Giacomo Matteotti

Giacomo Matteotti
Member of the Chamber of Deputies
In office
1 December 1919 – 10 June 1924
ConstituencyFerrara (1919–1921)
Padua (1921–1924)
Rovigo (1924)
Personal details
Born(1885-05-22)22 May 1885
Fratta Polesine, near Rovigo, Italy
Died10 June 1924(1924-06-10) (aged 39)
Rome, Italy
Manner of deathAssassination
Political partyPSI (1907–1922)
PSU (1922–1924)
Spouse Velia Titta ​(m. 1916)​
ChildrenGiancarlo (1918–2006)
Matteo (1921–2000)
Isabella (1922–1994)
Alma materUniversity of Bologna
ProfessionLawyer, journalist

Giacomo Matteotti (Italian pronunciation: ; 22 May 1885 – 10 June 1924) was an Italian socialist politician. On 30 May 1924, he openly spoke in the Italian Parliament alleging the Italian fascists committed fraud in the 1924 Italian general election, and denounced the violence they used to gain votes. Eleven days later, he was kidnapped and killed by Fascists.

Political career

Matteotti was born into a wealthy family, in Fratta Polesine, Province of Rovigo in Veneto. He graduated in law at the University of Bologna.

An atheist and from early on an activist in the socialist movement and the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), he opposed Italy's entry into World War I (and was interned in Sicily during the conflict for this reason).

He was elected deputy three times: in 1919, 1921 and 1924.

As a follower of Filippo Turati, Matteotti became the leader of the reformist Unitary Socialist Party (PSU) in the Italian Chamber of Deputies after a split from the more radical Italian Socialist Party.

Opposition to Fascism

Matteotti openly spoke out against Fascism and Benito Mussolini, and for a time was the leader of the opposition to the National Fascist Party (NFP). In 1921 he denounced fascist violence in a pamphlet titled Inchiesta socialista sulle gesta dei fascisti in Italia (Socialist enquiry on the deeds of the fascists in Italy).

A year before being killed, "a clear warning against him had appeared in the pages of the newspaper founded by Mussolini himself, Il popolo d’Italia".

In 1924 his book The Fascisti Exposed: A Year of Fascist Domination was published and he made two impassioned and lengthy speeches in the Chamber of Deputies denouncing Fascism and declaring that the last election, marked by intimidation and militia violence, was "invalid".

In the speech Matteotti gave on 30 May 1924 in Parliament, he strongly contested the violence, saying "In Naples in one conference that the head of the constitutional opposition was to hold, he was prevented due to the mobilization of the armed corps, which intervened in the city", as a fraud in the 1924 elections (however won by PNF thanks to the Acerbo Law, which put in place an electoral system that guaranteed a majority to the Fascists). According to some theories, this speech was not the only cause of his murder. In fact, according to Renzo De Felice's essay Breve Storia del Fascismo, Matteotti publicly condemned the alliance of the socialist trade unions and the fascist counterpart. Moreover, he found evidence of bribes from Sinclair Oil in favour of Mussolini, in order to get permission for Sinclair's exploitation of petroleum reservoirs under Italian control.

Assassination

On June 1, 1924, the police chief Emilio De Bono ordered Otto Thierschädl, the spotter of the assassination squad, to be released from prison with a telegram signed "for the minister" of the interior: actually, the Minister of the interior, ad interim, was Prime Minister Benito Mussolini.

On 10 June 1924, Matteotti was bundled into a Lancia Kappa and stabbed several times with a carpenter's file as he was struggling to escape. His corpse was found after an extensive search near Riano, 23 kilometres north of Rome, on 16 August 1924.

Five men (Amerigo Dumini, a prominent member of the Ceka, the Fascist secret police; Giuseppe Viola, Albino Volpi, Augusto Malacria, and Amleto Poveromo) were arrested a few days after the kidnapping. Another suspect, Filippo Panzeri, fled from arrest.

Consequences of the murder

The death of Matteotti sparked widespread criticism of Fascism. A general strike was threatened in retaliation, but the opposition preferred to raise a "moral question" that would point to public disapproval of fascism, to bring about its downfall. Then "Fascism fielded an articulated series of misdirections, obstructions of justice and red herrings, to declare the moral question closed".

Since Mussolini's government did not collapse and the King refused to dismiss him, all the anti-fascists (except for the Communist Party of Italy) started to abandon the Chamber of Deputies. They retired on the "Aventine Mount", like ancient Roman plebeians. They thought to force the Crown to act against Mussolini, but on the contrary, this strengthened Mussolini, who tried to defuse the tension with a speech in Montecitorio on 13 June 1924. After a few weeks of confusion, Mussolini gained a favourable vote from the Senate of the Kingdom.

Despite pressure from the opposition, Victor Emmanuel III refused to dismiss Mussolini, since the Government was supported by a large majority of the Chamber of Deputies and almost all the Senate of the Kingdom. Moreover, he feared that compelling Mussolini to resign could be considered a coup d'état, that eventually could lead to a civil war between the Army and the Blackshirts.

But during the summer, the trial against Matteotti's alleged murderers and the discovery of the corpse of Matteotti once again spread rage against Mussolini – newspapers launched fierce attacks against him and the fascist movement.

On 13 September, a right-wing fascist deputy, Armando Casalini, was killed on a tramway in retaliation for Matteotti's murder by the anti-fascist Giovanni Corvi.

During the autumn of 1924, the extremist wing of the Fascist Party threatened Mussolini with a coup and dealt with him on the night of San Silvestro in 1924. Mussolini devised a counter-manoeuvre, and on 3 January 1925, he gave a famous speech both attacking anti-fascists and confirming that he, and only he, was the leader of Fascism. He challenged the anti-fascists to prosecute him, and claimed proudly that Fascism was the "superb passion of the best youth of Italy" and grimly that "all the violence" was his responsibility because he had created the climate of violence. Admitting that the murderers were Fascists of "high station", as Hitler later did after the Night of the Long Knives, Mussolini rhetorically claimed fault, stating "I assume, I alone, the political, moral, historical responsibility for everything that has happened. If sentences, more or less maimed, are enough to hang a man, out with the noose!" Mussolini concluded with a warning: Italy needs stability and Fascism would assure stability to Italy in any manner necessary.

This speech is considered the very beginning of the dictatorship in Italy.

Trials against his murderers

Only three men (Dumini, Volpi and Poveromo) were convicted and shortly after released under amnesty by King Victor Emmanuel III.

Before the trial against the murderers, the High Court of the Senate started a trial against general Emilio De Bono, commander of the Fascist paramilitary Blackshirts (MVSN), but he was discharged.

After the Second World War, in 1947, the trial against Francesco Giunta, Cesare Rossi, Dumini, Viola, Poveromo, Malacria, Filippelli and Panzeri was re-opened. Dumini, Viola and Poveromo were sentenced to life imprisonment.

In none of these three trials was evidence declared of Mussolini's involvement, due to trial extinction for the death of the defendant.

Mussolini's alleged involvement

Matteotti with fellow supporters during 1920s.

The involvement of Mussolini in the assassination is much debated.

Historians suggest some different theories. The main biographer of Mussolini, Renzo De Felice, was convinced that the Duce was innocent. Aiding him were Aurelio Lepre and Emilio Gentile, who also believed in the Duce's innocence.

The former socialist and anti-fascist journalist Carlo Silvestri in 1924 was a harsh accuser of Mussolini; later, when he joined the Italian Social Republic, he affirmed that Mussolini had shown him the papers for the Matteotti case, and eventually he changed his mind. Silvestri became a strong defender of Mussolini's innocence in Matteotti's murder, and suggested that the socialist was killed by a plot, in order both to damage Mussolini's attempt to raise a leftist government (with the participation of Socialists and Popolari) and to cover some scandals in which the Crown (with the American oil company Sinclair Oil) was involved.

De Felice argued that maybe Mussolini himself was a political victim of a plot, and almost surely he was damaged by the crisis that followed the murder. Many fascists left the Party, and his government was about to collapse. Moreover, his secret attempt to bring Socialists and Popolari into a new reformist government was ruined.

John Gunther wrote in 1940 that "Most critics nowadays do not think that the Duce directly ordered the assassination ... but his moral responsibility is indisputable", perhaps with underlings believing they were carrying out Mussolini's desire by performing the kidnapping and murder on their own. Other historians, including Justin Pollard and Denis Mack Smith, thought Mussolini was probably aware of the assassination plot but that it was ordered and organized by someone else.

Mauro Canali suggests that Mussolini probably did order the murder, as Matteotti uncovered and wanted to make public incriminating documents proving that Mussolini and his associates sold Sinclair Oil exclusive rights to all Italian oil reserves. By the way, it is worth noting the fact that judge Giovanni Spagnuolo, in relation to the business clue linked to the Sinclair Oil agreement, added in his 1946 indictment - refuting it in detail - that this "hypothesis clashes with the most elementary logic".

Family

In 1912 he met Velia Titta, younger sister of the famous baritone Ruffo Titta, and they married in a civil ceremony in 1916. They had three children: Giancarlo (1918–2006), Matteo (1921–2000) and Isabella (1922–1994). After her husband's death, Velia was under house arrest until September 1933 but her heart and her health was broken and she died the following year. Several people who helped her were also imprisoned such as Carlo Rosselli.

Matteotti's son Gianmatteo (also known as Matteo), became a Social Democratic parliamentary deputy after World War II, serving as Italy's Minister of Tourism in 1970–72 and Minister of Foreign Trade from 1972–1974.

Works

Legacy

Numerous monuments to Matteotti have been established, including a Monument in Rome along Lungotevere Arnaldo da Brescia, where the kidnap-murder took place.

In Florestano Vancini's film The Assassination of Matteotti (1973), Matteotti is played by Franco Nero.

Footnotes

  1. ^ Antonio G. Casanova, Matteotti. Una vita per il socialismo, Bompiani, Milan, 1974, p. 90.
  2. ^ Riccardo Michelucci, GIACOMO MATTEOTTI (FRATTA POLESINE, 1885 - ROMA, 1924) the anti-fascist politician who denounced Mussolini’s crimes, Gardens of the Righteous Worldwide, 2024.
  3. ^ Speech of 30 May 1924 the last speech of Matteotti, from it.wikisource
  4. ^ "The Murder and Trials".
  5. ^ Fabio Florindi, Cento anni dal delitto Matteotti, tra verità e fake news, Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, 25 aprile 2024.
  6. ^ Marilotti: “Arrivare a verità è debito con Storia”, senatoripd, 10 May 2022.
  7. ^ Renzo De Felice, Mussolini il fascista vol. I pp. 636 and foll.
  8. ^ a b Gunther, John (1940). Inside Europe. Harper & Brothers. pp. 239–240.
  9. ^ The speech of 3 January 1925 from it.wikisource
  10. ^ See F. Andriola, Mussolini, prassi politica e rivoluzione sociale, Rome, 1981.
  11. ^ These papers were captured by partisans with the other documents of Mussolini. The folders with Matteotti's files were sent from Milan to Rome, but they never arrived. R. De Felice, Mussolini il Fascista, Einaudi, p. 601 footnote
  12. ^ Carlo Silvestri, Matteotti, Mussolini e il dramma italiano, Cavallotti editore 1981, p. XXIII
  13. ^ Mauro Canali, "Il delitto Matteotti. Affarismo e politica nel primo governo Mussolini", (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1997) (new edition 2004)
  14. ^ Marzio Breda e Stefano Caretti, Il nemico di Mussolini: Giacomo Matteotti, storia di un eroe dimenticato, Solferino, 2024, p. 197.
  15. ^ "Biography".
  16. ^ Rachel Holmes (2020). Sylvia Pankhurst: Natural Born Rebel. London: Francis Boutle Publishers. pp. 661–664.

Bibliography

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Giacomo Matteotti.

See also

External links