Causes In The Rise Of Italian Fascism: 1870 To 1922

3635 words - 15 pages

1. Introduction

1870 is a year to remember in Italian history: indeed, on 20 September 1870, the Italian army marched into Rome and captured the city, completing the unification process begun by Garibaldi and his Thousand in Sicily ten years earlier, in 1860.

Obviously, the newly united Italian state was greeted with much celebration. Unfortunately, it was also only a start. In truth, fundamental problems still plagued the country and had to be addressed if complete hegemony was to be achieved: firstly, the new Kingdom of Italy suffered from extreme backwardness and secondly, it was still deeply divided. The new Italy was split between north and south, between cities and countryside, between regions, between cities and localities, etc. The major task of the new state was thus to extend "legal" unification, that is "the creation of a common set of institutions, to provide "real" social, political and economic integration, and to get the Italian people to accept and support the state, and feel a communality of purpose and interest with it," or, as Massimo D'Azeglio so eloquently put it: "We have made Italy, now we must make Italians..." (Lintner, 2001, p.172) This task was to prove so difficult for the Liberal state that it would actually fail, leaving room for the rise of Fascism in the 1920's and to it's chokehold on the country for the following 20 years.

2. The Early Years of the Liberal State: the "Right", Depretis, Crispi and Giolitti

The backwardness of the nation was manifest. Post-unification Italy was mostly rural and agricultural, with "60% of the population working, or more accurately existing, on the land." (Lintner, 2001, p.173) Agriculture was thus an important factor to consider for the country's subsistence, but it was badly suffering from medieval methods, and deep differences of soil fertility between the regions. Predictably, the most advanced farming was found in the North. In the South, the deforestation of the last century had all but drained the soil of its fertility, and share-croppers living below the Rome level had difficulty providing themselves with even the bare necessities. Most of all, the system was not conducive to change: the mass of people were too poor to invest in their own lands and landlords had no incentive to provide it. The further South one looked, the bleaker the picture became: there, landless labourers were at the mercy of the whims of landowners without scruples. Most of these peasants lived in mud huts with their own animals, and ate a diet consisting mainly of poor bread and polenta.

In the towns, conditions were not much better. Most people were either labourers or artisans. The Industrial revolution had yet to reach Italy, and the country was far behind others in Europe. As with almost everything else, the North was more advanced than the South in terms of industries. Furthermore, the social structure was inevitably very traditional and conservative. It was patriarchal in nature,...

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