Mussolini's Economic Aims

Mussolini used what are known as ‘battles’ to set targets for different areas of the economy and the wider nation, all the while encouraging corporate states to reach the various targets.

Table of Contents:

The Battle for Grain

Aim:

  • Mussolini aimed to make Italy self-sufficient and balance the trade deficit.

Actions:

  • In 1925, he put high tariffs on imported grain and provided grants to farmers that would enable them to purchase the necessary machinery and fertilisers to achieve the targets set.

Outcome:

  • As a result, the production of Cereal grain increased and wheat imports fell by 75% from 1925 to 1935, making Italy more self-sufficient in wheat. However, they were not self-sufficient in fertilisers, and their focus on wheat was at the cost of other forms of agriculture, so there was an increase in meat and egg imports.

  • Meanwhile, cereal production decreased during the war due to the restriction of imported fertilisers, which Italy still relied on.

  • Furthermore, higher import tariffs meant that there was a decline in the variety and nutritional value of Italian diets.

Overall, this battle can be seen as a moderate success, as he largely succeeded in terms of wheat.

The Battle for Births

Aim:

  • To increase the population from 40 million in 1927 to 60 million by 1950

Actions:

  • He gave loans to married couples and reduced or cancelled these for each child born.

  • Men with six children or more were exempt from taxes, whilst taxes were increased for unmarried young people and he made it more difficult for them to find employment.

Outcome:

  • He failed to increase the population significantly as Italy’s population only reached 47.5 million by 1950

  • Fertility only increased from 3.2 to 3.7 from 1920 to 1925, and then decreased even further to 2.6 in the mid-1940s.

The Battle of the Marshes / The Battle for Land

Aim:

  • To improve health (diseases came from swamps and marshes)

  • To increase the number of jobs

  • To make more land for farming

  • To serve as propaganda and show off to foreigners

Actions:

  • laws were passed on land reclamation

  • private landowners were encouraged to contribute in a drainage scheme

  • The Pontine Marshes near Rome were drained

  • A few cities were created for show in Italy

Outcome:

  • ¾ of the reclaimed land was in the North

  • Between 1928 and 1938, only 80,000 hectares of land was reclaimed

    • Equivalent to just one-twentieth of Fascist propaganda claims

The Battle for the Lira

Aim:

  • To fix the lira at 90 lire to the pound

  • Reduce inflation Show off the mighty power of Italy and the Italian economy

Actions:

  • Banks put tight controls on the money supply

  • The government imposed wage cuts of around 20%

  • The government devalued areas of the economy to support the strength of the currency

Outcome:

  • Technically, the Battle for the Lira was achieved in 1927 when it was returned to the gold standard. However, in 1936, the government was forced to devalue the lira, so this battle can be seen as a failure.