'We shall succeed because we shall work,' said Mussolini, and no one worked harder - or more visibly - than he did. He spent days touring the province, escorted by a claque of blackshirted Fascist Party functionaries, a small army of body guards and a train of journalists and photographers convincing his people to follow him and create a new Italian empire. In the following essay I will briefly explain why the Italian people followed Mussolini, how he came to power, and compare the beliefs and practices of fascism with those of Nazism.
For a man who was to occupy such a conspicuous place on the world stage, Benito Mussolini rose from unlikely beginnings. He was born in ...view middle of the document...
The cost of living had risen more than 500 per cent since 1914, and there were an endless series of industrial, agricultural and municipal strikes.
Political parties sprouted like mushrooms. There were at least a dozen parties represented in The Chamber of Deputies, Italy's parliamentary body., with no party holding the majority. In March of 1919 Mussolini used the pages of his newspaper to announce the founding of yet another faction. He simply called a meeting, inviting all, and between 100 and 200 restive men turned up. They came from existing parties and from none. Many were discharged, unemployed veterans lusting for a fight wit almost anyone.
Mussolini dubbed his followers the 'Fasci di Combattimento' of 'Combat Groups'. The word 'fasci' would come to mean government by dictatorship of the kind Mussolini instituted in Italy. At the outset, Mussolini endowed his newborn group with a vague platform that called for universal suffrage, proportional representation and a voice for labour at all levels of government.
During the next three years Mussolini's movement, which formally became a party only in 1921, enrolled more that 300,000 members. Some of them became his personal bodyguards, using clubs and the forced ingestion of castor oil to intimidate dissidents, they also kept order at unruly Fascist meetings and fomented disorder at the meetings of opposition parties. For those men, organized as 'squadristi', their black shirts became a uniform and a symbol of their muscle, both real and political. Fascism attracted Italians who wanted a strong government, respected at home and abroad. Some of them won seats in the Chambers of Deputies, and Mussolini himself laid plans to seize the government. By this time many workers, small businessmen, and industrialists, though they disliked the strong-arm tactics of the fascists, were beginning to see in fascism a movement which could bring order into public affairs and create a moral climate of opinion in the country.
The year 1922 brought a series of crises that Mussolini was able to exploit. In July a governing coalition fell for the sixth time in three years, and on August 1 the Socialist called a general strike to underscore the government's paralysis. Mussolini gave the government an ultimatum: Either take action against the Socialist and their strike, or the Fascists would do it themselves. When the government remained inert, he was as good as his word. Squads of black shirted Fascists moved in everywhere and kept vital services in operation; the trains ran, mail was delivered, field were tilled and factories stayed open. The strike collapsed, a failure that discredited the Socialist - and led Italians by the thousands to look to Mussolini as the man who would bring order out of the nation's chaos.
Mussolini told an audience in Naples on October 24, 'Either they give us the government or we shall take it...