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

By Paul O'Brien | Go to book overview

1
Stating the programme
November 1918-June 1919

Then they said… that we were an ephemeral movement; they said we had no doctrine.

Mussolini, Speech in Milan, 28 October 1923

I conclude my speech with a question; but before you reply, bear in mind that the great
King, the Father of the Fatherland is watching you, and the Unknown Soldier is lis-
tening: now, if it is necessary, will you do tomorrow what you did, what we did, yes-
terday?

Mussolini, Speech in Rome, 4 November 1928


The Programme of San Sepolcro, March 1919

In December 1918 nationalist imperialist Alfredo Rocco argued that while the recently concluded conflict was commonly seen as one between a democratic Entente on the one hand, and German imperialism and militarism on the other, each of the Great Powers had in fact conducted a war for the preservation and expansion of its own empire. The principle of nationalities was only a democratic smokescreen that allowed the Yugoslavs 'to perpetuate foreign control' in the Balkans, and at Italy's territorial expense. Italy therefore needed to abolish the democratic basis of her national life and to reorganize her social formation in preparation for ongoing war. The State had to impose 'the discipline of inequalities' and, from there, 'hierarchy and organization' (Rocco, 1918).

From the very beginning of his post-war journalistic campaign in Il Popolo d'Italia, a newspaper which he had owned and run since November 1914, Mussolini supported a different interpretation of Italy's war. On 4 November 1918, the day on which the armistice between Italy and the now defunct AustroHungarian Empire came into force, he defined Italian victory with reference to Giuseppe Mazzini, the democratic prophet of national independence during Italy's Risorgimento. He wrote that Mazzini was among the Italian dead 'who are still living' and who had 'led the armies' (OO, XI: 458-9). In his Questione morale of 1866, Mazzini had argued that Italy's international and humanitarian mission was identifiable with a victorious war against Austria-Hungary that would liberate both Italy and the Balkan peoples (Mazzini, 1961: 52-3). On 5 November Mussolini

-11-

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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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