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.


While Fascist Italy under Mussolini sought to control its people and implement a new united world of ideas and ways of life in Italy, it did not succeed. Bosworth’s article, “Everyday Mussolinism: Friends, Family, Locality and Violence in Fascist Italy” demonstrated the disunity and corruption under Fascist rule.1 Bosworth cited numerous examples of Fascist leaders who corrupted the system. They reverted to the well known political practices. They appeared almost like American gangsters from the same era. Most of the men who were sent to exile used violence, threats, and terror to control their regions and gain desired power.
There was an interesting parallel in Fascist Italy to the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. In the opening story, a group of men were reported singing a communist song while in a drunken state.2 As in Nazi Germany, there was a fear of communism and those who held communist beliefs. Also, as in both other regimes, citizens denounced one another for undesired behavior. Yet, did this protect Italians from themselves being denounced, as it did initially in the Soviet Union? Or did it backfire as during the Great Terror?
Another parallel to the Soviet Union and Germany was the punishment of those deemed unproductive, that drained the economy. The drunken communist was denounced as lazy and an alcoholic.3 This added to peoples dislike for him, and he was sentenced to a common punishment, exile. Although most leading Fascist officials who were sentenced to long terms of exile had the sentences overturned after just a few months. Was this due to other Fascists condoning their behavior?

1. R.J.B. Bosworth, “Everyday Mussolinism: Friends, Family, Locality and Violence in Fascist Italy”, Contemporary European History, 14 (2005) 23-43.
2. Bosworth, “Everyday Mussolinism”, 23-24.
3. Bosworth, “Everyday Mussolinism”, 24.

State of the Fascist State

In Leeds’s The Fascist State, the public acts and social requirements of Italian Fascism are explored in minor detail. Within the text we see various accounts of the principles held dear to the fascist government and the policies Mussolini implemented (often in bizarre and ludicrous ways) in the attempt to realize those principles.

Perhaps the most intriguing segment of the chapter is the bit about the “battle of natality”; that is, Mussolini’s attempts at increasing the population of Italy by providing incentives for his people to procreate. While this might seem initially like a valid method of bolstering a country’s power (by equating manpower with national capacity), to me it appears contradictory to Mussolini’s claimed intent with fascism. With Italy already “small and thickly populated”, in order for there to be space for the extra twenty million citizens Mussolini projected would exist within twenty years the nation would have to expand, whether it be by diplomatic annexation or conquering- though neither tactic was a priority in Mussolini’s Fascism. ((Leeds, The Fascist State, 40.))

This oversimplification of a national element and the resulting misdirection of procedure was typical of the Partito Nazionale Fascista, however, which never quite understood how to utilize the immense control it had over its subjects in a productive manner. The nonsense of Mussolini’s policies is indirectly referenced in The Fascist State as well; his triumphant claims of being “aristocratic and democratic, reactionary and revolutionary, legalistic and illegalistic” really convey nothing more than the frequent dichotomy between his government’s aims and its methods.