Mussolini’s “March on Rome” Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Benito Mussolini became the Fascist premier of Italy by threatening the application of force.

Summary of Event

Weary of the apparent chaos into which Italy had fallen at the end of World War I, an increasing number of Italians turned to the dynamic leader of the Fascist Party, Benito Mussolini, for a solution. Elements among the populace who were attracted to Fascism included wealthy landowners and industrialists who were afraid that the recent Bolshevik Revolution in Russia might be repeated in Italy, ardent nationalists who were frustrated by the government’s failure to secure significant territorial concessions from the Allies following World War I, discharged servicemen who found it difficult to adjust to civilian life and who were repelled by Communist insults hurled against anyone who had served in the military, and former Socialists who, like Mussolini, had shifted to the radical right during the war, as well as other groups ranging from frightened bourgeoisie to a few members of the royal family of Italy. March on Rome Fascist Party (Italy) Italy;Fascism [kw]Mussolini’s “March on Rome” (Oct. 24-30, 1922)[Mussolinis March on Rome (Oct. 24 30, 1922)] [kw]"March on Rome," Mussolini’s (Oct. 24-30, 1922)[March on Rome, Mussolinis (Oct. 24 30, 1922)] [kw]Rome," Mussolini’s “March on (Oct. 24-30, 1922)[Rome, Mussolinis March on (Oct. 24 30, 1922)] March on Rome Fascist Party (Italy) Italy;Fascism [g]Italy;Oct. 24-30, 1922: Mussolini’s “March on Rome”[05610] [c]Government and politics;Oct. 24-30, 1922: Mussolini’s “March on Rome”[05610] [c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Oct. 24-30, 1922: Mussolini’s “March on Rome”[05610] Mussolini, Benito [p]Mussolini, Benito;March on Rome Balbo, Italo Bianchi, Michele De Bono, Emilio De Vecchi, Cesare Maria Facta, Luigi Victor Emmanuel III

Many of these elements strengthened their support of Mussolini after he modified his views. In 1919, Mussolini violently denounced all social classes and institutions. By late 1920, however, he had dropped his attacks against the landed proprietors, the industrialists, and the middle class, and thereafter attacked only the parliamentary system, the Socialists, the labor unions, and cowardly politicians of all parties.

If many were attracted to Fascism because of the social strife in Italy, they overlooked the fact that most of the violence was caused by the very group they were supporting. From the beginning of the movement and especially after 1920, the Fascists terrorized much of Italy. Fascist squads invaded cities, intimidating, bludgeoning, and occasionally murdering known opponents. Forcing castor oil down the throats of opposition leaders was one popular technique. After removing government-appointed prefects from their offices, members of the Fascist squads took over the positions themselves; they burned down headquarters of the Socialists and local Chambers of Labor, destroyed opposition newspapers, and invaded and took command of local post offices, railway depots, and radio stations.

Mussolini was aided in his quest for power by a lack of resolve and foresight, caused by pettiness and factionalism, among his political rivals. After the Communists withdrew from the Socialist Party Socialist Party (Italy) in September, 1921, the Socialists were still divided into factions. As a result, measures taken by the Socialists to combat Fascism were either too late or too mild to be effective. A general strike called at the end of July, 1922, failed miserably. The Socialist Party resisted uniting with the Christian Democrat Party until it was too late. Within other groups, veteran political leaders such as Francesco Nitti, Giovanni Giolitti, and Antonio Salandra were not able to cope with Mussolini because of personal rivalries and because they failed to comprehend Mussolini’s driving force. Most of these men believed that a taste of political power would soften Mussolini’s extreme views, that he would learn to function within the existing political structure.

Mussolini’s actions from the time when he and thirty-five other Fascists were elected to the Chamber of Deputies in May, 1921, did little to discourage this opinion; up to this time, he had shown himself to be a cautious revolutionary. If he threatened, bullied, and terrorized, he also negotiated. In the late summer and early autumn of 1922, he negotiated with nearly all the prominent political figures from the center and the right.

On October 16, 1922, Mussolini and his cohorts—Italo Balbo, Michele Bianchi, Emilio De Bono, and Cesare Maria De Vecchi—agreed in principle on the March on Rome. Bianchi was to be in charge of political matters, and the other three were to take charge of the military operations, leaving Mussolini free of responsibility. According to the plan, the Fascists were to seize control of certain key towns near Rome, after which Fascist columns would converge on Rome itself. By their use of force, they intended to place Mussolini at the head of a Fascist government. Mussolini issued a call for the march on October 24 at a Fascist assembly in Naples and then went immediately to Milan to await developments. Despite his call, Mussolini was still unwilling to commit himself entirely to violent means for gaining power, and he continued to talk with other political figures in an effort to gain power legally.

As the time for the March on Rome grew near, the premier of Italy, Luigi Facta, at last decided that strong action was necessary to repel the threat. On the morning of October 28, the Italian cabinet prepared a declaration of martial law to take effect at noon. It committed the military to resist the attempted Fascist takeover of the government. The proclamation was distributed, but it could not be enforced legally until it had been signed by the king of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III. The king was torn by conflicting advice, and he hesitated, afraid for his own position and uncertain of the loyalty of the army. Finally, he refused to sign the declaration, and Facta was forced to resign.

Significance

The day after Facta resigned, the king sent a telegram to Mussolini and invited him to form a cabinet. It was in this way that Mussolini came to power, through only the threat of force and not by the use of it. Fascist columns eventually entered Rome, but only after Mussolini had been proclaimed premier of Italy. He arrived in Rome on October 30 in a railroad sleeping car instead of at the head of Fascist columns, and after he had been proclaimed premier of Italy. He presented himself to the king by announcing, “Majesty, I come from the battlefield—fortunately bloodless.” Although technically this transfer of power was legal under Italy’s constitution, it led to the Fascist dictatorship that Mussolini would later impose. March on Rome Fascist Party (Italy) Italy;Fascism

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Carsten, Francis L. The Rise of Fascism. 2d ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982. Provides an introduction to European fascism. Argues that the rise of fascism in Europe in the interwar period had little to do with doctrine and was rather the result of World War I. Includes discussion of neofascism.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">De Grand, Alexander J. Italian Fascism: Its Origins and Development. 3d ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000. Overview of Italian fascism stresses the Fascist Party’s purposes and policies.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. “The March on Rome. ” In The Italian Nationalist Association and the Rise of Fascism in Italy. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1978. Provides a brief description of the rise of the Fascist Party in Italy from April to August, 1922.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hoyt, Edwin P. Mussolini’s Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Fascist Vision. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1994. Focuses on psychological insights into Mussolini and suggests that his flaws were political rather than moral.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kirkpatrick, Ivone. Mussolini: A Study in Power. New York: Hawthorne Books, 1964. A British diplomat’s detailed account of the man and his personality.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lyttelton, Adrian. The Seizure of Power: Fascism in Italy, 1919-1929. Rev. ed. London: Frank Cass, 2003. Stresses the Fascist Party’s changing relationship with the state. Examines its origin and growth as well as the contributions made by different social groups to its ideology and action.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mack Smith, Denis. Mussolini. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982. Argues that Italian fascism lacked a coherent ideology and that Mussolini used fascism primarily as a technique for seizing power.

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