Italy felt betrayed after WW1 by the Allied powers and developed intense nationalist values.
Combined with a poor economy support for Italian fascism led by Benito Mussolini grew. He had
founded a political group called the Fascio di Combattimento (Fascist League of Combatants) in
1919 and had support from both left and right wing activists, natiionalists, and war veterans. He
promised to make Italy
great again through
nationalism, militarism, and
authoritarian rule. These
were the defining
characteristics of fascism.
A post war threat of
communist revolution in
Italy convinced the King,
Victor Emmanuel III, to
make Mussolini Prime
Minister on October 9,
1922.. Mussolini made a
demonstration of his power
through his propagandist
“March on Rome” like a
General from the days of Ancient Rome. The march was to make a show of seizing power by force,
but the decision to make him Prime Minister had already been made. Mussolini became known as
“Il Duce”, “The Leader”.
Mussolini used his powers to effectively suppress all opposition by late 1926, press was no longer
free, and opponents were arrested. His secret police were known as the “Black Shirts” and he used
the legal system and the death penalty to maintain control. While Mussolini had an authoritarian
control but was never as brutal as either Stalin or Hitler would be.
Economically Mussolini called his system the Corporate State which had Government agencies
overseeing private industries to the benefit of the state. This allowed for unemployment to fall and
society to stabilise making Mussolini popular throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s, particularly after
Italy survived the Great Depression better than most democracies. Massive work projects were
Mussolini’s dictatorship also made great efforts to co-operate with the Catholic Church, unlike the
dictatorships of Stalin who oppressed the Church, and later Hitler who barely tolerated it. Italy
remained a particularly religious country.