Town and Country under Fascism: The Transformation of Brescia, 1915-1926

By Alice A. Kelikian | Go to book overview

7 The Brescian Road to Fascism

WHEN Mussolini journeyed from Milan to Rome by wagon-lit, he had yet to formulate his ultimate political aims. The Duce met the king to accept the premiership inside an hour of arriving in the capital.1 PNF militants looked forward to purging the old gang and to calling new elections. They saw no need for the co-operation of Catholics or the look of legality. The choice of a mixed ministry disappointed these purists, even though decisive posts in the state machinery came under their control. Acting independently of the party, the prime minister showed himself conciliatory to conservative as well as church opinion. He went far on the basis of tactical skill. The confidence of the chamber won him a year's plenary powers for financial and administrative reform. Royal appointment and parliamentary endorsement gave the cabinet some semblance of constitutional rectitude, but ambiguity persisted about the form fascist governance would take.

Between the march on Rome in October 1922 and the murder of Matteotti in June 1924, the Duce faced contrary imperatives as leader of a mass movement and head of a coalition cabinet. He widened the sphere of the executive soon after taking office. He consolidated the PNF's institutional power by creating the Grand Council and the militia.2 Police repression forced the communists underground, and electoral reform ensured a permanent majority in the chamber for the government list. The political establishment saw the premier as a natural ally, despite measures which represented advances towards

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1
A Répaci, La marcia su Roma, mito e realtà, vol. i ( Rome, 1963), pp. 571-8.
2
The Grand Council, made up of the party executive and fascist officialdom, coordinated PNF activities with those of the state; this organ displaced the cabinet as the deliberative body on high policy. The Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale centralized control over the squads and maintained them at public expense; the MVSN served as Mussolini's armed police reserve. See C. Seton-Watson, Italy from Liberalism to Fascism, p. 634; A. De Grand, Italian Fascism: Its Origins and Development ( Lincoln, 1982), pp. 43-4; A. Aquarone, 'La milizia volontaria nello stato fascista', in A. Aquarone and M. Vernassa (eds.), Il regime fascista ( Bologna, 1974), pp. 85-111.

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Town and Country under Fascism: The Transformation of Brescia, 1915-1926
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations x
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Silk, Steel, and Society 7
  • 2 - Workers and Warriors 45
  • 3 - Political Alignments in Post-War Brescia 70
  • 4 - Labours of the Left 96
  • 5 - Conservative Revival in the Search for Order 117
  • 6 - Lamentations and Recriminations 137
  • 7 - The Brescian Road to Fascism 161
  • 8 - Strike and Stabilization 181
  • Conclusion 201
  • Bibliography 207
  • Index 221
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