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Benito Mussolini: Italian Fascist, His Racial Laws, and Ultimate Downfall Part 1: Early Life
Benito Mussolini: 40th Prime Minister of Itlay
Although I began this presentation as an exploration of the narrow topic of “Italian Racial Laws Under Benito Mussolini”, my research lead me to understand what a complex figure Mussolini was, and that to look at the Racial Laws he enacted, it was important to look at his life as a whole. This hub only skims the available research information on Mussolini, his rise to power and his subsequent Racial Laws. Still, it is sufficient in length that I have broken it into seven parts, each dealing with a portion of his life and reign.
It is interesting to note, that for much of his political career, the majority of Italians, including those most persecuted by him, truly loved this exceptionally charismatic man. He came to his people at a time of great despair and economic hardship, offering a life raft many were eager to jump upon. Only after the raft began to sink in filthy waters did he followers abandon him. I would love to hear what you think of this most complex and fascinating man.
Early Life and Socialism
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini, was born in 1883, in the Northern province of Emilia-Romagna. He came from a highly unusual family, with his father being a blacksmith, active member of the Italian Socialist Party and avid anarchist; while his mother was a devout Roman Catholic schoolteacher. So strong were his father’s beliefs in socialism and anarchy, that Benito was actually given his name in honor of a Mexican socialist hero and two Italian socialist party members. His father insisted on raising his children as atheists and refused their mother’s wish for infant baptism. Mussolini did become a baptized Catholic later in order to life to form an alliance between his Fascist Regime and the Vatican.
As a young boy, Mussolini apprenticed with his father as a blacksmith, however, because his mother believed him to be quite bright, he was sent to a boarding school run by Salesian monks, which stressed charity toward the poor and under classes. Mussolini was an excellent student, studying the teaching of the church as well as the great philosophers. He was most taken by the works of Plato and Homer. He proved to be a rebellious youth, and was expelled after several behavior related incidents, including throwing rocks at the congregation after Mass, and stabbing a fellow student in the hand. He was sent to a public school where qualified as an elementary schoolmaster in 1901, at the age of 18, and quickly joined the Italian Socialist Party. Along with his belief in the Socialist movement, Mussolini held strongly the ideals of a Republican government, a strong nationalism and the reunification of the Northern Italian lands taken by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which were, in fact, quite close to his homeland.
By 1902, Mussolini moved to Switzerland to avoid military service and worked as stone mason. In his down time he studied the ideas of Nietzsche, Machiavelli, and Marx. He became fascinated with overthrowing decadent liberal Democracy and Capitalism by the use of violence, direct action, the general strike, and believed that if presented to the common people in a deeply emotional way, the majority of people would agree. However, he spent so much of his time in study that he was unable to find a permanent job in Switzerland, and was arrested for vagrancy, after which he was deported to Italy where he volunteered for military service. After his two years of service he returned to teaching.
Birthplace of Benito Mussolini, today used as a museum.
Political journalist and Socialist
By 1908, he had joined the Marxian Socialist movement and was in the city of Trento as secretary of the local chamber of labor, and editor of a local socialist party newspaper L'Avvenire del Lavoratore ("The Future of the Worker"). It was in this time that he wrote his political novel, The Cardinal's Mistress, which was bitterly anticlerical and years later had to be withdrawn from circulation after he converted to Catholicism and made his truce with the Vatican. After two years, he was run out of Trento by the authorities for being “a trouble maker”.
Mussolini, billing himself as “Professor Benito Mussolini”, returned to Forli as editor of the weekly socialist party newspaper, and the prestigious Socialist party newspaper Avanti! He was thought of as one of Italy's most prominent Socialists. In September 1911, Mussolini led a Socialists riot against the Italian war in Libya. He bitterly denounced the "imperialist war" , an action which earned him a five month jail term. Although he was rapidly gaining widespread favor of the Italian people, the government was not pleased and he was the subject of many investigations and police reports at the time.
He re-entered entered the Army and served in WWI with the intent to stop the rise and expansion of imperial powers. Even after being injured by a grenade and contracting typhoid fever, he refused the opportunity to be sent home. He was loved by his fellow soldiers and officers, and received a battlefield promotion. His military exploits ended in 1917 when he was wounded accidentally by the explosion of a mortar bomb in his trench.
Upon release form the hospital, he resumed his editor-in-chief position at his new paper, but with less fervor. By this time, he had decided that socialism as a doctrine had largely been a failure. In early 1918, Mussolini called for the emergence of a man "ruthless and energetic enough to make a clean sweep" to revive the Italian nation. By 1919 he felt that "Socialism as a doctrine was already dead; it continued to exist only as a grudge" On 23 March 1919, Mussolini reformed the Milan local Socialist Party into the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento (Italian Combat Squad), consisting of 200 members. This is the birth of Italian Fascism. Mussolini is 35 years old.
To learn more on this topic read the the next installments of Benito Mussolini: Italian Fascist, His Racial Laws, and Ultimate Downfall in my following hubs!