1920s Italy and the question of fascism in Ukraine

A response to Alexander Motyl’s article “Is Ukraine fascist?”

Colin Robinson
Lessons from History

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Italian Fascists on the march in October 1922. Their signs read: “Rome or death!”. CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia.

Alexander Motyl’s article Is Ukraine fascist?, published on Huffpost in 2015, addresses a question that was hotly contested then, and even more so now.

Alexander Motyl is a political science academic based at Rutgers University, Newark. His article looks at characteristics of historical fascism in Italy and Germany, and uses them to argue that there is nothing fascist about Ukraine.

However, Motyl overlooks a major characteristic of historical fascism since it began in 1920s Italy — the rise of new paramilitary forces, originally distinct from the forces of the state, but eventually incorporated into the state as enforcers and reservists.

In February 2014, Motyl’s fellow political scientist, Nicolai N. Petro, characterised Ukraine’s then-unfolding insurrection as a “slow-motion replay of the March on Rome organized by Italian fascists in 1922.”

Motyl’s article doesn’t mention the March on Rome, and even Petro’s article doesn’t make a detailed comparison between paramilitary politics in 1920s Italy and in 21st century Ukraine.

I think it’s worth doing so, to find out whether Petro has noticed something that Motyl fails to see.

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Colin Robinson
Lessons from History

Someone who likes sharing factual information and fragments of the big picture