WikiVidi Documentaries Benito Mussolini Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician, journalist, and leader of the National Fascist Party, ruling the country as Prime Minister from 1922 to 1943. He ruled constitutionally until 1925, when he dropped all pretense of democracy and set up a legal dictatorship. Known as Il Duce, Mussolini was the founder of Italian Fascism. In 1912 Mussolini was the leading member of the National Directorate of the Italian Socialist Party. Prior to 1914, he was a keen supporter of the Socialist International, starting the series of meetings in Switzerland that organised the communist revolutions and insurrections that swept through Europe from 1917. Mussolini was expelled from the PSI for withdrawing his support for the party’s stance on neutrality in World War I. He served in the Royal Italian Army during the war until he was wounded and discharged in 1917. Mussolini denounced the PSI, his views now centering on nationalism instead of socialism, and later founded the fascist movement. Following the March on Rome in October 1922 he became the youngest Prime Minister in Italian history until the appointment of Matteo Renzi in February 2014. After removing all political opposition through his secret police and outlawing labor strikes, Mussolini and his followers consolidated their power through a series of laws that transformed the nation into a one-party dictatorship. Within five years he had established dictatorial authority by both legal and extraordinary means, aspiring to create a totalitarian state. Mussolini remained in power until he was deposed by King Victor Emmanuel III in 1943. A few months later, he became the leader of the Italian Social Republic, a German client regime in northern Italy; he held this post until his death in 1945. Mussolini had sought to delay a major war in Europe until at least 1942. However, Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, resulting in declarations of war by France and the United Kingdom and starting World War II. On 10 June 1940, with the Fall of France imminent, Mussolini officially entered the war on the side of Germany, though he was aware that Italy did not have the military capacity and resources to carry out a long war with the British Empire. Mussolini believed that after the imminent French armistice, Italy could gain territorial concessions from France and then he could concentrate his forces on a major offensive in North Africa, where British and Commonwealth forces were outnumbered by Italian forces. However, the UK government refused to accept proposals for a peace that would involve accepting Axis victories in Eastern and Western Europe, plans for an invasion of the UK did not proceed, and the war continued. In the summer of 1941 Mussolini sent Italian forces to participate in the invasion of the Soviet Union, and war with the United States followed in December. On 24 July 1943, soon after the start of the Allied invasion of Sicily, the Grand Council of Fascism voted against him, and the King had him arrested the following day. On 12 September 1943, Mussolini was rescued from prison in the Gran Sasso raid by German special forces. In late April 1945, with total defeat looming, Mussolini attempted to escape north, but was captured and summarily executed near Lake Como by Italian Communists. His body was then taken to Milan, where it was hung upside down at a service station to publicly confirm his demise. Early life [^] [^] [^] Mussolini was born in Dovia di Predappio, a small town in the province of Forlì in Romagna on 29 July 1883. During the Fascist era, Predappio was dubbed “Duce’s town”, and Forlì was “Duce’s city”. Pilgrims went to Predappio and Forlì, to see the birthplace of Mussolini. His father, Alessandro Mussolini, was a blacksmith and a Socialist, while his mother, Rosa Maltoni, was a devout Catholic schoolteacher. Owing to his father’s political leanings, Mussolini was named Benito after Mexican Leftist President Benito Juárez, while his middle names “Andrea” and “Amilcare” were from Italian Socialists Andrea Costa and Amilcare Cipriani. Benito was the eldest of his parents’ three children. His siblings Arnaldo and Edvige followed. As a young boy, Mussolini would spend some time helping his father in his smithy. Mussolini’s early political views were heavily influenced by his father who idolized 19th-century Italian nationalist figures with humanist tendencies such as Carlo Pisacane, Giuseppe Mazzini, and Giuseppe Garibaldi. His father’s political outlook combined views of anarchist figures like Carlo Cafiero and Mikhail Bakunin, the military authoritarianism of Garibaldi, and the nationalism of Mazzini. In 1902, at the anniversary of Garibaldi’s death, Benito Mussolini made a public speech in praise of the republican nationalist. The conflict between his parents about religion meant that, unlike most Italians, Mussolini was not baptized at birth and would not be until much later in life. As a compromise with his mother, Mussolini was sent to a boarding school run by Salesian monks. After joining a new school, Mussolini achieved good grades, and qualified as an elementary schoolmaster in 1901. Emigration to Switzerland and military service In 1902, Mussolini emigrated to Switzerland, partly to avoid military service. He worked briefly as a stonemason in Geneva, Fribourg and Bern, but was unable to find a permanent job. During this time he studied the ideas of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, the sociologist Vilfredo Pareto, and the syndicalist Georges Sorel. Mussolini also later credited the Marxist Charles Péguy and the syndicalist Hubert Lagardelle as some of his influences. Sorel’s emphasis on the need for overthrowing decadent liberal democracy and capitalism by the use of violence, direct action, the general strike, and the use of neo-Machiavellian appeals to emotion, impressed Mussolini deeply. [^] Mussolini became active in the Italian socialist movement in Switzerland, working for the paper L’Avvenire del Lavoratore, organizing meetings, giving speeches to workers and serving as secretary of the Italian workers’ union in Lausanne. In 1903, he was arrested by the Bernese police, because of his advocacy of a violent general strike, spent two weeks in jail, was deported to Italy, was set free there, and returned to Switzerland. In 1904, having been arrested again in Geneva and expelled for falsifying his papers, he returned to Lausanne, where he attended the University of Lausanne’s Department of Social Science, following the lessons of Vilfredo Pareto. In December 1904, he returned to Italy to take advantage of an amnesty for desertion, for which he had been convicted in absentia. Since a condition for being pardoned was serving in the army, on 30 December 1904, he joined the corps of the Bersaglieri in Forlì. After serving for two years in the military, he returned to teaching. Beginning of Fascism and service in World War I [^] After being ousted by the Italian Socialist Party for his support of Italian intervention, Mussolini made a radical transformation, ending his support for class conflict and joining in support of revolutionary nationalism transcending class lines. He formed the interventionist newspaper Il Popolo d’Italia and the Fasci Rivoluzionari d’Azione Internazionalista in October 1914. His nationalist support of intervention enabled him to raise funds from Ansaldo and other companies to create Il Popolo d’Italia to convince socialists and revolutionaries to support the war. Further funding for Mussolini’s Fascists during the war came from French sources, beginning in May 1915. A major source of this funding from France is believed to have been from French socialists who sent support to dissident socialists who wanted Italian intervention on France’s side. On 5 December 1914, Mussolini denounced orthodox socialism for failing to recognize that the war had made national identity and loyalty more significant than class distinction. He fully demonstrated his transformation in a speech that acknowledged the nation as an entity, a notion he had rejected prior to the war, saying: Mussolini continued to promote the need of a revolutionary vanguard elite to lead society. He no longer advocated a proletarian vanguard, but instead a vanguard led by dynamic and revolutionary people of any social class. Though he denounced orthodox socialism and class conflict, he maintained at the time that he was a nationalist socialist and a supporter of the legacy of nationalist socialists in Italy’s history, such as Giuseppe Garibaldi, Giuseppe Mazzini, and Carlo Pisacane. As for the Italian Socialist Party and its support of orthodox socialism, he claimed that his failure as a member of the party to revitalize and transform it to recognize the contemporary reality revealed the hopelessness of orthodox socialism as outdated and a failure. This perception of the failure of orthodox socialism in the light of the outbreak of World War I was not solely held by Mussolini, other pro-interventionist Italian socialists such as Filippo Corridoni and Sergio Panunzio had also denounced classical Marxism in favor of intervention. These basic political views and principles formed the basis of Mussolini’s newly formed political movement, the Fasci Rivoluzionari d’Azione Internazionalista in 1914, who called themselves Fascisti. At this time, the Fascists did not have an integrated set of policies and the movement was small, ineffective in its attempts to hold mass meetings, and was regularly harassed by government authorities and orthodox socialists. Antagonism between the interventionists, including the Fascists, versus the anti-interventionist orthodox socialists resulted in violence between the Fascists and socialists. The opposition and attacks by the anti-interventionist revolutionary socialists against the Fascists and other interventionists were so violent that even democratic socialists who opposed the war such as Anna Kuliscioff said that the Italian Socialist Party had gone too far in a campaign of silencing the freedom of speech of supporters of the war. These early hostilities between the Fascists and the revolutionary socialists shaped Mussolini’s conception of the nature of Fascism in its support of political violence. Mussolini became an ally with the irredentist politician and journalist Cesare Battisti, and like him he entered the Army and served in the war. “He was sent to the zone of operations where he was seriously injured by the explosion of a grenade.” The Inspector General continued: Mussolini’s military experience is told in his work Diario di guerra. Overall, he totaled about nine months of active, front-line trench warfare. During this time, he contracted paratyphoid fever. His military exploits ended in 1917 when he was wounded accidentally by the explosion of a mortar bomb in his trench. He was left with at least 40 shards of metal in his body. He was discharged from the hospital in August 1917 and resumed his editor-in-chief position at his new paper, Il Popolo d’Italia. He wrote there positive articles about Czechoslovak Legions in Italy. On 25 December 1915, in Treviglio, he contracted a marriage with his fellow countrywoman Rachele Guidi, who had already borne him a daughter, Edda, at Forlì in 1910. In 1915, he had a son with Ida Dalser, a woman born in Sopramonte, a village near Trento. He legally recognized this son on 11 January 1916. Formation of the National Fascist Party By the time he returned from service in the Allied forces of World War I, very little remained of Mussolini the socialist. Indeed, he was now convinced that socialism as a doctrine had largely been a failure. In 1917 Mussolini got his start in politics with the help of a £100 weekly wage from the British security service MI5, to keep anti-war protestors at home and to publish pro-war propaganda. This help was authorized by Sir Samuel Hoare. In early 1918 Mussolini called for the emergence of a man “ruthless and energetic enough to make a clean sweep” to revive the Italian nation. Much later Mussolini said he felt by 1919 “Socialism as a doctrine was already dead; it continued to exist only as a grudge”. On 23 March 1919 Mussolini re-formed the Milan fascio as the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento, consisting of 200 members. [^] [^] An important factor in fascism gaining support in its earliest stages was that it claimed to oppose discrimination based on social class and strongly opposed all forms of class war. Fascism instead supported nationalist sentiments such as a strong unity, regardless of class, in the hopes of raising Italy up to the levels of its great Roman past. The ideological basis for fascism came from a number of sources. Mussolini utilized works of Plato, Georges Sorel, Nietzsche, and the socialist and economic ideas of Vilfredo Pareto, to develop fascism. Mussolini admired Plato’s The Republic, which he often read for inspiration. The Republic expounded a number of ideas that fascism promoted, such as rule by an elite promoting the state as the ultimate end, opposition to democracy, protecting the class system and promoting class collaboration, rejection of egalitarianism, promoting the militarization of a nation by creating a class of warriors, demanding that citizens perform civic duties in the interest of the state, and utilizing state intervention in education to promote the development of warriors and future rulers of the state. The Republic differed from fascism in that it did not promote aggressive war, but only defensive war. Also unlike fascism, it promoted very communist-like views on property. Plato was an idealist, focused on achieving justice and morality, while Mussolini and fascism were realist, focused on achieving political goals. The idea behind Mussolini’s foreign policy was that of spazio vitale, a concept in Fascism that was analogous to Lebensraum in German National Socialism. The concept of spazio vitale was first announced in 1919, when the entire Mediterranean, especially so-called Julian March, was redefined to make it appear a unified region that had belonged to Italy from the times of the ancient Roman province of Italia, and was claimed as Italy’s exclusive sphere of influence. The right to colonize the neighboring Slovene ethnic areas and the Mediterranean, being inhabited by what were alleged to be less developed peoples, was justified on the grounds that Italy was allegedly suffering from overpopulation. Borrowing the idea first developed by Enrico Corradini before 1914 of the natural conflict between “plutocratic” nations like Britain and “proletarian” nations like Italy, Mussolini claimed that Italy’s principal problem was that “plutocratic” countries like Britain were blocking Italy from achieving the necessary spazio vitale that would let the Italian economy grow. Mussolini equated a nation’s potential for economic growth with territorial size, thus in his view the problem of poverty in Italy could only be solved by winning the necessary spazio vitale. Though biological racism was less prominent in Fascism than in National Socialism, right from the start the spazio vitale concept had a strong racist undercurrent. Mussolini asserted there was a “natural law” for stronger peoples to subject and dominate “inferior” peoples such as the “barbaric” Slavic peoples of Yugoslavia. He stated in a September 1920 speech: While Italy occupied former Austro-Hungarian areas between years 1918 and 1920, five hundred “Slav” societies, and slightly smaller number of libraries had been forbidden, and specifically so later with the Law on Associations, the Law on Public Demonstrations and the Law on Public Order ; the closure of the classical lyceum in Pazin, of the high school in Voloska, and the five hundred Slovene and Croatian primary schools followed. One thousand “Slav” teachers were forcibly exiled to Sardinia and to Southern Italy. In the same way, Mussolini argued that Italy was right to follow an imperalist policy in Africa, because he saw all black people as “inferior” to whites. Mussolini claimed that the world was divided into a hierarchy of races, and that history was nothing more than a Darwinian struggle for power and territory between various “racial masses”. Mussolini saw high birthrates in Africa and Asia as a threat to the “white race” and he often asked the rhetorical question “Are the blacks and yellows at the door?” to be followed up with “Yes, they are!”. Mussolini believed that the United States was doomed as the American blacks had a higher birthrate than whites, making it inevitable that the blacks would take over the United States to drag it down to their level. The very fact that Italy was suffering from overpopulation was seen as proving the cultural and spiritual vitality of the Italians, who were thus justified in seeking to colonize lands that Mussolini argued – on a historical basis – belonged to Italy anyway, which was the heir to the Roman Empire. In Mussolini’s thinking, demography was destiny; nations with rising populations were nations destined to conquer, and nations with falling populations were decaying powers that deserved to die. Hence, the importance of natalism to Mussolini, since only by increasing the birth rate could Italy ensure that its future as a great power that would win its spazio vitale would be assured. By Mussolini’s reckoning, the Italian population had to reach 60 million to enable Italy to fight a major war—hence his relentless demands for Italian women to have more children in order to reach that number. Mussolini and the fascists managed to be simultaneously revolutionary and traditionalist; because this was vastly different from anything else in the political climate of the time, it is sometimes described as “The Third Way”. The Fascisti, led by one of Mussolini’s close confidants, Dino Grandi, formed armed squads of war veterans called blackshirts with the goal of restoring order to the streets of Italy with a strong hand. The blackshirts clashed with communists, socialists, and anarchists at parades and demonstrations; all of these factions were also involved in clashes against each other. The Italian government rarely interfered with the blackshirts’ actions, owing in part to a looming threat and widespread fear of a communist revolution. The Fascisti grew rapidly; within two years they transformed themselves into the National Fascist Party at a congress in Rome. In 1921 Mussolini won election to the Chamber of Deputies for the first time. In the meantime, from about 1911 until 1938, Mussolini had various affairs with the Jewish author and academic Margherita Sarfatti, called the “Jewish Mother of Fascism” at the time. March on Rome [^] In the night between 27 and 28 October 1922, about 30,000 Fascist blackshirts gathered in Rome to demand the resignation of liberal Prime Minister Luigi Facta and the appointment of a new Fascist government. On the morning of 28 October, King Victor Emmanuel III who, according to the Albertine Statute held the supreme military power, refused the government request to declare martial law, which led to Facta’s resignation. The King then handed over power to Mussolini by asking him to form a new government. The King’s controversial decision has been explained by historians as a combination of delusions and fears; Mussolini enjoyed a wide support in the military and among the industrial and agrarian elites, while the King and the conservative establishment were afraid of a possible civil war and ultimately thought they could use Mussolini to restore law and order in the country, but failed to foresee the danger of a totalitarian evolution. Appointment as Prime Minister [^] As Prime Minister, the first years of Mussolini’s rule were characterized by a right-wing coalition government composed of Fascists, nationalists, liberals, and two Catholic clerics from the Popular Party. The Fascists made up a small minority in his original governments. Mussolini’s domestic goal was the eventual establishment of a totalitarian state with himself as supreme leader, a message that was articulated by the Fascist newspaper Il Popolo, which was now edited by Mussolini’s brother, Arnaldo. To that end, Mussolini obtained from the legislature dictatorial powers for one year. He favored the complete restoration of state authority, with the integration of the Fasci di Combattimento into the armed forces and the progressive identification of the party with the state. In political and social economy, he passed legislation that favored the wealthy industrial and agrarian classes. In 1923, Mussolini sent Italian forces to invade Corfu during the Corfu Incident. In the end, the League of Nations proved powerless, and Greece was forced to comply with Italian demands. Writing of Mussolini’s foreign policy, the American historian Gerhard Weinberg said: If the new regime Benito Mussolini installed in 1922 on the ruins of the old glorified war as a sign of vitality and repudiated pacifism as a form of decay, the lesson drawn from the terrible battles against Austria on the Isonzo river—in which the Italians fought far better than popular imagination often allows—was that the tremendous material and technical preparations needed for modern war were simply beyond the contemporary capacity of the country. This was almost certainly a correct perception, but, given the ideology of Fascism with its emphasis on the moral benefits of war, it did not lead to the conclusion that an Italy without a big stick had best speak very, very softly. On the contrary, the new regime drew the opposite conclusion. Noisy eloquence and rabid journalism might be substituted for serious preparations for war, a procedure that was harmless enough if no one took any of it seriously, but a certain road to disaster once some outside and Mussolini inside the country came to believe that the “eight million bayonets” of the Duce’s imagination actually existed. Acerbo Law [^] In June 1923, the government passed the Acerbo Law, which transformed Italy into a single national constituency. It also granted a two-thirds majority of the seats in Parliament to the party or group of parties that received at least 25% of the votes. This law applied in the elections of 6 April 1924. The national alliance, consisting of Fascists, most of the old Liberals and others, won 64% of the vote. Squadristi violence The assassination of the socialist deputy Giacomo Matteotti, who had requested that the elections be annulled, because of the irregularities, provoked a momentary crisis in the Mussolini government. Mussolini ordered a cover-up, but witnesses saw the car that transported Matteotti’s body parked outside Matteotti’s residence, which linked Amerigo Dumini to the murder. Mussolini later confessed that a few resolute men could have altered public opinion and started a coup that would have swept fascism away. Dumini was imprisoned for two years. On his release Dumini allegedly told other people that Mussolini was responsible, for which he served further prison time. The opposition parties responded weakly or were generally unresponsive. Many of the socialists, liberals, and moderates boycotted Parliament in the Aventine Secession, hoping to force Victor Emmanuel to dismiss Mussolini. On 31 December 1924, MVSN consuls met with Mussolini and gave him an ultimatum—crush the opposition or they would do so without him. Fearing a revolt by his own militants, Mussolini decided to drop all trappings of democracy. On 3 January 1925, Mussolini made a truculent speech before the Chamber in which he took responsibility for squadristi violence. Police state [^] Between 1925 and 1927, Mussolini progressively dismantled virtually all constitutional and conventional restraints on his power, thereby building a police state. A law passed on Christmas Eve 1925 changed Mussolini’s formal title from “president of the Council of Ministers” to “head of the government”. He was no longer responsible to Parliament and could be removed only by the king. While the Italian constitution stated that ministers were responsible only to the sovereign, in practice it had become all, but impossible to govern against the express will of Parliament. The Christmas Eve law ended this practice, and also made Mussolini the only person competent to determine the body’s agenda. This law transformed Mussolini’s government into a de facto legal dictatorship. Local autonomy was abolished, and podestàs appointed by the Italian Senate replaced elected mayors and councils. On 7 April 1926, Mussolini survived a first assassination attempt by Violet Gibson, an Irish woman and daughter of Lord Ashbourne, who was deported after her arrest. On 31 October 1926, 15-year-old Anteo Zamboni attempted to shoot Mussolini in Bologna. Zamboni was lynched on the spot. Mussolini also survived a failed assassination attempt in Rome by anarchist Gino Lucetti, and a planned attempt by the Italian anarchist Michele Schirru, which ended with Schirru’s capture and execution. All other parties were outlawed following Zamboni’s assassination attempt in 1926, though in practice Italy had been a one-party state since 1925. In the same year, an electoral law abolished parliamentary elections. Instead, the Grand Council of Fascism selected a single list of candidates to be approved by plebiscite. The Grand Council had been created five years earlier as a party body, but was “constitutionalized” and became the highest constitutional authority in the state. On paper, the Grand Council had the power to recommend Mussolini’s removal from office, and was thus theoretically the only check on his power. However, only Mussolini could summon the Grand Council and determine its agenda. To gain control of the South, especially Sicily, he appointed Cesare Mori as a Prefect of the city of Palermo, with the charge of eradicating the Mafia at any price. In the telegram, Mussolini wrote to Mori: :”Your Excellency has carte blanche; the authority of the State must absolutely, I repeat absolutely, be re-established in Sicily. If the laws still in force hinder you, this will be no problem, as we will draw up new laws.” Mori did not hesitate to lay siege to towns, using torture, and holding women and children as hostages to oblige suspects to give themselves up. These harsh methods earned him the nickname of “Iron Prefect”. In 1927 Mori’s inquiries brought evidence of collusion between the Mafia and the Fascist establishment, and he was dismissed for length of service in 1929, at which time the number of murders in Palermo Province had decreased from 200 to 23. Mussolini nominated Mori as a senator, and fascist propaganda claimed that the Mafia had been defeated. Thank you WikiVidi Documentaries Please LIKE and SUBSCRIBE below. Please LIKE and SUBSCRIBE below.