Benito Musollini: My Autobiography with “The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism (Dover Publications, 2006, tr. Jane Soames, Forward Richard Washburn Child) If anyone doubts that Italian Fascism was not just a Xtian but in fact a papist inclined movement – or at the very least that it promoted a program at least partly designed to support and give succor to popish institutions – need only dip into Mussolini’s autobiography to learn the truth. Mussolini for one was actively pro-Vatican and he raised in this text hardly a word of criticism against individual popes. His Fascist platform led to a number of actions specifically designed to uphold and strengthen papal institutions.
The basic popishness of Fascism is just that. That there is a perceived affinity from the Fascist side does not exclude the opinion that popery might be incompatible with Fascism, nor does documentation of the perceived affinity deny that elements within the Catholic Church may have been anti-Fascist. But it does give the lie to the popular myth that Fascism was irreligious or even atheist. It was not. For Mussolini popery and Fascism were wedded. Current histories of Fascism point to the conclusion that the popes also recognized this inner affinity. Conflict arose almost solely over the issue of governmental encroachment on what the Church considered its rightful powers.
Here are the relevant passages:
Recounting his mother’s death, Mussolini remembers, “All the independent strength of my soul, all my intellectual or philosophical resources – even my deep religious beliefs – were helpless to comfort that great grief.”
Speaking of the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand: “Though deeply a Catholic, like myself….”
In one passage he declares neutrality in the struggle between the Vatican and the Kremlin: “We declare ourselves the heretics of these two expressions.” This is the closest he comes to not siding squarely with the Vatican. But it shouldn’t be ignored that what really interests him is a sort of Fascist affirmation of the glory of struggle.
In one passage he uses the expression, “As God pleased…” in talking about the end of a strike.
He describes Pius X as “the kind-hearted patriarch of Venice, who distinguished his pontificate by a strong battle against the fads of political and religious modernism.”
He condemns anti-clericalism and promotes harmony between Fascism and Catholicism. The common enemy is Masonry: “… our religious ideal had in itself moral attributes of first importance. I had affirmed the necessity of condemning the unfruitful conception, absurd and artificial, of affected or vicious anti-clericalism….the problem of the relations between the State and the Church in Italy was not to be considered insoluble, and to explain how necessary it was to create, after a calm and impartial objective examination, an atmosphere of understanding, in order to give the Italian people a basis for a life of harmony between religious faith and civil life. The Fascisiti , as intelligent people worthy of the epoch in which they were living, followed me in the new conception of religious policy. To it was attached our war against Masonry….”
Quoting from an editorial in his newspaper Popolo d’Italia: “Fascism is today in the first stage of its life: the one of Christ. Don’t be in a hurry; the one of Saint Paul will come.”
Again quoting from Popolo d’Italia: “We call God and the spirit of our five hundred thousand dead to witness….”
Recalling the Fascist march on Rome: “…I asked the assistance of God, I called upon the faithful living to assist me in the great task that confronted me.”
Quoting a speech where he defends himself against accusations that he ordered an assault on a political enemy: “Can you really think that I could order – on the day following the anniversary of Christ’s birth when all saintly spirits are hovering near – can you think that I could order an assault…”
Lest one should think that Mussolini was lying (a doubt that could be raised about anybody) or that he was simply using professions of religiosity to gain power, Mussolini put at least one pro-Catholic program into place. Advocating the equal treatment of religious and public schools in state examinations, he says: “Thus is encouraged the régime of independent schools analogous to those of England. This régime is advantageous for the Catholics, owners of many schools, but displeases the anti-clericals of the old style.”
And, discussing Fascist pension policy: “…I made a provision favoring the clergy also….This would have been inconceivable in he days of the Masonic demagogy and social democracy, which was dominated by a superficial and wrathful anti-clericalism….the priest who accomplished his task according to the wise rules of the Gospel and shows the people the great humane and divine truths, will be helped and assisted.”
On Fascist policy: “We had to differentiate and separate the principles of political clericalism from the vital essence of the Catholic faith.”
In one passage he states his goal as clearly as anyone could wish: “to make the principles of religious faith, religious observance and respect for the forms of worship bloom again, independent of political controversies. They are, in fact, the essential factors of the moral and civic development of a country which is renewing itself.”
Recalling his first speech in parliament, he prides himsefl on bringing God back into politics: “When, in parliament, I delivered my first speech of November 16, 1922, after the Fascist revolution, I concluded by invoking the assistance of God in my difficult task. Well, this sentence of mine seemed to be out of place! In the Italian parliament, a field of action for Italian masonry, the name of God had been banned for a long time. Not even the popular party – the so-called Catholic party – had ever thought of speaking of God. In Italy, a political man did not even turn his thoughts to the Divinity. And, even if he had ever thought of doing so, political opportunism and cowardice would have deterred him…. It remained for me to make this bold innovation! And in an intense period of revolution! What is the truth? It is that a faith openly professed is a sign of strength. I have seen the religious spirit bloom again; churches once more are crowded, the ministers of God are themselves invested with new respect. Fascism has done and is doing its duty.”
On Fascist duty and religious establishment: “To-day, with the highest loyalty, Fascism understands and values the Church and its strength: such is the duty of every Catholic citizen…. Fascist Italians…want to see the immortal and irreplaceable Church of Saint Peter respected…. Fascism gives impulse and vigor to the religion of the country.”
Similar sentiments are expressed in the essay, The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism: “Fascism, now and always, believes in holiness and in heroism….”
And, “The Fascist State is not indifferent to the fact of religion in general, or to that particular and positive faith which is Italian Catholicism. The State professes no theology, but a morality, and in the Fascist State religion is considered as one of the deepest manifestations of the spirit of man; thus it is not only respected but defended and protected. The Fascist State has never tried to create its own God, as at one moment Robespierre and the wildest extremists of the Convention tried to do; nor does it vainly seek to obliterate religion from the hearts of men as does Bolshevism: Fascism respects the God of the ascetics, the saints and heroes, and equally, God as He is perceived and worshipped by the simple people.”
It is equally noteworthy that in these writings (or at least in their English version) Mussolini makes no anti-Semitic or racist comments, although he does murmur about the greatness of the Italian race. In fact the closest he comes to ethnic slurs are a few anti-Teutonic allusions in the passages about World War I. Apparently Mussolini’s later actions either represent a conversion or a degree of cowardice in the face of Hitler’s obsessions.