To what extent is Roger Griffin’s approach to

To what extent is Roger Griffin’s attack to the definition of fascism valuable in understanding its development in interwar Europe?

In trying to specify fascism as a loosely related, interrelated political motion that swept across Europe in the 1920’s and 1930’s, Roger Griffin broke new land in the historical discourse on the period ; old plants had tended to concentrate merely on single illustrations of fascism – be it in Portugal, Italy, Spain, Romania, Croatia and most frequently in Germany – with the consequence that the argument over how fascism came to further was confined to national boundary lines. This is apprehensible. The most obvious public face of fascism was ever displayed as an open sort of patriotism and in no manner does Griffin marginalize patriotism as a trigger for fascism ( instead, as will go evident, he retained patriotism as the gum that binds the organic structure of his work on the topic together ) . Yet, far more than being a rough political credo designed to foster the cause of the states in inquiry, fascism was besides a extremely complex political political orientation that – like communism – sought to pay war against political enemies every spot every bit much as sensed racial, spiritual, cultural and national resistances. Therefore, Griffin’s work is instantly valuable for the fresh penetration it has injected into the most challenging chapter in the annals of 20th century history every bit good as being extremely ambitious in trying to offer a generic definition to what was, in kernel, a series of national revolutions that were conceivedoutside ofthe traditional boundaries of international consensus. For the intent of position, the undermentioned analysis must first look into the positive and so the negative facets of Griffin’s theory of fascism ( utilising historical illustrations along the manner ) before turning attending towards a decision as to the ultimate value of the historian’s work within the broader academic argument on fascism during the interwar old ages.

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Gryphon begins his effort at specifying fascism by dividing the most of import factors that combined to guarantee its apparently grim rise in Europe during the interwar period into indispensable and non?essential sub?categories ( Griffin, 1993 ; 1995 ) . He manages to asseverate this split between indispensable and non?essential properties by analyzing which factors were specifically confined to the interwar old ages and which factors could be entirely attributable to the political phenomenon of fascism. To this terminal, Griffin sees the outgrowth of paramilitarism, mass public mass meetings, the cult of the leader and the matrimony of right flying extremism with the private corporate domain as the non?essential characteristics of fascism: those elements that were born out of the alone adversity and self-contemplation brought approximately by the terminal of the Great War and the Treaty of Versailles. By contrast, the writer sees patriotism, or what he footings as ‘palingenetic ultranationalism’ , as the key construct in understanding the generation of fascism as this was the vehicle through which fascist leaders sought to reconstruct their several states from the low-water mark of the societal, political and economic convulsion of the 1920’s.

“The mounting societal hurt and public dissatisfaction combined with the turning palsy of the parliamentary system to make ideal conditions for political extremism to thrive.” ( Griffin, 1999:29 )

For Griffin, chauvinism was the ‘definitional trait’ that separated fascism from all the other dominant political political orientations of the 20th century, including arch conservativism, its closest political associate. Griffin has, hence, furnished the argument over fascism with a fixed historical context of interwar Europe, connoting that the motion could ne’er hold occurred in a different timeframe or a different geographical location. Again, this is a important development in historical discourse that covers the first half of the 20th century as this helps to specify fascism in a conceptual sense every bit good as contextual sense. Ultimately, hence, Griffin is able to demo how fascism was a totalitarian paradigm, at least in footings of aspiration if non in footings of executing.

“Fascism is a genus of political political orientation whose mythic nucleus in its assorted substitutions is a palingenetic signifier of populist ultra-nationalism.” ( Griffin, 1991:26 )

However, while Griffin was right to put fascism in a fixed historical context, many historiographers believe he was wrong to split its nucleus characteristics into indispensable and non?essential factors. Surely, the over trust upon chauvinism as the main account behind the popularity of fascism overlooks many of the every bit important elaboratenesss of the political doctrine that combined with chauvinism to guarantee the devastation of democracy in a assortment of provinces in mainland Europe.

“The problem with this [ Griffin’s ] contention is that the patriotism espoused by fascists was every bit much a merchandise of the interwar period as was any other characteristic of the political orientation. Patriotism was closely linked, for illustration, with paramilitarism and leader cult, for fascists believed the state to be bodied in the veterans and in the anointed leader. Fascism and its history would hold been really different had a magnetic leader and mass party non claimed to incarnate the nation.” ( Passmore, 2002:23-24 )

With respects to this last point, Griffin can be seen to hold devoted excessively small of his clip to the impact of the single leaders of the assorted fascist motions across Europe, particularly the parts played by Mussolini and Hitler, the two head designers of the extremist right flying political doctrine. Surely, the latter is intrinsic to the birth, rise and ultimate devastation of fascism in Germany ; even identify Nazis during the flower of the government in the 1930’s were good cognizant that if anything happened to Hitler, the National Socialist motion would hold collapsed from within, non least due to the infliction of societal Darwinism which ensured that merely the Fuhrer could take the Party ( Fischer, 1995 ) . Mussolini, likewise, was careful to manner himself as the incarnation of Italian fascism to the extent that no other leader could realistically hold assumed the mantle of fascist dictator in Italy in the event of any bad luck go oning to the Duce ( Farrell, 2003 ) . Merely Mussolini could incorporate the blue forces of conservative Italy every bit good as appease the more proletarian armed forces upon which fascism was dependent for its endurance. These are critical facts in analyzing the formation of fascism in Germany and Italy the significance that they deserve.

In add-on, there is besides the issue of the cardinal differences with respects to the motives behind the rise of fascism across the Europe. While Griffin is right in underlining the significance of the portion played by the political and economic ruin inflicted after the Armistice in November 1918, he fails to foreground the alone features of each fascist province. Hitler’s Germany was, for case, a province that defined itself foremost and first along discernibly racial lines with the duplicate policies of ‘lebensraum’ ( territorial enlargement in the East ) and the persecution of the Jews taging National Socialism out as different from, for illustration, Franco’s Spain, which was much more concerned with societal order and engaging an ideological war against sensed enemies of the Left ( Ashford Hodges, 2000 ) .

Yet to knock Griffin for overlooking certain cardinal ingredients while paying due attending to other factors would be to lose the point. Fascism, as the historiographer himself points out, is an inherently complex and contradictory phenomenon – one which defies a logical reply that would be able to fulfill everyone. As Griffin ( 1991:1 ) has re?iterated clip and once more, “fascism has pig-headedly remained the great riddle for pupils of the twentieth century” and it is in sketching the perversity of international fascism that the writer is best able to specify the motion in an interwar?specific context. For case, Griffin shows how Nazism was a self-contradictory political orientation which, on the one manus, sought to look back to the glorification yearss of the Prussian Empire ( even raising a comparing between the SS and the Knights Templar ) , while, on the other manus, it made overtures to the captains of industry in order to finance high?tech, extremist modern manners of international warfare. Likewise, Mussolini’s contradictory stance over faith whereby he sought to pacify the Catholic Church while at the same clip leveling all socio?political obstructions standing in the manner of the lift of fascist philosophy to the position of a quasi?religion. In the concluding analysis, hence, any political doctrine that contains so many seemingly incompatible elements must be considered to be extremely hard to accurately specify.


There can be small uncertainty that Professor Roger Griffin has contributed a significant and – more significantly – an original organic structure of work to the on-going academic argument refering fascism and its alone populist entreaty. He offered an effort at a generic definition of a extremely confusing motion and in many respects succeeded in foregrounding the similarities that existed between the assorted interwar illustrations of fascism in pattern. His work is, nevertheless, best understood and appreciated non in isolation but, instead, when viewed through the prism of his 20 first century political theory coevalss such as Stanley Payne ( 1996 ) , Roger Eatwell ( 2003 ) and Hannah Arendt ( 2004 ) so as to achieve added position on what is a notoriously intricate historical timeframe.


Arendt, H. ( 2004 )The Origins of TotalitarianismLondon: Shocken

Ashford Hodges, G. ( 2000 )El caudillo: a Concise BiographyLondon: Weidenfeld & A ; Nicolson

Bullock, A. ( 1990 )Der fuhrer: A Study in TyrannyLondon: Penguin

Catterall, P. ( Ed. ) ( 1999 )Essaiesin Twentieth Century World HistoryLondon: Heinemann

Eatwell, R. ( 2003 )Fascism: A HistoryLondon: Pimlico

Farrell, N. ( 2003 )Il duce: a New LifeLondon: Weidenfeld & A ; Nicolson

Fischer, K.P. ( 1995 )Nazi Germany: a New HistoryLondon: Constable

Griffin, R. ( 1991 )The Nature of FascismLondon: Pinter

Griffin, R. ( 1993 )International Fascism: Theories, Causes and the New ConsensusLondon: Arnold

Griffin, R. ( 1995 )FascismOxford: Oxford University Press

Passmore, K. ( 2002 )FascismOxford: Oxford University Press

Payne, S. ( 1996 )A History of Fascism, 1914-1945Madison: University of Wisconsin Press

Selected Articles

Griffin, R. ( 1999 )To What Extent was Mussolini’s Rise to Power in 1922 a Direct Consequence of the Impact of the First World War?, in, Catterall, P. ( Ed. )Essaies in Twentieth Century World HistoryLondon: Heinemann

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