Proto-fascism refers to the direct predecessor ideologies and cultural movements that influenced and formed the basis of fascism.[1][2] A prominent proto-fascist figure is Gabriele D'Annunzio, the Italian nationalist whose politics influenced Benito Mussolini and Italian Fascism.[1] Proto-fascist political movements include the Italian Nationalist Association (Associazione Nazionalista Italiana, ANI), the German National Association of Commercial Employees (Deutschnationaler Handlungsgehilfen-Verband, DHV) and the German National People's Party (Deutschnationale Volkspartei, DNVP).[2]

Photograph of Gabriele D'Annunzio in 1921. D'Annunzio was an Italian nationalist and poet who is considered a proto-fascist.

Precedents for modern fascism can be seen in the cultures and governments of older nations which were heavily based on a desire to maintain law and order, such as the Roman Empire and the anciens régimes of Europe.[citation needed] Other people who have been labeled proto-fascist because they shared an ideological basis with fascism include:

  • Charles Maurras (1868–1952)[citation needed]
  • Ion Dragoumis (1878–1920)[3][4]
  • Patrick Pearse (1879–1916)[5]
  • Edgar Julius Jung (1894–1934)[citation needed]
  • D. H. Lawrence (1885–1930). The English philosopher Bertrand Russell characterized Lawrence as a "proto-German fascist".[6] This characterization is useful as a demarcation point between Fascism and proto-fascism. The former has totalitarian uniformity as its paradigm, but Russell is referring to Lawrence as a "nonconformist prophet" struggling with individual alienation, looking to the shared identity of ancestral blood and soil for reconnection i.e. an evolution of the German 19th-century Völkisch movement.[7][8]
  • Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–1872). The famous Genoese patriot strongly influenced Italian fascism, especially in its early years and during the Italian Social Republic, when fascism abandoned monarchy and returned to its original Republican and Socialist ideals. In particular, fascism inherited from Mazzini the fervent irredentism, the concept of class collaboration, the pedagogical vocation and the spirit of solidarity. Mussolini himself was a great Mazzini's admirer, and many fascist exponents were Mazzinian such as Italo Balbo, Giovanni Gentile, Giuseppe Bottai and Dino Grandi.[9]
  • Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807–1882). The celebrated Italian National Hero was steadily praised by Italian Fascism, which saw in the Hero of Two Worlds the Italian patriot par excellence. Garibaldi's figure was popular especially in the military field and praised for the heroic deeds accomplished, his voluntarist and revolutionary spirit, the bond with his motherland and the close link with the working class. The Blackshirts (MVSN) considered themselves worthy heirs of Garibaldi's Redshirts and the same epithet "Duce" given to Mussolini during the fascist regime was used by Redshirts in reference to their leader.[citation needed]
  • Francesco Crispi (1818–1901). The known Sicilian statesman was admired by the dictator Mussolini and considered by many scholars as a precursor of Italian fascist regime, due to his authoritarian policies, the nationalist character, his strongman reputation and the aggressive colonial policy implemented during his government.[10][11]


  1. ^ a b Spackman, Barbara: Fascist Virilities: Rhetoric, Ideology, and Social Fantasy in Italy, p. 78.
  2. ^ a b Peter Davies, Derek Lynch. The Routledge Companion to Fascism and the Far Right London, England, UK; New York, New York, USA: Routledge. p. 94.
  3. ^ John Mazis, A Man For All Seasons: The Uncompromising Life of Ion Dragoumis
  4. ^ "Γιάννης Μάζης: "Ο Δραγούμης δεν έχω καμία αμφιβολία ότι ήταν ένας πρωτοφασίστας"". Εθνικόν Κράτος (in Greek). 2017-06-04. Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  5. ^ "Patrick Pearse: proto-fascist eccentric or visionary?". History Ireland (Podcast). Retrieved 2019-03-10.
  6. ^ Bertrand Russell. The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell 1872-1914 (Little, Brown and company, 1951) page 112
  7. ^ Ferretter, Luke (2015). ""A Prison for the Infinite": D. H. Lawrence and Bertrand Russell on the War". Études Lawrenciennes (46). doi:10.4000/lawrence.226.
  8. ^ Kurlander, Eric (2002). "The Rise of Völkisch-Nationalism and the Decline of German Liberalism: A Comparison of Liberal Political Cultures in Schleswig-Holstein and Silesia 1912-1924". European Review of History: Revue européenne d'histoire. 9 (1): 23–36. doi:10.1080/13507480120116182. ISSN 1350-7486. S2CID 145167949.
  9. ^ Simon Levis Sullam: Giuseppe Mazzini and the Origins of Fascism
  10. ^ Nation-building in 19th-century Italy: the case of Francesco Crispi, Christopher Duggan, History Today, February 1, 2002
  11. ^ The Randolph Churchill of Italy, by David Gilmour, The Spectator, June 1, 2002 (Review of Francesco Crispi, 1818-1901: From Nation to Nationalism, by Christopher Duggan)