Blogging has been light lately. I need more "outside" time and less "inside" time. Too much "inside" time is bad for the soul and for friendships. And the weather in Sydney has for last few weeks given some really good excuses for "outside" days.
Those "outside" days, has among other things, given me more of a chance to continue reading Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. Its been hard to read as I doze off to sleep in the warm sun. But it has been good. And what I have picked up along the way has been nothing short of a relearning of something I was never taught.
Goldberg argues that Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini is the father of Fascism. Generally, we are imbued by popular media to believe that the German brand of Fascism inspired Italy's fascists. The truth is quite the opposite. While Hitler was serving time for his role in the Beer Hall Putsch, Mussolini's ascendency to dictator was almost complete. Mussolini reportedly had a very dim view of Hitler. In fact, Mussolini, oft times cast as a simple minded playboy was a playboy with a towering intellect. He read volumes and wrote reams in his role as editor of some of Europe's most prominent socalist publications.
Il Duce ("the Leader"), as he was affectionately nicknamed, was influenced by the writings of revolutionary anarcho-socialist, Georges Sorel. Sorel, unlike most Marxists, did not believe that the revolution was inevitable. Rather it would take extraordinary civil unrest motivated by what Sorel called "myths" (untrue "truths") that would bring the revolution to bear on capitalist's evil reign. Like Sorel, Mussolini also despised traditional religion, seeking to replace it with reverence of the State. All of which can be traced back to the writings of French revolutionary thinker Jean-Jacques Rosseau. His totalitarianism find their ultimate genus in Rousseau's conception of the general will: all individual will much be subservient to the "general will" which the State ultimately discovers and promotes.
However inspired he was by socialist revolutionaries of various stripes, Mussolini was forced to break from the Europe's socialist parties when he argued for Italy's intervention in WWI on pragmatic grounds. In fact, one of the hallmarks of Fascism identified by Goldberg is pragmatism. Mussolini's break merited Socialist scorn and derision. He was apparently in the pocket of war profiteers (sound familiar?) and a reactionary (read: right-winger). In fact, in part, it was International Socialism's revolt against Mussolini that accredited Fascism a right-wing movement. Far from being a right-winger, Mussolini promoted a thoroughly left-wing, populist agenda:
- Institution of a minimum wage
- Government bodies run by trade unions
- A "use-it-or-lose-it" policy with regard to land owners' rights
- Massive increase in taxes on capital
- Nationalisation of the war industry and war profits
- Dismantling of the Italian Senate
- Setting up the State as a rival to religion
All the while, Mussolini and his Fascism was loved by the West. Prominent U.S. journalists argued that a dictatorship was to be desired if the right sort of dictator could be found (but never really answering how they may be uncovered). Fascism was to be the next great iteration of governance since the American Revolution. Even Churchill acclaimed him to be a brilliant lawmaker.