The Italian Nationalist Association and the Rise of Fascism in Italy

The Italian Nationalist Association and the Rise of Fascism in Italy

The Italian Nationalist Association and the Rise of Fascism in Italy

The Italian Nationalist Association and the Rise of Fascism in Italy

Excerpt

The Italian Nationalist Association has, by and large, been treated peripherally in the history of fascism, yet it was an important political force. The Nationalists formed part of a new authoritarian reaction which was to dominate so much of the history of the first half of the twentieth century. As a political movement, it bridged the gap between the last decade of the nineteenth century, when the term "reaction" began to take on its modern significance, and the post-World War I years, when fascism developed in Europe. Until the 1890s, the "reactionaries" had been champions of some past aristocratic regime which had been swept away in one of the liberal or national revolutions of midcentury. After the decade of the 1890s, however, in France and in Italy "reactionary" began to assume its modern meaning of rejection of mass or democratic society.

That decade of the Dreyfus affair and the defeat at Adua was crucial to the history of the extreme Right in the twentieth century. For the defenders of tradition, the decade was a disaster. In France, the recovery of radicalism after the suppression of 1871 became more marked and, on the extreme Left, socialism moved beyond its initial organizational stage. Even worse, the efforts to form a solid conservative front failed. The ralliement (the abortive movement sponsored by Pope Leo XIII to promote a reconciliation between church and state) to the Republic by French Catholics ended, along with efforts begun by Jules Méline in 1892 to form a conservative, protectionist, clerical alliance in a series of scandals which culminated in the Dreyfus affair. In Italy, the conservatives went down to a similar series of clamorous defeats. Between 1893 and 1896, Francesco Crispi sought to use social unrest in Sicily to strike at the entire socialist movement. Such strong- arm tactics were to be accompanied by a dose of imperialist . . .

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