How successful was Mussolini in turning Italy into a nation of fascists?

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How successful was Mussolini in turning Italy into a nation of fascists?

Fascism is an evangelical creed. Its followers tend to believe in the need to educate the unbelievers, to turn them into ‘good fascists’ – strong, pure, and obedient. Mussolini, throughout his 20 year reign in Italy, tried to turn the Italians into Fascisti. Whether he succeeded or not is an issue that on the surface seems to have a clear answer – no. If he had succeeded, why are Italians between the age of sixty-five and ninety not rampant fascists? But we must remember that there is a question as to what constitutes ‘success’. Was success merely to have them perform the ‘rituals’ of fascism, the salutes, the marches, the seemingly unthinking obedience and adulation of Il Duce, or was success a lasting impression upon the Italian people, making them committed fascists for evermore, fascist state or no?

So there are different definitions for success. Below, we shall explore different sections of the population, and how Mussolini tried to turn each of them into fascists, committed or lacklustre.

‘Grab them while they are young’ has been the motto of many an ideology, from church Sunday Schools to the Scout Movement, and it was equally important to the fascists in Italy. Fascism was, in many ways, an ideology of the young. It was dynamic, it invoked strength and honour; it seemingly threw off the bonds of the established political system. Once fascism became the established political system, this spirit of youthful dynamism, the spirit of credere, obbediere, combattere needed to be infused in a whole new generation of children, growing up in the fascist state.

The fascists in Italy thus aimed much of their propaganda and indoctrination machine at the youth of Italy. Balilla, a youth organisation naturally stressing the values of the Regime was created, initially run by the PNF, but later taken over by the Education Ministry, to cater to both boys and girls between the ages of six and eighteen.   There were a number of Balilla subgroups, for different ages, the youngest being the grandiloquently named ‘Children of the She Wolf’. After the age of eight, children were separated by gender, something that sheds light upon the fascists values regarding women, which we shall deal with later.

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Balilla promoted loyalty to the regime above everything else; Rule 12 of the Balilla  imprecates the following:

When one finds one’s self in the presence of people, even adults, who cast doubt on the fundamental political principles of the Regime, or who express lack of the faith in it’s Leaders…one must intervene to correct, and if necessary, to scold and silence anyone who holds an offensive attitude towards the regime.

It seems that ‘Believe, Fight and Obey’ applies only to the party, not necessarily to ones elders. Despite such irresistible rules, it seems the uptake was not as ...

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