Italian fascism and Italy's WW2 performance

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

Post by aurora » Fri Feb 08, 2019 7:41 pm

De Felice argued that Mussolini was a revolutionary modernizer in domestic issues, but a pragmatist in foreign policy who continued the Realpolitik policies of liberal Italy (1861–1922).

In the 1990s, a cultural turn began with studies that examined the issue of popular reception and acceptance of Fascism using the perspectives of "aestheticization of politics" and "sacralisation of politics".

By the 21st century, the old "anti-Fascist" postwar consensus was under attack from a group of revisionist scholars who have presented a more favorable and nationalistic assessment of Mussolini's role, both at home and abroad.

Controversy rages as there is no consensus among scholars using competing interpretations based on revisionist, anti-Fascist, intentionalist or culturalist models of history
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RF
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Re: Italian fascism and Italy's WW2 performance

Post by RF » Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:45 am

Revisionism or not, the salient points here is Italy's actual war performance and the lack of proper preparation for the war that should have been fought.

I disagree with the view that foreign policy was a continuation of that of the more 'liberal' Italy prior to WW1. The more 'liberal' Italy would not have encouraged the Chaco War by arming both sides in that conflict, or undertaken the conquest of Ethiopia, or got closely involved in the Spanish Civil War supporting Franco, let alone sign up to alliance with Hitler and the Japanese.
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Re: Italian fascism and Italy's WW2 performance

Post by BuckBradley » Thu Apr 25, 2019 4:01 am

I don't think Mussolini was all bad by any means. He almost wiped out the Mafia and he did make the trains run on time. He also restored a bit of respect for Italy.

However you want to characterize his decision to enter WWII, however, it was a complete gamble (bluff) on a pair of twos facing a bunch of players with straights and flushes. He gambled that the war would be over in a month and he lost--destroying himself in the process. Italy is very lucky that the Allies really did not hold Mussolini against it--we no more hated nor feared Italy than the Italian people hated or wanted to be at war with us. Mussolini on the other hand gambled everything on one throw of the dice and lost. I think he has exactly the reputation he deserves.......

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Re: Italian fascism and Italy's WW2 performance

Post by RF » Fri Apr 26, 2019 8:23 am

BuckBradley wrote:
Thu Apr 25, 2019 4:01 am
I don't think Mussolini was all bad by any means. He almost wiped out the Mafia
That was completely undone by his decision on 11 December 1941 to declare war on the United States.

Unlike his entry into WW2 in June 1940 that decision was made in the context of what clearly was a major long lasting war, with Italy already totally dependent on Germany for both its economy and its armed forces.
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Re: Italian fascism and Italy's WW2 performance

Post by RF » Fri Apr 26, 2019 8:29 am

BuckBradley wrote:
Thu Apr 25, 2019 4:01 am
I don't think Mussolini was all bad by any means. ….. and he did make the trains run on time. He also restored a bit of respect for Italy.
Up to 1936 - yes.

From then on it was all downhill, particulary with the growing corruption and inefficiencies of a government in power for too long, with no constitutional opposition to keep it on its toes.

By 1940 the Pontine Marshes had largely reflooded and the trains weren't quite so punctual...…

And the Spanish Civil War exposed major deficiencies in the Italian Army and Air Forces - which were totally ignored by Mussolini.
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