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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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Autor:   •  March 16, 2011  •  2,301 Words (10 Pages)  •  911 Views

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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 Mussolini and in fact bringing him into parliament meant that no league of anti fascist parties would ever take place as it would have no power without support from all the leading Liberals. Historians favouring the First World War as the cause for Mussolini’s rise to power would also say the divide between the Liberals who were pro war and anti war would have stopped this also. It is however clear then that the existence of the Socialist and Communist Part played a major role in Mussolini and his rise to power due to there allowance for him to gain a view as respectable. But this respectability would be nothing without the weaknesses it allowed Mussolini to exploit within the Liberal state.

Another reason for Mussolini’s rise to power given by historians such as G M Trevelyan is the aftermath of the First World War. In 1915 the Italians decided to join the war on the side of Britain and France. This decision to join however caused a rift to be created between the Liberals in the shape of the interventionalists and those arguing for no war. The interventionalists included top Liberal politicians such as Salandra and Orlando and the anti war side of the Liberals was led by Giolitti and also contained a majority of the Liberals. This rift led to the interventionalists feeling closer to the pro war fascist party and so made them cooperative towards them post war ear. The rift caused by the war between the major players in the Liberal parties was never healed and lead to a permanent split between the Liberals leading the two sides neither forming a government together again. The lack of will to work together following the war can also be seen as a major criticism of the Liberal system as the major players in the system could not work together over an issue that had passed almost four years before the March on Rome. This split stopping them working together meant that in 1922 when Mussolini was taking part in his March on Rome no government could be formed which was strong enough to resist him from gaining power. The lack of power shown by the government at the time of the March on Rome is however not caused by the split in the First World War but instead due to the a major weakness in the system of voting in the liberal state. Whilst in power Nitti had introduced the voting system of proportional representation that is meant to allow for a fairer election in which seats are shared according to how much percentage of the votes you gained across the whole country. This system however always leads to coalitions between a few parties as no one party can gain a clear majority. Coalition governments are notoriously weak as any small disagreement can cause to government to follow apart and the leading party losing its majority. This therefore means

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