The Italian Fascists and Their Former Apologists.
Before the war our newspapers and public men told us remarkably little about the real nature of the Fascist racket led by Mussolini, they were chiefly interested in telling us that it couldn’t be so bad because under Fascism the hotels were improved and the trains were running to time and Mussolini had preserved ancient monuments and built splendid motor roads—a typical tourist view of things. They forgot that 40 million Italians don’t spend their day visiting the sights and living in expensive hotels or touring about on motor roads. Mr. Bernard Shaw shows the same kind of mental blindness when he gives as a reason why Rome should not be bombed, our common interest in that city’s ancient glories. “In Rome,” he writes, “no one is a stranger and a foreigner; we all feel when we first go there that we are revisiting the scene of a former existence.” (Times, April 28th, 1941.) Mr. Shaw forgets that 40 million British workers, under this beneficent capitalist system, never had the time or money to go to see their ancient heritage.
Amongst the steadfast admirers of Mussolini was the late Lord Rothermere, who wrote in the Daily Mail (July 10th, 1933) dismissing the brutalities of Italian Fascism as mere “incidental extravagances” and glorifying the Fascist and Nazi regimes.
“Now that Italy has been for ten years not only peaceful and progressive, but, by comparison with other lands, even prosperous, the incidental extravagances of the early days of Fascism are forgotten. In the same way the minor misdeeds of individual Nazis will be submerged by the immense benefits that the new regime is already bestowing upon Germany.”
It was only after the war broke out that the Daily Mail and some other newspapers could discover the brutalities of both regimes. Similarly with regard to the qualities of their leaders. In the article quoted above, Lord Rothermere was full of praise for the virile youthful Mussolini. It was only in 1940 (Daily Mail, May 9th) that the Daily Mail could relate that Mussolini’s more middle-aged virility took the form that when he addressed a meeting of Italian industrialists about the British blockade, “he leant over the table and literally foamed at the mouth.” Hitler’s hysterical outbursts are by now well-known, but Lord Rothermere was able only eight years ago to describe him as a man who “will stand out in history” as one of the three “founders of a new Germany,” “The world’s greatest need to-day,” said Lord Rothermere (Daily Mail, July 10th, 1933), “is realism. Hitler is a realist.” (Lord Rothermere’s two other youthful heroes were the senile Hindenburg and the German Crown Prince.) If the world needed Hitler the world has certainly got him, in full measure, and it is worth bearing always in mind how large a part in getting the world to accept Hitler was played by men and newspapers like Lord Rothermere and the Daily Mail.
Another aspect of the Fascist racket, which answers Lord Rothermere’s argument that Fascism and Nazism rooted out corruption, is given by the Evening Standard (April 22nd, 1941). It discloses that Count Ciano, the husband of Mussolini’s daughter, Edda, “prevailed on the Banco di Santo Spirito, of Rome, to sell him building sites between the Lower Aventine and Ostia, port of Rome, at half a farthing a square yard. He resold the land to the Committee for the ‘Rome Exhibition of 1942,’ at 12s. 6d. a square yard.”
Rome may be, as Bernard Shaw says, the heritage of the whole world, but it looks as if the more immediate landlord gets the biggest rake-off. Note by the way the name of the bank which put the deal in Ciano’s way.
Incidentally, there has been much complaint in the Press recently about land speculators in this country.
Another interesting story about the supporters of Fascism appeared in the diary of the late William Dodd, who was American Ambassador in Germany. The following extract was reproduced in the Sunday Dispatch (March 9th, 1941): —
“In 1924 Hearst, who had been violently opposed to the Mussolini dictatorship, sent a man to Rome to negotiate a deal with Mussolini by which he would be paid a dollar a word for anything he would dictate for the Hearst Press.It was widely known that Gianini, president of the Bank of America in California and an ardent Mussolini supporter, had loaned Hearst some millions of dollars.Thereafter, Hearst’s newspapers praised the Italian dictatorship and Mussolini received large sums of money.From 1924 until now Hearst has supported the dictatorship in Italy.”
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The Sunday Opening of Theatres
The Sabbatarians’ itch to interfere with other people’s lives always finds support among the Clergy and others whose living is bound up with the churches from the purely business point of view. For them the Sunday cinemas, theatres and public-houses are rival commercial establishments and curbing them is legitimate business practice. One novelty about the recent campaign which stopped the opening of theatres on Sundays was that the brewers were siding with the parsons, for them it is better that workers should not have opened up an additional Sunday entertainment which might affect the takings of the public houses as well as the revenue of the churches. Now, however, emboldened by their success, it looks as if the Sabbatarians are going to have a shot at closing the public houses as well, for the duration of the war. Thus ends another short-lived eternal pact of non-aggression.
One pained complaint comes from Mr. R. Wilson Black, President of the Baptist Union, this time directed against the Radio. “The Radio was made by many an excuse for remaining at home, where they could listen to just as much or as little of the broadcast service as they chose.” —(The Times, April 29th.)
It looks as if Mr. Black’s problem will only be solved by a law making it compulsory for everyone to attend Church services and to listen in silence to the whole of the sermon whether they like it or not.
The Manchester Guardian (April 24th, 1941) tells an entertaining story from U.S.A. The State of Delaware has on its Statute Book a law passed in 1740 prohibiting all “worldly” activities on Sunday. The Delaware Senate recently passed an amendment to permit each community to decide for itself the extent of Sabbath observance, but the House of Representatives refused to agree to the amendment. At this point the Attorney General comes on the scene. He thinks the 1740 law is all nonsense and he decided that the best way to prove it to its defenders was to enforce it to the full, and he did !
“So the police went out and arrested bus-drivers, tram-drivers, taxi-drivers, newsboys, restaurant-owners, milkmen, drug-store clerks, sweet-shop proprietors, garage hands, and even a strike picket and a man shovelling snow from the pavement. The manager of a radio station was taken up, and a Sabbatarian parson whose sermon had been broadcast was warned that he had become an accomplice in law-breaking. The next morning hundreds of people appeared in the courts. The House of Representatives became alarmed and protested but declared that it would not be coerced into repeal. The Attorney-General replied that “each Sunday will grow worse until the laws are amended.” Within four days the law was repealed.”
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Stalin Meets Matsuoka
We have had Hitler sending birthday greetings to Stalin, Stalin being photographed in a friendly party with Ribbentrop, Molotov all smiles with General Goering, now comes Stalin and Matsuoka, the Japanese Foreign Minister, who was in Moscow late in April. Here is the story from the Evening Standard of what is reported to have occurred when Stalin saw Matsuoka off on the train : —
“According to Mr. Hasegawa, the two statesmen were then apparently overcome with emotion and embraced one another to the amazement of the foreign diplomatic representatives present. —(Evening Standard, April 28th, 1941.)
It sounds too touching to be true, but, no doubt “dialectically considered,” as the Communists would say, it is a further piece of Socialist propaganda designed to clarify the ideas of the world’s workers and show them which of the representatives of capitalism are their true friends.
Those who still imagine that the Russian Government’s foreign policy is governed by internationalism should note the following, reproduced from the Bolshevik journal Pravda:—
“The foreign policy of the U.S.S.R. is guided exclusively by the interests of the U.S.S.R., exclusively by the interests of the peoples of the U.S.S.R. This policy dictates to the U.S.S.R. the desire to develop as widely as possible trade and economic relations with those of its neighbours who correctly appraise the importance of these connections with the U.S.S.R. for their own interests. The Soviet-German Treaty and Agreements of 1941 confirm with perfect clarity the absolute truth of this proposition—(Reproduced in the Anglo-Russia News Bulletin, January: 18th, 1941.)