Fascist Italy’s economy was weak, due to the slow recovery it had undergone following World War One. It was seen as a major area in need of improving and Mussolini was keen to do so in order to turn Italy into a major European powerhouse.
Following World War One, Italy’s economy was weak and a key area in need of improvement if the country was to become the European powerhouse of Mussolini’s imaginings.
When compared to Britain and France, Italy was a poor nation in the years after 1918 and Mussolini was keen to change this state of affairs. He embarked on a two-pronged approach in order to do so. Firstly, he wanted to gain further control over the country’s workers by diluting the power held by the Trade Unions. He also wanted to set the country a number of targets to push it along the road to economic strength. He therefore rolled out three so-called ‘battles,’ known as the Battle for Land, the Battle of the Lira and the Battle for Grain.
The first of these battles, the Battle for Land, was intended to make use of land across the country that had previously been unused and make it profitable. Marshland was to be cleared and turned into farming land or given over for other uses, such as the bog land known as the Pontine Marshes that was cleared for housing to be constructed on it. The country’s overall infrastructure was also improved as roads were built on this newly cleared land, employing a number of local people that had previously been out of work.
The second battle, the Battle of the Lira, was aimed at bringing back a certain level of the purchasing power the lira had held in the past. Mussolini knew that Italy was not looked upon well by other countries due to its weak lira, and the powerhouse status he dreamed of for the country would not come about if this issue with something as key as the national currency was not resolved. In a bid to boost the power of the lira, the value of the currency was inflated, therefore pushing up the price of exports. However, this move led to rising unemployment across Italy as companies found it harder to sell their wares. Overall, this battle to boost the lira was not seen as a success as Italy was too small and limited an economic base, with her strength lying in agriculture, not industry. However, this reliance on agriculture did mean that the country survived the 1930’s Depression era far better than other European strongholds that were based solely on industry.
The third battle was the Battle for Grain. Mussolini wished to boost Italy’s economy, as well as ensuring that the country was almost self-sufficient and not reliant on other nations. He therefore decided to grow increased amounts of grain rather than so many fruit and vegetables. However, the price of bread rose and Italian grain became expensive across the country, making life tough for those whose diet relied heavily on bread. Many rich farmers, however, found their takings rose significantly in line with the rising prices for the grain they were producing.
Overall, Italy was lacking in the industrial economic element needed to boost the agriculture-based economy. Italy had limited industrial zones and, as a result, Mussolini’s plans for the country’s economic boost were linked too heavily into intrinsic weaknesses in the country’s makeup which could not be overcome, not matter how hard he and his party tried.
See also: Life in Fascist Italy
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