Mussolini Rise to Power

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Benito Mussolini appears to stride through 20th-century Italian history like a buffoon, a fascist dictator whose ludicrous posing was dwarfed by the incalculably more sinister nature of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime. Young socialist

Mussolini was born in 1883. As a young man, he was a rousing orator, a tireless journalist – and a socialist. In 1912, after years of hack journalism and self-promotion, he was appointed editor of the Socialist Party newspaper Avanti!, preaching left wing revolution. But, when the First World War broke out, and Mussolini called for Italy to ally itself with France, he was expelled from the party, whose policy was neutrality. When Italy joined the war, Mussolini fought in the army, then after peace in 1918 rebuilt his political career by appealing to his fellow ex-servicemen. The result was a new political philosophy: a combination of nationalism, authoritarian discipline and charismatic leadership. Mussolini called it Fascism. Successful Fascist

The Fascist movement was launched in 1919. As a succession of governments faced strikes, factory occupations and riots, Fascist gangs presented themselves as the only force able to restore order. Their methods were increasingly violent; when a general strike was called in 1922, Fascists burned down Socialist Party buildings and destroyed the presses of Avanti!. Mussolini then started the March on Rome, a show of strength aimed at making him dictator. But although this appeared to be a coup, in fact its success depended on support from Italy's king, Victor Emmanuel III. In the event, Mussolini didn't march to Rome – he went to Rome by train and became prime minister by royal appointment. Mussolini's rule was brutally authoritarian: the parliament was packed with Fascists, opposition newspapers were banned, and opponents of the regime were beaten up. However, the regime was also genuinely popular – Mussolini was part celebrity and part saint. About 3,000 different picture postcards...
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