There were great similarities in the social and psychological backgrounds of those countries where fascist states came to be established. Most of the countries concerned had been defeated and heavily damaged in the First World War, and thus its people were worn-out and weary, having lost their husbands, wives, children, and loved ones in the war. As well, these countries suffered from a shattered economy, political instability, and a general feeling that the nation was in a state of collapse. People were suffering materially; the various political parties were incapable of rectifying the nations’ problems, in addition to fighting amongst themselves.
Essentially, the poverty Italy was faced with as a result of the First World War was the most important factor in the rise to power of Italian fascism. More than 600,000 Italians had died as a result of the war, and up to half a million people were crippled. The greater part of the population was made up of widows and orphans. The country was beleaguered by an economic recession and high unemployment. Although the Italians had suffered great losses in the war, they had achieved very few of their aims. Like many other nations exhausted by the war, the Italian people longed to recapture their honor and former glory.
Actually, this was a feeling that had been gathering increasing strength since the end of the 19th century. Modern Italy looked back with nostalgia at the greatness of the Roman Empire, and felt it had a right to former Roman territory. Furthermore, there was a feeling of rivalry with the major powers of the world, and Italy hoped to raise itself to their rank, or, to rise to “the position it deserved.” Affected by these aspirations, the Italians hoped to become as powerful as Great Britain, France and Germany.
Social, political and economic crises also played the major role in the establishment of Nazism in Germany, which had been defeated in the First World War. Unemployment and a financial crisis added to the disappointment of defeat. Inflation rose to levels that had seldom been equaled. Small children played with banknotes worth millions of marks, because money, which lost value by the hour, had come to be worth no more than pieces of paper. The Germans wanted to restore their lost honor and return to a better standard of living. It was with the promise of fulfilling such wishes that Nazism would emerge and win support.
Pre-fascist Spain also demonstrated close similarities to these counties. The loss of its colonies on both sides of the American continent at the beginning of the 19th century had led to a serious diminishment of self-esteem. By the beginning of the 20th century, Spain was in a state of semi-collapse. Its economy was failing, and the privileges accorded to the aristocracy opened the way to great injustices. The Spanish looked back to the days of a great and powerful Spain with great longing.
Another country where fascism came to have enormous influence was Japan. In pre-fascist Japan, the higher strata of society were very concerned about the spread of Marxist ideas among the young. But they were unable to determine how to rid themselves from that pernicious ideology. In addition, such social changes were very disconcerting for a society so tightly bound to its traditions. Family bonds loosened, the divorce rate rose, respect for the elderly diminished, customs and traditions were abandoned, an individualist tendency began to emerge, degeneracy among the young reached grievous proportions and there was an alarming increase in the suicide rate. In these conditions, the future stability of the Japanese society was regarded as in jeopardy. All of the above led to a backward-gazing nostalgia. Longing for the glory days of the past, and attempts to revive them, was the first trap the people fell into leading to their becoming fully ensnared by a fascist regime.
Neither must we ignore the menace of communism, which at that time was threatening to overtake the whole world. It may be that a number of nations submitted themselves to fascist regimes in order not to fall victim to that brutal, ruthless and oppressive ideology, escaping one evil only to be trapped by another, believing fascism to be the “lesser of two evils.”
Another factor that opened the way to fascism was the ignorance and lack of education of many communities. Education had suffered heavily during the chaos of the First World War. A great number of young educated people had lost their lives on the battlefield. In general, this led to a lowering of the level of culture in society. It was largely the ignorant who supported fascism, fought in its name, and became pawns of its chauvinistic policies. Because the fundamental ideas on which fascism were based (in other words, racism, romantic nationalism, chauvinism and fantasy) could only be widely accepted by the uneducated, susceptible as they were to crude, facile slogans.
Such people, seeing themselves as trapped, looked for easy way out. They embraced fascist leaders, as if they were a kind of lifebelt, as Eric Hoffer says in his book “The True Believer“ :
For men to plunge headlong into an undertaking of vast change, they must be intensely discontented yet not destitute, and they must have the feeling that by the possession of some potent doctrine, infallible leader or some new technique they have access to a source of irresistible power. They must also have an extravagant conception of the prospects and potentialities of the future. Finally, they must be wholly ignorant of the difficulties involved in their vast undertaking.  See “The True Believer : Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements,” by Eric Hoffer
Harun Yahya is a prominent Turkish intellectual.
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