Explaining Italian fascism
From movement to dictatorship, 1919–26
in Fighting fascism
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The British left certainly had differences of opinion concerning Italian fascism. Moderates argued that it had flourished in a climate of fear engendered in the middle and upper classes by revolutionaries within the labour movement. British revolutionaries asserted that, on the contrary, fascism had been so aggressive and so successful because of the timidity of the socialist leaders in responding to its attacks. Labour and the Trades Union Congress argued that it had conquered a state with weak parliamentary structures and had conquered it largely from without, maintaining their view that the best defence against fascism was to support the concept and institutions of democracy. Communists, on the other hand, pointed out that fascism had come to power with the connivance of powerful elements within Italian democracy, and of supposed servants of the ‘democratic’ state, which here, as elsewhere, was no more than a convenient cover for capitalist rule. Yet despite these differences, all parties of the left in Britain concurred that Italian fascism's overwhelmingly distinctive characteristic was its anti-working class stance: a feature which had marked it throughout all its phases.

Fighting fascism

The British left and the rise of fascism, 1919–39


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