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New Left Review 30, November-December 2004

Dylan Riley on Michael Mann, Fascists and Robert Paxton, Anatomy of Fascism. Alternative versions of the rise of a paramilitary Right in interwar Europe: were fascist movements ideologically coherent or inchoate, revolutionary or counter-revolutionary?



Was fascism a revolutionary or a counter-revolutionary phenomenon? This question has always been the central dividing-line in the literature about it. If fascism was revolutionary, then it belongs with communism as a variant of totalitarian politics, and offers yet another example of the disasters to which twentieth-century revolutions led—Hitler and Stalin as twin monsters of the age. If, on the other hand, fascism was counter-revolutionary, then its place in European history looks quite different. Rather than standing as a warning against the dangers of revolutionary ideology, its success in defeating socialism can be seen as laying the groundwork for the spread of liberal-democratic capitalism thereafter, with the disappearance of any radical threat to the bourgeois order in post-war Germany and Italy, or post-Franco Spain. Interpretations of fascism are thus intimately bound up with alternative readings of the history of the twentieth century as a whole.

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Dylan Riley, ‘Enigmas of Fascism’, NLR 30: £3

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