This October 27 marks the 100th anniversary of the March on Rome, the fascist mobilization that allowed Benito Mussolini to rise to power in Italy to form a repressive dictatorship that ended after World War II and a fratricidal civil war in 1945.
On October 27, 1922, he saw how in Italy the fascist military Benito Mussolini undertook the March on Rome together with tens of thousands of co-religionists with the aim of taking power in this European country. A very significant event that would be key in the history of Europe and its future during the following years, especially after the arrival of the Second World War.
The origins of Benito Mussolini are very far from what he would later defend. This Italian soldier came from a family with high socialist and trade union influence, but although he was a member of the Italian Socialist Party during his youth, after the First World War, he moved away from its postulates.
Mussolini, the former socialist who became a leader of the extreme right
Mussolini participated as a soldier in this conflict and was very critical of the benefits that Italy had obtained after it, which were very scarce, capitalizing on a general discontent that would boost him as leader of an armed group called Fasci Italiani di Combattimento, which in 1922 would become be the National Fascist Party.
Those known as ‘black shirts’ sowed terror for months against left-wing leaders and trade unionists and gained the support of businessmen, the bourgeoisie and the Italian middle class, who feared a communist revolution. This support allowed him to occupy the position of Prime Minister with the approval of King Victor Emmanuel III, despite not having obtained good results in the Italian elections of 1921, after pressuring the monarch with this massive mobilization.
His government became increasingly authoritarian as it progressively seized all state institutions. His total power as dictator was consolidated after the 1924 elections. In these elections, the Fascist Party won an absolute majority after a campaign of violence against opponents and rigging, something that raised protests from the Socialist Party and its leader, Giacomo Matteotti. , who after receiving threats from Mussolini, was assassinated by fascist militants a few days later.
This assassination led to the subsequent outlawing of the Socialist Party and later of the rest of the democratic parties, consolidating Italy as a dictatorship. Mussolini became known as ‘El Duce’ and began to govern Italy under a personal command adapted to the main points defended by fascism.
Mussolini was the first fascist dictator in Europe
This form of government is characterized by being contrary to democracy and communism and by a high level of militarism in which violence prevails as a tool to destroy any dissenting voice.
The fascism adopted by Benito Mussolini gave great prominence to the role of the State and eliminated any type of individual freedom. The massive events exalting the leader and historical symbols, such as the Roman salute, which would later be adopted as a fascist salute, were constant. Like the proclamations that advocated making Italy great again through the creation of a colonial empire.
During the first decades of the 20th century, the Italian colonies in Africa were limited compared to powers such as the United Kingdom or France, since they only had Libya, Eritrea and Italian Somalia under their power. More than insufficient possessions that led the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini, in his search for autarchy, to launch a war in October 1935 against Abyssinia, today’s Ethiopia.
Italy launched a blitzkrieg in which war crimes were committed against the population, massive massacres and even the use of chemical weapons. Something that earned her the condemnation of the League of Nations, but that brought her closer to a new ally: Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
World War II was the beginning of the end for Benito Mussolini
These two nations came into World War II as allies. Although Mussolini was initially hesitant to support Hitler when he started the war in Poland, he finally made up his mind in June 1940, while France was being invaded, thinking that victory in Europe was all but assured for Germany.
Italy began a series of invasions of other nations such as Albania and Greece and of British colonial territories, though it soon began to show its limitations and need constant German assistance due to poor military equipment and Italian disorganization.
The situation became even worse when the course of the war changed and Germany began to go backwards from 1943. On July 9, 1943, the allies made a massive landing in southern Italy and began to take several cities, something that made that King Victor Emmanuel III saw his continuity in danger due to his tolerance of fascism and that he decided to dismiss and arrest Benito Mussolini to join the allies.
This movement caused the beginning of a civil war in Italy that was fought in parallel to the world war. And although Mussolini was in prison for a time, he was freed by German troops in a special operation.
Mussolini went on to command the Republic of Saló, a fascist puppet state in northern Italy, with the presence of the German army, which depended entirely on the guidelines of Berlin. By that time Mussolini had lost any kind of independence and his future was tied to that of Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler.
With the German collapse in 1945, Mussolini was forced to flee incognito to try and save his life from advancing Allies and Italian partisans.
Although finally he could not avoid death. While trying to cross into Switzerland, Mussolini was recognized by an Italian partisan and arrested along with his mistress Clara Petacci. The dictator was shot on April 28, 1945 and his body was publicly exposed in Milan and lynched by an angry mob that made him virtually unrecognizable. His final brought democracy back to Italy… although the shadow of his figure has continued to exist in the transalpine country and has served as an inspiration for many far-right politicians, such as the current Prime Minister Georgia Meloni.
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