December 13, 2016

1922. Benito Mussolini Forms Fascist Cabinet in Rome

Dictatorship Takes Shape in Italy
Italian Premier Benito Mussolini's face plastered across a fascist propaganda poster on a wall in Florence, Italy in 1934 (Photo by Tim Gidalsource)
This article is part of a series of posts on how The New York Times covered the rise of fascism in Europe in the years leading up to and during World War II.

From The New York Times, October 31, 1922:
New Premier Gives Seven Ministries to His Group—Other Parties Represented
Fascisti, Many Thousands Strong, Enter the City Today in Triumph
Public Order Enjoined and Strong Government Promised—Communists Disband
ROME, Oct. 30 — With Benito Mussolini's coming to Rome today and his formation of a new ministry, the so-called "Fascisti revolution" is at an end. All is over except the shouting. Nothing remains to be done but have a triumphal march of the Fascisti militia through Rome to give the population a chance to vent its pent-up enthusiasm, then have them demobilize and return to normalcy.

Nowhere is the fact that Fascisti action is over more clearly shown than in the manifesto issued by the Fascisti leaders today saying:

"From this moment Mussolini is the Government of Italy. He is now responsible for the safety of the State, of the Ministers and of Parliament. Any act against the Government institutions would be rebellion against Mussolini."

Mussolini entered Rome in the morning. He traveled as far as Civitavecchia on a special train put at his disposal by the Government, but there he was obliged to descend because the rails had been torn up by the military to prevent a Fascisti advance on Rome. He was met, however, by one of the King's private motor cars, on which he proceeded to Rome.

His progress was very slow because all the roads to Rome were filled with thousands of Fascisti marching to the city who insisted on Mussolini stopping every few minutes to receive their acclamations.

Visits Quirinal in Soiled Uniform

Mussolini proceeded to the Quirinal Palace on his arrival and was immediately ushered into the King's presence, wearing a soiled black shirt and bearing obvious traces of his long journey in an open motor car along muddy roads.

His arrival brought a huge crowd under the windows of the palace. So insistent were they that the King was obliged to appear three times on a balcony, sending the people into a frenzy of enthusiasm.

After a half hour's conversation with the King, Mussolini drove to his hotel, where Fascisti sentinels at the door presented arms. In the square in front of the hotel the Fascisti helped the Government police keep the multitude of several thousand in order. Mussolini appeared at a window and said in a booming voice:

"Today Italy has not only got a Cabinet but (here he pronounced his words very slowly with great emphasis and distinctness), she has also got a Government, a strong Government, such as she has needed for many years past, but never obtained."

These words were greeted with delirious enthusiasm, which caused Mussolini to appear three more times, waving his hand to the crowd.

Seven Fascisti in Cabinet

Immediately afterward a list of new Ministers was published. Mussolini has not formed a Cabinet composed entirely of Fascisti. In fact, not only are they not all Fascisti, but the Cabinet includes some who hitherto have been most strenuous enemies of Fascismo. The Ministry, as announced, includes seven Fascisti, five Nationalists, one Democrat and one member of the Catholic Party.

Mussolini's intention has obviously been to form a Cabinet representing all groups in the Chamber with the Fascisti in control. He has reserved for himself the arduous task of shaping both the internal and foreign Italian policies, as he will himself keep the portfolios of the interior and foreign affairs.

Only one minister in the present Cabinet retains office, namely, Senator Count Theophile Rossi. The most notable figures in the Cabinet are General Diaz, "Duke of Victory," who led the Italian army in its last victorious offensive against the Austrians, and Admiral Count Thaon di Revel, who has been a strong upholder of Italian supremacy in the Adriatic.

A feature which must be noticed is that all the members with the exception of Count Rossi are new and untried men. It is this very thing which gives them a large measure of their support, the people being so tired of misgovernment that they are ready to try anything new.

The danger in this is accentuated by the extreme nationalism sweeping over Italy. The leaders who have gone into power with an avowed policy of intense "Italianity" may be forced by public opinion, perhaps even against their will, to embark upon adventures. These risks attending the formation of a new and untried Ministry are constantly in the minds of thinking people, but it is a fact that former Cabinets have reduced Italy to such a state that there are few persons in Italy today who are not ready to take the risk and give Mussolini a fair chance to make or fail to make a new Italy. Mussolini now has Italy in the palm of his hand.

Entry Into Rome Delayed

The Fascisti entrance into Rome, which had been expected this morning, has been delayed until tomorrow, partly owing to a tremendous downpour of rain and partly because most of the Fascisti forces are still at a considerably distance from Rome. According to the latest advices the main Fascisti forces around Rome are twenty-five thousand, who started for the city yesterday from Santa Marinella and are now only a few miles from the gates of the city; twenty thousand close to the city along the Aurelian Way and twenty-four thousand moving from Orto.

These numbers are exclusive of many thousands who have already entered, tired, dirty, wet and hungry, but elated and full of enthusiasm. They were fallen upon by the people, who pressed food, wine and lodging upon them, hailing them as liberators.

The news that the Fascisti were about to enter the city sent the population flocking to the gates at an early hour this morning. Two thick lines of people lined the roads for many miles into the country. After many patient hours of waiting a black mass was seen moving on the white ribbon of road. Hats flew up, while mighty shouts rent the air: "Here they come. Long live our liberator!"

Half an hour afterward the roads were completely filled with thousands upon thousands of youths marching in military formation, four abreast, the unbroken blackness of their shirts relieved by the flash of bayonets. Contrary to the expectations of many, it was not a ragged band of irregulars marching on Rome, but a disciplined army supplied with commissariat and medical stores, carrying machine guns on lorries, giving the Roman population its first idea of the dreadful civil war which might have resulted if the Government had made a serious effort to resist.

Big Welcome to Disperatissima

The Fascisti are obviously recruited from all classes of society and from all districts of Italy. There are rough peasants from the South, dapper, elegant youths from Florence and Siena, strong workingmen from Milan and jolly seamen from Genoa, Civitavecchia and Leghorn, many proudly displaying medals won in the war, all marching with buoyant step, with the light of achievement shining in their eyes.

As each section came within view of the eternal city they saluted by raising the extended right arm after the ancient Roman mode of salutation while a thundering "A la, la" burst forth. Special interest attached to the "disperatissima squadron" [most desperate] from Perugia, known as the most daredevil Fascisti group, chosen by Mussolini to be his personal body guard.

Their leader said: "Rome, ancient mistress of the world, in the name of our glorious dead who died to render this wonderful day possible we salute thee." The crowd hailed the disperatissima squadron and carried them on their shoulders.

The population of Rome has been preparing a wonderful reception for the Fascisti. Florists have exhausted their stocks of flowers and women at home have been manufacturing laurel wreaths to be thrown form windows.

All Italy is in a frenzy of excitement. The words on all lips are "Benito Mussolini, liberator of Italy."
Mussolini posing for a photo op in 1927 (source)
Make-Up of New Cabinet
ROME, Oct. 30 (Associated Press) — A new Cabinet formed by Benito Mussolini was announced this evening. Its makeup is:

Premier, Minister of the Interior and of Foreign Affairs — BENITO MUSSOLINI (Fascista)

Minister of War — General ARMANDO DIAZ

Minister of Marine — Vice Admiral THAON DI REVEL

Minister of the Treasury — Professor LUIGI EINAUDI (Nationalist)

Minister of Industry — THEOPHILE ROSSI (Nationalist)

Minister of Finance — Signor DE STEFANI (Fascista)

Minister of the Colonies — LUIGI FEDERZONI (Naitonalist)

Minister of Liberated Regions — Signor GIURIATI (Fascista)

Minister of Justice — ALDO OVIGLIO (Fascista)

Minister of Education — Signor GENTILE (Democrat)

Minister of Agriculture — LUIGI CAPITANI (Fascista)

Minister of Public Works — Signor CARNAZZA (Nationalist)

Minister of Posts and Telegraphs — Signor DI CESARA (Nationalist)

Minister of Social Welfare — STEFANO CAVAZZONI (Catholics)

Four Fascisti and one Democrat were appointed sub-secretaries.

Mussolini Visits King

Mussolini, who had been called by King Victor Emmanuel to form a Cabinet, arrived in Rome this morning. Crowds thronging the neighborhood on the railway terminal gave him an enthusiastic welcome.

Upon his arrival, accompanied by his General Staff, Mussolini proceeded directly to the Quirinal to see the King without stopping to change his clothes or otherwise remove the marks of travel and fatigue. During his journey to the palace he was obliged to halt many times to answer the acclamations of his followers.

In these short speeches he recommended calm, order and self-control, emphasizing that, now that the Fascisti had won, they must show Italy and the world that they were worthy of victory. The reconstruction and regeneration of the country, he said, was necessary.

While the Fascisti leader was in conference with the King an imposing demonstration took place before the palace. The enthusiasm became so intense that the King was obliged three times to appear upon the balcony of the palace. Mussolini's interview with Victor Emmanuel lasted half an hour.

After leaving the Quirinal Mussolini called upon the crowd to acclaim, "Long live the King," "Long live Italy," "Long live Fascismo." The fact that the former revolutionist, now Italy's Premier, placed the King first was commented upon and cheered by the multitude.

Mussolini visited the Presidents of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate after seeing the King.

Policy of Friendship to Allies

In an interview with newspaper men he said that the new Government's foreign policy would be firm without being sensational, and based on loyalty and friendship toward Italy's allies.

Reports are in circulation that Gabriele d'Annunzio is coming to Rome at Mussolini's request. The new Premier desires to consult d'Annunzio on future measures for the welfare of the country.

The Rome newspapers publish telegrams exchanged by Mussolini and d'Annunzio. In his message the Fascisti leader says he will exercise discretion and not abuse his victory, to which d'Annunzio replies that their task must be to master their forces "and direct the path of Italy toward her great destinies."

A letter from d'Annunzio is published advocating the postponement of elections until next Spring to enable the new government to lay a firm basis for national reconstruction.

Manifesto Exhorts Calm

The entire city was astir awaiting the arrival of Mussolini. All Rome was beflagged and the walls were placarded with manifestos, one of them signed by the Fascisti command, declaring:

"Victory is ours. Any conflict is useless, indeed harmful, to the Fascismo. Therefore the most categorical orders have been issued to all the black shirts imposing absolute calm, order and discipline. Mussolini having been entrusted with the formation of a Cabinet from this moment is responsible for the safety of the State, the Ministries and Parliament, and any action against the Government institutions is rebellion against Mussolini. Attacks against shops and the selling of arms are absolutely prohibited."

Vanguard of Fascisti Enters

During the night and in the early morning hours Fascisti, in little groups on foot, in country wagons, in lorries and borrowed motor buses came filtering into the city, the vanguard of the many thousands who gathered later to welcome their leader and follow him in vast procession through the streets of the Eternal City. Most of them were young, but there were some with white hair, though with youthful vigor. They entered with rapt expressions, as if in fulfillment of a dream, the realization of the aspirations of a strenuous struggle.

A group from Perugia passing through the huge gate of Porta Pia stopped and solemnly saluted the capital with the characteristic gesture of the ancient Romans, lifting outstretched the right arm. Another band evidently came on foot from the neighboring Campagna. These were dresses as the "Butteri," typical cowboys of the Roman countryside. They, too, stopped as they entered the city, their leader gravely exclaiming: "We call to remembrance our glorious dead, whose devotion and self-sacrifice has brought us here today."

Dr. Italo Balbo, one of the Fascisti leaders, was at the head of his cohorts at the gates of Rome when he learned of the King's call upon Mussolini to form a new Ministry.

"Think of it!" he exclaimed. "A few days ago the police had planned to arrest me, while now I will enter Rome with my Black Shirts, together with Mussolini."

Some Clashes With Communists

Some rioting took place here last night. Parties of Fascisti, while passing through a workingmen's quarter, known to be a hotbed of subversive elements, were attacked by Communists, who threw stones and fired revolvers. The Fascisti replied. One person was killed and one Fascista was wounded. The Fascisti, who were greatly outnumbered, had two of their men captured.

The Fascisti telephoned to their headquarters, whence numerous groups in their motor cars went to the rescue of their companions. Troops, meanwhile, occupied the zone.

Clashes between Fascisti and Communists are reported from various towns in Italy.

At Genazzano, during the funeral of a Fascista killed yesterday by Communists, the victim's comrades recognized the murderer and pursued and killed him with revolvers.

A fight at Palestrina occurred between Fascisti and Communists in which four were killed, one of whom was a Fascista.

Fascisti invaded a railroad men's club at Genoa and later forced their way into the offices of the prefecture. In a collision with the police four of the Fascisti were wounded, one dangerously.

In a fight with carabineers at Bologna two Fascisti were killed and one was gravely wounded. Later a sergeant of the Royal Guards was killed and another seriously wounded.

At Faenza forty Fascisti occupied the prefecture and took over the postal, telegraph and all other governmental offices. The same thing occurred at Verona, where, during the reoccupation of the offices killed by the military, one Fascisti was killed.

Communists Disbanding

The newspaper Azione Socialista today contains the following:

"We learn that all the members of the Communist Party were informed last evening that that party is ceasing its operation today, and all its members are released from party discipline and duties. It is believed that as a result of this decision the Communist Deputies will resign their seats."

Railway traffic in Italy, suspended yesterday by order of the military authorities, was resumed today.

The entire press praises King Victor Emmanuel for his firm attitude both in refusing to sign a decree for a state of siege submitted to him by the retiring Facta Cabinet and in choosing Mussolini as head of the Government. The Giornale di Roma says:

"Five sovereigns of the House of Savoy have abdicated in the past for the safety of the mother country. The present King also would have abdicated rather than that a single drop of blood should be shed in civil war."

The Idea Nazionale says:

"A national revolution has been accomplished in the name of Italy and the King. This has been possible through the virtue and merit of the King."

The Messagero hopes that Mussolini's strong hand in demolishing will be equally "strong in reconstruction, in pacifying, in restored spiritual, economic and political greatness."