Fascism and Mussolini

Once an avid supporter of socialism, Benito Mussolini became one of the most significant contributors in the creation of fascism. In What is Fascism (1932), he aimed to address the Italian people and bring forth how beneficial this new political movement would be for their country. In response to World War 1 and its appalling violence, fascism was intended to out-date movements like traditional conservatism, Marxism, and especially liberalism. It used aspects of socialism, but also reminds me of nationalism in some ways, due to the stresses in pride and unity. Mussolini penned, “The foundation of Fascism is the conception of the State, its character, its duty, and its aim. Fascism conceives of the State as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived of in their relation to the State.” Overall, this right wing movement was due to WW1, and Mussolini was an integral part of this said movement.

Fascism and Mussolini

Author: Benito Mussolini began his political life in the limelight as a socialist, known for his use of violence. He later created fascism, a new political movement.

Context: The fascist party posted this document in order to show their power. At this time, fascism did not have a clear context, so this was published in order to persuade people to join the fascism party.

Language: The wording of this is pretty clear and easy to understand because he wanted many people to be able to understand what he was saying. He is also trying to persuade people.

Audience: The document is addressed to the general public of Italians in order to persuade everyone to join fascism.

Intent: He is intending to spread and promote the ideas of fascism to the Italian people in attempt to stay in power.

Message: Mussolini was attempting to show the people of Italy that they should join fascism, and that it was a good idea for Italy.

Do you think Mussolini’s idea of fascism was successful?



What is Fascism – Mussolini

A: Benito Mussolini was the founder of the National Fascist Party during the first half of the twentieth century. As Prime Minister of Italy, he removed the state from the idea of democracy and established himself as the dictator of the state.

C: Mussolini experienced WWI and declared socialism was a failure. He wrote ‘What is Fascism’ in 1932, as a way to introduce a new political doctrine to the world.

L: Mussolini writes in the common tongue. It’s very easy to understand exactly what he’s presenting.

A: His intended audience is primarily the citizens of the Italian state. He aims to enlightened the on his new political system that will change the way in which the state operated.

I: His intent is to educate his people on why Fascism is a better alternative to democracy and communism. He believes the establishment of a legal absolute dictatorship to be very valuable to the success of a nation.

M: His message can be seen when he wrote, “ For Fascism, the growth of empire, this is to say the expansion of the nation, is an essential manifestation of vitality, and its opposite a sign of decadence.” He believe fascism is the answer to solve Italy’s problems.

Mussolini & Fascism

Mussolini was a huge contributor in the creation of fascism. Initially being a supporter of socialism, Mussolini changed his view when he was thrown out of the Italian Socialist Party for not believing in neutrality during World War I. Mussolini became prime minister of Italy in 1922 following the March on Rome and immediately started the fascist movement. With the onset of fascism, people were still perplexed by what this term actually meant. This document was written 10 years after Mussolini had already been in power in order to try to give people a legitimate definition of fascism and convince them of its benefits. This language of this document is very straightforward. It is simply a definition of what fascism entails. The audience of the document is all of Italy and possibly to the rest of Europe. He wanted to convince Italy of the benefits of fascism and why it was better, and also hoped that other countries would adopt this ideology. He intended to promote fascism in order to keep it going and wanted to explain why it was the best option available.

What is Fascism?

AUTHOR: Benito Mussolini started out as a strong advocate for socialism and was imprisoned multiple times for his promotion of strikes and the use of violence.  He earned the reputation of a potential revolutionary with incredible rhetorical skills.  Because he has such a strong background with socialism, many elements are prevalent in fascism.

CONTEXT: Mussolini had already been in power for ten years while writing this.  Although fascism had been in place for years, it lacked a clear definition and people were unsure if they were benefitting from this system at all.  To persuade the people of the benefits of fascism, the party published this document to prolong their time in control.

LANGUAGE: The language of this document is very straightforward and direct.  Mussolini is concise, getting straight to the point.  However, their is also some elements of persuasion throughout the piece as he is writing to convince the people to keep this method of government in place.

AUDIENCE: This document is most likely directed towards as many people of the Italian population as possible.  As stated before, the context of the publication date requires Mussolini to persuade the population into keeping fascism.

INTENT: Mussolini’s intent is to promote Fascism throughout Italy and allow people to gain a better understanding of what it truly is.  By publishing the true definition of fascism, Mussolini promotes the idea even more, allowing him and fascism to stay in power.

MESSAGE: Mussolini’s message was that fascism was the best choice for Italy at this moment.  Mussolini displays all the benefits fascism will offer for Italy in order to maintain his power.

For Discussion: How big of an impact did Mussolini’s experience with socialism have on his later work with fascism?



What is Fascism?

Fascism came from Benito Mussolini. Mussolini was a socialist but after coming to power in the troubled country of Italy, he created fascism to unite all of Italy. Fascism was created to adapt to represent the wants of a changing nation, making it appealing to a country like Italy which struggled under the rule of other countries for centuries. While it works with the wants of a nation, fascism demands organization. People have their freedom but only under the rules of the State.

While socialism is based on materials and all people sharing their hard work, fascism is based on the people. Nothing is done to help the economy, but help the people themselves. Mussolini stated that the twentieth century was going to the century of fascism, the century of the State((http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/mussolini-fascism.asp)).

Stalin, Fascists and Freedom

The texts assigned for Friday’s class portray the changing views, which the Soviet Union held towards Germany and other Western nations. While the Hitler-Stalin Pact suggests a mutual understanding between the two leaders (and, by extension, their nations), the later documents paint a far different view of a ‘fascist’ Germany.

In Stalin’s speech in February 1946, he seems to align the Soviet Union with the Western world in a coalition against fascism, and describes the USSR (and other countries involved in the coalition) as freedom-loving. To most Westerners, this would appear contradictory: freedom is only seen in a capitalistic, democratic context, indicating that socialism and communism are inherently freedom-less.

Stalin’s response to Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech shows a shift in Stalin’s thinking, as Stalin compares Churchill to Hitler and accuses Churchill of creating an English racial theory, somewhat similar to Hitler’s racial theory. This was a drastic shift, occurring in only a little over a month (Stalin’s response was published in Pravda in March 1946).

In general, these shifts in allies and the definition of ‘good’, ‘evil’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ don’t seem uncommon for the Soviet Union. The massive arrests during the time period, in addition to the Great Purges within the Communist Party, seem indicative of this trend.

Mussolini: His Own Worst Enemy

Mussolini could talk the talk, but could he walk the walk? Simply put, no, he couldn’t. Mussolini’s Fascist diplomacy regarding his foreign and military policies exposed his true character and his illusions towards Italy’s true power and the relationship he maintained with Hitler. Pride remained Mussolini’s Achilles heel. Repeatedly, he ignored the word of his economic and political advisers to save the face of Fascism in the prewar period. Obsessed with prestige, Mussolini invaded and colonized Ethiopia to glorify Italy in the international community and perhaps gain the respect from Hitler and other European powers he thought Italy deserved. After Italy’s humiliating defeat in 1896 during their military conquest of Ethiopia, Mussolini visualized redemption. At huge economic losses, Italy occupied Ethiopia against British and French desire and damaged her relationship with the future allied powers. After defying the British and French, Mussolini decided to gain political favor from Hitler. Mussolini thought if he created an alliance with Hitler, the British and French would become frightened of Italy. This proved to be a mistake, however.

Mussolini “overestimated Italy’s bargaining position; and underestimated Hitler.” (Clark, 280) 1936 marked the signing of the Rome-Berlin Axis and Italian involvement in Spain during the Spanish Civil War alongside Hitler. This failed in two ways: to genuinely increases the strength in alliance between Hitler and Mussolini, while simultaneously destroying any chance of reconciliation with the French and British. The reason it became apparent that this military act did not protect Italy from Nazi invasion was illuminated when Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, which was an obvious territorial threat. Mussolini pressed forward on the same path despite these warning signs, eventually playing himself into Hitler’s hands. In what Clark describes as a “foolish move,” Mussolini sealed his alliance with Nazi Germany with his Pact of Steel in 1939. (Clark, 283) This eventually served to draw Italy into a war that remained highly unpopular with Italian citizens.

Had Mussolini been more patient and less prideful, could Italy have avoided involvement in World War II?

Mussolini’s Failed Foreign Policy

Mussolini the Duce was over-confident in his abilities as the Fascist leader of Italy. By aligning with Germany, Mussolini greatly over-estimated both the role of Italy in the European power play and in his foreign policy negotiating ability. In his article “Fascist Diplomacy and Fascist War”, Clark asserts that Mussolini was “no diplomat, and seemed incapable of taking a long-term view.” (( Clark, Martin. “Chapter 14 – Fascist Diplomacy and Fascist War.” In Modern Italy 1871-1995, 280-300. 2nd ed. London and New York: Longman, 1996. (p. 280) )) Especially in comparison with Hitler and Stalin, who both were willing to sacrifice short-term public opinion for calculated long-term state-building, Mussolini and his sought after Roman revival come across as the weakest of the European powers in both the diplomatic and militaristic aspect of foreign policy.

Clark explains how Mussolini lost both the British and French as allies after competing with them over East African colonial territories. (( Clark, Fascist Diplomacy, p. 282 )) However, attempting to create a Rome-Berlin axis and seeking an ally out of Hitler proved to be his ultimate downfall. The Duce naively believed he could control Hitler and negotiate with him. When he successfully prevented Hitler’s initial invasion of Czechslovakia 1938, he blindly believed he had “single-handily avoided a world war”. (( Clark, Fascist Diplomacy, p. 283)) However, Hitler invaded Czechslovakia in 1939 despite Mussolini’s wishes. Hitler was no ally to Mussolini in the war at all.  Hitler’s interests were German interests and German interests alone. Mussolini did not realize the extent of Hitler’s nationalist and expansionist self-concerned goals until he invaded Poland and after that Denmark and Norway. ((Clark, Fascist Diplomacy, p. 284))  When world war finally did break out, Mussolini believed it would be a short-lived. The other dominating European powers were much more advanced than Italy in politics and military might, but Mussolini’s Fascist aims would not allow him to remain neutral. “His whole past, his whole propaganda, his whole regime had glorified war. Now there was one, and he had to join in.” (( Clark, Fascist Diplomacy, p. 285)) Therefore, in a further attempt to revive Roman greatness and power, Mussolini refused to sit idly by. He wanted to be remembered as a competitor and sought after power in anyway possible.

It was all in vain because the Italy army lacked morale, equipment, rations, transportation, and most other necessary supplies. This left Italy in a position of desperate dependence, forced to rely on ally Germany, who did not have much to spare because the German war effort was clearly the priority on the Eastern Front. The unsuccessful Italian war effort created an extremely unfavorable view of the Fascist party and Mussolini in his native Italy. Clark summarizes, “The party not only failed to boost morale, but positively lowered it. … Thus the party disintegrated from within.” ((Clark, Fascist Diplomacy, p. 292)) War for wars sake was not the answer for Mussolini. Do you believe the Fascist party would have retained a more favorable view domestically if Mussolini had not taken a side-line position in WWII and did not attempt to join alliances with Germany in the war?

Italian resistance to “Everyday Mussolinism”

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. ((R.J.B. Bosworth, “Everyday Mussolinism,” Contemporary European History 14, no. 1 (February 2005): 29))  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. ((Bosworth, “Everyday Mussolinism,” 33))  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?