Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB) was an Italian Fascist youth organization functioning between 1926 and 1937, when it was absorbed into the Gioventù Italiana del Littorio (GIL), a youth section of the National Fascist Party.
It takes its name from “Balilla,” the nickname of Giovan Battista Perasso, a Genoese boy who, according to local legend, started the revolt of 1746 against the Habsburg forces that occupied the city in the War of the Austrian Succession. Perasso was chosen as the inspiration because of his supposed age and revolutionary activity, while his presence in the fight against Austria reflected the irredentist stance taken by early Fascism triggered by Italy’s victories in World War I.
The Fiat 508 Balilla was also a popular auto produced in the ’30s and advertised extensively as a Fascist vehicle. Young members of the Balilla were often pictured in proximity to the car and in conjunction with Mussolini’s motto, “Fascism does not promise you neither honors nor charges nor gains but duty and combat.” This brochure titled How to Build My Balilla was published by Fiat and was designed in the streamline fashion, complete with art moderne tropes used by Italian propagandists at the time.
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