A comparison between Hitler and Mussolini and Mao

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A comparison between Hitler and Mussolini and Mao




Rise to power

Rise to power

Aftermath of WWI

Mutilated victory= Italy did not gain all of the land as promised in the 1915 Treaty of London.e.g. Colonies from the losers and Dalmatia was promised by ToL (1915) but Italy did not receive it in the Treaty of Saint Germain.

The Liberal government faced opposition = Sept 1919 Nationalist D’Annunzio seizes the port of Fiume. Bianno Rosso

1919-1922 violent clashes between Fascists and Socialists: over 2000 killed.

Weakness of Liberal government

Successive PM 1918-22

Orlando Oct 917-June 1919

Nitti June 1919-June 1920

Giolitti June 1920-July 1921

Bonomi July 1921-Feb 1922

Facta Feb-Oct 1922

Economic troubles

Rising unemployment from 1920 as 2.5 m soldiers demobilised and industry hit by post-war recession 1920-21.

National debt 1918 was 85 billion lire (1914 was 16 billion). Wartime inflation continues 1913 price index = 100, 1918 = 413, 1920 = 591.

Change in tactics

From 1920 Mussolini began to drop his more radical policies. He put Fascism forward as a party pledged to restore Italian power and prestige. The abandonment of republicanism was announced in September 1922, closely followed by the end of anti-clericalism.

Fascists exploited divisions within the opposition

Liberal, Socialist and Catholics opponents of Fascism were unable to cooperate against the growing threat.


Il Popolo d’ Italia (Fascist newspaper)

Stressed national renewal.

Growth in support

Fascism’s genuine mass base was in the petty bourgeoisie, this group included a wide range of people in between working class and middle class, who felt collective insecurity ad were prone to turn to radical groups outside of a traditional party. Many were ex-soldiers. Many landowners believed that rural Socialism threatened their livelihood and therefore supported Fascism. The Fascists also had key tactical support from the elite. In the 1921 elections the Fascists gained seven per cent of the vote and 35 MPs were elected to Parliament.

Fascism was seen as a reaction against Communism. E.g. Bienno Rosso.

Historians stress the importance of local ras developments in Fascism.

Threat of Violence

Fascist squads led by ras attacked Socialists, often with the compliance of the authorities. In October 1922 the Fascists planned a march on Rome; and seized control of some northern cities. Uses threat of a Fascist coup in order to be appointed Prime Minister in October 1922.

Rise to power

Long-term cause

1911 Revolution- The Qing government was replaced by a republic.

Failure of the warlords to establish control.
Failure of opposition.

The GMD failed to crush the Communists

Guerrilla tactics: The GMD launched a systematic campaign against the Communists in 1927, Mao survived by taking his forces to the mountains of Jiangxi province.

The Long March 1934-35. The Communists walked from the Jiangxi province to Yanan in the Shaanxi province. (Out of the 100,000 who fled from Jiangxi scarcely 20,000 survived. Nevertheless the Communists had survived).

The intervention of external powers 1937-1945 Japanese invasion of China. Thus making it more difficult for the GMD to focus on attacking the Communists. During the Yanan period Mao fought off attempts by the Comintern to dominate the party.

Personal power of Mao: During the Yanan years 1935-45 Mao succeeded in imposing his personal authority on the CCP. During this period Mao launched a series of ‘rectification of conduct campaigns’ to consolidate his hold.

Brutal suppression of the peasants under Mao.

Rise to power

Aftermath of WWI: Treaty of Versailles (June 1919) = Diktat. A great deal of opposition faced the Weimar Republic: 1919 Jan the Spartacist rising and 1920 March- right-wing Kapp putsch.
Economic troubles during the Weimar Years: 1923 Ruhr crisis = hyper-inflation, Oct 1929 Wall Street Crash.
Relied on wealthy industrialists e.g. Fritz Thyssen and the military e.g. General Blomberg. As well as the middle classes (petty bourgeois).

Gained support from the workers. Especially after the 1929 Wall Street Crash.

Propaganda: Use of Slogans, ‘Work and Bread’ convincing during the Great Depression.

The Nazis gained less support from people who had a strong sense of community e.g. Catholics and Communists.

Change in tactics after 1923

Failure of the Munich Putsch 1923-the Nazis turned to legal and democratic means of securing power.

Political deal

30th Jan 1933 President Hindenburg made Hitler Chancellor of Germany. The elites had persuaded Hindenburg to appoint Hitler (Industrialists and landowners were very concerned about the lack of an effective government. Hitler had been offered the position of vice-Chancellor in 1932 under Papen, but he had refused. Belief amongst industrialists was that Hitler could be tamed. Belief of Von Papen was that right-wing parties which would belong to the government would restrict Hitler’s freedom of action.

It is sometimes said that Hitler gained power legally. This is not really the case: The way of being elected into office in a parliamentary system is to win a majority of members of parliament. Hitler never had this in free elections. Hindenburg however, did legally appoint Hitler as Chancellor according to the Weimar Constitution.
Ian Kerhaw 1991: ‘Hitler needed the elite to attain power. But by January 1933, they in turn needed Hitler as he alone could deliver the mass support required to impose a tenable authoritarian solution to Germany’s crisis of capitalism and crisis of the state.’
Threat of Violence

Storm Troopers (SA) 400,000 strong in 1932.

Rise to ‘total power’
MacGregor refers to both Italy and Germany: Their road to total power had to be indirect. They could not immediately liquidate entire groups. (The same could also be said of Mao’s China because Mao at first used Guomindang officials, in order to stabilise China and carry out the bureaucracy which was essential to the regime).

The king remained the Head of State, but w/ Mussolini Italy moved gradually towards dictatorship (not to the extent of Hitler’s dictatorship however)

1922-1924: the Fascists strengthened their position by:

Excluding Socialists from the coalition

Continuing to attract members (weakening opponents at the same time)

Continuing violence a/g political opponents

The fact that the Vatican became increasingly pro-Fascist

The lack of unity amongst opponents

The Acerbo Law (July 1923) which stated that the party of coalition which won an election was to be automatically awarded 2/3 of the seats in parliament (this made strong Gov. possible)

Winning the April 1924 election w/ 374 out of 535 seats in parliament

Use of electoral fraud in the south of Italy (to ensure Fascist victory)

June 1924: the Matteotti murder, the murder of a critic of the Fascists (the socialist Giacomo Matteotti) created an anti-Fascist backlash  extreme elements of the Fascist party demanded that Mussolini move towards dictatorship.

A move towards dictatorship:

December 25: a law passed complete power in Mussolini’s hands and introduced several repressive measures:

Political parties were banned

Trade unions were banned

Free press was ended (through takeover by Fascists or censorship)

Elected local officials were replaced by officials appointed by the central Gov.

Increased power of arrest and detention w/out trial

Scope of death penalty widened (to include action against the authorities)

Setting up a special court to deal w/ ‘political crimes’

Creation of a secret police force (OVRA)

These strengthened Mussolini and the State rather then the Fascists.

Removal of officials- Initially the officials who had served the GMD were asked to remain in their posts, however once they had been of use in administration they were turned on and persecuted as class enemies.
The ‘anti-movements’

Mao and CCP leaders began public campaigns against anyone is public life who opposed official policy.

The imposition of military control

Three separate PLA armies were dispatched west and south in a series of reunification campaigns.

Tibet was invaded.

Terror tactics: At the time of the Communist success in 1949 there had been over ten separate political parties in China, by 192 they had disappeared, destroyed in a set of repressive moves which denied the right of any party to exist other than the Chinese Communist Party. Mass killings: Having used local knowledge of former gangsters to consolidate its hold on the city, the CPP turned on them: of the 130,000 ‘bandits and criminals rounded up by the authorities in Guangzhou over half were executed. In Shanghai the death toll was 28,000.

Enforcing conformity- China became a nation of informers: each street or tenement block had officially appointed ‘watchers’ who kept the local CCP informed of anyone or anything suspicious.

Feb 1933 Reichstag fire burnt down. The Communists are blamed. A presidential decree, Protection of the People and the State, suspends civil liberties and creates state of emergency.
March 1933 Nazis win 44 percent (288 seats in Reichstag) in the new elections. Hitler allies with the Nationalists and the Centre Party to pass the Enabling Act. The Enabling Act gives Hitler dictatorial powers for four years.

May 1933 Destruction of trade unions and arrest of leaders.

July 1933 One-party state is established as other parties are banned.

1934 Power of local governments are reduced.

1934 June, Night of the Long Knives: Hitler weakens the SA, his potentially revolutionary supporters, in a purge.

1934 August, Death of President Hindenburg enables Hitler to combine the posts of President and Chancellor= Führer.

1934 Aug, the army swear an oath of loyalty to Hitler.

Strength of the dictatorship

MacGregor Knox: Both Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany existed and derived out of a compromise between two central principles: revolutionary movements aiming at total power and Establishments lacking in strength due to the impact of mass politics and the consequences of

the First World War.

Salò republic from autumn 1943 rested solely on German power, not Mussolini’s own strength.

Mussolini’s radicalisation of the regime in the late 1930s- ‘Reform of Customs’ and anti-semitic policies.

Hitler took his own life in his Berlin bunker 1945, rather than suffer the same fate that Mussolini had suffered, with the public humiliation of being murdered.


1920-mid 30s Mussolini criticised Hitler’s anti-semitic policies but Mussolini also occasionally made anti-semitic remarks.

1935 attack on Abyssinia and proclamation of the Empire encouraged the development of racism to justify and buttress imperial control.

July 1938 Propaganda ministry published Manifesto of Italian Racism.

1938 Racist decrees: e.g. Jews banned from mixed marriages and no Jews in state services, no Jewish children in state schools.

After 1936 Mussolini desired to emulate Hitler, to strengthen Axis.
Effects of anti-semitic measures: resented and unpopular seen as Mussolini kowtowing to Hitler. Along with Reform of Customs it turned many influencial Italians against the regime.

Pope openly critical.

German occupation 1943=9000 Jews sent to concentration camps.


Curriculum changes-compulsory RE in elementary schools 1923 and in secondary schools 1929.

All pupils given a free copy of the Life of Mussolini by Pini.

1926 101 of 317 history texts were banned.

1935 military education in secondary schools introduced.

1938 anti-semitism taught in schools.

1931 all teachers’ associations merged into a Fascist Association. Membership made compulsory in 1937.

1933 all new teachers and professors had to be party members.

Universities were generally left alone as long as they did not become involved in hostile political activity.

Fascist Youth movements: ONB/Balilla 1926 covered many sub-groups which young people were involved in from ages of 6-18.
Youth groups encouraged Boys to be more militaristic and girls to acquire domestic attributes – flower arranging and doll drills.
GUF youth group catering for university students (many students joined for career or social purposes).
By 1929 c. 60% of northern youths were members; the proportion was far lower in the South. By 1933 membership of Fascist Youth clubs was compulsory.

Strong position of Catholicism weakened the strong hold of the youth groups. Although the Catholic Boy Scots were closed down, Catholic Action continued to provide youth facilities especially for students.

The Cultural Revolution 1966-76 relied on Young People. Students were encouraged to take to the street as Red Guards intent on creating a reign of terror. In August 1966 Mao presented the students of Qinghua University with a banner inscribed in his own hand ‘Bombard the Headquarters.’


Women’s organisation ‘Go to the people’.

Women excluded from the most prestigious places in secondary schools-teaching Latin, Italian, History and Philosophy.

Lack of job opportunities for women ironically led to an increase in women at university (from only six per cent of students in 1914 to fifteen per cent in 1938).

Looks-well-rounded, sturdy. The state criticised cosmetics, high heels, trousers and rhythm dancing.

Fascists promoted health, vigour, discipline and national pride, but it also might distract women from their main job of child protection and encourage lesbianism, and female liberation. Mussolini feared female involvement in sports (riding, skiing and cycling) because it was believed that they caused infertility).

‘Women into the home’ was reinforced by Pope Pius XI in his 1930 encyclical Casti Conubi: he criticised the decline in parental authority, and stressed the role of women as obedient wives and caring mothers.

Women could serve on committees of ONMI, a state organisation designed to help mothers, particularly disadvantaged ones and they were encouraged to engage in charity work.

In an attempt to fascistise the nation the government set up the Massaie Rurali (rural housewives) for peasant women, and in 1938 the Section for Factory and Homeworkers (SOLD)

The party banned foot binding.

Few important posts in the party were given to women.

Marriage Law 1950: concubinage was abolished, arranged marriages were to be discontinued, the paying of dories and bride-prices was forbidden.

Laws passed in 1950s granted women the right to own and sell land and property. Collectivisation and the Commune system made the law void as men nor women were allowed to own land in their own land.

Common food halls on Communes meant that women did not have to prepare food. Instead people ate in mass communes.

Women were called to do the work of men: Between 1949-1976 the proportion of women in the workforce quadrupled from 8 to 32 per cent.

The traditional nuclear family fell into the category of the ‘four olds’

Industrialisation= erosion of family unit. In many communes men and women were made to live in separate quarters and allowed to see each other only for conjugal visits.

Wife-selling became common in the famine areas.

‘Ten Commandments for choice of spouse’: advice issued to women, e.g. As a German, choose only a spouse of the same or Nordic blood.

Broad hips for child bearing yet athletic.

Simple clothes made from home-produced substitutes, flat shoes.

Role to raise children and to look after her family.

1933 the Law for the Reduction of unemployment cleverly linked the fight to reduced unemployment with the introduction of Nazi policies towards women,

Marriage loans were given to women who gave up their jobs. Restrictions on women’s employment in the Civil Service.

Nazi organisations for women: 10-14 Jung Mädel (Young girls), 14-18 BMD (League of German Girls). NSF (National Socialist Women’s Organisation): An umberella organisation co-ordinating existing women’s organisations to bring them into line with official ideology. It ran the Reich Mothers’ Service, which trained housewives and midwives.

DFW German Women’s Enterprise: set up to develop an elite of women committed to Nazi ideology.

The Honour Cross of German Motherhood, an award given to women for bearing children. It was modelled on the military cross for men. Bronze crosses were given to mothers of four or five children, silver for six or seven, gold for eight or more.


Mao attempted to modernise the Chinese economy. 1952 China’s first Five-Year Plan was introduced. Aim was to develop the state-directed growth of heavy industry.

From a rate of 1000 per cent 1949 inflation had dropped to a manageable 15 % by 1951, achieved by slashing public expenditure, raising tax rate on urban dwellers, replacing the old Chinese dollar with a new currency known as the renminbi or yuan. China’s economic growth rate was 9% between 1953-1957. In the Sino-Soviet agreement of 1950 the USSR agreed to provide China with the economic assistance. (Soviet aid was not a gift, it had to be paid for by commercial concessions. Soviet economic advisers who went to China came at a price. PRC had to meet their costs by taking out high-interest loans.

The Great Leap forward 1958-62 (The second Five-Year Plan. Aim was to turn the PRC into a modern industrial state in the shortest possible time.

Mao’s insistence on ‘backyard furnaces’. The plan did not reach its objective off laying the basis o a modern industrial economy.

Land policy- collectivisation was intended to complement his industrial plans= Great Famine 1958-62, 50 million died.



Composition of the countries

Italy 30-40 years behind Germany in becoming an industrial society. Late 1930s less than a third of Italy’s work force was industrial and about half agricultural. Literacy in 1931 was roughly 90 per cent of those of six years of age or over in the north , 79 per cent in the centre and 69 per cent in the south and islands.

Germany’s work force: 42% industry and 26 % agriculture (1939).

Illiteracy in Germany had virtually disappeared since 1900.

Political conditions that both countries had inherited.

Italy’s ruling groups were bound together by Masonary and Catholocism as well as support for the Monarchy proved much more cohesive than Germany.

Monarchy survived despite the impact of WWI.

The social conservatism of the Vatican and the long term roots of the Catholic Italian Church made them resolute forces against change. These key factors were lacking in Germany.

Germany’s Establishment had shown a tendency towards fragmentation; there was a greater number of social divisions and gaps in the federal structure of Germany, in comparison to northern Italy. Furthermore, there was poor organisation of the executive, which after Bismark’s departure degenerated into a ‘polycratic but uncoordinated authoritarianism’ under Kaiser Wilhelm II. (Hans-Ulrich Wehler, The German Empire 1871-1918 (Lemington Spa, 1985). Quoted by MacGregor Knox.

The Kaiser abdicated 1918. A vacuum of power was created, which even President Hindenburg could not fulfil. Army and navy cut off from the monarchy were answerable to no one but themselves.

Further divisions were caused amongst significant members of Germany’s ruling elite after WWI and the abdication of the Kaiser. Because the state had fallen in to complete disrepair after 1918, Hitler faced much less competition for popular loyalties than Mussolini did.


Church was a form of conflict rather than of cohesion within the Establishment.

Chinese Communism considered religious belief and worship to be superstitious. State attacks on religion: Christian churches were forcibly closed, their property seized or destroyed and their ministers physically abused.

Mao and authorities realised that there could be advantages for them in permitting some forms of public worship to continue. It would give their perception of toleration: ‘patriotic churches’ were created. The clergy had to profess open support for the Communist regime and accept their doctrine and appoint their clergy

During the Cultural revolution religion was denounced as belonging to the ‘four olds’.

The Vatican condemned the Communist’s policy towards the Catholic church. Bishops and priests appointed by the Chinese state would not be recognised by Rome and risked excommunication.

The Nazis faced far less opposition from the Church in Germany, than Italy. Germay’s pre-existing ‘polycracy’ contributed greatly to Hitler’s success.

Military history

In Italy univeral military service had only taken hold in the 1870s. No run of victories for the Italians in war, as there had been in Prussia.

Conscription and training had dated from the early eighteenth century. Military service had been universal in 1814s, in practice from 1860s.


Mac Gregor: Both regimes needed War, not only to fulfil their expansionist ambitions, but also to gear their own countries towards life under Fascist regime. Domestically war also helped Both Hitler and Mussolini because it enabled institutions to be destroyed; from churches to officer corps. MacGregor Knox: ‘The wars of Fascism and Nazism, far from aiming to avert revolution, were designed to make it.’

MacGregor Knox: Leaders of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy claimed a common ideal in terms of their expansionist zeal and fighting power. However, Fascist Italy’s last war collapsed within six months of its beginning in June 1940; Italy was beaten by the Greeks and British in Albania, the Mediterranean, and North Africa.

Hitler assumed vast amounts of territory between 1938 and 1942; North Cape to the Pyrenees and from Finisterre to the Don steppes.

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