Following the end of World War One, Europe endured a number of political changes which would serve to impact the history of the world. Within Italian politics, the world saw a shift from a liberal government, to a Fascist dictatorship run by Benito Mussolini, while Germany jumped from a democratic government, to the infamous Nazi dictatorship ruled by Adolf Hitler. Both rulers were fascist dictators who shared similar ideologies, aims and ruling strategies. This essay seeks to examine the conditions which allowed the Italian Fascist Party and the German National Socialist party to emerge and grow, and will compare and contrast the methods and manipulations used by the two leaders and their parties during their rise to power. In both Italy and Germany, World War One played a pivotal role in producing the conditions under which extremism could flourish. Within Italy, one of the biggest post war problems that the government faced was the impact that the war had upon the economy. During the war, Italy made great strides in developing its production levels for wartime necessities. The government established large budget schemes, and began borrowing money from countries such as Britain in order to pay for the production of weapons and machinery. The economy saw subsequent rapid growth and increased concentration on industries that were linked with war production, such as engineering and ship building, while local businesses contributed to the war effort by receiving cheap loans in order to re-equip factories and mass produce vehicles. As a consequence, many companies became too dependent on wartime demands for making them profits, and when the demand for wartime munitions ceased, many businesses found themselves without a market or consumers.
In addition to foreign loans, the
government also used printing money as a means of financing the war. This had a catastrophic effect on the Italian economy, with the price of basic commodities quadrupling since the start of the war, and severe cases of unemployment following. This greatly reduced the pensions and the savings of Italian citizens, provoking bitter resentment for those who invested in war bonds, or lost relatives in the war. After the war ended, many Italians were so exasperated with the consistent failures of the liberal government, that in desperation, they turned their support to a party which promised to fix all that the liberal government had failed to do; the Fascist party. With a strong emphasis on nationalism and the desire to restore
John Gooch, ‘Army, State and Society in Italy, 1870–1915’ p77
Italian power and prestige, the Fascist power was unlike anything Italy had ever experienced before. The party focused on developing the economy and sought to re-establish a strong leadership within Italy. The Fascist operation was very popular, with its membership boasting around 281,000 members during the 1920's. 2 This figure evidences the impact that world war one had on the Fascist party’s popularity, indicating how the government’s failure to rectify the problems caused by the war generated mass resentment amongst the Italian population, forcing many Italians to abandon their faith in the liberal government, and seek assurance from the Fascists. Within Germany, the war had a far greater impact on German society. The scale and duration of the war had such a catastrophic impact on the German economy that it impoverished Germany. In order to fund Germany's role within the war, German leaders resorted to heavy borrowing, which triggered mass inflation throughout Germany. By the end of 1918 the German mark had lost almost three quarters of its pre-war value, while the national income had decreased to only two thirds of what it had been in 1913. 3 By the end of the war millions were suffering from starvation, resulting in violent strikes and social unrest. While the