What was life like in Mussolini's Italy? Just how "fascist" was it, compared to other dictatorships?

Discussions on all aspects of Italy under Fascism from the March on Rome to the end of the war.
KlausMikalson
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What was life like in Mussolini's Italy? Just how "fascist" was it, compared to other dictatorships?

Post by KlausMikalson » 06 Aug 2020 21:39

Hello everyone,,
To begin with - the shortages of many kind of goods such as coffee, chocolate and various types of raw materials due to the League of Nations' embargo of 1936, certainly had an impact on our average Italian's lifestyle. More 'autharkic' ubstitutes (such as Italrayon, orbace - a Sardinian tissue - instead of wool, chicory juice in the place of coffee, etc., etc.) of all those things we had to import were not the best, but the only things available; many Italians had to make do with what they got well before the war, and the subsequent rationing only made things worse.

A new, harsher Penal Code was implemented in 1931 which re-introduced capital punishment in our country (something that had been abolished in 1889) and its Civil counterpart published in 1942: both Codes are still in force, albeit expurgated of their 'Fascist' content and with many modifications. Homosexuality was not tolerated as well, despite having it been decriminalised with the Penal Code of 1889; suspect homosexuals were often charged acting on anonymous denunciations then trialled, fined and sent 'into exile' (al confino) in one of the many penal colonies located in the remote islands of the Tyrrhenian - the same way most other dissidents were dealt with.

It should also be mentioned that the Fascist regime did in fact try to forcibly Italianise (by forbidding the use of these people's languages also via beatings) large swaths of the South-Tyrolean and Croatian/Slovenian populations living in those lands - which were also home to sizeable ethnic Italian communities - that had been incorporated after WW1. In turn, some of them organised anti-Italian resistance movements which were suppressed by the Fascist authorities; this would later cause quite a few problems both during and after the war, as it would ultimately lead to the expulsion of some 300,000 ethnic Italians from the now-Yugoslav Istria and Dalmatia... 5000 of whom would have been brutally murdered between 1944 and 1949 during what are known as the foibe killings (these are a kind of karst sinkhole common to Istria, in which the bodies of the victims - or sometimes even the victims themselves, when still alive - were uncerimoniously dumped).

When the Racial Laws came to be in 1938, Jews were forbidden from being employed in the public administration, the schools, the Army, the Fascist Party (!) and the like; 'Aryan' families could also not have a Jew at their service, and their businesses had to be made clearly recognisable by means of a sticker reading "This is an Aryan business". These laws also forbade 'miscigenation' between the Italian colonists and the so-called Camitic natives but their application in the colonies proved to be problematic; interestingly, while these were abolished by the new Italian government in 1944, the Allies kept them in force throughout Libya until 1947.

In some way Fascist Italy was an awkward contrast of old and new, progress and tyranny, innovation and inefficiency, luxury and poverty. Majestic ocean liners brought poor families in search of a better life; a backwards Army paled in front of a relatively modern Navy; shanty medieval neighbourhoods were razed in order to make space for bombastic avenues and government palaces; railways were extensively modernised and partially electrified, yet the road network wasn't cared for to the same degree; airports and air bases were built, but the Air Force could have been considered obsolete by 1940; early TVs co-existed with the lack of radar... and so on and on and on and on.

I don't think anybody mentioned the fact that both the INAIL, Italy's agency for the safety on the workplace, and INPS, the country's national social security agency, were actually creations of the Fascist government: this might at least in part explain the reason as to why so many elder people seem not to condemn the regime as thoroghly as one would expect. The school system was also reformed twice, in 1923 and 1940, and Italy's middle schools as we know them are in fact a product of the regime (more precisely, these were created by Giuseppe Bottai, who was Minister for Education at the time).

Speaking about Rome and its environs, large swaths of the city's centro storico were bulldozed in order to make way for new boulevards and avenues; an entire district was bulldozed and the Fora separated when via dell'impero was built in 1932, most of the ward of Borgo had been torn down so that the large boulevard connecting the city with St. Peter's was begun; countless new government buildings (post offices, hospitals, schools, council houses) were done and an entirely new district - the E42, which should have been the showcase for that year's World Fair - built in the outskirts; line B of the Metro was begun. In Southern Latium, the marshes were reclaimed with the help of 'settlers' from Northern Italy, and quite a few model towns (such as Aprilia, Pomezia, Littoria) were founded.

As far as the media were concerned, censorship was obviously a factor to consider when creating a new production. But Mussolini himself was both an expert communicator and keen cinema enthusiast, and his policies reflected this: soon a national industry was born, new studios were built (Cinecittà, 1937) and dubbing made mandatory... not just because of awkward nationalist policies (such as the italianisation of foreign loanwords and actors' names), but also because a significant portion of the population was objectively illiterate and couldn't have read the subtitles.

But Italy had also experimented with an early type of television - or, better, radiovision, as it was known back then. It made its first debut on 4 June 1939; its programmes were produced by the EIAR (the State agency tasked with radio broadcasts) and obviously only available to the happy few belonging to the party cadres and the richer strata. Pre-existing structures were adapted for TV broadcasting, a few ones were created from scratch and most, if not all, of the programming was done live with an early variant of analog broadcasting; there was little recording going on and this also why almost nothing has survived to this day. TV service was hastily suspended after the country's entry in WW2 and the few archives were either scattered or lost during the war.

bogbrek
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Re: What was life like in Mussolini's Italy? Just how "fascist" was it, compared to other dictatorships?

Post by bogbrek » 15 Aug 2020 09:34

I can you tell for the region of Istria of Province of Pola, in many way its a exception. In was annexed in 1920, before was part of Austria. Few years ago I met an old lady (she was born in 1920 and something), she had two word for the Italian period, poverty and taxation. On the other side people said that those who wanted to work has always work and could earn for a living. Modernisation never reached the interior of the region, it was limited to the smaller towns. Industry nearly totally collapsed, example the shipyards in Pola. There were huge social contrast between the rich and the poor, corruption was also widespread. Difficult times...

Dili
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Re: What was life like in Mussolini's Italy? Just how "fascist" was it, compared to other dictatorships?

Post by Dili » 20 Aug 2020 02:01

Italy had too many building shipyards, so some including the ones in Pola went to repairs works. Pola was basically a training naval base.

There was some development in Istria, but the biggest thing were the coal mines achieving production records.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: What was life like in Mussolini's Italy? Just how "fascist" was it, compared to other dictatorships?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 20 Aug 2020 06:33

Hi Dili,

The most Fascist country, in some ways, was not Mussolini's Italy but Gozi's San Marino.

San Marino had Fascist rule over almost exactly the same period as Italy.

However, unlike Mussolini, who was always technically subordinate to the Italian Crown, San Marino was a Republic and its Fascist leaders were only subject to their electorate. Thus San Marino had an arguably purer, less compromised form of Fascism than did Italy.

Cheers,

Sid.
Last edited by Sid Guttridge on 20 Aug 2020 21:53, edited 1 time in total.

Cantankerous
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Re: What was life like in Mussolini's Italy? Just how "fascist" was it, compared to other dictatorships?

Post by Cantankerous » 20 Aug 2020 21:05

Dili wrote:
20 Aug 2020 02:01
Italy had too many building shipyards, so some including the ones in Pola went to repairs works. Pola was basically a training naval base.

There was some development in Istria, but the biggest thing were the coal mines achieving production records.
Italy has a mountainous terrain, which is why Italy throughout history anchored most of its military prowess on naval power. Mussolini thought that he would have an easy time using those shipyards to churn out dozens of ships to reinforce his dream of making all of North Africa part of his neo-Roman Empire. We don't know if Italian shipyard workers agreed with Mussolini backing up the Roman emperors' belief that the Mediterranean Sea was the domain of the Italian nation.

Dili
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Re: What was life like in Mussolini's Italy? Just how "fascist" was it, compared to other dictatorships?

Post by Dili » 21 Aug 2020 06:22

Fascist Unions certainly had a significant support of workers since Fascism is essential a sort of Socialism. When Communists failed their "entrysm" strategy in Fascist syndicates they tried to make Fascists renounce their alliance with Monarchy.

It started this way the Communist appeal to Fascists: "Ai fratelli in camicia nera"...

Note that Alberto Beneduce the initial supremo of Fascist controlled Italian industry IRI after the crisis of 1929 was a lifelong socialist that even called 2 of his daughters: Idea Nuova Socialista and Vittoria Proletaria.

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