Italian Fascism: Seizing Control

Italian fascism
Figure 1.--Here a new Balilla boy tells a American sailior visting Rome all about Il Duce, Italy's new leader. The press caption read, "The Blue Jacket Learns about the Black Shirts: There is nothing like information gleaned from spirited youth. Here is an American Bluejacket from the U.S.S Bridge while on leave in Rome, Italy, hearing all about Signor Mussolini; and his Blackshirts from a youthful Fascisti mmber on a Rome Plaza." The photograph was dated April 27, 1923.

Italian Fascism was unique among the radical forces produced by the early 20th century. It developing out of economic problems which followed Italy's costly involvement in World War I. Strangely it had no clear predecessor in the 19th entury. The Italain Fascist movement emerged in 1919, catapulting its leader, the journalist Benito Mussolini, into the premiership 3 years later in 1922 after the March on Rome. This did not immeduately create a dictatorship. Mussolini's new government passed the Acerbo Law (June 1923). This in essence transformed Italy into a single national community. It granted a two-thirds majority of the seats in Parliament to the party or group of parties that received at least 25 percent of the votes which the Fascists could muster. This law was used in the elections of April 6, 1924. The national alliance, made up of Fascists, the old Liberals and others, reportedly won 64 percent of the vote. The Fascists murdered Socialist leader Giacomo Matteotti after he openly denounced voting irregularities and Fascist violence during the 1924 elections. [Matteotti] Mussolini ordered the murder coveredup. Witnesses reported seeing the car that transported Matteotti's body parked outside Matteotti's residence, which linked Fascist thug Dumini to the murder. The opposition parties responded weakly to Musolini's seizur of power. Many of the socialists, liberals, and moderates responded by boycotting Parliament in the Aventine Secession. They sought to force King Victor Emmanuel to dismiss Mussolini. The Black Shirt or Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (Voluntary Militia for National Security--MVSN) consuls met with Mussolini and demanded that he crush the opposition or that they would proceed ton do son without him (December 31, 1924). Fearing a revolt by his own Black Shirts and possible replacement, Mussolini decided to stop pretending that he was a democratic parlimentary leader. [Praxton] Mussolini a few days leader delivered a belicose speech before the Chamber of Deouties in which he took persional responsibility for squadristi (Black Shirt) violence, but did not specifically mention the murder of Matteotti January 3, 1925). [Mussolini, 'Discorso ...'] The Italian people, perhaps seeking order did not react to Mussolini's actions. Now Mussolini proceeded to create a political dictatorship. Mussolini and the Fascists used force to gain control of the Italian state. They put an end free elections they might lose, free speech, and the free press. They intimidated, jailed, or killed their opponents.


Matteotti, Giacomo. Speech of May 30, 1924.

Mussolini, Benito. 'Discorso sul delitto Matteotti'.

Paxton, Robert. The Anatomy of Fascism (New York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004).


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Created: 11:40 PM 11/3/2013
Last updated: 11:40 PM 11/3/2013