The rise and fall of the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in Italy during the early half of the twentieth century demonstrate the story of a man’s vision pursued, but eventually doomed. The reign of Mussolini in Italy is one remembered in history as a violent suppression of human rights in name of a ruthless ambition to revive the past glory of Italy and ultimately (re)create an Italian empire (Smith). Born in a small Italian village in the district of Predappio, his beginnings were humble (Roberts, 2006).
However, his educated parents gave him an education which broadened his view of the world and led him to be dissatisfied and restless about the opportunities a man like him could have in Predappio. His father, who was a blacksmith, actively participated in Socialist concerns and voiced out his opinion against dubious policies that affected their labor (Roberts, 2006). His mother, who worked as a schoolteacher in a small village for a meager salary, taught the young Benito discipline and focus.
He was educated in a strict Catholic school which proved to be unsuitable for him because of his restlessness, inclination to rebellion and uncontrolled and violent temper (Haugen, 2007). After transferring to a different school, Mussolini blossomed into his adolescence with a great aptitude and flair for writing and oration. He became interested in politics, poetry and literature. Around 1902, he attempted to work as a schoolteacher but failed miserably at it, so he decided to migrate to Switzerland to find opportunity and also to escape the military draft during that time in Italy (Roberts, 2006).
Upon his return to Italy in 1904 and the subsequent pardon of all draft dodgers in exchange for their enlistment in the army, Mussolini realized that his future was in the country of his birth (Roberts, 2006). His appetite for adventure, socialism, journalism and politics landed him an editorial job in Trent near the Italian-Austrian border where he asserted and promoted his Socialist beliefs. He also trumpeted the pride of being Italian and spoke about the “Latin genius and courage” (Roberts, 2006, 19).
After being evicted from that district because of its anti-socialists sentiments, he moved to Forli near his birthplace to work for a socialist newspaper and engaged himself in more political work (“Benito Mussolini”). It was in Forli where he was elected as the secretary for the Socialists. His popularity grew as he became more voracious in his writings and speeches. He drew support from his radical decisions such as the strike he organized in Forli which resulted to his imprisonment (“Benito Mussolini”).
When World Ward I broke out, Mussolini opposed the participation of Italy claiming that he would only support class war and threatened a proletariat revolution if Italy continued their support (Smith). But, he retracted soon after and encouraged young men to enlist; this decision resulted in his expulsion from the Socialist party (“Benito Mussolini”). He formed the Fascist party through the establishment of a pro-war group called Fasci d’Azione Rivoluzionaria (Smith). However, Mussolini failed to secure the seats he needed in senate to gain power and control.
After the breakdown of a weak alliance with the dominant party Popolare, Mussolini decided that he won’t win the seats democratically, so he staged a siege in Rome which ended in the invitation of the king for him to build a new government (Smith). It was at this point as the head of the National Fascist Party that he established himself as dictator, Il Duce (“Mussolini”). From that point on he would demand blind trust from the people after insisting through propaganda that he was after all their “infallible, irreplaceable duce” (Griffin, 2000, 31).
As a dictator, Mussolini knew that absolute control was key in ensuring the attainment of his goals. He formed a powerful military force and a secret police to vanquish insubordination (“Mussolini”). He converted the state economy into “corporate state” wherein all Italians in professional organizations were put in corporations controlled by the central government (“Mussolini,” Smith). Propaganda was crucial in Mussolini’s career as dictator. He spent considerable time in planning and propagating his ideas through the press, films and school books (Smith). His training as a journalist and orator helped him broadcast his imperial ideas.
To proselytize younger generation, he banned history books in school and indoctrinated them with the tenets of fascism (“Benito Mussolini”). Under his rule, he abolished the parliament and rewrote the laws to ensure the loyalty of every citizen to the Fascist party (Smith). He tempered his ruthlessness with popular decisions such as the approval of Vatican’s independence. However, the people’s support to him started to wane as he made erratic, unplanned and senseless military and political decisions. In an effort to expand Italy’s territory, he waged war in Ethiopia; this was met with worldwide protest (“Mussolini”).
After the League of Nations condemned his imperialist decisions, he forged allegiance with the Nazi party although he previously opposed Hitler because of Mussolini’s fear of losing Austria to the Germans. His allegiance to the Nazi marked the beginning of his gradual downfall as he supported the World War waged by Hitler (“Benito Mussolini”). Further, he spread anti-semitism in Italy which Lindemann (2007, 1) pertains to as an “opportunistic, unsystematic and unprincipled” decision. As the Allied powers encroached German territories, Italy’s weak military force gave in to the pressure of defeat.
Mussolini sought refuge under the German forces and attempted to escape to Switzerland. However, anti-Fascist rebels seized their vehicle and got custody of Mussolini and twelve other Fascist party officials (Smith). They were summarily executed and their corpses were hung in public where the people ridiculed and mocked their dead bodies. The ambition for power and control and its inevitable disintegration ended the twenty year reign of Mussolini in Italy. Some historians claim that with the way Mussolini ruled Italy, it is doubtful whether he has as much idealism in him as his speech and propaganda portrayed (Griffin 2000).
Whether it his idealism or his ambition which motivated his decisions, the scars of his dictatorial rule in Italy will remain in history as one of the deplorable outcomes of fascist dictatorial rule. References “Benito Mussolini. ” (2008). ThinkQuest Library. Retrieved 30 January 2009 from http://library. thinkquest. org/17120/data/bios/mussolini/ Griffin, R. (2000). How fascist was Mussolini. New Perspective 9. 1 pp. 31-35. Haugen, B. (2007). Benito Mussolini: Fascist italian dictator. Minneapolis, Minn. : Compass Point Books Lindemann, A. (2007) Benito Mussolini.
UCSB History Department. Retrieved 30 January 2009 from http://www. history. ucsb. edu/syllabi/spring07/Lindemann/Mussolini2. pdf “Mussolini, Benito Amicare Andrea” (1999). Who’s Who in the Twentieth Century. Oxford University Press. Oxford Reference Online. Retrieved 30 January 2009 from http://www. oxfordreference. com/views/ENTRY. html? subview=Main&entry=t47. e1187 Roberts, J. (2006). Benito Mussolini. Minneapolis: Lerner Publishing. Smith, D. M. Benito Mussolini. Groiler Online. Retrieved 30 January 2009 from http://www. grolier. com/wwii/wwii_mussolini. html
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