Twentieth century fascism cannot be understood without the figure of Benito Mussolini.
Biography of Benito Mussolini
He was born on July 29, 1883 in Dovia di Predappio (Italy) in the bosom of a humble family.
His mother was a teacher and his father, a blacksmith, paradoxically, both staunch defenders of socialism, an ideology that they tried to instill in their son.
Due to the behavior problems he had during his training and his desire to get rid of compulsory military service, Mussolini went into exile to Switzerland in 1902.
There he remained for two more years, during which time he was imprisoned and, finally, expelled for being a socialist agitator.
His stay in the Swiss country introduced him to the world of journalism and served to increase his knowledge about the socialist and anarchist ideology.
In 1904, Mussolini returned to Italy and he performed military service, where he stood out for good behavior. A few years later he began to work as a school teacher, teaching French to young Italians.
But this profession did not last long, since in 1912 he became editor-in-chief of "Avanti!", a newspaper based in Milan and that was related to the Italian Socialist Party (PSI).
Within the PSI he was the representative of the intransigent trend. It was shown as anti-colonial and neutralist.
In October 1911 he was jailed for participating in a violent demonstration against the war of Italy against the Ottoman Empire.
Mussolini described the expansionism of the colonies as "international crime act”.
Mussolini in the First World War
But nevertheless, the outbreak of the First World War caused a radical change in Mussolini. After being expelled from the Socialist Party, he founded “Il popolo d'Italia", newspaper ultranationalist that promoted the intervention against Austria and Germany.
Wanting to give foundation to his words, he voluntarily set out for the front in 1915. He ran several very successful campaigns and rose various ranks, due to its war merit.
But in 1917, a mortar ended his period as a military man and he was forced to resign and return to Italy to take care of his newspaper.
The nationalist and imperialist tendency that he defended "Il popolo d'Italia”Increased after passing Mussolini for the Great War.
The rise of Italian imperialism
Now he not only supported interventionism, but also defended annexationist positions. Little was left of the Benito Mussolini that he had been arrested in 1911 for criticizing this type of ideology.
In March 1919 he founded the Italian Combat Fascios that, later, would be integrated into the “Fascist Party”. During the 19th century, the “FasciaThey had been used to defend against foreign invasions.
Mussolini knew that symbolism and he applied it to make a gap between the political society of the time.
Through the skillful use of legal channels and terrorism (with the Combat Fascios in 1919), he managed to seize power progressively.
The serious economic, social and political crisis that was hitting Italy made the most conservative sectors encourage him in his campaign. The middle classes, the political right and the Church supported the violent anti-communism promulgated by Mussolini to end the anarchy in which the country was plunged. Furthermore, the few benefits obtained from the First World War they caused widespread disenchantment among the population.
The end of the First War: the rise of fascism
In 1921 he was elected deputy for Milan. From his position, he supported the retaliatory actions carried out by the “black shirts” against the leftist militants and against the strikers.
The "black shirtsThey were a voluntary militia created by Mussolini that had as purpose "protect national security”.
His actions, along with those of the Italian politician, promoted him as banner of the defense of order against the reigning anarchy.
The imposing demonstration that constituted the "march on Rome", in which Mussolini's supporters marched armed and ordered over the Italian capital, convinced King Victor Emmanuel III that he should hand over the government to the fascist leader.
So Mussolini seized control of the Italian Government. He was appointed Prime Minister in October 1922. At the end of the same month, he had full powers granted and progressively removed all parliamentary opposition.
On June 10, 1924, the socialist deputy Giacomo Matteotti was kidnapped and murdered, who had criticized the abuses and threats made by the fascists in the elections of 24.
Mussolini proudly assumed responsibility for the death of the socialist politician in 1925 and, from that moment on, exercised a true dictatorship.
Increased popularity of Mussolini
The first steps of the regime and conclusion of the Lateran agreements (1929) gave Mussolini great popularity.
Taking advantage of the positivism and sympathy towards his person, he orchestrated a cult around his figure, specifically, on the image of “Duce” (in Italian, "leader"). It was a system very similar to the one existing in Germany with the Führer.
In foreign policy he tried to establish good relations with Western democracies. To do this, he signed the “Pact of four"In 1931 together with France, Great Britain and Germany.
In addition, he signed the Stresa Pact in 1935, by which Italy, Great Britain and France jointly condemned violations of the Treaty of Versailles committed by Germany.
However, the Mussolini's inordinate ambition It led Italy to launch a campaign of prestige and conquests.
It began with the alliance with Germany, which would end up being disastrous for the Italian country.
The Italian dictator moved closer to Adolf hitler after the opposition of the French and the British to the war in Ethiopia and after the sanctions taken against him by the Society of nations (1935-1936).
The Rome-Berlin Axis and the start of World War II
This is how the Rome-Berlin axis was formed and in 1939 the pact of steel, by which Germany and Italy formed a political-military alliance. This later served to intervene in France and Greece (1940).
From this moment, Mussolini lost all his ability to maneuver and began to be in the hands of Hitler.
War it stripped Italy of its African colonies and delivered a succession of defeats. The fascist leaders stopped recognizing Mussolini and demanded his resignation.
In 1943, he was arrested by order of the king but, thanks to the help of the Germans, he was released. His last attempt was to organize under the protection of the Germans the "Italian Social Republic", whose capital was in Salò, in northern Italy.
He eradicated all his adversaries but still, he was not able to survive the German defeat in World War II.
On April 28, 1945, Benito Mussolini was sentenced to death and executed by the Italian resistance in Giulino di Mezzegra.
Images: Public domain.
Passionate about History, he has a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication. Since he was little he loved history and ended up exploring the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries above all.