How did Benito Mussolini come to power?

The pioneer of Fascism, a belief in suppressing democracy over dictatorship, Benito Mussolini was the man behind the cruelty in Italy. 

He was responsible for establishing a repressive ruling system that held anti-liberalism and anti-communism in high regard.

Mussolini experimented with socialism at a young age; gradually, nationalism fascinated him as World war 1 consumed entire Europe. 

As a World war 1 veteran, he advocated military intercession that cost him expulsion from the Italian Socialist Party.

Over time, Mussolini developed an alliance with Adolf Hitler, who he influenced after turning down socialism for Fascism. 

Sooner Italy’s downfall marked the fall of Mussolini as well, eventually leading to his death on April 28, 1945.

Benito Mussolini’s Early life

Benito Mussolini in 1920
Benito Mussolini in 1920

Born in a small village of Dovia di Predappio, in the province of Romagna on July 29, 1883, Benito Mussolini was the son of a blacksmith Alessandro Mussolini and his Catholic mother, Rosa Maltoni. 

Alessandro had a significant role in shaping young Mussolini’s mind as he influenced his son with his political ideologies. 

Given his dad’s strong liking for politics, Alessandro named his son Mussolini after Mexican president Benito Juarez. While his middle names, Andrea, and Amilcare were influenced by two Italian socialists, Andrea Costa and Amilcare Cipriani.

Benito was the eldest of all three children and had an immense love for his dad as he spent most of his childhood aiding Alessandro in the smithy.

Benito listened to tales of nationalists of the Italian nation or the Italian nationalists, humanists like Carlo Pisacane, and Mikhail Bakunin, whom his father idolized.

As a child, Benito was fond of violence among his classmates, as a consequence of which he was suspended multiple times from religious schools.

He indulged himself in punching people and throwing stones at them in his mother’s church.

By the age of 11, Beniot was sent off to boarding school, where he proved to showcase his lousy attitude by stabbing a friend in hand and swaying a pot full of ink towards the teacher. 

It cost him expulsion from school. Benito received good grades despite such malevolent behavior and successfully qualified as an elementary teacher in 1901 A.D.

The economic prospect of Italy was not in a proper state, so Benito had to move to Switzerland in 1902. The prime reason behind the escape was to avoid compulsory military service. 

Lacking a permanent job, he was jailed for a night; later, he served as a stonemason.

During this time, he profoundly and voraciously plunged himself into studying the ideas of philosophers like Immanuel Kant, Karl Kautsky, Georges Sorel, and many others. 

Sorel’s credo regarding the need to uproot liberal democracy and implant capitalism employing violence highly impacted teenager Mussolini.

Soon he started producing propaganda for trade unions, proposed strikes, and actively advocated violence to administer his demands.

He was put behind bars on multiple occasions after his full-fledged involvement in social politics in Switzerland.

In 1904, Mussolini made his way back to Italy to take advantage of the desertion of military service; hence he joined the corps of Bersaglieri in December of 1904.

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He again converted into a schoolmaster in the Venetian Alps, confessing his life of moral deterioration. But soon returned to trade union, journalism, and finally to extreme politics.

Mussolini’s Life as a socialist

Mussolini as director of Avanti
Mussolini as director of Avanti

Mussolini left Italy again in 1909 to serve as a secretary in the Trento, Italian-speaking portion of Austria-Hungary, in a labor party.

In addition to it, he also resumed editing in a newspaper, L’Avvenire del Lavoratore (The Future of the Worker), and a local socialist party. 

He met a socialist politician and journalist, Cesare Battisti, and agreed to write for Battisti’s newspaper, The People. 

Furthermore, he did work for Battisti’s party and published the novel “Claudia Particella, l’amante del Cardinale” as Mussolini had a keen interest in reading and writing. 

His favorites were European philosophers Sorel, German philosophers Friedrich Engels, and Italian anarchists Errico Malatesta and Karl Marx.

The novel was serially published in 1910 A.D and was translated into English as “The Cardinal’s Mistress.”

In 1909 he had fallen head over heels for a 16-year-old Rachelle Guidi, whom he married later. After the marriage, he was arrested for the fifth time in a row but surprisingly, it gained him more fame. 

He founded his newspaper called “The Class Struggle” by the time his novel hit the pages of The People.

The growing defiance against Italian Royal authority driven by Mussolini’s anti-militarist, anti-imperialist, and anti-nationalist sentiments put his puddles of problems in Italy.

Benito Mussolini was expelled from the party

Benito Mussolini colored
Benito Mussolini colored

Many socialist parties were propped up by Italy’s intervention in World War 1, resulting in a considerable surge of nationalism in Italy.

Some Italian socialists had a clash of opinions on whether to support or oppose the war.

The Italian Socialist Party decided not to support the war, to which Mussolini had also shown a green flag initially.

Also, he wanted Italy to be liberated from Austrian imperial authority, so he decided to change his policies toward war support. 

It caused a rise of conflict between him and other socialists as Mussolini strongly embraced the idea of uniting Italian all over Austria-Hungary and turning the situation into Freedom of Italy.

Mussolini led attacks upon his rivals and criticized the Italian Socialist Party and socialism itself to accomplish his ideologies.

Thus, he was overthrown from the party to support Italy’s entry into the first world war, bringing a draft between him and socialism.

Benito Mussolini was a member of Fascism

Mussolini as an Italian soldier, 1917
Mussolini as an Italian soldier, 1917

Fascism, a political movement that exalts the nation beyond any individual enforcing suppressive autocratic rule along with dictatorship, was introduced into the world by Benito Mussolini in 1919 A.D.

A group of revolutionists parted away from socialists in a dispute about the involvement of Italy in the First world war and formed a union inclusive of war veterans.

These fascist regimes also formed a paramilitary squad collectively known as the “Blackshirts,” who were entitled to fight against the Socialists in Italy.

Furthermore, they broke out strikes, collapsed trade unions, and chased away Communists and other progressive groups out of Italy.

Italy suffered an economic crisis in the 1918s, so Mussolini emerged as a ruthless dictator to confront the scarcity in gripping Italy.

Benito Mussolini’s Rise to Power

Mussolini as a bersagliere
Mussolini as a bersagliere

Mussolini had already initiated his steps towards dictatorship by 1919 after forming the National Fascist Party.

He would go around the cities surrounded by his fellow followers, all decked up in black shirts in the rallies. 

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Interestingly, he was a man of splendid oratory skills that helped him lure people towards his motive. 

On top of that, his physical appearance, highly theatrical attributes, appropriate metaphors, and apt gestures rarely failed to impress people’s attention.

Despite some of his facts being misleading, frequent malicious and contradictory attacks, extraordinary gestures, and good choice of words always grabbed the heed of the spectators.

The Blackshirts terrorized the entire of Italy, especially the Po valley and the Puglian plains, as they incinerated Socialists union offices, humiliated the public, and threatened to abuse anyone striking against them.

He had risen to power by 1922’s like a large portion of Italian territory was completely under Fascist’s control.

Mussolini further began to draft a plan to seize power at the national level due to the weak-liberal dominated governance of Italy did not show any signs of resistance.

Benito Mussolini’s involvement in March toward Rome

Mussolini and the Quadrumviri during the March on Rome in 1922
Mussolini and the Quadrumviri during the March on Rome in 1922

By the summer of 1922, Mussolini presented a condition in front of the Italian government for either power to be passed to him or else he would march towards Rome and seize it.

In October 1922, around 2000, Fascist blackshirts assembled in Rome demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister to establish a new Fascist government.

Contrary to their demands, King Emanuele deliberately refused to address their call, resulting in which the former Prime Minister got assassinated.

King Emanuele reluctantly accepted his demands; thus, on October 31, 1922, Mussolini received an invitation from King Emanuele to form a new government that made him the youngest Prime minister in the history of Italy.

Benito Mussolini became the Prime Minister

Portrait of Mussolini in 1930
Portrait of Mussolini in 1930

Mussolini uprooted the Socialist and other radical political groups to establish his Fascist party as the sole governor of Italy, which wealthy class people indeed supported in the hope to restore order.

After being handed down the governance, Mussolini’s first two years as prime minister were characterized by a coalition government inclusive of nationalists, Fascists, liberals, and Catholic clerics.

His main motive was to transcend Italy into a totalitarian state with himself as a supreme authority.

During his regime, he passed laws for the betterment of industrialists and agrarian classes and integrated Italian Fasces Combat as an armed troop.

Mussolini passively began colonization immediately after being appointed as prime minister as he sent Italian Forces to invade Corfu, a Greek island, during the Corfu incident in 1923. 

Despite the involvement of the League of Nations, Greek had no alternative left but to surrender to the Italian invasion.

Benito Mussolini’s Dictatorship

From 1925, Mussolini styled himself Il Duce (the leader)
From 1925, Mussolini styled himself Duce (the leader)

Benito Mussolini was fortunate enough to become the youngest prime minister of Italy, certainly favored by the economic and political status of the nation at the time. 

The sudden yet absolute success reflects his personality as a potent agitator who was not satisfied with becoming head of just the Fascist party but had higher aspirations to rule a united Italy. 

In a play to demonstrate himself as a selfless leader, he presented a list of ministers to the king who did not belong to his party.

Finally, Mussolini was granted full dictatorial power for a year when he pushed a law to cement the Fascist majority in the parliament, securing his authority.

In 1925, he passed a law that all the existing journalists in the country to be registered as Fascist, reinstated Italy as a police state after the assassination of socialist Giacomo Matteotti in 1924. 

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The majority of the Italian public, weary of continuous strikes and riots, settled down with dictatorship as it surprisingly stabilized the economy and dignity of the country.

Mussolini launched numerous public construction programs throughout Italy to combat unemployment issues.

Similarly, he initiated the “Battle for land” and “Battle for Grain” policies to increase cultivable lands by destroying swamps and marshy areas.

The significant benefits were Italy was able to support itself on internal food supplies, the rate of exports increased, unemployment rates saw a drastic fall, and malarial health problems also reduced.

The development cost was that Italy lost its democratic system to an autocratic ruling system where free speeches were suppressed. A network of secret spies and police officers always focused on the population.

Although Mussolini was a dictator, he always received positive feedback from industrialists and the public due to the reforms he brought into crippling Italy and was hailed as a hero until he laid an evil eye on Ethiopia and formed an alliance with Adolf Hitler.

Benito Mussolini’s involvement in the Conquest of Ethiopia

Mussolini inspecting troops during the Italo Ethiopian War
Mussolini inspecting troops during the Italo Ethiopian War

In May of 1936, Italy laid an invasion over Ethiopian territory involving plenty of atrocities like the use of chemical weapons and large-scale bloodshed of locals.

Mussolini himself authorized the use of chemical sprays over rivals showering arsenals of grenades over the Ethiopian sky.

He tried to conceal their chemical warfare along with his generals, but the world came to know about his publicly criticized brutality.

Benito Mussolini’s Role in World war 2

Mussolini inspecting fortifications
Mussolini inspecting fortifications

In 1938, Mussolini passed anti-semitic laws in Italy under Adolf Hitler’s similar actions in Germany.

Initially, Mussolini stood rigid with the concrete idea of not getting involved in the war as it may bring disastrous effects on Italy.

However, their counterpart Germany, a leading power in the war, compelled him to march along the path toward war.

Deep inside, Mussolini always wanted Germany to halt the war so that Italy could find breathing space.

In June 1940, Italy actively participated in the second world war, although the war did not do much good to Italy from the very beginning.

The Germans overshadowed Italian involvement in the war and concealed their military intervention despite being allies.

In the hope to avenge Hilter, Mussolini led an attack on Greece and Albania that deteriorated the scenario even more, so Italy had to surrender to North Africa in 1943.

After the surrender, Mussolini’s downfall began as fascists and non-fascists collectively conspired against him.

Finally, he was dismissed from his position after a joint meeting of the Fascist Council.

Benito Mussolini’s Death

Cross marking the place in Mezzegra where Mussolini was shot
Cross marking the place in Mezzegra where Mussolini was shot

Italian partisans caught Benito Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci in an attempt to flee to Austria on April 27, 1945.

On April 28, 1945, both of them were shot dead.

Conclusion

The man who took pride in the autocratic ruling system and proposed dictatorship in Italy, Benito Mussolini, was often regarded as an epitome of brutality and cruelty in Italy. 

A socialist turned into a Fascist; his aspiration did Italy no good instead of disrupting its dignity as the great mass of the Italian public greeted his death with no regrets despite the positive reforms he had brought through his economic policies.

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