Giving Compass' Take:

• Richard Gunderman explains how we can use the lessons learned from  Mussolini's fascist party to understand the fragility of freedom today. 

• How can funders work to increase the stability of democracy around the world? 

• Learn about civil society as an immune system for democracy

In March 1919, Benito Mussolini created the fascist party in Italy.

For more than two decades, when he came to be known as “Il Duce,” or “the leader,” Mussolini wielded broad powers. At the end of World War II, he was shot by a firing squad for his crimes. His body was publicly hung upside down.

As outlined by historian Martin Gilbert, the Italian and German experiments with fascism offer urgent lessons for our own day.

First, the strongest protection against one-man rule is deep and widespread respect for democracy. Mussolini undermined free speech and freedom of the press. He weakened the legislative and judicial branches of government. He tried to control what people saw, heard and read.

A second lesson from fascism is to prevent the manufacture of emergencies. By creating a widespread sense that times were desperate, Mussolini, like Hitler, was able to suppress democratic institutions and tyrannize the population.

Another lesson is the danger of racism. In arguing that whites are superior to Africans and Asians, Mussolini laid the groundwork for exploitation, oppression and even extermination.

Ironically, it is quite possible that had Italy’s military and economy prospered during the 1940s, Mussolini would not have fallen.

Read the full article about the fragility of freedom by Richard Gunderman at The Conversation.