Benito Mussolini emigrated to Switzerland in 1902, where he became active in the Italian socialist movement. He worked for the L'Avvenire del Lavoratore newspaper, served as secretary of the Italian workers union in Lausanne, gave speeches and organized meetings for socialist activists and sympathizers. He continued to study socialist philosophers including Friedrich Nietzche, Vilfredo Pareto of the Lausanne School, and the syndicalist Georges Sorel. It was Sorel's ideas about the need for a violent overthrow of liberal democracy and capitalism through violence, general strikes and direct action that highly influenced Mussolini's own political views and were later incorporated into his Fascist movement. He also credited Christian socialist Charles Peguy and the syndicalist Hubert Lagardelle as being some of his mentors.
Mussolini denounced Italy's "imperialist war" in Libya
Mussolini spent two weeks in jail in 1903, after having been arrested for advocating for a general strike. The Swiss government deported him back to Italy, but he returned after falsifying his papers. He studied at the University of Lausanne and was arrested, a year later, in Geneva, Switzerland.
In February of 1909, he moved to the Italian-speaking city of Trento which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There, he worked in the office of the local socialist party.
Mussolini returned to his hometown in Italy, in 1910, to edit the weekly newspaper, Lotta di Classe (The Class Struggle). He also published "Il Trentino veduto da un Socialista (Trentino as seen by a Socialist), in the Left-Wing periodical La Voce.
Mussolini described Marx as the "greatest of all theorists of socialism"
In September of 1911, he denounced Italy's "imperialist war" in Libya, as a participant in a socialist-led riot. This protest caused him to be arrested and to spend five months in jail. But, it also built his credibility and led to his becoming editor of the Socialist Party newspaper, Avanti.
Describing Marx as the "greatest of all theorists of socialism," Mussolini fully considered himself a follower of the Communist founder. Vladimir Lenin would later criticize Italian socialists for expelling him from their ranks. So, why did he separate from the Italian Socialist Party? Did his political philosophy really change? We shall see that his passion for socialism remained strong and true. It was his philosophy about Italian involvement in World War I that evolved.
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini is known as the Father of Fascism, as he created the term and concept of Fascism and was the first ruler of a nation-state governed by Fascist policies.
Mussolini was born to be a socialist!
He was born on July 29, 1883 in the small town of Dovia di Predappio. His father was a blacksmith and ardent Socialist, whose political ideology combined the views of anarchist figures, such as Carlo Cafiero and Mikhail Bakunin, the nationalism of Giuseppe Mazzini, and the military authoritarianism of Giuseppe Garibaldi. His mother was a devout Catholic whose primary influence on her son was the demand that he be baptized.
Mussolini was inspired by socialist doctrine...
So passionate was Mussolini's father about Socialism that he named his son for esteemed Socialist leaders and activists. His first name came from Benito Juarez, the first indigenous president of Mexico, while his middle names, Amilcare and Andrea, were in tribute to Italian Socialists Andrea Costa and Amicare Cipriani. You could say that Benito Mussolini was born to be a Socialist!
Young Mussolini spent hours everyday listening to his father espouse anarchist philosophy and socialist doctrine, and as we shall see, his own politics were highly influenced by these lessons from his father.
"Fellow countrymen, in a few days you will have not a ministry, but a government."
Rome, Oct. 30.--- A Roman triumph was staged here today by the victorious Fascisti, who call themselves the inheritors of the traditions of the ancient empire. All night long the streets of the Italian capital echoed to the tramp of the marching feet of the picturesque legionnaires, who are entering the city to strengthen the choice of their leader, Mussolini, as the new Premier by King Victor Emmanuel.
"Fellow countrymen, in a few days you will have not a ministry, but a government," declared Benito Mussolini, Premier designate, to a crowd outside the Quirinal this evening as he came from a long audience with the King.
Ghosts of an Old Empire
This is how Wilbur Forrest, writer for the New York Tribune, began his article "Ghosts of an Old Empire Rise As Fascisti March in Rome," on October 30, 1922, the day after Mussolini's famous march on the Italian capital. He continues....
The Fascisti themselves are not much of an army to look at. They are garbed in part in their famous black shirts, whence their popular nickname is derived; they wear also black tassled skull caps and nondescript trousers and leggings. Their weapons match the latter articles, some carrying rifles, others shotguns and some blackjacks, and a few have only heavy sticks. Their discipline is of the strictest, however. When a manifesto was issued from their headquarters yesterday warning that "the slightest incident or act of youthful impatience may compromise the fate of the nation," and "their is no room for traitors in the ranks of the Fascisti," every member of the organization was aware of the gravity of the admonition, and their was no attempt to violate the order, which demands "iron, blind, silent obedience to their leaders."
"There is no room for traitors in the ranks of the Fascisti"
So, who were these Fascists and their founder, Benito Mussolini, who would become known simply as "The Leader?" What were their beliefs, and how did they impact the political world until this very day? We shall explore these questions, as we try to understand the true nature of Fascism and how it has evolved in modern times.
They say that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. That is the case with Fascism. Commonly thought to be a phenomenon of the Twentieth Century, that is now extinct, as a governing system, Fascism has had a resurgence in the Twenty-First Century. Why is it coming back unnoticed?
"We cannot prevent another Holocaust from happening, if we do not fully understand the political system that led to the first one."
It is because the public, traumatized and horrified by the brutality of the Holocaust and the Nazi regime, chose to look no further than the atrocities. No one was ready to examine the governing philosophy behind the genocide.
"Fascism became a pejorative term, labeling an individual as bigoted and authoritarian..."
Furthermore, there was a planned propaganda campaign by Socialists and Communists, who had previously praised the likes of Mussolini and Hitler, to distance themselves from Nazi atrocities and label Fascism as a form of Right-Wing nationalism. Communists in the Soviet Union called all capitalists and nationalists Fascist. Western Socialists followed their lead and did the same. Fascism became a pejorative term, labeling an individual as bigoted and authoritarian... an extreme Right-Winger. But, as we shall see, Fascism originated and evolved within the political left, finding support among many would later denounce it.
"Federalism can serve as an antidote to Fascism and similar authoritarian philosophies"
As a Jew, it has been engrained deeply in my soul to never forget the victims of the Holocaust. This belief extends beyond memorializing those who suffered, and perished, to speaking out for victims of current and more recent genocides and tyranny. But few, even within the Jewish community, have questioned the political philosophy that led to the Holocaust. I have always believed we cannot prevent another Holocaust from happening, if we do not understand the political system that led to the first one. That is the purpose of this blog. Together, we will explore what it means to be a Fascist, beyond the antisemitism and myth of racial superiority. Here, we will examine the roots of its totalitarian ideals and how it has evolved to current day. We will explore where and how it is having a comeback in the Twenty-First Century. We will also look at how federalism can serve as the antidote to Fascism and similar authoritarian philosophies. I implore you to keep an open mind and not fall for the propaganda of those who have sought to revise history for their own political purposes.
Samuel Griswold is a lifelong student of history and politics, whose studies have given him unique insights into the true nature of totalitarianism in all of its aspects... Fascism, Communism and Socialism. As an American Jew, who lost relatives in the Holocaust, he's lived by the pledges "Never Forget" and "Never Again." But, for him, these pledges mean to never let the policies that led to the Holocaust happen again. To prevent fascism from thriving, we must know how to see and define it. That is the purpose of FightingFascism.com, to draw attention and rally opposition to current fascist policies and governments.