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Sam Adams

The Meaning of Italian Fascism

(August 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 32, 9 August 1943, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The sudden collapse of Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime in Italy has brought forth a flood, of happy comments and editorials in the American press about the virtues of democracy and the evils of fascism. If one wants to be charitable about it, one could say that this expression of the mouthpieces of American big business is all to the good. But their present comments are suspect!

It is a matter of record that for many years the leading newspapers in this country were extremely sympathetic to Mussolini and the fascist regime. This is especially true of the New York Times, which went out of its way to praise the Italian dictator and his murderous gang.

Business Behind Mussolini

It is also a matter of record that American finances (chiefly through the House of Morgan, as the spokesman for Wall Street) were poured into Italy for the express purpose of saving Benito’s tottering regime during the early years of its formation.

First, American sympathies for Great Britain and then actual entry into the war brought about a change in the attitude of big business and its press. But it was not really a change in ideas or program; it was merely the pressure of the war which caused them to speak but cautiously against Mussolini and Hitler. And, insofar as Mussolini was concerned, the argument went something like this:

“You were all right up until the time you joined with Hitler. If you had stayed out of the war, or if you had joined with us your regime would have been okay with us. We would have found nothing wrong with your ‘brand’ of fascism. We could have gone on loving you as before.”

But since Mussolini became a war “enemy,” the big business friends of fascism and Mussolini’s sympathetic press in this country were compelled to speak but against him.

The Capitalists and Fascism

What was their real attitude? Fascism was all right for Italy. It was efficient; it permitted no waste; trains ran on time; there was no unemployment; and, most important of all, Mussolini liquidated internal strife.

Reading the press we see the recent arguments to the effect that fascism is bad only because it is based on one-party .rule, stifles criticism, and rests on a one-man dictatorship.

The argument about the efficiency of fascism is a phony. Fascism is not a new society, as some picture it. It is a dictatorship of big business. The chief aim of this regime is to destroy the labor movement, and all the aims of fascism, no matter under what name they go, are calculated to effect this dictatorship of big business.

What does the efficiency of fascism consist of? Trains running on time? That is nonsense! When the capitalist press speaks of efficiency, it is not at all concerned with trains. The efficiency of fascism which it admires is the destruction of the labor movement, the dissolution of the trade unions, workers’ political organizations, fraternal societies, cooperatives, a free press and the right to meet and organize. These movements represent the power and organization of labor.

Through such organizations the workers are able to fight for their economic and political rights. They are able to defend themselves against profit-mad and profit-hungry big business. They are able to fight and defend themselves against low wages, poor working conditions, excessively long hours of work and against labor-baiters.

Through their organizations the workers are able to fight for the democratic rights of workers, for higher wages, better working conditions and shorter hours. Through its organizations the working class is able to fight for the rights of the unemployed.

When big business and its press lauds the efficiency of fascism it is because fascism destroys the economic and political labor movement. We have no doubt that these are a nuisance, to big business and all bosses. And we have no doubt that the existence of the labor movement is a sign of inefficiency to them. It interferes with their lust for profit. Thus, when they speak of efficiency they mean the destruction of labor.

Fascism Solves Unemployment

Mussolini and Hitler solved unemployment! Yes, they certainly did. Mussolini forced the unemployed to fill swamps, dig ditches and build public works. For this the workers were paid a miserable wage merely to keep them alive.

Hitler solved the unemployment problem by tying the whole working class to the war machine. We have no doubt that big business would like this efficiency. They would like to force labor to work for low wages, long hours, under any conditions.

No wonder they loved fascism – it was so efficient for their purposes!

What fascism really accomplished in Italy, as in Germany, was this: Having destroyed the labor movement, it guaranteed a labor force for its boss, big business. By this, it guaranteed big profits for the capitalists of both countries. It banished internal strife by organizing hooligan gangs against the workers to beat back any signs of resistance by labor.

A Sign of Sickness

Fascism was loved by the capitalists of all countries. And don’t kid yourself about it, American capitalists, if they had the power to do so, would like such a regime in this country. There are many fascists and fascist organizations in America working to bring about what Hitler and Mussolini did in Germany.

If fascism is a one-man dictatorship, if it means one-party rule, it is because the nature of its work in destroying the labor movement requires it to be anti-democratic.

There are many other features of fascism, but the above is its most important: it saves a tottering capitalist system for the bosses by physical assaults on the working class and its organizations, thus maintaining and guaranteeing profits for big business.

The real tip-off on fascism is that Italy, after twenty years under that system, had the lowest standard, of, living of any important European country!

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