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?
1) Political: Highly efficient but unilateral. Mussolini’s Fascism highly contrasts common democracy because it dismisses the ethical philosophy that the majority is always right due to it being the most beneficial for the greater good. Although decisions that are non-consensual to demographic representation are often interpreted as inherently chaotic, this type of government can accomplish its political agendas more efficiently due to less required processes.
2) Economic: The opposite of Marxian Socialism. The economic ideology of Mussolini’s original fascism revolves around the individuals motives for “heroism” rather than materialism. Therefore, workers who embrace this principle will discard their desire of upward class mobility and replace it with the intent to work for the power of the State, as “Fascism believes in…actions influenced by no economic motive.” This can potentially serve as a powerful incentive for production due to laborers impression that greatness is achieved through effort rather than status.
3) Military: Expansionist. Mussolini believed what marked a powerful nation was its momentum, and there was no better way to achieve this than through expansion and imperial prowess.
How did Fascism manifest itself given the cultural and political history of Italy? Would Fascism have arisen had Italy played a larger military role in World War I?
It is easy to understand why American’s view of Fascism is dark. “The pursuit of happiness” is an American phrase that is embedded in our Declaration of Independence, while fascism regards happiness as a “myth.”
The military technology reflects in Things to Come reflects that of World War I, only occasionally showing new developments in the context of a World War I-style conflict. H.G. Wells reflected pre-war conceptions of how the next war would occur, showing masses of troops crossing trenches into no-man’s land, tanks massed and charging across rough terrain, as well as gas attacks. It is interesting to note that Wells’ pre-war conceptions versus how the war actually occurred are similar to how pre-World War I writers envisioned the Great War; both were able to determine the technology that would make a difference on the battlefield, but both failed to realize how it would be used and how much of an impact these technologies had.
Wells does get one key thing right however, and that is the use of leftover military equipment. Most “futuristic” war movies show the latest and greatest in terms of equipment and guns, but Wells shows the true reality of going to war- the reissue of old equipment in order to sustain such a massive army. Soldiers are shown equipped with the old rifles leftover from World War I and are seemingly absent of any submachine guns or squad operated weapons (i.e. the Bren Gun). Also, instead of single, fixed wing aircraft, the British are shown using biplanes, which they did in fact use in World War II. However, in reality a biplane would not keep up with the newer combat fighters that were developed in the 1930s.