Mussolini’s Economic Policies and Whether they were a success.

The ‘Battle for grain’ was launched with the intention of providing Italy with vast quantities of grain to sustain their, in theory, exponentially increasing population. On paper, this was successful – grain did increase in a decade by about 50%, and this looked to be an achievement of the fascist regime.

However, there were also severe draw backs which were a direct result of the battle for grain. For example, with the focus on grain and government subsidies going to farmers who farmed just wheat, the production of goods such as olive oil and fruit rapidly declined, and these exports were important to the Italian economy.

This lack of nutritional variety also affected Italian diets for the worse, and this had an adverse effect on Italian people. The price of feed rose too high, and as a result farmers were not able to feed their livestock, and the number of livestock fell nationally by 500,000. With a reduced amount of meat available, prices soared and people were unable to afford food other than wheat.

Clearly then, in its bid to help Italian people, the Battle for Grain was quite a failure. Other than providing food, the Battle for Grain also aimed to help small farmers with the subsidies that it provided. In the south there were many poor farmers, but without the equipment or fertilisers they could not take advantage of these subsidies or machinery granted to them, and as a result the only people who really benefitted from the government subsidies were the farmers in the north.

It might be wondered why Mussolini implemented this disastrous policy, and why he continued with it even after it clearly was failing. The answer to this is that he strove for Autarky, economic self sufficiency, and he felt that to gain this would be worth it. However, even this long-term aim was not even slightly achieved – and we can see this by the act that even after the battle for grain had been going for a while, Italy still needed to import vast amounts of grain because it did not provide enough itself.

Battle for Births: Although not strictly an economic policy, the Battle for Births was counted by Mussolini among his other economic battles, and does have very significant economical ramifications. The purpose of the battle for births was to massively increase the population of Italy, similarly to a policy implemented in Germany at the same time, so that these future Italians could be indoctrinated into fascist beliefs and eventually be fascist soldiers.

Clearly with a battle such as thins, long term effects are the only measure of success, but with no significant increase in births following or during Mussolini’s rule, it is safe to say that the Battle for Births was not a success at all, and any increase in the birth rate was more likely down to advances in medicine rather than people having more children for fascism.

The battle for land was initiated partly to provide more land for farming, particularly for the large amount of wheat which would now be grown under the regime, and partly to show off to other countries what the fascist regime was capable of.

This second aim it definitely succeeded in, with people from around the world being incredibly impressed with the disposition of the Pontine Marshes, trade would’ve been positively affected by this, investment prospects may have been increased if international people believed that Italy was going places.

I would also say that the first aim was a success, as great swathes of swamp and marsh land were cleared and made agriculturally viable. The main criticism for the ‘Battle for Land’ is that what was achieved differed significantly from what was originally planned. However, in spite of this, I feel that the ‘Battle for Land’ was Mussolini’s most successful economic policy, and although it may not have achieved what it promised, it still benefitted Italy.

The last of the main ‘economic battles’ was the ‘Battle for the Lira’. This involved trying to prevent the rapidly declining value of the Lira and keep the Lira strong. Mussolini believed that a strong currency indicated a strong country. To do this he valued the Lira at 90 to the British pound.

This proved to be disastrous for the Italian people, as Italian exports were now massively extensive no one was buying them. It did help big business such as the steel industry because they could import raw materials for very cheap, but small businesses were unable to cope, and many were merged into the big corporations. Standard of living for many Italians deteriorated.

Overall, there is not much of an argument that can be made in support of this statement, as Mussolini’s foreign policies were ultimately very unsuccessful, and this can be seen in the Italian economies total inability to sustain the war effort. However, the redeeming feature which shows that maybe Mussolini’s economic policies were in some ways successful is during the recession. Italian stocks and shares dropped considerably less than American ones, and many contemporary people in other countries at the time believed that Italy was doing a fantastic job of weathering the recession. However, it must be remembered that the Italian economy was one based upon agriculture, and as a result there is only so much impact that can happen to someone who is selling tomatoes at a local market, and this is why the recession did not affect Italians as badly as other countries. It is therefore, in my opinion, safe to say that this statement is not true and that Italian economic policy was very unsuccessful.

 

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