Topic 3 - The Fascist State 1925-40

  • Created by: ss_
  • Created on: 01-03-18 16:38

Consent & Control - Education/Youth

Fascism & schools:

  • Portrait of Mussolini in every classroom (alongside the King), wall posters put up emphasising Fascist achievements, from 1928 one authorised gov textbook covering all subjects, history textbooks focused on periods of percieved Italian greatness.
  • Increased emphasis on sport and exercise, as well as on religious instruction (part of the Lateran Pacts) 
  • Aim was to indoctrinate the youth, hard to tell whether it was successful - whether children genuinely accepted or understood the messages the Fascist gov wanted them to absorb, parents could provide them with other messages at home.


  • Seen as less of a priority, but University Fascist Youth set up and there were several material advantages of doing so; use of sports facilities, part exemption from military service & enhanced career prospects.
  • Biggest problem for the Fascists were the staff, they were harder to threaten into obedience than school teachers. 
1 of 13

Consent & Control - Education/Youth

  • OND - Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro introduced adult leisure programmes. Aimed to win the masses over to fascism by becoming involved in their leisure time as well as working lives and aimed to attract ordinary people. The programmes included; provision of libraries (8.625 by 1939), arranging excursions, building Dopolavoro clubhouses, welfare for workers etc. By the mid 1930s, nearly every town had its own Dopolavoro clubhouse and membership rose rapidly, from 300,000 in 1926 to 2.4 million in 1935. By 1939 more than 4 million Italians were members of the OND.
  • The OND also allowed the Fascists to manipulate public opinion and garner further support for the regime because the propaganda message was more subtle and less direct. Sport was encouraged by the regime & used for propaganda purposes (such as the Italian victories in the 1934 and 1938 soccer World Cups.)
  • Overall, the OND became one of the most successful and popular policies introduce by the Fascists (can question the effectiveness though in encouraging active Fascism)
2 of 13

Press control, censorship and propaganda

Mass Media:

Cinema - most popular form of entertainment in Italy in the 1930s, was not used entirely for Fascist purposes until the outbreak of WWII. Film directors had a fair degree of freedom but only as long as they did not criticise fascism and the regime. Several Fascist films were made after 1938 and they were preceded by newsreels/documentaries produced by the regimes film industry which glorified the regime and its successes - anyone who went to the cinema had no choice but to sit through them.

Radio - was also a important form of mass media, for rural areas as well as towns. By 1932, there were 300.000 registered radio sets and by 1938 there were more than 1 million. During WWII, Mussolini expanded Italian radio (more than 2 million installed in schools, market places, etc) so radio reached huge audiences. Was state controlled, gave excellent opportunities for Fascist propaganda. Mussolinis major speeches broadcast live.

3 of 13

Censorship and control

Mussolini was very aware of the need to control the press. Until 1925 however, there had been some limited freedom of the press. After 1925 this ended - independent newspapers were closed and their editors arrested. Reppressive press laws were implemented and enforced, however some such as La Critica survived. Others were banned such as the prestigious anti-fascist newspaper La Stampa in 1925. 

Press law of December 1925 - only registered journalists could write for newspapers, and the Fascists controlled the register. Mussolini read the papers avidly and remaining editors knew the consequences. This meant that political groups that opposed the Fascists could not communicate with potential anti-fascist supporters. 

Censorship was initially controlled by Mussolinis press office, which in 1935 became the ministry of press and propaganda. This introduced strict censorship of newspapers, radio, film etc Could not publish anti-fascist opinion, and had to avoid reporting on negative stories (which would make Italy seem less glorious/successful.) However, the Catholic newspaper which had a large readership did not always print stories conductive to Fascist principles although it avoided direct criticism of the regime.

4 of 13

Repression and terror

Italian fascism after the First World War had a close relationship with violence and in the period 1920-22 Fascists killed approximately 2,000 political opponents.After establishing the Fascist dictatorship, violence decreased as a way of maintaining control. In November 1926, a Public Security Decree gave the government-appointed provincial prefects the power to place under police supervision anyone perceived as a political threat. The extent to which Mussolini's power depended upon repression is difficult to measure. Other factors such as propaganda and popular policies could be seen as more significant.

Role of the security services - The Fascist state used the police, militia and secret police (the OVRA) to threaten imprison and punish political opponents. Police activity was on a much larger scale than in any previous regime. Many political opponents were forced into exile. Attempted assassination of Mussolini in 1926 led to increased state repression - Special Tribunal set up to judge those thought to be danger to the state. 

OVRA established in 1927, had a feared reputation which was promoted by the regime to increase Fascist power. It had a number of powers and by 1939, had collected information on 130,000 suspects. The militia also helped, with its 50,000 members; it was used to intimidate political opponents and could seize property.

5 of 13

Anti-Semitic Decrees

Mussolini and many leading Fascists didnt embrace anti-Semitic policies to the same extent as Hitler and the Nazis (although some Fascists such as Farinacci were anti-Semitic.) Balbo, a leading Fascist, had a close connection to the Jewish community and in  1938, there were 10.000 Jewish members of the PNF. In 1937, this changed and by 1938, anti-Semitic legislation was introduced. Argued whether this was due to closeness to the Nazi regime or in fact from a fear that Jews would not be loyal in case of war. There was Jewish resistance to fascism within Europe and Italy - leading members of the anti-Fascist group (Justice and Liberty) were Jews. Other leading European Jews were critical of Italys attack on Abyssinia in 1936. Hence, in 1938, Mussolini began to support anti-Semitic policies.

Jewish freedoms and living standards declined rapidly after the passing of the laws. However, the policies were not consistently applied. For example, the laws included exemptions for Italian Jews who had served in WWI. In 1942, Farinacci became more radical in his views and supported genocide. In 1943, he issued a decree ordering the confiscation of all Jewish property and rounding up of all Jews. Anti-Semitic policies were never fully supported and unpopular with the majority of Italians. Business elites spoke out against them, as did the Church. Lost the Fascist movement support from those once loyal and anti-Fascists movements benefited.

6 of 13

Economic and Social Policies 1922-25

Mussolinis key economic goals became rearmament and the achievement of autarky in preparation for war, which Mussolini felt would be inevitable. Italy's resources would be diverted to achieving these goals during the 1930s. However, by 1939, Italy was not ready for war and self-sufficiency had not been achieved in significant areas of the economy. 

Early policies and the shift towards fascist economics - initially, Mussolini supported liberal ideas of free trade and laissez-faire economics. This meant in the period 1922-25, governemnt interference in the economy was kept to a minimum. It was only after 1925 that Mussolini became more attracted to the idea of transforming Italy's economy.

Dramatic change? - The Italian economy continued to grow as part of a general economic boom in Europe, which Mussolini was quick to exploit as a result of Fascism. Unemployment began to decline and exports began to rise. De Stefani's policies helped to create a boom in industrial production which gained Mussolini support of the industrial elites. However, a problem of rising inflation caused by the industrial boom was evident. 

7 of 13

Shift towards Fascist economics 1925-29

1926 Mussolini decide he wanted to achieve more economics independence for Italy from countries such as the USA, to which Italy owed vast debts from the First World War, and this drove him to support the following policies: The 'Battle for Grain, The 'Battle for Births, The 'Battle for the Lira'.

Battle for the Lira - Mussolini demanded that the lira be revalued from 150 lira to 90 lira measured against the British pound, which meant the lira would be valued more highly against the pound. This was implemented in December 1927. In Mussolini's mind, a strong lira reflected a strong Italy. Tariffs on imports were introduced, designed to protect the lira and sections of the Italian economy. This undermined Italy's exports to a degree, but imports became cheaper, which benefited the rearmament and shipbuilding industries. 

Consequences of revaluation - Wages fell more than prices and the living standards of the majority of the Italian working class population declined during this period. Unemployment trebled in the years 1926-28. Textile industry went into depression. However, it raised his prestige with foreign bankers and the Italian public.

8 of 13

The Corporate State

Mussolini presented the Corporate State as a revolutionary method to run the economy where workers and employers would cooperate to maximise production and for the benefits of Italy. This system would eliminate bitter industrial disputes for the benefits of the nation. According to Mussolini, the Corporate State would see every industry being part of a fascist - led corpration, which would resovle issues such as: disputes between workers and management, disputes regarding pay and working conditions, the need to improve production.

The corporations acted like councils, with representatives of employers, workers and the state settling problems of industrial relations and productivity together, and in the interest of the Italian nation. 

Success? - failed to have a dramatic impact on Italian economy, workers could not choose teir own representatives, instead were appointed Fascists who tended to side with the employers. Overall, they were effectively useless - a huge, unwieldy state apparatus that did not work as intended.

9 of 13

Control over the economy

Autarky - Mussolini announced this policy in 1936, he believed it was better for a warlike nation to be reliant on its own resources than dependent on other countries. 

Measures taken to implement autarky?

  • Battle for Grain
  • Quotas on foreign imports
  • Searches for new energy sources that did not mean importing gas/oil

Negative side effects?

  • Hardly any coal supplies
  • Domestic prodution of coal, iron and oil only met a fifth of their industrial raw material needs
  • Industries that were not prioritised suffered as a result e.g. the textile industry
10 of 13

Control over the economy - the 'Battles'

Battle for Births 1927 - goal of increasing population from 40 million to 60 million by 1950, believed it was vital for the development of a strong Italian nation.

Included - 'rewards':

  • Man married with 6 children was not required to pay tax
  • Loans offered to married couples, and part of the loan was cancelled after each child was born (up to 6 children, loan completely cancelled)
  • Employment made more availiable to married men with children


  • Higher levels of taxation for bachelors, and they were blocked from promotion

Overall, marriage rate did not change significantly, and birth rate in decline until 1936, and target population not achieved, so failed to achieve any key aims.

11 of 13

Control over the economy - the 'Battles'

Battle for Grain 1925 - wanted to make Italy self-sufficient in terms of grain production. High tariffs set on foreign imports and Fascists provided grants to farmers to encourage them to inroduce modern farming techniques and use of fertilisers etc.

Resulted in a 50% rise in wheat production, especially in the fertile Po Valley in Northern Italy.

However, disadvantages:

  • Althought self-suffcient in crops, not in fertilisers which were necessary for high yields. In wartime, when fertiliser could not be imported, grain yields fell.
  • By 1933, Italy was still dependent on foreign imports (e.g. 500 million tonnes of foreign food imports in 1933)


12 of 13

Control over the economy - the 'Battles'

Battle for Land - promised huge sums of money toward land reclamation projects. There would be irrigation, house building, road building etc.

In some regions of Italy it was successful, and it helped reduce unemployment by providing jobs. Also brought health benefits (irrigation removed mosquitos spreading malaria.)


  • In many other regions, policy was a failure
  • Gov claims in 1934 that reclamation was either complete or underway on almost 5 million hectares - however half of this was untouched and most of the other half had been reclaimed under previous gov
  • Also no attempt at the reform of land ownership (which may have improved the lives of the poor talked about so much in Fascist propaganda.)
13 of 13


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all Italy resources »