The Fascist State: 1925-43

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  • Created on: 13-05-13 12:54

Fascism and the economy

Mussolini's economic policy, 1922-29

  • in his first years as prime minister, Mussolini pursued liberal economic policies which pleased amny industrialists
  • he appointed Alberto De Stefani - an economics professor and former First World War soldier - as his finance minister and introduced various pro-business measures
  • taxes on war profits were reduced or abolished, private companised took over the telephone system and Ansaldo (the large shipping and steel firm) received a cash injection from the state
  • these early years coincided with a general European economic recovery and the decline of the Italian Left, both of which strenghtened business confidence
  • consequently, from 1921-25, manufacturing output in ITaly increased by almost 54% and a budget surplus was produced in 1924
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Fascism and the economy

Mussolini's economic policy, 1922-29

  • the boom years ended in 1925-26 due to rising inflation, a trade deficit crisis and the falling value of the lira
  • these problems, and the creation of the fascist dictatorship, led to a shift in economic policy
  • Mussolini replaced De Stefani with a new finance minister, the banker and industrialist Count Giuseppe Volpi, in 1925 
  • unlike De Stefani, Volpi backed government loands to industry, state intervention, high tarifs and a balanced budget
  • his appointment was a clear sign that Mussolini wanted good relations with big business
  • Volpi pursued deflationary and protectionist policies, which set the tone for the rest of the fascist era
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Fascism and the economy

Mussolini's economic policy, 1922-29

  • 1926 - for reasons of national and personal presige, the Duce insisted that the lira was undervalued and should be rest at 90 lire to the British pound - done so the following year
  • foreign financiers and the Italin republic applauded Mussolini's decision but it had a damaging impact on the economy
  • the high cost of the lire meant that Italian goods almost doubled in price abroad and Italian export industries, notably textiles, light engineering and car manufacturing, suffered
  • between 1922-26 Italy's economic boom had been largley export-led
  • moreover, imported foods and products did not become more affordbale through revaluation because the regime imposed reductions were part of the regime's deflationary policy
  • only industries which required large supplies of cheap tariff-free raw materials from abroad and which relied mainly on domestic orders, really benefitted from 'Quota 90' and a protected home market
  • by 1929, 'the Fascist economic pattern was becoming set. Italy was turning away from her export markets, and boosting instead the industries which stood to gain most from empire and rearmament' - Martin Clark, 2008
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Fascism and the economy

The corporate state 

  • in the mid-1920s, production was officially reoganised under the Corporate State, the much-heralded Fascist 'third way' between capitalism and communism
  • Fascist propaganda claimed this new mechanism would end class conflict and promote social harmony by incorporating both bosses and workers inside the state
  • Mussolini also believed that corportate conomics would support an expansionist foreign policy
  • under the Vidoni PAct of 1925, Confindustria (the Italian Industrialists' Confederation) and the Fascist syndiates (trade unions) recognised each other as the exclusive representatives respecitvely of capital and labour, but the regime was not even-handed
  • 1926 Rocco Law & 1927 Labour Charter placed the Fascist unions under state control and created a labour relations system which favoured employers
  • furthermore, in 1928, the Confederations of Fascist Syndicates was split into 6 sections
  • this ensured that the Fascist unions were susceptible to greater state control and posed little threat either to the government or to the industrialists' aims
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Fascism and the economy

The corporate state

  • to give this 'third way' some credibility, a Ministry of Corportations was set up in 1926 and, over the next 12 years, a Corporate State of sorts was fitfully developed
  • in fact, the project never really got off the ground
  • controlled by party bosses, the corporations developed into a vast, lumbering, centralised bureaucracy with an interventionist culture that discouraged industrial innovation and efficiency
  • the Duce undoubtedly recognised the propaganda value of the Corporate State but never took corporatism that serioulsy
  • there was no 'Battle for the Corporations', the regime did not use the Corporate State to tackle the Depression, and the system was introduced in a piecemeal fashion
  • Mussolini also knew he had to be cautious rather than radical because he could not afford to alienate Italy's economic elite
  • stripped of its 'third-way' mask, the Corporate State institutionalised workplace exploitation and served the regime and the emplyers' interests 
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Fascism and the economy

The Great Depression

  • 1929 - a major depression hit the US economy then spread to all the capitalist nations in Europe
  • it reduced international trade sharply and created mass unemployment in the countries concerned
  • Fascist Italy weathered this Great Depression, which lasted until 1936, relatively well
  • the economy was not heavily dependent on world markets and had a limited industrial sector
  • imports and consumption had already been cut, and high import tariffs and exchange controls gave some protection from foreign recession
  • nevertheless, the economic downturn did have an impact
  • 2929-33 - industrial production fell by 23% and unemployment increased from 300,000 to 1.3million
  • by 1936 - exports and imports had dropped by one-third
  • those still in work in the early 1930s faced wage cuts - state employees and farm workers had their pay reduced by 12 and 25% respectively
  • furthermore, Mussolini's decision to stay on the gold standard until 1936 had a negative effect because it overvalued the currency at about 60 lire to the British pound £
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Fascism and the economy

The Great Depression

  • to tackle these problems, the regime introduced public work schemes and increased government expenditure and state itnervention
  • spending on employment-creation schemes tripled between  1929 and 1934, resulting in some 240,000 new state jobs through road contstruction, marsh drainage and government bureaucracy
  • a piecemeal fasist 'welfare state' was also established
  • pensions, sick pay, paid holidays and unemployment benefit were all introduced by 1933 and, within 6 years, almost 30% of the population belonged to the state health insurance scheme
  • in the late 1930s, social security spending accounted for 21% of total state expenditure
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Fascism and the economy

The Great Depression

  • the government also had to intervene to save the anks, as hard-pressed companised defaulted on their loands
  • Mussolini introduced the state-funded IMI in 1931 to take over the banks' role of granting long-term industrial loans
  • two years later, another agency - the IRI, was set up to help struggling businesses and banks
  • by purchasing the banks' shares in failing enterprises, the IRI helped to prevent financial collapse and came to own large sectors of the economy
  • by 1939 the IRI controlled 90% of shipbuilding, 75% of pig iron and 45% of steel prodcution
  • public bodies and agencies were also established to run other parts of the economy using industrialists and businessmen from relevent secotrs
  • In Europe, only the soviet Union and a larger proportion of its economy under state control
  • this broad policy of state intervention was driven more by pragmatism than ideolgy, yet it still had a significant effect
  • by 1939 the Fascist state controlled over 20% of Italian industry 
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Fascism and the economy

The drive for autarky

  • 1935 - Mussolini invaded Abyssinia
  • as a consequence, the League of Nations imposed economic sanctions on Italy and this accelerated the regime's persuit of autarky
  • the Duce concluded that this would mark Italy out as a great independent nation
  • he also reasoned that, as a major was was virtually inevitable, the economy had to be able to produce all the resources required for Italy to win a modern conflict
  • Ersatz goods were developed to replace imports; tariffs and import quoteas were introduced
  • state agencies such as AGIP (an oil company) searched for new energy sources
  • in addition, large governmnt industries and state control over the economy was increased 
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Fascism and the economy

The Drive for autarky

  • to boost output further, major companies were permitted to merge into vitual monopolies or cartels
  • under these arrangements, for example, FIAT controlled car manufacturing and Montecatini and SNIA Viscosa dominated chemical production
  • nevertheless, by 1940, the Italian economy faced major problems
  • the huge cost of rearmament and the Fascist military interventions in Abyssinia and Spain had increased Italy's budget deficit from 2 billion to 28 billion lire between 1934-1939, despite higher taxes
  • Mussolini's focus on heavy industry to secure his foreign policy objectives had also distorted the development of the Italian economy
  • export industries were largely neglected and the state opeed for the products of high-cost domestic industries rather than buying the same items more cheaply from abroad 
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Fascism and the economy

The Battle for Births

  • the regim's preoccupation with autarky, military strength and imperial expansion was also clearly reflected in the Battle for Births, which began in 1927
  • Mussolini wanted the populationto rise to 60 million Italins by 1950 (from 41 million in 1931) so the nation would have enough soldiers to win a modern war and enough people to populate the future Fascist empire
  • for all its efforts, however, in political and economic terms, the regime lost the Battle for Births
  • before 1937, the marriage rate did not icnrease and the birth rate steadily declined
  • most Italians were not persuaded to have more children
  • a shortage of non-manual jobs in some areas and the low living standards of many urban and rural workers encouraged later marriages and discouraged bigger families
  • the desire for a comfortable lifesyle, particularly in the towns and cities, also explains why the government's message went largely unheeded
  • the population increased at a modest rate to 44.5 million in 1940 and 47.5 million in 1950, well short of the Duce's target
  • as a result, Mussolini's claim that the Italian army could rely on ''8million bayonets' remained empty propaganda 
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Fascism and the economy

Fascism and agriculture

  • in agriculture as well, Mussolini pursued measures to strenghten his political position, demonstrate Italy's great power status and make the nation self-sufficient for war
  • in 1925, the regime launched the Battle for Grain to remove Italy's traditional relince on grain imports
  • the Duce feared that, in war, foreign supplies could be cut off and the nation starved into submission
  • buying in foreign wheat also contributed to Italy's balance of trade deficit
  • to solve these problems, a patriotic campaign to maximise domestic grain production was started
  • the state offered equipment grants and agricultural advice to farmers who cultivated wheat, guaranteed a generous price for their produce and imposed a high tariff on foreign grain 
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Fascism and the economy

Fascism and agriculture

  • the Battle for Grain curtailed wheat imports by 75% between 1925 and 1935
  • it also improved average harvests from 5.39 million tons in the early 1920s to 7.27 million tons a decade later
  • cereal production doubled from 1922 to 1939 and, by the late 1930s, Italy cultivated enough grain to feed itself
  • Mussolini extracted much propaganda value and important political support from this successful iniiative but there was a downside
  • wheat grown in parts of southern and central Italy - where the soil and climate did not favour grain - displaced the traditional rural export industries of citrus, win and olive oil production
  • furthermore, high tariffs and guaranteed prices protected inefficient farmers, slowed down agricultural mechanisations and made bread more expensive 
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Fascism and the economy

Fascism and agriculture 

  • 1928 - the 'Mussolini Law' comitted the dictatorship to generously funded, comprehensive land reclamation and led to successful projects in Tuscany and the area around Rome
  • the Pontine Marshes were the propaganda showpiece of this policy
  • by 1935 they had been drained and converted into small farms run by ex-servicemen
  • this project, just 56 km from Rome, provided the regime with much favourable publicity as it could be easily reached by foreign journalists and visitng agricultural experts
  • land reclamation also improved public health (by reducing malaria and providing clean drinking water) and created one-third of all public works jobs during the Depression
  • overall though, the economic impact of this initiative was limited
  • barely 5% of the designated 4.75 million hectares was 'reclaimed' and the scheme settled fewer than 10,000 landless peasants 
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Fascism and the economy

Fascism and agriculture

  • 1927 - Mussolini also announced his intention to 'ruralise' Italy by establishing a new pro-Fascist class of productive small peasant landowners, but this proved to be an economic and political failure
  • new and potential peasant landowners were adversely affected by deflation after 1926 (which brought falling food prices and mortgage payment problems) and a shortage of rural credit facilities 
  • as a result, the number of peasant landowners shrank from around 3.4 million to under 3 million between 1921-36
  • during the Fascist era as a whole, over 500,000 peasant farmers left agriculture 
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the fascist economy up to 1939: winners and losers

  • fascist economic policy had some success
  • Italy was generally more prosperous in 1939 than in 1923 due to an average annual rise in gross national product of 1.2%
  • by 1939, industrial production had increased by over 145% since 1913 and was 20% above the level acheived in the immediate pre-Depression years
  • this was reinforced by a modest improvement in average wages
  • fascist measures did not always have a posiive impact though:
  • miliatry and welfare spending consumed 15 billion and 6.7 billion lire per year respectively at the edn of the decade, putting the state under massive financial strain
  • moveover, government agencies - which by the late 1930s controlled key sectors of the economy, including electricity, armaments, shipbuilding and steel - encouraged political intervention, strifled entrepreneurial initiative and made important industries completely reliant on the state
  • ITaly also continued to lag behind her major European competitors in terms of industrial output and economic growth
  • wheat production had doubled by WW2, but at the expense of traditional agricultural export industries and livestock numbers
  • Musoslini's policies also failed to tackel rural poverty and the backwardness of southern agriculture
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the fascist economy up to 1939: winners and losers

  • the industrialists and large landowners gained most from the regime's economic measures, which protected their products and profits, and controlled urban and rural manual workers
  • large sections of the urban middle class also benefited
  • by increasing the number of civil servant, teachers and public employees from 500,000 to 1 million, Mussolini offered the better educated the prospect of secure state service jobs
  • moreover, measures to restrain organised labout gave the urban iddle class a sense of protection and status
  • their rural counterparts - peasant landholders, tenant farmers and sharecroppers - fared less well
  • peasant landholding declined during the Fascist period and, although the number of tenant farmers and sharecroppers increased, the landowners imposed stricter terms and conditions on them
  • rural and urban workers were adversely affected too
  • in the early 1930s the wages of agricultural labourers were cut by between 20 and 40%, which prompted  amny peasant workers to defy government restrictions on their movement and leave their villages for the city slums
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the fascist economy up to 1939: winners and losers

  • 1922-39, industrial wages fell by 14% 
  • 1936 - even Mussolini admitted that Italians faced the prospect of lower living standards 
  • in addition, the Corporate State usually favoured the employers over the workers
  • to some extent, however, the hardship experienced by the working class was offset by periodic price cuts and the availablility of social secrurity benefits
  • the sydnicates also offered industrial workers some economic protection by successfully persuing wage claims and other improvements such as welfare payments
  • most working-class Italians still resented Fascism for destroying the trade unions and defeating socialism but broadly accepted that Mussolini's policies had sheltered them from the worst of the Depression
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the war economy 1940-43

  • Italy's disastrous performance in WW2 highlighted its economic wekaness
  • inadequate supplied of fuel and raw materials restricted production and forced the regime to rely heavily on limited quantities of coal from Nazi Germany
  • annual steel production fell from 2.3 million tons (1938) to 1.7 million tons (1943), and the number of vehicles manufactured halved between 1938-41
  • many factories could not obtain essential resources
  • these problems were compounded by the systematic bombing of Italy's major industrial centres from late 1942, which distrupted production, demoralised the workers and forced thousands to abandon the cities
  • wartime shortages of heating fuel and consumer goods akso damaged morale
  • furthermore, although real wages were broadly maintain and family allowances increased, the working wek was extended to at least 48 hours and the government rationing system provided an inadequate diet of just 1000 calories per day
  • under such circumstances, the black market thrived
  • the food shortages were partly due to the large number of peasants serving in the army and the drying-up of supplies of animal feed and artificial fertilizers after 1941
  • many farmers made the situation worse by eating their own produce or trading it on the black market instead of selling it at fixed prices to the official agencies 
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The fascist regime and other groups

The Industrialists 

  • fascism had come to power with the backing of the industrial and agricultural elites and their continued support was required to realise Mussolini's vision of a militarised, self-suffieicent imperial Italy
  • for their part, industrialists and landowners looked to the regime to protect their political and economic interests by marginalising socialism, controlling the workers, maintaining private ownership and safequarding their markets
  • after 1926, Fascist measures designed to protect and boost the heavy industry sector consolidated the industrialists' support
  • the Corporate STate also favoured business interests because, from 1928, workers in the corporations were represented by PNF officials who were usually pro-employer
  • furthermore, the industrialists could negotiate directly with the regime through autonomous bodies such as Confindustria and were regularly consulted on economic issues 
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The fascist regime and other groups

The industrialists

  • beneath the common outlook, though, there were disagreements
  • the business community wanted to revalue the lira but some industrialists felt that 'Quota 90' was set too high and would damage Italy's economic prospects
  • moreover, by the late 1930s some business leaders were so concerned about the state of the economy and the pro-Nazi direction of the regime that they began transferring teir money to Swiss bank accounts
  • most industrialists however, continued until the early 1940s to support a Fascist system which guaranteed contracts and high returns
  • during the early stages of WW2, industrialists continued to make large profits and hoped to take commercial advantage of Italy's expected territorial gains 
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The fascist regime and other groups

The Industrialists 

  • unfortunately for Mussolini, later wartime events eroded the industrial elite's support for the Fascist system
  • the regime could not prevent the Allied bomving in 1942-43 which destroyed the industrialists' factories and badly disrupted production
  • the striked of March 1943, involving over 100,000 workers in Piedmont and Lombardy, also alarmed business leaders
  • these stoppages, with their economic and anti-Fascist political demands, further discredited the regime in the eyes of the industrialists because it no longer appeared able to control the workforce
  • industrialists probabl played no direct role in Mussolii's removal from power in July 1943 but by then they clearly regarded the regime as a liability and the king's appointment of a non-Fascist military government reassured them that their businesses would remain under private management 
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The fascist regime and other groups

The landowners

  • the fascist ditatorship relied just as much on the agrari of the Po Valley and the large landowners from other regions
  • Mussolini needed their grain to create a self-sufficient Italy capable of waging a successful war
  • their established political influence in the provinces was also required to consolidate Fascist rule as the Battle for the South amply demonstrated
  • the agrari were the real victors in the Battle for Grain, which bolstered their prodits and entrenched their local economic power
  • the progressive landowners of the Po Valley were able to increase their crop yields and prices within a protected home market
  • Tariffs on imported wheat helped the less efficicent agrari of the south too and allowed them to survive without modernising their estates
  • in addition, the government put groups of agrari in charge of their own state-subsidised land reclamation schemes
  • over 10 years these land owners received around 4 billion lire to fund such projects
  • the old agrarian notables retained their local policial importance as well
  • most of the 7000 podestas appointed to run the municpalites were landowners and in Tuscany they were often drawen from the local nobility
  • in southern Italy, where many Fascist branches were established in 1926, the agrari became local party leaders
  • this gave some substance to the anti-Fascist taunt that the PNF was simply 'the old ruiling class in black shirts'
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The fascist regime and other groups

Merger with the Nationalists, 1923

  • perhaps Mussolini's most surprising early act as prime minister as to amalgamate the PNF with Luigi Federzoni's small but influential Nationalist Associateion (ANI)
  • during the MArch on Rome, the Nationalists' Blueshirt squads had stood ready to fight the Fascists on the king's command
  • Mussolini always regarded the February 1923  agreement as a 'marriage of convenience', but it offered serveral advabtages
  • the pro-Catholic ANI pursued a partiotic, monarchist, anti-liberal agenda and contained a larger pool of polical and administerative talent than the PNF
  • it was also stronge in the south, had valuable business, military and royal connections and gave the Fascists greater respectability
  • by absorbing the 80,000-strong Sempre Pronti into the Fascist Militia, the Blueshirt threat was neutralised as well
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The fascist regime and other groups

Merger with the Nationalists, 1923

  • the Nationalists were to have a significant impact on the regime's development
  • the merger enabled the PNF to extend its political influence down the Italian peninsula and win the Battle for the South
  • furthermore, Federzoni and another leading Nationalist, Alfredo Rocco, played key roles in shaping the structure of the Fascist state
  • as minister of the interior, Federxoni introduced a series of repressive measures to strengthen the regime including press censorship, the abolition of elected mayors and greater public security#
  • Rocco, the minister of justice from 1925 to 1932, became, in Mussolini's worsd, 'the legislator of the fascist revolution' 
  • he introduced the death penalty, imposed restrictions on the press and opposition parties, and brought the workers firmly under state control with the Rocco Law (1926) and the Labour Charter (1927)
  • Rocci was also responsible for the penal code of 1931, much of which survived WW2
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The fascist regime and other groups

The civil service and judiciary 

  • Mussolini refused to replace the existing personnel in key state institutions with the PNF appointees, as the Fascist radicals demanded
  • there was to be no 'Fascist revolution' in government
  • such a policy would have weakened his own position by bringing about a damaging conflict with these institutions and strengthening the party's influence
  • Mussolini also recognised that the conservatively inclined senior civil servants, judges and generals mostly endorsed his regime
  • to bolster this support, he introduced policies which these elite groups could accept, made promotion dependent on loyalty and threatened to deal ruthlessly with any opposition from the state institutions 
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The fascist regime and other groups

the civil service and judiciary 

  • conservative career officials continued to dominate the bureaucracy, prompting the PNF to complain in 1927 that only 15% of civil servants were Fascists
  • even in the new Fascist Ministry of Corporations in 1938 all the senior officials had been civil servants since 1916
  • nonetheless, the bureautcracts dutifully implemented Mussolini's policies
  • by the early 1930s, many civil servants had joined the PNF, mainly because promotion depended on it, and from 1935 party membership became a condition of employment
  • the regime also icnreased the number of civil service jobs to attract middlee-class Italians
  • although Mussolini claimed that he never interfered with the judiciary, this institution was purged
  • numerous judges, barristers and soliciters were removed because of 'political incompatability'
  • the judiciary was expected to do the government's bidding and, therefore, the Italian legal system lost all claim to impartiality
  • Mussolini intervened in several court cases, most notably that of the Communist Antonio Gramsci, and many suspects were imprisoned without a trial
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The fascist regime and other groups

The Army

  • action was also taken to secure the army leadership's loyalty
  • this, of course, was vital both for the regime's domestic survival and the successful pursuit of an expansionist foreign policy
  • in return for their support, the generals wanted the freedom to run military affairs without interference from the PNF and the militia
  • in short, most senior army and navy officers wanted to return to the life they had enjoyed before 1915
  • it was a price the Duce was willing to pay to achieve his territorial ambitions
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The fascist regime and other groups

The Army

  • Mussolini's retention of the monarchy smoothed relations because the military remained loyal to the king and regarded the crown as an important symbol of national unity, traditon and authority
  • senior officers were also pleased when the MVSN, which they feared might become an alternative Fascist 'epoeple's army', was placed under greater army control in August 1924
  • for good measure, in September 1925, General Gonzaga was appointed commander of the militia
  • in the same year, Mussolini calmed service and royal nerves by overruling proposeed military cutes and sacking the war minister who advocated them
  • other measures in the mid-1920s provided further reassureance
  • the old 'garrison' army structure was restored, officers' pay was boosted, the coveted senior rank of marshall was created (1924), and Mussolini became his own war, air and navy minister
  • from then on, in practice, the three armed services were run by under-secretaries who were usually generals or admirals
  • the appointment of Pietro Badoglio, a monarchist cereer soldier comfortable wih the regime, as chief of the general staff in 1925 also made for good realtions between the government and the military 
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The fascist regime and other groups

The Army

  • consequently, there was no systematic Fascist takeover of the army's upper ranks
  • indeed, as late as December 1940, the regime was still trying to get army officers to join the PNF
  • but, regime and the generals both wanted army expansion and a more assertive foreign policy 
  • in essence, the Fascist state maintained the jobs of career soldiers and ensured their support but at the expense of proper military planning, co-ordination and efficiency
  • e.g. Badoglio made no serious attempt to co-ordinate the 3 services, underestimated the value of tanks and did not press ahead with technological improvements
  • each branch competed for resources and rejected the inter-service collaboration and combined operations required for a major war
  • Military academies were outdated and there were far too many senior officers
  • 1939 - army had 600 generals - these and other shortcomings would become painfully clear during WW2
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The fascist regime and other groups

Local Government

  • at local level, Mussolini reinforced the prefects' authority at the expense of regional Fascist leaders
  • of the 86 prefects appointed in the years between 1922-29, 57 were career bureautcrats and just 29 were Fascists
  • the latter were usually sent to less-important areas
  • 1926 - elected local councils were abolished and each prefect now nominated the podestas in his province
  • generally, they opted for prosperous landowners and ex-military officers rather than local Fascists, partly because most podestas were not paid 
  • Mussolini also issued directives insisting that the prefect, not the regional party secretary, controlled the province
  • by mid-1927, this appeared to apply in about 81 of the 91 provinces, but disputes between prefects and local party bosses continued 
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The fascist regime and other groups

Local government - the battle for the south

  • traditionally, southern Italy was dominated by well-connected local political elites (including large landowners) who controlled the municipal councils and offered patronage in return for votes
  • initially, PNF attempts to establish southern fasci had had little impact because they lacked local allies and influences
  • when the ANI was absorbed into the PNF, however, Fascist's prospects in the South were transformed
  • pro-Nationalist notables and their local followings moved over to the Fascist Party
  • this strengthened the PNF's position but at th cost of compromising with the local political elites, accepting their continued dominance in local affairs and abandoning Fascist radicalism
  • once in government, the PNF was also available to win over southern liberals and their local supporters by offering access to patronage and the resources of the state
  • for this reason, during the coalition period, Mussolini appointed prominent southern politicians to run ministries (such as the Ministry of Public Works) which funded thousands of jobs in the South
  • on a local level, prefects used their provincial powers over public spending, public sector employment and municipal councils to persuade members of the local elite to join the PNF
  • only a few liberals resisted 
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The fascist regime and other groups

Local government

  • after the Acerbo Law of 1923, candidates for parliament stoof a much better chance of being elected if they were on the government's officially endorsed list
  • consequently, many southern politicians and deputies joined it, bringing their local support with them
  • non-fascists on the list lost their political independence in the PNF bloc
  • these right-wing, liberal and Catholic 'flankers' formed a significant proportion of the government's candidates in the South 
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The fascist regime and other groups

Mussolini and the King

  • Mussolini remained outwardly deferential towards the king, visiting him twice a week and accepting royal advice on appointments and honours
  • Victor Emmanel was even made Empoeror of Abyssinia in 1936
  • after all, as head of state, he could still sack Mussolini, suppress the PNF and turn elite opinion against Fascism
  • fortunately for Mussolini, though, the king was a weak and insecure man with little faith in liberal politicians
  • he felt he needed the Fascist leader's support to retain the throne
  • accordingly, the king signed Mussolini's decrees and did not openly oppose measures he disliked
  • underneath the public image of friendship, however, there was much resentment
  • Victor Emmanuel regarded Mussolini as a 'vulgar and offensive' usurper of royal powers and, privately, the Duce derided 'this tiresome monarchy'
  • by 1930, the king had virtually withdrawn from public affairs and royal influence was weak 
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The fascist regime and other groups

Mussolini and the king

Mussolini weakened the king's influence in a number of ways:

  • In December 1928, the Grand Council acquired the right to be consulted over the royal succession and to compile the list from which the monarch would choose the next thehead of government
  • in April 1938, the newly created title First Marshall of the Empire was given to both Victor Emmanuel and Mussolini, which appeared to give the head of state and the head of government equal status
  • in January 1939, the law replacing the Chamber of Deputies with the Chamber of Fasces and Corporations did not mention the king's role in the law-making process
  • in June 1940, Mussolini weakened the king's position as comander-in-chief by assuming operational command of the Italian army
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The fascist regime and other groups

Mussolini and the King

  • Mussolin confided to senior Fascists in the later 1930s that he wanted to abolish the monarchy
  • he hoped that a successul war, in alliance with Nazi Germany, would boost the popularity of the Fascist system and allow him to remove the Crown's powers
  • Victor Emmanuel, in contrast, was unenthusiastic about the Duce's pro-Axis foreign policy, which made him an obvious potential rallying point for those unhappy with the regime
  • the king concluded that Italy's involvvement in the Second World War would mean the end of the Italian monarchy
  • a Fascist victory would enable Mussolini to dismantle the monarchy
  • defeat, on the other hand, would leave the Crown compromised in the eyes of the Allies because of its association with the dictatorship

Mussolini's downfall in 1943, however, indicates that the king contiued to have at least a limited constitutional role, one which assumed greater importance as Mussolini's influence waned with military defeats 

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