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How Successful Mussolini's Economic Policy?

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To begin with, Mussolini was no economist and he knew little of the workings of the economy. To see whether his economic policy was successful we must first look at his aims. Mussolini's main objective was to build Italy's economy to a level where it could rival the great industrial powers of the post-war period, namely Britain, France and, to a lesser extent, Germany in Europe. To do so, he aims to achieve autarky; to have a self-sufficient Italy that he believed was vital to national security. In result, would make Italy have the ability to fight the major power. The question is, was his economic policy successful?

In the early 1930's Italy's economy was backward and agricultural, especially in the economically destitute South. A massive program of industrialisation would need to be carried out in order to bring the economy up to the standards of Northwest Europe. Mussolini also needed economic success to keep public opinion on his side. In this respect he was lucky to have been able to ride the European-wide boom of the 1920's whilst allowing his finance minister, De Stefani, to follow orthodox economic policies. However, simply being carried along on a wave of economic success would not make Italy an important industrial power. In one of his most successful economic policies, Mussolini created IRI which allowed him to take control of many key industries as it provided finance for firms producing goods such as steel, electricity and machine-tools. However, as a domestic policy the success of such a scheme must be judged to have been flawed, as it made no impact on the north-south divide as new developments were by and large centred on the North. In addition corruption, which so regularly leaked into Italian politics, diminished the effectiveness of the IRI.With industry on a long leash and the South still in a medieval economic state Mussolini's apparent success in industrialising Italy with a national purpose was always mostly rhetoric flattered by outside factors from the world economy.

Another of Mussolini's great economic aim was a drive towards autarky as mentioned earlier. At the head of this drive was a scheme with a typical Fascist slogan, the 'battle for grain'. Aimed at making Italy self-sufficient in grain. By appearing bare-chested labouring in the fields Mussolini was able to give the valuable impression of accord with the common Italian peasant, whilst being able to announce the success of the scheme gave the image of Fascism a golden veneer. However, there is no evidence to show that the 'battle for grain' solved a single problem in Italy. Although wheat production rose greatly, there was a down fall to it notably seen in the South. Land better suited to other crops such as olive oils and citrus fruit was wasted and result in the reasonable decrease in exports. It shows a superficial impression of economic self-reliance. The same amount of wheat could have been imported at a vastly lower cost and would have allowed other more adapted crops to have been exported and kept as surplus. Nevertheless, at least the 'battle for grain' had some superficial



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