Brief Look at Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini was born on July 29, 1883 in Predappio. The
son of a blacksmith he was largely self-educated. He became a
schoolteacher and a socialist journalist in northern Italy. In 1910
he married Rachele Guidi who bore his five children. Mussolini was
jailed in 1911 for his opposition to Italy's war in Libya.
Soon after his release in 1912 he became editor of the
socialist newspaper in Milan, "Avanti!". When WWI began in 1914
Mussolini advocated Italy's entrance into the war on the allied side
and was expelled from the socialist party. He then started his own
newspaper in Milan, Il Popolo d'Italia (The People of Italy) which
later became the origin of the Fascist Movement. In 1916 Mussolini
enlisted in the military. After his promotion to sergeant he was
wounded and in 1917 he returned to his paper.
During the Chaos that Gripped Italy after the war Mussolini's
influence grew swiftly. Mussolini and other war veterans founded
Fasci di Combattimento in March of 1919. This Nationalistic
antisocialist movement attracted much of the lower middle class and
took its name from the Fasces, an ancient symbol of Roman
discipline. The Fascist movement grew rapidly in the 1920's,
spreading through the countryside where it's Black Shirt Militia won
support of the land owners and attacked peasant leagues of Socialist
Supporters. To take advantage of the opportunity Fascism shed it's
initial Republicanism gaining the support of the King and Army.
On October 28, 1922 Mussolini led his Fascist March on Rome.
Mussolini was immediately invited to form the Italian Government by
King Victor Emmanuel III. Although Mussolini was given extraordinary
powers to return order to Italy he governed constitutionally until
1924 after the violence of the 1924 elections resulting in the death
of Socialist party deputy Giacomo Mattoetti. Mussolini moved to
suspend constitutional government and establish a totalitarian
regime. He proceeded in stages to establish a dictatorship by
forbidding the parliament to initiate legislation, making him
responsible to the king alone. By 1926 he had passed decrees issuing
him the force of law, establishing total censorship of the press and
suppressing all opposition parties.
In 1929 Mussolini made one of his greatest diplomatic
triumphs when he concluded the Lateran Treaty between Italy and the
Holy See. This settled the 60-year controversy concerning the power
of the Pope within the Italian State.
In 1933 Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany and was
greeted cautiously by the Italians. Hitler in turn expressed
friendship for the Italian Fascist government. During Germany's
annexation of Austria, Italy improved her French relations when she
rushed 75,000 troops to the Italo-Austrian frontier announcing that
she would intervene if Germany took overt action. Italy drew closer
to he WWI allies in 1935 when she protested Germany's violations of
the Treaty of Versailles.
Adopting an aggressive foreign policy Italy defied the League
of Nations in 1935 by Conquering Ethiopia, which won him acclaim with
nearly every sector of the populace. Il Duce, as he became known as,
popularity declined as he sent troops to aid General Francisco Franco
in the Spanish Civil War. He also Linked Italy with Fascist Germany,
Enacted Anti-Jewish Laws and Invaded Albania.
Because Mussolini was not militarily prepared she did not
enter WWII until 1940 after the Germans had overrun France. The
Italians however were driven from Albania and Greece by the Greeks
following some major British Victories in Egypt, which shook the
foundation of fascist Italy. Mussolini then had to ask Hitler for
aid, which left Italy increasingly under German control. In 1941,
Italy suffered successive military disasters and growing economic
problems caused by an allied blockade. Anti-Fascist ideals quickly
began to spread throughout the Italian countryside. The Balkan
campaign ended successfully as a result of German intervention and
Italy acquired many new territories. By an arrangement between
Mussolini and Hitler Italian troops occupied all of Greece. Many
Italians realized that their gains in the Balkans were an illusion as
they were controlled almost entirely by German troops. Italian
foodstuffs began to run low as the Germans increased their demands on
Mussolini for military assistance. In June 1941 Mussolini declared
war on the USSR to join the Germans at Hitler's request. When the
war effort began to have difficulties the Germans became much more
pressing on his demands of Mussolini. In March Mussolini's effort
became extremely bleak when the U.S. government seized control of 28
Italian merchant ships and impounded all Italian assets in the U.S.
On July 10, 1943 allied forces invaded Sicily six days later
President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston
Churchill sent a joint radio message to Mussolini asking for the
surrender of the Italian people. After Italy's refusal allied powers
bombed roman war facilities and factories with over 500 bombers.
During this raid Mussolini was conferring with Hitler at Verona about
the next stage of the axis defense. Upon Mussolini's return on July
25, 1943 he was greeted by King Victor Emmanuel who immediately asked
for his resignation and put him in military custody. German's
rescued the now sickly Mussolini and put him in control of northern
Italy, still under German occupation, as a German puppet. In the
last few days of the war Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci,
tried to escape to Switzerland. On April 28, 1945 Mussolini and his
mistress were found by Italian partisans and shot at Giulino di
Mezzegra near lake Como. In light of Italy's wartime disasters few
Italians regretted the death of their demonic Duce.