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“Either they will give us the government or we will take it through assuming control over Rome.”1 On October 24, 1922, Benito Mussolini wrapped up his remarks at the National Fascist Party convention in Naples. It was not just an idle threat; he had called that particular rally to see how much support he could rely on if he exerted pressure on King Vittorio Emanuele III to secure his appointment to head a new government. The fact that he might receive what he desired in just six days had a favorable effect on him. Benito Mussolini’s rise to power in Italy is impressive for his ability to capitalize on widespread discontent, mobilize large segments of Italian society, and use unscrupulous political tactics to consolidate his control over the country. Mussolini seized power at a time of great political and economic instability in Italy. After World War I, the country was plagued by problems of high unemployment, inflation, and social tensions. In this context of crisis, many Italians were disillusioned with existing democratic institutions and sought a radical solution.

“The infamous handshake” | King Vittorio Emanuele III and Mussolini | 1922 | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

But how did he acquire all of this authority that enabled him to be received so well by that large crowd in Naples? The peasant class initially supported Mussolini, but he also obtained financial aid from the industrial classes, allowing Fascism to emerge even stronger. People saw Fascists as violent and arrogant, and as concerned with the beauty of battle, but those Fascists also possessed a charm that middle-class professionals found appealing. Many were inspired by Mussolini’s words and programs: he promised a bright future and a national power that had not yet been realized; most importantly, he demonstrated that the “red danger” could be destroyed. People wanted to believe in Mussolini because he was seen as the one who could save Italy from a communist revolution and postwar decay. As historian Charles Delzell wrote about the rise of Fascism: “Mussolini’s message won over many employers, who believed that the Fascists could keep militant labor at bay. Bands of Fascist thugs, known as squadristi, launched ‘punitive expeditions’ against Socialist and Catholic leagues of laborers and farmworkers. They beat some members with cudgels and forced castor oil down their throats. By official count, the Fascists destroyed 120 labor union offices and murdered 243 persons between January and May of 1921.”2

The March on Rome was the fruit of three years of violence and the consequence of a systematic campaign and effective propaganda. The Fascists were the most resolute, cruel, and ruthless players on the political scene in Italy, and therefore they were the strongest. The Fascists were not yet in charge of Italy, but they had already defeated their various opponents, starting with the communists and socialists, and also including the less radical moderates and Catholics. King Vittorio Emanuele III was aware of this, and he could have arrested Mussolini by calling in the army, but this would have caused a civil war, which he was not sure he could win. The king asked the victorious general of the Great War if he could count on the army. General Armando Diaz’s response was: “Certo, Maestà. Ma sarebbe meglio non metterlo alla prova,” which means “Of course, Your Majesty. But it would be better not to test it.”3 The army could not be counted on to hold back the Fascist wave.

The insurrection was led by four men, the so-called quadrumvirs; one of them was Italo Balbo, an interesting figure, as he was the most ruthless bruiser among the squadristi. On the eve of the March on Rome, Balbo explained Mussolini’s strategy for gaining power: “[T]he exaltation of power [is] the quickest and most definitive means to reach the revolutionary goal. There should be neither sentimentalism nor bourgeois hypocrisy in the face of the state’s ideal conquest: the rough and harsh action, carried out thoroughly, at any cost. We are the strongest because we are most decisive. And the strongest are always right.”4 This was the Fascist morality. The other quadrumvirs were Michele Bianchi, Emilio De Bono, and Cesare Maria De Vecchi. They were ready for great undertakings and they coordinated the squad of actions from the most beautiful hotel in Perugia, the Brufani. They continued to communicate from there with the squads that in 1922 took over prefectures, police headquarters, stations, post offices, and the capital. Mussolini decided to wait prudently for developments in the Popolo d’Italia editorial office in Milan. He did, however, spend the night at Soldo, a villa close to Lake Como on the Swiss border—a perfect getaway location in case his scheme fell apart.

People were fascinated by Mussolini above all for his charisma: Mussolini was a charismatic orator and skilled in communicating his political vision. He was seen as a strong and self-confident leader, capable of guiding Italy through difficult times. In a period of great political and economic instability, Mussolini promised stability and order. Many people were tired of the disorganization and political strife that characterized the post-war period and saw Mussolini as a leader capable of leading the country toward a better future. Furthermore, the Fascist regime promoted a strong feeling of nationalism and national pride, exploiting the patriotism of Italians. Mussolini was skilled at manipulating this sentiment, presenting himself as the defender of the Italian nation who promoted an image of greatness and power for Italy. This helped create a cult of personality around Mussolini and strengthened his appeal in the eyes of the public. “The regime was embraced by the masses in a rather ‘irrational and religious’ manner. A full-fledged lay religion was created around Mussolini. The myth of the Duce, along with that of ancient Rome, the empire, and the new Italian, was the expression of a political strategy that sought popular consensus based on an emotional and totally uncritical approach.”5

With so many people in favor of Mussolini and the leftist parties losing ground, all that remained was to overthrow the government. Early in October, Mussolini received an offer from Prime Minister Luigi Facta to join a coalition government. Mussolini rejected it; he desired to establish a new government rather than work within an existing one. Mussolini saw that Luigi Facta was a weak leader, so weak that when Mussolini set up his paramilitary force of Blackshirts, Facta did not attempt to stop him. In fact, on October 3, il Duce said: “If there was a government worthy of this name in Italy, today it should send its agents and carabinieri here, dissolve us and occupy our offices.”4 But none of that ever happened. Therefore, Mussolini felt even more entitled to keep going with his mission.

Despite the indication of intent and Mussolini’s speech in Naples, the Parlament reacted with incomprehensible calm, as if no serious incidents were happening. Luigi Facta took a cautious approach because certain politicians who had spoken with Mussolini verified his intention to march on Rome with the Fascist squadrons, the “Blackshirts.” The Fascists’ rapidity of action was crucial.

“March on Rome” | numerous participants in the march | 1922 | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

October 26 marked the start of the march, with Perugia serving as the initiative’s headquarters. The actions were managed from this location by the quadrumvirs that Mussolini had appointed a few days prior. About 20,000 Blackshirts made their way into the capital, protected by 28,400 soldiers, on October 27.7

On October 28, the government announced a state of siege at six in the morning. However, at eight-thirty in the morning, the king declined to countersign it, and Luigi Facta then resigned, leaving the nation without a functioning government and out of control. When the Blackshirts reached the capital and threatened to occupy the ministries, the king summoned Mussolini, who arrived in Rome by train.8

“Mentor”| Mussolini’s speech in Rome with thousands of people | 1925 | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The king only formally assigned him the duty of creating a new coalition government after he arrived in Rome on October 30. That ambitious and violent man, who moved as if on a stage, busy playing a part in his interactions with others, appeared at his most significant recital, in front of the monarch, dressed in a black shirt, gray slacks, and green high boots. Their meeting lasted less than an hour; on the same day, Mussolini wrote a list of ministers before returning to the king at 7 p.m. Mussolini’s plot to intimidate the establishment and seize power by coercion had been successful. King Vittorio Emanuele III appointed the government to Mussolini. Officially, the Fascist regime had begun.9

Mussolini then delivered his famous inauguration speech before the Chamber of Deputies on November 16: “I could have established a government made up only of Fascists and prohibited Parliament. I could have, but, at least at that moment, I didn’t want to.”10 As a dictator, he was already displaying his immense authority and influence.

  1. “Benito Mussolini,” in Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., vol. 11 (Detroit, MI: Gale, 2004), 272–74.
  2. Charles F. Delzell, “Remembering Mussolini,” The Wilson Quarterly (1976-) 12, no. 2 (1988): 118–35.
  3. “Mussolini Il Capobanda. Perché Dovremmo Vergognarci Del Fascismo – Aldo Cazzullo – Libro – Mondadori – Strade Blu | IBS.” n.d. Accessed March 16, 2024.
  4. “Mussolini Il Capobanda. Perché Dovremmo Vergognarci Del Fascismo – Aldo Cazzullo – Libro – Mondadori – Strade Blu | IBS.” n.d. Accessed March 16, 2024.
  5. Paolo Nicoloso and S. Notini, Mussolini, Architect: Propaganda and Urban Landscape in Fascist Italy, Toronto Italian Studies (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2022).
  6. “Mussolini Il Capobanda. Perché Dovremmo Vergognarci Del Fascismo – Aldo Cazzullo – Libro – Mondadori – Strade Blu | IBS.” n.d. Accessed March 16, 2024.
  7. “Mussolini Il Capobanda. Perché Dovremmo Vergognarci Del Fascismo – Aldo Cazzullo – Libro – Mondadori – Strade Blu | IBS.” n.d. Accessed March 16, 2024.
  8. “Mussolini Il Capobanda. Perché Dovremmo Vergognarci Del Fascismo – Aldo Cazzullo – Libro – Mondadori – Strade Blu | IBS.” n.d. Accessed March 16, 2024.
  9. Giovanni, “Ritratto di un dittatore: Benito Mussolini,” Giovanni Pistolato (blog), December 23, 2011
  10. Charles F. Delzell, “Remembering Mussolini,” The Wilson Quarterly (1976-) 12, no. 2 (1988): 118–35.

Alessia Karol Terlizzi

I am from Italy and I am double majoring in International Business focusing on trade operations and International Global studies. I speak 4 languages and I enjoy researching on global political or economic issues and I love knowing new cultures and new languages.

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Recent Comments


  • Fernando Milian

    It is interesting how Mussolini managed to gain so much support despite his violent approach. He used the country’s economic and political instability to his advantage, appealing to various classes by promising stability and exploiting fears of communism. It is also kind of scary to think about how a leader could use such tough times to manipulate people into supporting harsh measures against their own neighbors. What struck me most was how the King and other politicians seemed almost passive or helpless against Mussolini’s bold moves. The fact that the King did not sign the state of siege order really shows how much influence Mussolini had. It is like once he got the momentum, nothing could stop him from taking over. It makes you realize the power of propaganda and strong leadership in politics, but also the dangers when they are used like this. Great article!

  • Sebastian Hernandez-Soihit

    Musolini’s ability to exploit social discontempt is specially relevant today in the US. Not only that but the parallels of the late 30s Europe and Modern Day American hemisphere. Very well researched and amazing narrative devices employed

  • Ana Barrientos

    Hi Alessia! I enjoyed reading about Mussolini’s rise to power, it was interesting to read how much power he had. The influence and popularity he was able to gain on people, he was extremely charming and that helped him get support. You can see that, with other leaders (e.g Hitler) Hitler was about to use his communicational skills and charm as well to gain support. Overall, great job!

  • Quinten Mero

    Benito Mussolini’s rise to power and the foundation of modern fascist ideology was one of the most important moments in the early 20th century. Your article has done an excellent job of describing this rise. From the capitalization of post-war tensions caused by the Treaty of Versailles to win over the population to the aggressive marches that ultimately caused Italy to turn fascist, your depiction of the events as they occurred is wonderful.

  • Jonathan Flores

    This article is very well written and gives us an eye into the complex life of Mussolini that is often overlooked when it comes to his character. Simply put, Mussolini, as a fascist, is viewed extremely negatively, but I like how your article was not mere insulting of Mussolini. Instead, you offered a look into how some of the worst people in history can become such successful and powerful leaders. In this way I commend your tentative style and well done!

  • adiazmontesnob

    Great job Alessia! You’ve skillfully illustrated Mussolini’s rise to power in Italy well by explaining the factors contributing to the fascist regime. Your use of powerful imagery and effective use of photographs only enhanced the narrative structure. it is important to shed light on the rise of fascist governments of the 20th century, so we can gain a deeper level of understanding and strengthen resistance to oppressive ideologies.

  • Paola Then Ortiz

    Hello Alessia! I enjoyed reading about Benito Mussolini in your article, I have heard bad things only from him, but in this article, you went into detail on how he got to power and ruled with his manipulation skills. It is so sad the fact that many people died during his reign. He could make anyone think that what he was saying to everyone was true. Even though he was a fascist. He is someone that left a mark on Italy’s history. Thank you for sharing it with us!

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