Why did Mussolini become Prime Minister in 1922? Essay
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In 1922 Mussolini was appointed by King Victor Emmanuel III to become Italy’s Prime Minister. The Kings role was only the tip of the iceberg of reasons for why Mussolini gained power. Though fascism was very popular, it did not have enough seats in parliament to gain power, so other factors were mainly responsible for Mussolini Prime Ministerial appointment. The weaknesses of the Italian states and its long-term political frailties. He was also helped immensely by the impact the First World War had on Italian politics, and between the period of the end of the war and Mussolini’s inauguration there was a lot of confusion which was mainly the trasformismo systems fault.
One major reason for his appointment was the weakness of the opposition to the Fascist Party; the main rivals of fascism were the Socialist and Liberals. Parties were very unstable because since the Risorgimento Italy had been under the rule of Parliamentary Liberals, and Prime Minister only lasted for short terms. The socialist who were really organised as a party did not gain enough support to stop the socialist because certain groups such as the agrari and intelligentsia feared their ideologies and policies.
The liberals only a had support in the north because they had never solved the problems of the economically backwards South, so they were resented in the South of Italy. It can also be argued that the liberals never did anything to support the living standards of Italians. With this kind of opposition Fascism only had to pose their ideology on people which somehow was universally appealing to everyone.
There were several militant factions that were seeking government downfall. Mussolini initially avoided fascist violence, and then began to exploit it as a stratagem, to gain support from right wing elements. He introduced parliamentary black skirted gangs and the fascist salute, both being symbols of power and enlarging fear in non members of the Fascists.
Two of Italy’s well known manufacturers Pirelli the tyre maker and Olivetti the typewriter manufacturer were among those who strongly felt that the Fascists should be in government and urged Liberal leaders to make this possible. The support gained from well respected groups such as police officers, members of the army, business people etc, who sympathized with the Fascists, played an important role in the fascist takeover, paralyzing any opponents.
Mussolini soon realized that an attempt at using violence to overthrow the monarchy would be stopped by the army and would never succeed in bringing him to power. He then began to negotiate with Liberals in the government. He then made sure that he kept his followers in check by offering vague compromises from the traditional political leader, yet at the same time managed to keep them divided from each other.
Once Mussolini saw that his opponents were becoming weaker, and more nervous he unleashed the threat of a Fascist March on Rome to take control there, he claimed that the march would save Italy from anarchy and also Communism. This threat made Facta, head of the current government, so nervous that he ordered for more troops to be sent to Rome, in the face of the Fascist threat. At 5am on the 28th October Facta established, that as the King Victor Emmanuel III, was the ruler of the country and therefore the armed forces, that he would issue a decree establishing martial law.
However, at 9am when Facta approached the king, Victor Emmanuel being unsure of the loyalty of the army to the monarchy, had changed his mind. Facta then offered his resignation as Prime Minister and the king immediately accepted. With Facta having just resigned, Victor Emmanuel was forced to find a new Prime Minister. Giolitti, who Facta had been a follower of, was unlikely to succeed Facta because of his previous ineffective actions against the unions, and therefore was a poor candidate, especially considering he had stayed away from Rome as the crisis deepened.
The next logical candidate was Giolitti’s opponent Salandra. Salandra accepted the king’s offer but firmly stated that it would be wise to have Fascists in the cabinet. So he offered Mussolini 4 places, but Mussolini, now prepared to play for higher stakes, promptly declined. Salandra then informed the king that without support from the Fascists, he could not form a government so the king was forced to phone Mussolini and offer him the place of Prime Minister
It has been argued throughout modern Italian History whether Mussolini weak opposition was to responsible for the fascist regime in government or the revolution led by Mussolini. In my opinion Mussolini’s appointment was due to the bad judgment by the King and Giolitti’s weakness to oppose him, because he thought Mussolini was going to take over by a coup d’etat, and perhaps he would be overthrown if Mussolini gained full power of the country, King Victor Emmanuel thought that if he could limit Mussolini power and make him work within the existing structures of the Liberal State.
Mussolini gained power mainly because an agreement surfaced between non-socialist political and social leaders that he had to be given chance to prove that he can repair a country in crisis. They failed to see how the fascist violence was mainly responsible for this crisis; instead they focused on the possible threat of the tame socialists.
The fascist came to power because the middle classes and many other supporters of fascism were convinced that socialism was a major threat to their living standards and they believed that many concessive governments hadn’t done enough to stop the socialist.
The socialists themselves were also responsible for the new fascist government as their Alliance of Labour general strike had failed in August 1922, which led people to think that Mussolini was the man who saved Italy from a possible socialist coup, but Mussolini’s own efforts can not be discredited as he played a mind-game with the King and the Liberal State, by bluffing his way into power. “He had promised everyone everything” Historian Roberto Velencio says. People failed to see through the veil of false promises and Mussolini knew that by manipulating people he would gain success, then once in power he could pose his real ideology and malice dictatorship on Italy.