January 10, 2017

1928. Mussolini Says Fascism Will Live Long After He is Gone

The New York Times on Mussolini and Fascist Italy
Members of the fascist youth organization Opera Nazionale Balilla at the inauguration of the Foro Mussolini venue in Rome, November 4, 1932 (source)
This article is part of a series of posts on how newspapers covered the rise of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler in Italy and Germany prior to World War II. New York Times correspondent Edwin L. James was among several foreign journalists to interview the Italian dictator in the early years of his reign.

The American press has since been criticized for romanticizing the Italian regime. In the 1975 book "Mussolini and Fascism: The View From America" (pp. 24-25), historian John Patrick Diggins writes:
In the United States Mussolini's popularity was to a great extent a product of the press. Most newspapers outside New York City relied on wire services or foreign correspondents for information, and in the early years these sources were generally friendly to Mussolini and his new regime . . .

The most thorough coverage of Italian events could, of course, be found in the New York Times. The Times' correspondents writing on Italy included Arnaldo Cortesi, Edwin L. James, Arthur Livingston, Walter Littlefield, and Anne O'Hare McCormick. With the exception of Livingston, these journalists wrote approvingly of Fascism and its leader . . . yet editorially the Times showed less inclination than its writers to support Fascism. Although the Times, like most papers, condoned Mussolini's seizure of power, by the mid-twenties the editors became disenchanted, seeing "one more parallel" after another between Fascist and Soviet totalitarianism. Nevertheless, the New York Times' treatment of Italy brought denunciations by anti-Fascists in the United States were convinced that Cortesi, McCormick (and in the thirties Herbert L. Matthews and C. L. Sulzberger) and associates were championing the cause of Fascism.
From The New York Times, April 15, 1928:
He Tells Times Correspondent No One Must Have Any Illusions About That
There Will Be a Place in the Country for Each Person and That Person Will Occupy It
Then Indicates We Do Not Understand His Regime's Fundamentals and Purpose
ROME, April 14 — Mussolini was standing on the business side of his enormous desk in the magnificent room which serves as his office in the Palazzo Chigi. Leaning over and half lying on the desk he asked what I had noticed new in Italy.

My reply was that it appeared that Italy was beginning to regard Fascism as a regime rather than a personal undertaking of Mussolini.

The Dictator straightened, walked around the desk and; in a sing-song and not unpleasant voice he uses at times, said:

"What you say is very interesting."

Says Fascism Will Endure

Then moving closer—only about three inches away, and changing his tone—he said in a measured voice:

"Fascism shall be established in Italy as a permanent institution. I do not know how long Mussolini will last, but Fascism shall last longer. Like the rest of us, I am here today and gone tomorrow; but let no one think Fascism goes with me. I will leave to Italy the institution of Fascism established on solid grounds—a historic institution. Fascism controls Italy now and must stay in control. It has taken its place and shall keep it. The youth of Italy shall be trained so that in this country there shall be a place for each person, and each person shall be in that place.

"Let no one waste his time speculating on what will become of Fascism when Mussolini is gone."

While Mussolini kindly agreed to discuss privately many issues, he refused to give more details in his interview. He wanted to know what the United States thought of the Italian regime. The reply was that it thought much of Mussolini but less of Fascism.

I remembered having interviewed Mussolini in Lausanne at the Turkish conference only a few short weeks after the Black Shirt march on Rome. There was then a sort of reckless aggressiveness in his manner and spirit, which now has been replaced by balanced assurance. Sure of himself and his power, the Dictator now dreams of perpetuating, or at least continuing, the regime he thinks good for Italy.

Fundamentals of Fascism

There can be no doubt that Mussolini believes he has found a system of government somewhere between absolutism and verbose parliamentarism which in its perfection have the good points of both and dodge the faults of either. The ablest spirits in the country should run it for its own good. Waste in politics and waste in the country's economy he thinks should go. In politics millions of useless words should be saved and in industry strikes and lockouts should go.

If it is objected that the regime prevents free expression of opinion Mussolini would reply by asking what opinions not worth while should be expressed.

In his National Balilla, by which boys of 8 are trained up through the Advance Guards at 18, he imagines he has a machine that will produce men to run the party he has established as a political power, and thus to run the country on the basis of putting the State ahead of any and all considerations.

While undoubtedly he will stick to his Fascist program of a place for every one, each one in that place and no noise about it, it is probable that if Mussolini is spared many more years in power his regime will show greater accommodation to current issues than in the past, when he faced a day-to-day fight to install himself in the secure position he appears to occupy today, with all political opposition crushed to earth, and even pressed into the ground.

Perhaps he will make up his differences with France; perhaps he will seek by commercial methods rather than others a foreign outlet for Italian man power and production. And perhaps one of these days the world will see a real effort by Mussolini to settle the old dispute between the Italian State and the Vatican. No man who has changed his political faith as often as Mussolini would deny the possibility of evolution in the application of Fascist principles.

If Mussolini really wishes the rest of the world to appreciate the growth or evolution of Fascism in Italy perhaps one good move would be to abolish the censorship which now interferes with other peoples learning freely what Italy is doing. It is true the Roman Government figures that if it does not allow criticism at home it should try not to allow it abroad. But that is only one way of looking at it.