Nationalism and its Influence

on the

Development of Fascism in Italy


Neville Lindsay


(c) 1983




The nationalistic fervour of the Risorgimento petered out into the liberal state and its fusion governments. Failure of the brief Crispi essay into imperialism dissipated a resurgence of support for Italian greatness, leaving the field largely to nationalistic intellectuals in the early 1900s. Those limited efforts, however, laid the philosophical foundation for renewed nationalist political influence as Europe became increasingly destabilised, providing a rallying point which contributed to Giolitti’s grudging Libyan war and to the successful interventionist movement of 1915. In the widespread postwar frustration over the peace settlement, and with the progressive degradation of internal social and political conditions, the Nationalist tenets of authoritarianism, militarism and imperialism held attractions for a broad spectrum of the discontented.

Also in the business of appealing to and mobilising the discontented was Benito Mussolini and his Fascist movement. The general approach of the Nationalist Party and of the structural socialism of the Syndicalists contained substantial areas which were compatible with or useful to his own philosophy. After the electoral failure of 1919 for both Fascists and Nationalists, and the subsequent weakening of the Socialists in the 1920s depression, it was apparent that a union of forces hostile to both red and white socialism was necessary for success and also capable of success. The Fascist movement absorbed a whole range of revolutionary and right wing movements, of which a significant one was the Nationalist Party. That absorption was not one sided, however, as the Nationalists could claim to have influenced Mussolini and the Fascist Party strongly towards the historical institutions of monarchy, church and army, in the pursuit of a greater Italy dominant in world affairs, and in using the state rather than the party as the instrument of authoritarian control of Fascist Italy.