(1924) Matteotti Crisis
What was the Matteotti Crisis of 1924?
On 30th May 1924, Socialist leader, Giacomo Matteotti spoke out against the Fascists at the chamber of deputies and was immediately met with interruptions. (to put this into perspective... his speech which was meant to take 30 minutes lasted for 2 hours)
Following his speech, he told his colleagues that they could prepare for his funeral.
Eleven days later, he was kidnapped by ex-squadristi on the way to the Chamber.
Two months later, dogs found his body in a shallow grave 23 kilometres from Rome.
The investigation showed that the car that had been seen by a passer-by belonged to Filipelli, a leading Fascist.
As a result, it became widespread knowledge that Mussolini was implicated in Matteotti's murder, especially with Matteotti being the main political opponent of Mussolini.
Matteotti is in the middle.Image from Wikipedia.
What was the impact of the Matteotti Crisis?
Large protests ensued with people tearing up Fascist membership cards and communists calling for a general strike. Meanwhile, in what is known as the 'Aventine Secession', most opposition Deputies walked out of Parliament and met elsewhere, declaring themselves the true representatives of the Italian people. Their expectation was that the King would dismiss Mussolini.
Despite the opinions of many deputies, the elite still believed that a Mussolini government was the best option. While there was hesitation from the opposition, the Fascists urged Mussolini to seize control with a Fascist dictatorship.
At first, Mussolini decided to combine repression and making concessions. He mobilised the militia to crack down on protests and placed tougher restrictions on the press, while he also united the militias with the army, who swore allegiance to the King and fired the murder suspects Rossi and Chief of Police de Bono as concessions.
On 27th December 1924, a newspaper published the testimony of Rossi which directly implicated Mussolini in the murder of Matteotti, and the Fascists began to further encourage Mussolini to react, with the Ras (leaders of Fascist militia) pressuring him to do so at a meeting on 31st December.
On 3rd January 1925, Mussolini identified himself as the Fascist leader and announced that he would set up a dictatorship within 48 hours.
In what ways did Mussolini and the Fascists 'succeed' in regards to the Matteotti Crisis?
He gained increasing control over the whole Fascist party. His party called on him to take action in a critical meeting on the 31st of December. His response of declaring a Fascist dictatorship assured them of his power and control.
In regards to his rule, he imposed a new policy that mobilised the military and was more strict towards the press. This effectively reduced opposition to the rule of the Fascists.
By admitting to the murder of Matteotti (to a certain degree), his brutality instilled fear among Italians and this meant that they were willing to obey him and support the Fascists. Thus, he was able to solidify his rule over Italy.
As he had removed the socialist leader, he gained support from the elite, the church, and other right-wing groups that opposed the left and saw Socialism & Communism as a serious threat.
In what ways did Mussolini and the Fascists 'fail' in regards to the Matteotti Crisis?
Following the Matteotti Crisis, opposing parties still existed and were heavy critics of Fascism. Furthermore, he could still be dismissed by the King at any time (but he largely had the support of the King, who was weak and often refused to take action against or even criticise Mussolini).
In regards to the country, for a time, Mussolini lost a significant amount of Italian support and they disrespected him for ordering the murder of Matteotti. However, in the long run, this instilled fear and led them to obey.
Finally, Mussolini conceded in some ways. For example, the Fascist militias joined the army and had to pledge allegiance to King Victor Emmanuel III and he fired the murder suspects Rossi and de Bono (Chief of Police).