What was the appeal of Fascism from 1919–22?

What were the key features of Fascist ideology?

  • Expansionism (their power is inevitable) / Darwinism (survival of the fittest): the Fascists preached the importance of Italy's power, believing it was key to their success.

  • Imperialism: the Fascists believed that to show true power and have influence, Italy would need to have control over a large amount of land. As a result, Italy decided to invade Abyssinia / Ethiopia in 1935.

  • Militarism (using force to solve problems): they believe that war shows strength and courage.

  • Collectivism (people must work together to fulfil the needs of the state)

  • Totalitarianism: the Fascists believed that a strong, stable country was only possible with absolute rule. They wanted a strong dictator in place as the ruler.

  • Nationalism: the Fascists believed in Nationalism, and wanted a large empire and military for national pride.

  • Heroism: Fascism does not believe in actions influenced by an economic motive.

  • Anti-communist: the Fascists do not believe that solving class struggles can contribute to a better society.

What made Fascism appealing in 1919–22?

One of the factors which made Fascism more appealing was the Fascist Party's evolving policies.

Some important examples include:

  • In June 1919, the Fascists supported a republic with universal male and female suffrage, but in November 1921, they committed their political structure ideology to ensure Italy’s historic destiny. This is because following the Biennio Rosso (a period of political instability), their main focus was to form a strong and stable government.

  • Secondly, in June 1919, they proposed the confiscation of religious properties, but by November 1921, they were no longer focusing on this element. This is due to the fact that by November 1921, they had realised that religion was a large factor in Italian Politics, and wished to garner the support of the Church and Catholics.

  • Thirdly, in June 1919, they had a ‘peaceful’ foreign policy, but in November 1921, their focus was complete Italian unification with a major role in the Mediterranean. This is because Italy was enraged by their treatment at the Paris Peace Conference, and businesses were seeking to expand.

  • Fourthly, in June 1919, their programme included heavy and progressive taxes on capital, the confiscation of unproductive income, the nationalization of all arms and munitions factories and the confiscation of 85% of profits from wars. By November 1921, they had changed to proportional taxes, privatising firms and encouraging national wealth with individuals in mind. This is because they wanted

Over time, the Fascists changed their policies in order to garner more support.

As a result of their change of policies, they were able to attain a wider support group from the Italian population.

Was the Fascist Party the ideal party for the people of Italy?

On the one hand, the policies outlined by the fascist party are in favour of certain groups.

  • The policies of the Fascists would allow businesses to recover from the First World War with the introduction of an eight-hour day with exceptions for agricultural or industrial requirements, the privatisation of firms and proportional taxes, thus favouring businessmen. Businessmen would support privatisation as it would allow them to invest and amass more wealth. They would also support complete unification for Italy and increasing production as it would increase their wealth and the country's income. In 1919, Capitalists and Businessmen would support the confiscation of all property belonging to religious organizations as it would mean they could purchase more properties.

  • The 1919 Policy of Universal Suffrage would be popular among women, but there are no favouring policies in their November 1921 programme.

  • In 1919, the workers would be attracted to the eight-hour working day and guaranteed minimum wage policy and the proposal of workers’ participation in the management of industry through the National Councils of Labour. Comparatively, by 1921, there was less for them to be excited about, but taxes being proportional to income could be seen as a benefit.

  • By 1921, the Church would approve of the Fascist Party as it agreed not to interfere with Church property.

  • As of 1919, the Bourgeoisie would be interested in the abolition of obligatory military service as they would not want to experience the horrors of WW1 (family deaths). This is linked to a foreign policy of peaceful competition among civilized nations. By 1921, the Bourgeoisie would prefer proportional taxation rather than the 1919 policy of progressive taxation.

  • Finally, all would appreciate freedom of opinion and conscience.

On the other hand, the fascist party are unreliable. The is evident from the change in their policies from 1919 to 1921 which show that they have inconsistent policies. Their policies are changed according to the political climate of that time, so it is irresponsible to believe that the policies that are attracting support, will still be in place in the next few years.