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Fascism: Meaning, History, Chronology and Heroes of the Political Movement Founded by Mussolini

Fascism: Meaning, Ideology, Important Dates and Heroes Political movement born in Italy and founded by Mussolini shortly after his March on Rome on 28 October 1922.

Name – Fascism

October 28, 1922 – July 25, 1943,Italy

      Grand Council of Fascism, National Fascist Party The famous phrase “Fascism is the antithesis of political belief because it oppresses all who think differently.” Sandro Pertini

Benito Mussolini and Fascism: Birth of a Regime

What is Fascism?

Fascism originated as a political movement founded by Benito Mussolini in 1919, but between 1922 and 1943, it turned into a totalitarian (dictatorship) regime.

Initially, the fascist movement represented a response to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 (Russia) and the trade union struggles of the Red Two Years period (1919 – 1920) in Italy, which saw the struggles of workers and peasants in strikes, themselves – Management and business of factories.

Fascism presents itself as a third way, an alternative to Marxism as well as to liberal capitalism. It recognizes private property but rejects the principles of liberal democracy. The ultimate goal of fascism is to create a great Italy.

Fascist state building

Fascism is not a distant phenomenon, yet it is not easy for an Italian today to imagine what it was like to live under a dictatorship.

After the campaign on Rome, the fascist state is hastily built. It would soon come to obliterate basic constitutional freedoms and shape generations into a sign of worship of one man, Benito Mussolini.

With propaganda, with force, but with the support of the country’s stronger powers, fascism heavily influenced the habits, culture, and political future of Italians.

It would also inspire many nationalist totalitarian regimes and movements (including Nazism) throughout Europe.

After the March on Rome, the Fascist government began a delicate phase of redefinition and transformation of Italian liberal institutions.

The National Fascist Party (PNF) has fewer delegates, 34, but can count on the support of liberals and some Catholics. The middle classes, industrialists and the king himself favor Mussolini, as he appears to be the right person to actually ‘restore order’ in the country.

  • In December 1922, the Grand Council of Fascism was established: a body composed of party leaders whose role was to establish the functioning of the government.

  • In January 1923 the ‘Black Shirts’ were placed in the defined military body, the Voluntary Militia for National Defence. Only a partial ‘normalization’, as violence and intimidation continue to yield victims (such as Giovanni Amendola or Don Giovanni Minzoni).

  • In July 1923 a new electoral law, the Acerbo Law, established a majoritarian electoral system: the coalition that received 25% of the vote received 65% of the seats in parliament.

  • In April 1924 we go to the elections: the fascists propose to the Italians a list that includes, in addition to the PNF, two moderate forces of great attraction: liberals and Catholics. On the other hand, the opposition on the left is divided, and thanks also to squad violence, receives 65% of Italians’ votes.

A reformist socialist deputy, Giacomo Matteotti, was abducted and killed by a group of Squadristi (June 10, 1924) after denouncing violence and electoral irregularities in parliament.

At this point, the opposition, not expecting intervention by the king, leaves the parliament, an episode we remember as the Aventine of the Aventine in homage to the plebiscite against the patricians in ancient Rome.

Several months later, on January 3, 1925, in a famous speech to the Chamber, Benito Mussolini took civil, moral, and historical responsibility not only for the Matteotti murder but for everything that had happened in recent months. 

This marked the beginning of a more decisive phase of the Italian state’s transformation into a fascist state: in late 1925 the government would not be bound by a vote of confidence in Parliament, political opponents would be sent to ‘confino’ (isolated in remote places and inaccessible ), a special tribunal for the defense of the state would be set up, the death penalty would be given to anyone who threatened its security, and from then on mayors would no longer be elected, but would be replaced by party-appointed ‘mayors’ Took it.

 Most important: Freedom of association and the press are indefinitely suppressed. In October 1925 it was the turn of the unions: the Confindustria signed an accord with the fascist unions, effectively driving out all other unions.

Strikes were forbidden in 1926: and people began to think of a corporate system, which was programmed through the Labor Charter in 1927.

There is an attempt to overcome class struggle: workers, technicians, and capitalists are organized into independent corporations, and conditioned by the state. In this way, any possibility of bargaining by the workers is rooted out.

In 1928 a new electoral law would limit the electorate’s choice to approve or disapprove of a single list: the fascist state was now complete.

The power of the PNF is now immense, but this does not mean that the other powers in Italy, namely the army, crown, and church, will never be completely suppressed. Quite the contrary: they would contribute to the confirmation of fascist regimes, except then, but only at the end of ‘twenty years’, to reconsider. For example, the Holy See had already 1923 silenced politically active Catholics, hostile to Fascism, who had organized themselves into Luigi Sturzo’s Popular Party with a Catholic democratic orientation.

Vatican support for the regime would be crowned by the Lateran Pact of 1929, even though friction between Fascism and Catholic unions would continue.

Fascism, in short, had by now attained full legitimacy at the helm of the Italian nation with the help of other powers. Now we will see how he will try to get the consent of the Italians.

Do you know that Benito Mussolini moved to Switzerland in 1902 to avoid compulsory military service? However, in 1909, he was expelled from Austria because of his frequent criticism of militarism and nationalism.

Consent and repression during fascism

The fascist regime was an oppressive and anti-democratic regime: this meant that there was no room for non-conformity or dissent.

For Benito Mussolini, people who thought for themselves and were critical of his regime were a problem. And first among these problems were political opponents: socialists, communists, democrats, radicals, and even some royalists, such as the poet, literature professor, and chemist Lauro de Bossis, who in 1931 organized anti-fascist manifestos to scatter Flew from Rome. run out of fuel, and die at sea.

Special tribunals were set up against these political dissidents, which would sentence more than 40 to death, and jail more than 4,000, while another 15,000 would be deported to ‘imprisonment’, sometimes until their health Will be doomed until they die, as will the intellectual, philosopher and communist leader Antonio Gramsci in 1937, who is now free but in incurable health conditions.

All this is only for his political views. It was not easy for an adversary to live in Italy: many of them would therefore decide to continue the fight against fascism by emigrating abroad, even though some, like the Communists, would keep significant resistance ‘cells’ in Italy.

Carlo and Nello Rosselli, two anti-fascist brothers who were shot and stabbed to death in France, were immediately identified by the fascist police as ‘disturbing’ elements because of their non-aligned views and their activities: secret newspapers Expansion, organization, and the exodus of important socialist leaders such as Filippo Turati.

Carlo escaped imprisonment in Lipari and fled to take refuge in Paris, where he organized an intense anti-fascist activity with the ‘Giustizia e Liberta’ movement, inspired by principles that united socialism with liberalism. while for his brother Nello Rosselli, a historian, it was important to stay in Italy and try to preserve the memory from fascist propaganda.

When he visits Carlo in Normandy in the summer of 1937, they will both be stabbed and shot by a group of fascist-financed assassins.

Until the outbreak of World War II, anti-fascism remained under difficult covert conditions, but it should be made clear that the fascist regime was not limited to repressing and executing political extremists or keeping trade union members under strict surveillance: even Simple indiscipline, behavior that went against personal Catholic morality, and even jokes about the Duce did not escape the watchful eye of the regime’s political police.

In addition to court and prison, violence and intimidation (batons and castor oil) never cease to be the regime’s weapons to combat not only opponents but also ordinary non-conformists.

In parallel with this intense repressive activity, the fascist regime did not stop mobilizing the population to ‘nationalize’ them in a paramilitary way: children were seized in formations such as the Sons of the Wolf or Balila, where they learned discipline and obedience, ubiquitous and participating in a real cult of the person of the protective leader. 

But the organization was there for everyone: the university students had the GUF (Fascist University Groups), the women the Fascist Female Groups, and for all, there will be, from 1926, the National after-work club, in charge of organizing free time of workers through cinema, tourism, theater and summer camps.

All, of course, in the name of continuous and incessant propaganda.

In short, fascism had become a real ‘civil religion’ for Italians, founded on the myth of the homeland, on a military-type organization, and on absolute obedience.

But from 1936, with the first anti-Jewish policies, it also took on openly racist connotations: with the laws for the defense of the race of 1938, ‘mixed’ marriage was prohibited, and Italian Jews, some of whom had been fascists from the beginning, could no longer obtain public employment, nor simply go to school.

The first phase of the fascist economic policy has been defined as ‘liberal’: it aimed at balancing the budget (obtained in 1925), ‘letting the market do its thing’. At a time when the purchasing power of citizens was greatly reduced, fascism compensated by focusing on foreign trade and lowering customs tariffs.

The first major turnaround took place in 1926 when Mussolini undertook to strongly revalue the lira. If on the one hand, this was a sign of stability, on the other Italian goods became too expensive for foreign investors, exports collapsed, and from 1927 a heavy recession began, destined to worsen with the crisis of 1929.

Since then and in the 1930s, the fascist economy will be based on heavy state interventions to counter the crisis, which will soon begin to directly manage many Italian industries, to then create institutions dedicated to rescuing the banks.

At the same time, fascism tries to give Italy an agricultural turning point, in particular from 1926 with the battle of the grain: Italy aimed at food self-sufficiency, but growing more grain meant neglecting other possible uses of the land, such as livestock or other crops.

Even the reclamation of marshes (of which that of the Pontine marshes is the best result), with the consequent foundation of new cities, aimed at making Italy a more agricultural country, but the results achieved will be lower than expected.

To give land to the peasants, decidedly impoverished by the crisis, fascism will propose the African colonial adventure from 1934.

Ultimately, the fascist economic policies of the 1930s will bring good results, with increases in GDP and industrial production, while the conditions of the lower classes will worsen, decidedly neglected in favor of the middle classes. Low wages and unemployment will create a series of hardships and a sharp drop in consumption, especially in the South.
4 Fascism and sport

In these years, sport assumed a whole new importance in Italian society, but it was also one of the main vehicles of fascist propaganda.

According to Mussolini’s rhetoric, Italy needed strong, healthy individuals prepared for war: the Duce himself was beginning to be represented by propaganda as a great sportsman. The regime controlled every aspect of citizens’ lives, and therefore the control of sport could not be missing, both at a professional and amateur level.

CONI, the Italian National Olympic Committee, which was founded in 1914, under fascism was entirely managed by party men.

From 1933 to 1939 the president of CONI will be the same secretary of the National Fascist Party: Achille Starace. The intent of fascist propaganda is to transform the great Italian athletes into popular heroes of fascism.

The case of the boxer Primo Carnera is emblematic: when he conquers the heavyweight world title, in 1932, Benito Mussolini has him enlisted as Black Shirt and forbids Italian newspapers to publish images of Carnera knocked out. Even football already had a certain importance: Italy will host the World Cup in 1934, and it will be Duce himself who will distribute the medals to the Italian national team after their victory in the finals.

This special attention to sport also concerns women, but only at the beginning: competitive athletics events are organized and sports federations are founded, which however will be closed after the Lateran pacts (1929).

Catholic morality, in fact, considered a women’s sporting event held in public scandalous at the time. After some interesting initial push, therefore, the role of women according to fascism soon flattens to that of wife and mother.

Even amateur sports, which are practiced among the common people, are controlled by the regime.

Opera Nazionale del Dopolavoro will take care of organizing Italians through sports and hiking. Fascist Saturdays were established on 20 June 1935, forcing Italians of all ages to participate in public events, which included among other things gymnastic exercises.

Not participating in Fascist Saturdays certainly meant raising suspicions about the regime.

Fascism and Modernity: A Complicated Relationship

Consent to the regime was not only organized through public demonstrations: modern, mass means of communication were also required.

In 1927, the EIAR (Italian Radio Audition Body) began to take care of the national radio programming, which included not only official information but also entertainment, songs, and variety.

Cinema has also not been neglected, an industry largely financed by the state. With the opening of the Cinecittà in Rome in 1937, Mussolini wanted to enter into direct competition with Hollywood, as American cinema, very popular with Italians, spread cultural models and examples that were often inconsistent with the propaganda of Fascism (see above). One: the ‘fatal woman’ who smokes, seduces men, and is in charge of her life).

The entrance to Cinecitta, in the late 1930s, read the following inscription: “Cinematography is the strongest weapon”. Mussolini knew this well: despite the not always very-high quality of the films produced, Cinecittà was the largest film production center in Europe at the time.

But how much have Italians been ‘modernized’ by Fascism? Fascism had essentially created a vast bureaucracy to create jobs and fight unemployment: employees of many public bodies desired by Fascism during the 1930s felt more bound to the fascist party than citizens.

For this reason, Italy is developing a culture of passive dependence on public employment rather than genuine social mobility, more typical of ‘modern’ Western societies of the first half of the 20th century.

As far as the social policies of fascism are concerned, the social security system relied primarily on religious charity to reward workers in the public sector and industry.

In 1925, the ONMI, the National Maternity and Childhood Work, was created, which aimed to provide support to mothers, but also to professionalize women in fields such as obstetrics and pediatrics: these policies helped women, but gave them a modest Also removed the role, and not very modern – that of ‘reproductive workers’.

Fascism was also engaged in improving the conditions of cities, through high-end architectural achievements, but also by demolishing dilapidated and unhealthy areas.

In this way, however, members of the working classes were relocated to suburban villages that were completely devoid of basic services (such as running water or sewage) and connections (roads and public transport) that, to the delight, of its Also, for building speculators.

The main beneficiaries of the fascist policy are, in the final analysis, the civil servants, the middle class, who can enjoy social housing, servants, holidays in a colony, and in return are guaranteed unconditional loyalty to the regime, without being fully followed from The more violent aspects of fascism, such as classism or the intense militarization of society, affected the entire country beginning in 1934.

Benito Mussolini’s Foreign Policy During Fascism

At the base of fascism’s foreign policy is a myth: that of ‘mutilated victory’. This need for revenge materialized in provocative actions such as Greece’s occupation of the island of Corfu in 1923, which immediately generated pressure from the British and French to withdraw and therefore resolved into a stalemate.

At the same time, in the 1920s Mussolini was seeking legitimacy among the European powers, and for this, he participated, for example, in the Locarno Conference in 1925.

When the regime begins to stabilize and control over Libya is re-established, fascist Italy looks set to try to realize its expansionist objectives, which however will be conditioned by the effective weakness of the country, which is characterized by the support of the Have to search for ‘Great Powers’.

Mussolini personally assumed the role of foreign minister in 1932, attempting to act as a mediator between Germany and powers such as France and Great Britain, but he immediately had to deal with Hitler’s aggression, which in 1933 saw Germany become a nation-state. led to leaving the National union.

In October 1935 Italy invades Ethiopia, and does so brutally, bombing civilian populations and launching asphyxiating gases: in May 1936 it will be able to turn the Negus’s resistance.

Faced with the sanctions of the League of Nations, Fascism declares Empire, throwing Europe off balance. In this new context, Italy approaches Hitler’s Germany, ceases to oppose the annexation of Austria: in October 1936 the Rome–Berlin axis is born. According to the agreements, Germany was entitled to the East, Italy to the Mediterranean.

This new alliance would be inaugurated on the occasion of the Spanish Civil War, where Mussolini sends 70,000 volunteers to support General Francisco Franco against Republican Spain.

In 1937, Italy left the League of Nations after signing anti-Soviet pacts with Germany and Japan.

In April 1939, Italy annexed Albania to its territories, and the following month stipulated the Pact of Steel with Germany, in which Italy and Germany pledged to enter the war on each other’s side even in case of aggressive conflicts.

However, when war broke out in September 1939, Italy lacked the resources to mount a serious war effort: for this reason, Italy would initially choose ‘non-aggression’.

Democracies can be defined as those regimes in which the illusion of being sovereign is given to the people from time to time.

Benito Mussolini and Fascism

  • From the March on Rome (October 1922) to the first months of 1923, Benito Mussolini establishes the Grand Council of Fascism, the country adopts a majority system with Acerbo legislation, and the Black Shirts are ‘framed’ as a voluntary militia.
  • In April 1924, thanks to the plank and many irregularities and threats, the fascists won the elections
  • On 10 June, Socialist deputy Giacomo Matteotti was assassinated after denouncing the irregularities of the elections. The opposition leaves parliament (the ‘Aventine Secession’), and the king does not intervene.
  • On January 3, 1925, Mussolini took charge of everything, and a difficult period of regime building began.
  • At the end of 1925, many freedoms of Italians (such as the press and the association) were now suppressed due to a series of measures for ‘national security’. In October the Confindustria makes an agreement with the fascist trade unions to the exclusion of all others.
  •           1926: Ban on strike
  •           1927: Corporate system was established with the Labor Charter. Labor contracts are now managed by the state.
  •           1928: Citizens can now accept (or reject, but without voting secrecy) only candidates proposed by the PNF in elections.
  •           1929: The Lateran Pacts confirm the Vatican’s support for the regime, which is required to rule together with the crown, the military, and industrialists.

      A fascist government becomes a dictatorship

  • Political dissidents are prosecuted, imprisoned, sent into internal exile, and sometimes sentenced to death.
  • Nonetheless, anti-fascism manages to survive both abroad and in Italy, despite harsh repression.
  • In the eyes of fascist regimes, there are not only political opponents but also original, non-conformist people who go against Catholic morality.
  • At the same time, the regime organizes the lives of Italians through paramilitary formations for everyone (children, teenagers, workers, women, etc.) and mass demonstrations.
  • There are the first anti-Jewish laws in 1936, since 1938, along with laws on the protection of the race, Jews can no longer attend school and work in the public sector.

      Fascist economic policy

  • The fascist economy begins with a ‘liberal’ phase aimed at foreign trade and reaches a balanced budget in 1925.
  • From 1926 Mussolini undertook to revalue the lira and focus on the national economy: the state intervened forcefully to directly control a range of industries.
  •  With the collapse of imports, a severe recession began in 1927, which became worse with the crisis of 1929.
  • At the same time, Mussolini undertook to make Italy a more agricultural country with the War of Cereals (1926) and land reform. The results will be good in some limited areas, less than expected in the rest of the country.
  • The policies of the 1930s increased GDP and industry but affected the popular classes (especially in the South).

      Role of the sport during fascism

  • Fascism gives the sport a very important and new role, but at the same time uses it as an element of propaganda.
  •  CONI is run by party men like Achille Starès
  • Fascism seeks to ‘fascist’ the champions
  • Initially, there was some openness towards women’s sports, but after the Lateran Pacts, the role of women became less and less limited.
  • Fascism also controlled amateur sports (notably through Fascist Saturdays from 1935).

      Fascist propaganda and the start of World War II

  • Fascist ‘modernization’ uses and disseminates means of mass communication such as cinema and radio. The Cinecittà, which opened in 1937, is the largest cinema house in Europe.
  • Passive dependence on public employment does not stimulate the social mobility of Italians.
  • The role of women during Fascism was essentially that of ‘mother and wife’.
  • From an architectural point of view, Fascism created high-end works, but also villages that segregated the Italian working classes, enriching building speculators.
  • Despite some provocations (such as the capture of Corfu in 1923), Mussolini seeks legitimacy in Europe
  • Italy needs the support of the other European powers and initially tries to mediate between Hitler and the other European powers.
  • Germany leaves the League of Nations in 1933 – Mussolini supports France and England
  • In 1935 Italy invaded Ethiopia, and in 1936 the League of Nations imposed sanctions on Italy, which reunited with Nazi Germany. The Rome-Berlin Axis is born

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