Account for the cyclical revivals in the fortunes of neo-fascist parties in Germany, France and Italy since the 1950s

Essay 2007 11 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Region: Western Europe


‘Fascism has returned and will again, because fascism is a recurrent feature of modern capitalism.’

Dave Renton

Fascism – one associates this term automatically with the horrors of the Second World War and with an ideology that cost the lives of millions of people during this time. However, throughout the post-war period fascism could succeed to creep back into European politics and by now, the Front Nationale in France, Italy’s Alleanza Nazionale and the far-right parties in Germany are deep-seated in the political landscapes of these countries and score at times worryingly high election results. This essay will examine the ‘three waves of neo-fascism’[1] in Germany, Italy and France and will attempt to demonstrate that the revivals of the ultra-right in all three countries were triggered by resentment and bitterness during times of economic stagnation and will thus suggest that fascism is a by-product of capitalism.

Before moving on to the main part it is important to define the term ‘neo-fascism’. Nowadays ultra-right wing parties are often described as ‘neo-fascist’ or ‘neo-Nazi’; nevertheless it is worth noting that not all scholars agree about the exact definition. Mudde for example refers to ‘neo-Nazism’ and ‘-fascism’ as a desire to revive the Third Reich or the Italian Social Republic, which would only apply to very few parties in Europe.[2] Griffin however, regards ‘neo-fascism’ as ‘offering something new with respect to inter-war phenomena’ and applying to parties that have been inspired by traditional fascism.[3] Thus this essay will examine all major far-right parties in contemporary Germany, Italy and France as their ideologies incorporate fascist elements, even though most have now distanced themselves from ‘neo-fascism’.

Far-right wing parties in Germany and Italy re-emerged relatively soon after the end of the Second World War. In West Germany there were several ultra right parties and movements in the late 1940s, however in 1952 sixty-two parties were banned as unlawful by the Constitutional Court[4] and with the economic recovery ‘the first wave [of ultra-right wing parties in Germany] ebbed away’.[5] The success of the far-right in western Germany did not revive until the late 1960s when the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (NPD; founded in 1964) secured seats in several Land parliaments. Nevertheless, when it failed to overcome the 5% threshold during the 1969 general elections, internal party disputes emerged and voting support declined which caused the party to fade into insignificance.[6]

In Italy there had always been great divisions between the south and the north, and these were reinforced when the north began to benefit from the economic uplift of the post-war period, whereas the south remained greatly underdeveloped. In the early 1950s the wages in the south were 40% below the national average and the unemployment rate was three times as high as in the north,[7] and it is significant that during this time the support of the neo-fascist Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI), founded in 1946, rose in some southern regions up to 15% of the vote.[8] On a national level, however, the MSI ‘only’ gained around 5% of the vote throughout the post-war period and it is important to note the party was excluded from government throughout the whole duration of the First Republic because its ideology was considered as undemocratic.[9] In France, there were numerous far-right groups during the 1950s and 1960s such as the Groupe Union Droit (GUD), the Occident movement and most significantly the Ordre Nouveau (ON; founded in 1969) which was eventually transformed into the Front National (FN) in 1972;[10] however neo-fascism was mainly an underground movement and at this time the Ordre Nouveau and later the FN were politically insignificant.

It is worth noting that all parties and movements, although to different extents, shared some traditional features of fascism, most significantly nationalism, strong military authority, emphasized family and church values, and law and order.[11] Thus, the first revival of ultra-right organisations in all three countries during the late 1940s and early 1950s, when the economies were still weakened from the war, seems to have been mainly driven by voters who were frustrated about the economic situation of the period and consequently glorified the past[12] and with the beginning of economic recovery most organisations lost their appeal.


[1] From Mudde, 2000:6,26.

[2] Mudde, 2000:12

[3], Griffin, 1991:166.

[4] Roberts, 2000:87.

[5] Mudde, 2000:26.

[6] Roberts, 2000:87.

[7] Britannica Encyclopaedia, 2007: 3 screens.

[8] Wikipedia Encyclopaedia Germany (2), 21/02/07:1 screen.

[9] Partridge, 1998:68-71.

[10] Fieschi, 2044:158.

[11] Koff and Koff, 2000:41,

Wikipedia Encyclopaedia Germany, 20/02/07:screen 1-3.

[12] Koff and Koff, 2000:41 citing Ignazi 1998.


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Account Germany France Italy Comparative European Politics



Title: Account for the cyclical revivals in the fortunes of neo-fascist parties in Germany, France and Italy since the 1950s