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7 The Transformation of Italian Fascism, 1929-1939 The Fascist regime passed through several relatively distinct phases during its history of more than two decades. The first phase of Mussolini's government, from the March on Rome to the beginning of 1925, had been a nominal continuation of the parliamentary regime, though under legally authorized executive dictatorship. The second phase was that of the construction of the Fascist dictatorship proper from 1925 to 1929. There followed a third phase of somewhat diminished activism from 1929 to 1934, which gave way to a fourth phase from 1934 to 1940 that featured an activist foreign policy, military campaigns abroad, and growing economic autarchy, climaxed by semi-Nazification. This was succeeded by the war (1940-43) and finally by the anticlimax ofthe puppet Italian Social Republic (1943-45). The third phase of the dictatorship, from 1929 to 1934, has been termed in a well-known if somewhat controversial interpretation "the years of consensus ." I Certainly there was very little active political opposition during this period, and though there were also no free elections, a passive acceptance broadly characterized most of Italian society, while all major interests participated in varying degrees in a general consensus of support.2 Mussolini still worked hard during the early 1930s and was actively involved in manifold problems of government. He continued to read fairly 1. R. De Felice, Mussolini if Duce. vol. 1. Gli anni del consenso, 1929-1936 (Turin. 1974). 2. Even some of the leaders of the postwar democratic republic had been initially compromised or co-opted in varying ways during the 1920s and early 1930s, as demonstrated in the correspondence published by "Anonimo Nero," Camerata dove sei? Rapporti con Mussolini ed if Fascismo degli antifascisti della prima Repubblica (Rome, 1976). 212 Italian Fascism, 1929-1939 213 broadly and also followed the foreign press, while his family generally lived with some degree of modesty. He regularized governmental administration in March 1929 by promoting to ministerial rank seven of the eight undersecretaries in the ministries which he nominally supervised. Mussolini retained in his own hands only the Ministry of the Interior in addition to his main position of Capo del Governo (Head of Government), his dictatorial title in lieu of Prime Minister. By this time the process of the bureaucratization of the Fascist Party had been under way for several years. Augusto Turati, who served as party secretary until October 1930, had broken most of the autonomous power of the provincial ras (bosses). He was succeeded by the moderate and less effective Giovanni Giuriati until the end of 1931, at which point the Duce handed the secretaryship to the sycophantic Achille Starace, a formalist showman who would hold the position for most of the remainder of the decade. There was no further general purge, though two smaller ones took place between 1931 and 1933, partly to eliminate some of the most ultra-Catholic members. New laws of 1933-35 made all civil servants, including schoolteachers, members of the PNF, swelling the total eventually to 2.7 million. Though this was a smaller proportionate membership than in Germany, it was much larger than the proportion in the Soviet Union and accelerated the process of mass bureaucratization , while greatly diluting zeal for a revolutionary Fascism. The sections abroad, or Fasci all'Estero, claimed 101,500 members by 1929, but the real membership was only about 65,000 (of whom 10 percent were women), or less than 1 percent of the approximately 8 million Italians living abroad.3 During these years an effort was made to give greater importance to the corporative structure. In March 1930 the National Council of Corporations was reorganized into a three-tiered system: the base was composed of the national syndicates, above which was formed a general corporative assembly of the syndicates' nominal representatives (meeting together with officials of the party and the state bureaucracy), crowned by the Central Corporative Committee composed of government ministers, the presidents of the syndical confederations, and appointees from the government administration and the party. Giuseppe Bottai, minister of corporations from 1929 to 1932, hoped to give the components of the structure greater freedom and room for creative action, but in fact only the employer sections had any degree of autonomy. In February 1934 the national syndicates were officially replaced by twentytwo national corporations for diverse branches of the economy, each with its 3. In general, the membership of the Fasci all'Estero seems to have been rather more bluecollar...


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