What methods did Mussolini use to gather support from 1919-1925?
Mussolini’s long road to his rise of Power began in the years of the First World War with the involvement of Italy on behalf of its Allies. A couple of years later, the year of 1919 saw Mussolini suffer a humiliating defeat in the November elections of 1919. His entrance into parliament however then came in the later elections of 1921 after the formation of the Blackshirts – also known as, the Squadristi, who were used to break up strikes and riots caused amongst the people of Italy due to Italy’s poor economic and political instability, in which Italy suffered a rise of 500% inflation and high rates of unemployment. It was later established at the end of Mussolini’s rise to power, compared to Germany’s Hitler, Mussolini’s road to Dictatorship took longer than of Hitler’s.
There were, in all, seven different groups of which Mussolini had to gain support of in order for him to carry out a successful dictatorship. The groups were, Catholic Church, Industrialists, the Working Class population, his own Fascist Party, the King and his Nobles, Other political parties, trade unions and Mussolini’s need to portray Italy as a high profile country to other countries such as the U.S.A, Britain and France.
It was vital for Mussolini to gain support of certain groups because they were the key to his rise in power. The first group Mussolini had to gain the support from was his own party, the Fascists themselves. Mussolini used several methods to control them, their behaviour and their views and support for Mussolini. Mussolini gave members of the National Fascist Party titles, of which made them feel like they were high profile and different to the rest of the population. He managed gain support of the Squadristi by giving them a wage for all their work. However, one of the most crucial ways in which Mussolini gained support was the crisis and death of a Socialist politician known as Giacomo Matteotti. Matteotti was murdered by a group of Fascists after he had made several remarks up against Mussolini and spoken out nationally about Mussolini’s “ballot rigging” within the Acerbo Laws. This led to what was called the Aventine Secession in which the Socialists had boycotted the Parliament, This helped Mussolini earn support as it was a method of injecting fear into the public so they would join his Fascist party.
However, alongside earning the support of his own Fascist party, it was vitally equal for Mussolini to also gain support of other minor groups as it was the key to which enabled him to achieve a dictatorship. In 1919-1922 Mussolini used methods of violence to bring them on board and appeasing to them in order to show he agreed with them and was on their side. However, after 1922, Mussolini had ordered the murder of a Socialist Politician called Matteotti after he had spoken out against him. This was a tactic to achieve the support of his own Fascist party, however at the same time, other parties reacted to this in a different perspective and the situation led to the Aventine Secession, in which members of the Socialist party boycotted the Parliament. Mussolini dealt with this in two ways. One way, was by suppressing minor parties to join Fascist party by intimidating them using the Squadristi. The other method was by having his own members arrested and assuring these minor parties that he would not tolerate the violent and cruel behaviour against them. Mussolini had suspended three main politicians within his own Fascist party, despite him gaining support from these minor parties, this sparked problems within the Fascist Party itself.
In order for Mussolini to increase his support alongside the support from political parties it was exceptionally crucial for him to gain the support of the most popular institution in Italy, the Roman Catholic Church. Due to its large reputation and popularity amongst the people of Italy, Mussolini had merely used the institution for his own purposes, his relationship with the Roman Catholic Church was later described as a “Marriage of Convenience” as it was a merely a tactic which he used to help him boost Fascist support and more importantly, his own support. He managed to gain the support of the Catholic Church by mainly changing his personal behaviour and portraying himself as a good Catholic. In 1926 Mussolini renewed his vows in a Catholic Church to his wife and christened his children in 1923. This had gained him publicity and portrayed a positive Catholic image of him in front of the public therefore gaining support. Politically however, Mussolini had agreed to give the Church what it wished. Mussolini had introduced therefore, a decree which had made the teaching of religion compulsory in schools and the introduction of the Lateran Treaties. In the Lateran Treaties Mussolini handed over 110 acres of land to the Catholic Church to form their own city, known as the Vatican City, in which the church was able to create its own laws and run that small state by itself. The church had been exceptionally proud and was fully supportive of Mussolini.
The next set of people Mussolini had to tackle in order for him to gain support was the group of Italian Industrialists, whom amongst them caused several problems and unrest amongst. Mussolini had first started of as a Socialist until after the war in which he had turned to the side of the industrialists. The industrialists had been striking for a matter of years due to the Economic instability of Italy after the war. With inflation rising dramatically at 500%! the industrialists had feared their industries would end up bankrupt after the people were unable to keep up with the rising costs of food at a static minimum wage. The Liberal Government had been strongly unsuccessful in tackling this problem for many years, so Mussolini had therefore decided to use violence and force, known as strike busting, to suppress the industrialists in the years of 1919-1922. However, there after till 1925, Mussolini had imposed tax exemptions to bribe industrialists to follow the Fascist party and suggesting that he was siding with the Industrialists.
The next group Mussolini was in need to tackle was the problems of the Working Class population. The working class population had been fighting for many years against the poor working conditions and lack of motivation and need for fulfilling their physiological needs such as food, shelter and water. In order to gain the support of the Working Class population, Mussolini used a method of suppression to break up the strikes and riots formed by the Working Class population using members of the Squadristi – a gang made up of ex-army legionaries. He later on then decided to form a Liberal Agenda in which he granted concessions such as a minimum wage, better working conditions and working time conditions. The Working Class population agreed and parted on his side of Fascism, thus increasing his popularity.
The other group Mussolini had to gain support of was the members of the Trade Unions. Due to the strikes and riots of the Industrialists and Italy’s poor economic state, trade unions had began existence in different areas across Russia striking against the economy and fear of losing jobs and pay. Mussolini was forced to deal with these as it was a bigger group and would have had a significant impact on his rise to power if he had done nothing about them, industrialists, or the working class population. Mussolini had dealt with Trade Unions in a similar way in which he dealt with the Working Class population – Appeasement and suppression. Mussolini had appeased to the wishes of the Trade Unions throughout his rise to power. However, come to the end once Mussolini had earned a Dictatorship, he had abolished all trade unions and created one of his own, in which members were all forced to join, and strike only if he stated. Mussolini had also used suppression and his key tool, the Squadristi to inject fear into the members of trade unions forcing them to join the Fascist party. By 1929, Mussolini’s support was at its highest. To finish off, it was exceptionally important that Mussolini had the support of the King in order to gain his rise to power and form a dictatorship. The entire six year period Mussolini spent gaining support of all these different groups, he had managed to gain the support of the King Victor Emmanuel III. The King however knew that Mussolini was still incapable of running Italy, but however was in fear of Mussolini’s key tool, the Squadristi. In technical terms, Mussolini had only earned the support of the King because of Mussolini’s Squadristi,
In a way, Mussolini’s use of the Squadristi was the main reason which helped increase Mussolini’s support by 1925. He used the squadristi as his main tool to suppress people into joining the Fascist party by injecting fear into them. At this time it was seen that Mussolini had only cared mostly about the reputation of Italy in the eyes of the world, it was however after 1922 in which he began to care less about the reputation and more about his need to form a Dictatorship, at which point he changed his ideology constantly from left to right.