A Brief History of Dictatorships, Part 2

Last week I began my summary of a paper I wrote on Mussolini and Franco. I focussed on how the Roman Catholic Church influenced both Italian and Spanish dictatorships.

Regrettably, the world has not learned from its past mistakes. Cast an eye on recent history and the present crises in the Ukraine and Middle East.

I was piqued by a report entitled Breaking the Silence by renowned Australian journalist, John Pilger. he placed emphasis on George W Bush and previous U.S regimes which seek to dominate the world through its belligerence and military might, feeding the lie that the so-called axis of evil has to be stopped at all costs. We learn later that such an axis of evil was indeed created by Republican securocrats and oil barons. john pilger

Pilger asked whether the U.S.A., in its current form of dominance over the rest of the world was entering a phase of fascism. In the way that propaganda spread throughout the world through politics, capitalism and even entertainment one begins to believe that this is the case.

But one thorny pre-occupation remains starkly absent. Vladimir Putin and the world’s largest nation (by land mass) Russia. It makes the world’s fourth largest military power, Israel, truly look like the David in the David and Goliath characterisation, rather than the Goliath that it is portrayed as today, notwithstanding their heinous bombardments of Gaza and the Palestinians that are massacred along with it.

Turning back to Mussolini and Franco. putin and pope

Mussolini’s childhood was characterised by poverty and impoverishment not unlike that of most Italians since the turn of the twentieth century. While he was a man of letters, founding his own newspapers, he lacked formality and manners. This deficiency characterised his bloody disagreements with opponents. In the context of Africa and Russia in the twenty-first century, I wonder if this is at all familiar to readers.

Mussolini’s wife portrayed him as a caring man. Such care did not extend to the Italian people and particularly not to the Jewish population who were conned into joining his fascist uprisings.

While he established himself as a disseminator and commentator of news and currencies affecting the lives of Italians through his newspaper Il Popolo d’Italia (The People of Italy) he planted the seeds of his techniques of propaganda and fascist ideologies which would be replicated in later years by Franco, Adolf Hitler and South Africa’s Nationalist prime ministers. hitler-in-crowd-nuremberg-1933

Mussolini was ridiculed and derided by the bourgeoisie who did not feel threatened by his racist rhetoric, however, his messages found mass appeal among the mainly illiterate population who believed his message of economic freedom and prosperity under rule of a partisan statesman.

Francisco Franco’s early years, however, were not characterised by belligerence. Franco’s background was, to all intents and purposes, a military one., and it aided him in preparations for a military career and later as dictator of Spain.

The closing years of Mussolini’s dictatorship were characterised as a puppet regime, influenced by Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist administration and policies, particularly in regard to the extermination of European Jews.



Hitler’s regime was far more organised and disciplined in its militarization of the German Aryan Nation. The German dictator had rejected the Treaty of Versailles and propagated against the alleged collaboration of Western capitalists, Jewish entrepreneurs, professionals and intellectuals.

Hitler observed Mussolini’s earlier progress as a fascist dictator and later improved upon the methods of brutality and intimidation applied.

Franco’s background as a soldier and general equipped him well during the Spanish Civil War and later during the early years of his dictatorship. Franco’s war machine was under-resourced and under-funded, but was supported well by Hitler and Mussolini as they, in turn, made their preparations for the Second World War.

Delusions of grandeur ultimately led to both Mussolini and Hitler’s downfall. Such defeats were welcomed by their respective populations who had previously supported them out of desperation and duress.

After Mussolini’s failed invasion of Greece in 1940, led by Marshal Pietro Badoglio, the dictator fired the military leader. Badoglio, in turn, was appointed by King Victor Emmanuel III to replace Mussolini. Badoglio’s short, productive leadership led to the signing of an armistice with the Western Allies. marshal pietro badoglio

Just days after his surrender, Mussolini was rescued by Hitler’s paratroopers and summarily appointed as leader of the new Republic of Salo. In his new role as ceremonial dictator, serving under Hitler, Mussolini was unconvincing in persuading Italians that fascism had not failed.

Franco’s strategy was different. He sought mainly to unite the Spanish nation and align it against the threat of Soviet communism. He too relied on brutal tactics of intimidation and suppression against all opponents of his new regime and relied on propaganda to rally the civilian population behind him under the disguise of Unity of the Motherland.

The motto was nothing more than a lie;

“Justice and equality before the law, peace and love among Spaniards, liberty and fraternity without libertinage and tyranny.”

Franco promised Spain that there would be “work for all” and a “progressively fairer distribution of wealth without endangering the Spanish reforms.”

Next week: South Africa’s National Party, Similarities with Authoritarian governments, Winston Churchill.


2 thoughts on “A Brief History of Dictatorships, Part 2

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