Due; 16 October 2012
RISE OF FASCISM
The fears and frustrations of the Italian people at the end of The Great War enabled the Fascist Party to gain rapid support and power.
Disillusionment with war, frustration with weak democratic government and fear of communist revolution were the key conditions which allowed Mussolini’s fascist party to gain rapid support between 1919 and 1922. Benito Mussolini founded the Fascist Party in Italy in 1919. Within three years he became Prime Minister and by 1924, he had turned Italy into a dictatorship. He ruled as leader until 1943. The political ideals that emerged from his rule promoted the state, order, strength and war. The nation came before the individual, authority before liberty, and unity rather than diversity.
In 1919, Italy had come out of the Great War on the side of the victors but felt humiliated and disillusioned by the lack of territorial gains promised her by Great Britain and France in 1915 (Lowe 2005, p.287). Mussolini stated;
Victory in the war was achieved with untold hardship. Then Italy was betrayed at the Paris Peace Conference. This shattered the hopes of the Italians. We lost the whole of Dalmatia. Dalmatia is our land by tradition and history, by manners and custom, by language and by the desire of the Dalmatians. I could feel the discontent oozing down through the masses (Lyttleton 1973).
In an age of empire, the Italian people felt cheated by the allies, and the Italian government was blamed for this humiliation (Cowie 1993, p. 168). Italy had paid a high price for her involvement in the war, with 700,000 lives lost. As the repayments of huge war debts were made to the USA, the value of the lira declined and the cost of living more than quadrupled between 1919 and 1921. As heavy industry cut back production to pre-war levels there was mass unemployment, with 2.5 million ex-servicemen struggling to find work (Lowe 2005, p.288). What Mussolini offered the Italian people was a vision of unity, pride and purpose (Hoepper 1996). He would later describe Fascism as;
The doctrine best adapted to represent the tendencies and the aspirations of a people, like the people of Italy, who are rising again after many centuries of abasement and foreign servitude. But empire demands discipline, the coordination of all forces and a deeply felt sense of duty and sacrifice (Halsall 1996, para 12)
He made good use of symbology, militaristic imagery and strong emotive language to connect the nation with the past glories of the Roman Empire. The fascist symbol was of roman origin, and symbolised strength through unity and ruthless leadership. This vision was welcomed in a country humiliated by the lack of spoils from war. Mussolini exploited this hurt national pride by offering the Italian people a country in which they could be proud of.
Since its unification in 1870, Italy had been plagued by weak government (Cowie 1993, p.168). In the first elections after the war, male suffrage and proportional representation were introduced and although it was a fairer system, it meant that many parties with widely contrasting views were represented in parliament. This made it extremely difficult for any decisive action or much needed reforms to be implemented (Cowie 1993, p.168). With a crippled economy and massive unemployment, decisive action was needed and the people of Italy were growing ever more frustrated as the democratic process of parliament continued to fail them through lack of reform. They were looking for new leadership and Mussolini was ready to offer many solutions for their problems. Journalist and historian, Indro Montanelli (Perkins, Schreiber & Thompson 1996) states that;
Mussolini would always know how to adapt to his audience. Always. He would know how to fit in, even at the price of contradicting himself continually. It made him a very cunning politician To the Capitalists he promised protection of property,