Mussolini created a loyal nation of fascists between 1926 and 1939. How far do you agree with this statement? (20 Marks)
I do not agree fully with this statement, I believe that there are more arguments against it, than for it. Mussolini did not completely create a loyal nation of fascists but he may have converted many of the Italian people into PNF supporters that were loyal to Italy and to him. He did this through education of the young, especially boys and patriotic celebrations. However the education and youth policy may also be used against the statement, along with the OND, the cult of il Duce, repression and propaganda. There are the issues of the separate popularity of the PNF and the popularity of Mussolini, and the questionable reasoning behind people joining the OND, ONB and other fascist organisations.
The youth policy or the ONB (Opera Nazionale Balilla) in fascist Italy partly supports the statement. Boys were first organised in the ‘sons of the she wolf’ from the age of 6-8, then into the Balilla aged 8-14 and then finally the Fascist Youth Front from age 14-17. Education for boys was to make them militaristic loyal fascists. They were trained in sport and fitness. Activities included wrestling, boxing, and bomb throwing, marching and shooting. Evidently to some extent this education was successful in making young men loyal to Mussolini and to Italy, many of the young soldiers were prepared to die for their country and stuck it out right until the end of the fascist reign. However, many of the young boys would’ve just enjoyed all of the outdoor activities and found it exciting, rather than having a feeling of loyalty and being brainwashed. Also, not joining the ONB made it much harder to enrol in further education and non-members were barred from employment in civil service, so many people would’ve felt blackmailed into joining. On top of this, there was a considerable divide between the North and South. Children in the south were less likely to continue education beyond the compulsory age of 11. Also their involvement in agricultural work made it harder for them to participate in youth groups.