The Wikipedia article Blackshirts - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia is basically correct. I would just add a few details. The top photo in the Wikipedia article was undoubtedly taken in October 1922 (one can deduce this from the slogan "Either Rome or Death") and shows squadristi of a Fascio di combattimento, these were fascist regional action squads, often not under Mussolini's control but rather that of the regional ras, such as Italo Balbo, the ras <I.RAS< i>of Ferrara, and the powerful intransigent ras of Cremona, Roberto Farinacci. Contary to myth and common belief, most were not the louts of current neo-fascism but rather were, more often than not, intellectuals, many were university students fired by a mixture of misplaced patriotism and a detestation of democracy, seen as a failed 19th century system, coupled with the ideas of Futurism idealising violence. Mussolini, for all his faults, was a wily and astute politician and in a clever move he amalgamated all the Fasci di combattimento into the MVSN (Voluntary Militia for National Security) but stipulated that no ras could join except as an ordinary volunteer, placing right-wing generals in high MVSN posts. In a further move, the MVSN's sworn loyalty was to the Head of Government (i.e., Mussolini) not to the Head of State (the King), thus making it his own personal militia. Despite these precautions, Mussolini barely stopped MVSN coups attempts in June and December 1924 during the Matteotti crisis, while the regular army generals demanded the MVNS suppression. This was quelled by making the MVSN swear loyalty to the King, as well as to the Head of Government, thus giving the Chiefs-of-Staff some control. Six MVSN battalions served in Ethiopia in the 1936 war. Their performance was mediocre and they frequently clashed with the Italian regular army. They were again reorganised as a predominantly military force, but independent operations in Ethiopia and in Spain failed mainly due to poor organisation. Following this they were consolidated into four military divisions. These were destroyed in Lybia between December 1940 and February 1941. The only division which performed well was the one sent to Russia, the remainder of the MVSN stayed in Italy on internal control duties. Those who returned from Russia were disillusioned with Mussolini and appalled at Nazi behaviour on the Eastern front. Thus in July 1943, on the command of General Badoglio they disbanded without lifting a finger to defend Mussolini. A few did remain loyal to Mussolini and were later to form the core of the ultra-fascist Guardia Nazionale Republicana in the north, but a good many now saw Germany as a brutal invader. These disillusioned extreme right-wing young men, still despising democracy, moved to the extreme-left; many joined the Communist Party and fought in the communist partisan Garibaldi Brigades.