Italy had suffered badly during the war – 460,000 soldiers were killed and the country was heavily in debt. the Italian army had been heavily defeated and had only won its first major victory at Vittorio Veneto in October 1918. .
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Italy had been promised extra land by Britain and France during the war, but when the war ended it was not handed over. This made it look as if the Italian Government had been ignored. .
the governments after the war were weak. they were coalitions (made up of more than one party) and were not able to take decisions. .
there was rising unemployment and this led to unrest in many cities and many people began to support the Communists. .
Mussolini set up the Fascist Party and posed as a strong man who could sort out Italy’s problems. He promised to rebuild Italy and recreate the Roman Empire. .
Mussolini organised armed gangs, called the Blackshirts, who dealt with troublemakers and criminals. they also broke up strikes. In some cities, Bologna for example, the Fascists were the police force. .
Mussolini’s newspaper, “Il Popolo d’Italia”, spread his ideas. As unemployment grew and people became more desperate, they turned to Mussolini to solve Italy’s problems. .
In October 1922 Mussolini threatened to march on Rome if he was not appointed prime minister. the king of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III, who supported Mussolini, refused to back the existing government and invited him to become prime minister. .
Once he was prime minister, Mussolini persuaded the king to allow him to rule as a dictator for one year and then passed the Acerbo Law. This stated that whichever party won the next general election would receive two-thirds of the seats in parliament. .
In April 1924 the Fascists won 60% of the votes and gained 375 seats out of 535. When a leader of the Socialist party, Giacomo Matteotti, spoke out against the Fascists he was kidnapped and found murdered. Mussolini was not involved, but it was a warning for the future.