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Italian Fascism, also known simply as Fascism (Italian: Fascismo), is the original fascist ideology in Italy. This 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 which 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. As such, and support the creation of an Italian Empire to provide "vital space" (spazio vitale, a concept similar to the Lebensraum of the German Third Reich) for colonization by Italian settlers and establishing control over the Mediterranean Sea as Italy's Mare Nostrum ("our sea," with emphasis on "our"), as it had been under the Roman Empire. Fascism promotes political violence and war as actions that create national regeneration, spirit and vitality.
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 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.
Italian Fascism opposes conventional democracy and says that the only acceptable and desirable form of democracy is an authoritarian democracy that is capable of representing the different interests of society that advise the state and the state acts in the interest of the nation. It is opposed to mainstream socialism because of mainstream socialism's typical opposition to nationalism. 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. Italian Fascism was declared to be opposed to the reactionary conservatism developed by Joseph de Maistre.
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 German Charlemagne, and the French (Corsican) 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.
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.
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."
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 societal ills 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”.
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. In exchange for diplomatic recognition of the Vatican City and compensated territorial losses, the Fascist Government established Roman Catholic religious education in every education level; the Vatican would diplomatically recognize the Italian Fascist State.
Moreover, to render the Italian people cosmopolitan, the Fascist Government applied every cultural artefact — from postage stamps to monumental architecture to sculpture — in making every social class conscious of Italy's cultural heritage, namely the Roman, Mediæval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods, and the modern age.
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).
Influenced by the Roman Empire, Il Duce, Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, perceived himself as a contemporary Roman Emperor, and set to establishing a new Italian Empire. With an expansionist and militarist agenda, Italian colonialism penetrated Africa in competition with the British and French empires. The first Italian Fascist colony was Eritrea, in East Africa; then Libya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. The Fascists ruled via authoritarian government, especially in combating insurgents and guerrillas attempting to expel the Italians from their colonized countries; Omar Mukhtar was a notable Libyan example.
Moreover, Italian Fascism was (officially) neither atheist nor racist — provided the colonized folk agreed to Italianisation and swore fealty to Il Duce, (See: Racial classification). Just as Italian Jews were allowed membership in the National Fascist Party, in metropolitan Italy, in the Libyan colony, Muslims were Fascist Party members via the Muslim Association of the Lictor. In a unity ceremony, a Libyan chief awarded Prime Minister Mussolini an ancient Yemeni Sword of Islam artefact. East Africans were allowed to serve with Italians in the MVSN Colonial Militia.
To fulfil Italian unification, Fascist imperialism included the Italia irredenta (Irredentist Italy) demand of Italian ethnic integrity — recovering all lands previously annexed to the states incorporated to Italy. Said revanchism included the County of Nice, part of the Kingdom of Sardinia until 1860, the Duchy of Savoy, Corsica, part of the Republic of Genoa until 1768, Istria and Dalmatia which were until 1797 part of the Republic of Venice, and the island of Malta, part of the Kingdom of Sicily until 1530.
To prepare the Italians for military conquest, Mussolini's agenda became radical in the 1930s; seeking a physically fit and psychologically tough imperialist people to establish a modern Italian Empire, like the Roman Empire, he advocated discarding formalities of language, thought, and action; a coarse mind and hard body suited for aggressive war.
After Benito Mussolini came to power (1922), the forced Italianization of Slovene and Croatian populations in the 1920s and 1930s was under no international restraint in the areas that were given to Italy in exchange for joining Great Britain in the World War I.
In September 1920, Mussolini stated:
When dealing with such a race as Slavic - inferior and barbarian - we must not pursue the carrot, but the stick policy ... We should not be afraid of new victims ... The Italian border should run across the Brenner Pass, Monte Nevoso and the Dinaric Alps ... I would say we can easily sacrifice 500,000 barbaric Slavs for 50,000 Italians ...
Running the ethnic cleansing policy, Fascist Italy brought Italian teachers from South Italy to Italianize ethnic Slovene and Croatian children, while the Slovene and Croatian teachers, poets, writers, artists and clergy were exiled to Sardinia and elsewhere to South Italy. After complete destruction of all Slovene and Croatian cultural, financial and other organizations, resistance followed with anti-fascist TIGR movement, but it was followed by more Fascist repression. Acts of Fascist violence were not hampered by the authorities, such as the burning down of the Slovene Narodni dom (National House) in Trieste, carried out at night by Fascists with the connivance of the police on 13 July 1920.
In 1926, claiming that it was restoring surnames to their original Italian form, the Italian government announced the Italianization of German, Slovene and Croatian surnames, giving this program open legislative form, adding further pressure to these ethnic groups. There was no exception for first names. Some Slovenes and Croatians have under these circumstances "willingly" accepted Italianization in order to stop being a second-class citizens without upward social mobility.
The radical social change to Italian society signalled greater ideological affinity with Nazi Germany in international diplomacy, given Nazi approval of Italian Fascist imperial ambitions. Moreover, whilst in Germany, on 27 January 1938, an impressed Mussolini observed Wehrmacht soldiers march in goose-step. Upon returning to Italy, he adopted that marching style for his military, and also promulgated legal Anti-Semitism in the Manifesto of Race in July 1938, stripping Jews of Italian citizenship and with it any position in the government or previously held professions. The changes were partly unwelcome, because the Italians were not especially hateful of Jews, and thus were wary of such a cultural imposition, because of a strong German Nazi–Italian Fascist relations. Despite parallels between Nazi Germany’s racist domestic and foreign policies with those of Italy, Il Duce Mussolini was inconsistent about the application of racism in society. Despite, in the 1920s, having emphasized the importance of “race”, speaking in racialist terms about white–coloured relations, stating that the races are in continual competition:
"[When the] city dies, the nation — deprived of the young life, [the] blood of new generations — is now made up of people who are old and degenerate and cannot defend itself against a younger people which launches an attack on the now unguarded frontiers.... This will happen, and not just to cities and nations, but on an infinitely greater scale: the whole White race, the Western race can be submerged by other coloured races which are multiplying at a rate unknown in our race.|15px|15px|Benito Mussolini, 1928."
Yet in the 1933–34 period, when political tensions between Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany occurred over Austrian independence, PM Mussolini opportunistically contradicted his earlier claims about the importance of race, by dismissing it as insignificant:
"Race! It is a feeling, not a reality: ninety-five percent, at least, is a feeling. Nothing will ever make me believe that biologically pure races can be shown to exist today.... National pride has no need of the delirium of race.|15px|15px|Benito Mussolini, 1933."
On February 25, 1942, only two days after Italian Fascist regime established Gonars concentration camp that the first transport of 5,343 internees (1,643 of whom were children) arrived from - at the time already overpopulated - Rab concentration camp, from the Province of Ljubljana and from another camp in Monigo (near Treviso). In the occupied Slovenia with the emergence of the resistance, the Province of Ljubljana was subjected to brutal repression. Under the commander Mario Roatta's watch the violence against the Slovene civil population easily matched the German. To suppress the mounting resistance led by the Slovene Partisans, Italian soldiers adopted "draconian measures to intimidate the Slovene populations into silence by means of summary executions, hostage-taking, reprisals, internments into Rab and Gonars concentration camps and the burning of houses and villages". Mario Roatta's merciless suppression of partisan insurgency was not mitigated by his having saved the lives of Jews and Serbs (from the persecution of German Nazis and NDH). The "3C" pamphlet, tantamount to a declaration of war on civilians, involved him in war crimes.
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. 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.
Switzerland — 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).
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.
|History of Italy|
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