When World War One broke out in the summer of 1914, Benito Mussolini was an anti-patriotic revolutionary Socialist, and chief editor of the daily newspaper Avanti, official organ of the Italian Socialist Party. During the months of July, August, and September 1914, he maintained, in accordance with Marxist doctrine, that war must be stopped by social revolution. To stir up the proletariat in Italy against war, he exploited the general feeling of hostility against Austria and Germany while there was any danger that the Italian Government would decide to intervene on their side. But his target was moribund capitalistic society. He shared Lenin's attitude: the "proletariat" should not allow itself to become involved in the war; instead of being led astray by the so-called "defence of the father- land", it should push itself like a wedge into the "crisis of capitalistic society" and promote social revolution.

On August 13, he wrote:

"In time of war the bourgeoisie confronts the proletariat with the tragic dilemma: either insurrection, easily drowned in blood, or cooperation in joint butchery. This second alternative of the dilemma is cloaked under words of Fatherland, duty, territorial integrity, etc. Yet the root of the matter never changes. Here is the real reason why we hate war."

On August 16:

"We mean to remain scrupulously faithful to our Socialist and Internationalistic doctrine. Though the storm may assail us, it will not shatter our faith."

The conclusion was always the same. Italy must remain neutral. If the Government tried to pass from neutrality to war, whether against the Central Powers or against the Triple Entente, the pro etariat was to unleash social revolution. He filled his newspaper with protests, accusations, and threats against the Italian Government, against the "German hordes" ( August 5, 1915), against British and French imperialism, against Belgium, against the whole world. He had the following to say about Belgium on September 8, 1914:

"They ask us to shed tears over the martyrdom or Belgium. This is but a sentimental comedy staged by France and Belgium. These two harridans would like to exploit universal gullibility. To us, Belgium is a belligerent country, no different from all others. We do not see why we ought to adopt special views in her regard. It is our right and duty to urge the revolt of the working classes against today's events."


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Prelude to World War II
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