Benito Mussolini (1883-1945)
"His Excellency Benito Mussolini, Head of Government, Duce of Fascism, and Founder of the Empire" official title from ‘36
Benito Mussolini was born on 29 July 1883 in Dovia di Predappio, a small town in Northern Italy. From a young age, Mussolini showed tendencies to violence. When sent away to school, he was expelled twice for a series of violent incidents. On at least two occasions he resorted to stabbing adversaries with a penknife. He even fought the fathers at his school when they tried to beat him.
In 1902 Mussolini moved to Switzerland, where he became actively involved in Socialist politics. He studied the ideas of Marxism and philosophers ...view middle of the document...
He called for a leader "ruthless and energetic enough to make a clean sweep" to revive the Italian nation, obviously referring to himself. On March 23, 1919, Mussolini formed the National Fascist Party, galvanising the support of many unemployed war veterans who felt betrayed and resentful of their country. Mussolini thought of Fascism as a revolutionary idea and of himself as a revolutionary. He imagined himself as a 20th century Caesar who would restore the ancient glories of the mighty Roman Empire.
Mussolini formed the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento (Italian Combat Squad), originally consisting of 200 discontented socialists, syndicalists, republicans, anarchists, other unclassifiable revolutionaries and restless ex-soldiers. This militia was organised into armed “Squadristi” in cities and provinces, spreading Mussolini’s reign of terror. They paraded around the country in their black shirts, waving their skull embroidered flag, singing patriotic songs, shouting nationalist slogans and marching to the attack of their political opponents. They terrorised the countryside, crushing all resistance by persecuting socialists and unionists, breaking up strikes, burning down union and Socialist party officers and intimidating local governments. Squadristi members punished their enemies by either beating them with manganellos or forcing them to drink pints of castor oil. Men were chained naked to trees, women had their heads shaved and many people were killed. The “Blackshirts” gathered more and more recruits, provoking and intensifying the anarchic political situation in Italy.
Fascism gained much support from the people in its earliest stages, especially the hard hit lower middle classes. This popularity can be partly attributed to Fascism’s ideals of nationalism and strength in unity, regardless of class. Many found the Fascist movement offered a sense of comradeship and purpose lacking in civilian life. The Italian people were willing to accept the authoritarianism which Mussolini preached as a cure to the nation’s ills. So, in 1921, the Fascist Party was invited to join the coalition government.
The next year, in October, the Blackshirts marched on Rome and Mussolini presented himself as the only man capable of restoring order to Italy’s political chaos. With the support of the Italian people, Benito Mussolini was made Prime Minister. From there he employed violence and intimidation against all who opposed him, including several assassinations of high ranking politicians. Once in power, Mussolini gradually dismantled Italy’s democracy, making himself dictator in 1925 and taking on the title Il Duce (the leader). He gradually slid further into the megalomania of the petty dictator. He banned opposition parties, trade unions, the free press, freedom of speech and forced his political opponents into exile. Mussolini abolished local autonomy, replacing councils and mayors with officials appointed by the Italian Senate. Mussolini...