Coming to Terms with Fascism in Italy: Mussolini Casts a Long Shadow. R J.B. Bosworth Describes How Italians of Both the Left and the Right Have Used Memories of His Long Dictatorship to Underpin Their Own Versions of History and Politics

By Bosworth, R. J. B. | History Today, November 2005 | Go to article overview

Coming to Terms with Fascism in Italy: Mussolini Casts a Long Shadow. R J.B. Bosworth Describes How Italians of Both the Left and the Right Have Used Memories of His Long Dictatorship to Underpin Their Own Versions of History and Politics


Bosworth, R. J. B., History Today


BENITO MUSSOLINI became prime minister of Italy in October 1922 after leading the March on Rome, a paramilitary Fascist coup against liberal Italy's parliamentary institutions. In January 1925, he openly announced his dictatorship and became known as the Duce, or leader. From here on he boasted that Fascism was both a revolution and a regime, destined to remake Italians and to rule them for the foreseeable future. In fact, Mussolini fell in July 1943, after the Allied invasion of Sicily, a political casualty of Italy's disastrous performance in the Second World War. But the story had a vicious coda when, in September 1943, the Germans occupied northern Italy and restored Mussolini there as a sort of puppet dictator of the radical fascist Repubblica Sociale Italiana (RSI, or Italian Social Republic). For the next twenty months, while Italy was fought over by the Allied and Nazi-Fascist armies, Italians engaged in a form of civil war. Of Italy's 450,000 war deaths, about half occurred in this period.

In all, Mussolini's twenty-year-long Fascist dictatorship was responsible for about a million premature deaths. Some 3,000 Italians died in the political disturbances occasioned by Fascism's rise. Further casualties resulted from the regime's malign domestic policies which, Party rhetoric notwithstanding, favoured the rich over the poor, urban dwellers over the peasantry and men over women. But the major killing fields of the regime were in its empire and in the various wars it aggressively waged. While 'restoring order' in Libya, the regime allowed 50,000 to die in camps and generally did nothing to halt the appalling decline of the Libyan population, which had fallen from some 1.2 million on Italy's invasion in 1911 to 800,000 by the mid-1930s. Italian historians have never bothered to tally the death toll produced by the invasion and subsequent annexation of Ethiopia from 1935-41, but Ethiopians estimate that between 300,000 and 600,000 perished.

Fascist Italy intervened on the side of Franco's Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), when Mussolini ordered his soldiers to kill any co-nationals they found fighting on the Republican side. According to the official figures, almost 4,000 Italians fell in Spain and more than 10,000 were wounded, and historians can only guess at the numbers the Fascists killed or maimed. The regime seized Albania on Good Friday 1939 and eventually, after an embarrassing (at least for the Duce) nine-month delay, entered the Second World War in support of Germany on June 10th, 1940.

Even after Mussolini's death at the hands of Italian partisans, and the collapse of the RSI in April 1945, Italian casualties continued. During the following summer, between 8,000 and 12,000 ex-Fascists, mostly in northern Italy, were eliminated by a vengeful left (sometimes political definitions hid crasser personal motivations). In the South, 'liberated' in 1943, social killings linked to the revived Mafia resumed with a will, most dramatically in the massacre of peasant Communists, unionists and their backers at Portella delle Ginestre in Sicily on May 1st, 1947.

Yet the bloody shambles of Fascism left little imprint in many postwar accounts. The cliche that Italians are brava gente (nice people)--however conditioned in the Anglo-Saxon world by a semi-racist assumption that Italians are also 'naturally' corrupt and incompetent--survives and flourishes. Louis de Bernieres, in Captain Corelli's Mandolin, one of the publishing triumphs of the 1990s, colourfully continued this line. In Italy itself, critical thoughts about past politics were quickly overwhelmed after 1945 by the Cold War and by the 'economic miracle' of the 1950s and 1960s when Italy's production and living standards rapidly caught up with those of the countries to its west and north. In a few short years, the wretchedness of the lives of many Italians between the wars became a distant memory, as foreign as the surviving echoes of Fascism's aggressive combination of nationalism and imperialism, and its habit of invading others. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Coming to Terms with Fascism in Italy: Mussolini Casts a Long Shadow. R J.B. Bosworth Describes How Italians of Both the Left and the Right Have Used Memories of His Long Dictatorship to Underpin Their Own Versions of History and Politics
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.