Programme and Postulates of the Fasci di Combattimento

The founding 1919 programme of Benito Mussolini’s Fasci di Combattimento and the revised postulates adopted at its 2nd Congress  of May 1920

Rivoluzione_Fasci

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. 

Programme
of the
Italian Fasci di Combattimento

Central Committee
MILAN – Via Paolo da Cannobbio, 37 – Telephone 7156

fasci_crossed

First published in Il Popolo d’Italia, June 6, 1919

Italians!

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. Continue reading

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

‘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