“The Mussolini Blueprint” for Adolf Hitler

Benito_Mussolini_coloredHitler considered “Il Duce” – Benito Mussolini – one of his role models (actually, the most influential one). His highly successful “March on Rome” became an inspiration for the (pathetic) Beer Hall Putsch. And Hitler’s economic policies and reforms followed the “blueprint” derived from also highly successful economic policies of “Il Duce”.

Italy and Germany shared a common economic problem – insufficient strategic resources. To rectify this problem, Mussolini’ embarked on intensive development of all available domestic sources (Hitler would add to that development of whole industries that would produce substitute products).

And pursued aggressive commercial foreign policies – securing bilateral raw material trade agreements (essentially barter-style), and strategic colonization (Lebensraum Italian-style).

Although a disciple of the French Marxist Georges Sorel and the main leader of the Italian Socialist Party in his early years, Mussolini abandoned the theory of class struggle for class collaboration.

To facilitate transition from the former to the latter, Il Duce’s government intervened directly (on as needed basis) to create a collaboration between the industrialists, the workers and the state (making the two former essentially the servants of the latter).

Collaboration based on the fundamental principle of corporatism. Which called for the structuring of the whole society as a system of corporate groups – agricultural, labor, military, scientific, or guild associations – on the basis of their common interests.

Which will (in theory) create a powerful synergy between these groups – with each group performs its designated function flawlessly, society will function harmoniously – like a human body (corpus) from which its name derives.

Adolf Hitler structured his Führerstaat in much the same way, only replaced corporatism with national-socialism (which is actually not that much different from the former).

Mussolini ultimately banned all trade union except the fascist ones – and Hitler did the same, replacing all German trade unions with just one – German Labor Front (DAF). Il Duce made both strikes and lock-outs illegal – and so did Hitler.

Mussolini declared autarky (self-sufficiency in all key economic resources) as his long-term strategic objective – and so did Hitler a decade later. Mussolini embarked on an ambitious public spending program financed by runaway budget a deficit – and Hitler would pursue practically identical economic and financial policies.

Mussolini spent Italy into a structural deficit that grew exponentially – and so did Hitler. In Mussolini’s first year as Prime Minister in 1922, Italy’s national debt stood at 93 billion lire. By 1934, it rose to 148,646,000,000 lire (i.e. increased by half). Hitler’s numbers were even more astounding – in 1939 its national debt reached 150% of Gross Domestic Product of Germany.

Mussolini’s spending on the public sector, schools and infrastructure was lavish (to put it mildly). He instituted a program of public works hitherto unrivaled in modern Europe. The program that was eclipsed only by the Nazi one.

Mussolini’s administration devoted 400 million lire from the state budget for school construction between 1922 and 1942, compared to only 60 million lire between 1862 and 1922. Which was not a surprise at all as Mussolini “in his previous life” was a schoolteacher.

Bridges, canals and roads were built, hospitals and schools, railway stations and orphanages were erected; swamps were drained and land reclaimed, forests were planted and universities were endowed.

As for the scope and spending on social welfare programs, Italian fascism compared favorably with the more advanced European nations and in some respect was more progressive (although not nearly as progressive as its Nazi counterpart). When New York city politician Grover Aloysius Whalen asked Mussolini about the meaning behind Italian fascism in 1939, the reply was: “It is like your New Deal! [only much better]”.

By 1925, the Italian government had embarked upon an elaborate welfare program that included food supplementary assistance, infant care, maternity assistance, general healthcare, wage supplements, paid vacations, unemployment benefits, illness insurance, occupational disease insurance, general family assistance, public housing and old age and disability insurance.

A decade later Adolf Hitler would follow this blueprint almost to a ‘T’.

To finance these programs, Italy’s first Fascist government implemented a large-scale privatization policy between 1922 and 1925. And so did Adolf Hitler – ten years later.

The conclusion is obvious: Adolf Hitler pretty much followed in the footsteps of another dictator – Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini. Which was a smart decision – why “reinvent the wheel” if one can copy (adapting when necessary) proven solutions that work? Hitler did exactly that – and in many way became much, much more successful than his role model.

Hence it is not a surprise at all that Hitler was an admirer of Mussolini almost from the get-go (interestingly enough, Churchill was, too). Il Duce, however, did not even like Hitler at first. Even years later, Mussolini openly expressed his frustrations with Hitler’s actions and policies (before the latter proved to be very successful, of course).

Their first meeting together in 1934 was particularly icy. Mussolini listened to Hitler talk at length without saying much (this would become characteristic of just about their meetings) and afterwards wrote Hitler off as essentially insane.

He believed Hitler’s ideas of race and the existence of superior races were batty, and dismissed them out of hand. After their first meeting, Mussolini remarked dismissively, “He’s just a garrulous monk.”

However, the invasion of Ethiopia undertaken by Mussolini in 1935 (and unconditionally supported by Adolf Hitler) and especially the Spanish Civil war where German and Italian volunteers fought on the Nationalist side brought them closer together.

And when Wehrmacht had to come to the aid of the Italian Army in Yugoslavia, Greece and especially in North Africa, Mussolini became almost completely dependent on Hitler. And thus had no other choice but to radically warm up to the latter.

Whatever faults the two may have taken with each other (and there were some), the rescue of Mussolini from the hotel he was imprisoned at in 1943 showed that Hitler genuinely considered Mussolini a friend. And the feeling was mutual; when the German commandos freed him, Mussolini commented, “I knew my friend Adolf Hitler would not desert me.”

After Mussolini was rescued by the Germans, the relationship became a lot more one-sided. The Germans occupied the northern and central sections of Italy (with the Allies controlling the south and Sicily) and Mussolini was installed as the head of the so-called “Italian Social Republic”.

However, he was little more than a German puppet and he knew it. So by this point, it was Hitler and the SS who were calling the shots on any substantial matter of policy in the parts of Italy that were still controlled by the Fascists. It was a fulfillment of Mussolini’s worst fear in the truest sense: becoming a mere lackey of the Germans.


Mussolini’s March on Rome

MussoliniContrary to a popular misconception, Benito Mussolini was not a role model for Adolf Hitler. Not even an inspiration (let alone a teacher). They were simply way too different – and so were Italy and Germany.

For starters, Italy was one of the victors in the Great War and a predator (a criminal) in Versailles. Germany was one of the Central Powers who lost the World War I – and a prey (i.e., the victim of international criminals) in Versailles.

Although like Hitler, he did serve in the Great War, was wounded and was promoted to the rank of corporal, he was nowhere near a war hero that Adolf Hitler was.

Interestingly enough, they both dodged the military draft in their native countries, albeit for different reasons. Hitler did not want to serve the Austro-Hungarian monarchy that he deeply hated while Mussolini did not want to serve at all.

But the most fundamental difference was that Il Duce never obtained the absolute power that Hitler got after the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act in March of 1933. Unlike the Weimar Republic, Italy was a monarchy that Mussolini was never able to abolish.

Which ultimately led to his downfall when Italian king Victor Emmanuel III who had no desire to see his country destroyed and occupied by the victorious Allies (which now were the enemies of Italy), simply fired Il Duce and placed him under arrest.

He was rescued by Hitler’s commandos and became the leader of the Italian Social Republic – a puppet regime established by the Germans who occupied Northern Italy.

Which turned out to be a fatal mistake on his part. In late April 1945, in the wake of inevitable occupation of all Italy by advancing Allied troops, Mussolini and his latest mistress Clara Petacci attempted to flee to neutral Switzerland, but were identifies and captured by Italian communist partisans.

They were summarily executed by firing squad on 28 April 1945 near Lake Como. His body was then taken to Milan, where it was hung upside down at a service station to publicly confirm his demise. This humiliation possibly contributed to Hitler’s decision to commit suicide and ordered his body to be cremated.

However, Mussolini came to power in Italy almost 11 years before Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany and was building and then running a totalitarian state in many ways similar to the one that Adolf Hitler wanted to turn Germany into.

Consequently, Hitler closely followed decisions and actions of Benito Mussolini – starting with the events that made Italian king appoint him prime minister of Italy. The youngest prime minister in Italian history.

The (in)famous March on Rome.

Contrary to a popular misconception, the march itself was but a relatively small (albeit a highly visible) part of the putsch that catapulted Mussolini and his Fascist party to power in Italy. They made no secret of their plans – on 24 October 1922, Mussolini openly declared before 60,000 participants of the Fascist Congress in Naples:

Our program is simple: we want to rule Italy

By that time, the Blackshirts (the paramilitary wing of the National Fascist Party) had already occupied the Po Valley (one of the most important industrial and agricultural areas in Europe) and took control of just about all strategic points of the country.

And Mussolini secured the support of the military, the business elite, and the right-wing politicians. Who were fed up with three years of political and social turmoil, had no desire to allow the Reds to take over the country (a very real possibility at that time) and believed (correctly) that Mussolini was exactly what the doctor ordered to remedy both of these vital problems.

Luigi Facta (then-prime minister of Italy) predictably was not happy with the situation (and its development) and on October 26th put together a decree that will declare the martial law and send the Italian army to stop the fascists right then and there.

However, to take effect (i.e., to become legal), the decree had to be co-signed by the monarch. Having had previous conversations with the King about the need for ruthless suppression of fascist violence, he was sure the King would agree.

To his greatest surprise, Victor Emmanuel III did not. He flatly refused to sign the decree and instead… ordered Facta and his government to resign. They obliged (what else could they do?) and three days later asked Mussolini to form a new cabinet, thus making him a new prime minister of Italy.

Apparently, the King agreed with the country elites and the military that Mussolini’s Fascists were not a threat to the country while the Reds definitely were. And because the Blackshirts had already taken control of the whole Po valley and most strategic posts in the country, he justifiably feared that the declaration and enforcement of the martial law would result in a full-fledged civil war – which no one wanted.

Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch was (at least unconsciously) supposed to be a German reincarnation of the March on Rome. However, Bavaria (and Germany) was not Italy; Friedrich Ebert (President of Weimar Republic) was no King Victor Emmanuel, Brownshirts were no Blackshirts and Adolf Hitler was yet no Benito Mussolini.

So Hitler’s putsch failed – and failed miserably. However, for Adolf Hitler it turned out to become a major blessing in disguise as it (and the subsequent trial) transformed him (at that time still a very much regional politician) into a national (and even international) political celebrity.

Thus radically increasing his outreach – and consequently his political power.