The Freak: Mussolini's last words
My friend “The Freak” offered the following as a comment to a prior blog post linking to two articles about economic fascism on the rise in America. I thought it was worth having its own posting rather than just being a comment.
The text below was written by Benito Mussolini the night before his execution, after he had been captured by partisans. It is interesting reading in light of the articles Ross references and in light of the reference to fascism. Particularly interesting is Mussolini’s contention that he was a pragmatist socialist.
I hurriedly translated this document from the original Italian. Any inaccuracies are my fault alone.
No real Italian, whatever his political faith, should despair of the future. Our people’s internal resources are immense. If our people will be able to identify a common ground, we will regain our strength before any victor. For this common ground, I would give my life even now, willingly, so long as this impetus is truly aligned with real Italian spirit. After defeat, I will be furiously covered by spit, but later I will be cleansed with veneration. Then I will smile, because my people will be at peace with themselves.
The worker who fulfills his social duty with no other hope than a piece of bread and the health of his family repeats, on a daily basis, an act of heroism. Laborers are infinitely superior to all false prophets who pretend to represent them. These false prophets have an easy time of it due to the insensitivity of those who have the sacrosanct duty of taking care of laborers. It is for this reason that I have been, and I am, a socialist.
The accusation of inconsistency is without foundation. My behavior has always been consistent in the sense of looking to the substance, not the appearance of things. I have adapted myself, socialistically, to reality. As the natural evolution of society proved more and more of Marx’s predictions to be wrong, true socialism retreated from the possible to the probable. The only socialism that can be truly implemented, is corporativism, a merging point, a place of equilibrium and justice vis-à-vis individual versus collective interests.
The art of politics is very difficult, amongst the most difficult, because it works on matter that cannot be grasped, that wobbles and is more uncertain. Politics works on the spirit of men, which is much more difficult to define because it is subject to change. Most changeable of all is the spirit of Italians. When I will be gone, I am sure that historians and psychologists will ask themselves how a single man was able to successfully lead a people like the Italian people. If I had accomplished nothing else, this single work of art would have been sufficient to prevent me being forgotten. Others have been able to dominate with iron fists, not with consensus and agreement as I managed. My dictatorship was much milder than many democracies that are run by plutocracies. Fascism lost more men than its adversaries and on 25th of July there were no more than thirty persons in exile.
When it is written that we are the guard for the bourgeoisie, it is the vilest of lies. I defended, and I state this with full conviction, workers’ progress. Amongst the principal causes for the fall of fascism I blame the quiet and implacable fight of some financial and industrial groups who, in their mad egoism feared and hated fascism as the worst enemy of their inhuman interests. I must say for the purpose of justice, that Italian capital, the part which is legitimate and holds itself up with the ability of its industry, has always understood social necessities, even when they required sacrifice to address new labor pacts. The humble folk of labor have always loved me and love me still.
All dictators have always done a holocaust of their enemies. I have been the only mild one: a few hundred dead against several thousand. I believe I’ve ennobled dictatorship. Perhaps I emasculated it, but I rid it of instruments of torture. Stalin sits on a mountain of human bones. Is this bad? I don’t regret to have done al the good I’ve done, even to my adversaries, even enemies who plotted against my life. I’ve done this through the provision of subsidies that were so frequent as to become stipends, as well as by saving their lives. But if tomorrow they will kill my men, what responsibility will I have for having spared them?
Stalin is left standing and wins; I fall and lose. History only concerns itself with victors and the volume of their conquests; triumph justifies everything. The French revolution is studied for its outcomes, while those who died with the guillotine are relegated to the obituaries.
Nobody will be able to erase twenty years of fascism from Italy’s history. I have no illusion regarding my fate. They will not give me a trial, because they know that from a defendant I would become a prosecutor. I will probably be murdered, and they will claim that I will have taken my own life, overcome by remorse. He who fears death has never lived, and I have lived, perhaps even too much. Life is nothing more than an intersection between two eternities: the past and the future. As long as my star shone, I was enough for all. Now that it fades, everybody is not enough for me. I will go where destiny will want me because I always did what fate requested of me.
It is not the faith that arrives at the moment of death that sustains me, it is the faith of my childhood and my life which demands that I must believe, even as I might have reason to doubt. I don’t know if the Italian people will ever read these notes of mine. I would like to believe they will, to give them the opportunity to accept my last thought as confession of faith. I also don’t know if men will provide me with sufficient time to finish writing. Twenty-two years of governing do not make me, by human judgment, worthy of living another twenty-four hours.
I believed in the victory of our arms, as I believe in God our Lord, but even more I believe in the eternal. Now defeat provides the test-bench upon which we must show the whole world the strength and enormity of our hearts. It is now a fact that the war is lost, but it is also certain that one is not defeated until one calls oneself defeated. This, Italians will need to remember if, under foreign domination, they begin to feel the undeniable awakening of their spirits.
Today I forgive those who don’t forgive me and condemn me, thereby condemning themselves. I think of all those to whom it will be denied to love and suffer for the fatherland, and I would like them to feel not only witnesses of a defeat, but also knights leading to a rebirth. After the time of terrible hate and revenge, there will be the time of reason. Thus, the sense of dignity and honor will be regained and I am certain that Italians of tomorrow will be able to evaluate, serenely, the causes of the tragic hour that I am living. If this is the last day of my existence, I want to extend my forgiveness even to those who abandoned me and those who betrayed me, much as I have forgiven the king for his weakness.
Fascists who will remain faithful to the principles will need to be exemplary citizens. They must respect the laws that the people will want to give themselves, and cooperate loyally with legitimate authorities to help them heal, as quickly as possible, the fatherland’s wounds. Whomever will behave differently will demonstrate the he no longer supports the fatherland when he has to serve it from down low. Fascists, in other words, will have to act out of passion, not resentment. From their behavior will depend a speedier historical rehabilitation of fascism. Because now it is night but, later, day will break.
27 April 1945
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