The verbal attacks made on Mussolini by Italian socialist Giacomo Matteotti resulted in his murder in 1924. In his position as Head of the Italian Socialist Party, he was forthright about his opinions and his death sent shockwaves through the country.
The Head of the Italian Socialist Party, Giacomo Matteotti was a recognised figure in Italy, but his strong views were not popular with Mussolini and his supporters. Indeed, his beliefs and his lack of fear when it came to making his views known eventually cost him his life. Matteotti’s opinions on the March on Rome were loathed by Mussolini and, on 10 June 1924, Matteotti vanished. His body was discovered on 18 August, after a long search. It was found in a grave located close to Rome and a carpenter’s file had been stabbed into his chest.
The general public were outraged at Matteotti’s murder and Mussolini was almost forced to step down from his political position as a result. However, something that Matteotti had warned about did indeed come true – Mussolini used the socialist’s death to boost his power in Italy, turning the murder to his advantage.
Mussolini had introduced the Ceka in early 1924, which was effectively a party secret police force, in a bid to scare the general public into voting for the Fascists at elections. Professional gangsters were included in the Ceka, such as Albino Volpi and Amerigo Dumini, both of whom were employed by and paid by Mussolini’s press office.
Matteotti had spoken in Rome on 30 May 1924 about the negatives linked to Mussolini’s leadership of Italy, saying that the election of 1924 was fraudulent and the only reason the party had won was because people were forced into voting for them. This speech was the final straw for Mussolini. Locals living close to Matteotti’s home noticed that he was being watched, with a strange car parked outside his home. A neighbour took the registration number of the car and, following Matteotti’s disappearance, gave this number to police. The police force traced the car and found blood on the back seat, however, as DNA testing was not yet in use, the blood could not be linked directly to Matteotti.
Mussolini requested that Dumini and other men linked to him were arrested as he felt vulnerable and wanted to shift the blame onto someone else. Dumini was questioned by police and, at that time, evidence linked to the disappearance vanished. Matteotti’s body was discovered in August and Dumini was charged with murder and jailed, with no evidence linking Mussolini to the killing. However, many believe that he did order it, despite his denial of any knowledge about it and it was due to this belief that 1924 ended up being difficult for Mussolini.
He tried to win back the favour of the Italian people by firing members from his Cabinet who were seen as violent. However, this caused issues within the Party and within the Fascist movement, as they saw Mussolini’s move as giving in to the public. Eventually officers from his private army, the MVSN threatened to overthrow him unless he ruled as a dictator, so Mussolini opted to do so, saying in January of 1925: “Italy wants peace and quiet, work and calm. I will give these things with love if possible and with force if necessary.” This statement and his actions that followed placed him back in favour with the MVSN and his dictatorship firmly back on track.
See also: Mussolini's Dictatorship
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