Fascist Ideology: Territory and Expansionism in Italy and Germany, 1922-1945

By Aristotle A. Kallis | Go to book overview

6

FASCIST EXPANSIONISM AND WAR (1939-45)

The military conflict which developed into the Second World War was intended to be, and indeed was, the ultimate test for the two fascist regimes and the future of fascism in the international system. The radicalisation of fascist foreign policies in the second half of the 1930s had created a yawning gap between what the two regimes demanded from territorial expansion and what the western powers were willing to concede in a long-drawn-out process of negotiation. The limited character of British and French appeasement confronted the two fascist leaders with the question of means versus ends: it soon became obvious that the mythical core of fascist expansionism-and its 'radical' long-term objectives-could not be approximated by diplomatic means. At the same time, the establishment of the Axis alliance produced a powerful strategic alternative and a political momentum that were lacking before 1936. Taken together, these two factors transformed war and aggression from a vague ideological desideratum into a legitimate political instrument for future action. War was intended to be the ultimate formula for unifying the political with the mythical aspects of the fascist worldview; or, in other words, for uniting reality with utopia and deeds with words. 1

Having said that, an all-out military showdown remained a far from certain development until 1939. The increasing determination of the two leaders to use the threat of force, or even actual force, in the second half of the 1930s to advance territorial goals did not, as we saw earlier, originate from a fixed decision to launch the Second World War. If Mussolini and Hitler, confident after the signing of the Pact of Steel in May 1939, spoke more openly about preparing for war and the unavoidability of a general conflict, 2 there is no evidence whatever of any definite ideas about the timing and the form of the future conflict. This point has been emphasised by Geyer, who has warned against the tendency either to 'over-determine' war, as the consequence of a fixed fascist ideology, or to 'under-determine' it, as the sole by-product of structural problems or failures. 3 We should also not forget that the war of 1939-45 was both a decision (to enter the conflict, to set the targets for expansion) and a strategy (how to wage the war, given the various short-term and long-term circumstances). There has been considerable discussion about the actual

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Fascist Ideology: Territory and Expansionism in Italy and Germany, 1922-1945
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Italian and German Expansionism in the Longue DurÉe 11
  • 2 - Fascist Ideology and Territorial Expansion 27
  • 3 - Foreign Policy Decision-Making Processes Under Fascist Rule 61
  • 4 - Fascist Expansionism in Practice 104
  • 5 - Between Co-Operation and Rivalry 138
  • 6 - Fascist Expansionism and War (1939-45) 159
  • The Study of Fascist Expansionism: Ideology and Other Factors 193
  • Notes 205
  • Select Bibliography 258
  • Index 277
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