So was d’Annunzio a rival to Mussolini?
- He was more famous than Mussolini. Mussolini certainly considered him a rival. He glorified Italy’s past and condemned unequivocally the existing political system, which he described as ‘a heap of filth which cannot even serve to manure the nation’s cabbages.’
- During war he led daring raids and lost an eye, his fame peaked when he became the Commander of Fiume, and indeed he had considered marching on Rome.
- D’Annunzio criticised Mussolini’s lukewarm response to the Fiume affair, and urged people not to follow Mussolini. After Dec 1920, D’Annunzio’s public support diminished after he was ousted from Fiume, but the govt. still asked him to be a part from 1922. But in Oct of 1922 he ‘fell’ from a balcony that laid him low for a while. In the meantime Mussolini gained power, and D’Annunzio became a potential lost leader.
- Mussolini was influenced by D’Annunzio. He aped his leadership style and certainly some of D’Annunzio’s political theory found its way into Mussolini’s fascism.
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Mussolini and ww1
- At the outbreak of the war the Socialist Party view was that it was an Imperialist war that was fought at the expense of the working classes and Italy should have nothing to do with it.
- Mussolini however felt slightly differently. He became increasingly impatient about being sidelined from such a major event in Europe, especially as it could result in the destruction of existing political systems. This could be an opportunity for personal glory! A natural rebel who did not want to toe the party line.
- He said to Margherita Sarfatti his mistress, ‘I want to be greater than Napoleon’
- He was soon expelled from the party for promoting intervention in the war. He set up his own newspaper in November 1914 (partly financed by the French govt. and Italian industrialists) Il Popolo d’Italia he was still backing Socialism but advocated Italy’s entrance into the war.
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Mussolini and ww1 card 2
- In August 1915, he was conscripted into the army, reaching the rank of corporal. He acquitted himself well but saw no heavy fighting and was invalided out in Feb 1917 during a mortar training accident. He spent 4 months in hospital and then returned to Il Popolo d’Italia.
- After the defeat at Caporetto he changed the stance of the paper away from Socialism to the ‘paper of combatants and producers’ he spoke of the need for a strong leadership in the country. His emphasis shifted away from class based struggle to authoritarian rule.
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RISE OF FACISM
- In March 1919 Mussolini called the inaugural meeting of a new movement, the Fasci di Combattimento or combat group consisting mainly of about 100 ex-soldiers. A movement not a party; who claimed they would provide new leadership during a national revolution.
- The programme contained radical social ideas, stemming from experience in the war. Providing a nationalist socialist alternative to the PSI.
- Mussolini had no real political ideology a mixture of socialism and nationalism coupled with the concept of a strong leader or Duce. A means to an end. Mussolini’s main concern was to gain power, he declared war on all the other political parties but the main enemies were the Liberals and the socialists, not because of their socialism but because of their anti-nationalist stance.
- At this juncture Mussolini was still a republican and was still anti church. The plan was to use nationalism and paramilitary groups to gain support.
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RISE OF FACISM NO2
- The ‘Fascists of the First Hour’ (present at first meeting in Milan on 23rd March 1919, about a 100 men and a few women) were difficult to categorise, more important than ideology was perhaps a willingness to act on their convictions. Mussolini needed to co-ordinate this loose group of people without relying too heavily on a political course of action and thus alienating any particular group.
- Fascism remained small at first, 1,000 members in 1919. Still viewed as a leftist movement, so most people on left still supporting PSI. In election in Milan in 1919, Fascists gained only 5,000 (2% of total) votes compared to 168,000 for PSI and 70,000 for PPI (Popolari Party).
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who supported fascism?
- The key group of supporters for the Fascists were the petty bourgeoisie. Between the working and middle classes. They were insecure with their status, they were afraid of returning to the proletariat but were unable to really compete with the established bourgeoisie. Many were ex-soldiers who were proud of their achievements
- And felt that the govt. had not given them their due.
- 2. The Fascists also enjoyed support from an element of lower middle class small farmers from parts of Romagna, Lombardy and Venetia. These farmers believed that rural socialism (Socialist Land Leagues who controlled local labour organisation) threatened their way of life, especially as their farms began to prosper and they increased their holdings. The Agrari or large landowners also sided with the Fascists as resistors to socialism. This support led to fascism becoming a mass movement.
- 3. Support also from industrialists who again were wary of socialism and were annoyed by the government making concessions to the work force.
- 4. Students and youths eager for adventure and action. Annoyed by the rising wages of seemingly unpatriotic workers who were striking all the time. Also bitter because of a lack of prospects. Many joined the Fascist squads or squadristi to escape their own boring lives.
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who supported fascism? no2
- 5. Semi-criminals from Milan and other big towns.
- 6. As the Fascists increasingly smashed Socialist and Catholic unions, workers also were forced to Fascist syndicates in order to gain employment, a kind of forced support. Other workers were attracted to the Fascist syndicates because they were distressed by the Socialist treatment of blackleg labour. Syndicalists also were attracted because their philosophy was to form strong unions to protect the workforce.
- 7. They kept some w/c support by keeping some aspects of their social radicalism – give land to peasants, fair wages and prices.
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what did fascism offer?
- From 1920 onwards Mussolini began to drop some of his more radical policies, he was attempting to put across a respectable political face, to reassure the population that Fascism was not threatening.
- 1. The movement and the party pledged to restore Italian power and prestige.
- 2. They said they would improve the economy by increasing productivity.
- 3. They would abolish state controls.
- 4. Re-establish strong leadership and law by controlling left-wing subversives.
- 5. The abandonment of Republicanism was announced in Sept. 1922, closely followed by the ending of anti-clericalism, and the dropping in the demand for female suffrage.
- Emphasis was on nationalism, an active foreign policy and a strong state.
- Mussolini not big on political programmes, he saw himself as a man of action. He knew also of course that it would be extremely difficult to satisfy all of his disparate supporters under one political programme.
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fascist violence successful?
- Many saw the violence as an antidote to socialism, many others of course deplored it. A big reason why the Fascists were able to get away with it was that agents of the government also were sick of the ineffectualness of the government, and co-operated with or aided the Fascists. Giolitti included Fascists in his govt. of 1921, which obviously did not encourage local officials to take action against them. Giolitti included them to try and tame them, trasformismo again!
- There was evidence to suggest that it was possible to stand up to the Fascist bullying. In July 1921 in Sarzana, 12 armed policemen fired on a band of 500 Fascists and they dispersed. Such occasions were rare however. Right up to the March On Rome in Oct. 1922, the authorities tolerated and in some cases collaborated with Fascist violence.
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power for fascism?
- The Fascists had assets:
- About 500,000 party members
- 250,000 blackshirts
- they controlled several regions
- offered firm leadership
- promised to end class conflict
- promised to make Italy great, at a time when Italians were disillusioned
- their violence had helped to smash Socialism
- attracted support from elites and other concerned groups
- All this added to an aura of power that was beyond their actual numbers.
- They benefited greatly from the weaknesses of others. The Liberal regime had allowed them to develop, in the meantime they offered no firm leadership themselves and also failed to solve the economic instability of the country.
- The Liberal governments were not only weak at national level but also at local level. They had a choice of whether to smash the Fascists or let them get on with it. They chose the latter and attempted to incorporate the more moderate fascists into government.
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power for fascism? no 2
- Liberal, Socialist and Catholic opponents of Fascism were unable to combine to seriously threaten the Fascists. Personal gain and animosity to others was still the most important factor for government ministers. In July 1922 moderates in the PSI and PPI agreed on a strategy to deal with Fascism, but Giolitti (Italian Liberal) held his support and the anti-Fascist coalition government failed before it began.
- The Socialists had peaked in 1920. They had been weakened by growing unemployment, Fascist attacks and demoralisation. The Socialists were weak, but people were still concerned by them, in reality you would think that there would be less need for the Fascists with the Socialist threat diminished, but the apparencies of the situation was what mattered.
- In August 1922 the Socialists called for a general strike, but the strike collapsed after only 1 day for a lack of support. The Fascists who mobilised to thwart the threat received the credit for the failure of the strike, and confirmed to the watching public just how vital they were.
- Having said all this Fascism was by no means an unstoppable movement. They were divided on policy; they were divided on the means to achieve power, many of the ras wanted to seize power, whilst Mussolini considered that a legal achievement of power was possible because of the elite support they were gaining.
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power for fascism? no 3
- In 1922 when the Liberals were putting together a new government, some wanted a Fascist presence whilst others wanted D’Annunzio as an alternative nationalist identity.
- The Fascists only had 7% of the deputies in Parliament in 1922 (Hitler had over 30% when he became Chancellor). He had to reinforce the threat of the ras to give him a stronger position in Parliament.
- In autumn 1922 tensions in both the Fascists and the government were the invaluable background to Mussolini’s appointment as PM.
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