Mussolini’s Rise to Power
After serving in the Italian army during WW1, Mussolini returned home, looking for a way to unify the Italian people. In 1918, he began to deliver emotional speeches, calling for a dictator to head the country. He argued that only a strong leader could unite the people to overcome Italy’s postwar mass unemployment, chaotic political party conflicts, and strikes by socialist and communists.
In 1919, Mussolini organized his fascist movement in the northern city of Milan. He formed squads of street fighters who wore black shirts. His “Black shirts” beat up socialist and communists and threw them out of local governments. The communist revolution in Russia had taken play only two years earlier. Mussolini’s fascist movement quickly gained the support of anti-communist business people, property owners, and middle-class professionals like teachers and doctors.
In 1921, Mussolini formed the National Fascist Party. But he still lacked a clear fascist program. He only knew one thing for sure: He wanted to rule Italy. In a speech before thousands of his supporters in October 1922, Mussolini declared, “Either the government will be given to us, or we will seize it by marching on Rome. “A few days later, he unleashed his followers his followers on a massive march to Italy’s capital city. As tens of thousands converged on Rome, government leaders became so unnerved that they resigned.
King Victor Emmanuel had the constitution duty to appoint a new prime minister, who would form the next government. With his Black shirts and other supporters swarming the streets of Rome, Mussolini demanded that the king appoint him prime minister. The king gay in, and at age 39, Mussolini became Italy’s youngest prime minister on October 29 , 1922.
The Fascist State
Mussolini Giovanni Gentile, a noted Italian philosopher, as his minister of education. Gentile reorganized Italy’s school system. He also wrote many articles and books, clarifying the basic ideas of fascism. Gentile argued that the private desires and interests of the individual cam second to the “common will” of the people. The fascist state, he said, put this will of the people into action.
Gentile thought that the “common will” of the people is the law of the state. Therefore, individuals must submit to the fascist state to be truly free. Later, Mussolini put it this way: “Far from crushing the individual, the fascist state multiplies his energies, just as in a regiment a soldier is . . . multiplied by number of his fellow soldiers.
Building on the ideas of earlier European philosopher like Friedrich Nietzsche, Gentile claimed that the peoples of the world are engaged in a survival of the fittest. He declared it is the natural right of the stronger to conquer and rule the weaker. Gentile stated that war had another function in the fascist state: It unites the people and proves their superiority as nation.
Gentile, sometime called the philosopher of Italian fascism, believed he could combine philosophy with raw power. He once praised Mussolini as being dedicated to Italy in “its honor, its glory, its security and prosperity, and , therefore, in its power and its value in the history of the world.”