In 1922 the Fascist Party took office in Italy. There were many bad things about the Fascists but they were effective in cracking down on the Mafia. The America Mafia found their ties with the Italian Mafia were weakened. Many Italian Mafiosi moved to the United States at this time.
The Mafia made huge amounts of money in the 1920s due to selling illegal alcohol. The Mafia often invested this in legitimate businesses.
In 1933 President Roosevelt persuaded Congress to repeal the Prohibition Act. This meant that alcohol was legal again. The Mafia lost a lucrative source of income. The Mafia continued to make money through armed robberies, protection rackets and other crimes.
In 1941 Italy declared war on the United States. Most Mafiosi were strongly anti-Fascist. This was not for political reasons but because Mussolini had beaten them in Italy.
In 1943 the United States prepared to invade Sicily. The US GOvernment spoke to some Mafiosi in prison in the United States. These Mafia leaders agreed to speak to their Mafia friends in Italy. The Mafia in Italy was willing to help the US Army conquer Italy in return for Mafia dons being released from prison in the United States. The US invasion of Sicily was quite easy. This is partly because the Mafia there assisted the US Army and persuaded many Italian soldiers to surrender without a fight. The US honoured its promise. Mafia leaders were set free from American prisons in return for going back to Italy.
After the Second World War the American Mafia resumed its activities. Because it was now easy to travel between the United States and Italy the Mafia became more powerful. Moreover, the postwar Italian Government was weak. The Communist Party in Italy was strong and won 25% of the vote. The US Government was very worried that Communists might win office in Italy. The US Government was willing to co-operate with anyone including the Mafia to thwart the Communists. The Mafia in Italy regained influence that they had not had for decades.
The Mafia in Italy started smuggling heroin to the United States. The Mafia on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean started to grow wealth again from this illicit trade.
In the late 1940s Las Vegas opened many casinos and hotels. The Mafia bought many of these enterprises. It was a way to invest illegal money and also a means of laundering money. The Mafia also bought many properties in Cuba.
The Mafia moved from strength to strength through the 1950s. In 1959 Communists took power in Cuba. The Mafia had all their properties their confiscated. In the 1960s the US Government under Kennedy made a major drive to defeat the Mafia. There were quite a few successful prosecutions. The FBI placed informers inside the Mafia.
In the 1970s President Nixon declared war on drugs. The Mafia’s involvement in drug trafficking meant that the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency went to great lengths to put Mafia dons behind bars. Armed robberies were no longer easy. There were increasingly sophisticated anti robbery strategies used by banks. Even in the drugs trade the Mafia was pushed out by other groups. Black gangs, Colombian gangs and Cuban gangs started to defeat the Mafia.
In the 1980s some major Mafia organisations were defeated. By the 1990s the last of the notorious Mafia kingpins was busted. John Gotti – once called the Teflon Don – was sentenced to life imprisonment.
1. What was Prohibition?
2. Which president abolished Prohibition?
3. Why did the Mafia hate Fascism?
4. What is special about Las Vegas/
5. What role did the Mafia play in the US invasion of Italy?
6. Why did the Mafia enjoy a resurgence in the late 1940s?
7. Why did the Mafia lose their properties in Cuba?
8. Why did the Mafia decline from the 1960s onwards?
9. Who declared war on drugs?
10. What do you think of this organisation? (6)