Creation of Fascism
By the time he returned from Allied service in World War I, there was very little left of Mussolini the socialist. Indeed, he was now convinced that socialism as a doctrine had largely been a failure. In 1917, Mussolini got his start in politics with the help of a £100 weekly wage from MI5, the British Security Service; this help was authorized by Sir Samuel Hoare. In early 1918, Mussolini called for the emergence of a man "ruthless and energetic enough to make a clean sweep" to revive the Italian nation. Much later in life Mussolini said he felt by 1919 "Socialism as a doctrine was already dead; it continued to exist only as a grudge". On 23 March 1919, Mussolini reformed the Milan fascio as the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento (Italian Combat Squad), consisting of 200 members.
An important factor in fascism gaining support in its earliest stages was the fact that it claimed to oppose discrimination based on social class and was strongly opposed to all forms ofclass war. Fascism instead supported nationalist sentiments such as a strong unity, regardless of class, in the hopes of raising Italy up to the levels of its great Roman past. The ideological basis for fascism came from a number of sources. Mussolini utilized works of Plato, Georges Sorel,Nietzsche, and the socialist and economic ideas of Vilfredo Pareto, to create fascism. Mussolini admired The Republic, which he often read for inspiration. The Republic held a number of ideas that fascism promoted such as rule by an elite promoting the state as the ultimate end, opposition to democracy, protecting the class system and promoting class collaboration, rejection of egalitarianism, promoting the militarization of a nation by creating a class of warriors, demanding that citizens perform civic duties in the interest of the state, and utilizing state intervention in education to promote the creation of warriors and future rulers of the state. The Republicdiffered from fascism in that it did not promote aggressive war but only defensive war. Also unlike fascism, it promoted very communist-like views on property. Plato was an idealist, focused on achieving justice and morality, while Mussolini and fascism were realist, focused on achieving political goals.
The basic underlying idea behind Mussolini's foreign policy was that of spazio vitale (vital space), a concept in Fascism that was analogous to lebensraum in German National Socialism. The concept of spazio vitale was first announced in 1919, when the entire Mediterranean, especially so-called Julian March was redefined to make it appear a unified region that had belonged to Italy from the times of the ancient Roman province of Italia, was claimed as Italy's exclusive sphere of influence. The right to colonize the neighboring Slovene ethnic areas and Mediterranean, being inhabited by what were alleged to be less developed peoples, was justified on the grounds that Italy was suffering from overpopulation.
Borrowing the idea first developed by Enrico Corradini before 1914 of the natural conflict between "plutocratic" nations like Britain and "proletarian" nations like Italy, Mussolini claimed that Italy's principle problem was that it was "plutocratic" countries like Britain that were blocking Italy from achieving the necessary spazio vitale that would let the Italian economy grow. Mussolini equated a nation's potential for economic growth with territorial size, thus in his view the problem of poverty in Italy could only be solved by winning the necessary spazio vitale.[
Though biological racism was less prominent in Fascism than National Socialism, right from the start there was a strong racist undercurrent to the spazio vitale concept, in which Mussolini asserted there was a "natural law" for stronger peoples to subject and dominate "inferior" peoples such as the "barbaric" Slavic peoples of Yugoslavia as Mussolini claimed in a September 1920 speech, when Mussolini stated:
When dealing with such a race as Slavic - inferior and barbarian - we must not pursue the carrot, but the stick policy ... We should not be afraid of new victims ... The Italian border should run across the Brenner Pass, Monte Nevoso and the Dinaric Alps ... I would say we can easily sacrifice 500,000 barbaric Slavs for 50,000 Italians ...—Benito Mussolini, speech held in Pula, 20 September 1920
During the period of occupation between years 1918 and 1920, five hundred "Slav" societies (for exampleSokol), and slightly smaller number of libraries ("reading rooms") had been forbidden, and specifically so later with the Law on Associations (1925), the Law on Public Demonstrations (1926) and the Law on Public Order (1926), the closure of the classical lyceum in Pazin, of the high school in Voloska (1918), the closure of the five hundred Slovene and Croatian primary schools followed. One thousand "Slav" teachers were forcibly exiled to Sardinia and elsewhere to South Italy.
In the same way, Mussolini argued that Italy was right to follow an imperalist policy in Africa because all black people were "inferior" to whites. Mussolini claimed that the world was divided into a hierarchy of races (stirpe), though this was justified more on cultural than on biological grounds, and that history was nothing more than a Darwinian struggle for power and territory between various "racial masses". The very fact that Italy was suffering from overpopulation was seen as proving the cultural and spiritual vitality of the Italians, who were thus justified in seeking to colonize lands that Mussolini argued on a historical basis belonged to Italy anyway, which was the heir to the Roman Empire. In Mussolini's thinking, demography was destiny; nations with rising populations were nations destined to conquer, and nations with falling populations were decaying powers that deserved to die. Hence, the importance of natalism to Mussolini, since only by increasing the birth rate could Italy ensure its future as a great power that would win its spazio vitale be assured. By Mussolini's reckoning, the Italian population had to reach 60 million to enable Italy to fight a major war—hence his relentless demands for Italian women to have more children to reach that number.
Mussolini and the fascists managed to be simultaneously revolutionary and traditionalist; because this was vastly different to anything else in the political climate of the time, it is sometimes described as "The Third Way". The Fascisti, led by one of Mussolini's close confidants, Dino Grandi, formed armed squads of war veterans called Blackshirts (or squadristi) with the goal of restoring order to the streets of Italy with a strong hand. The blackshirts clashed with communists, socialists, and anarchists at parades and demonstrations; all of these factions were also involved in clashes against each other. The government rarely interfered with the blackshirts' actions, owing in part to a looming threat and widespread fear of a communist revolution. The Fascisti grew so rapidly that within two years, it transformed itself into the National Fascist Party at a congress in Rome. Also in 1921, Mussolini was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for the first time. In the meantime, from about 1911 until 1938, Mussolini had various affairs with the Jewish author and academic Margherita Sarfatti, called the "Jewish Mother of Fascism" at the time