Benito Mussolini’s speeches of March 23, 1919, at Piazza San Sepolcro, proclaiming the founding of the Fasci di Combattimento
On 23 March, 1919, a meeting was held in a hall at Milan’s Piazza San Sepolcro. The audience of roughly 120 people comprised an eclectic mixture of Arditi, Republicans, soldiers, national-syndicalists, Futurists, nationalists, and revisionist socialists. Nobility rubbed soldiers with peasants; famous artists like Marinetti mingled with decorated officers like Captain Ferruccio Vecchi. Many of the attendees wore black shirts and carried clubs and black flags. The purpose of the meeting, as organized by infamous ex-socialist Benito Mussolini and his syndicalist compatriot Michele Bianchi, was to weld the many like-minded nationalist-revolutionary fascio into a single, united organization under centralized leadership. Mussolini opened the meeting with a morning speech, and closed it with an evening speech – speeches which announced the birth of a new political movement founded on nationalism, corporatism, and class-collaboration. These early addresses are especially notable for their pro-republican sentiments and ambivalent stances on democracy, indicative of early fascism’s status as a political expression of national-syndicalist ideological concepts.
Mussolini’s Morning Speech
First of all, a few words regarding the agenda.
Without undue formality or pedantry, I shall read to you three declarations that seem to me to be worthy of discussion and a vote. Later, in the afternoon, we can resume discussion of our platform declaration. I must tell you right off that we dare not bog down in details; if we wish to act, we must grasp reality in its broad essentials, without going into minute details.
“The meeting of March 23 extends its greetings and its reverent and unforgetful thoughts first of all to those sons of Italy who have given their lives for the grandeur of the fatherland and the freedom of the world, to the wounded and sick, to all the fighters and ex-prisoners who carried out their duty; and it declares that it is ready to give energetic support to claims of both a material and moral nature that may be set forth by the servicemen’s associations.”
“The meeting of March 23 declares that it is opposed to the imperialism of other peoples at the expense of Italy, and declares that it is opposed to any eventual Italian imperialism that works to the detriment of other people. It accepts the supreme postulate of a League of Nations, which presupposes the integrity of each nation – integrity which, so far as Italy is concerned, must be realized in the Alps and along the Adriatic through her claim to Fiume and Dalmatia.” Continue reading →
Rudolf Jung was born on 16 April 1882 in Plass, a small town on the Střela River in the heart of Bohemia. Jung’s childhood was spent in Iglau, a city in the neighboring region of Moravia. As well as being a garrison for the local military, Iglau was a ‘speech island’, an enclave for ethnic Germans in the Czech lands of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The significant number of Sudeten Germans in the area engendered an atmosphere of racial tension; since the 1880s there had been competition and conflict between Czech and German workers in the town, an atmosphere which would shape Jung’s perceptions as a child and have a significant impact on the development of his views as an adult.
As an adolescent Jung was sent to Vienna to study at its Technical High School. His natural intelligence ensured him a place at university and eventually, in 1906, a doctorate in mechanical engineering which opened further doors to employment as a railway engineer. It was presumably around this period that Jung’s political activism began. Austria’s state railways were heavily unionized, with the unions divided along racial lines – Czech and German workers not only competed for jobs, but also competed over which languages should be used in signage & paperwork, which provincial administrations would manage which sections of track, how many Czechs could be employed on German-majority territory (and vice versa), etc. Austria-Hungary had a large number of nationalist trade unions divided along ethnic lines, and as a result of these disputes the largest and strongest were those of the railwaymen. Jung was thrown right into the middle of this ferment.
The conditions in the railways did nothing but reinforce the views Jung had been forming since his childhood in Iglau: that Czech immigration was being used to undercut German labor with cheap wages and force Germans to emigrate from their native lands in search of better working conditions. It is likely also that Jung’s social views were further shaped by the ‘proletarian’ culture of the heavily unionized environment and the many working-class railway employees who he encountered. In any event, Jung soon became involved in union politics to such an extent that it impacted on his employment, with his activism on behalf of the railway workers earning him a punitive transfer by his employer from Vienna back to Bohemia. Ironically, this punishment just moved Jung out of one hotbed of social-nationalist agitation and right into another. Continue reading →
Anne Brock-Griggs’s pamphlet, ‘Ten Points of Fascist Policy for Women’
Anne Brock-Griggs was an early member of the British Union of Fascists (BUF), joining the movement partly in response to her disappointment with establishment conservatism. She made her name through her spirited speeches at outdoor meetings, and in recognition of her talents was appointed to BUF staff as Woman’s Propaganda Officer in 1935. Later she was to be promoted to Chief Woman’s Officer, national leader of the movement’s Women’s Division, and represented the views of women members in the Woman’s Page of party newspaper Action. The following pamphlet, ‘Women and Fascism: Ten Points of Fascist Policy for Women’ was published in 1936 as a statement on the BUF’s official stance on women’s issues – like much Mosleyite writing it has a strong focus on welfare and social reform. In 1937 Anne Brock-Griggs stood unsuccessfully as BUF candidate for Limehouse, East London, and she was active in the Peace Campaign against entry into the Second World War. Detained during the war under Defence Regulation 18B, when released she joined Mosley’s post-war Union Movement, but suffered from ill health. She died from cancer sometime in the 1960’s.
1. Women in Parliament
Women will vote according to the contribution they make to the life of the community, in the corporations to which they belong, and will be eligible to represent their corporations in Parliament.
In whatever trade or profession is in question, the women concerned will have representation. Where women predominate so may their elected representatives.
For the first time, women will be able to control their own affairs and advise on the affairs of State. A number will be represented in the Corporations as consumers, being the chief buyers of products for the family.
In the Home Corporation, women who run a home or are employed in domestic work will be represented. This will be recognised as one of the most vital corporations in the Fascist State, and will give the career of the homemaker the status of a profession.
2. Status of Women
In the machinery of the Corporate State, Fascism assures women an equal status with their men-folk, for it enables them to direct and control the conditions under which they live.
The fascist conception of individual liberty in private, and obligation in public life, gives them every opportunity they require in their future status as women citizens.
Fascism requires that women, equally with men, should offer a disciplined co-operation in the welding together of an ordered state. Fascism will lay upon all citizens of the state the duty of working in harmony, not in the interests of any section or class, but for the benefit of all its people. Continue reading →
The German Communist Party, National Bolshevism, and the ‘Schlageter line’
“Hands off the Ruhr!”
The Occupation of the Ruhr
On January 11th, 1923, massed ranks of French and Belgian troops marched through the demilitarized Rhineland into the Ruhr Valley. “We are fetching coal,” announced the French Prime Minister Poincaré, and that, at least on the surface, provided the official justification for the aggressive occupation of the Ruhr. Germany had repeatedly defaulted on the reparations payments demanded of it by the Treaty of Versailles; France was due 200,000 metres of telegraph poles and several million Gold Marks worth of coal; and so 70,000 foreign soldiers trooped into Germany’s industrial heartland.
The German people, however, suspected that more cynical motives were driving the Gallic engineers and administrators who were now, under military protection, seizing German resources for forcible export to the West. Poincaré’s loathing for the German nation was infamous, as were French territorial ambitions on the Rhineland; in the eyes of many Germans the true purpose of the Franco-Belgian action was not to “fetch coal” but to permanently cripple and dismember the wounded body of the German nation.
Ironically, the attempt by France and Belgium to weaken the nascent German Republic instead created a united front of resistance through stoking the fires of German nationalism. There is no more effective means of inflaming a wave of patriotism than a foreign invasion, particularly in a nation already suffering from the humiliating wounds of surrender, war debt, political instability, and mounting hyperinflation. The immediate consequence of the occupation was the rallying together of those segments of German society which, up until the noise of French and Belgian boots tramping along Rhenish roads reached their ears, had been at one another’s throats.
Centre-right Reichschancellor Wilhelm Cuno declared his support for a campaign of local passive resistance. German industrialists refused to deliver demanded consignments of coal. Social-Democrats organized strikes and demonstrations. Unions joined with employers’ associations to raise funds for workers engaged in industrial actions. And the radical nationalists – Freikorps veterans, völkisch activists, and patriotic Verbänden, often supported clandestinely by the army – engaged in acts of violent reprisal, retaliating against massacres, arrests, and house searches conducted by French occupation forces with their own acts of sabotage, assassination, and terrorism. Continue reading →