1920s >> 1924 >> no-234-february-1924

The bacillus Mussolini

The Daily Telegraph of October 25th seized the opportunity of Fascism’s anniversary of accession to power in Italy to review its history. The review is the more valuable in that the writer makes little effort to conceal the direction in which his sympathies lie. No time is wasted on detailing how the poor peasant boy of Romagna, the bricklayer of Lausanne, the “Socialist” agitator and journalist, fought his way to the highest position of a Capitalist State. At the commencement of the article we find him there. No mention of his horde of Dirty Shirts, with their bludgeons, stilettos and castor oil. He is there ! This is a free condensation of the article (italics mine) : His first sweeping reform was to throw out of office the great army of lazy “grafters,” political protégés, etc., created by a generation of government by unscrupulous and self-seeking politicians. The higher the official, the smaller his chance of being spared. The next step was to hit out against the petty political groups. One after another the old political groupings were smashed up and obliged to pronounce themselves for or against, but mostly for, the great Conservative reaction. The Liberals, the Populars, the Socialists have all been attacked on questions of principle; their ranks have been broken and scattered. In electoral reform he preserves proportional representation, but gives to the winning party two-thirds of the seats in Parliament. As the Telegraph man naively says : “This is in order to ensure for the governing party of the day the possibility of carrying out the reforms promised in its electoral programing. The world will follow with interest fhe working of this experiment in practical politics.” We shall. “Mussolini has been eminently successful in bringing about social peace and the cessation of class warfare. In the beginning the means employed were physical pressure by the Fascist militia, which fiad recourse to very drastic means.” (Pause for fiendish laughter.) “But very soon the tendency became manifest to apply more peaceful methods. The results are excellent, and during the last twelve months there has not been a single strike in the whole of Italy. This is a fact from which even Mussolini’s detractors cannot get away.”

The gloating contributor makes a bad slip just here. They can get away, for lower down he tells us quite refreshingly, in the long run Mussolini’s foreign policy is entirely governed by the necessity of finding satisfactory outlets for Italian emigration. The country is a great reservoir of man-power which must be exported, and Mussolini is casting about for outlets.”

What a country ! What a Paradise ! What a prospect ! Having bludgeoned, hacked and castor-oiled his way to political power, he discovers he is lord of a huge reservoir of excellent, exploitable material for foreign capitalists. His message to the Italians is, “Italy is no place for you.” There is one reservation. “A new departure is the decree forbidding the emigration of doubtful characters, so as to raise the reputation of Italy abroad.” Mussolini has judged his world well. As the reservoir is emptied of all save the ”doubtful characters” (doubtless fitted up with black shirts and oil equipment), the surrounding capitalist states will warm up wonderfully. A fellow feeling makes us wondrous kind. It is good to learn that in this holy business he has the blessing of the Church. To again quote in full :—

“The ex-Soclalist Prime Minister has frankly recognised and accepted the preponderating part played in Italian life by the Church. He has established a firm friendship with the Vatican, which in its turn supports him. .​.​. The alliance with the Vatican gives to Mussolini, not only the active support of the powerful clerical elements in the country, but also assists him to a great extent in the development of his foreign policy.”

Now read the bit about his foreign policy again. And then you will, or will not, be pleased to learn that 50,000 railwaymen have been ruthlessly sacked, in the name of economy. Presumably they are now at the gates of the reservoir. They may even be numbered with his detractors. Happy, happy country ! Surely someone will inform the wretched denizens of Old Compton Street, Greek Street, and Little Italy, of what they are missing. Perhaps they are wise after all. Why go to the expense and inconvenience of a voyage, when all these inestimable benefits will soon be brought to our doors. One reads with delight that Britain possesses at least two Fascist organisations thanks mainly engaged at the moment in squabbling over which one is the real, genuine, dyed-in-the-wool article. This question settled, and an agreement reached as to who is to sign the cheques, one can already discern the rosy flush of a new dawn. Italy, hitherto associated in our minds, with ice-cream men, opera-singers and organ-grinders, is to fill our cup of indebtedness to the brim by presenting us with the New Liberty. Our cup runneth over. Already its prophets are afoot. You will remember Earl Grey at Newcastle on February 3rd last: —

“It is possible, under the chaos and confusion in Europe, that democratic representative government may go down for a time in favour of some other system.”

Italy, we presume, shows us an example of the ”other system.” We hope you like it.

W. T. H.

* * * *

Since writing the above, we read in the “Westminster Gazette” of October 26th :

“Italy at present offers a remarkable spectacle. The country is absolutely quiescent, the people intent only on their calling, and abiding by the laws. But the Fascisti leaders and rank and file alike .​.​. are quarrelling among themselves,
unable to resist the temptation to usurp functions and prerogatives pertaining to the Government, unable either to rid themselves of the primitive, expeditious habit and the craving to take the law ruthlessly into their own hands.”

Readers can supply their own comment. It may be useful to mention that Mussolini is referred to as the Duse. The deuce he is.

W. T. H.

(Socialist Standard, February 1924)

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