March on Rome

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Italian fascists in black shirts marching into Rome. The background included the Communist revolution in Russia and attempted Communist revolutions elsewhere in Europe, the mass killings under Communist regimes such during the Red Terror, fears of a far leftist revolution and terror in Italy, violence between far leftists and fascists (including the Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale - "Blackshirts"), and the threats of leftist general strikes, seen as attempted beginnings of the leftist revolution. The fascists occupied strategic locales and organized the March on Rome. Prime Minister Luigi Facta ordered a state of siege for Rome, thus attempting to order the Italian Army to stop the marchers, who included many former Italian soldiers. King Victor Emmanuel III, however, refused to sign the order and Mussolini was appointed Prime Minister.

The March on Rome was an organized mass demonstration and national revolution from 27 to 29 October 1922, which resulted in Benito Mussolini's National Fascist Party ascending to power in Italy.


Benito Mussolini founded the first Fasci Italiani di Combattimento in March 1919 at the beginning of the biennio rosso ("two red years"). He suffered a defeat in the November 1919 elections, but gained entrance to Parliament in 1921. Out of his party the squadristi was formed. It was used to break the general strike which had started at the Alfa Romeo factory in Milan in August 1920. After the assassination of Giordani, a patriotic municipal counsellor in Bologna, in November 1920, the squadristi helped to crush the Marxists, especially in the Po Valley.

Trade unions were dissolved while pro-communist mayors resigned. The fascists, included on Giolitti's "National Union" lists at the May 1921 elections, then won 36 seats. Mussolini then withdrew his support to Giolitti and attempted to work out a temporary truce with the socialists by signing a "Pacification Pact" in summer 1921. This provoked a conflict with the most fanatized part of the movement, the squadristi and their leaders the ras. In July 1921, Giolitti attempted without success to dissolve the squadristi. The contract with the Marxists was then broken at its turn in November 1921, Mussolini adopted a nationalist program and founded the National Fascist Party, which boasted 700,000 members in July 1922. In August, anarchist and communists conspirators called a general strike as an attempt to deviate the national revolutiond but failed to rally the Partito Popolare Italiano and was put out of commission by the fascists. When Mussolini learned that Prime Minister Luigi Facta had given Gabriele d'Annunzio the mission to organize a large demonstration on November 4, 1922 to celebrate the national victory during the war, he decided on the March to accelerate the process and sidestep any possible competition.


The quadrumvirs leading the Fascist Party, General Emilio De Bono, Italo Balbo (one of the most famous ras), Michele Bianchi and Cesare Maria de Vecchi, organized the March while the Duce stayed behind. Generals Fara and Sante Ceccherini assisted to the preparations of the March of October 18. Others militaries who organized the march included the Marquis Dino Perrone Compagni and Ulisse Igliori.

On October 24, 1922, Mussolini declared before 60,000 people at the Fascist Congress in Naples: "We want to become the state!", and then retired to Milan. Meanwhile, the Blackshirts, who had occupied the Po plain, took all strategic points of the country. On October 26, former prime minister Antonio Salandra warned current Prime Minister Luigi Facta that Mussolini was demanding his resignation and that he was preparing to march on Rome. However, Facta did not believe Salandra and thought that Mussolini would govern quietly at his side. To meet the threat posed by the bands of fascist troops now gathering outside Rome, Luigi Facta (who had resigned but continued to hold power) ordered a state of siege for Rome. However, the King Victor Emmanuel III refused to sign the military order and, on October 28, handed power to Mussolini.

The march itself was composed of less than 30,000 men, but the king in part feared a civil war since the squadristi had already taken control of the Po plain and most of the country. Mussolini was asked to form his cabinet on October 29, 1922, while some 25,000 Blackshirts were parading in Rome. Mussolini thus legally reached power, in accordance with the Statuto Albertino, the Italian Constitution. The March on Rome saw the transfer of power within the framework of the constitution, to the fascists. Il Duce tactically presented himself as ready to take a subalternate ministry in a Giolitti or Salandra cabinet, but then demanded the presidency of the Council. Knowing that their decadent system had failed, the liberals stepped aside, so the national revolution could be achieved.

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