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13.2 The Rise and Fall of Dictatorship in Italy

Italian dictatorship assumed the name of Fascism. It was initiated by Benito Mussolini. Various causes led to the rise of Fascism in Italy. Italy was a disappointed victor of World War I, for it gained much less than it expected, at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. War had proved costly to Italy, draining it of its finances and forcing up the cost of living.

Various post-war problems arose in Italy. Italy faced bankruptcy, starvation, inflation and unemployment. Strikes and lockouts were posed by industrial workers. The middle class became impoverished. The democratic Italian government failed miserably to solve these diverse problems. Italy was tormented with disorder and confusion.

Italy was left crippled economically. The Russian Revolution of 1917 greatly influenced the Italian socialists. They planned a revolution to transplant the Soviet system into Italy. Therefore strikes, lockouts and riots became more frequent.

The Fascists denounced Liberalism, Communism and also Democracy. They also guaranteed the following benefits to the masses:

  1. Maximum hours of work and minimum wages for workers

  2. Immediate relief to industrialists from strikes

  3. Social security and patriotism

  4. Maintenance of law and order in the country

  5. National glory abroad

In March 1919, Benito Mussolini formed a political party. He named it the ’Fascisti’ after the Roman rods or fasces that were carried by the officers attending upon the ancient Roman Consuls before the chief magistrate of the state. They were emblems of authority at that time. The party consisted of ex-soldiers, industrialists, landlords, professional men, middle-class people and the intelligentsia.

A civil war in Italy lasted from 1920-21. This was between the Fascists and the radicals; the latter were finally eliminated by the Fascists. In October 1922, Mussolini issued an ultimatum in the Congress of Fascists, that either the reigns of government should be handed to them, or they would seize it by marching on Rome. King Victor Emmanuel III then invited Mussolini to form a government at Rome. He did so on October 30, 1922. Thus Mussolini came to power by constitutional means, through his Fascist party.

After becoming the Prime Minister, Mussolini demanded and obtained dictatorial powers from the National Parliament. This happened in 1923.

Mussolini’s Domestic Policy

After coming to power, Mussolini restored order and stability in the state. He eliminated any kind of opposition that appeared in every form.

Industrialists began to feel secure, since Mussolini banned industrial strikes. At the same time, workers were benefited by a ’Charter of Labor’ which guaranteed some basic rights to them. These included such rights as

  1. an eight-hour day,

  2. a weekly holiday,

  3. a compulsory employer’s contribution towards insurance against sickness, accidents and old-age benefits and

  4. no dismissal of workers, on grounds of illness.

Mussolini developed the concept of the ’Corporate State.’ He established six corporations of employers, six of workers and one of professionals. In 1934, a National Council of Corporations was formed to replace the Parliament itself.

Mussolini controlled all educational institutions by appointing only fascist teachers in schools, colleges and universities.

He revived and encouraged trade, commerce and industry. The greatest priority was given to the construction of railways and the shipbuilding industry. Banking and currency were regulated.

Finally, Mussolini signed the Lateran Treaties with the Pope of Rome, in 1929. These created the new state of the Vatican in Rome. The Roman Pope was recognized as its sovereign ruler.

Mussolini’s Foreign Policy

Mussolini had promised national glory abroad. To achieve this, he ordered universal conscription, and better arms and ammunition for the armed forces. These measures made the Italian army, navy and air force more efficient.

In 1923, Mussolini secured the island of Corfu (that was in Greece). He then acquired the port of Fiume on the Adriatic Sea. On October 2, 1935, Italy invaded Ethiopia (Abyssinia) in Africa, and annexed it on May 9, 1936. In October 1936, Italy and Germany formed a close alliance known as the Berlin-Rome Axis. In 1937, Italy joined the Anti-Comintern Pact against Russia.

Mussolini entered World War II on June 10, 1940. The Italian force suffered a severe defeat at the hands of the Allies. Italy surrendered officially, on September 3, 1943. This was the end of the Fascist dictatorship in Italy. Benito Mussolini was captured and shot dead by anti-Fascist Italians.

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Index

13.0 - Introduction
13.1 Causes of the Growth of Dictatorships in Europe
13.2 The Rise and Fall of Dictatorship in Italy
13.3 The Rise and Fall of Dictatorship in Germany
13.4 The Rise and Fall of Dictatorship in Spain
13.5 The Rise and Fall of Dictatorship in Portugal
13.6 Significance and Impact of Dictatorships in Europe
13.7 Dates & Events
13.8 Points to Remember

Chapter 14

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