Origins of fascism  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) by Hannah Arendt

Benito Mussolini founded Italian fascism as the Fasci italiani di combattimento after he returned from World War I and published a Fascist manifesto. The birth of the Fascist movement can be traced to a meeting he held in the Piazza San Sepolcho in Milan Italy on March 23, 1919. This meeting declared the original principles of the Fascists through a series of declarations.

The first declaration was a dedication to Italian war veterans. The second declaration spoke of the fascist movement's loyalty to Italy and its opposition to foreign aggressors, and stated that the fascist movement was "opposed to the imperialism of other peoples at the expense of Italy....." The third declaration announced that the fascists would fight against other political factions, saying that the fascists would "sabotage in every way the candidates of neturalists in all the various parties...."

After declaring their first three declarations, the fascists declared their opposition to bolshevism and socialism, particlarly the socialism of the Italian Socialist Party, for their anti-nationalism, saying:

"...We don't need to place ourselves programmatically on a revolutionary footing because, in a historic sense, we already did so in 1915. It isn't too necessary to set forth too analytical a has now been demonstrated beyond a doubt that Bolshevism has ruined the economic life of Russia.... We declare war against Socialism, not because it is socialist but because it has opposed nationalism...We who have led the attack on political life in these past few years are going to expose the responsibiities of the official Socialist party."
It is inevitable that majorities become static, whereas minorities are dynamic. We intend to be an active minority, to attract the proletariat away from the official Socialist party. But if the middle class thinks we are going to be their lightning rods, they are mistaken. We must go halfway towards meeting the workers...(comments on Worker rights)...We shall support these demands, partly because we want workers to get accustomed to the responsibilities of management and to learn as a result that it isn't easy to operate a business successfully."

The fascists made a moderate stance on the economy, effectively declaring that they favoured class collaboration while opposing excessive state intervention into the economy, and calling for pressure on industrialists and workers to be cooperative and constructive, saying:

As for economic democracy, we favor national syndicalism and reject State intervention whenever it aims at throttling the creation of wealth.
We shall fight against technological and moral backwardness. There are industrialists who shun both technological and moral innovations. If they don't find the strength to transform themselves they will be swept aside. We must impress upon the workers, however, that it is one thing to destroy, and quite another to build. Destruction can be the work of an hour, but construction may require years or centuries.

The fascists on that day declared their intention to seize power and their opposition to the multiparty representative democracy in Italy.

...We must act fast...we must be ready to take its place. For that reason we must be ready to rush into the piazzas and cry out 'The right of political succession belongs to us, because we were the ones who pushed the country to war and led it to victory!"...The existing system of political representation cannot satisfy us; we want every distinct interest group to be represented directly.

An important factor in fascism gaining support in its earliest stages was the fact that it opposed discrimination based on social class and was strongly opposed to all forms of class war. Fascism instead supported nationalist sentiments such as a strong unity, regardless of class, in the hopes of raising Italy up to the levels of its great Roman past. Mussolini did not ignore the plight of the working class, however, and he gained their support with stances such as those in The Manifesto of the Fascist Struggle, published in June 1919. The Manifesto demanded the end of the Italian monarchy and the creation of a republic, restricting the power of the Roman Catholic clergy, the creation of a minimum wage, large-scale nationalization of property, showing the same confidence in [[labor unions] as was given to industry executives or public servants, voting rights for women, and the systemisation of public transport such as railways. Much of the Manifesto was moderated or cancelled, moving the Fascists away from republicanism to a pro-monarchy stance, from anti-clericalism to support of the Roman Catholic Church, and moving away from advocating large nationalization of property to advocating protection of private property while allowing nationalization when private enterprise was failing.

Mussolini and the fascists managed to be simultaneously revolutionary and traditionalist; because this was vastly different from anything else in the political climate of the time, it is sometimes described as "The Third Way". The Fascisti, led by one of Mussolini's close confidants, Dino Grandi, formed armed squads of war veterans called Blackshirts (or squadristi) with the goal of restoring order to the streets of Italy with a strong hand. The blackshirts clashed with communists, socialists and anarchists at parades and demonstrations; all of these factions were also involved in clashes against each other. The government rarely interfered with the blackshirts' actions, due in part to a looming threat and widespread fear of a communist revolution. The Fascisti grew so rapidly that within two years, it transformed itself into the National Fascist Party at a congress in Rome. Also in 1921, Mussolini was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for the first time and was later appointed as Prime Minister by the King in 1922. He then went on to install a dictatorship after the 10 June 1924 assassination of Giacomo Matteotti, who had finished writing The Fascist Exposed: A Year of Fascist Domination, by Amerigo Dumini and others agents of the Ceka secret police created by Mussolini.

Influenced by the concepts of the Roman Empire, with Mussolini viewing himself as a modern day Roman Emperor, Italy set out to build the Italian Empire whose colonialism would reach further into Africa in an attempt to compete with British and French colonial empires. Mussolini dreamt of making Italy a nation that was "great, respected and feared" throughout Europe, and indeed the world. An early example was his bombardment of Corfu in 1923. Soon after he succeeded in setting up a puppet regime in Albania and forcibly ended a rebellion in Libya, which had been a colony (loosely) since 1912. It was his dream to make the Mediterranean mare nostrum ("our sea" in Latin), and he established a large naval base on the Greek island of Leros to enforce a strategic hold on the eastern Mediterranean.

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