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Benito Mussolini: First World War

Benito Mussolini: First World War

Benito Mussolini was born in Forli, Italy, in 1883. After working briefly as a schoolteacher, Mussolini fled to Switzerland in 1902 in an effort to evade military service.

Mussolini returned to Italy in 1904 and over the next ten years worked as a journalist and eventually became editor of Avanti. Mussolini was active in the socialist movement but moved to right in 1914 when the Italian government failed to support the Triple Alliance. In 1915 Mussolini resigned from the Socialist Party when it advocated support for the Allies in the First World War.

When Italy entered the war Mussolini served in the Italian Army and eventually reached the rank of corporal. After being wounded he returned to Milan to edit the right-wing Il Popolo d'Italia. The journal demanded that the Allies fully supported Italy's demands at the Paris Peace Conference.

After the war Mussolini attacked Vittorio Orlando for failing to achieve Italy's objectives at the Versailles Peace Treaty and helped to organize the various right-wing groups in Italy into the Fascist Party. After a series of riots in 1922 King Victor Emmanuel III appointed Mussolini in an attempt to prevent a communist revolution in Italy.

Mussolini headed a coalition of fascists and nationalists and parliamentary government continued until the murder of the socialist leader, Giacomo Matteotti in 1924. Left-wing parties were suppressed and in 1929 Italy became a one-party state. Mussolini also carried out an extensive public-works programme and the fall in unemployment made him a popular figure in Italy.

Italy controlled Eritrea and Somalia in Africa but had failed several times to colonize neighbouring Ethiopia. When Mussolini came to power he was determined to show the strength of his regime by occupying the country. In October 1935 Mussolini sent in General Pietro Badoglio and the Italian Army into Ethiopia.

The League of Nations condemned Italy's aggression and in November imposed sanctions. This included an attempt to ban countries from selling arms, rubber and some metals to Italy. Some political leaders in France and Britain opposed sanctions arguing that it might persuade Mussolini to form an alliance with Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Over 400,000 Italian troops fought in Ethiopia. The poorly armed Ethiopians were no match for Italy's modern tanks and aeroplanes. The Italians even used mustard gas on the home forces and were able to capture Addis Ababa, the capital of the country, in May 1936, forcing Emperor Haile Selassie to flee to England.

Adolf Hitler had been inspired by Mussolini's achievements and once he gained power in Germany he sought a close relationship with Italy. In October 1936 the two men signed a non-military alliance.

In 1939 Italy invaded Albania and soon afterwards Mussolini signed a full defensive alliance with Nazi Germany (the Pact of Steel). However, Mussolini did not declare war on Britain and France until 10th June 1940.

Mussolini already had over a million men in the Italian Army based in Libya. In neighbouring Egypt the British Army had only 36,000 men guarding the Suez Canal and the Arabian oilfields. On 13th September, 1940, Marshall Rodolfo Graziani and five Italian divisions began a rapid advance into Egypt but halted in front of the main British defences at Mersa Matruh.

In October 1940, Mussolini declared war on Greece. Attempts by the Italian Army to invade Greece ended in failure. The war was also going badly in North Africa. Although outnumbered, General Archibald Wavell ordered a British counter-offensive on 9th December, 1940. The Italians suffered heavy casualties and were pushed back more than 800km (500 miles). British troops moved along the coast and on 22nd January, 1941, they captured the port of Tobruk in Libya from the Italians.

By the end of 1941 Italy was totally dependent on Nazi Germany. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Galaezzo Ciano, became increasingly dissatisfied with the way Mussolini was running the country. After a series of heated arguments with Mussolini, Ciano resigned in February, 1943.

At the Casablanca Conference Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt discussed ways of taking Italy out of the war. It was eventually decided to launch an invasion of Sicily, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, south-west of Italy. It was hoped that if the island was taken Benito Mussolini would be ousted from power. It was also argued that a successful invasion would force Adolf Hitler to send troops from the Eastern Front and help to relieve pressure on the Red Army in the Soviet Union.

The operation was placed under the supreme command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. General Harold Alexander was commander of ground operations and his 15th Army Group included General George Patton (US 7th Army) and General Bernard Montgomery (8th Army). Admiral Andrew Cunningham was in charge of naval operations and Air Marshal Arthur Tedder was air commander.

On 10th July 1943, the 8th Army landed at five points on the south-eastern tip of the island and the US 7th Army at three beaches to the west of the British forces. The Allied troops met little opposition and Patton and his troops quickly took Gela, Licata and Vittoria. The British landings were also unopposed and Syracuse was taken on the the same day. This was followed by Palazzolo (11th July), Augusta (13th July) and Vizzini (14th July), whereas the US troops took the Biscani airfield and Niscemi (14th July).

General George Patton now moved to the west of the island and General Omar Bradley headed north and the German Army was forced to retreat to behind the Simeto River. Patton took Palermo on 22nd July cutting off 50,000 Italian troops in the west of the island. Patton now turned east along the northern coast of the island towards the port of Messina.

Meanwhile General Bernard Montgomery and the 8th Army were being held up by German forces under Field Marshal Albrecht Kesselring. The Allies carried out several amphibious assaults attempted to cut off the Germans but they were unable to stop the evacuation across the Messina Straits to the Italian mainland. This included 40,000 German and 60,000 Italian troops, as well as 10,000 German vehicles and 47 tanks.

The loss of Sicily created serious problems for Mussolini. It was now clear that the Allies would use the island as a base for invading Italy. A meeting of the Fascist Grand Council is held on 24th July and Galaezzo Ciano gets support for his idea that Italy should sign a separate peace with the Allies. The following day Victor Emmanuel III told Mussolini he was dismissed from office. His successor, Pietro Badoglio, declared martial law and placed Mussolini under arrest.

On 29th July 1943, Adolf Hitler had a meeting with Otto Skorzeny about the possibility of rescuing Benito Mussolini, imprisoned high in the Abruzzi Apennines. Skorzeny agreed and on 13th September he led an airbourne force of commandos to the hotel where he was being held. Mussolini was soon freed and Skorzeny flew him to safety.

Mussolini now set up the Salo Republic, a fascist regime in German-occupied northern Italy. His first was the arrest and execution of five of those who had voted against him on the Fascist Grand Council, including his son-in-law, Galaezzo Ciano.

On 18th May, 1944, Allied troops led by General Wladyslaw Anders (Polish Corps) and General Alphonse Juin (French Corps) captured Monte Cassino. This opened a corridor for Allied troops and they reached Anzio on 24th May. The German defence now began to disintegrate and General Harold Alexander ordered General Mark Clarkto trap and destroy the retreating 10th Army. Clark ignored this order and instead headed for Rome and liberated the city on the 4th June.

After the capture of RomePietro Badoglio resigned and Invanoe Bonomi formed a new government. In an attempt to bring the country together Bonomi's government included left-wing figures such as Benedetto Croce and Palmiro Togliatti.

The Allied armies now pursued the German 10th Army and took Grosseto (16th June), Assisi (18th June), Perugia (20th June), Florence (12th August), Rimini (21st September), Lorenzo (11th October) until being held on the Gothic Line in the northern Apennines. The arrival of winter weather meant that a renewed offensive did not begin until 9th April, 1945.

On 23rd April the 8th Army began to cross the River Po at Mantua. German resistance now began to collapse and Parma and Verona were taken and partisan uprisings began in Milan and Genoa.

With Allied troops approaching, Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci, attempted to escape to Switzerland. They were captured at Lake Como by Italian partisans on 27th April, 1945. The following day they were shot and their bodies displayed in public in Milan.

In the creation of a new State which is authoritarian but not absolutist, hierarchical and organic - namely, open to the people in all its classes, categories and interests - lies the great revolutionary originality of Fascism, and a teaching perhaps for the whole modern world oscillating between the authority of the State and that of the individual, between the State and the anti-State. Like all other revolutions, the Fascist revolution has had a dramatic development but this in itself would not suffice to distinguish it. The reign of terror is not a revolution: it is only a necessary instrument in a determined phase of the revolution.

The ignoble phenomenon of a dictatorship is a shameful blot on European civilization. Reactionary minds, which are indignant at red dictatorships, have only sympathy with 'white' dictatorships, which are equally, if not more bloodthirsty, no less brutal and unjustified by any ideal, even a false one.

The Fascist government abolished in Italy every safeguard of the individual and every liberty. No free man can live in Italy, and an immoral law prevents Italians from going to a foreign country on pain of punishment. Italy is a prison where life has become intolerable. Everything is artificial - artificial finance - artificial exchange - artificial public economy - artificial order - artificial calm.

Without a free parliament, a free press, a free opinion and a true democracy, there will never be peace.

He began coldly, in a voice northern and unimpassioned. I had never heard an Italian orator so restrained. Then he changed, became soft and warm, added gestures, and flames in his eyes. The audience moved with him. He held them. Suddenly he lowered his voice to a heavy whisper and the silence among the listeners became more intense. The whisper sank lower and the listeners strained breathlessly to hear. Then Mussolini exploded with thunder and fire, and the mob - for it was no more than a mob now - rose to its feet and shouted. Immediately Mussolini became cold and nordic and restrained again and swept his mob into its seats exhausted. An actor. Actor extraordinary, with a country for a stage, a great powerful histrionic ego, swaying an audience of millions, confounding the world by his theatrical cleverness.

Tell Chamberlain that if England is ready to fight in defence of Poland, Italy will take up arms with her ally, Germany.

If Germany attacks Poland and the conflict is localised, Italy will give Germany every form of political and economic aid which may be required.

If Germany attacks Poland and the allies of the latter counter-attack Germany, I must emphasize to you that I cannot assume the initiative of warlike operations, given the actual conditions of Italian military preparations which have been repeatedly and in timely fashion pointed out to you.

Fighters of the land, the sea and the air, Blackshirts of the revolutions and of the legions, men and women of Italy, of the Empire, and of the kingdom of Albania.

Listen - the hour marked out by destiny is sounding in the sky of our country. This is the hour of irrevocable decision. The declaration of war has already been handed to the Ambassadors of Britain and France.

We are going to war against the plutocratic and reactionary democracies of the West, who have hindered the advance and often threatened the existence even of the Italian people.

The events of quite recent history can be summarized in these words - half-promises, constant threats, Blackmail and finally as the crown of this ignoble edifice the League siege of the 52 States. This reference was to sanctions.

Our conscience is absolutely tranquil. With you the whole world is witness that the Italy of the lictor has done what was humanly possible to avoid the hurricane which is overwhelming Europe, but all was in vain.

It would have been enough to revise the treaties to adapt them to the vital demands of the life of nations, and not to regard them as infrangible throughout eternity.

It would have been enough not to have persisted in the policy of guarantees which have shown themselves to have been above all fatal for those who accepted them. It would have been enough not to have rejected the proposal which the Fuhrer made last October when the Polish campaign came to an end.

But all that belongs to the past. We are to-day decided to face all the risks and sacrifices of war. A nation is not really great if it does not regard its undertakings as sacred, and if it recoils them those supreme trials which decide the course of history.

We are taking up arms after having solved the problem of our land frontiers." he went on. We want to break off the territorial and military chains which are strangling us in our sea for a people of 45.000.000 inhabitants is not truly free if it has no free passage over the ocean.

The gigantic struggle is only a phase of the logical development of our revolution. It is the struggle of peoples poor, but rich in workers against the exploiters who fiercely hold on to all the wealth and all the gold of the earth. It is the struggle of the fruitful and young peoples against the sterile peoples on the threshold of their decline. It is the struggle between two centuries and two ideas.

Now that the die is east and we have our own will burned the bridges behind us. I solemnly declare that Italy does not intend to drag into the conflict other peoples who are her neighbours by sea and land. Let Switzerland, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Egypt, and Greece take note of these words of mine, for it will depend entirely on them whether they are fully confirmed or not.

At a memorable meeting that in Berlin - I said that according to the law of Fascist morality when one has a friend one stands by him to the end.

We have done that and we shall do it with Germany, with her people, and her victorious armed forces. On the eve of this event of historic importance we address our thoughts to his Majesty the King emperor and we salute equally the head of a allied Greater Germany.

And, for the personal point of view, if that be allowed to me, I can only say that when I joined the first Fascist movement in Britain on 6th December 1923 I saw that night in Battersea the mob violence, the Red Flags, the broken heads and the broken bodies, the typical evidence of the disruption which Communism can bring into a nation; and while I heard the dismal wail of the 'Red Flag' intoned by the sub-men out for blood, I thought of Mussolini and of what he had been able to do for Italy. I was not pro-Italian, I was merely pro-human; there were many millions of people throughout the world at about that time who had the same thoughts; and when I look back upon these 20 years I can only say that Mussolini has, in that period, become one of the greatest figures in history. The shades of the great Romans up to the time of Augustus, and unborn generations of Italian people, can pay homage to this great leader whose stature time can only increase.

Mussolini, with mistress, Clara Petacci, and twelve members of his Cabinet, were executed by partisans in a village on Lake Como yesterday afternoon, after being arrested in an attempt to cross the Swiss frontier. The bodies were brought to Milan last night. A partisan knocked at my door early this morning to tell me the news.

We drove out to the working-class quarter of Loreto and there were the bodies heaped together with ghastly promiscuity in the open square under the same fence against which one year ago fifteen partisans had been shot by their own countrymen.

Mussolini's body lay across that of Petacci. In his dead hand had been placed the brass ensign of the Fascist Arditi. With these fourteen were also the bodies of Farinacci and Starace, two former general secretaries of the Fascist party, and Teruzzo, formerly Minister of Colonies who had been caught elsewhere and executed by partisans.

Mussolini was caught yesterday at Dongo, Lake Como, driving by himself in a car with his uniform covered by a German greatcoat. He was driving in a column of German cars to escape observation but was recognised by an Italian Customs guard.

The others were caught in a neighbouring village. They include Pavolini, Barracu, and other lesser lights in Fascist world on whom Mussolini had to call in later days to staff his puppet Government.

This is the first conspicuous example of mob justice in liberated Italy. Otherwise the partisans have been kept well under control by their leaders. The opinion expressed this morning by the partisan C.-in-C., General Cadorna, son of the former field marshal, was that such incidents in themselves were regrettable. Nevertheless, in this case he considered the execution a good thing, since popular indignation against the Fascists demanded some satisfaction. The risk of protracted trials, such as has been taking place in Rome, was thus avoid.

"I was never close to him when he was high: I was always near him when he was down." With that weeping epitaph, Benito Mussolini's gray-haired widow summed up her life with the flamboyant Duce who left her for a younger, prettier mistress at the height of his Fascist power.

Pouring out her words between choking sobs, Donna Rachele revealed in an exclusive interview that she spoke to the doomed Duce by telephone only six hours before he was slain by a band of Italian partisans near Milan last April.

We spoke informally in the six-room apartment in an abandoned synthetic rubber factory where she and her two youngest children are being held in British protective custody. Throughout the interview, Donna Rachele defended her dead husband against every accusation - except his final infidelity with Clara Petacci, who shared his death and humiliation in the bloody public square in Milan.

For the red-haired Clara, Mrs. Mussolini had nothing but hatred and a fierce satisfaction that Benito's mistress was dead. Her eyes literally flashed when Clara's name was mentioned. She pushed herself far back in her chair, sat up straight and spat out: "They've done well to hang her. She was the only one around Mussolini who had anything really to do with the Germans."

Then speaking even more furiously and pounding the table before her she almost shouted: "Mussolini (she always referred to him that way) never had anything to do with women. He never let them have any influence over him. That was propaganda just to ruin him."

She trembled with anger and emotion as she spoke, but the frail widow, still attractive in spite of her 50 years, maintained her dignity, presenting a far different picture from the hulking, peasant-type woman I have been led to expect.


Benito Mussolini

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Benito Mussolini, in full Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini, byname Il Duce (Italian: “The Leader”), (born July 29, 1883, Predappio, Italy—died April 28, 1945, near Dongo), Italian prime minister (1922–43) and the first of 20th-century Europe’s fascist dictators.

How did Benito Mussolini rise to power?

While working for various labour organizations in Switzerland, Benito Mussolini made a name for himself as a charismatic personality and a consummate rhetorician. After returning to Italy, he amassed a large following while working as an editor for the socialist magazine Avanti!. His political beliefs took a hairpin turn to the right midway through World War I, when he stopped decrying the war effort and began advocating for it. After World War I he began organizing fasci di combattimento—nationalist paramilitary forces known for wearing black shirts. These groups began waging campaigns of terrorism and intimidation against Italy’s leftist institutions at his behest. In 1922 Mussolini and other fascist leaders organized a march on Rome with the intention of forcing the king to yield the government to Mussolini. It worked, and Mussolini was appointed prime minister that same year. By 1925 Mussolini had dismantled Italy’s democratic institutions and assumed his role as dictator, adopting the title Il Duce (“The Leader”).

What were Benito Mussolini’s political beliefs?

Benito Mussolini was Europe’s first 20th-century fascist dictator. But Mussolini’s political orientation didn’t always lean that way. His father was an ardent socialist who worked part-time as a journalist for leftist publications. In his initial overtures into politics, Mussolini’s beliefs took after his father’s: he spent time organizing with trade unions and writing for socialist publications in both Switzerland and Italy. Mussolini’s politics took a turn to the right midway through World War I, when he became a proponent for the war effort. It was during this period, and after, that the nationalist and anti-Bolshevik strands of thought that would characterize his later politics began to emerge. These politics included the themes of racial superiority, xenophobia, and imperialism that defined his actions as a dictator.

Where did the word fascism come from?

Benito Mussolini was Europe’s first 20th-century fascist dictator, and the word fascism comes from the far-right movement he led in Italy. Mussolini named the fasci di combattimento—paramilitary groups which were largely under his control and from which his movement derived its own name, fascismo—after the Latin word fasces, which was the bundle of wooden sticks topped with an axe-head that ancient Roman authority figures’ attendants would carry to distinguish their rank.

What was Benito Mussolini’s role in World War II?

Benito Mussolini was the less dominant half of the Rome-Berlin axis, formalized by the 1939 Pact of Steel between Adolf Hitler and himself. World War II broke out between Germany and the rest of Europe later that year, but Italy—its resources already stretched thin by preexisting economic issues and Mussolini’s Ethiopian conquest in 1935—was hesitant to join. Anxious that he would lose claim to conquered European lands as Hitler advanced, Mussolini entered the war in 1940. Italy fared poorly from the outset, with ignominious defeats in North Africa, Greece, and the Soviet Union. When the Allies touched down in Sicily in 1943, Mussolini’s own government arrested him.

What was Benito Mussolini’s personal life like?

Benito Mussolini was born to a poor family in Predappio, a town in northeastern Italy. His father was a blacksmith who wrote part-time as a socialist journalist, and his mother was a staunchly Catholic schoolteacher. As an adult, Benito Mussolini would have two wives and many mistresses. He had one child with his first wife, Ida Dalser, but would eventually abandon them and seek to hide them from the public eye. He would have five children—three boys and two girls—by another wife, Rachele Guidi. It was alongside his longtime mistress, Clara Petacci, that he died, however. The two were executed in 1943 by Italian partisans as they tried to escape to Switzerland, and their bodies were hung upside down in Milan.


Who's Who - Benito Mussolini

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini (1883-1945), Italy's fascist dictator from 1922-45, served for a time on the Italian Front during the First World War.

The son of a blacksmith, Mussolini worked as a teacher and journalist before turning to political agitation. Initially a socialist he resigned from the Italian Socialist Party in 1915 over its declared opposition to war against Austria-Hungary the party favoured neutrality while Mussolini was clear in his belief that support for the Allies could only serve to boost Italy's claim to recover lost Austro-Hungarian territory.

Having joined the Italian Army he saw service on the Isonzo before being wounded and returning home. Once back in Italy he resumed his journalistic activities, editing the Milan newspaper Il Popolo d'Italia. While out of the fighting personally he nonetheless remained firmly in favour of continued Italian participation in the war, and advocated suppression (through means of his journalism) of those who espoused anti-war rhetoric.

Mussolini's extreme right-wing views, while prominent, were secondary to those of the eccentric nationalist Gabriele D'Annunzio (with whom Mussolini took care to foster good relations even after the latter's rise to power).

In 1922 Mussolini, his influence in the ascendant, led a march upon Rome, which succeeded in destabilising the government. Asked to form an administration by King Vittorio Emanuele III in October 1922 the movement towards dictatorship was increasing he became Il Duce ('The Leader') some three years later.

Once Mussolini had assumed dictatorial powers a concerted effort was launched to mythologize his somewhat limited role in the First World War.

Mussolini - who was active overseas in the 1930s, a period which included the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 - led Italy for much of the Second World War, having carved an unequal alliance with Adolf Hitler's Germany.

Mussolini's fascist regime ultimately collapsed in 1945 he was murdered shortly thereafter.

Saturday, 22 August, 2009 Michael Duffy

A "salient" is a battle line that projects into territory nominally held by enemy forces.

- Did you know?


Sample History Paper on Benito Mussolini

Fascism is one of the ideological results of the 20 th century and is synonymous with Benito Mussolini’s political regime in Italy after WW1 in 1922. As narrated by Griffin, fascism represents a wide spectrum of radical as well as authoritarian nationalist political philosophies that are complex to define (21). It is a form of administration that has been centered on anti-democracy, anti-capitalism, anti-liberalism, anti-semitism, as well as anti-communism. As earlier mentioned, this type of form of governance was employed to full effect after World War One with Mussolini’s fascist regime in Italy and Hitler’s Nazi regime in Germany is the most studied.

European history analysts such as Laclau Ernesto argue that fascism is the consequence of the crisis that engulfed most European nations after World War 1. Over the years, studies have shown that fascism took various forms mainly Italian fascism, German Nazism, and Romanian legionaries however, the most cited form is the fascism of Italy. The liberal regime that was imposed in Italy after ‘The Great War’ did not represent the majority of the poor Italian public. As narrated by Poulantzas, it employed repressionary tactics against mass protests while serving the needs of the elite. In Germany, likewise, Nazism was a consequence of the First World War (212).

Benito Mussolini, a son to two anarchist activist parents who had republican beliefs, was born in a rural village in the Italian town called Predappio in 1883. With such a background, he grew up as a troublemaker, being expelled from several schools due to defiance and violence. Soon after joining the military service in 1903, he advanced his fascist visions on Italy and politics. After the ‘Great War’, the Italian economy went through a tough time, and eventually, the people sought different guidance, which came in the form of Mussolini and several others forming the National Fascist Party (NFP) in 1919. Three years after its formation, the NFP had not only received national recognition but was also the most popular party in the country. The party run under the promise that fascism was the solution to Italy’s economic problems. Through a dictatorship system, Mussolini quickly rose in popularity becoming Prime minister in the process as explained by Payne, this was the launch of fascism in Italy (12).

Despite some Germans having reservations against Hitler and his liberal activism, his party won the national elections promising to revitalize the economy. Hitler promised the German people a vigorous rearmament program that would see the financing of public works, which included the development of infrastructure such as highways as well as drainage of swamps for more agricultural farming opportunities. Hitler’s actins absorbed the unemployed and improved livelihoods. In 1939, Hitler and Mussolini became allies after the Italians invaded Ethiopia. The formation of the great triple alliance between Italy, Germany, and Austria-Hungary saw an astronomical growth of fascism as a favored form of governance.

As an idea, fascism is complex to evaluate because of several factors such as it is an amalgamation of adverse characteristics For instance, anti-bourgeois, anti-democratic, anti-capitalist, anti-liberalism, as well as anti-communist. As such, it is hard to know what it condemns and what it supports. Additionally, it is an eclectic ideology much like a religion as used by Hitler who asked for blind obedience from his supporters. Through the advancement of anti-liberalism as well as anti-democracy, fascism is centered on taking no notice to the citizens’ rights as well as freedom, subduing the political diversity, consequently upholding a single-party system. In both Italy and Germany, any critic who tried to question the government was punished, and any political competitor was crushed in case it tried to develop a new form of democracy. This meant that all the political power in the region was confined to a single leader, Benito Mussolini, in Italy and Adolf Hitler, in Germany. Lastly, fascism is formed on the premise of anti-rationalism it represses human rationality as well as intellectual life. Unlike socialism and liberalism that support the freedoms of citizens in the development of representative governance, fascism makes use of will and violence in writing the political doctrine. Additionally, fascism represents the demands of a political regime built on will and addressed to the soul, emotions, and instincts of the people, first promising the youth a better future before setting up to brainwash and repress them.

As earlier stated, a fascist regime is conventionally a totalitarian political system that is defined by organizing in addition to controlling the society by the power establishment principle through any means, counting the use of force. This system of governance seeks for complete submission of the individual or the society to the state authority. Benito Mussolini prearranged the ‘March of Rome’ a move that saw him receive significant political power through fascism. On the other hand, Adolf Hitler took advantage of Germany’s political instability in convincing the liberal regime to award the chancellor more supremacy than the president. He received more authoritative power from the state as the people saw the Nazi regime as a solution out of the crisis thus taking part in the destruction of major democratic aspects as well as acquiring all the control needed to become a fascist.

Griffin, Roger. The nature of fascism. Routledge, 2013.

Laclau, Ernesto. Politics and ideology in Marxist theory: Capitalism, fascism, populism. Verso Trade, 2012.

Paxton, Robert O. The anatomy of fascism. Vintage, 2007.

Payne, Stanley G. A history of fascism, 1914–1945. University of Wisconsin Pres, 1996.

Poulantzas, Nicos. Fascism and Dictatorship: The Third International and the problem of Fascism. Verso Books, 2019.


Mussolini criticized the Italian government for weakness at the Treaty of Versailles. Capitalizing on public discontent following World War I, he organized a paramilitary unit known as the "Black Shirts," who terrorized political opponents and helped increase Fascist influence.

As Italy slipped into political chaos, Mussolini declared that only he could restore order and was given the authority in 1922 as prime minister. He gradually dismantled all democratic institutions. By 1925, he had made himself dictator, taking the title "Il Duce" ("the Leader").

To his credit, Mussolini carried out an extensive public works program and reduced unemployment, making him very popular with the people.


The Fascist Party takes root

Meanwhile, Mussolini's views were almost the reverse of those he'd held as a younger man. He and his followers wanted to take advantage of the mood of dissatisfaction that dominated their country and take over the Italian government. In 1919, they joined with some other conservative groups to form the Fasci di Combattimento (Union for Struggle or Fighting Leagues), which eventually became the Fascist Party. Mussolini organized squads of black-shirted young men, most of them war veterans, who used violent force against people with differing opinions. They became an even more powerful force when they put an end to a large workers' strike.

Mussolini was becoming more and more captivated by the idea of personal power and less concerned about the rights of workers. He began to envision himself as a supreme ruler or dictator. In 1921, Mussolini won a seat in the Italian parliament (the branch of the government that makes laws). His supporters continued to use violence to terrorize their opponents, particularly Socialists and Communists, and the government did little to stop them.

By 1922, all of the social unrest and public fears that the Communists or Socialists might actually take over the country created a mood of anarchy (a state of lawlessness brought about by a lack of governmental control) in Italy. Then, claiming that someone had to bring order to the country, Mussolini and his Fascists threatened to "March on Rome." Attempting to avoid a complete takeover by the Fascists, Italy's King Victor Emmanuel III invited Mussolini to become the country's prime minister. The March on Rome turned into a celebration for all those who supported the Fascists.


The Gruesome Fate of Mussolini Will Terrify You

The evil leader tried to escape from his crumbilng empire but was eventually caught and executed.

Key point: Mussolini may had ridden some of the masses to power, but his people would turn on him as the war went sour. Here is how Italy took down its dictator and changed sides in World War II.

At 3 am on Sunday, April 29, 1945, a yellow furniture truck stopped at the Piazzale Loreto, a vast, open traffic roundabout where five roads intersected in the northern Italian city of Milan. This industrial center had been held for only four days by Communist partisans, but from 1919 on it had been the spiritual headquarters of the Fascist Party founded there by former journalist and World War I Army mountain corps veteran Benito Mussolini.

This first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

In a very real sense, his first political career, ended the day before by his demise, had now come full circle as Mussolini’s dead body was dumped from the van onto the wet cobblestones of the empty roundabout, followed by those of 16 other men and a lone female, his mistress since 1933, Claretta Petacci. All 18 people, their dead bodies thrown out by 10 men, had simply been murdered by Communist Party execution squads in hails of gunfire.

Without any sort of trial, 15 men were shot in the back at the town of Dongo on the shore of Lake Como, with Marcello Petacci slain in the water as he swam in vain for his life.

As for the Fascist Duce (Leader) and his lady, how, where, why, and by whom they were shot are all still unsolved mysteries even today. While the executions of the men were thinly disguised, politically motivated assassinations, the killing of Claretta Petacci was and remains a shameful, common criminal act by ruthless men who had power over her and wrongfully exercised it—no more and no less.

By 8 am, word had gotten around the city via a special newspaper edition as well as bulletins on Radio Free Milan that the hated Duce, revered just four months earlier at public rallies by this very same citizenry, was dead and available for scorn in the Piazzale Loreto. It was there, on August 13, 1944, that the Fascists, egged on by the German SS, had shot 15 partisans. This day’s butchery had been allegedly in revenge for that earlier deed.

A large, ugly, depraved, and nasty crowd of civilians and partisans gathered and quickly got out of control neither fire hoses nor bullets fired in the air could deter or disperse it.

Two men kicked the late Mussolini in the jaw while another put a pendant in his dead hand as a mock symbol of his lost power a woman fired five pistol shots into his head as retaliation, she asserted, for the same number of her dead sons, all slain in Il Duce’s series of imperialistic wars since 1935. A fiery rag was thrown in his face, his skull was cracked, and one of his eyes fell out of its socket.

Another woman hitched up her skirt, squatted down, and urinated on his face, which others spit on with abandon, while yet a third brought forth a whip with which to beat his battered corpse. A man tried to stuff a dead mouse into the former Italian premier’s slack, broken mouth, chanting all the while, “Make a speech now!” over and over again.

Pushed beyond hatred and emotional endurance, the angry mob stormed forward and actually trampled the 18 bodies where they lay.

When a burly man picked up the slain Duce by the armpits and held him for the throng to view, the latter chanted, “Higher! Higher! We can’t see! String them up! To the hooks, like pigs!” Thus it came to pass that the bodies of Il Duce, his mistress, and four others were tied with ropes and hoisted six feet off the ground, their dangling bodies lashed by the ankles to the crosspiece of an unfinished Standard Oil gas station that has long since disappeared.

As the sole female corpse was raised, the belle of that gruesome ball’s skirt fell downward around her face, revealing a panty-less torso to the taunts of the crowd. Some accounts say that a woman, others say a male partisan chaplain stepped forward and placed a rope taut around her legs, thus securing her skirt in place for the cameras of the world to film.

A woman gasped aloud, “Imagine, all that and not a run in her stockings!”

Il Duce’s face was blood splashed, and his famous mouth gaped open, while Claretta’s eyes stared dully into space. The former Fascist Party secretary, Achille Starace, dressed in a jogging suit for his daily run, was brought forth, faced the dead, and incredibly gave the stiff-armed Fascist salute to “My Duce!” He was then shot in the back by a four-man firing squad.

Just then, the rope holding the dead body of Francesco Barracu snapped, and his corpse hit the ground below with a sickening thud Starace was strung up in his place like a piece of meat beside the others. Next, Mussolini’s rope was cut, and he fell to the cobblestones on the top of his head, his brains oozing out onto the wet street.

At 1 pm, the combined protests of the Catholic cardinal of Milan and the just arriving American military government succeeded in having the bodies taken down, placed in plain wooden coffins, and sent to the city morgue.

There, the body of Mussolini was formally autopsied. The 5-foot, 6-inch tall Duce weighed 158 pounds, with sparse white hair on his battered, bald head. Because he was hit by seven to nine bullets while still alive, the immediate cause of death was determined to have been four shots near the heart. His stomach bore ulcer scars, but none of the long-rumored syphilis was visible. He had had a minor gall bladder problem, however.

Mussolini’s corpse was buried anonymously in Milan’s Musocco Cemetery in section 16, grave 384, while part of his brain was handed over for study to St. Elizabeth’s Psychiatric Hospital in Washington, D.C., and only returned to his widow, Donna Rachele, decades later.

Claretta had been killed by two 9mm bullets, which added to the mystery of the weaponry used. She was also buried in Milan under the name of Rita Colfosco and in 1956 was exhumed by the Petacci family, which had meanwhile returned to Italy from its Spanish exile at the end of the war. Today her remains rest in Rome’s Verano Cemetery in a pink marble tomb topped with a white marble statue. Rumor had it that her corpse had been retrieved to secure hidden gems sewn into the hem of her skirt.

The bloody killings and their gruesome aftermath horrified the world, but to the Italians the entire episode conjured up mainly postwar political connotations: to the beaten Fascists, the partisans had acted simply as “the Italian arm of the Red Army,” as the agents of Josef Stalin in Moscow while to the rest of the body politic, the events at the Piazzale Loreto symbolized the birth pangs of the coming socialist republic that even Mussolini himself would have supported over the monarchy that had both hired and fired him.

The final saga for Mussolini and Petacci began when Il Duce arrived in Milan at 7 pm on April 18, just ll days before his death, with Ms. Petacci, the eldest daughter of a former Vatican physician, following later. On the 21st, an American OSS plan to capture Mussolini by paratroopers was vetoed, while his own German Waffen SS battalion-sized escort was removed and sent to the front to fight the advancing Allies and Communist partisan forces.

Even some of his own Fascists, as well as Claretta’s larcenous brother Marcello, were plotting to have Mussolini murdered while suspicions were running deep among members of his circle that the Germans were planning to trade him to the Allies to save their skins.

The Catholic Church offered Il Duce asylum, as did several South American countries. He refused and vowed he would never surrender but instead would lead a Fascist last stand in the Valtellina region, on the far side of Lake Como.

When the betrayed Duce heard of German plans for a secret surrender of all Axis forces in northern Italy on April 25, he left Milan in a huff for the town of Como, 25 miles distant, trailed by his SS bodyguard chief, Lieutenant Fritz Birzer and Secret Police Lieutenant Otto Kisnatt, each ordered not to let him out of

their sight or to shoot him themselves if he tried to escape.

He did try—twice. He was now a man on the run, but why?

Although informed that neutral Switzerland would not accept him, his family, or any other Fascists, Mussolini nevertheless seemed to be headed there rather than, as he asserted, to a final battle that drew only 12 faithful soldiers.


The dictatorship of Mussolini before WW2

1923 Fascist patrolling the streets

The alliance between Mussolini and Hitler

In the beginning, Benito Mussolini disapproved of Adolf Hitler’s Germany. However, over time their partnership evolved, and Mussolini kind of embraced the anti-Semitic measures. Following Italy’s invasion in 1935 in Ethiopia, Germany was the second country that recognized Italy’s legitimacy over the African country. Mussolini was willing to incur international condemnation by allowing the use of asphyxiating chemicals to expedite the conquest of Ethiopia. In the following year, in 1936 both Mussolini and Hitler sided with Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War. In this, Mussolini provided 50,000 troops to sustain Francisco.

The following year, in 1937 Italy left the League of Nations in solidarity with Germany. Right after this, in 1938 Hitler invaded Austria with Mussolini’s support. The next year, in 1938 Benito Mussolini published an article that aligned Italians with the German concept of the Aryan race. This act was followed by the anti-Jewish law in Italy, where Hitler suggested that Mussolini’s act is apparently too weak. According to some resources, Mussolini originally wasn’t at all against the Jews, however, with the partnership with Hitler, this had to change. History has said, that Il Duce was actually prepared to increase their severity, and he called for the expulsion of foreign Jews from Italy.

When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, Britain and France declared war against Germany, but at this time, Mussolini remained neutral. Later on, when Germany invaded Denmark and Norway, Holland and Belgium, Mussolini was convinced that Hitler will win the war. On the 22nd of May, 1939 Italy and Germany signed the Pact of Steel, which officially created the Axis powers. In 1940 Japan joined this pact as well.

When the Germans invaded France, in June 1940 Mussolini announced Italy’s entrance into World War 2. While the Italian army was poor, and not ready for a war, Il Duce still decided to join. With this, on the 10th of June, 1940 Italy declared war on Great Britain and France


Dictatorship

Mussolini’s obvious pride in his achievement at becoming (October 31, 1922) the youngest prime minister in Italian history was not misplaced. He had certainly been aided by a favourable combination of circumstances, both political and economic but his remarkable and sudden success also owed something to his own personality, to native instinct and shrewd calculation, to astute opportunism, and to his unique gifts as an agitator. Anxious to demonstrate that he was not merely the leader of fascism but also the head of a united Italy, he presented to the king a list of ministers, a majority of whom were not members of his party. He made it clear, however, that he intended to govern authoritatively. He obtained full dictatorial powers for a year and in that year he pushed through a law that enabled the Fascists to cement a majority in the parliament. The elections in 1924, though undoubtedly fraudulent, secured his personal power.

Many Italians, especially among the middle class, welcomed his authority. They were tired of strikes and riots, responsive to the flamboyant techniques and medieval trappings of fascism, and ready to submit to dictatorship, provided the national economy was stabilized and their country restored to its dignity. Mussolini seemed to them the one man capable of bringing order out of chaos. Soon a kind of order had been restored, and the Fascists inaugurated ambitious programs of public works. The costs of this order were, however, enormous. Italy’s fragile democratic system was abolished in favour of a one-party state. Opposition parties, trade unions, and the free press were outlawed. Free speech was crushed. A network of spies and secret policemen watched over the population. This repression hit moderate Liberals and Catholics as well as Socialists. In 1924 Mussolini’s henchmen kidnapped and murdered the Socialist deputy Giacomo Matteotti, who had become one of fascism’s most effective critics in parliament. The Matteotti crisis shook Mussolini, but he managed to maintain his hold on power.

Mussolini was hailed as a genius and a superman by public figures worldwide. His achievements were considered little less than miraculous. He had transformed and reinvigorated his divided and demoralized country he had carried out his social reforms and public works without losing the support of the industrialists and landowners he had even succeeded in coming to terms with the papacy. The reality, however, was far less rosy than the propaganda made it appear. Social divisions remained enormous, and little was done to address the deep-rooted structural problems of the Italian state and economy.

Mussolini might have remained a hero until his death had not his callous xenophobia and arrogance, his misapprehension of Italy’s fundamental necessities, and his dreams of empire led him to seek foreign conquests. His eye rested first upon Ethiopia, which, after 10 months of preparations, rumours, threats, and hesitations, Italy invaded in October 1935. A brutal campaign of colonial conquest followed, in which the Italians dropped tons of gas bombs upon the Ethiopian people. Europe expressed its horror but, having done so, did no more. The League of Nations imposed sanctions but ensured that the list of prohibited exports did not include any, such as oil, that might provoke a European war. If the League had imposed oil sanctions, Mussolini said, he would have had to withdraw from Ethiopia within a week. But he faced no such problem, and on the night of May 9, 1936, he announced to an enormous, expectant crowd of about 400,000 people standing shoulder to shoulder around Piazza Venezia in Rome that “in the 14th year of the Fascist era” a great event had been accomplished: Italy had its empire. This moment probably marked the peak of public support for the regime.

Italy had also found a new ally. Intent upon his own imperial ambitions in Austria, Adolf Hitler had actively encouraged Mussolini’s African adventure, and under Hitler’s guidance Germany had been the one powerful country in western Europe that had not turned against Mussolini. The way was now open for the Pact of Steel—a Rome-Berlin Axis and a brutal alliance between Hitler and Mussolini that was to ruin them both. In 1938, following the German example, Mussolini’s government passed anti-Semitic laws in Italy that discriminated against Jews in all sectors of public and private life and prepared the way for the deportation of some 20 percent of Italy’s Jews to German death camps during the war.


Hitler to Mussolini: Fight harder!

On February 5, 1941, Adolf Hitler scolds his Axis partner, Benito Mussolini, for his troops’ retreat in the face of British advances in Libya, demanding that the Duce command his forces to resist.

Since 1912, Italy had occupied Libya because of purely economic 𠇎xpansion” motives. In 1935, Mussolini began sending tens of thousands of Italians to Libya, mostly farmers and other rural workers, in part to relieve overpopulation concerns in Italy. So by the time of the outbreak of the Second World War, Italy had enjoyed a long-term presence in North Africa, and Mussolini began dreaming of expanding that presence𠄺lways with an eye toward the same territories that the old “Roman Empire” had counted among its conquests.

Also sitting in North Africa were British troops, which, under a 1936 treaty, were garrisoned in Egypt to protect the Suez Canal and Royal Navy bases at Alexandria and Port Said. Hitler had offered to aid Mussolini early on in his North African expansion, to send German troops to help fend off a British counterattack. But Mussolini had been rebuffed when he had offered Italian assistance during the Battle of Britain. He now insisted that as a matter of national pride, Italy would have to create a Mediterranean sphere of influence on its own–or risk becoming a “junior” partner of Germany’s.

But despite expansion into parts of East Africa and Egypt, Mussolini’s forces proved no match for the Brits in the long run. British troops pushed the Italians westward, inflicting extraordinary losses on the Axis forces in an attack at Beda Fomm. As Britain threatened to push the Italians out of Libya altogether and break through to Tunisia, Mussolini swallowed his pride and asked Hitler for assistance. Hitler reluctantly agreed (it would mean the first direct German-British encounter in the Mediterranean)𠄻ut only if Mussolini stopped the Italians’ retreat and kept the British out of Tripoli, the Libyan capital. But the Italians continued to be overwhelmed in three months, 20,000 men were wounded or killed and 130,000 were taken prisoner. Only with the arrival of German Gen. Erwin Rommel would the Italian resistance be strengthened against further British advances. Even with Germany’s help, Italy was able to defend its North African territory only until early 1943.


Watch the video: Fascism and Mussolini. The 20th century. World history. Khan Academy (December 2021).