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Italian Fascism, also known simply as Fascism (Italian: Fascismo), is the original fascist ideology, as developed in Italy. The ideology is associated with the National Fascist Party, which under Benito Mussolini ruled the Kingdom of Italy from 1922 until 1943, the Republican Fascist Party that ruled the Italian Social Republic from 1943 to 1945, the post-war Italian Social Movement and subsequent Italian neo-fascist movements.
Italian Fascism is based upon Italian nationalism and the restoration of "Italia Irredenta" (claimed unredeemed Italian territories) to Italy as well as territorial expansionism that Italian Fascists deemed necessary for a nation to assert its superiority and strength to avoid succumbing to decay. Italian Fascists claim that modern Italy is the heir to ancient Rome and its legacy, and historically supported the creation of an Italian Empire to provide spazio vitale ("vital space") for colonization by Italian settlers and establishing control over the Mediterranean Sea as Italy's Mare Nostrum ("Our Sea"), as it had been under the Roman Empire.
Italian Fascism promotes a corporatist economic system whereby employer and employee syndicates are linked together in corporative associations to collectively represent the nation's economic producers and work alongside the state to set national economic policy. Italian Fascism promoted such economics as a "Third Alternative" to capitalism and Marxism that Italian Fascism regarded as "obsolete doctrines". Italian Fascists claim that their economic system resolves and ends class conflict by creating class collaboration.
It opposes liberalism, but made clear that it was not seeking a reactionary restoration of the pre-French Revolutionary world that it considered to have been flawed, and that had been the cause of the rise of liberalism, but had a forward-looking direction. It is opposed to conventional socialism because of its typical opposition to nationalism. Italian Fascism was declared to be opposed to the reactionary conservatism developed by Joseph de Maistre. It believes the success of Italian nationalism requires both tradition that involves clear sense of a shared past amongst the Italian people, along with a commitment to a modernized Italy.
Nationalism and racialism
Italian Fascism is based upon Italian nationalism, and in particular seeks to complete what it considers as the incomplete project of Risorgimento by incorporating Italia Irredenta ("unredeemed Italy") into the state of Italy. The National Fascist Party (PNF) founded in 1921, declared that the party was to serve as "a revolutionary militia placed at the service of the nation. It follows a policy based on three principles: order, discipline, hierarchy".
It identifies modern Italy as the heir to the Roman Empire and Italy during the Renaissance, and promotes the cultural identity of Romanitas ("Roman-ness"). Italian Fascism historically sought to forge a strong Italian Empire as a "Third Rome", identifying ancient Rome as the "First Rome", and Renaissance-era Italy as the "Second Rome". Italian Fascism has emulated ancient Rome, and Benito Mussolini in particular emulated ancient Roman leaders, such as Julius Caesar as a model for the Fascists' rise to power, and Augustus as a model for empire-building. Italian Fascism has directly promoted imperialism, such as within the Doctrine of Fascism (1932) ghostwritten by Giovanni Gentile on behalf of Mussolini, declared:
The Fascist state is a will to power and empire. The Roman tradition is here a powerful force. According to the Doctrine of Fascism, empire is not only territorial or military or mercantile concept, but a spiritual and moral one. One can think of an empire, that is, a nation, which directly or indirectly guides other nations, without the need to conquer a single square kilometre of territory.—Benito Mussolini, Giovanni Gentile, Doctrine of Fascism (1932).
Irredentism and expansionism
Fascism emphasized the need for the restoration of the Mazzinian Risorgimento tradition that pursued the unification of Italy, that the Fascists claimed had been left incomplete and abandoned in the Giolittian-era Italy. Fascism sought the incorporation of claimed "unredeemed" territories to Italy.
To the east of Italy, the Fascists claimed that Dalmatia was a land of Italian culture whose Italians, including those of Italianized South Slavic descent, had been driven out of Dalmatia and into exile in Italy, and supported the return of Italians of Dalmatian heritage. Mussolini identified Dalmatia as having strong Italian cultural roots for centuries via the Roman Empire and the Republic of Venice. The Fascists especially focused their claims based on the Venetian cultural heritage of Dalmatia, claiming that Venetian rule had been beneficial for all Dalmatians and had been accepted by the Dalmatian population. The Fascists were outraged after World War I, when the agreement between Italy and the Entente Allies in the Treaty of London of 1915 to have Dalmatia join Italy, was revoked in 1919. The Fascist regime supported annexation of Yugoslavia's region of Slovenia into Italy that already held a portion of the Slovene population, whereby Slovenia would become an Italian province. The Fascist regime supported annexation of Albania, claimed that Albanians were ethnically linked to Italians through links with the prehistoric Italiotes, Illyrian and Roman populations, and that the major influence exerted by the Roman and Venetian empires over Albania justified Italy's right to possess it. The Fascist regime also justified the annexation of Albania on the basis that because several hundred thousand people of Albanian descent had been absorbed into society in southern Italy already, that the incorporation of Albania was a reasonable measure that would unite people of Albanian descent into one state. The Fascist regime endorsed Albanian irredentism, directed against the predominantly Albanian-populated Kosovo and Epirus-particularly in Chameria inhabited by a substantial number of Albanians. After Italy annexed Albania in 1939, the Fascist regime endorsed assimilating Albanians into Italians and colonizing Albania with Italian settlers from the Italian Peninsula to gradually transform it into an Italian land. The Fascist regime claimed the Ionian Islands as Italian territory, on the basis that the islands had belonged to the Venetian Republic from the mid-14th until the 18th century.
To the west of Italy, the Fascists claimed that the territories of Corsica, Nice, and Savoy held by France, were Italian lands. During the period of Italian unification in 1860 to 1861, Prime Minister of Piedmont-Sardinia, Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour who was leading the unification effort, faced opposition from French Emperor Napoleon III who indicated that France would oppose Italian unification unless France was given Nice and Savoy that were held by Piedmont Sardinia, as France did not want a powerful state having control of all the passages of the Alps. As a result, Piedmont-Sardinia was pressured to concede Nice and Savoy to France in exchange for France accepting the unification of Italy. The Fascist regime produced literature on Corsica that presented evidence of the Italianita of the island. The Fascist regime produced literature on Nice that justified that Nice was an Italian land based on historic, ethnic, and linguistic grounds. The Fascists quoted Medieval Italian scholar Petrarch who said "The border of Italy is the Var; consequently Nice is a part of Italy". The Fascists quoted Italian national hero Giuseppe Garibaldi who said: "Corsica and Nice must not belong to France; there will come the day when an Italy mindful of its true worth will reclaim its provinces now so shamefully languishing under foreign domination". Mussolini initially pursued promoting annexation of Corsica through political and diplomatic means, believing that Corsica could be annexed to Italy through Italy first encouraging the existing autonomist tendencies in Corsica and then independence of Corsica from France, that would be followed by annexation of Corsica into Italy.
To the north of Italy, the Fascist regime in the 1930s had designs on the largely Italian-populated region of Ticino and the Romansch-populated region of Graubünden in Switzerland (the Romansch are a people with an Latin-based dialect). In November 1938, Mussolini declared to the Grand Fascist Council: "We shall bring our border to the Gotthard Pass". The Fascist regime accused the Swiss government of oppressing the Romansch people in Graubünden. Mussolini argued that Romansch was an Italian dialect and thus Graubünden should be incorporated into Italy. Ticino was also claimed because the region had belonged to the Duchy of Milan from the mid-fourteenth century until 1515. Claim was also raised on the basis that areas now part of Graubünden in the Mesolcina valley and Hinterrhein were held by the Milanese Trivulzio family, who ruled from the Mesocco Castle in the late 15th century. Also, during the summer of 1940, Galeazzo Ciano met with Hitler and Ribbentrop, and proposed to them the dissection of Switzerland along the central chain of the Western Alps, which would have left Italy also with the canton of Valais in addition to the claims raised earlier.
To the south, the regime claimed the archipelago of Malta, which had been held by the British since 1800. Mussolini claimed that the Maltese language was a dialect of Italian, and theories about Malta being the cradle of the Latin civilization were promoted. Italian had been widely used in Malta in the literary, scientific and legal fields, and it was one of Malta's official languages until 1937, when its status was abolished by the British as a response to Italy's invasion of Ethiopia. In January 1939, Italy annexed territories in Libya that it considered Italy's Fourth Shore, with Libya's four coastal provinces of Tripoli, Misurata, Benghazi, and Derna becoming an integral part of metropolitan Italy. At the same time indigenous Libyans were granted "Special Italian Citizenship" which required such people to be literate and confined this type of citizenship to be valid in Libya only.
In a 1921 speech in Bologna, Mussolini stated that "Fascism was born... out of a profound, perennial need of this our Aryan and Mediterranean race". In this speech Mussolini was referring to Italians as being the Mediterranean branch of the Aryan Race, Aryan in the meaning of people of an Indo-European language and culture. Italian Fascism emphasized that race was bound by spiritual and cultural foundations, and identified a racial hierarchy based on spiritual and cultural factors. While Italian Fascism based its conception of race on spiritual and cultural factors, Mussolini explicitly rejected notions that biologically "pure" races were still considered a relevant factor in racial classification. He claimed that Italianita had assimilatory capacity. It used spiritual and cultural conceptions of race to make land claims on Dalmatia and to justify an Italian sphere of influence in the Balkans based on then-present and historical Italian cultural influence in the Balkans. It also justified colonialism in Africa by claiming that the spiritual and cultural superiority of Italians as part of the white race, justified the right for Italy and other powers of the white race to rule over the black race, while asserting that racial segregation of whites and blacks in its colonies. It claimed that Fascism's colonial goals were to civilize the inferior races and defend the purity of Western civilization from racial miscegenation that it claimed would harm the intellectual qualities of the white race.
Italian Fascism strongly rejected the common Nordicist conception of the Aryan Race that idealized "pure" Aryans as having certain physical traits that were defined as Nordic such as blond hair and blue eyes. The antipathy by Mussolini and other Italian Fascists to Nordicism was over the existence of what they viewed as the Mediterranean inferiority complex that they claimed had been instilled into Mediterraneans by the propagation of such theories by German and Anglo-Saxon Nordicists who viewed Mediterranean peoples as racially degenerate and thus in their view inferior. However traditional Nordicist claims of Mediterraneans being degenerate due to having a darker colour of skin than Nordics had long been rebuked in anthropology through the depigmentation theory that claimed that lighter skinned peoples had been dipigmented from a darker skin, this theory has since become a widely accepted view in anthropology. Anthropologist Carleton S. Coon in his work The races of Europe (1939) subscribed to depigmentation theory that claimed that Nordic race's light-coloured skin was the result of depigmentation from their ancestors of the Mediterranean race. Mussolini refused to allow Italy to return again to this inferiority complex, initially rejecting Nordicism.
In the early 1930s, with the rise to power of the Nazi Party in Germany with Führer Adolf Hitler's emphasis on a Nordicist conception of the Aryan Race, strong tensions arose between the Fascists and the Nazis over racial issues. In 1934, in the aftermath of Austrian Nazis killing Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, an ally of Italy, Mussolini became enraged and responded by angrily denouncing Nazism. Mussolini rebuked Nazism's Nordicism, claiming that the Nazis' emphasizing of a common Nordic "Germanic race" was absurd, saying "a Germanic race does not exist. ... We repeat. Does not exist. Scientists say so. Hitler says so." The fact that Germans were not purely Nordic was indeed acknowledged by prominent Nazi racial theorist Hans F. K. Günther in his book Rassenkunde des deutschen Volkes (1922) ("Racial Science of the German People"), where Günther recognized Germans as being composed of five Aryan subtype races: Nordic, Mediterranean, Dinaric, Alpine, and East Baltic while asserting that the Nordics were the highest in a racial hierarchy of the five subtypes.
By 1936, the tensions between Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany reduced and relations became more amicable. In 1936, Mussolini decided to launch a racial program in Italy, and was interested in the racial studies being conducted by Giulio Cogni. Cogni was a Nordicist but did not equate Nordic identity with Germanic identity as was commonly done by German Nordicists. Cogni had travelled to Germany where he had become impressed by Nazi racial theory and sought to create his own version of racial theory. On 11 September 1936, Cogni sent Mussolini a copy of his newly published book Il Razzismo (1936). Cogni declared the racial affinity of the Mediterranean and Nordic racial subtypes of the Aryan race and claimed that the intermixing of Nordic Aryans and Mediterranean Aryans in Italy produced a superior synthesis of Aryan Italians. Cogni addressed the issue of racial differences between northern and southern Italians, declaring southern Italians were mixed between Aryan and non-Aryan races, that he claimed was most likely due to infiltration by Asiatic peoples in Roman times and later Arab invasions. As such, Cogni viewed Southern Italian Mediterraneans as being polluted with orientalizing tendencies. Initially Mussolini was not impressed with Cogni's work, however Cogni's ideas later entered into the official Fascist racial policy several years later.
In 1938 Mussolini was concerned that if Italian Fascism did not recognize Nordic heritage within Italians, that the Mediterranean inferiority complex would return to Italian society. Therefore in summer 1938, the Fascist government officially recognized Italians as having Nordic heritage and being of Nordic-Mediterranean descent and in a meeting with PNF members, and in June 1938 in a meeting with PNF members, Mussolini identified himself as Nordic and declared that previous policy of focus on Mediterraneanism was to be replaced by a focus on Aryanism.
The Fascist regime began publication of the racialist magazine La Difesa della Raza in 1938. The Nordicist racial theorist Guido Landra took a major role in the early work of La Difesa, and published the Manifesto of Racial Scientists in the magazine in 1938. The Manifesto received substantial criticism, including its assertion of Italians being a "pure race", as it was viewed as absurd. La Difesa published other theories that described long-term Nordic Aryan amongst Italians, such as the theory that in the Eneolithic age Nordic Aryans arrived to Italy. Many of the writers took up the traditional Nordicist claim that the decline and fall of the Roman Empire was due to the arrival of Semitic immigrants. La Difesa's writers were divided on their claims that described how Italians extricated themselves from Semitic influence.
The Nordicist direction of Fascist racial policy was challenged in 1938 by a resurgence of the Mediterraneanist faction in the PNF. By 1939, the Mediterraneanists advocated a nativist racial theory which rejected ascribing the achievements of the Italian people to Nordic peoples. This nativist racial policy was prominently promoted by Ugo Rellini. Rellini rejected the notion of large scale invasions of Italy by Nordic Aryans in the Eneolithic age, and claimed that Italians were an indigenous people descended from the Cro-Magnons. Rellini claimed that Mediterranean and later Nordic peoples arrived and peacefully intermixed in small numbers with the indigenous Italian population.
In 1941 the PNF's Mediterraneanists through the influence of Giacomo Acerbo put forward a comprehensive definition of the Italian race. However these efforts were challenged by Mussolini's endorsement of Nordicist figures with the appointment of staunch spiritual Nordicist Alberto Luchini as head of Italy's Racial Office in May 1941, as well as with Mussolini becoming interested with Julius Evola's spiritual Nordicism in late 1941. Acerbo and the Mediterraneanists in his High Council on Demography and Race sought to bring the regime back to supporting Mediterraneanism by thoroughly denouncing the pro-Nordicist Manifesto of the Racial Scientists. The Council recognized Aryans as being a linguistic-based group, and condemned the Manifesto for denying the influence of pre-Aryan civilization on modern Italy, saying that the Manifesto "constitutes an unjustifiable and undemonstrable negation of the anthropological, ethnological, and archaeological discoveries that have occurred and are occurring in our country". Furthermore the Council denounced the Manifesto for "implicitly" crediting Germanic invaders of Italy in the guise of the Lombards for having a "a formative influence on the Italian race in a disproportional degree to the number of invaders and to their biological predominance". The Council claimed that the obvious superiority of the ancient Greeks and Romans in comparison with the ancient Germanic tribes made it inconceivable that Italian culture owed a debt to ancient Aryan Germans. The Council denounced the Manifesto's Nordicist attitude towards Mediterraneans that it claimed was "considering them as slaves" and was "a repudiation of the entire Italian civilization".
In his early years as Fascist leader, while Mussolini harboured racial stereotypes of Jews he did not hold a firm stance on Jews, and his official stances oscillated and shifted to meet the political demands of the various factions of the Fascist movement, rather than having any concrete stance. Of the 117 original members of the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento, founded on 23 March 1919, five were Jewish. Since the movement's early years, there were a small number of prominent openly anti-Semitic Fascists such as Roberto Farinacci. There were also prominent Fascists who completely rejected anti-Semitism, such as Italo Balbo who lived in Ferrara that had a substantial Jewish community that was accepted and anti-Semitic incidents were rare in the city. Mussolini initially had no anti-Semitic statements in his policies. In response to his observation of large numbers of Jews amongst the Bolsheviks, and claims (that were later confirmed to be true) that the Bolsheviks and Germany (that Italy was fighting in World War I) were politically connected, Mussolini said anti-Semitic statements involving the Bolshevik-German connection as being an "unholy alliance between Hindenburg and the synagogue". Mussolini came to believe rumours that Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin was of Jewish descent. In an article in Il Popolo d'Italia in June 1919, Mussolini wrote a highly anti-Semitic analysis on the situation in Europe involving Bolshevism following the October Revolution, the Russian Civil War, and war in Hungary involving the Hungarian Soviet Republic.
If Petrograd (Pietrograd) does not yet fall, if [General] Denikin is not moving forward, then this is what the great Jewish bankers of London and New York have decreed. These bankers are bound by ties of blood to those Jews who in Moscow as in Budapest are taking their revenge on the Aryan race that has condemned them to dispersion for so many centuries. In Russia, 80 percent of the managers of the Soviets are Jews, in Budapest 17 out of 22 people's commissars are Jews. Might it not be that bolshevism is the vendetta of Judaism against Christianity?? It is certainly worth pondering. It is entirely possible that bolshevism will drown in the blood of a pogrom of catastrophic proportions. World finance is in the hands of the Jews. Whoever owns the strongboxes of the peoples is in control of their political systems. Behind the puppets (making peace) in Paris, there are the Rothschilds, the Warburgs, the Schiffs, the Guggenheims who are of the same blood who are conquering Petrograd and Budapest. Race does not betray race....Bolshevism is a defense of the international plutocracy. This is the basic truth of the matter. The international plutocracy dominated and controlled by Jews has a supreme interest in all of Russian life accelerating its process of disintegration to the point of paroxysm. A Russia that is paralyzed, disorganized, starved, will be a place where tomorrow the bourgeoisie, yes the bourgeoisie, o proletarians will celebrate its spectacular feast of plenty.—Benito Mussolini, Il Popolo d'Italia, June 1919.
This statement by Mussolini on a Jewish-Bolshevik-plutocratic connection and conspiracy was met with opposition in the Fascist movement, resulting in Mussolini responding to this opposition amongst his supporters by abandoning and reversing this stance shortly afterwards in 1919. In reversing his stance due to opposition to it, Mussolini no longer said his previous assertion that Bolshevism was Jewish, but warned that due to the large numbers of Jews in the Bolshevik movement, the rise of Bolshevism in Russia would result in a ferocious wave of anti-Semitism in Russia. He then claimed that "anti-Semitism is foreign to the Italian people" but warned Zionists that they should be careful not to stir up anti-Semitism in "the only country where it has not existed". Early on there were prominent Jewish Italian Fascists such as Aldo Finzi Finzi was born of a mixed marriage of a Jewish and Christian Italian, he was baptized as a Catholic. Margherita Sarfatti was an influential Jewish member of the PNF whom Mussolini had known since he and her had been members of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) and she had been his mistress, she helped write Dux (1926), a biography of Mussolini. One of the Jewish financial supporters of the Fascist movement, was Toeplitz, whom Mussolini had earlier accused of being a traitor during World War I. Another prominent Jewish Italian Fascist was Ettore Ovazza who was a staunch Italian nationalist and an opponent of Zionism in Italy. 230 Italian Jews took part in the Fascists' March on Rome in 1922. In 1932, Mussolini made his private attitude about Jews known to the Austrian ambassador when discussing the issue of the of Hitler, saying: "I have no love for the Jews, but they have great influence everywhere. It is better to leave them alone. Hitler's anti-Semitism has already brought him more enemies than is necessary".
At the 1934 Montreux Fascist conference chaired by the Italian-led Comitati d'Azione per l'Universalita di Roma (CAUR), that sought to found a Fascist International, the issue of antisemitism was debated amongst various fascist parties, with some more favourable to it, and others less favourable. Two final compromises were adopted, creating the official stance of the Fascist International:
[T]he Jewish question cannot be converted into a universal campaign of hatred against the Jews [...] Considering that in many places certain groups of Jews are installed in conquered countries, exercising in an open and occult manner an influence injurious to the material and moral interests of the country which harbors them, constituting a sort of state within a state, profiting by all benefits and refusing all duties, considering that they have furnished and are inclined to furnish, elements conducive to international revolution which would be destructive to the idea of patriotism and Christian civilization, the Conference denounces the nefarious action of these elements and is ready to combat them."—CAUR, 1934.
Italian Fascism adopted antisemitism in the late 1930s, and Mussolini personally returned to invoke antisemitic statements as he had done earlier. The Fascist regime used antisemitic propaganda for the Spanish Civil War from 1937 to 1938 that emphasized that Italy was supporting Spain's Nationalist forces against a "Jewish International". The Fascist regime's adoption of official antisemitic racial doctrine in 1938 met opposition from Fascist members including Balbo, who regarded antisemitism as having nothing to do with Fascism and staunchly opposed the antisemitic laws.
In 1925, the PNF declared that Italy's Fascist state was to be a totalitarian state. The term "totalitarian" had initially been used as a pejorative accusation by Italy's liberal opposition, that denounced the Fascist movement for seeking to create a total dictatorship. However the Fascists responded by accepting that they were totalitarian, but presented totalitarianism from a positive viewpoint. Mussolini described totalitarianism as seeking to forge an authoritarian national state that would be capable of completing Risorgimento of the Italia Irredenta, forge a powerful modern Italy, and create a new kind of citizen - politically active Fascist Italians.
The Doctrine of Fascism (1932) described the nature of Italian Fascism's totalitarianism, stating the following:
Fascism is for the only liberty which can be a serious thing, the liberty of the state and of the individual in the state. Therefore for the fascist, everything is in the state, and no human or spiritual thing exists, or has any sort of value, outside the state. In this sense fascism is totalitarian, and the fascist state which is the synthesis and unity of every value, interprets, develops and strengthens the entire life of the people.—Benito Mussolini, Giovanni Gentile, Doctrine of Fascism (1932)
Italian Fascism promotes a corporatist economic system. The economy involves employer and employee syndicates being linked together in corporative associations to collectively represent the nation's economic producers and work alongside the state to set national economic policy. Mussolini declared such economics as a "Third Alternative" to capitalism and Marxism that Italian Fascism regarded as "obsolete doctrines". It supports criminalization of strikes by employees and lockouts by employers as illegal acts it deems these acts as prejudicial to the national community as a whole.
Age and gender roles
The Italian Fascists' political anthem was called Giovenezza ("The Youth"). Fascism identifies the physical age period of youth as a critical time for the moral development of people that will affect society.
Italian Fascism pursued what it called "moral hygiene" of youth, particularly regarding sexuality. Fascist Italy promoted what it considered normal sexual behaviour in youth while denouncing what it considered deviant sexual behaviour. It condemned pornography, most forms of birth control and contraceptive devices (with the exception of the condom), homosexuality, and prostitution as deviant sexual behaviour. Fascist Italy regarded the promotion of male sexual excitation before puberty as the cause of criminality amongst male youth. Fascist Italy declared homosexuality to be a social disease. Fascist Italy pursued an aggressive campaign to reduce prostitution of young women.
Mussolini perceived women's primary role to be childbearers, while men were warriors, once saying, "war is to man what maternity is to the woman". In an effort to increase birthrates, the Italian Fascist government gave financial incentives to women who raised large families, and initiated policies designed to reduce the number of women employed. Italian Fascism called for women to be honoured as "reproducers of the nation", and the Italian Fascist government held ritual ceremonies to honour women's role within the Italian nation. In 1934, Mussolini declared that employment of women was a "major aspect of the thorny problem of unemployment" and that for women, working was "incompatible with childbearing". Mussolini went on to say that the solution to unemployment for men was the "exodus of women from the work force".
Italian Fascism believed that the success of Italian nationalism required a clear sense of a shared past amongst the Italian people, along with a commitment to a modernized Italy. Mussolini in a famous speech in 1926, called for Fascist art that was "traditionalist and at the same time modern, that looks to the past and at the same time to the future".
Traditional symbols of Roman civilization were utilized by the Fascists, particularly the fasces that symbolized unity, authority, and the exercise of power. Other traditional symbols of ancient Rome used by the Fascists included the she-wolf of Rome. The fasces and the she-wolf symbolized the shared Roman heritage of all the regions that constituted the Italian nation. In 1926, the fasces was adopted by the Fascist government of Italy as a symbol of the state. In that year the Fascist government attempted to have the Italian national flag redesigned to incorporate the fasces on it. However this attempt to incorporate the fasces on the flag, was stopped by strong opposition to the proposal by Italian monarchists. Afterwards the Fascist government in public ceremonies rose the national tricolour flag along with a Fascist black flag. However years later, after Mussolini was forced from power by the King in 1943 and later rescued by German forces, the Italian Social Republic founded by Mussolini and the Fascists, did incorporate the fasces on the state's war flag, which was a variant of the Italian tricolour national flag.
The issue of the rule of monarchy or republic in Italy was an issue that changed several times through the development of Italian Fascism. Initially Italian Fascism was republican and denounced the Savoy monarchy. However Mussolini tactically abandoned republicanism in 1922 and recognized that the acceptance of the monarchy was a necessary compromise to gain the support of the establishment to challenge the liberal constitutional order that also supported the monarchy. King Victor Emmanuel III had become a popular ruler in the aftermath of Italy's gains after World War I and the army held close loyalty to the King, thus any idea of overthrowing the monarchy was discarded as foolhardy by the Fascists at this point. Importantly, Fascism's recognition of monarchy provided Fascism with a sense of historical continuity and legitimacy. However this compromise did not yield a cordial relationship between the King and Mussolini. Although Mussolini had formally accepted the monarchy, he pursued and largely achieved reducing the power of the King to that of a figurehead. Initially the King held complete nominal legal authority over the military through the Statuto Albertino, but this was ended during the Fascist regime when Mussolini created the position of First Marshal of the Empire in 1938, a two-person position of control over the military held by both the King and the head of government, that had the effect of eliminating the King's previously exclusive legal authority over the military by giving Mussolini equal legal authority to the King over the military. In the 1930s, Mussolini became aggravated by the monarchy's continued existence, due to envy of the fact that his counterpart in Germany, Adolf Hitler was both head of state and head of government of a republic; and Mussolini in private denounced the monarchy and indicated that he had plans to dismantle the monarchy and create a republic with himself as head of state of Italy upon an Italian success in the then-anticipated major war about to erupt in Europe.
After being removed from office and placed under arrest by the King in 1943, and the Kingdom of Italy's new non-fascist government switching sides from the Axis to the Allies, Italian Fascism returned to republicanism and condemnation of the monarchy. On 18 September 1943, Mussolini made his first public address to the Italian people since his rescue from arrest by allied German forces, in which he commended the loyalty of Hitler as an ally while condemning King Victor Emmanuel III of the Kingdom of Italy for betraying Italian Fascism. Mussolini on the topic of the monarchy removing him from power and dismantling the Fascist regime, stated "It is not the regime that has betrayed the monarchy, it is the monarchy that has betrayed the regime" and that "When a monarchy fails in its duties, it loses every reason for being...The state we want to establish will be national and social in the highest sense of the word; that is, it will be Fascist, thus returning to our origins."
Italian Fascism justified its adoption of antisemitic laws in 1938 by claiming that Italy was fulfilling the Christian religious mandate of the Catholic Church that had been initiated by Pope Innocent III in the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, whereby the Pope issued strict regulation of the life of Jews in Christian lands which reduced their status to essentially perpetual slaves, Jews were prohibitted from holding any public office that would give them power over Christians, and Jews were required to wear distinctive clothing to distinguish them from Christians.
The Doctrine of Fascism (La dottrina del fascismo, 1932), by the Actualist philosopher Giovanni Gentile, is the official formulation of Italian Fascism, published under Benito Mussolini’s name in 1933. Gentile was intellectually influenced by Hegel, Plato, Benedetto Croce, and Giambattista Vico, as such, his Actual Idealism philosophy was the basis for Fascism. Hence, the Doctrine’s Weltanschauung proposes the world as action in the realm of Humanity — beyond the quotidian constrictions of contemporary political trend, by rejecting “perpetual peace” as fantastical, and accepting Man as a species continually at war; those who meet the challenge, achieve nobility. To wit, Actual Idealism generally accepted that conquerors were the men of historical consequence, e.g., the Roman Julius Caesar, the Greek Alexander the Great, the Frank Charlemagne, and the French Napoleon; the philosopher–intellectual Gentile was especially inspired by the Roman Empire (27 BC – AD 476, 1453), from whence derives Fascism, thus:
|“||The Fascist accepts and loves life; he rejects and despises suicide as cowardly. Life as he understands it means duty, elevation, conquest; life must be lofty and full, it must be lived for oneself but above all for others, both near bye and far off, present and future.||”|
Therefore, in 1925, Benito Mussolini assumed the title Duce (Leader), derived from the Latin dux (leader), a Roman Republic military-command title. Moreover, although Fascist Italy (1922–43) is historically considered an authoritarian–totalitarian dictatorship, it retained the original “liberal democratic” government façade: the Grand Council of Fascism remained active as administrators; and King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy could — at his Crown’s risk — discretionarily dismiss Mussolini as Italian Prime Minister, as, in the event, he did.
Gentile defined Fascism as an anti-intellectual doctrine epistemologically based on faith rather than reason. Fascist mysticism emphasized the importance of political myths, which were true not as empirical facts but as "metareality". Fascist art, architecture and symbols constituted a process which converted Fascism into a sort of a civil religion or political religion. La dottrina del fascismo states that Fascism is a "religious conception of life" and forms a "spiritual community", in contrast to bourgeois materialism. The slogan Credere Obbedire Combattere ("Believe, Obey, Fight") reflects the importance of political faith in Fascism.
La dottrina del fascismo proposed an Italy of greater living standards under a single-party Fascist system, than under the multi-party liberal democratic government of 1920. As the Leader of the National Fascist Party (PNF — Partito Nazionale Fascista), Benito Mussolini said that democracy is “beautiful in theory; in practice, it is a fallacy”, and spoke of celebrating the burial of the “putrid corpse of liberty”. In 1923, to give Deputy Mussolini control of the pluralist parliamentary government of the Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946), an economist, the Baron Giacomo Acerbo proposed — and the Italian Parliament approved — the Acerbo Law, changing the electoral system from proportional representation to majority representation. The party who received the most votes (provided they possessed at least 25 per cent of cast votes), won two-thirds of the parliament; the remaining third was proportionately shared among the other parties — thus the Fascist manipulation of liberal democratic law that rendered Italy a single-party State.
In 1924, the PNF won the election with 65 per cent of the votes; yet the United Socialist Party refused to accept such a defeat — especially Deputy Giacomo Matteotti who, on 30 May 1924, in Parliament formally accused the PNF of electoral fraud, and reiterated his denunciations of PNF Blackshirt political violence, and was publishing The Fascisti Exposed: A Year of Fascist Domination, a book substantiating his accusations. Consequently, on 24 June 1924, the Ceka (PNF secret police) assassinated the Parliament Deputy; of the five men arrested, Amerigo Dumini, aka Il Sicario del Duce (The Leader’s Assassin), was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, yet served only eleven months, and was freed under amnesty from King Victor Emmanuel III. Moreover, when the King supported Prime Minister Mussolini, the socialists cried “Foul!”, and unwisely quit Parliament in protest — leaving the Fascists to govern Italy. In that time, assassination was not yet the modus operandi norm; the Italian Fascist Duce usually disposed of opponents in the Imperial Roman way: political arrest punished with island banishment.
Conditions precipitating Fascism
After the First World War (1914–18), despite the Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946) being a full-partner Allied Power against the Central Powers, Italian nationalism claimed Italy was cheated in the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1919), thus the Allies had impeded Italy’s progress to becoming a “Great Power”. Thenceforth, the PNF successfully exploited that “slight” to Italian nationalism, in presenting Fascism as best-suited for governing the country, by successfully claiming that democracy, socialism, and liberalism were failed systems. The PNF assumed Italian government in 1922, consequent to the Fascist Leader Mussolini’s oratory and Blackshirt paramilitary political violence.
In 1919, at the Paris Peace Conference, the Allies compelled the Kingdom of Italy to yield to Yugoslavia the Croatian seaport of Fiume (Rijeka), a mostly Italian city of little nationalist significance, until early 1919. Moreover, elsewhere, Italy then was excluded from the wartime secret Treaty of London (1915) it had concorded with the Triple Entente; wherein Italy was to leave the Triple Alliance and join the enemy, by declaring war against the German Empire and Austria-Hungary, in exchange for territories, at war’s end, upon which the Kingdom of Italy held claims. (see Italia irredenta)
In September 1919, the nationalist response of outraged war hero Gabriele d'Annunzio was declaring the establishment of the Italian Regency of Carnaro. To his independent Italian state, he installed himself as the Regent Duce (Leader), and promulgated the Carta del Carnaro (Charter of Carnaro, 8 September 1920 ), a politically syncretic constitutional amalgamation of right-wing and left-wing anarchist, proto-fascist, and democratic republican politics, which much influenced the politico-philosophic development of early Italian Fascism. Consequent to the Treaty of Rapallo (1920) the metropolitan Italian military deposed the Regency of Duce D’Annunzio on Christmas 1920. In the development of the fascist model of government, Gabriele d’ Annunzio was a nationalist, not a fascist, whose legacy of political–praxis (“Politics as Theatre”) was stylistic (ceremony, uniform, harangue, chanting), not substantive, which Italian Fascism artfully developed as a government model.
Given Italian Fascism’s pragmatic political amalgamations of left-wing and right-wing socio-economic policies, discontented workers and peasants proved an abundant source of popular political power, especially because of peasant opposition to socialist agricultural collectivism. Thus armed, the former socialist Benito Mussolini oratorically inspired and mobilized country and working-class people: “We declare war on socialism, not because it is socialist, but because it has opposed nationalism.... ” Moreover, for campaign financing, in the 1920–21 period, the National Fascist Party also courted the industrialists and (historically feudal) landowners, by appealing to their fears of left-wing socialist and Bolshevik labor politics and urban and rural strikes; the Fascists promised a good business climate of cost-effective labor, wage, and political stability; the Fascist Party was en route to power; the historian Charles F. Delzell reports:
"At first, the Fascists [PNF] were concentrated in Milan and a few other cities. They gained ground quite slowly, between 1919 and 1920; not until after the scare, brought about by the workers “occupation of the factories” in the late summer of 1920 did fascism become really widespread. The industrialists began to throw their financial support to it. Moreover, toward the end of 1920, fascism began to spread into the countryside, bidding for the support of large landowners, particularly in the area between Bologna and Ferrara, a traditional stronghold of the Left, and scene of frequent violence. Socialist and Catholic organizer of farm hands in that region, Venezia Giulia, Tuscany, and even distant Apulia, were soon attacked by [Black Shirt] squads of Fascists, armed with castor oil, blackjacks, and more lethal weapons. The era of Squadrismo, and nightly expeditions to burn Socialist and Catholic labor headquarters had begun."
Italy's use of daredevil elite shock troops known as the Arditi, beginning in 1917, was an important influence on Fascism. The Arditi were soldiers who were specifically trained for a life of violence and wore unique blackshirt uniforms and fezzes. The Arditi formed a national organization in November 1918, the Associazione fra gli Arditi d'Italia, which by mid-1919 had about twenty thousand young men within it. Mussolini appealed to the Arditi, and the Fascists' Squadristi, developed after the war, were based upon the Arditi.
The First World War (1914–18) inflated Italy’s economy with great debts, unemployment (aggravated by thousands of demobilised soldiers), social discontent featuring strikes, organised crime, and anarchist, Socialist, and Communist insurrections. When the elected Italian Liberal Party Government could not control Italy, the Revolutionary Fascist Party (Partito Fascista Rivoluzionario, PFR) Leader Benito Mussolini took matters in hand, combating those issues with the Blackshirts, paramilitary squads of First World War veterans and ex-socialists; Prime Ministers such as Giovanni Giolitti allowed the Fascists taking the law in hand.
The Liberal Government preferred Fascist class collaboration to the Communist Party of Italy’s bloody class conflict, should they assume government, as had Vladimir Lenin’s Bolsheviks in the recent Russian Revolution of 1917.
The Manifesto of the Fascist Struggle (June 1919) of the PFR presented the politico-philosophic tenets of Fascism; it included women's suffrage, a minimum wage, an eight-hour workday, and reorganisation of public transport. Appeasing its initially strong feminist wing, the Fascist party actually bowed in November 1925, allowing the introduction of limited women's suffrage, much to the dismay of Fascist feminists.
By the early 1920s, popular support for the PFR’s fight against Bolshevism numbered some 250,000 people. In 1921, the Fascisti (Fascists) metamorphosed into the PNF, and achieved political legitimacy when Benito Mussolini was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1922. Although the Liberal Party retained power, the governing prime ministries proved ephemeral, especially that of the fifth Prime Minister Luigi Facta, whose government proved vacillating.
To depose the weak parliamentary democracy, Deputy Mussolini (with military, business, and liberal right-wing support) launched the PNF March on Rome (27–29 October 1922) coup d’État, to oust Prime Minister Luigi Facta, and assume the government of Italy, to restore nationalist pride, re-start the economy, increase productivity with labor controls, remove economic business controls, and impose law and order. On 28 October, whilst the “March” occurred, King Victor Emmanuel III withdrew his support of Prime Minister Facta, and appointed PNF Leader Benito Mussolini as the sixth Prime Minister of Italy.
Until 1925, when the liberal economist Alberto de Stefani ended his tenure as Minister of Economics (1922–25), after having re-started the economy and balanced the national budget, the Italian Fascist Government’s economic policies were aligned with classical liberalism principles; inheritance, luxury, and foreign capital taxes were abolished; life insurance (1923), and the state communications monopolies were privatised, et cetera. Yet such pro-business enterprise policies apparently did not contradict the State’s financing of banks and industry.
One of Prime Minister Mussolini’s first acts was the 400-million-Lira financing of Gio. Ansaldo & C., one of the country’s most important engineering companies. Subsequent to the 1926 deflation crisis, banks such as the Banco di Roma (Bank of Rome), the Banco di Napoli (Bank of Naples), and the Banco di Sicilia (Bank of Sicily) also were state-financed. In 1924, a private business enterprise established the Unione Radiofonica Italiana (URI — Italian Radiophonic Union), as part of the Marconi group, to which the Italian Fascist Government granted official radio-broadcast monopoly; after the Second World War, URI became the Radio Audizioni Italiane (RAI — Italian Radio Audience, 1944–54), then the Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI — Italian Radiotelevision).
In addition, given the overwhelmingly rural nature of Italian economy in the period, agriculture was vital to Fascist economic policies and propaganda. To strengthen the domestic Italian production of grain, in 1925, the Fascist Government established protectionist policies that ultimately failed (see: the Battle for Grain); historian Denis Mack Smith reports that: “Success in this battle was... another illusory propaganda victory, won at the expense of the Italian economy in general, and consumers in particular.... Those who gained were the owners of the Latifondia, and the propertied classes in general.... [Mussolini’s] policy conferred a heavy subsidy on the Latifondisti.”
After 1929, the Fascist regime countered the Great Depression with massive public works programs, such as the draining of the Pontine Marshes, hydroelectricity development, railway improvement, and rearmament. In 1933, the Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI — Institute for Industrial Reconstruction) was established to subsidize failing companies, and soon controlled important portions of the national economy via government-linked companies, among them Alfa Romeo. The Italian economy’s Gross National Product increased 2 per cent; automobile production was increased, especially that of the Fiat motor company, and the aeronautical industry was developing. Especially after the 1936 Society of Nation's sanctions against Italian invasion of Ethiopia, Mussolini strongly advocated agrarianism and autarchy as part of his economic "battles" for Land, the Lira, and Grain. As Prime Minister, Benito Mussolini physically participated with the workers in doing the work; the “politics as theatre” legacy of Gabriele D’ Anunzio yielded great propaganda images of Il Duce as “Man of the People”.
Financing Vatican in exchange of the Roman Catholic Church's support of Fascism
In 1929, as Italian Head of Government, Benito Mussolini concluded the unresolved Church–State conflict of the Roman Question (La Questione romana, pending since the Risorgimento, 1815–71) with the Lateran Treaty (February 1929), between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See, establishing the Vatican City microstate in Rome. The Vatican would diplomatically recognize the Italian Fascist State in exchange for diplomatic recognition of the Vatican City, territorial compensations, introduction of religious education into all state funded schools in Italy, and 50GBP Millions that Bernardino Nogara helped whitewash by shifting the Italian bank shares into a Swiss company Profima SA. British wartime records from the National Archives in Kew also confirmed Profima SA as the Vatican's company which was accused during WW II of engaging in "activities contrary to Allied interests". John F. Pollard, a Cambridge historian, wrote in his book that it was the Mussolini's money that ensured the "papacy (...) would never be poor again." 
Influence outside Italy
The Italian Fascism government model was very influential beyond Italy. In the twenty-one-year intermarium of the First and Second world wars, many political scientists and philosophers sought ideological inspiration from Italy. Mussolini’s establishment of law and order to Italy and its society was praised by Winston Churchill, Sigmund Freud, George Bernard Shaw, and Thomas Edison, as the Fascist Government combated organised crime and the Mafia with violence and vendetta (honour).
Italian Fascism was copied by Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party, the Russian Fascist Organization, the Romanian National Fascist Movement (the National Romanian Fascia, National Italo-Romanian Cultural and Economic Movement), the Dutch fascists based upon the Verbond van Actualisten journal of H. A. Sinclair de Rochemont and Alfred Haighton. The Sammarinese Fascist Party established an early Fascist government in San Marino, their politico-philosophic basis essentially was Italian Fascism. In Switzerland, a pro-Nazi Colonel Arthur Fonjallaz of the National Front, became an ardent Mussolini admirer after visiting Italy in 1932. He advocated the Italian annexation of Switzerland, whilst receiving Fascist foreign aid. The country was host for two Italian politico-cultural activities: the International Centre for Fascist Studies (CINEF — Centre International d’ Études Fascistes), and the 1934 congress of the Action Committee for the Universality of Rome (CAUR — Comitato d’ Azione della Università de Roma). In Spain, the writer Ernesto Giménez Caballero, in Genio de España (The Genius of Spain, 1932) called for the Italian annexation of Spain, led by Mussolini presiding an international Latin Roman Catholic empire. He then progressed to close associated with Falangism, leading to discarding the Spanish annexation to Italy.
Italian Fascist intellectuals
- Massimo Bontempelli
- Giuseppe Bottai
- Enrico Corradini
- Carlo Costamagna
- Enrico Ferri
- Giovanni Gentile
- Corrado Gini
- Agostino Lanzillo
- Curzio Malaparte
- Filippo Tommaso Marinetti
- Robert Michels
- Angelo Oliviero Olivetti
- Sergio Panunzio
- Giovanni Papini
- Camillo Pellizi
- Luigi Pirandello
- Giuseppe Prezzolini
- Berto Ricci
- Alfredo Rocco
- Margherita Sarfatti
- Ardengo Soffici
- Ugo Spirito
- Giuseppe Ungaretti
- Gioacchino Volpe
Italian Fascist slogans
- Me ne frego (“I don’t give a damn!”): the Italian Fascist motto.
- Libro e moschetto — fascista perfetto (“Book and Musket — Perfect Fascist”)
- Viva la Morte (“Long live Death!”): sacrifice.
- Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato (“Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State”).
- Credere, Obbedire, Combattere (“Believe, Obey, Fight”)
- Se avanzo, seguitemi. Se indietreggio, uccidetemi. Se muoio, vendicatemi (“If I advance, follow me. If I retreat, kill me. If I die, avenge me”) Borrowed from French Royalist Gen. Henri de la Rochejaquelein.
- Viva Il Duce(“Long live the Leader”)
- La guerra è per l'uomo come La maternità è donna (War is to Man as Motherhood is to Woman.)
- Boia chi molla (“Who gives up is a rogue”); the first meaning of "boia" is "executioner, hangman" but in this context it means "scoundrel, rogue, villain, blackguard, knave, lowlife" and it can also be used as an exclamation of strong irritation or disappointment or as a pejoratively superlative adjective (e.g. tempo boia, awful weather).
- Molti nemici. Molto onore (“Many enemies. Much Honor”)
- E' l'aratro che traccia il solco, ma è la spada che lo difende ("The plough cuts the furrow, but the sword defends it")
- Dux mea lux ("The Leader is my light"), Latin phrase.
- Duce, a noi ("Duce, to us")
- Mussolini ha sempre ragione ("Mussolini is always right")
- Vincere e vinceremo ("To win, and we shall win!")
|Part of a series on the|
|History of Italy|
- Definitions of fascism
- Propaganda of Fascist Italy
- Economy of Italy under Fascism, 1922–1943
- National Fascist Party
- Italian fascist states:
- Cesare Mori
- Model of masculinity under fascist Italy
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