March On Rome

The event that tipped the balance of power to Mussolini and the Fascists... description and analysis for Edexcel AS History Modern, Italy and Fascism 1919-25

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  • Created on: 17-10-07 17:56
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Fascist takeovers, Summer 1922 and the
March on Rome
On 16th October Mussolini and six leading Fascists met in Milan and decided
the time was right to take power
On the 24th a Fascist congress was held in Naples. Forty thousand
blackshirts chanted "A Roma". The leaders proclaimed their intention to organise
a march on Rome in the tradition of Garribaldi and seize power.
First, fascist squads were to seize public buildings in Nothern and
Central Italy
Others, led by QUADRUMVIRS were to assemble outside Rome on 27th October, ready
to march into the city the next day
Mussolini proclaimed:
"Either the government will be given to us or we shall take it, descending upon Rome. It is now
a question of days, perhaps hours"
Mussolini had grave doubts about the march, and hoped to be appointed legally, but felt
unable to resist the more aggressive fascists.
About 10 000 of the planned 50 000 squadristi began to assemble at three points
about 20 miles from Rome.
During the night of 27th October, local Fascists tried to seize control of key government
and public buildings in many towns in North and central Italy. They met with mixed
success, but frightened prefects sent reports to Rome of the Fascist advance
Many of the squads failed to meet at their assembly points for the March on Rome, as
their trains were stopped by the sabotage of the lines. Those that did meet were in bad
shape, poorly armed, drenched by rain, with sinking morale.
Reaction of the Government
Prime Minister Facta, now had to decide whether to organise firm government action
against these blatant threats, or to capitulate. His government resigned, but he was
asked to stay on.
He requested the King declare Martial law so that the army could take steps to crush
the revolt.
Historian Lyttleton on King Victor Emmanuel:
"The only man who could do anything was convinced of his impotence"
The King overestimated the strength of Fascism. His mother sympathized with the
movement, as did his cousin the Duke of Aosta.
The king feared the Fascists as to the attitude of the army to a Fascist
march. Some generals were deeply involved with the Fascists. The army
and country might split apart he might provoke CIVIL WAR.
The King hesitated. Then at 2am he agreed to Facta's request for martial law.
12 000 troops began to be deployed around key buildings, behind
sandbags and barbed wire.
Eight hours later Victor Emmanuel changed his mind and withdrew
martial law.
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