Mussolini’s first appearance on an international stage was at Lausanne at a conference summoned in late 1922 to settle Turkey’s borders after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. His fellow delegates were not impressed by Italy’s new prime minister. The British foreign secretary, Lord Curzon, found him ‘a very stagey sort of person’ who was always trying to create an effect, sometimes with a band playing ‘Giovinezza’ in attendance. On the opening day of the conference Mussolini contributed nothing to the discussions and spent his time strutting around with his blackshirts and making eleven statements to the press. Although he left Lausanne the following day, still without any achievement, Italian newspapers managed to describe his performance as their country’s first diplomatic success since 1860.
Mussolini’s directives to his delegation soon convinced Curzon that, apart from being ‘stagey’, the fascist leader was a ‘thoroughly unscrupulous and dangerous demagogue, plausible in manner, but without scruple in truth or conduct’. From Rome he threatened almost daily ruptures of the alliance with the Great War victors and warned he would withdraw from the conference unless he was promised a slice of the Middle East, a stance that suggested to Curzon ‘a combination of the sturdy beggar and the ferocious bandit’. Soon he went beyond threats and adopted a policy that the South African prime minister, Jan Smuts, described as ‘running about biting everybody’. When four Italians working for an international boundary commission were mysteriously killed on Greek soil, Mussolini delivered an impossible ultimatum to Athens and then bombarded and occupied the island of Corfu, killing a number of civilians. Although the Italians were eventually persuaded to evacuate, they did so only after the Greek government was made to pay a large indemnity for a crime it knew nothing about and which was probably committed by Albanians. The Duce was determined, like the Venetians of old, to control the Adriatic and demonstrate the fact.
Mussolini was converted to imperialism in his thirties at a time when the idea of empire was losing ground in other parts of the world. The Atlantic empires of Spain and Portugal had long gone, and Britain and France were faced with increasing opposition in some of their colonies. The British may have been building a new imperial capital in Delhi, but by now much of the subcontinent’s administration was being conducted – except at the very top – by Indians. Yet when Mussolini embraced an idea, he invariably hugged it to excess. He talked about reviving the Roman Empire and incorporating within it Malta, the Balkans, parts of France, parts of the Middle East and most of north Africa. Although he had signed the Treaty of Locarno in 1925, which was intended to guarantee peace in western Europe, he later raved about defeating France and Britain by himself, of marching ‘to the ocean’ and acquiring an outlet on the Atlantic. Like Crispi, he wanted colonies for reasons of prestige rather than for their wealth – such as it was – or their potential as a place to settle land-hungry Italians.
Fascist Italy inherited certain colonial positions which it quickly resolved to strengthen. Somaliland thus had to be properly subdued and ruled more vigorously than before. The situation was more complicated in Libya because the liberal regime, aware that by the end of the Great War it controlled only a few areas along the coast, had made an agreement with the Senussi leader which gave the Arab tribes autonomy and economic assistance in exchange for accepting Italy’s sovereignty. This created a very unfascist state of affairs, and the policy was soon abandoned in favour of subjugating the tribes, first in Tripolitania and later in Cyrenaica. In 1930 two senior generals, Pietro Badoglio and Rodolfo Graziani, herded the entire population of Cyrenaica into detention camps where conditions were so bad that thousands of people perished along with nearly all their goats and camels. The following year the ‘rebel’ leader in Cyrenaica, the septuagenarian Omar al-Mukhtar, was captured and executed in front of his followers. Half a century on, when a film called the The Lion of the Desert was made about this heroic figure, it was banned in Italy on the grounds that it was ‘damaging to the honour of the Italian army’.
Mussolini believed that a nation could only remain healthy if it fought a war in every generation. The Italian army had been fighting for years in Libya, but its activities there did not count as a war: it was carrying out the ‘pacification’ of a territory that already belonged to Italy. The real thing would be to conquer and annex a foreign country. Mussolini was old enough to remember the defeat at Adowa and he had long-nurtured ideas of avenging it by conquering Ethiopia and overthrowing its emperor, Haile Selassie. It was unfortunate that the country was Christian, independent and a member of the League of Nations, but the Duce was not deterred by such things. He had generally disliked and affected to despise the League, a body formed in 1920 from which his new admirer, Adolf Hitler, had already withdrawn; he also had some support from the French foreign minister, Pierre Laval, who had allegedly offered him ‘a free hand’ in Ethiopia.
Mussolini had assembled a huge force of 400,000 men, consisting of regular troops and fascist militiamen, and in October 1935 he ordered them to invade Ethiopia from Eritrea and Somaliland. Although he knew the invasion was initially unpopular at home, he believed that a rapid victory and the consequent prestige of imperial ownership would change public opinion. After a triumphant entry into Addis Ababa, fascism would be unstoppable; it would next turn against Egypt, throw the British out and liberate Italy from the ‘servitude of the Suez Canal’. Seven months after the campaign’s inception, Badoglio’s troops entered the Ethiopian capital, an event which earned their commander the title of Duke of Addis Ababa. Victory justified the prediction of the Duce, who informed ecstatic crowds at home that, after a gap of fifteen centuries, empire had returned to the seven hills of Rome. Gentile seemed to embody the national mood when he claimed that Mussolini had not only founded an empire but ‘done something more. He ha[d] created a new Italy.’ One ludicrous aspect of the enterprise was the military boastfulness that followed. The victory may have been Italy’s first ever without allied support but it was hardly, as its propagandists claimed, one of the most brilliant campaigns in world history: you did not have to be brilliant in the 1930s to defeat an enemy that possessed neither artillery nor an air force.
Victory was achieved with the help of poison gas and bombing raids on civilian targets. One of Mussolini’s sons wrote a book about his experiences as an air force pilot in Ethiopia, describing fighting as ‘the most beautiful and complete of all sports’ and recalling how ‘diverting’ it was to watch groups of tribesmen ‘burst out like a rose after [he] had landed a bomb in the middle of them’. The sport did not cease after the proclamation of victory. As in Libya in the decade before fascism, most of Ethiopia remained unoccupied by Italian troops, and native resistance continued after the fall of the capital. Mussolini reacted by ordering a systematic policy of terror, burning hundreds of villages, executing prisoners without trial and shooting all adult males in places where resistance was discovered. When weapons were found in the great monastery of Debra Libanos, at least 400 monks and deacons were murdered; the Coptic Archbishop Petros, who had come from Egypt to be head of the Ethiopian Church, was also executed. When in February 1937 two Eritreans threw grenades at the viceroy, Marshal Graziani, killing seven people and wounding others (including the viceroy), the local fascist boss gave his men three days to go on the rampage, ‘to destroy and kill and do what you want to the Ethiopians’. At least 3,000 Africans – and probably many more – were slaughtered in consequence. The victims had nothing to do with the bomb throwers; they did not even belong to the same part of the fascist empire.
Italian soldiers used to enjoy the reputation of being brava gente, good fellows, ‘the good soldier Gino’ who remained good even in uniform. Italians claimed they were not like the Nazis. Nor were their generals, whose decency is supposed to have been certified later by the fact that none of them faced a trial like the leading Nazis at Nuremberg. Yet in recent decades an Italian historian, Angelo del Boca, has gone through the colonial records and painstakingly compiled, in volume after volume, evidence that the generals committed horrific atrocities in Africa and later the Balkans and that ‘the good soldier Gino’ is a myth: the brava gente were as adept at massacring as anyone else. The Italian army reacted by trying to have Del Boca prosecuted for ‘vilifying the Italian soldier’.
In July 1936, two months after the capture of Addis Ababa, Mussolini decided to fight another war, this time in support of Franco’s insurrection against the republican government in Spain. He dispatched a squadron of bombers, which he soon added to, and a small army of blackshirts, which he increased with regular soldiers so that ultimately Italy sent 73,000 Voluntary Troops to the Iberian Peninsula. Fascists and their apologists claimed they were sent to counter the ‘Bolshevik threat’, but at that moment no such threat existed. The Spanish Communist Party had sixteen deputies in a Cortes of 473, it was not part of the government, and communism was not even mentioned in the manifesto that Franco issued to justify his rebellion. Communism only became a force in Spain because the government, opposed by Italy and Germany and ignored by Britain and France, had to appeal to the Soviet Union for arms.
Mussolini decided to intervene in Spain because he believed intervention would add to the glory of Italy and its Duce. This time he was wrong. Fighting Spanish republicans backed by Russian tanks was very different from fighting African tribesmen, and it was demoralizing to be facing fellow Italians in the International Brigades who kept the volunteers awake at night with loudspeakers urging them to show solidarity with the workers by deserting to the Spanish government’s side. At the Battle of Guadalajara in March 1937, Mussolini’s troops were blocked by republican units that included the Italians of the Garibaldi Battalion, and they were forced to retreat, losing a lot of men, arms and prestige in the process. Although it was a clear defeat for the fascists, the Duce managed to proclaim it a victory.
Historians have long been divided between those who believe that Mussolini intended all along to build an empire and an alliance with Germany and those who see the Duce as more of a predatory opportunist than a dedicated expansionist and aggressor. The sheer erraticism of the man, his frequent doubts and changes of mind, make one wonder whether he could really have been as single-minded as the ‘intentionists’ believe. He had the eye of a chancer, looking for easy pickings such as Corfu and later Albania, which he invaded a week after the end of the Spanish Civil War. He admired the German Reich much more than the French Republic yet, when in 1934 Austrian Nazis murdered his ally Chancellor Dollfuss in Vienna, he signed a treaty with France and talked about war against Germany. Mussolini was a show-off who thought in slogans which he seldom wholly believed in – he did not, for example, really think it better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep. And he was always talking about fighting wars even when he had no intention of waging one. His neutrality in 1939, his dithering in 1940, his failure to produce a half-decent army and his refusal to join the war until France was beaten – none of this suggests the character of a conqueror.
Yet it is easy to build up a case on the other side, and certainly there is space for a compromise. Even before the rise of the Nazis, Mussolini had hoped for an alliance with a revived Germany and a joint war against France and Yugoslavia; he also believed that ‘the axis of European history passes through Berlin’. In 1932 he ordered Italian newspapers to support the Nazis in elections that brought them to power, and in the same year he sacked his foreign minister for allegedly being too fond of the French and the British. Although Mussolini held ambivalent views about Hitler and liked to belittle him, he supported most of the Führer’s actions in the years before the Second World War. He accepted the German army’s occupation of the Rhineland, like Hitler he fought for Franco, and he eventually acquiesced in Germany’s annexation of Austria in 1938 and its occupation of Czechoslovakia the following year. Renzo De Felice, the author of a seven-volume biography of the Duce, used to argue that fascism was very different from Nazism, that Mussolini desired to be a mediator in Europe, and it was only Britain’s championing of economic sanctions against Italy after its invasion of Ethiopia that drove Mussolini into the German camp. Yet this sounds too much like the plea of the apologist. Had he wished, Mussolini could have preserved peace and contained Hitler by aligning himself with Britain and France. He chose instead to join Germany, securing the support of a powerful ally to protect his position in Europe while he pursued his dream of empire in Africa.
On a state visit to Germany in 1937 Mussolini was hugely impressed by the sight of armament factories and army parades staged in his honour. Soon afterwards he took Italy out of the League of Nations, made anti-Semitism a fascist policy and signed an anti-communist pact with Germany and Japan. In March 1938 he was perplexed (and privately furious) that Hitler grabbed Austria without warning him, and later in the year he made his sole appearance as a mediator, going to the Munich conference to persuade the Führer to opt for the peaceful cession of the Sudetenland rather than a military invasion of Czechoslovakia. Yet Mussolini felt uncomfortable in the role of peacemaker, as he soon demonstrated when he told the fascist Grand Council that Italy must acquire Nice, Corsica, Albania and Tunisia.
At Munich the Duce was deeply unimpressed by the British prime minister (Neville Chamberlain) and the French premier (Édouard Daladier), whose feeble performances in the face of Hitler’s pugnacity reinforced his view that Britain and France were decadent and geriatric states that could easily be defeated by the young and virile nations of Germany and Italy. Much influenced by a meeting of the Oxford Union in 1933, when idealistic undergraduates had voted against fighting ‘for king and country’, Mussolini had decided that the British were effete and unhealthy (and too fond of umbrellas), that their empire was in terminal decline, and that their country should be destroyed like Carthage. He also convinced himself that Italy could capture Egypt without difficulty because the British were unable to fight in the heat; perhaps he was unaware that they had won a few summer battles over the years in India. Such views were strengthened by reports from his ambassador to London, Dino Grandi, who watched British soldiers on parade and dismissed them as ‘marionettes of wood’ who would be too cowardly to defend their country.
In March 1939 Germany enacted another aggression without warning Italy, this time overturning Mussolini’s ‘success’ at Munich by seizing Prague and setting up a German ‘protectorate’ in Bohemia and Moravia. Although the Duce felt humiliated by this episode, he decided to stand by ‘the Axis’ and to demonstrate parity with Germany by conquering something for himself. After briefly considering Croatia as a target, he opted for Albania, a strange decision considering that the little country was already largely under Italian control. In May Germany and Italy formalized the Axis with the ‘Pact of Steel’, a name that, while professing equivalence between the two signatories, drew attention to the disparity in industrial might: Germany produced ten times as much steel as Italy. Once again the Germans were dishonest with their ally. They told Mussolini that no European war would take place for over three years, which would give him time to strengthen his armed forces and to hold his big exhibition, the EUR in Rome. They also pretended they had no intention of attacking Poland, although Hitler had already selected September 1939 as the month for his invasion and on the day after the pact’s signature he informed his generals of his plans. When Mussolini finally learned that the Germans were about to strike, he panicked and sent Ciano, his foreign minister, to entreat them to desist. Although keen to fight and make territorial gains – what he called ‘our share of the plunder’ – he was beginning to have doubts about Italy’s armed forces and how they might perform in battle.
Among his other posts, the Duce was minister for the army, the navy and the air force, and he talked so much about the invincibility of each service that Italians were led to believe they were as good as any in Europe. He boasted that he could raise an army of 8 million men – a figure he later raised to 12 million – yet he was unable to produce rifles for more than a sixth of that number; he vaunted Italy’s technological skills, though some of his best artillery had been captured from the Austrians in the Great War; and he claimed to possess enormous tanks, though the Italian model was little more than an armoured car, and its vision was so limited that it had to be guided by infantry walking ahead, often with fatal results for the guides. No wonder Farinacci told Mussolini he was the commander of ‘a toy army’ or that, after inspecting it, the German war minister in 1937 had concluded that his country would stand a better chance in the coming war if Italy was on the other side.
A great deal of money was spent on speedy new battleships, but these were ineffective in action, and their guns apparently failed to hit a single enemy ship at any time during the war; far more dangerous were the courageous Italian frogmen and the manned ‘slow speed torpedoes’ (known as maiali – pigs) entering the harbours of Gibraltar and Alexandria and inflicting considerable damage on British ships. More sensible than building battleships would have been the construction of aircraft carriers, which would have been useful for attacking Malta, a strategic goal that Mussolini ignored until it was too late; they might also have protected the rest of the fleet from devastating raids by the RAF. The greatest deficiencies, however, were in the air force, which the Duce had taken charge of in 1933, when he sensed that Balbo was doing too well in the job – a replacement that proved disastrous for Italy. Mussolini claimed to have over 8,500 aeroplanes, so many that they could ‘blot out the sun’ and so effective they could reach London or destroy Britain’s Mediterranean fleet in a single day. Yet in fact he had fewer than a tenth of that number, and he failed during the war to build a great many more. At the height of the conflict Italy was manufacturing as many aeroplanes a year as the United States was producing in a week. One of the most revealing statistics about the inefficiency of fascism is that Italy managed to produce more aeroplanes in the First World War than it did in the Second.
While Mussolini vacillated during the August of 1939, news of the Ribbentrop–Molotov pact made some fascist leaders question the wisdom of an alliance with Germany; communism was after all meant to be their chief enemy. At a meeting of the Grand Council earlier in the year, Balbo had criticized the policy of ‘licking Hitler’s boots’ and later he suggested that Italy should fight on the side of Britain and France. This suggestion had no appeal to Mussolini. Although in September he declared Italy’s neutrality or ‘non-belligerence’, his sympathies had been long with the Nazis, and he wanted to fight with them when he was ready. Meanwhile he played for time by demanding from the Germans more millions of tons of oil, steel and coal than they could possibly supply and transport. All the same, he knew that a position of neutrality was rather ridiculous for a man who had been threatening wars for seventeen years and who was still telling Italians that warfare was ‘the normal condition of peoples and the logical aim of any dictatorship’. At the beginning of 1940 he warned his government that Italy could not remain permanently neutral and ordered the armed forces to be prepared for war against anyone, even Germany. Soon afterwards he issued bizarre instructions to the navy, which in the coming war was to go on the offensive everywhere, to the air force, which was to remain passive, and to the army, which was to stay on the defensive in all places except east Africa, where it would attack the British colonies. Even more bizarrely, he continued to erect costly fortifications along the Alpine frontier with Austria, a policy he did not abandon during the war and which understandably annoyed the Germans, who had already demonstrated in the case of the Maginot Line that such defensive schemes were outmoded and useless.
The Nazis’ rapid conquests of Denmark and Norway in April 1940 convinced some waverers that Germany would win the war. Yet Mussolini continued to hesitate until France was close to collapse in June. Believing that Italy would somehow gain prestige as well as territory by defeating an already defeated enemy, he then announced a ‘lightning war’ against France and Britain to a crowd in Rome which, as leading fascists admitted, showed little enthusiasm for the enterprise. Many Italians were undoubtedly embarrassed about joining a war after Paris had fallen and the British army had scuttled back across the Channel. Yet a large majority did not want to fight anyway: even Victor Emanuel later claimed he was against the war although, as in May 1915 and October 1922, he did not try very hard to make the right decision.
On 17 June the French asked Germany for an armistice, and three days later Mussolini ordered an attack on them. An Italian army was dispatched to the Alps, where it suffered many casualties and failed to defeat a far smaller French force that suffered hardly any. Once France was out of the war, the Duce made territorial demands in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, but the Germans told him to curb his appetite until Britain had also been defeated. In the meantime they suggested he used his huge army in Libya to attack the British in Egypt and capture the Suez Canal. Yet Mussolini was now more interested in conquest close to home and, instead of attacking an enemy power in Africa, he wanted to invade a neutral country in Europe, Greece. In October 1940 a large Italian army duly assembled in Albania and invaded Greece, where it was stopped by numerically inferior opponents and forced to retreat. By then the Duce had at last ordered an attack on Egypt, but the results were even more disastrous. Graziani’s army of over 250,000 men was defeated in a series of engagements by 36,000 British troops, and 135,000 prisoners were taken. The Italians fared no better at sea: after defeats by the British at Taranto in November 1940 and at Cape Matapan the following spring, the navy remained in harbour and played little further part in the war.
Hitler had made an offer of German tanks for Italy’s Egyptian campaign, which Mussolini had rejected because he wanted his troops to win glory on their own. As a result, the Führer had to send an army under Field Marshal Rommel to defeat the British in north Africa and regain the initiative. The Italians also had to be rescued in Greece, which the Germans quickly overran in an operation that delayed their invasion of Russia and thus contributed to their later defeats on the Eastern Front. This series of military failures reduced Italy to a very subordinate role in the Axis. It had already lost Addis Ababa and Italian Somaliland, and the main task of its armies was now to garrison the Balkans while the Germans and later the Japanese did most of the fighting. The behaviour of their forces in south-eastern Europe rivalled the savagery of their allies and buried the myth of ‘the good soldier Gino’. After provoking guerrilla warfare from partisan groups in Yugoslavia, Italian troops carried out extensive reprisals against civilians. In the province of Ljubljana alone, a thousand hostages were shot, 8,000 other Slovenes were killed, and 35,000 people were deported to concentration camps.
In July 1943 Anglo-American forces invaded Sicily, landed a few weeks later on the Italian mainland and spent the next twenty months slogging their way north through the Apennines against a German defence brilliantly conducted without air support. Soon after the landings in Sicily, the Grand Council in the presence of Mussolini approved a motion to return military command to Victor Emanuel, a move that led to the dismissal of the Duce and his eventual imprisonment at a skiing resort in the Apennines. He was replaced as prime minister by the vain and elderly Marshal Badoglio, a disastrous choice. Together with the king, this former chief of staff dithered for six weeks, remaining in the Axis, until the imminence of the Allied landings at Salerno forced them to accept Anglo-American terms for an armistice. They continued to dither even after that, failing to do anything to prevent German reinforcements from rushing south to occupy the peninsula as far down as Naples. Although they had promised to help the Anglo-American forces, the two changed their minds and even cancelled an Allied attack on Rome, which Badoglio himself had requested, on the very day it was planned to take place. Fearful for their personal safety, premier and sovereign fled across the peninsula to Pescara and, accompanied by hundreds of courtiers and generals, took ship to Brindisi, far from the threat of the Germans. It was a very thorough abdication of responsibility. Badoglio did not even inform his fellow ministers he was leaving and gave no orders to his troops except to tell them not to attack the Germans. Left on their own in increasingly chaotic circumstances, Italian forces offered little resistance to the Germans in Italy or the Balkans, and nearly a million of them were quickly captured; on the island of Cephalonia, where Italians did resist, 6,000 soldiers and prisoners of war were murdered by the Nazis. In mid-October, from the safety of Apulia, Victor Emanuel declared war on Germany, a move that gained Italy the status of ‘co-belligerent’, eased the country’s post-war relations with the victors and enabled hundreds of men to avoid trials for war crimes.
The collapse of the state made it easier for the Germans to rescue Mussolini from his mountain prison and install him as their puppet ruler of the Republic of Salò, a new fascist state based on Lake Garda in the Nazi-held north. Many young men volunteered to fight for this new entity, which intellectuals such as Gentile, Papini and Marinetti were also prepared to support. Mussolini himself returned to the beliefs of his youth, insisting once more that fascism was a revolutionary ideology and that industry should be nationalized. Yet he was too demoralized and too powerless to do much except whine about the defects of his countrymen. The chief significance of Salò was that it encouraged the growth of the Resistance, the Italian partisans, and within a short time led to a civil war in the north marked by terrible atrocities, most of them committed by the republic’s ‘black brigades’.
Even in his impotence Mussolini deluded himself with the thought that he was a great man, comparable to Napoleon, and that he had been brought down by the character of the Italians. Even Michelangelo, he had earlier pointed out, had ‘needed marble to make his statues. If he had had nothing else except clay, he would simply have been a potter.’ At Salò Mussolini grumbled that he had tried to turn a sheep into a lion and had failed; the beast was still ‘a bleating sheep’. Yet he himself did not die like the lion he had pretended to be: in April 1945 he ran away to the north, disguised as a German, with wads of cash in his pockets. Captured by communist partisans on the western shore of Lake Como, his final moment may have been slightly more impressive. According to one report, he opened the collar of his coat and told his executioner to aim for the heart.
The flight of Badoglio and Victor Emanuel marks one of the lowest points in the history of united Italy. The nation dissolved: all real power was now in the hands of the Germans, the British and the Americans. Italy might be built anew, but it could never be the same Italy.
Both Italians and foreigners have liked to think of fascism as an aberration, as an unlucky and almost accidental episode in the history of a constitutional country. Sforza regarded ‘the vain show of the fascist years’ as ‘only a brief interlude of unreality’, while Croce described the dictatorship as a ‘parenthesis’ in his nation’s story, implying that it was not closely connected with what happened before or after. The genuine connection, so it was claimed, was between the regimes that preceded and succeeded Mussolini. The young liberal Piero Gobetti may have got closer to the truth when he observed in the 1920s that fascism was part of Italy’s ‘autobiography’, a logical consequence of unification’s failure to be a moral revolution supported by the mass of the people. That fascism was ‘the child of the Risorgimento’ was also Gentile’s verdict, a view much derided in the years to come but supported intrinsically at the time by the fact that so many liberal fathers had fascist sons without having family ruptures.
Fascists liked to present themselves as a continuation of the Risorgimento but at the same time as a breach with its liberal heirs. The exercise was never very convincing because, apart from the abolition of parliamentary elections, the fascist ‘revolution’ changed little of substance, certainly in comparison with the French Revolution of 1789 or the Spanish Revolution of 1931. It retained the monarchy, protected private property, exalted the family and established good relations with the Church. Abroad its policies were aggressive and avaricious but not so very different retained the monarchy, protected private property, exalted the family and established good relations with the Church. Abroad its policies were aggressive and avaricious but not so very different from those of some preceding governments. Both Crispi and the earlier Victor Emanuel had wanted war in Europe and colonies outside, and they and many others had spoken in tones almost as bellicose as those of Mussolini.
The real break in Italy’s twentieth-century history came not in 1922 but at the end of the Second World War. The essence of Risorgimento thinking, which had been liberal, nationalist and anti-clerical, evaporated after 1945 and was replaced by the anti-nationalist ideologies of communism and Christian democracy. At the same time Italy abandoned its pretensions to become a Great Power and concentrated, with far more success, on achieving prosperity for its citizens.