Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

The Bolshevik Revolution and the Rise of Italian Fascism

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

The Bolshevik Revolution and the Rise of Italian Fascism

Article excerpt


Like all complex and significant historic events, there is no single interpretation of the rise of Fascism that satisfies all specialists. There are many renderings, each competing with others for acceptance. (2) Among those in contention is one that would argue that without the reactive response of Italians to the possibility of a Bolshevik revolution on the peninsula, there would not have been a Fascist revolution, and the history of Europe would have been vastly different. The intention here is to explore just that possibility.

Virtually all political historians are prepared to accept the general proposition that the Bolshevism of V. I. Lenin exercised some sort of influence on political developments on the Italian peninsula. What will be attempted here will be a discussion of the rise of Fascism by (1) focusing on the role played by its doctrinal beliefs as one factor among many, and (2) attempting to trace the specific impact of the Bolshevik revolution on the entire sequence of events. The evidence suggests that the doctrinal convictions of the major protagonists of Fascist revolution in Italy shaped events in accordance with those convictions--and that throughout the course of those events Lenin's Bolshevism was of a significance not often fully appreciated.

The sequence of events considered here took place in a context in which most political historians have been prepared to accept the reality of the major influence of two political belief systems on the history of the twentieth century: the Bolshevism of V. I. Lenin and the Fascism of Benito Mussolini. (3) What has not been generally appreciated is the fact that both found their origins in the nineteenth century doctrine of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. More than that, they shared something of a peculiar set of material circumstances that impacted their development. Each took root in a community languishing in economic backwardness that had been severely damaged by war. In both, entire populations had been displaced and loosed from familiar patterns of behavior. No longer following settled routines of conduct, both Russians and Italians more and more fell under the influence of agents of change.

At the time when revolutionaries in both communities considered themselves Marxists, Marxism as a doctrine was undergoing substantive change. With the death of Engels in 1895, Marxism's entire elaborate structure had come under increasingly critical scrutiny. In Germany, France, and Italy Marxism was interpreted and reinterpreted by intellectuals all convinced that their interpretations were either more faithful to the genius of the founders, or advanced modifications required by changing circumstances. (4) Out of all that, for the purposes of our account, the two variants of classical Marxism--Lenin's Bolshevism and Mussolini's Fascism--took on particular configuration early in the century.

The Significant Variants

By the time of his first maturity, V. I. Lenin was already a dedicated revolutionary--seeking a suitable rationale for his willed commitment. He was immediately attracted to the work of Georgi Valentinovich Plekhanov, (5) the founder of the first Russian Marxist revolutionary organization, the Emancipation of Labor. For Lenin, Plekhanov was "among the world's greatest thinkers and publicists"--a contemporary who, in Lenin's judgment, had "the greatest knowledge of Marxist philosophy." (6)

Plekhanov spoke of Marxism as a "teaching" that explained the entire course of human development, with society's economic base the ultimate determinant of its human activity--all of which proceeded independent of the will of participants. Human conduct was seen as a function of "general laws" that governed a shared existence. (7) Plekhanov argued that the individual "serves as an instrument of (...) necessity and cannot help doing so, owing to his social status (...) Since his social status (. …

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