Dictators: Benito Mussolini – Delusions of Grandeur

Benito Mussolini was an Italian dictator who founded and led the National Fascist Party. He was Prime Minister of Italy from the March on Rome in 1922 until his deposition in 1943, as well as “Duce” of Italian fascism.

He was  summarily executed in 1945 by Italian partisans. As dictator of Italy and principal founder of fascism, Mussolini inspired and supported the international spread of fascist movements during the inter-war period.

Mussolini was originally a socialist politician and a journalist . In 1912, he became a member of the National Directorate of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI),but he was expelled for advocating military intervention in World War I, in opposition to the party’s stance on neutrality. His views now centered on Italian nationalism instead of socialism, and later founded the fascist movement which came to oppose egalitarianism and class conflict, instead advocating “revolutionary nationalism” transcending class lines.

In 1922, following the March on Rome , Mussolini was appointed prime minister by King Victor Emmanuel III, becoming the youngest individual to hold the office up to that time.

After removing all political opposition through his secret police and outlawing labour strikes, Mussolini and his followers consolidated power through a series of laws that transformed the nation into a one-party dictatorship. Within five years, Mussolini had established dictatorial authority by both legal and illegal means and aspired to create a totalitarian state.

Mussolini’s foreign policy aimed to expand Italian possessions and the fascist sphere of influence. In the 1920s, he ordered the Pacification of Libya, ordered the bombing of Corfu over an incident with Greece, and established a protectorate over Albania.

In 1936, Ethiopia was conquered following the Second Italo-Ethiopian War and merged into Italian East Africa with Eritrea and Somalia. In 1939, Italian forces annexed Albania. Between 1936 and 1939, Mussolini ordered the Italian military intervention in Spain in favour of Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War. He ultimately alienated the democratic powers as tensions grew in the League of Nations, which he left in 1937.

Now hostile to France and Britain, Italy formed the Axis alliance with Nazi Germany and imperial Japan.

The wars of the 1930s, although victorious, had cost Italy enormous resources, leaving the country unprepared for the upcoming Second World War.

In June 1940, believing that Allied defeat was imminent, he decided to join the war on the side of Germany to share the potential spoils of victory. To the contrary, after three more years of world war the tide of the conflict had turned in favour of the Allies.

His disastrous invasion of Greece led to defeat on the battlefield , where his forces were routed by the Greek resistance and British and Commonwealth forces including those from Australia and New Zealand. The Italian Army in Greece was  effectively replaced by that of Germany which occupied the country for more than four years.

Following the invasion of Sicily, King Victor Emmanuel III dismissed Mussolini as head of government and placed him in custody .After the king agreed to an armistice with the Allies, in September 1943 Mussolini was rescued from captivity in the Gran Sasso raid by German paratroopers and Waffen-SS commandos.

Hitler made Mussolini the figurehead of a puppet state in German-occupied northern Italy.

In late April 1945, with Allied victory imminent, Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci attempted to flee to Switzerland, but they were captured by Italian communist partisans and summarily executed on 28 April near Lake Como, and their bodies were strung up by the heels outside a service station in Milan.

Thanks to Wikipedia.

Destination: Italy