War and Revolution
Fascism must not only not oppose the agricultural masses, but must help them remove
their centuries-old and sacred hunger for the land.
Mussolini, Il fascismo nel 1921, 7 January 1921
When, in 1917, a few Italians were sticking it out in the trenches, the men of anti-
fascism were endeavouring to stab them in the back with the revolt of Turin.
Mussolini, Speech to the Senate, 2 April 1925
And if there had been a government which had imposed a severe discipline within,
which had dispersed with a whip the evil genius of the draft dodgers, and had severely
punished the defeatists and traitors with the necessary lead in the back, today the
history of the Italian war would have only luminous pages.
Mussolini, Speech in Milan, 25 October 1932
Down to February 1917 the war had created a sharp polarity for Mussolini between the nation and its enemies. The international politics of the conflict had been simplified further following the Italian declaration of war on Germany in August 1916. But Mussolini's worldview became considerably more complex in March 1917 when the Russian Revolution destabilized the Entente, reinforced the currents of anti-war dissent in Italy, and posed the question of how the faltering Italian military effort might best be galvanized anew to redeem the soldiers' sacrifice and achieve the imperial goals for which Mussolini had so ardently advocated Italy's entry into the war. Revolution, in short, gave a new dynamic to the war and its impact on Italian politics, and it was this that preoccupied Mussolini as he fully reassumed the role of political journalist that he had partly placed in abeyance when he became a soldier. Although he had episodically acted as a political agitator during his eighteen months as a soldier, and had consciously constructed a war diary for political ends, much of his attention had been occupied by the creation of the persona of an exemplary warrior and the incarnation of the élite of the trenches. Now he was not only free to pursue his role as the leading journalist and