How Valid Is the Judgement That Mussolini’s Rise to Power Was Mainly the Result of the Failures of the Liberal State

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Mussolini’s rise to power changed the course of western history as it brought about the new political idea of fascism, which would later spread, to Germany, Spain and Portugal. Mussolini’s rise to power is one that is widely debated in history. The strongest claim as to how Mussolini rose to power comes from the idea that the Italian liberal state was to open minded to supporting him and that the workings of its system were flawed allowing him to exploit this for his own gain. This argument is one put forward by historians such as Martin Clark and Antonio Gramsci. However other arguments given by historians such as Martin Blinkhorn claim that the fault should be placed on the socialists and communists for their failed attempted revolution as it allowed Mussolini to gain respectability among the Italian electorate due to his parties defeat of the revolution. There is also a school of thought led by the historian G M Trevelyan that says Mussolini managed to gain control of Italy due to the aftermath of the First World War and the situation caused by the war in Italy. It is clear to many however that the final two arguments heavily criticised and thus to weak to stand up to the scrutiny therefore it is clear that the Liberal state and its failings are the key reason for rise of Mussolini. One major view argued by historians such as Martin Blinkhorn is that the rise of fascism in Italy is done to the socialists. Socialism grew as a political ideological view in Italy following the First World War. This rise led to two years of strikes known as the Biennio Russo or the Two Red Years in 1919 and 1920. These strikes however were not the start of a communist up rising however and were more to do with improved wages and workers rights. However many industrialists feared a revolution like that of Russia so generally paid off these strikes. However during September 1920 there were widespread workers occupations of factories and fears of a socialist revolution came back again. Due to the inactivity from the government the fascists manage to present themselves as the sole defenders of Italy from a communist revolution. The fascists manage to break these strikes by attacking both the trade unionists and the strikers. By ‘defending’ Italy from the ‘revolution’ Mussolini and the fascists gain major support amongst the middle class and also gained support from the moderates as the government had done nothing to stop this revolution. However, Martin Clark criticises this claim by saying that the inclusion on Giovanni Giolitti on the government supported candidate list in an attempt to move people away from voting socialists in the 1921 election. This support from the Prime Minister gave the fascist party an air of respectability and also helped they gain 35 seats in the election clearly showing how the Liberal state played the major role in Mussolini rise to power. Following these strikes and other activity in the socialist party in the early twenties the Socialist Party split with the more radical communists leaving to form the Communist Party. The forming of the more radical party fighting for played into Mussolini’s hands as the existence of a Communist Party gave him a reason for taking their ‘action’ in the streets meaning he could destroy his opposition. Clark however also argues that .The continued existence of a Socialist Party also meant that an anti-Fascist alliance between the rests of the parties was impossible as shown by Martin Blinkhorn: The existence of the Socialist Party also meant that an anti-fascist league was impossible as: ‘The mutual antagonism of the socialist left and the Catholic right prevented a reformist alliance which might have guided Italy into a genuinely democratic ear.’ 1

However, this has been criticised by Martin Clark who argues that the Liberal State can also be blamed for the lack of this alliance as non of the major Liberals did give any sign of taking a tough stance against...
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