Mussolini and Italian Fascism

Mussolini and Italian Fascism

Mussolini and Italian Fascism

Mussolini and Italian Fascism

Synopsis

Fascism was one of the defining experiences of the European 20th Century. Within it many of the economic, political, social and cultural contradictions that had been brewing in the unprecedented transformation that European society underwent in the 19th and early 20th century came to a head. Mussolini, the man who most fashioned Italian Fascism, dramatically expressed the unease and the hopes of his age.

To what extent can we compare Mussolini's Italy to Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Russia? What legacy has the experience of Fascism left behind in Italy and in Europe? These and many more important questions are explored in Finaldi's introduction to one of the most important movements of the European 20th Century.

Excerpt

When dealing with liberal Italy (1870–1922) it is difficult not to appraise it according to the knowledge of its eventual transformation into Fascism. This ‘revelation’ thesis has been constructed by authors such as Antonio Gramsci and the British historian Denis Mack Smith (Mack Smith, 1958). In this way of seeing things one must reveal the defects, shortcomings, peculiarities or faults within liberal Italian society, its political culture, its economy or whatever, in order to shunt Italy on to the track that inevitably leads to Fascism. It is true that liberal Italy did eventually spawn Fascism, but it is also true that in the inter-war period much of continental Europe, if it did not adopt out-and-out ‘Fascism’, turned to some form of authoritarian government. To see liberal Italy as a born failure is a mistake. In the first place, the raw material it had to deal with was not ideal. Before the First World War Italy was shot through with social, economic, regional and political fractures [Doc. 26, p. 147], but then in the Europe of this period, where was this not the case? Yet liberal Italy came through the massive effort required to fight the First World War without disintegrating; it performed creditably on the battlefield, and defeated AustriaHungary, the traditional enemy of Italian unity.

The ‘liberalism’ of liberal Italy was far more suffused with the moderate monarchism of Britain than the radicalism of republican France. The Italian king maintained much power. He had personal control over the military and could be extremely influential in determining Italian foreign policy. He was also a key figure in the liberal political system as the nominator of the prime minister, no trifling matter as governments could (in theory at least) function without parliamentary majorities. Royal decrees had the force of law, and the Italian upper house, the Senate, was appointed directly by the king. At times . . .

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