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Benito Mussolini, known as a great leader and former Prime Minister to the Italian country helped save and rebuild the Italian nation and economy. Born in a small town in Italy in 1883, called Predappio, Mussolini grew up with anarchist activist parents who had republican beliefs about the current political matter of Italy and the existing Austro-Hungarian situation. Mussolini grew up as a troublemaker, being expelled from several schools due to disobedience and violence. It was not long after Mussolini joined the military service in 1903 did he develop his fascist views on Italy and politics.
After the war, Italy was in uproar as the economy was shattered and strikes broke out, causing the people of Italy to look for a leader to guide their nation back to order. In March of 1919, Mussolini and several others formed the National Fascist Party which grew in popularity among the people of Italy, as it had seemed Mussolini had all the answers to Italy’s problems. Mussolini began his rise in power in 1921 when he was officially elected into party and the National Fascist party was then realized and received recognition. After this occurred fascism in Italy took off, as Mussolini promised solutions to Italy’s economic problems through creating dictatorship and order. However, Mussolini quickly peaked in his glory run as Prime Minister. Once Hitler and Mussolini became allies after Italy invaded Ethiopia, the alliance was formed in 1939. Following the great triple alliance of Italy, Germany and Austria-Hungary, Italy began to develop as a military power, presenting a force that threatened other countries such as Britain and France. This factor soon leads to the great fall of ‘Il Duce’, the leader of Italy, once the island of Sicily was invaded and conquered, as well as the fall of the Nazi regime. This paper will focus on the rise of fascism in Italy and Mussolini’s rise and fall as a timeless leader in human history.
Rise to Power
Prior to Mussolini’s rise to power, Italy was a country in dismay, torn between monarchy and right-winged fascism. Italy had fears of a communist revolution occurring in 1922 as riots broke out and the Italian people began to rebel against their trusted leader and government. This led to King Victor Emmanuel III calling Mussolini and asking him to come to Rome to take charge of the country as the new Prime Minister to settle the ongoing strike and weakening economy. Mussolini then went to Rome where he was met with thousands of followers awaiting his arrival. This situation led to Mussolini’s first act which was to send back all of the strikers to work to regain order in the nation, he was successful. Mussolini was able to regain economic order and was able to stabilize the economy. Known as ‘Il Duce’,
“Mussolini headed a coalition of fascists and nationalists and parliamentary government continued until the murder of the socialist leader, Giacomo Matteotti in 1924. Left-wing parties were suppressed and in 1929 Italy became a one-party state.” (Spartacus)
Mussolini and Fascism won the elections by using intimidation and force. Following this, Mussolini began to carry out several extensive public works programs across Italy, as the drop in unemployment rates made Mussolini look like a great leader at the current time being. It has been said by many people that Mussolini was one of the founders of Italian fascism, however, in the following years of 1924 – 1932 Mussolini achieved most of his work programs, public transport innovations and secured Italy’s economic success in its colonies in agriculture and industrialism. For example, it is known that, “In 1931, Mussolini began the 3-year project to drain and reclaim the Pontine Marshes for 3000 new farms. He built 1700 summer camps for city children, gave workers the 8-hour day and universal insurance benefits.” (Rise of Mussolini) These steps that Mussolini took were innovative not only for the economy but for society. Mussolini was created a self supporting Italy. In the northern regions of Italy, Mussolini created thousands of acres of agricultural farming areas to produce food and crop for the nation which are still being used today. I know this occurs because I have seen it first hand when I travelled in Italy last year visiting my family roots in Northern Italy. Furthermore, Mussolini also began an industrial revolution; some may call it, in Northern Italy, by founding and building small factories and trading companies near the northern borders of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Also, Mussolini created a Corporate State, where 22 different corporations represented the employees and owners, similar to that of a union; no strikes were permitted however. This is known as the rise of fascism in Italy.
Mussolini’s achievements and dominant leadership style was gaining recognition on a global level prior to the Second World War as Italy had been pulled out of the depression emerging as a new prosperous country. The depression acted as a resistance for Italy to prosper as a country, but at the end of the depression, Italy came out stronger and healthier economically than surrounding nations. Mussolini became a hero to the people of Italy, because ‘Il Duce’ revived the nation’s economy and overall stability; fascism proved to be successful. “Adolf Hitler had been inspired by Mussolini’s achievements and once he gained power in Germany he sought a close relationship with Italy. In October 1936 the two men signed a non-military alliance.” (Spartacus) Hitler admired Mussolini’s theory of fascism and endorsed it, using it to propel the German nation.
After this alliance was formed Mussolini took his leadership and power to another level, bringing Italy’s strength to a new height. However, Mussolini’s popularity was diminishing, after invading Ethiopia in 1935 and joining forces with the Nazi Germans in 1939, known as the ‘Pact of Steel’. Other nations such as Britain and France were not in support of Mussolini’s actions or direction of leadership entering into the Second World War. As the relationship between Mussolini and Hitler grew, so did their view toward fascism and power for their great nations. By 1940, Mussolini had over 1 million troops in his army and formed a free standing independent nation. Mussolini was beginning to produce results, as Italy was becoming a superpower, similar to that of his dream; to make Italy a major power and revive the Roman Empire.
The Great Fall
However, each great leader has their drawbacks; The Italian nation relied too heavily on the Nazi Germans, and the German army had been at war with the triple entente and United States. Italy’s dependency was soon to crumble. Joining the Second World War has been known as Mussolini’s largest mistake in his reign. Italy was at peace prior to joining the war and decided to support the Germans who were at war with France and Britain currently. Italy then declared war on France, in support of the Nazi Germans. However, as the war continued over the years, Italy’s weakness began to come out between the cracks, as their military showed no strength or modernization to compete with the new weapons and planes of the opponents (U.S, British, and French).
By mid 1943, Italy had lost all of their colonies in South Africa, and were slowing being taken over, losing the Mediterranean Sea also. In July 1943 an invasion in Sicily occurred in Italy that was planned by the Americans and British, which ultimately created serious problems for Mussolini. The island of Sicily was lost, and now the enemy was using it as a base to invade the rest of Italy. Italy was left standing with no German support and Mussolini with his hands caught in the air, as the Italian people witnessed their leader fall. Following this invasion, Mussolini was captured and thrown in jail by his former members of the Fascist Government.
“Mussolini was deposed by a revolt within his own Fascist Grand Council, and Victor Emmanuel III, the King of Italy, who had been reduced to a figurehead by Mussolini, appointed Marshal Badoglio to be the new Prime Minister.” (Biography)
Following Mussolini’s arrest, Italy began to change direction as a nation, in hopes of changing sides so that no further damage can be done. This was the end of fascism in Italy, as Badoglio, the new leader of Italy began to repair the nation and work with the British and French to repair burnt bridges and relationships. The new government helped create the Co-Belligerent forces in the southern parts of Italy with the Allies.
On the other side of the scope, Hitler sent in troops to rescue Mussolini from prison, where he then set up a social republic in northern Italy which was currently held as German territory. However, this republic was short lived, as the Germans surrendered in Northern Italy in 1945 nearing the end of the Second World War. Mussolini was arrested yet again.
In conclusion, Mussolini was a great leader for Italy during the roaring twenties and the depression that lasted into the early 1930’s. Mussolini proved that fascism does work and that by using force and intimidation, a country can become strong. Mussolini was able to rebuild Italy by creating infrastructure in the north and south and by creating many jobs for his people.
“Whatever his failures as a national leader, Mussolini appeared to be a shining example of Fascist strength when compared to the more timid democracies in Europe, and was a hero to other aspiring Fascist leaders of the day. Among these was a struggling German politician by the name of Adolph Hitler.” (Flow of History)
By begin affiliated with Hitler, a user of fascism in a negative way, Mussolini grew as a leader in the wrong direction. Mussolini began to lose focus on building his core country and became reliable on the Germans and their power.
2. Il Duce ‘sought Hitler ban’. BBC News.
4. Benito Mussolini Biography
5. Mussolini’s War Statement – Declaration of War against USA
6. ITALY: Death in Milan
7. Italy in the Second World War
8. The Rise of Benito Mussolini
9. BBC History
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