Iran’s Crisis of Legitimacy
An Embattled Regime Faces Mass Protests—and an Ailing Supreme Leader
THIS year completes a decade of Signor Mussolini's rule in Italy; but it would not be fully accurate to say that it completes a decade of Fascist dictatorship. The Fascist dictatorship in its present characteristic form began only on January 3, 1925, when Signor Mussolini declared in Parliament that he took upon himself responsibility for the murders and other forms of violence which had torn Italy since the advent of Fascism in the autumn of 1922.
I have hesitated to accept the task of writing about this period. I resigned the Paris Embassy on the advent of Fascism, and maintained my resignation despite the written request of the present Prime Minister that I continue to collaborate with him; and in the Senate I always spoke -- so long as speaking was possible -- and voted against Fascism. I feared, therefore, that I might lack the needed objectivity. But then I began to consider whether after all there is any such thing as complete historical objectivity. And I concluded that the best French historian would find it difficult to speak serenely about Louis XIV if he were a democrat, and that an American scholar might not do full justice to Jefferson if he happened to be a Republican . . . But this much one has a right to expect of an historian:intellectual probity. In the present instance, intellectual probity will lie in the fact that I shall be on my guard against my own political opinions and that where I make statements of fact I shall try to be certain that they are indeed facts. If at the beginning I have recalled my personal situation, it is in order that my readers might beware, if they like to do so.
After ten years of rule, eight of them absolutely dictatorial, a régime might fairly be judged on its results. But although much has been written on the nature of Fascist doctrine, it may first of all be useful to sum up the characteristics of the Italian dictatorship, not as they were stated by early admirers and enemies of the régime, but as they stand out in comparison with such dictatorial régimes as have prevailed in Europe since the fall of the most conspicuous of them all, the Empire of the first Bonaparte.
In the first place, friends or foes are bound to admit that there is an immense difference between Fascism in power and Fascism as a revolutionary movement immediately after the war. That early Fascism was not lacking in a certain sincere and naïve passion for democratic renovation; the movement recruited its adherents from amongst the ex-service men home from the trenches, men who did not want to belong either to the Catholic organizations or to the Socialist Party, which in their eyes had been guilty -- especially the second one -- of having been averse to the war. But this Fascist movement was entirely lacking in political experience or tradition; in the main it was given substance by Syndicalistic doctrines such as those preached before the war by a French writer who had gained more vogue in Italy than in his own country, Georges Sorel. It was mainly his theory of "violence" which most appealed to those crude youths who had just stepped out of the unsurpassed violence of four years of war.
Had this movement found a really strong personality to guide it, as happened in the case of the Russian Bolsheviks with Lenin, Fascism might perhaps have represented a genuinely original historical phenomenon. Such was not the case, however. The political ripeness and originality of its leader may be judged by the program he wrote for his party in 1919, a demagogic program in which momentous aims such as the abolition of the Senate, of compulsory service and of stock exchanges were thrown in at random on a par with the suppression of titles of nobility and of orders of knighthood.
When chance and the infinite stupidity of the Facta cabinet brought this movement and its leader to power at the end of 1922, and events turned to tragedy, there rapidly occurred the transformation of what had been revolutionary Fascism into the most complete police State ever seen in modern times. It was its way of meeting the growing opposition of the masses.
Almost all the present laws of the Fascist régime are reproductions of measures invented by the government of Napoleon III between 1852 and 1867 to destroy the French democratic opposition. Napoleon III kept up Parliament as a decoy but reduced it to impotence, and so did Fascism. Napoleon III made the prefects of the provinces omnipotent, and so did Fascism. Local government was destroyed under the Second Empire; and the same happened in Italy with much more serious consequences, since in municipal life the Italians are amongst the best in Europe -- a legacy of the old Italian love for the libero Comune. In the two periods similar laws were enforced to get rid of judges who refused to obey governmental orders and to muzzle university professors, editors and publishers. Most historic and political parallels smack of literary artifice, but one cannot help feeling that seldom in history has an analogy been so complete as that between the French Second Empire and Italian Fascism.
The analogy may be detected even in the foreign policy of the two régimes -- in the psychological motives prompting them (which is what really counts), if not in external appearances. And nothing is more natural, for régimes which have suppressed the freedom which the people formerly enjoyed seek to divert their minds with successes abroad, and when success does not come turn to boastings about imperialistic conquest in the future. The foolish Napoleonic expedition to Mexico finds, morally speaking, its equivalent in the Fascist expedition to Corfu (1923), Fascism's first attempt to show the Italian people its diplomatic capacities.
Compelled under British pressure to evacuate Corfu, Fascism had the wisdom to realize that the foreign policy of a great country could not be managed on the Strafexpedition lines which had been the main method adopted by the Fascists to seize power at home. And we had in 1924 an agreement with Jugoslavia, based on the principles of political and moral collaboration with Italy's new Eastern neighbor which I had inaugurated in 1920 with the Treaty of Rapallo and the anti-Hapsburg convention and which constituted an application of Mazzini's great conception in the fifties: the independence of the Balkan nationalities oppressed by Austria is the necessary corollary of the independence of Italy.
Unfortunately, a few years later Fascist diplomacy gave the impression of reverting to the old paths; and the intimate relations which grew up between Fascist Rome and the aristocratic oligarchy governing Hungary led the governments of Prague and Belgrade to believe that the Fascist régime was seeking success at their expense. Here again, to mention it for the last time, stands out a similarity with the Second Empire. Napoleon III needed to give the French "glory," and his diplomacy, in search of territorial conquests, fluctuated feverishly between one contradictory method and another: secret negotiations with Prussia to win the annexation of Belgium, and shortly afterwards a declaration of war on this same Prussia.
Fascism has often shown the same hesitations. The signature of the Kellogg Pact in 1928 is a case in point. Fascism did not dare not to sign. But the personal organ of Signor Mussolini, the Popolo d'Italia (he was its editor until the very day he became Prime Minister), commented as follows on the value of the Pact on the morrow of its signing:
France, England and the United States may well speak with horror of the war which would alter the present status quo; but we, who breathe with great difficulty, we can but see in every League, in every collective move of those who have and will give nothing, an Insurance Committee working against the interest of the rising peoples. The result is that August 27 cannot be a feast-day for us.
In a speech in Parliament on December 8, 1928, Signor Mussolini himself, in an ironical mood, declared:
We have signed the Kellogg Pact which I declare sublime, so much so that one might even call it transcendental. Were there other Pacts ahead we should hasten to sign them. But above, below and alongside of these Pacts is a reality which we may not ignore if we do not want to be guilty of high treason towards the nation. This reality is as follows. The whole world is arming. Every day the newspapers publish information concerning the building of submarines and other engines of war. We must not delude ourselves regarding the political state of Europe. When the storm is brewing everyone speaks of calm and peace, as if prompted by a deep urge of the mind. We do not want to upset the balance of Europe, but we must keep ourselves in readiness. None of you will wonder, and none shall wonder, if I ask a new effort of the nation, once its convalescence is over, in order to bring all its forces on land and sea and in the air to the point of perfection.
And one year later, on November 4, 1929, speaking to a Fascist gathering:
Comrades, there is too much talk about world peace. We must not delude ourselves. Actually and truthfully no country is disarming. This gathering should take one resolution: that, if need be, all ex-service men will once more be ready to fight until victory be won.
Towards the League of Nations, Fascist tactics may be divided into three distinct periods: the first, all contempt and irony; the second, when Signor Grandi (appointed as Foreign Minister in September 1929) began admitting, under the influence of the permanent officials of the Foreign Office, that it was no use ignoring the League, the while his chief went on with his customary warlike speeches; the third, lasting until Signor Grandi's dismissal on July 20, 1932, during which time unanimity was reached in the Fascist language and everybody was advocating disarmament and Geneva collaboration.
The first period corresponds too closely with the original slogans of Fascism to be worth while considering.
The second period began in 1930 when for the first time a Fascist Foreign Minister, Signor Grandi, went to Geneva as Italian delegate to the Council of the League. The Popolo d'Italia explained on January 12, 1930, that this change of tactics was made advisable by the need for "wary and vigilant" Fascist delegates to watch over the numerous "all-invading" advisory and deliberative bodies of the League. It added: "Too often the skepticism shown and boasted of by Italians concerning the work, authority and efficacy of the League of Nations has played into the hands of our adversaries, and contributed towards the success of certain shows of wordy pacifism and . . . imperialistic internationalism which a less indifferent attitude on our part would have lessened or even smothered in the cradle. Italy's share in the debates of the League of Nations cannot be either passive or merely decorative."
On May 9, 1930, Signor Grandi declared in a speech to the Chamber of Deputies that "the idiotic calumny" representing Italy "full of warlike truculence" had exploded forever. "Mussolini's Italy," he added, "asks only to be able to progress freely in a pacified and quiet Europe: the words equal rights and equal duties express the only foundation upon which one may build a lasting understanding."
The newspapers with the text of Signor Grandi's speech were still being read when his chief began a tour of the Tuscan cities. On May 11 he said to the Fascist crowds at Leghorn:
Before your sea -- that sea which is ours -- after having visited your yards where keen workers are building the future war units, I want to say to you -- and not only to you, but to the whole Italian people and to the peoples beyond our frontiers -- that we do not desire hasty adventures, but that, should anyone strike at our independence or our future, he does not know to what a temperature I would bring the whole Italian people. He does not know how tremendously I would work up the passion of the whole Italian people if the Revolution of the Black Shirts were hindered in its development. Then the people, old and young, peasant and workers, armed and unarmed, would form one human mass -- and more than a mass, a projectile, ready to be hurled against anyone, anywhere.
And six days later, in Florence:
Nothing is more insulting to the pride of the Italian people than to doubt the fulfilment of our naval program. I here again affirm that this new program will be carried out, ton for ton, and that its twenty-nine units will put to sea. For the will of Fascism is not only of iron, it is also mathematical. We are never allowed to sit down and rest. We are strictly forbidden to do so, not only because of the exigencies of our internal situation, but also because of the new and unexpected ferments which are boiling in all directions. You will tomorrow see here an impressive army parade. It is I who ordered it; for words are beautiful, but rifles, machine-guns, ships, aircrafts and guns are even more beautiful. Tomorrow morning, in this array of armed forces, the world will see the strong and warlike face of Fascist Italy. For right without might is but an empty word and your great Niccolò Machiavelli used to say that prophets unarmed would perish. These lessons of history and experience are particularly suggestive and eloquent.
To prove that these and many other similar speeches were not mere outbursts of public oratory, the President of the Chamber of Deputies recalled them in a speech which he made two weeks later. He said: "The speeches, full of mettle and logic, which the Duce made to the crowds of Tuscany and Lombardy have given to this anniversary the savor and charm of an historic hour. Let us live this hour with our martial heart, accustomed to face fearlessly danger and responsibilities. Let us live it with the faith which led us to victory despite all obstacles and dangers. Let us live it convinced that Vittorio Venesto is but the first step of our irresistible ascent." And on the same day the Under-Secretary of Education, Dr. Bodrero, speaking at Venice, exhorted the young "to learn to hate; for where there is no national hatred, there is also no virtue." Many more documents might be gathered. But these will perhaps suffice.[i]
During the last part of Signor Grandi's tenure of office the discrepancy between the speeches for foreign and home consumption seemed, as I said above, to have been eliminated. The feeling both in Italy and in the rest of Europe was that the new tactics were dictated by the economic and financial situation, which (as we shall see in a moment) has been especially cruel in Italy. If world opinion was somewhat skeptical of this sudden turn, the partisans of Fascism should acknowledge that they therein simply paid the price for the style of their régime. When the policy of a great country depends upon one man, and on a man at that who has often changed, there is no assurance that a certain policy, newly adopted, will be lasting. The fact that the dictator's change may even be made in all good faith is of little importance: he also, in his turn, pays for the fact that he is no longer enlightened as to the demands of public opinion; a dictator ends by mistaking for the opinion of the country what is but organized praise prepared by his own press service.
One therefore understands the doubts expressed abroad as to the genuineness of Fascism's conversion to the pacific life. Mr. Walter Lippmann, one of the most thoughtful observers of world affairs, put it with his characteristic clearness when he wrote as follows at the time of Signor Grandi's visit to Washington:
It has never been made quite clear in this country how it has happened that the Duce, who was talking about the beauty of machine-guns less than two years ago, is now the most eloquent apostle of peace and disarmament on the European continent. The transformation has been abrupt. It has not been accompanied by the usual debating and voting which, in the world Americans are accustomed to, precede a radical change of policy. It would be less than frank, therefore, to conceal from Signor Grandi the underlying fact that American opinion is as yet unprepared to believe that the apparent similarity in many of their immediate views of the European situation signifies that the two governments have a genuine community of purpose.
It may, in fact, be said, that unless some way is found to clarify American opinion on this point, and to convince it that the present policies of the Italian Government represent a change of purpose and not merely a change of tactics, Signor Grandi's mission may have just the opposite effect from the one desired. For nothing could be more fatal to the purposes the United States will be pursuing this winter than to give the impression to Europe that it is aligned with the bloc of dissatisfied nations who seek by means of a radical revision of the territorial settlements to effect a radical redistribution of political power.
The point, therefore, on which an understanding needs to be reached is whether Signor Mussolini's recent enthusiasm for disarmament, forgiveness of debts and treaty revision derives primarily from a desire for peace and stability, or from a belief that in subscribing to the liberal formulae which he once despised he has found a shrewd method of isolating France.
Personally I am convinced -- trying to see things without party bias -- that the changes which occurred in the phraseology of Fascist foreign policy were something more than a modification of diplomatic tactics. The point is that, hidden by the notes of a press which obeys as an orchestra obeys its conductor, a deep change -- hardly visible to strangers -- is asserting itself in Italian public opinion. Sensational speeches with no subsequent results have not only ceased to work; they have become a nuisance for the prestige of Fascism itself. And its leader has probably begun to realize that it does not pay to go on relying too much on the wild Fascists whom Theodore Roosevelt would have put in his "lunatic fringe."
The future alone will tell whether Fascism can renounce for good the risky nationalistic ideologies which are in such violent opposition to the democratic principle of international justice. Signor Grandi's sudden dismissal at the end of July 1932 has been interpreted as an indication that Mussolini is about to return to a war policy and to war talk. On the other hand, there are skeptics who assert that Grandi's disgrace simply reflects his chief's personal jealousy over the success of his peace speeches at Geneva. For the time being we can only come to the preliminary and obvious conclusion that it is not prudent, under a dictatorship, to become more talked about than is agreeable to the master.
The minorities problem in the form in which it has developed in Italy under the Fascist régime is linked with the whole general conception which Fascism apparently has of life amongst nations. That is why a short study of the question may be useful.
The problem was novel in Italy. Before the war Italy was one of the most homogeneous nations in the world. It was through the Treaty of St. Germain (September 10, 1919), which brought the frontiers of Italy to the natural confines of the Alps, and through the Treaty of Rapallo (November 12, 1920), the first of all post-war treaties to be based essentially on mutual understanding more than on force, that Italy received 215,345 Germans and 468,378 Jugoslavs. On December 1, 1919, opening the first Parliament elected after the war, the King solemnly said: "The territories newly annexed to Italy confront us with new problems. Our liberal tradition will show us the way to find their solution, in respecting autonomous institutions and local usage as much as possible. No trouble and no sacrifice should be avoided to the end that -- after inevitable forcible measures -- the return of these lands to their natural unit may not in their eyes represent a retrograde step or a decrease in prosperity. We know that in our subjects in the mountains and on the seacoast we shall find precious collaborators in the progress of the nation."
During the discussion in Parliament of the Treaty of Rapallo I made the following even clearer statement, which was strongly approved by the Chambers and by leaders of all parties: "We shall guarantee most ample liberty of language and culture. This will be for us at once a point of honor and an act of political wisdom. Let us be certain, therefore, that in this respect also our new citizens will soon feel satisfied in belonging to a Great Power which, strong in her incomparable culture, respects their local life with jealous care."
Facts were true to words; and the administration of the new Italian provinces, as long as the Liberal governments were in power in Italy, could be pointed to as an example of real respect for the rights and traditions of annexed populations, and also -- I am proud to add as an Italian -- as a model of political wisdom. If Liberal methods had continued, the national minorities would almost unconsciously have identified themselves in a few decades with the great body of Italians.
The exactions of Fascist rule have worked dead against the very aim which they pursued. Today the rift is deep. The Fascist Government has: 1, destroyed the provincial and municipal autonomy of the new provinces; 2, shut down schools teaching in any language other than Italian, and by every means eliminated the use of foreign languages in education, government, justice and the church; 3, changed even the family names; 4, suppressed rights of association; 5, suppressed all freedom of the local press; 6, forbidden any and every form of political life; 7, set up a rule of terror and violence, legal and illegal (though, truth to tell, not more violent than in the rest of Italy).
The suppression of provincial and municipal autonomy was particularly resented by the populations which had belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, for they had possessed complete machinery for collaborating in political, administrative and social matters with the central government. The provincial Diets which existed in the Hapsburg realm exist no longer. Fascist authority changed the elected mayors for extraordinary commissioners or "podestà" appointed by the Fascist Party, who may be removed without explanation of any sort by the prefect or on orders from Rome. The prefect also has the right to join several "comuni" together or divide them up as he pleases.
On the other hand the Fascist régime seems to have been unable to realize that by adopting and intensifying the measures which the Hapsburg Monarchy used to suppress its Italian and Slav subjects, it has only mangled the victory over Austria-Hungary which cost the lives of 500,000 Italians dead on the blood-stained rocks of the Carso and on the Alpine chain. Italy's victory might have been one of the cleanest of the war; for it might have given not only independence to all Italians but also contentment to the peoples transferred from Austro-Hungarian to Italian rule. It was Mazzini's great dream. Fascism has destroyed it.
In yet another field has Fascism gone entirely against the Italian Liberal traditions established by Cavour in the fifties -- in the relations of Church and State. In this field Fascism has made an achievement which one may criticize or approve, but which is important: the official reconciliation with the Vatican and the setting up of a Vatican State. These were the results of the Lateran Treaties signed on February 11, 1929.
I have written "official reconciliation." A de facto conciliation existed already under the Liberal governments; one may even add that to most European statesmen it appeared the embodiment of practical wisdom. As I have explained at length elsewhere,[ii] the Popes used to declare in an encyclical, every two or three years, that the state of things created for them in Rome by the Italian Government was "intolerable;" the Italian Government took care not to make any answer. On the following day -- as on the previous day -- confidential agents from the Vatican would come to see Italian officials (or sometimes the Italian Minister himself, as more than once happened to me) and quietly and successfully arrange questions such, for instance, as those concerning Italian missionaries and bishops abroad. The settlement of this question is now quoted as if it were something new, and is painted as one of the advantages the Italian Kingdom will reap from the Lateran agreements.
Benedict XV, the predecessor of the present Pope Pius XI, did not in the least favor the schemes brought forward by Germans during the war for the reconstitution of a small papal state. His essential aim was the maintenance of the old Italian Law of Guarantees which had satisfactorily worked since 1871, but backed by a new Christian-Democratic Party, strong enough to withstand any possible (if improbable) anti-clerical excesses from the Left parties. But Pius XI (contrary to Benedict, who was probably the most intelligent of modern Popes) was and is hostile to ideas of liberty; moreover, he is a scholar grown up in libraries, afraid of life, and believing that a treaty provides safer ground than the eternally shifting sands of democracy. The Fascist régime was ready to pay any price to win the moral prestige which reconciliation would bring. So the treaties were signed.
Who is the winner? To my mind, neither the Church nor the State; for both are faced with the danger of some future reaction, which might bring forth a harvest of violence in the religious field such as the tolerant history of Italy has not yet seen. If either has gained it is the Fascist Government. At any rate, the transaction has given it the certainty that the Vatican, at least for as long as the present Pope is alive, is bound -- out of common interest -- to support it.
About the economic situation of Italy during the Fascist régime much has been written. But the control over debates in Parliament and the muzzle on the press have eliminated the best sources for an investigation. The Fascist Government may be right in complaining that certain criticisms of its economic policy are unfair; if so, these could easily be disposed of if impartial writers could draw on the sources of information which usually are available in a free country.
The economic situation of any one country may be studied at present only in the light of the world crisis. It may be difficult, therefore, for foreigners to realize that the present Italian economic crisis has not very much to do with the general world crisis. The general world crisis is a crisis of over capitalization, while the crisis in Italy is one of lack of capital. There are direct proofs of this assertion. The Italian crisis began several years before the American and general crises -- precisely, between 1924 and 1926. Evidence is found in statistics like the following:
1. Bankruptcies. In 1922, the last year of the pre-Fascist régime, there were 3,607 bankruptcies; in 1926, after four years of the Fascist régime, this figure had more than doubled, i. e., it had reached 7,631; in 1927 it had become 10,366 and in 1929 it had reached 11,106. In other words, the greatest increase in bankruptcies took place before the American crisis and only under the influence of the Fascist administration.
2. Unemployment. In 1926 there were 181,493 unemployed in Italy; in 1927 there were 414,283; in 1928, 439,211; in 1929, 489,347.[iii] Which proves that the most serious jump in unemployment took place before the American crisis.
3. Reduction of foreign trade. In 1925 Italy's imports were valued at 26 billion lire; the figure was 22 billion in 1928. The value of Italian exports during the same period fell from 18 billion lire in 1925 to 14 billion in 1928.
Still another proof that the Italian crisis is different from the international one and that it is in part due to special causes may be seen in the fact that the general crisis has been accompanied by a slump in prices, while prices in Italy have had a tendency to rise -- a tendency fought against in vain by Fascist police regulations. Nor could it have been otherwise, in view of the increasing lack of capital revealed by the feverish quest of the Fascists for loans.
What, then, have been the real causes of the Italian crisis? The general cause is found in the squandering of capital on the sort of unproductive expenditures in which dictatorships always indulge -- unnecessary public works, the upkeep of the 300,000 men of the Fascist militia, and so on. One specific cause was the revaluation and stabilization of the lira, which Signor Mussolini fixed in 1928 at an exceptionally high rate, despite contrary advice from American experts. While France stabilized her franc at 25 to the dollar, Italy, a far less wealthy country, stabilized the lira at 19 to the dollar. Only in one event might stabilization at such a rate, determined solely by considerations of prestige, have caused less serious harm -- if the government had reduced taxation and expenses in proportion to the new value of its monetary unit. But nothing of the kind was done in Italy. Taxation and public expenses constantly increased.
The Fascist Government committed another specific error which had bad consequences of no trifling importance in the present Italian crisis. It practically forbade emigration. Before the war the annual exodus of some 600,000 Italians contributed largely to Italian prosperity. After the war, as a consequence of various foreign restrictions, these figures went down to 300,000; but even only 300,000 were still an effective source of riches for Italy. Then, as part of his scheme of international pressure, Signor Mussolini invented his slogan, "Expand or explode," and forbade all emigration. In this way he dried up a source of important revenue and aggravated the Italian economic situation.
No wonder, then, that long before the American crisis -- to be precise, two years before -- American monthly consular reports began giving most pessimistic accounts of the Italian economic situation. That this was not predestined, that the Italian economy might have come fairly well through the general crash, is indicated by the fact that the American crisis of 1921 (which was also very serious) had not the least adverse influence on the Italian economic situation of the time. Because I was in power with Giolitti in 1920 and 1921 is no reason why I should pass over in silence the fact that, thanks to the drastic, honest decisions of the old Liberal leader, the recovery from the morbid war inheritance began in Italy in 1920 and 1921. If the first years of Fascism seemed prosperous, it was because the courageous plans devised by Giolitti were bearing fruit.
After ten years of Fascism the results of its financial policy may be summed up as follows: a tremendous decrease of Italian agricultural and industrial exports; unemployment, much greater than official statistics show; an increase in tax burdens to an extent which people who belong to naturally rich countries can hardly realize.
It would be impossible in the bounds of a single article to study otherwise than rapidly, and therefore inadequately, the whole series of problems -- administrative, colonial, educational -- which have, at least in the moral field, a bearing on the subject which we are considering. Instead, I shall single out one of these, the draining of marshlands and swamps, because readers will find in it two traits common to all the problems of Italian life under Fascist rule: the cleverness of the advertising policy of the Fascist régime; and the way in which this policy -- contrary, I am willing to believe, to the intentions of its authors -- always ends in the abuse of the secular efforts, as splendid as they are silent, of the Italian nation.
This, indeed, has been the terrible punishment of those Fascists whose sincere thought it was to serve their country: that, in order to praise a régime and exalt an individual, they have been obliged to throw mud on their own nation, asserting, or at least tacitly admitting, that Italians needed Fascist castor-oil to keep in the right way, and that they are so degraded that they positively like to be bowed under the Fascist bludgeon.
It is a favorite legend of the Fascists that only Fascism could have saved Italy from Bolshevism; while the truth, of course, is that all revolutionary danger had disappeared by the time Fascism came into power.[iv] A minor legend of later years, but a tough one, concerns the marvellous work done by Fascism in reclaiming lands. This is one of the sad cases where the interests of a faction go counter to the good name of a country. The truth is as follows. The Italian people, very densely settled on a very poor soil, has always been one of the most tirelessly laborious people on the face of the earth. The creation of agricultural Italy is the work of the Italian people. Thus the rich plains of Lombardy were, until the fifth century, nothing but a string of desolate swamps. Professor Valenti, one of the greatest European authorities on agrarian questions, wrote in 1919: "The richest Italian lands, in Lombardy, around Bologna, and in the Venetian provinces, have all of them been slowly reclaimed through long generations of workers, helped by capital." The progress of this agrarian revolution since the unification of Italy in 1860 is shown in the following figures: Lands tilled and sown: 1869, 12 million hectares; 1914, 13 million hectares. Meadows and pasture lands: 1864, 7 million hectares; 1914, 10 million hectares. Wheat output: 1864, 36 million hectolitres; 1914, 50 million hectolitres. Cattle: 1864, 18 million head; 1914, 27 million head.
A general survey of all lands to be reclaimed in Italy was made in 1882. It recorded a total of 1,839,411 hectares. At the end of 1922, 840,000 hectares, or nearly half of the total, had already been reclaimed, and work had been started on an important part of the remaining 999,000 hectares. It therefore is impossible that between 1922 and 1930 the Fascist Government has done anything more in this field than the previous Liberal government did. True, in December 1928 a law was passed stating that all unreclaimed land should be reclaimed within fourteen years; but this law only became effective in 1929. It is evident, then, that the Fascist boast of having reaped wheat on lands which were reclaimed by the energy and foresight of Mussolini has no foundation in fact.
In this, as in other forms of political activity, Fascism has probably copied the Soviet Government. In Russia, the State, source and sole regulator of all life -- just as Fascism wants to be in Italy -- has decided on a momentous industrial and agrarian transformation, to be carried out in a comparatively short lapse of time. But in Rome they forgot there is an important difference between Russia and Italy. In Russia it was a question of changing the cultivation of lands which are amongst the richest and most fertile in the world; for those lands, little is needed but machines to plough, and men able to do the simplest sort of agricultural work. In a word, the main element -- the land -- exists already in Russia, and work on it gives immediate results. In Italy the situation is just the reverse. Therefore an artificial reclamation policy is a drain on capital, which in consequence is lacking for more immediate and productive agricultural enterprise.
Readers will understand that I have lingered on this apparently technical problem because it is an example -- one of many -- of the way in which a régime responds to the need for cultivating prestige even (if it must) in opposition to the real progress of a nation.
From a moral point of view, which is, after all, what matters most, there is the risk that a policy of show and prestige, accentuated by the unanimity of a press bound never to admit a criticism and always to declare everything marvellous, will end by having an unfavorable influence on the critical sense of a nation. We have all of us seen traces of this pernicious result among the Russians, whose ability to think originally and freely has singularly coarsened under Soviet dictatorship. That is one of the most painful thoughts for Italian patriots who love their country and revere its traditions.
Mental prostration before dogmas and formulae and men (exalted today on order, forgotten tomorrow on order, as now happens constantly in Soviet Russia and in Italy), must be, in the long run, morally degrading. Whoever has travelled in the East has seen races poisoned incurably by long generations of subjection to despots.
Thucydides said of old: "The strength of a city is not ships or walls, but men." Sharing that belief I conclude that even though a dictatorship may accomplish so much good as to have " the trains run on time," the net effects none the less will be lethal to the nation. I sometimes wonder to what extent Americans still remember Samuel Gompers. Of all the thousands of idealistic utterances during the Paris Peace Conference few seemed to me as rich in deep, whole-hearted sincerity as the following sentence of the American labor leader: "Men do not know how safe a thing freedom is."
[i] For further light on the foreign policy of the Fascist Government I refer readers to the following recent books. Reale: "La politique fasciste dans la Société des Nations." Paris, Pedone, 1932. Salvemini: "Mussolini diplomate." Paris, Grasset, 1932. Trentin: "La Fascisme à Genève." Paris, Rivière, 1932. The authors are well-known liberal writers opposed to Fascism. But they are intellectually honest, and their books are full of authentic documents.
[ii] "Makers of Modern Europe." Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill, 1930. Chapter XXXII, "Pius XI, or The Roman Church and Fascism."
[iii] These are the official figures. In reality the unemployment situation is infinitely more serious.
[iv] Signor Mussolini himself wrote in his Popolo d'Italia on July 2, 1921, eighteen months before his appointment as Prime Minister: "To say that a Bolshevist danger still exists in Italy means taking base fears for reality. Bolshevism is overthrown."