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

By Paul O'Brien | Go to book overview

2
Man of Straw
July 1914-May 1915

We cannot accept humanitarian morality, Tolstoyan morality, the morality of slaves.
We, in time of war, adopt the Socratic formula: be better than one's friends, be worse
than one's enemies.

Mussolini, Speech in Milan, 4 October 1922

One can say of Enrico Corradini that he appears at the beginning of the present century
as the prophet of an imminent new period… It was inevitable that the encounter of
1915 would be repeated in 1922.

Mussolini, Speech to the Senate, 15 December 1931

The Fascist State is a will to power and to government… Fascism is opposed to
Socialism… and analogously it is opposed to class syndicalism.

Mussolini, Dottrina del fascismo, 1932

He who has iron has bread; but when the iron is well tempered, he will also probably
find gold.

Mussolini, Speech in Bologna, 25 October 1936.


Neutral?

At the time of the international diplomatic crisis of July 1914 Mussolini was the leading propagandist of the revolutionary wing of the PSI and, since December 1912, editor of Avanti!. Under his tutelage the paper's distribution had doubled to between sixty and seventy-five thousand daily, with some issues reaching 90,000 and even 100,000 copies (Farinelli, Paccagnini, Santambrogio, Villa, 1997: 239-40). In the same period, PSI membership had increased from 20,459 to 47,724, and with a decidedly anti-militarist programme the youth section, led by Amadeo Bordiga, stood at over 10,000 members (Tranfaglia, 1995: 10-11). Not surprisingly, therefore, with the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia known among the public, and with the war drums beating, Mussolini declared on 26 July that the Italian working class would give 'not a man, not a penny!' and that it would spill 'not one drop of blood' for a cause 'that has nothing to do with it'. He demanded

-31-

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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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