The Fascism as a Fantasy

Paul Corning, of the University of Siena, analyzes the argument of revisionist historians that there was popular support for Italian fascism under Mussolini. He states that there seems to be a sense of relief in Italy over this fact, that fa m must “not have been so bad after all” and that “history must have treated the fascist dictatorship too harshly.” Why is such a view becoming so popular? And why are Italians so relieved to see their relatives as Mussolini’s accomplices? Perhaps because of the sentiment that Mussolini’s greatest mistake was in aligning himself with Nazi Germany, and the resulting involvement in the Second World War.

That, and the fact that it is easy to identify the atrocities of Nazi Germany, which surely makes Mussolini’s regime seem harmless. Moreover, as time as passed, it has become easy to forget the co s of war, and the role that fascism played in that war. This, Corning states, makes it far easier to accept the idea that it was not the fascists, but the antifascists, that were “out of step”.

In this push to accept the consensus of fascism, the repression that was present during Mussolini’s rule has almost been forgotten. Corning suggests that other historians seem to find a consensus for fascism in Italian history, not because one existed, but because there is a significant lack in open protest, especially when compared with frequent bloody protests that occurred prior to the First World War. Corning suggests that this may not be due to consensus, but rather to the societal changes that ensured that there was no chance for protest under the fascists.

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He states that “the efficient a totalitarian dictatorship, the more it will appear to have the consent of the population.” He also notes the role that terror played in the suppression of dissent. Mussolini certainly preferred to use the police to control dissent, but was not afraid to resort to the threat of violence, if required. It is noted that. in late 1930, an average of 20.000 police operations occurred each week, acting against opposition groups, certainly not a sign of healthy support for the regime. Moreover, social control meant that outright opposition was not as easy as one might think.

It was made known that. beyond losing one’s own job due to opposition activities. their children may also find themselves in the same situation. In addition, while workers may not have been fans of the fascist system. without membership in the fascist union, work would be hard to find. It is states that the years of the strongest “consensus” also coincided with the years of the most economic hardship. Even social assistance was enhanced by support of the party. Benefits were available, but clearly were only available to those that conformed to fascism. Corning makes it clear that passive acceptance should not be mistaken for consensus. He states that, “in reality most people had little choice” not only because of the police state that they lived in, but also because the fascist regime controlled virtually all civil activity. In fact, with the collapse of fascism in 1943, it was essentially the first time that Italians were given a choice in nearly two decades, and they “took it with impressive rapidity.”

Indeed, Mussolini’s regime ensured that there was no choice, just as their reviled German counterparts did. Corning argues that the effort of some Italian historians to suggest that the fascist regime existed due to widespread national Consensus, rather than due to totalitarian methods, is not only inaccurate, but also dangerous. He offers up various points to support his position, suggesting that, while brutal repression was not a trademark theme of this regime, it was there. Even when violent oppression was not in use, the suggestion that it could be was always in play. Beyond that. the lack of open protest and the high rates of membership and support do not indicate support of for the regime, but a lack of choice for the Italian people. Instead, the fact that the regime controlled all aspects of life seemingly indicates that the only option available was to acquiesce to the demands of the fascist party. Coming notes the rapid rate at which Italians embraced their ability to choose with the fall ofMussolini, stating that it was “impressive”.

Surely. this would not be the case if a true consensus existed. Corning spends lot of time focusing on the social control that the fascists held over the Italian people. However. he seems to ignore the pockets of resistance that did exist, instead choosing to speak on why there were not major acts of resistance. This may be due to his goal of refuted the arguments of other historians, but perhaps some more discussion on the acts of resistance would have expanded on his point. I think Corning makes a very sound argument against the idea of a true Italian fascist consensus. Can there really be a popular consensus if the people have no choice‘t7 I don‘t even mean in the political spectrum, but in everyday life. It is easy to suppress dissent if the punishment for that dissent would endanger not only the individual, but also their entire family. With that risk, it is obvious why many would choose to passively accept fascist rule rather than resisti.

But, passive acceptance is not true support. I found Corning’s assertion that the acceptance of the Italian people is not equal to support interesting. Ifyou cannot survive without support. you will obviously support the government. This is especially true if it endangers not only you, but also your entire fatnily. Rather than resist the government, you will passively play along. give lip service. so that you and your family can survive. This is especially true when the system demands consensus without major sacrifice on the part of the people. The numbers may show support, and the people may offer up minor support, but that did not stop them from immediately embracing change following the sudden collapse of fascism in 1943‘ This alone should indicate that the idea ofa true consensus among the Italian people regarding fascism was, and is a fantasy.

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The Fascism as a Fantasy. (2022, Jul 16). Retrieved from

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