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Mussolini becomes Prime Minister

Benito Mussolini's rise to power in Italy was rapid. He was ousted from the Italian Socialist Party in 1915, but by 1922, he was appointed Prime Minister. His charisma, strong anti-socialist and nationalist ideologies, and support of the paramilitary group the Blackshirts appealed to the middle class and elite who desired a strong leader to bring order to Italy. Created by Sal Khan.

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  • ohnoes default style avatar for user leotrikim
    How does fascism effect us nowadays?
    (30 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Evan E'ryting
      As Sal said in one of the NAZI videos, extreme politics usually gain popularity in times of crisis. In this case, it was the Great Depression and aftermath of WWI. Nowadays, we are going through an economic crisis similar to the Great Depression, especially in Eurozone countries where one countries debt ruins everything.

      One of the countries that is greatly affected by this, Greece is experiencing an alarming resurgence of fascism with a party called the Golden Dawn. Just like in Italy, the Golden Dawn has armed thugs that roam the streets picking fights with communists and anarchists and assaulting and murdering minorities. These crimes have little chance of getting justice since the police largely support the party. They are trying to export their brand across the world, setting up offices as far away as North America. In the election last year, the Golden Dawn received about 7% of the vote, up from less than half a percent in '96 and '09. So you can see the rapid growth of support just like then.

      Fascism is also pretty popular in the UK, where the second largest fringe party, (after the Greens) is the British National Party. A common trend in European fascist parties is Euroscepticism, which means they don't really like being in the European Union, since they are nationalists and they believe in the nation-state only. They similarly don't like any other international union or trade agreement such as NATO, NAFTA, or even the UN. Britain has a second, more hardcore fascist party called National Front. Membership in both these parties have been officially banned for police officers. They also have a street presence, the most well-known group being the EDL, which often clashes with either anti-fascist or Islamist groups whenever either hold a rally.

      These are just the countries that I know a bit about, fascism has a presence in most if not all European countries, just as it did back then. You just don't hear much about them because thankfully they are far from gaining power for the most part.
      (66 votes)
  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Fuyang Deng
    Why did the king let Mussolini have dictatorial powers? I mean he uses violence, and he could be a threat
    (23 votes)
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    • male robot hal style avatar for user Nicholas
      That is one of the great questions of history. But the real question is: how desperate do you have to be to do that? Think about how Italy's economy and government were at the time. The king, the legislature, and the people were all looking for a solution, and Mussolini and the Fascists seemed like one.
      (29 votes)
  • male robot hal style avatar for user Reddy, Jaiden
    When did Mussolini begin his rise to power? Was Mussolini just as bad really as Hitler? Why don't people talk about him the same way? Weren't Mussolini's and his Fascist Party's beliefs and ways almost the exact same of Hitler's and the Nazis' belief?
    (7 votes)
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    • leaf yellow style avatar for user Dorme
      He ruled Italy from 1922 onwards, but he became involved in politics at the very start of the 20th century (as early as 1903). He started gathering followers (a small number at the beginning) around 1914.

      As for whether he was as bad as Hitler... that's a tricky question since it's not easy to compare badness. Both were dictators who ruled with an iron fist, both were very good orators and both used violence to get to and stay in power. There are differences, however. Mussollini didn't have as much of an impact as Hitler, nor was his policy so extreme. He, too, for example, considered the Slavic races inferior to his own, but he did not think of the Holocaust, for example, that was a German idea. Mussollini instead prohibited schools and organizations in any language but the Italian and was OK with killing people who opposed this. If they submitted, however, and were eager to be Italianized he'd let them be... more or less.

      Fascism and Nazism were similar in that they both considered the state to be above the individual, were anti-communist and in some ways quite traditionalist (conservative). In addition, both were expansionist (wanted to expand their empire). However, the racial policy in Germany was much more important and extreme than in Italy and the measures Germany took to achieve racial purity were more extreme, as well.

      I hope this adequately answers your questions!
      (24 votes)
  • leafers ultimate style avatar for user Justin
    Why are Mussolini and other leaders in Europe so scared of Communism/Socialism?
    (7 votes)
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    • male robot hal style avatar for user Yisrael F
      Jonathan made a good point, but I think that the main reason is the fact that they wanted total control. Leaders like Mussolini were totalitarian dictators; they had maximum power. Communism promoted a government that was almost non-existent and withdrawn. This was in direct contrast to the way that they wanted to run their governments, so they were strongly opposed to it.

      Good luck!
      (9 votes)
  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Abir Rahman
    How did the world react to these acts of ownership and violence
    (5 votes)
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    • spunky sam red style avatar for user Jason Johnson
      Much of the world ignored what was happening. There were some protests from other countries but they did not intervene with military power. Remember that the world had just went through unprecedented bloodshed with WW1 and most countries were not willing to go to war again. Also, the people doing the violence did not have the images captured like we have today in modern protests. So, most of the world either did not know what was happening, did not care (war weary) or was unable to do anything about it.
      (7 votes)
  • male robot hal style avatar for user Pakshal Jain
    I thought India made the swastika as a religious symbol.
    (5 votes)
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  • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user Abraham George
    What was Italy's government before Mussolini?
    (4 votes)
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  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Finn
    What exactly is "dictatorial powers"?
    (4 votes)
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    • leaf blue style avatar for user Natasha
      Dictatorial powers is the authority/power that is held/used in a dictatorship and or by a dictator.

      From Wikipedia on what a dictatorship is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dictatorship :
      "Dictatorship is a form of government where political authority is often monopolized by a single person or a political party, and exercised through various oppressive mechanisms.[1][2]

      A dictatorship is similar to authoritarianism, and differs from totalitarianism where a state that regulates nearly every aspect of the public and private behavior of its people. Dictatorships are defined by the source of the governing power and totalitarianism concerns the scope of the governing power. Dictatorship is opposed to democracy."
      (5 votes)
  • aqualine sapling style avatar for user Jocelyn
    Are there still any countries under Fasicism today?
    (4 votes)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user HAKAN
      "Unlimited power in the hands of limited people always leads to cruelty". A country may obviously be ruled by fascism, and there are other examples where a country may have a constitution, parliament, no monarcy, official regular elections, parties belonging to nearly all parts of the political spectrum, yet this very same country can still be ruled by fascism. If this imaginary country has politicians who can remain, who are permitted to remain politicians their whole lives, than all of this show is reduced to no more than fascism. If these politicians can be elected over and over again for decades, it is fascism ruling that country, although seemingly many elements of democratic tradition exist. This pseudodemocracy, actually neo-fascism is fed to the masses, children are brought up without ever recognizing the true elements of democratic thought.
      (1 vote)
  • marcimus pink style avatar for user Agnieszka
    When and how did Mussolini start his political career? In 1915 or earlier?
    (3 votes)
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    • spunky sam red style avatar for user Jason Johnson
      Mussolini moved to Switzerland in 1902 to avoid military service. He became involved with the Italian socialist movement which had the goal of overthrowing capitalism and democracy in Italy. He went back and forth between Switzerland (they arrested and deported him a couple of times). He also worked for the Socialist party in Austria-Hungary as a political journalist around 1909. He then clashed with the Socialist party and they expelled him. That is where the video takes up in 1915 or about
      (3 votes)

Video transcript

Narrator: Benito Musssolini's rise to power in the early 1920s in Italy is a fairly rapid, and from historical perspective, fairly surprising one. To give some context, as late as 1915, (writing) 1915, he had recently been ousted from the Italian Socialist Party based on his decent over whether Italy should enter the war. The official stance of the party is that World War I is an imperialist war, that Italy had no business entering it, that Italy should stay neutral, but you had more nationalist elements in the party and Mussolini was one of them. He says, no this is Italy's chance for glory, this is Italy's chance to build its empire. So, in 1915 he's ousted from the Socialist Party and he decides to start his own group called the Fasci d'azione rivoluzionaria and I talk about that in the video on fascism, but it was often referred to as the Milan fascio (writing) the Milan fascio which was a group that was strongly nationalist that was pro entering the war. Italy does eventually enter the war, not necessarily because of these guys, this was still a fairly insignificant organization. The reason why I'm mentioning it is it shows Mussolini even before the war was showing these very strong nationalistic tendencies and this tendency to start organizations that were pro-nationalist and he tended to call them fasci. He get's this notion of fasci ... The term had been used well before Mussolini for a kind of league of revolutionaries, league of people who are looking to take action on something. Then he enters into the war as a soldier and then exiting the war in 1919, he decides to reorganize or to start leading a group again. This time he calls it the Fasci di Combattimento. (writing) Fasci di Combattimento, battimento which could literally be translated as the league of combatants. This isn't even a formal party at this point of time, it's really a collection of a couple of hundred people. The estimates I've seen is about 200 individuals who group together. What unifies them is a strongly anti-socialist ideology. There's an irony here because Mussolini was in the socialist party before the war, but is a strongly anti-socialist ideology and a strongly nationalist ideology. To understand where this strong anti-socialist or anti-Bolshevik ideology came from you have to understand the context of Italy and Europe of that time. You have to remember that the Russian Empire fell during World War I, it was now run by the communists. You have a fear that that is going to spread throughout Europe. You have the leading party in Italy at the time is the Italian Socialist Party, you have a left-leaning government. There is a desire to react against that seeming spread of socialism or of communism. These guys don't view it as hey let's meet together and talk about and maybe try to run for elections. They want to actively coerce people. They want to actively intimidate people and these groups that would rise out of this, that would be strongly anti-socialist and the anti left-leaning government they would wear these black shirts and they were often called The Black Shirts. Which I wont write in black because then you wouldn't see it, so I'll write in this blue color. (writing) These Black Shirts. These were very loosely organized bands, they were often called fasci, it would often be young men who would gather together in towns throughout Italy and say we believe in this anti-socialist ideology, we want to take up arms and intimidate socialist, intimidate people on the left. So, you have these Black Shirts, this paramilitary group starting to arise. In 1919, I want to emphasize, very small, very, very small, very, very insignificant, but their influence grows. You have more and more of these fasci forming throughout Europe. Not through Europe, throughout Italy. This is very appealing to, especially young boys in Italy. Mussolini, himself, is a very inspiring orator. He's kind of this larger than life personality. Sometimes what he says didn't necessarily make complete logical sense, but it really appealed to people's emotions, that he was a strong leader, that someone that they would actually want to follow. In two short years you forward to 1921, (writing) 1921. This Fasci di Combattimento had now morphed into a real national party, it's now ... and they renamed themselves the nationalist or the National Fascist Party. (writing) Fascist Party. Obviously it wasn't called that in Italian. In Italian it was the Partito Nazionale Fascista and Mussolini is the leading figure here. He gets elected to the Chamber of Deputes. (writing) Chamber of Deputes along with several other fascists, but they're still a fairly small party. Although they've already now they're gaining steam, they're becoming mainstream, but even though they're becoming more mainstream they still haven't given up their use of force and their use of intimidation. Then we forward to 1922 and all of this is happening quite rapidly, but by 1922 Italy is not in a good situation. People aren't happy with the left-leaning government, they feel that it's weak, that it's not able to turn the economy around, that it's not able to bring order, that the extreme left is having too much power, that they're too many strikes, that the country isn't being run properly; the middle class and the elite aren't happy with this. So, the fascists are getting more and more and more followers. One, kind of you could say civilian followers, but they're also getting more and more fasci that are forming. They're showing that their use of violence actually can sometimes get goals that the weaker government couldn't get, they were able to break strikes in 1922 with the perception that that was helping to bring order. So, by October of 1922, (writing) by October of 1922, you have Mussolini at this head, he has this conference of 40,000 fascists and they essentially come to the idea that they need to march on Rome, to bring order to Italy, that they should demand, they should demand a stronger government. (writing) So, in October you have a march on Rome and I've seen several accounts of the size of this march on Rome, but the numbers that I've seen is on the order of 200,000. (writing) 200,000 fascists march on Rome. This essentially causes the current government to be ... the Prime Minister to be ousted and the King appoints Mussolini as Prime Minister. (writing)So, Mussolini, Mussolini is now the Prime Minister. So this is a super rapid ascend, really based on peoples' unhappiness with the left-leaning government, peoples' desire for a strong leader, Mussolini's kind of charisma. Every picture you see of him he has these really stern looks, he has this impression of a really strong figure. Not only did he become Prime Minister, but he's able to get dictatorial powers. The legislator actually gives him dictatorial powers for a year. (writing) Dictata-, dictatorial powers for one year, so you can't, at this point call him the dictator. We'll see that that's going to come in a few years, but he's granted, essentially, absolute control. He can pass laws at will and it's an interesting question of history of why at this point the legislator was willing to give him dictatorial powers and why the King was fine with this fairly strong character being Prime Minister with dictatorial powers. My understanding is, and I'm curious to see what you guys say in the message boards, is that it really was around ... people were desire ... on one level there was a desire especially amongst the middle class and the elite, of having this strong leader, of maybe someone who could bring order and pride to the country. Then on top of that he was backed up by these, he was backed up by the Black Shirts, this paramilitary group that was dispersed throughout Italy that could intimidate his opponents. You could imagine some legislators were actually keen to support a strong leader after many years of weak leadership, but on top of that they probably felt intimidated into giving Mussolini these absolute powers.