Written/Assisted By Rex & Zetrux (Timotero)
This article was mainly written to provide the foresight into comprehending Fascist Italy’s history and Mussolini’s thought process, in addition to providing you a solid direction to read into for a comprehensive understanding towards aforementioned.
Italian Fascism: A Comprehensive Historical Summary
It’s often been taught by several Fascists that the best way to get to the core of the ideology and understand its development and core values is to get closer to the place where everything took root: that is, Mussolini’s Italy, and Mussolini’s person. This, however, has shown to be an invitation that backfires most of the time. This is because Mussolini and the history of Italian Fascism needs far more insight from part of the person that wants to get into the bandwagon of defending and understanding the Fascist movement in Italian life. Through this we’ve come to the realization that Mussolini, despite being the first proper Fascist leader in the history of the ideology, has shown to be the hardest leader to not only defend, but to understand and fully comprehend as an ideologue and head of state during his times.
Whenever we see a Fascist make the following statements: “Just read Mussolini”, “Go read the Doctrine of Fascism”, “Read Revolt Against The Modern World”, not only are we dealing with a person with a clear misunderstanding of how to introduce a person to the ideology, but we may also be witnessing someone that clearly doesn’t comprehend the complexity of Mussolini. It can’t be summarized with a few quirky short reads, let alone with a few speeches or biased articles regarding his regime. Getting onto the “Mussolini Hill” for the sake of defending and understanding him as a beginners first movement, is like making a child defend himself from a tank with a bottle of water. Italian Fascism and the history around it involves a series of policies, ideas, and actions, that if seen superficially can come off as contradictory and irrational, as stupid and childish, or as the mere actions of an ill dictator with a desire for more and more power for his envisioned New Roman Empire. Thus, taking the path towards Italian Fascism is far more difficult than what it may seem, given that the regime itself needs not only historical context to be comprehended, but it also needs a very insightful revision of the periods in which it could be divided; which, when it comes to historical consensus, it usually goes like this.
The Heroic Capitalism Period (1922-1932)
From the start, Mussolini was faced with Syndicalists like Alceste De Ambris and Unionists like Edmondo Rossoni in one camp while being faced with Pro-Capitalists like Filippo Marinetti and Traditionalists like Emmanuel III in the other camp. Here you would find what Mussolini dubbed as “Heroic Capitalism”.
The attempt of Fascist Italy at industrializing and making it so, despite its backwardness in the economic field, it would seek to modernize Italy, generate a good amount of Industry, and through it, get to a new field of exploration for its economic goals, which were envisioned since the very early manifestos from the Italian Movement. This is the creation of an Integral Organic Corporate Total Society. That is to say, this period was nothing else but a transitional period between the old Italian Economic System and the beginning of the “fascistization” of the Italian economy.
(Corporatism is understood by Italian Fascism as seeing society as a “corpus”: the “body” of society is divided by several articulations that belong to the body, making it work if set together and properly coordinated to make such an entity be able to function. In a Fascist Society, society must be divided in branches which complement its functioning, and once put together and coordinated by the State, it works in an organic way to constantly improve the soul and strength of the body.)
The Corporatist Period (1932-1943)
This period could be summarized as the proper beginning of the Fascist Economy to a degree. As according to Mussolini, this wasn’t the “objective” but only “the beginning” of the Italian advance towards the complete revolutionary Corporatist society which would eventually happen (in a forceful manner) during 1943-1945. This period was characterized by the constant intervention of reactionary and monarchist forces inside the economy to make its way for their own benefit. It was an issue that later on would be recognized by Mussolini himself: “Twenty years of experience taught Fascism that the state cannot limit mediation functions between classes because the substantial strength of the Capitalist class is able to transform inoperative legal equity upon which equality was preached upon. These higher forces allowed the Capitalist Class to dominate and turn it to their advantage in every state action”.
During this period, Italian Society and its productive forces would be divided into Corporations in which the state would mediate the interests of both the Capitalist and the Proletariat Class, keeping an eye on both of them—especially the first one, considering they had to lead them around in order to fulfill the amount of social demands Italian Fascism was seeking—and to direct them towards goals of National Interest. Industrialists and Big Industry was regulated under the overview of the state, which made sure it couldn’t surpass certain limits, and was working on an ethical basis likable to Fascism, which as stated before, it wouldn’t fully work as expected by the Fascist Leaders of the time.
The State Socialist Period (1943-1945)
During this period, Fascism got freed from many forces inside the government, that in one way or another, were interfering in the actions of the State in the benefits of certain high class elements and limiting the amount of reforms Mussolini was able to consolidate, which has been recorded by several historians specialized on that period of Italian History. It is in this way in which Mussolini allies himself with a higher number of Left Wing Fascists, among them the former friend of Lenin, Nicola Bombacci, who would take a big role in the reforms of the government aimed at the complete Socialization of the economy, turning the control of industry to a more worker oriented program as the size of the industry and of profit grew. This program aimed for a self-gestion type of economy in which the State would still have a role in directing it and ensuring welfare for its citizens. This final action could be seen as Fascism trying to bring back support and regretting its previous actions, but as understood by historians, this was nothing but the legitimate progress of Fascism from the very beginning.
“The fundamental canon of the fascist revolution was that of gradualism, both so as not to provoke a tragic crisis and because truly profound innovations cannot be made by striking left and right, but only allowing the popular “forma mentis ” to evolve in the desired direction. Whoever speaks of a breakdown, or of substantial change, or of regret or even of a return to the origins is unknown, can only do so due to lack of information, superficiality or taking sides. It is clear that the socialization of 1944 is nothing more than pure and distilled corporatism and corporatism is synonymous with fascism. In this sense, the path to socialization had different progressive stages:
First phase: Trade union law (Law of April 3, 1926 Number 563). With this law, trade union associations, both employers and workers, were entrusted with the delicate public function of establishing with legislative effect the conditions of work and remuneration that were the object of secular conflict.
Second phase: Carta del Lavoro, published on April 21, 1927 as a pragmatic declaration of the PNF and converted into a State law thirteen years later. It’s important because it solemnly sanctions that both work, in all its forms, and private initiative, in the field of production, are national duties and functions that must be regulated and supervised by the State. Labor is, therefore, an instrument of the nation (as well as capital), not an instrument of capital.
Third phase: Corporations (Fundamental Law of February 3, 1934 Number 136).
Were organs of the State established by productive branches and guardians of their demands. They were made up equally of representatives of the trade union associations, of the two “parties” interested in each branch.
Therefore, the workers’ representatives thus formulated, together with the business community, the production directives that the companies had to obey. The exaltation and responsibility of the “work factor” had taken a good leap forward.
Fourth phase: The reform of political representation (Law of January 19, 1939 Number 129). It was the decisive move to “organic representation”, that is, by functions and not by unqualified generic consensus. For the problem that concerns us, the National Councilors (who replaced the deputies) were half members of the National Council of Corporations. It means that the workers’ representatives sat as such and as such in the highest legislative body. Thus, in public law, any subordination of work to capital was definitely abolished.
Fifth phase: The reform of the civil codes of 1940 (Law of January 3, 1941 Number 14).
It is truly unique that none of the commentators refer to it, as if the idea of socialization was a cricket that jumped at Mussolini’s head as he flew out of Campo Imperatores alongside Otto Skorzeny. However, in that code there was already socialization. There we find the responsibility of the employer (or who represents him if he is anonymous) defined as “head” of the company and not owner or employer. There we find the responsibility of the employer to the State for his management of the company. It is evident, as I have stated before, that socialization was only the last phase of a journey that was contained in the DNA of fascism and that, if anything, it was slightly anticipated and not delayed. The objectives of the socialization of the Italian Social Republic had nothing to do with the vague concept of “social justice”, the master key of all demagogies, it was rather the successive step towards the construction of an organized society” (Rutilo Sermonti. On socialization. Europae Magazine)
The complexity of the topic has shown that Italian Fascism was not merely a straight forward dictatorship of a single man, with all the power on his hand leading a society that had suffered the transformation into a totalitarian society. What Fascism actually went through was the reform of Italian Society with a set of deals with the older higher classes and reactionary forces, which although didn’t stop them from making a slow but secure progress, but also ended with the downfall and weakness of the regime in the years of the war. The Total Revolution of Italian Fascism was never a thing until 1943, in which even then their hand was being held by Nazi Germany, which made the regime follow a set of rules set by the German ally in order to support the war effort (being things such like racial laws regarding Jews and State Religion), in a conflict that was certainly lost around that time. Mussolini’s thought and the development of his actions show that not only is he far from being an easy figure to get into, but in order to grasp the spirit of his movement and policies, one must be well read on the historical context and evolution of his persona. The following reading list is made specifically to create a timeline of books that allow the reader to understand the thoughts of Mussolini, the historical context of Italy, and the application and objectives of Fascist policies during their rule of Italy.
Italian Fascism: A Comprehensive Reading List
Philosophically (Source from the time in order/by era)
Mussolini’s War Diary – Benito Mussolini (Spanish Only)
Socialization Laws (Can be found in Norling’s book)
Historically (Analysis by historians)
The significance of these books, by the various historians, cannot be understated of importance as they can be greatly contextual with many source materials gathered together and properly explained in the books they reside.
Economic Study of Fascist Italy – Giusseppe de Corso (Spanish Only)
The Spirit Of Fascism – Carlos Videla (Spanish Only)
600 days of Mussolini – Ermano Amicucci (Spanish Only)
You’ll prolly notice a pattern of books only in Spanish, and that’s because much of the even greater sources are still locked behind language barriers to this day, be-it Italian or Spanish. Much more would have been included but we decided not to clog the selection with language barriered material.