Squadrismo and the Move to the Right


Mussolini and the Development of Fascism 


The Fascist movement was an anti-socialist, anti-liberal movement that was born out of the First World War, at first small and based around northern industrial cities. It initially lacked a clear, coherent political programme, and stood out fundamentally due to these two factors, and as a result of the Fasci di Combattimento's notorious opposition to the Treaty of Versailles, 'mutilated victory', weakness of democracy and the Liberal State, the Liberal State's inability to effectively bring about law and order, and the growing threat posed by the PSI in Italy. 

The group initially lacked support; gaining no parliamentary seats in the November 1919 election. It was through the exploitation of conservative fears of the socialist threat that fascist support grew, particularly as squadristi violence came into action. This newfound popularity across members of all social classes saw Mussolini being able to fulfil one of his fundamental aims in gaining the support of Giolitti. This was what allowed the Fasci di Combattimento to gain 35 seats in the parliamentary election of May 1921. This gave the fascists a good basis of exerting their influence upon Italian parliamentary affairs. 

The Formation of the Fasci di Combattimento and Early Party Programme 

The Fasci di Combattimento (Combat Group) was formed on 23rd March 1919 in Milan. It was a small movement founded with just 118 supporters; all either dissident socialists, Futurists or war veterans. 

It officially established the fascist ideals of Mussolini, though it is to be noted that the original party policy was neither clear nor coherent; instead resembling any other left-wing party programme of the time. The shift to the conservative right would not come until after some of the key work of squadrismo up until 1921. Yet it could be argued that the lack of clear party policy worked to the advantage of the party; enabling it to gain support from members of all social classes, as individuals could offer their support on the grounds of their support of a particular aspect of fascist party policy. Yet the extent to which the fascist party programme changed through time puts into question whether fascism was a clear political ideology held by Mussolini, or whether it was simply his attempt of gaining political power. It reflected the fact that Mussolini favoured action over theory until 1922. 

'fascio' was notably a word of left-wing connotations, symbolising strength and unity. This could be seen to represent the intial left-wing stance of the FdC. 

Early Key Aspects of the Fascist Party Programme: 

  • Republicanism; De-centralisation; Anti-Imperialism
  • 8 hour working day; minimum wage; workers' control of public works
  • Female suffrage
  • Free education for all
  • Nationalisation of the arms industry; control and taxation of private wealth; end to speculation by banks and stock exchanges
  • Anti-Clericalism - the confiscation of all Church property
  • Abolishment of nobility titles
  • Abolishment of compulsory military service

It could be argued that support was better based upon fascist opposition to key sources of discontent in Italy: 'mutilated victory', the…


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