Creation of a Fascist dictatorship 1919-1926

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Main reasons for the rise in fascism 1919-22

Fascists manifesto (1919) called for minimum wage, 8 hour working day, confiscation of Church property, control of banks + stock exchanges, restoration of Italy's national strength and prestige. However, Mussolini's fascism also empahasised negatives to attract political support, such as the growing threat of socialism, the weakness of the political system and democracy, the ToV and 'mutilated victory'. Elections of 1919 were a failure for the fascists - Failed to win seats in Palriament, achieved few votes, even from Milan

The Biennio Rosso of 1920 convinced many that Italy was on the verge of a socialist revolution, and the facists claimed to protect them from this (exploitation). From 1921 onwards, the movement from urban to rural areas resulted in more support for the party, and eventually they formed paramilitary groups often led by former army officers, who were very brutal nationalistic and militaristic, called the squadristi. 

The Ras, radical local leaders, resisted Mussolini's control over the squadristi, yet Mussolini still convinced the majority of local fascist leaders to support him and his newspaper Il Popolo d'Italia was used to publicise fascist activities. With Musoslini as a unifying leader the movemnet could present itself as powerful, stable and national. To appeal to both the radicals and the elites, he made it seem as if he was the only one who could keep the violence of the squads in-check. By mid 1921, the squads controlled significant areas of Italy such as Florence, but mostly areas in the countryside such as the Po Valley, placing Mussolini in a powerful position.

The movemnet now appealed to shopkeepers and wealthier farmers, local leaders within rural areas, the young + nationalsists. Small scale industries angry at tax increases and economic problems played a role in supporting/financing the fascists. 

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Fascism 1922

Mussolini's policy of trying to appeal to both his radical urban followers and establishment figures is known as his 'dual policy'. Some radical policies were dropped, such as republicanism and anti-clericalism, and the movement was changing rapidly. 

1921 'pact of pacification' failed between socialist trade unions and fascists 

Mussolini announced teh creation of a formal fascist party in October 1921 - provided more coordination and gave Mussolini greater control. Membership grew greatly from 200,000 in 1921 to 300,000 by 1922 and it became the party of the respectable middle classes of Italy 

Main appeal of fascists was their anti-socialism ,emphasis on patrioism and the leadership cult of duce. November 1921, the fascist political programme, the 'New Programme', included points such as 8 hour working day (with agricultural and industrial exceptions), limiting citizen freedoms, military service obligatory and italian influence in Meditarranean should be expanded. During this time Mussolini also declared his opposition to divorce, to appeal to the Catholics. From 1921, Mussolini would give speeches that were vague so that he could appeal to wider audiences, but also benefitted from weaknesses of other parties, such as the populari, which was not supported by the Pope after1922.

In 1922, kep support for fascism came from landowners, civil servants, shopkeepers, small business owners, teachers, uni students, skilled craftsmen and artisans. All these felt insecure about their economic future and were worried about the threat of socialism towards their jobs, land and social class.  

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Accquisition of power 1920-22

Fascists won support from ex-soldiers and natioanlists; building on resentments calling the peace aggreements a mutilated victory. Many Italians felt it was unfair that they had not been awarded. They exloitede upper and middle class fears of socialism. In the Biennio Rosso they used forced to suppress left wing groups and were a mjor factor in the failure of the   of August 1922. March on Rome 1922 a celebration of power and the use of force from squads. Mussolini's charasmatic leadership and shrewed political judgements were vital. He greatly increased the circulation of his paper and presented himself as peacemaker in the pact of pacification, despite this mostly failing. In 1921 Mussolini won support from the middle class and lower-middle class and the cooperation of the industrial elites by moderating his party policies such as rejecting snti-clericalism and republicanalism, supporting military service and taxation. 

HOWEVER, there are oother factors that may have led to the gaining of power; 

Facta, a possible rival to Mussolini fell from balcony in 1922 and was also to erratic to pose a strong threat. There was a succession of weak liberal PM's between 1919-22 (five in total). Two of teh biggest parties, the PSI and PPI, would not work together, which created divisions and instability. The government reaction to the biennio rosso was weak (eg         occupations were legalised, they used mediation to end the factory takeover's in 1920, promised reforms and refused to use the          . The king was also indecisive and ineffective. He initially agreed to sign a decree on         , but then changed his mind teh next day. Liberal politicians would not cooperate with each other due to personal antagonisms. 

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March on Rome

This was to be the next step in establishing fascist domination over italian politics. Oct 1922 Mussolini made plans for a march on Rome to take place. It was deliberately meant to mimic the Itaian hero Garibaldi's march in 1860s during unification. Mussolini was, however, worried that it would cost their air of respectability, but radicals wanted a violent seizure of power, and Mussolini hoped the march would persuade authorities to give him power anyway. 

During the march, sqauds tried to seize government buildings in towns around northern and central italy whilst also gathering around three locations 20 miles from Rome, which both added to the aura of intimidation. In reality, the turnout for the march wasn't great - squads were poorly armed. Despite this, it was a propaganda coup, and the threat succeeded as Mussolini hope it would; he was appointed PM. 

The King played a vital role in enabling Mussolini to take power because; 

- He eventually refused to authorise the use of martial law against the march, after initally agreeing 

- He supported the appointment of Mussolini after initially hoping Mussolini would work with Salandra, but Mussolini refused to accept anything but the premiership 

- The King supported Mussolini for several reasons; Afraid of potential civil war + unconvinced the army would follow orders to attack the fascists, cousin was strong fascist supporter and didn't want an excuse to remove him, hoped to control Mussolini, there was no realistic alternative to Mussolini's appointment - everyone else was extremely unstable 

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Fascist dictatorship 1922-26

Initially the majority of deputies were not fascist siupporters and M headed a largely right wing coalition. During 1922 however, Mussolini delivered a controversial speech which threatened that the fascists would take power if it was not given to them, and would dissolve the chamber whenever he saw fit - deputies voted to grant mussolini these powers for one year. 

Mussolini actually wanted to end the violence of the Ras + squads and return to normal constitutional methods. To do this he made concessions with the Church and passed measures favourable to industrialists and landowners. Farinacci was made seceratary by Mussolini, which gave him greater control, whilst also appointing similar powers to other radicals. This gave him greater control over the PNF. 

Mussolini knew he needed to keep support of the sqauds as they performed a vital role in his rise to power, but also knew he had to keep them under control. He thus created the fascist milita (MSVN) to defend the fasicst revolution. This consisted of 300,000 BS with Mussolini as head. The authority of the Ras was weakened, and more than 20 Ras were expelled from the party. The MSVN provided employment, depsite not having any real political power; only served to strengthen Mussolini's control over the movemnet. 

Dec 1922 Mussolini created the Grand Council to reassure leading fascists of their significance. It was to act as a consultative committee where leaders would meet to discuss political issues. It had 2 purposes; He could exert his control over leading members, the council was deisgned to discuss policies before they went to parliament for approval, which meant policy was now created by the fascist government rather than the elected parlaiment. Membership of the PNF grew from 300,000 in october 1922 to 780,000 by the end of 1923. This helped to dilute more radical elements of the movemnent who might have opposed Mussolini's policy of normalisation. 

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Acerbo Law

The Acerbo Law was proposed and drafted by the Grand Council, and dramatically changed the electoral system of Italy. It was passed July 1923 by Chamber of Deputies. In the Law Mussolini sought to end the system of proportional representation and give himself more control over politics. The proposals were; Elections would be organised the same way, with political parties producing lists of constituency candidates, whichever party gained the most awarded 2/3 of seats in the chamber, as long as they had at least 25% of votes cast, remaining 1/3 would be allocated to other lists in proportion to the votes they gained. 

The Law gained support from liberals as well as fascists because they thought it would end the instability in Italy, whilst also hoping it would undermine support for socialists as they often struggled to build links to other parties or groups. Mussolini however, knew that many local councils were dominated by fascists and squads could be used to intimidate voters and fix elections, leading to a permanent fascist majority. He actually threatened to close the chamber if the law wasn' t passed and arranged for blackshirts to intimidate politicians during the discussions. Mussolini's decision to propose laws favourable to teh Church meant that the Pope pressurised the Populari to support the proposals. In the end, only socialists and communists opposed the law. 

Mussolini did not have total control, however, as laws still had to be approved by parliament, there were still opposition groups and the King still had the power to dismiss him. 

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Matteotti Crisis 1924

On 30th May 1924, a leading socialist, Matteotti, presented evidence to parliament about fascist violence and the influence of terror on the outcome of the 1924 elections. He called for the annulment of teh results and for fresh elections. Only 11 days after this, Matteotti was kidnapped by fascists and stabbed to death. This created a political storm, shocked world opinion and caused widesprea criticism of Mussolini and the fascists. 

Mussolini denied having knowledge of the assassination, but evidence began to emerge that linked him with the murder. Several prominent fascists were arrested, and some opposition MP's withdrew from the chamber and established a rival parliament. They hoped to persuade the King to dismiss Mussolini, but the King refused, fearing an increase in socialist influence. 

Mussolini survived the Matteotti crisis and made further moves to secyre his position in the summer of 1924; 

- Press censorship was introduced in July 

- All meetings by opposition groups or parties were banned in August 

In December 1924, many leading fascists approached Mussolini and demanded he establish a dictatorship. They threatened to withdraw their support if he did not agree, and so in January 1925 Mussolini announced to parliement that he would set up a dictatorship within the next 48 hours. 

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Repression and amendments

Throughout 1925, Mussolini took steps to dismantle potential opposition to his rule. 

He tightened press censorship and newspaper owners were pressured to dismiss editors who had been critical of the fascists. After Dec, all editors had to have their names on a register before they could seek employment. This gave the fascists great control over news stories all throughout Italy. 

In 1925, the Pope withdrew support for the Populari Party, which thus disintergrated. The Deputies who walked out of Parliament after the Mateotti murder weren't allowed to return and in Dec Mussolini passed a law that strengthened the power of central gov. This banned all political opposition groups and non-fascist trade unions. Freedoms of association - freedom to meet together in political groups - was ended in Nov 1926 although it had already been restricted since 1922. 

Powers of the police forces were strengthened all throughout the 20s, enabling them to take action against real or suspected oppnents. 

The constitution of the Liberal Sate was destroyed in 1925-26. 

Locally elected mayors and councils were replaced by fascist officials, OVRA was established and additional courts were set up to try political offences, Mussolini now known as Il Duce rather than PM. The Legge Fascistissime transformed Mussolini's government into a legal dictatorship. In Jan 1926, Mussolini was given the power to rule by decree. In that month alone some 20,000 decrees were issued. 

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Essay focus

'How far does Italy's 'mutilated victory' explain growing support for the Italian Fascist Party in the years 1919-1922?' Italy's mutilated victory was clearly one reason for growing support, but the main reason was the war itself, which highlighted the failures of the traditional poliicians and strengthened the position of fascism . Other factors include the radical example of D'Annuzio and the appeal of fascism, as many viewed their manifesto as a new and improved way of running the country compared to collapsing liberalism and the threat of rising socialism. 

Mutilated Victory - At the end of the war Italy failed to gain the territory that it should have and nationalists demanded territory such as Tyrol, Fiume and Trentino. However, the government failed to gain these territories at the Treaty of Saint-Germain 1919. This failure, which begun the mutilated victory phrase from D'Annunzio, led many to believe that the Liberals and traditional politicians had failed. The M.V. led to growing support because many radical nationalists felt that the fascists always put italy first - gaining overseas colonies and expanding their territory was part of their initial manifesto. 

However, WWI was the main reason - Many consequences such as democracy being eroded as the war led to more power for the PM and less for Parliament, also led to growth in power of unelected military leaders, led to discontent (workers nd peasants were angry that they worked hard to support the war effort, but big businesses profited. Workers had to work a 75 hour week. Soldiers angry at profiters who gained money whilst they fought, and objected to workers who went on strike during the war. The fascists therefore represented a group who were prepared to use undemocratic methods and who wanted the whole nation to sacrifce the common good rather than allowing some groups to skirk their responsibilities or make profit at the expense of the nation.

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D'Annunzio's occupation of Fiume also led to the rise of fascism - to many nationalists, he seemed like a new type of politician who was a national hero of WWI. In 1919 he led around 2,000 soldiers into Fiume and took by force what the Italians had failed to gain by negotiation. Whilst in power, he organised a new radical kind of Nationalist politics which made use f=of theatrical ceremonies and parades, which was an attractive alternative to liberalism for many nationalists. D'Annunzio helped to gain support for fascism because it showed how the movement offered italy an effetcive, heroic and radical alternatiev to traditional politics, just like D'Annunzio offered fiume. 

Fascism also just very attractive to many italians. Many nationalist respected the actions of the squads as necessary violence. The were made up of so-called 'heroic' ex-soldiers who had fought bravely for italy. Unlike traditional politics they offered a true victory rather than letting italy down throught failed negotiations. The squadristi were attractive because they functioned more like and army than a traditional political party. Appealed to many who felt the army had succeeded when traditional politics had failed. They had also stood up to socialism as Giolitti had failed to do. Mussolini's 1921 New Programme also promised many appealing things. 

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