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Assess the reasons why so many Italians came to support fascism during the years 1919-22

Mussolini’s rise to power was a rapid one. At the begging of 1919 there was no fascist party but by 1922 Mussolini was the prime minister of Italy. There are a number of reasons to explain Mussolini’s swift rise to power.The effects of World War 1 were socially meant that Italy lost half a million men with 1,000,000 seriously wounded. The war also lead to unemployment and by 1919 over 2,000,000 Italians were jobless.The economic effects meant that Italy was bankrupted causing Inflation as Italy spent so much money on the war. This affected every section of society; workers suffered as prices quad tripled, with wages increasing very slowly. Industrialists did well during the war, as the government bought lots of equipment for the army but when the war ended spending cut back and profits declined. Inflation destroyed savings, hitting the middle class in particular. Italy was unable to continuing export trade, which lead to more problems. Lots of strikes went forward after the war as wages were low and prices of goods had increased rapidly.After the war the Liberals were blamed for all the after effects and lost support from many Italians. On the other hand Mussolini gained a few votes.The war also affected the political system in Italy. The Liberal party had always dominated Italian politics since 1860 but after the war in the 1919 general elections, they were faced with serious competition with the Socialist and Catholics. Even though the fascist didn’t have any seats in that election, the elections still helped Mussolini, as the Liberals no longer had an overall majority and complete control over Italy.The 1919 general elections were the first election where all men could vote. The liberals still were the largest party with 180 seats but for the first time had strong opposition. The socialists had 156 seats and the catholic party had 100. This lead to the Liberals collating with the Catholics even though they didn’t entirely trust each other. It became clear that the Liberals were unable to deal with Italy’s problems and Italian workers began to favor the socialists. Lots of workers joined socialist trade unions, went on strikes, were in favor of a socialist republic and by 1920 the socialist party had gained 26 of Italy’s 96 provinces by local elections.The period 1919-20 was known as Biennio Rosso. The success of the socialists alarmed many sections of the Italian society, creating opportunities for Mussolini to exploit;Industrialists feared that a radical socialist government might try to nationalize their factories, Landowners felt abandoned by their government, middle classes feared the socialists would increase local taxes on the better off and shop keepers were worried by the spread of socialist sponsored shops.Mussolini began to play on the fear of socialism and small groups of fascists began to burn down socialist offices. Their numbers grew and the violence increased. The socialists lacked a strong leader and they were divided between revolutionists and moderates, which is why they failed to gain power of Italy.After the war Italy demanded that they should receive not just those territories agreed with the Entente but should also be given the city of Fiume and the Dalmatian coast.President Woodrow insisted that that each nationality should have its own state, which means Fiume, was given to Yugoslavia. The Dalmatian coast was also denied to Italy, as there were very few Italians who lived there. Italy felt cheated, humiliated, they wanted more, they had won a Mutilated victory and the Liberals were the culprits.In September 1919, a poet D’Annunzio lead an expeditionary force to conquer and seize the city of Fiume on the Dalmatian coast. Many of them wore black shirts of the Arditi. He organized frequent parades, made speeches from balconies and bullied opponents. Nationalists and ex-soldiers hailed him as the embodiment of the Italy they wanted to create. He managed to hold the city for a year, surviving by acts of piracy. By the Treaty of Rapallo, Italy and Yugoslavia agreed to establish Fiume as a free state. Eventually the Italians had enough of this nonsense and shelled his palace and Italian troops occupied Fiume, forcing D’Annunzio to abdicate. He had a strong influence on Mussolini, specifically on his oratorical style and became a national hero. The Treaty of Rome eased tensions by leaving Fiume in Italian hands but awarding its eastern suburb, Susak to Yugoslavia.Mussolini learns a lot from D’Annunzio including that he should have a disciplined organization and to keep them busy. He also learned the importance of propaganda and Mussolini was very influenced by D’Annunzio speeches. D’Annunzio showed him the way to achieve results was not to indulge in months of negotiations, but rather to act decisively and not to be afraid to use force.Italians first heard Mussolini’s ideas in his newspapers, where he advanced his views and ideas. In March 1919 Mussolini formed a new movement, “the Fasci Di Combattimento”. Only 145 men turned up, but this was really the funding of the fascist party in Italy. By the end of the year there were only about 4,000 fascist supporters in the whole of Italy. In the May 1921 general election, the fascist didn’t do much better gaining only 35 seats.In 1921 Mussolini announced the establishment of the fascism as a political party mainly because the party would be organized by Mussolini’s own Milanese faction and Mussolini hoped to increase support for Fascism within the Italian society. The ideas of Fascism were they wanted a strong expansionist party, they were anti-democratic, they hated socialists and communists, and they were very patriotic nation and believed in a firm government. Fascists used increasing violence on their opponents, the socialists, attacking their town councils, to try and gain support and the Italians didn’t seem influenced by this, as they loathed the socialists. In July 1922 the Socialist called yet another strike in attempt to force the government against the fascists. As soon as it began Mussolini took over public transport and post. Within days the strike collapsed and middle classes were convinced that the fascists could be trusted to share the government.Mussolini’s image of himself was as a “war hero”, he told stories of how he fought in the war and shed blood, when really he injured himself in training. Mussolini was also very good at propaganda was an exceptional orator. He was well organized and his supporters were very disciplined. Although he was very devious and cunning.On October 24, 1992, the fascist party leaders planned an insurrection to take place on October 28, consisting of a march On Rome by the fascist armed squads and the capture of strategic local places throughout Italy. Mussolini waited in Milan for the outcome of events, leaving the work to his subordinates. To meet the threat posed by the bands of fascist troops now gathering outside Rome, the government of Prime Minister Luigi Facta ordered a state of siege for Rome. King Victor Emmanuel III, however, refused to sign the order. This meant that the army, which would have stopped Mussolini, was not called on to oppose the fascists. Mussolini, now confident of his control over events, was determined to accept nothing less than control of the government, and on October 29 the king asked him to become prime minister and form a cabinet. Traveling from Milan, Mussolini arrived in Rome where he formed a government on October 30. Some 25,000 Blackshirts were transported to the city, where they marched in a ceremonial triumphant parade on 31 October.The March on Rome was not the conquest of power that Mussolini later called it but rather a transfer of power within the framework of the constitution, a transfer made possible by the surrender of public authorities in the face of fascist intimidation.The king could have ordered his army to crush fascism but instead he let them carry on. He may have done this as he despised the socailsts and also thought he could Manipulate Mussoloni.Even though Mussolini gained power of italy, it was not by the elections but by force. In the May 1921 general elections, the Fascists only got 7% of the peoples votes, gaining 35 seats. The Italians didn’t really have a reaction from March on Rome. This gives you the image that they didn’t really care and thought Mussolini couldn’t be worse than the Liberals. The Italians didn’t vote for Mussolini but they were not aginst him.

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