Death of Il Duce by Eric Lipps
says: what if Il Duce was assassinated much earlier?, muses Eric Lipps.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily
reflect the views of the author(s).
in Rome, the Englishwoman Violet Gibson, daughter of
Edward Gibson, first Earl Ashbourne, fired three shots at Italian dictator
Benito Mussolini while he sat in a car after leaving an assembly of the
International Congress of Surgeons, to whom he had delivered a speech on the
wonders of modern medicine.
Two of the shots struck Mussolini in the face, inflicting what would have
been comparatively minor injuries had the third not struck him in the eye,
penetrating the ocular cavity to reach his brain.
Mussolini was rushed to the hospital, but doctors were unable to save him.
At 3:15 A.M., Rome time, on the morning of April 8, he was pronounced dead.
His assassin, who had been arrested by Rome police at the scene, did not
give her reason for attacking the self-styled modern Caesar. She was
sentenced to death, but after a diplomatic outcry she was deported to
Britain on the condition that she be confined to a mental institution. She
died at St. Andrews Hospital in Northampton, England, on May 2, 1956.
Mussolini's assassination destabilized Italian politics. After a round of
what contemporary humorists dubbed "musical prime ministers", during which
tensions between radicals of the right and left escalated into street
warfare, a Communist uprising installed a government of the far left, which
swiftly established an authoritarian regime at least as repressive as
Mussolini's, justifying its actions by pointing to the real and alleged
actions of its rightist opponents as threatening "the integrity of the
Italian state". In 1929, the new regime signed a treaty of "socialist
fraternity" with the Soviet Union.
Communist order in Italy, however, would not survive for long. In March
1939, with the tacit approval of the West, Hitler's Wehrmacht invaded the
country, swiftly overrunning it and instituting its own reign of terror,
which would last until the Allied liberation in 1943. The Western
acquiescence in Hitler's occupation of Italy would later be described by
journalist and author William Shirer as the "last surrender" to the Nazis;
in September 1939, following the invasion of Poland by Germany and the USSR,
the West would finally move against Hitler, months too late to save Italians
from being ground under the Reich's jackboots.
After World War II, U.S. General Mark Clark would prove instrumental in
establishing a new government, as his colleague Douglas MacArthur would do
in Japan. Italy's postwar government would be dominated by center-right
parties, many with ties to the Catholic Church. Socialists would be
relegated to the fringes, and Communists, while not formally banned, would
be kept from regaining any political power via a variety of political
maneuvers in the name of preserving Italy from absorption into the Soviet
bloc. By 1955, the U.S.-supported Center Party had emerged as the leading
political faction; it would dominate Italian politics until the mid-1980s,
when a series of scandals would finally break its hold on power.
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