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History is full of many people who have made their mark for various reasons. Some of these people have made a profound difference because of the value they brought to their countries, and others have names that will remain more infamous. Such is the case with Benito Mussolini, an Italian dictator during WWII. His alliance with Hitler and his complete disregard for the people of his country were two of the most notable issues in his political career. Another notable point was his fascist focus and how he used it to convince the people of his country that there would be no more class warfare and that everything would be equal. As soon as the people rallied around him and he obtained absolute power, his real focus became apparent and he passed laws that were designed to help only the people who were already rich and already had power. He was eventually removed from power and arrested, but his country went through years of turmoil before Mussolini's eventual downfall.
Mussolini and Fascism
When Benito Mussolini was growing up, he was a socialist.
By the time he returned from WWI, there was very little of that belief left.
Instead, he had been convinced by that time that socialism was a poor choice because it had failed as a way to protect the people.
Instead, he got started in politics and called for a fascist government in which everyone would be equal and there would be no wars based on class.
He wanted someone who would come in and revive the nation of Italy through making a clean sweep of the government that was in power and starting over with something better. In 1919, he organized the Italian Combat Squad with 200 members, and his first fascist group was created.
Mussolini wanted to see Italy become great like Rome was in the past, and in order to do that he believed that a fascist government and society was necessary.
He argued that fascism would oppose any kind of discrimination based on a person's class, and that it supported sentiments of nationality like unity of all people in a country regardless of their social standing.
The ideas behind fascism did not come from Mussolini himself. He pulled ideas and beliefs from Plato, Nietzsche, Pareto, Sorel, and others.
He found a great deal of inspiration in Plato's Republic, but there were also key differences between that work and what Mussolini believed.
For example, The Republic promoted war only for defense, while Mussolini did not share that view and was a proponent of aggressive war.
Plato's views were idealistic in nature and designed to promote a society filled with and based on morality and justice, while Mussolini was a realist and focused on his desire to achieve specific goals in the political sector.
That was a key difference between what Mussolini read in the books that inspired him and what he actually chose to do in life.
The March to Rome
In 1922, Mussolini and his National Fascist Party staged a coup d'etat in which they removed Luigi Facta from power and took over the country.
Facta was the Prime Minister at the time, and the March took place between October 27th and 29th.
The idea of Mussolini taking over may conjure up images of war and bloodshed, but that was actually not the case at all. Facta asked the Italian government for permission to declare martial law on the 28th of October, but that request was denied.
Because of the denial, Facta decided to resign. King Victor Emmanuel III accepted Facta's resignation and invited Mussolini to take over the country and build a new and better government.
The liberal right wing, the business class, and the military all supported Mussolini because his fascist ideas sounded so good and he had been so vocal in sharing them frequently.
He showed the country how it could work better and be more equal, but there were difficulties coming.
Mussolini's Early Years in Power
All the promises Mussolini had made about fascism and how good it would be for the country were focused only on getting him into power. Once he was appointed to run the country things began to change for the worse. He focused his efforts on ensuring a right-wing coalition in his government. This was composed of many fascists, but there were also liberals and nationalists.
Two Catholic clerics were included, and they were part of the Popular Party.
This was actually rather ironic, since Mussolini was an atheist who often openly mocked the Catholic Church and was nearly excommunicated at least once.
When he first came to power, though, he kept some of that opinion to himself. He seemed to be for the people and of the people, and he "made friends" with whoever he needed to, pretending as though he liked them and found them valuable.
The truth was often very different, as Mussolini was really only concerned with the people who could benefit him in some way or help him move further into power and become more deeply entrenched in the government and more strongly supported by the people.
The stronger his support, the more he could get away with while still being loved by the people. He could even make changes that would be detrimental to certain classes of people and spin the changes so that they would sound as though they were the best options for everyone. He was very gifted in that way, and it was one of the reasons people were interested in having him come to power originally. Mussolini wanted to see state authority restored completely, and his ultimate plan was not to be Prime Minister of Italy but to be supreme ruler and dictator of the country.
Establishing a completely totalitarian state over which he had supreme power was the ultimate goal.
As Mussolini settled in he obtained complete power for one year, which was legal under the Italian Constitution during that time.
That power was granted to him by the legislature. Once he had that, he focused on new laws he was going to make that would affect both the social and the political economy. Legislation was soon passed that was highly in favor of the agrarian classes and the wealthy industrialists, despite Mussolini's original proclamation that there would be no class wars and the people would work together to have an equal society.
Some of the laws passed included dismantling unions, liberalizing laws regarding rent, and privatizing many things in order to benefit the rich and drive up prices for others.
The Acerbo Law was passed by the government in June of 1923, making Italy a national constituency.
A two-thirds majority was also granted in Parliament to a party that received at least 25% of the votes.
That majority could be used for a group of parties garnering that percentage of the vote, as well. The law took effect before the 1924 elections, so it was in effect at the time they were held, which was what Mussolini had intended.
Fascists and the majority of the older liberals were all part of the national alliance, which ended up with 64% of the total vote.
This was, of course, good news for Mussolini and his party. It was also how he planned things and why the law was passed. Once he had enough power to make and pass laws, he could essentially create laws that were the best choice for him and his party, and just pass them.
Being a dictator meant he could basically do anything he wanted, and he was determined to make the most out of that.
Socialist deputy Giacomo Matteotti was assassinated soon after the elections took place.
This was a significant event because he had been vocal about his desire to annul the elections based on all the irregularities that had taken place during them.
The assassination caused a moment of crisis for Mussolini and his government, and a cover-up was ordered.
Witnesses linked Dumini to the murder of Matteotti, and he was put in prison for two years.
Later, Mussolini did state that it would have been possible for some very resolute men to alter public opinion and start a coup that would have been the end of fascism in Italy.
Many people were already disenchanted with Mussolini as a leader, and realized they had been swindled into believing that he was going to make everything better with fascism. Despite how good he had made it sound, it clearly was not working out in principle.
When Dumini was set free from prison, he made the statement that Mussolini was actually the one responsible for the assassination.
That resulted in him being returned to prison to serve further time.
Generally, the parties in opposition either did not respond at all or responded very weakly.
Many moderates, liberals, and socialists, though, did organize the Aventine Secession and boycott Parliament, hoping that King Victor Emmanuel III…[continue]
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