The youngest prime minister in Italian history, Mussolini was an adroit and indefatigable fixer, a formidable wheeler and dealer in a constitutional monarchy which did not become an outright and permanent dictatorship until December 1925, and even then retained elements of unstable pluralism requiring fancy footwork. He became world-renowned as a political miracle worker. Mussolini made the trains run on time, closed down the Mafia, drained the Pontine marshes, and solved the tricky Roman Question, finally settling the political status of the Pope.Cole Porter's original lyrics are deucedly hard to find in any recording: You're the top! You're the great Houdini! You're the top! You are Mussolini!
Mussolini was showered with accolades from sundry quarters. Winston Churchill called him "the greatest living legislator." Cole Porter gave him a terrific plug in a hit song. Sigmund Freud sent him an autographed copy of one of his books, inscribed to "the Hero of Culture." The more taciturn Stalin supplied Mussolini with the plans of the May Day parades in Red Square, to help him polish up his Fascist pageants.
Nowadays, that would earn you an ewwwww from your sweetheart. So what happened? How did the most famous man in the world end up as, well, what we think of when we think "Mussolini"?
In the 1930s, the perception of "fascism" in the English-speaking world morphed from an exotic, even chic, Italian novelty into an all-purpose symbol of evil. Under the influence of leftist writers, a view of fascism was disseminated which has remained dominant among intellectuals until today. It goes as follows:The actual situation is much more complex, and subtle, and interesting. Lenin was a great admirer of Mussolini, who started out as a fierce Marxist. But while we are continually told by the Ivy League types that nuance and shades of gray are the key to a true intellect, all this goes out the window when talk turns to fascism.
Fascism is capitalism with the mask off. It's a tool of Big Business, which rules through democracy until it feels mortally threatened, then unleashes fascism. Mussolini and Hitler were put into power by Big Business, because Big Business was challenged by the revolutionary working class. We naturally have to explain, then, how fascism can be a mass movement, and one that is neither led nor organized by Big Business. The explanation is that Fascism does it by fiendishly clever use of ritual and symbol. Fascism as an intellectual doctrine is empty of serious content, or alternatively, its content is an incoherent hodge-podge. Fascism's appeal is a matter of emotions rather than ideas. It relies on hymn-singing, flag-waving, and other mummery, which are nothing more than irrational devices employed by the Fascist leaders who have been paid by Big Business to manipulate the masses.
As Marxists used to say, fascism "appeals to the basest instincts," implying that leftists were at a disadvantage because they could appeal only to noble instincts like envy of the rich. Since it is irrational, fascism is sadistic, nationalist, and racist by nature. Leftist regimes are also invariably sadistic, nationalist, and racist, but that's because of regrettable mistakes or pressure of difficult circumstances. Leftists want what's best but keep meeting unexpected setbacks, whereas fascists have chosen to commit evil.
The consequence of 70 years of indoctrination with a particular leftist view of fascism is that Fascism is now a puzzle. We know how leftists in the 1920s and 1930s thought because we knew people in college whose thinking was almost identical, and because we have read such writers as Sartre, Hemingway, and Orwell.This is a very, very interesting article, which includes the five critical facts about fascism. The two most important (in my opinion) are fascism was a movement whose roots are in the left, and fascism was intellectually sophisticated. Those two are enough to explain 90% of the hatred that socialists hold for it. It's a hatred that you only see between brothers. That and this:
But what were Fascists thinking?
Here we should note a difference between Marxism and Fascism. The leader of a Marxist political movement is always considered by his followers to be a master of theory and a theoretical innovator on the scale of Copernicus. Fascists were less prone to any such delusion. Mussolini was more widely-read than Lenin and a better writer, but Fascist intellectuals did not consider him a major contributor to the body of Fascist theory, more a leader of genius who could distil theory into action.Fascists didn't need an intellectual "elite" as much as the socialists did. Not hard to see which the intellectuals would prefer. Useful Idiots, don't you know?
But the movement was no friend to classical liberalism, or the American ideal of Ordered Liberty:
The fascist moral ideal, upheld by writers from Sorel to Gentile, is something like an inversion of the caricature of a Benthamite liberal. The fascist ideal man is not cautious but brave, not calculating but resolute, not sentimental but ruthless, not preoccupied with personal advantage but fighting for ideals, not seeking comfort but experiencing life intensely. The early Fascists did not know how they would install the social order which would create this "new man," but they were convinced that they had to destroy the bourgeois liberal order which had created his opposite.You've likely never heard almost any of this, except as rumors handed from blog to blog. This traces you through the entire history of Marxism, and socialism, and fascism. It's a long article, but this is quite simply the best thing I've ever read on the subject. You'll want to bookmark this, not just because it will take more than one reading to digest, but also because you can use it to flog any Progressive idiot who ever uses the term "right wing fascist".
And it will help clarify our own two party fascist system on these shores.