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Interwar Fascist Popularity in Europe and the Default of the Left

William Brustein and Marit Berntson
European Sociological Review
Vol. 15, No. 2 (Jun., 1999), pp. 159-178
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/522498
Page Count: 20
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Interwar Fascist Popularity in Europe and the Default of the Left
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Abstract

More than fifty years have passed since the end of World War II and the collapse of interwar fascist regimes. Yet many questions persist regarding the allure that interwar fascism had for millions of Europeans. Why fascism succeeded in attracting a sizeable following in Italy and Germany but not in England and France is one question that has received considerable scholarly attention. Explanations for national variation in interwar fascist popularity abound. However, while each thesis may explain the success or failure of interwar fascism in one or two countries, each proves unsatisfactory when extended beyond a few cases. Of the five general explanations of fascist popularity, the 'red menace' theory has the greatest potential to become generalizable. The failure of the 'red menace' argument to offer a more systematic explanation of fascist popularity derives from scholars' restrictive interpretation of that argument. Scholars have tended to place the emphasis on the 'fear of socialism' interpretation while neglecting the fact that fascism grew where leftist parties refused to abandon their maximalist revolutionary rhetoric. In particular, what was critical to interwar fascist popularity were the positions the political left held on property rights.

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