stabilization and totalitarian alternatives to liberal capitalism: The Rise of the Fascist Dictatorships
in Central Europe
I) Post WWI economic instability and stabilization
hyper-inflation in wake of war
state welfare policies as strategy for stabilizing society
USA's Dawes Plan (1924) helped restore European economy, 1925-October 1929 "boom"
II) Post-war instability and Fascism in Italy
Combination of post-war inflation, unemployment, and labor unrest in the North with rural unrest in the South
Lockouts and worker takeovers of factories in 1920, growing class tensions
Rising middle class and lower middle class support for extreme nationalists in 1920-21
Benito Mussoloni's fascist party:
Emphasis on the need to fight and
struggle/ national (blood) bonds
1921 fascist gains in parliament
1922 socialists' general strike backfires, leads to more fascist influence
fall 1922, fascist victories in city council elections
1922 March on Rome, King asks Mussolini to form a new government
1924 elections give fascists control over parliament
1924-1927, foundations of Fascist dictatorship in Italy:
Violence and new laws used to
destroy political opposition
Multi-year state economic planning combines as capitalist economy with goal of
"autarky"--a self-sufficient economy.
"Cult of personality" of Mussolini, "El Duce"--the dictator who must be followed blindly.
III) The German (Weimar) Republic and the collapse of democracy in
Weimar Constitution (1919) and the German multi-party democratic system
Hyper inflation and economic chaos, 1919-1923
Attacks on democracy in the early 1920s:
From the far left (communist revolts in 1919, 1920)
From the far right (freikorps,1920 Kapp uprising, 1923 "Beer Hall" uprising,
Hitler, stab in the
1924, peak of first wave of ultra-nationalism
Dawes plan and economic stabilization, decline of ultra nationalistic right wing politics
mid-1920s political situation:
Governments led by center-moderate right wing political party coalitions
Influence of Social Democratic Labor Party, with 1/3 of all votes.
By 1928, lower middle class, middle class voters reject policies of cooperation
with the SDs, stop voting for the centrist parties.
By 1928, SDLP votes stable, center-right votes decline, and votes increase for the
far left (Communists)
and far right (Nazis)
impact of 1929 economic crisis
Fall 1929 NY stock market crash
and world-wide depression hit Germany
Elites looking for a way to remove the Socialists, but can't out vote them
Growing popular support for Nazis
Basic ideas of Hitler and Nazis:
racial struggle as the means of uniting the "national community"
Aryan racial purity
"Jewish-Bolshevism" (Jews and Communists) as the great enemy of the German
establishing a "greater Germany"
repudiating the Versailles Treaty
German dominance over middle Europe and middle Africa
"living space" and German
colonization in Eastern Europe
Political crisis of 1930-1932:
No one party or coalition of parties can build a majority in parliament;
President Hindenburg appoints three different chancellors in a row in 1930-1932;
None of these can find a way to build a majority bloc, two biggest parties are the
Social Democrats and the Nazis, who are enemies.
Elites want to get rid of the
Social Democrats, but don't trust Hitler.
January 1933, President Hindenburg appoints Hitler as Chancellor, Hitler forms a Nazi-Nationalist government.