“The Fascist State” by Christopher Leeds describes the ways in which Mussolini and the Italian Fascist Party attempted to mold Italian society.
“Our whole way of eating, dressing, working and sleeping, in short all our everyday habits, must be changed”1 .
This passage is particularly important to the article because it highlights the depth in which the fascist government and Mussolini sought to modify Italian society and change individuals’ behavior. However, as Leeds suggests they were not able to successfully do so. This was in part due to the fact that the regime lacked tangible policies to accomplish specific goals2 . This article challenged preexisting ideas I had about fascism in Italy and the impact it had on lives of individuals.
The regime intervened on a wide array of themes within Italy’s cultural sphere including sport, leisure behavior, and customs. Sports were of great importance and were used as a form of propaganda for the state, much like that of the Nazi Regime. All clubs, groups and societies were brought under control of the Fascist regime in an attempt to control the behavior, activities and thoughts of all citizens. Fascist leaders also thought it was necessary to modify traditional Italian customs that reflected or were introduced during times when Italy was occupied by France (Napoleon) and Spain3. Despite attempts to control all aspects of the private sphere of individuals, the Italian population as a whole did not undergo a dramatic transformation. In fact, such government invasion of private life aggravated most Italians.
Why do you think the behavior of Italians remained largely unaffected by the changes imposed by the State? How does Italy’s social sphere compare to that of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany?
One thing the article did not touch on were the punishments for not conforming to the new rules and regulations the fascist regime implemented. If the penalty was not severe many people would have taken the minor risk of continuing their original behavior. From our readings on Fascist Italy the element of terror and fear that are common in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany are not present here. The Italian people favored Mussolini when he kept the Great Depression at bay, but intrusion into their private lives was a step too far.
While it is clear from Leeds article that the Italian Fascist state used the most aggressive form of state control that permeated into every aspect of persona life, do you believe that the German and Russian policies had effect in their citizens private lives as well?
I think the population remained unaffected by the changes imposed by the State because of the lack of organization and enforcement. We see in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union the use of physical punishment, terrorizing the citizens. In Italy, however, this tactic was practically nonexistent. The Soviet Union sought to control their social sphere greatly while Germany’s social sphere didn’t change drastically with the Nazis except for the incorporation of the swastika. In Italy, Mussolini knew he needed the Church to be on his side so he placed religion and fascism side-by-side, changing Italy’s social sphere.
I think the effect of the Great Depression, and the end of World War I, was limited enough that the Italian people were less vulnerable to state control. In essence, they did not fall hard enough to fully allow the state to control all aspects of their life.
Mussolini’s Fascism as a whole proved much less severe regarding internal punishment for failure to abide to the standard of commitment than both Stalin’s terror tactics and Hitler’s Gustapo. Although Hitler seemed to have more overall support and enthusiasm for his policies than either Stalin or Mussolini, the political packages were presented in different ways. Whether the incentive is to serve your state or avoid prison, Mussolini fell short to gain support (voluntary or involuntary) in contrast to his two dictatorial counterparts.
With what is said in previous comments, I agree with the lack of terror and fear in which were present in both Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hitler’s Germany. The policies of Mussolini’s power worked at controlling the private life, thinking that it would be easier to change the ideology of the people within the private life as opposed to enforcing the ideology using terror. Italy geographically differed by region which was problematic, so maybe Mussolini tried uniting the regions by focusing on private life ideology.