Mussolini: What is he?

“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.


3 thoughts on “Mussolini: What is he?

  1. You mentioned that “Mussolini was initially looked upon with admiration and respect before the Nazis rose to power in Germany.” While that is certainly true, I found it interesting in the reading how the author mentions in addition that while others outside of Italy did admire Mussolini and what he was doing in Italy, there was always an assumption of Italy’s inferiority in comparison with other countries. . This mentality was derived from racial and political assumptions about Italy. How important do you think this mentality was regarding Italy’s development and eventual fall?

    • I don’t think it mattered. I think the greatest affect on Italy’s development would have been the leader’s ability to rally its population. In this case, Italy’s development, to me, seemed very slow because of Mussolini’s difficulty in trying to rally a population that is diverse in so many ways.

      Mussolini was in power for about 20 years. Though one could say that rallying the Italian population behind a common belief would have been extremely difficult, he still had 11 more years than Hitler to establish a base among the Italian population and to smash the perceptions about Italy. In the end, Mussolini could have been seen as a failure for this.

  2. Italian inferiority had a lot to do with the success/failure of Mussolini’s government. They were behind the rest of Europe, simple as that. Blaming racial and political factors, however, negates a major contributing factor: economics. The Italian people had an unstable economy, no colonial interests, and a government incapable of fixing said economic hardship unlike in Germany and the USSR, where new policies fixed inflation (Germany) and streamlined the classes to create a ‘more equal union’ (USSR).

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