Fascist Italy Style over substance To what extent is this true of Italy 1924-39
Mussolini did not rule with hand of iron in Italy and he was much more into propaganda and his own popularity. Yet he did achieve some victories for Italy. The substance Vs style issue can be looked at in a number of places e.g. social policy, cult of Mussolini etc
Mussolini came to power in 1922 without any clear ideas about foreign policy but in just under a few months he had established a general aim, to make Italy great, respected and feared . Italy would achieve this through a military strengthening diplomatic intrigue and if necessary war. Yet he did not have the opportunity to expand because there were no suitable opportunities and domestic issues required close attention. Mussolini was attempting to take Yugoslavia and In 1926 Albania became a satellite state for Italy and was threatening Yugoslavia with greater force. This maintained Italy s aggressive foreign policy was a promising start. Yet he was improving European relations in the west by signing such treaties as the Lucerne pact and the Kellogg- Briand pact. These meant little to Mussolini who often would not even read them. He was interested being taken seriously as a European statesman and hoped it would enhance his prestige at home. He often made extravagant entrances at international conferences which were always extensively covered by the press. This is an obvious example of style over substance. The Italians were led to believe that Mussolini was equal in Europe his input was crucial. This was a gross exaggeration. He only attended one session at the Lucerne pact and did not even read the final treaty.
In 1933 when Hitler came to power the nazi regime scared and horrified Britain and France. Mussolini used this, he knew that they feared Germany allying with other countries so he agreed to the Stress front on condition he was allowed to continue Italian expansion in to Ethiopia. It was a low risk opportunity to expand his colonial empire and show Italians some substance behind his style. In 1934 Mussolini got his excuse to invade a skirmish took place at wal wal where 300 Italians had been killed. Mussolini called for an investigation by the League of Nations but did not wait for its result He invaded in October 1935. The Ethiopians were not equipped to fight a modern war and could not deal with aerial bombings and poisonous gas. In April 1935 the Ethiopians suffered a massive defeat at the capital Addis Ababa The emperor fled to Britain. Mussolini now bombarded the country enforcing brutal tactics and killing hundreds. This victory increased Mussolini s popularity immensely as the people saw fascism in action. It was hyped greatly and showed that Mussolini was the only man who could restore the countries glory since Italy had lost a war with Adowa in 1896. The league condemned it, which just made Mussolini more popular as the people rallied around the regime. This was proved again that fascism had substance but the war was an easy and Mussolini produced a lot of propaganda to prove otherwise.
After this incident had was not impressed with the French and British governments and felt they were too weak. He looked to Germany in more favour now. And there was a reconciliation in 1936 when Hitler promised he wouldn t make an anschluss with Austria The Berlin-Rome Axis was confirmed by Italian foreign minister it was a public declaration of friendship and both countries agreed they would expand in different areas and would not conflict. They then both fought on the same side in the Spanish civil war to overthrow the republicans but Mussolini put in his troops at the last minute because he was not that dedicated to the war but did not want to lose. In March 1938 Germany formed the Anschluss without consulting Italy. Yet this was soon over. In September 1938 Hitler took over the Sudetenland and Mussolini was made mediator in the talks with Britain and Germany. Germany won and the Sudetneland was handed over to the third Reich. Mussolini tried to be seen as an equal to Hitler but this again was myth and Hitler was always more threatening and brave in his advances in Europe. Hitler saw Mussolini as a joke while Mussolini looked up to him and his dynamism the fact that he was as powerful as Hitler was myth and stylised propaganda for his country. Another myth was the taking over of Albania in 1939. It had been a satellite state for many years but Mussolini said it was a major military achievement.
The pact of steel between Italy and Germany this culminated in Mussolini being to scared of defeat and felt that Italians would not be happy fighting a war that would not benefit their own country. He claimed Germany had been treacherous and declared the pact defunct. When Germany went to war with western democracies over Poland Italy declared itself non-belligerent
Mussolini was never brave enough to war with another country of similar status and therefore did not do much. His foreign policy was one of myth rather than substance. He would not dare fight against Hitler or the Western Democracies and so never became great respected or feared although he made many Italians believe otherwise.
One of Mussolini s aims was to transform and revolutionise Italian society. One of the ways in which he aimed to do this was by winning the support of the Catholic Church, which, as the most popular religion in Italy, would give him the support of the people. He did this through the Lateran Pacts, which made Catholicism the state religion, made Religious Education compulsory, and paid the Church 30million for lost land.
The myth was that Mussolini managed to establish a working relationship with the church, a feat not managed by any government since 1871. This was true at first. However, the reality was that he could not maintain this relationship. Mussolini had tried to suppress the Catholic Action Youth Organisation despite promising the opposite in the Lateran Pacts. The crisis point came in 1939 when the Church provided on of the main sources of opposition to the war.
In education, Mussolini aimed to teach young people the subjects considered to be important in growing up to be a loyal fascist. Men taught Latin, history, and philosophy, which were considered to be the more important subjects. Women, however, were thought of by Mussolini to only be good for having children and looking after the home. They therefore taught the subjects considered to be not so important, such as science and mathematics.
The fascist policies on education were to increase emphasis on the important subjects while, at the same time, reducing emphasis on the unimportant subjects.
The results of this were that, although the number of university applicants doubled by 1930, the number entering to study science suffered a huge decrease, whilst more people began studying economics, politics, philosophy, and law. Another result of fascist education policy is that illiteracy declined, as a result of more and more people going to school.
Therefore, Mussolini s policy on education was, to an extent, revolutionary, although thousands of potential scientists were impeded.
Another aspect of social Italy that Mussolini had a policy on was the role of women. The style was that women should play a subordinate role, looking after the home and having children. Women were encouraged to undertake charitable activities, attend rallies, and help with propaganda, but they were not allowed to take any political initiatives.
The reality of this, however, was that the regime s efforts to exclude as many women as possible from paid employment failed.
The battle for births, Mussolini s demographic program, was the name given by fascists to the need to increase the population figure. It was Mussolini s style to call it a battle, to raise feelings of patriotism and pride, thus increasing the feeling among the populous to do what was good to make Italy great. An agency for maternity and infancy (OMNI) was set up, as was a tax on celibacy, a crackdown on prostitution, and the illegalisation of abortion. Measures that were not quite so negative were family allowances, marriage and birth loans, and welfare units. However, the reality was that these efforts to increase the birth rate failed.
Mussolini industrial policy started well and when the Fascists came to power Europe was booming and Mussolini claimed responsibility for the goo fortune. This was to change because in 1925 he fired his existing treasury minister de Stefani. He wanted to revaluate the currency and this was to prove terrible. In 1925 there were 150 lira to the pound, Mussolini felt this was unacceptable so he decided to set it at 90 lira to the pound. The effects were foreign buyers found Italy were expensive but for Italians foreign would have been cheap had Mussolini not also introduced tariffs on imported goods. Italy suffered badly. Mussolini had wanted to increase his prestige with foreign ministers. This worked but at the cost of the Italian economy. Also the years 1925 and 1926 trade unions were abolished and the right to strike was banned. Mussolini now set up his new corporate state. This was to be made up employers and employees who would form trade unions together in their independent areas and Mussolini hoped these corporations would eventually take over parliament and there would be a representative from each area of industry. In fact this policy that would supposedly break down the class difficulties failed and did the opposite. The employees were designated a Fascist representative for the unions. The fascist representatives mostly sided with the employer and as a result the standard of living for the workers dropped badly and between 1925-1938 real wages fell by 10%, unemployment rose and hunger set in certain parts of Italy. Mussolini had promised but hadn t delivered Class barriers dropping was a myth. But the Duce did not really care about the standard of living for ordinary Italians.
The Industry problems were paralleled in Agriculture. Mussolini s desire to make Italy self-sufficient in case of war dominated agricultural policies. His first major scheme was The Battle for Grain . Traditionally Italy had to import large amounts of grain to feed the people. This had to change because of Italy went to war and had its grain supply cut off there would starvation. So Mussolini encouraged farmers to grow grain by offering them machinery and promising that high prices would be paid for grain. The incentives worked and grain production grew to 5.5 million tonnes a year in the early 1920 s Mussolini claimed responsibility for the growth and claimed success. Yet this was wrong as exports dropped in other regions like fruit, wine and olive oil. It also wrecked the soil because it was the wrong type of land. Mussolini had glossed over this and again we see style over substance.
The cult of Mussolini was one of the things Mussolini himself regarded highly. He liked being seen as the new Messiah and having cult status amongst the people. He was the new Caesar a man of action and stature. This was what Mussolini exelled in . He was originally a newspaper editor and now in power created the Mussolini myth, That Mussolini is always right and never wrong an infallible invincible leader. This was the style on which this essay is based. Although he achieved minor victories in certain fields His Fascist State was basically built on this style and the way he got people to see him in the best possible light. The Statement Style over substance is invariably true and to great extent he was a man to self-conscious to really achieve anything in the league of Hitler or Stalin.