A system where government has/takes total control over an entire country and all

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  • A system where government has/takes total control over an entire country and all aspects of life and functionality. All this is controlled by central government and/or its leader. A system of government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state.


  • A form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator whom is not restricted by a constitution, laws or opposition.

Features of Totalitarianism

  • An official ideology carried out under a one-party state.

  • Monopoly over mass communication (Censorship and ownership).

  • Monopoly over terror (Police State and Secret Police.

  • Control over the economy, state owns all industry.

  • Worship of the Leader, considered as a god.

In this revision document:

  • Russia - Stalin

  • ItalyMussolini

  • Germany – Adolf Hitler

How powerful was Mussolini in 1922?
Oct 1922 - Mussolini appointed as Prime Minister by Victor Emmanuel

  • 1 year of dictatorial powers

  • Only 4 fascists in his cabinet - 10 conservative + liberals

  • Minister interior and foreign minister were fascist.

The king (commander in chief) was head of state, some government powers:

  • Hire and fire prime ministers

  • Didn't act in time of 'March of Rome' --> Facta - Marshall Law

  • He chose Mussolini (Grants him authority and legitimacy)

  • The king does not always let Mussolini have his own way

  • 25% of vote needed to secure 2/3 of seats

  • Mussolini believed would lead to strong/stable government - blocked by king

Control of the fascist party

  • Squadre + Ras - Regionalized not centralized

  • Ideological divisions - Maximo Fascists - Revolution - Balbo - Farinacci

  • Revision of current systems, amending the constitution

Coalitions - One party that did not involve in any coalition PSI (communist), wide variety of parties used

  • Fascists held 35 seats but only 7% of voters

  • Conservatives- Want normalization - needed to be eased in - against radical changes such as revolution

  • Collapse of left - Vatican supports fascists - PSI 1923 excluded from government.


National fascist party

Chamber of deputies

March on Rome - 200,000

Mussolini PM - Dictatorial Powers- Aged 39

Blackshirts -Creation of Squadistri - MVSN

--> Acerbo law - 25% vote = 2/3 of seats

Fascists gain 2/3 of vote


January speech


Banned other political parties, totalitarian regimes come into force

How did Mussolini establish a totalitarian state?

He reassured parliament although he had strength to close parliament he intended to work with it.

Nov 1922 - Parliament grants rule by decree for 12 months, this was only resisted by the communists and socialists, but supported by liberals and Catholics, both were afraid of communism.
December 1922 - he set up the fascist grand council that presented policy to government.
Gained control over Squadre combat groups all over Italy and creation of the MSVN volunteer Militia for national security. Giving Mussolini control over use of terror which he used to kill 3 and violently attack 50 opponents in 1923.

Acerbo law - resisted by king, passed by parliament as blocked by decree.

The party that gains greatest number of votes would get 2/3 of seats.
Election 1924

Use of violence to ensure victory, attacks on socialists and communists.

Corfu, Crete and the 50 million lire - Compensation received after bombardment.

Pact of Rome, Fiume returned to Italy - Between Italy and Yugoslavia

April - named by King “cousin to the sovereign"

4.5 million Votes 66% = 374 seats out of 535

June 1924, the murder of Matteotti

Giacomo Matteotti, verbal attacks on Mussolini lead to his murder

On August 1924

Matteotti's body was found in a shallow grave outside Rome. All 14 members now Fascist

Mussolini resorted to promising that any violent men in the fascist party would be kicked out and he sacked 3 fascist ministers from his cabinet. This caused problems in fascist movement. There were those who saw Mussolini as being too soft and giving to the population to easily. It appeared he was losing public support and from the fascist party.
MVSN stormed into his office in Rome and demanded he rules as a dictator or they would overthrow him. Mussolini decided to become tougher.
"Italy wants, peace and quiet, work and calm. I will give it these things with love if possible and with force if necessary” Mussolini
The fallout

  • The Aventine succession

  • Failure of king to act

  • Fascist tribunal

  • Took over liberal newspaper corriere della sera

  • 4 assassination attempts 1925-6

  • Dec 25 – ‘Legge fascistissime’ banned opposition parties

  • Jan 26 - Government by decree

How much control?

'Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.' Mussolini.

'The kings passivity, the impotence of the opposition parties and Mussolini's skilful control of his own extremists meant that by late 1925 Italy had become, to some extent, a totalitarian state' – Traynor.

Why was Fascist Italy Intolerant of diversity?
Monolithic Ideology

  • Mono (single), completely unaccepting of other ideologies.

  • Mussolini loathes other political Ideas - He has the power to crush it.

  • Believes all people must work towards a 'common goal.'

  • Same in all Totalitarian ideologies - Utopia --> Believed war was needed to gain.

  • Mussolini's Utopia was the creation of a New Roman Empire, encircled the Mediterranean Sea.

  • Believed in Irredentism, the greater Italy.

  • Subordination of the state, being expected to do what the state tells you.

  • Equality is deemed as wrong by Fascists, as people are not equal and not all the same.

  • Inequality is not wrong unless the individuals are committed to the state.

  • Monolithic Ideology based on nationalism, for a greater, stronger Italy

  • Development of Racism, ethnocentrism - Your particular race is better than others.

  • Anti-Semitism later introduced between Hitler-Mussolini relations.


  • Was a Marxist, still believed everything to be controlled by state.

  • Allowed the communists to exist (liberal).

Liberal Italy

  • 1861 --> Liberal Government founded

  • The reason for all Italy's problems --> Regionalism (Opposed to Monolithic).

  • Never reconciled with the church - papal states are opposed - North and South divide.

  • North - Industrial, affluent.

  • South - Agricultural, poor.

  • Diversity was the main flaw in Liberal Italy.

  • Proportional Representation.

  • Over proliferation of political parties.

  • Liberal Italy was incredibly tolerant, of immigration and different views and ideologies.

  • Foreign Policy

  • Mutilated victory, London agreement.

Political Diversity

"I am the state" - use of decrees

  • Mussolini had declared his intention to rule by decree in January 1925 when he declared this statement.

  • By 1926 parliament had no control over policy: In the 15 years between 1925 and 1940, 100,000 decrees were passed.

  • As the fascist grip on Italy tightened he declared 'I am the government. Italy will obey me as she has never obeyed before.'

  • Elections creased in all but name, with opposition parties banned.

A new electoral law was introduced in May 1928 that restricted the franchise that aimed to prevent the wealthy from voting - the group that by definition was the most likely to oppose Fascism. Only those who paid taxes of more than 100 litre a year were entitled to vote. As a result of this measure, the number of Italians entitled to vote fell from 10 million to 3 million.
Election March 1929: The surprise was not that 2,864,000 voted in favour of the list but that 136,000 felt able to vote against it, despite the presence of Blackshirts outside and frequently inside polling stations.

Unions and parties submitted names to the Fascist Grand Council, which then chose 400 representatives, the voters decided whether to elect or reject the list in its entirety.

Parliament Abolished January 1939: (pg69 - 70)

The destruction of parliament was accompanied by the establishment of control over the civil service, the army and judiciary. Mussolini resisted radicals within the party who wished to replace existing post holders with fascist appointees. Instead he promoted generals to the much sought-after rank of field marshal and enhanced the status of the army through his militarisation of the country and foreign policy adventures in the 1930s. The new deputies made a mockery of parliamentary consent for legislation, simply roaring their assent to measures introduced. Ultimately, there could be no clearer recognition that parliamentary democracy had fully consented to its own murder than the fact that in January 1939 parliament abolished itself, to be replaced by the chamber of Fasces and corporations, which equally was a sham.

Victor Emmanuel accepts the lack of his own power

In 1928, King Victor Emmanuel had accepted his own impotence when he agreed that in the future the choice of the Prime Minister would lie with the fascist grand council. Local government was also abolished and elected mayors were replaced by fascist appointees.

Civil service and the army

The civil service was also exempt from action, even though it was estimated that in 1927 only 15% of the bureaucracy were members of the fascist party. The judiciary was dealt with slightly differently, the initial investigation into the Matteotti murder had demonstrated to Mussolini that he needed tighter control over those who dispensed justice to ensure that they understood the need to dispense fascist Justice. Dozens of judges were sacked and the legal system was perverted to allow imprisonment without trial. Mussolini was happy to personally intervene in cases and the judiciary was increasingly happy to let him


It had been estimated that in a typical week 20,000 visits, searches or arrests took place. Critical to these was the Organisation for Vigilance and Repression of the Anti-Fascism [OVRA] - THE SECRET POLICE - which was established in 1926. The OVRA sounded more intimidating than might have been the case, given that it was staffed by only 375 agents.

Lipari Islands

Penal camps were established on the Lipari Islands off the southern coast which ensured that dissidents were tracked down and removed from society. In total, 5000 opponents were imprisoned or banished for a total of 28,000 years. Many fled Italy, including political opponents like Francesco Nitti (PM 1919-20). Exiled Political opponents far from Italy as possible.

Control of the party

The intolerance of political diversity also had consequences for the Fascist Party. The Fasci di Combattimento had been established in 1919, but it was made up of local movements with local policies, and the PNF only united in 1921. The development of the party meant that there were different regional organisations that did not always follow the official party line. There was also Ras who enjoyed the support of the regional parties Together, these factors threatened the unity of the party and the primacy of Mussolini. In addition, the party had to come to terms with the different expectations of its members, as not all Fascists had the same understanding of what the 'fascist revolution' and 'Fascism' meant in practice.

Mussolini and the Catholic Church

Mussolini had to foster good relations with the Roman Catholic Church simply because, regardless of the dictatorship, the Roman Catholic church was such a powerful institution in Italy.

While Mussolini governed the political side of Italy, the Roman Catholic church governed the spiritual side. In this sense, Mussolini could not afford to anger the Roman Catholic church.

Early Opposition

As a young man, Mussolini had shared his father's opinion of the Roman Catholic Church. Mussolini senior, disliked the power of the Church and the young Mussolini referred to priests as "Black germs."

However, once in power after 1922, he had to be more guided. Mussolini had recognised this as early as 1920 when the fledgling future leader of Italy had said the pope "represents 400 million men scattered the world over... (this was) a colossal force."

Pragmatism - Mussolini's flexibility towards the Catholic Church

Once leader, Mussolini had to decide on whether to take on the power of the Roman Catholic Church in Italy or to work with it. He chose the latter. In this way, Italians did not have to have divided loyalties. Therefore, Mussolini worked to get the Roman Catholic Church to accept a Fascist state while he planned to offer the Roman Catholic Church what it wanted...

Gaining Credibility

To gain credibility with the Roman Catholic Church, Mussolini had his children baptised in 1923. In 1926, he had a religious marriage ceremony to his wife Rachele. Their first marriage in 1915 had been a civil ceremony. Mussolini closed down many wine shops and night clubs. He also made swearing in public a crime.

"Family Values"

One of the reasons why Mussolini pushed the idea that women should stay at home and look after the family while their husbands worked, was because this was an idea pushed by the Roman Catholic Church. Mussolini voiced his disapproval at the use of contraception - an identical stance to the Roman Catholic Church, Mussolini also wanted divorce banned in Italy. By doing all this, Mussolini was trying to bring the Roman Catholic Church onto his side to get its support and give added credibility to his government. However, the relationship was not always harmonious.


In particular, Mussolini and the Roman Catholic Church clashed over who should control education. To ensure that Children grew up as good Fascists, Mussolini wanted the state to control this - as it did. However, the Roman Catholic Church felt that it should have this power. Both sides worked for a compromise. The attempt to settle this dispute started in 1926 and it took until 1929 for agreements to be signed. These were the Lateran treaties. They covered areas other than education.

Papal States

The Papal States (the name given to land previously owned by the Roman Catholic Church in Italy) had lost all its land in the 1870 unification of Italy. The Roman Catholic Church received £30 million in compensation in 1929 and the Church was given 109 acres in Rome to create a new papal state - the Vatican. The pope was allowed a small army, police force, post office and rail station. The pope was also given a country retreat called Castel Gandolfo.


Another part of the treaty was called the Concordat. This made the Roman Catholic faith the state religion - this was a fait accompli (already the case) anyway. The pope appointed his bishops, though they had to receive the government's blessing. Religion had to be taught in both primary and secondary schools. The Roman Catholic Church was given full control of marriage.

Reaction to Concordat

When these agreements were signed in 1929, Mussolini's popularity was at its highest. He had got what he wanted - the support from the members of the public who may not have supported the Fascists but who saw the Roman Catholic Church working with the Fascist government, and that by itself created a tacit acceptance of Mussolini’s government.

Disagreement - Anti-Semitism

The major disagreement between Mussolini and the Church was in July 1938, when Mussolini introduced the charter of race which took away the Italian Jews right of Italian nationality. Italian Jews were not allowed to teach, they were not allowed to have state jobs, they were not allowed to be in the Fascist party (though a number had since 1922!) and no Jew could work for a bank or insurance company. Jews were forbidden from marrying non-Jewish Italians and they were not allowed to join the army. These laws were so unpopular that the pope sent a letter of protest to Mussolini.

Cultural Diversity

Mussolini believed that the Italian people needed to be transformed. The recent History of Italy was of a nation that had been pushed around because its ruler and people had failed to resist great powers. The 'mutilated victory' was considered to be clear evidence of this. Mussolini viewed war as essential as it 'turned the blood-stained wheels of history'. As we have seen here, he stated that 'war is to man what childbirth is to woman'.


  • School teachers were forced to join the Fascist party and wear uniforms to work.

  • Picture of Mussolini in military uniform appeared in every classroom.

  • 'Fascist Culture' became a compulsory subject.

  • Italian History, literature and the study of Latin was introduced to all schools.

  • The study of history became simplified after 1936 when a single history textbook became compulsory.

  • Made clear about the debt in which Britain, France and the USA owed Italy.

  • School organisation was also changed and single-sex schools were enforced.

  • Youth organisations were created to ensure continuous exposure to fascist values.

  • April 1926, the national youth organisation opera nazionale Balilla was formed for boys 6 - 18.

  • As well as swearing an oath to serve Mussolini and Fascism, members had to memorize the creed of the movement.

  • Piccole Italiane was set up for girls 9 - 14 and the Giovani Italiane for girls 15 - 17.

  • Both these organisations provided instruction in fascist ideology and the genius of Mussolini.

  • Opportunities to play sport, go camping, and take part in artistic and musical activities.

  • There was also military training and members wore military style uniforms.

  • By 1937, there were 7 million member of the Balilla.

  • Women continued to be allowed into higher education, to study to become teachers.

  • For example, but they could not teach subjects that were particularly important to the regime.

  • Men taught History, Latin and philosophy, but sciences were taught by women.


  • The Opera Nazionale Dopolavaro (meaning 'after work') was set up in 1925 to coordinate leisure time for adults. Took control of a wide range of social organisations..

  • By 1932, it controlled all football clubs, 1350 theatres, 2208 drama societies, 8265 libraries, 3324 brass bands and 2139 orchestral societies. Membership stood at 4 million in 1939, organisation was popular.


  • He set out to militarize the Italian nation through propaganda, the use of language (such as describing the policy of increasing Italy's birth rate as the 'Battle for Births') and a social policy that significantly changed the culture of Italy.

  • The Youth movements trained girls for their future role as mothers.

  • A 'mother and child day' was introduced in 1933 and working mothers received maternity leave and state benefits.

  • Women gained local elections in 1925.

  • Only a maximum of 10% women per work place/environment.

  • - Women forced into appropriate jobs (secretary, telephone operators)


Mussolini believed gay men undermined the image of Italian manhood, so wanted to suppress it. No laws were passed but a climate was created where homosexuality was suppressed.

  • 1938, 45 men, believed to be gay were rounded up into internal exile to San Domino.

  • Men would arrive handcuffed and be housed in dormitories with no electricity or running water.

  • "Imagine your honor, the grief of my beloved father... Internal exile for 5 years"

  • However: Unwittingly fascists had created a corner of Italy where you were expected to be openly gay - degree of freedom on the prison Island.

  • - Gays V transgender - Not allowed to participate in military service - against Constitution of rights.

Racial Policy

Although Mussolini was an extreme nationalist, this did not lead to discrimination against ethnic minorities in Italy in the immediate aftermath of his appointment as prime minister.


  • The Jewish community stood at around 50,000 or 0.1%of the population, particularly well integrated.

  • One in three adult Jews was a member of the fascist party.

  • The Mayor of Milan was Jewish as was Mussolini's mistress, Margherita Sarfatti.


Mussolini had stated himself in 1932 'Anti-Semitism does not exist in Italy. Italians of Jewish birth have shown themselves to be good citizens and they fought bravely in the war.' In 1935 he ridiculed the anti -Semitism of Nazi Germany.


  • However, by 1938 Mussolini's attitude had changed and Italian Jews came under attack.

  • July 1938, the manifesto of Racist scientists asserted that there was a pure Italian 'Aryan' race, in which Jews did not belong, Discriminatory measures followed in September-October 1938.

  • Mussolini's new found policy of Anti-Semitism was influenced by Hitler and Nazi policies.

  • After 1936, he and Hitler brought nations closer, united by a common hatred of the left and by their desire for expansion.

  • March 1938, Mussolini allowed Hitler to carry out the Anschluss with Austria, having prevented it only four years earlier.

  • - 7000 Italian Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

Africans: The Roman empire was an inspiration to Mussolini who saw himself as a new Caesar, recreating the glories of the past. Mussolini was desperate to extend the Italian Empire. The militaristic nature of Fascism demanded that the empire was extended through war and conquest. Before the first world war, European powers had engaged in a scramble for Africa. By the 1930's, there were only two independent African colonies left. One was Ethiopia (Abyssinia), which was strategically and psychologically important to Italy. It was situated between the Italian colonies of Eritrea and Somaliland.

  • The defeat of the Italian army in 1896 by the Abyssinians was a national humiliation, low point for Liberal Italy.

  • - Mussolini was intent on revenge, as well as desiring the colony for the manpower it could provide the Italian army and the additional land it could provide for Italian migrants.

Germans and Slavs:

  • 228,000 Germans in South Tyrol, 327,000 Slovenians and 98,000 Croats in Istria.

  • Policies imposed in these regions were aggressively nationalistic with the intention of destroying the language and culture of the ethnic groups; Italian became the official language of these regions.

  • Italian teachers replaced local teachers.

  • However: In Istria, Italian teachers were forced out of schools and terrorists bombed public buildings.

  • Diversity fighting against suppression!!!

  • State Institutions used Italian, which mean non-Italian speakers lost their jobs in government, civil service and courts.

  • German and Slav surnames were "Italianised"

  • Greatest resistance to Fascism in Istria

  • The smaller number of executions in Italy between 1925-40: included five Slavs convicted of Political terrorism.

  • - Hitler declared after the Anschluss he stated his ambitions that there would be no campaign to unite German speakers south of the Alps, no campaign to 'liberate' Germans who were ill-treated by the Italian government, yet he had justified his annexation of the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia as necessary to save Germans from persecution.


- Fascism stressed the traditional role of women, subservient to men.

Corporate Estate

The corporate state is described by Martin Blinkhorn as ‘Italian Fascism’s Chief claim to Political creativity’

1878 – Catholic Church under Pope Leo XIII







Syndicalism  No party politics

Collaboration between workers + employers = greater production

  • Edmondo Rossoni (Minister of agriculture forestry 1935 – 39)

  • Principle goals:

  • To consolidate power.

  • To increase his prestige.

  • Quest for greatness in foreign affairs (Abyssinia)

  • Domestic Policy – The servant of foreign policy.

An innocent Start

  • Laissez faire until the inflation of 1926.

  • Increasing State intervention.

  • Impact of Great Depression.

  • Corporate state entailed considerable state involvement.

The Theory

  • Capital and Labour integrated into units called corporations.

  • Each corporation would have a measure of self-government.

  • Corporations would formulate policies with other corporations.

The Reality

  • Corporations controlled by fascist government.

  • Fascist officials appointed as workers representation.

  • Capital could defend its interests through bodies like confindustria.

Confindustria is the Italian employers' federation. . It aims to help Italy's economic growth, assisting, in doing so, its members.
The Boast

In 1926 the Ministry of corporations was said to have ended class conflict but… Fascist syndicates undermined workers and employers syndicates.

Mixed Corporations

  • 22 setup in 1934.

  • Suppose to fix wages, settle disputes, deploy labour, regulate apprenticeships, advise on economic matters, and encourage improvements in production.

  • Promised workers ‘Self-management’ and ‘managerial authority.’

Impact – An elaborate Façade

  • Regime encouraged big business.

  • Sought to control Labour – The Libretto introduced in 1935; Lira revaluation increased trend towards monopoly and assisted in lowering wage.

  • Onset of depression intensified these trends.

The growth of monopolies

  • Creation of IRI (Institution for reconstruction of Industry).

  • Autarkic Policies (not relying on imports) Protected Industry from competition.

  • Aimed to boost self-sufficiency.

Impact on workers

  • Already lost unions.

  • Burdened by employer regulations.

  • Fear of unemployment.

  • Living standards fell after late 1920s.

  • 8 hour day abandoned.

  • Real wages fell by 11% (1925 – 39).

  • Unemployment 2 million by 1933.

Impact on Peasants

  • Rural Poverty ignored.

  • Farming techniques neglected.

  • Emigration to USA stopped.

  • Peasants gravitated to cities creating shanty towns.

  • North-South divide continued.

  • Battle for grain distorted rural economy.

  • Land reclamation was limited.

Nasty, Brutish and short: Impact on Italy

  • Mussolini thought struggle was honourable.

  • Harshness only mitigated by family allowances, Holiday pay, accident and sickness insurance.

The Bogus Plan

  • The corporate state never materialised

  • No consensus between capital and labour

  • Workers lost out.

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