Mussolini - Dictator or Despot?

Benito Mussolini (1883-1945)
"His Excellency Benito Mussolini, Head of Government, Duce of Fascism, and Founder of the Empire" official title from ‘36

Benito Mussolini was born on 29 July 1883 in Dovia di Predappio, a small town in Northern Italy. From a young age, Mussolini showed tendencies to violence. When sent away to school, he was expelled twice for a series of violent incidents. On at least two occasions he resorted to stabbing adversaries with a penknife. He even fought the fathers at his school when they tried to beat him.

In 1902 Mussolini moved to Switzerland, where he became actively involved in Socialist politics. He studied the ideas of Marxism and philosophers including Freidrich Nietzche and George Sorel. He was greatly influenced by Sorel’s book Reflections on Violence which presented the idea that the only way for change to occur was through the application of force and violence. This deeply impressed the young Mussolini.

When he returned to Italy in 1904, Mussolini began to work as a journalist in the Socialist press. With the outbreak of WWI, he was eventually expelled for his pro-war views. When Italy joined the Allies to fight Germany, he served for two years and was promoted to the rank of Corporal before being discharged due to shrapnel wounds. He then returned to his career in journalism, having decided that "Socialism as a doctrine was already dead”. At this point he began do develop ideas of strong political leadership through of fierce nationalism, anti-Communism and class unity. His ideas would one day become known as Fascism.

When WWI ended, Italy was in turmoil. Although Italy emerged on the winning side, the country suffered huge losses of life and expense and gained relatively little. The economy was shattered and there was widespread dissent amongst the people. Mussolini’s disenchantment with his country led him further into political activism. He called for a leader "ruthless and energetic enough to make a clean...