Benito Mussolini was the founder of Italian Fascism and premier of
Italy ruling as a dictator from about 1925 until his dismissal in 1943.
Mussolini was born to a socialist blacksmith. As a child he was unruly and
undisciplined. He shared his fathers views picking up other ideas from authors
of the time. Mussolini became a schoolteacher and journalist. He spent several
years in Switzerland and took Rachele Guidi as is wife, they had five children.
In 1913 Mussolini became editor of the Milan Socialist newspaper Avanti!
When World War 1 began in 1914 he first opposed Italy’s involvement, until he
changed his mind, saying that Italy should take a stand with the Allies. This
got him expelled from the socialist party. He soon founded his own paper, Il
popolo d’italia, which became the backbone of his Fascist movement. He then
served in the Army until he was wounded in 1917.
In 1919 Mussolini and some other war veterans founded a nationalistic
revolutionary group called the Fasci di Combattimento. His movement turned into
powerful radicalism, obtaining support from landowners in the Po valley,
industrialists, and many army officers. Fascist blackshirt squads carried on
civil war with Socialists, Communists, Catholics, and Liberals.
In October 1922 Mussolini secured permission from King Victor Emmanuel
lll to form a coalition government. In 1925-26, after a lengthy crisis with the
parliament following the killing of the Socialist leader Giacomo Matteotti, he
imposed a Totalarian Dictatorship. His Corperative State came to terms with
Italian Capitalism but abolished the free trade unions. In 1929 he ended
conflict with the church through the Lateran Treaty of 1929.
In the 1930’s Mussolini turned to an aggressive foreign policy,
conquering Ethiopia(1935-36) and helping General Francisco Franco in the Spanish
Civil War. In 1936 he joined with Hitler’s Germany and soon formed a military
alliance(1939). In 1939 Mussolini ordered his armies to occupy Albania. However
he kept out of World War ll until 1940, when the fall of France was imminent and
the Germans seemed to be winning the war.
After a series of Italian military disasters in Greece and North
Africa, the leaders of his party abandoned him. The king dismissed him on July
25,1943 and had him arrested. On September 12 the Germans rescued him, making
him puppet head of a government in northern Italy. In April 1945 Mussolini and
his mistress, Clara Petacci, tried to run from advancing Allied forced.
Captured by Partisans at Lake Como, they were shot on April 28 and their bodies
were hung in a public square in Milan. Mussolini was later buried at Predappio,
his birthplace. Although popular with most Italians until the late 1930’s, he
lost their support when he dragged his people into a war they were unprepared to
fight. Few regretted the overthrow of Fascism or his death.
Today many of Mussolini’s writings and speeches are available in English
including an autobiography written in 1939.
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