Translated by G. A. Malvicini
On March 23, 1919, in Milan, Mussolini founded the “Fasci di combattimento” with a program that was both national and social. The first “Fasci” — made up of veterans, ex-socialists and revolutionary syndicalists — evolved slowly towards radical rightist positions until the end of 1920. From then on, tired of two years of socialist violence which had culminated in the occupation of factories, growing masses of the lower-middle and middle classes began to join “Fascism.” In the valley of the Po, the phenomenon of “squads” begins to spread — as a reaction of veterans and land-owners, especially the new agrarian bourgeoisie, against the terrorism of the red leagues. The squads — financed by landowners and tolerated by the government — spread throughout northern and central Italy. Carried along by the wave of northern Italian squadrismo, Mussolini shifts to far-right positions and founds the National Fascist Party (November 1921).
The following segments of society converge in Fascism:
a) WWI veterans, humiliated by the Socialists for their military past and disappointed by the weakness of the government when it came negotiating the terms of peace;
b) students, attracted by nationalist ideals and the hope of a “greater Italy”;
c) the middle and lower-middle classes, frightened by strikes and the violence of the socialists;
d) the landowners, smallholders and farmers threatened by the reds with land seizures and collectivisation.
The rise of Fascism takes place against the background of the crisis of the other political forces:
1) the liberals, who were incapable of adapting to the new era of mass parties;
2) the Socialists, who were tempted by violence but incapable of making a revolution;
3) Catholics, who were unable to come to an agreement with the liberals and the Socialists.
On October 28, 1922 — faced with the imposing convergence of fascist squads upon Rome — the King charges Mussolini with forming a coalition government. In essence, the National Fascist Party seized power through:
a) the enterprise, youth, and courage of the squads deployed against left-wing organisations;
b) the complicity of the police and the army, which shared its patriotic ideals;
c) the financial support of a significant segment of the economy, which wants a return to order and an end to the strikes;
d) the neutrality of much of the old liberal class, which was hostile to the Socialists and Catholics, and attracted to Mussolini’s patriotism and his call for order.
Thus, partly through force, partly through consent, fascism comes to power in a context that at first remains one of parliamentary monarchy. Groups that resisted Fascism for a longer time were:
1) workers in certain industrial areas, who were strictly faithful to the Communist Party.
2) a large number of Catholics linked to the Partito Popolare.
3) various figures and institutions of the old ruling class (Il Corriere della Sera, La Stampa) and industrialists, who feared the revolutionary spirit of Fascism.
The crisis that followed the killing of Matteotti and the abandonment of parliament by the opposition MPs allowed Mussolini to begin the transformation of a parliamentary democracy into the fascist state. A series of transformations — the last of which was completed in 1938 — lead to:
a) the dissolution of political parties and their replacement with the Fascist Party conceived as the party of the whole Italian people;
b) the gradual overthrow of the Parliament and its definitive substitution (1938) with a Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni which represents both the Party and the various manufacturing sectors;
c) the transformation of the squadre d’azione into the Milizia volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale in 1923, as an armed force alongside the Army;
d) the introduction of a special legislation against the enemies of the Fascist state with sentences ranging from confinement to the death penalty;
e) the dissolution of the trade unions and the abolition of the right to strike with the promulgation of the Charter of Labor, which establishes corporations and state mediation in disputes between employers and workers;
f) the creation of public institutions for intervention in the economy, along with numerous forms of social security expressed a conception of the State that is no longer neutral but concerned with protecting the citizen and economic initiatives in the common interest;
g) the mobilisation of young people in the sports and paramilitary organisations, along with the construction of sports fields, swimming pools, etc.
Through the alliance of the fascist movement with conservative forces (the monarchy, the army, and — after the conciliation — also the Church), the Fascist regime is formed, closely tied to the person of the Duce of Fascism — Mussolini — whose personal politics becomes the policy of the regime and of Italy.
This policy has the following internal objectives:
a) curbing the most revolutionary spirits of the fascist movement and the stronger and more independent personalities (Farinacci, Arpinati, Balbo).
b) The increasingly sharp assertion of the personality of the Duce over all organs of the party and state and the reduction of the National Fascist Party to an instrument of mass mobilization, rather than of political discussion.
c) the strict control of the press and radio as instruments of indoctrination of public opinion.
This political tactic was combined with a propaganda aimed at promoting the following ideals:
a) the exaltation of the nation state as the bearer of the tradition of ancient Rome and of a particular set of ethical and spiritual values. This exaltation of Rome and of the ethical nature of the state are, however, limited by the authority accorded to the Church after the Lateran treaty.
b) the upholding of moral and military values, as well as the exaltation of the earth, of fertility, of the values of farmers and warriors rather than those of the urban population, and the opposition of the farmer to the “bourgeois.”
c) the extolment of all forms of risk and daring, along with the promotion of sports and pre-military education and the glorification of all collective manifestations of courage (Balbo’s flight across the Atlantic, etc.).
In addition to these methods of dictatorial government and mass propaganda, there are certain fixed directives of foreign policy:
1) the aspiration of providing the Italian people with a living space adequate to its importance and the number of its inhabitants;
2) the push for a revision of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles in favour of the less fortunate nations (Hungary, later Germany and Italy itself);
3) tensions with those nations that are excessively rich in territories and colonies (France and England) and the consequent creation of a strong army and navy capable of challenging Anglo-French dominance in North Africa and in the Mediterranean.
This orientation of foreign policy leads first to the conquest of Ethiopia and then to a rapprochement with Germany — the only nation capable of challenging the Anglo-French hegemony in Europe. The conquest of Ethiopia, the intervention in the Spanish civil war, resulting in the success of the “nationalists,” bring fascism to a peak of popularity. The opposition is practically destroyed — not only thanks to repressive measures, which are relatively mild — but thanks to skillful propaganda and the success of the regime.
Fascism is primarily supported by:
a) the youth, which had been educated by the Party and raised in the new climate of athletic mobilization and national enthusiasm;
b) the middle classes, satisfied with the regime’s political and economic stability;
c) the clergy, fairly happy with the conciliatory policy of fascism with regard to the Vatican;
d) the military and the monarchy, seduced by the new prestige gained by Italy in Europe;
c) vast segments of the working classes won over by Mussolini’s “populism” and the welfare institutions created by the regime.
Thus, the active opposition against Fascism was left with only a few intellectuals and a few thousand workers indoctrinated by the underground Communist Party. Later, the pact with Germany — and the consequent looming of a new war — the race laws and an overly intrusive “anti-bourgeois” propaganda bring large segments of the middle class and the Catholic Church to a position of criticism and reconsideration.
This position of criticism and reserve is strengthened by the entry into the war, to which Fascism is pushed:
a) by the logic of its doctrine of expansion and living space;
b) by its political and ideological affinities with Nazi Germany;
c) by the need to carry over to an international level its fight against liberal democracies and the capitalist bourgeoisie which — together with Russian Bolshevism — are the antithesis of fascism.
The military intervention is implemented by Mussolini at an extremely favorable moment (France is out of the game and England is unable to defend Malta and Egypt), but the indecisiveness and ineptitude of the political class and the military are soon catastrophically brought to light.
The war quickly uncovers the regime’s weaknesses:
a) Mussolini’s compromises with conservative forces has left the old ruling class, with its tendency to careerism and compromise (Badoglio, etc.), intact;
b) the Party, prostrated by too many years of conformism, is unable to effectively infuse the the Italian people with the will to fight;
c) propaganda is more nationalistic and patriotic than “fascist,” and does not sufficiently illustrate the ideological and geopolitical significance of Germany’s revolutionary continental war.
Thus, after the first defeats — and then with the allied invasion of Italy — the unity of the Monarchy with Fascism collapses and with it, that of the conservative ruling elite with the fascist movement. The national-fascist front is broken, and the “nationalist” — that is, the more conventionally bourgeois and conservative — segment looks for any kind of exit from the war. This leads to July 25 and September 7.
The Italian Social Republic and the new Fascist Republican Party represent a kind of “return to the origins” of fascism. The 18 points of Verona and the Law on the socialization of economic enterprises are completely secondary aspects of the new Fascism, the vitality of which had more to do with the defense of military honor and the fascination that the movement still exerts on part of the Italian youth.
Italian fascism was the paradigm of the other fascisms. The one party system, the youth organizations, the corporatist economic system, the party militia have served as a model for other fascist movements — beginning with National Socialism. However, fascism, despite having invented the “totalitarian state,” never realized it. Behind the facade of the National Fascist Party — a mass organization that took on an increasingly recreational character — the regime remained a dictatorship sustained by a monarchy. The militia, founded as the armed guard of the revolution, never rose to become the armed wing of the party like the SS, but remained a mere appendage of the army.
So Mussolini was not entirely wrong when he observed, at the time of the Social Republic, that “the Fascist revolution never took place: Italy is first and foremost a monarchy, and that was what it remained.”
Translator’s note: Adriano Romualdi (1940-1973) was an historian and the author of the first book-length monograph of Julius Evola, published in 1968 with Evola’s seal of approval. His father was Pino Romualdi, vice-secretary of the Republican Fascist Party and co-founder of the post-fascist party Movimento sociale italiano (M.S.I.), and his father-in-law was Hans F. K. Günther, the German racialist.