"Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and development of humanity quite apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace."

"After socialism, Fascism combats the whole complex system of democratic ideology, and repudiates it, whether in its theoretical premises or in its practical application."

(Modern History Sourcebook: Benito Mussolini: What is Fascism, 1932)

 

 Europe's First Fascist Dictator: Mussolini

Jessica Ernst and Jennifer Prizant

 

 As the first modern European fascist dictator, Mussolini and his tactics served as an example for Adolf Hitler, the German leader of the Nazis, and Francisco Franco, the leader of the Fascist Party in the Spanish Civil War, and their fascist inspired regimes. During World War Two, his actions led to the fall of his regime and his becoming Hitler's puppet as the head of the "Italian Social Republic." Also his actions at this time led to the fall of his regime. He brought Italy to a state of poverty and disunity, leading to the formation of a new republic and constitution. Mussolini's dictatorship began with the climate created by World War One, ended after a second world war, which was partially started by him, and set the stage for the introduction of the modern Italian government.

 

FASCISM:

A political movement between World War One and World War Two, characterized by authoritarian and totalitarian regimes based on extreme forms of nationalism and conservatism. The main goals of a fascist government are to create an empire and develop the morally and physically strong "new man" from the "ordinary man."

 

Rise to Power

Mussolini's rise to power began in World War One with the involvement of Italy on behalf of the Allies. There was great dissent over whether or not such involvement was necessary or beneficial, and the Socialist Party opposed the addition of Italian Arms to the forces of the Allies. Benito Mussolini, a prominent Socialist journalist, originally agreed with his party in regards to the war, but several months after the start of the war he changed his opinion and left the Socialist Party. After leaving the Socialist Party he founded a fascist newspaper, Popola d'Italia, and several fascist groups, the Autonomous Fascists, the Constituent Fascists, the Revolutionary Fascists, and the Fighting Fascists.

A picture of the March on Rome, after which Mussolini was named Prime Minister of Italy.

From: Brooklyn College History Department. 1997. http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/history/core/pics/0225/img0023.jpg (24 November 2002)

When the war ended, Italy was hit with an economic crisis along with vast amounts of social unrest, the result of participation in the war. Many Italians, including Mussolini, felt that the Treaty of Versailles, which did not give Italy the lands it had been promised when it entered the war on the side of the Allies, was unfair. In October 1922, the infamous March on Rome occurred. Mussolini commanded his forces from a post in Milan and ordered them to seize power in Rome. King Victor Emmanuel, fearing that the March on Rome would lead to a civil war, gave Mussolini the post of Prime Minister. Between 1925 and 1927, he began to consolidate his dictatorship by doing away with all opposing press and non-fascist parties. He also created the OVRA, a secret police force, and made the government entirely fascist. People began to call him Il Duce, meaning leader.

 

Tactics/Actions

Mussolini's ultimate goal was to create a new Roman Empire. He began by invading and conquering Ethiopia as well as by aiding Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Even before his military actions, he signed the Lateral Accords, stating that Pope Pius XI would finally recognize Italy as an independent state. The pope said that Mussolini was, "the man whom God has sent us." The recognition of Italy helped him gain great support, as did his skill with propaganda and speaking. When Mussolini was dictator, the Italian government controlled industry, schools, and the press. His power is best exemplified by the fact that he was able to create many seemingly ridiculous laws. For example, in July 1926, Mussolini declared that the length of the workday would be increased but salaries would not change, newspapers could be no more than six pages, gasoline had to be mixed with alcohol, no more luxurious homes could be built, nothing could be sold after ten PM, and all bread had to contain at least fifteen percent non-white flour. In order to keep his power, Mussolini became an absolute ruler and fixed any elections.

A propaganda pamphlet from the early 1940s that denounced the Atlantic Alliance and praised Mussolini and the fighting qualities of the Italian soldier.

From: "Fascist Propaganda." Italian Life Under Fascism. http://www.library.wisc.edu/libraries/dpf/Fascism/Images/FRY69.html (Jan 1, 2003)

 

Picture of Hitler and Mussolini, used as war propaganda.

 From:

"La reconstrucción del Partido y del Ejército."Artehistoria.com. http://www.artehistoria.com/batallas/contextos/4875.htm (December 2002).

Involvement in World War Two

Mussolini as the head of the Italian Social Republic, 1943.

From: "Benito Mussolini." Historic World Leaders. Volume 3. 1994.

By influencing Hitler and later becoming his puppet, Mussolini set off a chain of events that led to World War Two and Nazism. In November 1936, Benito Mussolini formed the Rome-Berlin Alliance and installed anti-Semitic laws in Italy in 1938. Later, in 1940, he joined Hitler and the Nazis. With Mussolini in power, Italy became part of the German Empire which was forming at the time. Mussolini ruled Italy for three years as a Nazi. Despite the fixed elections and propaganda used by Mussolini, in July 1943, King Victor Emmanuel removed him from power and had him arrested. However Mussolini spent only a short time in jail before being rescued by Hitler who installed him as the head of the puppet "Italian Social Republic." This new position was created after the Allied invasion of Sicily. As a result of the invasion, the Allies controlled Southern Italy and the Nazis controlled Northern Italy.

End of Regime

Rumors that the allies were going to liberate Northern Italy convinced Mussolini to flee with his mistress to Switzerland. On April 28, 1945, were caught by Italian partisans and executed, ending fascist domination in Italy. After Mussolini's death, Italy was flung into a state of extreme poverty and disunity which led to the creation of a new government and constitution.  

1912

Appointed editor of socialist newspaper Avanti!

1914

Favored Italian intervention in WWI; expelled from Socialist Party

1915

Italy entered WWI on the side of Britain, France, and Russia; Mussolini joined the army

1919

Founded the Fascist movement

1922

Fascist "March on Rome"; Victor Emmanuel III appointed Mussolini prime minister

1924

Murder of socialist Matteotti

1925-26

Non-Fascist parties dissolved; opposition press silenced; secret police and political courts established

1929

Signed Lateran Accords with the Vatican

1935-36

Invaded and conquered Ethiopia

1936

Proclaimed Rome-Berlin Axis

1938

Promulgated anti-Semitic laws

1940

Italy entered WWII

1943

Mussolini arrested; Italy joined Allies; Germans rescued Mussolini

1945

Italian partisans executed Mussolini

A timeline of Mussolini's actions from his Socialist journalism to his death.

From: "Benito Mussolini." Historic World Leaders. Volume 3. 1994.

 

Bibliography:

 

"Benito Mussolini." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2nd ed. Biography Resource Center. Online Database. http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC (13 November, 2002)

"Benito Mussolini." Historic World Leaders. Volume 3. 1994.

-Picture of Mussolini as head of the Italian Social Republic as well as the timeline.

Brooklyn College History Department. 1997. http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/history/core/pics/0255/img0023.jpg (24 November 2002).

-Picture of the March on Rome.

"Fascist Propaganda." Italian Life Under Fascism. http://www.library.wisc.edu/libraries/dpf/Fascism/Images/FRY69.html (Jan 1, 2003)

-Picture of the propaganda pamphlet.

"Foreign News: Italy." Time. 12 July, 1926. Needham Public Library

-Information about various laws

"Foreign News: Italy." Time. 19 July, 1926. Needham Public Library

-A discussion of electoral suspensions, a strike, government canteens, and Mussolini's fear that what was beginning in Germany would spread to Italy.

Grolier Online WWII Commemoration. "Benito Mussolini." http://www.gi.grolier.com/wwii/wwii_mussolini.html (17 November. 2002).

Hughes, Serge. The Fall and Rise of Modern Italy. Macmillan Co., BY. 1967.

"Italy." Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations-Europe. 10th ed.

"La reconstrucción del Partido y del Ejército."Artehistoria.com. http://www.artehistoria.com/batallas/contextos/4875.htm (December 2002).

-Propaganda picture of Mussolini with Hitler.

Modern History Sourcebook. Benito Mussolini: What is Fascism, 1932. Aug 1997 http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/mussolini-fascism.html (17 November, 20)

-Written by Mussolini for the Enciclopdia Italiana (Italian Encyclopedia). His definitions of fascism, the fascist state, and the fascist person.

"Modern Socio-Economic Doctrines and Reform Movements." Encyclopedia Britannica. 15th ed.

Mussolini, Benito. "Speech Delivered by Premier Benito Mussolini." The New York Times. 24 February. 1941.

http://www.inbiblia.org/pha/policy/1941/410223a.html (15 November. 2002).

Mussolini, Benito" World Book Encyclopedia. 2001 ed.

Villari, Luigi. "A Pro-Fascist View of the March on Rome."2002. The Awakening of Italy: The Fascista Regeneration. http://www.shsu.edu/~his_ncp/MarRome.html (15 November. 2002).

-Summary of the March on Rome and includes a motivational speech by Mussolini.