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Even though Mussolini had seemed anti-clerical and had written “God Does Not Exist” he had began forming a good relationship with the Roman Catholic Church because of its huge power and influence. He had begun forming this good relationship by getting married in a church in 1926 and having his two children baptized. He had also closed down some wine shops and nightclubs. In 1929 the Lateran treaty was signed after a series of meetings it had recognized the pope’s sovereign rule, the church had received 750 million lire cash and 1000 million lire in government bonds for the loss of the papal states in 1860.
Catholicism had also become the state religion; church marriages became legal, religious education were a must in secondary schools, catholic action would continue as long as it was independent of political parties and it was subordinate to the church’s hierarchy. This treaty had gotten the church and it’s faithful followers on Mussolini’s side.
However, this treaty had angered the radical fascists who were anti-clerical since the independence of the church meant there would be no totalitarian rule. The church had also been against communism and socialism therefore when the fascist destroyed the left this had brought Mussolini closer to the church. Mussolini had also strengthened this relationship by exempting the clergy from paying taxes in the mid 1920’s in return the Pius XI forced Dom Sturzo to resign since he was a fierce opponent of fascism.
However, some friction remained between the fascist government and the Catholic Church as the catholic youth movements rivaled the fascist youth and student organizations.
Moreover, some of the members of the catholic student organization were becoming influential and became significant leaders in the Christian Democratic Party in Italy after 1945 such as Aldo Moro in the 1930’s, which created problems for the fascists. The pope had also disapproved of the anti-Semitic laws introduced by Mussolini. However, he had approved of the invasion of Abyssinia in 1935 since it was similar to a crusade and his intervention in the Spanish civil war in 1926 to stop the Left. Mussolini’s relationship with the church remained well since they both gained a lot from their treaty. This policy had brought back the church’s power and had made Mussolini’s aim to build a new fascist generation impossible.
Italian fascism like all other fascists had wanted to influence the young generation. In 1926 the Opera Nazionale Balilla was established bringing together fascist youth organizations and giving government funding. It was placed under the ministry of education in 1929 and they had begun closing rival youth organizations except the catholic youth groups. In 1932 the Ballila membership became obligatory. In 1937 the ONB joined with the young fascists to create one youth organization called Gioventu Italiana del Littorio for 6-21 year olds. The Ballila was political and it was militarized but it was also filled with sports and recreational activities, which attracted children, but 40% of the population had not joined showing the failure of this policy.
At first Italian schools had some freedom but Mussolini had appointed the philosopher Giovanni Gentile to become the first minister of education. In 1923 Gentile had passed the education act which had changed education by promoting grammar schools, encouraging philosophy, classical studies and had not emphasized on technical and vocational education. To ensure that the schools would not spread anti-fascist ideas, anti-fascist teachers were removed and teachers were forced to take an oath of loyalty. Mussolini had started to really control schools in the mid 1930’s, as schools were obliged to use fascist textbooks. In 1936 there was also a history textbook that had to be taught which focused on promoting a part of Italian history that would create loyalty to Mussolini. Physical education was also important to have healthy kids who could go to war and be prepared for motherhood. Therefore, Mussolini had greatly impacted education in order to create loyalty to him.
In order to make Italy a great power Mussolini had launched in 1927 a battle for the births so that Italy’s population could go from 37 to 60 million. The government started encouraging marriage by forcing more taxes on bachelors, awarding prizes to women with the most children, families with 10 or more children were exempted from paying taxes, loans were given to newly married couple, family allowances were introduced in 1934 finally the criminal code in 1932 had banned contraception, abortion and sterilization. This policy had failed since birth rate continued to fall in 1922 there was 147.5 births for every 1000 women of childbearing age while in 1936 it had fallen to 102.7 births. The population had only reached 44 million in 1940. However, this was only due to the falling of death rate and emigration but the government had failed to encourage early marriage as the average age at which they got married rose from the 1930’s.
Mussolini wanted to suppress opposition so he started by censoring newspapers in 1923 and the fascists government had taken owned 10% of newspapers which meant it did not take over press but controlled what they wrote as the editors that would oppose him would be fined or banned from journalism. At first the fascist government saw radio and film as being insignificant but this changed when the government broadcasts increased and the ownership of radios went up to one million. Similarly, in 1924 a government film agency called Istituto Luce was created to make documentaries. In 1937 the government founded an Italian film studio called Cinecitta.
However, Mussolini began really using propaganda in the 1930’s in order to form a new type of Italian, a heroic and energetic one. In 1925 the cult of the Duce was launched as was the biography of Mussolini called Dux. In this book Mussolini was presented as an athlete, hard working and loved the people. There were also many parades to elaborate rituals in order to revive roman spirit. The use of propaganda had aided Mussolini to become more popular in the years 1929-36. However, this popularity had begun to diminish once Mussolini became more radical as he applied the anti-Semitic policy and joined WWII.
Mussolini did not get involved in art as much as Hitler had but there were division within the fascists as to which type of art to support. The neo-classicists preferred architecture and art that was inspired by ancient Rome while the modernists encouraged experimental art. Therefore, this lead to the formation of two artistic prizes, the Cremona prize for traditional art and propaganda while the Bergamo prize encouraged experimentation. To try to spread access to art the fascist government organized almost 50 art exhibitions a year.
Early on Mussolini had not shown any signs anti-Semitism however he had been racist against Africans in Libya and Abyssinia. One of the theories is that Mussolini had wanted to weaken the Jews because in the 1930’s he wanted to start a war and was not sure whether they would be loyal or not. Another theory is that in 1938 Mussolini was getting closer to Germany but while Hitler never pushed him to adopt anti-Semitism he might have chosen to adopt it in order to get closer to Hitler. Mussolini had started this policy by writing an article on reducing the number of Jews in 1938. He had then banned marriage between Jews and non-Jews, forbidden the Jews from jobs in civil service, teaching and PNF membership.
The Jewish kids were also excluded from state schools and up to 10000 non-Italian Jews were deported. This law had caused Mussolini to become unpopular even within his own party who was made up of one third of Jews. The church that had a major influence had also criticized this law therefore making Mussolini even more unpopular. By 1941 6000 Italian Jews had left Italy among them were businessmen, professionals and academics therefore when they left the economy was badly affected. And wasn’t implemented systematically
Economic policies Mussolini had wanted to improve the economy to prevent foreign input this policy was called Autarky. He had adopted the battle of the grains in 1925 to improve agriculture to increase grain production in order to show economic strength therefore leading to nationalism. This policy had succeeded as imports were reduced by 75% between 1925 and 1935 therefore increasing Mussolini’s popularity.
However, to increase production of wheat he needed more land to plant and he started using the land suitable for citrus which caused a decrease in their production and poverty in the south still continued. Another policy he had adopted was the corporate state in 1926 to manage relationships between employer and employee so as to cooperate therefore leading to more production. By 1934 22 corporations were set up and had succeeded to influence the economy. However, the corporations were just advisors that were dominated by fascists therefore they did what is best for them and left the worker’s interests aside.
Mussolini had adopted many policies that had gained him popularity and changed the Italian society such as the relationship with the church and influencing the media and the arts. However, when he had become more radical and adopted the anti-Semitic policy and tried to control education he had began losing popularity, which had eventually lead to his fall.
To what extent was Mussolini influential in international affairs in the 1930’s? After the league of nations was undermined by the Manchuria crisis therefore when Hitler had began expanding and broke the treaty of Versailles by announcing his intention to build an army of 550000 men using conscription Mussolini decided to sign the stress front on 1935 with France and Britain. This stated that the three countries would take action if Germany broke the treaty of Versailles further. However, this agreement fell apart when Britain did not consult Italy or France before singing the Anglo-German naval agreement in 1935, which allowed Germany to expand its navy beyond what the treaty Versailles had allowed. Mussolini had also invaded Abyssinian, which Britain and France disapproved of. Therefore this shows that his international affairs with other countries had failed.
Moreover, when Mussolini had invaded Abyssinia in 1935 it had changed his foreign policy completely his relationship with Britain and France was destroyed while his relationship with Germany was improving. Although Mussolini though France and Britain would not react to this invasion the League of Nations imposed economic sanctions since Britain was being undermined. However, Germany continued to trade with Italy and Mussolini ignored the sanctions therefore strengthening their relationship and weakening the league.
In addition, Mussolini had also intervened in the Spanish civil war as he send 70000 troops to Spain to help support general Franco. Although he had failed he had sent them in order to weaken France who had a similar government as Spain and to have a naval base in the Balearic Islands to help promote Italian power in the Mediterranean.
Furthermore, Mussolini’s relationship with Germany had also been strengthened as they had signed the Rome-berlin axis. Italy had also walked out of the League of Nations as Germany had done. It is also said that Mussolini had adopted the anti-Semitic policy in order to get closer to Germany and to make Italy more radical. As Mussolini became closer to Hitler he had changed his foreign policy towards Austria as he allowed Germany to increase its influence over Austria. In 1938 after the newly appointed chancellor Seyss-Inquart had invited Hitler to send troops, Hitler had attacked Austria and Mussolini had not rejected. Moreover, when a crisis broke out because Hitler had wanted to invade Czechoslovakia after he demanded that the Czech government allow the German speaking are of Czechoslovakia to unite with Germany.
Therefore, it seemed that Britain and France would side with Czechoslovakia therefore causing war. Mussolini played the role of peacemaker and set up the Munich conference in 1938. Mussolini was also encouraged by Britain and France’s appeasement of Hitler to avoid aggression to start a more violent foreign policy. Mussolini had also been aware of him being the weak partner in the Italian-German relationship therefore this encouraged him to become violent to be more influential. He started by invading Albania in 1939. He then signed the pact of steel with Germany in 1939, which forced the two countries to support each other in case of war. This was an advantage for Germany who was likely to enter a war while Italy would be helped to expand.
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