Mussolini's Domestic Policies: Economic and Propaganda, 1922 - 1939


While this is a 'must-have' Paper 3 topic, it can also be useful for Paper 2 SPS if there is a question on domestic policy etc. In this case, do please remember that Mussolini is of course a RIGHT-WING SPS ruler! (I know it seems obvious, but strange things happen in the exam room!)

Past Questions:

Paper 3
  • Compare and contrast the domestic policies of Hitler and Mussolini. (May 10)
  • Evaluate the impact on Italy of Mussolini’s domestic and foreign policies between 1922 and 1939. (May 09)
  • Compare and contrast the social and economic policies of Hitler and Mussolini. (Nov 08)
  • “Mussolini’s greatest skill lay in projecting himself through propaganda as a great leader.” How far do you agree with this assertion? (May 07)
  • Compare and contrast totalitarian rule in Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, up to 1939. (May 05)


Key aims:


  • Wanted to improve economy so that foreign input was no longer necessary- autarky for the Italian state.
  • Wanted to portray the greatness of Italy in economic and social terms to the world.


  • Mussolini wanted to create a "personal dictatorship" with the Italian people praising him, and being the master of his own party.

Main economic problems facing Mussolini and Italy, c. 1922:

Economic policies adopted to deal with these, and realise his aims?

Battle for Grain (1925):
  • Improve agriculture to increase grain production so that foreign import was no longer needed (policy to achieve main aim of autarky as well as show economic strength of Italy to improve national pride).
  • Farmers were given grants on tractors and fertilizers and advice on modern techniques.

Corporate State (1926-39):
  • It was aimed to transform the economy to a revolutionary form to aviod problems of labour disputes with capitalists.
  • The "corporate revolution" would provide corporation for each industry that would manage relations between employers and employees- create greater co-operation to maximize production for the good of the nation.

Successes of these policies? From whose perspective?

Battle for Grain:
  • The grain imports were recued by 75% between 1925 and 35.
  • Mussolini took credit for this and protrayed himself as a man of the people- seen as a success for Mussolini as it improved his popularity both with the Italian people and also with foreign countries.

Corporate state:
  • By 1934, 22 corporations covering most of the Italian economy had been set up and seemed to be able to influence the entire economy.

Failures of these policies? From whose perspective?

Battle for Grain:
  • It increased production of wheat but at large costs in other areas of production- much of the land that had been used was much more suitable for citrus, grapes and olives so exports of these decreased drastically.
  • It failed to address the North-South divide in Italy and the rural poverty of the South. This policy was more concerned with increasing Mussolini's own power and prestige and so was largely a failure for the population.
  • Overall, it was a success in terms of wheat and Mussolini's popularity but damaged agriculture in other areas and failed to address the main problem of rural poverty.

Corporate state:
  • In reality, the corporations were dominated by Fascists rather than workers' representatives and workers' interests tended to be pushed aside.
  • Major industrialists tended to ignore the corporations which was made possible by the fact that the corporations were advisory rather than legally binding.
  • Corporations did not solve conflicts between capita and labour, but suppressed them and never took the important role that Mussolini had suggested.
  • Largely "window-dressing" for Mussolini but failed in practice.

Methods and strategies of propaganda adopted by Mussolini?

  • Mussolini encouraged his cult of personality that stressed his genuis, his power and indispensability as a leader of the nation.
  • He consolidated his position by creating relations with powerful interest groups such as the Church, industrialists and the armed forces.
  • In 1926, opposition newspapers were suppressed and journalists and editors could be arrested if anything "unappropriate" towards the regime was published.
  • Mussolini's own press issued the "official" version of events.
  • From 1924, the radio network was run by the state and bulletins continously praised Mussolini and broadcasted his speeches.
  • By 1930s, it was made sure that all schools had radios and those living in the rural areas could at least listen to communal radios in their villages.
  • Regime was however slow with showing patriotic films in the cinema and American movies still dominated, but it was made sure that each of these movies would be preceeded by a short newsreel which gave a Fascist version of the current events.

Cult of personality:

  • Became increasingly known as "il duce" and the cult was intended to buuild up popular support for Mussolini and "overawe" possible opposition by stressing his superhuman talents.
  • Portrayed as Italy's saviour and a man chosen by destiny to save the country from Socialism and corrups democratic politicians + restore Italian greatness.
  • Newspapers stressed the quoting opinions of foreign politicians to prove Italy's greatness abroad; Chamberlain was widely reported to having said that Mussolini was a "wonderful man working for the greatness of his country".
  • Newspapers also suggested that "Mussolini is always right" and Mussolini himself would encourage the cult by statements such as "often I would like to be wrong, but so far it has never happened and events have always turned out just as I foresaw".
  • He was quick to claim credits for successes and to blame the failures on others.

Successes of this: how popular was Mussolini?

  • Its is uncertain of many people were actually convinced by the cult of personality but it did seem to help to convince the public that there was no other alternative to the fascist regime.
  • The volume of propaganda stressing Mussolini's powers and genuis deterred potential opposition and in this sense achieved its aims.
  • Much was heard of the Fascist successes abroad and it seemed that at least till the late 1930s, the dictator was producing stability at home and success abroad.
  • Many foreign journalists were impressed by the apparent enthusiasm displayed at Fascist rallies and believed Mussolini to be extremely popular.
  • Italian historian Felice has argued that Mussolini was genuinly popular at least between the yeasr 1929-36 with the victory over Ethiopia and lasted until ill-fated invasion of Greece in 1940.

Failures: why is hard to judge the extent of Mussolini's popularity?

  • Many differing views; anti-fascists exiles have sressed the brutal, repressive aspects of the reigme and argued that only fear deterred widespread opposition.
  • Events in late 1930s with Greece and the more intrusive policies on the individual through fascist ideology, along with the anti-semetic laws in 1937-38 decreased popularity for the regime.