Mussolini’s Italy

Clark’s chapter, “Fascist Diplomacy and Fascist War” was highly critical of Mussolini and his policies. He was described as “erratic”, obsessed with himself, and failing at every diplomatic attempt.1 Mussolini tried to outwit France, Great Britain, and Germany, all to his failure. He underestimated Hitler, and suffered as a result. Initially, Hitler supported Italy through the war, but the shipments of coal and military supplies were not sufficient. The people of Italy not only lost their sons, husbands and fathers, but many at home faced bombings and starvation.

Food rations were a mere 1,000 calories for an adult. A flourishing black market appeared to supplement peoples diets. The peasant farmers realized the favorable position they were now in. Many sold their crops on the black market, or kept everything for themselves rather than to the State warehouses.2 It appeared one of the few times the peasantry had the upper hand.

The people had no motivation to follow Mussolini and his plans. Initially, Italy appeared strong under his control, able to withstand trade sanctions and still flourish. However, with the entry of Italy into WWII, Mussolini lost all the morale he had gained. People spoke out against Mussolini and his fascist government, without fear of reprisal, something that would never be tolerated in Stalin’s Soviet Union, or Hitler’s Germany. The two countries stamped out any form of dissent. Mussolini did not have the power or influence to do so.

This article further demonstrates how Mussolini was a minor dictator. Clark was highly critical of Mussolini and even portrayed his political decisions as idiotic and childish, often in a petty game with England and France. Mussolini, in other articles, was portrayed as having minimal power within his own government and country, often implementing policies that failed. Does this article alter that perception in any way? Is it overly critical of Mussolini?

 

 

1. Clark, “Fascist Diplomacy and Fascist War”, Modern Italy 1871-1995, 280.

2. Clark, “Fascist Diplomacy”, 289-290.

3 thoughts on “Mussolini’s Italy

  1. In the first couple sentences, Clark makes his opinion of Mussolini as a leader clear. Clark says he is “incapable of taking a long-term view”, was “shrewd” and “relied on intuition”. However, Clark justifies his claims with plenty of historical evidence throughout his article. He also creates ethos by providing some historical examples where he thinks Mussolini was a good leader.

  2. I think that author was fairly accurate in his depiction of Mussolini, but the author seemed to imply that all of this was Mussolini’s fault, whereas there were other greater issues contributing as well to Mussolini’s downfall in WWII. First and foremost the problem was a lack of unity within Italy, both ideologically and physically. With no clear set definition of what it meant to be a fascist, Italians often interpreted it to mean a variety of things, often for their own personal gain. Physically, Italy had always been divided as a populace, which made it difficult for them to unite. However, while this perhaps reflects Mussolini’s lack of charisma, it can also possibly be contributed to Italy’s dwindling attempts at effective propaganda. Hitler and Stalin were able to use these tools extremely well, and prosper. Another problem the author cites is the lack of resources. It was cited in the article that “…Italy could not arm more than thirty to thirty-five divisions properly, but she put seventy-five to eighty in the field” (Clark, 287). Simply put, logistics of arming men, and providing enough resources (food, clothing, tanks, trucks, etc.) was a huge problem that led to Italy’s downfall. In short, I feel that while Mussolini can certainly be blamed for a lot of the issues that occurred in Italy, there are overarching factors that have to be considered as well. Are there other issues that I haven’t mentioned that you think are significant?

  3. I believe that Clark makes many valid points about Mussolini’s leadership when it comes to diplomacy and war. However, I would like to point out that Mussolini came to power before any of the other dictators that we’ve discussed and kept favorable attitudes all throughout up until the war. This challenges our perceptions of Mussolini as a leader in general. Was he good leader domestically? Perhaps. Was he a good leader on the international scope? Clark’s article proves that he wasn’t especially when juxtaposing him to other leaders in Europe during the war. Clearly, Clark argues that WWII led to Mussolini’s downfall and I certainly agree with that. To answer Claire’s question, I believe she mentioned all of the main points, but I just want to add more to the Fascist ideology. The Fascist ideology was very vague without any clear goals/motives. I agree with Emilio Gentile’s interpretation of Fascism as a political religion. The Fascist ideology is creative and very general, leaving plenty of room for interpretation. Because the Fascist ideology is more of a belief than an agenda like National Socialism, this made it very hard for Mussolini to put it into practice since it wasn’t as realistic and/or “rational” as National Socialism nor Stalinism was.

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