Seizure of Power

             On the 23 March 1919 after a series of Communist .

             demonstrations, the almost forgotten Mussolini decided to attempt to.

             revive his Fasci movement. A meeting was held in a hall in a Milan and .

             was attended by some fifty malcontents. From this seemingly small and .

             insignificant event the Fascio di Combattimento' (Combat Group) was .

             born. Initially, it would seem that the Fasci were destined for .

             failure with none of their candidates (including Mussolini) winning a .

             single seat in the 1919 elections. How was it that a party with no .

             clear programme, save a belief in action of some sort, became a ruling .

             dictatorship little more than ten years later? By the end of 1919, .

             Mussolini possessed hardly more than 2% of the vote in Milan, less .

             than 5000 votes against 170,000 for the Socialists. Was this a .

             complete disaster? At the time it seemed so; the Socialists were so .

             confident of their success that they staged a mock funeral in Milan .

             stopping outside Mussolini's house to invite him to attend the burial .

             of his party. Incredibly, by 1921 the membership of this previously .

             tiny group was to rival the size of the Socialists. How was this.

             achieved? It was certainly by no easy means; Mussolini's skill and .

             luck played a vital role, but he was also helped by the seemingly .

             blind incompetence of his opponents. Mussolini's path towards the top .

             of Italian Government was hindered by many forms of opposition. .

             However, most of his opposition came from the Government and the rival .

             Socialist (PSI) party. Soon after the summer of 1920 the Fascists and .

             their opposition inevitably clashed. The fact that Gioletti's .

             government was faced with - million workers sitting in in factories .

             showed that Italy was a far from stable country in 1920. Did an .

             opportunity present itself for Mussolini to gain ground over the .

             Socialist opposition? If it did, Mussolini certainly did not take it. .

             He was still recovering from his party's humiliating election defeat.

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