Opera Nazionale Balilla
Overview
 
Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB) was an Italian
Italy
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...

 Fascist
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...

 youth organization functioning, as an addition to school
School
A school is an institution designed for the teaching of students under the direction of teachers. Most countries have systems of formal education, which is commonly compulsory. In these systems, students progress through a series of schools...

 education, between 1926 and 1937 (the year it was absorbed into the Gioventù Italiana del Littorio
Gioventù Italiana del Littorio
The Gioventù Italiana del Littorio ' was the consolidated youth movement of the National Fascist Party of Italy that was established in 1937...

, GIL, a youth section of 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...

).

It was named after Balilla
Balilla
Balilla was the nickname of Giovan Battista Perasso, a Genoese boy who started the revolt of 1746 against the Habsburg forces that occupied the city in the War of the Austrian Succession by throwing a stone on an Austrian official....

, the moniker of Giovan Battista Perasso, a Genoese
Genoa
Genoa |Ligurian]] Zena ; Latin and, archaically, English Genua) is a city and an important seaport in northern Italy, the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria....

 boy who, according to local legend, started the revolt of 1746 against the Habsburg
Habsburg Monarchy
The Habsburg Monarchy covered the territories ruled by the junior Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg , and then by the successor House of Habsburg-Lorraine , between 1526 and 1867/1918. The Imperial capital was Vienna, except from 1583 to 1611, when it was moved to Prague...

 forces that occupied the city in the War of the Austrian Succession
War of the Austrian Succession
The War of the Austrian Succession  – including King George's War in North America, the Anglo-Spanish War of Jenkins' Ear, and two of the three Silesian wars – involved most of the powers of Europe over the question of Maria Theresa's succession to the realms of the House of Habsburg.The...

.
Encyclopedia
Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB) was an Italian
Italy
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...

 Fascist
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...

 youth organization functioning, as an addition to school
School
A school is an institution designed for the teaching of students under the direction of teachers. Most countries have systems of formal education, which is commonly compulsory. In these systems, students progress through a series of schools...

 education, between 1926 and 1937 (the year it was absorbed into the Gioventù Italiana del Littorio
Gioventù Italiana del Littorio
The Gioventù Italiana del Littorio ' was the consolidated youth movement of the National Fascist Party of Italy that was established in 1937...

, GIL, a youth section of 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...

).

It was named after Balilla
Balilla
Balilla was the nickname of Giovan Battista Perasso, a Genoese boy who started the revolt of 1746 against the Habsburg forces that occupied the city in the War of the Austrian Succession by throwing a stone on an Austrian official....

, the moniker of Giovan Battista Perasso, a Genoese
Genoa
Genoa |Ligurian]] Zena ; Latin and, archaically, English Genua) is a city and an important seaport in northern Italy, the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria....

 boy who, according to local legend, started the revolt of 1746 against the Habsburg
Habsburg Monarchy
The Habsburg Monarchy covered the territories ruled by the junior Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg , and then by the successor House of Habsburg-Lorraine , between 1526 and 1867/1918. The Imperial capital was Vienna, except from 1583 to 1611, when it was moved to Prague...

 forces that occupied the city in the War of the Austrian Succession
War of the Austrian Succession
The War of the Austrian Succession  – including King George's War in North America, the Anglo-Spanish War of Jenkins' Ear, and two of the three Silesian wars – involved most of the powers of Europe over the question of Maria Theresa's succession to the realms of the House of Habsburg.The...

. Perasso was chosen as the inspiration for his supposed age and revolutionary activity, while his presence in the fight against Austria reflected the irredentist
Italia irredenta
Italian irredentism was an Italian Irredentist movement that aimed at the unification of all ethnically Italian peoples....

 stance taken by early Fascism, and Italy's victories in 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...

.

Origins

Nationalists
Nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 in the years after the war thought of themselves as combating the both liberal
Liberalism
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

 and domineering institutions created by cabinets
Prime minister of Italy
The Prime Minister of Italy is the head of government of the Italian Republic...

 such as those of Giovanni Giolitti
Giovanni Giolitti
Giovanni Giolitti was an Italian statesman. He was the 19th, 25th, 29th, 32nd and 37th Prime Minister of Italy between 1892 and 1921. A left-wing liberal, Giolitti's periods in office were notable for the passage of a wide range of progressive social reforms which improved the living standards of...

, including traditional schooling. Futurism
Futurism (art)
Futurism was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century. It emphasized and glorified themes associated with contemporary concepts of the future, including speed, technology, youth and violence, and objects such as the car, the airplane and the industrial city...

, a revolutionary cultural movement
Cultural movement
A cultural movement is a change in the way a number of different disciplines approach their work. This embodies all art forms, the sciences, and philosophies. Historically, different nations or regions of the world have gone through their own independent sequence of movements in culture, but as...

 which would serve as a catalyst for Fascism, argued for "a school for physical courage and patriotism
Patriotism
Patriotism is a devotion to one's country, excluding differences caused by the dependencies of the term's meaning upon context, geography and philosophy...

", as expressed by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti
Filippo Tommaso Marinetti
Filippo Tommaso Emilio Marinetti was an Italian poet and editor, the founder of the Futurist movement, and a fascist ideologue.-Childhood and adolescence:...

 in 1919. Marinetti expressed his disdain for "the by now prehistoric and troglodyte
Technophobia
Technophobia is the fear or dislike of advanced technology or complex devices, especially computers. tech·no·pho·bi·a n. Fear of or aversion to technology, especially computers and high technology. -Related forms: tech'no·phobe' n., tech'no·pho'bic adj."— "tech·no·pho·bi·a - Show Spelled...

 Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 and Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 courses", arguing for their replacement with exercise modelled on those of the Arditi
Arditi
Arditi was the name adopted by Italian Army elite storm troops of World War I. The name derives from the Italian verb Ardire and translates as "The Daring Ones"....

soldiers ("[learning] to advance on hands and knees in front of razing machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

 fire; to wait open-eyed for a crossbeam to move sideways over their heads etc."). It was in those years that the first Fascist youth wings were formed (Avanguardia Giovanile Fascista
Avanguardia Giovanile Fascista
Avanguardia Giovanile Fascista was a fascist student youth organization established in the 1920s by the National Fascist Party of Benito Mussolini....

 in 1919, and Gioventù Universitaria Fascista, GUF, in 1922).

Creation

After the March on Rome
March on Rome
The March on Rome was a march by which Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's National Fascist Party came to power in the Kingdom of Italy...

 that brought 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....

 to power, the Fascists started considering ways to ideologize the Italian society, with an accent on schools. Mussolini assigned ex-Ardito and deputy-secretary for Education Renato Ricci
Renato Ricci
Renato Ricci was an Italian fascist politician active during the government of Benito Mussolini.Ricci first came to prominence as a legionary of Gabriele d'Annunzio from 1919 to 1920...

 the task of "reorganizing the youth from a moral and physical point of view". Ricci sought inspiration with Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting
Scouting
Scouting, also known as the Scout Movement, is a worldwide youth movement with the stated aim of supporting young people in their physical, mental and spiritual development, that they may play constructive roles in society....

, meeting with him in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, as well as with Bauhaus
Bauhaus
', commonly known simply as Bauhaus, was a school in Germany that combined crafts and the fine arts, and was famous for the approach to design that it publicized and taught. It operated from 1919 to 1933. At that time the German term stood for "School of Building".The Bauhaus school was founded by...

 artists in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

.

The ONB was created through Mussolini's decree of April 3 1926, and was led by Ricci for the following eleven years. It included children between the ages of 8 and 18, grouped as the Balilla and the Avanguardisti.

Structure

  • Balilla (boys) and Piccole Italiane (girls) - ages 8 to 14
  • Avanguardisti and Giovani Italiane - 14 to 18

In time, a section named Figli della Lupa ("Children of the She-Wolf", alluding to the myth of Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus are Rome's twin founders in its traditional foundation myth, although the former is sometimes said to be the sole founder...

; ages 6 to 8) was added.
(note: Balilla and Avanguardisti were both substructures of the Opera Nazionale Balilla; the latter was not a separate organization.

Between the ages of 18 and 22, young men and women would join additional groups of the ONB - Fasci Giovanili di Combattimento (see Fasci di Combattimento) and Giovani Fasciste, respectively. Male students in all forms of higher education
Higher education
Higher, post-secondary, tertiary, or third level education refers to the stage of learning that occurs at universities, academies, colleges, seminaries, and institutes of technology...

 were enrolled in the GUF.

While the National Balilla Institution was originally founded as an Ente Morale, in 1929 it was placed under the power of the Ministry of National Education, with the Head of the Government's related power devolving to the Minister of National Education.

Character

The organization surpassed its purpose as a cultural institution that was intended to serve as the ideological counterpart of school, and served as a paramilitary
Paramilitary
A paramilitary is a force whose function and organization are similar to those of a professional military, but which is not considered part of a state's formal armed forces....

 group (training for future assignments in the Italian Army
Italian Army
The Italian Army is the ground defence force of the Italian Armed Forces. It is all-volunteer force of active-duty personnel, numbering 108,355 in 2010. Its best-known combat vehicles are the Dardo infantry fighting vehicle, the Centauro tank destroyer and the Ariete tank, and among its aircraft...

), as well as education in the career of choice, technology (including postschool courses for legal adults), or education related to home and family (solely for the girls). It carried out indoctrination
Indoctrination
Indoctrination is the process of inculcating ideas, attitudes, cognitive strategies or a professional methodology . It is often distinguished from education by the fact that the indoctrinated person is expected not to question or critically examine the doctrine they have learned...

 with a message of Italian-ness and Fascism, training youths as "the fascists of tomorrow". During the years following its creation, ONB was left without real competition, as the regime banned all other youth movements - including Scouting - with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 group Gioventù Italiana Cattolica (which was forced to limit its activities).

Moreover, the ONB took charge of all activities initiated by schools, and pressured teachers to enlist all students. Aside from the usual "Fascist Saturdays", children would spend their summers in camps
Summer camp
Summer camp is a supervised program for children or teenagers conducted during the summer months in some countries. Children and adolescents who attend summer camp are known as campers....

 (which included the national-level Campi Dux
Duce
Duce is an Italian title, derived from the Latin word dux, and cognate with duke. National Fascist Party leader Benito Mussolini was identified by Fascists as Il Duce of the movement and became a reference to the dictator position of Head of Government and Duce of Fascism of Italy was established...

, reunions of Balilla and Avanguardisti).

Male children enrolled wore a uniform
Uniform
A uniform is a set of standard clothing worn by members of an organization while participating in that organization's activity. Modern uniforms are worn by armed forces and paramilitary organizations such as police, emergency services, security guards, in some workplaces and schools and by inmates...

 adapted from that of the Blackshirts
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...

: the eponymous black shirt, the fez
Fez (clothing)
The fez , or tarboosh is a felt hat either in the shape of a red truncated cone or in the shape of a short cylinder made of kilim fabric. Both usually have tassels...

 of Arditi tradition, grey-green trousers, black fasces
Fasces
Fasces are a bundle of wooden sticks with an axe blade emerging from the center, which is an image that traditionally symbolizes summary power and jurisdiction, and/or "strength through unity"...

 emblems, and azure
Azure (color)
The color bleu de France is displayed at right.Bleu de France is a color that has been associated in heraldry with the Kings of France since the 12th century.-Brandeis blue:...

 handkerchiefs (i.e.: in the national colour
National colours
National colours are frequently part of a country's set of national symbols.Many states and nations have formally adopted a set of colours as their official "national colours" while others have de facto national colours that have become well-known through popular use...

 of Italy). During military exercises, they were armed with scaled-down version of Royal Italian Army
Royal Italian Army
The Regio Esercito was the army of the Kingdom of Italy from the unification of Italy in 1861 to the birth of the Italian Republic in 1946...

 service rifle
Carcano
Carcano is the frequently used name for a series of Italian bolt-action military rifles and carbines. Introduced in 1891, this rifle was chambered for the rimless 6.5x52mm Mannlicher-Carcano Cartuccia Modello 1895 cartridge. It was developed by the chief technician Salvatore Carcano at the Turin...

, Moschetto Ballila (the rifles were replaced with replica versions for the Figli della Lupa).

Mussolini's version of education

According to Mussolini: "Fascist education is moral, physical, social, and military: it aims to create a complete and harmoniously developed human, a fascist one according to our views". Mussolini structured this process taking in view the emotional side of childhood: "Childhood and adolescence alike (...) cannot be fed solely by concerts, theories, and abstract teaching. The truth we aim to teach them should appeal foremost to their fantasy, to their hearts, and only then to their minds".

The "educational value set through action and example" was to replace the established approaches. Fascism opposed its version of idealism
Idealism
In philosophy, idealism is the family of views which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing...

 to prevalent rationalism
Rationalism
In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" . In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive"...

, and used the ONB to circumvent educational tradition by imposing the collective and hierarchy, as well as Mussolini's own personality cult
Cult of personality
A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Cults of personality are usually associated with dictatorships...

.
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