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

By Paul O'Brien | Go to book overview

3
Mind and Matter
May-November 1915

Above all, Fascism, in so far as it considers and observes the future and the develop-
ment of humanity quite apart from the political considerations of the moment, believes
neither in the possibility nor in the utility of perpetual peace. It thus repudiates the doc-
trine of Pacifism - born of a renunciation of the struggle and an act of cowardice in the
face of sacrifice. War alone brings up to their highest tension all human energies and
puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have the courage to meet it. All other
trials are substitutes, which never really put a man in front of himself in the alternative
of life and death.

Mussolini, Dottrina del fascismo, 1932


Cadorna, Mussolini and the Italian War Plan:
Resurrecting the Bayonet

As a wartime journalist, editor, newspaper owner and male citizen eligible for military service, Mussolini had a direct interest in military plans, operations and the manner in which the war would be conducted. What was the nature of Italian war doctrine and how did Mussolini relate to it? On 21 August 1914 the Chief of General Staff of the Italian Army, Luigi Cadorna, issued a circular to army commanders entitled Memoria riassuntiva circa una eventuale azione offensiva verso la Monarchia Austro-Ungarica durante l'attuale conflagrazione europea (USSME, 1929: Appendix 1). This war plan foresaw an attack against AustriaHungary along the ninety kilometres of border stretching from the Julian Alps along the river Isonzo and the Carso down to the sea. A further memo of 1 September 1914 entitled Direttive and another of April 1915 entitled Varianti alle direttive del 1 settembre extended the front of potential offensive warfare to a 600 km arc along the north-central and north-eastern frontier (USSME, 1929: Appendices 2 and 3 respectively). This massive dispersal of forces is incomprehensible when one considers that the Austro-Hungarian Army had recovered from the Russian onslaught of the previous autumn and had sacrificed territory along the Italo-Austrian political border to maximize defensive advantage in mountainous terrain. In his post-war account of his period as commander of Italian forces, Cadorna asked readers to note that the Memoria riassuntiva 'was written

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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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