What impact, if any, did Mussolni's rise to power have in the 1920s for the Mafia and Italian- American organized crime?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is interesting to examine the impact that Mussolini's ascension to power in Italy held over Italian- American organized crime increases in 1920s America. Mussolini understood that his centralized approach to power could not involve any other construct of power being evident.  There could not be "intermediaries" that would detract from the totalizing vision of power that Mussolini envisioned: "[The elimination of the mafia sought to] forge a direct bond between the population and the state, to annul the system of intermediation under which citizens could not approach the authorities except through middlemen..., receiving as a favour that which is due them as their right."  It is in this regard where Mussolini sought to eliminate as much of the mafia in Italy as possible.  The mafia chieftains were perceived as threats to his power.  In seeking to eliminate them, Mussolini understood that his own power could increase.  For Mussolini's centralized construction of power, eliminating the mafia was essential.

The result of Mussolini's attempts to rid Italy of the mafia was their emigration to America. Mussolini's crackdown became America's issue: "It was Il Duce's crackdown on Sicilian Mafiosi that sent so many of them scrambling for American shores."  Mafia leaders who left Italy recognized that America could be a refuge for them.  The rise of Italian- American organized crime in the 1920s and 1930s can be seen as a consequence of Mussolini's rise to power. They came to America and found Prohibition and the emergence of American urban centers to be a critical aspect of their being.  

While Mussolini might have expelled the mafia for the desire to increase political control, American citizens began to experience a rise in organized criminal activity.  There are many other factors that contribute to this rise. Mussolini's crackdown as part of his desire to consolidate his political power in demonstrated in Italy is one of them.

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