In this final episode, we pull together all of the histories we’ve read, and try to determine how much we can, or can’t, use history’s example to understand what’s happening today. NYU historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an expert in Fascist Italy and our guest for our first episode, rejoins us, to help sort through comparisons and implications.
Fascism is an authoritarian or totalitarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to organize a nation according to corporatist perspectives, values, and systems, including the political system and the economy. Fascism was originally founded by Italian national syndicalists in World War I who combined extreme right-wing political views along with collectivism. Generally considered far right, the syncretic elements of fascist ideology make it difficult to classify on a left-right spectrum. Fascists believe that a nation is an organic community that requires strong leadership, singular collective identity, and the will and ability to commit violence and wage war in order to keep the nation strong. It became politically dominant in Italy with the rise to power of Benito Mussolini , inspiring Adolf Hitler to model many of the strategies and tactics of the German Nazi Party on those of the Italian fascists. The word has also become widely applied in ways which denote nearly any promotion of tyranny or unjust oppression.
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Until 1914, Italian nationalists and revolutionary syndicalists with nationalist leanings remained apart. Such syndicalists opposed the Italo-Turkish War of 1911 as an affair of financial interests and not the nation, but World War I was seen by both Italian nationalists and syndicalists as a national affair. 
This conflation of the UK and the US reinforced not just a sense of Anglo-Saxon difference, but a pronounced sense of Anglo-Saxon ascendancy. It created a powerful myth of expansion, driven by colonialism and capitalism. In this respect, it is notable that what was perceived as the US’ first ‘real’ colonial intervention – in the Spanish-American War of 1898 – coincided with the publication of Demolins’s book. As has been the case ever since, the French both feared and admired the Anglo-Saxon at the turn of the 19th-century – and they used it as a vehicle for discussing their own national anxieties.
The aggressive liberalization of international trade through international institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund has led to an enormous increase in the volume of trade – global trade in 2000 was 22 times the level of 1950 (Nicholls & Opal, 2005: 17) and world exports have almost doubled over the last decade (HDR, 2005: 114). But global inequality has grown simultaneously – so drastically, that many question the basic assumption that trade benefits all. The United Nations Human Development Report 2005, for example, introduces its section on international trade with a telling quote by Eduardo Galeano: “The division of labour among nations is that some specialize in winning and others in losing.” And – to give a flavour of what the outcome of neoliberal trade is according to this report – the “world’s richest 500 individuals have a combined income greater than that of the poorest 416 million. Beyond these extremes, the billion people living on less than $2 a day – 40% of the world’s population – account for 5% of global income. The richest 10%, almost all of whom live in high-income countries, account for 54%.” (HDR, 2005: 4)