In the sixteen years of Benito Mussolini's dictatorship prior to this, there had not being any race laws; Mussolini had held the view that a small contingent of Italian Jews had lived in Italy "since the days of the Kings of Rome" (a reference to the Bené Roma) and should "remain undisturbed". There were even some Jews in the National Fascist Party, such as Ettore Ovazza who in 1935 founded the Jewish Fascist paper La Nostra Bandiera. The German influence on Italian policy upset the established balance in Fascist Italy and proved highly unpopular to most Italians, to the extent that Pope Pius XII sent a letter to Mussolini protesting against the new laws.
The Manifesto of Race, adopted as law in July 1938, declared the Italians to be descendants of the Aryan race. As its title implies, it targeted races that were seen as inferior (i.e. that were not of Aryan descent). In particular, Jews were banned from many professions and could have their property confiscated. Under racial laws, marriages between Italians and Jews were abolished, Jews were banned from positions in banking, government, and education, and their properties were confiscated. These laws also targeted African races. Originally, many scholars believed that Italian fascist racism was a largely artificial creation of the Italo-German alliance.
Antonio Spinosa, one of the first to examine the problem of Italian fascist racism comprehensively, charged that this politics [of the Italo-German alliance] crowned by the declaration of war against Great Britain and France, was the cause of the Italian racist campaign desirable to the leaders of the Gross-Deutsches Reich.
The historian Renzo De Felice, while essential agreeing with this assessment in his earlier work, added several secondary factors: in this "conversion" to anti-Semitism the influence of the Nazis and of Germany was a determinant, but not direct. From the Nazi side there had not been pressure because Italy allied itself even in this subject of race with Germany. It was indirect: one side waved the "Jewish threat" and let the facts demonstrate to Mussolini the impossibility that between the Allies there could be a very strident diversity of attitude. The other side were notoriously anti-Semitic Fascists, such as Preziosi, who served as instruments of pressure on Mussolini, or those who made anti-Semitism their political raison d'etre, out of conviction or personal interests in the Italo-German alliance.
The strong Italian and German alliance was greatly bound by the idea of fascism. Mussolini was greatly admired by Adolf Hitler. In 1920, he founded the National Socialist German Workers' Party, with a charter membership of seven, counting himself. Hitler had been captivated by the 1922 March on Rome and envisioned himself at the head of a similar march on Berlin. James Gregor made much the same point that Mussolini was unable, in 1933, to convince Hitler that racism was unproductive, yet eventually decided that an alliance with Germany was highly desirable. thus, Mussolini "decided to accommodate the National Socialists by introducing anti-Semitic legislation in Italy as evidence of his good faith. He conceived it an offering calculated to solidify the Italo-German Alliance" in this way, "Mussolini's anti-Jewish attitude was dictated not by theoretical but almost solely tactical, i.e., political, consideration." This shift toward racism effectuated by political considerations unleashed "biologism latent in the writings of some nationalists." Thus "the fascist regime passed from anti-racialism to racial anti-Semitism on the German model…through the impact of German-Italian relations on the evolution of the racial question in Italy. Fascist racism throughout the period of 1922-1928, some have argued.
None of the major fascist intellectuals were racists of the sort found in national socialist environs. In fact, since many if not most, of the principal ideologues of the fascists were Actualists, they had principled objections to attributing human behavior to material-biological-causes. They simply could not accept the proposition that an entire population, characterized by ills-defined "racial traits, could be held, as a body, guilty of anything.
After considerable resistance, National Socialists influence began to penetrate some circles in Fascist Italy. Anti/Semitism informs of biological racism began to surface in some publications. In general, however, there was a concerted effort to distinguish Fascist "racism" from that emanating from the north. It was not unusual, before the outbreak of the Second World War, for Fascist intectuals to oppose themselves to some of the major elements of National Socialist racism.
Until the actual publication of the official Manifesto of Fascist Racism, biological racism, as it was understood by National Socialist theorists, had literally no place in Fascist doctrine. Thereafter, the Fascist position on this subject became increasingly confused.
Fascists, and most Actualists, were opposed to any racism that shared significant properties with the racism of Hitler's Germany. In that context, persons who had long been dismissed as lacking any significance, made their reappearance among Fascist intellectuals.