The founding 1919 programme of Benito Mussolini’s Fasci di Combattimento and the revised postulates adopted at its 2nd Congress of May 1920
Following on from the formal founding of the Fasci di Combattimento at San Sepolcro in March 1919, the nascent Fascist movement began to come into its own, beginning its first organized attempts at street activism and engaging in its first violent raids against the Milan offices of Socialist newspaper Avanti! (of which Mussolini had previously been editor). At this point the closest thing the Fasci had to an official platform was contained in Mussolini’s San Sepolcro speeches; there was thus a need to publish a proper statement, an actual organized platform which would clearly spell out the Fascists’ goals and worldview. The result was the famous 1919 programme, first published in Mussolini’s newspaper Il Popolo d’Italia on June 6 and later distributed to the membership in manifesto format. This programme is fairly well-known today, mostly for its more moderate and ‘left-wing’ demands – as with the San Sepolcro speeches, its content reflected that Fascism was still for all intents and purposes mostly just a political expression of national-syndicalist ideals. Two events helped shift this stance further ‘right’ over the next year: the collapse of d’Annunzio’s rule in Fiume (transferring many of his supporters to Mussolini), and most especially the devastating results of the 1919 general election, where the Fascists were almost crippled as a result of their embarrassing rout by the Socialists and the Catholic Popolari. When the Fasci met in Milan for their 2nd Congress in May, 1920, there was thus an identified need to address and refine their existing programme in recognition of its inability to garner support. While Mussolini warned the delegates in a speech against drifting into conservatism and alienation from the workers, he and the other Fascists nonetheless voted in favor of adopting the Postulates outlined further below, with the movement adopting a more ‘flexible’ stance on issues such as republicanism, the Church, and industry. As Mussolini put it in a speech to the Congress: “We must not sink the bourgeois ship, but get inside it and expel its parasitic elements.” This new approach would prove a tactical success – by the end of 1921 a movement which had been almost wiped out by the 1919 election loss had swelled to a vital 250,000 members.
Italian Fasci di Combattimento
MILAN – Via Paolo da Cannobbio, 37 – Telephone 7156
First published in Il Popolo d’Italia, June 6, 1919
This is the national program of a movement that is soundly Italian.
Revolutionary, because it is antidogmatic and antidemagogic; strongly innovative, because it ignores a priori objections.
We regard the success of the revolutionary war as standing above everything and everybody.
The other problems – bureaucracy, administration, judiciary, school system, colonies, etc. – we shall consider after we have created a new ruling class.
Consequently, WE INSIST UPON:
For the political problem:
(a) Universal suffrage with a system of voting by list, with proportional representation, and woman suffrage and eligibility for office.
(b) Reduction of the age of voters to eighteen years; and that of eligibility for membership in the Chamber of Deputies to twenty-five years.
(c) Abolition of the Senate.
(d) Convocation of a National Assembly to sit for three years, its primary task to be the establishment of a new constitutional structure for the state.
(e) Formation of National Technical Councils for labor, industry, transportation, public health, communications, etc., to be elected by either professional or trades collectivities, and provided with legislative powers and the right to elect a Commissioner General who shall have the powers of a Minister.
For the social problem:
WE INSIST UPON:
(a) Prompt promulgation of a state law that makes compulsory for all workers an eight-hour working day.
(b) Minimum wage scales.
(c) Participation of workers’ representatives in the technical management of industry.
(d) Transfer to such proletarian organizations as are morally and technically qualified for it the responsibility for operating industries and public services.
(e) Prompt and complete satisfaction of the claims of the railroad workers and all employees in the transportation industry.
(f) Appropriate revision of the draft law regarding insurance for sickness and old age, and reduction of the presently proposed age eligibility from sixty-five to fifty-five.
For the military problem:
WE INSIST UPON:
(a) Creation of a National Militia, with short periods of training, and designed purely for a defensive role.
(b) Nationalization of all arms and munitions factories.
(c) A foreign policy calculated to improve Italy’s position in the peaceful competition of the civilized nations.
For the financial problem:
WE INSIST UPON:
(a) A heavy and progressive tax on capital which would take the form of a meaningful PARTIAL EXPROPRIATION of all kinds of wealth.
(b) Confiscation of all the properties belonging to religious congregations and abolition of all the revenues of episcopal sees, which at present constitute an enormous burden on the nation while serving as a prerogative for a few privileged persons.
(c) Revision of all contracts for supplying war matériel, and confiscation of 85 per cent of war profits.
Decided at the 2nd Congress of the Fasci di Combattimento
Milan, May 24-25, 1920
The Fasci di Combattimento do not intend – in the present historical situation – to become a new party. Thus, they do not feel tied to any particular doctrinal form, nor to any traditional dogma. The intangible, shifting, complex currents of thought as well as the almost daily modifications of tactics that are necessitated by the reality of the situation cannot be reduced to narrow, artificial formulas.
The broad lines of the immediate tasks that confront the Fasci di Combattimento can be sketched under the following major headings: –Support for our recent national war. –Winning the peace. – Resistance and opposition to the theoretical and practical degenerations of politically oriented socialism.
AGAINST POLITICAL PARASITISM
With the hope of mobilizing all our national energies to win the peace, the Fasci di Combattimento express their disgust for those men and agencies of the political bourgeoisie who have shown that they are incapable of handling domestic and foreign problems, that they are hostile to every profound renovation and to every spontaneous recognition of popular rights, and that they are inclined to make only those concessions that are dictated by calculations of parliamentary advantage.
FOR A BOURGEOISIE OF LABOR
The Fasci recognize the very great value of the “bourgeoisie of labor,” which in all fields of human endeavor (from that of industry and agriculture to that of science and of the professions) constitutes a precious and indispensable element for bringing about progressive development and the triumph of national aspirations.
AGAINST THE DEGENERATIONS OF THE LABOR STRUGGLE
The Fasci di Combattimento, which are anxious to support the moral improvement of the proletariat and to help in the establishment of syndical organizations that will increase the self-consciousness of labor, feel that it is their duty to maintain an attitude of staunch opposition to those labor struggles in which strictly economic goals are submerged and confused by considerations of pure demagoguery.
THE PROBLEM OF THE KIND OF REGIME
For the Fasci di Combattimento the question of what kind of regime the country should have is subordinate to the present and future moral and material interests of the nation, as understood both in its present situation and in its historic destiny. Thus they express no prejudice either for or against existing constitutions.
OUR POSTULATES OF A FINANCIAL CHARACTER
(a) A heavy, extraordinary tax of a progressive character on capital, which will assume the form of real but partial expropriation of all the wealth, and which will be paid within a very short period of time;
(b) The confiscation of all properties belonging to religious congregations and the abolition of all the revenues of episcopal sees, which at present constitute an enormous burden on the nation while serving as a prerogative for a few privileged persons;
(c) Revision of all contracts for supplying war matériel, and the confiscation of those excess war profits that are left unproductive.
THE FASCI AND LABOR ORGANIZATIONS
The Fasci express their sympathy and intention of supporting every initiative of those minority groups of the proletariat who seek to harmonize the safeguarding of their class interests with the interests of the nation. With respect to syndical tactics, they advise the proletariat to make use of whatever forms of struggle assure the development of the whole and the well-being of the various producers, without any special prejudices and without any dogmatic exclusiveness.
FOR AN ECONOMY OF MAXIMUM PRODUCTION
In contrast to theological proposals for reconstructing the economy on a rigidly collectivist basis, the Fasci di Combattimento assume a realistic position and do not express approval of any particular form of self-management. Instead, they declare their support for whatever system guarantees maximum production and maximum prosperity, whether it be individualist, collectivist, or something else.
OUR DEMANDS FOR SAFEGUARDING THE PROLETARIAT
(a) The prompt promulgation of a national law that will impose an eight-hour day for all kinds of labor;
(b) Representation of workers in industrial management, but restricted to matters regarding personnel;
(c) Transfer to such proletarian organizations as are morally and technically qualified for it the responsibility for managing industries and public utilities;
(d) Formation of National Technical Councils of Labor, composed of representatives from industry, agriculture and transportation, intellectual labor, public health, communications, etc., to be elected by the professional and trades bodies and endowed with legislative powers.
FOR THE MILITARY PROBLEM
The Fasci di Combattimento call for the institution of a National Militia, with short periods of training and designed purely for a defensive role; and for the immediate acceptance of all the demands set forth by the associations of ex-soldiers and wounded veterans, to whom we express in a clear-cut and tangible manner the fatherland’s gratitude.
THE MEANS OF STRUGGLE OF THE FASCI DI COMBATTIMENTO
Regarding tactics to be adopted in support of the above program, the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento reserve the right to make contacts and agreements, as the situation requires, with all those groups and parties who occupy the same ground in their fight against demagoguery, bureaucracy, and plutocracy, and in favor of creating all kinds of forces for national reconstruction.
Document sourced from Charles F. Delzell’s Mediterranean Fascism, 1919-1945 (1940), Walker & Co.