Mussolini, Benito

Mussolini, Benito

Mussolini, Benito, 1883-1945, Italian dictator and leader of the Fascist movement.

Early Career

His father, an ardent Socialist, was a blacksmith; his mother was a teacher. Mussolini taught briefly and lived (1902-4) in Switzerland to avoid military service. He achieved national prominence for his opposition to the Libyan War (1911-12) and, as leader of the revolutionary left of the Socialist party, became editor of the Socialist daily Avanti (1913). Soon after World War I began, Mussolini abruptly turned nationalist and joined the pro-Allied interventionists. The Socialist party, which opposed all participation in nationalist wars, expelled him. He then founded his own daily, the Popolo d'Italia, which was subsidized by the French to encourage Italy's entry into the war on the side of the Allies. He joined (1915) the army and attained the rank of corporal.

The Fascist Leader

In the troubled postwar period Mussolini organized his followers, mostly war veterans, in the Fasci di combattimento, which advocated aggressive nationalism, violently opposed the Communists and Socialists, and dressed in black shirts like the followers of D'Annunzio. Amid strikes, social unrest, and parliamentary breakdown, Mussolini preached forcible restoration of order and practiced terrorism with armed groups. In 1921 he was elected to parliament and the National Fascist party (see fascism) was officially organized. Backed by nationalists and propertied interests, in Oct., 1922, Mussolini sent the Fascists to march on Rome. King Victor Emmanuel III permitted them to enter the city and called on Mussolini, who had remained in Milan, to form a cabinet.

As the new premier, he gradually transformed the government into a dictatorship. In 1924 the Socialist deputy Matteotti was murdered. Opposition was put down by an efficient secret police and the Fascist party militia, and the press was regimented. Parliamentary government ended in 1928, and the state economy was reorganized along the lines of the Fascist corporative state. Conflict between church and state was ended by the Lateran Treaty (1929).

Mussolini was called Duce [leader] by his followers; his official title was "head of the government," and he held, besides the premiership, as many portfolios as he saw fit. His ambition to restore ancient greatness found expression in grandiloquent slogans and speeches and in the erection of monumental buildings. The encouragement he gave to the already high Italian birth rate, his imperialistic designs, and his incitement of extreme nationalist groups created an explosive situation.

Fateful Alliance with Germany

Mussolini was at first cool to Adolf Hitler and opposed his designs on Austria. However, Mussolini's diplomatic isolation after his attack (1935) on Ethiopia led to a rapprochement with Germany. In 1936, Hitler and Mussolini aided Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War; the Rome-Berlin Axis was strengthened by a formal alliance (1939), which Mussolini's son-in-law and foreign minister, Galeazzo Ciano, helped to create.

In 1938, Mussolini allowed Hitler to annex Austria and helped bring about the Munich Pact; in Apr., 1939, he ordered the Italian occupation of Albania. Under German pressure, he inaugurated an anti-Semitic policy in Italy, which found little popular response. The Ethiopian and Spanish wars had diminished the Duce's popularity, and he did not enter World War II until France was falling in June, 1940.

The failure of Italian arms in Greece and Africa and the imminent invasion by the Allies of the Italian mainland at last caused a rebellion within the Fascist party. In July, 1943, the Fascist grand council refused to support his policy—dictated by Hitler—and the king dismissed him and had him placed under arrest. He was freed two months later by a daring German rescue party and became head of the Fascist puppet government set up in N Italy by Hitler.

On the German collapse (Apr., 1945) Mussolini was captured, tried in a summary court-martial, and shot with his mistress, Clara Petacci. Their bodies, brought to Milan, were hanged in a public square and buried in an unmarked grave. Mussolini's body was later removed, and in 1957 it was placed in his family's vault.

Bibliography

Many of Mussolini's political speeches and pamphlets have been translated into English. Mussolini's literary productions include The Cardinal's Mistress (tr. 1928) and John Huss (tr. 1929). My Autobiography (Eng. ed. 1939) is supplemented by The Fall of Mussolini: His Own Story (tr. ed. by M. Ascoli, 1948). See also biographies by L. C. Fermi (1961), R. Collier (1971), M. Gallo (tr. 1973), by his widow, Rachele Mussolini (tr. 1974), and R. J. B. Bosworth (2002); study by A. Cassels (1970).

known as Il Duce

Benito Mussolini.

(born July 29, 1883, Predappio, Italy—died April 28, 1945, near Dongo) Italian dictator (1922–43). An unruly but intelligent youth, he became an ardent socialist and served as editor of the party newspaper, Avanti! (1912–14). When he reversed his opposition to World War I, he was ousted by the party. He founded the pro-war Il Popolo d'Italia, served with the Italian army (1915–17), then returned to his editorship. Advocating government by dictatorship, he formed a political group in 1919 that marked the beginning of fascism. A dynamic and captivating orator at rallies, he organized the March on Rome (1922) to prevent a socialist-led general strike. After the government fell, he was appointed prime minister, the youngest in Italian history. He obtained a law to establish the fascists as the majority party and became known as Il Duce (“The Leader”). He restored order to the country and introduced social reforms and public works improvements that won widespread popular support. His dreams of empire led to the invasion of Abyssinia (later Ethiopia) in 1935. Supported in his fascist schemes by Adolf Hitler but wary of German power, Mussolini agreed to the Rome-Berlin Axis and declared war on the Allies in 1940. Italian military defeats in Greece and North Africa led to growing disillusionment with Mussolini. After the Allied invasion of Sicily (1943), the Fascist Grand Council dismissed him from office. He was arrested and imprisoned but rescued by German commandos, then became head of the Hitler-installed puppet government at Salò in northern Italy. As German defenses in Italy collapsed in 1945, Mussolini tried to escape to Austria but was captured and executed by Italian partisans.

Learn more about Mussolini, Benito (Amilcare Andrea) with a free trial on Britannica.com.

My Autobiography is a book by Benito Mussolini. It is a dictated, narrative autobiography recounting the author's youth, his years as an agitator and journalist, his experiences in World War I, the formation and revolutionary struggles of the Fascist Party, the March on Rome, and his early years in power.

It was translated into English, with a foreword, by Richard Washburn Child (the former American Ambassador to Italy) in 1928. In this preface, he wrote:

Publishing history

First published in gilt-lettered green cloth by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1928. Hurst & Blackett reprinted a cheap edition in 1936. A Japanese translation was published in 1937. In 1939 Hutchinson & Co. published an edition with "specially authorised additions by arrangement and approval of Il Duce, bringing it up to the year 1939". Greenwood Press reprinted the 1928 edition in 1970 (ISBN 0-8371-4294-6).

In 1998, Da Capo Press published My Rise and Fall (ISBN 0-306-80864-1) combining My Autobiography with The Fall of Mussolini: His Own Story (1948).

Contents

  • Foreword
  • A Sulphurous Land
  • My Father
  • The Book of Life (in some editions the first three chapters are one titled: Youth)
  • War and Its Effect upon a Man
  • Ashes and Embers
  • The Death Struggle of a Worn out Democracy
  • The Garden of Fascism
  • Toward Conquest of Power
  • Thus We Took Rome
  • Five Years of Government
  • New Paths
  • The Fascist State and the Future
  • En Route
  • Index

External links

Search another word or see Mussolini, Benitoon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature