Italian fascism and Italy's WW2 performance

Non-naval discussions about the Second World War. Military leaders, campaigns, weapons, etc.
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Italian fascism and Italy's WW2 performance

Post by RF » Thu Sep 14, 2017 1:31 pm

I have opened this thread to offer a re-evaluation of Italy's WW2 record from the standpoint of the political leadership, political structures and ideologies of Italian fascism
On the face of it Benito Mussolini must appear to be the worst war leader of any country in WW2, and as one of my fellow students commented during my college days ''he was a disgrace to fascism.''
His decision to enter the war when he did was an act of political opportunism, made in a belief that the war was practically over. But that sort of decision is easy to make and a mistake anybody can make.

What stands out is that Italy was not prepared for fighting a major war in terms of its economy, its armed forces or in the attitudes of its people, even after it was obvious a war was coming. Moreover Italy itself had already been involved in two localised wars, in Ethiopia and in Spain, where weaknesses in its armed forces had been exposed.
In spite of all that there was no military planning for fighting an aggressive, expansionist war, unlike in Germany and Japan.

How did Italy manage to get into this position in the first place? I think it is too easy and simplistic to say it was all the fault of Mussolini, that ''he was a disgrace to fascism'' and useless as a war leader.
Was it a failure of Italian fascism as an ideology and as an instrument of government, rather than simply an incompetent dictator?

Or was it a case of a regime in power for too long already at the start of WW2, crippled by a growing inertia and political corruption? It is noteworthy here that longer term dictatorships, in particular the USSR under Stalin and China under Mao had periodic violent upheavals which served to invigorate the regime at huge cost in human lives. Fascist Italy never had any political purges or a cultural revolution, it had become stale - could it have had an upheaval to reinvigorate itself?

Studies of Mussolini and of Fascist Italy, such as for example by Denis Mack Smith, seem to avoid this question by not considering fascism as an ideology and in practice alongside Marxist Leninism and naziism, and evaluating whether Italy could have followed a more successful route as part of the tripartite alliance of Germany, Italy and Japan.

Any views anybody? I would be particulary interested in the views of those Italian members of this forum.
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