Fascist Youth Organisations

As with all totalitarian regimes, and extraordinary importance was placed on youth organisations, which would be uniformed, militaristic, and allow the state to control and indoctrinate them. Of course this practise was not limited to military dictatorships – the boy scouts of the contemporary British Empire were not so different from any fascist youth organisation, and this was mirrored with plenty of other countries at the time.

The ONB, the fascist boy scouts, was the spearhead of this movement in Italy, along with its parent organisation (literally) the OND. The ONB was also known as the Balilla, and was taken over by the ministry of Education in 1929 3 years after it was founded. In those days there were other rival youth organisations, but with state backing the ONB rose to be by far the most prominent, dominating the youth organisation scene.

The ONB, as with all of Mussolini’s propaganda, was centred on Mussolini himself. Every classroom had a large portrait of Il Duce up on the wall, proclamations of loyalty and obedience to Mussolini would be the start of any young person’s day. If you were to tune into the radio it would likely be Il Duce’s voice you would hear. The cult personality of Mussolini was so extensive that many young people, who had never known anything different, took it to be the natural order of things, and saw Mussolini almost as a second God, despite living in a society which already had a pope and a king.

That said, there were still many families where the parents would have communist, liberal, socialist or Catholic traditions, and the children of these families would be much less likely to accept Fascist values. In public, however, they would have to conform. There were also many teenagers who did simply not enjoy team games and so would not take part in the ONB when possible – and alternatively there would have been teenagers who loved team games but didn’t care about any of the ideological teachings.

The Littoriali Games were started in 1932 in Bologna, and involved sport and physical education with national competitions between university students, in a similar way to the Olympic Games. It was held annually, and moved city each year. A similar games were set up in 1934, called the Littoriali Games of Culture and Art, where competitions would be held in poetry, painting, music and cinema as well as other categories. These games were all part of the attempt to ‘turn Italians into Fascists.


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