Who was Benito Mussolini? One-word description for Benito Mussolini would be “A Fascist Italian Dictator”. But of course, Mussolini’s deeds were much brutal just like his death was. From his childhood up to his death, his regime tagged him as history’s one of the famous dictators just like Hitler.
Mussolini was born on the 29th of July, 1883, in Dovia di Predappio, a small town in the province of Forli in Romagna. His father, Alessandro Mussolini, was a blacksmith and a socialist, while his mother, Rosa Maltoni, was a devout Catholic schoolteacher.
Owing to his father’s political leanings, Mussolini was named Benito after Mexican leftist president Benito Juárez. His siblings were Arnaldo and Edvige.
Mussolini’s early political views were heavily influenced by his father who idolized 19th-century Italian nationalist figures with humanist tendencies such as Carlo Pisacane, Giuseppe, Mazzini, and Giuseppe Garibaldi.
His father was careless with money but he had a great affection towards his son. Mussolini was very slow in learning and talking but under his mother’s patient attention he not only learned to speak but also became a very bright child and became one of the greatest orators later.
He was very much bullied in his childhood and threw stones at the people outside the church. Benito showed much intelligence as a youth but was boisterous and disobedient. He was admitted to catholic boarding school in 1892 and in 1894 he stabbed a fellow student with a pocket knife and was expelled.
His father instilled in him a passion for socialist politics and defiance against authority. Though he was expelled from several schools for bullying and defying school authorities, he eventually obtained a teaching certificate in 1901 and worked as a schoolmaster for a brief time.
Gain of Momentum
In 1902, Benito Mussolini moved to Switzerland to promote socialism and to avoid military service.
During this time, he studied the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, the sociologist, Vilfredo Pareto, and the syndicalist Georges Sorel. Mussolini also later credited the Christian socialist Charles Péguy and the syndicalist Hubert Lagardelle as some of his influences.
Mussolini became active in the Italian socialist movement in Switzerland, working for the paper L’Avvenire del Lavoratore, organizing meetings, giving speeches to workers, and serving as secretary of the Italian workers’ union in Lausanne.
He was arrested several times because of revolutionary activities
Rise in Politics
He was against war and conscription. He was briefly imprisoned and, upon release, became editor of the organization’s newspaper, Avanti (meaning “Forward the socialist newspaper), which gave him a larger megaphone and expanded his influence.
Mussolini thought of himself as an intellectual and was considered to be well-read. During this time, he published I Trentino Veduto da un Socialista (Trentino as seen by a Socialist) in the radical periodical, La Voce. He also wrote several essays about German literature, some stories, and one novel: L’amante del Cardinale: Claudia Particella, romanzo storico (The Cardinal’s Mistress).
Foundation of Fascist Party
With the outbreak of World War-I, some socialist parties initially supported the war when it began in August 1914. The outbreak of the war had resulted in a surge of Italian nationalism and the war was supported by a variety of political factions
In 1915, Mussolini joined the Italian army and fought on the front lines, reaching the rank of corporal before being wounded and discharged from the military. The Italian Socialist Party decided to oppose the war after anti-militarist protestors had been killed, resulting in a general strike called Red Week.
On 25 December 1915, in Treviglio, he contracted a marriage with his fellow countrywoman Rachele Guidi, who had already borne him a daughter, Edda, at Forli in 1910.
On March 23, 1919, Benito Mussolini founded the Fascist Party, which organized several right-wing groups into a single force. The fascist movement proclaimed opposition to social class discrimination and supported nationalist sentiments. Mussolini hoped to raise Italy to levels of its great Roman past.
Mussolini criticized the Italian government for weakness at the Treaty of Versailles. Capitalizing on public discontent following World War-I, he organized a paramilitary unit known as the “Black Shirts,” which terrorized political opponents and helped increase Fascist influence. As Italy slipped into political chaos, Mussolini declared that only he could restore order and was given the authority in 1922 as prime minister. He gradually dismantled all democratic institutions. By 1925, he had made himself dictator, taking the title “Il Duce” (“the Leader”).
He conquered Italy through his oratory skills, and he believed that revolution is not done by a saint. As Prime Minister, the first years of Mussolini’s rule were characterized by a right-wing coalition government composed of Fascists, nationalists, liberals, and two Catholic clerics from the Popular Party.
The Fascists made up a small minority in his original governments. Mussolini’s domestic goal was the eventual establishment of a totalitarian state with himself as the supreme leader (Il Duce).
In the political and social economy, he passed legislation that favored the wealthy industrial and agrarian classes (privatizations, liberalizations of rent laws, and dismantlement of the unions). In June 1923, the government passed the Acerbo Law, which transformed Italy into a single national constituency. This law applied in the elections of 6 April 1924.
By 1925, he had made himself dictator, taking the title “Il Duce” (“the Leader”). To his credit, Mussolini carried out an extensive public works program and reduced unemployment, making him very popular with the people.
The assassination of the socialist deputy Giacomo Matteotti, who had requested that the elections be annulled because of the irregularities, provoked a momentary crisis in the Mussolini government but was later murdered and the public turned against Mussolini. However, the country was thriving and was convinced that he made a place in history and will take Italy to new heights. Between 1925 and 1927, Mussolini progressively dismantled virtually all constitutional and conventional restraints on his power and built a police state. All other parties were outlawed following Zamboni’s assassination attempt in 1926; though in practice Italy had been a one-party state since 1925.
Role of Invasion in Ethiopia
In foreign policy, Mussolini was pragmatic and opportunistic. At the center of his vision lay the dream to forge a new Roman Empire in Africa and the Balkans, hence in 1935, determined to show the strength of his regime, Benito Mussolini invaded Ethiopia. The ill-equipped Ethiopians were no match for Italy’s modern tanks.
Addis Ababa was quickly captured. Mussolini incorporated Ethiopia into the new Italian Empire. Between 1936 and 1941 during operations to “pacify” Ethiopia, the Italians killed hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian civilians. Mussolini personally ordered Rodolfo Graziani to execute the entire male population over the age of 18. Believing the Eastern Orthodox Church was inspiring Ethiopians to resist, Mussolini ordered that Orthodox priests and monks were to be targeted in revenge for guerrilla attacks.
Hitler and Mussolini
1933 Germany, NAZI came to power and the most notorious friendship of history began. Hitler was a great admirer of Mussolini and vice-versa but Mussolini on the back of Hitler didn’t like him much. In 1937 Hitler’s army became supreme and this terrified Mussolini because Italians didn’t want the war. In 1939 Italy and Germany signed a military alliance known as the “Pact of Steel”.
With Italy’s resources stretched to capacity, many Italians believed Mussolini’s alliance with Germany would provide time to regroup. Influenced by Hitler, Mussolini instituted discrimination policies against the Jews in Italy. He tried to mimic Hitler at various fronts, Between 1935-1939, Mussolini’s wars cost Italy an equivalent of $500 US billion dollars in 1999 values.
In World War 2
Mussolini wanted that Hitler should postpone the war but Hitler attacked Poland and Mussolini didn’t have a choice. Also By the late 1930s, Mussolini’s obsession with demography led him to conclude that Britain and France were finished as powers and that it was Germany and Italy who were destined to rule Europe if for no other reason than their demographic strength.
When World War II in Europe began on 1st of September, 1939 with the German Invasion of Poland eliciting the response of the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany, Italy did not become involved in the conflict.
Now Italy will know that what kind of warrior he was? In April 1939, Mussolini ordered the Italian invasion of Albania. Italy defeated Albania within just five days, forcing king Zog to flee and setting up a period of Albania under Italy. In 1940, Italy invaded Greece with some initial success. But when the Greek army retreated, Italians collapsed. It showed Mussolini’s lack of military abilities.
Accordingly, Italy declared war on Britain and France on the 10th of June, 1940. Due to his weak leadership during the war with Egypt and Greece, Hitler lost all confidence in him and sent his troops to support him. But Mussolini refused to take the help being overconfident which ultimately backfired on him
Path to Defeat
Events in Africa had changed by early 1941 as Operation Compass had forced the Italians back into Libya, causing high losses in the Italian Army Also in the East African Campaign; an attack was mounted against Italian forces. Despite putting up a resistance, they were overwhelmed at the Battle of Keren, and the Italian defense started to crumble with a final defeat in the Battle of Gondar.
Meanwhile, Operation Marita took place in Yugoslavia to end the Greco Italian War, resulting in an Axis victory and the Occupation of Greece by Italy and Germany. Mussolini first learned of Operation Barbarossa after the invasion of the Soviet Union had begun on 22nd of June, 1941. At the Casablanca Conference in 1942, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt devised a plan to take Italy out of the war and force Germany to move its troops to the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union. Allied forces secured a beachhead in Sicily and began marching up the Italian peninsula.p
Victor Emmanuel III cut Mussolini off and told him that he was being replaced by Marshal Pietro Badoglio. He dissolved the Fascist Party two days after taking over and began negotiating an Armistice with the Allies, which was signed on the 3rd of September, 1943. To conceal his location from the Germans, Mussolini has moved around before being imprisoned at Campo Imperatore.
On June 4, 1944, Rome was liberated by Allied forces, who marched on to take control of Italy. On the 25th of April, 1945, allied troops were advancing into northern Italy. Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci set out for Switzerland, intending to board a plane and escape to Spain and were shot. The public was agitated and after being kicked and spat upon, the bodies were hung upside down from the roof of an Esso gas station. The bodies were then stoned from below by civilians. This was done both to discourage any Fascists from continuing the fight.
Though Mussolini did few good approaches for Italy like economic liberalization and unemployment issues, he could not manage to make him into a proficient economic leader and military commander. His lack of economic planning with unrealistic imagination and poor military skill let himself end up in his grave.