Wednesday, 28 April 2021

The Death of fascist Benito Mussolini

The death of Benito Mussolini, the deposed Italian fascist dictator, occurred on 28 April 1945 in the final days of World War11  in Europe, when he was summarily executed by Italian partisans in the small  village of Guilino di Mezegra in northern Italy.
Born July 29,1883, in Dovia di Predappio. he was an intelligent and inquisitive from an early age. In fact, he set out to be a teacher but soon decided that career wasn't for him. Still, he voraciously read the works of great European philosophers like Immanuel Kant, Georges Sorel, Benedict de Spinoza, Peter Kropotkin, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Karl Marx,
Mussolini had initially been a member of the Socialist Party in 1900 and had begun to attract wide admiration. In speeches and articles he was extreme and violent, urging revolution at any cost, but he was also well spoken. Mussolini held several posts as editor and labor leader until he emerged in the 1912 Socialist Party Congress. He became editor of the party's daily paper, Avanti, at the age of twenty-nine. His powerful writing injected excitement into the Socialist ranks. In a party that had accomplished little in recent years, his youth and his intense nature was an advantage. He called for revolution at a time when revolutionary feelings were sweeping the country.
However in March 1919 Mussolini founded another movement , the nationalist Fasci di Combattimento, named after the Italian peasant revolutionaries, or ' Fighting Bands,' from the 19th century. Commonly  known as the Fascist Party, Mussolini's new right-wing organization advocated Italian nationalism, had black shirts for uniforms, and launched a program of terrorism and intimidation against it's leftist opponents, it won the favor of the Italian youth, and Mussolini waited for events to favor him. 
The elections in 1921 sent him to Parliament at the head of thirty-five Fascist deputies; the third assembly of his movement gave birth to a national party, the National Fascist Party, with more than 250 thousand followers and Mussolini as its uncontested leader. In October 1922 Mussolini successfully marched into Rome, Italy. He now enjoyed the support of key groups (industry, farmers, military, and church), whose members accepted Mussolini's solution to their problems: organize middle-class youth, control workers harshly, and set up a tough central government to restore "law and order." Thereafter, Mussolini attacked the workers and spilled their blood over Italy. It was the complete opposite of his early views of socialism. 
King Emmanuel 111, who had little faith in Italy's parliamentary government, asked Mussolini to form a new government. Initially, Mussolini was appointed prime minister at the head of a three-member Fascist cabinet, cooperated with the Italian parliament, but aided by his brutal police organization he soon became the effective dictator of Italy, In 1924, a Socialist backlash was suppressed , and in January 1925 a Fascist state was officially proclaimed ,with  Mussolini as 11 Duce, or 'The Leader.'
Once in power, Mussolini took steps to remain there. He set general elections, but they were fixed to always provide him with an absolute majority in Parliament.   He suspended civil liberties, destroyed all opposition, left wing parties were suppressed  and in 1929 imposed an open dictatorship ( absolute rule), At the same time Mussolini also carried out an extensive public-works programme and the fall in unemployment made him a popular figure in Italy.
In 1928 John Heartfield  created The Face of Fascism  a montage that dealt with the rule of Benito Mussolini which spread all over Europe with tremendous force. "A skull-like face of Mussolini is eloquently surrounded by his corrupt backers and his dead victims".

Italy controlled Eritrea and Somalia in Africa but had failed several times to colonize neighbouring Ethiopia.. When Mussolini came to power he was determined to show the strength of his regime by occupying the country. In October 1935 Mussolini sent in General Pietro Badglio and the Italian Army into Ethiopia.
The League of Nations  condemned Italy's aggression and in November imposed sanctions. This included an attempt to ban countries from selling arms, rubber and some metals to Italy. Some political leaders in France and Britain  opposed sanctions arguing that it might persuade Mussolini to form an alliance with Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany
Over 400,000 Italian troops fought in Ethiopia. The poorly armed Ethiopians were no match for Italy's modern tanks and aeroplanes. The Italians even used mustard gas on the home forces and were able to capture Addis Ababa, the capital of the country, in May 1936, forcing Emperor Haile Selassie to flee to England.
Outside Italy Mussolini is remembered as something of a buffoon. But he unleashed a cruel violence that, though it might not match that of Hitler or Stalin, was then something new in the world. Mussolini was responsible for the deaths of a million people. They were killed during the terror in Italy and vicious colonial wars in Libya, Somalia and Ethiopia.
They died because of his support for General Franco in the Spanish Civil War and fascist Italy's own butchery in the Second World War. Mussolini also waged a merciless war against the anti-fascist Resistance movement that liberated so much of Italy between 1943 and 1945 .
Though not the driving force behind the Second World War, he was drawn by ambition and ideology into an alliance with Nazi Germany, an alliance that invaded many countries.This alliance with Hitler involved the deportation of Italian Jews and compliance in the Holocaust.
As the tide of war turned, Italy was invaded, and in July 1943 disgruntled Italian politicians ousted Mussolini from power. He was imprisoned but then rescued by the Germans, who had invaded Italy when it made peace with the Allies.The Germans installed Mussolini as leader of a puppet state in northern Italy. But a combination of Italian partisans and Allied armies gradually drove back the Germans, who could not commit more troops thanks to the Allied liberation of France and invasion of Germany.
During the last days of the war in Italy, with defeat imminent fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, attempted to escape the advancing allied  Army by hiding in a German convoy headed towards the Alps  Partisans stopped and searched the convoy  and though disguised found Mussolini alongside his mistress Ckara Petacci, wearing a  private's overcoat over his striped General's pants, he was instantly regonized. His bald head, deeply set jaw, and piercing brown eyes gave him away. Mussolini had developed a cult-like following and instant recognisability over the past 25 years, due to his face being plastered all over propaganda nationwide, and now it had come back to haunt him.
The partisans seized Mussolini and Petacci. Fearing that the Nazis would again try to liberate the dictator, the partisans hid the pair in a remote farmhouse for the night. The following day, 28 April 1945 Mussolini and Petacci were removed from the house and driven to the small village of Giulino di Mezzegra on the shores of Lake Como. They were ordered to stand in front of a stone wall at the entrance to Villa Belmonte where both were executed by machine gun fire.
There’s no uncertainty, however, about what happened to Mussolini’s body in the hours after his execution. In the pre-dawn hours of April 29 the corpses of Mussolini, Petacci and 14 fellow fascists were placed in a truck and hung in Milan’s Piazzale Loreto, a deeply symbolic public square for the anti-fascist forces. There, eight months earlier, fascists acting under orders from Hitler’s SS publicly displayed the bodies of 15 executed partisans, from that moment onward, partisans  called this place the ' Square of the Fifteen Martyrs.'
After Mussolini’s arrest in July 1943, jubilant crowds mutilated images of the dictator. Now, as the sun rose on the “Square of the Fifteen Martyrs,” residents of Milan had the chance to do the same thing, only this time for real. They hurled invectives and vegetables at the dictator’s corpse before kicking, beating and spitting upon it. One woman, deciding Mussolini wasn’t dead enough for her, emptied a pistol into the dictator’s body and shouted,  "Five shots for my five assassinated sons!"  The executions are the first conspicuous demonstration of  mob violence carried out by the partisans who until up to then had been kept under control by their leaders.The partisan commander-in-chief General Rafaea Cadorna said at the time that such incidents  were regrettable but desirable in this case as a way for the public to vent their anger against the former dictator and his cohorts.
In early afternoon, American troops ordered the bodies to be taken down and Mussolini’s bullet-ridden corpse transported to the city morgue. By this point, Mussolini’s badly beaten body was barely recognizable, but a U.S. Army photographer still staged the bodies of the former dictator and his mistress in each other’s arms in a macabre pose. Benito Mussolini who brought destruction to 20th century Europe, died in ignominy but it was a death that brought peace to many oppressed by the man known as Ill Duce.
After his death and the display of his corpse in Milan, Mussolini was buried in an unmarked grave in the Musocco cemetery, to the north of the city. On Easter Sunday 1946, Mussolini’s body was located and dug up by a young fascist, Domenico Leccisi, and two friends. Over a period of sixteen weeks it was moved from place to place ,the hiding places included a villa, a monastery and a convent — while the authorities searched for it. Eventually, in August, the body (with a leg missing) was tracked down to the Certosa di Pavia, a monastery not far from Milan. Two Franciscan friars were charged with assisting Leccisi in hiding the body.
Word of Mussolini' death spread quickly. Hitler , for one, heard the news on the radio and vowed not to have his corpse desecrated in the same manner as Mussolini's.  People in Hitler's circle reported that he said, "This will never happen to me,"
In his final will, scrawled on a eice of paper, Hitler said " I do not wish to fall into the hands of an enemy who requires a new spectacle organised by the Jews for the amusement of their hysterical masses. On May 1, mere days after Mussolini's death , Hitler  shot his mistress and new wife Eva Braunn, and then after swallowing some poison shot himself in the mouth.. His inner circle  in the bombed out garden behind the Reich Chancellery, wrapped their Fuhrer in a Nazi flag, doused the bodies with gasoline and set them on fire  as Soviet forces closed in. The Russians found remains of his teeth.
.Mussolini was so influential that the name of his Fascist party has since been adopted as a catch-all term for extreme right-wing politics based on racism, authoritarianism, and hate and sadly on the anniversary of Mussolini’s death on 28 April has become one in which neo-fascist supporters mark with major rallies. In Predappio, Mussolinis home town a march takes place between the centre of town and the cemetery. The event usually attracts skinheads and self proclaimed fascists that includes speeches, songs and people giving the fascist salute.
However every year on April 25, Italians gather round heavily laden tables and barbeques and chant ' Bella Ciao'(Goodbye Beautiful) at least a dozen times, right hand on the hert.From 1943-1945,the lyrics of the song Bella Ciao was modified and sung by the anti-fascism Resistance Partisiani against Mussolini and the Nazi German forces occupying Italy and again in the struggle against the Italian Social Republic and its German allies during Italy's Bella Ciao has become an anthem for the  anti-fascist movement worldwide and versions have been used in revolutionary events in Spain, Greece, Tunisia,and Palestine.
And every year on April 25, Italians gather round heavily laden tables and barbeques and chant ' Bella Ciao at least a dozen times, right hand on the heart. In March and April 2020 , under Italy's first strict lockdown, Bella Ciao could be heard constantly coming from the roofs, windows and balconies overlooking empty streets in Rome, Milan and Bologna, like a reassuring collective mantra. Here's one of my favourite versions of this great rousing song of resistance.  Long may the forces of fascism be defeated and given no victory as the flowers of resistance still grow strong.

Bella Ciao - Modena City Ramblers

Link to archive on Italian resistance movement:

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