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Mussolini Rise to Power

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Section 14 (Paper 3): Mussolini Notes

Factors that led to the Rise of Mussolini

Within Mussolini’s control

Outside Factors

Role of The War



Economic Factors

Use of Force

Social Divisions


Weakness of Political System

Economic Factors

  • Returning Unemployed Soldiers
  • 1920- 2 Million (Unemployed Soldiers)

Social Factors

  • PSI: Because of “total war”, Italian Industrial workers grew, as did unions
  • Unemployment rose to 2 million leading to the biennio rosso (Red Years) (Red = Communist)
  • Government would push firms to accept labor demands to avoid a communist apprising
  • Because of the businessmen and industrialists believe the government doesn’t support their interests, so they begin to look for someone to support their interests.

War : Impact of WW1        

  • Polarized the country with those who critisized the management of the government (600,000)
  • Maybe if we hadn’t left Germany we would’ve won
  • We didn’t even get anything out of the War
  • During PPC they walked out, made people angry because they didn’t try to negotiate the Italians rights
  • Treaty of St. Germain (1919):
  • Italy is not given the territory promised by the Treaty of London (1915)
  • Fiume Affair (1919): In protest of Treaty of St.Germain, 2,000 German soldiers occupy Fiume (one of the states they were promised) and didn’t leave until the PM was replaced
  • This showed that the government didn’t have control of the military wasn’t the supreme command in the eyes of the soldiers, and the general was aslan a decorated military general
  • This reflects on the people, if the military doesn’t respect the gov then the people also obviously don’t

Mussolini Factors

Legal Means

  • Mussolini attempted to merge all right wing groups forming Fascio di Combattimento
  • By 1919, 70 towns in Italy had these groups
  • 1919 Elections: win 0 seats
  • Not yet popular enough
  • May 1921 Elections: Receive 38 seats in Parliament less than 7% of seats while the socialists are the largest party with 123 seats
  • Shows in just two years how much well he’s doing.
  • August 1921: Offered to sign a Pact of Pacification with the Socialists to end the violence
  • Opposition within the Fascist Party supported by businessmen and industrialists, opposed this and Mussolini didn’t sign
  • This showed that Mussolini didn’t have control over the party
  • Mussolini tried not to play a dirty game and tried to play fair, but his supporters didn’t want the fair in fear that the Socialists would gain power.

Use of Force

  • PSI: Mussolini offered to send the Squadrismos to violently aid the industrialists in the North to break the strikers
  • 1921: Squadre D’Azione killed 100 socialists
  • Industrialists and land owners saw the Fascists fighting against the Socialists
  • And saw that the gov is asking them to listen to the socialists and give them their demands and also incompetent fa it made them even more angry at gov


  • Il Popolo D’Italia: Newspapaer founded by Mussolini promoted anti-socialist and pro-fascist ideas
  • Mussolini’s speeches

Weak Liberal Governments

  • May 21-October 22, 3 week coalition governments ruled

Spark – Use of Force

  • March on Rome (October 1922):
  • 40,000 Blackshirts marched on Rome to seize power, but were stopped by 400 policemen at the train station
  • PM wished to declare a state of emergency, King Victor Emmanuel the Third (aka Italian Hindenburg)


Why Mussolini came to power?

Liberal Thought (Structuralism)

Renzo de Felice

Fascism was a “momentary contagion” as a result of the shock of WW1 and Russian Revolution

Fascism was Popular (Structuralism)

Nicholas Farrell

Fascism represented a return to order after the Red Year (1922: 300,000 members, 1923: 783,000 members)

Fear of Socialism


Alexander de Grand

After 1919 elections which socialists won the rich and the middle class became scared and liberal governments did nothing to stop them


Dennis Mack Smith

Mussolini took advantage of the situation (ex. In Il Popolo d’Italia), he exaggerated the threat of Socialists and portrayed the Fascists representing peace and stability.

  • refused; he resigns and the King names Mussolini PM

Consolidation of Power

Legal Means

  • Acerbo Law (July 1923): passed a law that would give 2/3 of seats in parliament to the party that won the most votes
  • Liberal supported the law out of fear of Sociliams and their belief that Mussolini would restore parliamentary power after
  • 1942 Elections: Fascists win 66%, Major Parliament seats increase from 35 to 374
  • Won due to violence, ballot ringing and popularity after the Corfy incident
  • Communists and Socialists receive 2.5 million votes
  • Church supports Mussolini
  • Mussolini promised to ban contraception and make religious education compulsory
  • Contraception is “against the will of God”
  • Allows churches to have Sunday schools
  • Pope removes support for Popolari asking it’s leader Priest Sturzo to leave the country
  • 1929: Lateran Pact
  • Created an independent Vatican State
  • Catholicism named as the official religion
  • Outlawed divorce
  • Extended religious education to schools
  • Mussolini gains domestic and international prestige
  • Against the Socialist Effect which is anti-religious
  • Fascist Ground Council is established
  • 1928 – Fascist Council provides a list of candidates for elections
  • Ex – All appointments would be made from the party headquarters in Rome (Mussolini)
  • Sent potential rivals out of the Country
  • Ex – Italo Balbo was sent to Libya for fear that he may rival Mussolini
  • Created his own National Militia of 30,000 men to defend the Fascist Revolution but also endures the loyalty of the sqadristi


  • Two Goals:
  • Pride in Nation
  • Mussolini is a great leader
  • How?
  • Built the cult of personality
  • Portrayed as the savior of Italy, new Caesar
  • Ex. Would also leave the light in his office on to create the idea he worked 20 hours a day
  • Education – 1928 – Standardized textbooks where sayings such as, “I believe in the genius of Mussolini and in our Holy Father Fascism”
  • Sports – Italy hosted the 1934 FIFA World Cup
  • Ex. Newspaper wrote, “abroad, our superiority is recognized, admired and envied.”

Matteotti Crisis

  • Matteotti was a popular Socialist in parliament, he was criticizing Mussolini for all the violence that he was using under the fascist group
  • This affected Mussolini because it made him less popular
  • People didn’t like the violence because it showed instability to the Italians, which was the reason they turned to the fascists in the first place because they wanted stability
  • When he said that the Squadrismo killed Matteotti because of their loyalty to him, and to the people this was shocking because this showed that he had no control of his people and he was PM
  • The reason why the King let it go, was because Matteotti was a Socialist
  • June 10, 1925, Matteotti is killed in broad daylight
  • Aventists Succession: many leftist wingers left parliament while it was in session in order to protest Mussolini and try to force the king to remove him
  • July 1924- Press Censorship
  • November 1924- Liberal Leaders join the opposition in protest
  • December 1924- leading Fascists demand that Mussolini take dictatorial powers and end the Matteotti Crisis
  • January 1925- Leggi Fascitissime is passed banning opposition political parties
  • Censorship tighter secret police (OVRA) was set up
  • January 1926- Mussolini given the ability to make laws (the equivalent of the Enabling Act)
  • 1928- The king lost the right to choose the Prime Minister


  • Communists
  • Published their own newspaper L’Unita
  • Estimated 7000 active supporters
  • Justice and Liberty
  • Stationed in Paris, published repression and abuses within Italy for the international presss
  • 1937- Leader Rosseli was murdered by fascists
  • Why was there no further opposition?
  • Journalists and Intellectuals were given extra pay to not criticize the government
  • Felice – “ Mussolini was genuinely popular”
  • Bosworth – “Italians were more suspicious than believing
  • Sassoon – “Life continued to be easy or difficult, but politics had little to do with it”



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