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Current time:0:00Total duration:8:26

Mussolini becomes absolute dictator (Il Duce)

Video transcript

Male: In the last video we left off in 1922 in October where you have several hundreds of thousands of fascists march on Rome, which causes the King to put Benito Mussolini in power and this picture right over here is from Mussolini coming to power from the march on Rome and not only does he get appointed as Prime Minister, but he has dictatorial powers for one year. Those dictatorial powers are also backed up with the Blackshirts,this loose band, kind of a paramillitary group. So he uses his powers and the fact that he has his own force so to speak to continue to just secure more and more power under him over the next few years. By 1923 he makes the Blackshirts actually become a formal national militia, essentially the volunteer militia for national security. In Italian the acronym is the MVSN. So, the Blackshirts become formalized as the MVSN. He also gets Parliament or gets the legislature to pass what's known as the Acerbo Law or Acerbo Law. I'm sure I'm mispronouncing it. Acerbo Law. This is an interesting one because this is a law that allowed whichever majority party, whatever the largest party in the Deputy of Ministers, whatever the largest party in Parliament is that party, as long as they get more than 25% of the vote, they will get 2/3s of the seats in Parliament. This is strange because traditionally in a Parliamentary system if you got ... Let's say you were the largest party and you got 26% of the vote, you still would not have enough seats to govern properly. You would have to form a coalition with several other parties so that you could essentially form a government. But this is saying whoever gets the plurality of votes, whoever gets the most votes without necessarily being a majority, they will be by default become a majority. And you could imagine why the fascists wanted this to happen. They felt that they could get 25% of the votes, one maybe through popular support but also with the help of the coercive tactics of the Blackshirts and then that would give them stronger control in the legislature. Now, the big question is is why would the legislature pass this? Because at this point the fascists were not the dominant party. They did not have a majority in the legislature. In fact, this was why they wanted to pass a law because they didn't have a majority. And once again it's one of those questions of history. Some would say that people were enamored with the fascists. They were enamored with Mussolini. They were eager to have strong leadership. They didn't want this government of coalitions. They wanted one government to be able to take action. On the other side when the votes were happening you actually had Blackshirts in the room. One argument is that there was also an element of pure intimidation. But needless to say the Acerbo Law actually passed. There is irony here because it was unnecessary. In 1924 when you actually have elections you have the fascists getting 2/3s of the vote. Fascists get 2/3 of the vote. Now, many today and many in Italy at the time felt that this was a fraudulent election. They felt the reason why the fascists were able to get so many votes is because they were able to intimidate folks. They were able to commit fraud during the election. They were able to kind of throw other votes out, and one of the most outspoken individuals when it came to criticizing the fascists and their tactics of coming to power was Giacomo Matteotti. He wrote a book about the fascists. He gave two really strong speeches in the Deputy of Ministers where he talks about or the Chamber of Deputies I should say, where he talks about the corruption and the violence of the fascists. A few days after giving those speeches he gets killed by Blackshirts. So, he gets actually quite violently murdered by Blackshirts, and this puts Mussolini at least initially in a bit of a bind. He doesn't want to look like a thug, someone who goes out and just murders people. It's not clear that he actually, Mussolini, was involved in this in any way, but his followers had committed this act. To protest against the murder of Giacomo Matteotti you actually have the entire socialist party boycotts Parliament. This was known as the Aventine Secession or at least the 20th century Aventine Secession. Aventine Secession. It's called the Aventine Secession because if you go back to Roman times 2500 years ago you had the Plebeians secede out of protest from harsh rule and they go to the Aventine Hill. So, it was named after that same idea. The whole reason why the socialists did this is they hoped that by boycotting Parliament that that would convince the King to get rid of Benito Mussolini. Mussolini, as I say, he's also in a bind. He doesn't know quite what to do, and on top of all of this the Blackshirts are telling him, "Look, if you don't take control of the situation, if you don't become a strong ruler we're going to do it without you. We might even overthrow you Mr. Mussolini." In 1925, early 1925, Mussolini makes his famous January speech. 1925, his famous January speech. This is normally viewed as the formal start of his absolute dictatorship. In this Mussolini, instead of the Aventine Secession somehow undermining Mussolini's power because the King did not dismiss Mussolini it actually strengthened Mussolini's power. He used that as a pretext. He said, "Look, all of these deputies they've decided not to show up at Parliament. They've essentially given up their seats, and he bans, he bans the Italian Socialist party. He embraces the Blackshirts. He takes responsibility for them. He doesn't take responsibility directly for Giacomo Matteotti's murder, but he takes responsibility for the Blackshirts, and he gives in kind of classic Mussolini style a somewhat convoluted argument about how strength and violence is going to give stability to the Italian people. Obviously he is an amazing orator. He's very charismatic. This essentially gives him the control he needs, and by the end of 1925 you have the Christmas Eve Law that's passed by Parliament that esentially puts no checks on Mussolini's power, and as you go then into 1926 they more, and more, the fascists under Mussolini take absolute control, absolute power of Italy. So in 1926 they're banning other parties. So, other parties are banned. They're starting to force people to become members of the fascist party if they want roles in the government or even in any type of institution. They're starting to take control of the press. They're starting to have a very strong state police architecture. If this looks familiar based on what we studied about the Nazis it's not a coincidence. Hitler, he admired Mussolini. In fact, Mussolini's march on Rome inspired Hitler to attempt his Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. A lot of these tactics that brought Mussolini to power you see kind of a parallel in what brought Hitler to power only about seven years later.