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Mussolini, or the Will to Power

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Werner Bräuninger
DUX: Mussolini, oder Der Wille zur Macht [4]
Graz: Ares Verlag, 2018

“Poor Duce,” Ezra Pound might have said on hearing the news of Benito Mussolini’s ignominious death on April 28, 1945. Someone I knew who was alive in 1945 tells me that while there was no sorrow in England on the news of Hitler’s death, some people felt that Mussolini’s undignified execution was in bad taste.”It was as though a comic opera had suddenly turned serious,” he said. This may seem a bizarre and perhaps very English reaction, given the apocalyptic events unfolding at the time, but it is true that there is an element of lightness, of not taking oneself entirely seriously, which permeates Mussolini’s life in a way that it does not in the lives of other dictators. There is an element of the operatic about Mussolini’s life, and this biography, which focuses on Mussolini the private man as much as it does the public figure, reinforces that common perception.

Werner Bräuninger’s new German-language biography of Mussolini, DUX: Mussolini, oder der Wille zur Macht (Mussolini, or the Will to Power), presents a comprehensive account of Mussolini’s life from his origins in the northern Italian Romagna region – “that historical and sun-drenched region,” writes the author, “where everything must be wrung with effort from the Earth” (p. 13) – to the hasty and unofficial execution (the details are disputed to this day) on April 28, 1945. According to the author, the shooting was reenacted hours later, in front of the Villa Belmonte, with shots fired into the bodies of the dictator and his mistress, Clara Petaccci, to provide the execution with a gloss of legality by giving it the appearance of some kind of legal formality. Then, the final indignity: The bodies were put on display, hung from wires at an Esso petrol station (Esso was still doing business in wartime Italy?) in the Piazzale Loreto in Milan after being jeered at, mutilated, spat upon, and even urinated on by a frantic mob.

The great quality of this biography is that it is neither a hatchet job nor a hagiography. Bräuninger dispassionately depicts the career of the founder of Fascism, neither seeking to hide his failures and wrongs nor harping on them to stress the unacceptability of his political movement. All the non-Marxist dictators of the last century rose to power more or less aware and in awe of il Duce. Being dispassionate and objective, this biography presents the reader with a very different and more nuanced portrait than the caricature “bad guy” and ally of Hitler, the familiar buffoon and blundering bogey, which has been drawn by mainstream Western journalism since 1940. In this respect, it may be regarded as the German-language equivalent of Nicholas Farrell’s Mussolini, published in 2005. There are many English- and Italian-language biographies, but very few in German. Unlike depressingly many biographies, I doubt that Bräuninger’s is written primarily to enhance his resumé, advance an academic career, or to make money, as was unquestionably the case for example with the recent German biographers of Martin Heidegger and Ernst Jünger. Bräuninger’s book is published by the nationalistically-conscious Ares Verlag as a handsome and weighty hardback tome, the cover design being a portion of the painting Sintesi Fascista by the Italian Futurist artist Alessandro Bruschetti. Bräuninger has also written a biography of the German post-war National Socialist Michael Kühnen and a number of monographs relating to National Socialism.

But what can be new in one more biography on Mussolini other than offering a somewhat more sympathetic portrait of this dictator? The bare facts of his life can easily be obtained without going to the time or expense of purchasing a biography: his birth in 1883 to humble but hardly poor parents in Romagna (his father was a blacksmith by trade and an active socialist); his early days as a vagabond and his membership in the Partito Socialista Italiana (the Italian Socialist Party); his editorship of its party’s paper, Avanti!; his enthusiasm and commitment to Italian participation in the war against the Austrian Empire; his tempestuous affairs with a number of women, which might have been taken from the libretti of Italian operatic melodrama; his life as a vagabond and as a soldier; his founding after the war of the Partito Nazionale Fascista (the Fascist Party); the March on Rome in October 1922; the ensuing attainment of supreme power; the enormous popularity and success of Fascism for twenty years up to the declaration of war on France in June 1940; the unsuccessful role of Italy in the Second World War; his deposition by the Fascist Grand Council in 1943; his reinstatement by the German government as head of the so-called Repubblica Sociale Italiana (otherwise known as the Salò Republic); and his capture and execution by Communists in April 1945.

In the early days of his political activity, Mussolini, as the biographer describes in detail, was a socialist like his father, and like his father a committed believer in better conditions for the laboring classes. Mussolini’s early radicalism as depicted by Bräuninger is in stark contrast to many of his later commitments and statements, and the notion of betrayal in the interests of Realpoltik is never far away, as indeed is the case with Hitler. For example, Mussolini in his younger days, when power seemed far away, described the army as “a criminal organization to protect capitalism and the upper class” (p. 30), and his attacks on the Church in the early period of his life before the First World War were legion.

He made half-hearted attempts to become a teacher and familiarized himself with the writings of Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Count Gobineau, as well as a book very successful at that time, La Psychologie des Foules (Psychology of the Masses) by Gustav Le Bon. He also read Nietzsche and Marx. It was at this time, too, according to Bräuninger, that “Mussolini showed resentment towards Jews, who considered themselves in his eyes to be different, but were morally corrupt, covetous, and vindictive” (p. 30) The reader must take Bräuninger’s word for it, or seek verification of these and other statements outside this book, for a major weakness is that many of his statements are not supported by any source references at all, nor does the biography provide a list of references at the end – only an index of notes, confusingly numbered under subtitles without page references, so that the reader has to find the page number himself. The notes, once tracked down, often consist of no more than a comment by the writer rather than the source from which the claim has been taken. To take only the case of the reference to Houston Stewart Chamberlain: When did Mussolini discover this writer, and how and in what language did he read him? Bräuninger does not tell us. His note only offers the rather unilluminating comment: “These writers definitely had a strong influence on Adolf Hitler as well.” (p. 424) The book also offers no recommended further reading, either in relation to the subject of the biography himself or to secondary literature.

For me, the biography offered a striking counter to the idea which I had of il Duce, an image no doubt largely created by the prevailing image of him in the post-war English-speaking world. Perhaps because he is a German biographer, Bräuninger is conscious that he is setting someone up to be compared with Adolf Hitler. He notes that Hitler was hugely influenced by Mussolini’s movement, as Hitler himself stated, but it is the differences which will interest anyone who wishes to learn more about this period of history. Hitler was monolingual, but Mussolini could speak French and German fluently, and at least passable English (opinions differ on the quality of il Duce‘s mastery of English; I remember reading in Oswald Mosley’s memoirs that Mussolini was keen to brush up his English and hired the services of an elderly English spinster living in Rome for the purpose, but Mosley maintained that his English was excruciatingly poor). Mussolini was a keen reader of Dante. Bräuninger recounts a remarkable incident in which Mussolini invited the German – and incidentally Jewish – translator of Dante, Rudolf Borchardt, to a private audience in 1933, and quotes from Rudolf Borchardt’s Besuch bei Mussolini (Visit to Mussolini):

I could only be astonished that this man, the ruler of Italy, with all the burdens of the day’s work on his shoulders, found time to discuss with me the precise translation of individual words and expressions . . . He opened the first Canto and began to read. “That is a literal translation,” he remarked, and then said, “I understand it is written in a modern German style. Wait, what is this?” He pointed to a word he did not know, and I had to explain it to him. . . . Concentrated willpower and a positive sort of decisiveness mastered in large part the rounded and complete gestures of the kind one might expect from a dignitary of the Church or an aristocratic poet, reminding me of some pictures of the later Goethe. . . . Schlegel, Schelling, Hegel, King Johann of Saxony, Vossler, George – he made a brief appraisal of each. “Now to the fifth circle of the Inferno,” he exclaimed, adding rapidly and almost merrily, “Francesca da Remini.” . . . He went to the last stanzas, read out my German translation, then recited the original Italian verses from memory, read more German, and compared them exactly with the verses which he knew by heart. He pointed to a subtlety of tone in the Italian original and wanted to be sure that I had successfully reproduced it in German, reading out my German version slowly and carefully, with a strong but accurate pronunciation. Finally, he interrupted his own criticisms and suggestions by excusing himself, adding that he was only a layman and a mere reader. He closed the book, opened it once more, and finally closed it for good. “Thank you,” he said earnestly, and shook my hand warmly. (p. 163)

So much for the ignorant dictator! It would be interesting to know how many professors of Italian literature today could today offer an informed critique of a translation of Dante’s Inferno, citing stanzas by heart, let alone how many mere laymen and readers could do so. Bräuninger tells us that Mussolini was an avid reader of the Classics and a keen opera aficionado, something which tends to be ignored in post-war mainstream historical accounts.

Much else tends to be downplayed as well, which Bräuninger highlights, including the enormous popularity of Mussolini’s economic and social policies. Throughout this account, the reader is encouraged to compare Mussolini with Hitler. Hitler is not known to have shown any interest in literature, in contrast to his evident enthusiasm for painting and architecture. Bräuninger states that Mussolini by contrast was an avid reader of both philosophical and literary works, whilst tending to be “bored” in art galleries. However, Mussolini shared with Hitler a love of architecture, and both dictators were fierce opponents of the new schools of architecture of the time. Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, and their ilk, whose ideas and style has hugely influenced post-war construction around the world since 1945, received short shrift and no commissions in either the Third Reich or Fascist Italy. Mussolini was an enthusiastic dancer, played the violin, and liked jazz. And Italy’s most famous national parks were established in the Fascist era, which are especially important in a land where shooting small songbirds is to this day regarded as evidence of masculine prowess.

Mussolini introduced a wide variety of measures to ensure employment protection, for instance the so-called Tredicesimo, a law which guarantees an employee thirteenth months’ pay in every full year that he or she is employed in the same company. A Left-dominated post-war culture has tended to brush over the obvious socialist aspects of Fascist policy. When this reviewer worked in Italy, he remembers the embarrassment which Italians experienced in having to acknowledge that the mandatory Tredicesimo legislation was enacted by the Fascist government in 1937. But the social achievements are considerable and include infant care, maternity benefits, paid holidays, the right to unemployment benefit, health insurance, and more. Mussolini was also successful in defeating the Mafia. Mafiosi fled the country for the United States, only to return with the American invasion force that landed in Sicily in 1943. Bräuninger is disappointingly brief on this important aspect of Fascist achievement.

The social program, extended and radicalized in the short-lived Salò Republic of the later war years, and which included the intention of nationalizing all businesses with over a hundred employees – a Strasserist program, one might say – highlights an underlying dilemma or conundrum within Fascist doctrine, as well as those doctrines which to this day are strongly influenced by Fascist policies: How much socialism is enough? While on the one hand, Fascism was clearly against Bolshevism and internationalism, and to a large extent opposed to the lack of discipline of liberalism, the question of socialism is considerably harder to assess.

One quality which seems to be essentially fascistic is energy. Mussolini’s Italy was a hive of activity, as described here in its own propaganda as well as in hostile accounts. The regime engaged in a (literally!) monumental program of public works and construction. The government built roads, drained swamps, built schools and hospitals and council houses, and did so with due regard for aesthetic considerations that have been entirely lacking in the greater part of post-war Western architecture. Mussolini’s aim, which he proclaimed and was evident in everything he did, was to take Italy out of the doldrums of its fin-de-siècle poverty, decadence, and humiliation, and restore the nation’s self-respect and the memory of its past glory that was Rome. The ultimate dream was to recreate Rome as the capital of the civilized world, or at the very least of a great Italian Empire. It is important to stress that, up to the First World War, Italy was regarded by wealthier nations as something of a Third World stew of corruption and exploitability, and not a civilized nation at all; only one where the ruins of past glory could be seen by well-heeled tourists from Britain, France, and Germany. A key element of Mussolini’s policy was to reaffirm the heritage of ancient Rome, not as a world heritage tourist attraction but as a living tradition, the pride of the Italian people. Something of this same spirit is reflected in the cultural nationalism of non-European, post-colonial nationalisms.

Fascist Italy’s commitment to large state investment projects and social planning is echoed in Roosevelt’s New Deal and in the Keynesian proposals for full employment to combat the Great Depression. In this respect, Mussolini may even be regarded, in respect of Marx’s fight to the death between the exploiter and the exploited, as the pioneer of an economic compromise, a moderate policy with the Fascist state assuming the role of arbitrator between employer and employee and eschewing the extremes of Bolshevism on the one side and unbridled capitalism on the other. It may be intensely disagreeable for liberals (or fascists) to hear it, but from the point of view of economic policy, the notion of accepting the notion of profit but not profiteering, and a socialism for the deserving without consenting to handouts for the work-shy, are widely accepted opinions which come closer to both middle of the road politics and Fascism than they do to hard-line Communist or libertarian positions. What can arguably be called a conciliatory and moderate position was enshrined in Fascist doctrine, notably in the famous Carta del Lavoro (Labor Charter) of 1925, a far-reaching piece of legislation aimed at creating peace between Labor and Capital, a step too socialist for economic liberals, a step too conciliatory towards business for Marxists.

As this biography is over 400 pages long, it may be that I overlooked paragraphs dealing with the renationalization of the banks. But apart from stating – again, without citing evidence – that Mussolini understood absolutely nothing about figures, Bräuninger does not seem very interested in Fascist economic and financial policy. Certainly, the biographer does not give the matter much attention. In 1933, the state set up an organization carrying the anodyne name of the Instituto per la Ricostuzione Industriale (Institute for Industrial Reconstruction), which effectively nationalized Italy’s three major banks and the Istituto Mobiliare Italiano, which was a fund responsible for bailing out ailing industries. The Bank Reform Act of 1936 completed the nationalization of the banks. Anyone coming to this biography hoping for a close analysis of the important financial policies of the Fascist state or an examination of the conflict between theories of social organization based on collectivity versus those based on individualism, which should surely be at the heart of any debate on Fascism, will be disappointed.

Whatever he did or did not read, this former editor of the socialist paper Avanti!, who had supported strikes and was a reader of Marx, and who was a known socialist agitator, broke with mainline socialism over the question of war. Mussolini was fanatically in favor of Italian intervention in the First World War (the book includes that famous picture of the future Duce as a bowler-hatted and mustached gentlemen dressed in suit and bowtie getting in a very lively dispute on the fringes of a pro-war demonstration in Milan in 1915; comic opera is not far away here). Not even his worst enemies have once accused Mussolini of lacking in courage. The commitment to war is significant because, even more so than on matters of economic or even social policy, it is on the attitude toward struggle, and more profoundly in an attitude toward life itself, that Fascism and international socialism part company. Mussolini had read Nietzsche, Marx, and Sorel, but mainstream historians for obvious reasons like to belittle Mussolini’s intellect. Bräuninger is firmly on the side of those who believe that Mussolini’s understanding of both Nietzsche and Marx was profound. Here is one reference to an ongoing dispute:

In this case, the hostile Wolfgang Schneider wrote in his book on Italian Fascism (Der Italienische Faschismus) that Mussolini was a “wannabe intellectual with only the most superficial grasp of Nietzsche,” the kind of allegation which Ernst Nolte had already impressively disproved in 1960 in his essay entitled Marx und Nietzsche in Sozialismus des jungen Mussolini. (note, p. 424)

The commitment to war is crucial, because at the heart of this is a fatalistic acceptance of the fact that there is no end to history, no socialist promised land of complete harmony. The lost Eden of the Bible does not belong to our world. We strive after beauty and greatness, since perhaps, after all, beauty and greatness are two faces of the same God of life. This is all wholly alien to the ideological enemies of Fascism. For Fascism and all doctrines close to Fascism, life is eternal struggle. Hitler has written this word for word in Mein Kampf, paraphrasing Nietzsche. There is always a tension here between the acceptance of struggle as inherent to life and the need to justify struggle for propaganda purposes, and more importantly, to provide the struggle with a sense and purpose. Mussolini preached peace, but by his own account considered war as inherent to life, and while he preached peace he donned a uniform and Italian schools prepared their pupils “for any eventuality.”

As Mussolini desired, Italy indeed did enter the war on the side of the Entente in 1915, and nearly half a million Italians died as a result, but Italy received cold comfort at the Treaty of Versailles for its sacrifice. There was at once a national and social resentment: as a nation it suffered the loss of pride, and socially the failure to earn a right to respect, honor, and material recognition. Comparable resentment fills the pages of Mein Kampf. Mussolini was the living expression of the man of military discipline and hierarchy combined with one who clamored for social justice, which is arguably at the heart of what being a Fascist means. Mussolini’s Fascism, like the movements it influenced, was above all else a military movement, and as such both hierarchical and egalitarian, social and combative, highly rational and ultimately anti-rational. All these paradoxes fall into place if we understand Mussolini as a warrior above all else. The attack on Abyssinia and the desire to reestablish a Roman Africa can be understood in this sense, as a military lust for glory and the drive to civilize. Fascist Italy’s imperial policies were not all genocidal, and in fact it considered itself to be on a civilizing mission, bringing learning and the fruits of Western civilization to an Empire in which slavery was still an officially recognized and approved fact of life.

The Italian assault on Abyssinia did not go well. The invading Italian army met with stiff resistance, and in order to defeat the unexpectedly robust Abyssinian defenses, Mussolini approved the use of poison gas. Bräuninger argues that Mussolini felt himself compelled to use gas and that the extent of its use was widely exaggerated (p. 191), although this is yet again an observation which is not supported by any references or figures. It is debatable whether Mussolini felt compelled to use gas, for Italy could hardly have expected to lose the war, but it is true that if the war had dragged on, Italy would have lost face, and it is evident from this biography and any other account of the dictator that a large part of Mussolini’s decisions had to do with not losing face. The Abyssinian War and the consequent declaration of an Italian East Africa, which Mussolini hoped would usher in the beginning of a new Roman Empire, marked the acme of Mussolini’s power and popularity. It is true that for all leaders, popularity and power go hand in hand, but this seems especially true of Mussolini. His personal and political popularity among his own followers eroded before his death, whereas widespread devotion to Stalin or Hitler continued even while their fortunes seemed to be waning, to the moment of their deaths. Arguably, however, in the long term, Mussolini’s influence has proved much more resilient than theirs.

Bräuninger paints the picture of a man who devotes as much energy to his private life as to his public life, and in contrast to Hitler, is not afraid to take “time off” to go riding, dancing, and the like, paying no heed to the effect that it might have on his public image. Mussolini was unquestionably more tolerant than Hitler, both in terms of politics and especially with regard to the arts. He not only did not condemn jazz, but he was indeed happy to dance to jazz music. Bräuninger reports Mussolini as saying that he thought proposals to ban either comics or jazz music entirely absurd. Like Hitler, he was mostly vegetarian (Bräuninger does not tell us why), and he disapproved of smoking, warning his younger daughter Edda of the dangers of nicotine. He had, he told her, smoked heavily as a solider during the First World War, and to this he attributed the cause of his stomach troubles (troubles which, according to Bräuninger, plagued him throughout the greater part of his life), which included violent stomach cramps and colic, probably erroneously as it later emerged. In the last months of the Salò Republic, a German doctor, Georg Zachariae, was assigned to attend to Mussolini, and he detected the likely cause of Mussolini’s stomach problems: milk. Mussolini had been consuming very large quantities of milk for most of his life. Soon after milk was withdrawn from his diet, Mussolini’s health improved dramatically and his stomach cramps ceased altogether: an early historical case of lactose intolerance, perhaps?

The biographer provides anecdotes which attest to Mussolini’s fairness and distrust of undue privilege, especially inherited privilege, but also to his ruthlessness in cases where ruthlessness was necessary to any grand plan. An especially distasteful example of the latter was his misuse of power to have his first wife, Ida Dalser, confined to a clinic for the insane. So far as can be ascertained from confused reports, Mussolini had committed bigamy by marrying Rachele Guidi in 1915 while still married to Ida Dalser. This was certainly Ida’s claim. Bräuninger states that “obviously falsified documents were used” to ensure that Ida would be certified insane (p. 153). Here again, one wishes that the writer had backed up his statements with references to reliable sources, or even any sources whatsoever. Dalser died in 1937 in the clinic to which she had been confined. Such behavior is not solely a prerogative of “totalitarian” regimes, however. One only has to think of the case of Rosemary Kennedy, John Kennedy’s sister, who was given a lobotomy because, with her merely average intelligence and teenage moodiness, she spoilt the all-American family image of toothy smiles and bright buttons which the Kennedy clan sought to project to the public. Be it under Fascism, National Socialism, Bolshevism, or democracy, the chicanery, charlatanism, and incompetence of physicians mostly goes unpunished, even when the bosses of those doubtful physicians and the system they faithfully serve have been given the coup de grace.

Fascism was enormously popular with the great majority of Italians until the fatal consequences of the Patto d’Acciaio (Pact of Steel) – Mussolini’s own term for the fateful alliance of Fascist Italy with National Socialist Germany that was signed in 1939 – became apparent. Article 3 of this document obliges the signatory power to come to the immediate assistance of the other in the case of war. It was in fulfillment of this treaty obligation that, on June 10, 1940, Mussolini declared war on France and Britain. Bräuninger notes:

In contrast to 1915, there was no enthusiasm for the war among the Italian people. They saw no casus belli which could commit them wholeheartedly to the war. In Genoa and Turin, the crowd is said to have listened to Mussolini’s voice in silence, without enthusiasm or applause. In Milan, people wept. This was really the beginning of his decline, and he came across in his speech as inauthentic, not at all like the self-assured revolutionary that especially in those days one would have expected to see. (p. 251)

Bräuninger notes that Mussolini failed to inform the Fascist Grand Council – the body which stripped him of office three years later by majority vote – in advance of his decision to declare war. Bräuninger is given to occasional humorous understatements, as in this comment on Italy’s declaration of war (a source for Sündermann’s comment is not given):

Finally, the declaration of war was submitted to the British and French ambassadors with Italian pathos, after which nothing much happened for a while. Hitler would certainly have preferred a lightning occupation of Malta, Helmut Sündermann, the Reich Press Officer, later recalled. (p. 252)

A source is, however, given for the quotation on the same page attributed to the French ambassador, André Francois-Poncet, who wrote in his memoirs that Italy had “thrust the dagger into a country that lay prostrate . . . In your place I would not be very proud.” Indeed. So far as Mussolini’s war efforts are concerned, setting aside individual acts of heroism, the balance is dire. Whatever way one looks at it, attacking spear-wielding tribesmen by dropping canisters of poison gas onto them from the air does not exactly smack of the heroic warrior spirit evoked in Mussolini’s speeches. It struck people then – and still does – as offensive and cowardly, although in fairness it should be said that these attacks were at least in part a response to the torturing to death of captured Italian soldiers. The attack on France in 1940 failed to achieve even the modest goal of capturing Nice, even though France had already been brought to its knees by the Germans. Finally, there was the attack on Albania and Greece (begun even before Italy’s own ultimatum had elapsed) in 1941. The attack on Greece, like the later German attack on Russia, succeeded in uniting the invaded nation behind its ruler. Greek resistance was phenomenal. Although its intent was to occupy Athens within weeks, in the face of fierce resistance, the Italian army was instead soon in headlong retreat. Mussolini’s presumptuous attacks on Albania and Greece forced Hitler to intervene, delaying Operation Barbarossa by a crucial month, while the Greek diversion gave the British forces desperately-needed breathing space in Egypt. Mussolini’s blunder, explicable only in terms of a blinding hubris, arguably cost the Axis the war. Hitler and his victorious opponents seem to have agreed on at least one thing: Italy’s alliance with Germany proved to be a poisoned chalice for the Reich.

This more personal than political, and still less theoretical, biography presents the portrait of a thoroughly Nietzschean man: fearless and dedicated, but relentless and deceptive, too. The deepest questions about Fascism, the paradox of a movement which Mussolini believed to be universal, are left entirely unanswered, but I was reminded of them again while reading this book. Here are some. If life is an eternal struggle, are declarations of peaceful intent always a Machiavellian deception? Is the individual only of value in relation to his or her role in the state? Is race firstly a biological fact, as the National Socialists believed, or part biological and part spiritual, as Fascism upheld? Did a man like Mussolini believe in God or not? This is an important point when considering his religious policies. Is Providence, as Hitler seemed to believe, another name for God? Is race more important than the nation, or nation more so than race, or Empire more important than either (this latter seems to have been Mussolini’s position)? How can we judge this man?

Matthew 7:20 tells us, “By their fruits shall ye know them,” and we might consider Mussolini’s deceptions and failures as evidence of bitter fruit. But if we look at the achievements of the Fascist state, the delirious popularity which far exceeds anything a contemporary “democratic” leader could dream of, the conscious dedication to the politics of beauty in Mussolini – these might cause us to wonder, to pursue the Biblical analogy, whether the tree had not been felled before its fruit had ripened. One thing is certain, however: Whatever else he was, il Duce was not a mediocrity; he was a full-blooded real man, warts and all, and he will be remembered long after the political pygmies and lobbyists of our time have sunk back into the obscurity which is their rightful place. They are infertile and bear no fruits at all, neither bitter nor sweet, yet for as long as men draw breath, men will still debate and wonder at and about il Duce, Benito Mussolini.