Battle for Land

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The Battle For Land, started in 1928 in Italy by Benito Mussolini, aimed to clear marshland and make it suitable for farming, as well as reclaiming land and reducing health risks.

Aims[edit]

  • To increase the land available for cereal production and help the Battle for Grain
  • Provide more jobs, reducing unemployment, stimulating demand
  • To improve health by reducing malaria therefore improving living standards
  • To show dynamic government in action, impressing foreigners
  • To revive rural Italy by altering the pattern of small farmers at the expense of large estates.

Actions[edit]

  • Expanded previous government’s schemes of providing money to drain or irrigate farmland (laws passed in 1923, ’28 and ’33)
  • The Pontine marshes, only 50 km from Rome and thus easily accessible by foreign journalists, were the showpiece; by 1935 they provided land for settlement
  • Malaria swamps were drained and a network of small farms were set up, owned by ex-servicemen
  • Private landowners were made to cooperate with drainage schemes and other projects via the landholder association, which determined contributions.[1]
  • Fascist propaganda stressed the need to revive the rural areas and to build up a strong peasantry. Propaganda generally portrayed peasants as ideal citizens with strong fascist values
  • Abolition of day and short term labour. Collective contracts were negotiated which secured long-term employment in agriculture (this encouraged relocation to the countryside, particularly in the South).[2]

Successes[edit]

  • Public health was improved
  • Provided thousands of jobs during the depression
  • New towns—Latina and Sabaudia—created as show pieces
  • Between 1928 and 1938 80,000 hectares were reclaimed.

Failures[edit]

  • The 80,000 hectares reclaimed was only one-twentieth of the propaganda claim which was one-sixth of Italy’s land
  • Three quarters of land was in the North; the South was neglected which needed improving the most
  • Southern landowners who were unable to make great enough contributions in terms of finance, stock or employment had their land expropriated, albeit this was rare[3]
  • The Fascist regime achieved nothing in the way of land redistribution, which was, in any event, inconsistent with the central thrust of the more high profile Battle for Grain
  • The scheme was abandoned in 1940.

Conclusion[edit]

The Battle for Land was, again, more style than substance. Propaganda enlarged the realities of the amount of land reclaimed—a mere 80,000 hectares compared to the claim of 1,600,000 hectares. It was successful in improving public health and had a great impact on jobs which was not to be underestimated given the depression. However, farming was not particularly boosted—the beneficiaries largely the landowners who were able to make the greatest contributions, and the somewhat small number of peasant families relocated to the showpiece towns. Its publicity value and role in supporting the Battle for Grain, however, should not be underestimated.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fascism and National Socialism: A Study of the Economic and Social Policies of the Totalitarian State, Michael T. Florinsky, 1936
  2. ^ Florinsky, 1936
  3. ^ Florinsky, 1936
  • "Fascist Italy" by John Hite and Chris Hinton
  • "Italy: The Rise of Fascism 1915–45" by Mark Robson