state and church
- The Church was an influential part of Italian life that could not be subdued or suppressed by the state.
- Relations between Church and state remained ambiguous throughout the 1920’s.
- Despite having disagreements, and they were especially divided over education and indoctrination of youth. In some ways they shared common ground-Mussolini knew that he could never really govern Italy in the teeth of Catholic opposition and the Papacy felt that Mussolini and fascism was the only real alternative to the rule of Godless socialism.
- The 2 parties existed by giving olive branches to each other-for example Mussolini in 1923 restored compulsory religious education that the liberal regime had outlawed, and the Papacy withdrew support from the Catholic Popular Party, an electoral rival of Mussolini’s in 1923.
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the lateran records
- These signs of mutual respect reached fruition with the signing of a set of agreements in Feb 1929-The Lateran Accords.
- This agreement was designed to eliminate remaining issues between the Church and the state. This is when the Vatican was established which was a face saving gesture designed to restore the Papacy’s temporal (worldly) authority. It confirmed Catholicism as the only state religion, extended religious education to secondary schools and outlawed divorce.
- What did M get from the accords? Less tangible results – but he associated himself with the moral high ground of the Church – popularity was the result. His greatest achievement.
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limits of church
- Mussolini immediately reminded everyone that OK the state is Catholic but above all else the state is fascist.
- In 1931 trouble occurred when Mussolini wanted to disband a group known as Catholic Action who were an educational and moral organisation highly prized by Pope Pius XI. The Pope was horrified and complained bitterly, Mussolini in response lessened the dissolution measures to limitations in activities.
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anti-semitism and racism
- Nowhere is there a greater contrast in the earlier and later policies of Mussolini in the treatment of Italy’s Jewish population.
- During the 1920’s anti-Semitism was not an issue. There were a few prominent anti-Semites, Fascists such as Preziosi and Farinacci.
- Jewish population in Italy had never amounted to more than 1 in a 1000. Ironically the Fascists ad many Jews amongst their ranks, in fact there was a very high proportion of Jews had become Fascists.
- Mussolini had no instinct for anti-Semitism. In fact he had denounced Nazi racism as ‘unscientific and absurd’. He gave sanctuary in 1933 to 9,000 Jewish exiles from Germany.
- But there came a dramatic reversal in attitude and policy.
- In July 1938 a Manifesto on Race was drawn up by Mussolini and 10 professors as a scientific exposition of Fascist racial doctrine. It proclaimed that the population of Italy is of Aryan descent, and that Jews do not belong to the Italian race.
- Marriages between Jews and non-Jews were outlawed and Jews were removed from prominent positions in finance, education and politics. Any Jews that entered Italy since 1919 were to be repatriated.
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anti-semitism and racism 2
- However there is another viewpoint. There is a feeling that perhaps the Ethiopian conflict of 35-37 had brought racism to the fore. Racism had become ingrained in the later phases of Fascist ideology. Mussolini was preparing the way for the Italian people to rule over ‘nferior’people.
- 2 tangible reasons for Mussolini’s u-turn:
- 1. Italy had designs on taking over the British Mandate on Palestine. Italian Zionists opposed this idea.
- 2. There had been much criticism by prominent Jewish intellectuals over the Ethiopian campaign.
- Mussolini began to talk of a Jewish conspiracy which had been the European recourse for scapegoating.
- Another factor was Mussolini felt that he had to compete with Hitler for seniority in their partnership. Mussolini secret weapon was racial purity he claimed that Italy had not been sullied by foreign blood for the last 1000 years. The Jews had not really assimilated themselves into Italian society.
- But policies against the Jews were felt to be out of place in Italy. Not popular and not accepted. The racial decrees were never fully implemented, holes in the totalitarianism state.
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The social consequences of Mussolini’s regime
- Before 1922 Mussolini claimed that Fascism represented the interests of all classes. By 1939 however it was evident that any real benefits had accrued only to a small minority- the great industrialists, the estate owners and those members of the m/c serving in the Fascist bureaucracy. For the majority of Italians the quality of life deteriorated.
- Industrialists had a permanent alliance with the govt. The 1925 Vidoni Pact and the Charter of Labour 1927 increased their powers and decreased the powers of the unions.
- The landed gentry maintained their status despite the depression. For example exodus to the cities was controlled by local prefects.
- The lower middle class experienced mixed fortunes. Those in private enterprise were affected by the depression, but those who worked for the state did well for themselves.
- The rest of Italian society suffered severely, mainly for the same reasons that the upper classes benefited. Urban workers were tied down by the regulations introduced by the industrialists with govt. approval. And were also intimidated by high unemployment (2 million by 1932). The rural population were greatly affected and many defied the govt. edicts and did migrate to Rome, Milan and Turin and greatly swelled the slum population. Agricultural wages diminished by 40% during the 1930’s
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The social consequences of Mussolini’s regime 2
- Mussolini-‘naturally a woman must not be a slave, but…in our state women must not count.’
- So impact of Fascism on women was negative.
- However Italian society was already patriarchal and anti-feminist, so Mussolini not particularly radical. Almost all the laws involving women had support from the Church.
- Demands on women were contradictory. On one hand there was very real pressure for family building but on the other hand as there was a crisis in the standard of living, the sensible option was to keep families small.
- Also to note that the attempt to remove women from the workplace had to be reversed by the late 1930’s as the increased need for mobilisation of men brought increased pressure on industry.
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So were there any social benefits from Fascism?
Some have been identified:
- Social welfare compared favourably to other European countries:
- Old age pensions
- Unemployment benefit
- Medical care (decreased infant-mortality & TB) First steps to Italian National Health Service
- School building programme
However many still fell through the net, especially in the south. 10 to a room not being uncommon. 400,000 people lived in hovels made of mud and sticks.
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