Born to a socialist father, Mussolini was named after leftist Mexican President Benito Juárez. His two middle names, Amilcare and Andrea, came from Italian socialists Amilcare Cipriani and Andrea Costa. Early in Mussolini’s life, for instance, those names seemed appropriate. While living in Switzerland from 1902 to 1904, he cultivated an intellectual image and wrote for socialist periodicals such as L’Avvenire del Lavoratore (The Worker’s Future). He then served in the Italian army for nearly two years before resuming his career as a teacher and journalist. In his articles and speeches, Mussolini preached violent revolution, praised famed communist thinker Karl Marx and criticized patriotism. In 1912 he became editor of Avanti! (Forward!), the official daily newspaper of Italy’s Socialist Party. But he was expelled from the party two years later over his support for World War I. By 1919 a radically changed Mussolini had founded the fascist movement, which would later become the Fascist Party.
5. Mussolini did not become a true dictator until 1925.
After becoming prime minister, Mussolini reduced the influence of the judiciary, muzzled a free press, arrested political opponents, continued condoning fascist squad violence and otherwise consolidated his hold on power. However, he continued working within the parliamentary system at least somewhat until January 1925, when he declared himself dictator of Italy. Following a series of assassination attempts in 1925 and 1926, Mussolini tightened his grip even further, banning opposition parties, kicking out over 100 members of parliament, reinstating the death penalty for political crimes, ramping up secret police activities and abolishing local elections.
On October 29, 1922, fascist leader Benito Mussolini was offered the Italian premiership amid political and social upheaval. Explore nine things you may not know about “Il Duce” and his 21 years in power.