Martin Blinkhorn

British historian

Martin Blinkhorn (born 1941) is a British historian and Emeritus Professor at the Lancaster University.


  • For those seeking a more rigorous understanding of 'fascism', confusion reigned, since the differences among a whole host of rightist movements and parties, and an increasing number of rightist regimes, tended to be subtly nuanced and constantly shifting. On the basis of what has been examined so far, it is clearly reasonable to confirm the existence of a distinction, at the level of ideas and movements, between the radical or 'fascist' right and the conservative right, even when the latter gave birth to authoritarian movements of its own. However, for the reasons just discussed, not merely was a boundary between fascists and authoritarian conservatives never drawn with total clarity, but it became more blurred with every year that passed. Matters become more difficult still, however, when we come to examine the fascist-conservative relationship in the context of those regimes to which fascist or national socialist movement made a major contribution or, indeed, which they actually created.
  • In April 1937 Franco, as effective head of state of Nationalist Spain, fused the Falange with the Carlists, monarchists and the rest of the right to form the single party of his regime: a process, though differently conducted, somewhat similar to Italian fascism's fusion with Nationalism and Clerico-Fascism after 1922. The product, like the Italian Fascist regime, was a compromise between radical fascism and conservative authoritarianism, in this case with unambiguous military and Church support. [...] The vital feature of all these and other regimes, whatever their provenance and outward characteristics, is that in all of them conservative interests and value-systems proved either dominant or capable of coexisting with an official 'fascism'. This is not suggest that in italy during the 1930s or Spain during the early 1940s, conservatives, whether driven by monarchism, Catholicism, or material interest, were not often irked by fascist display, vulgarity and office-holding or, indeed, anxious lest full-scale 'fascist revolution' might yet be unleashed. The fact remains that no serious conservative attempt to overthrow Mussolini occurred until wartime defeat transformed political realities, while monarchist machinations against Franco regime were both unsuccessful and dictated more by self-interest than ideology or principle.
  • It cannot seriously be denied that as movements, parties and political ideologies, conservatism and fascism occupied very different positions within the early and mid-twentieth century European right, converging at some points and conflicting at others. In certain circumstances, especially characteristic of the 1919–45 period, convergence outweighed conflict, and the uneasy coupling of fascism and conservatism spawned a new kind of political regime. With fascists often showing a tendency to succumb to a cosy conservatism, and conservatives sometimes embracing the rhetoric (or more) of fascism, such regimes exhibited a kaleidoscopic variety of tendencies of which the rarest was what might be termed 'pure' fascism. In many cases, genuine—that is so say self-consciously radical—fascists were a negligible force and any 'fascist' elements at most merely cosmetic. Elsewhere, notably in Spain, assorted conservatives proved capable of displacing radical fascism. In fascist Italy, surely the paradigmatic fascist regime, conservatives co-existed with fascists, survived largely unscathed, and when given the opportunity overthrew the Fascist regime. Only in Germany did the conservative right come close to being devoured by the tiger it had chosen to ride.
  • Subjective perceptions, whether favourable or unfavourable, help us to understand the nature of the political debate bun not necessarily the nature of fascism or, least of all, any possible connections with conservatism. Discussion of their relationship is complicated by the fact that neither is easy to define. The common tendency to use the term 'fascist' as a political epithet and 'conservative' as a synonym for retrograde or reactionary does not help. But scholars who usually avoid such loose language also find it difficult to come up with generally acceptable definitions, probably because fascism lacks a clearly recognizable fountainhead in the world of ideas and conservatism encompasses attitudes and phenomena that go beyond ideology and politics.

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