Rise of Fascism In Italy
Italy prior to the first world war was had a prudently liberal government in partnership with the monarchy, however the war had major impact on the outlook the Italian people had towards their government. Many looked at the poor state in which their country was in and blamed the liberals for the issues that faced Italy at the time. Paring this with the fact that all coalitions at the time where made strategically for the benefit of those in charge where key factors in the liberals losing popularity at this time. Factors that the liberals failed to tackle included social, economic and political factors which where all in decline at the time. The lack of faith in the seemingly poorly run liberal government is what is said to have led to the rise of popularity towards the newly formed Fascist party at the time, “In this fashion, the Italian ruling classes paved the way for the seizure of power by a radical nationalism which then led to fascism, a political force forged in the experience of war.” (Baravelli, 2015)The way this party and Mussolini looked at solving different problems caused or left unsolved by the liberal government could be considered factors towards the rise of Fascism.
A factor Mussolini used to his advantage in the rise of Fascism is the fall of the Italian economy after the First World War. This effected the Italy through many different aspects one of the main being the effects of the First World War. After the war Italian economy had took a great hit due to the fact many of their previously thriving industries where no longer necessary as they did not need as much military grade assistance, like the weaponry they made. Mussolini made promises to combat this even though he had little experience with economics, he knew that this would aid him in the rise of Fascism and to power because the people of Italy where desperate for change. He looked to better the economy in order to boost his popularity and lower the unemployment rates which the liberals had failed to do, he took many different approaches to tackling this issue staring with taking on the Trade Unions and minimising their power allowing him to have control over the workers. This was effective in Mussolini and the Fascists gaining support as the majority of their support came from business owners who benefited from the trade union being tackled. Another economic factor could be that even though they were part of the allied forces Italy still had to pay substantial reparations after the war. This angered the Italian people as it caused high inflation further angering the people who could no longer afford food. Overall his success and promising offers to tackle the problem did provide Mussolini and the Fascist party support to help establish a fascist state.
A social factor that impacted the rise of fascism in Italy was Bienno Rosso which followed directly after the first world war while Italy was very unstable. During a two year time period there was unrest in Italy due to the labour government’s failure in keeping its promises to the Italian people as well as the rise of the Socialist party who in 1919 had reached 32% of the votes in Italy (Pike, 2011) which did not settle the people causing them to take matters into their own hands. “While spontaneous land occupations swept through the south, riots and lootings hit shopkeepers in the north and centre in the summer of 1919, and prices were cut by half throughout the country.” (Economic and political crisis the two red years, n.d.)
These forms of protest showed the difference between the north and south which accused the divide as the richer southern side used this chaotic time to build more business for themselves with the creation of factors and collection of land, the poorer northern side began protest in a more violent way looking for change. This effected fascism as the country was in a rebellion of sorts where either taking advantage of or showing their discontent with the current system and the troubles post war had caused for the Italian people. This helped with the rise of fascism as the public where looking for an out, a strong leader who could help build the country back up from the chaos that it had found itself in. Looking for a new reliable government that was promising to fix the problems that had caused such unrest and that is what the fascist party promised, new, reliable, and strong. Mussolini saw these growing problems in Italy and used his charismatic nature to persuade the people that he and his party could change that and the people of Italy where easily convinced as anything would have been considered better than what they had at this time. Another social factor was Mussolini’s tactical change in the importance of religion. Italian people at this time where predominately Roman Catholic in faith he believed the he could bring the country together under him through their religion. To appease the church and Pope Mussolini even went to the extent of having his own children baptised and marring his wife Rachele in a religious service to show his support of the church, as well as the restoration of churches throughout Italy, this convinced the pope that Mussolini had tried and succeeded to once again make Italy a ‘confessional state’ (Hughes-Harlett, 2014). Leading the Pope to publicly support Mussolini and his parties values. However, not all of the Italian people were catholic, so any progress they made in gaining support through this method also lost the Fascist party sway with other Religious groups. This though a downside this did not affect the part that much making Mussolini’s persuasion of the Vatican and Pope a key factor in the rise to Fascism.
An additional factor to Mussolini’s gain in popularity and the rise of fascism where political, his rise in the ranks of government took time and strategy but did assist to his rise in power. The Fascist party did not start with many seats in the government, only having 35 seats compared to the liberals 275 in 1921. Despite this fascism continued its rise to power in October 1922 with the March On Rome, organised by Mussolini where he, his supporters and the fascists army, Blackshirts, would march on the capital to gain attention from the government and King Victor Emmanuel the 3rd. During the march the government at the time, run by prime minister Luigi Facta had pushed for the king to sign a document which would turn this act into a state of siege and would allow the government to fight back against Mussolini however the king refused meaning no force could be used to stop Mussolini the reasons behind this decision are heavily debated “The reasons for Victor Emmanuel’s refusal have been debated; it has been suggested that he feared he would lose his throne if he refused to cooperate with the fascists, that he wanted to avoid civil war, and that he hoped to neutralize the fascists by associating them with the national government.” (March On Roma, 2019). This was a key factor in Mussolini and the Fascists party’s rise to power as not only allowed Mussolini to show his strength and commitment to his belief in the party . However, Mussolini did not take part in the entire march, he took the train for the majority of the journey only getting off only to take part in photo opportunities for propaganda this would have lost him respect among those who took part in the March as he involved in organising it. Overall this was a significant factor in Mussolini and the Fascists parties rise to power as it allowed to King to see Mussolini’s popularity ultimately gaining him the position as Prime Minister of Italy.
A final factor that lead to the rise of power of the Fascists party and Mussolini was his ideologies and plans for the future, which are referred to as incoherent ideology as it was not clear what he truly believed as he changed his mind so many times. Italy was in such a bad state after the first world war that any change brought hope to the people, Mussolini made promises that gave them optimism for the future as well as helping to remove the hold that the labour party had over the Italian government. Fascism offered a new state of government to combat the crisis state that the war left Italy in creating a more nationalistic viewpoint, in order to bring the country closer together and help with expanding of the nation. This pared with his strategic use of propaganda to make himself look appealing allowed the fascists to gain support in Mussolini’s and the fascist rise to power. However fascists where very anti trade union, and anti-Marxist, as well as anti any other party in or that could be in power, this would have lost them a lot of working class support as well as taking away any option of a coalition of sorts in government which was how Italy had previously run due to their reluctance to compromise any of their polices. This would make the ideology of fascism though a key factor in the rise to Fascism and Mussolini in power the lest effective of all the factors which lead to this.
To conclude, there where multiple factors that came to play in the Fascists rise to power all relying on the strength of Mussolini and his strategy for gaining control over Italian government. Mussolini’s use of his charismatic nature in gaining support via his use of propaganda and the extent he was willing to go to gain power, for example baptising his children to gain support form the church. This makes the statement provided accurate as the factors that effected Mussolini’s rise to power often heavily involved his charismatic personality. However, it did not always definitely ensure success so it can be assumed that it was not the only reason for Mussolini’s rise to power and the creation of the Fascists state.
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