Mussolini

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How effective did Benito Mussolini manage Italian affairs between 1922 and 1945? (Refer to achieving and consolidating control, political economy, Italian affairs, foreign policy.)

Benito Mussolini was born in 1883. In 1912 he became editor of the Avanti (a socialist newspaper.) In 1914 Mussolini left the socialist party over his pro-war views and formed his own newspaper ‘Il Popolo d’italia. In 1919 he formed the Fascist Party the ‘Fascio di Combattiemento’.

The reasons for the rise of Mussolini are as follows: There was great resentment with the treaty of Versailles. By the terms for the treaty of London Italy had been expected to gain certain territories especially in Yugoslavia. At Versailles (1919) President Wilson of America resisted these claims and Italy was left disappointed. Economic problems in Italy were horrific. Between 1914-1918 prices rose by 250% due to waves of strikes, 500,000 steelworkers went on strike in Milan in 1920 which was followed by an agricultural strike in the Po Valley in 1920. There was huge failure of democracy. A new voting system introduced in 1919 tended to fragment the groupings in parliament and so worsened the chances of effective government. Mussolini was getting a broad spectrum of support. In 1919 Mussolini formed the fascist party which gradually attracted a broad range of support. Nationalists found an emotional appeal in Mussolini’s speeches, disgruntled unemployed soldiers following world war 1 followed him and also landowners and industrialists who were fed up with strikes and feared the rise in communism. By 1921 the membership had risen to 152,000 of whom 62,000 were working class and the rest were professional people and small tradesmen.

In October 1922 Mussolini was convinced by other leading fascists that it was time to act, Mussolini demanded that he be appointed prime minister. He announced to the public his intention to march on the capital – Rome. His followers began to occupy towns throughout north and central Italy in preparation for a seizure of power. On 28 October prime minister Luigi Facta asked king victor Emmanuel 111 to declare a state emergency and use the army, the troops in Rome were loyal to the king and could have crushed the fascists. However, fearing civil war Facta resigned. Mussolini refused to serve under another prime minister, the king gave in and appointed Mussolini prime minister. The myth of the fascist revolution had been born. Despite Mussolini becoming prime minister in 1922 it wasn’t until 1924 Mussolini’s power really took effect.

When appointed prime minister, Mussolini led a coalition government in which fascist MP’s were a small minority. His government contained all the major parties except socialists and communists. Mussolini also served as minister for foreign affairs and the Interior. A measure Mussolini passed while head of a minority government had ordained that which ever party should secure a majority in the parliamentary election should command two-thirds of the seats automatically. This was known as the ‘acerbo law’. This was the end of a democracy. The black shirts guaranteed that majority in the elections of 1924 using a variety of means few of which were fair. Mussolini legalized and renamed the black shirts the Volunteer Militia for National Security and a Fascist Grand Council was created to advise Mussolini. An oligarchy had now been established.

Mussolini’s hold on parliament became even tighter after the murder of Giacomo Matteotti a socialist politican who tried to have the 1924 elections nullified due to the black-shirts activities in the run up to the election. Historians are unsure whether Mussolini was behind the murder of Matteotti however, at the time it was widely believed Mussolini was the architect of his murder putting him in a very weak political position. In protest over 100 moderate MP’s withdrew from the chamber. In true Machiavellian tradition Mussolini weathered the criticism and...
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