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Fascists and Bolsheviks as friends

By Bruce Walker
web posted February 4, 2008

If Nazis were allies as often as enemies of Bolsheviks, what was the relationship between Fascists and Bolsheviks?  The pseudo-cognition of Sinisterism seldom talks about Nazis at all, but rather about "fascists" and these "fascists" are the mortal enemies of Bolsheviks, the polar ideological opposite of Marxism, and so on.  This is not true.  Benito Mussolini did not begin his political career as just a Marxist, but as a violent, revolutionary Marxist.  Mussolini was not just a leading Leftist in Italy, he was one of the most important Communists in the world.  In 1914, Mussolini organized "Red Week" which was aimed at causing a violent revolution against the corrupt capitalist world.  Mussolini is often referred to by the name "Duce," which means "leader" - rather like Fuhrer in German or Vozd in Russian - and this is usually attributed to be a name given to him by the Fascists.  This is not true.  The moniker was given to him at a banquet given by Marxists after his release from prison for protesting the "imperialist" Italian war in Libya, at which one veteran socialist said:  "From today you, Benito, are not only the representative of Romagna Socialists, but the Duce of all revolutionary Socialists in Italy!" 

Benito MussoliniThis Marxist Mussolini was the editor of Avanti! which was the leading Marxist periodical in Italy and one of the leading Marxists periodicals in the world.  Although most biographies of Mussolini touch on that long period of his life, few also mention that Mussolini was at the same time editor of Utopia, the monthly intellectual journal of Italian Marxists.  Mussolini did not quit being a Marxist.  He was expelled from the Italian Socialist Party because he supported Italy intervening on the side of the Allied Powers and against the Central Powers in the Great War.  Although historians can, and have, argued that this represented a movement by Mussolini to the mythical Right, there was a sharp fissure within the Left about whether or not it helped promote world proletariat revolution to support the war or to oppose it.

Actually, Mussolini was following, rather than leading, extreme Leftists in Italy. As Zeev Sternhell explains in The Birth of Fascist Ideology, on August 19, 1914, Alceste De Ambris, speaking from the platform of the Milanese Syndical Union (USM), attacked neutrality and urged going to the aid of France and Britain.  He equated the Germans with reaction, and equated the French with the French Revolution.   Mussolini dropped his neutrality at this time and began to publish Il Popolo d'Italia in November 1914, supporting entering the war on the allied side.  When war was declared, Mussolini and other revolutionary syndicalist leaders volunteered for duty."

Even prior to Mussolini, Fascism was revolutionary syndicalism of the Left formed by dissidents and nonconformists of the Left.  Fascism was Leftism before Mussolini was a Fascist.  When Fascism coalesced into a national movement, it was a movement of the Left, not the Right.  Although Mussolini did break from Marxism, he did not break with socialism.  His objection to Marxism was that both Marx and Engels were Germans and that Marxism was a tool used to advance German and Bismarckian politics. 

Moreover, Syndicalism did not develop in Italy, but in France, and it was a movement of the Left, not of the Right.  As Roger H. Soltau writes in his 1930 book on French politics:  "There remained some Socialist deputies who were not Syndicalist in their sympathies, and a few Syndicalists who did not vote for Socialist candidates, both parties maintained much the same tendencies, the destruction by revolutionary methods of the capitalist society, and the entire elimination of political frontiers by the international action of the proletariat."  This friendship directly affected the relationship between Syndicalists (the forerunners of Fascists) and Bolsheviks:  after the Bolshevik junta against the democratically elected revolutionary government that overthrew the Tsars, the Syndicalists actively opposed French intervention against the Bolsheviks in Russia.  Indeed, the party conflicts within Syndicalism were between the "Red Communists" of the cities of France and the "Green Communists" of the countryside.  This overlap between Fascists and Bolsheviks extended even to the Russian Fascist Party, which formed in Harbin, China during the 1930s; but whose leader, Konstantin Rodzaevsky later converted to Stalinism) said:  "Stalinism…is our Russian Fascism cleansed of extremes, illusions and errors."

Trotsky supported Mussolini over Lenin

Leon Trotsky, who was considered by Stalin to be too far to the Left, supported the position taken by Mussolini (that the Great War would facilitate the Marxist revolution) and Vladimir Lenin also supported this view.  Many Italian Marxists, who later became Fascists, also supported this position by Mussolini, including Sergio Panunzio, A.O. Olivetti, Roberto Michels and Paolo Orano.  Trotsky, when he learned of the expulsion of Mussolini, said that Italian Socialists had lost their only true revolutionary.  Mussolini did not stop considering himself a Leftist.  During the years between his expulsion from the Italian Socialist Party and his March on Rome in 1922, Mussolini was called in 1919 the "Lenin of Italy" for Fascist occupation of factories on behalf of the workers.  One of the folk heroes of Fascism was the poet and pilot Gabriele d'Annunzio, who said that what he was supporting in Fascism was a form of Latinized National Bolshevism.  In the 1920s, Mussolini expressed admiration for Lenin and saw the Soviet Union as having "Slav Fascism," and Comintern Chief Nicolay Bukharin in turn noted that the Fascist Party, more than any other party, adopted and applied the experiences of the Russian Revolution.  Fascism was not even seen as a competing ideology with Communism until the Sixth International in 1926.  Mussolini, in return, remarked that he welcomed Stalin as a "fellow-Fascist."  Fascists openly wondered whether Stalin was evolving into a Fascist.

Francesco Nitti, Prime Minister of Italy before Mussolini, wrote in his 1927 book, Bolshevism, Fascism and Democracy:  "If there is no longer any opposition in Italy, what further transformations has Fascism in store for us?  Will Mussolini yet become a Communist, in view of possible currents of popular feeling?  Will he perhaps suddenly revert to his original tenets?"  and he writes in the same book of Fascism and Bolshevism:  "There is little difference between the two, and that, in certain respects, Fascism and Bolshevism are the same" and, indeed, an entire chapter of that book entitled "Bolshevism and Fascism are Identical," that includes the following:  "In Italy today one finds that greater tolerance is shown toward Communists affiliated with Moscow than to Liberals, democrats, and Socialists."  Nitti was not a conservative or Right Wing politician, insofar as those terms are used today:  he was a leading Leftist in pre-war and post-war Italy, but he also was both a respected political figure and an implacable opponent of Fascism, which forced him to flee Italy

Professor Herbert Schneider of Columbia University in his 1928 book published by Oxford University Press, Making the Fascist State, wrote that it was possible that Hegelians and Marxists would soon discover that syndicalism is the synthesis of Socialism and Fascism, noting that some Socialists already were revising their philosophies. Sherwood Eddy wrote of Fascism and Bolshevism in 1933 that Fascist Italy and Soviet Russia had many things in common.  In 1928, George Bernard Shaw, literary giant and apologist for communism, noted in his book, The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism & Fascism, that  Communism and Fascism produced similar changes and that Fascism was better than Liberalism.

The Fascists (not the Nazis) as friend of Marxism

The chief organizer of Fascist labor unions in 1922 was Edmondo Rossoni who, as a professor in the University of Florence, described Benito Mussolini in the 1936 book, Under the Axe of Fascism, had been a "revolutionary Socialist of the extreme left.  He had been a militant of the revolutionary-Syndicalist Industrial Workers of the World in the United States."   Rossoni, like Nitti, left Italy early in the Fascist reign.  Kemechy, by contrast, was an unapologetic apologist for Mussolini.  So what does Kemechy have to say about Mussolini in his 1930 book, Il Duce: The Life and Work of Benito Mussolini?  Kemechy, the pro-Mussolini and pro-Fascist, says the same things that anti-Fascist and anti-Mussolini writers at the same time were saying.  Kemechy writes that Mussolini was a Socialist and a Leninist and a revolutionary.

When in power, after the March on Rome, Mussolini moved even more quickly than Hitler to make it clear that he desired friendly relations with the Soviet Union.  In 1922, the year of the March on Rome, Mussolini declared to the Chamber of Deputies that Italy had nothing to fear from the Soviet Union. In 1931, when Alfred Bingham, then the son of a conservative Republican Senator in the United States, visited Mussolini, having traveled both to Russia and to Italy, Mussolini informed him "Fascism is the same thing as Communism."   In 1938, Dorothy Thompson wrote almost exactly the same thing, when she wrote that the Communists and Fascists were fighting a phony struggle of ideals and that the forms of governments of Fascists and Communists were almost the same  and she goes on to note that the State as the ultimate good was invented by Hegel and Marx, and that Fascism was derived directly from this.  Maxim Gorky, the famous Soviet writer, left the Soviet Union and spent most the 1920s in Fascist Italy.  When he later returned, Gorky was given a large home in Moscow as well as a dacha.

Fascist Italy and the Soviet Union had good commercial relations.  Not only that, but Fascist Italy was a major supplier of arms to the Soviet Union, particularly aircraft and naval vessels.  The Russo-Italian Treaty of 1933 was not simply a commercial agreement, but a treaty of friendship, non-aggression and neutrality.  Not only did Fascist Italy and Bolshevik Russia sign military, diplomatic and economic accords in 1933 to help contain Hitler, but this was punctuated by favorable press reports in the totalitarian nations.  When the Bolsheviks and Nazis first signed their infamous non-aggression pact which began the Second World War, Molotov initially tried to allay the fears of the democracies by noting that this new agreement between the Bolsheviks and Nazis was essentially the same as the agreement that the Bolsheviks had made with the Fascists years earlier.  In 1937, Freund wrote that Italy's relations with Soviet Russia were satisfactory.  Genevieve Tabouis notes in her 1938 book, Blackmail or War, that Mussolini in 1934, in fidelity to his revolutionary past and sympathy with Bolshevism, quickly turned to the Soviet Union as a natural ally of Italy.  He did all possible to be on good terms with the Soviet government, even managing to get his representatives to the Kremlin before British Prime Minister Ramsey MacDonald.  The whole Italian press corps sang hymns of praise to Moscow, expressed its sympathy for the ideology of Lenin; the methods of which, during that period when the new Russia was being formed, likewise involved amoral pressure and physical coercion.  Later in her book, Tabouis notes that Mussolini himself wrote a thinly anonymous article in the Popolo d'Italia in which spoke of the joining of two great revolutions, Fascist and Bolshevik.  Rauschning also noted in 1938 "It is not long since the leader of Fascism himself arrived at the conclusion that Stalinism represented the development of Bolshevism into a sort of Fascism."

The budding friendship between Fascists and Bolsheviks against Nazis

This Fascist friendship for Bolsheviks was reciprocated.  On July 15, 1934 Izvestia, the official newspaper of the Soviet Union, noted that the Soviet Union and Fascist Italy were good friends. One may argue that Machiavellian machinations among totalitarian systems are normal.  But the publication for millions of Soviet citizens to read a statement that "Fascism" was not considered the official enemy of Bolshevism is something different. 

The Soviet Union, like the democracies, formally condemned the Fascist Invasion of Ethiopia.  Privately, the Bolsheviks acted differently.  During the Ethiopian War, as Henry Wolfe writes in his 1940 book, The Imperial Soviets, Russia supplied the Italian army with huge quantities of oil and also with war material, and Wolfe notes that Soviet trade relations with Fascist Italy were very cooperative.   In fact, as Fascist Italy prepared for war against Abyssinia that autumn, forty Greek freighters brought Soviet wheat, petroleum, coal, tar, timber, barley and oats for Mussolini's war machine.  Eugene Lyons noted in 1941 "it [the Soviet Union] had continued to sell oil and grain to Italy while pretending to oppose Ethiopian aggression…"

An interesting aside is the reaction within Italy by Christians to the Abyssinian War.  Whole towns in Italy flocked to churches imploring the Virgin Mary to stop the war, and the Fascist leadership was at its wit's end on how to stop this appeal to Christian conscience.  Realpolitick, whether by the Bolsheviks, by the Nazis, by the French or by the British was morally indifferent to the Fascist imperial conquest of another more primitive empire.  Christian popular opinion within Fascist Italy was seriously opposed to the war.  The Catholic Church was also strongly opposed to Fascism, despite a façade of cooperation, because of the paganism of Fascism, and this hostility increased the closer that Mussolini turned to Hitler.

In Austria the Heimwehr, the Fascist paramilitary group, and the Schutzbund, the Bolshevik paramilitary group, fought side by side in the 1930s.  As noted earlier, both the Fascists and the Bolsheviks opposed the union of Germany and Austria and worked together to prevent that Anschluss. The Fascists and the Bolsheviks both fretted about the direction of Nazi expansion - east and south - and tried to prevent Balkan states from falling under the influence of Germany before those two other totalitarian states had reached an understanding with the Nazis.  Even when the Fascists nominally were aligned against the Bolsheviks, it was with great reluctance, as Dorothy Thompson noted in October 1937, that the Italians signed the anti-Comintern pact.  As late as 1941, Eugene Lyons wrote of the "strong political bonds between Fascist Italy and Soviet Russia."

The last days of  Fascism in 1944

After Italy entered the Second World War on the side of Germany, its fate was tied to the Third Reich and it had little chance to show its independence - other than resisting, for a much longer time than other "allies" of Germany or occupied territories, the Nazi persecution of Jews. But after the Grand Fascist Council fired Mussolini and the new Italian government declared war on Germany, Mussolini had a chance to show his true ideological colors in the rump state in northern Italy called Salo or the Italian Socialist Republic.  The constitution of this odd polity was written by Nicola Bombacci, a Communist and a friend of Lenin.  In February 1944, Salo issued a "Legislative Decree for the Socialization of Enterprises" which provided that all enterprises with capital of over one million lire or employed more than a hundred persons would be run by a committee composed of an equal number of management and workers.  After that decree, Salo moved even more radically to the Left.  In 1944, Mussolini praised Stalin and said that if he had to choose which nation should dominate Europe, it would be the Soviet Union.  Bombacci, the Communist, who was executed after Mussolini and his mistress were killed, shouted as his last words: "Long live Mussolini!  Long live Socialism!"

Fascism, like its siblings on the Left, Bolshevism, Nazism and Maoism, lusted only after power – at all costs and by all means – in the end, the "fascists" proved less like the Nazis and more like the Bolsheviks, although none of those believed in anything greater than power.  It is a fable of our anti-thought elite that we should absurdly consider Mussolini (a lifelong Marxist) as the enemy of Marxism or that Mussolini (who loathed Hitler and Nazi
racial polities) as endorsing Nazi  Germany, which Nazis and Fascists nearly went to war because of the differences. 

Anytime someone tries to smear you with "fascism," remind them that the only people who ever called themselves "fascists" lived in Italy and thought Karl Marx was a prophet.  Remind them that the leader of fascism died before a firing squad praising the Marxian revolution.  Then suggest that this mean was Leftist. ESR

Bruce Walker has been a published author in print and in electronic media since 1990.  He is a contributing editor to Enter Stage Right and a regular contributor to Conservative Truth, American Daily, Intellectual Conservative, Web Commentary, NewsByUs and Men's News Daily. His first book, Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie by Outskirts Press was published in January 2006.

 

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