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TWas The Dopolavoro A Success?

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To What Extent Was The Dopolavoro A Success?

Plan Of Investigation

This essay will analyse the extent of the Dopolavoro's success within Italian society between the years 1925 and 1939.

The Dopolavoro was a leisure program under the organization Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro (OND) and was created initially to help gain the support of the Italian working class after the ban on trade unions. In addition to controlling Italian dissatisfaction within the state, the OND saw these programs as a further area of competition with the Socialists, who had similar social organizations.

Seeing that it tried to gain the support of employers, there was nothing characteristically fascist about it. However, after Augusto Turati's rise to party secretary in 1927, the Dopolavoro became another supporting element of Mussolini's regime. Despite propaganda having a wide range presence, Italian society was not affected to the extent that the government wished, leading to the question, to what extent was the Dopolavoro a success?

The two sources presented approach the topic in a relatively different manner. John Whittam's Fascist Italy describes the course taken on this subject by a purely subjective viewpoint and analyses the factual information. Martin Blinkhorn on the other hand, in Mussolini and Fascist Italy, promotes a objective opinion on the Dopolavoro and the Italian state while criticizing it for its manipulation and deceptive attitude.

Conclusively, an evaluation of the extent to which this program was a success will be presented through the analysis of key factors.

Summary Of Evidence

Mussolini was appointed Prime Minister in 1922

The Dopolavoro was formed on the first of may in 1925.

The Dopolavoro included adult leisure programs, facilities and welfare programs.

This idea was introduced by an engineer Mario Giani.

Edmondo Rossoni promoted Giani's schemes.

It was ran by a government agency called Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro.

It aimed at decreasing tension created after the ban on trade union-sponsored clubs.

In the 1930s the Dopolavoro ranged from theater to bands and libraries.

Initially, membership was limited to 300,000, in 1926 and grew to 4 million by 1939.

The OND was the answer to Giani's plea for a national state sponsored plan.

The OND took over former socialist buildings and used them as its facilities.

Turati was appointed leader of the OND in 1927.

The OND's initial purpose was to deliver news on the agricultural sector.

Increased membership urged the OND to put more emphasis on recreational activities. Sports activities and welfare programs were heavily funded and journeys to favorable locations were subsidized.

In 1936, twenty per cent of urban workers joined, 7 per cent of rural members and 80 per cent of employees in state and private sectors.

Company employees were granted better facilities and lounge areas.

Class divisions were evident. The poorer classes were given the cheapest seats in addition to being separated from the higher classes.

Evaluation Of Sources

Fascist Italy by renowned historian John Whittam, is a concise introduction on the nature of Italian Fascism under Mussolini. This book was written to inform the reader of the Italian Fascist state in terms of politics, diplomacy and military developments, and in what ways the domestic sector was neglected. The provision of documents and recent research aided in analysing the origins of the movement and its political success. Within its far-reaching analysis, Whittam emphasizes Mussolini's attempt for social control and party-state tension. The successes and failures of the fascist state, as well as the collapse of the regime are analysed objectively.

Mussolini and Fascist Italy, also written by renowned historian Martin Blinkhorn, explains the importance of Mussolini, the movement and the regime which overlooked Italian society between 1922 and World War 2. Furthermore, he examines the fascist party's rise to power and the creation of Mussolini's dictatorship through reason and rational arguments. Nevertheless, Blinkhorn portrays his argument by criticizing the fascist state for subjecting society totalitarianism and deception. Although he makes brief comments on certain aspects of the Dopolavoro's success, his argument largely consist of its “abysmal failures”. Furthermore, the age of the book must be questioned. In contrast to Whittam who has exploited certain recent revelations, Blinkhorn's resources rely on documents preceding 1980.

Analysis

Like several other dictators, Mussolini too tried to tie his people closer with fascist beliefs and incorporate the masses to the fascist regime. An attempt was made to achieve this by introducing certain programs to the Italian people. These included adult leisure programs, facilities and welfare programs. On May first 1925 the Dopolavoro was formed, ran by a government agency called the Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro (OND). Initially, this idea of social engineering was introduced by Mario Giani, an engineer and a former manager of Westinghouse plant at Vado Ligure. Edmondo Rossoni, an Italian Fascist politician, acknowledged Giani's schemes for common activities and arranged for them to be introduced to his rapidly growing syndicalist organization. The upholding of the relationship between employers was crucial, seeing that such a project required increased funding as well as buildings and recreation grounds. Giani's plans seemed to be put in peril by suspicion placed on Rossoni on behalf of the employers. Giani saw the risk in going through with his schemes under the current situation so he requested a national, state-sponsored plan. The solution to this appeal was the Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro. The remains of the Socialist Party's establishments aided the emergence of the Dopolavoro “with its chambers of labour, co-operatives and leagues - many of them with mutual aid societies, communal halls and facilities for social and sporting events.” The squadristi, commonly known as The Blackshirts, destroyed many of these; the fascists simply took over those which remained intact.

Mussolini appointed Turati, the party secretary, as leader of the OND two years after its establishment, and proceeded to integrate it as a central aspect of the National Fascist Party. The party representative in the provinces was responsible for assembling a board to supervise the area, and all Dopolavoro activities, as well as those sponsored by the employers, would be managed by its members.

Originally, the OND was meant to inform the workers of new techniques and developments in the industrial sector. However, as the organization grew, more efforts were put in enhancing sports activities, summer camps, subsidized journeys to the mountains and the sea, cheap rail fares and welfare programs. It aimed at “re-educating” the Italian people as a whole, instead of brain washing them from an early age. It aimed at providing leisure/after-work activities within a fascist atmosphere. Also the Dopolavoro aimed at decreasing the worker's irritation with the fascist ban on the trade union-sponsored clubs.

Reaching the 1930s the Dopolavoro ranged from theater to bands and libraries. Initially, membership was estimated at 300,000 in 1926 and grew to almost four million by 1939. Reaching 1936, twenty per cent of urban workers took part, 7 per cent of rural members and 80 per cent of employees in state and private sectors. Many of the state and private employees were granted access to clubs, shops and athletic facilities provided by their respective company. What separated these benefits from the publicly used ones was the difference in their superiority. Even though organization was used to “demolish” barriers, class divisions were evident. During their excursions boarding railways or steamers, lower classes were separated from the higher ones and were given the poorest seats. Nevertheless, they saw no reason to complain, seeing that it was the first time for most of them to ever board a train or a boat, let alone go to the sea and the Alps.

In order to clarify the extent of the Dopolavoro's success, we must first distinguish the nature of its success. In this respect there are two criteria which have to be taken in mind. Social indoctrination of fascist ideology and diversion of mass awareness and attention. The OND's initial cause was to provide after-hours leisure activities, so it should come as no surprise that they neglected direct ideological indoctrination as priority. However, during the 1930s (with Starace as party secretary) the importance of the OND as an instrument of propaganda was understood. In the cordial environment of the OND clubs and excursions, the masses were exposed to the success, failures and problems of the party. This was particularly worrisome for the regime as they made great efforts to avoid fanatical reactions. All they wished for was for passive acceptance of the given situation. The OND distributed government issue radios. Although these were considered a luxury item (300,000 in 1932, over a million in 1938), collective listening was encouraged. This was a measure taken for regulating information. The regime issued these radios so as to censor most information and prevent any public aggravation. Due to its recent appearance, the radio was highly favored. Moreover, through the OND, millions of people were exposed to propaganda and entertainment plans. This was an advantageous step for both the government and the illiterate. The OND's use of the radio as well as the cinema was very efficient in distracting the masses. The Dopolavoro even purchased mobile projectors and sent them to remoter areas.

Despite the Dopolavoro's efforts to create a “laid-back” atmosphere so as to keep a sense of serenity among the people while in parallel integrating them in the fascist regime, it is argued that the members were not affected by fascist propaganda, hence failing to meet the goal set from 1927 onwards which included fascist indoctrination within the masses.

Conclusion

Among the fruition of many institutions brought forth by the Italian government, the Dopolavoro (or OND) was without doubt the most popular. Evidence of its popularity lies in the fact that it survived even Mussolini's fall, at which point its name was altered to Ente Nazionale Assistenza Lavatori (National Organisation for Worker Assistance) in 1945. Throughout the course of its existence, the Dopolavoro proved to be invaluable in its efforts to divert attention from the party's social and economic issues by providing a widespread and diverse range of cultural and recreational activities. Moreover, it served as a buffer in response to society's discontent.

Be this as it may, criticism is present in the fact that it facilitated the infiltration of government branches and aided the meeting of enemies of the regime without attracting attention of the police. The Dopolavoro attempted a more active approach in fascist indoctrination in the late 1930s, however due to the lack of radical thinking, it failed to meet the regime's wishes.

As far as public unrest is concerned, the Dopolavoro was successful in toning it down by introducing various leisure activities aimed at decreasing social irritation. However, in its goal to instill the fascist ideology within the Italian people, not only did it meet a miserable fail, it proved to be highly inefficient and showed a direct contrast to the regime's intentions.

Bibliography

Blinkhorn Martin, Mussolini and Fascist Italy, Routledge 1987

De Grand J. Alexander, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, Routledge 1995

Kolinsky Martin, Continuity and change in European society: Germany, France and Italy since 1870, New York: St Martin's Press 1974, 58

Marinetto Michael, Corporate Social Involvement: Social, Political and Environmental Issues in Britain and Italy, Ashgate Publishing 2005

Townley Edward, Mussolini and Italy, Heinemann Educational Publishers 2002

Whittam, John, Fascist Italy, Manchester University Press 1995

Whittock Martyn, Mussolini in Power, HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1998

Whittock Martyn, Mussolini in Power, HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1998, 4

Townley Edward, Mussolini and Italy, Heinemann Educational Publishers 2002, 91

Townley Edward, Mussolini and Italy, Heinemann Educational Publishers 2002, 91

Marinetto Michael, Corporate Social Involvement: Social, Political and Environmental Issues in Britain and Italy, Ashgate Publishing 2005, 124

Whittam, John, Fascist Italy, Manchester University Press 1995, 73

Whittock Martyn, Mussolini in Power, HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1998, 19-20

Whittock Martyn, Mussolini in Power, HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1998, 19-20

Blinkhorn Martin, Mussolini and Fascist Italy, Routledge 1987, 36

Whittam, John, Fascist Italy, Manchester University Press 1995, 73

Whittam, John, Fascist Italy, Manchester University Press 1995, 73

Whittam, John, Fascist Italy, Manchester University Press 1995, 73

De Grand J. Alexander, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, Routledge 1995, 71

Whittam, John, Fascist Italy, Manchester University Press 1995, 73

Kolinsky Martin, Continuity and change in European society: Germany, France and Italy since 1870, New York: St Martin's Press 1974, 58

Whittam, John, Fascist Italy, Manchester University Press 1995, 73

Whittam, John, Fascist Italy, Manchester University Press 1995, 73

De Grand J. Alexander, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, Routledge 1995, 71

Whittam, John, Fascist Italy, Manchester University Press 1995, 73


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