Matteotti crime, the story of the political murder committed 100 years ago by fascism

Today 10 June 1924 marks the centenary of the assassination by the fascists of Giacomo Matteottideputy opponent of fascism born in Fratta Polesine in 1885. Matteotti had joined socialism as a young man and had been nicknamed “Storm” for his combative character. In 1924 he gave a famous speech to the House of Representatives denounce the violence of fascism and, in retaliation, a squad of Blackshirts kidnapped and killed him. It is not known whether the crime was personally ordered by Mussolini, but it is certain that the affair was provoked a serious crisis. The government seemed on the verge of falling, but it managed to regain control of the situation and was able to establish dictatorship real. Today, the centenary of the crime, the crime is considered a turning point in the history of Italy and Matteotti is considered a martyr of freedom.

Who was Giacomo Matteotti

Giacomo Matteotti was born in Fratta Polesine, in the province of Rovigo, in 1885. He approached socialism as a young man, adhering to the reformist current (the more moderate one). In 1919 he was elected deputy and in the following years he had to deal with fascism, which had begun its rise. In 1921 he published ainvestigationdenouncing for the first time the violence of the Black Shirts and the following year, when the Socialist Party split, he joined together with the other reformists in the Unity Socialist Party. Party colleagues gave Matteotti the nickname “Tempesta” for the combative approach with which he faced political battles.

The 1924 elections and Matteotti's speech to the Chamber

After the rise to power of fascism and the formation of the Mussolini government, which took place in October 1922 with the march on RomeMatteotti became one of the government's staunchest opponents.

Fascist squad in Lucca

In 1924 Mussolini, intent on consolidating his power, convened new elections for April 6th. The dictatorship had not yet been fully established and, theoretically, the consultation should have taken place freely. In fact, the Black Shirts did it violence against most of the candidates of the oppositions. The fascists, as expected, won the elections by a landslide, but on May 30th Matteotti, who was among the few elected opponents, held a tough speech in the House, denouncing all the violence committed during the electoral campaign. The deputy was aware of the risk he was running to the point that, when he had finished speaking, he said to his party colleagues: «I have given my speech. Now you prepare the funeral speech for me.”

Matteotti's murder

On 10 June 1924 Matteotti was kidnapped in Rome, on Lungotevere Arnaldo da Bresciaby a team of five fascists, led by Amerigo Dumini. The deputy was forcibly taken, placed in a car and killed with beatings and stabbings. The body was thrown into the Quartarella woods, just outside Rome.

Who had ordered the Matteotti crime and why?

It is not known whether the murder was explicitly ordered by Mussolini. According to testimony considered reliable, at the end of the speech on 30 May Mussolini asked his collaborators why Matteotti had not been eliminated from circulation and the squadristi interpreted the question as an order. It cannot be ruled out, however, that Mussolini gave a more explicit order.

It is also not known whether the murder had been premeditated or if the squadristi had only intended to teach Matteotti a lesson and had killed him in a manner unintentional. What is certain is that the crime was wanted and carried out by fascism.

Amerigo Dumini

Regarding the reasons for the murder, for many years it was believed that the fascists wanted to punish the deputy for the speech of May 30th. In more recent times, some historians have put forward the hypothesis that Matteotti had also been killed because he was conducting an investigation into bribes paid by an American oil company, Sinclair Oil, to important exponents of the fascist regime, including Arnaldo Mussolini, Benito's brother. The hypothesis is not proven, but it is plausible.

The reaction of the opposition and the crisis

Matteotti's death opened a profound political crisis and the consensus for fascism suffered a significant decline: Mussolini had come to power promising Italians order and discipline; the crime demonstrated that fascism was the source of the disorder and violence.

After Matteotti's disappearance, the opposition deputies decided to not participate in the work of the Chamber until legality was restored, withdrawing “on the Aventine” (metaphorical expression that refers to Roman history: the deputies did not physically move to the Aventine hill but met in a room in Palazzo Montecitorio). In August, when Matteotti's body was found, tension increased further. The anti-fascists hoped that the king, Victor Emmanuel III, took power away from Mussolini, but the sovereign, fearful of the “leap in the dark” represented by the change of government, did not intervene.

The long-term consequences and Mussolini's speech

After about six months of crisis, fascism managed to regain control of the situation. On 3 January 1925 Mussolini spoke in the Chamber and, in a famous speech, assumed moral responsibility for the crime and other violence (but avoided taking criminal responsibility):

If Fascism was nothing more than castor oil and a truncheon and not instead a proud passion of the best Italian youth, I am to blame! If Fascism was a criminal association, I bear the responsibility for this, because I created this historical, political and moral climate.

Between 1925 and 1926, the government issued the “very fascist” lawswhich made the opposition illegal and gave rise to the actual dictatorship.

Those responsible for Matteotti's assassination were subjected to a sham trial, in which they received very light sentences, which they did not serve. Only after the fall of fascism and the establishment of the Republic did those responsible who were still alive suffer an smooth process and they were condemned.

The institutions of republican Italy, moreover, have recognized Matteotti the role he deserves in the history of the country, celebrating him as a martyr of freedom.