The topic of ideology is very fascinating to me. I'm currently writing a book about it. Although its related to a different context, information about all ideology would be helpful.

I'm getting confused by the answers to this question. which seem to deny that there is any connection between a fascistic ideology and the drive for external expansion by Japan.

Wikipedia provides this definition, for example:

Robert Paxton says that fascism is "a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."[32]

Definitions of ideology are always slippery, so it may be that the external expansion of fascist nations had other historical reasons, but I am attributing it to ideology.

Is external expansion and aggressive militarism a consistent element of fascist ideology? Have any historians argued specifically that it is not essential?

Or perhaps, I would also be interested in the platforms of any somewhat large neo-Nazi or modern fascist parties. Do they have arguments why their ideology is peaceful?

Is there an example of a fascist or fascistic nation that has ever not sought external expansion? The definition of "fascistic" must be left open for this question, but please let me know why a nation might be fascist-like unless it is a member of the Axis.

  • This is a question about political philosophy, not history. Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 20:47
  • @TylerDurden fascism is a specific historical phenomenon though.
    – deathlock
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 22:37

5 Answers 5


Ideological fascism was probably compatible with the idea of conquest and expansion but without requiring it. Political fascism (the ideology as applied) probably required some attempts at expansion for more populist reasoning. The theorists, particularly the pre-1933 theorists, were more focused on the organization of society and the revitalization of the polity, in a way that would've been closer to a Romantic technocracy or something akin to the US Progressive movement of the time (but with an anarchist flair). But the actual fascist politicians and their supporters were far more prone to vicious revanchism, to a form of politics and policy that excelled at prejudice, violence, and irredentism.

Nietzsche articulated a number of concepts that the fascists later found useful, including the will to power, the ubermensch, master-slave morality, and so forth. These concepts discounted the idea of protecting the weak for moral reasons and in explaining the basis for power, but they didn't necessarily mandate war, conquest, or expansion. Of course, Nietzsche himself was not violent and was rather bookish; he served in a war but only as a non-combat medic and he renounced his Prussian citizenship, dying officially stateless.

The futurists were also an important ideological basis for fascism, and they often embraced political violence. Marinetti thought violence and war were good things and he merged the Futurists with the Italian Fascists, but even though he advocated war his statements were more about emotionally purifying violence and less about revanchism or expansion.

Of course, actual Fascist parties in Italy and Germany advocated expansion. But this seems to be more about the politics of expansion, irredentism, and revanchism, as well as the appeal of acquiring wealth and status for the populace, and rather less about the ideological purity of it all. It is also more popular to be nationalistic and jingoistic, so the political parties were more jingo than their ideological forebears.

Fascism is entirely congruent with expansion. Different impulses downplayed the need for moral limits and emphasized the virtues of strength, resilience, and power. And the argument for a strong central force to violently reshape a new society is incredibly amenable to those who would wage war to conquer territory and remake it in the image of their new society. But ideological fascism was less concerned with expansion than political fascism.


Think of it this way. Contemporary to Mussolini and Hitler, every major European country had a "fascist" movement with a "national socialist" type ideology. Arrow Cross, Nasjonalsamling, Iron Guard, NSB, and so forth. All of them were variously "marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity."

They had a core of "committed nationalist militants" who were keen to abandon "democratic liberties" and pursue unconstrained "redemptive violence." Most were not "mass-based" unless you mean "plebian," and rarely came close enough to power to forge alliances with traditional elites. Since their ideologies were radicalized expressions of their respective nationalisms, they sought internal cleansing and external expansion accordingly.

If there's territorial revisionism and frustrated imperial aspirations in the nationalism, it will be amplified by the fascist ideology. I would look to the nationalism rather than the fascism for the "external expansion" and the "internal cleansing" and to the fascism for the sense of urgency and the political will to pursue it.

Likewise if a given nationalism tends to imagine the national community in a certain way, and a sense of political or social deadlock has emerged to frustrate it, its fascists will long for and assert an overarching unity. If the nationalism thinks in terms of blood and soil, then the fascism will glorify blood and soil. Otherwise it will idealize different aspects of the collective ego.

In the final analysis, fascism is a certain amount of "what do you need it to be for the purpose of your analysis". Only Mussolini's Italy was self-consciously "fascist," everyone else was a unique manifestation of the same urge/crisis in their respective national(ist) contexts.


Is external expansion and aggressive militarism a consistent element of fascist ideology?

The answer is clearly yes if consistent means frequent, but seems to be no if consistent is assumed to mean systematic (seems to be because proving a negative is always quite hard). Fascist ideology is positively correlated with expansionism and aggressive militarism but a second key factor is the military might and general geopolitical position of the state in question. Fascist movements in powerful states (in absolute terms or relative to their neighbors) are overwhelmingly military aggressive and expansionist but fascist movements in weak states are not necessarily so and sometimes develop a symmetric Weltanschauung of defense against a dangerous external world, closed borders policies and withdrawal from international affairs.

Examples of such could be found in the ideology of the Swiss far right movements, starting with the Schweizerischer Vaterländischer Verband and Nationale Aktion: two movements which embraced many tenets of fascist ideologies but were not military expansionist (at least before the advent of Nazi power for the former). Based on its website, the New Zealand National Front does not seem particularly military expansionist either.

  • That's a really great analysis. I was able to find a Wikipedia page on lists of fascist parties, which includes if they have ruled a country. There's so many examples, I think proving this negative since around 1950 isn't too bad. It very well might be it was the time period.
    – Razie Mah
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 3:12

Italy in the 1930s was fascist yet not expansionist (the African colonies they'd owned since before the fascists took power).
Nazi Germany wasn't technically fascist (though Nazism has elements of fascism, just as does communism, the three are closely related ideologies).
So no, fascism doesn't dictate expansionism, which of course doesn't mean that a fascist society can't be expansionist.
Nazism is much more like communism, and probably gets its expansionist tendencies from there.

  • 4
    Communists are internationalists. They expand to spread their ideology. Fascists are nationalists. They expand to take over the geographical space for use by the nation or the people or the race, etc. I think socialist thought is influencing them though, even though its not obvious, so could you expound on that? As per Mussolini: "The growth of empire, the expansion of the nation is for Fascism an essential manifestation of vitality, and its opposite a sign of decadence. Peoples which are rising ... are always imperialist; any renunciation is a sign of decay and of death."-Doctrines of Fascism
    – Razie Mah
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 6:15
  • @RazieMah communism and national socialism are in that identical, both want to spread socialism (which is just another word for communism). It's just that the socialist wants to do that from the idea of his country being the core of the worldwide socialist paradise, the communist thinks that once socialism engulfs the world there will be no more nationility. The fascist may want his ideas to spread, but he's not as intent on the creation of one world spanning fascist state as in ensuring fascism rules in all states.
    – jwenting
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 7:33
  • 3
    Expansionisim was always an integral part of Italian Fascisim. If they didn't accomplish all that much, it was for want of ability, not desire.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 12:17

German, Japanese and Italian fascism were certainly expansionist. But some other undeniably fascist states did not engage in external expansion, for example Spain (Franco), Portugal (Salazar), Haiti (Duvalier father and son), South Africa (under apartheid), Iran (Reza Shah and son), Syria (Asad), France (Pétain) and some others I can think of.

  • This answer could use some support and references. The answer's not wrong.. I just need to know more. I think of the Shah as more of an absolute monarch. Assad is not really Ba'athist but sort of and Ba'athism is sort of fascism but not really-you will have strong support calling it that way, though. The National Party of South Africa was embroiled in the Border War with several countries which seems pretty militant but it might not be about their ideology.
    – Razie Mah
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 3:04

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