Factors Leading to Fascism

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Mussolini giving a speech

Before Mussolini came into power, there were many problems facing Italy. Italy had been going through a post World War One depression after 1918. Italy was also on the brink of a socialist takeover which caused mass hysteria among Italians. Even after winning the war against Germany, Italy felt they were cheated out of the territorial settlements they thought they were promised to receive (1). All these factors of distrust and poverty enabled Mussolini’s rise to power and allowed him to consolidate his position in Italy between 1918 and 1926.
It was the First World War that fatally damaged ‘liberal Italy’ (2). Although Italy had only been in war for three years, the war drained all of Italy’s money, which caused mass unemployment and heavy inflation (3). The war also slowed down trading of goods as other countries could not afford it due to war debts. War reparations only covered only a small sum of the total debt. By the end of the war, Italy’s war debt rose from $2,929,000,000 to $6,918,000,000 (4). Italy was in desperate need of money; other countries stopped buying Italian goods and denied giving Italy loans (5). To add to the problems, the end of the war slowed down jobs as factories stopped creating war goods. Unemployment was a major issue in Italy, returning veterans returned looking for jobs but jobs were very hard to come by. Inflation also caused many problems in Italy as well, by the end of the war the lire was only one fifth of its pre-war value, prices went up 50 per cent while wages remained the same pre-war values. All these problems causes social unrest in Italy as people turned to the extreme parties in government (6).
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Even after being on the winning side at the end of the war, Italy was very dissatisfied with the post war territorial settlements. In The Treaty of London, Italy was promised Trentino, Trieste, Southern Tyrol, Istria, Dalmatia, the coastal districts of Albania, and a share in the divisions of the Ottoman Empire as well some of the German colonies in Africa. After the war however, Italy lost over 600,000 men and only received Trentio, Trieste, Tryol and Istria (7). Italy was in huge financial debt as well and the war reparations didn’t seem to help at all either. Italy’s trust in England, France and the U.S was fading as Italians felt a sense of inferiority among the “Big Three” during the Treaty of Versailles (8).
Fear of a socialist take over was one of the major factors that enabled Mussolini to gain power in Italy. As Italy was going downhill after the war, many citizens turned to the extreme left and right wings in government. The Socialist party became the largest and most organized political party in the election of 1919, winning 156 seats (9). This fear of a Socialist takeover caused mass hysteria among Italians, as soon many peasants turned to socialism as they lost their land after the war. In 1921, many people whom had joined Mussolini’s ‘Fascist’ party, began a campaign of violence against Socialist that led to some 200 dead and 800 wounded. However, working-class voters were attracted to left-wing parties in hope of pressing wage claims. Strikes and riots were still very prevalent throughout Italy’s tough economic years after the years. Many factory workers took action on their behalf by striking and occupying factories (10). Consecutively, this raised concern of a revolution in Italy, and soon Fascism seemed like the logical answer to those who owned property and feared Socialism. Fascism looked as if the only firm action to prevent a revolution. It was also the only alternative to Bolshevism. From 1921 to 1922, violence in the streets of Italy continued. Fascist thuggery became more eminent than ever. Some Socialist even claimed that before October 1922, 3000 of their supporters had been murdered by Fascist thugs. In June 1921 Giovanni Giolitti was forced to resign due to Fascist opposition, and after tense negotiations with the government, the King gave Mussolini dictatorial powers to restore order and introduce reforms (11).
The Fascist movement could have been easily stopped if the government had intervened early. They failed to utilize their 240 000 armed forces, 65 000 policemen and 40 000 militia men at their disposal(12). However Mussolini took this to his advantage and seized control of Italy. It was a perfect storm; Italy was going through tough times economically, socially and politically and Mussolini seemed like the only hope to millions of Italians, Mussolini told the people what they wanted to hear. Although he was later executed by his own people (13), he had an influential role in the birth of Fascism.
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Mussolini and Hitler


(1). (Bosworth, Richard. Mussolini's Italy: Life Under the Fascist Dictatorship, 1915-1945 2006)
(2).Peter Catterall (ed.), Essays in 20th Century World History, (Heinemann, London, 1999), pp. 26-33
(3).Trueman, Chris. "Italy and World War One." History Learning Site. N.p., 2009.
Web. 9 Dec. 2009.
(4). Giorgio Rochat, Tr. John Gooch "Mussolini as war leader" The Oxford Companion to World War II. Ed. I. C. B. Dear and M. R. D. Foot. Oxford University Press, 2001.
(5). (Bosworth, Richard. Mussolini's Italy: Life Under the Fascist Dictatorship, 1915-1945 2006)
(8).ibid.
(6). Wolfson, Robert, and John Layer. Years of Change. 3rd ed. N.p.: Hodder Education,
2001. Print.
(9).ibid
(10).ibid
(7). Giorgio Rochat, Tr. John Gooch "Mussolini as a War Leader" The Oxford Companion to World War II. Ed. I. C. B. Dear and M. R. D. Foot. Oxford University Press, 2001.
(12).ibid
(11). "Benito

Mussolini." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 09 Dec. 2009, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/399484/Benito-Mussolini
(13). Giorgio Rochat, Tr. John Gooch "Mussolini as war leader" The Oxford Companion to World War II. Ed. I. C. B. Dear and M. R. D. Foot. Oxford University Press, 2001. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Infohio - NOACSC. 10 December 2009 <http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t129.e1124>
















Works Cited
"Benito

Mussolini." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 09 Dec. 2009, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/399484/Benito-Mussolini

(Bosworth, Richard. Mussolini's Italy: Life Under the Fascist Dictatorship, 1915-1945 2006)

Cannistraro, Philip V. "Mussolini, Benito." World Book Advanced. World Book, 2009. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.

“Essays in 20th Century World History.” Brookes. Oxford Brookes University, n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2009. <http:/‌ah.brookes.ac.uk/‌resources/‌griffin/‌essays20chis.pdf>.

Giorgio Rochat, Tr. John Gooch "Mussolini as war leader" The Oxford Companion to World War II. Ed. I. C. B. Dear and M. R. D. Foot. Oxford University Press, 2001. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Infohio - NOACSC. 10 December 2009 <http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t129.e1124>

Peter Catterall (ed.), Essays in 20th Century World History, (Heinemann, London, 1999), pp. 26-33

Trueman, Chris. "Italy and World War One." History Learning Site. N.p., 2009.
Web. 9 Dec. 2009.

Wolfson, Robert, and John Layer. Years of Change. 3rd ed. N.p.: Hodder Education, 2001. Print.