Another Benito Mussolini

Benito Mussolini was born in Predappio on July
29, 1883, the son of a socialist blacksmith.
Largely self-educated, he became a schoolteacher
and socialist journalist in northern Italy. In 1910
he married Rachele Guidi, who bore him five
children. Mussolini was jailed for his opposition to
Italy\'s war in Libya. Soon after that, he was
named editor of Avanti!, the Socialist Party
newspaper in Milan. When World War I began, in
1914, Mussolini first denounced it as \'imperialist,"
but he soon reversed himself and called for Italy\'s
entry on the Allied side. Expelled from the
Socialist Party, he started his own newspaper in
Milan, // Popolo díltalia, which translates ĎThe
People of Italyí, which later became the organ of
the Fascist movement.

When Fascists marched on Rome, King Victor
Emmanuel III invited Mussolini to form a coalition
government on October 28, 1922. By 1926 the
Fascist leader had transformed the country into a
single-party, totalitarian regime. In his new
"corporative state," employers and workers were
organized into party-controlled groups representing
different sectors of the economy. The system
preserved capitalism and expanded social services,
but abolished free trade unions and the right to
strike. The Lateran pacts with the Vatican ended a
half-century of friction between church and state
and proved to be long lasting. Another enduring
legacy of fascism was a system of industrial
holding companies financed by the state.

Adopting an aggressive foreign policy, Mussolini
defied the League of Nations and conquered
Ethiopia in 1936. This won him acclaim in almost
every sector of the populace. II Duce\'s popularity
declined, however, after he sent troops to help
General Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil
War, this linked Italy to Nazi Germany, enacted
anti-Jewish laws, and invaded Albania.

Because of military unpreparedness, Mussolini did
not enter World War II until June 1940, when the
Germans had overrun France. Italy fought the
British in Africa, invaded Greece, and joined the
Germans in carving up Yugoslavia, attacking the
Soviet Union, and declaring war on the United
States. After Italy\'s many military defeats, King
Victor Emmanuel dismissed Mussolini on July 25,
1943, and in September obtained an armistice with
the Allies, who had invaded southern Italy. At the
same time, the Germans rescued the sickly
Mussolini and made him organize a brutal puppet
Social Republic in northern Italy. In the final days
of the war Mussolini attempted an escape to
Switzerland with his mistress Clara Petacci. Italian
partisans captured and shot them on April 28,
1945, at Giulino di Mezzegra near Lake Como. In
view of their country\'s wartime disasters, few
Italians regretted the overthrow of the Fascist
regime and the death of its demagogic Duce.

Category: History