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Benito Mussolini

Benito Mussolini

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini ( italiano:  [beˈniːto aˈmilkare anˈdrɛːa mussoˈliːni] ; [1] 29 de julho de 1883 - 28 de abril de 1945) foi um político e jornalista italiano que fundou e liderou o Partido Nacional Fascista . Ele foi primeiro-ministro da Itália desde a Marcha sobre Roma em 1922 até sua deposição em 1943, e " Duce " do Fascismo Italiano desde o estabelecimento dos Fasces Italianos de Combate em 1919 até sua execução em 1945 por partisans italianos . Como ditadorda Itália e principal fundador do fascismo , Mussolini inspirou e apoiou a disseminação internacional dos movimentos fascistas durante o período entre guerras . [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

Benito Mussolini
Duce Benito Mussolini.jpg
Mussolini em 1930
Primeiro-ministro da Itália
No cargo
31 de outubro de 1922 - 25 de julho de 1943
Monarca Victor Emanuel III
Precedido por Luigi Facta
Sucedido por Pietro Badoglio
Duque da República Social Italiana
No cargo
23 de setembro de 1943 - 25 de abril de 1945
Duque do fascismo
No cargo
23 de março de 1919 - 28 de abril de 1945
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
5 February 1943 – 25 July 1943
Preceded by Galeazzo Ciano
Succeeded by Raffaele Guariglia
In office
20 July 1932 – 9 June 1936
Preceded by Dino Grandi
Succeeded by Galeazzo Ciano
In office
30 October 1922 – 12 September 1929
Preceded by Carlo Schanzer
Succeeded by Dino Grandi
Minister of the Colonies
In office
20 November 1937 – 31 October 1939
Preceded by Alessandro Lessona
Succeeded by Attilio Teruzzi
In office
17 January 1935 – 11 June 1936
Preceded by Emilio De Bono
Succeeded by Alessandro Lessona
In office
18 December 1928 – 12 September 1929
Preceded by Luigi Federzoni
Succeeded by Emilio De Bono
Minister of War
In office
22 July 1933 – 25 July 1943
Preceded by Pietro Gazzera
Succeeded by Antonio Sorice
In office
4 April 1925 – 12 September 1929
Preceded by Antonino Di Giorgio
Succeeded by Pietro Gazzera
Minister of the Interior
In office
6 November 1926 – 25 July 1943
Preceded by Luigi Federzoni
Succeeded by Bruno Fornaciari
In office
31 October 1922 – 17 June 1924
Preceded by Paolino Taddei
Succeeded by Luigi Federzoni
Member of the Chamber of Deputies
In office
11 June 1921 – 2 August 1943
Detalhes pessoais
Nascer
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini

(1883-07-29)29 de julho de 1883
Predappio , Reino da Itália
Faleceu 28 de abril de 1945 (1945-04-28)(61 anos)
Giulino di Mezzegra , Reino da Itália
Causa da morte Execução por fuzilamento
Lugar de descanso Cemitério de San Cassiano, Predappio , Itália
Partido politico Partido Nacional Fascista (1921-1943)

Outras afiliações políticas
Cônjuge(s)
( m.  1914; div.  1915 )
( m.  1915 )
Parceiro doméstico
Crianças
Pais)
Parentes família Mussolini
Profissão
  • Político
  • jornalista
  • romancista
  • professora
Assinatura
Serviço militar
Fidelidade Reino da Itália
Filial/serviço Exército Real Italiano
Anos de serviço 1915-1917 (ativo)
Classificação
Unidade 11º Regimento Bersaglieri
Batalhas/guerras

Mussolini era originalmente um político socialista e jornalista do Avanti! jornal . Em 1912, tornou-se membro da Direcção Nacional do Partido Socialista Italiano (PSI), [7] mas foi expulso do PSI por defender a intervenção militar na Primeira Guerra Mundial , em oposição à posição de neutralidade do partido. Em 1914, Mussolini fundou um novo jornal, Il Popolo d'Italia , e serviu no Exército Real Italiano durante a guerra até ser ferido e dispensado em 1917. Mussolini denunciou o PSI, seus pontos de vista agora centrados no nacionalismo italiano em vez do socialismo, e mais tarde fundou o movimento fascista que veio a se opor ao igualitarismo [8] e ao conflito de classes , ao invés defendendo o " nacionalismo revolucionário " transcendendo as linhas de classe . [9] Em 31 de outubro de 1922, após a Marcha sobre Roma (28-30 de outubro), Mussolini foi nomeado primeiro-ministro pelo rei Victor Emmanuel III , tornando-se o indivíduo mais jovem a ocupar o cargo até então. Depois de remover toda a oposição política por meio de sua polícia secreta e proibir as greves trabalhistas, [10] Mussolini e seus seguidores consolidaram o poder por meio de uma série de leis que transformaram a nação em uma ditadura de partido único.. Em cinco anos, Mussolini havia estabelecido autoridade ditatorial por meios legais e ilegais e aspirava criar um estado totalitário . Em 1929, Mussolini assinou o Tratado de Latrão com a Santa Sé para estabelecer a Cidade do Vaticano .

A política externa de Mussolini visava restaurar a antiga grandeza do Império Romano , expandindo as possessões coloniais italianas e a esfera de influência fascista. Na década de 1920, ele ordenou a Pacificação da Líbia , instruiu o bombardeio de Corfu sobre um incidente com a Grécia , estabeleceu um protetorado sobre a Albânia e incorporou a cidade de Fiume ao estado italiano por meio de acordos com a Iugoslávia. Em 1936, a Etiópia foi conquistada após a Segunda Guerra Ítalo-Etíope e fundida na África Oriental Italiana (AOI) com a Eritreia e a Somália . Em 1939, as forças italianasAlbânia anexada . Entre 1936 e 1939, Mussolini ordenou a bem-sucedida intervenção militar italiana na Espanha em favor de Francisco Franco durante a guerra civil espanhola . A Itália de Mussolini inicialmente tentou evitar a eclosão de uma segunda guerra global, enviando tropas ao Passo do Brenner para atrasar o Anschluss e participando da frente de Stresa , do Relatório Lytton , do Tratado de Lausanne , do Pacto das Quatro Potências e do Acordo de Munique . No entanto, a Itália então se alienou da Grã-Bretanha e da França, alinhando -se com a Alemanha e o Japão. Alemanhainvadiu a Polônia em 1 de setembro de 1939, resultando em declarações de guerra da França e do Reino Unido e o início da Segunda Guerra Mundial .

Em 10 de junho de 1940, Mussolini decidiu entrar na guerra do lado do Eixo. Apesar do sucesso inicial, o subsequente colapso do Eixo em várias frentes e a eventual invasão aliada da Sicília fizeram Mussolini perder o apoio da população e dos membros do Partido Fascista. Como consequência, no início de 25 de julho de 1943, o Grande Conselho do Fascismo aprovou uma moção de censura a Mussolini; mais tarde naquele dia, o rei Victor Emmanuel III o demitiu como chefe de governo e o colocou sob custódia, nomeando Pietro Badoglio para sucedê-lo como primeiro-ministro. Depois que o rei concordou com um armistício com os Aliados, em 12 de setembro de 1943, Mussolini foi resgatado do cativeiro no ataque de Gran Sasso pelos alemães . pára- quedistas e comandos Waffen-SS liderados pelo Major Otto-Harald Mors . Adolf Hitler , depois de se encontrar com o ex-ditador resgatado, então colocou Mussolini no comando de um regime fantoche no norte da Itália, a República Social Italiana ( italiano : Repubblica Sociale Italiana , RSI), [11] informalmente conhecida como a República Salò , causando uma guerra civil . No final de abril de 1945, após uma derrota quase total, Mussolini e sua amante Clara Petacci tentaram fugir para a Suíça, [12] mas ambos foram capturados por guerrilheiros comunistas italianos.e sumariamente executado por fuzilamento em 28 de abril de 1945 perto do Lago Como . Os corpos de Mussolini e sua amante foram então levados para Milão , onde foram pendurados de cabeça para baixo em uma estação de serviço para confirmar publicamente sua morte. [13]

Vida pregressa

vernacular stone building, birthplace of Benito Mussolini, now a museum
Local de nascimento de Benito Mussolini em Predappio ; o prédio agora abriga exposições sobre história contemporânea
O pai de Mussolini, Alessandro
A mãe de Mussolini, Rosa

Mussolini nasceu em 29 de julho de 1883 em Dovia di Predappio , uma pequena cidade na província de Forlì na Romagna . Mais tarde, durante a era fascista, Predappio foi apelidado de "cidade de Duce" e Forlì foi chamado de "cidade de Duce", com os peregrinos indo para Predappio e Forlì para ver o local de nascimento de Mussolini.

Benito Mussolini's father, Alessandro Mussolini, was a blacksmith and a socialist,[14] while his mother, Rosa (née Maltoni), was a devout Catholic schoolteacher.[15] Given his father's political leanings, Mussolini was named Benito after liberal Mexican president Benito Juárez, while his middle names, Andrea and Amilcare, were for Italian socialists Andrea Costa and Amilcare Cipriani.[16] In return the mother obtained that he be baptised at birth.[15] Benito was the eldest of his parents' three children. His siblings Arnaldo and Edvige followed.[17]

As a young boy, Mussolini would spend some time helping his father in his smithy.[18] Mussolini's early political views were strongly influenced by his father, who idolized 19th-century Italian nationalist figures with humanist tendencies such as Carlo Pisacane, Giuseppe Mazzini, and Giuseppe Garibaldi.[19] His father's political outlook combined views of anarchist figures such as Carlo Cafiero and Mikhail Bakunin, the military authoritarianism of Garibaldi, and the nationalism of Mazzini. In 1902, at the anniversary of Garibaldi's death, Mussolini made a public speech in praise of the republican nationalist.[20]

Mussolini foi enviado para um internato dirigido por monges salesianos . [15] Apesar de ser tímido, ele frequentemente entrava em conflito com professores e colegas internos devido ao seu comportamento orgulhoso, mal-humorado e violento. [15] Durante uma discussão, ele feriu um colega de classe com um canivete e foi severamente punido. [15] Depois de ingressar em uma nova escola não religiosa em Forlimpopoli , Mussolini obteve boas notas, foi apreciado por seus professores apesar de seu caráter violento e qualificado como professor primário em julho de 1901. [15] [21]

Emigração para a Suíça e serviço militar

Arquivo de reserva de Mussolini após sua prisão pela polícia em 19 de junho de 1903, Berna , Suíça

Em 1902, Mussolini emigrou para a Suíça, em parte para evitar o serviço militar obrigatório. [14] Ele trabalhou brevemente como pedreiro em Genebra, Friburgo e Berna , mas não conseguiu encontrar um emprego permanente.

Durante este tempo ele estudou as idéias do filósofo Friedrich Nietzsche , o sociólogo Vilfredo Pareto , e o sindicalista Georges Sorel . Mussolini também creditou mais tarde o socialista cristão Charles Péguy e o sindicalista Hubert Lagardelle como algumas de suas influências. [22] A ênfase de Sorel na necessidade de derrubar a democracia liberal decadente e o capitalismo pelo uso da violência, da ação direta , da greve geral e do uso de apelos neomaquiavélicos à emoção impressionou Mussolini profundamente. [14]

Mussolini tornou-se ativo no movimento socialista italiano na Suíça, trabalhando para o jornal L'Avvenire del Lavoratore , organizando reuniões, fazendo discursos aos trabalhadores e servindo como secretário do sindicato dos trabalhadores italianos em Lausanne . [23] Angélica Balabanov supostamente o apresentou a Vladimir Lenin , que mais tarde criticou os socialistas italianos por terem perdido Mussolini de sua causa. [24] Em 1903, ele foi preso pela polícia de Berna por causa de sua defesa de uma greve geral violenta, passou duas semanas na prisão e foi deportado para a Itália. Depois que ele foi solto lá, ele voltou para a Suíça. [25]Em 1904, tendo sido novamente preso em Genebra e expulso por falsificar seus papéis, Mussolini retornou a Lausanne, onde frequentou o Departamento de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lausanne , seguindo as lições de Vilfredo Pareto . [26] Em 1937, quando era primeiro-ministro da Itália, a Universidade de Lausanne concedeu a Mussolini um doutorado honorário por ocasião de seu 400º aniversário. [27]

Em dezembro de 1904, Mussolini retornou à Itália para aproveitar uma anistia por deserção dos militares. Ele havia sido condenado por isso à revelia . [28] Como uma condição para ser perdoado era servir no exército, ele se juntou ao corpo dos Bersaglieri em Forlì em 30 de dezembro de 1904. [29] Depois de servir por dois anos no exército (de janeiro de 1905 a setembro de 1906), ele voltou a ensinar. [30]

Jornalista político, intelectual e socialista

Em fevereiro de 1909, [31] Mussolini deixou novamente a Itália, desta vez para assumir o cargo de secretário do Partido Trabalhista na cidade de língua italiana de Trento , que na época fazia parte da Áustria-Hungria (agora está dentro da Itália). ). Ele também fez trabalho de escritório para o Partido Socialista local e editou seu jornal L'Avvenire del Lavoratore ( O Futuro do Trabalhador ). Voltando à Itália, passou um breve período em Milão e, em 1910, retornou à sua cidade natal de Forlì, onde editou o semanário Lotta di class ( The Class Struggle ).

Mussolini se considerava um intelectual e era considerado bem lido. Ele leu avidamente; seus favoritos na filosofia européia incluíam Sorel, o futurista italiano Filippo Tommaso Marinetti , o socialista francês Gustave Hervé , o anarquista italiano Errico Malatesta e os filósofos alemães Friedrich Engels e Karl Marx , os fundadores do marxismo . [32] [33] Mussolini aprendeu sozinho francês e alemão e traduziu trechos de Nietzsche, Schopenhauer e Kant .

Um retrato de Mussolini no início de 1900

Durante este tempo, ele publicou "Il Trentino veduto da un Socialista" (" Trentino como visto por um socialista") no periódico radical La Voce . [34] Ele também escreveu vários ensaios sobre literatura alemã, algumas histórias e um romance: L'amante del Cardinale: Claudia Particella, romanzo storico ( A Senhora do Cardeal ). Este romance ele co-escreveu com Santi Corvaja, e foi publicado como um livro de série no jornal Il Popolo de Trento . Foi lançado em parcelas de 20 de janeiro a 11 de maio de 1910. [35] O romance era amargamente anticlerical, e anos depois foi retirado de circulação depois que Mussolini fez uma trégua com o Vaticano. [14]

Ele havia se tornado um dos socialistas mais proeminentes da Itália. Em setembro de 1911, Mussolini participou de um motim, liderado por socialistas, contra a guerra italiana na Líbia . Ele denunciou amargamente a "guerra imperialista" da Itália, uma ação que lhe rendeu uma pena de prisão de cinco meses. [36] Após sua libertação, ele ajudou a expulsar Ivanoe Bonomi e Leonida Bissolati do Partido Socialista, pois eram dois " revisionistas " que haviam apoiado a guerra.

Ele foi recompensado com a editoria do jornal do Partido Socialista Avanti! Sob sua liderança, sua circulação logo subiu de 20.000 para 100.000. [37] John Gunther em 1940 o chamou de "um dos melhores jornalistas vivos"; Mussolini era um repórter trabalhador enquanto se preparava para a Marcha sobre Roma, e escreveu para o Hearst News Service até 1935. [24] Mussolini estava tão familiarizado com a literatura marxista que em seus próprios escritos ele não apenas citava obras marxistas conhecidas, mas também das obras relativamente obscuras. [38] Durante este período Mussolini se considerava um “ comunista autoritário ” [39] e um marxistae descreveu Karl Marx como "o maior de todos os teóricos do socialismo". [40]

Em 1913, ele publicou Giovanni Hus, il veridico ( Jan Hus, verdadeiro profeta ), uma biografia histórica e política sobre a vida e missão do reformador eclesiástico tcheco Jan Hus e seus seguidores militantes, os hussitas . Durante este período socialista de sua vida, Mussolini às vezes usava o pseudônimo "Vero Eretico" ("herege sincero"). [41]

Mussolini rejeitou o igualitarismo , uma doutrina central do socialismo. [8] Ele foi influenciado pelas idéias anti-cristãs de Nietzsche e pela negação da existência de Deus . [42] Mussolini sentiu que o socialismo havia vacilado, em vista das falhas do determinismo marxista e do reformismo social-democrata , e acreditava que as idéias de Nietzsche fortaleceriam o socialismo. Embora associado ao socialismo, os escritos de Mussolini eventualmente indicaram que ele havia abandonado o marxismo e o igualitarismo em favor do conceito übermensch e anti-igualitarismo de Nietzsche. [42]

Expulsão do Partido Socialista Italiano

Mussolini como diretor da Avanti!

Vários partidos socialistas inicialmente apoiaram a Primeira Guerra Mundial no momento em que começou em agosto de 1914. [43] Uma vez que a guerra começou, os socialistas austríacos, britânicos, franceses e alemães seguiram a corrente nacionalista crescente apoiando a intervenção de seu país na guerra. [44] A eclosão da guerra resultou em uma onda de nacionalismo italiano e a guerra foi apoiada por uma variedade de facções políticas. Um dos defensores nacionalistas italianos mais proeminentes e populares da guerra foi Gabriele d'Annunzio , que promoveu o irredentismo italiano e ajudou a influenciar o público italiano a apoiar a intervenção na guerra. [45] O Partido Liberal Italianosob a liderança de Paolo Boselli promoveu a intervenção na guerra ao lado dos Aliados e utilizou a Società Dante Alighieri para promover o nacionalismo italiano. [46] [47] Os socialistas italianos estavam divididos sobre apoiar a guerra ou se opor a ela. [48] ​​Antes de Mussolini tomar uma posição sobre a guerra, vários sindicalistas revolucionários anunciaram seu apoio à intervenção, incluindo Alceste De Ambris , Filippo Corridoni e Angelo Oliviero Olivetti . [49] O Partido Socialista Italianodecidiu se opor à guerra depois que manifestantes antimilitaristas foram mortos, resultando em uma greve geral chamada Semana Vermelha . [50]

Mussolini inicialmente manteve o apoio oficial à decisão do partido e, em um artigo de agosto de 1914, Mussolini escreveu "Abaixo a guerra. Permanecemos neutros". Ele viu a guerra como uma oportunidade, tanto para suas próprias ambições quanto para as dos socialistas e italianos. Ele foi influenciado por sentimentos nacionalistas italianos anti-austríacos , acreditando que a guerra oferecia aos italianos na Áustria-Hungria a chance de se libertar do domínio dos Habsburgos . Ele finalmente decidiu declarar apoio à guerra apelando para a necessidade de os socialistas derrubarem as monarquias Hohenzollern e Habsburgo na Alemanha e na Áustria-Hungria, que ele disse terem consistentemente reprimido o socialismo. [51]

1918 group photo of Arditi corps showing daggers and black uniforms
Membros do corpo Arditi da Itália em 1918 segurando punhais, um símbolo de seu grupo. O uniforme preto do Arditi e o uso do fez foram adotados por Mussolini na criação de seu movimento fascista.

Mussolini justificou ainda mais sua posição denunciando as Potências Centrais por serem potências reacionárias ; por perseguir desígnios imperialistas contra a Bélgica e a Sérvia, bem como historicamente contra a Dinamarca, a França e os italianos, uma vez que centenas de milhares de italianos estavam sob o domínio dos Habsburgos. Ele argumentou que a queda das monarquias Hohenzollern e Habsburgo e a repressão da Turquia "reacionária" criariam condições benéficas para a classe trabalhadora. Enquanto apoiava as potências da Entente, Mussolini respondeu à natureza conservadora da Rússia czaristaafirmando que a mobilização necessária para a guerra minaria o autoritarismo reacionário da Rússia e a guerra levaria a Rússia à revolução social. Ele disse que para a Itália a guerra completaria o processo de Risorgimento unindo os italianos na Áustria-Hungria na Itália e permitindo que o povo comum da Itália participasse da nação italiana no que seria a primeira guerra nacional da Itália. Assim, ele afirmou que as vastas mudanças sociais que a guerra poderia oferecer significavam que ela deveria ser apoiada como uma guerra revolucionária. [49]

À medida que o apoio de Mussolini à intervenção se solidificou, ele entrou em conflito com os socialistas que se opunham à guerra. Ele atacou os oponentes da guerra e afirmou que os proletários que apoiavam o pacifismo estavam fora de sintonia com os proletários que se juntaram à vanguarda intervencionista em ascensão que estava preparando a Itália para uma guerra revolucionária. Ele começou a criticar o Partido Socialista Italiano e o próprio socialismo por não terem reconhecido os problemas nacionais que levaram à eclosão da guerra. [9] Ele foi expulso do partido por seu apoio à intervenção.

Os trechos a seguir são de um relatório policial preparado pelo Inspetor-Geral de Segurança Pública de Milão, G. Gasti, que descreve seu histórico e sua posição sobre a Primeira Guerra Mundial que resultou em sua expulsão do Partido Socialista Italiano. O Inspetor Geral escreveu:

Professor Benito Mussolini, ... 38 anos, socialista revolucionário, tem ficha policial; professor do ensino fundamental habilitado para lecionar no ensino médio; ex-primeiro secretário das Câmaras em Cesena, Forlì e Ravenna; depois de 1912 editor do jornal Avanti! ao qual deu uma orientação violenta, sugestiva e intransigente. Em outubro de 1914, encontrando-se em oposição à direção do Partido Socialista Italiano porque defendia uma espécie de neutralidade ativa por parte da Itália na Guerra das Nações contra a tendência de neutralidade absoluta do partido, retirou-se no vigésimo daquele mês da diretoria da Avanti! Então, em quinze de novembro [1914], depois disso, ele iniciou a publicação do jornal Il Popolo d'Italia, no qual ele apoiou - em nítido contraste com Avanti! e em meio a acirradas polêmicas contra aquele jornal e seus principais patrocinadores — a tese da intervenção italiana na guerra contra o militarismo dos Impérios Centrais. Por isso foi acusado de indignidade moral e política e o partido decidiu então expulsá-lo... A partir daí ele... empreendeu uma campanha muito ativa em prol da intervenção italiana, participando de manifestações nas praças e escrevendo artigos bastante violentos em Popolo d'Italia ... [37]

Em seu resumo, o Inspetor também observou:

Ele era o editor ideal da Avanti!para os socialistas. Nessa linha de trabalho ele era muito estimado e amado. Alguns de seus ex-companheiros e admiradores ainda confessam que não houve quem entendesse melhor como interpretar o espírito do proletariado e não houve quem não observasse com tristeza sua apostasia. Isso aconteceu não por razões de interesse próprio ou dinheiro. Foi um defensor sincero e apaixonado, primeiro da neutralidade vigilante e armada, e depois da guerra; e não acreditava estar transigindo com sua honestidade pessoal e política ao fazer uso de todos os meios — não importa de onde viesse ou onde pudesse obtê-los — para pagar seu jornal, seu programa e sua linha de ação. Esta foi sua linha inicial.[52]

Início do fascismo e serviço na Primeira Guerra Mundial

standing photo of Mussolini in 1917 as an Italian soldier
Mussolini como soldado italiano, 1917

Depois de ser deposto pelo Partido Socialista Italiano por seu apoio à intervenção italiana, Mussolini fez uma transformação radical, terminando seu apoio ao conflito de classes e se unindo ao apoio ao nacionalismo revolucionário que transcende as linhas de classe. [9] Ele formou o jornal intervencionista Il Popolo d'Italia e o Fascio Rivoluzionario d'Azione Internazionalista (" Fasces Revolucionários de Ação Internacional") em outubro de 1914. [47] Seu apoio nacionalista à intervenção permitiu-lhe levantar fundos de Ansaldo ( uma empresa de armamentos) e outras empresas para criar Il Popolo d'Italiaconvencer socialistas e revolucionários a apoiar a guerra. [53] Mais financiamento para os fascistas de Mussolini durante a guerra veio de fontes francesas, começando em maio de 1915. Acredita-se que uma importante fonte desse financiamento da França tenha sido de socialistas franceses que enviaram apoio a socialistas dissidentes que queriam a intervenção italiana do lado da França. . [54]

Em 5 de dezembro de 1914, Mussolini denunciou o socialismo ortodoxo por não reconhecer que a guerra havia tornado a identidade e a lealdade nacionais mais significativas do que a distinção de classe. [9] Ele demonstrou plenamente sua transformação em um discurso que reconheceu a nação como uma entidade, uma noção que ele havia rejeitado antes da guerra, dizendo:

A nação não desapareceu. Costumávamos acreditar que o conceito era totalmente sem substância. Em vez disso, vemos a nação surgir como uma realidade palpitante diante de nós! ... A classe não pode destruir a nação. A classe se revela como uma coleção de interesses — mas a nação é uma história de sentimentos, tradições, língua, cultura e raça. A classe pode se tornar parte integrante da nação, mas uma não pode eclipsar a outra. [55]
A luta de classes é uma fórmula vã, sem efeito e consequência onde quer que se encontre um povo que não se integrou em seus próprios limites linguísticos e raciais – onde o problema nacional não foi definitivamente resolvido. Em tais circunstâncias, o movimento de classe se vê prejudicado por um clima histórico desfavorável. [56]

Mussolini continuou a promover a necessidade de uma elite revolucionária de vanguarda para liderar a sociedade. Ele não defendia mais uma vanguarda proletária, mas uma vanguarda liderada por pessoas dinâmicas e revolucionárias de qualquer classe social. [56] Embora denunciasse o socialismo ortodoxo e o conflito de classes, ele sustentava na época que era um socialista nacionalista e um defensor do legado de socialistas nacionalistas na história da Itália, como Giuseppe Garibaldi , Giuseppe Mazzini e Carlo Pisacane. Quanto ao Partido Socialista Italiano e seu apoio ao socialismo ortodoxo, ele afirmou que seu fracasso como membro do partido em revitalizá-lo e transformá-lo para reconhecer a realidade contemporânea revelou a desesperança do socialismo ortodoxo como ultrapassado e um fracasso. [57] Essa percepção do fracasso do socialismo ortodoxo à luz da eclosão da Primeira Guerra Mundial não foi sustentada apenas por Mussolini; outros socialistas italianos pró-intervencionistas, como Filippo Corridoni e Sergio Panunzio , também denunciaram o marxismo clássico em favor da intervenção. [58]

Mussolini como um bersagliere durante a Primeira Guerra Mundial

Essas visões e princípios políticos básicos formaram a base do movimento político recém-formado de Mussolini, o Fasci d'Azione Rivoluzionaria em 1914, que se autodenominava Fascisti (fascistas). [59] Naquela época, os fascistas não tinham um conjunto integrado de políticas e o movimento era pequeno, ineficaz em suas tentativas de realizar reuniões de massa, e era regularmente assediado por autoridades governamentais e socialistas ortodoxos. [60]O antagonismo entre os intervencionistas, incluindo os fascistas, contra os socialistas ortodoxos anti-intervencionistas resultou em violência entre os fascistas e os socialistas. A oposição e os ataques dos socialistas revolucionários anti-intervencionistas contra os fascistas e outros intervencionistas foram tão violentos que mesmo socialistas democráticos que se opunham à guerra, como Anna Kuliscioff , disseram que o Partido Socialista Italiano tinha ido longe demais em uma campanha de silenciar a liberdade de discurso dos partidários da guerra. Essas hostilidades iniciais entre os fascistas e os socialistas revolucionários moldaram a concepção de Mussolini sobre a natureza do fascismo em seu apoio à violência política. [61]

Mussolini tornou-se aliado do político e jornalista irredentista Cesare Battisti . [37] Quando a Primeira Guerra Mundial começou, Mussolini, como muitos nacionalistas italianos, se ofereceu para lutar. Ele foi rejeitado por causa de seu socialismo radical e disse para esperar por sua convocação de reserva. Ele foi convocado em 31 de agosto e apresentado ao serviço de sua antiga unidade, a Bersaglieri . Depois de um curso de atualização de duas semanas, ele foi enviado para a frente de Isonzo, onde participou da Segunda Batalha do Isonzo, em setembro de 1915. Sua unidade também participou da Terceira Batalha do Isonzo, em outubro de 1915. [62]

O inspetor-geral continuou:

Ele foi promovido ao posto de cabo "por mérito na guerra". A promoção foi recomendada por sua conduta exemplar e qualidade de luta, sua calma mental e despreocupação com o desconforto, seu zelo e regularidade no cumprimento de suas atribuições, onde sempre foi o primeiro em todas as tarefas que envolviam trabalho e coragem. [37]

A experiência militar de Mussolini é contada em sua obra Diario di guerra . No geral, ele totalizou cerca de nove meses de guerra de trincheiras ativa na linha de frente. Durante este tempo, ele contraiu febre paratifóide . [63] Suas façanhas militares terminaram em fevereiro de 1917 quando ele foi ferido acidentalmente pela explosão de um morteiro em sua trincheira. Ele ficou com pelo menos 40 fragmentos de metal em seu corpo e teve que ser evacuado pela frente. [62] [63] Ele recebeu alta do hospital em agosto de 1917 e retomou sua posição de editor-chefe em seu novo jornal, Il Popolo d'Italia . Ele escreveu artigos positivos sobre as Legiões da Checoslováquia na Itália.

Em 25 de dezembro de 1915, em Treviglio , ele contraiu um casamento com sua compatriota Rachele Guidi, que já lhe dera uma filha, Edda, em Forlì em 1910. Em 1915, ele teve um filho com Ida Dalser , uma mulher nascida em Sopramonte, uma aldeia perto de Trento. [21] [16] [64] Ele reconheceu legalmente este filho em 11 de janeiro de 1916.

Subir ao poder

Formação do Partido Nacional Fascista

Quando voltou do serviço nas forças aliadas da Primeira Guerra Mundial, muito pouco restava de Mussolini, o socialista. De fato, ele agora estava convencido de que o socialismo como doutrina havia sido um fracasso em grande parte. Em 1917, Mussolini começou na política com a ajuda de um salário semanal de £ 100 (o equivalente a £ 7.100 em 2020 ) do serviço de segurança britânico MI5 , para manter os manifestantes anti-guerra em casa e publicar propaganda pró-guerra. Esta ajuda foi autorizada por Sir Samuel Hoare , que estava destacado na Itália numa época em que a Grã-Bretanha temia a falta de confiabilidade daquele aliado na guerra e a possibilidade de o movimento antiguerra causar greves de fábrica. [65]No início de 1918, Mussolini pediu o surgimento de um homem "cruel e enérgico o suficiente para fazer uma limpeza geral" para reviver a nação italiana. [66] Muito mais tarde, Mussolini disse que, em 1919, "o socialismo como doutrina já estava morto; continuava a existir apenas como um rancor". [67] Em 23 de março de 1919, Mussolini reformulou o fascio de Milão como Fasci Italiani di Combattimento (Esquadrão de Combate Italiano), composto por 200 membros. [68]

the Fasci italiani di combattimento manifesto as published in Il Popolo d'Italia on 6 June 1919
A plataforma de Fasci italiani di combattimento , conforme publicado em " Il Popolo d'Italia " em 6 de junho de 1919
color map of Italy in red claimed by Fascists in the 1930s
Regiões étnicas italianas reivindicadas na década de 1930 pelo irredentismo italiano : * Verde: Nice , Ticino e Dalmácia * Vermelho: Malta * Violeta: Córsega * Savoy e Corfu foram posteriormente reivindicados

A base ideológica para o fascismo veio de várias fontes. Mussolini se baseou nas obras de Platão , Georges Sorel , Nietzsche e nas ideias econômicas de Vilfredo Pareto para desenvolver o fascismo. Mussolini admirava A República de Platão , que lia com frequência em busca de inspiração. [69] A Repúblicaexpôs uma série de ideias que o fascismo promoveu, como o governo por uma elite promovendo o estado como o fim último, oposição à democracia, proteção do sistema de classes e promoção da colaboração de classes, rejeição do igualitarismo, promoção da militarização de uma nação através da criação de uma classe de guerreiros, exigindo que os cidadãos desempenhem deveres cívicos no interesse do Estado e utilizando a intervenção do Estado na educação para promover o desenvolvimento de guerreiros e futuros governantes do Estado. [70] Platão era um idealista, focado em alcançar a justiça e a moralidade, enquanto Mussolini e o fascismo eram realistas, focados em alcançar objetivos políticos. [71]

A ideia por trás da política externa de Mussolini era a de spazio vitale (espaço vital), um conceito no fascismo italiano que era análogo ao Lebensraum no nacional-socialismo alemão. [72] O conceito de spazio vitale foi anunciado pela primeira vez em 1919, quando todo o Mediterrâneo , especialmente a chamada Marcha Juliana , foi redefinido para parecer uma região unificada que pertencia à Itália desde os tempos da antiga província romana da Itália . , [73] [74] e foi reivindicado como esfera de influência exclusiva da Itália. O direito de colonizar as áreas étnicas eslovenas vizinhase o Mediterrâneo, habitado por supostos povos menos desenvolvidos, justificava-se com o argumento de que a Itália sofria de superpopulação. [75]

Tomando emprestada a ideia desenvolvida por Enrico Corradini antes de 1914 do conflito natural entre nações " plutocráticas " como a Grã-Bretanha e nações "proletárias" como a Itália, Mussolini afirmou que o principal problema da Itália era que países "plutocráticos" como a Grã-Bretanha estavam impedindo a Itália de alcançar o necessário spazio vitale que permitiria o crescimento da economia italiana. [76] Mussolini equiparou o potencial de crescimento econômico de uma nação com o tamanho territorial, assim, em sua opinião, o problema da pobreza na Itália só poderia ser resolvido ganhando o necessário spazio vitale . [77]

Embora o racismo biológico fosse menos proeminente no fascismo italiano do que no nacional-socialismo , desde o início o conceito de spazio vitale tinha uma forte corrente racista. Mussolini afirmou que havia uma "lei natural" para povos mais fortes submeterem e dominarem povos "inferiores", como os povos eslavos "bárbaros" da Iugoslávia. Ele declarou em um discurso de setembro de 1920:

Ao lidar com uma raça como eslava - inferior e bárbara - não devemos perseguir a cenoura, mas a política da vara ... Não devemos ter medo de novas vítimas ... A fronteira italiana deve atravessar o Passo do Brenner , Monte Nevoso e os Alpes Dináricos  ... eu diria que podemos facilmente sacrificar 500.000 eslavos bárbaros por 50.000 italianos...

—  Benito Mussolini, discurso realizado em Pola , 20 de setembro de 1920 [78] [79]

Enquanto a Itália ocupou antigas áreas austro-húngaras entre os anos de 1918 e 1920, quinhentas sociedades "escravas" (por exemplo Sokol ) e um número ligeiramente menor de bibliotecas ("salas de leitura") foram proibidos, especificamente mais tarde com a Lei das Associações ( 1925), a Lei de Manifestações Públicas (1926) e a Lei de Ordem Pública (1926) - o fechamento do liceu clássico em Pazin, da escola secundária em Voloska (1918), e as quinhentas escolas primárias eslovenas e croatas se seguiram . [80] Mil professores "eslavos" foram exilados à força para a Sardenha e para o sul da Itália .

Mussolini na década de 1920

Da mesma forma, Mussolini argumentou que a Itália estava certa em seguir uma política imperialista na África porque via todos os negros como "inferiores" aos brancos. [81] Mussolini afirmou que o mundo estava dividido em uma hierarquia de raças ( stirpe , embora isso fosse justificado mais por motivos culturais do que biológicos), e que a história nada mais era do que uma luta darwiniana por poder e território entre várias "massas raciais". ". [81] Mussolini—junto com os movimentos de eugenia nos Estados Unidos , Reino Unido e outras nações coloniais europeias e europeias da mesma época, como o Brasil (cf.Propaganda do Perigo Amarelo ) - via as altas taxas de natalidade na África e na Ásia como uma ameaça à "raça branca" e muitas vezes fazia a pergunta retórica "Os negros e os amarelos estão à porta?" para ser seguido com "Sim, eles são!". Mussolini acreditava que os Estados Unidos estavam condenados, pois os negros americanos tinham uma taxa de natalidade mais alta do que os brancos, tornando inevitável que os negros tomassem os Estados Unidos para arrastá-los ao seu nível. [82] O próprio fato de que a Itália sofria de superpopulação era visto como prova da vitalidade cultural e espiritual dos italianos, que estavam assim justificados em procurar colonizar terras que Mussolini argumentava - em uma base histórica - pertenciam à Itália de qualquer maneira, que era o herdeiro do Império Romano . No pensamento de Mussolini,a demografia era o destino; nações com populações crescentes eram nações destinadas a conquistar; e nações com populações em declínio eram potências decadentes que mereciam morrer. Daí a importância do natalismo para Mussolini, pois somente aumentando a natalidade a Itália poderia garantir seu futuro como grande potência que conquistaria seu spazio vitale . Pelos cálculos de Mussolini, a população italiana tinha que chegar a 60 milhões para permitir que a Itália travasse uma grande guerra – daí suas demandas implacáveis ​​para que as mulheres italianas tivessem mais filhos para atingir esse número. [81]

Mussolini e os fascistas conseguiram ser simultaneamente revolucionários e tradicionalistas ; [83] [84] porque isso era muito diferente de qualquer outra coisa no clima político da época, às vezes é descrito, por alguns autores, como "A Terceira Via". [85] Os fascistas, liderados por um dos confidentes próximos de Mussolini, Dino Grandi , formaram esquadrões armados de veteranos de guerra chamados camisas negras (ou esquadrões).) com o objetivo de restaurar a ordem nas ruas da Itália com mão forte. Os camisas pretas entraram em confronto com comunistas, socialistas e anarquistas em desfiles e manifestações; todas essas facções também estavam envolvidas em confrontos entre si. O governo italiano raramente interferiu nas ações dos camisas negras, em parte devido a uma ameaça iminente e ao medo generalizado de uma revolução comunista. Os fascistas cresceram rapidamente; em dois anos eles se transformaram no Partido Nacional Fascista em um congresso em Roma. Em 1921 , Mussolini venceu a eleição para a Câmara dos Deputados pela primeira vez. [16] Nesse meio tempo, de cerca de 1911 até 1938, Mussolini teve vários casoscom a escritora e acadêmica judia Margherita Sarfatti , chamada na época a "Mãe Judia do Fascismo". [86]

Março em Roma

Mussolini and the Quadrumviri during the March on Rome in 1922
Mussolini e os Quadrumviri durante a Marcha sobre Roma em 1922: da esquerda para a direita: Michele Bianchi , Emilio De Bono , Italo Balbo e Cesare Maria De Vecchi

Na noite entre 27 e 28 de outubro de 1922, cerca de 30.000 camisas negras fascistas se reuniram em Roma para exigir a renúncia do primeiro-ministro liberal Luigi Facta e a nomeação de um novo governo fascista. Na manhã de 28 de outubro, o rei Victor Emmanuel III , que de acordo com o Estatuto Albertine detinha o poder militar supremo, recusou o pedido do governo para declarar a lei marcial, o que levou à demissão da Facta. O rei então entregou o poder a Mussolini (que permaneceu em seu quartel-general em Milão durante as negociações), pedindo-lhe para formar um novo governo. A controversa decisão do rei foi explicada pelos historiadores como uma combinação de delírios e medos; Mussolini gozou de amplo apoio nas forças armadas e entre as elites industriais e agrárias, enquanto o rei e o establishment conservador temiam uma possível guerra civil e finalmente pensavam que poderiam usar Mussolini para restaurar a lei e a ordem no país, mas não conseguiram prever o perigo de uma evolução totalitária. [87]

Nomeação como primeiro-ministro

Como primeiro-ministro, os primeiros anos do governo de Mussolini foram caracterizados por um governo de coalizão de direita composto por fascistas, nacionalistas, liberais e dois clérigos católicos do Partido Popular . Os fascistas constituíam uma pequena minoria em seus governos originais. O objetivo doméstico de Mussolini era o eventual estabelecimento de um estado totalitário com ele mesmo como líder supremo ( Il Duce ), uma mensagem que foi articulada pelo jornal fascista Il Popolo d'Italia , que agora era editado pelo irmão de Mussolini, Arnaldo. Para tanto, Mussolini obteve da legislatura poderes ditatoriais por um ano (legais sob a constituição italiana da época). Ele favoreceu a restauração completa da autoridade do Estado, com a integração dos Fasces de Combate italianos nas forças armadas (a fundação em janeiro de 1923 da Milícia Voluntária para a Segurança Nacional ) e a identificação progressiva do partido com o Estado. Na economia política e social, ele aprovou legislação que favoreceu as classes industriais e agrárias ricas (privatizações, liberalizações das leis de aluguel e desmantelamento dos sindicatos). [16]

Em 1923, Mussolini enviou forças italianas para invadir Corfu durante o incidente de Corfu . No final, a Liga das Nações mostrou-se impotente e a Grécia foi forçada a cumprir as exigências italianas.

Lei Acerbo

Socialist leader Giacomo Matteotti headshot in suit and tie
O líder socialista Giacomo Matteotti foi assassinado poucos dias depois de denunciar abertamente a violência fascista durante as eleições de 1924 .

Em junho de 1923, o governo aprovou a Lei Acerbo , que transformou a Itália em um único círculo eleitoral nacional. Também concedeu uma maioria de dois terços dos assentos no Parlamento ao partido ou grupo de partidos que recebeu pelo menos 25% dos votos. [88] Esta lei foi aplicada nas eleições de 6 de abril de 1924 . A aliança nacional , composta por fascistas, a maioria dos antigos liberais e outros, obteve 64% dos votos.

Violência Squadristi

O assassinato do deputado socialista Giacomo Matteotti , que havia solicitado a anulação das eleições por causa das irregularidades, [89] provocou uma crise momentânea no governo Mussolini. Mussolini ordenou um encobrimento, mas testemunhas viram o carro que transportava o corpo de Matteotti estacionado do lado de fora da residência de Matteotti, que ligava Amerigo Dumini ao assassinato.

Mussolini mais tarde confessou que alguns homens resolutos poderiam ter alterado a opinião pública e iniciado um golpe que teria varrido o fascismo. Dumini foi preso por dois anos. Em sua libertação, Dumini teria dito a outras pessoas que Mussolini era o responsável, pelo qual ele cumpriu mais tempo na prisão.

Os partidos da oposição responderam de forma fraca ou geralmente não responderam. Muitos dos socialistas, liberais e moderados boicotaram o Parlamento na Secessão Aventino , esperando forçar Victor Emmanuel a demitir Mussolini.

Em 31 de dezembro de 1924, os cônsules do MVSN se reuniram com Mussolini e lhe deram um ultimato: esmagar a oposição ou eles o fariam sem ele. Temendo uma revolta de seus próprios militantes, Mussolini decidiu abandonar toda pretensão de democracia. [90] Em 3 de janeiro de 1925, Mussolini fez um discurso truculento perante a Câmara no qual assumiu a responsabilidade pela violência dos esquadrões (embora não tenha mencionado o assassinato de Matteotti). [91] No entanto, ele não aboliu os esquadrões até 1927. [24]

Fascist Italy

Organizational innovations

German-American historian Konrad Jarausch has argued that Mussolini was responsible for an integrated suite of political innovations that made fascism a powerful force in Europe. First, he went beyond the vague promise of future national renewal, and proved the movement could actually seize power and operate a comprehensive government in a major country along fascist lines. Second, the movement claimed to represent the entire national community, not a fragment such as the working class or the aristocracy. He made a significant effort to include the previously alienated Catholic element. He defined public roles for the main sectors of the business community rather than allowing it to operate backstage. Third, he developed a cult of one-man leadership that focused media attention and national debate on his own personality. As a former journalist, Mussolini proved highly adept at exploiting all forms of mass media, including such new forms as motion pictures and radio. Fourth, he created a mass membership party, with free programs for young men, young women, and various other groups who could therefore be more readily mobilized and monitored. He shut down all alternative political formations and parties (but this step was not an innovation by any means). Like all dictators he made liberal use of the threat of extrajudicial violence, as well as actual violence by his Blackshirts, to frighten his opposition.[92]

Police state

Benito Mussolini seated portrait in suit and tie facing left
Mussolini in his early years in power

Between 1925 and 1927, Mussolini progressively dismantled virtually all constitutional and conventional restraints on his power and built a police state. A law passed on 24 December 1925—Christmas Eve for the largely Roman Catholic country—changed Mussolini's formal title from "President of the Council of Ministers" to "Head of the Government", although he was still called "Prime Minister" by most non-Italian news sources. 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.[93] On 31 October 1926, 15-year-old Anteo Zamboni attempted to shoot Mussolini in Bologna. Zamboni was lynched on the spot.[94][95] Mussolini also survived a failed assassination attempt in Rome by anarchist Gino Lucetti,[96] and a planned attempt by the Italian anarchist Michele Schirru,[97] which ended with Schirru's capture and execution.[98]

All other parties were outlawed following Zamboni's assassination attempt in 1926, though in practice Italy had been a one-party state since 1925 (with either his January speech to the Chamber or the passage of the Christmas Eve law, depending on the source). In 1928, 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 Sicilian 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.[99]

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.[100]

In accordance with the new electoral law, the general elections took the form of a plebiscite in which voters were presented with a single PNF-dominated list. According to official figures, the list was approved by 98.43% of voters.[101]

The "Pacification of Libya"

In 1919, the Italian state had brought in a series of liberal reforms in Libya that allowed education in Arabic and Berber and allowed for the possibility that the Libyans might become Italian citizens.[102] Giuseppe Volpi, who had been appointed governor in 1921 was retained by Mussolini, and withdrew all of the measures offering equality to the Libyans.[102] A policy of confiscating land from the Libyans to hand over to Italian colonists gave new vigor to Libyan resistance led by Omar Mukhtar, and during the ensuing "Pacification of Libya", the Fascist regime waged a genocidal campaign designed to kill as many Libyans as possible.[103][102] Well over half the population of Cyrenaica were confined to 15 concentration camps by 1931 while the Royal Italian Air Force staged chemical warfare attacks against the Bedouin.[104] On 20 June 1930, Marshal Pietro Badoglio wrote to General Rodolfo Graziani:

As for overall strategy, it is necessary to create a significant and clear separation between the controlled population and the rebel formations. I do not hide the significance and seriousness of this measure, which might be the ruin of the subdued population ... But now the course has been set, and we must carry it out to the end, even if the entire population of Cyrenaica must perish.[105]

On 3 January 1933, Mussolini told the diplomat Baron Pompei Aloisi that the French in Tunisia had made an "appalling blunder" by permitting sex between the French and the Tunisians, which he predicted would lead to the French degenerating into a nation of "half-castes", and to prevent the same thing happening to the Italians gave orders to Marshal Badoglio that miscegenation be made a crime in Libya.[106]

Economic policy

Mussolini launched several public construction programs and government initiatives throughout Italy to combat economic setbacks or unemployment levels. His earliest (and one of the best known) was the Battle for Wheat, by which 5,000 new farms were established and five new agricultural towns (among them Littoria and Sabaudia) on land reclaimed by draining the Pontine Marshes. In Sardinia, a model agricultural town was founded and named Mussolinia, but has long since been renamed Arborea. This town was the first of what Mussolini hoped would have been thousands of new agricultural settlements across the country. The Battle for Wheat diverted valuable resources to wheat production away from other more economically viable crops. Landowners grew wheat on unsuitable soil using all the advances of modern science, and although the wheat harvest increased, prices rose, consumption fell and high tariffs were imposed.[107] The tariffs promoted widespread inefficiencies and the government subsidies given to farmers pushed the country further into debt.

Inaugurazione Littoria with massed parade in 1932
The inauguration of Littoria in 1932

Mussolini also initiated the "Battle for Land", a policy based on land reclamation outlined in 1928. The initiative had a mixed success; while projects such as the draining of the Pontine Marsh in 1935 for agriculture were good for propaganda purposes, provided work for the unemployed and allowed for great land owners to control subsidies, other areas in the Battle for Land were not very successful. This program was inconsistent with the Battle for Wheat (small plots of land were inappropriately allocated for large-scale wheat production), and the Pontine Marsh was lost during World War II. Fewer than 10,000 peasants resettled on the redistributed land, and peasant poverty remained high. The Battle for Land initiative was abandoned in 1940.

In 1930, in "The Doctrine of Fascism" he wrote, "The so-called crisis can only be settled by State action and within the orbit of the State."[108] He tried to combat economic recession by introducing a "Gold for the Fatherland" initiative, encouraging the public to voluntarily donate gold jewelry to government officials in exchange for steel wristbands bearing the words "Gold for the Fatherland". Even Rachele Mussolini donated her wedding ring. The collected gold was melted down and turned into gold bars, which were then distributed to the national banks.

Government control of business was part of Mussolini's policy planning. By 1935, he claimed that three-quarters of Italian businesses were under state control. Later that year, Mussolini issued several edicts to further control the economy, e.g. forcing banks, businesses, and private citizens to surrender all foreign-issued stock and bond holdings to the Bank of Italy. In 1936, he imposed price controls.[109] He also attempted to turn Italy into a self-sufficient autarky, instituting high barriers on trade with most countries except Germany.

In 1943, Mussolini proposed the theory of economic socialization.

Railways

Mussolini was keen to take the credit for major public works in Italy, particularly the railway system.[110] His reported overhauling of the railway network led to the popular saying, "Say what you like about Mussolini, he made the trains run on time."[110] Kenneth Roberts, journalist and novelist, wrote in 1924:

The difference between the Italian railway service in 1919, 1920 and 1921 and that which obtained during the first year of the Mussolini regime was almost beyond belief. The cars were clean, the employees were snappy and courteous, and trains arrived at and left the stations on time — not fifteen minutes late, and not five minutes late; but on the minute.[111]

In fact, the improvement in Italy's dire post-war railway system had begun before Mussolini took power.[110][112] The improvement was also more apparent than real. Bergen Evans wrote in 1954:

The author was employed as a courier by the Franco-Belgique Tours Company in the summer of 1930, the height of Mussolini's heyday, when a fascist guard rode on every train, and is willing to make an affidavit to the effect that most Italian trains on which he travelled were not on schedule—or near it. There must be thousands who can support this attestation. It's a trifle, but it's worth nailing down.[113]

George Seldes wrote in 1936 that although the express trains carrying tourists generally—though not always—ran on schedule, the same was not true for the smaller lines, where delays were frequent,[110] while Ruth Ben-Ghiat has said that "they improved the lines that had a political meaning to them".[113]

Propaganda and cult of personality

Portrait of Mussolini

Mussolini's foremost priority was the subjugation of the minds of the Italian people through the use of propaganda. The regime promoted a lavish cult of personality centered on the figure of Mussolini. He pretended to incarnate the new fascist Übermensch, promoting an aesthetic of exasperated Machismo that attributed to him quasi-divine capacities.[114] At various times after 1922, Mussolini personally took over the ministries of the interior, foreign affairs, colonies, corporations, defense, and public works. Sometimes he held as many as seven departments simultaneously, as well as the premiership. He was also head of the all-powerful Fascist Party and the armed local fascist militia, the MVSN or "Blackshirts", who terrorized incipient resistance in the cities and provinces. He would later form the OVRA, an institutionalized secret police that carried official state support. In this way he succeeded in keeping power in his own hands and preventing the emergence of any rival.

Mussolini also portrayed himself as a valiant sportsman and a skilled musician. All teachers in schools and universities had to swear an oath to defend the fascist regime. Newspaper editors were all personally chosen by Mussolini, and only those in possession of a certificate of approval from the Fascist Party could practice journalism. These certificates were issued in secret; Mussolini thus skillfully created the illusion of a "free press". The trade unions were also deprived of any independence and were integrated into what was called the "corporative" system. The aim, inspired by medieval guilds and never completely achieved, was to place all Italians in various professional organizations or corporations, all under clandestine governmental control.

Benito Mussolini saluting crowd
From 1925, Mussolini styled himself Il Duce (the leader)

Large sums of money were spent on highly visible public works and on international prestige projects. These included as the Blue Riband ocean liner SS Rex; setting aeronautical records with the world's fastest seaplane, the Macchi M.C.72; and the transatlantic flying boat cruise of Italo Balbo, which was greeted with much fanfare in the United States when it landed in Chicago in 1933.

The principles of the doctrine of Fascism were laid down in an article by eminent philosopher Giovanni Gentile and Mussolini himself that appeared in 1932 in the Enciclopedia Italiana. Mussolini always portrayed himself as an intellectual, and some historians agree.[115] Gunther called him "easily the best educated and most sophisticated of the dictators", and the only national leader of 1940 who was an intellectual.[24] German historian Ernst Nolte said that "His command of contemporary philosophy and political literature was at least as great as that of any other contemporary European political leader."[116]

Culture

Benito Mussolini being cheered by Fascist Blackshirt youth in 1935
Benito Mussolini and Fascist Blackshirt youth in 1935

Nationalists in the years after World War I thought of themselves as combating the liberal and domineering institutions created by cabinets—such as those of Giovanni Giolitti, including traditional schooling. Futurism, a revolutionary cultural movement which would serve as a catalyst for Fascism, argued for "a school for physical courage and patriotism", as expressed by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1919. Marinetti expressed his disdain for "the by now prehistoric and troglodyte Ancient Greek and Latin courses", arguing for their replacement with exercise modelled on those of the Arditi soldiers ("[learning] to advance on hands and knees in front of razing machine gun fire; to wait open-eyed for a crossbeam to move sideways over their heads etc."). It was in those years that the first Fascist youth wings were formed: Avanguardia Giovanile Fascista (Fascist Youth Vanguards) in 1919, and Gruppi Universitari Fascisti (Fascist University Groups) in 1922.

After the March on Rome that brought Mussolini to power, the Fascists started considering ways to politicize Italian society, with an accent on education. Mussolini assigned former ardito and deputy-secretary for Education Renato Ricci the task of "reorganizing the youth from a moral and physical point of view." Ricci sought inspiration with Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, meeting with him in England, as well as with Bauhaus artists in Germany. The Opera Nazionale Balilla was created through Mussolini's decree of 3 April 1926, and was led by Ricci for the following eleven years. It included children between the ages of 8 and 18, grouped as the Balilla and the Avanguardisti.

Colorized photograph of Mussolini wearing the commander-in-chief uniform

According to Mussolini: "Fascist education is moral, physical, social, and military: it aims to create a complete and harmoniously developed human, a fascist one according to our views". Mussolini structured this process taking in view the emotional side of childhood: "Childhood and adolescence alike ... cannot be fed solely by concerts, theories, and abstract teaching. The truth we aim to teach them should appeal foremost to their fantasy, to their hearts, and only then to their minds".

The "educational value set through action and example" was to replace the established approaches. Fascism opposed its version of idealism to prevalent rationalism, and used the Opera Nazionale Balilla to circumvent educational tradition by imposing the collective and hierarchy, as well as Mussolini's own personality cult.

Another important constituent of the Fascist cultural policy was Roman Catholicism. In 1929, a concordat with the Vatican was signed, ending decades of struggle between the Italian state and the Papacy that dated back to the 1870 takeover of the Papal States by the House of Savoy during the unification of Italy. The Lateran treaties, by which the Italian state was at last recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, and the independence of Vatican City was recognized by the Italian state, were so much appreciated by the ecclesiastic hierarchy that Pope Pius XI acclaimed Mussolini as "the Man of Providence".[117]

The 1929 treaty included a legal provision whereby the Italian government would protect the honor and dignity of the Pope by prosecuting offenders.[118] Mussolini had had his children baptized in 1923 and himself re-baptized by a Roman Catholic priest in 1927.[119] After 1929, Mussolini, with his anti-Communist doctrines, convinced many Catholics to actively support him.

Foreign policy

In foreign policy, Mussolini was pragmatic and opportunistic. At the center of his vision lay the dream to forge a new Roman Empire in Africa and the Balkans, vindicating the so-called "mutilated victory" of 1918 imposed by the "plutodemocracies" (Britain and France) that betrayed the Treaty of London and usurped the supposed "natural right" of Italy to achieve supremacy in the Mediterranean basin.[120][121] However, in the 1920s, given Germany's weakness, post-war reconstruction problems and the question of reparations, the situation of Europe was too unfavorable to advocate an openly revisionist approach to the Treaty of Versailles. In the 1920s, Italy's foreign policy was based on the traditional idea of Italy maintaining "equidistant" stance from all the major powers in order to exercise "determinant weight", which by whatever power Italy chose to align with would decisively change the balance of power in Europe, and the price of such an alignment would be support for Italian ambitions in Europe and Africa.[122] In the meantime, since for Mussolini demography was destiny, he carried out relentless natalist policies designed to increase the birthrate; for example, in 1924 making advocating or giving information about contraception a criminal offense, and in 1926 ordering every Italian woman to double the number of children that they were willing to bear.[123] For Mussolini, Italy's current population of 40 million was insufficient to fight a major war, and he needed to increase the population to at least 60 million Italians before he would be ready for war.[124]

Mussolini inspecting troops during the Italo-Ethiopian War

In his early years in power, Mussolini operated as a pragmatic statesman, trying to achieve some advantages, but never at the risk of war with Britain and France. An exception was the bombardment and occupation of Corfu in 1923, following an incident in which Italian military personnel charged by the League of Nations to settle a boundary dispute between Greece and Albania were assassinated by bandits; the nationality of the bandits remains unclear. At the time of the Corfu incident, Mussolini was prepared to go to war with Britain, and only desperate pleading by the Italian Navy leadership, who argued that the Italian Navy was no match for the British Royal Navy, persuaded Mussolini to accept a diplomatic solution.[125] In a secret speech to the Italian military leadership in January 1925, Mussolini argued that Italy needed to win spazio vitale, and as such his ultimate goal was to join "the two shores of the Mediterranean and of the Indian Ocean into a single Italian territory".[125] Reflecting his obsession with demography, Mussolini went on to say that Italy did not at the present possess sufficient manpower to win a war against Britain or France, and that the time for war would come sometime in the mid-1930s, when Mussolini calculated the high Italian birth rate would finally give Italy the necessary numbers to win.[125] Subsequently, Mussolini took part in the Locarno Treaties of 1925, that guaranteed the western borders of Germany as drawn in 1919. In 1929, Mussolini ordered his Army General Staff to begin planning for aggression against France and Yugoslavia.[125] In July 1932, Mussolini sent a message to German Defense Minister General Kurt von Schleicher, suggesting an anti-French Italo-German alliance, an offer Schleicher responded to favorably, albeit with the condition that Germany needed to rearm first.[125] In late 1932–early 1933, Mussolini planned to launch a surprise attack against both France and Yugoslavia that was to begin in August 1933.[125] Mussolini's planned war of 1933 was only stopped when he learned that the French Deuxième Bureau had broken the Italian military codes, and that the French, being forewarned of all the Italian plans, were well prepared for the Italian attack.[125]

After Adolf Hitler came into power, threatening Italian interests in Austria and the Danube basin, Mussolini proposed the Four Power Pact with Britain, France and Germany in 1933. When the Austrian 'austro-fascist' Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss with dictatorial power was assassinated on 25 July 1934 by National-Socialist supporters, Mussolini even threatened Germany with war in the event of a German invasion of Austria. Mussolini for a period of time continued strictly opposing any German attempt to obtain Anschluss and promoted the ephemeral Stresa Front against Germany in 1935.

group portrait Edward Chamberlain, Édouard Daladier, Adolf Hitler, Mussolini, and Count Ciano, as they prepared to sign the Munich Agreement
From left to right: Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini, and Italian Foreign Minister Count Ciano, as they prepare to sign the Munich Agreement

Despite Mussolini's imprisonment for opposing the Italo-Turkish War in Africa as "nationalist delirium tremens" and "a miserable war of conquest",[24] after the Abyssinia Crisis of 1935–1936, in the Second Italo–Ethiopian War Italy invaded Ethiopia following border incidents occasioned by Italian inclusions over the vaguely drawn border between Ethiopia and Italian Somaliland. Historians are still divided about the reasons for the attack on Ethiopia in 1935. Some Italian historians such as Franco Catalano and Giorgio Rochat argue that the invasion was an act of social imperialism, contending that the Great Depression had badly damaged Mussolini's prestige, and that he needed a foreign war to distract public opinion.[126] Other historians such as Pietro Pastorelli have argued that the invasion was launched as part of an expansionist program to make Italy the main power in the Red Sea area and the Middle East.[126] A middle way interpretation was offered by the American historian MacGregor Knox, who argued that the war was started for both foreign and domestic reasons, being both a part of Mussolini's long-range expansionist plans and intended to give Mussolini a foreign policy triumph that would allow him to push the Fascist system in a more radical direction at home.[126] Italy's forces were far superior to the Abyssinian forces, especially in air power, and they were soon victorious. Emperor Haile Selassie was forced to flee the country, with Italy entering the capital city, Addis Ababa to proclaim an empire by May 1936, making Ethiopia part of Italian East Africa.[127]

Mussolini's personal standard a gold fasces on blue flag
Mussolini's personal standard

Confident of having been given free hand by French Premier Pierre Laval, and certain that the British and French would be forgiving because of his opposition to Hitler's revisionism within the Stresa front, Mussolini received with disdain the League of Nations' economic sanctions imposed on Italy by initiative of London and Paris.[128] In Mussolini's view, the move was a typically hypocritical action carried out by decaying imperial powers that intended to prevent the natural expansion of younger and poorer nations like Italy.[129] In fact, although France and Britain had already colonized parts of Africa, the Scramble for Africa had finished by the beginning of the twentieth century. The international mood was now against colonialist expansion and Italy's actions were condemned. Furthermore, Italy was criticized for its use of mustard gas and phosgene against its enemies and also for its zero tolerance approach to enemy guerrillas, authorized by Mussolini.[127] Between 1936 and 1941 during operations to "pacify" Ethiopia, the Italians killed hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian civilians, and are estimated to have killed about 7% of Ethiopia's total population.[130] Mussolini ordered Marshal Rodolfo Graziani "to initiate and systematically conduct a policy of terror and extermination against the rebels and the population in complicity with them. Without a policy of ten eyes to one, we cannot heal this wound in good time".[131] Mussolini personally ordered Graziani to execute the entire male population over the age of 18 in one town and in one district ordered that "the prisoners, their accomplices and the uncertain will have to be executed" as part of the "gradual liquidation" of the population.[131] Believing the Eastern Orthodox Church was inspiring Ethiopians to resist, Mussolini ordered that Orthodox priests and monks were to be targeted in revenge for guerrilla attacks.[131] Mussolini brought in Degree Law 880, which made miscegenation a crime punishable with five years in prison as Mussolini made it absolutely clear that he did not want his soldiers and officials serving in Ethiopia to ever have sex with Ethiopian women under any circumstances as he believed that multiracial relationships made his men less likely to kill Ethiopians.[131] Mussolini favored a policy of brutality partly because he believed the Ethiopians were not a nation because black people were too stupid to have a sense of nationality and therefore the guerrillas were just "bandits".[132] The other reason was because Mussolini was planning on bringing millions of Italian colonists into Ethiopia and he needed to kill off much of the Ethiopian population to make room for the Italian colonists just as he had done in Libya.[132]

The sanctions against Italy were used by Mussolini as a pretext for an alliance with Germany. In January 1936, Mussolini told the German Ambassador Ulrich von Hassell that: "If Austria were in practice to become a German satellite, he would have no objection".[133] By recognizing Austria was within the German sphere of influence, Mussolini had removed the principal problem in Italo-German relations.[133]

Mussolini and Hitler saluting troops
On 25 October 1936, an alliance was declared between Italy and Germany, which came to be known as the Rome-Berlin Axis.

On 11 July 1936, an Austro-German treaty was signed under which Austria declared itself to be a "German state" whose foreign policy would always be aligned with Berlin, and allowed for pro-Nazis to enter the Austrian cabinet.[133] Mussolini had applied strong pressure on the Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg to sign the treaty in order to improve his relations with Hitler.[133] After the sanctions against Italy ended in July 1936, the French tried hard to revive the Stresa Front, displaying what Sullivan called "an almost humiliating determination to retain Italy as an ally".[134] In January 1937, Britain signed a "Gentleman's Agreement" with Mussolini intended to limit Italian intervention in Spain, and was seen by the British Foreign Office as the first step towards creating an Anglo-Italian alliance.[135] In April 1938, Britain and Italy signed the Easter Accords under which Britain promised to recognise Ethiopia as Italian in exchange for Italy pulling out of the Spanish Civil War. The Foreign Office understood that it was the Spanish Civil War that was pulling Rome and Berlin closer together, and believed if Mussolini could be persuaded to disengage from Spain, then he would return to the Allied camp. To get Mussolini out of Spain, the British were prepared to pay such prices such as recognising King Victor Emmanuel III as Emperor of Ethiopia. The American historian Barry Sullivan wrote that both the British and the French very much wanted a rapprochement with Italy to undo the damage caused by the League of Nations sanctions, and that "Mussolini chose to ally with Hitler, rather than being forced…"[134]

Reflecting the new pro-German foreign policy on 25 October 1936, Mussolini agreed to form a Rome-Berlin Axis, sanctioned by a cooperation agreement with Nazi Germany and signed in Berlin. Furthermore, the conquest of Ethiopia cost the lives of 12,000 Italians and another 4,000 to 5,000 Libyans, Eritreans, and Somalis fighting in Italian service.[136] Mussolini believed that conquering Ethiopia would cost 4 to 6 billion lire, but the true costs of the invasion proved to be 33.5 billion lire.[136] The economic costs of the conquest proved to be a staggering blow to the Italian budget, and seriously retarded Italian efforts at military modernization as the money that Mussolini had earmarked for military modernization was instead spent in conquering Ethiopia, something that helped to drive Mussolini towards Germany.[137] To help cover the huge debts run up during the Ethiopian war, Mussolini devalued the lire by 40% in October 1936.[136] Furthermore, the costs of occupying Ethiopia was to cost the Italian treasury another 21.1 billion lire between 1936 and 1940.[136] Additionally, Italy was to lose 4,000 men killed fighting in the Spanish Civil War while Italian intervention in Spain cost Italy another 12 to 14 billion lire.[136] In the years 1938 and 1939, the Italian government took in 39.9 billion lire in taxes while the entire Italian gross national product was 153 billion lire, which meant the Ethiopian and Spanish wars imposed economically crippling costs on Italy.[136] Only 28% of the entire military Italian budgets between 1934 and 1939 was spent on military modernization with the rest all being consumed by Mussolini's wars, which led to a rapid decline in Italian military power.[138] Between 1935 and 1939, Mussolini's wars cost Italy the equivalent of US$500 billion in 1999 values, a sum that was even proportionally a larger burden given that Italy was such a poor country.[136] The 1930s were a time of rapid advances in military technology, and Sullivan wrote that Mussolini picked exactly the wrong time to fight his wars in Ethiopia and Spain.[136] At the same time that the Italian military was falling behind the other great powers, a full scale arms race had broken out, with Germany, Britain and France spending increasingly large sums of money on their militaries as the 1930s advanced, a situation that Mussolini privately admitted seriously limited Italy's ability to fight a major war on its own, and thus required a great power ally to compensate for increasing Italian military backwardness.[139]

From 1936 through 1939, Mussolini provided huge amounts of military support to the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War. This active intervention on the side of Franco further distanced Italy from France and Britain. As a result, Mussolini's relationship with Adolf Hitler became closer, and he chose to accept the German annexation of Austria in 1938, followed by the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in 1939. In May 1938, during Hitler's visit to Italy, Mussolini told the Führer that Italy and France were deadly enemies fighting on "opposite sides of the barricade" concerning the Spanish Civil War, and the Stresa Front was "dead and buried".[140] At the Munich Conference in September 1938, Mussolini continued to pose as a moderate working for European peace, while helping Nazi Germany annex the Sudetenland. The 1936 Axis agreement with Germany was strengthened by signing the Pact of Steel on 22 May 1939, that bound together Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in a full military alliance.

Members of TIGR, a Slovene partisan group, plotted to kill Mussolini in Kobarid in 1938, but their attempt was unsuccessful.

World War II

Gathering storm

portrait of Benito Mussolini in a helmet and uniform
Mussolini in a portrait

By the late 1930s, Mussolini's obsession with demography led him to conclude that Britain and France were finished as powers, and that it was Germany and Italy who were destined to rule Europe if for no other reason than their demographic strength.[141] Mussolini stated his belief that declining birth rates in France were "absolutely horrifying" and that the British Empire was doomed because one-quarter of the British population was over 50.[141] As such, Mussolini believed that an alliance with Germany was preferable to an alignment with Britain and France as it was better to be allied with the strong instead of the weak.[142] Mussolini saw international relations as a Social Darwinian struggle between "virile" nations with high birth rates that were destined to destroy "effete" nations with low birth rates. Mussolini believed that France was a "weak and old" nation as the French weekly death rate exceeded the birthrate by 2,000, and he had no interest in an alliance with France.[143]

Such was the extent of Mussolini's belief that it was Italy's destino to rule the Mediterranean because of Italy's high birth rate that he neglected much of the serious planning and preparations necessary for a war with the Western powers.[144] The only arguments that held Mussolini back from full alignment with Berlin were his awareness of Italy's economic and military unpreparedness, meaning he required further time to rearm, and his desire to use the Easter Accords of April 1938 as a way of splitting Britain from France.[145] A military alliance with Germany as opposed to the already existing looser political alliance with the Reich under the Anti-Comintern Pact (which had no military commitments) would end any chance of Britain implementing the Easter Accords.[146] The Easter Accords in turn were intended by Mussolini to allow Italy to take on France alone by sufficiently improving Anglo-Italian relations that London would presumably remain neutral in the event of a Franco-Italian war (Mussolini had imperial designs on Tunisia, and had some support in that country[147]).[146] In turn, the Easter Accords were intended by Britain to win Italy away from Germany.

Count Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini's son-in-law and foreign minister, summed up the dictator's foreign policy objectives regarding France in an entry of his diary dated 8 November 1938: Djibouti would have to be ruled in common with France; "Tunisia, with a more or less similar regime; Corsica, Italian and never Frenchified and therefore under our direct control, the border at the river Var."[148] As for Savoy, which was not "historically or geographically Italian", Mussolini claimed that he was not interested in it. On 30 November 1938, Mussolini invited the French ambassador André François-Poncet to attend the opening of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, during which the assembled deputies, at his cue, began to demonstrate loudly against France, shouting that Italy should annex "Tunis, Nice, Corsica, Savoy!", which was followed by the deputies marching into the street carrying signs demanding that France turn over Tunisia, Savoy, and Corsica to Italy.[149] The French premier, Édouard Daladier, promptly rejected the Italian demands for territorial concessions, and for much of the winter of 1938–39, France and Italy were on the verge of war.[150]

In January 1939, the British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, visited Rome, during which visit Mussolini learned that though Britain very much wanted better relations with Italy, and was prepared to make concessions, it would not sever all ties with France for the sake of an improved Anglo-Italian relationship.[151] With that, Mussolini grew more interested in the German offer of a military alliance, which had first been made in May 1938.[151] In February 1939, Mussolini gave a speech before the Fascist Grand Council, during which he proclaimed his belief that a state's power is "proportional to its maritime position" and that Italy was a "prisoner in the Mediterranean and the more populous and powerful Italy becomes, the more it will suffer from its imprisonment. The bars of this prison are Corsica, Tunisia, Malta, Cyprus: the sentinels of this prison are Gibraltar and Suez".[152]

The new course was not without its critics. On 21 March 1939 during a meeting of the Fascist Grand Council, Italo Balbo accused Mussolini of "licking Hitler's boots", blasted the Duce's pro-German foreign policy as leading Italy to disaster and noted that the "opening to Britain" still existed and it was not inevitable that Italy had to ally with Germany.[153] Though many gerarchi like Balbo were not keen on closer relations with Berlin, Mussolini's control of the foreign-policy machinery meant this dissidence counted for little.[153] Mussolini had a leading position within the Fascist Party, but he did not totally dominate it as Balbo's attack on Mussolini for "licking Hitler's boots" and his demand that the "opening to Britain" be pursued at the meeting of the Fascist Grand Council together with what the Greek historian Aristotle Kallis called Mussolini's "relatively restrained" response show—the Nazi Party had nothing equivalent to the Fascist Grand Council and it was inconceivable that one of Hitler's gauleiters would attack him in the same way that a gerarchi like Balbo criticized Mussolini.[153] In April 1939, Mussolini ordered the Italian invasion of Albania. Italy defeated Albania within just five days, forcing king Zog to flee and setting up a period of Albania under Italy. Until May 1939, the Axis had not been entirely official, but during that month the Pact of Steel treaty was signed outlining the "friendship and alliance" between Germany and Italy, signed by each of its foreign ministers.[154] The Pact of Steel was an offensive and defensive military alliance, though Mussolini had signed the treaty only after receiving a promise from the Germans that there would be no war for the next three years. Italy's King Victor Emanuel III was also wary of the pact, favoring the more traditional Italian allies like France, and fearful of the implications of an offensive military alliance, which in effect meant surrendering control over questions of war and peace to Hitler.[155]

Hitler was intent on invading Poland, though Ciano warned this would likely lead to war with the Allies. Hitler dismissed Ciano's comment, predicting instead that Britain and the other Western countries would back down, and he suggested that Italy should invade Yugoslavia.[156] The offer was tempting to Mussolini, but at that stage a world war would be a disaster for Italy as the armaments situation from building the Italian Empire thus far was lean. Most significantly, Victor Emmanuel had demanded neutrality in the dispute.[156] Thus when World War II in Europe began on 1 September 1939 with the German invasion of Poland eliciting the response of the United Kingdom and France declaring war on Germany, Italy did not become involved in the conflict.[156] However, when the Germans incarcerated 183 professors from Jagiellonian University in Kraków on 6 November 1939, Mussolini personally intervened to Hitler against this action, leading to the freeing of 101 Poles.[157]

War declared

Cover of Newsweek magazine, 13 May 1940, showing Mussolini saluting navy revue from shore, with headline "Il Duce: key man of the Mediterranean".
Cover of Newsweek magazine, 13 May 1940, headlined: "Il Duce: key man of the Mediterranean"

As World War II began, Ciano and Viscount Halifax were holding secret phone conversations. The British wanted Italy on their side against Germany as it had been in World War I.[156] French government opinion was more geared towards action against Italy, as they were eager to attack Italy in Libya. In September 1939, France swung to the opposite extreme, offering to discuss issues with Italy, but as the French were unwilling to discuss Corsica, Nice and Savoy, Mussolini did not answer.[156] Mussolini's Under-Secretary for War Production, Carlo Favagrossa, had estimated that Italy could not be prepared for major military operations until 1942 due to its relatively weak industrial sector compared to western Europe.[158] In late November 1939, Adolf Hitler declared: "So long as the Duce lives, one can rest assured that Italy will seize every opportunity to achieve its imperialistic aims."[156]

Convinced that the war would soon be over, with a German victory looking likely at that point, Mussolini decided to enter the war on the Axis side. Accordingly, Italy declared war on Britain and France on 10 June 1940. Mussolini regarded the war against Britain and France as a life-or-death struggle between opposing ideologies—fascism and the "plutocratic and reactionary democracies of the west"—describing the war as "the struggle of the fertile and young people against the sterile people moving to the sunset; it is the struggle between two centuries and two ideas", and as a "logical development of our Revolution".[159]

Italy joined the Germans in the Battle of France, fighting the fortified Alpine Line at the border. Just eleven days later, France and Germany signed an armistice. Included in Italian-controlled France were most of Nice and other southeastern counties.[160] Mussolini planned to concentrate Italian forces on a major offensive against the British Empire in Africa and the Middle East, known as the "parallel war", while expecting the collapse of the UK in the European theatre. The Italians invaded Egypt, bombed Mandatory Palestine, and attacked the British in their Sudan, Kenya and British Somaliland colonies (in what would become known as the East African Campaign);[161] British Somaliland was conquered and became part of Italian East Africa on 3 August 1940, and there were Italian advances in the Sudan and Kenya with initial success.[162] The British government refused to accept proposals for a peace that would involve accepting Axis victories in Europe; plans for an invasion of the UK did not proceed and the war continued.

Path to defeat

official portrait of Mussolini in uniform with crossed arms
Mussolini in an official portrait

In September 1940, the Italian Tenth Army was commanded by General Rodolfo Graziani and crossed from Italian Libya into Egypt, where British forces were located; this would become the Western Desert Campaign. Advances were successful, but the Italians stopped at Sidi Barrani waiting for logistic supplies to catch up. On 24 October 1940, Mussolini sent the Italian Air Corps to Belgium, where it took part in the Blitz until January 1941.[163] In October, Mussolini also sent Italian forces into Greece, starting the Greco-Italian War. The Royal Air Force prevented the Italian invasion and allowed the Greeks to push the Italians back to Albania, but the Greek counter-offensive in Italian Albania ended in a stalemate.[164]

Events in Africa had changed by early 1941 as Operation Compass had forced the Italians back into Libya, causing high losses in the Italian Army.[165] Also in the East African Campaign, an attack was mounted against Italian forces. Despite putting up some resistance, they were overwhelmed at the Battle of Keren, and the Italian defense started to crumble with a final defeat in the Battle of Gondar. When addressing the Italian public on the events, Mussolini was completely open about the situation, saying "We call bread bread and wine wine, and when the enemy wins a battle it is useless and ridiculous to seek, as the English do in their incomparable hypocrisy, to deny or diminish it."[166] With the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia and the Balkans, Italy annexed Ljubljana, Dalmatia and Montenegro, and established the puppet states of Croatia and the Hellenic State.

General Mario Robotti, Commander of the Italian 11th division in Slovenia and Croatia, issued an order in line with a directive received from Mussolini in June 1942: "I would not be opposed to all (sic) Slovenes being imprisoned and replaced by Italians. In other words, we should take steps to ensure that political and ethnic frontiers coincide".[167]

Mussolini first learned of Operation Barbarossa after the invasion of the Soviet Union had begun on 22 June 1941, and was not asked by Hitler to involve himself.[168] On 25 June 1941, he inspected the first units at Verona, which served as his launching pad to Russia.[169] Mussolini told the Council of Ministers of 5 July that his only worry was that Germany might defeat the Soviet Union before the Italians arrived.[170] At a meeting with Hitler in August, Mussolini offered and Hitler accepted the commitment of further Italian troops to fight the Soviet Union.[171] The heavy losses suffered by the Italians on the Eastern Front, where service was extremely unpopular owing to the widespread view that this was not Italy's fight, did much to damage Mussolini's prestige with the Italian people.[171] After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he declared war on the United States on 11 December 1941.[172][173] A piece of evidence regarding Mussolini's response to the attack on Pearl Harbor comes from the diary of his Foreign Minister Ciano:

A night telephone call from Ribbentrop. He is overjoyed about the Japanese attack on America. He is so happy about it that I am happy with him, though I am not too sure about the final advantages of what has happened. One thing is now certain, that America will enter the conflict and that the conflict will be so long that she will be able to realize all her potential forces. This morning I told this to the King who had been pleased about the event. He ended by admitting that, in the long run, I may be right. Mussolini was happy, too. For a long time he has favored a definite clarification of relations between America and the Axis.[174]

Following Vichy France's collapse and the Case Anton, Italy occupied the French territories of Corsica and Tunisia. Italian forces had also achieved victories against insurgents in Yugoslavia and in Montenegro, and Italo-German forces had occupied parts of British-held Egypt on their push to El-Alamein after their victory at Gazala.

Although Mussolini was aware that Italy, whose resources were reduced by the campaigns of the 1930s, was not ready for a long war, he opted to remain in the conflict to not abandon the occupied territories and the fascist imperial ambitions.[175]

Dismissed and arrested

Marshal Pietro Badoglio standing in uniform
Marshal Pietro Badoglio succeeded Mussolini as Prime Minister.

By 1943, Italy's military position had become untenable. Axis forces in North Africa were finally defeated in the Tunisia Campaign in early 1943. Italy suffered major setbacks on the Eastern Front as well. The Allied invasion of Sicily brought the war to the nation's very doorstep.[11] The Italian home front was also in bad shape as the Allied bombings were taking their toll. Factories all over Italy were brought to a virtual standstill because raw materials, such as coal and oil, were lacking. Additionally, there was a chronic shortage of food, and what food was available was being sold at nearly confiscatory prices. Mussolini's once-ubiquitous propaganda machine lost its grip on the people; a large number of Italians turned to Vatican Radio or Radio London for more accurate news coverage. Discontent came to a head in March 1943 with a wave of labor strikes in the industrial north—the first large-scale strikes since 1925.[176] Also in March, some of the major factories in Milan and Turin stopped production to secure evacuation allowances for workers' families. The German presence in Italy had sharply turned public opinion against Mussolini; for example, when the Allies invaded Sicily, the majority of the public there welcomed them as liberators.[177]

Mussolini feared that with Allied victory in North Africa, Allied armies would come across the Mediterranean and attack Italy. In April 1943, as the Allies closed into Tunisia, Mussolini had urged Hitler to make a separate peace with the USSR and send German troops to the west to guard against an expected Allied invasion of Italy. The Allies landed in Sicily on 10 July 1943, and within a few days it was obvious the Italian army was on the brink of collapse. This led Hitler to summon Mussolini to a meeting in Feltre on 19 July 1943. By this time, Mussolini was so shaken from stress that he could no longer stand Hitler's boasting. His mood darkened further when that same day, the Allies bombed Rome—the first time that city had ever been the target of enemy bombing.[178] It was obvious by this time that the war was lost, but Mussolini could not extricate himself from the German alliance.[179] By this point, some prominent members of Mussolini's government had turned against him. Among them were Grandi and Ciano. Several of his colleagues were close to revolt, and Mussolini was forced to summon the Grand Council on 24 July 1943. This was the first time the body had met since the start of the war. When he announced that the Germans were thinking of evacuating the south, Grandi launched a blistering attack on him.[11] Grandi moved a resolution asking the king to resume his full constitutional powers—in effect, a vote of no confidence in Mussolini. This motion carried by a 19–8 margin.[176] Mussolini showed little visible reaction, even though this effectively authorized the king to sack him. He did, however, ask Grandi to consider the possibility that this motion would spell the end of Fascism. The vote, although significant, had no de jure effect, since the prime minister was only responsible to the king.[179]

Despite this sharp rebuke, Mussolini showed up for work the next day as usual. He allegedly viewed the Grand Council as merely an advisory body and did not think the vote would have any substantive effect.[176] That afternoon, at 17:00, he was summoned to the royal palace by Victor Emmanuel. By then, Victor Emmanel had already decided to sack him; the king had arranged an escort for Mussolini and had the government building surrounded by 200 carabinieri. Mussolini was unaware of these moves by the king and tried to tell him about the Grand Council meeting. Victor Emmanuel cut him off and formally dismissed him from office, although guaranteeing his immunity.[176] After Mussolini left the palace, he was arrested by the carabinieri on the king's orders. The police took Mussolini in a Red Cross ambulance car, without specifying his destination and assuring him that they were doing it for his own safety.[180] By this time, discontent with Mussolini was so intense that when the news of his downfall was announced on the radio, there was no resistance of any sort. People rejoiced because they believed that the end of Mussolini also meant the end of the war.[176] The king appointed Marshal Pietro Badoglio as the new prime minister.

line of German soldiers walking with Mussolini
Mussolini rescued by German troops from his prison in Campo Imperatore on 12 September 1943.

In an effort to conceal his location from the Germans, Mussolini was moved around: first to Ponza, then to La Maddalena, before being imprisoned at Campo Imperatore, a mountain resort in Abruzzo where he was completely isolated. Badoglio kept up the appearance of loyalty to Germany, and announced that Italy would continue fighting on the side of the Axis. However, he dissolved the Fascist Party two days after taking over and began negotiating with the Allies. On 3 September 1943, Badoglio agreed to an Armistice between Italy and Allied armed forces. Its announcement five days later threw Italy into chaos; German troops seized control in Operation Achse. As the Germans approached Rome, Badoglio and the king fled with their main collaborators to Apulia, putting themselves under the protection of the Allies, but leaving the Italian Army without orders.[181] After a period of anarchy, they formed a government in Malta, and finally declared war on Germany on 13 October 1943. Several thousand Italian troops joined the Allies to fight against the Germans; most others deserted or surrendered to the Germans; some refused to switch sides and joined the Germans. The Badoglio government agreed to a political truce with the predominantly leftist Partisans for the sake of Italy and to rid the land of the Nazis.[182]

Italian Social Republic ("Salò Republic")

four color map of northern Italy with Italian Socialist Republic in tan, 1943
Italian Social Republic (RSI) as of 1943 in yellow and green. The green areas were German military operational zones under direct German administration.

Only two months after Mussolini had been dismissed and arrested, he was rescued from his prison at the Hotel Campo Imperatore in the Gran Sasso raid on 12 September 1943 by a special Fallschirmjäger (paratroopers) unit and Waffen-SS commandos led by Major Otto-Harald Mors; Otto Skorzeny was also present.[180] The rescue saved Mussolini from being turned over to the Allies in accordance with the armistice.[182] Hitler had made plans to arrest the king, the Crown Prince Umberto, Badoglio, and the rest of the government and restore Mussolini to power in Rome, but the government's escape south likely foiled those plans.[178]

Three days after his rescue in the Gran Sasso raid, Mussolini was taken to Germany for a meeting with Hitler in Rastenburg at his East Prussian headquarters. Despite his public support, Hitler was clearly shocked by Mussolini's disheveled and haggard appearance as well as his unwillingness to go after the men in Rome who overthrew him. Feeling that he had to do what he could to blunt the edges of Nazi repression, Mussolini agreed to set up a new regime, the Italian Social Republic (Italian: Repubblica Sociale Italiana, RSI),[11] informally known as the Salò Republic because of its seat in the town of Salò where he was settled 11 days after his rescue by the Germans. Mussolini's new regime faced numerous territorial losses: in addition to losing the Italian lands held by the Allies and Badoglio's government, the provinces of Bolzano, Belluno and Trento were placed under German administration in the Operational Zone of the Alpine Foothills, while the provinces of Udine, Gorizia, Trieste, Pola (now Pula), Fiume (now Rijeka), and Ljubljana (Lubiana in Italian) were incorporated into the German Operational Zone of the Adriatic Littoral.[183][184]

Mussolini climbing steps out of a bunker
Mussolini inspecting fortifications, 1944
Benito Mussolini reviewing adolescent soldiers in 1944
A rain-soaked Mussolini reviewing adolescent soldiers in northern Italy, late 1944.

In addition, the German army occupied the Dalmatian provinces of Split (Spalato) and Kotor (Cattaro), which were subsequently annexed by the Croatian fascist regime. Italy's gains in Greece and Albania were also lost to Germany, with the exception of the Italian Islands of the Aegean, which remained nominally under RSI rule.[185] Mussolini opposed any territorial reductions of the Italian state and told his associates:

I am not here to renounce even a square meter of state territory. We will go back to war for this. And we will rebel against anyone for this. Where the Italian flag flew, the Italian flag will return. And where it has not been lowered, now that I am here, no one will have it lowered. I have said these things to the Führer.[186]

For about a year and a half, Mussolini lived in Gargnano on Lake Garda in Lombardy. Although he insisted in public that he was in full control, he knew he was a puppet ruler under the protection of his German liberators—for all intents and purposes, the Gauleiter of Lombardy.[178] Indeed, he lived under what amounted to house arrest by the SS, who restricted his communications and travel. He told one of his colleagues that being sent to a concentration camp was preferable to this status.[179]

Yielding to pressure from Hitler and the remaining loyal fascists who formed the government of the Republic of Salò, Mussolini helped orchestrate a series of executions of some of the leaders who had betrayed him at the last meeting of the Fascist Grand Council. One of those executed was his son-in-law, Galeazzo Ciano. As head of state and Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Italian Social Republic, Mussolini used much of his time to write his memoirs. Along with his autobiographical writings of 1928, these writings would be combined and published by Da Capo Press as My Rise and Fall. In an interview in January 1945 by Madeleine Mollier, a few months before he was captured and executed by Italian partisans, he stated flatly: "Seven years ago, I was an interesting person. Now, I am little more than a corpse." He continued:

Yes, madam, I am finished. My star has fallen. I have no fight left in me. I work and I try, yet know that all is but a farce... I await the end of the tragedy and—strangely detached from everything—I do not feel any more an actor. I feel I am the last of spectators.[187]

Death

metal cross memorial in Mezzegra Benito Mussolini 28 Aprile 1945
Cross marking the place in Mezzegra where Mussolini was shot
American newsreel coverage of the death of Mussolini in 1945

On 25 April 1945, Allied troops were advancing into northern Italy, and the collapse of the Salò Republic was imminent. Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci set out for Switzerland, intending to board a plane and escape to Spain.[188] Two days later on 27 April, they were stopped near the village of Dongo (Lake Como) by communist partisans named Valerio and Bellini and identified by the Political Commissar of the partisans' 52nd Garibaldi Brigade, Urbano Lazzaro. During this time, Petacci's brother posed as a Spanish consul.[189] After several unsuccessful attempts to take them to Como they were brought to Mezzegra. They spent their last night in the house of the De Maria family.

With the spread of the news of the arrest, several telegrams arrived at the command of the National Liberation Committee for Northern Italy (CLNAI) from the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) headquarters in Siena with the request that Mussolini be entrusted to the control of the United Nations forces.[190] In fact, clause number 29 of the armistice signed in Malta by Eisenhower and the Marshal of Italy Pietro Badoglio on 29 September 1943, expressly provided that: "Benito Mussolini, his main fascist associates and all persons suspected of having committed crimes of war or similar crimes, whose names are on the lists that will be delivered by the United Nations and which now or in the future are in territory controlled by the allied military command or by the Italian government, will be immediately arrested and handed over to the United Nations forces".[191]

The next day, Mussolini and Petacci were both summarily shot, along with most of the members of their 15-man train, primarily ministers and officials of the Italian Social Republic. The shootings took place in the small village of Giulino di Mezzegra and were conducted by a partisan leader who used the nom de guerre Colonnello Valerio. His real identity is unknown, but conventionally he is thought to have been Walter Audisio, who always claimed to have carried out the execution, though another partisan controversially alleged that Colonnello Valerio was Luigi Longo, subsequently a leading communist politician in post-war Italy.[192][193] Mussolini was killed two days before Hitler and his wife Eva Braun committed suicide. The RSI only survived for another four days before Mussolini's defence minister, Rodolfo Graziani—the lone Italian marshal who remained loyal to Fascism after 1943—surrendered its remains on 1 May.

Mussolini's corpse

On 29 April 1945, the bodies of Mussolini, Petacci, and the other executed Fascists were loaded into a van and moved south to Milan. At 3:00 a.m., the corpses were dumped on the ground in the old Piazzale Loreto. The piazza had been renamed "Piazza Quindici Martiri" (Fifteen Martyrs' Square) in honor of fifteen Italian partisans recently executed there.[194]

corpses hanging by feet including Mussolini next to Petacci at Piazzale Loreto, Milan, 1945
From left to right, the bodies of Bombacci, Mussolini, Petacci, Pavolini and Starace in Piazzale Loreto, 1945.

After being kicked and spat upon, the bodies were hung upside down from the roof of an Esso gas station.[195] The bodies were then stoned from below by civilians. This was done both to discourage any Fascists from continuing the fight, and as an act of revenge for the hanging of many partisans in the same place by Axis authorities. The corpse of the deposed leader was subject to ridicule and abuse. Fascist loyalist Achille Starace was captured and sentenced to death and then taken to the Piazzale Loreto and shown the body of Mussolini. Starace, who once said of Mussolini "He is a god",[196] saluted what was left of his leader just before he was shot. The body of Starace was subsequently hung up next to that of Mussolini.

After his death and the display of his corpse in Milan, Mussolini was buried in an unmarked grave in the Musocco cemetery, to the north of the city. On Easter Sunday 1946, his body was located and dug up by Domenico Leccisi and two other neo-Fascists.

On the loose for months—and a cause of great anxiety to the new Italian democracy—Mussolini's body was finally "recaptured" in August, hidden in a small trunk at the Certosa di Pavia, just outside Milan. Two Franciscan brothers were subsequently charged with concealing the corpse, though it was discovered on further investigation that it had been constantly on the move. Unsure what to do, the authorities held the remains in a kind of political limbo for ten years, before agreeing to allow them to be re-interred at Predappio in Romagna, his birthplace. Adone Zoli, the then-current prime minister, contacted Donna Rachele, the dictator's widow, to tell her he was returning the remains, as he needed the support of the far-right in parliament, including Leccisi himself. In Predappio, the dictator was buried in a crypt (the only posthumous honor granted to Mussolini). His tomb is flanked by marble fasces, and a large idealized marble bust of him is above the tomb.[197]

Personal life

Mussolini's first wife was Ida Dalser, whom he married in Trento in 1914. The couple had a son the following year and named him Benito Albino Mussolini (1915–1942). In December 1915, Mussolini married Rachele Guidi, who had been his mistress since 1910. Due to his upcoming political ascendency, the information about his first marriage was suppressed, and both his first wife and son were later persecuted.[64] With Rachele, Mussolini had two daughters, Edda (1910–1995) and Anna Maria (1929–1968), the latter of whom married in Ravenna on 11 June 1960 to Nando Pucci Negri; and three sons: Vittorio (1916–1997), Bruno (1918–1941) and Romano (1927–2006). Mussolini had several mistresses, among them Margherita Sarfatti and his final companion, Clara Petacci. Mussolini had many brief sexual encounters with female supporters, as reported by his biographer Nicholas Farrell.[198]

Imprisonment may have been the cause of Mussolini's claustrophobia. He refused to enter the Blue Grotto (a sea cave on the coast of Capri), and preferred large rooms like his 18 by 12 by 12 m (60 by 40 by 40 feet) office at the Palazzo Venezia.[24]

In addition to his native Italian, Mussolini spoke English, French and questionable German (his sense of pride meant he did not use a German interpreter). This was notable at the Munich Conference, as no other national leader spoke anything other than his native language; Mussolini was described as effectively being the "chief interpreter" at the Conference.[199]

Religious views

Atheism and anti-clericalism

Mussolini was raised by a devoutly Catholic mother[200] and an anti-clerical father.[201] His mother Rosa had him baptized into the Roman Catholic Church, and took her children to services every Sunday. His father never attended.[200] Mussolini regarded his time at a religious boarding school as punishment, compared the experience to hell, and "once refused to go to morning Mass and had to be dragged there by force."[202]

Mussolini became anti-clerical like his father. As a young man, he "proclaimed himself to be an atheist[203] and several times tried to shock an audience by calling on God to strike him dead."[201] He believed that science had proven there was no god, and that the historical Jesus was ignorant and mad. He considered religion a disease of the psyche, and accused Christianity of promoting resignation and cowardice.[201] Mussolini was superstitious; after hearing of the curse of the Pharaohs, he ordered the immediate removal from the Palazzo Chigi of an Egyptian mummy he had accepted as a gift.[24]

Mussolini was an admirer of Friedrich Nietzsche. According to Denis Mack Smith, "In Nietzsche he found justification for his crusade against the Christian virtues of humility, resignation, charity, and goodness."[204] He valued Nietzsche's concept of the superman, "The supreme egoist who defied both God and the masses, who despised egalitarianism and democracy, who believed in the weakest going to the wall and pushing them if they did not go fast enough."[204] On his 60th birthday, Mussolini received a gift from Hitler of a complete twenty-four volume set of the works of Nietzsche.[205]

Mussolini made vitriolic attacks against Christianity and the Catholic Church, which he accompanied with provocative remarks about the consecrated host, and about a love affair between Christ and Mary Magdalene. He denounced socialists who were tolerant of religion, or who had their children baptized, and called for socialists who accepted religious marriage to be expelled from the party. He denounced the Catholic Church for "its authoritarianism and refusal to allow freedom of thought ..." Mussolini's newspaper, La Lotta di Classe, reportedly had an anti-Christian editorial stance.[206] Mussolini once attended meetings held by a Methodist minister in a Protestant chapel where he debated the existence of God.[207]

Lateran Treaty

Despite making such attacks, Mussolini tried to win popular support by appeasing the Catholic majority in Italy. In 1924, Mussolini saw that three of his children were given communion. In 1925, he had a priest perform a religious marriage ceremony for himself and his wife Rachele, whom he had married in a civil ceremony 10 years earlier.[208] On 11 February 1929, he signed a concordat and treaty with the Roman Catholic Church.[209] Under the Lateran Pact, Vatican City was granted independent statehood and placed under Church law—rather than Italian law—and the Catholic religion was recognized as Italy's state religion.[210] The Church also regained authority over marriage, Catholicism could be taught in all secondary schools, birth control and freemasonry were banned, and the clergy received subsidies from the state and was exempted from taxation.[211][212] Pope Pius XI praised Mussolini, and the official Catholic newspaper pronounced "Italy has been given back to God and God to Italy."[210]

After this conciliation, he claimed the Church was subordinate to the State, and "referred to Catholicism as, in origin, a minor sect that had spread beyond Palestine only because grafted onto the organization of the Roman empire."[209] After the concordat, "he confiscated more issues of Catholic newspapers in the next three months than in the previous seven years."[209] Mussolini reportedly came close to being excommunicated from the Catholic Church around this time.[209]

Mussolini publicly reconciled with the Pope Pius XI in 1932, but "took care to exclude from the newspapers any photography of himself kneeling or showing deference to the Pope."[209] He wanted to persuade Catholics that "[f]ascism was Catholic and he himself a believer who spent some of each day in prayer ..."[209] The Pope began referring to Mussolini as "a man sent by Providence."[206][209] Despite Mussolini's efforts to appear pious, by order of his party, pronouns referring to him "had to be capitalized like those referring to God ..."[209]

In 1938 Mussolini began reasserting his anti-clericalism. He would sometimes refer to himself as an "outright disbeliever", and once told his cabinet that "Islam was perhaps a more effective religion than Christianity" and that the "papacy was a malignant tumor in the body of Italy and must 'be rooted out once and for all', because there was no room in Rome for both the Pope and himself."[213] He publicly backed down from these anti-clerical statements, but continued making similar statements in private.[citation needed]

After his fall from power in 1943, Mussolini began speaking "more about God and the obligations of conscience", although "he still had little use for the priests and sacraments of the Church".[214] He also began drawing parallels between himself and Jesus Christ.[214] Mussolini's widow, Rachele, stated that her husband had remained "basically irreligious until the later years of his life".[215] Mussolini was given a funeral in 1957 when his remains were placed in the family crypt.[216][217][218]

Mussolini's views on antisemitism and race

Mussolini walking with Adolf Hitler in Berlin, in military uniforms 1937
Mussolini with Adolf Hitler in Berlin, 1937

Over the span of his career, Mussolini's views and policies regarding Jews and Anti-Semitism were often inconsistent, contradictory, and radically shifted depending on the situation. Most historians have generally labeled him as a political opportunist when it came to the treatment of the Jews rather than following a sincere belief. Mussolini considered Italian Jews to be Italians, but this belief may have been influenced more by his Anti-Clericalism and the general mood of Italy at the time, which denounced the abusive treatment of the Jews in the Roman Ghetto by the Papal States until the Unification of Italy.[219] Although Mussolini had initially disregarded biological racism, he was a firm believer in national traits and made several generalizations about Jews. Mussolini blamed the Russian Revolution of 1917 on "Jewish vengeance" against Christianity with the remark "Race does not betray race ... Bolshevism is being defended by the international plutocracy. That is the real truth." He also made an assertion that 80% of Soviet leaders were Jewish.[220] Yet, within a few weeks, he contradicted himself with the remark "Bolshevism is not, as people believe, a Jewish phenomenon. The truth is that Bolshevism is leading to the utter ruin of the Jews of Eastern Europe."[221]

In the early 1920s, Mussolini stated that Fascism would never raise a "Jewish Question" and in an article he wrote he stated "Italy knows no antisemitism and we believe that it will never know it", and then elaborated, "let us hope that Italian Jews will continue to be sensible enough so as not to give rise to antisemitism in the only country where it has never existed."[222] In 1932, Mussolini during a conversation with Emil Ludwig described antisemitism as a "German vice" and stated that "There was 'no Jewish Question' in Italy and could not be one in a country with a healthy system of government."[223] On several occasions, Mussolini spoke positively about Jews and the Zionist movement,[224] although Fascism remained suspicious of Zionism after the Fascist Party gained power.[225] In 1934, Mussolini supported the establishment of the Betar Naval Academy in Civitavecchia to train Zionist cadets under the direction of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, arguing that a Jewish state would be in Italy's interest.[226] Until 1938 Mussolini had denied any antisemitism within the Fascist Party.[224]

The relationship between Mussolini and Adolf Hitler was a contentious one early on. While Hitler cited Mussolini as an influence and privately expressed great admiration for him,[227] Mussolini had little regard for Hitler, especially after the Nazis had his friend and ally, Engelbert Dollfuss, the Austrofascist dictator of Austria, killed in 1934.

With the assassination of Dollfuss, Mussolini attempted to distance himself from Hitler by rejecting much of the racialism (particularly Nordicism) and antisemitism espoused by the Nazis. Mussolini during this period rejected biological racism, at least in the Nazi sense, and instead emphasized "Italianizing" the parts of the Italian Empire he had desired to build.[228] He declared that the ideas of eugenics and the racially charged concept of an Aryan nation were not possible.[228] Mussolini dismissed the idea of a master race as "arrant nonsense, stupid and idiotic".[229]

When discussing the Nazi decree that the German people must carry a passport with either Aryan or Jewish racial affiliation marked on it, in 1934, Mussolini wondered how they would designate membership in the "Germanic race":

But which race? Does there exist a German race? Has it ever existed? Will it ever exist? Reality, myth, or hoax of the theorists?
Ah well, we respond, a Germanic race does not exist. Various movements. Curiosity. Stupor. We repeat. Does not exist. We don't say so. Scientists say so. Hitler says so.[230]

When German-Jewish journalist Emil Ludwig asked about his views on race in 1933, Mussolini exclaimed:

Race! It is a feeling, not a reality: ninety-five percent, at least, is a feeling. Nothing will ever make me believe that biologically pure races can be shown to exist today. Amusingly enough, not one of those who have proclaimed the "nobility" of the Teutonic race was himself a Teuton. Gobineau was a Frenchman, (Houston Stewart) Chamberlain, an Englishman; Woltmann, a Jew; Lapouge, another Frenchman.[231][232]

In a speech given in Bari in 1934, he reiterated his attitude towards the German ideology of Master race:

Thirty centuries of history allow us to look with supreme pity on certain doctrines which are preached beyond the Alps by the descendants of those who were illiterate when Rome had Caesar, Virgil and Augustus.[233][234]

Though Italian Fascism varied its official positions on race from the 1920s to 1934, ideologically Italian Fascism did not originally discriminate against the Italian-Jewish community: Mussolini recognised that a small contingent had lived there "since the days of the Kings of Rome" and should "remain undisturbed".[235] There were even some Jews in the National Fascist Party, such as Ettore Ovazza, who in 1935 founded the Jewish Fascist paper La Nostra Bandiera ("Our Flag").[236]

Front page of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on 11 November 1938: the fascist regime has approved the racial laws.

By mid-1938, the enormous influence Hitler now had over Mussolini became clear with the introduction of the Manifesto of Race. The Manifesto, which was closely modeled on the Nazi Nuremberg Laws,[90] stripped Jews of their Italian citizenship and with it any position in the government or professions. The racial laws declared Italians to be part of the Aryan race and forbid sexual relations and marriages between Italians and those considered to be of an "inferior race", chiefly Jews and Africans.[237] Jews were not permitted to own or manage companies involved in military production, or factories that employed over one hundred people or exceeded a certain value. They could not own land over a certain value, serve in the armed forces, employ non-Jewish domestics, or belong to the Fascist party. Their employment in banks, insurance companies, and public schools was forbidden.[238] While many historians have explained Mussolini's introduction of the Manifesto of Race as being purely a pragmatic move to gain favour with Italy's new ally,[239] others have challenged that viewpoint[240] and pointed out that Mussolini, along with other Fascist officials, had encouraged antisemitic sentiment well before 1938, such as in response to significant Jewish participation in Giustizia e Libertà, a highly prominent anti-Fascist organisation.[241] Proponents of this viewpoint argue that Mussolini's implementation of these laws reflected a homegrown Italian flavour of antisemitism distinct from that of Nazism,[242] one which perceived Jews as being bound to decadence and liberalism[243] and was influenced not just by Fascist ideology but also by the Catholic Church.[106]

Even after the introduction of the racial laws, Mussolini continued to make contradictory statements about race.[224] Many high government officials told Jewish representatives that the antisemitism in Fascist Italy would soon be over.[224] Antisemitism was unpopular within the Fascist party; once when a Fascist scholar protested to Mussolini about the treatment of his Jewish friends, Mussolini is reported to have said "I agree with you entirely. I don't believe a bit in the stupid anti-Semitic theory. I am carrying out my policy entirely for political reasons."[244] Hitler was disappointed with Mussolini's perceived lack of antisemitism,[245] as was Joseph Goebbels, who once said that "Mussolini appears to have not recognized the Jewish question". Nazi racial theorist Alfred Rosenberg criticised Fascist Italy for its lack of what he defined as a true concept of 'race' and 'Jewishness', while the virulently racist Julius Streicher, writing for the unofficial Nazi propaganda newspaper Der Stürmer, dismissed Mussolini as a Jewish puppet and lackey.[246]

Mussolini and the Italian Army in occupied regions openly opposed German efforts to deport Italian Jews to Nazi concentration camps.[247] Italy's refusal to comply with German demands of Jewish persecution influenced other countries.[247]

In September 1943 semi-autonomous militarized squads of Fascist fanatics sprouted up throughout the Republic of Salò. These squads spread terror among Jews and partisans for a year and a half. In the power vacuum that existed during the first three or four months of the occupation, the semi-autonomous bands were virtually uncontrollable. Many were linked to individual high-ranking Fascist politicians.[248] Italian Fascists, sometimes government employees but more often fanatic civilians or paramilitary volunteers, hastened to curry favor with the Nazis. Informers betrayed their neighbors, squadristi seized Jews and delivered them to the German SS, and Italian journalists seemed to compete in the virulence of their anti-Semitic diatribes.[249]

It has been widely speculated that Mussolini adopted the Manifesto of Race in 1938 for merely tactical reasons, to strengthen Italy's relations with Germany. Mussolini and the Italian military did not consistently apply the laws adopted in the Manifesto of Race.[247] In December 1943, Mussolini made a confession to journalist/politician Bruno Spampanato that seems to indicate that he regretted the Manifesto of Race:

The Racial Manifesto could have been avoided. It dealt with the scientific abstruseness of a few teachers and journalists, a conscientious German essay translated into bad Italian. It is far from what I have said, written and signed on the subject. I suggest that you consult the old issues of Il Popolo d'Italia. For this reason I am far from accepting (Alfred) Rosenberg's myth.[250]

Mussolini also reached out to the Muslims in his empire and in the predominantly Arab countries of the Middle East. In 1937, the Muslims of Libya presented Mussolini with the "Sword of Islam" while Fascist propaganda pronounced him as the "Protector of Islam".[251]

Despite Mussolini's ostensible disbelief in biological racism, Fascist Italy implemented numerous laws rooted in such notions throughout its colonial empire on his orders as well as those of lower-ranking Fascist officials.[246] Following the Second Italo-Senussi War, Mussolini directed Marshal Pietro Badoglio to ban miscegenation in Libya, fearing that Italian settlers in the colony would degenerate into "half-castes" if interracial relationships were permitted, as they were in neighboring Tunisia, then a French imperial possession.[106] During the Second Italo-Ethiopian War and the ensuing Italian colonisation of Ethiopia, Mussolini implemented numerous laws mandating strict racial segregation between black Africans and Italians in Italian East Africa. These racist laws were much more rigorous and pervasive than those in other European colonies, in which racial segregation was generally more informal, and were instead comparable in scope and scale to those of South Africa during the Apartheid era, where laws dictated racial segregation down to the most mundane minutiae of society. Fascist Italy's segregationism further differed from that of other European colonies in that its impetus came not from within its colonies, as was usually the case, but from metropolitan Italy, specifically from Mussolini himself. Though many of these laws were ignored by local officials due to the difficulty of properly enforcing them, Mussolini frequently complained to subordinates upon hearing of instances of them being broken and saw the need to micromanage race relations as part of his ideological vision.[252]

Legacy

Family

Tomb of Mussolini in the family crypt, in the cemetery of Predappio, sarcophagus with death mask
Tomb of Mussolini in the family crypt, in the cemetery of Predappio

Mussolini was survived by his wife, Rachele Mussolini, two sons, Vittorio and Romano Mussolini, and his daughters Edda (the widow of Count Ciano) and Anna Maria. A third son, Bruno, was killed in an air accident while flying a Piaggio P.108 bomber on a test mission, on 7 August 1941. His oldest son, Benito Albino Mussolini, from his marriage with Ida Dalser, was ordered to stop declaring that Mussolini was his father and in 1935 forcibly committed to an asylum in Milan, where he was murdered on 26 August 1942 after repeated coma-inducing injections.[64] Alessandra Mussolini, daughter of Romano Mussolini, Benito Mussolini's fourth son, and of Anna Maria Scicolone, Sophia Loren's sister, has been a member of the European Parliament for the far-right Social Alternative movement, a deputy in the Italian lower chamber and served in the Senate as a member of Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party.

Neo-fascism

Although the National Fascist Party was outlawed by the postwar Constitution of Italy, a number of successor neo-fascist parties emerged to carry on its legacy. Historically, the largest neo-fascist party was the Italian Social Movement (Movimento Sociale Italiano), which disbanded in 1995 and was replaced by National Alliance, a conservative party that distanced itself from Fascism (its founder, former foreign minister Gianfranco Fini, declared during an official visit to Israel that Fascism was "an absolute evil").[253] National Alliance and a number of neo-fascist parties were merged in 2009 to create the short-lived People of Freedom party led by then Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, which eventually disbanded after the defeat in the 2013 general election. In 2012, many former members of National Alliance joined Brothers of Italy.

Public image

In February 2018, a poll conducted by the Demos & Pi research institute found that out of the total 1,014 people interviewed, 19% of voters across the Italian political spectrum had a "positive or very positive" opinion of Mussolini, 60% saw him negatively and 21% did not have an opinion.[254]

Writings

  • Giovanni Hus, il Veridico (Jan Hus, True Prophet), Rome (1913). Published in America as John Hus (New York: Albert and Charles Boni, 1929). Republished by the Italian Book Co., NY (1939) as John Hus, the Veracious.
  • The Cardinal's Mistress (trans. Hiram Motherwell, New York: Albert and Charles Boni, 1928).
  • There is an essay on "The Doctrine of Fascism" written by Benito Mussolini that appeared in the 1932 edition of the Enciclopedia Italiana.
  • La Mia Vita ("My Life"), Mussolini's autobiography written upon request of the American Ambassador in Rome (Child). Mussolini, at first not interested, decided to dictate the story of his life to Arnaldo Mussolini, his brother. The story covers the period up to 1929, includes Mussolini's personal thoughts on Italian politics and the reasons that motivated his new revolutionary idea. It covers the march on Rome and the beginning of the dictatorship and includes some of his most famous speeches in the Italian Parliament (Oct 1924, Jan 1925).
  • Vita di Arnaldo (Life of Arnaldo), Milano, Il Popolo d'Italia, 1932.
  • Scritti e discorsi di Benito Mussolini (Writings and Discourses of Mussolini), 12 volumes, Milano, Hoepli, 1934–1940.
  • Four Speeches on the Corporate State, Laboremus, Roma, 1935, p. 38
  • Parlo con Bruno (Talks with Bruno), Milano, Il Popolo d'Italia, 1941.
  • Storia di un anno. Il tempo del bastone e della carota (History of a Year), Milano, Mondadori, 1944.
  • From 1951 to 1962, Edoardo and Duilio Susmel worked for the publisher "La Fenice" to produce Opera Omnia (the complete works) of Mussolini in 35 volumes.

See also

References

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    "In addition to my ... order of the commander of the Greater German Reich in Italy and the organisation of the occupied Italian area from 10 September 1943 I determine:
    The supreme commanders in the Operational Zone Adriatic Coast consisting of the provinces of Friaul, Görz, Triest, Istrien, Fiume, Quarnero, Laibach, and in the Prealpine Operations Zone consisting of the provinces of Bozen, Trient and Belluno receive the fundamental instructions for their activity from me.
    Führer's headquarters, 10 September 1943.
    The Führer Gen. Adolf Hitler".
    See second document at
    http://www.karawankengrenze.at/ferenc/document/show/id/317?symfony=ad81b9f2cd1e66a7c973073ed0532df1[permanent dead link]
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  225. ^ Zimmerman, pp. 26–27
  226. ^ Kaplan, 2005, p. 154.
  227. ^ "If the Duce were to die, it would be a great misfortune for Italy. As I walked with him in the gardens of the Villa Borghese, I could easily compare his profile with that of the Roman busts, and I realised he was one of the Caesars. There's no doubt at all that Mussolini is the heir of the great men of that period." Hitler's Table Talk
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Further reading

  • Bosworth, R.J.B. (2002). Mussolini. London, Hodder.
  • Bosworth, R.J.B. (2006). Mussolini's Italy: Life Under the Dictatorship 1915–1945. London, Allen Lane.
  • Caprotti, Federico (2007). Mussolini's Cities: Internal Colonialism in Italy, 1930–1939, Cambria Press.
  • Celli, Carlo (2013). Economic Fascism: Primary Sources on Mussolini's Crony Capitalism. Axios Press.
  • Corvaja, Santi (2001). Hitler and Mussolini: The Secret Meetings. Enigma. ISBN 1-929631-00-6
  • Daldin, Rudolph S. The Last Centurion. http://www.benito-mussolini.com Archived 23 April 2020 at the Wayback Machine ISBN 0-921447-34-5
  • De Felice, Renzo (1965). Mussolini. Il Rivoluzionario,1883–1920 (in Italian) (1 ed.). Torino: Einaudi.
  • De Felice, Renzo (1966). Mussolini. Il Fascista. 1: La conquista del potere, 1920–1925 (in Italian) (1 ed.). Torino: Einaudi.
  • De Felice, Renzo (1969). Mussolini. Il Fascista. 2: L'organizzazione dello Stato fascista, 1925–1929 (in Italian) (1 ed.). Torino: Einaudi.
  • De Felice, Renzo (1974). Mussolini. Il Duce. 1: Gli anni del consenso, 1929–1936 (in Italian) (1 ed.). Torino: Einaudi.
  • De Felice, Renzo (1981). Mussolini. Il Duce. 2: Lo stato totalitario, 1936–1940 (in Italian) (1 ed.). Torino: Einaudi.
  • De Felice, Renzo (1990). Mussolini. L'Alleato, 1940–1942. 1: L'Italia in guerra I. Dalla "guerra breve" alla guerra lunga (in Italian) (1 ed.). Torino: Einaudi.
  • De Felice, Renzo (1990). Mussolini. L'Alleato. 1: L'Italia in guerra II: Crisi e agonia del regime (in Italian) (1 ed.). Torino: Einaudi.
  • De Felice, Renzo (1997). Mussolini. L'Alleato. 2: La guerra civile, 1943–1945 (in Italian) (1 ed.). Torino: Einaudi.
  • Farrell, Nicholas (2003). Mussolini: A New Life. London: Phoenix Press, ISBN 1-84212-123-5.
  • Garibaldi, Luciano (2004). Mussolini: The Secrets of his Death. Enigma. ISBN 1-929631-23-5
  • Golomb, Jacob; Wistrich, Robert S. (2002). Nietzsche, Godfather of Fascism?: On the Uses and Abuses of a Philosophy. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
  • Gregor, Anthony James (1979). Young Mussolini and the Intellectual Origins of Fascism. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California; London, England: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520037991.
  • Hibbert, Christopher. Il Duce.
  • Haugen, Brenda (2007). Benito Mussolini: Fascist Italian Dictator. Minneapolis, MN: Compass Point Books. ISBN 978-0-7565-1988-9.
  • Kallis, Aristotle (2000). Fascist Ideology. London: Routledge.
  • Kroener, Bernhard R.; Muller, Rolf-Dieter; Umbreit, Hans (2003). Germany and the Second World War Organization and Mobilization in the German Sphere of Power. Vol. VII. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. ISBN 978-0-19-820873-0.
  • Lowe, Norman. Italy, "1918–1945: the first appearance of fascism" in Mastering Modern World History.
  • Morris, Terry; Murphy, Derrick. Europe 1870–1991.
  • Moseley, Ray (2004). Mussolini: The Last 600 Days of Il Duce. Dallas: Taylor Trade Publishing.
  • Mussolini, Rachele (1977) [1974]. Mussolini: An Intimate Biography. Pocket Books. Originally published by William Morrow, ISBN 0-671-81272-6, LCCN 74-1129
  • O'Brien, Paul (2004). Mussolini in the First World War: The Journalist, the Soldier, the Fascist. Oxford: Berg Publishers.
  • Painter, Jr., Borden W. (2005). Mussolini's Rome: Rebuilding the Eternal City.
  • Passannanti, Erminia, Mussolini nel cinema italiano Passione, potere egemonico e censura della memoria. Un'analisi metastorica del film di Marco Bellocchio Vincere!, 2013. ISBN 978-1-4927-3723-0
  • Petacco, Arrigo, ed. (1998). L'archivio segreto di Mussolini. Mondadori. ISBN 88-04-44914-4.
  • Smith, Denis Mack (1982). Mussolini: A Biography, Borzoi Book published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. ISBN 0-394-50694-4.
  • Sternhell, Zeev; Sznajder, Mario; Asheri, Maia (1994). The Birth of Fascist Ideology: From Cultural Rebellion to Political Revolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-04486-6.
  • Stang, G. Bruce (1999). "War and peace: Mussolini's road to Munich". In Lukes, Igor; Goldstein, Erik (eds.). The Munich Crisis 1938: Prelude to World War II. London: Frank Cass. pp. 160–90.
  • Tucker, Spencer (2005). Encyclopedia of World War I: A Political, Social, and Military History. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO.
  • Weinberg, Gerhard (2005). A World in Arms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Zuccotti, Susan (1987). Italians and the Holocaust Basic Books, Inc.

Historiography

  • O'Brien, Paul. 2004. Mussolini in the First World War: The Journalist, the Soldier, the Fascist. O'Brien evaluates the biographies in Italian and English in the Introduction.

Further reading

  • Hibbert, Christopher. Benito Mussolini, a Biography. (London: Reprint Society, [1962) p., ill. with b&w photos. online
  • Kirkpatrick, Ivone, Sir. Mussolini, a study in power (1964) online
  • Ridley, Jasper. Mussolini: A Biography (1998) online

External links

Political offices
Preceded by Prime Minister of Italy
1922–1943
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of the Interior
1922–1924
1926–1943
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of War
1925–1929
1933–1943
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of the Italian Africa
1928–1929
1935–1936
1937–1939
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Foreign Affairs
1922–1929
1932–1936
1943
Succeeded by
New title Duce of the Italian Social Republic
1943–1945
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Minister of Foreign Affairs
1943–1945
Party political offices
New title Duce of Fascism
1919–1943
Abolished
Duce of the Republican Fascist Party
1943–1945
Military offices
New title First Marshal of the Empire
1938–1943
Abolished