The Rise of Fascism In Italy
1922 - March on Rome:
Facta’s failure to act against growing Fascist violence and the failure of Filippo Turati’s Socialists to cooperate with Sturzo’s Catholics strengthened Mussolini. Two wings existed within the PNF: Dino Grandi’s approach that pressed to come to power legally and Italo Balbo’s ‘insurrectional’ approach. This second had the upper hand. On October 28, the ‘March on Rome’ took place with the Fascist occupation of strategic sites. King Victor Emmanuel III refused to sign martial Law to restore order and the army failed to act. The fascists’ coup d’état thus succeded. On November 30, Mussolini was invited by King Victor Emmanuel III to become Prime Minister and, for all intents and purposes, the parliamentary constitutional tradition came to an end.
1923 - Acerbo’s electoral reform:
Mussolini consolidates his ‘illiberal regime. On December 15, 1922 the Fascist Grand Council is formed. It assumes both party and state functions foreshadowing the one-party system Italy was becoming. Giacomo Acerbo’s bill on electoral reform is approved on July 10. It eliminates proportional representation and gives two-thirds of the seats to the electoral coalition that receives 25% of the vote cast.
1924 - Giacomo Matteotti murdered:
National Elections are held in April. Internal disputes within the Socialist and Catholic ranks and Mussolini’s control of the voting machines allows the Fascists to win the election. The leader of the Socialists Giacomo Matteotti gives a speech contending that Fascist violence has invalidated the recent elections. Matteotti disappears on June 10 1924. His body is found only in August. Did Mussolini give the order to kill him? Historians are still debating. On June 30, the Senate and the Chamber grant Mussolini a vote of confidence. The opposition is absent from the Chamber after the ‘Aventine Secession’ makes it easy for Mussolini to introduce repressive legislation and establish his fascist dictatorship.
1925 - Alfredo Rocco’s new electoral law:
Between January 1925 and the end of 1926 the regime consolidates itself. Abolition of antifascist political parties, of free labour unions and of freedom of speech. Italy becomes a Fascist state. Creation of special tribunals that have the power to confine persons who subvert the political and social order. Only Fascist unions can negotiate and enforce contracts. In 1927 the Confindustria becomes formally Fascist and its president enters the Fascist Grand Council. According to Alfredo Rocco’s new electoral law, political parties are eliminated and only persons on a national list can become members of Parliament. Voters can only accept or reject the list. Mussolini announces the ‘Battle of the Grain’, to make Italy self-sufficient in foodstuffs. Only large landowners benefit from it and consolidate their position.
1929 - The Lateran Accords with the Vatican:
On February 11 Mussolini signs the Lateran Accords with the Vatican. They end the dispute with the papacy that resulted from the annexation of the Papal States during the Risorgimento. The Accords created the small independent state of the Vatican City in Rome, paid the Pope compensation for the annexed territories and made Catholicism the official religion of Italy. The Accords had vast repercussions. The Duce came to be seen as a man sent by Providence against the threat of communism and solidified Mussolini’s regime both at home and abroad.
1933 - IRI (Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale):
As a means to face the Great Depression, to finance industries in difficulty and stimulate economic recovery, Banker Alberto Beneduce and finance minister Guido Jung founded a new state agency: IRI (Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale). IRI’s role was far-reaching and significant. It owned one fifth of outstanding stocks in Italian companies. IRI stimulated industries in Northern Italy, improved production methods and enabled the country to match the most advanced international industrial standards. Italo Baldo with his ‘flying armada’ crossed the Atlantic ocean and visited Canada and the world Exposition in Chicago and flew back to Italy. A major achievement in the history of aviation.
1934 - Fascism, a Corporate State :
Mussolini opposes Adolf Hitler’s attempt of annexation (Anschluss) of Austria into Germany after Chancellor Dolfuss’ assassination by the Nazis. Founding of the 22 Corporations, the ‘third way’ between Marxist class struggle and ‘plutocratic’ capitalism with equal representation of employers and employees. Fascism thus defined itself as a Corporate State and in 1938 a law abolished the Chamber of Deputies and replaced it with the Chamber of Fasces and Corporations. The Fascist State relied also on ONB (Opera Nazionale Balilla), which regimented boys and girls and prepared them to become militant members of the regime and the GUF (Gioventù Universitaria Fascista) to which university students were obliged to adhere. The OND (Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro) rounded out the Fascist socialization network.The OND was in contact with millions of workers and was the regime’s most successful institution.
1935-36 - Conquest of Ethiopia:
After meeting French Premier Laval in Rome and receiving his nod, Mussolini has a free hand to conquer Ethiopia. In October 1935, Italian troops under the command of generals Del Bono and Graziani invade Abyssinia. After a few months the Italian troops enter Addis Ababa and Ethiopia becomes an Italian colony. The shameful defeat at Adua is finally avenged. The king of Italy becomes emperor of an empire that includes Lybia, the Dodecanese Islands, Eritrea, Somalia and Ehtiopia. As a result of this conquest, economic sanctions are imposed on Italy. During the 1930s the Duce accentuates his personal power and slogans like ‘Mussolini ha sempre ragione’ (Mussolini is always right’ and ‘Credere obbedire, combattere’ (Believe, Obey, Fight) cover Italian buildings. In 1935 radio, cinema and other means of communications become favourite tools for propaganda under the umbrella of the Ministry of Popular Culture (Minculpop).
1936-1939 - Civil war in Spain:
A pro-Germany policy in Foreign affairs begins. In 1936 Hitler and Mussolini support Francisco Franco’s revolt in Spain and send troops to help him. The Rome-Berlin Axis is born and Mussolini’s sonin- law Count Galeazzo Ciano becomes Minister of Foreign Affairs. 1937. Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany adhere to the Anti-Comintern Pact.
1937-38 - Anti-Semitism in Italy:
An anti-Semitic faction emerges within Italian Fascism. Only in May 1938, after Hitler’s visit to Rome, Mussolini lets Gerarchi like Bottai who identify Jews with the ‘bourgoisie’ have their way. There were only 50,000 Jews living in a country of about 40 million people. The Duce who wanted to transform Italians into a ‘warrior’ race and had prohibited racial interactions in Italian East Africa, allows the foundation of a racist magazine: La Difesa della Razza, and a law is passed in September 1938 which prohibits foreign Jews from entering Italy, bans Jews from the teaching profession and excludes them from receiving an education in public secondary schools. A ban on intermarriage, exclusion from the army and public jobs and a limit to Jewish economic activities are later added. Anschluss (annexation) of Austria by Germany takes place.
1939 - Conquest of Albania:
In April Italy occupies and annexes Albania. Signing of the Pact of Steel between Italy and Germany. The Second World War begins. Mussolini declares Italy’s non-belligerence.