March on Rome. In 1922 Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) organized a fascist coup, which brought him to the power. As soon as he became the prime-minister, Mussolini launched the struggle with leftist and liberal organizations. In December 1925 as the leader (il duce) he introduced the fascist dictatorship.



The Italian word fascismo is derived from the Latin fasces - a bundle of elm or birch rods containing an axe, which was an insignia of authority in ancient Rome. Benito Mussolini adopted the symbol in 1919 as the emblem of the fascist movement, a political system which governed Italy in 1922-1943, Germany in 1933-1945, Spain in 1939-1975 and a few other countries at various times. More generally the term is applied to any right wing, nationalist, militarized movement or government. Its ideology is usually a mixture of demagogic slogans, which serve current interests of frustrated middle class, small entrepreneurs, townfolks and lumpenproletariat. In all its forms fascism displays certain key features. The absolute primacy of the state is the chief of these, and from it follow others: the submission of the individual will to the unified will of the people as expressed by the state and its institutions, like administration, police, military, trade unions, corporations etc., and entire obedience to a usually charismatic leader, who embodies the state. In addition, martial virtues, combat and conquest are celebrated, while liberal democracy, rationalism and conservative values are denigrated. An element of mysticism commonly pervades fascist expressions of the sanctity of the state, of the race or of the nation, and declarations of their destiny.

Italian fascism grew out of the widespread disillusionment with ineffectual government, uninspired leadership and chaotic economic conditions that beset Italy after the First World War. Such conditions created an atmosphere conductive to the glorification of authoritarian, and especially military, virtues. The poet Gabriele d'Annunzio was one of many intellectuals, who exalted adventure, conflict and war during that period. In 1919 d'Annunzio even led a take-over of the city of Fiume (Rijeka), where he ruled for 16 months. In the same year Mussolini founded the fascist movement in Milan, calling his followers the Fasci di Combattimento. The first milestone in the party's rise to power occurred on 28 October 1922, when Mussolini and his followers (so-called "black shirts") staged a march on Rome, demanding that he be appointed to the prime-minister and threatening to take over the government by force if he were not. The king capitulated and the next day he invited Mussolini to form a government. Armed fascist gangs soon began to terrorize the headquarters of other, especially leftist, parties, and to assault and even murder their members. Mussolini outlawed all political parties but the Fascist Party the following January and henceforth ruled Italy as a leader (il duce) of the state.