15 thoughts on “Mussolini was British agent

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  9. Milan, May 23 [1917]: Military bloodbath ends antiwar rebellion

    On May 23, the Italian army forcibly crushes an upheaval of protesting workers, mainly women, in Milan, the capital of Lombardy. Fifty people are killed, 800 arrested. A few weeks earlier, bread riots had erupted in Turin, and a wave of strikes and demonstrations spread throughout the bigger towns and industrial centers of Italy, with protests in Sestri Ponente, Terni, Piombino, Naples, Livorno, Prato and other cities and towns.

    The workers have every reason to protest: long working hours and miserable pay go together with food shortages and inflation. In comparison to pre-war times, the purchasing power of an average working family in Milan has fallen by a third (in Florence -48 percent, in Rome -40 percent, in Naples -51 percent). Since men are enlisted as soldiers, women and children have to work for their survival. Between 1915 and 1918, nearly 200,000 mostly young women and 60,000 children were engaged in war-related work.

    As many peasants have been sent to the trenches, reduced agricultural production aggravates economic scarcity. Taverns are selling bread by thin slices, rationed to no more than 80 grams per person. Malnutrition and hunger are linked to illnesses like tuberculosis, cachexia and “Spanish influenza.” The number of civilian deaths nearly equals the number of war deaths among Italian soldiers.

    The discontent turned into open rebellion. The developing protests immediately took on a political character and demand an end to the war, with slogans like “We want peace,” “Lay down your guns,” “Down with the war” and “Leave the trenches.”

    In early May, the movement reached the outskirts of Milan, where female textile workers were the first to go on strike. Peasants from nearby Gallarate and Busto Arsizio marched into town, and female farmers joined the industrial workers in calling for an immediate end to the war. To avert a general strike, the right-wing Boselli government declared a state of siege. The next day the army marches into Milan and crushes the rebellion.



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