Originally a member of the Tripple Alliance, Italy did not join the war until the Tripple Entante agreed to give them Trieste & Trentina. In return for their loyalty ofcourse.
The war proved disastrous for Italy, poor leadership and equipment led to a high number of casualities. The loss in Caporetto, 1917, was the most damning.
Italy took sizeable loans from the UK and the US, their national debt increased by 69 billion lire. The inflation that followed would ruin the Italian economy.
Following the First World War, Italy were left in a great state of turmoil. They faced significant unemployment issues as 2.5 million people were demobilized and left without a job.
There was also a strong economic divide between the north and the south of Italy. As the war industries in northern Italy had done rather well, but the agricultural south had done less so - the strains of conscription were apparent.
The liberal government however, got most of what it wanted durign the peace settlement. Save for the African colonies, and the land around Dalmatia.
The Italian nationalists however were outraged by this, feeling that Italy's sacrifices should be rewarded with new land. It was this outrage and disdain for the government that would be the seed for the fascist state that was to come. The other issues were naught but soil.
The economic struggle in Post-War Italy, and the frustration towards the government made the Socialist Party, who were calling for an overthrow of the libertarian regime. The party saw an increase of 150,000 members from 1914 to 1919. But the situation worsened either way, with unemployment exceeding 2 milllion in 1919. This was detrimental to the governments control.
Wokers in Italy began carrying out militant action, and especially in the north, socialists began taking over control from the local governments. The strikes and land occupations would result in these two years being known as 'the red biennium". They were organized by trade unions, which was a product of the socialist ideology.
It seemed Italy was on the cusp of a communist revolution, yet the libertarian government showed its inadequacy through inaction.
Under the radar of the apparent socialst takeover there was Mussolini, and the now infamous - third way.
Initially, Mussolinis views lined up rather well with those of socialism, but they diverged at one crucial point. The issue of Italy in war. The Socialist Party urged the people to stay neutral in war, as war was an inter-imperialist conflict and the socialist sought revolutionary internationalism. To bring change in their own nation, and not engage in conflict with other nations.
Mussolini saw it differently, and he gradually adopted a more extreme nationalist view. He formally renounced socialism in 1918 in his paper, claiming that it was for 'combatants and producers' instead.
Mussolini was now one of many, looking for an alternative to revolutionary socialism and capitalism. A third way. There were many seperate groups, the Futurists, Fasci di Azione Rivoluzionaria, Italian Nationalist Associations and later, the Arditi Association. These groups views only differed on the minute details, and to what extent their extremes reached. But they wanted the same thing, an authoritarian government that would defend their interests.
In March of 1919 Mussolini himself tried to bring the scattered groups together. All representatives met in MIlan and on March 28 they formed a Fascio di Combattimento (combat group). These fascists members later became known as the Fascists of the First Hour.
To his credit, much of the reason that fascism suceeded as it did in Italy was down to Mussolini, as it was in this period that he made some very good plays to ensure that he had as many people as possible behind him. He converted the aforementioned combat group to a formal political part known as the National Fascist Party, he kept the policies vague declaring i to be against socialism and liberalism and sthriving for a strong and ordered Italy. Fascism needed to find its feet in an unorganized Italian state, and though he wasn't the absolute leader, Mussolini was the man behind solving that.
One of the ras, Balbo informs Mussolini that they will March on Rome in an attempt to seize power, with or without Mussolini. Local fascist action squads were organized into a Militia in order to take control of the civil functions in central and northern Italy.
On the 28th the libertarian prime minister, Luigi Facta convinced the king to declare a state of emergency. So tht the government had the means to overhaul this fascist takeover. Intially the shutdown was successful, but the king changed his mind and refused to sign the paper declaring the state of emergency. The prime minister Luigi Facta resigned in protests of this.
The king asked Salandra to form a new government. Salandra who was a fascist sympathizer, advised the king to appoint Mussolini as prime minister instead. Which he did. A day later on th 30th, the fascists reach Rome and celebration ensues.
In actuality, the March on Rome was more symbolic than anything. Mussolini did not march at the head of the line and take over with an iron fist. He stayed behind in Milan ready to escape should things go wrong. He achieved power by the kings weakness, not his own strength. Weakness is a common factor in this Italian era, therefore it would be fitting that an authoritarian government was now in control.
Mussolini speaks in Parliament, to adress the state of Italy. Which is poor both in an economic sense, and a political sense. He is therefore granted the emergency powers by the king. This was under the guise of creating a unified and strengthened Italy. But infact, it did nothing other than help Mussolini further transform Italy into a fascist state with himself as dictator. He earned the vote of confidence from the deputies in parliament.
Mussolini wanted a big of a support as poosible. Therefore he decided to cater to the conservative elite. He appointed Liberal Alberto de Stefani as Minister of Finance.
Although many of his policies still pleased the working class, this still caused rifts within the fascist party. As many on the left of said party wanted significant social reforms. This did nothing to help that cause.
Mussolini again wanted to stamp his authority over the matter. He established the Grand Council, of which only he could appoint members. In effect what this did, was give Mussolini absolute control in terms of policy-making. He used his emergency power to weasel his way into being a form of dictator, knowing that using force would disturb the balance of the volatile fascist state.
The Corfu Incident was the first opportunity for Mussolini to really stamp his authority as prime minister. An opportunity he grabbed with both hands.
After an Italian general was murdered on Greek land whilst he was making maps on behalf of the Conference of Ambassadors, Mussolini demanded that Greece pay compensation and issue a formal apology. His bullying ended with Greek paying the compensation, but they still refused to officially apologize.
The event made Mussolini disliked by outsiders, but his own people hailed him as the authoritative leader they had sought for so long.
Through intimidation, rigging of votes, votes for the deceased, stolen ballot boxes where the fascists lost, Mussolini successfully rigged his win to an electoral win. Due to his emergency powers, he really didn't need to hold an election. But he wanted to put up the facade of him being a worthy leader. The Fascist Party won with almost 65% of the votes. And increased their chamber seats from 35 to 374 out of 535.
Giacomo Matteotti, a socalist leader dared to come forward with the insinuation and proof of the results being fradulent. On June 10 he was abducted in Rome, although there wasn't any damning evidence, many assumed he had been taken by Dumini's fascist thugs. This made many people distance themselves from Mussolinis regime, as they began to feel uneasy with Mussolini at the healm. It seemed that Matteotti's death, might actually be the downfall of Mussolini.
Shockingly however, Mussolini had Dumini arrested and imprisoned. Showing he wouldn't hesistate to throw anyone under the bus for himself. This did not stop the investigations into the fascist violence however, and it continued the feelign of unease that hung over the Fascist Party. Mussolini tried to play to the crowd by sacking some of his fascist ministers within the government.
This caused an outrage among leading ras and the senior officers of the fascists parliamentary groups. Who presented Mussolini with two alternatives. Either stiffen up and stop the investigations and turn yourself into a full blown dictator, or be replaced by someone who will. The choice was clear.
When Mussolini fell seriously ill, the notorious ras of Cremona, Farinacci was handed the reigns. He was more trigger happy and risk-taking than Mussolini had ever been. As he launched a new campaign of Squadrisiti violence against the socialist and communist parties. Many were killed, and many decided to go into exile.
Farinacci also held a purge of the Fascist Party. Ridding it of members that he deemed not loyal to the cause and to Mussolini.
Mussolini had returned, and with him he brought a close of all anti-fascist publications. And all journalists were registered with the Fascist Party. All articles had to be approved by the government.
This was done under the facade of needing a united Italy. One with no negativity, and no choice.
Mussolini made further strides in establishing himself as the bona fide dictator. With a focus on central, and local government. Elected mayors and town councils were replaced by fascist officials known as podesta. The appointed fascists were mainly conservative, as Mussolini wanted to keep the more militant fascists away from any significant positions in the provinces.
Mussolini gives himself the ability to issue decrees without parliamentary consent. He now answers only to the king.
The king at this point requires Mussolinis approval to hire and fire ministers.
Mussolini Il Duce - holds 8 minister posts himself.
After a plethora of assasination attempts on Mussolinis life, he invokes a ban on all other political parties. Outlaws trade unions and sets up a new court of law.
This is something Mussolini had wanted to do previously, but only now did he have the justification to actually bring about these bans.
Mussolini forms a secret police force known as the OVRA, to repress any political opposition.
It wasn't specifically fascist, as it was merely an adaption of the interior ministry's secret police section.
As new elections were due, Mussolini made sure to take further measures as to ensure the remain of a one-party state. These included changes to the voting system so that only men aged 21 or above, who beloned to the fascist syndicates, could vote.
The fear of fascist violence secured a resounding victory for Mussolini, the dictator of Italy.
The kings power drastically reduced during this time.