Liberal conservative, Croce saw first in fascism a useful and, as it was illusory, temporary force of containment of the socialist movement, which, after the famous "biennio rosso" (1918-1920), seemed to be advancing almost to overwhelm also in Italy as in Russia, the dams of the bourgeois structure of society. But, having transformed the new regime into permanent dictatorship with the coup of January 3, 1925, the liberal authorities prevailed more and more in his mind and induced him, without however ceasing the bitter controversy against socialism (for which he had also sympathized with young people). ), to oppose the fascist totalitarianism without any hesitation: he realized that fascism, although suitable to keep socialist appetites at bay and to preserve society as it was, was not an instrument that could be used only when it was convenient. and then put it back in the drawer; vice versa, fascism was a passing disease of the State, almost a sort of deviation in the absolutely rational course of history: it was therefore, once the Fascist period ended, to return to the liberal state in force before the advent of the fascist "disease". The liberalism of which Croce was made the banner was, however, always conservative, without too many openings on the socialist side: when they talked about the possibility of creating a liberal-socialism, which combines the demands of socialism with those of the liberal tradition ( in the belief that true freedom is possible only under conditions of social equality), Croce boiled this initiative as "ircocervo", or as an unrealizable reverie. Croce, then, replied to the manifesto with which Gentile had accepted the adhesion to fascism by some fascist intellectuals (including Pirandello) with a manifesto of vibrant protest signed by a sea magnum of anti-fascist intellectuals (among which we remember Antonio Banfi). In this second phase of his life Croce was thus gradually accentuating his speculative interest in the political problem (which he had considered since then with a certain detachment), for the problem of a more intimate link between thought and action, for the problem of freedom (central in Hegel). The fruit of these new meditations is the publication in this period of a series of writings, which they deserve to be mentioned, for the great resonance they had and for the great educational effectiveness that they exercised on the young people of the time, the "History of Italy" from 1871 to 1915 "(1928), the" History of Europe in the 19th century "(1932)," History as Thought and Action "(1938). These are the writings in which the notion of freedom is, according to the same Crocian expression, raised to the "religion of freedom" and identified with the Spirit in its unfolding. The very vague (and almost mystical) definition of the problem of freedom had to be revealed, nevertheless, for the moral request from which it proceeded, an effective instrument of anti-fascist education, until fascism perpetrated in the country; and even Fascism fell, it continued to inspire in a certain way the new generations in their action for the reconstruction of the country, but becoming impregnated with new and more concrete instances, by virtue of which not a few of the ancient disciples of Croce ended up taking , a little at a time, other ways. Croce survived the adversary regime: with the fall of it, however, the polemic against Marxism resumed with renewed vigor, in the changed cultural condition established in the country.
He died in 1952, surrounded by the general esteem for what his name had meant, for about fifty years, in the cultural life of the peninsula. He was one of the most versatile and versatile minds of the twentieth century.