Giacomo Matteotti (Italian pronunciation: [ˈdʒaːkomo
matteˈɔtti]; 22 May 1885 – 10 June 1924) was an Italian socialist
politician. On 30 May 1924, he openly spoke in the Italian Parliament
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.
1 Political career
3 Mussolini's alleged involvement
4 Consequences of the murder
6 Matteotti's son
7 See also
Matteotti was born a son of a wealthy family, in Fratta Polesine,
Rovigo in Veneto. He graduated in law at the University of
An atheist and from early on an activist in the socialist movement
and the Italian Socialist Party, he opposed Italy's entry into World
War I (and was interned in
Sicily during the conflict for this
He was elected deputy three times: in 1919, 1921 and 1924.
As a follower of Filippo Turati, Matteotti became the leader of the
Unitary Socialist Party in the
Italian Chamber of Deputies
Italian Chamber of Deputies after the
scission of the Socialist Party. He openly spoke out against Fascism
and Benito Mussolini, and for a time was leader of the opposition to
National Fascist Party
National Fascist Party (NFP). From 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
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
On 10 June 1924 Matteotti was bundled into a car 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 kilometers
north of Rome, on 16 August 1924.
Five men (
Amerigo Dumini – a prominent member of the Fascist secret
police, the Ceka - Giuseppe Viola, Albino Volpi, Augusto Malacria and
Amleto Poveromo) were arrested a few days after the kidnapping.
Another suspect, Filippo Panzeri, fled from arrest. Only three
(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
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 found of Mussolini's
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, was convinced that the Duce was not
innocent. Even Aurelio Lepre and
Emilio Gentile thought that Mussolini
wanted 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, 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) 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.
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 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
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 Sinclair Oil
exclusive rights to all Italian oil reserves.
Consequences of the murder
The death of Matteotti sparked widespread criticism of Fascism. A
general strike was threatened in retaliation.
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. After a few weeks of confusion, Mussolini
gained a favourable vote by the Senate of the Kingdom, and tried to
defuse the tension with a speech.
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 of 1924. Mussolini devised a counter-maneuver, 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
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", like Hitler would later do 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
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
1924 The Fascisti Exposed: A Year of Fascist Domination,
OCLC 5305081, OCLC 47749 (1969)
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.
Il delitto Matteotti
^ Antonio G. Casanova, Matteotti. Una vita per il socialismo,
Bombiani, Milan, 1974, p. 90.
^ Speech of 30 May 1924 the last speech of Matteotti, from
^ See F. Andriola, Mussolini, prassi politica e rivoluzione sociale,
^ 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
^ Carlo Silvestri, Matteotti, Mussolini e il dramma italiano,
Cavallotti editore 1981, p. XXIII
^ a b Gunther, John (1940). Inside Europe. Harper & Brothers.
^ Mauro Canali, "Il delitto Matteotti. Affarismo e politica nel primo
governo Mussolini", (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1997) (new edition 2004)
^ Renzo De Felice, Mussolini il fascista vol. I pp. 636 and foll.
^ The speech of 3 January 1925 from it.wikisource
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Giacomo Matteotti.
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