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World War I and the Rise of Fascism in Italy

Gianluca Russo

No dp-341, Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series from Boston University - Department of Economics

Abstract: One of the key steps that allowed Mussolini to become the Italian Duce was the victory in the 1924 national elections. I study the impact of World War I on Mussolini’s electoral success. I reconstruct the military death rate for the universe of Italian municipalities, which is matched to municipal level voting in the 1924 election. After controlling for the number of individuals drafted in a municipality, the variation in the share of fatalities is caused by military events exogenous to municipality characteristics that could simultaneously affect support for Fascism. I find that a higher share of fatalities increases the vote share for Fascism. In particular, the vote share for Fascism is higher in municipalities with both higher fatality rates and a greater number of veterans returning from the frontline. I show that the effect of WWI deaths is driven by municipalities that in 1921 had above median vote shares for the Socialist party. This is consistent with the historical narrative that the initial rise of Mussolini was facilitated by the red menace: the threat of a Socialist revolution in Italy.

Keywords: Political Economy; Fascism; War Fatalities (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D72 N44 P16 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 48 pages
Date: 2018-07, Revised 2020-05
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cdm, nep-his and nep-pol
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http://www.bu.edu/econ/files/2020/05/wwi_fascism_russog_IED-1.pdf

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