March 15, 2016
Thoughts on Mussolini
I had read about Mussolini a number of times in various books that covered World War II, but never anything in depth. Since I was going to compare him with Trump I thought I needed a better grasp of the man so started doing some research including buying a biography that had good reviews. It was called Mussolini, The Rise and Fall of Il Duce, by Christopher Hibbert.
I thought the book was well written and it painted a different image of the guy than is the common perception.
Since he was viewed as Hitler’s partner in crime he is seen by many as being worse than Stalin and right up there with Hitler himself as a bad guy. What few realize is that if he were not seduced by Hitler and almost forced to enter the war he may have gone down in history as a beloved leader rather than one that was despised.
It is true that he took the office as prime minister by overthrowing the government by force and that is a big negative for any lover of freedom, but the masses didn’t seem to complain that much as many had hope he would improve things. They seemed to be eerily supportive of turning over their freedoms to a strong man.
Mussolini claimed to have the welfare of his people as his prime objective and to his credit he did work in this direction at first, though not without inflicting punishment to those who got in the way. He started many public works projects, put people to work and generated praise, not only from his people but throughout the world. He had some people in the United States and England thinking that a dictatorship may be a better form of government than a democracy.
It is interesting that he was given tremendous praise from both conservatives and liberals. Shortly after he had taken over the government by force the New York Times said: Mussolini’s fascism was “the most interesting governmental experiment of the day….We should all be glad that he is going at it vigorously.”
He also received praise from, FDR, the U.S. President: “There seems to be no question that [Mussolini] is really interested in what we are doing and I am much interested and deeply impressed by what he has accomplished and by his evidenced honest purpose of restoring Italy.”
FDR adviser Rexford Guy Tugwell said of Italian fascism: “It’s the cleanest, neatest, most efficiently operating piece of social machinery I’ve ever seen. It makes me envious.”
New Republic editor George Soule, who avidly supported FDR, noted approvingly that the Roosevelt administration was “trying out the economics of fascism.”
Mussolini also gave praise back to Roosevelt saying: “Reminiscent of Fascism is the principle that the state no longer leaves the economy to its own devices.…Without question, the mood accompanying this sea change resembles that of Fascism.”
Becoming equated with fascism was seen as a good thing by many before World War II.
On the conservative side none other than Winston Churchill had praise for him.
In 1927 Winston Churchill visited Rome and was widely reported as having said, “If I were an Italian I would don the Fascist Black Shirt. I could not help being charmed … Anyone could see that he thought of nothing but the lasting good, as he understood it, of the Italian people, and that no lesser interest was of the slightest consequence to him.”
Lord Rothermere declared in its columns in the Daily Mail that Mussolini was “the greatest figure of our age.” An English biographer in an extremely laudatory book published in 1932 agreed that, he was “the greatest statesman of our time.”
We could continue with more quotes but this gives the idea. Mussolini received almost universal praise, much more than Hitler ever did. He was pretty much in a league of his own.
Unfortunately a man by the name of Adolf Hitler also admired the guy and incorporated some of his ideas into the Nazi state.
Hitler admired Mussolini so much that he wanted to be not only his partner in war, but his best friend. This desire was not reciprocated as Mussolini despised Hitler in the beginning. In 1934 when he first met Hitler in person he exclaimed that he did not like the look of him and that “He’s quite mad.”
Unfortunately for Mussolini Hitler had a fatal attraction toward him. He seemed more obsessed with making Mussolini his best friend than having Italy’s support in the war. Hitler did everything he could to draw Mussolini into a partnership and as Hitler’s success grew Mussolini began to feel that maybe he had something to offer after all. He even incorporated the Nazi salute and the goose step for his military.
Mussolini strongly disagreed with Hitler starting a war in 1939 but after it was begun their was no turning back and Mussolini had to pick sides. Using intimidation Hitler put enormous pressure on him to join forces. He reluctantly cooperated as he didn’t think his country was prepared for such a coming conflict.
Once in he found he had to cooperate or risk Hitler’s wrath and even though he had previously had no animosity toward the Jews he cooperated with the Nazis in discriminating against them and rounding them up.
Once he had committed Italy to the war his popularity dropped like a rock and he became one of the most hated leaders in the world. He was forced out of power by a revolt in 1943, but Hitler used force to temporarily reinstall him. Near the end of the war he was assassinated and strung up by his feet after which his people, who previously loved, him cursed at him, riddled him with bullets and rocks until his corpse was barely recognizable.
It is interesting that we may owe a great debt to Mussolini. As the war was nearing an end and Hitler realized he was going to loose he blamed Mussolini for his impending defeat. He said that Mussolini’s lackluster performance had caused such a diversion of Nazi resources and energy that had he not paid so much attention to the guy that he could have prevailed.
Sometimes the bad guys in the equation are their own worst enemy.
Copyright 2016 by J J Dewey
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