Most historians have suggested that Mussolini had not created a totalitarian regime in Italy by 1943 due to the fact that Fascism remained a secondary belief for the majority of Italy, superseded by religion. However Mussolini did achieve a totalitarian state in some respects. For example, his use of propaganda was successful in propagating the idea of the ‘Cult of the Duce’, a campaign with the alma of almost deifying Mussolini and giving him abnormal qualities, such as always being right, being able to do anything, and having endless hysterical strength.
Posters and photographs with Mussolini, frequently shirtless, were plastered everywhere, his speeches were played on the radio and his brilliance was ingrained into school children due to the propaganda. This was important as it meant that in the eyes of the Italian citizens, Mussolini was the best man to lead the country and so, as a result, they supported him fully and this rendered all opposition inferior, and this consolidated Mussolini’s position.
Through the use of propaganda, Mussolini successfully entrenched his superiority in the minds of Italians, skillfully reading a totalitarian state by making himself the only leader that the people would want. Another respect In which Mussolini achieved a totalitarian state was In Economic policy. To unify the nation and to put his ideology into practice, Mussolini launched a series of economic ‘battles, as part of a drive to transform Italian society and they were also exercises In State propaganda, trying to maximize popular support for the regime.
The Battle for Grain commenced in 1925 with the aim of ‘liberating Italy from the slavery of foreign bread’. The Italian Government set high-tariffs on foreign Imports, and the Government also gave grants to farmers for Investment in machinery fertilizers. The battle improved wheat production by 50%. The battles were the start of a period of government intervention in the economy. The benefit of the battles was that they could ‘mobiles the Italian people In a non-class, non- political way for nationalistic economic ends’, something that tallies with totalitarianism.
In addition, Mussolini achieved a totalitarian state through his use of fear and terror. His use of fear and terror to deal with opposition was incredibly effective because he not only made it Illegal to oppose the regime, but also Implemented harsh penalties so as to deter opposition. OVER, created in 1925 established a secret police force that worked with a network of informers, who identified opponents to be dealt with by the MOVES. This was Important, as It made It impossible to successfully coordinate opposition and the use of tactics such as castor oil were effective deterrents.
This ensured that Mussolini faced very little opposition, and those that did oppose such totalitarian state was achieved very skillfully, from early on in his regime. Mussolini was also able to achieve a totalitarian state through the coordination of the leisure activities for the Italian people. By creating organizations and facilities to increase participation in leisure facilities, Mussolini was able to control what they did in their free time, and also he was able to control the influences that may have affected his dictatorship, by regulating the Italian peoples exposure to entertainment.
The Opera Nationalize Depilatory was set up in May, 1925 with the main aim of social intro – convincing the Italian People to become loyal Fascists, and breaking the influence of the old trade unions. The NOD provided theatres, music, cinemas and libraries. They monopolized local amateur football in Italy and in many Italian towns, social life revolved around the NOD clubhouse. This was important for Mussolini in establishing a totalitarian state, as due to the Nod’s duplicities nature, it was easier to manipulate opinion and consolidate support for his regime.
However, there are also many respects in which Mussolini did not create a totalitarian state. The fact that Mussolini had to make deals such as the Lateran Pacts in 1929 to accommodate the Church shows that he did not have total control over Italy. Fascism was a secondary belief to the majority of Italy who still fully believed and had faith in Catholicism. The Lateran Pacts specifically accepted the dominant position of the Church in Italian society, meaning that Mussolini knew that the Church were too big an organization to fight against, so he had to rule alongside them.
The regime was not totalitarian as the Lateran Pacts also gave the Church intro over education as teachers and textbooks had to be approved by the Church, meaning that the facilitation of Education was limited for Mussolini. It is true that with the approval of the Church, Mussolini gained far greater support, however it meant that his popular support was based on the word and approval of the Church, and his position could become untenable if the Church started to disapprove of him.
In addition, Mussolini had to make many concessions to high-powered people and organizations within Italy to remain dictator without any opposition from the elite roofs in Italy such as the King, the Liberals, the army and the Constraint. The King represented a major grouping in Italian society, the upper middle class and aristocracy, and elements, like the Armed Forces, who never gave Fascism their full support.
Mussolini had to incorporate the King and had to try to please the King as he gave historical and constitutional legitimacy to the Fascist take-over of power in 1922, and in addition, he was the only man who could legitimately fire’ Mussolini. The fact that Mussolini had to adopt a ‘balancing act’ meant that he had to compromise tit Elite groups, meaning that sects of control were slowly handed over to various groups, meaning that Mussolini would never have total control and power. There were also limits to the fascination of Italian society that Mussolini was able to conduct.
Due to Mussolini not pertaining to a specific ideology that was consistently carried out through Italy, his dictatorship was very much a personal one. All were mainly about showing how great Mussolini was as they were so ill thought out that they weren’t ever going to rescue the Italian economy. In addition, Mussolini was never able to fascist universities as they were schools of thought for intellectual people who had already developed their own ideas, and the fascination of education was also limited due to the fact that the Church still had a huge influence and that many teachers were only superficially fascist.
Mussolini’s failure to fascist large swathes of Italian society such as university and education meant that Mussolini was not able to ingrain fascism into Italian society as he would have liked, indicating that Fascism would only survive alongside Mussolini, not after it. Finally, the existence of opposition to Mussolini also indicates that he did not create a totalitarian state. Probably the biggest opposition to the Fascists were the Mafia. Mussolini did not eliminate the Mafia, partly because the courts could not be relied on to back up any arrests of Mafia personnel that were made, and so many suspects were released.
In addition, in 1943, his own Fascist Grand Council turned against him ND King Victor Emmanuel Ill dismissed him. This shows that Mussolini never had total control over Italy as there was an existence of a powerful anti-Fascist group that Mussolini was not able to combat, and that also he was removed from power by his own people, suggesting that his purge was not successful. In conclusion, Mussolini did not create a totalitarian state, but a ‘cosmetic illusion’ of total control on the surface, whereas the reality was that deep down Mussolini had made too many compromises and did not have complete power.