Fascist control of Italy
The use of propaganda between the years 1923 – 1945 was a essential factor, if not the main reason, for the unrivalled Fascist control of Italy, driven under it leader Benito Mussolini. However, although propaganda was of critical importance to Mussolini during this time, it is not the sole reason for this unequivocal control over Fascist Italy. The first factor is to point out is that with out the thorough use of propaganda, Fascism would still be in its infancy. Mussolini and his Fascist party were able to gain control over society through the creation of new organisations.
Through the means of film and radio, education and activities the Fascists were able to provoke Fascist ideologies into the young and the old. Schools were instructed to educate young Italian students to live according to the fascist revolution. In December 1925, Mussolini conducted an official purge of ‘politically incompatible’ teachers and by 1929, primary and secondary faculty had to take an oath of loyalty to the PNF (Fascist party) and show their support for the regime by wearing ‘Blackshirt’ uniforms.
It wasn’t just the views the teachers had to change but the method as well, as the curriculum changed to incorporate more Fascist ideologies.
It wasn’t just in school that these young children were exposed to this mass propaganda. Films were made and released to, unsuccessfully rival Hollywood’s pictures at the time, however the formation of LUCE in 1924 was more successful as by law a documentary or newsreel with Fascist related political content had to be screened before the feature film. Radio was much more popular and used on a grander because it was cheaper and more widely available to people in public places to instil these ideas.
In 1938 over 1million Italians had privately owned radios and therefore over 5million people were listening, many more listened in public. Finally, two organisations were created to further incorporate Fascist ideologies into the Italian people. The ‘Opera Nazionale Balilla’ or ONB designed for Children and the ‘Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro’ or OND for adults were Italian Fascist leisure and recreational organizations. The ONB, established by the ministry of Education under the slogan of ‘believe, obey, fight’ set out to turn young Italians aged between six and 18 into Fascists.
The youth clubs offered sport, summer camps and pre-military training. Although the youth were probably more attracted to the facilities than the propaganda message the regime was still boosted, with over 1,236,000 members within a year. The OND also followed but in a more beneficial to society way. It offered welfare to poor families and created a national network of subsidised Fascist leisure clubs for public and private sector workers. Another factor in which Mussolini gained control of society was through the use of repression and terror.
He used specialist organisations such as, MSVN, the Militia, the Squadrisiti and the secret police the OVRA. Throughout society there were many informers, in all the working sectors that would report any behaviour that was deemed anti Fascist in any way. These ordinary people would report to the OVRA. This cause fear and paranoia to spread through the Italian society. This allowed Mussolini to have a tight grip on the people through the way that the terror spread through Italy.
This ability to spread fear and paranoia, also seen as a successful tactic used by Stalin helped the Fascists gain total control of society. Propaganda through formations of organisations can only hand so much of society over on a silver platter, Mussolini saw this and realised that he would need another form propaganda to gain more of a grip on Italy. He thus introduced political and social policies, which when successful pass yet more control over to him.
All in all, most of the political and social policies Mussolini introduced to society were successful in allowing the Fascists greater control. In banning the Trade Unions and introducing the corporate state he was able to control both the employers and the employees through the PNF officials representing both parties. In December 1925, Mussolini banned other opposition parties; this on top of stronger press censorship introduced in 1924 effectively eliminated all potential for any challenge to the leadership of Italy.
This was heightened by numerous event occurring around the same time, the Rule of Degree (1926) allowed him to have more power in Parliament, while abolishing the Vote of No Confidence (1925) not only allowed him to make sure that he was the undisputed leader of Italy, but with his self entitled name Duce he was to many seen as a figure greater than God. However, although successful on the social point, Mussolini had no appreciation for economics and therefore he failed miserably here. Poor decisions and short sighted aims, such as the eye wateringly expensive wars that he was involved with resulted in his eventual demise.
Despite some of the propaganda success, such as the ‘Pontine Marshes’ the economic failure heavily outweighed them, and resulted in the overall failure of many programs such as Autarky, Battle for Births and the Battle for Grain. So even though Mussolini was successful in establishing Fascist control through his political and social policies successes, the economic failures did hinder complete control. Another factor that helped the Fascists have control over Italy was the way Mussolini was able to get the Elite of Italy to support the Fascists.
Despite it seeming the fact that Mussolini was head of state he knew that there were some very influential people that could cause him problems. One of these people was the Pope. As 99% of Italians where Catholics then the Pope was their figure head and he had an ability to shape their minds to believe anything. Mussolini knew from the outset that getting on good terms with the Pope was crucial, he had seen what had happened to the ill fated Liberals when they fell out with him. Mussolini offered to heal the relationship; he did this by introducing Religious Studies into the education system.
This pleased the Pope and therefore Mussolini recruited the loudest voice to spread the party’s ideology. Mussolini also went after the King, as he still had the power of martial law. Mussolini negociated that he would remain he monarch of the country but Mussolini would have the same powers as him under his title, Duce. The one thing the King lost was in 1928, the right to select Prime Ministers – although, there was no real choice. Finally, Mussolini also got the support of the Army, Nationalists and the Industrialists that gave him complete control over Italy.
Every aspect and any position of power now supported Fascism and the Duce. Despite the slight failing in a few areas, the successes of propaganda far outweigh the failings. Mussolini achieved what he set out to accomplish with the use of propaganda. Now, although certain aspects, such as repression allowed Mussolini to maintain his control of society. Fundamentally, the main reason to why the Fascist gained and stayed in power was the complete utilisation of propaganda and within that the extraordinary power that the cult of the Duce had on Italians.