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

By Aristotle A. Kallis | Go to book overview

4

FASCIST EXPANSIONISM IN PRACTICE

Foreign policy making (1922-39)

Hindsight is a dubious privilege for a historian. On the one hand, knowledge of the evolution of the two regimes' expansionist plans into the Axis alliance and war has helped to relate the radicalisation of fascist expansionism to early ideological elements in the worldviews of the two leaders, thus highlighting a degree of internal consistency in their objectives and policies. On the other hand, accusations of reading history backwards attacked the idea that either the alliance or recourse to war had been pre-determined by any programmatic core in the expansionist policies of the two regimes. The notion of a consistent programme of expansion has been contrasted with the view that the drive to large-scale territorial aggrandisement and war was determined by either opportunism or social imperialism, or both. At the same time, even the originality of fascist foreign policies has been questioned. The debate about the continuities between liberal and fascist expansionist programmes revolves around similar questions: did the fascist take-over mark a break with previous foreign policies, sponsoring a new vision and style of expansion, or did it simply reproduce traditional great-power objectives, albeit couched in a more dynamic fashion?

This is where hindsight becomes a crucial privilege: knowing the ultimate scope of fascist expansionist aspirations (as manifested in the two regimes' war aims), can it be shown that the short-term expansionist policies of the fascist regimes served an integrated long-term and large-scale vision? So far, we have seen that the ideological fusion in the Italian and German Right since the First World War enabled fascist ideology to reproduce traditional 'great power' and revisionist themes in a new, dynamic and activist style of policy making. Fascism's emphasis on the esoteric value of expansion gradually radicalised the tactics for attaining widely shared goals. At the same time, it aimed to eliminate any political distinction between utopian and realisable objectives, a distinction implicit in the Realpolitik of the previous liberal and conservative governments in the two countries. In legitimising the notions of spatial expansion and historic irredentism, the fascist regimes introduced territorial expansion as a central element of their worldview. However, in the short-term, foreign policy making displayed a flexibility and even opportunism which allude to lack of an all-encompassing 'programme'. Instead, decision making remained for a long time

-104-

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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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