Sunday, November 3, 2019

Stump the Academics!

I am going to post a series of questions that not only will most ordinary people get wrong or just stare at you with incredulity when they hear the answer, but nearly all university faculty will do about as well.

1. Of what political party was Benito Mussolini a member five years before he founded the Fascist Party?

Mussolini rapidly made his mark in the Socialist party. In 1908, at the age of twentyfive, he was manager of the Avvenire in Trento, and editor of the Popolo of Cesare Battisti. At Forli he founded the Lotta di Classe, and took part in the management of the famous Avanti. He gained a great personal triumph at the Socialist Congress held at Ancona, when he imposed his strong anti-masonic convictions on the party, and became editor of the Avanti. Then came the acid test of the war. The Italian Socialists were pacifist to a man. Mussolini realized the true meaning of German militarism. He strenuously dissented from the Socialist support of neutrality, divining that "the very reasons for civilization" were involved in the cause of the Allies. He stood up against the fanatical anger of his party, deliberately sacrificing, at twenty-nine, his hardly won political position with its assured parliamentary career, and poured out his passionate conviction of the necessity of Italian intervention for the sake of justice, of humanity, of Italy. "You hate me, but you love me still!" he cried out at the mass meeting of November 25, 1914, at which was read the decree of his expulsion from the Socialist party. Calm and serene he faced the angry ranks of his former comrades, convulsed with cries of " Kill him !" and flung at them the triumphant words, "I tell you that from now I will have no pardon or pity whatsoever for those who in this tragic hour are afraid to speak their thoughts for fear of being hissed at, or of the cry of 'Down with him !'" Speaking for the last time as one of themselves, he forced his Socialist hearers to listen to the truth that, at this moment of her history, the hearts and minds of Italians could be filled with but one thought—Italy.
Mussolini, expelled from his party, had now to begin life again. He resigned his editorship of the Avanti, and immediately started a daily newspaper of his own, the Popolo d'ltalia. "Into this extraordinary journal he threw all his originality and vitality." He and his staff, full of the fire of youth, insisted on the intervention of Italy in the war, in face of the derision, scorn, and hatred of the Socialists, and while enduring poverty and hardship. The demand for intervention drew together men of the extreme Right, or Constitutional, party and those of the "advanced" groups; and it is significant that the son of the Socialist blacksmith at once felt himself at ease among the Constitutionalists. A profound harmony existed between the spirit of the Right and the fundamental inspiration of Mussolini's own political faith. Gradually the new paper won a great circulation; and ultimately it became the chief instrument of bringing Italy to the active assistance of the Allies. Indeed, Mussolini, as editor of the Popolo d'Italia, may be said to have been one of the great artificers of the final victory.[Gertrude M. Godden, Mussolini: The Birth of the New Democracy 34-35 (1923).]

1 comment:

  1. It is an example of what F. A. Hayek was writing about in 'The Road to Serfdom'. In the chapter about why the worst get on top he points out that for socialists to succeed they would have to do unethical things or risk failure.

    The state is a means of coercion. If the state is going to be involved in as many things as socialists prefer then coercion becomes common place. I think it would be hard for such a system to be pacifist at heart. It just wouldn't work.