“Mussolini the Duce; Sawdust Caesar, Roman Statesman or Dictator Minor?” by B.J.B Bosworth discussed the different views of Mussolini. Mussolini was fascist Italy. There cannot be one without the other. He was imbued with mythical even biblical status by his followers. He was a hero to Italians across the globe, he offset the negative Italian stereotype many faced. Each dictatorial nation created a myth of the leader, and Italy was no different. Mussolini was initially welcomes and praised as fascism led Italy out of the Great Depression.
To fully understand Mussolini and fascist Italy one must also look at the circumstances of the time. At first Mussolini was viewed as a pioneer in Europe, he controlled a nation for more than two decades. He modernized Italy and expanded it’s border in an attempt to recapture it’s roman prestige. Fascism allowed Italy to overcome the Great Depression with greater ease than other nations. Mussolini was initially looked upon with admiration and respect before the Nazis rose to power in Germany. With the emergence of the Nazi party Italy was downgraded to the lowest of the “great European powers”. As Bosworth stated, Mussolini became a “dictator minor”, he did not command the same respect and power that Hitler and Stalin did.1
Mussolini in 1934 was more than willing to fight against the union of Austria and Germany. He was an opponent of the Nazis belief of the existence of a true Aryan.2 However, when Italy entered WWII six years later, the people felt betrayed by their leader.3 Mussolini created a nation in a period of peace that fell short during the war.
According to Emil Ludwig, in the 1930s, Mussolini was the “Nietzschean superman”, whose movement helped Italy to prosper4. His fascist nation created “new forms, new myths, and new rites” for the Italian people. This is in opposition to many reviews of Mussolini that portray him as a propagandist, a man who failed as a leader. There are many conflicting views, and as Bosworth stated in his conclusion, more research needs to be conducted to make a full “appraisal” of Mussolini.5 There is still much unknown as to his decision making role.
1. B.J.B Bosworth, “Mussolini the Duce; Sawdust Caesar, Roman Statesman or Dictator Minor?” The Italian Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives in the Interpretation of Mussolini and Fascism, London: Arnold, 1998, 74.
2. Bosworth, “Mussolini the Duce” 73-74.
3. Bosworth, “Mussolini the Duce” 67.
4. Bosworth, “Mussolini the Duce” 73.
5. Bosworth, “Mussolini the Duce” 81.