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Mussolini The Rise of Fascism and the Creation of the Totalitarian State Mussolini • Italo Balbo was disgusted with life in Italy. He had gone off to war in a spirit of patriotism. He returned to a land of economic chaos and political corruption. “I hated politics and politicians, who in my opinion, had betrayed the hopes of soldiers, reducing Italy to a shameful peace…Better to deny everything, destroy everything, in order to renew everything from the foundations.” Mussolini Embittered and angry, Balbo joined a new movement called Fascism. Mussolini • When Italy entered WWI on the side of the Entente Powers (the Allies), her leaders hoped the war would resolve several of Italy’s problems. It didn’t. • Italy’s people were predominately poor and illiterate, Italy had few natural resources, and only 2% of the population was eligible to vote. Mussolini • The war cost Italy over 500,000 lives, there were no major victories in the field (and one major defeat), and the war accentuated class differences (it was widely believed that poor men died needlessly in frontal assaults while the wealthy stayed behind the lines or stayed home). • Mussolini had been a Socialist (and briefly a soldier) but he split with the Socialists over Italian involvement in WWI. Mussolini • Mussolini founded the Fascist movement in 1919. He believed the war was one of the finest chapters in Italian history, and that Italy had been cheated at Versailles. • Mussolini formed what he called the fascio di combattimento (“union for struggle”), which was initially a small group of disgruntled ex-soldiers. Mussolini • The name Fascism came from the Latin fasces, the symbol of authority and community in Imperial Rome. Mussolini • The fasces represented one of the central tenets of Mussolini’s political ideology: …to eliminate the notion of the individual and instead focus on the collective (state). Strength Through Unity Mussolini • In many ways this sounds similar to what the Communists wanted – a unified society devoid of any class differences. Mussolini • But Fascism did not believe in the end of class differences. Instead Fascism pushed for another identity, one that was rooted in extreme nationalism and often in some mystical racial heritage (such as ancient Rome to the Italians or the Aryans to the Germans). Mussolini • Fascism is generally a term used to describe a highly centralized, authoritarian government (that isn’t communist) whose policies glorify the power of the state over the individual. • Fascists are known to seize power by any means possible (often democratically), usually by creating an atmosphere of chaos and fear. • Violence, action, discipline, order, and unconditional/blind loyalty to the state are glorified. Mussolini • Basic human rights do not exist. • The burning of books/literature (or anything considered “subversive” was common). • Aggressive and nationalistic foreign policies were pursued (which mirrored the “survival of the fittest” mentality.) Mussolini • While Communism advocated common ownership of property and capital under the strict control of the state, Fascism allowed private ownership and capital, but imposed strict and severe restrictions upon the people. • Fascism started in Italy, but within a few years it had spread to Germany (Nazism), Spain, and Japan. Mussolini • Both Communism and Fascism suppress or eliminate opposing political parties. • Both deny civil liberties and control all forms of the media (i.e. practiced censorship and propaganda). • Both have absolute control over their populations. Mussolini • Fascism rejects faith in reason and totally rejects the concepts of liberty and equality. • Fascism believes that democracy leads to corruption and weakness, and that democracy puts the interests of the individual above those of the state. • Fascism and Communism were (and still are) the strongest anti-democratic political movements in the world. Mussolini • Mussolini claimed that those who tolerated Versailles had betrayed the heroism of Italy’s dead and that they must be driven from power. Mussolini • After WWI, high rates of unemployment and inflation brought social unrest to Italy. • Those that had jobs demanded better pay, shorter hours, better conditions, etc. • Italy before/after the war was a parliamentary democracy. In 1919 the Socialists won the majority of seats. Strikes were called, factories were shut down. Fears of another Bolshevik Revolution (and of Italy becoming Communist) paralyzed the country. Mussolini • Mussolini was extremely antagonistic to the idea of a parliamentary democracy. It was too slow and ineffective. Yet Fascism spread through Democracy. Mussolini • The growth of democratic ideology and popular participation in politics in the 19th century was terrifying to some conservative elements in European society, and Fascism grew out of the attempt to counter it by forming mass parties based largely on the middle classes and the petty bourgeoisie, exploiting their fear of political domination by the lower classes. Mussolini • Mussolini’s Fascism promoted the idea of a strong leader; a man who in an almost mystical way represented all the frustrations, anxieties, desires, and dreams of the nation. Mussolini • While despising Democracy, Fascism also rejected Socialism, which was a major reason why his movement rose to power. • Landowners, members of the upper and middle classes, business owners, and the Church were keenly aware of the Bolshevik Revolution and saw Mussolini and Fascism as the only barrier to Communism. Mussolini • In 1922, despite having less than 4% of the seats in the parliament, Mussolini demanded that the king (Victor Emmanuel III) make him Prime Minister. • Governmental paralysis enabled Mussolini to obtain the premiership by a show of force. • Mussolini was able to present himself as the strong-armed savior of Italy from anarchy and Communism. Mussolini • To support his demands, Mussolini organized discontented soldiers and unemployed youth (for whom Fascism meant a uniform and a job) into his ‘BlackShirts’ – the squadristi. • These thugs/gangsters threatened to terrorize Rome and seize power if Mussolini didn’t get what he wanted. Mussolini’s Squadristi Mussolini • If the king had declared martial (military) law, the Fascists would have been scattered. But he was a timid man who hated/feared Communism. So he named Mussolini Prime Minister. Mussolini • The ‘March on Rome’ succeeded not because the Fascists were strong but because the Italian government was so weak. • Mussolini quickly moved to consolidate his power. He made the Fascist Party the only legal political power in Italy. • All men over 21 could vote, but only for Fascist candidates. Mussolini • Mussolini considered himself the successor to the imperial Caesars of ancient Rome. He declared the Mediterranean to be Mare Nostrum (“our sea”). • He wanted to be known as Il Duce (the leader). Mussolini • Mussolini and the Fascists were firm believers in the strength and power of propaganda. • A mythology and cult of personality were created around Mussolini. • Mussolini and the Fascists were antagonistic towards most of what was happening in the modern world of the 1920’s: – They were against suffrage for women. – They hated modern art and music. – They were anti-Semitic (although not as bad as the Germans would become). Mussolini Mussolini • Mussolini Mussolini Mussolini • In 1926, Mussolini outlawed independent labor unions (which made business leaders happy) and announced cuts in women’s wages. • In the late 1920’s he banned women from the civil service, legal careers, and professorships. • Women were to be confined to low-paying jobs (this benefited men). Mussolini • Girls and young women were to be trained as mothers (the ideal woman)…they were on earth to benefit man. (picture dated April 30, 1938) Mussolini • Boys and young men were to be taught the ideal of Italian military supremacy and militarism. • Many joined the Young Fascists. Mussolini Mussolini • A is for architecture, M is for Mussolini -- an alphabetically inclined building constructed in one of Italy's cities during Mussolini’s time in office. Part of his cult of personality. Mussolini • Mussolini and the Fascists glorified war and worked to make Italy self-sufficient in case of one. • The government built roads, power plants, schools, hospitals, etc; thousands were drafted into the army. • The government encouraged larger families (mothers of large families were even given medals of honor). Mussolini • He had textbooks rewritten to spread Fascism through “glorifying the mission” of Italy. • He promoted the military as the noblest of careers. • He preached his invincibility, and presented himself as a devoted public servant, a hardened soldier, and a disciplined political genius. • Mussolini had created the world’s first totalitarian state (he coined the name). Mussolini • During the economic and political chaos of the 1920’s-1930’s, dictatorship seemed to be the wave of the future. • Mussolini proclaimed that this century (the 20th) would be a century of the right/ultra conservative (meaning anti-democratic). • The modern totalitarian state rejected liberal values and exercised total control over the lives of its subjects. Mussolini • The Fascists created a nightmare world where human individuality was crushed under the might of totalitarian collectivism. • That is what bothered such writers as Huxley (Brave New World), Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451), Orwell (1984), and Moore (“V” for Vendetta) among others. Mussolini • Even though he was an atheist, Mussolini understood that most Italians valued tradition and Catholicism (just like Napoleon). • In 1929 he signed the Lateran Accords which made the Vatican an independent state. • The Church determined marriage and family policy. • In return, the Church ended its criticism of Mussolini • “Believe, Obey, Fight!” • “The function of a citizen and a soldier are inseparable.” Mussolini • He thought of himself as a man on a pedestal, never letting his face show any emotion except for two standard poses of fierceness and benevolence. • He liked to project an aura of physical vigor even though he had venereal disease and ulcers. Mussolini • Among Mussolini’s many admirers (“he made the trains run on time!”) was Adolph Hitler. • Hitler was Mussolini’s protégé.