Italy: A State in Need of Control

Evolve e·volve (ēˈvälv/) verb 1. To develop gradually, especially from a simple to a more complex form.

The evolution of the Corporations in Mussolini’s fascist state lends to a larger discussion of the Duce’s leadership strategy leading up to and during the Second World War. Although much of Mussolini’s strategy of government changed, the shift that the national Corporations went through highlights one of the major inconsistencies that helped solidify Mussolini’s ineffectiveness as a ruler. The Corporations, in addition to the Constitution of the National Fascist Party (drafted in 1932), show Mussolini’s attempts to streamline his power through economic, political, and social means.

In 1932, the Fascist Party drafted a constitution which laid out the principles under which the government must be run. The first article of the constitution reads as follows: “The National Fascist Party is a civilian militia under the order of The Leader in the service of the Fascist State.”1 This, in essence, means that every member of the Fascist Party (ergo everyone in Italy) doubled as a member of Mussolini’s army, available to his beck and call whenever he so pleased. This shows how tight a grip on the Italian people Mussolini needed (or thought he needed) in order to maintain power.

An autocratic ruler must control both subordinates and the population as a whole. Mussolini attempted to do so by creating his “Corporations”- which he originally intended to function as an economic entity. In 1939, however, the Corporations became “a part of the State’s political machinery.”2. Candidates who wished to stand for election for various positions within Mussolini’s government must be chosen by the members of the Corporations, an entity directly controlled by the government; in essence, Mussolini and his inner circle therefore controlled the electoral system.

Much like any other dictator of his time, Mussolini needed control. Hitler had the SS, Stalin had his own means, and Mussolini had political movements. The Duce did not resort to Gulags or Death Camps like his Axis counterparts, but rather strict, by the book political development. This did not work; he, unlike Hitler and Stalin, was the only dictator of his time to be overthrown by his own people. If Mussolini had sought control in a different, more intimidating manner in the place of manipulating the political system to his advantage, would he have lived to see the end of the war? Something to think about.

  1. Christopher Leeds, “The Fascist State in Italy under Mussolini”, London: Wayland Publishers, 44 []
  2. Christopher Leeds, “The Fascist State in Italy under Mussolini” 38 []

4 thoughts on “Italy: A State in Need of Control

  1. The element of fear, and repercussions for actions held Hitler and Stalin in power for so long. The slightest infraction would result in death or deportation to a work camp. The penalties were severe. Mussolini relied on his policies and government. He attempted to return the culture of Italy to a point the people would not accept. He took too much power away from the people without giving them at least the illusion of some input. Stalin, as discussed in class, allowed the people to write to the government and give their input on laws and decisions. Mussolini did not. He ruled everything and was even infringing on the peoples day to day lives. No one likes others to have absolute control over everything they do.

    • I agree with this commentator and the original poster; out of the 3 dictators, Mussolini exercised the most state control but did not effectively create the illusion that the people could change state policy, as did Hitler and Stalin. It is certainly debatable that in Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany that the people’s will could effectively be included in legislation; in Italy the people’s will was definitively excluded from policy. In my opinion, his is what primarily contributed to Mussolini being the only WWII dictator that was overthrown by his own people.

  2. Mussolini may have been too slow with his development of Fascism throughout Italy. Leeds’ article describes how Mussolini attempted to saturate Italy with Fascist characteristics over time, such as making salutes mandatory, restricting art to pro-political messages only, and other methods of manipulating the people that were similar to Stalin’s. Perhaps they did fail because of a lack of violent reinforcement seen with Stalin and Hitler (incarceration, GULAG camps, etc.); however, Italy would have certainly reacted differently than the other two countries, as it becomes clear that Italians became less enthusiastic about Fascism over time.

    • Do you believe that had Mussolini used state terror, mimicking the German and Russian forms of concentration and labor camps as a means of political manipulation, that Mussolini’s “intrusion into private behavior” (p.53) would have better accepted in Italian society?

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