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About this book

It is now 80 years since Mussolini's Fascism came to power in Italy, but the political heirs of the original Fascism are part of government in today's Italy. The resurgence of neo-fascist and neo-Nazi extremism all over Europe are a reminder of the continuing place of fascism in contemporary European society, despite its political and military defeat in 1945.
This thoroughly revised, updated and expanded edition provides a critical and comprehensive overview of the origins of Fascism and the movement's taking and consolidation of power. Philip Morgan:
· explains how the experience of the First World War created Fascism
· describes how the unsettled post-war conditions in Italy enabled an initially small group of political adventurers around Mussolini to build a large movement and take power in 1922
· focuses on the workings of the first ever 'totalitarian' system and its impacts on the lives and outlooks of ordinary Italians
· considers the meshing of internal 'fascistisation' and expansionism, which emerged most clearly after 1936 as Italy became more closely aligned with Nazi Germany
· examines the demise of Italian Fascism between 1943 and 1945 as Mussolini and his party became the puppets of Nazism
· provides an explanation and interpretation of Fascism, locating it in contemporary history and taking account of recent debates on the nature of the phenomenon.
Clear and approachable, this essential text is ideal for anyone interested in Italy's turbulent political history in the first half of the twentieth century.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Locating Fascism

Introduction: Locating Fascism

Abstract
What is ‘new’ about this revised edition of Italian Fascism 1915–1945, which was first published in 1995? Well, the title, for a start. The Fascist movement was formed in 1919. But the starting date for the book has been pushed back to 1915 to reflect the origins of Fascism as a political movement in the interventionist campaign to bring about Italy’s entry to the First World War, Mussolini’s own transition from Socialist to ‘Fascist’ during the period of interventionism and the war itself, and the importance of the war experience to setting Fascist goals and ‘values’. This will emerge more emphatically in Chapter 1, as will an attempt to deal with what some intellectual historians see as the emergence of a kind of ‘prehistoric’ generic fascism and Italian Fascism from the pre-war European matrix of non-conformist ideas and movements.
Philip Morgan

The Conquest of Power, 1915–29

Frontmatter

1. The War, the Post-war Crisis and the Rise of Fascism, 1915–22

Abstract
The national elections of November 1919 were the most significant in Italy since the political and territorial unification of the country in 1870. They were the first elections to take place under conditions approaching mass political democracy. All adult males had the vote. The electoral law of August 1919 introduced proportional representation with large multimember constituencies replacing the pre-war first-past-the-post, single-member constituency system.
Philip Morgan

2. Between ‘Normalisation’ and ‘Revolution’, 1922–25

Abstract
In retrospect, the period from October 1922 to January 1925 marked the transition from the liberal parliamentary system to the Fascist state. Like many political transitions it was an untidy and complicated process, a hybrid of elements of the old and new political order as one overlapped with and superseded the other. It seems difficult to establish precisely what were the intentions of Mussolini and the PNF. Were they intending all along to set up a single-party totalitarian dictatorship? Or were they aiming at something rather less drastic, a strong government certainly, but still one compatible with the existing parliamentary and constitutional framework until driven off course by the fallout from an unpredictable event, the murder of the Socialist deputy, Giacomo Matteotti, in June 1924, which precipitated the definitive rupture with the parliamentary system?
Philip Morgan

3. The Construction of the ‘Totalitarian’ State, 1925–29

Abstract
Mussolini first used the term ‘totalitarian’ publicly in his speech to the PNF’s national congress in June 1925. He spoke of Fascism applying its ‘ferocious totalitarian will’ to the remnants of opposition and to the ‘fascistisation’ of the nation so that ‘tomorrow Italian and Fascist, rather like Italian and catholic, mean the same thing’.1 This usage corresponded to the earlier coining of the term by anti-Fascists lamenting Fascism’s desire not only to defeat but to destroy its opponents and monopolise power. It hence referred also to the explicitly ‘totalitarian’ drift of provincial squadrism and syndicates from 1921 to 1922 to eliminate all political opposition and ensure party control of all aspects of life. The operation of party rule under the ras was ‘totalitarian’ even before the term was officially formulated. As we shall see, the provincial party extremists revived all the themes of 1923 ‘intransigence’ during 1925, when they attempted to generalise and formalise their experience as the basis of the new Fascist system.
Philip Morgan

The Fascist Regime, 1929–36

Frontmatter

4. The Years of the Great Depression, 1929–34

Abstract
It is tempting to say that Fascism did not evolve beyond the point in 1929 when the construction of a repressive dictatorship was largely completed, based on centralised and extended state power administered by the existing state apparatus. Certainly, one of its major rationales both as a middle-class mass movement and in power was the permanent destruction of working-class organisations and the post-war threat of a significant advance in the political and social position of workers. This was the lowest common denominator of the compromise or alliance of Fascism with the institutions and forces of the existing order. The advantages to that order of the Fascist state’s disciplining and control of labour were apparent in the way the government had handled the revaluation crisis. But the development of the Fascist regime during the period of the Depression indicated that Fascism was something more than a repressive conservative dictatorship.
Philip Morgan

5. The Creation of the Fascist Empire, 1935–36

Abstract
From its inception, Fascism was imperialist. Mussolini had cynically abandoned D’Annunzio in Fiume in 1920, calculating correctly that Fascism’s opportunity lay in combatting ‘the enemy within’. But the movement consistently had as its declared aim a general commitment to realising the grandeur of Italy, specifically through the foundation of an empire. Self-consciously drawing on the legacy of interventionism and the war experience, Fascism claimed that under its rule Italy would at last be recognised as a major power and achieve hegemony in the ‘Italian’ sea, the Mediterranean.
Philip Morgan

Fascist Expansionism at Home and Abroad, 1936–43

Frontmatter

6. The Axis Connection and the ‘Fascistisation’ of Italian Society, 1936–40

Abstract
Foreign policy decisions were the most important and revealing of the regime’s nature and intentions, and must be harmonised with any view of domestic and economic policy between 1936 and 1940. The Ethiopian invasion could be regarded as a successful exercise in ‘determining weight’ diplomacy. Exploiting the threat of Germany to Anglo-French hegemony in Europe, Mussolini had won what he thought was a free run in East Africa in return for restraint on Germany in Europe, specifically resistance to Anschluss. The question is, what options were still open to Mussolini during and after Ethiopia? Could he maintain a position of ‘equidistance’ in international relations, and did he actually want to?
Philip Morgan

7. Fascist Italy at War, 1940–43

Abstract
War should have been the apotheosis of Fascism. In fact it was its nemesis. Fascism failed the test that it had set for itself, indeed the only standard by which it wanted to be measured, as a mass-mobilising dictatorship preparing the nation for victorious war and conquest. War was what Fascism was about, whatever the opportunism of Mussolini’s June 1940 decision to exploit the apparently overwhelming Nazi military gains in Northern and Western Europe. The gamble for Mussolini and the regime was huge, if calculated. The only justification for war was to win it, and rapidly. The losing of a prolonged war exposed the regime’s growing unpopularity, already passively evident before 1940 as a result of that combination of accelerated ‘fascistisation’ and the Nazi German alliance. The wartime experience revealed the inevitable superficiality of Fascist attempts at totalitarian mobilisation and the fatal flaws in the institutional structures of the Fascist state, and completed the dissolution of the broad conservative coalition of interests that had sustained Fascism since the 1920s.
Philip Morgan

8. The Italian Social Republic, 1943–45

Abstract
As Mussolini had realised, the first price to pay for leaving the Axis was his own fall from power. The second — German occupation of Italy and her territory — was completed speedily in September 1943 on the news of the Italian armistice with the Allies and her official changing of sides. The leisurely maladroit way in which Badoglio’s royal government had opened its contacts with the Allies after July, and the king’s irresponsible flight to the Allied-occupied south effectively delivered the whole of Italy’s armed forces, men and equipment, to the invading Germans.
Philip Morgan

Conclusion

Abstract
Fascism was dead as a functioning independent regime from late 1942. It is futile to argue retrospectively that Fascism would have survived but for the external factor of the Second World War. It might have done, but it would not have been Fascism. War was essential not incidental to Fascism. The Fascist movement emerged as an extreme and violent political response to a perceived national crisis, consequent on the social and political strains set up by the impact and outcome of the First World War and expressed in what appeared to be Socialist revolution. It became a new mass movement of the middle classes, united in a heterogeneous anti-socialist coalition with important organised sectional interests and members of liberal Italy’s political, economic and military establishment. These probably inescapable compromising alliances with the old order were built into the system of power evolving by the late 1920s, corrupting the implementation of a new socio-economic corporative order which Fascism alleged was its distinctive and innovative contribution to managing the social conflicts of modern society.
Philip Morgan
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