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As there were many different manifestations of fascism, especially during the interwar years, there were also many different symbols of Fascist movements.

Contents

Common symbolism of fascist movements

Organized fascist movements have militarist-appearing uniforms for their members; use paramilitaries for political violence against opponents; use national symbols, historical symbols of a nation as symbols of their movement; and use orchestrated rallies for propaganda purposes. Fascist movements are led by a "Leader" (i.e. Duce, Führer, Caudillo...) who is publicly idolized in propaganda as the nation's saviour. A number of fascist movements use a straight-armed salute. The use of symbols, graphics, and other artifacts created by fascist and totalitarian governments has been noted as a key aspect of their propaganda[1].

Italian fascism

The fasces was the premier symbol of Italian fascism

The original symbol of fascism, in Italy under Benito Mussolini, was the fasces. This is an ancient Roman symbol of power carried by lictors in front of magistrates; a bundle of sticks featuring an axe, indicating the power over life and death. Before the Italian fascists adopted the fasces, the symbol had been used by Italian political organizations of various political ideologies (ranging from socialist to nationalist), called Fascio ("leagues") as a symbol of strength through unity. Today, the symbol continues to appear on the seal of the United States Senate, the emblem on the back of the Mercury dime in the United States, the coat of arms of France, the wall of the debating chamber of the United States House of Representatives and the coat of arms of the Swiss Canton of St.Gallen.

Nazi Germany

The swastika was the main symbol of Nazism and remains strongly associated with it in the Western world

The nature of German fascism, as encapsulated in Nazism was similar to Italian Fascism ideologically and borrowed symbolism from the Italian Fascists such as the use of mass rallies, the straight-armed Roman salute, and the use of pageantry. Nazism was different than Italian Fascism in that it was explicitly racist in nature. Its symbol was the swastika, at the time a commonly seen symbol in the world that had experienced a revival in use in the western world in the early 20th century. German völkisch nationalists claimed the swastika was a symbol of the Aryan Race (essentially a race of caucasians with no ties to other races) who they claimed were the foundation of the German civilization and were superior to all other races.

As the Italians Fascists adapted elements of their ethnic heritage to fuel a sense of nationalism by use of symbolism, so did Nazi Germany. Turn of the century German mystic and author Guido von List was a big influence on Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, who introduced various ancient Germanic symbols (filtered through von List's writings) most thoroughly into the Schutzstaffel, including the stylized double Sig Rune (von List's then-contemporary Armanen rune version of the ancient sowilo rune) for the organization itself.

Other historical symbols that were already in use by the German Army to varying degrees prior to the Nazi Germany, such as the wolfsangel and totenkopf, were also used in a new, more industrialized manner on uniforms and insignia.

Although the swastika was a popular symbol in art prior to the regimental use by Nazi Germany and has a long heritage in many other cultures throughout history and although many of the symbols used by the Nazis were ancient or commonly used prior to the advent of Nazi Germany, because of association with Nazi use, the swastika is often considered synonymous with Nazism and some of the other symbols still carry a negative post-World War II stigma in some Western countries, to the point where some of the symbols are banned from display altogether.

Militarist uniforms with nationalist insignia

Benito Mussolini in uniform.

Organized fascist movements typically use military-appearing uniforms with the symbol of their movement on them.

Adolf Hitler in uniform.

In Italy, the Italian Fascist movement in 1919 wore black military-appearing uniforms, and were nicknamed "Blackshirts". In power, uniforms during the Fascist era extended to both the party and the military which typically bore fasces or an eagle clutching a fasces on their caps or on the left arm section of the uniform.

Francisco Franco in uniform.

In Germany, the Nazi movement was similar to the Italian Fascists in that they initially used a specifically coloured uniform for their movement, the tan-brown coloured uniform of the SA paramilitary group earned the group and the Nazis themselves the nickname of the "Brownshirts". The Nazis used the swastika for their uniforms and copied the Italian Fascists' uniforms, with an eagle clutching a wreathed swastika instead of a fasces, and a Nazi flag arm sash on the left arm section of the uniform for party members.

Plínio Salgado, Brazilian Integralist leader in uniform.

Other fascist countries largely copied the symbolism of the Italian Fascists and German Nazis for their movements. Like them, their uniforms looked typically like military uniforms with nationalist-appearing insignia of the movement.

Other regions

Many other fascist movements did not win power or were relatively minor regimes in comparison and their symbolism is not well-remembered today in many parts of the world.

Contemporary usage

Some neo-Nazi organizations continue to use the swastika, but many have moved away from such inflammatory symbols of early fascism. Some neo-fascist groups use symbols that are reminiscent of the swastika or other cultural or ancestral symbols that may evoke nationalistic sentiment but do not carry the same racist connotations.

Non-fascist usage

Some of these symbols are also used by a variety of non-fascist movements and organizations. The swastika has been a notable symbol in both Buddhism and Hinduism. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) states:

Nazi Germany glorified an idealized "Aryan/Norse" heritage, consequently extremists have appropriated many symbols from pre-Christian Europe for their own uses. They give such symbols a racist significance, even though the symbols did not originally have such meaning and are often used by nonracists today, especially practitioners of modern pagan religions in the entries on the Thor's hammer, the Sun Wheel, the Valknut and the Tiwaz, Algiz and Odal runes.[2]

See also

References

  1. ^ Heller, Steven (2008). Iron Fists: Branding the 20th-Century Totalitarian State. Phaidon Press. p. 240. ISBN 0714848468. 
  2. ^ adl.org, accessed 19 December 2007

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