Fascist expansionism: between ideological visions and foreign policy-making: a study of territorial expansion in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany
Kallis, Aristotle A.
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The debate on the expansionist policies of the Italian and German fascist regimes has been dominated by three questions. First, was the foreign policy of the two regimes programmatic or not? Second, was territorial expansion an ideological- political feature of generic fascism, applicable to both Italy and Germany? Third, was there a continuity or discontinuity between fascist expansionism and the pre- fascist Italian and German expansionist aims? This thesis challenges the rigidity of the above distinctions, arguing instead that the dynamism of fascist expansionism cannot be attributed to one particular element (ideology, domestic structures, international conditions) but originated from a constant interrelation between all these factors. The thesis analyses fascism as a "nationalism plus" phenomenon, which blended radical elements of each country's nationalist tradition with a specific novel commitment to a fascist new order. It aims to test two hypotheses: first, whether fascist expansionism was underpinned by specific "fascist" values; and, second, whether expansionism was a generic feature of fascist ideology and practice. It locates a number of pivotal similar features in the two regimes' ideology and practice, and discusses a series of dissimilarities in their expansionist policies. The thesis argues that these differences cannot be properly understood as derived solely from each leader's personal beliefs or each regime's worldview. They should also be related to chronic features of national traditions and aspirations which fascism assimilated and radicalised rather than produced. In this sense, a conjunction of comparative analysis of the two regimes with a similar analysis of national histories in the longue durée is needed.The thesis examines the three levels in which fascist expansionism was expressed - expansion as ideology; expansion and foreign policy -making; expansion as a joint enterprise for a fascist new order. On the level of ideology, it examines the ideological traditions in the Italian and unification societies and shows how fascist ideology achieved an ideological fusion of pre- existing radical traits in a new synthesis with an increased emphasis on action and a determination to unite reality with utopia. It also studies the expansionist ideologies of the two fascist movements -regimes as coherent systems of thought, with a number of similar underlying features (historic living space, elitism, cult of violence, unity of thought and action) which explain the rigidity and dynamism of the expansionist arguments in Italian and German fascism.On the level of foreign policy- making, the thesis analyses the domestic framework of foreign- policy making and assesses the success of the two regimes' efforts to produce conditions conducive to the realisation of their large -scale expansionist visions. It lays emphasis on the leader- oriented character of the two fascist systems, which led to the relegation of other powerful groups (traditional élites, fascist parties) to a functional status subject to the will of the leader. It also examines the practical forms of the two regimes' expansionist foreign policy (i.e. revisionism, colonialism, irredentism) and shows how ideology provided only a long -term framework for expansion. Lack of clear short- and medium -term strategies rendered the fascist foreign policies extremely flexible and opportunistic, alert to external opportunities and unbound by prior commitments.On the level of interaction, the thesis emphasises the neglected importance of the exclusive relation between the two fascist regimes for the radicalisation of their expansionist policies in the second half of the 1930s. It examines the process of fascism's internationalisation and analyses how both rivalry and co- operation between the two fascist regimes contributed to the radicalisation of their expansionist objectives and policies.War accentuated all the above tendencies and aspirations of the two fascist regimes. In 1940 -41 they embarked upon the realisation of their extreme expansionist visions in a final attempt to unite reality with utopia. Failure, however, to balance means with ends and to achieve an effective form of domestic and international co- ordination transformed an ideological campaign into desperate war -making, pushing fascism to its eventual collapse in 1943 -45.