“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” — Benito Mussolini
On this day in 1945, "Il Duce," Benito Mussolini, and his mistress, Clara Petacci, are shot by Italian partisans who had captured the couple as they attempted to flee to Switzerland.
The 61-year-old deposed former dictator of Italy was established by his German allies as the figurehead of a puppet government in northern Italy during the German occupation toward the close of the war. As the Allies fought their way up the Italian peninsula, defeat of the Axis powers all but certain, Mussolini considered his options. Not wanting to fall into the hands of either the British or the Americans, and knowing that the communist partisans, who had been fighting the remnants of roving Italian fascist soldiers and thugs in the north, would try him as a war criminal, he settled on escape to a neutral country.
He and his mistress made it to the Swiss border, only to discover that the guards had crossed over to the partisan side. Knowing they would not let him pass, he disguised himself in a Luftwaffe coat and helmet, hoping to slip into Austria with some German soldiers. His subterfuge proved incompetent, and he and Petacci were discovered by partisans and shot, their bodies then transported by truck to Milan, where they were hung upside down and displayed publicly for revilement by the masses.
Benito Mussolini is often called the father of Fascism. Contrary to most popular thought fascism, like socialism and communism, is a left-wing ideology. It is totally contrary to the philosophies of Locke, Burke, Smith Hayek and our founding fathers. It is a belief in a statist run government of central planning.
Fascism is a totalitarian movement wherein an omnipotent government asserts control over every nook and cranny of political, economic, social, and private life – generally in the name of “the public good.” In its original sense, the word “totalitarian” did not carry the negative connotations it has acquired over time. The Italian fascist Benito Mussolini first coined the term to describe a society where everyone belonged, where no one was abandoned socially or economically, and where the state would take ultimate responsibility for the well-being of its entire people. “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State,” is how Mussolini phrased it. Because fascism sees no legitimate boundary to its ambitions, it is expansionist by nature.
A common theme of fascism is its pledge to restore national pride to countries whose former prestige or power has diminished. As the historian Victor Davis Hanson notes, "Fascism thrives best in a once proud, recently humbled, but now ascendant, people [who] are ripe to be deluded into thinking contemporary setbacks were caused by others and are soon to be erased through ever more zealotry."
Fascism also tends to promote and exploit the grievances of “the common man,” portraying society as the theater of a ceaseless conflict – a class war – between oppressor and oppressed, victimizer and victim. Consequently, identity politics is central to fascism.
Yet another hallmark of fascism is its propensity to bring forth powerful, charismatic, even deified figures who are viewed as uniquely capable – along with their hand-picked advisers or czars – of leading nations to restored or new-found greatness. Thus the cult of personality historically has been a central element of fascism. (The same has been true of Communist leaders such as Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, and Castro.)
The economics of fascism are collectivist, socialist and redistributionist – supremely hostile to free-market capitalism and wealth inequalities. Indeed, fascism is closely related to communism in both theory and practice. The chief difference between the two is that fascism is rooted in nationalism and seeks to create a socialist utopia within the confines of a particular country's borders; thus the Nazis, for instance, embraced “National Socialism.” Communism, by contrast, seeks to transcend national boundaries and promote a worldwide proletariat revolution, where the foot soldiers are bound together not by a common nationality but by their membership in the same economic class. The communist position was articulated in Karl Marx's famous exhortation in the Communist Manifesto: “Workers of the world, unite!
Apart from this distinction, communism and fascism are kindred spirits of anti-capitalist totalitarianism. Author Jonah Goldberg characterizes them as “closely related, historical competitors for the same constituents, seeking to dominate and control the same social space.” As the fascist Mussolini put it, in a 1921 speech:
“Between us and the communists there are no political affinities but there are intellectual ones. Like you [communists], we consider necessary a centralized unitary state which imposes iron discipline and all persons, with this difference, that you reached this conclusion by way of the concept of class, and we by the way of the concept of nation.”
Fascism's socialist/communist ideals dovetail neatly with the fascist desire to eliminate class differences among the populace. In many of his speeches, Adolf Hitler clearly stated his intent to erase all lines of division between rich and poor. Robert Ley, who headed the Nazis’ German Labor Front, boasted: “We are the first country in Europe to overcome the class struggle.” The militarism that became so deeply identified with the Nazis was actually intended, in part, to help advance the dissolution of class differences by uniting the members of all social strata in a common cause.
Economist Thomas Sowell, for his part, explains that whereas the federal government owns the means of production in a socialist/communist system, private enterprises own the means of production in a fascist system — but those enterprises operate entirely according to the government's dictates.
While fascism is indeed the repository of all the political, social, and economic traits enumerated above, the fascist mindset manifests itself in somewhat different ways depending upon the culture in whose psychological soil it sprouts. For example:
Whereas the Nazis were genocidal anti-Semites, the Italian fascists were protectors of the Jews until the Nazis took over Italy, and the fascist dictator Francisco Franco refused Hitler’s demand to deliver tens of thousands of Spanish Jews to the latter for extermination.
Whereas the Nazis despised Christianity, the Italian fascists made peace with the Catholic Church – notwithstanding Mussolini's passionate contempt for that institution.
Whereas racism was central to Nazi ideology, Mussolini expressed his own “sovereign contempt” for the “one hundred percent racism” of Hitler's government.
Benito Mussolini; July 29 1883 – April 28 1945) was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism.
Mussolini became the 40th Prime Minister of Italy in 1922 and began using the title Il Duce by 1925. After 1936, his official title was "His Excellency Benito Mussolini, Head of Government, Duce of Fascism, and Founder of the Empire". Mussolini also created and held the supreme military rank of First Marshal of the Empire along with King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, which gave him and the King joint supreme control over the military of Italy. Mussolini remained in power until he was replaced in 1943; for a short period after this until his death, he was the leader of the Italian Social Republic.
Mussolini was among the founders of Italian Fascism, which included elements of nationalism, corporatism, national syndicalism, expansionism, social progress, and anti-socialism in combination with censorship of subversives and state propaganda. In the years following his creation of the Fascist ideology, Mussolini influenced, or achieved admiration from, a wide variety of political figures.
Among the domestic achievements of Mussolini from the years 1924–1939 were: his public works programs such as the taming of the Pontine Marshes, the improvement of job opportunities, and public transport. Mussolini also solved the Roman Question by concluding the Lateran Treaty between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See. He is also credited with securing economic success in Italy's colonies and commercial dependencies.
On June 10, 1940, Mussolini led Italy into World War II on the side of the Axis despite initially siding with France against Germany in the early 1930s. Believing the war would be short-lived, he declared war on France and the United Kingdom in order to gain territories in the peace treaty that would soon follow.
Three years later, Mussolini was deposed at the Grand Council of Fascism, prompted by the Allied invasion of Italy. Soon after his incarceration began, Mussolini was rescued from prison in the daring Gran Sasso raid by German special forces. Following his rescue, Mussolini headed the Italian Social Republic in parts of Italy that were not occupied by Allied forces. In late April 1945, with total defeat looming, Mussolini attempted to escape to Switzerland, only to be quickly captured and summarily executed near Lake Como by Italian partisans. His body was then taken to Milan where it was hung upside down at a petrol station for public viewing and to provide confirmation of his demise.
An important factor in Italian Fascism gaining support in its earliest stages was the fact that it claimed to oppose discrimination based on social class and was strongly opposed to all forms of class war. Fascism instead supported nationalist sentiments such as a strong unity, regardless of class, in the hopes of raising Italy up to the levels of its great Roman past. The ideological basis for fascism came from a number of sources. Mussolini utilized works of Plato, Georges Sorel, Nietzsche, and the socialist and economic ideas of Vilfredo Pareto, to create fascism. Mussolini admired The Republic, which he often read for inspiration. The Republic held a number of ideas that fascism promoted such as rule by an elite statist class promoting the state as the ultimate end, opposition to democracy, protecting the class system and promoting class collaboration, rejection of egalitarianism, promoting the militarization of a nation by creating a class of warriors, demanding that citizens perform civic duties in the interest of the state, and utilizing state intervention in education to promote the creation of warriors and future rulers of the state. The Republic differed from fascism in that it did not promote aggressive war but only defensive war, unlike fascism it promoted very communist-like views on property, and Plato was an idealist focused on achieving justice and morality while Mussolini and fascism were realist, focused on achieving political goals.
Mussolini and the fascists managed to be simultaneously revolutionary and traditionalist; because this was vastly different to anything else in the political climate of the time, it is sometimes described as "The Third Way" (Hope and Change to the maximum). The Fascisti, led by one of Mussolini's close confidants, Dino Grandi, formed armed squads of war veterans called Blackshirts (or squadristi) with the goal of restoring order to the streets of Italy with a strong hand. The blackshirts clashed with communists, socialists, and anarchists at parades and demonstrations; all of these factions were also involved in clashes against each other. The government rarely interfered with the blackshirts' actions, owing in part to a looming threat and widespread fear of a communist revolution. The Fascisti grew so rapidly that within two years, it transformed itself into the National Fascist Party at a congress in Rome. Also in 1921, Mussolini was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for the first time.
Mussolini launched several public construction programs and government initiatives throughout Italy to combat economic setbacks or unemployment levels. His earliest, and one of the best known, was Italy's equivalent of the Green Revolution, known as the "Battle for Grain", in which 5,000 new farms were established and five new agricultural towns on land reclaimed by draining the Pontine Marshes. In Sardinia, a model agricultural town was founded and named Mussolinia, but has long since been renamed Arborea. This town was the first of what Mussolini hoped would have been thousands of new agricultural settlements across the country. This plan diverted valuable resources to grain production, away from other less economically viable crops. The huge tariffs associated with the project promoted widespread inefficiencies, and the government subsidies given to farmers pushed the country further into debt. Mussolini also initiated the "Battle for Land", a policy based on land reclamation outlined in 1928. The initiative had a mixed success; while projects such as the draining of the Pontine Marsh in 1935 for agriculture were good for propaganda purposes, provided work for the unemployed and allowed for great land owners to control subsidies; other areas in the Battle for Land were not very successful. This program was inconsistent with the Battle for Grain (small plots of land were inappropriately allocated for large-scale wheat production – see Wickard v. Filburn for a similar instance in the United States fostered by the progressive left), and the Pontine Marsh was lost during World War II. Fewer than 10,000 peasants resettled on the redistributed land, and peasant poverty remained high. The Battle for Land initiative was abandoned in 1940.
He also combated an economic recession by introducing the "Gold for the Fatherland" initiative, by encouraging the public to voluntarily donate gold jewelry such as necklaces and wedding rings to government officials in exchange for steel wristbands bearing the words "Gold for the Fatherland". Even Rachele Mussolini donated her own wedding ring. The collected gold was then melted down and turned into gold bars, which were then distributed to the national banks.
Mussolini pushed for government control of business: by 1935, Mussolini claimed that three quarters of Italian businesses were under state control. That same year, he issued several edicts to further control the economy, including forcing all banks, businesses, and private citizens to give up all their foreign-issued stocks and bonds to the Bank of Italy. In 1938, he also instituted wage and price controls. He also attempted to turn Italy into a self-sufficient autarky, instituting high barriers on trade with most countries except Germany.
In 1943 he proposed the theory of economic socialization. A theory aligned with Obama’s “Social Compact”.
Mussolini's foremost priority was the subjugation of the minds of the Italian people and the use of propaganda to do so. Press, radio, education, films—all were carefully supervised to create the illusion that fascism was the doctrine of the twentieth century, replacing liberalism and democracy. (See Edward Bernays, the father of American propaganda whose book Crystallizing Public Opinion was a part of Joseph Goebbels library).
The law codes of the parliamentary system were rewritten under Mussolini. All teachers in schools and universities had to swear an oath to defend the fascist regime. Newspaper editors were all personally chosen by Mussolini and no one who did not possess a certificate of approval from the fascist party could practice journalism. These certificates were issued in secret; Mussolini thus skillfully created the illusion of a "free press". The trade unions were also deprived of any independence and were integrated into what was called the "corporative" system. The aim (never completely achieved), inspired by medieval guilds, was to place all Italians in various professional organizations or "corporations", all of which were under clandestine governmental control.
Large sums of money were spent on highly visible public works, and on international prestige projects such as the Blue Riband ocean liner SS Rex and aeronautical achievements such as the world's fastest seaplane the Macchi M.C.72 and the transatlantic flying boat cruise of Italo Balbo, who was greeted with much fanfare in the United States when he landed in Chicago.
After the March on Rome that brought Benito Mussolini to power, the Fascists started considering ways to ideologize the Italian society, with an accent on schools. Mussolini assigned his deputy-secretary for Education Renato Ricci the task of "reorganizing the youth from a moral and physical point of view". Ricci sought inspiration with Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, meeting with him in England, as well as with Bauhaus artists in Germany. The Opera Nazionale Balilla was created through Mussolini's decree of April 3, 1926, and was led by Ricci for the following eleven years. It included children between the ages of 8 and 18.
According to Mussolini: "Fascist education is moral, physical, social, and military: it aims to create a complete and harmoniously developed human, a fascist one according to our views". Mussolini structured this process taking in view the emotional side of childhood: "Childhood and adolescence alike cannot be fed solely by concerts, theories, and abstract teaching. The truth we aim to teach them should appeal foremost to their fantasy, to their hearts, and only then to their minds".
The "educational value set through action and example" was to replace the established approaches. Fascism opposed its version of idealism to prevalent rationalism, and used the Opera Nazionale Balilla to circumvent educational tradition by imposing the collective and hierarchy, as well as Mussolini's own personality cult – similar to Organizing for America.
Many left-wing progressives in the West whole heartedly supported Mussolini and his brand of fascism. Jonah Goldberg in his book Liberal Fascism writes; “Just as progressives were generally enthusiastic about socialist movements in the Soviet Union and Europe, they were also overwhelmingly supportive of the fascist movements in Italy and Germany during the 1920s and 1930s. “In many respects,” writes journalist Jonah Goldberg, “the founding fathers of modern liberalism, the men and women who laid the intellectual groundwork of the New Deal and the welfare state, thought that fascism sounded like ... a worthwhile 'experiment'”:
- H. G. Wells, one of the most influential progressives of the 20th century, said in 1932 that progressives must become “liberal fascists” and “enlightened Nazis.” Regarding totalitarianism, he stated: “I have never been able to escape altogether from its relentless logic.” Calling for a “‘Phoenix Rebirth’ of Liberalism” under the umbrella of “Liberal Fascism,” Wells said: “I am asking for a Liberal Fascisti, for enlightened Nazis.”
- The poet Wallace Stevens pronounced himself “pro-Mussolini personally.”
- The eminent historian Charles Beard wrote of Mussolini’s efforts: “Beyond question, an amazing experiment is being made [in Italy], an experiment in reconciling individualism and socialism.”
- Muckraking journalists almost universally admired Mussolini. Lincoln Steffens, for one, said that Italian fascism made Western democracy, by comparison, look like a system run by “petty persons with petty purposes.” Mussolini, Steffens proclaimed reverently, had been “formed” by God “out of the rib of Italy.”
- McClure’s Magazine founder Samuel McClure, an important figure in the muckraking movement, described Italian fascism as “a great step forward and the first new ideal in government since the founding of the American Republic.”
- After having visited Italy and interviewed Mussolini in 1926, the American humorist Will Rogers, who was informally dubbed “Ambassador-at-Large of the United States” by the National Press Club, said of the fascist dictator: “I’m pretty high on that bird.” “Dictator form of government is the greatest form of government,” Rogers wrote, “that is, if you have the right dictator.”
- Reporter Ida Tarbell was deeply impressed by Mussolini's attitudes regarding labor, affectionately dubbing him “a despot with a dimple.”
- NAACP co-founder W. E. B. DuBois saw National Socialism as a worthy model for economic organization. The establishment of the Nazi dictatorship in Germany, he wrote, had been “absolutely necessary to get the state in order.” In 1937 DuBois stated: “there is today, in some respects, more democracy in Germany than there has been in years past.”
- FDR adviser Rexford Guy Tugwell said of Italian fascism: “It's the cleanest, neatest, most efficiently operating piece of social machinery I've ever seen. It makes me envious.”
- New Republic editor George Soule, who avidly supported FDR, noted approvingly that the Roosevelt administration was “trying out the economics of fascism.”
- Playwright George Bernard Shaw hailed Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini as the world’s great “progressive” leaders because they “did things,” unlike the leaders of those “putrefying corpses” called parliamentary democracies.
According to Goldberg:
“progressives' affinity for fascism was quite understandable because, contrary to popular misconception: fascism, properly understood, is not a phenomenon of the right at all. Instead, it is, and always has been, a phenomenon of the left.”
“To clarify this point, a working definition of fascism is in order. For the purpose of this discussion, fascism can be distilled down to this: It is a totalitarian movement that empowers an omnipotent government to control every nook and cranny of political, economic, social, and private life – generally in the name of “the public good.” Its leadership is commonly spearheaded by a powerful, charismatic, even deified figure who is viewed as uniquely capable – along with his hand-picked advisers – of leading his nation to new-found or restored greatness. Its economics are collectivist, socialist and redistributionist – supremely hostile to free-market capitalism and wealth inequalities. And it tends to promote and exploit the grievances of “the common man,” portraying society as the theater of a ceaseless conflict – a class war – between oppressor and oppressed, victimizer and victim. Consequently, identity politics are central to fascism.”
Many people claim that Obama is a socialist. While he sounds like a socialist I believe he is more akin to a Mussolini Fascisti than a socialist. His actions of pushing large stimulus projects, control of the banking sector, corporate take-overs like GM and the health care industry, partnership with labor unions and constant class warfare, while appearing socialistic, are exactly what Mussolini did in the 1930s.
While, as Jonah Goldberg states “socialism, communism and fascism are members of the same family” it is difficult in our psyche to really define the difference today. We have been bombarded with these terms for the past 50 years by the politicians and press to a point where most Americans cannot define any of them. This why the term is tossed about with no real thought. The Tea Party is accused of fascism yet the actions of the left-wing and union protestors in Wisconsin mirror the actions of Mussolini and Hitler.
It is time for Americans to understand that all of these totalitarian philosophies are statist in nature and Obama, without a doubt, is the biggest statist this nation has ever seen since Woodrow Wilson. Obama even carries himself in the same manner a Mussolini, something he had to practice.