The rapid ascent of Fascism in Tuscany
Brutal squads cropped up in the area surrounding Florence
In March 1921, only 2,600 fascists lived in Tuscany—3% of the nation’s total. Just fifteen months later, in May 1922, the number had grown to more than 50,000 (16% of national total). Nearly half of these lived in the Province of Florence. There are many reasons behind this sudden boom and its concentration around the capital. This situation’s complexity should be analyzed within the context of the social struggle that developed immediately after World War I.
The outbreak of Fascism in Tuscany was delayed compared to other places such as Milan and Trieste. Nonetheless, Tuscany’s turning point came in the autumn of 1920, with the end of the factory strikes and conflicts among the peasant class. During this unique historical moment, Florence saw a real escalation of agricultural fascism that lacked the level of political confrontation that had occurred in other parts of Italy. Florentine fascism was very pragmatic and violent, yet it showcased great organizational and military capabilities that allowed squads to successfully dominate the Communist associations that had cropped up in Sesto Fiorentino and Empoli and the Mugello. Florentine and Tuscan fascism was initially characterized by abrupt violence and myriad squads were recruited in local slums.
Spinelli and Lensi – Fascist protagonists of Pistoia
Two emblematic stories of those who did not completely integrate into the regime
Early Fascism in Pistoia found its role model in Enrico Spinelli, a die-hard Fascist who was intolerant of fascists who were eager to climb onto the bandwagon of success during the party’s ascent to power. Spinelli was elected in 1924, beating a wealthy nationalist, who had been considered the protagonist of Fascism in Pistoia. Spinelli, who is sometimes compared to Farinacci, suffered the consequences Mussolini’s standardization policies and the Duce’s efforts to weed out moralists and intransigents during the regime’s rise to power. Spinelli was expelled from the party by the Turati Party secretary in 1926. Spinellism, however, remained an important Fascist movement in Pistoia throughout subsequent years. After his death in 1936, city authorities chose to remember Spinelli as a ‘leader of young along the road to Rome’ and as an agent of ‘calm in the storms of life’.
The first Pistoiese fascist, Ilio Lensi, had a much more linear political career. He held several honorary positions during the standardization period, becoming of leader of Sambuca and Montale. A rough troublemaker, Lensi finished his political career within the ranks of Republicanism. He and his family paid dearly for his ties to Fascism.
Mario Monicelli and the Great War
Director from Viareggio creates Italian cinematographic masterpiece
‘La Grande Guerra’ (1959) is possibly one of the most well-known Italian films on an international level. It features two of Italy’s all time favourite actors Alberto Sordi and Vittorio Gassman. Directed by Viareggio’s Mario Monicelli, it tells the story of two soldiers from Milan and Rome who are sent to fight in World War I. The story is told in Monicelli’s ultra-Tuscan style. It is characterized by a tough irony that has also shone forth in other films by this renowned director, such as ‘Amici Miei’. This style allows Monicelli to avoid getting trapped in the rhetoric that has often characterized renditions of life in the trenches and effectively showcase the events that his characters had to face throughout the story.
In addition to offering a panoramic view of World War I, this film follows the great tradition of the Italian comedy, spotlighting the adaptability of the working class in juxtaposition with the incompetence of those in command. The war’s moral despair is placed in opposition with the pride of each individual. The film’s main protagonists, Oreste and Giovanni, show themselves to be the story’s authentic heroes. Several actors within the film represent the true Tuscan character like Folco Lulli, who plays the role of Bordin, in addition to the soldier who we see at the beginning of the film; he protests against enrolment by saying ‘Oh, io per me non ci vengo, sai, torno a casa dalla mi’ mamma!’ (If it were up to me, I wouldn’t come, you know, I’m going back home to my mother).