What was fascism and why did it happen? How did it affect the city of Florence?
Fascism and its Effects on the City of Florence
Fascism refers to the form of government whereby one party exercises dictatorship and forcefully suppresses the opposing party. Fascism is against democracy and puts one nation or state above the others. Fascist governments are often militaristic and racist regimes headed by a dictator. This type of government rose to prominence in the early 20th century in Europe. The fascist regime is an authoritarian government, but not all authoritarian regimes are Fascist. Fascism rose after World War I when fascists saw an opportunity to mobilize a lot of people to work on the front lines and to economically and logistically support them while being authoritative in the lives of citizens. Back then, almost everyone served in the military, and this made it easier for the fascists to mobilize them. This form of government was caused by a couple of reasons post-World war, and it affected a lot of cities in Europe, including Florence.
Fascism in Europe began after World War 1, a time when citizens strived for strong leadership and national Unity. Particularly in Italy, through his charismatic personality, Benito Mussolini started robust fascist governance. The name “fascism” was invented by Benito Mussolini in 1919 to label his political movement (Vajda, 21). The symbol for the movement was ancient Roman 'fasces, a bundle of rods tied around an axe to signify the powerful state of Rome. Mussolini started Fascism after serving in the army, to unite the people of Italy. He began by making emotional speeches and urging a dictator to rise and rule the country. He convinced people that there needed to be a strong leader to put an end to rampant unemployment, political party rivalries, and strikes by socialists and communists in Italy. In October of 1922, Mussolini seized governance in Italy, mobilizing his followers to march to Italy's capital Rome (Gentile). Afraid of his movements, the government officials resigned, and on October 29, 1922, Mussolini became the youngest prime minister of Italy at Age 39.
When Mussolini formed a government in 1922, most people in Italy had no idea what it meant to have an authoritarian form of government. Even Mussolini himself had no other plan but to be in power and stay in it. The majority of the parliamentarians initially supported Fascism because they thought it was going to solve the issues Italy was facing. They thought Italy would, later on, gain their freedom after the problems were fixed. They barely knew what they were signing up for.
Fascism in Italy led to the development of a corporatist economic system in which the employer and employee organizations joined together to form the representatives of the country's economic producers (Gentile). These organizations worked together with the state to create national economic policies. Mussolini regarded this type of economy as an alternative to capitalism and Marxism, which, according to him, were 'obsolete doctrines.' In this economy, all wages were set by the government, and labor was restricted. Fascism made strikes by employees and lockouts by employers illegal (Gentile). Both employees and employers did not have much freedom or power anymore. Democracy was non-existent in many aspects of life in the era of Fascism, and this included economic activities.
Florence, in particular, suffered significant economic, social, and political blows during the era of Fascism. Fascism influenced much of the history of Florence. There are many artifacts inspired by Fascism. For example, the football stadium, Stardio Artemio Franchi was initially named after Giovanni Berta. He was a fascist who was killed during the assassination of Spartaco Lavagnini, who was murdered by the Blackshirts gang in his office. There were so many murders happening in the City of Florence during Fascism. Fascists believed in violence as a way to solve an issue (Shorrock). Assassinations happened increasingly more and people started to begin to realize the impact dictatorial leadership was having.
Some of the popular annual events that still happen in the city of Florence can be traced back to the 1930s when Fascism was at its peak. For example, Calcio Storico and Maggio Musicale Florentino started back then. Calcio actually existed earlier but rose again to fame in this era after becoming out of style in the 1700s. Alessandro Pavolini, who was a member of the Fascist party, brought these two events back to life during the fascist rule. Pavolini was known for being cruel to anyone who opposed Mussolini and was later killed and hung upside down. As a leader of the fascist party Florence Branch, Pavolini was focused on developing the cultural, sporting, and tourism events in the community that people could take part in (Shorrock). It is a good thing to see that some of the cultural events that were started back then are still active today. Florence can trace many of its cultural and tourism developments back to the fascist era.
In addition, a tourist attraction site named the Famed di Santa stands to date thanks to Fascism. Famed di Santa is a basement space that is found in the Basilica of Santa Croce. This space had been abandoned in the early 20th century, but during Fascism, it was reopened.
However, Fascism mostly impacted Florence negatively. There was a lot of sadness and depression in this era due to the oppression that was taking place. Anyone who disagreed with the fascist regime was killed. People had no freedom to express their opinions, especially if they were against Mussolini, and there were many economic injustices.
- Gentile, Emilio. 'Fascism In Italian Historiography: In Search Of An Individual Historical Identity'. Journal Of Contemporary History, vol 21, no. 2, 1986, pp. 179-208. SAGE Publications, doi:10.1177/002200948602100204. Accessed 5 Nov 2019.
- Shorrock, William I. 'France And The Rise Of Fascism In Italy, 1919-23'. Journal Of Contemporary History, vol 10, no. 4, 1975, pp. 591-610. SAGE Publications, doi:10.1177/002200947501000403. Accessed 5 Nov 2019.
- Vajda, Mihaly. 'Crisis and the Way Out: The Rise of Fascism in Italy and Germany.' Telos 1972.12 (1972): 3-26.