Benito mussolini was an Italian politician and dictator, founder and leader of fascist party. In 1922, he organized the famous march of black shirts on Rome, where the king asked him to form a government. Having obtained full powers from parliament, he set up an authoritarian regime and took the title of "Duce"Skillfully wielding propaganda, Mussolini transforms Italy into a totalitarian state which intervenes in all sectors of society. He belatedly joins Hitler and the Nazis in World War II, a conflict in which he is involved. proved to be a poor military leader, and executed by the resistance fighters from Italy on April 28, 1945.
Benito Mussolini, socialist militant
Benito Mussolini was born on July 29, 1883, in a small town in Romagna. His father, a craftsman and a convinced socialist, gave him the first name of the Mexican revolutionary Benito Juarez. Young Benito was quickly noticed for his violent inclinations, which did not prevent him from starting a career as a teacher. A radical socialist activist, his opinions earned him the suspicion of the Italian authorities. He ends up fleeing his country for Switzerland in order to escape military service.
In exile, Benito Mussolini becomes one of the figures of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) and a recognized political journalist. Returning to Italy his rise was rapid and in 1911 after his campaign in opposition to the Libyan war, he was considered the leader of the maximalist (revolutionary) wing of the PSI. Renowned for his virulent articles, the one who first denounced the imperialist war (that of 1914), subsequently undertook to rally Italy to the Triple Entente. Excluded from PSI because of his interventionism, he founded his own newspaper Il Popolo d´Italia then leaves to fight on the front of the Alps.
... to the facist dictator
On his return from the front, Mussolini recognized the danger of a possible Bolshevik revolution in Italy. Abandoning his old socialist convictions, he created in 1919 the "Italian Faisceaux de combat", which amalgamated revolutionary trade unionists and nationalists disillusioned by the territorial gains of Italy. Appearing in recourse against communist agitation, supported by industrialists, Mussolini and his fascists reign terror against their Marxist opponents. In an Italy thwarted by the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles concerning it, the propaganda of the fascists finds a growing echo with the population of the peninsula.
After a series of intimidation and forcible attacks, Mussolini "Duce" (Leader) of the PNF (National Fascist Party, created in number 1921) seized power. With the agreement of King Victor Emmanuel III, he became president of the Italian council on October 28, 1922 following the march on Rome. In the years that followed, and especially from 1925, the Duce would work to make Italy a totalitarian state, guided by the precepts of Fascist ideology. His ultimate goal besides creating a society of new men and raising his country to the status of a great power, by force if necessary. To achieve this ambition, he ensured at least the neutrality of the pope by signing with the Vatican the Lateran agreements of February 1929, which regulate the status of the Holy See and establishes a concordat in Italy.
Fascist Italy put to the test of war
This desire, combined with the effects of the crisis of 1929, pushed him towards a bellicose foreign policy, notably with the invasion of Ethiopia in 1935-1936, then support for Franco in the Spanish civil war. After participating in the Munich Agreement, he eventually rallied, after initial reluctance, to Hitler’s Germany and on June 10, 1940, engaged his country in war against the Allies. Fascist Italy, badly managed, badly prepared for a total industrial war will experience a long series of defeats, which will lead to the fall of Fascism in July 1943.
The year 1943 had opened with grim prospects for the Duce and his regime. Italy engaged in war alongside Germany since June 1940 quickly demonstrated the extent of its unpreparedness for industrial and modern conflict. In Greece the Italians were only successful with the massive help of the Germans, Italian East Africa (Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia) could not be defended beyond the year 41 and the campaign of North Africa, despite the support of a Germanic expeditionary force, ultimately resulted in a long retreat to Tunisia.
The Italian Fleet (Regia Marina), so feared before the war, was unable to face the Royal Navy on a lasting basis and saw its battle corps beheaded after the air raid on Taranto (November 1940). Mussolini, who thought to engage in the summer of 1940 in a war parallel to that of the Third Reich, was finally forced to play the supporting roles. He who once inspired Hitler is now his debtor, the Italian war effort not being able to continue without the support of Berlin.
For the Duce this situation is besides a humiliation, a terrible disillusion. Contrary to his hopes, the war did not give birth to a new Italian, rid of the vices of bourgeois and materialist society. The Italian people are not enthusiastic about this war (even if their soldiers fight bravely when they are well commanded) and bear the brunt of restrictions, such as the effects of bombing. The resulting discontent is now expressed publicly, as during the major strikes of February 1943.
The fear of the return of workers' unrest and doubts about the ideological orientations of Fascism (in particular the alignment with a weakened Germany and the racial policy which ensues from it) gradually leads to the crumbling of the cement of the regime: the alliance between the conservative elites and the PNF (National Fascist Party). Soon the protesters shifted their hopes to their traditional remedy, namely the King.
The Conservatives' plot
While initiating secret probe shots with the allies, regime caciques such as Ciano (Minister of Foreign Affairs and son-in-law of Duce) or Marshal Badoglio are seriously considering overthrowing Mussolini. The surrender of the German-Italian armies in Tunisia in May 1943 convinced them of the urgency of the situation. Indeed, contrary to the public statements of the Duce, it is now clear that Italy itself is threatened by an Allied landing.
This occurs on July 10 (Operation Husky). 160,000 men of the 7th American Army (Patton) and 8th British Army (Montgomery), quickly gain a foothold on both sides of Cape Passero. Despite difficult weather conditions and the vagaries of airborne operations, they managed to shake up the defense of the Italian 6th Army of Guzzoni, however supported by elite German units (Paratroopers, Hermann Goering armored division ...). On 16 Churchill and Roosevelt, jointly call on the Italians to overthrow the Fascist regime. While in Sicily the population (and the Mafia) are proving to be of great help to the allies, on the continent resentment against Fascism is expressed in the streets.
Mussolini, who met Hitler on the 19th (interview with Feltre) believes he is assured of Berlin's support and thinks he can rely on supporters of a hard Fascist line (like Scorza) to stay in power. However weakened by illness and psychologically fragile he is no longer able to perceive the extent of his son-in-law's schemes. The latter with the help of his allies, obtained from the King to overthrow the Duce by a constitutional coup by taking advantage of a meeting of the Grand Fascist Council scheduled for the 24th. The anger of the Roman crowd after an allied bombardment, took away the last hesitations of Victor Emmanuel III.
The fall of Mussolini
The Council opens in an atmosphere made hateful by rumors of a coup. Mussolini, however, alerted to the plot that is brewing against him to prefer not to risk the showdown. The two-hour speech he gave that day no longer had the strength of the long diatribes of yesteryear. When Galeazzo Ciano and Grandi respond, the attack is all the more violent. Accused of having betrayed his country and having drawn it alongside Germany (the enemy of the previous war, let us remember) in a war without hope, Mussolini is stunned. By nineteen votes to seven the motion of his opponents won, after a vote at around 2 am on July 25. The King now has in his hands the legal instrument that will allow him to remove the one who had been his Prime Minister for 21 years ...
July 25, 1943. It's a BenitoMussolini nervous who responds to the summons of the King of Italy Victor Emmanuel III by going to the Villa Savoia. The meeting of the Grand Fascist Council the day before began what the Duce himself called a "crisis of the regime." However, the master of the destinies of Italy since 1922, still thinks he can turn the situation to his advantage. What is his surprise, when the King in full uniform (after he has ordered the dictator to put on a civilian costume) announces to him who he is being deposed, replaced as Prime Minister by Marshal Badoglio. After barely twenty minutes of interview, Mussolini was fired and then arrested by riflemen. The Fascist regime has just been overthrown, without a shot ...
At the head of a puppet state in a divided Italy
The fall of Mussolini was to have important consequences for the course of World War II. Indeed, it paved the way for sustained negotiations between the Badoglio government and the allies in order when the time came to leave the German alliance. This will be done on September 8, 1943, when the Anglo-Saxons landed in the south of the peninsula. Hitler forced to invest heavily in Italy to defend his southern flank, thus decides to suspend the participation of the SS armored corps in Operation Citadel in Kursk.
For Italy with the liberation of Mussolini by a German commando on September 12, it is the beginning of a civil war of one and a half years which will ravage the north of the country. The creation of the Italian Social Republic (known as the Salo regime) will be an opportunity for the hard fascists to carry out their totalitarian program, without monarchical or conservative interference. As for the Duce, plagued by illness, he knew in advance the game which ended for him in Mezzegra on April 28, 1945 was lost. BenitoMussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci were shot there by Italian partisans after being captured. Their remains will then be exhibited in Milan, hung upside down from a balustrade to be shouted at by the crowd. Thus ended the destiny of a man who had dreamed of himself the omnipotent guide of a new Roman Empire.
• Pierre Milza, Mussolini, Fayard, 1999
• Mussolini. A dictator at war, by Max Schiavon. Perrin, 2016.
• Didier Musiedlak, Mussolini, Presses de Sciences Po, 2004, 436 pages.
- Hitler - Mussolini - Stalin, documentary by H. Kasten Ullrich. Arte Video, 2010.