Mussolini’s heir apparent

The life (and death) of Italo Balbo offers a powerful insight into the world of Italian Fascism. It’s the story of a radical young “mover and shaker” who joins in the Albanian uprising at age 14, supports Italy’s entry into World War One, and then becomes something of a celebrity war hero (decorated three times, and rising to a captaincy in an elite regiment).
In the turmoiil of the Biennio Rosso he emerges as a local Fascist leader, quickly rising up the hierarchy as one of the Ras, the youngest of the Quadrumvir planning the March on Rome (whilst still in his twenties), and then arriving in high office as Mussolini becomes Prime Minister and begins that inexorable drive towards dictatorship.
Behind the scenes he proved utterly ruthless, developing his own hit squad and being responsible for all kinds of thuggery, violence, intimidation of opponents and even their murder.
After 1922 he represented the newly respectable front of Fascism, serving in many high party positions and taking on the role of Air Force Marshall, (without being able to fly!). He was talented and popular with the masses but less so with his party colleagues (and with his Duce). As Governor General of Libya his plane is shot down in 1940 and he dies in somewhat mysterious circumstances.
The insight into Fascism that he offers is into that ideological flexibility that could make use of some one, inflate him and then discard him…. or into the chilling violence that formed the context for Mussolini’s ferocious ambition and ego. Was Fascism a political philosophy at all, or was it just a cover for that monstrous ambition?
Here’s today’s lecture notesitalo-balboitalo_balbo

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