Italy’s feuding right-wing leaders aim somehow to govern in the style of Mussolini, the dictator best remembered for his racially motivated Italian fascism. But to succeed, they must first overcome the country’s long, bitterly resisted socialist tradition.
Mussolini’s death in early April 1945 was just a day away. The war, he realized, had not ended in victory, but merely shifted from the Eastern Front to Italy. His last thoughts were for his countrymen, he wrote to his wife, ‘bewildered and exhausted, all of whom are in the dark, or are thinking of war.’ His body was cremated by Italian partisans on May 1st, and a few months later, Mussolini’s name was obliterated from the Italian lexicon.
After WWII, the Italian communist party and the fascists, with their own political traditions, had been forced to work together to win the war. This collaboration was a difficult, decades-long process. By the late 1930s, the communists’ leader, Benito Mussolini, and their fascist allies were at war. The communists supported Mussolini when he invaded Abyssinia in 1935, and they supported fascist governments in Albania and Ethiopia. The fascist army of invasion was defeated in the Battle of Adwa, and Mussolini’s Fascist Party lost all of its seats in parliament in the post-war elections. But the fascists, once in power in Italy, would also not take the communists’ advice to work together in peace.
Mussolini’s Fascist Party, together with the Nazi Party, won more votes and seats, and were given control of Italy’s legislature in the 1945 elections. But they turned away from communists and communists turned their back on fascism in the newly declared Italian Communist Party (PCI). In 1946, the communists were excluded from the Italian parliament. The communists had helped create the Italian fascist government, and now they would lose their place in Italy’s government.
Fascist rule in Italy would be ten years short of being a dictatorship. But Mussolini and his party had not brought peace with them, and the only peace with fascism that the