The most thorough way to understand and judge Fascism is by dissociating Fascism as a political program from Fascism as a movement in the history of the Italian national revolution. It is my intention in the following pages to consider and appraise particularly this second aspect–or function–of Fascism as it is revealed in the history of my country.
The history of the Fascist political party, which is much simpler and shorter than that of the Fascist revolutionary movement, can be easily summed up. The recent political struggles in Italy had unluckily opened the way to parties anti-nationalist in theory as well as in practice, viz., the Socialists, the People’s Christian Party (Popolari) and the organization of the Freemasons. For years Socialism had preached to the masses the principles of the economic class struggle pure and simple, totally disregarding the immense danger to the unity and strength of nations in theories which appeal to violence in order to assert the primacy of material requirements and which deny all the moral and historical values championed by nationalism in behalf of State and country. The People’s Party, a spontaneous and vigorous post-war formation sprung from the ashes of the shattered Christian democracy, which had seemed dead since the disappearance from the scene of Pope Leo XIII, took up again some of the precepts of the radicalism of the last century. It did away with the balance between justice and humanity on the one side and the exigencies of the fatherland on the other, and aimed to restore the bond between the Catholics of the whole world, so as to bring them into obedience to the principles common to all believers apart from and above the obligations of citizenship. This was not the international Socialism of class struggle. It was a spiritual internationalism fatally tending to weaken the ideas of state and country. Finally, the mighty Masonic organization, as it exists in western Europe, made a forceful cosmopolitan appeal, strongest wherever Freemasonry assumes a financial or a directly anti-religious character.
In Italy of late these three elements had become in a certain sense a common peril through their common international spirit. Their activities seriously retarded the crystallizing of Italy’s national unity when, precisely at the close of the World War, this conception was gaining clearness and intensity. Fascism as the motive of a political party of conscious, impetuous, abounding nationalism challenged these three internationalisms and fought them in the social, the spiritual and the political field. It was only natural that, having inaugurated this national crusade, the Fascist party should enroll a mighty host of followers, thousands of whom had seceded from the parties that the Fascists opposed.
This will explain the intensity of the political warfare now waging between the Fascist party and the internationally-minded groups. The triumph of either combatant may well be an important event in Italian history. The victory or defeat of the principles of the Fascist party will determine the rate of progress of these principles in other European countries. For Italy, however, the outcome of this contest is vital because Fascism is essentially a typically Italian movement. Such it remains whether we consider it as a political party or as a phase of our national revolution–and even more so in the latter case; for Fascism, though in the guise of a political party, is a capital factor in the formation of the modern Italian state. It is my belief that this standpoint should be accepted when writing the history of the Italian national regeneration which began early in the nineteenth century and continues to this day. From this angle Fascism stands out properly in the grandiose panorama of nineteenth century Europe. Observers often isolate the phenomenon of Fascism and reduce it to the proportions of a rebellious political group. Then it appears as a mere episode, lively, to be sure, but effervescent, in Italy’s recent political struggles. We, however, who wish to give it its place in the history of Italian unity shall show the continuity, the inevitability, of the events during the last hundred years of Italy’s existence.
From the time when Italy became a sovereign state, and even before she had established her capital in Rome, an element of disharmony was felt within her–the great disequilibrium between the immense heritage of artistic, religious, intellectual and social culture created by Italy for the benefit of the whole world, and the young state’s organic weakness. From 1860 on, Italy began to feel the political, diplomatic, economic and psychologic consequences of this disequilibrium–a unique phenomenon, perhaps, in the history of nations. We Italians would speak to the world as representatives of an age-old civilization of which we had inherited countless works of artists and thinkers –a civilization that entitled us to a place among the foremost Powers in Europe–and all the while we were speaking in the name of a very young state, still administratively incomplete, still divided by the remains of a feudal structure, and lacking economic and military independence. To be sure, Italy possessed abundant civic and diplomatic tradition; but she was a novice in commerce and industry, weak in finance, and given to an agnostic tendency in religion which left her powerless at the moment when she needed the loftiest inspiration to help her conquer in the struggle for existence.