Mussolini: il duce
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was born on July the 19th of 1883. He was the son of Alessandro Mussolini, a blacksmith and pub-keeper, and his wife Rosa Maltoni, who was a teacher. Benito became a teacher himself and for several years, he taught at a school near Reggio Emilia. To search for adventure and to escape from his military service he fled to Swiss, where he lived from 1902 to 1904. To keep himself alive, he performed some manual labour and gave lessons in the Italian language. He became acquaintances with several Marxists, for example Angelica Balabanoff.
He got amnesty and returned to his home country. From January 1905 until September 1906 he served in the Italian army at the bersaglieri and in spite of his anti-militarism, he behaved exemplary. After his service Mussolini taught in places all over Italy and in 1908, he moved in with Rachele Guidi, with whom he married for the law in 1916 and for the church in 1925. They got five children: Edda, Vittorio, Bruno, Romano and Anna Maria.
He stepped over to politics and in 1909, in the Austrian city Trentino (South-Tyrol), he became the secretary of the Italian trade-union. Here, he performed some journalism and he wrote the brochure "Trentino seen by a Socialist". He also wrote several essays about German literature, some stories and one novel: "Claudia Particella, the love of a cardinal" (1909).
He was a Marxist and preached for revolution. He proved his aversion of militarism and the state with his agitation against the Libyan War (1911-1912). For this, he was thrown in jail. In his own magazine, "La lotta di classe", he told that he was against the revisionist socialists in the parliament, because he thought democracy and general right to vote were forms of deception to the ruling people. When in 1912 the revisionists were abandoned from the Socialist Party, Mussolini became the editor-in-chief of the socialistic magazine "Avanti!", which means "go ahead!".
His love for violent solutions made him a nationalist in 1914 and he preached that Italy had to join in into the first world war. Now he was a nationalist, he had to leave "Avanti!", but with the help of what was thought to be French money, he founded his own newspaper on November the 15th of 1914 , Popolo dItalia. Since 1915 he was on the frontline, until he got seriously wounded on February the 23rd of 1917.
He said the reason of the Italian defeat at Caporetto was mainly because of the socialists in Italy, who were still anti-militaristic, and because of the Russian Revolution, so he wanted more and more a revolution for his own. He wanted to give the frontline-warriors all the power and for this purpose he founded the Fasci di Combatimento on March the 23rd of 1919 the Fasci di combattimento in Milan, the centre of all his activities.
The idea behind the Italian Fascism is to form an alternative for Marxism and to modernise the liberal state of Italy. But Mussolini failed in his purposes.
When in November 1921 the National Fascistic Party was founded, Mussolini could only become the leader (Duce) if he would swear off his socialism and become much more nationalistic and conservative. He did and became the leader of the party. As a member of the parliament he could show his rejection of democracy.
In the summer of 1922, the socialists in Italy called off a strike during a cabinetcrisis and then the fascists saw themselves as the keepers of order and they later demanded all the governmental power, which they got from the king on October 30th after their March to Rome.
Good opportunist as he was, Mussolini adapted himself to the catholic tradition of his country, until in 1929 the Concordat and the Pact of Laterano had settled the questions of the Vatican: after this his anti-Catholicism woke up again and conflicts about the grip on the youth appeared.
The new style which the fascism introduced, was just like Mussolinis character: show, bravura, violence, a lack of good taste, superficiality. His device "live dangerous" led to a risky foreign politic and the economic recovery was slowed down.
The saying "Mussolini is always right" formed the beginning of his adoration: Mussolini became a legend. The people got an image of him as a superior leader, a new type of politician, who took his decisions more instinctively than rationally and who had saved his country of bolshevism. But in real live Mussolini was really easy to influence. His vision was formed by people he talked to, especially by Hitler. The main purpose of Mussolinis foreign policy was to discord between England and France so that the regulations of Versailles could be broken.
In 1936 he got a mistress, Clara Petacci.
Because of the pressure of Hitler he was no longer an ally of Austria and he started to conquer land around the Mediterranean, but now he became enemies with England and France.
After the war in Abassinia, an Italian Colony, a much milder internal policy was expected, but the opposite happened. While the Italian army was fighting in the Spanish civil war for testing their war equipment, Mussolini unchained a new revolutionary wave in his own country. He instituted anti-Jewish laws and he tried to militarize the country.
His rejection of Democracy and the King became worse: He admired Hitlers Nazi-state after he had visited it in 1937, but he did not like the German methods.
When he had to admit that Hitler wanted a war so that he could conquer all of Europe and Italy wasnt ready at all for this, he became unsure. The fascist movement became more and more disorientated. Corruption and a lack of economic planning made that the people were starting to feel uncomfortable with their government.
The minister of foreign affairs Ciano, who had always been a loyal follower of Mussolini (his stepfather ), was also doubting the future of his country and in 1940 a quartermaster of the Royal House let it appear that King Victor Emanuel considered replacement of the government.
In the night of 24/25 July 1943 the parliament voted against Mussolini. The next day, King Victor Emanuel discharged him and had him arrested. First he was held on the island La maddalena, then on the Gran Sasso, were he was liberated on September the 12th by SS-officer Otto Skorzeny. Three days later Mussolini became the leader of the Social Republic in Salò . Here, he talked a lot, especially to give the blame of his failure to someone else and he wanted to be a socialist again. When the Germans were negotiating their capitulation, he tried to flee to Switzerland, but just before the border, he and Clara Petacci were shot by communist partisans.