Italian flamboyant politician and journalist born in 1883, in the remote hamlet of Verano di Costa, in the parish of Predappio, in the Romagna region of Northeastern
Italy. A trinity of radical revolutionary "heroes" inspired his first names: Benito Juarez, Amilcare Cipriani and Andrea Costa. His father was a confused socialist activist with a soft spot for grappa, primed for violence and animated by revolutionary dreams. His mother was a fervent catholic often caught between her faith and the extreme ideas of her husband.
As a child, Benito Amilcare Andrea was a violent bully. He targeted in particular little girls, whom he frequently ambushed on their way to school, pulling their hair and riding them as if they were horses. As a teenager, the young Mussolini was arrogant, licentious and particularly vicious. His sexual appetite was voracious and discriminate in the choice of his victims: Benito had a penchant for married women. Speaking about his affair with the young wife of a soldier away on active duty, Mussolini conveyed to a friend in 1902: " I accustomed her to my exclusive and tyrannical love; she obeyed me blindly, and let me dispose of her just as I wished." He would later portray himself to the fascist youth as an ascetic adolescent dwelling in the unworldly bay of political aspirations.
Benito Mussolini graduated in 1901 with an "educational diploma" entitling him to teach school. A year later, he was turned loose upon the students of an elementary school in Gualtieri, a village near Parma. Here, he seemed more preoccupied with propagating socialist and anti-clerical ideas than pedagogy. In any case, the parents of Gualtieri's students were less disturbed by Mussolini's taste for revolutions than by his reckless, raucous and licentious behaviour. He drank heavily and, with what little money was left, he gambled incessantly. When his teaching job ended in June, Mussolini started the life of a vagabond, drifting from one town and its socialist obscure circle to other until he reached Switzerland. Although he thought of himself as quite the bohemian revolutionary, Mussolini was nothing more than a bum, often panhandling or sleeping with the homeless. In 1904 in Zurich he supposedly met Lenin (qv)
. The same year he fell in love with Angelica Balabanoff, a Ukrainian professional rioter. She introduced him to the work of Georges Sorel and Nietzsche (Mussolini seem particularly drawn to the concept of "superman"). She was also the one that led him into greater prominence among the socialists until he became a member of the Italian Socialist Party's Central Committee and, in 1912, editor of the principal publication, the daily newspaper Avanti!
In late 1904, homesick and tired of his self-imposed exile, Mussolini returned to Italy. In January 1905 he was drafted. Upon his release from the army in September 1906, he took a job as a teacher, that he later abandoned for a full-time job as a socialist agitator. In the years to come, Mussolini became a highly visible political editor and journalist working successively for L'avvenire del Lavoratore, Il Popolo, La Lotta di Classe and Avanti!. After World War One started, during Italy's neutrality, he advocates non-intervention as the mean to achieve solidarity among the international working class and a united front against imperialistic war mongering. But, as the war dragged on, he suddenly and inexplicably changes his position on the matter. He starts to vociferously endorse Italy's intervention on the Allied side. As a result, his fellow socialists will "disrobe" him of his position in the party and of his membership status. Later, even though Italy's military performance during World War One was lamentable, Mussolini will boast that he was the only successful instigator to his country's participation to "the war to end all wars"; just another lie in an endless line.
After the end of the war, Italy is in a state of virtual anarchy. The communists are the most aggressive opponents to national stability. Encouraged by the triumph of revolutions in Russia and Hungary they want to turn Italy into a land of "communist bliss". They back and support strikes, they murder and terrorise landowners. The socialist government in power is incapable or/and unwilling to stop the mayhem. The only political party eager to muster up some muscle in order to stop the violence is the "Fasci dei Combattimento", the Fascist Party. Also known as the Black Shirts, the fascists start clashing with the communists all over Italy. Although they quell the leftist uprising with a certain degree of success, the Black Shirts are still unpopular with the Italians because of the violent means of dispatching of their political adversaries. In the 1919 elections, the fascists don't do too well, winning only 35 seats in the Parliament. Mussolini is furious. He wants a place in the spotlights, not a measly minor role in the Italian Parliament. Benito Mussolini starts threatening the government with a march on Rome, a coup d'etat. His menaces are a bluff. The Blacks Shirts are extremely disorganised, in fact the whole Fascist Party is too decentralised for such a radical action. But the king, scared by the prospect of a communist revolution, with its looming, inherent regicide, decides to call on Mussolini to form a new government. Benito, the son of the radical, socialist blacksmith, was now the Prime Minister.
Under his new government policy, every economic activity in the country was put under a government-appointed panel, called a corporation. Representatives of management and labour, in each industry served on these panels. All profits under the corporate state went to the government. The Parliament became nothing more than an instrument for the corporations. Mussolini finally made the trains run on time. On the political front, Il Duce became a close personal friend and ally of German dictator Adolf Hitler (qv)
. Since, their destinies became intertwined. By joining the Axis along with Japan, Mussolini practically signed his death warrant. Italy wasn't prepared to go to war, especially after a partial fiasco, which was the military conflict with Abyssinia (now Ethiopia).
Tired of war, humiliations, privations and last, but not least, incensed with Il Duce authoritarian regime, the Italians voted Mussolini out of office in 1943. Hitler hearing of Mussolini's forced resignation "rescued" him and set him up as the head of a puppet government, the Salo government. It was a last effort to keep Mussolini in power, so that the German dictator could indirectly control the Italian army.
On April 28, 1945, Mussolini was executed, after being captured while trying to make a dramatic escape to Switzerland. His body, along with his mistresses' Clara Petacci, was subject to post-mortem mutilations by an angry crowd in Milan.
Benito Mussolini was a narcissistic compulsive gambler, liar and womaniser. He craved action and adoration. His taste for adulation reflects his vain and melodramatic nature. His desire for an adrenaline rush quick fix explains his compulsions and his general violent behaviour. Unlike Hitler, he had little concern about the content and consistency of ideology. His political philosophy was merely a trampoline. The Italian nationalism echoed in the fascist doctrine was nothing but the exaltation of Mussolini's cult. Il Duce was Italy. While Hitler was an abominable ogre, Mussolini was merely a monstrous peacock.
Length of Rule - Twenty Three years