 978-0-822-34612-8.)

Federico Finchelstein is an outstanding historian who has been working on Argentina's version of fascism for several years. The very question of the existence of a non-European fascism has been debated for a long time from a wide variety of perspectives, and there is no definitive consensus on the issue. Yet for most scholars, fascism is a European phenomenon that has inspired in its epoch politicians, intellectuals, and ideologues outside Europe. The fascist revolution and the introduction of a third way between liberalism and communism affected nationalist movements worldwide. In some societies, the appearance of such third-way movements was a curious phenomenon without political consequences. In other societies - Argentina is a case in point - the debate on the fascist inspiration of nationalism had become a central feature of the debate on its own national identity. Indeed, the importance of Finchelstein's book is in the fact that it touches the nerves of Argentinean national identity and its most important political expression, Peronism.

In Transatlantic Fascism Finchelstein deals with the pre-Peronist era and looks into its ideological roots. He advances a very interesting, compelling claim: "Generally speaking, historians of Argentina find themselves in a position of 'inferiority' with respect to their Argentine fascist sources. Argentine fascists knew more about European fascisms than their historians currently do" (p. 11). Argentinean fascist intellectuals were well acquainted with the fascist political and ideological phenomenon. They understood its theoretical sources, its composition as a synthesis of integral nationalism and left revolutionary syndicalism, and its revolutionary potential. This understanding is much more substantial and determinant than Benito Mussolini's own claim that fascism as a radical form of nationalism is not for export.

For Italian fascists such as Franco De Felice, Argentina became a civilized nation after Italian immigration (p. 88). In this sense Argentina was a repository of Italian blood (p. …