The unification of Italy, or lack thereof consistently occupies a central space in the academic dialogue around Fascism. R.J.B Bosworth in “Everyday Mussolinism” through archival sources created a picture of the complexities and contradictions of life under fascism in Italy. One aspect of “Everday Mussolinism,” the prevalence of the client-patron relationship emphasized the difference between the ideology presented by Mussolini’s regime and the reality of life for the Italian public. Moreover, the system undermined the push towards unification and encouraged loyalty to provincial, not national, state power.
The patron client system, based in ancient Rome, created a mechanism that subverted the new Man ideology proposed by Fascism and relied on more traditional terms of favor granting and nepotism.1 The raccomandazione system created small, localized bases of power. The establishment and perpetuation of these small bases of power made Italians rely on the whims and favors of their local padrone. Regionalism intensified and in Bosworth’s own words the local patron “might have been rehearsing to play the part of the local Godfather,” utilizing crime and violence to ensure his continued power.2 In many ways the raccomandazione system served as the antithesis to the goal Fascist goal of unification and progress in Italy. These small bases of bases further fragmented Italy, ambitious people relied on the favor of their local leader not on the purported merit system of the Fascist regime.
The continued reliance on a traditional system of nepotism instead of the new state run merit system provides just one example of the everyday Italian resistance to Fascism. The reliance on traditional and local customs begs the question: Why did the Italian population resist the ideology of the Fascist state? Furthermore, how does this resistance narrative change when compared to Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany?
The resistance of the Italian people of Fascism reminds me of an article I read on the incorporation of Catholic symbols into Fascism. Mussolini knew to take symbols known to the Catholic population and phase them into his own ideology. Perhaps the people did not like the repurposing of these traditional elements that were a big part of their lives; Fascism was encroaching on their day-to-day activities.
Russia and Nazi Germany experienced little to no resistance, whether it be open rebellion or passive civil disobedience. Germany encountered a few isolated incidents, but those were organized, perpetrated, and stomped out by members of the military, and Hitler’s inner circle. As you pointed out in a comment on my post last week, the Soviet Union had far too much division within its ranks for resistance to occur, even of a passive nature, and when it did, those responsible for insubordination were dealt with. Italy, as we saw in the reading, did not operate in a similar police state esque manner as the Germans and Soviets. Less control = more opposition.
I believe that the Italian population resisted the ideology of the Fascist state because it was simpler to do so. The Fascist ideology was very vague and unclear in comparison to National Socialism and Stalinism, which both stated concrete goals from the beginning. Bosworth refers to Italian historian, Emilio Gentile stating that fascism was a “political religion.” With that in mind, as mentioned by Kristin, symbols and rituals played a key component to the fascist ideology and allowed for totalitarian ambitions since central power was legitimized to achieve the greatness that Mussolini wanted Italy to become. However, the way that these symbols and rituals are brought into question because the vagueness of the Fascist ideology leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and therefore, there is a lot of questioning on both the state’s part and on the part of the Italian people.