Mussolini’s Consolidation of Power (1924)

 

After he became prime minister, Mussolini needed to consolidate his power if he wished to make Italy the fascist state that he so desperately wanted it to become. This was also important as Mussolini felt that the democratic power of the prime minister was not enough to solve Italy’s problems quickly, and would be difficult in much the same way as previous governments had found it. He also wanted to remove any opposition from blocking him.

Mussolini only had 34 deputies in Parliament and few allies. In July 1923, Mussolini passed the Acerbo law, designed to rectify this. The whole point of this law was to change to the electoral system in Italy from proportional to a system which would allow Mussolini to gain a clear majority.

What the law meant was that rather than needing 50% or more of the vote for a majority in parliament, if any party got over 25% of the vote, and the most of any party, then they would be awarded two thirds of the seats in parliament. With hindsight this seems laced with a clear intent for autocratic rule, but it was nevertheless voted in by Parliament.

There are two main reasons for why this was allowed to happen. The first is that Mussolini’s scare-mongering worked people up so much that they believed that authoritative action was needed to sort out the country, and the Acerbo law offered a way for this to happen.  As well as this, during the vote itself, there was a large amount of intimidation by fascist black shirts. Ultimately, the deputies for the most part genuinely believed the vote was necessary, and so it had no difficulty in getting past. Once it was, Mussolini was granted the power to ‘legitimately’ do whatever he wanted.

Mussolini founded the Fascist grand council founded, which essentially controlled the institutions of government. It had the power to appoint party deputies, approve party statues, even decide the heir to the throne, as well as large variety of other prerogative powers.

Despite the events of 1924 seeing to put Mussolini in a position of secure power, illegal actions committed by Fascists during the election campaign led to something which threatened to topple him from power.

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2 comments

  1. Ms Kennedy · · Reply

    To what extent were events and developments in Italy a reflection of (or influenced by) fascism in other European countries?
    What opposition was there to the Acerbo law? Was there a lack of adequate opposition on the left?

    1. Mussolini was the founder of fascism, he began implementing it far before Hitler did, but in his early years it was clear that Mussolini did not like Hitler, perhaps because he was copying his style in a little way. In this sense, developments (at this point in time) were neither a reflection of nor influenced by Germany, although they would most certainly be in later years. Fascism in Spain was not to take hold for another decade.

      There was surprisingly little opposition to the Acerbo law, and this is because Mussolini convinced other deputies (members of the parliament) that Italy needed stability only a strong government could provide, and deputies were reassured when Giolitti and Salandra, two political heavyweights at the time, voted for the Acerbo law.
      On top of that, there was pressure from fascist black shirts who intimidated deputies into voting for the Acerbo law. The fascist blackshirts were also directly responsible for the lack of opposition from the left, estimated to have killed around 3,000 socialists between 1920 and 1922. Many of socialist officials were also forced from their posts; coupled with the violence it created a sense of fear for socialists which discouraged open opposition to Mussolini’s regime.
      As well as this the left were weakened by a split within the party. Very left wing socialists broke away to form the PCI (Italian Communist party) which left the original PSI (Italian Socialist Party) considerably weakened, and their loss of unity not only made it easier for Mussolini to conquer them, but lost them support from the people. An un-unified left movement could never hope to defeat Mussolini.

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