Mussolini in the First World War: The Journalist, the Soldier, the Fascist

By Paul O'Brien | Go to book overview

Conclusion

If more or less mangled words suffice to hang a man, out with the pole and the noose!
If fascism has been nothing but castor oil and truncheons, and not rather a superb
passion of the best Italian youth, the guilt is mine! If fascism has been an association
for delinquents, I am the leader of this association! If all the violence has been the
result of a given historical, political and moral climate, very well I am responsible for
this, because this historical, political and moral climate was created by me with prop-
aganda that goes from intervention to today.

Mussolini, Speech in Parliament (inauguration
of the dictatorship), 3 January 1925

In his L'Italia nella Prima Guerra Mondiale Italian military historian Piero Pieri argued that the democratic interventionists were at the vanguard of the call for intervention during the period of Italian neutrality. By these he meant 'the republicans, radicals and Garibaldines; in other words, the representatives of the tradition of the old Action Party [of Mazzini and Garibaldi]'. All other interventionist tendencies then 'followed' this call. And while the nationalist imperialists made reference to the same Risorgimental and irredentist tradition during the interventionist 'debate', Pieri insisted that that democratic inheritance was 'safe in the hands of others!' (Pieri, 1968: 51-6).

Yet if this was so, why did post-war Italy finish in fascism? One obvious response is that it need not have. But for Italy to take the path of 'democracy' as a political expression and continuation of a Mazzinian democratic war, forces would have been required that could have presented a relative and viable programme. It seems, on the other hand, that Bissolati, the key figure of democratic interventionism, was left with little to offer but his resignation from a government in which he had in any case always been isolated. Whenever he had found support, this had not been from a mass democratic movement, but from the authoritarian and profoundly right-wing Generalissimo, Luigi Cadorna (Rocca, 1985: Ch. 10), and from Mussolini who admired him for his 'Jacobin' outbursts in October 1917 against the socialist enemy within (OO, IX: 275, 276-8, 279-81). It is interesting in this regard that Pieri never linked his patriotic rhetoric with an account of his own combat experience in the First World War. The same was true of Adolfo Omodeo, who cited the Garibaldine letters of any number of NCOs to back up his characterization of the war as 'The Fourth War of the Risorgimento', but who never linked this definition to an account

-183-

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Mussolini in the First World War: The Journalist, the Soldier, the Fascist
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Figures vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: Stating the Programme November 1918-June 1919 11
  • 2: Man of Straw July 1914-May 1915 31
  • 3: Mind and Matter May-November 1915 59
  • 4: Digging in November 1915-June 1916 87
  • 5: Disenchanted Warrior July 1916-February 1917 107
  • 6: War and Revolution March-October 1917 123
  • 7: Victory Imagined October 1917-November 1918 141
  • 8: Envisioning Fascism October 1917-November 1918 163
  • Conclusion 183
  • Bibliography 189
  • Index 201
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