Even more than the Great War of 1914–1918, the Second World War was a conflict of ideas and ideologies as well as a struggle of nations and armies. Much of the world was immensely grateful that the defeat of Italy, Germany, and Japan discredited the ideas that underlay those regimes. Ideologies of the Axis Powers Yet students of history need to examine these ideas, however repellant they may be, to under- stand the circumstances in which they arose and to assess their consequences. Described variously as fascist, authoritarian, right-wing, or radically nationalist, the ideologies of the Axis powers differed in tone and emphasis. But they shared a repudiation of mainstream Western liberalism, born of the Enlightenment, as well as an intense hatred of Marxist communism. The three documents that follow provide an opportunity to define their common features and to distinguish among them.
In 1932, after ten years in power, the Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini wrote a short article for an Italian encyclopedia outlining the political and social ideas that informed the regime that he headed. It was an effort to pro- vide some philosophical coherence for the various measures and policies that had characterized the first decade of his rule. (See pp. 988–90 for background on Italian fascism.)
■ To what ideas and historical circumstances is Mussolini reacting in this document?
■ What is his criticism of pacifism, socialism, democracy, and liberalism?
■ How does Mussolini understand the state? What is its relationship to individual citizens?
■ Why might these ideas have been attractive to many in Italy in the 1920s and 1930s?