The Problem With Fascism

Wishful thinking. Rome 2009.

Italy’s fascist movement was built up and installed in power by the most powerful and reactionary sections of the ruling class as their chosen means of perpetuating their profits, power, and class rule.

Bankers, industrialists and landlords provided the subsidies to finance fascism. The generals provided the arms and ammunition and officered the fascist legions.

Fascists were provided with arms, ammunition, and means of transport and could almost always count on the connivance of the police.

The monarchy provided the cloak of legality behind which fascism was installed in power.

Italian Fascism was originally a spontaneous movement, decentralized and uncoordinated. Its aims and its immediate objectives were as varied as the social groups from which it drew its support. Local conditions and the personalities of local leaders had much to do in determining the form of organization and the aims for which it fought.

While the bulk of the supporters of the Fascist movement came from the lower middle classes and the intellectuals, this was by no means universally true.

In Cremona, for example, the movement appealed from the very beginning to the industrial workers, an appeal due in no small degree to the politics of its leader, Farinacci.

Some fasci had a distinctly intellectual complexion, for instance, those of Pisa and Florence. Some were Catholic, others were anti-clerical and Free Mason.

Some were still upholding the monarchy, while others were strongly republican.

Italy believes, rightly or wrongly, that she has been the victim of the most odious form of discrimination

Fascism was a broad social movement which consisted largely of lower-middle-class people, intellectuals, students, but also to a lesser extent of workers and, in its later phase, of peasants.

It had moreover the support of a number of large industrial and agricultural corporations who saw in it a powerful weapon against Bolshevism.

‘All in the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state,” said Mussolini, in a bout of wishful thinking. “Fascism denies that the majority, by the simple fact that it is a majority, can direct human society.”

Fascism appealed to the imagination of millions of Italians who cherished the tradition of the Risorgimento, the tradition of Garibaldi and Mazzini.

Fascism attracted youth in great numbers by its picturesque pageantry, its uniforms, rites, processions and watchwords full of the provocative and reckless spirit of the generation which had known the uplift of victory and the bitterness of defeat.

The totalitarian state they tried to build is to be based on the principle of race. It was supposed to be a national community of people of the same racial stock to the exclusion of all.

But twenty-one years of fascist rule have brought nothing but national shame and disaster upon Italy.

Fascism promised prosperity; it brought unheard-of poverty for the people and bankruptcy on the nation.

Fascism promised Italy the “ glories ” of Empire; it brought the loss of all Italy’s overseas territory.

Fascism promised self-sufficiency; in fact, it reduced Italy to the shameful status of a vassal of Hitler’s Germany.

Fascism promised expansion and conquests; instead it brought a series of inglorious defeats.

Fascism destroyed the legal organisations of the Italian people and killed, broke in prison, or forced into exile their best leaders.

Fascism smashed trade unions and cooperatives by beating, banishing or killing their leaders and destroying their property,

When Mussolini was overthrown and replaced by the Badoglio government, fascism in Italy was shaken to its foundations, but not destroyed.

Through Badoglio, the rulers of Italy strove to maintain their dictatorship, keep power in their own hands, damp down and confuse the mass movement.

The people are called on to take over power in the cities and villages, to take up arms for a People’s National Government of Peace and Freedom.

Adapted from Fascism and National Socialism (1938) by Michael T. Florinsky and 21 Years of Fascist Italy (1943). Photograph courtesy of Federico Macagni. Published under a Creative Commons license.