Transatlantic Fascism

Ideology, Violence, and the Sacred in Argentina and Italy, 1919-1945

Transatlantic Fascism

Book Pages: 344 Illustrations: Published: January 2010

History > European History, Latin American Studies > Southern Cone, Religious Studies

In Transatlantic Fascism, Federico Finchelstein traces the intellectual and cultural connections between Argentine and Italian fascisms, showing how fascism circulates transnationally. From the early 1920s well into the Second World War, Mussolini tried to export Italian fascism to Argentina, the “most Italian” country outside of Italy. (Nearly half the country’s population was of Italian descent.) Drawing on extensive archival research on both sides of the Atlantic, Finchelstein examines Italy’s efforts to promote fascism in Argentina by distributing bribes, sending emissaries, and disseminating propaganda through film, radio, and print. He investigates how Argentina’s political culture was in turn transformed as Italian fascism was appropriated, reinterpreted, and resisted by the state and the mainstream press, as well as by the Left, the Right, and the radical Right.

As Finchelstein explains, nacionalismo, the right-wing ideology that developed in Argentina, was not the wholesale imitation of Italian fascism that Mussolini wished it to be. Argentine nacionalistas conflated Catholicism and fascism, making the bold claim that their movement had a central place in God’s designs for their country. Finchelstein explores the fraught efforts of nationalistas to develop a “sacred” ideological doctrine and political program, and he scrutinizes their debates about Nazism, the Spanish Civil War, imperialism, anti-Semitism, and anticommunism. Transatlantic Fascism shows how right-wing groups constructed a distinctive Argentine fascism by appropriating some elements of the Italian model and rejecting others. It reveals the specifically local ways that a global ideology such as fascism crossed national borders.


Transatlantic Fascism is thus an important contribution to our understanding of the circulation of right-wing ideas, the appeal of regenerative violence, and its totalitarian aspirations. . . .[W]hat Finchelstein presents us with in this remarkable study is also an exemplary comparative political history of ideas.” — Jeremy Adelman, Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

“Federico Finchelstein is a distinguished representative of the abundant and solid group of historians focusing on the study of Argentina ‘s nationalist right in the period of 1930-1945. In his previous books and articles, Finchelstein has shown an unusual interest for theoretical and historiographical discussions. His documented research and clear prose have been enriched by an explicit approach vis-à-vis the political and conceptual implications of his arguments. Transatlantic Fascism represents the most complete approximation by Finchelstein to the complex history of the Argentine right during the time of its major success. It also put forward a new analytical framework oriented towards topics which were previously understudied. This is a work of enormous importance.” — Damián López, Estudios

“Federico Finchelstein’s book constitutes a welcome contribution to a historiography engaged with the emergence and development of transnational fascism between 1919 and 1945. . . . [T]he book is a very welcome attempt to study Argentine nationalism from a comparative and transnational perspective, an important task given the relative lack of this type of approach in Latin American historiography.” — Cecilia Tossounian, Journal of Latin American Studies

“Finchelstein is. . .very successful in highlighting the fascisms of many Argentinian nacionalista ideologues, as well as their internal debates and divergences, while at the same time avoiding the teleology of narrating a prehistory of Peronism.”
— Benjamin Zachariah, Social History

“Finchelstein offers an analysis of the relations between Argentine and Italian fascists in the inter-war era in more depth than any one else has so far in this well-documented study and that is no small feat.”
— Matthew McMurray, Canadian Journal of History

“Finchelstein underscores the fascist self-understanding and its conceptions of the sacred. The idea of the transnational phenomenon challenges most historians’ claims regarding the European character of fascism.” — Alberto Spektorowski, Catholic Historical Review

“Finchelstein’s work opens a new intellectual trajectory. Its starting point is the contextual and comparative analysis of fascism. The main aim of the book is to identify the global connections that determined the configuration of the itinerary of transnational fascism. Finchelstein’s work is extremely complex and it is open to discussion in many of its formulations. However, the author’s criteria for gathering primary and secondary sources highlights that this is a needed text for the analysis of fascism and transnational nationalism. Perhaps, Finchelstein’s most substantive contribution is the emphasis of the book on the subterranean connections between the ideological influence of fascism and the state terrorism implemented by the Argentina's last dictatorship.” — Fabián Sarubbi, PostData - Revista de Reflexión y Análisis Político

“In documenting the Argentine Right’s active dialogue with Italian fascism, Finchelstein illustrates quite effectively how these Argentines made fascism their own. It is this framing of Argentine fascism as a participant in a wider global constellation of fascist intellectual trends which is one of the work’s most important and original contributions to the field. . . . [T]his is an example of a transnational history done properly, providing readers with a sense of the dynamic interplay of competing fascist ideologies and moving beyond more traditional comparative studies.”
— David Aliano, European History Quarterly

“In this book, Federico Finchelstein goes back to his initial research interests of less than a decade ago, namely the analysis of right wing nationalism in Argentina in the 1930s. In his new book, Finchelstein extends his temporal horizon of research to the whole interwar period and also extends the geographical reach of his inquiry by analyzing the dialogue between the Argentine nacionalista tradition and Italian fascism. With this new contribution, Finchelstein tests the concept of transatlantic fascism.” — Andres Bisso, Prismas

“This thoroughly documented study, based on extensive new research on both sides of the Atlantic, usefully treats the interaction between fascist Italy and the nacionalistas of Argentina’s new radical right during the era of the two world wars. . . . Finchelstein provides a good sense of the complexities of the interchange in the Italo-Argentine case, including the scope, on both sides, for selective borrowing, misreading and wishful thinking. . . . [H]e helps us see how we can begin attuning to a wider range of aspirations and crossnational relationships as we seek to understand the new radical right during the era of the two world wars.” — David D. Roberts, Journal of Modern Italian Studies

“When considered as a whole, Finchelstein’s book is the outcome of an initially sound perspective. . . . Finchelstein provides us with a window to penetrate that [fascist] world that is today so uncanny to us. A world in which ‘living dangerously’ seemed to be the only way of life that deserved to be lived. . . . This narrative emerges from the book’s initially sound methodological perspective. This allows the book to detach itself from the always unproductive and incongruous search for local particularity and leads it to the analysis of how certain epochal political coordinates interplay in a given historical context.” — Elias Palti, Bicentenario

“[I]t is obvious that this book is a splendid contribution. But it is also welcome, necessary, and timely as extreme right-wing politics, authoritarianism, and party-led totalitarian states in the world are reasserting themselves. . . . If Churchill or Roosevelt had allowed a partial peace to end World War II, instead of total surrender, the Argentine politics described in this book would have joined Brazilian integralism to further autonomous fascist traditions in Central America, the Southern Cone, and the Andes. Finchelstein’s wonderful work paints a haunting image.” — Friedrich E. Schuler, The Americas

“[T]hought-provoking, intelligent, well-researched, and complex work of intellectual history. . . . Finchelstein has written a book that is an important contribution to the study of fascism in general and makes an even more crucial contribution to the study of the ideology of the far Right in Argentina.” — Joel Horowitz, American Historical Review

“Federico Finchelstein’s careful and ambitiously researched book which rests on archival work done in Rome, Buenos Aires, and the United States usefully reframes the literature on fascism by successfully challenging its overwhelming Eurocentrism....[It] is an invaluable contribution to reinvigorating scholarly discussion of fascism and is sure to be emulated, contested, and extended in years to come.” — Dylan Riley, Journal of Modern History

“Federico Finchelstein’s extensive background in fascist and Holocaust studies and his work in Italian and French archives set this book apart. So, too, does his approach. Rather than simply discuss European influence on Nacionalismo, Finchelstein analyzes ideas and perceptions flowing in both directions across the Atlantic. . . . A short review such as this one cannot do justice to the originality, richness, and subtlety of this book. Even the detailed endnotes, which practically constitute another volume, merit close examination. Finchelstein’s fine work surely will stimulate debates about fascist transnationalism, Nacionalismo, and this movement’s legacy for years to come.” — Sandra McGee Deutsch, Hispanic American Historical Review

Transatlantic Fascism is a fresh examination of fascism in Argentina from the perspective of its transnational connections. Federico Finchelstein provides new insight into fascism and its impact in Argentina.” — Donna Guy, author of Women Build the Welfare State: Performing Charity and Creating Rights in Argentina, 1880-1955

“Federico Finchelstein displays an exceptional combination of talents in Transatlantic Fascism: imagination tempered by diligence and meticulousness, independence tempered by judiciousness. His theoretical clarity and deep empirical research have forged a rich, intellectually rewarding, and important study of fascism. The book’s transnational perspective sheds much-needed light on a conceptually elusive ideology and political phenomenon.” — Jose C. Moya, author of Cousins and Strangers: Spanish Immigrants in Buenos Aires, 1850-1930

“In this innovative, impressively researched work, Federico Finchelstein takes an ambitious comparative approach to the historical study of fascism. He shows both how fascism was a transnational ideology and how that ideology was inflected and joined with at times violent practices according to different national traditions. His close inquiry into the Italian-Argentine connection sheds new light on a complex set of problems, including dimensions of fascism related to religion and to the manner in which fascism was understood and experienced by its committed activists. This book is important not only for specialists in European and Latin American history but for all historians and social scientists interested in problems of comparative history and methodology.” — Dominick LaCapra, Professor of History and Bowmar Professor of Humanistic Studies, Cornell University

“In this original and refreshing work on the history of fascism between Europe and Latin America, Federico Finchelstein elaborates a new concept—transatlantic fascism—that predictably will raise a large debate among historians. Written from the perspective of global history, this book rethinks the history of fascism in its international, not only European, dimension.” — Enzo Traverso, author of The Origins of Nazi Violence


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Federico Finchelstein is Assistant Professor of History at the New School for Social Research and the Eugene Lang College of the New School in New York City.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1. Transnational Fascism 15

2. The Argentine Road to Fascism 42

3. Fascism Discovers the Americas 79

4. A "Christianized Fascism" 118

5. Debating Global Totalitarianism 138

Epilogue 163

Bibliography 179

Notes 285

Index 321
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Winner, 2011 NECLAS Besk Book Award

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4612-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4594-7
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