Fascism was born with an ambiguous face, surging from socialist ideas developed in a strong nationalistic way, embracing monarchy and free-trade; it also had expansionist policies. Mussolini himself was in fact socialist, but as his party was not getting as many votes as he expected he shifted to fascism, but reluctantly breaking his links with socialism. The rise and the consolidation of power was done in a superficially legal manner, but a party led by a dictator needs a harsh rule to stay in power and be to some extent ruthless to bring order - something Europe needed, specially after the mess created by World War One.
By 1900 the process of unification in Italy, the Risorgimento, had largely been completed territorially, but not in any other respect. The vast majority of the population still felt no real attachment to Italy at all, as a result of "Italy's continuing weakness as a cultural, industrial, military, and colonial power compared to older European states". This resulted in a deepening national inferiority complex and led to various projects for the renewal of nationalism, both from the extreme left and the extreme right. Italy was promised land in the war and joined at the side of the Allies, but in the end it did not gained what it was promised and this was known as the "mutilated victory". The political sphere indicated the government in power was vulnerable, the Italians blamed the government for it did not take a stronger stand. Economically, Italy was in a great (fake, as it was believed it was about to collapse) boom. The North seemed to be booming more than the south.
The fear of a communist revolution seemed to have given Mussolini an increasing amount of supporters such as the wealthy (who were afraid of the end of private property), the 'agrari' fascists, richer peasants, estate managers and urban professionals joined the communists in a struggle against the revolution. Fascism survived the 1919 crisis due to the Wealthy Milanese help...
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