The world between the two wars was transforming, and people were looking for the political, social, and cultural paradigms that could address their needs and perspectives regarding the world order. The global financial crisis of the 1930s that is referred to as the Great Depression was one of the most influential factors that ensured the prominence of authoritarian ideas in many countries, including Italy. Fascism became the reaction to the complete devastation associated with the First World War, insufficient control over the situation in the 1920s, and the economic and social insecurity of the 1930s (Tignor et al. 725). In his essay, Benito Mussolini outlined the essence of Italian Fascism that aimed at ensuring the prosperity of the country. When put in the social, political, economic, and cultural context, the essay unveils its author’s fears regarding the spread of communism, disgust to the impotence of liberalism, and the desire to re-create the might of the Ancient Roman Empire.
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The Italian nation was rather homogeneous (as compared to such countries as the USA or the USSR), but the Italian society was divided in terms of political and social trends. Liberalist parties proclaimed their values but failed to deliver a viable plan that could revive the country after the devastating war (Tignor et al. 725). People were tired of the empty promises of liberals with their “flabby materialistic positivism” (Mussolini 165). Moreover, liberals were blamed for the war and its consequences in the first place. Italy had to address serious economic issues that could be solved with the help of capitalistic measures, but Italians chose another path.
Capitalism, with its focus on individualism and its high rate of unemployment during crises, was not popular in the country. Mussolini introduced his ideas that put the state to the fore while the individual was to create “first of all in himself the instrument” to construct a prosperous nation (Mussolini 165). Importantly, the world saw the atrocities of the rule of the working class in the USSR where bloodsheds were a part of the development of the new country. Capitalism obviously failed in Europe after the WWI, but, at the same time, western people, including Italians, were afraid of the Russian kind of socialism, so they hardly had any alternative. Mussolini’s idea of a mutual effort to achieve a higher purpose inspired and united people.
The charismatic leader’s agenda resonated with Italians’ search for stability and guidance. Mussolini emphasized that every person was to sacrifice meaningless short-term pleasures for the good of all that was manifested in the concept of the State (175). The Italian dictator made people believe that “the State was transformed into the conscience and will of the people” (Mussolini 175). Importantly, the major values that reigned in the country were not questioned as private property was still protected, and religion was one of the pillars of fascism in Italy. Mussolini’s doctrine was grounded on the primary beliefs and seemed to respond to the basic needs of Italian people, which led to the popularization of fascism. The patriarchal Italian society was a fertile ground for this political system as it was common to accept the complete authority of the Pope, the king, and, eventually, the dictator. The development of technology enhanced the influence of Il Duce who used radio for his propaganda.
Finally, although subjunctive mood can hardly be utilized when dealing with historical facts, it is possible to assume that Italian Fascism could have never appeared without the First World War. The Great War was a result of the rise of nationalism in Europe and led to its complete victory over other trends (Tignor et al. 712). People focused on their national identities and interests and forgot about the global security and consequences of their actions. For instance, instead of trying to resolve the problems that existed or were about to arise, the British Empire, the United States, and France concentrated on carving the world map and taking control over former Germany’s colonies. Italians were also concerned about their national identity, but they were disappointed with their king who could not ensure the rebuilding of the country after the war. The idea of the State became popular as it was believed to be capable of reviving the great Roman Empire.
In conclusion, it is necessary to note that Benito Mussolini’s doctrine outlined his ideas regarding Italian fascism and the role it could play in the history of his country. Italians were tired of the failures of liberalist politicians who could not address the capitalist consequences of the global economic crisis. Different plans and political paths numerous liberal groups offered were associated with the war and economic collapse, while the new order promised stability and consolidation based on traditional values. The political systems chosen by other countries revealed their downsides and turned the people of Italy away from them. They chose to follow their leader and build the State that reminded about the great past of the country.
Mussolini, Benito. “The Basic Philosophy of Fascism.” The Social and Political Doctrines of Contemporary Europe, edited by Michael Oakeshott, Cambridge University Press, 1942, pp. 168-178.
Tignor, Robert, et al. Worlds Together, Wolds Apart. 5th ed., vol. 2, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2017.