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Why Did Mussolini Come To Power In 1922? Essay, Research Paper

After the unification of Italy in 1870 the country was run by a series of

liberal governments. Why then, in 1922 was a country still in the early stages

of its political development, subject to such a radical political swing, and

how was any one man able to instigate it?

The period between 1870 and 1922 was an era that faced major problems- poverty,

unemployment, a lack of national identity and perhaps most significantly of

all, the First World War. The Liberal government were extremely ineffective

in solving these problems, which caused unrest within the population. There

was also a severe lack of unity within the government and a lot of internal

political conflict.

However, the Liberal government were not only ineffective, they were unpopular.

For example, the government attempted to solve the problem of the lack of natural

resources and military strength by forming a triple alliance with Germany and

Austria-Hungary, who were traditionally Italy?s greatest enemy, and the people

resented this. This gave rise to unrest among the people, leading to the development

of socialism, despite attempts to ban it.

All the above points served only to aid Mussolini in his rise to power and

the government?s weaknesses provided a platform on which his popularity could

grow and as editor of a socialist newspaper he was able to influence people?s

opinions a great deal.

What is almost undoubtedly the single most significant factor in the ending

of Liberal Italy is the First World War. As Lee described it, it took Italy

from ?instability to crisis.? Despite the fact that Italy were victorious, the

treaty of Versailles treated Italy badly. The Italians gained a little territory

around the Adriatic and didn?t get a share of the German colonies in Africa.

For this reason Italy?s gain from the war was described as a ?mutilated victory?

and the liberals were blamed for their failure to gain more land. Demobilised

soldiers felt betrayed by the peace terms and were ready to support the dynamic

nationalism of the Fascists. One such nationalist, D?Annunzio took 2,000 men

into the city of Fiume and took charge there. His fondness for drama and publicity

was not lost on another enemy of liberalism ? Mussolini. Mussolini watched D?Annunzio

very closely during his period in charge of Fiume (which only lasted a year).

He greatly admired D?Annunzio, particularly for his flamboyance and drama.

Because of the ex-soldiers? dislike of the liberal government, Mussolini was

able to use them to establish the Fascio di Combattimento. This was a movement,

not a party and they sought support from all patriotic Italians. Its popularity

also stemmed from the fact that Mussolini was a brilliant orator ? possibly

the finest in twentieth century European history, and that he appealed to all

sections of society, particularly as the population on the whole were weak-minded

and uneducated. Furthermore, Mussolini influenced people greatly through the

pages of his new newspaper, Il Popolo d?Italia. Mussolini was clever in the

way that he attracted people to the movement because of its radical socialist

ideas but then soon changed its policy to one of extreme anti-socialism and

in April 1919 Fascists burnt the Avanti! offices (Mussolini?s former newspaper)

and engaged in other acts of violence against socialists, such as pouring Castor

Oil over them and simply beating them up. This was done not only by the Fascio

di Combattimento but by other fascist squadrismo, completely independent of

Mussolini?s movement, although their leaders the ras realised the importance

of Mussolini, particularly because of his newspaper. This is a further and very

important reason why Mussolini was able to come to power ? the fear his opposition

held not just for his movement, but for Mussolini himself. By late 1920 Fascism

had really taken off, attracting not just the wealthy but the bourgeoisie and

also sharecroppers as well, all of whom were hostile towards socialism.

The movement was also able to grow due to the support from the rural and industrial

elite. These groups also appreciated the weakness of the liberal government

and the threat of socialism and so gave money to support the fascist movement

? this further persuaded the group to move more to the right of the political

spectrum.

However, in a modern western society, it is highly unfeasible that a simple

movement of anti-socialists could come to power. Mussolini realised this, and

so he formed the National Fascist Party in an effort to become more respectable,

and to hold more official political weight. Furthermore, in September 1922 he

announced his support for the monarchy which meant that he was popular not only

with the people of Italy but that he gained political support from the King,

particularly as the socialists were against the idea of a hereditary monarchy.

An important step in the growth of the Fascist Party, and therefore inevitably

in why Mussolini was able to come to power, came from the Italian church. Even

today Italy, and the Pope is an extremely significant centre of world religion

and Mussolini realised that it would be to his advantage to gain the support

of the church. This was achieved easily as the church was highly anti-socialist

for the reason that socialism is centred on equality and is therefore against

the idea of religion. In fact, such was the scale of anti-socialism within the

church that the Pope told Catholics not to vote for the popular catholic party

(the PPI), but to support the Fascist party instead in order to keep socialism

out of government.

Now that Mussolini had such wide scale support he knew that he would be able

to seize power. The Fascists planned the take-over of local governments and

a March on Rome. However this was not necessary as on October 29th 1922 King

Victor Emmanuel invited Mussolini to form a government. It is interesting to

note that the lack of unity within the liberal government finally brought about

their downfall, as one of the leading men in the government at the time, Solandra

asked the King specifically to offer Mussolini the job as Prime Minister simply

because he wanted to prevent one of his liberal colleagues, Giolitti, from becoming

it.

In conclusion, Mussolini was able to come to power in 1922 primarily because

of his ability to influence people, and if this failed, to intimidate them.

He did this by winning support from key areas, such as the church, the monarchy

and the economic elite and using this support to crush socialism. However, it

is very difficult to instigate such dramatic change unless there is a dramatic

need for it ? and there was. The liberal governments inability to solve the

major problems it faced, and maybe even its own mutilation of Italy?s victory

in the war meant that Fascism via Mussolini was able to grow on the back of

the failure of this government and of the hatred of socialism by highly significant

groups of people.


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