The National Fascist Party (Partito Nazionale Fascista; PNF) was an Italian political party, created by Benito Mussolini as the political expression of fascism (previously represented by groups known as Fasci; see also Italian Fascism). The party ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943.
Along with its recognised successor, the Republican Fascist Party, it is the only party whose reformation is banned by the Constitution of Italy: "it shall be forbidden to reorganize, under any form whatever, the dissolved fascist party" ("Transitory and Final Provisions", Disposition XII).
Founded in Rome on November 9, 1921, it marked the transformation of the paramilitary Fasci Italiani di Combattimento into a more coherent political group (the Fasci di Combattimento had been founded by Mussolini in Milan's Piazza San Sepolcro, on March 23, 1919).
The PNF was instrumental in directing and popularizing support for Mussolini's ideology. In the early years, groups within the PNF called Blackshirts built a base of power by violently attacking socialists and their institutions in the rural Po Valley thereby gaining the support of landowners.
The PNF was the main agent of an attempted coup d'état on October 28, 1922, the March on Rome. Even though the coup failed in giving power directly to the PNF, it nonetheless resulted in a parallel agreement between Mussolini and King Victor Emmanuel III that made Mussolini the head of the Italian government.
After the drastic modifying of electoral legislation (the Acerbo Law), the PNF clearly won the highly controversial elections of April 1924. In early 1925, Mussolini dropped all pretense of democracy and set up a total dictatorship. From that point onward, the PNF was effectively the only legally permitted party in the country. This status was formalized by a law passed in 1928 and Italy remained a one-party state until the end of the Fascist regime in 1943.
After taking sole power, the Fascist regime began to impose Fascist ideology and symbolism throughout the country. Party membership in the PNF became necessary to seek employment or gain government assistance. The fasces adorned public buildings, Fascist mottos and symbols were displayed on art, and a personality cult was created around Mussolini as the nation's saviour and was called "Il Duce", "The Leader". The Italian parliament was replaced in duties by the Grand Council of Fascism solely filled with PNF members. The PNF promoted Italian imperialism in Africa and staunchly promoted racial segregation and white supremacy of Italian settlers in the colonies.
The Grand Council of Fascism, following a request of Dino Grandi, overthrew Mussolini on July 25, 1943 by asking the king to resume his full authority in officially removing Mussolini as prime minister, which he did, and Mussolini was imprisoned; however, the Fascists immediately collapsed and the party was officially banned by Pietro Badoglio's government on July 27.
After the Nazi-engineered Gran Sasso raid liberated Mussolini in September, the PNF was revived as the Republican Fascist Party (Partito Fascista Repubblicano - PFR; September 13), as the single party of the Northern and Nazi-protected Italian Social Republic (the Salò Republic). Its secretary was Alessandro Pavolini. The PFR did not outlast Mussolini's execution and the disappearance of the Salò state in April 1945.
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