Mussolini's Domestic Policies: Social and Religious, 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 domestic policies of Hitler and Mussolini, up to 1939. (May 05)


Key general Aims

Social and ideological aims

· Secure his position as all-powerful leader
· Transform Italian society and the Italian character – replace ‘bourgeois mentality’ with commitment to fascism and nation

Policies towards Women


Mussolini aimed for women to give birth as a way of showing national vitality and providing soldiers for his armies
The Battle for Births in 1927 aimed to increase population by 50% to 60% by 1950. 12 child family the ideal – loans and tax breaks used to encourage child production, while higher taxes and job restrictions used to punish childless couples. Prizes given to those mothers with the most children – doing the nation a service!
Quota system introduced in 1933 to reduce number of women working to 10% of jobs in public sector, and then many companies also, as a way of trying to boost the battle for births.

Successes of these women policies? From whose perspective?
These policies was of no success to Mussolini as the practical demands of the economy meant that his ideological aims went unrealized.

Failures of these women policies? From whose perspective?
Birth rate actually declined until 1936, and rose only very slowly after this. By 1950, the population was only 47.5 million, long short of the target. Even in the workplace, the industrial workforce was still 33% in 1936, a fall of only 3% from 1921.

Policies on Youth and Education

Mussolini aimed to create loyal future fascists to secure regime, and aggressive, disciplined future soldiers. The youth was to be identified with fascism, Mussolini and Italy – complete subordination to the national state.
In schools, loyalty of teachers was enforced in 1929, oath of loyalty, 1937, compulsory membership in fascist teachers association. Cult of personality promoted in school – picture of Mussolini in the classroom. Given stress on national greatness, greater focus on history and literature. Books lacking in patriotism were banned – 1936, one official national history textbook in use, stressing the leading role of Italy in world history (i.e. saved the Allies in WW1!)
The establishment of youth clubs was an attempt to reach people outside of school via ONB (Opera Nazionale Balilla), 1926. This aimed to transform the Italian nation ‘body and soul’, and focused on both military/ideological training and sport and fitness, Children from the age of 8 up to those at university were to attend these organizations.

Successes of these policies? From whose perspective?
An apparent success of these policies would be the control of the school curriculum/teachers and the power of the ONB to reach the youth. By 1937, seven million had joined the ONB.
Failures of these policies? From whose perspective?
It is not clear how many people were actually converted to Mussolini’s fascist ideology. Many young people left school at 11, and in private and Catholic schools the state curriculum and ONB membership were not enforced – so these were outside the programme of indoctrination. Even at universities, some people who had had a full fascist education were still not committed to Mussolini’s ideals. Overall, the Fascists did establish control over the minds of young Italians, but there is plenty of evidence that suggests they failed to secure complete commitment to Fascism this way.

Religious Policies

Mussolini aimed to compromise with the Church (he was anti-religious, and in an ideal world would have liked to replace the influence of Catholicism over the people with Fascism) to win greater public support at home, and prestige abroad.
In 1929, the Lateran agreements ended conflict between Italian state and Catholic Church: Pope given Vatican city, and compensation for historic losses and Mussolini received the recognition of the Catholic Church (both in terms of the state and his fascist regime); Catholicism as the state religion, and religious education compulsory in all state schools, but he clergy could not be involved in politics.

Successes of these religious policies? From whose perspective?
This proved to be a great achievement for Mussolini, as it secured the moral of backing of the Church (and therefore the millions of Italians who looked to the Church for guidance), while guaranteeing that the Church and its clerics would not become a source of political opposition.
Failures of these religious policies? From whose perspective?
On the other hand, this policy represented that Mussolini had failed to replace Catholicism with Fascism, and that he was therefore giving up on trying removing the influence of the Church over Italian society. Also, the relations between the Church and the Fascist state complicated by 1931, disputes over the Catholic Action youth group which rivaled the ONB and conflicts over access to the minds of the young. After anti-Semitic laws in 1938, the alliance between the Church and Fascism was over.


"have always behaved well as citizens and fought courageously as soldiers". Prior to 1939, the Fascist regime accepted Italian Jews and even allowed 3000 German Jews to enter the country as refugees from Nazi persecution

· However by the mid 1930s, Mussolini’s foreign policy goals had brought the regime closer to the Nazi regime in Germany. Mussolini found himself persuaded that there was a Jewish resistance to Fascism both in Italy and across Europe

The first clear example of the influence of Nazism appeared in July 1938 when the regime gave official blessing to the claims of Italian anti-Semites by publishing a tract entitled the ‘Manifesto of Racial Scientists’, which declared that ‘the Jews do not belong to the Italian race’
· The anti-Jewish racial laws introduced in 1938 brought about a grave change to Italian Jews who lost much of their liberty and their standard of living. Italian Jews and foreign Jews were excluded from state institutions, and banned from any participation
· Up until 1943, the regime did not collaborate with Nazi plans to exterminate all Jews in Europe. In fact, the implementation of Italy’s anti-Jewish laws was inconsistent
· When the original Fascist regime collapsed in July 1943 and replaced by the Italian Socialist Republic, Mussolini allowed these racist Fascists their head. A decree of November 1943 ordered the confiscation of Jewish property and the rounding of up of all Jews

Over 7500 Italian Jews were sent to Nazi death camps in Eastern Europe. Only 600 survived
· In terms of racial ideology, Mussolini did not share Hitler’s obsession to create a ‘master race’. Instead, Mussolini believed that Italians had an innate superiority over other peoples but he never developed a racial ideology to underpin Italian Fascism

The Italian racial laws caused great hardship, but, unlike their German counterparts, the vast majority of Italian Jews avoided the Nazi death camps

Overall Assessments and Conclusions:

Mussolini’s domestic policies brought him considerable public support! Endless propaganda no doubt helped in this, and even if all Italians were not taken in by all of the claims of Mussolini’s greatness they could still enjoy the claims of national greatness (i.e. winning 1938 football world cup). However, he failed to transform the Italian national character into a new fascist mould (athletic, aggressive, and obedient). Most people conformed outwardly to fascism, but managed to retain their traditional habits and attitudes. Furthermore, Fascism attempted to make further changes to behavior in the later 1930s, popular support for the regime began to fall.
Overall, Mussolini brought some stability to Italy and remained in power for 21 years (1922 – 1943), being personally popular for most of these. However, he did not succeed in realizing his hoped for ‘fascist revolution’.