Overview of Mussolini's Italy / Mussolini's Italy Essay Plans

Essay plan for 'Mussolini's Rise to Power'

Here, we will examine the important factors which contributed to Mussolini's Rise to Power. For 'rise to power' questions, you should consider the perspectives of personal, party, government and country/society in order to gain the highest marks. In the conclusion, you should also argue which factors are the most/least important and why.

Personal

  • Mussolini was popular prior to being appointed Prime Minister. He had gradually gained popularity as the editor of three socialist newspapers, including Avanti!, which had a circulation of 100,000, and his founding of Il Popolo d’Italia. These positions allowed him to develop a base of supporters as he used these popular public platforms to promote and express his political beliefs and ideology.

  • Mussolini's political experience allowed him to be seen as a strong candidate for Prime Minister, leading to his appointment. Mussolini had led the Fascist Party since December 1914. In 1914, Mussolini was elected to the City Council of Milan and in 1921, he was elected to the Italian parliament as one of the 35 Fascists. This demonstrated that Mussolini's political career was consistently improving, and he had experience as a party leader. As he had led the Fascist Party for eight years, prior to his appointment as Prime Minister, it was clear that he had the support required to help the country recover from the War.

  • Mussolini’s personal abilities made Mussolini appear as a strong candidate for leadership. He was a charismatic speaker, appeared powerful with his strong frame and bald head, and had a background in the military. Mussolini's charisma meant he was able to easily convince people to support him and his military background and sense of strength meant he had the support of those in the military and those who desperately wanted strong leadership.

Party

  • Mussolini's rise to power was strongly assisted by the Fascist Party's demonstration of their power through the March on Rome. At the Fascist Congress in Naples on the 24th of October 2022, Mussolini openly declared that the Fascists would either be appointed or seize power. The Fascists travelled to Rome and began to occupy public buildings. The Fascists had been able to demonstrate their power to a large extent, and the King feared that he could be overthrown if he did not support the Fascists. He also believed that if he ordered the military to fight the Fascists, they would disobey, in favour of Mussolini. Hence, the King decided to support Mussolini and appoint him as Prime Minister.

  • The strong and widespread appeal of Fascism allowed Mussolini to be appointed and a Fascist government to be established. The Fascist party was flexible and adapted its policies to the needs and desires of the Italian populace in order to garner more support. The policies of the Fascists would allow businesses to recover from the First World War, and offered an improvement to the quality of life. The appeal of the Fascists is demonstrated by the fact that they had 500,000 party members, whilst votes for them had increased drastically from 4,800 in 1919 to 125,000 in 1921. The Fascists were popular among most, if not all social groups, as it was an unprecedented revolutionary political ideology that did not cause the Communist-like chaos to improve the unforeseeably challenging situation after the First World War. Its emphasis on totalitarianism and the sustainability of the Italian people’s livelihoods through corporatism provided the most fashionable but practical direction for Italy to solve the severe suffering caused by the war and the profound intolerance of the discredited Liberal Government.

Government

  • The unstable political system of the Liberal Government of Italy made the Italian populace look to a more radical solution in Mussolini. After the First World War, prior to Mussolini’s rise to power, Italy had five Prime Ministers in six years; Orlando, Nitti, Giolitti, Bonomi and Facta. Due to proportional representation, the Government was a coalition made up of many political parties with divergent aims. This meant it was very difficult for the government to compromise and makes decisions. It had become clear that a democratic government had failed. Mussolini had become the last option for Italy as Italians began to believe that a totalitarian government was necessary for Italy to recover and prosper.

  • Mussolini's appointment as Prime Minister was brought on by the weakness, selfishness and indecisiveness of King Victor Emmanuel III. His mother and cousin had both sympathised with the Fascists, whilst the King himself feared communism as it would mean the abolition of the monarchy. He also feared that the Fascists, with the help of the military, could force him to step down in favour of his cousin if he did not support their Government. Hence, in order to ensure the continuance of his rule and the rule of the monarchy, King Victor Emmanuel III decided to ignore the advice of Prime Minister Facta to put down the March on Rome.

Country

  • The Italian Government had been discredited and the Liberal Government had lost favour with the Italian people following the Paris Peace Conference. In the 1915 Treaty of London, Italy was promised South Tyrol, Trentino, Istria, Dalmatia and the possibility of colonies in return for joining the war on the side of the Allies (Britain and France). However, in the Treaty of Versailles, partly due to poor communication and Prime Minister Orlando's lack of bargaining power, Italy was not given Dalmatia or any Colonies and also failed to obtain Fiume, which they claimed. The Italian people were angered and saw the Liberal Government as a failure as they did not receive the land they were promised and believed they deserved. Therefore, the Italian Liberal government was discredited and Prime Minister Vittorio Emanuele Orlando resigned.

  • Mussolini's rise to power was assisted by increasing fear of Communism within Italy. The Industrial Crisis during the Biennio Rosso of 1919–20 led to a fear of communism. Whilst support for the Communist Party had increased following the First World War, the election results of the Fascist Party drastically increased after Bieno Rossio, with the party garnering great support from the businessmen, rich industrialists and the bourgeoisie.

  • Post-war problems caused a rise in the popularity of extremist parties, such as the Communist Party and the Fascist Party, as people looked for radical solutions. The War had cost Italy 148 billion lire and 600,000 deaths. This was difficult to recover from as industry slowed after the end of the First World War. Their national debt, which was 16bn in 1914, had increased to 85bn in 1918 as they had to maintain their military and the costs of War. Meanwhile, Italy was hit by severe inflation, with the price index indicating an increase of almost sixfold. Italians found that the value of their savings had been severely hit by inflation. More and more Italians began to look to radical parties for solutions. The Italian people were no longer concerned with democracy and focused on strengthening Italy and improving the quality of life. Hence, they began to support the idea of a totalitarian government that would impose strict laws, reducing party politics and class struggles.

Essay plan for 'Mussolini Successfully Maintaining Power'

Here, we will examine the important factors which allowed Mussolini's to maintain power. For this type of question, you should consider the perspectives of social, economic, political and foreign policy in order to gain the highest marks. In the conclusion, you should also argue which factors are the most/least important and why.

Social

  • Mussolini’s relationship with and policies toward the Church successfully allowed Mussolini to increase his support and expand his influence. When Mussolini was elected to Parliament in 1921, he made a speech embracing the idea of a Christian nation. Pope Pius XI began to think that Mussolini might be the person sent by God to end the separation of church and state, which had been so since the Italian Unification in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, and restore the Church's power. In 1929, Mussolini and the Pope signed the Lateran Pacts. This improved the relationship with the Church and included a clause where the state was allowed to veto major Church appointments. Forming an agreement with the church was important as 98% of the Italian population was Catholic. By signing the Lateran Treaty in 1929, Mussolini confirmed that it was acceptable to be Fascist and Catholic. Thus Mussolini was able to gain further support from Catholics, while he was also able to hold influence on church affairs. Mussolini was also able to end the Church-State conflict, which had existed for over fifty years, and was something that his predecessors had been unable to achieve. This demonstrated that Mussolini was the appropriate candidate for leading the country, and allowed him to maintain his rule successfully.

    • However, these agreements with the Church did not make an overall contribution to the creation of a totalitarian state in Italy. Importantly, when the Archbishop of Milan openly praised Fascism, 300 of his Priests circulated open letters of protest saying that good Catholics do not accept Fascism. This showed that not all members and ranks of the Church were supportive of Fascism. Additionally, the Pope published an encyclical, ‘Non Abbiamo Bisogno’ in 1931, criticising the Fascist Party and accusing Mussolini of committing heresy. In 1938, he criticised the Anti-Semitic policies which were taken from Nazi Germany. When the Pope spoke out against Fascist policies, he was seen to be right and Mussolini wrong as the Pope was seen as infallible on matters relating to religion or morality. Furthermore, the existence of the King and Pope as figureheads in Italy meant that Italians had others to worship, rather than looking up to and respecting Mussolini. Therefore, the extent of Mussolini’s control over religion was significantly limited.

  • Mussolini's clever use of propaganda allowed him to maintain power from 1922 to 1943. In July 1925, new laws were introduced controlling the press, and in December 1925, a new law meant that all Journalists had to be registered with the Fascist Party. This ensured that the media was loyal to Mussolini and promoted the Fascist party as it meant that newspapers were unable to speak out against Fascist policies. During his rule, Mussolini used mass media; newspapers, posters, the cinema, the radio, literature, philosophy, Italian culture and music to promote nationalism and the Fascist party. This was instrumental in creating a cult of personality around him. He also used events including rallies, sports and art & culture & sculpture exhibitions. These were effective in creating an image of a strong and powerful Italy under the Fascist rule.

  • Mussolini’s Fascist regime was able to control life in Italy by changing the education system in order to ensure total discipline and brainwashing & indoctrinate the Italian youth, allowing them to successfully maintain the rule of the Fascist party, with Mussolini as the leader of Italy. Mussolini banned 101 out of 317 historical texts, the Fascists introduced official, mandatory course plans into the education system to indoctrinate the youth, and in 1928 a single textbook covering all subjects, for each year of elementary school, was created by the government. This made sure that the Italian youth population were educated on the good aspects and policies of Fascism, allowing the Fascist Party to moderate and monitor what was being taught in schools, strengthening their influence and rule. In 1935, military education was introduced to enhance national pride. The subject taught about the good elements of Italian History, weapons and tactics. The Fascists also organised The Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB) for boys and girls, ranging from the ages of 6 to 18. It was run by the Fascist party from 1926 until 1929, then the education ministry, until 1937. The ONB covered a range of activities from sports and military drills to propaganda lectures. These collective policies increased the support for and trust in Fascism as 20 years of Italians were educated under Fascism, from 1922 to 1943. They reduced opposition towards Fascist policies as the education system removed their doubts through indoctrination.

  • Mussolini took steps to control educators, ensuring that students were being effectively indoctrinated and taught the assigned, Pro-Fascist content. In 1925, they made it so public employees with anti-Fascist views could be dismissed. In 1929, after the Concordat was signed, teachers were required to take an oath of loyalty to Mussolini. As a result, in order to keep their jobs, they were forced to teach content that they didn’t necessarily agree with. From 1931, professors were instructed to take the oath of loyalty, with only 11 out of more than 1,250 refusing, and others crossing their fingers. In 1931, teachers associations were combined to form a Fascist Association. This was to ensure obedience among teachers, whilst it organised indoctrination courses that teachers had to take in order to achieve any promotions. This allowed Mussolini to build a cult of personality around himself. He was also able to reduce opposition as the Fascists were able to brainwash the youth much more effectively. Moreover, Mussolini’s Fascist party was able to gain control and influence over the education system, and influence the mindset of the future Italian workers.

Economic

  • Mussolini was able to maintain his power as he fulfilled his promise of solving Post-War economic problems. In 1922, Mussolini appointed an Economics professor, Alberto de Stefani, as his Minister for Finance, improving Italy’s economy. He reduced government intervention in the economy and reduced taxes for the wealthy. This gained the Fascist government support from the upper class, whilst also stimulating investment in businesses and the economy. De Stefani also reduced public spending. This was effective in balancing the budget and reducing inflation which had reduced the value of the savings of the bourgeoisie during the War. Furthermore, de Stefani implemented a policy which reduced or abolished taxes on war profits. This was appealing to industrialists, furthering the support for Mussolini among the wealthy. Hence, Mussolini was able to achieve success with the economy in the early years.

  • Mussolini aimed at using what were known as ‘battles’ to set targets for different areas of the economy and the wider nation, with the aim of achieving autarky. Mussolini aimed to use the Battle of Grain to make Italy self-sufficient in grain and reduce the trade deficit caused by imports. As a result, the production of cereal grain increased and wheat imports fell by 75% from 1925 to 1935. This effectively reduced Italian reliance on the imports of grain and benefitted Italian producers of grain. The Battle of the Marshes also provided success for Mussolini as the Pontine marshes near Rome were drained and two new towns – Latina and Sabaudia – were created. This successfully showcased the strength of Fascist Italy, whilst it also improved the quality of life as more employment opportunities became available, and there was an improvement in public health. Furthermore, Mussolini aimed to use the Battle for the Lira to fix the lira at 90 to the £. This successfully portrayed Italy as a mighty power as the lira returned to the Gold Standard in 1927 and the exchange rate was fixed.

    • However, Italy was not self-sufficient in fertilisers to grow their crops and there was an increase in meat and egg imports. In the Battle for Births, the aim was to increase the population from 40 million in 1927 to 60 million by 1950, but Italy’s population only reached 47.5 million by 1950. In the Battle for the Marshes / Land, only 80,000 hectares of land were reclaimed between 1928 and 1938, equivalent to just 1/20 of propaganda claims.

  • Mussolini was able to maintain power through the establishment of a corporate state. By 1934, twenty-two corporate states had been established, each being in charge of different industries. This meant that each state was responsible for specific categoria, managing labour contracts and promoting production, assisting Italy in achieving autarky. Parliament was replaced by the Chamber of Fasces and Corporations, with members being selected from the various corporations of Italy. The councillors of the chamber did not represent geographic constituencies, but the different trades and industries of Italy, as the corporate state focused on the needs of the economy, industry and achieving autarky. The corporate state involved Mussolini's idea of a third way where the best elements of socialism and nationalism were implemented together. This meant that the worker and business owners were equally represented, and the labour courts could fairly decide on any issues which arose.

Political

  • Mussolini established a totalitarian state through the use of legislature and terror. On 23 March 1923, Mussolini created the Fascist Grand Council and a new militia called Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (MVSN). The Fascist Grand Council was the primary decision-making body of the Fascist party, and later replaced Parliament, whilst the MVSN, who were also known as the Blackshirts or squadristi, provoked fear among the Italian people and political opposition to the Fascists, effectively reducing oppoisiton to their rule. In November 1923, the Acerbo Law is passed, allowing the Fascists to receive 2⁄3 of the seats in Parliament in the 1924 elections as they received at least 25% of votes. This allowed Mussolini to gain control of Italy at a national level as the Fascist party was the dominating political party, meaning their policies could be passed easily. In August 1925, elected mayors and councils of towns & cities were replaced by Podesta (Fascist officials) and in January 1927, Mussolini decreed that all Italians had to be loyal to prefects, who appointed the Podesta. This meant that Mussolini had successfully established control over Italy at a local level, meaning that Fascist party controlled all areas of life within Italy.

  • Mussolini successfully established himself as a dictator. On the 31st of January 1926, Mussolini assumed the power to rule by decree. This meant he could issue new policies and law without requiring approval from Parliament, meaning was now only responsible to the King. On 6 November 1926, following an assassination attempt on Mussolini in October, all other parties were banned. This meant that there was completely no remaining opposition to the Fascists within Parliament. The Public Security Law introduced control over the state and aims to reduce political opposition. By 1929, Mussolini held eight ministerial positions. This ensures that Mussolini retains control and can consistently apply laws, even in events of opposition.

Foreign Policy

  • Mussolini's foreign policy allows him to maintain as he promotes and increases Italian National Pride, and in turn, support for the Fascist government and his leadership. In August 1923, during the Corfu Crisis, Italy forced Greece to apologise and pay compensation. This supported Mussolini's national policy of Italy becoming a dominating global power, allowing him to maintain power. As a result of the Fiume Incident, which took place from September 1923 to January 1924, on the 27th January 1924, the Treaty of Rome concluded that Fiume would be annexed to become an Italian Province. This represented Mussolini's promises and strength as he achieved what the liberal government had failed to do in Versailles. Furthermore, Mussolini established a protectorate over Albania with the November 1927 Tiranë Pact that provided Italian economic aid, the 1927 military alliance and finally July 1928 convention which declared Albania a virtual protectorate of Italy. Mussolini's foreign policy during the 1920s represented and aligned with his aims of restoring the glory of the Roman Empire to modern-day Italy, as they had successfully shown off their strengths to the Greeks, expanded to Fiume and gained overseas influence in the Italian protectorate of Albania.

  • Mussolini's foreign policy involved building a positive relationship with Europe and constructing a good image of Fascist Italy for the Europeans as it would mean good grounds for trade and alliances to strengthen Italy. On 1 December 1925, the Locarno Treaties were signed in order to create greater stability in Europe. On 27 August 1928, Mussolini signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact, outlawing war and prohibiting the use of weapons and arms.