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Mussolini’s Social And Economic Policies

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When Mussolini seized power in1922, Italians had high expectations of him in solving the numerous social and economic problems Italy had. As the new dynamic leader, Mussolini wanted to solve these problems because the success of his policies would lead to his increase of popularity as the _Duce_ and contribute to his consolidation of power. Although his policies brought changes to Italy, they were also one of the causes of the downfall of fascist Italy. Hence, it is difficult to assess Mussolini’s domestic policies in terms of the benefit it created to society as a whole.

One of the key aims in Mussolini’s economic policies was to build Italy’s economy to a level where it could rival the great industrial powers of the world like Britain, France and Germany. At that time, Italy’s economy was backward and relied heavily on the inconsistent agriculture industry. Mussolini wanted to maintain capitalism while still enforcing state intervention to secure his power. He knew that a massive program of industrialization would be needed in order to bring the economy up to the standards of neighboring countries.

In order to secure public support, Mussolini first appointed the economics professor Alberto de Stefani as Treasury Minister. He was very popular amongst the industrialists because he reduced government spending and privatized numerous big industries in order to stimulate the economy. Mussolini’s choice of de Stefani was very successful as it secured his popularity as the _Duce_ and really led the Italian economy into a period of boom with record export numbers especially in the cars and textile industry. However, after 1925, Mussolini gradually steered the economy towards his fascist ideals.

With the dismissal of de Stefani and the launch of the Battle for Lira, the boom was slowly coming to an end. Mussolini believed that the lira “is a symbol of our nation…a vibrant country should have a strong, vibrant currency.” (Robson 83).He restored the value of the Lira to a new exchange rate of 90 lira to the Sterling instead of 150. This battle only had temporary success. Although foreign bankers and the Italian public were pleased with the change, this policy destroyed Italy’s export in the long run, as the price of exported goods nearly doubled. Major export industries went into recession and unemployment trebled in 1926. The only winners of this policy were the war- and heavy industries who made huge profits from the protected domestic market.

In the late1920s, Mussolini created the corporate state, a revolutionary method of running the economy. Corporations will be set up for each sector of industry and fascist representatives will control both the employers and the workers. According to him, this system will make the production more efficient and will get rid of all the strikes and class disputes. At first it appeared to be very effective, with 22 corporations covering nearly every job in Italy. But soon this concept turned out to be too idealistic. There was tension between the head of the different corporation sectors due to different views about working conditions and government subsidies. The fascist officials tended to support the employers and neglected the requests of the workers. The workers felt suppressed by this complicated system of bureaucracy and the conflict between employers and workers got worse. This policy was the greatest mistake Mussolini made and this initiated the slowly growing discontent of the population as they realize the incapability of the _Duce_ in solving their problems.

In reaction to the world economic depression, Mussolini established the Industrial Reconstruction Institute (IRI) in 1933 which served to control the banks and money supply in Italy but also encourage heavy industry. Whenever a bank or industry goes bankrupt, the IRI will provide cheap loans to them so that they can recover from the huge loss during depression. Although these loans meant more cost for the taxpayers, the IRI can be considered as one of the few Mussolini’s successful economic policy because it did reduce the loss of the Italian economy and in the end Italy was a little better off than neighboring countries.

Besides the economic policies, Mussolini was aware that the Italian society must be transformed into ideal fascists loyal to the _Duce._ His ultimate goal was to adopt policies that would penetrate into every aspect of society which enables him to secure the position as the leader. The first step was to make a compromise with the influential Catholic Church. In 1929, the Lateran Agreement was signed and officially marked the end of conflict between Church and State. But soon this “love affair” was destroyed as Mussolini steered Italy more towards fascist ideology. The first disputes arose in 1931 when Mussolini started to influence the youth with the organization ONB. The Church insisted to maintain control over the youth, but this was crushed down by the _Duce._ The alliance officially ended in 1939, after Mussolini introduced anti- Semitic laws in order to secure his alliance with Nazi- Germany. Hence, one could argue that Mussolini only had temporary success with the Lateran Agreement since at the beginning he did gain public support as a result, but the inevitable tension between the two became a burden for Mussolini which eventually dragged him down into the total failure of his regime.

Despite the disputes Mussolini had with the Church, there was one aspect of life that brings them together. Both believed in the woman’s role of wife and mother. The _Duce_ encouraged families to have children not only because of the traditional values, but he ultimately wanted a huge population who would be able to fight for him in the future. In 1927, the Battle for Births was introduced to materialize his vision. Families with more than six children were free from all taxation while singles were penalized and restricted from many workplaces. As a result the government raised some 230 million lira each year and health care for women and children were improved. But considering Mussolini’s initial aims, this battle was a complete failure. People were unimpressed with this policy and the population growth was only minimal. There was even a slight fall in birth rate due to fears of another World War. This failure indicates that the fascist state was not able to “direct its citizens down paths they did not want to follow.” Despite the complex propaganda, the _Duce_ was only able to determine the people’s actions but not their thoughts.

One could not deny that Mussolini put in a lot of effort to transform Italy into the ideal fascist state. His 21 year long regime, “though a disaster, had some success which one must acknowledge.” His policies brought in revolutionary ideas into society and did contribute to his wide acceptance as the _Duce_ despite the fact that some of these policies were unrealistic and unable to transform the society as a whole into Mussolini’s ideal fascist state. Another circumstance that limited his success in these reforms was his narrow mindset. Many historians concluded that “Mussolini’s aims were minimal because he was interested mainly in personal power.” Since he was not an economist or adept in social studies, his policies were mainly centered on the benefit he would get as the leader rather on creating welfare for the Italian population. As a totalitarian dictator, his refusal to seek other intellectuals for advice plus his personal lack of knowledge in this area set the preconditions to reform Italy. Hence these conditions best explain the failure of the various policies he made.


Denis Mack, Smith. “Sleeping Car to Power.” Modern History Review (1990)

Lee, Stephen. “Mussolini’s Rise to Power.”

Lowe, Norman. Mastering Modern World History. 3rd. New York: Palgrave, 1997.

Robson, Mark. Italy: The Rise of Fascism. Third Edition. London: Hodder Education, 2006

Townley, E.. Mussolini and Italy. Bristol: Heineman, 2002

Young, Andrew. “Mussolini’s Rise to Power.” Modern History Review (2000): 27.

 Robson, Mark. Italy: The Rise of Fascism. Third Edition. London: Hodder Education, 2006.

 Townley, E.. Mussolini and Italy. Bristol: Heineman, 2002

 Denis Mack, Smith. “Sleeping Car to Power.” Modern History Review (1990)

 Young, Andrew. “Mussolini’s Rise to Power.” Modern History Review (2000):

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