Sawdust Caesar: The Untold History of Mussolini and Fascism

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

Sawdust Caesar: The Untold History of Mussolini and Fascism

Postby admin » Wed Jan 14, 2015 11:14 pm

by George Seldes
Author of "World Panorama," "The Vatican: Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow," Etc.
Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York and London, 1935
© 1935, by George Seldes



To Helen Seldes, my wife and collaborator


(1) Nineteen Years Ago ... Mussolini, the subject of violence and arrest for his speeches demanding Italy's entrance into the World War. (2) & (7) Benito Mussolini roared. "No one can presume to dictate to us." (3) Mussolini and Bambino Romano, aged six, who was called by Il Duce, "Not so much my fourth child as the first of my new series" -- i.e., since Mussolini became Dictator. (4) Mussolini's mother. (5) Mussolini as editor in 1915. (6) Donna Rochell Mussolini. (8) Bust of Mussolini as Caesar by Wildt. (9) Mussolini's quest in Abyssinia as seen by a Nazi cartoonist. (10) Bronze of Mussolini by Gustinus Ambrosi. Being deaf and dumb, he was permitted to attend secret executive meetings. (11) Recent portrait by Alfredo Vaccari. (12) "To Make Life Difficult." Facsimile of a telegram written by Mussolini and sent to the Prefect of Turin, ordering him to "make it difficult" for Signor Piero Gobetti. The facsimile was first published in the Quotidien of Paris, February 19, 1926. The original is in the hands of Signor Fasciolo, Mussolini's secretary: "I hear the Gobetti, who was recently in Paris, is now in Sicility. Please keep me informed, and be vigilant in making life difficult again for this stupid opponent of "Fascism Mussolini." Gobetti was beaten and died of injuries. (13) Too much castor oil ... leads to crimes like the killing of Giacomo Matteotti, whom anti-Fascists cherish as their No. 1 martyr. (14) Mussolini in Rome -- A Fascist salute.


(1) The head of Fascism and his elder sons, Bruno and Vittori. (2) Mussolini, volunteer. Photograph taken in 1916. (3) Mussolini's grin. A flashlight in 1919 while founding the party that was to give Adolf Hitler his Big Idea. (4) "Parla Mussolini" ("Mussolini speaks") (5) Dr. Angelica Balabanoff, the real woman behind Mussolini's career. (6) Portrait bust. (7) "The noblest Roman of them all!" (8) "The Eagle" — equestrian portrait of Benito Mussolini by Joseph Palanti of Milan. (9) "But, dear, I only want to civilize you!" (10) Mussolini— a photostat of picture sent to Jean Drury (Mrs. Peter A. Drury, Jr.) by Mussolini, July 15, 1932. (11) Not the March on Rome, in which Il Duce marched not — but the March in Naples four days earlier. Trusting his Quadrumvirs to take Rome with 50,000 Black Shirts, Editor Mussolini stayed safely in Milan.

Table of Contents:

• Foreword: to Americans facing Fascism
• Part 1: The Force of Destiny
o 1. Tide . . . Taken at the Flood
o 2. The Romantic Rebel
o 3. "Dieu n'existe pas"
o 4. Comrade Angelica and Comrade Benito
o 5. A Miracle Is Explained
o 6. A Politician Goes to War
o 7. Fiume or Death!
o 8. The Secret of 1920
o 9. Fascism Conquers Mussolini
o 10. Priest versus Politician
• Part 2: The Conquest of Power
o 11. The Glorious March on Rome
o 12. The Victor in Search of a Program
o 13. Personal Vendetta
o 14. The Assassination of Matteotti
o 15. Blood and Irony
o 16. The Sons of Brutus
o 17. Purge of the Freemasons
o 18. Mussolini Conquers the Mafia
o 19. The Cheka — spelled Ceca or Ovra
o 20. The Fate of Heroes
o 21. " 'Live Dangerously' Is My Motto"
o 22. The Silent Revolution
• Part 3: Mussolini Victorious
o 23. Mussolini versus the Pope
o 24. Diplomacy: Corfu to Ethiopia
o 25. The Corporate State: People under Fascism
o 26. Fascist Finance
o 27. A Journalist Suppresses the Free Press
o 28. Let There Be Culture!
o 29. The Imperialist Road to War
o 30. Ave Caesar
• Appendices
o 1. The First and Second Fascist Programs
o 2. "Dieu n'existe pas," by Mussolini
o 3. Mussolini's French Money
o 4. Mussolini and the "Bolshevik Era"
o 5. Text of the Pacification Treaty between Fascisti and Labor
o 6. Fascism: "Reactionary" "Anti-Liberal" by Mussolini
o 7. Resolutions Adopted by the Republican, Socialist, Democratic, and Catholic Parties Following the Assassination of Matteotti
o 8. Extract from the Law of December 31, 1925, on the Press. Royal Decree of July 15, 1923. Decree Subsidizing Violence Abroad
o 9. The Labor Charter
o 10. The Fascist Decalogue. The Fascist Ten Commandments. The Apocryphal Fascist Cathechism. The Balilla Credo
o 11. Fascist Finances
o 12. Fascism: Its Theory and Philosophy, by Mussolini
o 13. Il Duce Tells Fascist Journalists Duty Is to Serve Regime
o 14. The Foreign Policies of Fascism, by Mussolini
o 15. Capitalism and the Corporate State, by Mussolini
o 16. Volte-face Caesar
• Chronology
• Bibliography
• Index

Curious, but not surprising to psychologists, is this mingling of the belief in free will, predestination, fatalism, and the commonest Forli superstitions. The village "witch," old Giovanna, taught Mussolini her "magic lore"; he became "an adept in interpreting dreams and omens and telling fortune by cards." He is quoted often saying, "My blood tells me" and "I must listen to my blood," and he once declared proudly, "Que voules-vous? Je ressemble aux animaux, je renifle le temps qui vient, je suis mon instinct, et je ne me trompe jamais" ("What would you? I resemble the animals, I scent the times, I follow my instinct, and I never make a mistake").

The Duce and the age of dictators have already been explained by the scientists. Freud has expressed his belief that nations, like human beings, can suffer a neurosis; Adler believes that people like individuals suffer from inferiority, struggle hard to shake it off and to become superior, and in the case of Italy and Mussolini the world has its best example. More recently Stekel has presented his authority complex to explain the weakness of the masses and the power of the Mussolinis, the "father-substitutes." The millions of inferiorities of the people mass together to become a superiority; the people identify themselves with the leader, partaking of his authority, and the leaders are usually neurotic, suffering from a "compulsion complex." "Dictators in general," continues my colleague, John Gunther, in expounding the Stekel theory, "are a sort of regression to childhood. Love of a leader is a reversion to infantilism." Stekel concludes that "For many generations men fought for democracy, liberty, the right of free assembly and free speech. Thousands of good men have died for these causes. But now one country after another gives up its free institutions, people even vote away their freedom. New dictatorial revolutions . . . are welcomed with relief, not opposed by force. There is a world scramble for authority, for the security of leadership. People everywhere, because their parental sense of authority has disappeared, are looking for a father-substitute, for a strong and beloved parental hand." ...

One of the seeming paradoxes of the Italian situation which Italy has not yet discovered, although it could do so easily by reading the officially printed works of the Duce, is that the embodiment of their wish-fulfillment neither loves nor respects the masses who follow him. Time and again Mussolini has quoted Machiavelli's opinion of the common people as "mud" and sneered at public opinion. But the more the Duce shows that he despises his followers, the more they shout their love and loyalty. Unlike the bourgeois gentleman, Lenin, who really loved the world-filling proletariat, the oligarch of Italy, in origin plebeian, almost hates them. "I do not adore this new divinity — the masses," writes the Duce, thereby confirming Stalin's view that even revolutionary leaders at times despise their following and that "an aristocratic attitude of the leaders towards the masses" frequently arises, an attitude which Lenin escaped because his faith in the nobility of the workingman was never shaken.

The greatness of Mussolini can only be measured by the lowness of his worshipers.

He stalks through the world like the one man who wears the mantle of Zarathustra, possesses the mind of Machiavelli, is the inheritor of the power of Caesar, while all the little minds, all the hundreds of millions of unimportant, unthinking, weak, and ineffectual human beings (whom Sinclair Lewis has both immortalized and crucified with a new word) grovel at his feet, proclaiming him the conqueror. Emperor or Galilean? The same hundreds of millions go to their churches on Sundays and proclaim an unarmed Man who was weak and humble, who preached humility and kindness and love and non-resistance. The other six days they arm for war and praise violence. The mob mind can worship both. ...

The last man to seize a large part of the world, Napoleon, called by Wells, an adventurer, a wrecker, a man of egotism and vanity, a personality archaic, hard, capable, unscrupulous, imitative, and neatly vulgar, is still the hero of the mob. Mussolini has at least this much in common with the Corsican: they were both well-whipped children, therefore destined to a rebellious manhood. Bonaparte was whipped by his mother, Mussolini by his father; the one used a birch rod, the other a leather belt.

The mediocrity of the two minds is amazing. The Code Napoleon, which he claimed was a greater monument than his forty victories, was written by other men. The plan of the Corporate State is not Mussolini's. The "totally uncreative imagination" of Napoleon was influenced by Plutarch towards a revival of the Roman Empire; Mussolini in all his words and deeds has shown the influence of the latest book he has been reading, the last strong-minded politician who has been advising him....

Napoleon, says Wells, could do no more than "strut upon the crest of this great mountain of opportunity like a cockerel on a dunghill. The figure he makes in history is one of almost incredible self-conceit, of vanity, greed, and a grandiose aping of Caesar, Alexander, and Charlemagne which would be purely comic if it were not caked over with human blood." If Bonaparte's aping of Caesar was so ludicrous and so tragic, what can one say of Mussolini's aping of Bonaparte?...

In almost every sentence of his speeches, in almost every page of his writings, Mussolini curses his opponents. He is always shouting "scoundrel," "traitor," "egotist" at someone; his enemies are "soft-brained cowards," "swelled frogs," and "a base and pernicious crew"; he never hesitates to call the man who differs from his opinions a liar; with the utmost contempt he speaks of political enemies and those who have fought duels with him as weaklings, cowards; referring to foreign statesmen and journalists who have said he threatens the peace of the world he replies these are the "accusations of fools"; when he can find nothing evil to say of those whom the world honors he calls them "egocentric," he speaks of their "unbridled egotism"; he is always attacking those who "sell themselves for money, for power," whom he despises — and frequently the word "turncoat" comes up and the six four-letter words in Joyce's "Ulysses."...

Need one go to a psychologist for the explanation of such behavior, or is ordinary intelligence sufficient guide? Proust speaks of "that habit of denouncing in other people defects precisely analogous to one's own." "For," he says, "it is always of those defects that people speak, as though it were a way of speaking about oneself, indirectly, which added to the pleasure of absolution that of confession. Besides, it seems that our attention, always attracted by what is characteristic of ourself, notices that more than anything else in other people . . . an unwashed man speaks only of the baths that other people do not take ... a cuckold sees cuckolds everywhere, a light woman light women, a snob snobs." There can be no better explanation. ...

One thing he has is a blazing hatred. "Not," as one of his compatriots says, "the hatred of a social rebel which is but another facet of love, like the hatred of Brutus for Caesar, of Bruno for the Papacy, of Mazzini for the tyrants," or the hatred which inspired Milton and Byron and Shelley sublimely and which has made heroes and martyrs. Mussolini's dominating hatred, which was important to his success, was the drop of poison on the swift arrow of his Will....

There remains the question of greatness.

He is, for instance, a great journalist but a tenth-rate litterateur. His eloquence is marvelous — emotionally, not logically. He is a great politician, a great leader of the mob, but he is a demagogue and not a statesman.

He is a genius at assimilating the ideas of other persons and making them his own.

He is totally unscrupulous.

He has never done anything original.

He has a tremendous will but an inferior mind....

History will say that Mussolini shows the triumph of the superiority complex, the triumph of Nietzschean catch-phrases, the triumph of the adapter of other people's ideas, the triumph of the book-made egotist.

Reactionary dictators are men of no element of greatness, men with no philosophy, no burning humanitarian ideal, nor even an economic program of any value to their nation or to the world. Grand and imposing as they look in their flaming uniforms and shirts in nationalist colors on marching days, they are almost forgotten the hour a change is made. Who now remembers Waldemiras? What country did he rule? What became of Pangalos? How many Bratianus were there and what happened to them? And how ignoble became that same Primo de Rivera who one day before had stood arm in arm with Mussolini, his treaty-friend, his proud disciple? But it is not too fantastic to imagine a time after Mussolini's disappearance, when the commentators will say that after all he was only a renegade Socialist who could never be trusted, a puny, sententious imitator of Lenin, a rather foolish repeater of Kaiser Wilhelm's foolish phrases, a man mentally and physically ill, a megalomaniac who thought he could change the course of economic forces by the use of magnificent phrases taken from Karl Marx, Nietzsche, Hegel, Vilfredo Pareto, and his former colleagues in the Socialist movement — and nevertheless a person worthy of statues. After all, he is the original Duce of Fascismo, and all the others are merely imitators.

All of Mussolini's monuments will be monuments to the strength of a weakling, monuments to the weakness of his opposition, to the cowardice of the masses, but, above all, monuments to an Ego and a Will.

-- Sawdust Caesar, by George Seldes
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Re: Sawdust Caesar: The Untold History of Mussolini and Fasc

Postby admin » Wed Jan 14, 2015 11:15 pm

With astonishing success the Fascisti have not only cut off true contemporary record of their deeds, but have invented a whole history of their past which is usurping the suppressed truth.

In another five years every scrap of material evidence of the real history of Fascism will have disappeared as thoroughly as the dossier of Mussolini from the Swiss Police Bureau.

It will be a pity, for instead of a perfectly logical and fascinating story of a human man and his ambitions, the historian will have to content himself with the false epic of romantic heroes that is being served up in every language, with photographs, today.

WILLIAM BOLITHO, December, 1925.

FOREWORD: To Americans Facing Fascism

FASCISM NOT ONLY EXISTS IN AMERICA, BUT IT HAS BECOME formidable and needs only a Duce, a Fuehrer, an organizer, and a loosening of the purse strings of those who gain materially by its victory, to become the most powerful force threatening the Republic.

Those who cannot see the growth of Fascism or deny its existence are either the many who do not know what Fascism really is or the few who prefer euphemism — a patriotic American name for a distinctly European product.

To understand Fascism it is necessary to know its suppressed history and the mind and actions of its spiritual father, and it is the purpose of this book to present documented facts, to the best of the author's ability, as objectively as possible, so that the reader can com- pare the origins of Fascism in Italy with the present situation in our own country, the Duce to our own demagogues, the hidden forces which subsidized the Italian movement to those just emerging in the United States.

The brilliant William Bolitho never wrote a truer word than his prediction that the real record of Mussolini's private and political life would disappear within five years. Ten years have passed, the suppressed truth has been overwhelmed by the myths created by public-relations counsel who helped float some $600,000,000 worth of Italian bonds in America, and the propaganda of such men as our late ambassador to Italy (and later Hearst writer), the Honorable Richard Washburn Child, and the ultra-Fascist Italians employed by leading American news agencies and newspapers.

There exist, it is true, some 200 volumes on Mussolini and Fascism, but reading them all, as I have done, merely confirms Bolitho's prediction. With about a dozen exceptions which are frankly anti-Fascist but nevertheless honest in their facts and two or three which deal with specific phases or problems, there remain some 190 works, including the Duce's own autobiography, which unite in a chorus of unmitigated hero-worship while they suppress the essential story.

Many so-called important biographies are written by ladies on their knees. "Mussolini is tender and gentle. ... He is so aristocratic and natural, and, oh, what eyes ! . . . They are black and powerful and remind one of the eyes of a saint. ... He has a wonderful sense of justice. ... He has abolished handshaking. . . . When he receives ladies he comes around from behind his table and kisses the hand gently. . . . Mussolini is extraordinarily young to be the greatest man of the present and past. . . . All Italy adores him. . . . Forty-four million Italians pray each day and thank God for having sent them this wonderful man who has saved Italy. He is the only genius the war has produced."

This is the sort of genuflectual claptrap, romantic moonshine, and suggestio falsi written by hand-kissed women, but the gentlemen are little better. "MussoHni is the greatest man of our sphere and time," reports our late Hon. Mr. Child, making the inevitable comparison with Theodore Roosevelt, the Mussolini manque of the generation past.

For the benefit of reviewers of a previous book I must state that I nurse no grudge against Mussolini or Fascism because of my expulsion from Italy in 1925. Quite the contrary. I believe that I owe the Duce a note of thanks. In 1923 the Soviet Cheka asked me to leave Russia for the same reason on which the Fascist Cheka acted two years later: the transmission of news items the truth of which was not denied but was held unfavorable to the ruling powers. Both expulsions were inevitable, as all writers who do not compromise and trim their sails soon learn if they defy the dictators. From the Fascist as from the Bolshevik viewpoint the expulsion was absolutely justified, although it was perhaps stupid.

In 1931 I visited Italy secretly; I have had the secret cooperation of several of the most prominent American journalists now resident in Rome who express their pleasure in smuggling news and documents to me. The materials which follow I have collected over a period of fifteen years, beginning in the days I first knew Mussolini as a fellow but rather violent journalist. The first draft, completed in 1931, was accepted by a British publisher, but suppressed at the suggestion of the Foreign Office. The Quai d'Orsay likewise asked a French publisher to "delay" publication owing to the diplomatic situation. I have tried to recount the significant facts in the belief that, although history may be "lies agreed upon," there may be some value in stating realities at a time they may be useful to those seeking a new road out of the present world dilemma.

Bandol (Var), France, 1931.

Woodstock, Vermont, 1935.
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Re: Sawdust Caesar: The Untold History of Mussolini and Fasc

Postby admin » Wed Jan 14, 2015 11:15 pm


CHAPTER 1: Tide . . . Taken at the Flood

WHEN THE EUROPEAN WAR CRISIS CAME TO ITALY, AS IT WAS to come to America two years later, all the parties of the Left, the radicals, the liberals, were joined by the Democrats, the Center, and elements of the Right in denouncing the war mongers who favored the Triple Entente or the Triple Alliance. So long as the powerful Socialist Party remained integrated, intelligent, and determined in its opposition to war, so long as its official organ, Avanti, and its courageous editor, Benito Mussolini, united the laboring masses to the policies of the party, the war makers dared not move.

On July 27th Mussolini wrote the decisive editorial of the time, under the startling headline, "Our Neutrality Must Be Absolute." It was more than an abrogation of Italy's contract to fight with Germany and Austro-Hungary; it was a threat of revolution at home. The government realized that Avanti had struck the popular tune. The Nationalists still raged patriotically about the nation's duty to Germany, and Albertini of the Corriere della Sera and Bergamini of the Giornale d'Italia coined pre-Wilsonian phrases about saving Democracy and preserving Civilization by joining the Allies, but realistic politicians knew Italy was out of the war.

Officially on the 4th of August the Socialist Party voted neutrality.

Loudest and most violent of the strict neutralitarians, militant pacifists, die-hard Socialists, was the white knight of peace-at-any-price and the red Internationale, the editor of Avanti.

Magnificently he met the challenge. His editorials were heavy with sarcasm, his phrases reeked of the Milan political gutters, he used words rarely if ever seen except on fences, but his pacifist violence was absolutely bloodthirsty. He even mocked the Belgian atrocities which were breaking the heart of the world, and he sneered at the pretensions of Republican France, which, he said, was born in revolution, consecrated to the glorious future of humanity in the bloody days of the Commune, and had now become a militaristic, capitalistic, exploiting, and suppressing nation. Austria he hated with a national hatred. Through his months of fury there ran this Leitmotif : Revolt! Let the proletarians of all the nations, French, German, and Russian, and Austrian too, arise and smite the bourgeoisie of both sides who were bathing the world in blood for their own financial profits; smite them, destroy them, and establish the dictatorship of the working-class. Thus he echoed Lenin in nearby Switzerland.

But the German Socialists, with the exception of such men as Liebknecht, the French with the exception of the Juares-Rolland group, and the liberals and radicals of many other countries, suddenly became patriots, voted war credits, and rallied round flags, leaving for Italy and Mussolini only one honorable open road — strict neutrality. Late in August, 1914, Mussolini was attacking the "delirium tremens of the Nationalists" whose "scandalous opportunism" favored intervention. "Italy," reiterated the editor of Avanti, "must remain neutral. We Socialists, tenacious enemies of war, are partisans of neutrality."

He saw the war as the "crisis of capitalist society"; unable to exploit it for revolt, he urged sabotage, but at least neutrality. His old editor in Italian Austria, Cesare Battisti, who wanted Italy to free the Trentino and Venetia Giulia, the irredenta provinces, became his enemy. On the 4th of September, under the headline "Italian Proletariat, Resist the War Menace," Mussolini continued : "We are invited to weep over martyred Belgium. We are in the presence of a sentimental farce staged by France, and Belgium herself. These two old gossips would exploit the universal credulity. For us Belgium is nothing but a belligerent power just like the others ... all the powers at war are of the same degree of guilt, and it is our right, our duty, to cause a revolution of the working-class against them."

On the 21st of September Mussolini arose to new pacifist heights of violence. The Socialist Party convened in Bologna under the eyes of the belligerent world. The editor of the party organ was given the floor. He began with an oration for neutrality, which was expected, but suddenly launched into an attack on his colleagues, the comrades of the party, saying their anti-war effort was infantile, useless, they must become revolutionary, follow him, preach and work for the new Commune in France and Belgium, in Germany and Austria and in Russia, smashing Tsardoms and republics in all the countries at war and establishing the Utopian dictatorship of the proletarian masses. It was Mussolini at his best.

On the 25th of September, four days later, this same wild, impassioned pacifist issued a call for all Italy to come to arms, to join him and march to the front, to take the side of ravished France and martyred Belgium, and "to drown the war in its own blood."

What had happened in those four days between the 21st and 25th of September? Nothing short of a miracle, say all the laudatory biographers of the present Duce. He "weighed the situation," says one; "Illumination came to him," says another; and still a third informs this unbelieving world that "he miraculously changed his opinion and founded the Popolo d'Italia as a clarion call to all Italy to take up arms on the sides of the Allies." Mussolini himself is silent, half-hearted at best, usually mysterious and vague when this question of the miracle confronts him.

But in all the political cafes of the kingdom long-bearded ministers of state, emotional waiters and angry workingmen, discussing the situation, asked only one question: "Chi paga?" ("Who has paid for it?") The whispers rose; the tumult eventually reached the ears of the persons most concerned.

Mussolini was still editing the Socialist daily. On the 10th of October his leading editorial was entitled "From absolute neutrality to active and operating neutrality." The government took this as a sign that the whole Socialist movement was wavering, that it could go ahead with its plans, certain that the Mussolini wing would no longer make its promised revolutionary troubles. But Mussolini's first assistant editor, Angelica Balabanoff, said to him : "When you write as you do, it seems you go either to a madhouse or to the trenches; you must be prepared to take the consequences; there is no place in Socialism for you now."

"You will see," replied Mussolini, "that the whole executive committee will declare its solidarity with me."

He spoke in such a grandiloquent, theatrical voice that Dr. Balabanoff had the feeling he was suffering either from delusions of grandeur or actual insanity. She informed him of the table talk in all the cafes, asking him for a straight answer. All she got were shouts of denial and threats of revenge.

Then suddenly, early in November, Mussolini resigned as editor of Avanti. His associate had begged him to stay and asked him how he would make his living.

"Five lire a day are enough for me," he replied, "and I can earn them as a mason.

"I will never write another word.

"And of this you can be assured : it is that I will never write a word against the Socialist Party."

Just eight days later, on the 15th of November, 1914, there appeared a new journal on the streets of Milan. It was called Il Popolo d'Italia and underneath the title were the words : Quotidiano Socialista (Socialist Daily). In its right ear appeared the quotation "La rivoluzione e un'idea che ha trovato delel baionette: Napoleone" ("Revolution is an idea which has obtained bayonets"). In the left ear of this new "Socialist" newspaper was the quotation from the rebel leader, Blanqui, "Chi ha del ferro ha del pane" ("Whoever has a weapon has bread").

The feature of the first issue was a large editorial with the heading "Audacia." It concluded :

"I shall produce a daily which shall be independent, liberal in the extreme, personal. My own. . , . For I shall be answerable to my own conscience and nothing else. I have no aggressive intentions towards the Socialist Party, in which I propose to remain. . . .

"Continuing my march after a brief respite, I fling to you my call, O Youth, Youth of Italy, youth of the workshops and universities, who have your heart and soul young, who belong to the generation which has to make the future according to the command of destiny — my call, which will resound into History.

"This appeal, this cry, is a word that I would never have uttered in normal times, but which I give out today clearly and vigorously. without reservation, and I give it with full confidence — that one rebellious and terrifying word, WAR!"

The leading pacifist of Italy now essayed the role of leading interventionist. But he still called his a Socialist newspaper and proclaimed his adherence to the Socialist Party and its major doctrines.

Led by Serrati, Mussolini's boyhood friend and teacher, the Socialist Party now took action. A general assembly was called in Bologna for November 25th, at which the former editor accepted the invitation to defend himself.

As Mussolini entered the excited hall the congress shouted as one man: "Chi paga?"

The general assembly became a trial for treason. Mussolini accepted the challenge. Immediately Serrati and the remaining editorial board of Avanti demanded Mussolini's political life. (In time to come all men and newspapers which now attacked him were to feel the clubs, the bullets, and the flames of an old-fashioned Italian blood vendetta.)

"Chi paga?" thousands of voices shouted, "Traditore! Venduto! Sicario!"

The assembly, members who participated recount, was tumultuous and bellicose. There was difficulty in finding a president, a personality strong enough to calm the angry accusers and permit the defendant to speak, explain. It seemed impossible. The assembly became unruly, infuriated, vociferous in its insults. Judging by the shouting, one would have believed it wanted to beat the accused to death. Serrati arose, begging that he be allowed to speak in perfect quiet Utopia! For a minute the pacifists were pacific. Mussolini was called to the platform. Suddenly all his enemies decided to hear him. "Louder! Louder!" The orator's voice was lost in the uproar.

But it was none the less stirring. "You are more implacable," Mussolini cried, "than the bourgeois judges who leave the right to the defense. If you have decided that I am unworthy of fighting amongst you . . ."

"Yes, yes!" shrieked the audience.

"Expel me, then, but I have the right of demanding an act of accusation in good form. ... I will not be guillotined with a motion that doesn't mean anything. As far as the moral question is concerned, I repeat once more that I am ready to submit to any commission of inquiry whatsoever.

"You think you are destroying me, but I tell you that you are mistaken. Voi mi odiate perche ancora mi amate! You hate me today, because you still love me. But you will not ruin me. . . . My twelve years of party life are or should be a sufficient guarantee of my Socialist faith. Socialism is something which is rooted in the blood. . . . What separated me from you now is not a petty matter; it is a question which is dividing all of Socialism. Amilcare Cipriani himself has declared in speech and in writing, that if his seventy-five years would permit it, he would be in the trenches today, fighting against the European militaristic reaction which is stifling our revolution.

"But I tell you," continued Mussolini, "that from now on I shall have no mercy, no pity for all those who in this tragic moment do not speak their minds, for fear of being either hissed or cried down. I shall have no mercy, no pity, for those who are reticent, hypocritical, vile. . . . And you shall yet see me at your side. You will not have to believe that the bourgeoisie are enthusiastic for our intervention. They are gnashing their teeth, they are accusing us of temerity and are afraid that the proletariat, armed with the bayonet, may use it for its own purpose.

"Don't think that by tearing up my card you will deprive me of my Socialist faith, and that you will keep me from fighting for the cause of Socialism and the revolution."

In spite of this stirring self -vindication, Mussolini was struck from the party. Thus it is recorded that "the first responsibility for Fascism falls to Socialism."

Mussolini, raging, ran to his paper, the Popolo d'Italia, and between shouting and waving his arms wrote the following reply:


"If I wanted to stand on a question of procedure, I would have the right of putting in doubt the legitimacy of the vote, in demanding even whether a true and proper vote had taken place, given the manner in which this discussion evolved from the beginning to the end, directed by the shameless partiality of the assessor Schiavi. But I accept the fait accompli I consider myself expelled. The history of Italian Socialism does not have in its more or less glorious pages a more summary execution, more Inquisition-like, more bestial than the one that trapped me. De Marinis, Bissolati, and the others were submitted to exclusion from the big debates of the congress, and were accorded very broadly the right of defense; and their accusation was carried to the tribune, documented, exhausting its object.

"For me, nothing of the sort. The trial was conducted in the shortest possible way. Some one presented the most radical motion without even sustaining it; after much hesitation, I was allowed to expose my thought; then Lazzari [a Socialist], instead of bringing up an act of accusation, repeated the usual low insinuation. The political question was not even touched, the moral question not examined. If that is Socialist justice, truly one should prefer that of Magistrate Allara. But the breed which dominates the party wished to conquer, and conquer it did.

"I am expelled, but not tamed. If they think me dead, they will have the terrible surprise of finding me alive, implacable, intent upon combating them with all my strength. That is why I have forged for myself the weapon with which to enlighten the proletariat and to remove it from the sad influence of these false preachers. And I hope that in the proletariat of the simple and upright soul, the light will be seen promptly.

"It is not against the proletariat — it is not against the sacred principles of the proletariat — that I am fighting. The proletarians know well that when it was a matter of assuming responsibility for the uprisings, for the lawsuits in the Court of Assizes, for the campaigns of the party, I gave freely of myself out of an incoercible need of action, without worrying about the danger, without measuring my fatigue. But you, gentlemen, who form the directing elite of the party, you who speak when you should be silent, or who are silent when you should speak; you with the medals, you who have preferred to hide your votes in the amorphous and tempestuous handraising, you who, however, owe something to the 'Barbarossa' of June, you will have to pass under the Caudine forks. I understand the hatred, the exasperation of the proletarians, but your reticences constitute a document of a baseness which dishonors Italian Socialism to the extreme point. But I am precisely here to spoil your little party.

"The Mussolini case is not over, as you think. It is just beginning. It is becoming complicated. It is taking on vaster proportions. I am openly raising the flag of schism. I am not becoming appeased — I am crying out. I do not bend; I am revolting.

"All the Socialists who claim for themselves the right to live, and to think; the proletarians who refuse to bend to the wishes of a coterie which pretends stupidly to stay the course of history and to dictate an eternal and universal law, must gather around this paper, a free arena for free minds, a pure standard which the infamous insinuation of a damaged breed will never succeed in soiling. A party which 'carries on' in this fashion is a party into which men worthy of the name cannot enter — or, once inscribed, cannot, must not remain. I invite them to leave, to seek more liberty, more air, more light, more humanity, and more Socialism.

"And now, driving into the depths of my soul all sadness and all complaint, I gather together my weapons, all my weapons. For Socialism! and against the obvious enemies, and the occult enemies of Socialism!"

Looking back to that great crisis which was to lead so quickly to Fascism and to dictatorship, Mussolini says of his expulsion and of his raising the banner of schism: "I felt lighter, fresher, I was free."

He was free.

The turn in his life had been taken. Our Caesar had crossed his Rubicon. He was now editor and owner of a paper; he was becoming feared and respected and followed; moreover, he was no longer held by party lines and rules and the ideas of dead men. He was free!

This was the moment for which he had waited. Out of biographies and histories he had made a pattern for his own life and built a world-empire for himself, which he ruled with appropriate magic words. Denying in childhood and youth the power of men and gods, he had spoken always of his Star of Destiny, repeating Napoleon's favorite phrase until he believed he was its author, and always he had cultivated not only the historical but the Shakespearean Julius Caesar in word and look.

In his youth he had announced sententiously his belief in both Free Will and Predestination, and unlike his fellow men who drifted where tide and wind fantastically veered, the young editor of the Socialist Avanti felt that a situation would one day arise, that he would master it, and then achieve that satisfaction which a magnificent egotism, chained in childhood by poverty and misfortune, in youth by the dead hand of Karl Marx and the pressure of political organization, had made inevitable for him.

Good European that he was, he realized early in life that the road to power led directly through the doors of a newspaper office. He had before him the picture of the first and third Napoleons, the later Bismarck, the contemporary Northcliffe. He had already tasted the surprise and satisfaction in the effects of his amateur writings on the mass mind, both in Switzerland and in his native province, and the elevation to Avanti had confirmed every thought about the power of the press. He was free. He was independent.

And yet, there was that childhood in Socialism and that manhood suffering for "the cause" which could never be forgotten. "Socialism is something which is rooted in the blood." It was to appear time and time again in the black blood stream of Fascism.

He had raised the flag of schism, but the old ideals which he had absorbed with his mother^s milk and his father's sweaty bread were still beneath the banner. He had been horribly wounded, but he still believed it was he who was the great hero, the noble patriot, and although the Italian world shouted "Traitor" for many years, he tried more than once to return to that paternal heaven under which he was born and raised to leadership.

And again the cry "Chi Paga?" would be raised, the charge of betrayal, the charge that he had sold the Socialist Party and peace for a handful of silver from a foreign country.
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Re: Sawdust Caesar: The Untold History of Mussolini and Fasc

Postby admin » Wed Jan 14, 2015 11:16 pm

CHAPTER 2: The Romantic Rebel

BY DESERTING THE POLICY OF NEUTRALITY AND PACIFISM OF HIS Socialist colleagues, young Benito Mussolini earned the immediate enmity of many million compatriots who, naturally accusing him of treason, suspected that the Allies had invested large sums in this secret business. Even today, reviewing the entire political career of the Duce, there are some who say that "he has raised betrayal to a mode of life" and who offer documentary proof of this appraisal.

As an action, of course, Mussolini's was not without parallels in past history, and it recurs in the lives of other notable living men. If, however, we accept the philosophy of the Gautama Buddha, if we desire to understand all so that we may forgive all, it is necessary first to review for a moment the childhood and youth of the man who has risen to such worldly eminence by following a course which to some may appear nothing but zigzags, retreats, and changes of face, but to others the straight and narrow path of a fierce and victorious will to power.

The great students of human behavior agree that a human pattern is "set" before the fifth year; the child grows to be a hero or a traitor, a racketeer or a statesman; he becomes an artist, a leader, a neurotic, a madman, because of his treatment by his parents, his brothers and sisters, his companions; because of his youthful sex life; because of these and many other events or influences, and the environment of childhood.

Violence is the keynote of Mussolini's youth. He was whipped and bullied by his father, pampered and kissed too much by his mother. It was a hard childhood spent largely near a blacksmith's forge and in a dirty country saloon. The blows he got from the fist and the belt of Alessandro, that towering bulk of a blacksmith, the boy gave in turn to weaker boys. The affection of his mother he kept for himself, repaid it only to her; he never loved deeply and he never had a true friend. He was condemned, says one who knew him in his youth, to either great good or great evil.

"I was not a good boy." "I was a restless and pugnacious child." "I was an audacious ladro campestre" he writes at various times, the third confession translatable as "rural thief" according to the dictionary, but "young buccaneer" by romantic lady biographers. He fought with his hands and with stones, sometimes sharpened, and there was blood spilled when young Benito engaged in battle with peasant lads and schoolboys. When his younger brother, Arnaldo, began to grow up he too was bullied and hit by his senior. "I was a little rogue, restless, exacting, passionate, pugnacious, and ever ready to fight. Often I came home with my head broken with stones, but I knew how to revenge myself."

The vendetta motif comes early. Life in that hard countryside around Varano da Costa, where he was born on July 29, 1883, was for children and men a constant struggle amidst great poverty, and where there is poverty and desperation there is always vendetta and betrayal and feuds and bloodshed and a more violent outlook on life. No wonder, then, that father Alessandro, an excellent man, an honest man who lived and suffered for his socialistic principles and who had spent three years in prison for having associated with the revolutionist Bakunin, when it came to teaching his own son the rules for getting along in a mean world, inculcated the policy of revenge, blow for blow, blood for blood. It was the philosophy of survival.

In his passionate Socialist days when he published his own little weekly. La Lotte di Classe (The Class Struggle), Benito wrote of Papa Alessandro:

"My father was born in 1854 in Predappio. ... He became an apprentice in a smithy at Dovadola, Then he went to Dovia and there opened a forge. I do not know at what time and under what influences he became a follower of the Internationale. But it is certain that when he arrived at Dovia he was already carrying on a great propaganda, and had formed the first organization of the Internationale. He was thrown into prison. When he returned he remained under police supervision for forty-two weeks.

"His house always offered shelter and friendship to those pursued by the authorities. Later, when the Socialists had come to take part in municipal politics, my father became mayor of Predappio. In 1892 he formed in Predappio the first labor union. ... In 1902 he was again arrested. ... The clergy, the police, and the moderates persecuted him ceaselessly. . . .

"He left me no material heritage, but he left me a moral one — his treasure: the Ideal. . . .

"And after this sorrowful burial, I pursue my way, following in his footsteps."

The boy was named after Benito Juarez, liberator of Mexico. Papa Alessandro chose the name for two reasons — anti-clericalism and rebellion; he taught his firstborn to hate the Catholic Church and the Royal State, caUing both the oppressors of the human spirit. From his father Benito learned that intelligence and subtlety must be employed by the minority if it was not to be forever suppressed by those in power. In his father's fate Mussolini saw that failure came to those who knew and spoke intelligent plans for the remaking of the world but who were weak in action. With every year of his childhood his confidence in himself increased.

Most characteristic of all the incidents which Mussolini himself recalled in the first days of his success, concerns his early oratory. His mother, terrified by tremendous noises and a locked door, said to him one day:

"Are you mad, my son? Only lunatics talk to themselves. What is ailing you?"

"Do not worry, dear mother," Benito replied, simply. "I was practicing oratory. Believe me, mother, the time will come when all Italy will tremble before me."

Friends and enemies alike have also drawn many morals from another youthful incident. Fear, betrayal, perfidy, treason, revenge, blows, bloodshed, all enter into it and all are remembered through- out a lifetime, and satisfaction comes over the face of the dictator as he recounts, time after time, how on his father's advice he sharpened a stone, ambushed his enemy, cut open his face, and cursed him. He had earlier that day come naively forward to accept the other boy's invitation and, if one is to believe the narrator, the neighbor lad, without provocation or warning, had smacked his face. That night he had had his revenge. But in the young mind the blow on the face remained forever imprinted, warning the coming leader never to trust another man, never to surround himself with friends, never to put his trust in humanity, but to rely on the ethics of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and above all that Machiavelli who despised the mass of human beings.

He was sent to the cloister of the Salesian Friars at Faenza, his mother hoping that the atmosphere of order and piety and the companionship of a better class of children would have some effect in curbing that violent nature. But the boy continued to seek quarrels, to insult those smaller and weaker than himself, and to give the monks many uneasy moments.

"Your father is a rebel," they once said to him, "and you, you are turning into a young anarchist." If he did not change he would be expelled. Then another schoolboy fight and more punishment. "Mussolini," the friar said, "your soul is black as hell. Confess your sins. Repent before it is too late. Confess or we expel you."

He fled from the school. He roamed, afraid of shadows, through the night, only to be caught and whipped and taken to confession. But instead of that being a lesson to him it only hardened him. The next time he got into a fight it was with an older boy. But young Mussolini knew now how to fight those physically stronger than himself. The world was civilized and there were weapons to be used. Mussolini gave his enemy what the Italians call a temperinata: he got out his penknife and stabbed the older boy.

Although, fortunately, the wound was not serious, the action was. The Salesian monks would stand for much; they would preach and they would use the rod, but they would not have bloodshed in their quiet walls. So Benito was sent home.

He had been a rebel. He had been a solitary. From the first days he could not mingle with others, could not accept orders, could not follow. He walked alone. He sought trouble and it always led to more loneliness. "Who in my whole life" he burst out one day, years later, "has shown me tenderness? Nobody! Poor, dreadfully poor, was my home, poor and bitter my life. Where could I have learned tenderness? Perhaps at school, in the cloister, or in the world? Nowhere. Then why do people wonder that I am reserved, solitary, harsh, and stern?"

At his next school at Forlimpopoli it is recorded by one named Bonavita that Mussolini "got into a fight with three fellow students; he went beyond legitimate defense and he had to flee from the college." The weapon used is not named. But it was always the same. From the first days when he pulled the hair of little girls, climbed about on the floor pinching bare feet, or bullying the children on the playgrounds, to the days he drew a knife, it was always the same rebellion to discipline, the rebellion of a spoiled child, a beaten child revenging himself upon others for youthful sufferings at home.

The father passed from blacksmith to tavern-keeper, from tavern-keeper to mayor of the district. In the forge he had pounded society as his anvil; his saloon, "l'Agnello," became a political center of the countryside, and Alessandro himself was always a politician. The young Benito, who had been whipped for not minding the bellows, was now to receive another sort of education. For now he lived in a political cafe. Here was the place men came to drink and talk, and to drink more and talk more wildly of the coming revolution which would assert the rights of man. Socialism, Karl Marx, the First Internationale, the Communist Manifesto, syndicalism, direct action, and anarchism, those were the subjects over which men drank and fought and fought over again, night after night, while children stood around in adenoidal astonishment.

Young Mussolini grew up a soap-box orator and a sturdy brawler. Throughout his province there are many alive today who fought with him, drank with him, gambled with him and sometimes engaged in bouts which led to police interference. At Tolmezzo and later at Pieve Saliceto, province of Reggio Emilia, where he taught in the elementary schools, there are strange tales about the youth with the furious eyes and black temperament. In a quarrel at Tolmezzo with his landlady and her lover who accused Mussolini of replacing him, there were blows and a knife wound. Mussolini was hit by the lover. The landlady was stabbed.

At Caneva, where he taught in 1905, an attempt was. made to discharge him on the ground of blasphemy in the schoolroom; the teacher escaped the charge by protesting he was using the names of Oriental gods only; the reason, however, of the town's dissatisfaction was the terror that ruled the children who were the innocent victims of Mussolini's hatred of the teaching profession. His eyes, his hands, his voice were continually in a state of violence; he was impatient, would strike the children and so thoroughly scare them they would run home weeping and trembling.

In a Zurich beer restaurant, his admirers relate with joy, Mussolini, in an altercation with a waitress over a franc, became so angry when some one placed a hand upon his shoulder that he called out that now was the time for all good men to come to the aid of a compatriot, and accordingly three Italians arose and the four thoroughly wrecked the place.

In Berne there was another case of the boarding-house mistress and the handsome black-eyed boarder. "Was it owing to political feeling or was it lovers' jealousy. Was it the outcome of theoretical conflict or of mere male rivalry?" asks the devoted Signora Sarfatti. Two pistol shots. No bloodshed.

In Italy Mussolini's first arrest occurred in Oneglia in 1908 when he marched at the head of a group of workingmen who insisted on their right to work and to strike and who got into a fight with the authorities. The sentence was ten days in jail. In his home district, in Forli, Mussolini led a mob into the mayor's office: the price of milk was too high and the way to cure that was to throw the mayor and his staff through the window, to injury or perhaps to death, it did not matter; those were moments of direct action for the young man who had absorbed so many of his ideas around the wine-dripping tables of his father's saloon. The mayor capitulated and the man of action was lionized.

No other leader of violence has led so violent a life. Lenin, Trotsky, Kemal Pasha, Pilsudski, in fact most of the modern dictators, have a long police record, but no history of stabbings, shootings, barroom brawls, jealous battles with fellow boarders for the affections of a landlady, street fights, as well as political adventures, make up the youth of Mussolini's prominent colleagues. It was the same in his birthplace, his Swiss exile, his first sojourn in Austria, his return to Italy, his editorship in Italia Irredenta, and finally his years of power as member of the directorate of the Socialist Party in Italy, immediately preceding the war. Almost every year is marked with a deed of violence.

It was shortly after his second visit to Austria that Benito, a rare visitor at home, noticed the pretty servant whom his father had employed for more than a year. Papa Alessandro, lonely widower, had found it difficult to manage his cafe. Fortunately, there had arrived in town a handsome buxom widow with a pretty growing child. They were glad to find employment, the former as house- keeper, the latter as scullery maid of the "Agnello," and eventually the widow became Alessandro's mistress, while the girl, Rachele Guidi, waited on table, washed the wine-glasses, and worshiped the achievements of her master's elder son.

She was young and blond and sweet and innocent. Without coquetry and pretensions, she fell in love with the handsome youth with the soulful eyes. But she was only a servant girl, while Benito was a man of the world, a man of book learning who had already established himself as a person of importance, and who spoke of his "will to power" and other things she could not understand.

In the atmosphere of that political cafe all was rebellion. The workingmen who shouted there accepted Papa Alessandro and his mistress without a comment or a raised eyebrow. Everyone was anti-clerical. Although the majority were legally married, marriage itself was frequently discussed and denounced as part of the conventional, narrow-minded bourgeois social system which all intelligent men hated.

To young Mussolini, returned from several years of work and travel, with the memory of one love-affair indistinguishable from that of many others, the idea of marriage was non-existent when he beheld the child he had seen several years before grown into a startlingly attractive young woman. He did not fall in love with her, but he desired her. And she, who worshiped him and could not hope for marriage with such a great personality, believed that "love was the pardon for any sin of the flesh," as Mme. Jeanne Bordeux, who alone among Mussolini's worshipful admirers mentions the romantic episode, says in explanation.

But Papa Mussolini, learning soon enough that his son was the lover of the sweet girl whose mother was his own mistress, shook his head, and said to Rachele Guidi: "Do not let yourself think of that young man. Better for you to throw yourself under a train. If you marry him you will have neither peace nor happiness."

But Rachele never regretted her passionate surrender to Benito.

When they moved from the village to Milan, Rachele and their daughter Edda accompanied him and they lived as signor and signora. In all those years Rachele was content to love and remain a servant; she never spoke a word of advice or reproach, she sank into oblivion when the leading radicals came to the house to discuss the proletarian revolution, she waited on table, was grateful for a kind word sometimes, refused to listen to tales of other women in her common-law husband's life, and never poisoned it by nagging for a few words mumbled by a clerk which would legalize her position.

At first, it is recorded, Benito had the idea "of transforming her, of making her into other than a kind and gentle home body; but in every sense of the word she had been a good wife to him and she was the mother of his two children, Edda and Vittorio. He had recognized her position by living with her, but, unfortunately, before the law a common-law wife in Italy is not a wife, and in all countries the children of such a liberal union are illegitimate. . . ."

Although no record has been found of a marriage between Benito and Rachele, some admirers of the Duce declare that it took place during the war, while others place it much later, on the eve of the signature of the treaty with the Pope, and quite a theory of statesmanship and diplomacy has been built upon this supposedly later incident. Mme. Bordeux is authority for the statement that there was a marriage, and in explanation of its lateness quotes Mussolini saying:

"Perhaps I never thought of it in the rush of my outside work, but I guess I have always had a conscience-stricken feeling regarding la mia signora, for now that she is my legitimate wife a great weight has been lifted from here," and he placed his hand over his heart.

From the earliest days of his life with Rachele Guidi, Mussolini engaged in his most violent political activities. Frequently he went to jail. And it is in this record, perhaps, that the key will be found to his decisive action during the war, because it becomes obvious that it was a will to power, and not an idealism disciplined within party barriers, that animated the fiery revolutionary in his youth.

His Lotta di Classe pretended to be a Socialist organ at the time Social Democracy in Italy was about as radical as the Socialist Party in the United States is now, and even less so than the British Labor Party, or the Social Democrats of Germany in the early days of the Republic. But Mussolini's paper advocated syndicalism and direct action. "I understood now," the editor wrote, "that the Gordian knot of Italian political life could only be undone by an act of violence." And sadly, "The man who still cherishes ideals in his heart is rated an imbecile or a lunatic." It did not matter what the world called him, he still chose to belong to the Socialist Party and to proclaim ideals which the majority denounced as violent or called childish and Utopian.

The Socialist Party, however, did not know what to make of this super-enthusiastic adherent who preached and practiced things it could never harbor nor endorse. Mussolini was for direct action and sabotage. "When I declare myself in favor of sabotage," he declared himself, "I mean in accordance with my theories, economic sabotage, which is not to be confused with vandalismo. . . . Sabotage according to me ought to have a moral bearing" — and this led to the July, 1910, arrest. When Italy made war in Tripoli, Mussolini was leader not only of those who opposed that war, but of the pacifists who were willing to spill blood in the name of peace at all costs.

An attempt was made to call a general strike. For three days in Romagna the proletariat became master of the streets. At Forli they occupied the railroad station, hindered the sending of troops, sabotaged the government in every way. Cavalry was sent. Mussolini and Nenni, destined later to be his successor on the Avanti, led the mob. Sticks and stones. A fence was destroyed. The strikers armed themselves with staves and the women shook them in the face of the sabers.

The cavalry charged. The women threw stones or placed them- selves in front of the men, daring the horsemen to run them down or cut them with their swords. The cavalry charged again. There was confusion. The cavalry charged a third time and there was the moaning of the wounded, the weeping of women, and the curses of Mussolini and his men followers. But they won. The strikers marched to the railroad station and tore up the tracks. A train had just arrived with soldiers, but they would not let it proceed.

The next day, martial law. Arrests everywhere. The hastily constructed barricades became again nothing but a lot of junk and the might of law and order was felt. Mussolini sat in his prison cell meditating on the injustice of this world and planning the liberation of mankind when he had risen to power. But with that feeling there was that other view, gained from his books, that distrust and disgust with his fellow men. "Only twelve of us here," he said to Nenni amidst the dirt and vermin of the prison, "and the cowards, they are not going out on a general strike."

He stayed in jail from that 16th of October to the 23rd of the next month, when he was tried on eight serious charges:

"Opposition to the supreme power and defiance of authorities.

"Attempt to prevent recruiting.

"Inciting to strikes and stopping of work at war factories.

"Violence in stopping street-car communications and damaging tracks.

"Cutting telegraph lines.

"Destroying a telegraph office.

"Violent seizure of a railroad locomotive.

"Laying telegraph poles across railroad to derail an express."

On November 23, 1911, he was sentenced to seven months' imprisonment, which term was reduced to five on appeal. His opposition to the war, during the war, was almost treasonable. "Every honest Socialist must disapprove of this Libyan adventure," he had declared. "It means only useless and stupid bloodshed," and thousands had agreed with him. Were it not for this fact of public support his sentence would have been more severe. At the trial he denied only those acts which might have resulted in the deaths of innocent persons, such as the laying of telegraph poles on the railroad track. Before sentence, he said to the judge:

"Honorable Court, if you acquit me you make me rejoice; for then I can return to work and the community of human society. If you sentence me you honor me, for then you will be condemning not a criminal, but a follower of the Ideal, an agitator according to his conscience, a Soldier of the Truth."

This Soldier of the Truth came out of prison the Hero of the Truth with the halo of a Socialist martyr about him. He had been the leader of a small branch of the party, the editor of only a local little weekly, but he had been remarked by the national leaders and his trial, related to a war which was going badly and which was unpopular, brought him some fame; he stepped out of prison into the midst of an intense political campaign which came to a climax at the congress of his party in July, 1912, at Reggio Emilia. It was this meeting which made Mussolini nationally known as a leader.

Some months before there had been an unsuccessful attempt on the life of the King. Congratulations were in order. Other crowned heads sent telegrams and ambassadors; the President of the United States offered his felicitations; the Senate of Italy and the Chamber of Deputies expressed their joy, and among those who subscribed to these sentiments were three Socialist leaders, Bonomi, Bissolati, and Cabrini.

It was the action of these three deputies which caused a crisis in the affairs of the Socialist Party: was it to remain Right and loyal and pacifist, or go Left, use violence, prepare for that blood-bath of the proletariat which the editor of The Class War was advocating? Bissolati was for evolutionary legal progress; Mussolini leaped into the discussion, demanding action.

"On the 14th of March," cried the boyish demagogue, "a Roman mason fired a revolver against Victor Savoia" — there was a shout of joyful laughter when the orator thus labeled the King. "There have been precedents which ought to indicate the line of conduct for us Socialists. There has already been strong criticism of the indescribable spectacle offered by subversive Italy after the attentat of Bresci at Monza. We had reason to hope that after ten years we would not again see the flags hung in mourning and the Socialist mayors sending telegrams of condolences and congratulations and all democratic Italy subversively on its knees at a given moment be- fore the throne.

"It is very difficult to separate the political from the human question. It is very difficult to separate the man and the king. To avoid pernicious misunderstanding the Socialists have but one duty after the attentat of March 14th: to keep away.

"Attempted assassinations are the accidents of kings, just as falling chimneys are the accidents of masons. If we must weep, let us weep for the masons.

"Why weep for the Kling? Why this sentiment, hysterical, excessive, when it concerns crowned heads? Who is the King? He is by definition a useless citizen. There are peoples who have sent their kings for a walk when they did not want to safeguard themselves better by sending them to the guillotine, and these peoples are the advance guard of civil progress.

"For us Socialists an attentat is a historical act or it pertains to the daily news according to the case. Socialists cannot associate themselves in mourning or in deprecation or in monarchist festivities."

The Socialist congress became a maddened crowd. Mussolini called for the expulsion of the three leaders of the moderate, pacifist, anti-violence Right wing of the party. Bissolati stood as their spokesman, a Socialist of the old school, an intellectual, a thinker, a man of the finest moral fiber and highest ideals of humanitarian philosophy — and like many others of like character, a victim later of the universal war mania which engulfed Europe.

The Reggio Emilia congress was the prelude to the Milan meeting which decided Mussolini's lifetime direction. Here, as later, he felt la forza del destino, he played opportunism to its utmost, using the appeal to emotion to overcome the appeal to reason.

Ivanoe Bonomi was forced out of the party because he was not radical enough, Claudio Treves was dismissed from the editorship of Avanti, and his successor, Giovanni Bacci, six months later made way for that same Benito Mussolini who had defeated Leonida Bissolati at the Reggio Emilia meeting and who had become, in addition to director of the Socialist Party, one of its accepted leaders.

Direct action, sabotage, revolutionary tactics, the use of violence to establish philosophical ideas, in other words, the Mussolini program, was victorious. He became not only the head of the party, but one of the men in control of Italian politics. Bonomi said of him, he is "a revolutionary in whom the spirit of the barricades is stronger than Marxist discipline," and Georges Sorel, whose disciple Mussolini had declared himself, wrote [1] from Paris: "Our Mussolini is not an ordinary Socialist. It is my belief that some day we shall see him at the head of a mighty legion saluting the Italian flag with his sword. He is a fifteenth-century Italian, a condottiere."

The Sorel prediction appears in all the early Fascist biographies, and in one instance was used as a triumphant book blurb, the publishers evidently being unaware that in the days of the free republican cities of Italy, in the time of the Renaissance, the condottieri were captains who bought and sold themselves and their soldiers to princes and were hired for pay to wage the battles of other people.

Apocryphal or holographic, the Sorel letter and the judgment of Bonomi help explain the character of the man and the force driving him into a career of power; they forecast the decision of 1914 and illuminate the historical events of Mussolini's rule as a dictator.

In 1912, when Bonomi spoke and Sorel prophesied, Mussolini was one of the directors of the Socialist Party and all the signs pointed toward a Revolution, and towards the editor of the Avanti as a duce, or leader, of a victorious proletarian uprising.



1. No proof that the letter is genuine has ever been produced by the Fascist biographers, but the contents read more like an accusation than an endorsement.
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Re: Sawdust Caesar: The Untold History of Mussolini and Fasc

Postby admin » Wed Jan 14, 2015 11:16 pm

CHAPTER 3: Dieu n'existe pas [1]

IF THE EPISODES OF HIS CHILDHOOD FURNISH A CLUE TO THE MAN'S behavior in the critical year 1914, the emigre years in Switzerland provide the key to all actions and decisions of a whole lifetime.

The little violences of youth were now to be followed by violence in the political field, the little treacheries of boyhood, of which proud parents had boasted, were now to become a pattern of living, while the will to power, demonstrated at first by merely oral declarations, drove through opportunities in dynamic fashion.

Although we are told that love and hate are the opposite poles of the same emotion, we find evidences of the second, the harder impulse, in this period of the hero's existence. We see him now as a complete rebel, but that which has driven him into that position was not the usual humanitarian reaction. It was almost purely hatred. Mussolini hated the church, religion, the rich; he hated society and he hated the State, but his was not the class hatred shared with socialist, proletarian friends, it was a personal hatred, a desire for revenge, the result of what he himself, not his people, had suffered. He was not "class" conscious. Whenever he spoke of his childhood it was with bitterness; of his hunger years in Switzerland it was with a desire for revenge.

He joined and passed through anarchist, socialist, republican, and other groups which opposed the state of things as they are, not with the ideal of hastening the day of Utopia, but for a vendetta against elements and persons, the Church, society, individuals he believed had wronged him. For the same reason he opposed Freemasonry, first as a Socialist and later as a Fascist, because its policy was incompatible with his personal program of retaliation. He never acted from social consciousness, as other radicals, but from individual necessity.

Now the State, which he had fought with the same fury which later was to mark his exaltation of it, was reaching out inexorably to subdue him as it for generations had subdued all rebels. The time for compulsory military service was coming and the eyes of the police were upon him; as in all conscript countries where the military age is twenty, the authorities began their watch a year or more before. Mussolini fled to Switzerland. Officially, on the 10th of April, 1904, in his home judicial district, he was accordingly listed as renitente di leva — one who deserts before being called to the colors.

Switzerland was the second choice, the choice of economic necessity. He desperately wanted America, the still unrestricted land of opportunity where all his countrymen had relatives, where success was easy, opportunity more equal, gold and success to be had, where class barriers were more easily broken, where liberty and Italian dreams came true. Frequently during the exile years he thought of America with longing,

"Yes," he once said to the present writer, "I came very close to that decision on several occasions. Once it was in fact a fifty-percent chance. I was a political exile then, you know, and for us there were but two lands of freedom. Times were hard in Switzerland; I thought I would try my fortune in America as so many Italians did at that time.

"I knew I could get work in my line. I was a mason. Well, I tossed a coin." He was silent, meditating; he seemed to follow that coin spinning in the air, falling, sending him to America, where he would have been swallowed, obliterated in the regiments of labor- union masons in New York.

"Youth, youth," he sighed, "a dream. A dream. I wonder what would have become of me in America. Had I gone over as an emigrant in 1904 what would I be now?"

"Why did you go to Switzerland?" I asked.

"Because my views conflicted with that of the Italian government. I was the victim of a love of freedom and individualism."

He hated the "cramped, confining atmosphere" of Italy; he yielded to "his restless wanderlust"; he decided "to seek his fortune in Switzerland, as it was the easiest country to be reached"; say the biographers, and he himself declares in writing that "I did not want to go back to my family. There was a narrow world for me . . . one could neither move nor think without feeling at the end of a short rope. I became conscious of myself, sensitive to my future. I felt the urge to escape. . . . Courage was my asset. I would be an exile. I crossed the frontier. ... It was the milestone which marked my maturity."

He telegraphed home and got the equivalent of nine dollars. At the frontier station he read in a Milan newspaper that his father, accused with others of smashing ballot-boxes to prevent the Catholics from winning the local elections from the Socialists, had been arrested. "This piece of news placed me in a dilemma. Was I to return or go on?" He did not hesitate long. He had made his decision to escape the army and he took the first train, arriving at Yverdon, Switzerland, with just forty-two cents in his pockets and the address of some one who might give him a job.

But it was neither fear nor cowardice, as his political enemies say, which drove Mussolini to Switzerland; it was rather a deep belief in pacifism and individual defiance of the power of the State which he detested. It is only the fact that later he was to outpatrioteer all patriots in militaristic passion, which makes the escape noteworthy. At that time thousands of Italians, pacifists who believed in sabotaging militarism, from principle and idealism, were refusing to train as soldiers and accepting the refuge which America and Switzerland offered them.

In those terrible and glorious years of his Swiss exile, those honest years of his life, he often boasted of his desertion. That act had been his passport into the hearts and homes of all the exiles and rebels of all the world, who were grouped in Geneva and Basle and Lausanne, reading Karl Marx and plotting revolution and liberty for Russia and Finland and for Czechoslovakia, for suppressed nations and persecuted races. Men starved and struggled in those days, but kept alight the red beacon of revolutionary hope.

Young Benito went to Lausanne. Eyewitness accounts of his arrival present a human picture of almost irreconcilable contrast. We have already seen the violent child bending to the blows of his father's leather belt and attacking a weaker youth with a knife; we have on more than one occasion had a view of that future leader of men, that burning orator who could scatter his fire into weaker vessels, that proud, domineering boyish ego. How different he looks when hunger and poverty hold him a prisoner.

It was evening. At the Italian Socialist club of Lausanne which housed also the cooperative stores and the communal restaurant, many men, all of them rebels, some republicans, a few anarchists, a majority revolutionary Socialists and most of them refugees from the army and from the law, sat at their coffee and gesticulated about the future.

A colleague entered. "I want to introduce a compatriot who has left Italy to escape military service." He indicated a new face, a face sad and humble and somewhat starved.

Serrati, that same Serrati who was later to befriend more passionately and to forgive and aid more frequently the young Radical Mussolini, and who was afterwards to feel more fully the power of the Duce's retaliation to the comrades of his youth, Serrati as secretary of the club arose, went to the stranger, gave him his hand, made him welcome.

Mussolini was modestly but somewhat flamboyantly dressed; with his plain, commonplace iron-gray suit he wore an artist's hat of wide brim and an artist's large black tie, knotted at his throat, the wide silk ends flowing romantically over his bosom.

"My name is Benito Mussolini," he said in a low voice. "I am a school-teacher. Born in Predappio. My father you may know, a pure Socialist, councilor of the Socialist minority of our commune." He was ingratiating.

"You may feel yourself at home here," replied Serrati. "Speak without shame and fear nothing. You are among your friends. Tell me frankly, first of all, have you eaten today, do you want food?"

Everyone had turned towards the new young man. He was agitated, embarrassed, he murmured something about hunger.

"Allons! Do not blush. We are among comrades," said Serrati, smiling encouragingly and taking Mussolini by the arm and calling on Francesco Capassi, director of the cooperative restaurant, conducted the former to the dining-room on the second floor and ordered a plate of spaghetti. . . .

"When you've eaten, descend," said Serrati, "and we will talk. We will find a roof for you. We will find something for you."

To Capassi, Serrati gave the order that the meal should be paid for out of the Socialist Party funds. While the hungry man, the future Duce who had exactly one cent in his pocket that night, gorged himself on spaghetti and bread, the good comrades listened to the one who had found the wanderer at the Place Pepinette, where he had come after sleeping under a bridge of Lausanne. It was an unwritten law of the club that everyone who flew to Switzerland to escape military service must be aided because there was perhaps no better proof of class solidarity.

Mussolini descended with a full stomach. He was welcomed to a table, offered coffee, a glass of wine; he asked advice about work and something to live on until he found it. Serrati, a sweet and sentimental soul, adopted him as a friend. He called on one Marzetto to give him a bed or a blanket on the floor, and that night when Karl Marx had been exhausted for the hundredth time, the leading old radical and the beginner of nineteen went out arm in arm to find their roofs.

What a different man he became when the dictates of his belly were satisfied. Within a week from his hesitating entrance into the club young Mussolini was arguing theories with other members, almost as loud, as cocksure, as vehement as the rest, and in another week he was intimidating them with his non-conformist attitude. He had claimed he was a Socialist, but now, they said, he had proven either that he knew very little about Socialism or that, if he did, he was already too individualistic to be a good party member, to belong to either the left or the right wing, both of which contending for the approval of the masses, agreed, however, on the main Marxian tenets.

So long as Mussolini argued Karl Marx they could understand him. But the newcomer had new views almost every week. If the book he happened to be reading was by Nietzsche, he was a Nietzschean that week, full of phrases about the will to power, the revaluation of all values, and the whipping of women; if, on the other hand, he became interested in Sorel, why, it was all syndicalism that week and the devil take more timid social philosophy. Sometimes it was Schopenhauer, when he would enjoy a week of misogyny, and again it would be Stirner, when the Ego and its Own set him on fire with faith in himself.

He had a sick man's, a weakling's, belief in strength. (He had not yet come upon Machiavelli, who, four or five years later, was to make such an impression on him as to rule his thoughts forever after.) For him there never arose the question which has troubled philosophers from Athens to Harvard, the question of Free Will. "I have willed this," "It is my will," are his favorite expressions. In his childhood he had not been allowed any freedom, yet he speaks of carrying out his "will" on certain occasions, while in Switzerland his daily reference to his own strength, his courage, his power, his "clear will" so impressed his colleagues that, not seeking the psychological reasons which force a sick, unhappy, suppressed individual to resort almost daily to such terms, they accepted him at his own estimation, as his party and the nation later were to accept him, and as propaganda later was to exhibit him to all the weak-willed people of a mediocre world.

New revolutionary vistas opened to Mussolini with every book he found in Switzerland. After he had studied Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto he became interested in Babeuf, whose ideas Marx had studied, and in Blanqui, the political heir of Babeuf, absorbing but not digesting all these violent views, one after another. He accepted Babeuf 's statement that the French Revolution "is only a forerunner of another, a greater, a more majestic revolution which will be the last" and "it is our duty to set up a dictatorship of the poor." Babeuf "conceived of revolution as an insurrection on the part of well-organized and armed plotters," [2] and Mussolini, at Socialist gatherings, where all spoke of peaceful changes, of philosophic progress, of the education of the masses in preparation for taking over power, advocated activity, not talk. He was young and he was headstrong. Blanquism, "a synonym for revolutionary adventuring," was seized upon by Mussolini and made his guide; Blanqui's motto, Chi ha del ferro ha del pane, became his motto.

Mussolini was developing into a fine soap-box orator. Although he knew little about Socialism, and despite his lack of orthodoxy, he had frequent opportunity to exhibit himself on the stage and in public squares. He seemed destined to sway people by words, and just as he had astonished his own mother with his speeches to himself and the schoolchildren of Forlimpopoli with his extraordinary gestures, he now began to lead in debates. Once he had a serious rebuff. Vandervelde had come to Geneva. It was at the time the Socialists had discovered that Jesus Christ had preached the rights of the weak and the suppressed, of the under dog against the masters, and Vandervelde, the leading Belgian Socialist, was just the type to expound Christian morality as Socialist practice, while Mussolini, brought up in an anti-clerical atmosphere, took it upon himself to denounce "the milk-and-water revolutionary ideas of Christianity." But when Vandervelde, after listening to the youth's diatribe, remarked that Jesus, "this milk-and-water Revolutionist," had preached enough Socialism to alarm Rome with such fears of a proletarian rebellion that the Crucifixion had been ordered, the disciple of violence, amidst the crowd's laughter, fled from the hall.

He continued to make speeches, mocking the King of Italy, defying the ruling powers everywhere, deriding parliaments, and at times defying God. Because work was scarce, he had to go from canton to canton, and there was no job too humble for him. There were times when extreme hunger drove him into the streets to accost some well-dressed stranger, to beg for bread and money, and there were grand days when he had enough to fill his stomach, and his mind at one of the liberal universities. He worked chiefly as a mason's assistant, but he was also a porter once and a butcher boy, delivering packages to the neighboring bourgeoisie and envying their litres of wine and their kilos of fresh meat.

He hated the rich. A murderous hatred. One hungry day he crouched outside the iron railing of the Beau Rivage Hotel— which later was to be the headquarters of dictators and prime ministers of a League of Nations conference— and listened to the orchestra. "The music comforts my brain and my stomach. But the intervals are terrible, the cramp stabbing into my entrails like red-hot pins. The rustle of silks may be heard and the murmur of languages which I do not understand. An elderly couple pass me by. They look English. I would like to ask them to give me money for a bed that night, but the words die on my lips. The lady glitters with gold and precious stones. I have not a cent, I have no bed, I have had no bread. I make off, cursing. Ah, that blessed idea of anarchy of thought and action. Is it not the right of the man lying on the ground to murder him who crushes him?"

He went again to his dirty resting-place under the Grand Pont, that main bridge which breaks the cold wind and shelters other beggars, where he met a man he recognized as an Italian. He hailed him in the native tongue, asking for alms. "He laughs at me. I curse him. He puts his hand in his pocket and gives me ten centimes. I thank him. I hasten to the shop of a baker and buy a piece of bread. . . . For twenty-six hours I had not eaten."

Occasionally the police clean out the beggars. One morning he opened his eyes to find the helmeted face of a policeman with a cynical stare. He is not beaten on the shins nor clubbed on the head, his sure fate in the same circumstances had the coin fallen otherwise and had the bridge been Brooklyn. In Europe even policemen are men. Instead there is a conversation.

The policeman says, "What are you doing here?"

Mussolini replies, "I was just thinking of getting up."

"Then get up quickly, for I have been waiting for you."

"Very kind of you. Please tell my valet to bring me my clothes and toilet requisites."

"Get up quickly or I'll help you up."

"Precisely what I want. Give me your hand."

The policeman gave the beggar his hand: "You are an Italian?"

"Yes. Of the extradition department" (army refugee).

"Follow me."

In this way Mussolini was taken to jail for the first time in his life, and locked up for vagabondage.

Everything he did got him into difficulty with the police. It could not be otherwise. With that anomalous upbringing, of whipping and pampering and the teaching of violent individualism, he had become a complete rebel. He accepted nothing. The gendarmes were forever on the trail; he was always denouncing the law and the petty agents who served as club-bearing symbols — he who could never conform and who was afterwards to organize next to the Russian Cheka and Hitler's Gestapo, the most all-invading police force of modern times, to destroy all non-conformity in the nation.

The Protestant evangelist, Alfredo Tagliatela, came to Lausanne preaching the goodness of God. But Christianity, too, with its vast organization of popes and tikhons and bishops and ceremonials and parades, Mussolini placed with all things bourgeois, like the military, the gendarmerie, the regimented passive minds of the masses who were not brave enough to accept his style of paradoxical individual Socialism. The evangelist challenged one and all to refute him.

Mussolini, who with a few workingmen friends was sitting in the back of the hall, accepted the challenge. But not for debate. He arose and his friends with him. Five or six in number, they rushed up the aisle, stormed the platform, and grappled with the speaker.

"God does not exist," shouted Mussolini. "Religion! In science it is an absurdity; in practice it is an immorality; among men it is a malady."

The good Christian crowd now raised angry fists. While some howled down the blasphemers, others ran to the aid of the evangelist. Tagliatela was rescued. Turning to Mussolini, he said:

"You are the sort of atheistic fanatic who at the age of forty will turn reactionary and be a lickspittle of the Vatican."

Mussolini shouted back: "Bourgeois! Renegade! Slave!"

A few days later, making an atheistic oration, Mussolini drew his watch from his pocket, placed it on the table, and defied God to strike him dead within five minutes.

No thunderbolt came.

This was the proof, the orator told his followers, that there was no God.

When this meeting ended, another Italian radical. Carlo Tresca by name, protested this exhibition. He thought it unfair. Mussolini began an argument which lasted all night, and in the morning, when the two parted, one to return to demagoguery, the other to try his fortune in the United States, the former said:

"Well, Comrade Tresca, I hope America will make you over into a real revolutionary."

"I hope," replied Tresca, "that you will quit posing and learn how to fight. Comrade Mussolini."

Commenting recently on this episode, Tresca said he had left Italy because he had been sentenced to eighteen months in jail or ten years in exile for an article he had published in his paper, Il Germe (The Seed). He found Mussolini "weak-tempered and vain, a man who would poosh himself forward so people applaud. He says he is very radical man, extreme Socialist, that I am not radical enough.

"Can you imagine? I am an anarchist now and what is Mussolini, who was so radical? A traitor. He remembers that incident; if I go anywhere near Italy now I don't live long."

Within a few months after the Tagliatela encounter Mussolini published his first work. It is a pamphlet entitled Dieu n'existe pas, and its preface states:

"Besought by certain comrades, I publish today the development of my thesis, 'God does not exist,' and refute the principle arguments of the evangelist Tagliatela.

"The struggle against religious absurdity is more than ever a necessity today. Religion has revealed its soul in the full glare of the sun. To be still deluded would be cowardice. No matter what the adaptations of the Church to the new and inexorable necessities of the times may be — alas, it is to weep! — they are attempts, generally vain, to resuscitate the titles of the 'divine bank' which already is on the road to failure.

"Confronted with the spread of free thought. Pope Sarto, [3] fearful of the destinies of his domination, cried out:

'"Faithful, the Antichrist is born!'

"The Antichrist is human reason which rebels against dogma and a beaten god."

Switzerland is a Christian country but it grants religious liberty. Mussolini was safe in his heresies. But in June, 1903, Mussolini organized a strike of some stoneworkers, and the authorities of the canton of Berne expelled him with promptness and smug satisfaction.

"My stay in Switzerland was a welter of difficulties. ... I did whatever came to hand. ... I knew hunger, stark hunger, in those days. ... I took part in political gatherings. I made speeches. Some intemperance in my words made me undesirable to the Swiss authorities. They expelled me from two cantons. . . ."

They did more than that. They expelled him, as is the custom of the country, from canton after canton for violation of "State rights," but finally they expelled him from all of Switzerland.

When that order came the Socialist Party of the confederated republic thought it time to protest the persecution of one of its least important but loudest and most active personalities. In the Grand Council of Geneva, [4] the Socialist deputy Wyss denounced the government.

He demanded to know, first of all, why the government's order of expulsion indicated Chiasso obligatory as the frontier station; Chiasso was an Italian town and Mussolini would find himself in the hands of the Italian police — but had the authorities forgotten that Switzerland was an asylum for deserters as well as for political rebels? Why did the government act with cruelty even if its charge was just? Why not send the victim to France or Austria?

But that was all secondary. Why were the bloodhounds of the government driving from canton to canton and finally out of the country a man who had committed no crime except that of being a Socialist? True, he was more radical than most, he had spoken a little too freely, perhaps, he had in moments carried away by his own oratory used some violent words, but no laws had been broken and the serenity of Swiss existence was untouched. Yet because he was a Socialist . . .

When M. Wyss had emptied himself of all invective, the Minister of State, M. Odier, responded to the interpellation:

"Mussolini had presented himself on the 9th of March at the office where the permis de sejour [residence permit] is granted and demanded an authorization.

"He supplemented his request with a French matriculation receipt which indicated that he had previously used a passport. The officials replied that the matriculation was not enough and Mussolini was requested to present his passport, which he did and which at first sight seemed to be in order.

"It bore the date December 31, 1905; but traces were visible of a modification, and it related to the changing of a 3 into a 5."

Minister of State Odier further declared that while a provisional permis de sejour had been granted Mussolini, a request for information had been made to the Italian consul at Bellinzona, who confirmed the fact that the passport had been forged. On the 9th of April, therefore, when Mussolini presented himself to receive the permanent card, he was arrested. Interrogated, Mussolini replied:

"I know that the date 1903 has been falsified into 1905, but I am not the author of this falsification. I admit that knowingly I have made use of a falsified passport."

In conclusion M. Odier said:

"Mussolini was a school-teacher in Italy; here he has occupied himself with social-revolutionary propaganda. He was arrested in Lausanne for vagabondage. In Berne for a political crime. He was detained and expelled from the canton of Berne on the 19th of June. He has been published by the federal authorities as an anarchist. I believe, however, that he would protest against this qualification as an anarchist and content himself with that of social-revolutionary. It is in effect in that quality that he has been presented to us.

"But can anyone make a complaint against the State for having asked Mussolini to recross the frontier, when on the one hand, to remain among us he seeks to serve himself of dishonest means in falsifying an acte de legitimation which has been asked of him, and on the other hand he has used words and developed his activity in a milieu essentially revolutionary and seeks with all his means to destroy the institutions of our Republic?"

M. Odier said he understood quite well the purpose of the altered passport. Born in 1883, Mussolini would have had in his twentieth year to present himself for military service, and this he had not done, therefore he could never have had a passport legitimately prolonged after 1902 — "except by a false act, which has now been discovered, to his dishonor."

In Germany, France, and Austria Mussolini saw the inside of prisons; in Italy and Switzerland many times. "These bars and rail- ings, I can't stand them. They torture me. I can't stand the feeling of being suffocated. Oh, yes, you others, you may laugh but you have never known what it is to have been in prison — eleven times in prison, my friends! It is a feeling you can never get rid of."

In January 1925 the Popolo d'Italia attacked the "dirty lies of the Aventino" which was spreading the report that "Benito Mussolini, chief of the Italian government, and Duce of Fascism, had been condemned in Switzerland for a common crime." The paper defied Senator Luigi Albertini, owner and editor of the Corriere delta Sera to produce the evidence of the sentence. One report said that the letter which Mussolini had written asking pardon for the theft of a gold watch had been given to a friend of the Premier Giolitti who dared not publish it for fear of meeting the same fate (assassination) as Matteotti.

Eugene Chiesa in his book, "The Political, Financial and Economic Situation in Italy," Paris, 1929, says:

"At the police station of Zurich there exists the record of this gentleman (Mussolini) with fingerprint chart used only for infamous persons. It deals with theft of a watch. The facts are: Mussolini took a coat from a comrade; there was a watch in the coat. Afterwards the coat was returned, the watch never. The original document is at Lausanne, a copy at Geneva and one at Zurich. Naturally at present, conforming to orders given by the former president of Switzerland, all these have become invisible."

Of course nothing of this documented history appears in either the autobiography or the histories written by the admirers. Mussolini has only this to say: "To remain in Switzerland became impossible. There was the yearning for home which blossoms in the hearts of all Italians. Furthermore, the compulsory service in the army was calling me. I came back ... I joined the regiment. . . ."

But not so fast as all that.

M. Wyss and the comrades were not without power. They could not maintain their request for Mussolini's freedom in the face of the charges against him, but they did insist that the Swiss law regarding Italian deserters apply to Comrade Benito and that the government must not deport the undesirable to his own country. Thus the frontier to Austria was opened.

Mussolini went to Tessin. At the frontier he was cheered as a Socialist hero and a martyr.



1. See appendix with same title.

2. Isaac Don Levine, Stalin.

3. In those days Mussolini's sense of denunciation found satisfaction in calling kings and popes by their born names; be here refers to Pius X.

4. Parliamentary reports, session of May 11, 1904.
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Re: Sawdust Caesar: The Untold History of Mussolini and Fasc

Postby admin » Wed Jan 14, 2015 11:17 pm

CHAPTER 4: Comrade Angelica and Comrade Benito

IN SWITZERLAND MUSSOLINI MET A WOMAN WHO MORE THAN any other, except his mother, shaped his life. If at one time the hero could quote Abraham Lincoln, as he did, that all he was he owed to his mother, so at another moment he could have said "and all I hope to be I owe to Comrade Angelica."

She was not the fair-haired, light-eyed goddess, the romantic inspiration of youth, which the writers for the popular magazines have found in one or another of Mussolini's mistresses of a later period and to whom in turn they have given the title "Joan of Arc of Fascism," or the more commonplace "the woman who made Mussolini." Angelica Balabanoff was and remains today a true Marxian Socialist who naturally enough looks upon her collaboration with the Fascist Duce as a regrettable waste of time.

And yet it was she who picked him out of a dark comer and made a man of him. For just ten years she ruled his life. There is no mention of her in the Duce's autobiography.

Described by all as the "soul" and "the moving force" of the Russian revolutionary movement in Switzerland, which was in reality the mind and spirit of the Russian revolution of 1917, this woman, whose life is a book of amazement, occupied the unique position of comrade, associate, fellow worker, with the two most contradictory dictators of this modern world, Lenin and Mussolini.

With Lenin and with Trotsky, and with other Red leaders. Dr. Balabanoff sat as an equal, sometimes even occupying a higher elected position, at conferences, internationales, public meetings. She was part of the conspiracy to win freedom in Russia. With the Black leader the situation was different, for it was she who took him in hand and began his education as a Red, teaching him the first principles of Karl Marx, whose follower she has always been.

The contrast between Balabanofi and Mussolini was extreme. He was the plainest of proletarians, she the daughter of a rich bourgeois merchant, brought up in a house of twenty rooms, surrounded by servants and luxury. But she too was born with the soul of a rebel, and in that they were alike. As a child Angelica fought her mother for mistreating the servants; sometimes she would take her belongings and run down the street to give them to beggars who had been denied food or money at her home. From childhood her heart was filled with a flood of sympathy and pity for the poor and weak and oppressed throughout the world, and when she grew up she gave away all she inherited and to this day whatever she has above her needs, which are plain food and plain clothes, she gives away. A hater of property. A lover of humanity.

Lenin, Trotsky, Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, idealists, radicals, exiles, revolutionaries from all of Europe, worked with Comrade Balabanoff and loved her. Mussolini could hardly believe his good fortune when she offered to help him. She was already famous as an international leader, a brilliant mind, a marvelous orator, a great force in all movements for freedom and liberation which at that time centered in Switzerland, and he was the lowest of nobodies. Little did he know the depths of that human heart which his misery had sounded. There was terror in his eyes when Balabanoff first saw him, that night in the small meeting-room of the Italians of Lausanne, more than thirty years ago. There were quite a few there, workingmen and workingwomen, all very poor, all eager for the riches of a Socialist paradise, all at least washed and clean. But in the corner sat a man in filth. His face was unwashed, his clothes, which had been slept in, bore the traces of the sand and dirt of the little projections of land under the Grand Pont. He had flashing black eyes, a bulging jaw as well as bulging eyes, a bellicose bearing with a timid, cringing demeanor, nervous and inquiet. It was the first time he had come to hear the famous Russian speaker.

"Who is that strange creature?" Dr. Balabanoff asked a mason after she has finished speaking. [1]

"The most miserable being I ever met," the mason replied. "He is an Italian, like us, and at home was supposed to be a school-teacher, but he was always getting into a scrape, and he drank too much. Then when the time came to do his military service he fled to Switzerland, and now he is a tramp. But he says he is a Socialist and I think he means well."

"A tramp? Is he so poor?"

"He sleeps under the bridge. Except when I take him in and give him my bed when I am out at work. I feed him when I can."

Another club member, also a mason, came up to Balabanoff. "I have asked my wife to make him a shirt and a pair of pants out of some old cloth," he said; "next time perhaps he will be better dressed."

Others came up and shook the speaker's hands, as was the custom, then drifted out. Dr. Balabanoff went to the unhappy vagabond and took his hand.

"I hear you have no job," she said, kindly. "Can I help you in any way?" She had given away her fortune; she was always giving away every cent she had.

"No, nobody can help me," Mussolini replied, somewhat dramatically, and most tragically and without lifting his eyes, "I am condemned to remain a wretched vagabond all my life."

"Do not despair. Look at these men here. They are all proletarians like you, but when they became Socialists they found they had a great deal to live for, a great ideal."

"But I can't. My father was a drunkard, and besides I have a congenital sickness for which I have to thank him. I can't work and I can't be militant. I will have to die as miserably as I am living."

"No, no," replied the woman, "I will see that something is done for you."

The man never looked up, never changed his black expression, but fidgeted endlessly, twisting his dirty black cap in his hands. Later he said, timidly:

"I have just had an opportunity to earn fifty francs, but I lost it, of course. I was not able to do the work. A Socialist editor offered me fifty francs if I would translate Kautsky's pamphlet, The Coming Revolution. But how could I? I do not know German and I do not know the Marxian terminology."

Dr. Balabanoff offered to help.

"You, help me?" he exclaimed, surprised, but still not looking up.

"Why not? I am a Socialist and I find it quite natural. When I was young I had opportunities and privileges, while you lived in misery and could not study. It is not your fault."

This was the episode, a stepping-stone which became a turning-point. Dr. Balabanoff took the unkempt vagabond in hand and made a man, a radical, a revolutionary, out of him. She who had associated with Lenin and Trotsky as an equal leader, who was intellectually miles above the youth of twenty with his weeping self-pity and his lackadaisical despair, his gauche manners, his embarrassed attitude, his masochistic satisfaction in proclaiming himself a lost soul.

Dr. Balabanoff resided at that time in Lugano, in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, but came often to Zurich and Berne, now more frequently, not so much for the purpose of helping a man earn ten dollars, but to rehabilitate his character. They would meet at the railroad station or at the dub. "He worked very hard, and although I was young at that time," says Dr. Balabanoff, [2] "I at once realized that the man*s nature was very susceptible to the influence of suggestion. I felt that I had given him confidence in himself. I noticed that during the time I worked with him he did not again speak of his inability to earn his living. He showed strong ambition to complete the task and it seemed to me that his efforts were due to a desire for personal success rather than an enthusiasm for our cause.

"But what surprised me most in him at that epoch was his great helplessness; it was that which had inspired my pity for him. Later I had occasion to observe very closely his psychological and political development, while he was assimilating some literary culture, initiating himself into Socialist doctrine, taking part little by little in political action. I was able to follow attentively his anti-militarist and anti-clerical expressions. He had set himself to propagate by word and by writing the doctrines which came from the depths of his moral and material misery. I never lost sight of him until the moment he betrayed us all."

After Mussolini's expulsion from Switzerland he wrote to Comrade Angelica frequently from Trento, telling of his activities and success as a journalist. He was meeting notable irredenta patriots who were to influence his actions in 1914, and a young woman named Irene Desler, who was to play a dramatic episode in his life. He was also aiming to write a history of philosophy.

One day in 1905 the King of Italy issued a birthday amnesty. Political refugees, provided they had committed no civil crime at home, were free to return to the fatherland and so were deserters who had fled to escape army service; the latter must, however, come back to the colors.

Mussolini came back.

He went to Austria again after he had completed his military duty. Again he got into trouble with his political expressions which offended the authorities, and again he returned to Italy. He was now noted as both journalist and orator. In 1912, after the Reggio Emilia congress, a committee of directors of the Socialist Party, which included Comrades Balabanoff, Serrati, Vella, and Mussolini, was appointed to name a new editor for the party's organ, the Avanti. Most of Italy's leading journalists lived in Rome; they sought a man from the industrial north. One of the central committee members mentioned Mussolini, and Balabanoff seconded the motion. With the exception of Vella the committee of directors voted for him. Mussolini at first objected, saying he lacked the ability, the information on politics, the knowledge of Marxism, the necessary background and culture of an editor, and above all he did not want to assume such a great responsibility.

Comrade Balabanoff took Comrade Mussolini to lunch. There were hours of talk, argument, persuasion. The woman insisted it was the opportunity of a lifetime, and that the man must take it now or lose his chance forever. The man wavered. He could not accept such a responsibility. Comrade Balabanoff insisted. She said she would help.

In the afternoon Mussolini conferred with other members of the committee. They too urged his acceptance.

"I agree, but with one condition," Mussolini said, that evening. "That Comrade Balabanoff must work with me on the newspaper as my assistant editor."

It was then almost ten years from the day Dr. Balabanoff had picked the vagabond out of has dark corner and started him on the road to dictatorship. She, o£ course, had meant to do nothing of the kind. If there was any dictatorship idea in her mind, it was that of a class, the mass, the proletariat, the common people, the workers, the suppressed, the suffering, the miserable have-nots of this world. For ten years she taught Mussolini the doctrines of Karl Marx, hoping he would some day join with many others, with her colleagues in another part of Switzerland, Lenin and Trotsky, in a world-wide economic and political war of the classes. She never suspected that this fledgling would one day become the instrument and the leader of the very class against which all the revolutionary forces everywhere were lifting their voices and their hearts.

When she won him over to taking the editorship she believed she had achieved something of importance for him, and when he replied by making her his assistant she was pleased because she believed this cooperation would have large results. The entire Socialist Party was pleased. The records exist and there is the testimony of tens of thousands. Strange it is, therefore (unless due to the jealousy and rivalry and hatred which women alone can hold for other women and which is beyond strangeness), to find that the ladies who recount this so well-known and historic incident fill it with such hatred. Balabanoff "forced herself upon him" after "presenting her card at the office." "She imposed herself upon him; he decided to make use of her by handing over the less important subjects for her to work on. . . . She had no sense of humor." "This was the woman who with her perfervid mystic's temperament and with the deficiencies, the lack of balance, the excesses that go with it, imposed herself upon young Benito Mussolini."

So some women [3] write history.

It is true that Dr. Balabanoff was surprised when Mussolini made her taking the assistant editorship the one condition of his acceptance, because during the lunch he had made no conditions. It was only later that she realized the significance of his behavior. He was young and afraid of responsibility; all that he knew he got from books and from association with her; she was internationally known, the equal associate of the great radical leaders everywhere, and if she would stand by him he would have the best chance of success. He had not asked her directly, fearing a refusal, but he knew that when he made his proposal to Serrati and other directors of the party, and the Socialist Party requested it, Balabanoff could not refuse.

They collaborated for about a year and a half, the greater part of which they had desks side by side and worked their editorials together. Not a single decision of importance was taken by him without consulting his guiding star; to every objection she made he quickly acquiesced, recognizing her intellectual and moral superiority. Frequently the situation was complicated or dangerous, whereupon he would ask her, as one of the oldest and most trusted of socialistic comrades, to write the editorial in his stead and to accept full responsibility for it. Which she did.

"Rarely in my life," she records, "have I seen a human being depend on others as much as Mussolini did. His characteristics at that time were lack of independent courage and incredible physical fear. When leaving the headquarters of Avanti at night, or rather in the early morning, he would always ask me to accompany him. After my own work was finished, I had to wait for him.

"When he learned that we lived in the same street, he asked me to take him to his very door, I was surprised. I asked him what was the matter.

"'It bores me to go home alone,' he replied. 'One never knows ...'

"'What are you afraid of?'

"'What am I afraid of? Myself. A dog. A tree. My own shadow.'

"He could not ask one of the men of the Avanti to take him home because he was proud; he could not confess his disease to a fellow male.

"In the office he would frequently burst out weeping over the trouble his disease was causing him, and the treatment he was going through, which required him to visit a specialist at exactly the same hour every day.

"He had a pathological need to call attention to himself at all times, and frequently this took the form of exhibitionism; he spoke openly of a malady which is generally kept secret, thinking he was making himself interesting by telling.

"Seeing him so downcast, and in order to cut short his almost daily time of tears, I advised him to visit one of our comrades, a renowned doctor, who would make a diagnosis and prescribe a regime. He hastened to follow my advice.

"In my whole life I have never seen a being so lamentable, so destroyed, as the man who entered our office some time later, his face pale and defeated, his eyes more haggard than usual. Without saying a word he cast himself into a chair, hid his face in his hands and began sobbing. His Wassermann test had proved unfavorable. Accustomed as I was to his excessive impressionability and to his exhibitions, I was nevertheless moved by a sentiment of profound pity, seeing this unfortunate man who was crying.

"'You do not know what has happened to me,' he said in the midst of his sobs; 'the doctor made a blood test. He anesthetized my thumb with ether. The odor of ether follows me. It is in the air. Oh! I beg you do not leave me alone. I am afraid. I am haunted by that odor.'

"And in truth he passed a whole week under the terror of that impression. Every day when the hour approached which reminded him of the injection, he was carried away by emotion. He could not work.

"'It is going to kill me,' he said.

"To calm him I had the clock secretly advanced an hour.

"'It is five o'clock, the hour is passed; calm yourself,' I said to him. He looked at the clock, became quiet immediately, and began working as if nothing had happened."

Comrade Balabanoff recounts scores of incidents, from small events in the office to large episodes in public squares, from personal and domestic difficulties which had a strange way of airing themselves in the Avanti headquarters, to disputes over party policies in which Mussolini, who now stands as a symbol of national strength, a symbol for the youth of the land, the living superman who appeals to all the mentally groveling and enslaved of the world, was not altogether the brave, bold, unhesitating hero which accumulated biographies and mythhs have made him out to be. According to the associate editor her chief kept a revolver on his desk, a sharpened stiletto handy, was scared when voices were raised in political dispute, and led the mob only when it was overwhelming in number, and stayed discreetly behind when physical danger threatened.

"Of course," Comrade Angelica recounts today, "I never suspected that Mussolini, whom I taught radicalism from his youth to his rise to power, would or could betray our ideals. I never in all the years of our collaboration was blind to some of his inherent traits, his fundamental weaknesses, to his physical cowardice in personal encounters as contrasted with his heroic gestures when surrounded by numbers, to his inability to resist temptation for personal power, to his unbridled egotism.

"Naturally he was a strong pacifist in 1914. At one of our editorial conferences, however, he told us he favored the German cause and ridiculed France. But when he was offered the opportunity of personal power which a newspaper was sure to give him, it was a temptation which a weak will could not resist. We did not know then why he went over to the enemy. We could only suspect that an offer had been made him by French representatives."



1. The episode as here related was written by Dr. Balabanoff for this book.

2. Angelica Balabanoff, Erinnerungen und Erlebnisse.

3. Signora Sarfatti and Mme. Bordeux.
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Re: Sawdust Caesar: The Untold History of Mussolini and Fasc

Postby admin » Wed Jan 14, 2015 11:17 pm

CHAPTER 5: A Miracle Is Explained [1]

THERE WERE RIOTS IN THE VINEYARDS OF FRANCE AND MME. Caillaux shot M. Calmette, the editor of Figaro. In Ireland seven hundred years of strife were again accented in a civil war; patriots fell in the streets of Dublin and British soldiery prepared for fire and blood. The Balkans were enjoying temporary peace, armed peace, reeking with plans of revolt and assassination. And in Italy there occurred a revolutionary outbreak of national importance. All these facts the German general staff noted with utmost satisfaction. The omens were good. The Central Powers, whose policy was Discipline, Order, Hierarchy, goose-stepped to world empire.

The Settimana Rossa, or Red Week, of 1914, was Italy's prelude to battle. A decade of strife between workers and employers was to have its test in a general strike which began that 7th of June. All the elements which were anti-government or anti-ruling-class, from the Liberals and Democrats to the Socialists and Radical-Socialists, and even the anarchists, were joined against the forces of law and order — and oppression

This general strike, like the World War, was held inevitable, and a simple incident which paralleled the assassination of the Austrian archduke at Sarajevo ignited the spirit of Italy. A conscript soldier had fired at his colonel. The case became national, a symbol. When the government sought the easy way out by declaring the would-be assassin insane, condemned to prison for life, the masses screamed for his freedom, and Mussolini, in the Avanti, joined. At first it was decided that there should be one day of national protest in honor of Masetti; later a general strike was declared. Mussolini not only participated, but suggested revolution. One of his collaborators and admirers, Rossato, calls him "the Lenin of the Red Week, the originator of the idea of a Romagnole Republic." Mussolini hoped to turn the general strike into a national uprising. He made speeches, wrote articles, and one day, the 10th of June, led his followers into the Cathedral Square of Milan as the first move to occupy the town and eventually seize power in all of Italy.

There are two versions of what followed. One, the later Fascist, has Mussolini first to arrive and last to go; he stood his ground, "heedless of cavalry charges," as his passionate biographer, Mme. Sarfatti, more recently has it, "erect, motionless, his arms folded, hurling forth his invectives with eyes ablaze," but all contemporary reports state merely that "when the mounted police arrived the demonstration was broken up" while still other testimony, from an eyewitness participant, is that "we acted like human beings, we fled."

It is of little importance. The Settimana Rossa was a fiasco. What is important is that it confirmed Mussolini as a revolutionary Socialist, taught him that without violent leadership and organized violence there would be no success, and inspired him with the idea of armed leadership.

"The attempt at revolution — the Red Week — was not revolution as much as it was chaos. No leaders! The middle class and the bourgeoisie gave us another picture of their insipid spirit." But the idea itself he defended, likening the event to the French Commune, "a magnificent insurrection of the Paris populace presenting all the characteristics of a revolutionary movement . . . but when the Commune was crushed by the bayonets of Thiers, a man, an immortal master for us all, arose to defend it. Karl Marx justified all the measures taken by the Commune and also many measures initiated by persons unknown. He justified the incendiarism and also the shooting of hostages; he celebrated the flame and the blood and the deaths; he raised on high the cry, 'Long Live the Commune!' in the face of that European bourgeoisie which with a ferocity made hundredfold by fear, prepared itself for its great revenge." Prophetic words!

The World War came almost immediately after this attempt at Italian revolution. The Socialist Party on July 29, 1914, issued its proclamation; "It is to the interest of the proletariat of all nations to impede, circumscribe, and limit as much as possible the armed conflict, useful only for the triumph of militarism and parasitical business affairs of the bourgeoisie.

"You, the proletariat of Italy, who, in the painful period of crisis and unemployment of the recent general strike have given proof of your class consciousness, of your spirit of sacrifice, must now be ready and not let Italy go down into the abyss of this terrible adventure."

The phrasing of the proclamation was Mussolini's; his name was signed with that of other leaders. One day earlier, he had written in Avanti, "The proletariat must no longer temporize, it must express immediately its desire for peace. If the government does not heed unanimous public opinion but enters into the new adventure, the 'truce of arms' declared by us at the close of the Red Week will be ended." And another day: "In the case of a European conflagration Italy does not want to precipitate itself into the ultimate ruin, but has one attitude to take — neutrality."

Thus July, 1914, passed into history and August finds all the pledged nations of both armed camps, with the exception of Italy, at war.

The Nationalist Party, under Federzoni, who later sat symbolically at Mussolini's right hand in the first Fascist triumvirate, demanded that the government join Germany and Austria. The patriotic Socialists under the expelled leader, Bissolati, tried to drag the party towards the Allies. Mussolini and Bissolati met in furious debates which always ended in the triumph of the former.

Then came the mysterious September when Mussolini made the decision of his life and, as first payment on it, surrendered his membership in the party. In the new freedom which began for him he was better prepared, he wrote later, "to fight my battles than when I was bound by the dogmas of any political organization. But I understood that I could not use with efficient strength my convictions if I was without that modern weapon, capable of all possibilities, ready to arm and to help, good for offense and defense — the newspaper.

"I needed a daily paper, I hungered for one. I gathered together a few of my political friends who had followed me in the last hard struggle, and we held a war council. When money alone is concerned, I am anything but a wizard. When it is a question of means or of capital to start a project, or how to finance a newspaper, I grasp only the abstract side, the political value, the spiritual essence of the thing. To me money is detestable; what it may do is sometimes beautiful and sometimes noble."

While Mussolini sat in the office of the Popolo, writing his harangues in favor of the noble Allied cause, the whispers of the cafes and the rumors throughout the land were investigated by the party he had left.

It was soon learned that many elements were buying public opinion in Italy. The Germans were represented by Prince von Bulow, ambassador to Rome, from whose immune offices agents operated in much the same manner as they did in neutral America at the same time. In New York, it will be remembered, the Germans succeeded in buying up only one important newspaper, the Evening Mail, whose unfortunate Dr. Rumeley went to prison when the United States some time later decided to join the war, but on the side opposed to Rumeley's masters.

In America, in Italy, in Spain, in Switzerland, Holland and Scandinavian countries the subsidization and purchase of public opinion was largely a Franco-British enterprise. In fact, a large part of the world was divided into so-called spheres of influence. Despite The Secrets of Crewe House and the French Behind the Scenes in Wartime Journalism, the world still knows little of an effort which compares relatively with the slaughter at the front. The poisoning of the world mind is just as necessary for a successful war as the murder of millions of deluded subjects.

Lord Northcliffe was active in both the French and British spheres. Between November, 1914, and May, 1915, when the declaration of war abolished the free press of Italy, the Socialist newspapers published considerable news of the efforts of this British publisher in converting, by promises and money, a large number of bourgeois journals to the cause of intervention.

Meantime the charge had been made on the floor of the House of Representatives [2] in Washington that in March, 1915, the banking interests, "the steel, shipbuilding, and powder interests and their subsidiary organizations, got together twelve men high up in the newspaper world and employed them to select the most influential newspapers in the United States. . . . These twelve men worked the problem out by selecting 179 newspapers, and then began, by an elimination process, to retain only those necessary for the purpose of controlling the general policy of the daily press throughout the country. They found it was only necessary to purchase the policy, national and international, of these newspapers; an agreement was reached; the policy of the papers was bought, to be paid for by the month. . . . The effectiveness of this scheme has been conclusively demonstrated by the character of stuff carried in the daily press since March, 1915. . . ."

The charge was also made that while the United States was nominally neutral but actually preparing to join the Allies, no less than 1,400 British agents were active in propaganda work under supervision of Lord Northcliffe. Certainly there is evidence today that Allied agents were at work in every country, and Italy was no exception. There is evidence that editors and newspapers were bought everywhere. Sir Basil Zaharoff bought up practically the entire press of Athens at this time and founded additional newspapers to support Greek cooperation with the British.

Secret as these efforts were, a few facts became known and were published in Italy in 1914 and 1915. The Socialist press began to answer the ominous question of the cafes and the party congresses — Chi paga? Without fear of libel suits or contradiction, the secret of Mussolini's change from advocate of proletarian revolution against the French government to ally of the French army, was soon known throughout Italy.

The "miracle" of the days between the 21st and 25th of September, 1914, was manipulated by Filippo Naldi, publisher and editor of the Resto del Carlino, who from the first days of the war was publicly charged with having been subsidized by the French government along with dozens of smaller publishers.

Naldi prepared the populace for the "conversion" of Mussolini with the publication of two articles by Libero Tancredi (Massimo Rocca), the first headed Un Uomo di Ferro (A Man of Iron), the other Un Uomo di Paglia (A Man of Straw). There was no secrecy in the Resto del Carlino office about its being an agency for Italian intervention on the side of France.

Among that nation's foremost agents in this patriotic business was a member of the Chamber of Deputies, Marcel Cachin, one of that considerable group of Socialist deputies who had been pacifist until the first shot was heard on the Alsace-Lorraine frontier, and who from that moment became enthusiasts for war, calling upon enemies of bloody conflict to support it under the banner of The Sacred Union (l'Union Sacree). This is the same Marcel Cachin who was later to edit l'Humanite, to become the leader and the inspiration and the occasional martyr of the extensive French post-bellum Communism. To Naldi, Cachin confessed his desire to win many political leaders and journalists for the French side. He was especially anxious to gain the support of men like himself, Socialists who had seen the light of nationalist patriotism. Mussolini fitted all his requirements.

In Bologna, one of those mysterious miraculous days, Mussolini confessed to Naldi his aforementioned "mortal desire" to edit his own newspaper. A newspaper, he said, was a fulcrum on which to rest a lever to move the world. He must have his own press. On its quick wheels one rode to power. One had to force ideas upon the masses; they were so stupid, such cowards, and the Nationalists, the bourgeoisie as well as the Socialists, all of them were doing one thing or another, and everything wrong, because one and all they were afraid to listen to a bright new intelligence. Yes, the Socialists, too, his own people, they restrained him, they bossed him, possessed him; they overpowered him in the central committee, issuing orders which he had to carry out in his newspaper office, which was their office, and every time he swerved, every time he changed a comma, there would be uproar; his associate editors would shout he was betraying the Socialist cause, they would expose him, drive him out of the party. He was a man born to live and act independently; he hated restraint of any kind; he needed a newspaper to show the world what he could do.

Naldi did not quite understand. He himself had no such ambitions. He was the typical continental European newspaper owner, living daily in trepidation that no one would try to corrupt him. He was, however, ethically on a par with the great Havas news agency and the greatest of all French newspapers, Le Temps, and twenty other French newspapers, all of which received several millions of gold francs from the Tsar for the purpose of propaganda and news suppression from the time of revolution, 1905, to the Russian collapse of 1917. [3] Now it was France paying money to editors. Naldi knew where the French funds were and the man to be "seen"; when Mussolini was through talking, Naldi made him a promise. But in return he demanded of Mussolini an earnest of good faith.

Returning to Milan, the editor startled Italy with the leading article, sensational for the official Socialist paper, the first appeal against neutrality.

Quite sure of his future, no longer caring whether or not the party would accuse him of betrayal, nor fearing the criticism of fellow editors, Mussolini did not hesitate to gain his end by using as a means the very official organ of the pacifist party, and in it proclaiming a policy which the paper, the fellow editors, and the party stood pledged to denounce with all their strength. The office became an uproar. There were angry scenes. Day and night fists were shaken and loud voices penetrated into the streets to the amazement of strangers. What was "relative neutrality"? Nothing but a step to "no neutrality, to war." "Who authorized the editorial?" "How dare you publish it without consulting?" But Mussolini had made his bid to the French representatives, sitting lightly on their money-bags, in the hotels of Geneva. He had shown them he was willing to be approached. He had taken the first step.

Then news came from Naldi that the financial negotiations were satisfactory.

Mussolini rushed from the Avanti, traveled the short distance to Switzerland secretly, came back quickly, and just fifteen days later, "starting with empty hands," as his admirers so quaintly put it, he produced the first number of the Popolo d'Italia, a French newspaper organ, a long but strong finger of the Quai d'Orsay. Polemic after polemic against the Socialist Party, against last month's friends on the Avanti, against the atrocities committed by the Central Empires, filled the new journal.

A complete volte face. But Mussolini's feet were now on wheels, and the wheels were turning out newspapers, and every edition was a challenge for power. It filled his own ears, leaving no room for the cries of protest. He did not hear, because he did not want to hear, the accusation of a former colleague — "if the Kaiser had offered you a double sum you would have defended neutrality." He immediately made his newspaper the organ of the Fasci, a little interventionist group which had been founded in July, 1914, months before his "conversion," and which had from its origin been his enemy. He became the patron of the Fasci Nazionali per l'Intervento.

Returning from Geneva, several weeks later. Marcel Cachin took into confidence the Chamber of Deputies [4] and, burning with pure passionate patriotism, he spoke of glorious achievements for the French cause.

"Voyez" he cried, "that which has happened in the Italian section. Voila Mussolini who in the Popolo d'Italia, today in its fortieth number, has had a great success, declaring that the revolution is an idea which has found bayonets. We register with joy the happy and concordant symptoms. Everything presages the inevitable intervention of Italy. She will help us finish the war, assuring victory against the militarist reactionaries, the Hapsburgs and the Hohenzollerns." France applauded Mussolini and Cachin.

To this very day France remembers, even in times of crisis when the Fascist cohorts stand beside their Duce, crying "Abbasso la Francia," that among the many subsidized by the Foreign Office there is one who can never be paid in full. To the good patriots, French politicians and journalists, there is nothing but honor in what happened, for that handful of silver also bought historic importance. Thus, for instance, Louis Roya, remarking the sudden founding of the Popolo, asks "What were his means, who aided him?" and replies, "Let us admit that France aided Mussolini. . . . She did so and he accepted for the purpose of making triumph the Cause of Right," while a lady biographer, [5] French patriot but passionate devotee of the Italian, reasons that "Admit, then, that France had offered Mussolini help. What would the next move be? She might have offered and he might have accepted in order to see the triumph of right and justice. Certainly not for himself would he have made such a move." The cause of right. Right and justice. Paul Ronin, [6] a Frenchman less given to national patriotism, says bluntly that in quitting the Avanti Mussolini was not without resources, "no matter if he pretends to the contrary. He had in his pockets the funds furnished by Filippo Naldi, agent of shady affairs; by the Italian industrialists who manufactured arms, munitions, military equipment; by Marcel Cachin in the name of the French government," and Deputy Renaudel in writing an editorial in the Quotidien on the aid which Mussolini had given to France remarks that "Many of us well remember that the first issues of the Popolo d'Italia were published, thanks to French money; Cachin knows all this, but he does not like it to be talked about."

The miracle of Mussolini's acceptance of Allied patriotism [7] was finally explained in a famous case in the courts of Paris in 1926. The name of Charles Dumas, secretary to Minister Guesdes, as the actual bearer of the money was given and the sums specified. It was during the trial of one Bonomini for the murder of Buonservizi, friend and colleague of Mussolini on the Popolo. Maitre Torres, a French lawyer of renown, always the defender of victims of injustice, personal and political, pleaded for Bonomini. Maitre Gautrand represented the partie civile, in the pay of the Italian embassy. The Italian government and its newspapers were demanding the guillotining of Bonomini and were bringing intimidating pressure upon France.

Maitre Gautrand resorted to that commonest of all commodities, wartime patriotism. Italy, "blood sister of France," had stood by her; Italy had helped win the war. Fascism was the patriot of Italy. Mussolini was the chief of Fascism. Buonservizi was the colleague of Mussolini. It was all very simple. A political crime had been committed. The victim was a great patriot. Patriotic France and Patriotic Italy demanded the death of Bonomini!

Maitre Torres arose.

Italy, he said, it was true, had entered the war on the side of the Allies. Italy had done so because the Allies had made a financial and territorial deal with Italy. And as for Mussolini, it was the pure result of a plain business transaction on the part of the French government. It was a matter of dollars and cents, not sentiment.

Maitre Gautrand was outraged. He demanded instructions from the Italian embassy in Paris. The embassy cabled to Rome. But to this very day no action has been taken against the accusation. In fact, Maitre Torres was willing to amplify his charges in print. In Stockholm, and in the Italian newspapers published in Paris, he tells the story of how the Allies won Mussolini:

"There had been a moment, the first moment, in which the Italian Socialist Party was unanimous against the intervention of Italy in the war. The situation preoccupied the French government. The problem was examined at a council of the Ministers. The question was taken up, how to convert some one leader for the war, with the aid of money, and the name of Mussolini was suggested. The first sum was 15,000 francs ($3,000) and it was followed by monthly payments of 10,000 francs. The man who actually carried the money was M. Charles Dumas, secretary of the Department of War Propaganda to Minister Guesdes. Thus was born Il Popolo d'Italia, immediately interventionist. This is the precise history to which no one could dare bring any denial for fear of a documentation more crushing."

There was a time when the history of the "miracle" was common knowledge, when the opposition press referred to it as merely one of hundreds of similar wartime episodes which fill many a dossier in the British and French foreign offices. Today all the documents, the books, pamphlets, and the newspapers dealing with this subject, have disappeared.

In 1924, when they were still in circulation, the present writer asked Mussolini a question touching on this dramatic and decisive moment of his life. The Duce replied:

"The turning-point in my life was the war. The war showed the world plainly, I think, the utter bankruptcy of internationalism. We had been fighting for a hollow fraud. I had fought for internationalism all my life, preached it, gone to prison for that same cause, and suddenly the war came and I realized first that internationalism was dead because it had never really lived, and that I had a real duty in life, and that was to my country."

But if a man's life story, his childhood, the making of his behavior pattern and the evidences of its fulfillment in youth, mean anything at all, they indicate that beyond patriotism and duty, there is a stronger force tugging at his vitals.

Mussolini was "condemned" to march towards power. As he so readily admits, he needed most of all a daily newspaper. To the shouts of treason and betrayal he can always reply he did no more or less than hundreds of other highly respected gentlemen, the leading patriots, the numerous editors and publishers throughout the world who took up either the side of France and England, or that of Germany and Austria, because in some way or another, it paid.

Luckily for him, he had chosen the winning side. In America, in a similar situation, Dr. Rumeley, the editor who chose the loser, paid for his error by a term in prison.



1. See appendix "Mussolini's Money," for documentation.

2. Congressional Record, February 7, 1915.

3. Documents from the Russian War Archives published in France as L'Abominable Venalite de la Presse.

4. Journal Officiel.

5. Jeanne Bordeux.

6. 'L'Ombre sur Rome.

7. Complete documentation has been made by Professor Salvemini.
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Re: Sawdust Caesar: The Untold History of Mussolini and Fasc

Postby admin » Wed Jan 14, 2015 11:17 pm

CHAPTER 6: A Politician Goes to War

THE PURCHASE OF NEWSPAPERS AND EDITORS IS A SMALL THING compared with the purchase of nations. Usually the first is the necessary prelude. And so it proved in Italy. That nation officially renounced the Triple Alliance on the 30th of April, 1915, and amidst the applause of half the world joined the forces of Democracy, Humanity, Liberty and commercial penetration on the following 15th of May. It was not until the days of the peace-making in Versailles that the secret of Italy's noble act became known.

In April, 1915, according to the treaty signed by France, Britain, Russia, and Italy and presented to an incredulous and angry world by the Russian Soviet government, which had opened the Tsarist archives in 1917, Italy was bribed by the Allies with a promise of plunder equal to that which they themselves as victors had planned to share. Italy, too, was to receive lands and populations over which she had no moral, ethical, geographical, or ethnological claim.

In that same April of 1915 Benito Mussolini was arrested in Rome for violation of law and order in his activities in the interventionist movement. Thus was the spectacle of strict neutrality maintained publicly. Incidentally, on the 29th of the month, Mussolini fought a duel with the pacifist anti-interventionalist Socialist leader, Claudio Treves, the latter wounding the patriot, but not severely.

When war was declared amidst public rejoicing the elderly Socialist leader Bissolati joined the immediately created volunteer corps. Mussolini remained in his office, writing enormous editorials urging those who through age or youth or other reasons might expect exemption, to step forward. He did not reply to the ensuing personal taunts of his enemies.

In September, when Mussolini was called up, there occurred an event of personal and emotional significance, but not unlike the experience of many other soldiers in many other countries. Cast-off wives, cast-off mistresses, forgotten children, doubtful children, began to appear in various parts of the country. The call to arms had revealed many men leading double or triple lives, under many names in many cities and strange ports. Mussolini the rebel had never believed in the sacredness of marriage. But now because he was famous as an editor and war-maker, and leaving for the front, several women came forward to ask him for a marriage ceremony, or to safeguard their common children, or to provide themselves with financial security in the form of a pension should the soldier fall. It was a matter of finances.

At the office of the Avanti, these women presented their cases and offered their documents, but the Socialist paper refused to give them publicity. These were personal, not political, matters in which the journal did not care to interest itself. The two most important cases brought to the attention of the Avanti editors were those of Signorina Rachele Guidi and Signora Irene Desler-Albini, each seeking the soldiers' remittance because each was the mother of one or more children of whom Mussolini was the common parent.

"I have seen Irene Desler and read her letters and documents," Dr. Balabanoff, associate editor of the Avanti, writes me, "but neither Serrati nor I thought it fair at that time, despite Mussolini's betrayal of our paper and our cause, to take up her case. Mussolini was still claiming to be a Socialist and Fascism still did not exist."

The widow Desler-Albini, with her son, Benito Mussolini, Jr., according to her sworn statement of birth registration, were soon interned in a little village near Florence, awaiting deportation to the south of Italy as enemy aliens. The camp was full of persons of foreign birth and Italian pacifists or subversives. Many of them were border people from the irredenta country and therefore suspect by both sides. Some, however, were victims of a vendetta, of a whisper from a personal enemy, for it was easy in those days to utter the word "Austrian" and have your revenge on some one you had hated many peaceful years. Rivals got rid of rivals that way. It was a time of successful enmity.

One day a rumor reached a group of relief workers that among the refugees was an important lady with a sick child. A committee was organized by Armando Borghi, who with some companions at great risk broke the regulations in the military zone and came to Florence. In a small hotel in the Via Nazionale the victims were found. To the great surprise of the four men, the "important lady" was the common-law wife of Mussolini. The child bore the unmistakable traits of his father, the jaws which in unhappy times were tailed protruding but are now called Roman, those wide-open black eyes, bulging, sparkling eyes of the father, overemphasized in the young large head.

With Borghi on this visit were Di Vagno, who later became a member of the Chamber of Deputies and was one of the first Opposition politicians murdered by the Fascisti; the lawyer Mario Trozzi and the journalist Armando Aspettati of Florence. Irene Desler, widow of Signor Albini, told the committee her story. She had lived with Mussolini for several years and was the mother of his child. They had been happy together for a little more than a year, when her dowry of ten thousand lire was exhausted and quarrels became frequent. The child was a burden. But foremost, she told the committee, was Mussolini's fear that she might reveal all the political secrets of the famous editor and easily ruin his reputation and his career. She had pleaded with Mussolini for a legal marriage, but he had refused. She had then visited the editors of the Avanti with her documents, but they would not listen to her; neither would Claudio Treves, who said to her that he did not hate any man alive so much as Mussolini, but nevertheless he would not interfere in personal affairs.

The police chief of Milan, she continued, was a close friend of Mussolini's. One night, shortly after Mussolini had placed her in a separate apartment, carabinieri came and arrested her. She and her child were taken to prison. She did not know who had denounced her as an enemy alien, so she begged the police to inform her "husband." She sent word and letters. But she never received a reply. Several days later a convoy of political prisoners was sent to a concentration camp near Florence and told to prepare for a long journey to southern Italy. She was penniless and her child was stricken with fever. The committee gave her money, sent a doctor, and Borghi never saw or heard of the unfortunates again.

The political secret to which Signora Desler refers is most likely the following legal document [1] signed "Irene Desler del fu Albini, nata a Trento e diplomata in Parigi":

"I declare that I have lived as the wife of Signor Benito Mussolini for about two years and that I have a son with him legally recognized by his father and inscribed in the office of the Stato Civile of Milan and under my signature.

"I certify that at the time when Mussolini resigned from the newspaper Avanti we were in such poverty that we had planned to leave for America, a project which was abandoned on account of what followed. In this period I placed at the disposition of our menage the little I possessed to suffice our needs. After the foundation of the Popolo d'Italia our situation did not change much and our difficulties continued. But suddenly after the return of Mussolini from a voyage made to Geneva, our economic situation changed completely. This happened during the month of January, 1914, or 1915, I cannot say more precisely." (Note: It could not have been 1914, inasmuch as the war did not begin until August of that year.) "Mussolini then told me he possessed considerable money and I remember that I saw much pass through his hands.

"After his return from Geneva, Mussolini spoke to me of an offer of a million which a French person had made to him, and gave me the name, which I have forgotten, on condition that his newspaper take up a strong campaign for the intervention of Italy into the war and against the enemies of this intervention. On his return I asked him if the money he showed me came from the person of whom he had spoken. He replied that it came from France. He wanted to make me a present of a diamond, which I refused.

"I remember that Mussolini was much worried over the commentaries which his voyage to Geneva had occasioned in the Socialist circles of Milan. He said to me, 'I am lost if they find out anything about it.' For that reason Mussolini decided never to go to a foreign country again, because his trips were too much noticed. He sent in his place Clerici and Morgagni. Clerici replaced him for the trips to foreign countries and Morgagni for exchanging money and other operations. I remember that Clerici and Morgagni, who were almost poor before knowing Mussolini, at the end of these trips abroad began to live in luxury. And Clerici, so Mussolini confided in me, had bought a villa in Varese.

"I repeat that several times Mussolini spoke to me of the French origin of the money. I am ready to repeat the declarations at any time and before everyone, also under the legal oath."

The fate of this mysterious woman is known to very few. At various times before 1925 American and British journalists were able to trace her movements. John Bond learned that in February, 1923, Signora Desler, accompanied by her son, appeared at the offices of the archiepiscopal palace at Trento. Mr. Bond (who gives her name as Delsier) describes her as comely and in her thirties, and the child unmistakably a Mussolini: . . . "a pair of blazing black eyes, large and round," which "made the pallid features all the more conspicuous." To the princely clerk she made the claim that she had been married to Mussolini in the diocese of Trento and that she wanted a copy of her marriage certificate. She knew the name of the priest, which she gave, and the year, 1910, the season, which was early spring, but not the day or month.

This claim was investigated by the Archbishop Celestino Endrici. He ascertained easily that Mussolini had spent almost all of 1909 in Trento, that he had been a frequent speaker at Socialist meetings, at one of which Irene Desler claimed she had met him, and that he had disappeared as suddenly as he arrived. Signora Desler had stated that they had been married just before her son, whom she had baptized as Benito Jr., was born and she had letters regarding the payment of money to support herself and the child.

The archbishop had the statement written out by his chancellor and the woman signed it, then departed after being cautioned to remain silent. Mother and son knelt and kissed the archbishop's ring.

Within a week, according to Mr. Bond, Signora Desler was visited by the prefect of police, who advised her to move to a small house on the outskirts of the city. It was on the Verona road. There was no secret about that. Mr. Bond is also authority for the statement that the marriage records were found and that they bore the signature of the present Duce, and that the child, born four months after the marriage, is registered on the baptismal record of 1911, a year after his birth.

The common knowledge of Signora Desler's whereabouts, however, led to considerable embarrassment for the authorities. Although a relay of carabinieri guarded the house night and day, refusing to permit the woman to do even her marketing unaccompanied, she was able to communicate her complaint to all she met. Then, in midsummer, 1927, the police chief Tamburini and several aides arrived with the request that this Mussolini family accompany them to another town. Signora Desler refused. Neighbors, alarmed by her calls for aid, were driven off by the guards. They say they saw the woman beaten. At all events, she was forcibly ejected from the house and taken to Pergine, where, for all the public knows, she is still an inmate of the insane asylum. Benito Mussolini, Jr., when last heard of, which was in the same year, 1927, was living in a parochial school at Moncalieri.

The Desler episode, [2] however, did not disturb the leading patriot of 1915 very much. He left for the front to the accompaniment of journalistic fireworks. He was himself made into a patriotic symbol for a nation which needed enthusiasm badly.

Early in December we find him in a hospital suffering from gastroenteritis. In 1916 there is a period of intensive training, another trip to the hospital, recovery, a duel with General Count Spingardi, a series of articles in his newspaper telling about life near the front, a brief period in the trenches.

It was a quiet sector where the enemies had by a routine of action established a code of ethics. Every soldier who has ever kept his head down in the trenches knew and respected it. It was simply a live-and-let-live system by which firing was done at certain known intervals and a large part of the training-time was devoted to strictly human civilized activities. It made life possible — for a little longer for some men, the allotted peaceful span for others.

The leading editorial warrior came to the trenches full of the fury he had preached in print. He demanded, first of all, why the sector was so quiet, why the Italian army didn't advance, why the war was not being fought as it should be. The replies did not satisfy him. One night of his first week at the front he was looking over the trenches, himself an easy mark for any Austrian sniper, when he beheld a soldier in the enemy line lighting a match. In a flash Corporal Mussolini had removed the pin from a hand grenade and thrown it in the direction of the smoker opposite him. The crack-boom and a small flame broke the quiet monotony of the sector.

"Why did you do that, my son," the captain, who was making his rounds, asked of his corporal. "They were sitting peacefully and not doing us any harm. They were smoking their pipes in silence and perhaps talking of their brides. Have you no heart? Why was it necessary to send them to death?"

"If that is so, my captain," replied Mussolini, in the account which his worshiping admirers tell to emphasize his patriotism, "then perhaps we had all better go for a little promenade on the Milanese Corso, a more agreeable occupation, certainly."

With great satisfaction the corporal learned the next day that his lucky grenade had killed two men and wounded five. But the established code also had been broken, and in retaliation the Austrian snipers picked off many Italians during food-delivery time and other previously peaceful hours, and the act of heroism resulted in useless deaths on both sides.

Fortunately for our hero, he had little time in the front line, although many months at the front. He frequently had his photograph taken sitting or standing on top of a parapet which he sent back for publication in the illustrated weeklies. They were marked by him "front-line trenches." No British, French, or American soldier in the Great War was able to equal this photographic feat.

In December, 1916, Mussolini recorded in his diary that a cat was scratching about in the Italian wire and that, taking advantage of the first rainless evening, "I wandered about the battlefield a little." Again, no Allied or American soldier can boast of such a deed. A few days later he is visited by Fasciolo of the staff of his Popolo, now a captain of artillery, and de Ambris, a naval officer, and he reports seeing them walking on the road. It must have been indeed a strange front when men photographed each other on parapets, strolled for their health in No Man's Land, and could see friends coming and going on a public road.

New Year's day our hero was marching; from the 10th to the 20th of January, 1917, he "rested in the hutments of Santo Stefano." In February he notes the formation of a second section of the Bettica trench mortars of which he has been placed in command, then "practice in the Polygon of Ronchi."

On the afternoon of February 23rd "we were engaged in trial- firing with a trench mortar on Hill 144. . . . The firing went off without the least incident until the last round but one. But this round — and we had fired two casefuls — exploded in the barrel. I was hit by a shower of splinters and hurled several yards away. I cannot say any more. . . ."

Thus ended the war career of the hero.

But not the history of myth and oratory.

When the senior corporal was taken to the hospital it was found that the mortar splinters were imbedded in what the Germans unromantically call the Sitsfieish. From the bed of pain, on which Mussolini lay on his stomach, rose the deep cry

"I shall not die, because I will not to die.

"I shall not die even if all the doctors explode with fury.

"No doubt medical science says that I cannot remain alive, but I snap my fingers at medical science."

Thus, and thus only, can a man of destiny speak.

Many years later journalists seeking biographical details of the career of the Duce obtained from the press department of the Italian Foreign Office, notably from Baron Valentino and Barone Russo, stories which made of Mussolini the bravest soldier in all the Allied and enemy armies. He had been wounded in battle, and no less than thirty times. Thirty wound stripes! This was indeed a record few if any soldiers could surpass. Nungesser, the aviator, shot down time after time, alone could equal it.

But in the war histories published before the advent of censorship there are other pictures of the event. For instance, there is the story written by de Ambris, who later became premier of Fiume, which is simply this; "Mussolini preferred to wait until his class was called. Once at the front, he passed almost all his time in the special school, the school for officers, and in the hospital. In the trenches he stayed a total of thirty-eight days, and never took part in action. The wounds on which he prides himself, thanks to which there was an end to the brilliant career as warrior, were received during grenade practice, in a training-school, miles to the rear. It was an accident, nothing heroic. The gravity of the wounds was due to the fact that a disease had poisoned his blood. When healed, this thundering warrior stayed in Milan until all danger of a return to the front had passed. This is the entire glorious history of the participation in the war of Mussolini who had preached intervention with fervor inspired by the money of the French government."

It is really amazing how facts known to so many men can be blurred, romanticized, mystified, turned into propaganda in this enlightened age of a free press and free opinion. This epiphenomenal Mussolini myth has grown so quickly. We find the London Morning Post saying: "Signor Mussolini fell on the Italian front with as many wounds as Caesar"; the English Review: "He received forty-two wounds"; G. M. Godden's biography: "Mussolini, on leaving his hospital bed at Ronchi after he had been wounded, literally with a hundred wounds"; Jeanne Bordeux: "On the hills of Monte Nero they at last took their stand. In the hell-fire of the fighting Mussolini was always in the first line, ready and willing to face any and all danger. On February 23, 1917, about two o'clock, he was wounded. There were forty splinters in his body"; Vladimir Poliakoff in the Fortnightly Review: "After months of hard campaigning he was dangerously wounded, and carries unto this day in his body splinters of an Austrian shell"; Sir Percival Phillips, K.B.E., of the London Daily Mail: "Mussolini fought with conspicuous bravery, was hit by shrapnel which made, literally, a hundred wounds."

The sweetest of all worshipers, Mme. Sarfatti, declares that "he took part in a terrific bombardment, overwhelming the enemy with a rain of bombs. The trench-mortars became almost red-hot. [The mortar burst.] Those around were killed or maimed. Mussolini, terribly lacerated, was hurled some distance away and stunned. I remember the terrible shock when the news that he was wounded reached Milan. What fearful details! Forty-two wounds. He seemed like San Sebastian, his flesh pierced as with arrows, scarred with wounds and bathed in blood."

And finally there is the soldier's own story:

"Almost at once I was, to my great relief, dispatched to the thick of the fighting on the high Alps. For a few months I underwent the hardest trials of my life in mountain trenches. I amused myself by joining the most dangerous reconnoitering expeditions. It was my Will and my wish. After one week of leave I went back to the trenches, where I remained for months. We lived only a few dozen yards from the enemy, in a perpetual and, it sometimes seemed, an eternal atmosphere of shell-fire and mortal danger that would be our life forever. I was compelled from time to time to give out in the newspapers news concerning myself. This was in order to smash the suspicions of those persons who thought me hidden in some office, distributing mail and entertaining in my mind doubts of the possibility of our winning the war. I was then corporal of the Bersaglieri and had been in the front line trenches from the beginning of the war up to February, 1917, always under arms, always facing the enemy without my faith being shaken or my convictions wavering an inch. From time to time I sent articles to the Popolo d'Italia exhorting endless resistance. On the morning of February 22, 1917, during a bombardment of the enemy trenches in Sector 144 — the sector of the hardpressed Carso under the heaviest shell-fire — there happened one of those incidents which was a daily occurrence in trench life. One of our own grenades burst in our trench among about twenty of us soldiers. We were covered with dirt and smoke and torn by metal. Four died. Various others were fatally wounded. My wounds were serious. The patience and ability of the physicians succeeded in taking out of my body forty-four pieces of grenade. Flesh was torn, bones broken. I faced atrocious pain; my suffering was indescribable. I underwent practically all my operations without the aid of an anaesthetic. I had twenty-seven operations in one month; all except two were without anaesthetics."

There is, it is evident, less myth in Mussolini's own story than in those of his admirers. And no less honor for a soldier in being wounded by one of his own shells. How many of our own dead were victims of our own guns no one can tell, and an accident at the front is no less painful than a sniper's well-directed bullet. The number of wounds was forty-four, not thirty, and not an even hundred, and a soldier hit by one shell or bullet or burst of gas is entitled to one, not forty-four wound stripes. There is no evidence, however, that the corporal was ever in a real battle, but that too is of no serious importance; he was a soldier and he was wounded at the front.

Mussolini, however, was a politician gone to war. When he left Milan he was already well known as a rabid patriot and his officers were told to keep him out of real danger, since he was more valuable as a journalist writing propaganda good for civilian morale, than as a common soldier. In a much smaller degree Mussolini was in the position of ex-President Theodore Roosevelt had President Wilson permitted him to go to France. The American military establishment, it was revealed after the war, had asked Wilson to refuse the request because it feared Roosevelt would play the politician in the trenches. It thought he would be running for President while fighting the Germans, and for like reason General Leonard Wood, another strenuous militarist with political ambitions, was also kept at home.

When Mussolini was wounded, considerable propaganda was made of this unforeseen accident. It is true that his own newspaper, the Popolo, on the 24th of February was able to print the comforting announcement that the wounds were not serious, but the process of creating a hero was well begun. When Mussolini wrote from his hospital that "I am proud in the fulfillment of duty, perilous duty, to have contributed to the opening of the road to Trieste with my own blood," the noble if not quite truthful but nevertheless magical words caused a considerable burst of patriotic hysteria to be felt in newspaper offices, and the time of the singing of hymns had come.

The importance of hero-making: in war time cannot be over-estimated. From a purely military viewpoint it must be said that Mussolini's wounds, accidental as they were, had a moral value surpassing perhaps the capture of a large section of enemy trenches or several hundred prisoners. In a manner it was like the battle of Cantigny which the American First Division fought, a minor episode in military history, but a tremendously invigorating force throughout France because it was the first appearance of Yankee soldiers in a successful action.

While Mussolini lay in hospital the King of Italy came to visit the little corporal.

He progressed to crutches, to a cane. He then "asked exemption from further military service as being indispensable in the management of the Popolo."

Returning to Milan, he records, "I took my place as a fighter in my newspaper office."

After Caporetto, that defeat of defeats of the Allies, Mussolini, who had played a small part in bringing Italy into the war, exerted himself to maintain her there. And so long as the Allies and the Associated Power, which is the United States of America, can believe that the World War was justified slaughter, that it helped civilization, that it was blessed by Almighty God, as thousands of preachers once declared, so long must they confess their gratitude to Benito Mussolini for his work in helping the victory.

General Cadorna did not think the corporal rated elevation to a sub-lieutenancy. As for himself, he records in his autobiography, "I was a good soldier."



1. Registered in the archives of the city of Turin by the notary Camillo Tappati; numbered 51413; visible for several years. Copied by Armando Borghi. Document now destroyed by Fascist officials.

2. There is a reference to "my unfortunate family" in one of Mussolini's letters of the Trento period which has been interpreted to mean Signora Desler and his son. Sarfatti, without mentioning names, tells of a jealous Austrian woman apparently living with Mussolini who destroyed his notes for the history of philosophy believing they were letters to another sweetheart. Domenico Gasparini, labor leader of Trento, writes in the Paris Avatiti, June 7, 1931, that it was he who wrote to Serrati to ask Mussolini to accept the secretaryship of the Trento Chamber of Labor; he describes a scene at a banquet on June 19, 1926, when Signora Desler, accompanied by Benito Jr., broke into the banquet room where Fedele, a cabinet minister, was entertaining. The scandal of her arrest and confinement in an insane asylum, concludes Gasparini, was so great that Mussolini never visited Trento.
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Re: Sawdust Caesar: The Untold History of Mussolini and Fasc

Postby admin » Wed Jan 14, 2015 11:18 pm

CHAPTER 7: Fiume or Death!

Il Generale Cadorna
Scrive alla Regina:
Se vuol veder Trieste,
Compra la cartolina!

IT WAS TREASON TO SING THIS SONG: "GENERAL CADORNA WROTE to the queen: If you want to see Trieste, buy a picture postcard," but the soldiers sang it and a volunteer ambulance driver named Ernest Hemingway composed another stanza about the regiment being decimated, the colonel being decorated, hurrah for the cannonade. The soldiers sang and shouted, "We want peace," and, "Long live the Pope," who on the 1st of August, 1917, had sent a peace plan to all the nations.

October 17, 1917: Caporetto. The retreat. The Germans announced the collapse of Italy.

Gabriele d'Annunzio suggested to Editor Mussolini that he form an organization of all patriots whose work would be to restore civilian and military morale. Mussolini and many other patriots did so. It was called the Fascio di Resistenza.

From that day on, through the Vittorio Veneto of the following year when Italy triumphed, and in time of armistice and peace conferences, the two men were joined in many activities. One was the leading politician, the other the leading poet. They came back two of a triumvirate of acclaimed heroes. Benito Mussolini, Gabriele d'Annunzio and Raffaele Rossetti shared many honors. The politician had played his part well, even if he was not long at the front; the poet had flown in the back seat of an airplane which bombarded Vienna with leaflets of warning, and the third was an engineer who had, single-handed, ridden a torpedo into an Austrian harbor and destroyed the flagship of the navy. Rossetti was Italy's Sergeant York. Of the three, one rules, another does strange mystic rites on a battleship fastened down in his front yard, wearing the collar of the Annunziata and answering to the title of Prince, while the third is a workingman in Paris, a refugee, a rebel.

All three were participants in the Fiume adventure. D'Annunzio led it; Mussolini gathered the funds, and Rossetti one day, overcome by Mussolini's editorials, went into the office of the Popolo and presented to the sacred cause a small fortune which the nation had given him for his exploits. In exile he has time to think and regret.

D'Annunzio marched on the 12th of September, 1919, a time of chaos and peace conferences. "We had won the war," wrote Mussolini, "but were utterly defeated in the diplomatic battle. We were losing — except Zara — the whole of Dalmatia, our land by tradition and history, by manners and costumes [sic], by language spoken and by the ardent and constant aspirations of the Dalmatians towards the mother country. Fiume, most Italian of cities, was contested."

Mussolini had been appointed "consul-general" by d'Annunzio, who gathered about him the Arditi, the ardent young veterans, many officers, some peasants, many socialists, some roustabout boys and adventurers. The march on Fiume was the forerunner of the march on Rome. Both were the poet's ideas. He marched, and he was met by General Pittaluga, commander of the port, peacemaker for the Allies.

"Thus you ruin Italy," he declared.

"It is you who ruin Italy by opposing Flume's destiny," replied d'Annunzio.

"I must obey military orders," countered the general.

"What? You would fire upon your brothers?" cried the poet. "Then fire first upon me."

With a noble gesture d'Annunzio tore open his military tunic, exposing his undershirt.

Pittaluga was overcome.

"With you I cry, 'Viva Fiume,'" he cried.

"Evviva Pittaluga," cried d'Annunzio.

So they embraced and, crying together, led the march into Fiume. The forty trucks started their motors. The general advanced very militarily. D'Annunzio did his best in a bow-legged way. The next morning he put on a field-marshal's uniform.

Comic opera as this may seem today, the attack and its success led directly to the making of the Fascist movement and the advent of Mussolini in Rome. The poet had supplied the black shirts, the black fezzes, the slogans, the spirit of armed adventure, the ideal of force triumphant and the salutes, yells, and claptrap of Rome of the time of the Caesars. A shrewder man knew how to employ them on a national scale.

Italy, the people of Italy, cheered the coup d'etat as an act of justice. Mussolini editorially proclaimed that "the government of Italy is not in Rome, but in Fiume. It is that government which we must obey," a declaration of pure patriotic treason which Premier Nitti promptly denounced. He also saw with alarm that sedition for the first time had entered the Italian army.

Every evening the victorious poet held an oration and listened to the cheers of his men; several times a week he led parades, and again listened to shouts, watched the waving of stilettos, the shaking of muskets, and found it all magnificent. He gave Fiume a charter full of romantic poetry . . . "to instil into the daily life a sense of that virtuous joy which ought to revive the spirits of a people liberated at last from the yoke of restraint and falsehood." He also created ten classes of men, in ten corporations, the ninth for seafaring men, the tenth for the intelligentsia. "Its coming is expected like that of the Tenth Muse. It is reserved to the mysterious forces of the people in toil and attainment. It is almost a votive figure ... to the complete liberation of the spirit over pain and agony, over blood and sweat." The corporations, circumcised of poetry, remain in the present Fascist state.

To the people of Fiume the poet said: *T shall not leave here alive nor shall I leave here when I am dead, for I shall be buried here, to become one with the sacred soil."

Always d'Annunzio dramatized himself. One day he strutted about like Napoleon, a bow-legged Napoleon it is true; another day he was Lenin; and again he would become Captain Kidd and organize expeditions to raid the main, board ships, steal cargoes of food. Twice his men raided and annexed islands. Frequently they brought prize ships and much booty into port. Sometimes d'Annunzio would play the part of field-marshal in resplendent uniform. Frequently he assumed his favorite role, which was that of Prince of the Renaissance.

Every day he held a ceremony of the Arditi. He concluded by asking: "To whom does Italy belong?"

"A noi (To us)!" shouted the trained Arditi.

"Who are our enemies?"

"They disgust us," replied the Black Shirts, and with a superior smile the commandante, field-marshal, Napoleon, and Prince would dismiss his cohorts.

Frequently he called for the Socialists and Communists to come to the governor's palace to discuss revolution. In a strange muddled way be believed himself a rebel, therefore akin to the Bolsheviki, who in those days were enjoying the hatred of the universe. In that, too, he felt himself a kindred victim and flooded his emotions with self-pity while he made a grandiose gesture of dictatorship. I can still hear him talking in dactylic hexameters in answer to my simple journalistic questions.

"Our cause is the greatest and the most beautiful that today is opposed to the dementia and to the vileness of the world," he said. "It extends from Ireland to Egypt, from Russia to America, from Rumania to India; it gathers together the white races and colored races, reconciles the Gospel and the Koran, Christianity and Islam, rivets in one sole will as many peoples as possess in their bones and in their arteries salt and iron sufficient to feed action. We shall be victorious. All the rebels of all races of mankind will gather under our banners. And the weaponless shall be armed. And violence shall oppose violence. There shall be a new crusade of all the poor and impoverished nations, of all poor men and all free men against the nations, against the caste of usurers which yesterday made the profits of the war and today profit by the peace; and we shall reestablish the true justice which a cold and foolish man with a hammer borrowed from a former German chancellor, crucified with fourteen nails."

He demanded an insurrection of the spirit, "against the devourers of raw flesh, and against the exploiters of weaponless peoples," and he called upon all the victims of their or foreign governments to come to him in Fiume and conspire with him for revolt and rebellion and violence and insurrection everywhere and at once. As for himself, he intended to march on Rome. He had already arranged for that with his close associate, Benito Mussolini, the patriotic journalist who in Milan was acting as his "envoy to Italy," and collecting three million lire from sympathizers. He would await the troops which Mussolini was arming for him, join them to the Arditi, land at Rimini or Ravenna, receive the acclaim of liberated Italy, and with thousands upon thousands joining him at every footstep, march victoriously into the streets of Rome, dissolve parliament and declare the dictatorship of the patriots.

Every evening he made an oration. He spoke with poetry and fire and beauty against the wrongs of Versailles; with irony and fire he lashed Clemenceau and Woodrow Wilson and all the betrayers of the cause of Fiume, the Fiume of Italy and d'Annunzio. He spoke as if he were not merely the governor of a seized seaport, but Messiah of all the downtrodden of the earth, a Messiah in a military uniform, but holding aloft a flag which all the unhappy and idealistic could see from their unfortunate parts of the world.

At the end of every evening's oration the same ceremony:

"For Gabriele d'Annunzio!"

"Ayah! ayah! ayah! Alala!"

"For the people of Fiume!"

"Ayah! ayah! ayah! Alala!"

"What is our slogan?"

"Me ne frego! [We don't give a damn!]"

The Arditi in unison lifted their stilettos and the Prince smiled.

Twice or three times a week, depending upon the state of morale of his own troops, who were not getting enough to eat, and the Yugoslav population, who were enemies, there would be a full-dress parade of the Fiumian Legion which the commandante would lead up to the main square, where he would mount a tribune and review. There would be fanfares and loud and continued "Ayahs" and "Alalas." Salutes and poses. Frequently there were ceremonials and always there were new ribbons, new medals for bravery, new victories to be celebrated. It was, in short, a carnival which was to end in bloodshed.

Among the important factors contributing- to tlie final slaughter were the arrangements which the government was able to make with Mussolini, which resulted in his withdrawal of support, moral, financial, military, and commissary. Starvation and lack of new troops defeated d'Annunzio.

Almost from the first days trouble arose. The thousands of lire for Fiume came from all over Italy, but the big sums outside Rossetti's contribution, were sent by Italian-Americans; it is estimated that $50,000 came from the United States in the first three months following Mussolini's appeal for funds "to feed the starving babies of Fiume" and to aid the poet in other ways. In November, 1919, after Mussolini had run for parliament and received almost no votes, he was publicly accused and tried by the journalists' association for using the starving babies of Fiume fund to run his own election campaign.

This charge Mussolini denied, but admitted "diverting" some of d'Annunzio's money. [1] He admitted that two of his assistant editors resigned after accusing him of helping himself to Fiume money for political purposes, he admits he appeared for "trial," and adds that "my justification was ample and precise. The board was forced by the acts to do me justice. As for the disposition of the funds for the Fiume campaign and other unworthy calumnies, I published in my newspaper documents and testimony which could never be refuted. The conclusion arrived at then has been and always will be the same until I cease to exist: on the score of integrity there is no assault to be made upon me. My political work may be valued more or less, this way or that, and people may shout me up or howl me down, but in the moral field it is another matter. Men must live in harmony with the faith by which they are pushed on; they must be inspired by the most absolute disinterestedness. I am proud to know myself as one not to be suspected — even by myself — and feeling that my inmost moral fiber is invincible."

Against these lovely and noble words we have the testimony of the prime minister of Fiume, Alceste De Ambris, the man who was the practical strategist of the adventure, who was one of the original legionaries of d'Annunzio, who marched and fought, held the highest political office, and who later at the risk of his life came to Milan as the poet's personal representative to negotiate Mussolini's aid.

"I was at that time," states De Ambris, "chief of the cabinet of the provisional government of Fiume and I recall with what repugnance d'Annunzio received Mussolini's request for aid.

"D'Annunzio had large ideas, but at that moment the legionaries who occupied Fiume suffered literally from hunger and d'Annunzio found it strange that Mussolini was taking the bread from the mouths of the soldiers and inhabitants of Fiume for the purpose of electoral ambitions, and for personal expenses.

"Nevertheless, d'Annunzio did send a letter which would serve Mussolini in making a public denial of the grave charges made against him by the Avanti. Later, d'Annunzio was to learn with what gratitude Mussolini would repay."

The two editors of the Popolo who resigned and brought charges against their duce were Capodivacca and Rossato; the trial was begun on February 3, 1920; Mussolini wrote:

"The Fascist election bloc fought with its own money, exclusively its own and not that of Fiume. Of the sums received, several thousands of lire were used to pay the salaries of legionaries com- ing to Milan from Fiume and other Italian towns and which formed the armed bands, at my orders."

The accusation declared that these "armed bands" were in fact the beginnings of the Fascisti, or Mussolini's private militia, which were armed and outfitted by him, to be used by him to help in the election, and never to be sent as reinforcements to Fiume. Mussolini replied:

"We must distinguish two periods, the period of 15 April to 15 May, and that which is truly the period of the 'bands' of the Popolo d'Italia. It concerns the group of twenty to twenty-five Arditi who stood guard of my papers. Now we come to the other 'bands.' The fact is, as I have told the judge, during the most important week of the election campaign, several dozens of Arditi, officers and sailors, came from Fiume. There were in all several hundred men divided into squadrons commanded by officers and naturally all obedient to me. It is perfectly true that they were paid; they were given 20 to 25 lire a day."

It was this confession, incidentally, which caused Premier Nitti to act, because obviously the arming of several hundred men to use in an election was the formation of a small professional army by a candidate for parliament, was a breach of the constitution; it was no concern of the government's whether the men were paid out of the Fiume fund or not. It was at this moment that Mussolini was taken to the prison of San Fedele for a short sojourn when Nitti feared a coup d'etat.

When Giolitti came into power he devoted himself to two problems, the industrial revolution in the north, and the Fiume question. At Rapallo, September 20, 1920, he signed a treaty renouncing all Dalmatia except Zara, and returned to Yugoslavia a part of the port of Fiume. Premier Giolitti and Count Sforza, Minister of Foreign Affairs, heard from Mussolini that he would accept this arrangement although d'Annunzio refused. Mussolini again had turned his coat.

Moreover, d'Annunzio informed Mussolini he knew of a letter containing a secret codicil giving the Yugoslavs portuary rights in Fiume, but the agent sent with this news to Milan came back to say that Mussolini, who was now writing editorials praising the peaceful conclusion of the affair, had refused to change his attitude.

De Ambris then invited Mussolini to visit Fiume at the end of October, where a definitive meeting with d'Annunzio was arranged, but at the last hour Mussolini refused, going to Rome instead on political errands of his own. D'Annunzio at last began to suspect treason. Early in December it was apparent that the loyal royal Italian troops were concentrating for a march on Fiume. It was then, according to De Ambris, that d'Annunzio sent his ultimatum to Mussolini, asking for "an act of solidarity," and for money and more troops which Mussolini had promised for just this emergency. Mussolini replied:

"The commandante wants me to start a revolution. But can he be sure that the workmen will work again, twelve hours a day?"

D'Annunzio's representative did not understand.

It is true that the question of a revolution in Italy had been discussed by the two leaders of the Fiume adventure. Much later, in self-defense, accused of betraying d'Annunzio, Mussolini in a public speech declared:

"Let no one reproach me because I have not made that little, easy, cheerful, pleasant thing called a revolution. The Fascisti have never promised to make a revolution in Italy in the event of Fiume being attacked. I personally have never written to d'Annunzio to make him believe that a revolution in Italy depended on my inclinations. I do not bluff or talk hot air.

"Revolution is not a surprise packet which can be opened by all. I do not carry it in my pocket. Revolution will be accomplished with the army, not against the army; with arms, not without them; with trained forces, not with undisciplined mobs called together in the streets. It will succeed when it is surrounded by a halo of sympathy or by the majority, and if it has not all that, it will fail."

A fine prediction, the confession of a plan, as we shall see afterwards. At present the Machiavellian Mussolini, the practical gentleman who had collected the funds and had armed his own bands in Milan, was making cryptic remarks to d'Annunzio, who, however, replied he was not asking that the revolution begin at once, but that troops and money for food be sent as promised. To this Mussolini did not reply.

Left alone in Fiume, the poet heard the government troops were on the march. General di Caviglia surrounded Fiume and sent an ultimatum to d'Annunzio. This fact was communicated to Mussolini, who, however, just before the ultimatum expired and the bombardment began, was able to write:

"In the hour in which we find ourselves we cannot know what reply Gabriele d'Annunzio has given to the ultimatum sent by General di Caviglia which expired yesterday at 18 o'clock. On the other hand, a declaration made by the Honorable Giolitti to the Honorable De Nava, president of the parliamentary commission on foreign affairs, signifies that the affair will not have a tragic end. The Honorable Giolitti has declared that the Fiume situation is such as to give no one any worry.

"This optimism, veritably olympic, contrasts with the tone of the note sent by di Caviglia and with the ultimatum which has already expired at this hour."

No neutral could have written a more suitable editorial. This was from the pen of the man who was the principal backer of the movement.

On the night of December 24th the bombardment began. From Christmas Eve through four nights and four days there was small but effective shooting from land and sea and blood was spilled in the houses and streets of Fiume, while in the Popolo not even a cry of indignation was raised by Mussolini.

When d'Annunzio gave up his command to a committee of citizens and left Fiume, only then did the Fascist chief utter a valedictory, which he proudly recounts today:

"Beneath all the verbosity and the shuttle of mere words, the drama is perfect; horrible if you choose, but perfect. On one side is the cold Reason of the State determined to the very bottom; on the other the warm Reason of the Ideal ready to make desperate, supreme sacrifices. Invited to make our choice, we, the uneasy and precocious minority, choose calmly the Reason of the Ideal."

"The Reason of the Ideal," according to De Ambris and to thousands of other politicians and leaders, was soon apparent: the government and Mussolini had come to an agreement by which Mussolini, in return for withdrawing his support from Fiume, would be allowed free hand with the arming and organizing of the entire Fascist movement.

"We know now," states the former premier of Fiume, "that the new phase of the political fortune of Mussolini, and especially of Fascism, dates from the treason to the cause of Fiume, after his negotiations with Giolitti. From that moment dates a different attitude of the government vis-a-vis with Fascism and the rapid transformation of it into a reactionary movement. From the end of 1920 the Fascist! were in effect armed by Giolitti and largely paid by him. "Giolitti had been called into power to solve two problems, Fiume and Bolshevism. To solve the former he obtained Mussolini's passive consent to the fratricidal aggression of Christmas 1920; to solve the latter Giolitti obtained Mussolini's active consent and engaged himself to furnish arms and other material means for the guerilla warfare against Socialism.

"Giolitti believed himself powerful enough to suppress the Fascisti after he had used them as an anti-Socialist reactionary force, without compromising the liberal state directly in the civil strife. But the old fox fooled himself and lived to regret it bitterly.

"Mussolini turned his treason into profit. I do not know what thirty pieces of silver the Fascist Judas got from Giolitti (as he had once before gotten from France by becoming an interventionist), but it is certain that between Giolitti and Mussolini, after the Treaty of Rapallo, there was a pact whereby Mussolini, abandoning Fiume to Giolitti, received in compensation the government's aid for the Fascist enterprise. And the treason was doubly completed by Mussolini, who, on coming into power, annexed Fiume, instead of letting it remain free as specified in the Treaty of Rapallo. Moreover, the Treaty of Nettuno which Mussolini later signed with the Yugoslavs, surrendered more than specified in the secret letter of Count Sforza. When Mussolini was confronted with this fact in the Chamber of Deputies, he replied by calling Sforza a 'traitor' and a 'liar.'

"But Count Sforza did not He to anyone and betrayed no one; he merely executed his program which was inspired by the idea of a peaceful understanding with Yugoslavia, even at the cost of grave sacrifices.

"If there is a traitor and a liar in this affair, it is uniquely Mussolini. That is the truth which I, a legionary of Fiume, can repeat even if the other legionaries, now in the service of the traitor, have forgotten."

(In January 1924, Italy and Yugoslavia in the hall of victory of the Chigi Palace, signed their peace pact. It was announced as a great Fascist victory. The terms are almost identical with those proposed years before by Sforza; the organization of the port, the division of the harbor and docks, the free-port part as designated in 1921, were approved by Mussolini and remain so to this day. But in 1921 he had said to Sforza:

"You are placing a knife at the throat of Fiume.")

Both d'Annunzio and Mussolini had floated the banner "Fiume Morte" over their ambition and their followers for more than a year. D'Annunzio had said: "Until that day when there are only three men left standing up there will be one less shame in this world," but he had marched out peacefully at the head of thousands.

To the new commander, the podesta of Fiume, he said: "I confide to you my dead, my sorrow, and my victory. Italy is not worth dying for."

There was only one victor at Fiume. It was the man who built Fascism upon its sorrow, its ruins, and its dead.



1. Popolo d'Italia, February 20, 1920.
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Re: Sawdust Caesar: The Untold History of Mussolini and Fasc

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CHAPTER 8: The Secret of 1920

GABRIELE D'ANNUNZIO, LIKE MANY ANOTHER PARENT, SOON Experienced the disillusioning sensation of not knowing his own child. Born of his furious poetic brain in Fiume, it was a mad, reckless, violent, but romantic and idealistic infant given to heroic posturings, intriguing clothes, Roman gestures, and semi-communistic dialectics. A year later, in Milan, he found it brandishing blackjacks and revolvers and castor oil.

Mussolini, the new foster parent, as well as d'Annunzio, united in admitting Fascismo to be the stepchild of still another leader of that time. That man was Woodrow Wilson. It was the President of the United States who had journeyed to Rome at Christmas time, 1918, and who in Milan had been worshiped in the streets because Italy believed him to be the man who would grant the nation its political demands and the people the same "new deal" which Lloyd George had just proclaimed in Great Britain.

But when the Allied nations exposed their secret treaties and asked President Wilson to agree to them, he compromised on some, accepted others, and remained steadfast in his decision against Italy in Fiume.

It was then that Mussolini in his paper and d'Annunzio among the soldiers began the campaign against Wilson. In Rome crowds demonstrated against the American embassy crying, "Ridacci la lupa (Give back our wolf)," the gold wolf of Rome which had been Italy's contribution to the trunkloads of presents given the man who had saved the world for democracy and the Allied politicians. The police charged the mob. D'Annunzio exploited the spirit of the nation. He organized the march on Fiume.

More recently still another stepfather has been added to Mussolini's Fascismo. Granting that the idea was d'Annunzio's, that the inspiration was inversely Wilson's, and that the leadership was successfully Mussolini's, the astute politicians in Rome knew that the movement was deathly sick with the loss of blood at Fiume and that nothing but a transfusion would save it. And this was supplied by the government itself, and more particularly by the "sly fox" of the generation, the premier Giolitti who as de Ambris has stated at one and the same time liquidated the uprising at Fiume and the uprising in the factories in the north, ending social agitation and radicalism and the revolutionary strikes and, as he believed, bringing about a permanent era of good will in Italy in 1920.

From the end of the war until the seizure of the factories in August of that year, things went from bad to worse in Italy, and Mussolini vigorously approved this turn of affairs.

Every day or every week there was a new strike. There occurred the greatest horror which the American tourist has ever experienced and about which to this very day he speaks with emotion, thanking God and Mussolini — the horror of tourist trains not running on time. That Mussolini himself backed the railroad strikers [1] and that he urged them to seize the railroads are historical facts of no interest to those who, armed with a rapid schedule, see the Sistine Chapel on Monday, the Pitti and Uffizi on Tuesday morning, St. Mark's Wednesday, get romantic in a gondola that night and make the 10:15 Thursday for somewhere else, as per orders of the clerk in the express company office in Paris. The railroad strikes had something to do with the social revolution? The Americans did not care to hear such things discussed.

Besides the railroad workers, the ironworkers of Genoa, the post-office employees, foundry workers, agricultural workers of Novara, street-car men of Genoa and others struck. Soldiers were spat upon and officers were followed by crowds who insulted them because they still wore the uniform. They were sometimes attacked, forced to run, barricade themselves. Honorable wound stripes were torn off and even the medals of bravery ripped from brave breasts and trampled. The government could do nothing. Parliament was a big talking-affair but law and order were paralyzed while in a sort of nebulous and oratorical chaos various elements, aiming to restore liberty and justice to the masses, muddled around helplessly.

More strikes. Metal workers, bread workers, waiters, teachers. On May 4, 1919, Mussolini wrote: "Convinced that the strikers are right and have justice on their side, we are lending them our disinterested support." On June 7, he added: "The nation follows with sympathy the strike of the teachers." Almost every day Mussolini commented favorably on the moves of the unionists, insulted the government, cursed the employers. (Later, on taking office, one of the first things this man, great enough to change his mind and political party, said of the strikes was that "they were the low acts of the Socialists against which the Fascist patriots had to fight," but before, during and after the strike Mussolini not only supported it, but urged the semi-Bolshevik idea that the railroad and other unionists seize and operate their own industries.)

Prologue to the seizure of the factories in 1920 was the episode at Dalmine, March, 1919, when Fascist agitators caused a strike at the Franchi-Gregorini plant, the workers raising the national, instead of the red, flag, and demanding participation in the operation of the factory which they had seized and refused to leave.

Mussolini called this a "creative strike." He rushed there to aid the Bolsheviki, addressed them, saying: "To protect the interest of your class you could have called a strike in the old style, the negative and destructive strike; on the contrary, thinking of the interests of the people, you have inaugurated the creative strike which does not interrupt production." In another exhortation he exclaimed: "You have proven your Will, and I say to you you are on the right road. ... I say to you that your gesture is new and dignified, by the motives which inspired them, worthy of sympathy. Your rights are sacred, and I am with you."

Meanwhile back in Milan his associate editors wrote: "Today the masses at Dalmine have shown a significant action, they have reaffirmed their rights, they have vibrated to the impetuous and incisive words of Benito Mussolini."

"At Dalmine," wrote one of Mussolini's colleagues, "he was the Lenin of Italy."

On March 23 the Fascisti organizing, sent their salutations to the men who had seized the factory, and to the workers of Pavia who had gone on a general strike. Said the future Duce: "Historically we are on the grounds of the revolution begun by us in 1915. We must go ahead of the workers. We must accept the postulates of the working-class. Do they demand the eight-hour day? And the control of the industries? We must support all these demands especially because we want little by little to make the working-class capable of directing the works. Economic Democracy! That is our banner.

"The Senate must be abolished. We want to erase from our constitutional organization this feudal organism. We demand proportional representation. We want a national assembly which will have to decide whether Italy is to be a monarchy or a republic.

"We reply now: Republic!

'We are absolutely against all forms of dictatorship."

Employers associations and the trades unions kept up the war for another year. Italian money fell; the cost of living mounted; wages were never raised, except once in a while when a strike was successful. The war profiteers held on to their money. The workers were exploited. All the promises of better times which the government at war had made to the people were studiously forgotten. But eventually there were revisions of salaries made individually. Then the metal workers association decided for a general revision of wages based on the cost of living. The employers objected. On July 29, 1920, they issued the statement "We cannot admit the possibility of fixing salaries in relation to the rising cost of living."

But public opinion forced the employers to agree to a conference. Mussolini backed it. Yet on August 12th the owners crushed the conference with the statement: "All discussion is useless. We make no concessions."

This challenge to battle was accepted. A few days later the program of the trades union was announced. It was "Obstructionism." But it was not violence, nor was it sabotage. It did mean slowing up. There was to be no "good will" in the work; the men were to work mechanically, to do just what they were told, never to use their judgment, even if work done in accordance with orders from the bosses led to the spoiling of goods and tools. The letter of the law was obeyed.

The employers did not like that at all. But they could do nothing to obtain healthy cooperation, enthusiasm, good will, from underpaid and sometimes starving employees. So they threatened the lock-out. The Alfa-Romeo automobile works was the first to drive out its workers. The manufacturers association agreed to follow. In reply the trades unions then ordered the occupation of the factory and the continuance of work, or the "Creative strike" of Dalmine which Mussolini had favored, on a large scale. There was no sabotage. On August 30, 500,000 men were ordered to occupy factories and they did so without any troubles worth recording. Two men were killed in Turin, About a million men joined in the movement, which, when it reached the bottom of Sicily, was turned into the seizure of land by dispossessed peasants. Not a safe was cracked. Nor a skull.

But from Paris the word was flashed around the world that Italy had "gone Bolshevik." The workers had seized the factories. The peasants had taken the land. The red flag was flying and the people were shouting, "Viva Lenin." If there were no dead, well, there should be. So all the journalists of Europe came to Milan and Turin to participate in the revolution.

The excitement in Europe and America was unbounded. Russia and Hungary were red, there were communist troubles in the Balkans, Germany trembling on the verge — (the German "verge" lasted more than a decade and became a Fascist verge in the end) — and now Italy was gone, and who knows, perhaps all of Europe would soon be engulfed. Foreign offices kept open nights and newspapers clamored for lists of dead and wounded.

Commotion everywhere except in Italy. It is true that day by day more and more factories were being occupied by the workers. Soon the 500,000 "strikers" were at work building automobiles, steamships, forging tools, manufacturing a thousand useful things, but there was not a shop or factory owner to boss them or to dictate letters in the vacant offices. Peace reigned.

A feeling spread throughout Italy that the great day of liberation had arrived.

It was holiday. Crowds came in automobiles and wagons or walked by the thousands to see the great sight. What they saw was pure normality, but they got a thrill out of it. Tourists, caught in the midst of the revolution, when their first fears were over, and not a rifle-shot disturbed the sunny calm, ventured out, too, and saw nothing unusual.

For us of the press it was a terrible disillusion. There was simply no story. We did see the red flag waving from the chimneys, but there was smoke issuing from them, too, and all the sounds from within were those of ordinary industry and progress. Occasionally someone shouted, "Viva Lenin," or, "Long live the revolution," and sometimes a patrol of workingmen would go by. The police let them alone even when they bore arms. There was much joyful singing.

The nation awaited the outcome hopefully. Everyone was pleased that things were going so well. Labriola, Minister of Labor, was the first to attempt a conciliation, but it did not succeed. The state did nothing. The press was fair. Mussolini's paper applauded. To satisfy our own newspapers, which were demanding that something happen to justify our presence during the "revolution," we rushed around from Milan to Turin and from Turin to Genoa, chasing rumors, that some Fascist spies had been caught and burned alive in a furnace or that "Mr. Fiat" had been murdered by his employees, and other timely lies. [2] In order to get Bolshevik pictures we had to persuade the workingmen and women to erect barricades, arm themselves, take up menacing positions, and act in a revolutionary manner, which they did with laughter and smiles, much to the chagrin of the newsreel men.

From our journalistic point of view the Italian Bolshevik revolution was such a complete fiasco that we looked for other news. I had arrived with Harry Greenwall of the London Express who had a tip that Emir Feisul, later King of Iraq, was stopping incognito in the Villa d'Este near Milan, en route for London, where he wanted to see Lloyd George about a throne. Accordingly, we went to interview the dark lord and he told us he had made a secret treaty, thanks to Lawrence of Arabia, whereby the British government promised him a kingdom in return for his aid against the Turks. That was a fine news item. Then, journalistically opportune, there was an earthquake in Fivizzano, somewhere north of Pisa, and off I went with Lieutenant Cleveland, U. S. N., to help pull men and women and children out of fallen houses and debris in wrecked towns on the vine-clad hillsides. That was a three-day story, too. All these news happenings were much more sensational than the peaceful occupation of the factories which MussoHni then supported and which years later, for political purposes, he was to denounce.

The whole nation also approved the seizure of the land. Agrarian reform had long been promised. When Nitti was Premier he had a law passed giving land, paid for by the government, to ex-soldiers. During the war the troops were fed on the propaganda all wrongs would be righted when they came home victorious, and the land workers, who were little better than Russian serfs, would be given farms. Now they were taking them. In every instance the revolutionaries who were dividing up the huge estates in the south were led by former soldiers, some of whom were Fascists, Mussolini having in 1919 declared for land seizure. (In fact, in 1923, nineteen months after he came into power, he let the Fascist syndicates seize ten properties in the province of Novare for division among war veterans.)

Despite the fact that one big bank had offered capital for employers and employees to try a communal collective experiment with the factories, despite the fact the railroad men refused to transport troops when the government one day thought it would end the situation by force and bloodshed, what happened in September was stagnation and compromise. On the 10th and 11th the Socialist congress considered two proposals, one to retain the original character of the occupation, the other to turn it into a movement for political power — i.e., to capture the government in Rome. The vote was 591,241 against 409,569 in favor of the former plan. Syndical control of the factories was endorsed.

Premier Giolitti then called a meeting of both sides, asking the employers to recognize the principle of the workers participation in industry. Again there was compromise. Labor accepted a small wage rise and employers agreed to the government's plan that henceforth labor was to share with capital in the manufacture of the nation's goods. Mussolini, declaring himself happy with this ending, said he had always favored such a plan, said it was the beginning of a new era in social evolution.

The State triumphed. The revolutionary spirit of the workmen, which first flamed under Mussolini at Dalmine, was now smothered in compromises and political deals. Dictatorship of the proletariat was shown to be a dream. Although there never had been a burst of real Bolshevism, it was now recognized that there never would or could be a really Russian revolutionary uprising in Italy.

With the peaceful failure of the occupation movement, called Bolshevism abroad, but in fact a real attempt to establish a peaceful cooperative industrial commonwealth, came the gradual disintegration of radical labor hopes in Italy. This double movement, the building up of discipline, the restoration of confidence, reconciliation and pacification on one side, and the war against violence on the other, was the work of the liberal, democratic parties. It was the crowning effort of Premier Giolitti. At least it was so heralded in those for- gotten days.

But time reveals many secrets.

In the middle of the great crisis of 1920 there was a meeting in the Hotel Lombardia, in Milan, between the Honorable Bruno Buozzi, secretary-general of the Federazione Italiani Operai Metallurgica, or Italian federation of metal workers, and the editor of the Popolo d'Italia. Signer Buozzi occupied a place and a reputation equal if not superior to that of Samuel Gompers in the American Federation of Labor, and the revelations which follow were made by him to the present writer and have been confirmed by other Italian leaders.

"I remember," Signor Buozzi says in a statement signed and authorized by him for publication in this book, "the social revolutionary Mussolini studiously and transcendentally dressed the part, with his large black hat and his artistic necktie. When we met to talk politics in the old days he was always the one to assume studious attitudes of mystery, of a conspirator or of an agitator; at a cafe table he would speak as if from a tribune haranguing the crowd of thousands of listeners, although we sat there four or five. I remember an evening in Turin in 1913 where we held a conference on 'The Commune of Paris' in the hall of the syndicates. Mussolini even then spoke as a consummate actor; his histrionism carried away the least intelligent part of the auditors. He had a marvelous mobility in his face, he rolled his black eyes, his shoulders were agitated energetically, he modulated his voice, made long pauses, then suddenly burst out in the loudest tones, sweeping the crowd with him. He exalted to hyperbole the heroism of the Paris communards, but did not spare with his acid criticism their leaders. He denounced, for example, the stupidity which ordered the leaders of the armed patrols to defend the Banque de France.

"'Money makes war,' cried Mussolini. 'If the communards had appropriated the gold contained in the vaults of the Bank and utilized it for their ends, history might have had another face.'

"We all went to the hotel then and sat around a table discussing the social revolution. It was lively. Some one suggested that the social revolution presupposes a knowledge and a mastery of formidable political and economic problems. Mussolini replied that for the true revolutionist such problems were unimportant. To solve all problems, 'down with the bureaucracy'. The real political leader, he said, needed nothing but action. He had studied the essentials of romantic revolution and its prophet, Blanqui.

"At one turn of the conversation, attacking our social-democracy, Mussohni arose, pointing his index finger at us and speaking in a cavernous voice, accenting each syllable:

"'Italy is the only country,' he said, 'in all Europe which in the past hundred years has not had a revolution. L'Italia ha bisogno di un bagno di sangue [Italy has need of a bath of blood], and you, social democrats and leaders of the syndicalists, are the major obstacle against the accomplishment of such a fact. We ought to barricade for ten years the doors of your organizations.'

"Mussolini had always said and printed in the paper which he directed, that programs are obstacles under the feet which impede the man who would go forward. He said and wrote that the syndicates and the cooperatives were developing among the people an unhealthy sense of responsibility, they were checking the people from dedicating themselves to the fight on the barricades and to the conquest of power. It was for this reason that he participated in every strike, trying to turn each into a general strike.

"At the end of the war he organized the Fascio with an extreme radical program, supported strikes and agitation among workingmen, denouncing the Socialists for not being sufficiently revolutionary. He gave his sympathy to the occupation of the factories by the workmen.

"The history of that movement is almost unknown. The Federazione Italiana Operai Metallurgici, the F. I. O. M., of which I was secretary-general, had requested the owners to augment wages in proportion to the increased cost of living. The request was fully justified and many industrialists realized this and willingly raised wages. But at a certain moment the industrialists' association denied the assurances previously given and refused in a bloc to accede to the demands of the laborers. The F. I. O. M. replied by ordering obstructionism.

"In one of the days which followed, I do not remember whether it was the 6th or 7th of September 1920, Mussolini's secretary, a certain Manlio Morgagni, came to the headquarters of the Confederazione Generale del Lavoro (the general federation of labor). I was busy then. Morgagni sent in his card on which was written 'My director, Mussolini, desires a conference with you; please let me know when and where he can be received.' I replied that by day I was almost always at the Confederazione and that I lived at the Hotel Lombardia in the via dell' Agnello.

"The next morning, while I was in my hotel room, washing, a waiter came to inform me that two gentlemen were waiting to speak to me. I said for them to send up their names and to wait in the hall a few minutes. I had hardly finished speaking when the door opened and Mussolini entered my room, followed by his secretary. There was also present a functionary of the F. I. O. M., Mario Guarnieri.

"Before the war, as I have said, Mussolini and I were on very good terms despite the fact that he belonged to the ultra-revolutionary left wing of the Socialist Party, and I to the right. For five years, however, we had not met and therefore the salutations which we now exchanged were naturally somewhat cold.

"Mussolini in his usual histrionic voice opened the conversation with these words:

"'You have seen that my newspaper, the Popolo d'Italia, while not building-itself up as the organ of the occupation of the factories, desires to give an objective chronicle and has already published an editorial stating it was more favorable to the workers than the industrialists.'

"'That is true,' I replied, 'and we acknowledge it.'

"'But,' continued Mussolini, 'your movement has assumed a great national and international importance and that is why I wish to follow it personally and to comment on it in the columns of my journal. I desire to have all the information possible on the march of events and of the intentions of the F. I. O. M.'

"I replied that the ideas of the directors of the committee of the movement were expressed in the communiques issued daily to the press, but that I was ready at all times to reply to special questions which he might put to me. Questions and replies followed. But the interview remained cold.

"Now Mussolini tried to animate the conversation in a semi-dramatic tone. 'The industrialists,' he said, 'are in a state of imbecile intransigence but I recognize that the workers are right. The situation in the country verges on the revolutionary, and I am asking if you have thought of an eventual political turn to your movement?'

"I replied coldly with a simple monosyllable, 'Yes.'

"Mussolini sensed from this interview that he was not just the right man to whom to confide such plans, and calming his tone, becoming more insinuating, thought it opportune to close the conversation with these words:

"'Listen. To me it is no difference that the factories belong more to the workers than to the operators. It is important that work goes on. But if it concerns a revolutionary movement, serious, socialistic, for the profound transformation of the country, know that you can count on my support and that of my friends.'"

This was Mussolini's offer to return to Socialism. He was willing to make Fascism, its newspaper and its armed militia, a part of the workers' revolutionary movement to capture the country.

The Socialists had torn up his red card in 1914; they had called him traitor, "hired assassin of the bourgeoisie," expelled him from the party, and he had replied that "you will not deprive me of my socialist faith . . . you will not keep me from fighting for the cause of Socialism and the revolution." He had cried out that "Socialism is something that is rooted in the blood," and now he was to prove it by returning to the fold after six years' absence. He believed he would be accepted as a hero.

But although he still called himself a Socialist, he was really more of a Bolshevik and a revolutionary opportunist, ready to engage in a civil war, to shed any amount of blood, for the establishment of a proletarian dictatorship which the occupation of the factories seemed to make imminent. He frightened the Socialists and the trades unionists. The Honorable Buozzi, realising how useless his mission, took the proposals of Mussolini's return and the incorporation of the Fascist bands, to a congress of the metal workers which, on hearing the plan to use an illegal militia, to wage a war, to use violence, to burn and to seize, in short to continue the campaign which the Fascisti were waging independently, refused indignantly to traffic with bloodshed. They, they replied to Mussolini, intended to conquer legally; they, they said, had no use for a condottiere or a modern captain of racketeers.

They did not know at that time, however, that Mussolini was merely offering Fascism for sale to the best bidder.

With the same proposal offered to Buozzi, Mussolini approached the metal-works owners, the Milan bankers, the large landed proprietors, the Lega Industriale of Turin, the Associazione fra Industriale Generale dell' Industria, or the entire ruling industrial and financial class of Italy.

"Several months after our interview," states Buozzi, "speaking to one of the captains of industry, Signor Agnelli, head of the F. I. A. T. automobile works, I referred to the fact that Mussolini had offered to come over to our side. Signor Agnelli informed me that Mussolini, at the same time he was making me this offer, had been dealing with Signor Olivetti, secretary-general of the Confederazione dell' Industria.

"This is the secret: animated by an unhampered ambition, Mussolini sought to keep one door open, be it the Right or Left, so that no matter what would happen after the occupation of the factories, he would always be able to emerge, be it at the head of a revolutionary movement or of a reactionary movement. If the seizure of the factories ended with a victory of the workers in the economic field, a prelude to the conquest of power by the Socialist Party, Mussolini would be on the Left. Otherwise, on the Right. When he saw that the Socialist Party was torn by internal dissensions, that it could not march towards power, Mussolini threw into the sea his offer and his Left program and dedicated himself to the arms of reaction. There was now no longer a question of a proletarian revolution — leadership would be too difficult and dangerous for him; he realized how much easier it would be to arrive in power if he served the ultra-nationalistic banner, renounced his past, and betrayed his old companions."

The industrial and agrarian bourgeoisie, still scared and distrustful, desperate before the menace of the seizure of factories, and failing to realize that the collapse of that movement meant the end of radical danger, immediately accepted the Fascisti as its military weapon. The Confederazione Generale dell' Industria openly began paying money, and other organizations secretly subventioned Mussolini and his militia.

Immediately the deal was made, Mussolini turned the threat of the Fascisti away from the warehouses, the factories and the lives of the war profiteers, the industrialists, the big-business men whom he had been threatening with hanging on lamp-posts, and directed them against the Socialists, the workingmen, the cooperatives, the clubs, and the newspapers of the proletariat. Just as in 1914 he took his revenge on those who did not follow him, so now he began on a large scale to accomplish his vendetta. From that day on blood- shed increased throughout Italy. The very same boys and men who had been attacking the bourgeoisie were used a day or a week later to attack the working-class.

"The victory of Fascism over the Socialist movement," says the pro-Fascist Prezzolini, "is due to the Fascists not fearing to employ violence which the extremist preached but had never succeeded in putting into action, and because the Fascists' offensive coincided with the disruption of the Socialist Party which began about this time. It was an ill-matched contest. . . .

"Mussolini realised . . . strikes were no longer a weapon. The Russian revolution had proved that armed force alone could secure the reins of power. And in this lay the novelty of Fascism — in the military organization of a political party."

So now Mussolini, his militia sold to the ruling class, moral support and financial security arranged, marched forward on the road to power with an army behind him.



1. See Appendix, "Mussolini and the Bolshevik Era."

2. Charles H. Sherrill, general, sportsman, author and diplomat, wrote: "At Turin a Red Tribunal, composed partly of women, caused men to be thrown alive into the blast-furnaces. . . . Some sailors . . . were ambushed by a band of Socialists, men and women, and literally torn to pieces, every last one of them, with all the excesses of the French revolution — the women ripping off ears with their teeth . . ," etc. In addition to being hysterical this account, typical of reports of the time, is absolutely untrue.
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