A senior air warrior, graduate from the Staff College and a PG in military studies. He is qualified to write on war and allied matters.
Benito Mussolini ( 1883-1945) is one man in Italian history who made his presence felt in Europe and all over the world. One may dislike him and not agree with his policies because he was ultimately defeated, yet it cannot be forgotten that for 23 years Benito Mussolini held the reins of Italy in his hands. He was a charismatic dictator who lost his élan and poise once he came under the spell of Adolf Hitler. Can one blame him for it? because even Neville Chamberlain the British Prime Minister was charmed by Adolf Hitler in 1938 and went back saying," we have ensured peace in our time" or words to that effect. In other words, he was fooled.
Benito Mussolini despite his defeat needs to be studied, for the simple reason that we must understand the mind of the man who held the fate of Italy in his hands for over 2 decades. He believed in Fascism which as we all know is an ancient Roman doctrine. This doctrine is supposed to be effective when there is chaos and disorder in society and it restores order and discipline with an iron hand. Fascism is much condemned these days but as a doctrine, it cannot be written off like Marxism and Nihilism. It needs to be studied and no better man to study is Benito Mussolini who swore by fascism.
The Doctrine of Fascism
In 1935 a document was published by the Italian government titled, Fascism Doctrine and Institutions, by Benito Mussolini, Ardita Publishers, Rome. A reading of this fascinating piece of opinion gives us the clearest thought as to the thinking of Mussolini and his conviction that fascism was good for the country.
Mussolini states that society and men must always remain in ferment and inactivity can lead to death. To keep society active, it is important that authority be vested in the state. When Mussolini took over Italy, the state was almost bankrupt and there was widespread indiscipline all around; in short, the ground was ripe to create order from disorder, which is the essence of Fascist thought.
Mussolini was convinced that only the state, (which must be authoritative) can bring about results be it legal or spiritual. When he took over power in 1922, with his famous march to Rome, he did bring about a semblance of order from disorder and it is recorded that for the first time in Italy, the trains began to run on time. A point which we must emphasize is that he did not believe in any individual liberty for anybody. He believed that the state equates to the will of man and it is only the state which can bring the self-expression of the man out. He believed that a regimented society is the only way forward.
Historians have noted that the dictatorship of Mussolini was much more humane and benign compared to the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler and Stalin. So long he was in power on his own, he insured order in society without recourse to anything like concentration camps and gas chambers. However, by the beginning of World War II he had come under the spell of Hitler and lost his aplomb and elan. No study has been conducted as to how the man who led that famous march to Rome, towards the end of his reign became almost like a shadow of the hero he was in 1922.
The reading of his 1935 book gives us the insight that he believed that the fascist state is a powerful expression of the personality of a nation. He was of the opinion that the state was essential, to lead man forward; in other words to guide him to a higher realm and also to spiritualism.
He did not believe in the liberal doctrine and was of the view that liberalism leads to anarchy.
As per the Italian dictator, Fascism is a law-giver and a founder, educator, and promoter of spiritual life. He was probably of the view that fascism must reflect the life of the man, his character, and his faith. To achieve this, the dictator wished to enforce discipline and authority in such a way that it enters into the soul without any dispute. He was of the view that fascism is the symbol of unity, strength, and justice.
One can argue that Mussolini's concept of fascism was pretty half-baked and one-sided. It could also be termed naive but at the same time, we cannot forget that he was the leader of Italy and what he thought mattered more than anybody else.
Political and social doctrine
Mussolini’s totalitarian state did not have complete power over the King or the Catholic Church. That is the reason one can safely say that he was different from Hitler and Stalin. Many are of the opinion that Mussolini’s best achievement was when he formed alliances with the catholic church with the Lateran treaty which gave the Pope his own independence in the Vatican.
Mussolini had a romantic view of Fascism, which we can now see was perhaps not correct. He was of the view that when the war ended in 1919, Socialism, as a doctrine, was dead.
He was of the opinion that Fascism was not the harbinger of a terrorist state like Robbespiere after the French revolution but it was supposed to guide the man in a uniform manner to achieve a higher mental and social status.
Mussolini was of the view that a Fascist state, must control, harmonize and temper the interests of all social classes. He was very clear on his view that all classes must be protected in equal measure. That is perhaps the reason that the excesses committed in Nazi Germany did not happen in Italy.
However, there is one flaw in Mussolini's thinking. He forgot about the basic nature of Fascism which is the negation of socialism, democracy, liberalism, and freedom. But in the end, one can say that fascism is a solution when there is a complete breakdown in society but it is not a panacea for further progress and that is where Il Duce lost.
The Doctrine of Fascism by Benito Mussolini Ardita Publishers, Rome (1935)
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