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The March From Rome – Part 2

Italy’s war on Turkey was not looked upon with favour by other powers. German capitalism was slowly penetrating the Turkish Empire, where German financial groups were obtaining concessions and had made of Tripoli a port of call for her steamship lines. The Turks tried concessions and compromise, but Italian capitalism was desperate and declared war on Turkey on September 29th, 1911. She emerged victorious, acquiring Tripoli, Cyrenaica and the Dodecanese Islands. British and French capitalism did not like this and offered open bitter criticism. Such wanton aggression should have been left to older established firms. This created bitterness in Italy, and played into the hands of Germany, who were able to bring about, as a result, a renewal of the Triple Alliance long before its end was due. Italy and Austria now co-operated in the Balkan “problems” and asserted the inviolability of Albania, a direct challenge to the Russo-Slav dreams of a march to the Adriatic.

In 1913 Italy now begins to talk of her “Asiatic policy,” and a group of Italian financiers “obtain” a concession to build a railway to link up with the Bagdad Railway. The stronger Italy became the louder the clamour for the provinces still held by her Austrian ally. These cross-currents of economic conflict made it no easier for Italian expansion, as “peaceful” progress is but periodic within the framework of capitalism. The manoeuvres, bargainings and concession-hunting during the first decade of the present century were just moves on the chessboard for the grand slam. It came in 1914. Italy was a member of the Triple Alliance and therefore bound to Germany, but she decided to “wait and see.” Capitalism has no room for ” loyalty ” unless it has a cash basis. In May, 1915, Italian capitalism had checked up its chances and plumped against its ally. Not for nothing was this done. Virtue is its own reward, but it is just as well to “help” nature and Providence, and Italy’s virtue was reinforced by the “secret” agreement into which she entered with her new allies. By this she was to obtain the return of Trentino and Istria, a gift of Dalmatia, Valona, and a few islands off that coast. Thus she would become the one and only Adriatic power. In addition, after the carving up of Turkey was arranged, she would receive her share as a “sphere of influence.” She was to receive a proportion of the indemnity and the treaty was “to be kept secret.”

This “secret” treaty, April 26th, 1915, was signed by that pillar of Liberalism and the League of Nations, Sir Edward Grey, and published in the Manchester Guardian, January 18th, 1918. On that same day Mr. Lloyd George addressed the Trade Union Congress and said, “The British Empire is finding its purpose in the great design of Providence on earth, finding it in this great war for liberty and right throughout the world.” Poor Congress! Happy Lloyd George! The settlement of the world war double-crossed Italian capitalism, and after the seizure of Fiume by the freebooter D’Annunzio this city was made into a “Free” city. For her “sphere of influence” resulting from the Turkish carve-up, Italy inherited a desert—Libya.

Economic depression became rampant in Italian cities and unemployment the order of the day. Large Communist parties, Anarchist groups and Syndicalist organisations bewildered the masses by their wild slogans. Ex-officers, now jobless, gathered the slum elements and formed themselves in gangs of desperadoes, robbing and pillaging at wilL These gangs took the name of Fascia, and Mussolini placed himself at their head, organising them into a disciplined body. Groups of workers, trained in Anarchist and Syndicalist beliefs, seized a number of factories, which they evacuated on the advice of the Liberal, Giolitti. The industrial capitalists, the Monarchy, the landowners began to look round for a weapon to crush the workers. They found it ready to hand in Mussolini and his Fascia, thugs and criminals and the dregs of Italian society.

During the early post-war years a wave of “Labourism” swept Europe, and Labour governments, national and municipal, were returned to power throughout the Continent, masquerading under the name of “Socialism.” In Italy the Labour Party obtained 156 seats, three times their previous number. but being Non-Socialist votes the fever soon passed. Fascism, born in Milan, now spread over Northern Italy, with the willing assistance of landowners and industrial capitalists. In 1921 Mussolini entered Parliament, and Fascism took on its legal character. The government of Facta appealed to the King to sign a decree declaring a state of siege against the now armed Fascists. The King refused, but sent a telegram inviting Mussolini to come to Rome and form a new ministry. Mussolini “marched to Rome” in a sleeping car, with the list of new ministers in his pocket. Here he was met by the King and the job settled.

Lew Jones