10.1.3 Purity

Gregory Millard

First fascism’s internal face. This involves a “cult of unity, energy, and purity” (Paxton, 2005, p. 218). The renewed nation must purge the forces that have corrupted it.

Painting of shirtless blonde Caucasian male behind a blonde Caucasian female holding a baby.
Figure 10.3. Nazi propaganda magazine Neues Volk (A New People).

Among the obstacles to a unified, energized, and purified nation are existing political elites. Perceived by the fascist as “at best effete and at worst corrupt” (Eatwell, 2015, p. 481), such elites must be overridden by the ascent to power of vigorous (and often violent) fascists. Both Mussolini and Hitler became heads of government by working within dysfunctional parliamentary systems, albeit supplemented by campaigns of street-level, paramilitary violence; but once in office, they swiftly cracked down on formal opposition and amassed dictatorial power in their own hands. This was not a deviation from, but rather a feature, of their ideological orientation; see the discussion of elitism below.

Another obstacle to national rebirth is the population’s own inclination to the “material comfort [of] mere animals” rather than discipline and heroic sacrifice for the greater good (Mussolini, 1932, p. 5). This tendency was nurtured, according to Mussolini, by Marxism’s emphasis on economic forces and material equality and by liberalism’s spirit of tolerance and pursuit of economic gain.

Classical fascists despised communists and socialists, whom they regarded as internal enemies best dealt with through terroristic violence. Roving gangs of loosely organized fascist “blackshirts” duly assaulted and murdered many socialists in the early 1920s in Italy before and after Mussolini came to power (e.g., Eatwell, 1996, pp. 41-42).

Fascists of the Nazi and neo-Nazi variety also see miscegenation and racial mixing – generic “impurity” – as a key cause of national degeneracy. Thus, in addition to (a) failed elites and institutions that need to be replaced, (b) a degenerating population that needs to be revitalized, and (c) socialists and communists who need to be brutalized and cowed, the process of internal purification extends to (d) cultural or racialized minorities, especially, but not exclusively, Jews.


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