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Mussolini & Italy
Form of Authority
photo: Mussolini's balcony in Rome
Following World War I, violence erupted between the Italian government and the trade unions. In 1922, Benito Mussolini (a.k.a. "Il Duce"), leader of the Fascist party, organized a March on Rome with 26.000 followers. This massive display of political support convinced the King to grant him power as prime minister.
Mussolini consolidated his authority by gaining the upper hand over both King and Pope. Having grasped the importance of images, he staged a cult of personality in which he presented himself as the epitome of virility. He engaged in colonial wars, the Spanish civil war and, in 1937, formed an alliance with the Axis powers: Hitler's Nazi regime and Hirohito's Imperial Japan. In 1940, he led Italy into World War II.
photo: Mussolini on horseback

Death & Transition
photo: Mussolini hangedphoto: corpse of  Mussolini after autopsyAfter the Allied occupation of southern Italy (1943), the King ordered Mussolini to be arrested in order to sign the armistice. Imprisoned, then liberated by the Germans, Mussolini lived in northern Italy until his capture and execution, on April 28, 1945, along with his mistress, Claretta Petacci, by military forces of the Italian Resistance. Next day, their corpses and those of Mussolini's henchmen were hanged in the Piazzale Loreto, Milan, on public view.

photo: corpse of Aldo Morophoto: Antonio DiPietroAntagonisms between political parties, which had given rise to a civil war (1943-45), continued for about three more years. In 1946, Italians voted to dissolve the Monarchy, then in 1948, the first political elections were held. Now labeled the First Republic, this 50 year period renewed Italian confidence in the democratic process, but will also be remembered for its many Mafia and Mani Pulite scandals (right) and for political disillusion among Italian youth which escalated into such terrorist acts as Brigate Rosse and the Moro Affair (left).
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Prepared by Maria Pia DiBella & Linda Fisher, (c) January 1999