Benito Mussolini was born in Predappio, near Forli, in Romagna, on July 29, 1883. Like his father, Benito became a fervent socialist. He qualified as an elementary schoolmaster in 1901. In 1902 he emigrated to Switzerland. Unable to find a permanent job there and arrested for vagrancy, he was expelled and returned to Italy to do his military service. After further trouble with the police, he joined the staff of a newspaper in the Austrian town of Trento in 1908. Expelled by the Austrians, he became the editor at Forli of a socialist newspaper, La Lotta di Classe (The Class Struggle).
His early enthusiasm for Karl Marx was modified by a mixture of ideas from the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, the revolutionary doctrines of Auguste Blanqui, and the syndicalism of Georges Sorel. In 1910, Mussolini became secretary of the local Socialist party at Forli. When Italy declared war on Turkey in 1911, he was imprisoned for his anti-war propaganda. Appointed editor of the official Socialist newspaper Avanti, he moved to Milan, where he established himself as the most forceful of all the leaders of Italian socialism.
At this stage in his life, his political views were anti-militarist and anti-war however throughout the intervention crisis his views altered dramatically and became opposite of what they were before. On June 28 the Archduke of Austria Franze Ferdinand, Hapsburg heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was assassinated in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. The death of the heir was greeted with relief and joy because he once stated publicly that he wanted to declare war on Italy, but also because Italys relations with Austria had became increasingly tensed since the war in Tripoli.
As the war began to take shape on the horizon, Italy found itself in an undesirable position. Under the leadership of Antonio di San Giuliano, the Foreign Minister, the nation had become increasingly tied to the Triple Alliance, the defensive union of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. However, on July 28 hostilities broke out between Austria-Hungary and Serbia and since the provisions of the Alliance stipulated that Italy would be informed before any military moves by Austria, San Giuliano announced to the world that Italy would remain neutral because Austria violated the agreement.
Under these circumstances Mussolini insisted on absolute neutrality. It is clear that in Mussolinis view Italy had absolutely nothing to gain by aiding Austrias policy of expansion in the Balkans. Furthermore, one could understand his position because he had long opposed Austria-Hungary as the manifestation of militarism and the oppressor of nationalities, and the idea of helping the enemy could only have been repugnant to him.
Therefore, it was in Italys best interest not to join the Triple Alliance, not only because it had nothing to gain but also because its armed forces had been seriously weakened by the war in Tripoli and could not stand the test. Also it was obvious that Mussolini from the beginning of the conflict sympathized with the Triple Entente between France, England and Russia. Moreover, when Germany violated Belgian neutrality, Mussolini published his outrage in the pages of Avanti! Therefore, at the outbreak of the war The Socialist party and the syndicalist Unione Sindicalista Italiano (USI) were all opting for neutrality.
However, after the announcement of Italian neutrality, the first defections in the revolutionary movements were clearly visible. Alceste De Ambris and Filippo Corridoni, Italian syndicalists called on revolutionary forces against feudal, monarchical and military systems found under Kaiserism. Therefore, people like Cesare Battisti who insisted to be admitted as a soldier in the armed forces in the event of a war, and Ottavio Dinale one of Mussolinis oldest friends persisted Italians to take up arms against Austrian oppressor of national aspirations of subject peoples.
Under these circumstances the USI split its opinion towards Italian neutrality. During that time, Mussolini was convicted that the absolute neutrality of the Socialist party would probably collapse. However, Mussolini could not declare himself because of his official responsibilities to the Party, which was against the intervention. Mussolini was aware of the possibility that if he called for intervention, he would lose his leadership position- and eventually that did in fact come about.
However, he also acknowledge the fact that a war on the side of the Central Powers, would mobilize all socialists against the government and a war against Austria and Germany might well complete the unification of Italy, restoring Italia Irredenta. Also, he was opposed to the feudal political system of the Central Powers. However, he held the same reasons at the time of the war in Tripoli. The only difference in 1911 was that he thought that he could spark the revolutionary sentiment in his party. In 1914, after Red week he knew that the party was incapable of mobilizing and was very disorganized and indecisive.
Therefore, on October 18, in the pages of Avanti! Mussolini made up his mind and argued that absolute neutrality should be abandoned. After a meeting of the Party, Mussolini resigned as the editor of Avanti!.. In an interview with the Resto del Carlino, he insisted that he could reach the susceptible masses by modernizing collective awareness when he would speak on the pages of Il popolo dItalia, the people of Italy. Il popolo dItalia originated on December 1914 and many believe that French money was given to him to found the newspaper because the French government required Italys participation in the war.
In his first issue, Mussolini was calling for intervention even thow he realized that the masses who have followed him before would not do it this time. Additionally, if Mussolini wanted people to mobilize, collaboration and support was needed among all social classes which means that the bourgeoisie would also be involved. As a result, Mussolini had to compromise his negative views about the bourgeoisie because he needed their money to have any political leverage. Also, he joined the Fascio autonommo dazione rivoluzionaria (a reconstructed one) and soon enough their rational became his own.
The rationale argued that people who are ready to defend the independence of nations against imperialism should fight a war. For Italy the war meant that it would obtain its lost territories and the people would become members of a new and united Italy. During this time these prospect were based on mobilization of masses. It becomes obvious, that during the intervention crisis, Mussolini had shifted his focus from the working class to the people. He insisted that a revolutionary war would have to appeal not only to the proletariat but also to all people.
Therefore, the class struggle that he strongly believed in 1909 would have to be abandoned. He argued that by 1914 a new phenomenon had occurred which had reduced the class distinction and that men did not identified themselves in term of class, but in terms of national loyalty. By the beginning of 1915, Mussolini had begun building a new ideology based on Italian socialism infused with national sentiment. This new socialism would unite and integrate Italy and begin a rapid production that would put Italy among the advanced nations of the world.
An aggressive minority also developed this new collection of ideas the fascisti whose main strategy was mass mobilization. The fascisti, argued that the government of Italy was trying to negotiate a conservative advantage, first with the Central Powers and then with the Entente. Italy did try to negotiate assistance for specific territories. For several months the government of the ruling elite was in fact bargaining with both sides. Mean while, Mussolini undertook a powerful campaign for intervention. Revolutionaries like Gabriele DAnnunzio, Giovanni Papini and Giuseppe Prezzolini, found a place on Mussolinis staff at the Il popolo dItalia.
These spokesmen argued that war would accelerate improvements in agriculture, industry and commerce. It would revive Italy, provide opportunity for man of action. Also, they called on Italians to hoist their national passion, which would dedicate all Italians to collective mobilization. His interventionist propaganda continued on the streets while the government negotiated secretly. By April 1915, the Italian government had signed the Treaty of London. The Entente granted to Italy Tyrol, Trieste and the Julian Alps, all that was required was a win for the Entente.
On May 24 Italy declared war against Austria-Hungary. In conclusion, Mussolinis involvement in the intervention crisis brought a change of ideas for Italian people. It also, brought the most active force of mass mobilization, the Fascists, which Mussolini was part off. Moreover, a new bourgeoisie made their appearance which increased Italys industrial productivity by 90%. Italys economy was showing impressive growth and the war could only precipitate the process. Therefore, the Fascists could only welcome the signs of a new modern Italy and anticipated a better life.