Fascism is a political term that often pops up in discussions regarding political strongmen and dictators. Though fascist parties and movements differed from each other, they had similar characteristics including an extreme militaristic nationalism, contempt for electoral democracy and liberalism, a belief in the natural social hierarchy, and the desire to create a more homogenous nation.  

Fascist Leader Benito Mussolini | Source: Britannica

Fascist Leaders in Europe

The first fascist ruler in 20th century Europe is Benito Mussolini, also known as Il Duce. In fact, Mussolini coined the term from the Latin word “fasces”, the bundle of wooden rods that were used as a symbol of penal authority in ancient Rome.  

The irony is that Mussolini did not start as a fascist. At a young age he was involved with the Socialist Party in his early adulthood, even becoming an editor of an official Socialist newspaper and denouncing Italy’s intervention in the First World War. However, he changed his mind after reading Marx. After being kicked out of the Socialist Party, he assumed the editorship of a pro-war newspaper.  

Map of Axis & Allied Powers | Source: VOX

Ascension to Power

Mussolini advocated for dictatorship as the solution to Italy’s economic and political crisis. He established the fasci di combattimento (fighting bands) in 1918. Mussolini and his fighting bands started organizing rallies and gave moving speeches. His charisma and way of speaking influenced more people to join his movement. The Camicia Nera (Blackshirt), armed squads of Italian fascists under Mussolini, also played a big role in destabilizing the established liberal politics in Italy. By 1921, Fascists controlled a large part of Italy and placed Mussolini as the youngest prime minister of Italy a year later.  

Remnants of Mussolini’s economic and political strength show the strength of the Empire of Italy. Some coins that circulated in the Kingdom of Albania featured the bust of King Victor Emanuel III and a two-headed eagle.  

Fascist Leaders Mussolini & Hitler | Source: Wikipedia

Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy become official allies after the “Pact of Steel” becomes official in 1939. During the Second World War, Mussolini launched unsuccessful campaigns against Greece and North Africa. These failures contributed to the growing disillusionment with Mussolini. When the Allies invaded Sicily in 1943, his own government, the Fascist Grand Council, dismissed Mussolini from office.  

Pact of Steel: Hitler & Mussolini 6-Piece Album | Source: Banknote World

Currency That Shows Remnants of Fascism

This 1,000 Greek drachmai note is from 1941 during the war with Italy. It features the coin of Alexander III on the obverse side and Edessa Falls on the reverse side.

Greece 1,000 Drachmai | 1941 | Source: Banknote World Educational

Though Italian coins featured King Victor Emanuel III during the Second World War, these also featured the Italian coat of arms with the Fascist symbol. The Fascist government also issued stamps that featured Mussolini, including one that depicted him on horseback and another one that depicted him with Hitler.  

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