Who In Italy Gained From Fascism Essay

Who In Italy Gained From Fascism? Essay, Research Paper

The word Fascism comes from fasces, the bundle of elm or birch rods from which an ax

projected that was carried before Roman magistrates. These fasces indicated the magistrates

power to decapitate. Fascism is actually defined as ” a political philosophy, movement, or

regime that exalts nation, and often race, and stands for a centralized autocratic, often

militaristic government” (Webster’s). March 23, 1919 marked the ascension of the Fascist party in Italy. For many, young Benito Mussolini was a symbol of law and order in a time of political and social turmoil. Mussolini’s “Fasci di Combattimento”, the re-organization of his Fascia group, was accepted and admired by all, especially those Italians longing for the end of unemployment, inflation, and the fear of a communist revolution. In Italy, many members of the government, as well as a few aspects of society, gained from Fascism. However, despite those who gained, more Italians suffered as a result of Fascist government.

Some members that gained from Fascism were the Fascists in power. The

Fascists who held office were all shrewed politicians. All of those politicians were ruthless

and were feared by many of the people. “The result at the 1919 polls was disappointing. The Socialists did splendidly, but Fascism, having not yet fully identified with the conservative Right, seemed in 1919 to have arrived at a dead end” (Forman 27). The fear that was created between government official and citizen was what kept Fascism in power after this initial downfall. Many of the Fascists in power were out of control; Even Benito Mussolini had his own Fascist propaganda army: the Blackshirts , or “Squadre”. Fear was building as the Fascist party was coming into power. “Murder and arson were daily occurrences, and by 1922, Italian Socialists were driven to desperate measures. On August 1, massive strikes disrupted transportation. The government was helpless to combat the effects. Italy needed a savior. Mussolini, Now called Il Duce (”The Leader”), was not found lacking. He gave the government 48 hours to act, and at the expiration of that time he had his Fascists take over Public transportation” (Forman 28).

Other members of the government that gained from Fascism were the nationalists. Part of the definition of Fascism was putting state before citizen, so naturally those fanatically supporting Italy benefited greatly from Fascist’s orders to a Nationalistic government. “In February of 1923, the Nationalist Association, with its “Always Ready” militia, joined the Fascist party en masse” (Payne 111). By the end of May 1919, “the Nationalists were writing to Mussolini as “the one and only Duce of the Italian people” (Smith 334). Also, “support for this escapade was easily obtained from many patriots” (Smith 334).

Finally, there were territorial gains from Fascist imperialism. In 1911, Italy won Libya from the Turks. This proved to be an important trading post for Italy, located in North Africa

and bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Libya was initially intended to be an overflow colony, to “take up” surplus Italian population, but in retrospect was the most expensive colonial campaign made by the Italians. The Nationalists, “in fact wanted colonies solely for the purposes of prestige” (Smith 280). Italy had gained control over Ethiopia, which they called Abyssinia, as well as Eritrea, Somalia, and parts of the Balkans. These were the result of very successful Fascist conquests.

In Italy, a few aspects of society gained from Fascism. In the beginning the Fascists

tried to control unemployment. Jobs were offered to the unemployed in a mass unemployment movement that the government had ordered.

“By 1933, everyone had work. There were no strikes, for strikes were strictly forbidden.

Profits were rolling in, the threat of Communism was gone, and the view from the economic top seemed bright indeed” (Forman 31).

Fascism also created syndicates to manage labor. Syndicates were very similar to labor unions. These syndicates were corporations of workers and employees that were founded in each industry. “In 1938, Mussolini set up the Ministry of Corporations. All persons of similar

occupation or trade were to be grouped into a single syndicate, with the various syndicates being centralized into provincial unions and further into national category federations” (Forman 68).

Education in Italy suffered as a result of Fascist government. Throughout the country,

education was controlled by Fascists, and the Fascist youths were brainwashed into thinking

Fascism was the only, correct, and greatest world power. “The syllabus and cirriculum for schools was repeatedly changed; textbooks were rewritten when one government official wanted more religion, or when another official wanted more economics, and more radically when yet another official ordained that every detail of education must be infused with the highest Fascist

principles” (Smith 423).

Many of the books from earlier parts in Italian history that posed a threat to Fascism, whether real or imagined, were burned. The remaining historical books were rewritten to

glorify Italian society and Fascist achievements.

People opposed to Fascism often suffered tremendously under Fascist rule. Anyone who spoke out against the Fascist government was arrested, and all too frequently assaulted

and even murdered for their outspokenness. “The violence continued throughout the electoral period. According to one record, during the first four and a half months of 1921, there were at least 207 political killings, with distinctly more Socialist than Fascist victims, while another 10 Socialists [were] killed on the day after elections” (Payne 99).

The violence in Fascist Italy was so bad that, “The total number of deaths from political violence in Italy for the four years 1919-1922 may have amounted to nearly 2000 deaths” (Payne 106). Mussolini himself said, “The masses must obey; they cannot afford to waste time

searching for the truth.”

Another major aspect of society that suffered as a result of Fascist government was

the economy. “In the beginning, Fascism had no economic policy; its doctrines of planned economy were one day to be called typically Fascist, but in fact they were developed late and

as an afterthought” (Smith 402).

For Mussolini, the objective of Italian economy was the corporate state.

“Its main ingredients were five: (1) State control of foreign trade, wages, and prices;

(2) prohibition of free collective bargaining and trade unions; (3) no free private

enterprise; (4) subsidizing of large- scale enterprises by the state; and finally (5)

establishment of industry- wide corporations with obligatory membership for

all formerly free businesses” (Forman 67). Not suprisingly, this corporate state did not work out. The lire declined in value, bread prices rose, and coal shortages lead to less industrial production.

In conclusion, it is clear that many members of the government, as well as a few aspects of society gained from Fascism. However, despite those who gained, more Italians suffered as a result of Fascist government. A comprehensive definition of traditional Fascism would describe it as “the seizure and control of economic, social, political, and cultural aspects of a state by a small group of activists, backed by a large segment of the conservative middle and upper

classes fearful of the Communist-worker Left, to the end that the state becomes intensely nationalistic, anti-Communist, and finally imperialistic” (Forman 17). After Fascism’s decline

Italy embarked on a long rebuilding journey. No matter how hard Italy tries to forget Fascism, it will always leave an everlasting mark on society there, and it will go down in history as the

most infamous system of government to ever be conceived.

Forman, James D. Fascism. New York: Franklin Watts, 1974.

Jackson, James O. “Cover/D-Day.” Time 6 June 1994: 23.

Malone, Julia. “Clinton honors war dead in Italy today.” Atlanta Journal 3 June 1994, final

home ed.: 12A.

Matthews, Herbert L. The Fruits of Fascism. New York: Harcourt, 1943.

Payne, Stanley C. A History of Fascism 1914-1945. Madison: UP, 1995.

Schnapp, Jeffrey T. “Fascinating Fascism.” Journal of Contemporary History. 31.2 (1996):


Smith, Mack. Italy. Ann Arbor: UP, 1959.


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