Mussolini's Italy - Development of Fascism

These cards describe how the Fascist movement in Italy developed between 1919-22, before Mussolini came into power. 

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Why set up the Fascist movement?

Early message:

  • Intended to be a movement, no clear ideology.
  • Mix of Socialist and Nationalist ideas, cemented by concept of the Duce
  • Prime aim was to gain power - beliefs were less important than their desire to restore Italy to greatness.

How did the message develop? What did it offer by 1922?:

  • Dropped radical ideas - more acceptable face of fascism. 
  • A movement and a party pledged to restore Italian power and prestige
  • To develop the economy by increasing productivity
  • To re-establish strong leadership and law and order
  • Mussolini claimed that Italy has enough of politics and programmes and wanted action instead (which they were to bring). 
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Who supported Fascism?

What groups and why?:

  • Young-lower-middle class recruits from university, civil service and 'respectable' bourgeois families soon joined the party
  • Key group = petty bourgeois - contained working and middle class who felt a collective sense of insecurity. Prone to turn to radical groups. 
  • Many were ex-soliders, felt humiliated after the victory as they were not given their 'due' by the government. 
  • Support also came from the rural lower-middle class. Allowing fascism gain a rural base. Many smaller peasant farmers and large landowners welcomed groups who would fight against the Socialist power. 
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What was the Role of Violence?

Who carried it out and against whom?

  • Developed a sadistic policy of humiliating their political enemies
  • Fascist members and leaders carried these acts out.
  • Main enemies were the Socialists, so many of their victims belonged to the political party. 

What form did the violence take?

  • The Fascists forced their victims to drink castor oil - in order to purge them of their sins. 
  • Sometimes they were beaten up or the oil would be made into a 'cocktail' containing petrol, benzene or iodine. (Illness and Death could follow)

Why was it succssful?

  • Elites and agents of government co-operated with the fascists to avoid similar treatment. 
  • Authorities preferred to tolerate and collaborate than oppose Fascism.
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What did Mussolini contribute to the Fascist movem

  • He lead them into power in 1922
  • Not favourable in parliament due to his weak parliamentary base
  • Used the threat of the Ras to reinforce his claims
  • Tension within the Fascist movement and the governing groups was the way he used to gain his vital background.
  • This meant that he lead the policies and claims and kept the movement together. 
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How strong was Fascism by 1922?


  • Half a million party members - quarter of a million Blackshirts
  • Virtually controlled several regions
  • Offerred to give firm leadership, end class conflict and gain national greatness - what people wanted.
  • Violence smashed Socialism, attracting support from the elite and others - much of the population wanted this done.
  • Other opponents were unable to co-operate against the growing threat 


  • Weakening power of Socialism meant less need for Fascism to overcome Socialist Revolution. 
  • Responsible for the disorder through use of violence
  • Divided on how to achieve power - Ras wanted to seize it.
  • Mussolini had a weak base in Parliament. 
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