The Verona Manifesto of the Salò Republic

The 18-point programme of the Fascist Republican Party, drafted by Benito Mussolini and Nicola Bombacci in November 1943 for use in the new Italian Social Republic

The story of the Italian Social Republic – more frequently referred to as the Salò Republic after the location of its seat of government – is fairly well-known, being the product of Mussolini’s dismissal from office, arrest, and eventual rescue by German commandos.  Formally established in northern Italy on September 23rd, 1943, the Salò Republic is commonly regarded as a puppet regime, and this cannot be denied – SS men were a constant presence around the Republic’s leaders, and SS General Karl Wolff remarked later in life: “I did not give him [Mussolini] orders… but in practice he could not decide anything against my will and my advice.” Yet despite this, or perhaps because of it, Mussolini still brimmed with inspiration. He had grown increasingly embittered towards the aristocracy and bourgeoisie as the War progressed; the misfortune of his dismissal by the King acted as a copestone to these feelings. He saw in the new regime an opportunity of returning fascism and Italy to its national-syndicalist roots, and expressed these sentiments in prodigious numbers of essays and articles, as well as in the ‘Verona Manifesto’ reproduced below. The Manifesto was the founding document of the new regime’s ruling Fascist Republican Party; co-drafted with Nicola Bombacci (who had been thrown out of the Italian Communist Party in 1927) the Manifesto is somewhat reminiscent of fascism’s earliest programmes, with its republicanism and heavy focus on workers’ issues. Although the Verona Manifesto contains promises of profit sharing, housing rights, and the extension of syndicalism into every sector of the economy, it (and the Salò Republic overall) is perhaps not as radical as its reputation suggests. Its advocacy of “the abolition of the internal capitalist system” is not accompanied by any substantial measures to that effect, and it explicitly leaves private property and private enterprise intact, although subject to state interference. Nonetheless, it is at the very least an interesting historical document, and one has to wonder how much more thoroughly Mussolini’s renewed radical tendencies might have been actualized without the interference of the requirements of the occupying German war machine.

The Verona Manifesto of the
Italian Social Republic
(November 14th, 1943)

In its first national report, the Fascist Republican Party:

Lifts its thoughts to those who have sacrificed their lives for republican Fascism on the battlefronts, in the piazzas of the cities and villages, in the limestone pits of Istria and Dalmatia, and who should be added to the ranks of the martyrs of our Revolution, and to the phalanx of all those men who have died for Italy. 

It regards continuation of the war alongside Germany and Japan until final victory, and the speedy reconstruction of our Armed Forces which will serve alongside the valorous soldiers of the Führer, as goals that tower above everything else in importance and urgency.

It takes note of the decrees instituting the Extraordinary Tribunals, whereby party members will carry out their unbending determination to administer exemplary justice; and, inspired by Mussolini’s stimulus and accomplishments, it enunciates the following programmatic directives for Party actions: 

WITH RESPECT TO DOMESTIC CONSTITUTIONAL MATTERS

1. A Constituent Assembly must be convened. As the sovereign power of popular origin, it shall declare an end to the Monarchy, solemnly condemn the traitorous and fugitive last King, proclaim the Social Republic, and appoint its Head. Continue reading

Birth of the National Fascist Party

The official program of the National Fascist Party, adopted November 7-10, 1921, at the Fasci di Combattimento’s Third Congress in Rome

Two years after the Fasci di Combattimento’s publication of the official manifesto of the fascist movement, in Milan’s Via Paolo da Cannobbio in 1919, the organization met again in Rome to adopt a new, revised program. What precipitated this change of course was a serious factional rift within the fascist movement, with Mussolini and the labor-oriented syndicalist wing on the one side, and the more conservative, integral-nationalist squadristi of Italo Balbo and Dino Grandi locking horns with them on the other. While not anti-syndicalist themselves, Balbo and Grandi were resolutely anti-socialist, rejecting Mussolini’s attempts to offer an olive branch to the Socialist Party and the General Confederation of Labor. Instead Balbo and Grandi directed their syndicalist labor organization (and the violent raids of their Blackshirt squadrons) towards advancing the interests of agrarian land-owners, a tactical choice that, while it may have distressed those fascists with national-syndicalist roots, nonetheless precipitated a dramatic nation-wide expansion in growth and support for the movement. To resolve these tensions, and to give the growing movement a more sound organizational footing, the fascists convened their third congress in early November 1921, drafting the following political program and officially founding the National Fascist Party as the new political replacement for the Fasci di Combattimento.

BASES

Fascism has now become a political party in order to tighten its discipline and clarify its “creed.”

The Nation is not simply a sum of individual beings, nor is it an instrumentality of parties for attaining their own goals. It is rather an organism made up of an endless series of generations whose individual members are but transient elements. It is the supreme synthesis of the material and immaterial values of the race. 

The State is the juridical incarnation of the Nation. Political institutions are effective instrumentalities to the extent that national values find expression and security therein. 

The autonomous values of the individual and those that are common to most individuals – expressed through such organized collective personalities as families, towns, corporations, etc. – are to be promoted, developed, and defended, but always within the context of the Nation, to which they occupy a subordinate place. 

The National Fascist Party declares that at this moment in history the dominant form of social organization in the world is national society; and the essential law of life in the world is not the consolidation of different societies into one single, immense society called “Humanity,” as internationalist-minded theoreticians believe, but is rather a fruitful and, let us hope, peaceful competition among different national societies. 

THE STATE

The State should be reduced to its essential function of preserving the political and juridical order. 

The State must grant legal powers and responsibility to a variety of Associations, and must also confer upon such professional and economic corporations the right to elect representatives to the National Technical Councils. 

Consequently, the powers and functions that now appertain to Parliament must be restricted. Problems that concern the individual as a citizen of the State, and concern the State as the organism for achieving and defending the supreme national interests, fall within the competence of Parliament; but problems that affect various kinds of activity by individuals in their role as producers lie within the competence of the National Technical Councils. 

The State is sovereign. Such sovereignty cannot and must not be infringed or diminished by the Church, and the latter, for its part, must be guaranteed the broadest freedom in the exercise of its spiritual mission. 

With respect to the specific form of political institutions, the National Fascist Party subordinates its own attitude to the moral and material interests of the Nation as understood in all aspects of its historic destiny.  Continue reading

‘Fascism of the First Hour’

Benito Mussolini’s speeches of March 23, 1919, at Piazza San Sepolcro, proclaiming the founding of the Fasci di Combattimento

SansepolcrismoOn 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.

FIRST DECLARATION

“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.”

SECOND DECLARATION

“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