Many of the supposed “good things” done during fascism are hoaxes

Fascism ruled Italy for approximately twenty years. Some people believe that Mussolini's dictatorship committed only a few errorssuch as the alliance with Hitler's Germany, and which he achieved charitable works and businesses: the pension system, land reclamation, Italy's international prestige. It is also sometimes said that the regime was a good-natured dictatorship and that he has not committed crimes. However, the “good things” of fascism are largely unfounded myths, spread by the regime's propaganda and still repeated today. In this article we dismantle this type of rhetoric piece by piece.

What was fascism

Fascism was a totalitarian regime, in the sense that it did not limit itself to governing and repressing dissent, but wanted to control society and the lives of citizens in a “total” way and demanded that Italians be permanently mobilized, participating in the activities promoted by fascist organizations. The fascist dictatorship lasted from 1922 to 1943; in central-northern Italy it continued until 1945 through the Italian Social Republic (RSI)the state established by the Germans during the Second World War.

A speech by Mussolini (credits Bundesarchiv)
A speech by Mussolini (credits: Bundesarchiv)

Fascism, as we all know, has governed the country in a dictatorial manner discriminated against citizens based on ethnic-religious, political or gender affiliation (not only Jews, but also linguistic minorities, political opponents, women) and has led Italy to catastrophe of the Second World War. Nonetheless, according to some “Mussolini also did good things”.

In this regard, it should be considered that fascism was in power for twenty years and, as is natural, the long-term policies that were already underway before its advent were not completely interrupted: in various socio-economic sectors, the regime continued to develop policies already introduced previously. Furthermore, most of the “good things” done by fascism (not all, of course) are falsehoods or exaggerations spread by the propaganda of the time and still repeated today. Let's see the main ones.

The supposed “good things”

Below we list the alleged policies or alleged positive interventions of fascism and see if this is correct information or not.


Mussolini he didn't give pensions to Italians, as it is sometimes said. The first state social security systems were established in 1898 for public employees (law 17 July, n. 350); in 1919 (law 21 April, n. 503) pensions were extended to workers in the private sector. The fascist regime consolidated the already existing measures in some aspects and in 1933 transformed the National State Insurance Fund into the National Fascist Institute of Social Security (Infps, now Inps), but did not “create pensions”.

The reclamations

One of the most frequently cited “good things” is reclamation, that is, work to make marshy and unhealthy territories habitable. The fascist regime invested huge resources to reclaim the swamps ofAgro Pontino, in Lazio, and propaganda poured rivers of ink to celebrate the feat, presenting it as a “creation” of fascism. In reality, the reclamation had begun before the regime. Furthermore, the results were far inferior to those declared. Fascism announced that it had reclaimed four million hectares, but of these, as highlighted by a recent study, approximately 1.5 million had been reclaimed by previous governments and the work was not completed on another two million. The Pontine reclamation, together with that of other areas, will be carried out by democratic governments after the fall of the regime.

Latina, founded on reclaimed marshes
Aerial view of Latina, founded on reclaimed marshes.

Trains on time

“When he was there, the trains came on time.” It is one of the most widespread statements about fascism. In reality, the delays and inefficiencies they existed even at the time of Mussolini. Only they were kept under wraps and couldn't be talked about publicly.

Honesty and efficiency

It is sometimes said that fascism was an efficient regime, in which everything worked as it should, and that its leaders were morally upright. The reality was very different. Most of the hierarchs, both at national and local level, he abused his position and the corruption it was very widespread, as established by investigations conducted after the fall of the regime.

Youth policies

It is sometimes said that the regime succeeded in “taking young people off the streets” and guaranteeing them adequate training and a future. The reality was very different. The youth organizations created by the regime, like the Opera Balilla, the Fascist University Groups, etc., served to regiment young people, indoctrinate them on a political level and educate them in militarism. Participation in military exercises and other activities of the organizations, although not obligatory by law, in many cases was in fact imposed: as highlighted by many research, even in their free time young people could not freely choose what to do.

Balilla rally with rifle
Balilla rally with rifle

The international prestige of Italy

Mussolini, some people say, “brought the name of Italy high.” For a period (roughly from the late 1920s to 1935), fascism actually received certificates of esteem on an international level, but, even in those years, the authoritarian management of power was not appreciated in democratic countries. Afterwards, the attack on Ethiopia of 1935 and the alliance with Germany Nazi, which began in 1936, caused the prestige gained abroad to disappear, as numerous studies on fascist foreign policy have highlighted. Furthermore, during the Second World War, Mussolini created a state, the RSI, dominated by the Nazis and many fascists collaborated in the Holocaust, tarnishing the name of Italy.

The myth of the good-natured dictatorship

Fascism was not a good-natured dictatorship that committed no crimes. The brutality did not reach the levels of Nazi Germany or Stalin's USSR, at least in Italian territory, but, nevertheless, in the early 1920s (the period of the rise of fascism) the Black Shirts killed hundreds of opponents. After the establishment of the dictatorship, the latter were put in prison or sent to confinement (i.e. relegated to isolated locations). The special court alone sentenced 4,596 anti-fascists to prison, of which 42 to death (other sources report slightly different figures).

Furthermore, the regime was responsible for war crimes in Africa and the Balkans. In Libya, between 1929 and 1931 the Italian army deported around 100,000 inhabitants of the Gebel plateau. In Ethiopia, soldiers used weapons on a large scale during the 1935-36 war gas, prohibited by international conventions, and summarily killed prisoners and opponents, as during the battle of Amba Aradam (hence the word “ambaradam”); in February 1937, the fascists massacred thousands of civilians in Addis Ababa.

Victims of the Addis Ababa massacre
Victims of the Addis Ababa massacre.

In the'Balkan areaparticularly in the border area with Yugoslavia (where Slovenia and Croatia are today located), the regime discriminated the non-Italian population in all the years in which he was in power and, after the start of the world war, he was responsible for summary executions, massacres and detention of prisoners in unsustainable conditions.

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