Giacomo Matteotti
Giacomo Matteotti (22 May 1885 – 10 June 1924) was an Italian
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 politician. On 30 May 1924, he openly spoke in the Italian Parliament
Parliament of Italy
The Parliament of Italy is the national parliament of Italy. It is a bicameral legislature with 945 elected members . The Chamber of Deputies, with 630 members is the lower house. The Senate of the Republic is the upper house and has 315 members .Since 2005, a party list electoral law is being...

 alleging the Fascists committed fraud in the recently held elections, and denounced the violence they used to gain votes. Eleven days later he was kidnapped and killed by Fascists.

Political career

Matteotti was born a son of a wealthy family, in Fratta Polesine
Fratta Polesine
Fratta Polesine is a comune in the Province of Rovigo in the Italian region Veneto, located about 70 km southwest of Venice and about 11 km southwest of Rovigo...

, Province of Rovigo
Province of Rovigo
The Province of Rovigo is a province in the Veneto region of Italy. Its capital is the city of Rovigo.It borders on the north with the provinces of Verona, Padua and Venice, on the south with the province of Ferrara, on the west with the province of Mantua, and on the eastwith the Adriatic Sea.-...

Veneto is one of the 20 regions of Italy. Its population is about 5 million, ranking 5th in Italy.Veneto had been for more than a millennium an independent state, the Republic of Venice, until it was eventually annexed by Italy in 1866 after brief Austrian and French rule...


A graduate in law from the University of Bologna
University of Bologna
The Alma Mater Studiorum - University of Bologna is the oldest continually operating university in the world, the word 'universitas' being first used by this institution at its foundation. The true date of its founding is uncertain, but believed by most accounts to have been 1088...

 and from early on an activist in the socialist movement and the Italian Socialist Party
Italian Socialist Party
The Italian Socialist Party was a socialist and later social-democratic political party in Italy founded in Genoa in 1892.Once the dominant leftist party in Italy, it was eclipsed in status by the Italian Communist Party following World War II...

, he opposed Italy's entry into World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 (and was interned
Internment is the imprisonment or confinement of people, commonly in large groups, without trial. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the meaning as: "The action of 'interning'; confinement within the limits of a country or place." Most modern usage is about individuals, and there is a distinction...

 in Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 during the conflict for this reason).

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

As a follower of Filippo Turati
Filippo Turati
Filippo Turati was an Italian sociologist, poet and Socialist politician.-Early life:Born in Canzo, province of Como, he graduated in law at the University of Bologna in 1877, and participated in the Scapigliatura movement with the most important artists of the period in Milan, publishing poetry...

, Matteotti became the leader of the United Socialist Party
United Socialist Party (Italy, 1922–1930)
The United Socialist Party was a social-democratic political party in Italy, active from 1922 to 1930....

 in the Italian Chamber of Deputies
Italian Chamber of Deputies
The Italian Chamber of Deputies is the lower house of the Parliament of Italy. It has 630 seats, a plurality of which is controlled presently by liberal-conservative party People of Freedom. Twelve deputies represent Italian citizens outside of Italy. Deputies meet in the Palazzo Montecitorio. A...

 after the scission of the Socialist Party. He openly spoke out against Fascism
Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood...

 and Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

, and for a time was leader of the opposition to the National Fascist Party
National Fascist Party
The National Fascist Party was an Italian political party, created by Benito Mussolini as the political expression of fascism...

 (PNF). Since 1921 he denounced fascist violences in a pamphlet titled Inchiesta socialista sulle gesta dei fascisti in Italia (Socialist enquiry on the deeds of the fascists in Italy).


He was murdered on 10 June 1924, after the publication of his book The Fascisti Exposed: A Year of Fascist Domination and two fierce and lengthy speeches in the Chamber of Deputies denouncing Fascism.

During a kidnap attempt, he was bundled into a car and stabbed several times with a carpenter's file as he was struggling to escape. His corpse was found near Riano 20 miles from Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, on 16 August 1924, after an extensive search.

Five men (Amerigo Dumini
Amerigo Dumini
Amerigo Dumini was an American-born Italian fascist activist who led the group responsible for the 1924 assassination of United Socialist Party leader Giacomo Matteotti.-Biography:Born in St...

 - a prominent member of the Fascist secret police, the Ceka, Giuseppe Viola, Albino Volpi, Augusto Malacria and Amleto Poveromo) were arrested few days after the kidnapping. Only three (Dumini, Volpi and Poveromo) were convicted and shortly after released under amnesty by King
House of Savoy
The House of Savoy was formed in the early 11th century in the historical Savoy region. Through gradual expansion, it grew from ruling a small county in that region to eventually rule the Kingdom of Italy from 1861 until the end of World War II, king of Croatia and King of Armenia...

 Victor Emmanuel III
Victor Emmanuel III of Italy
Victor Emmanuel III was a member of the House of Savoy and King of Italy . In addition, he claimed the crowns of Ethiopia and Albania and claimed the titles Emperor of Ethiopia and King of Albania , which were unrecognised by the Great Powers...

; one, Filippo Panzeri, escaped before the arrests of his accomplices.

Before the trial against the murderers, the High Court of the Senate started a trial against general Emilio De Bono
Emilio De Bono
Emilio De Bono was an Italian General, fascist activist, Marshal, and member of the Fascist Grand Council . De Bono fought in the Italo-Turkish War, World War I, and the Second Italo-Abyssinian War.-Early life:De Bono was born in Cassano d'Adda...

, commander of the MVSN
MVSN can refer to:* The Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale of the Italian Fascist movement.* The Milice de Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale better known as the Tonton Macoutes....

, but he was discharged.

After the Second World War, in 1947, the trial against Francesco Giunta
Francesco Giunta
Francesco Giunta was an Italian Fascist politician.-Early fascist career:Born in the Tuscan town of San Piero a Sieve, he started his career as a lawyer. He served as a machine gun captain in the World War I...

, Cesare Rossi
Cesare Rossi (politician)
Cesare Rossi was an Italian fascist leader who later became estranged from the regime.-Syndicalism:...

, 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 found of Mussolini's involvement.

Mussolini's alleged involvement

The involvement of Mussolini in the assassination is much debated.

Historians suggest some different theories. The main biographer of Mussolini, Renzo De Felice
Renzo De Felice
Renzo De Felice was an Italian historian, who specialized in the Fascist era.-Biography:He was born in Rieti and studied under Federico Chabod and Delio Cantimori at the University of Naples. During his time as student, De Felice was a member of the Italian Communist Party...

, was convinced that the Duce was innocent. Even Aurelio Lepre and Emilio Gentile
Emilio Gentile
Emilio Gentile is an Italian historian specializing in the ideology and culture of fascism. Gentile is considered one of Italy's foremost cultural historians of fascist ideology. He is a student of Renzo De Felice....

 thought that Mussolini didn't want the death of Matteotti.

The former socialist and anti-fascist journalist Carlo Silvestri in 1924 was a harsh accuser of Mussolini; later, when he joined Italian Social Republic
Italian Social Republic
The Italian Social Republic was a puppet state of Nazi Germany led by the "Duce of the Nation" and "Minister of Foreign Affairs" Benito Mussolini and his Republican Fascist Party. The RSI exercised nominal sovereignty in northern Italy but was largely dependent on the Wehrmacht to maintain control...

, he affirmed that Mussolini showed him Matteotti Case's papers, 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
Sinclair Oil
Sinclair Oil Corporation is an American petroleum corporation, founded by Harry F. Sinclair on May 1, 1916 as the Sinclair Oil & Refining Corporation by combining the assets of 11 small petroleum companies. Originally a New York corporation, Sinclair Oil reincorporated in Wyoming in 1976...

) 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 Populars into a new reformist government was ruined.

On the other hand, other historians of the time, including Justin Pollard
Justin Pollard
Justin David Pollard is a British historian, television producer and writer.-Biography:Pollard is a popular historian and screenwriter working in the field of feature films, television and print...

 and Denis Mack Smith
Denis Mack Smith
Denis Mack Smith CBE is an English historian, specialising in the history of Italy from the Risorgimento onwards. He is best known for studies of Garibaldi and Cavour and of Mussolini, and for his single-volume Modern Italy: A Political History...

, 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 to an American oil company (Sinclair Oil
Sinclair Oil
Sinclair Oil Corporation is an American petroleum corporation, founded by Harry F. Sinclair on May 1, 1916 as the Sinclair Oil & Refining Corporation by combining the assets of 11 small petroleum companies. Originally a New York corporation, Sinclair Oil reincorporated in Wyoming in 1976...

) exclusive rights to all Italian oil reserves
Oil reserves
The total estimated amount of oil in an oil reservoir, including both producible and non-producible oil, is called oil in place. However, because of reservoir characteristics and limitations in petroleum extraction technologies, only a fraction of this oil can be brought to the surface, and it is...


However, the most recent studies confirm De Felice's theories.

Consequences of the murder

The death of Matteotti sparked widespread criticism of Fascism. A general strike
General strike
A general strike is a strike action by a critical mass of the labour force in a city, region, or country. While a general strike can be for political goals, economic goals, or both, it tends to gain its momentum from the ideological or class sympathies of the participants...

 was threatened in retaliation.

Since Mussolini's government didn't collapse and the King refused to dismiss him, all the anti-fascists (except for the Communist Party of Italy
Communist Party of Italy
The Communist Party of Italy was a communist political party in Italy which existed from 1921 to 1926. That year it was outlawed by Benito Mussolini's fascist regime. In 1943, the name was changed to the Italian Communist Party.-Foundation:The forerunner of the party was the Communist Faction...

) 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. He, after a few weeks of confusion, gained a favourable vote by the Senate of the Kingdom, and with a speech tried to calm the climate.

Despite the pressures from 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
The Blackshirts were Fascist paramilitary groups in Italy during the period immediately following World War I and until the end of World War II...


But during the Summer, the trial against Matteotti's alleged murders and the discovery of the corpse of Matteotti once again spread rage against Mussolini: newspapers attacked him and the fascists very fiercely.

On September the 13th, a left-wing fascist deputy, Armando Casalini, was killed on a tramway as retaliation to Matteotti's murder by the anti-fascist Giovanni Corvi.

During the Autumn of 1924, the extremist-wing of the Fascist Party menaced Mussolini by a coup, and dealt with him on the night of San Silvestro of 1924. Mussolini devised a counter-manoeuvre, and on the 3rd of January 1925 he pronounced in a famous speech, both attacking anti-fascists and confirming that he, and only he, was the chief of the Fascism. He challenged the anti-fascists to prosecute him, and claimed both 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. Mussolini concluded with a menace: Italy needs "tranquillity" and Fascism would assure tranquillity to Italy in any manner necessary.

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

Matteotti's son

Matteotti's son, Matteo Matteotti, 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, and died in 2000.


  • 1924 The Fascisti Exposed: A Year of Fascist Domination, , (1969)
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