Foot on Mussolini
By Gwydion M. Williams
From the foundation of Italian Fascism in November 1921, and down to Mussolini declaring war on Britain and France in June 1940, the British Establishment had been friendly to Italian Fascism.
And not entirely hostile to German Nazism: but that’s a separate topic.
For that matter, if you can call Baathism fascist and Franco fascist, then the Polish government for which Britain went to war in 1939 was also fascist. Pilsudski, after doing heroic work establishing a democratic Polish Republic, tried retiring from politics in 1923. In 1926 he launched a coup and ruled as a fairly popular dictator until his death in 1935. There were elections, but no one at the time counted it as a regular Parliamentary Democracy.
Note also that Britain and the USA were friendly to Iraq’s Baath regime while the Cold War was on. They saved Saddam Hussein in 1987, after his war against Iran looked likely to end in defeat.
The USA had a military alliance with Franco’s Spain. They helped to keep it as a right-wing dictatorship until Franco’s death. Arguably it was not fascist: ideological fascists were dumped after Hitler lost the war.
A similar right-wing militarist and authoritarian regime in Portugal was not just supported, but was a member of NATO. And was permitted to keep its colonial empire in Africa until a left-wing coup in 1974 established a conventional Western democracy.
For Italian Fascism, I thought it worth putting back into circulation the best portions of a work by Michael Foot, who was leader of the Labour Party from 1980 to 1983. As a young journalist during the Second World War, he wrote a pamphlet or short book called The Trial Of Mussolini. Mussolini at that time was prisoner, having been technically deposed by the Grand Council of Fascism, and then dismissed and arrested by the Italian King.
Mussolini was later rescued, and became a puppet ruler of an unusually brutal regime backed by the German Army. When this collapsed, he tried to escape, but was caught and killed by his Italian enemies.
Had Mussolini survived, he would probably not have been given a War Crimes trial. Almost all Italians escaped such judgements, though some were executed by the Italians themselves.
It is a sad fact that the supposedly impartial processes of International Law have only ever been applied to the defeated. The bulk of Mussolini’s regime switched over to the Allies before the end of the war, so almost all of the guilty escaped.
In any case, the main point of Foot’s pamphlet was to expose the Tory Party. Which it does very nicely.
Surprisingly, this work has never been republished, apart from a recent e-book version which I discovered only after getting a print version. But I found in it an excellent summary of Tory and British Establishment closeness to the world’s very first fascist regime.
Why on earth has the left allowed this to be forgotten?
It’s a sad fact that most of the Hard Left spends the bulk of its time detailing how terrible other left-wingers are. Moving in circles that automatically hate Tories, they forget the need to prove to the public that Tories have committed far worse crimes. And committed them for much worse reasons than anyone on the left.
Foot’s method for his imagined trial is to take published statements by various notable Tories and image them being summoned to repeat these things at a tribunal.
“In the case of Mussolini it is clear that an unforeseen accident might at any moment deprive him of the chance of vindicating himself before a public tribunal. This volume has, therefore, been compiled with the purpose of ensuring that justice is done. All the essential statements attributed in its pages to the various witnesses are genuine, and may be corroborated from the newspaper cuttings at the time. None of the chief characters are fictitious. Some even, have been raised from the dead to participate in the proceedings and to ensure that no relevant evidence is omitted.” (Introduction)
Mussolini is charged in much the same terms that various notable Germans, not all Nazis, were to be later charged at Nuremberg:
“Benito Mussolini, you stand indicted and charged before this special Court as a prime enemy of the human race and a chief criminal responsible for the greatest war in history. The particulars of offence alleged in the indictment are that you did ruthlessly and brutally establish yourself in power as the Fascist dictator of Italy by the suppression of parliament, the bludgeoning of your opponents and the banishment of all free institutions within Italian domains; that you did persistently and increasingly defy all international obligations undertaken by yourself; that in defiance of these obligations you did treacherously make war on Abyssinia in 1935; that in defiance of these obligations again you did make war in Spain during the years 1936, 1937, 1938 and 1939; that you did treacherously make an alliance with Nazi Germany in 1936 and that you did thenceforward do all in your power to assist her in her ambitions against the free world; that you did treacherously stab France in the back in 1940; that you did treacherously make war on Greece, Britain and Russia with all of whom you had signed treaties of non-aggression; in short, that you devoted your life and energies and all the resources of the Italian state which you were able to muster to spreading havoc, ruin and the most bloodthirsty war among your fellow men.
“Benito Mussolini, how say you, do you plead guilty or not guilty to the crimes alleged in the indictment.
“Benito Mussolini: NOT GUILTY.” (Page 5-6)
We then get more details:
“The first charges the Prisoner with having ruthlessly and brutally established himself as the Fascist dictator of Italy. I do not imagine that the Prisoner or his Counsel will dare to deny it. Benito Mussolini was summoned to Rome to become Prime Minister in October, 1922. It may be held that he was constitutionally appointed and that several non-Fascists were included in his first Cabinet. It is also true that he denied any wish to ‘govern against Parliament.’ However, these and similar phrases which he employed for obvious purposes were quickly proved meaningless. He warned Parliament at the temporary character of its authority. He set up a rival organisation called the Fascist Grand Council, which was invented with the real power in so far as anyone possessed power apart from himself. I may perhaps remind Gentlemen of the Jury that it was this body whose adverse vote was the immediate cause of the downfall of the Prisoner in July, 1943. Between the institution of the Council and the downfall of the Prisoner there is, so far as I am aware, no recorded instance of this body having acted as anything other than a rubber-stamp for the whims of the dictator. Until that fateful July day in 1943 the outside world was not aware of the fact that the proceedings of this Council included the democratic superfluities of debate and vote. Surely little further illustration of the dictatorial power of the Prisoner throughout those years is required.” (Page 6).
Note that this is very different from Leninist regimes. There, the leader mostly has to debate with an inner core of a Central Committee elected at a Party Congress. They can theoretically be removed by a hostile vote, as Khrushchev actually was removed in October 1964. And frequently they are forced to compromise.
Right-wing leaders tend to be personal dictatorships – as indeed was most political authority before modern times. Hereditary monarchs are usually put in a different category from dictators, but really there is no logic to it.
In Italy, the King remained a theoretical superior, but actually with much less power. Only after Mussolini had visibly failed was it possible to remove him.
Historically, such arrangements are not unusual. In Japan, it was common for the Emperor to be Sacred Ruler and the Shogun to have actual power. France in early mediaeval times had a similar system: the Merovingian dynasty became powerless and the Mayor of the Palace had real power. But in this case, the Catholic Church used its authority to depose the Merovingian and allow the Carolingians to call themselves Kings.
In Italy, the King who had appointed Mussolini and then eventually deposed him tried abdicating, to save the monarchy for his son. But a referendum in 1946 established a Republic. No one was forgiving of the royal role in creating Mussolini’s dictatorship. Or rather, they might have forgiven the dictatorship had it not led to a needless war and the occupation of their country.
But as early as 1924, Mussolini was clearly not an ordinary politician:
“However, to clinch this first part of the argument I will quote a few further facts. The Jury may be surprised to learn that elections were held in Italy in the year 1924. This may appear at first sight a denial of my thesis. Yet any doubts to which this fact may give rise are groundless. The Prisoner had already taken the precaution before the election of forcing through a new Electoral Law which prescribed that the party gaining the majority of votes at the polls should hold at least two-thirds of the seats in the new Chamber. This was, of course, a simple device for ensuring that all minority opinion would be trampled down by the Fascist hordes. And, of course, the Prisoner did not rely on this measure alone. The elections were the most violent and disorderly in modem Italy. Trained thugs and hooligans presided over the polling booths. These tactics were successful in securing a predominantly Fascist Parliament.” (Ibid.)
His rule was also consolidated by criminal violence:
“Even so, a few independent voices did survive. One was that of the Socialist leader, Matteoti. On May 30, 1924, he denounced the Government for its unconstitutional methods. The Prisoner himself undertook the reply. He suggested—if such be a proper term to describe the Prisoner’s normal and violent manner of speech—that if the few remaining minority M.P’s [sic] did not cooperate with the Government they would be crushed. Three days after delivering his speech Matteoti was foully murdered and the same fate befell many others who had dared to oppose the regime. Thus by the end of 1924 the personal dictatorship of the Prisoner was established. There was no disguise and it is therefore not necessary for me to elaborate the argument. I will merely conclude this part of the indictment with a few statements quoted from the Prisoner himself which will be passed to the Jury as exhibits. ‘I assume alone’ said the Prisoner on August 24, 1924, ‘the political, moral and historical responsibility for all that has happened.’ By May 15, 1925, the theory had taken a yet more concrete form. ‘There must be,’ said the Prisoner on that day, ‘subordination of all to the will of the Chief.’ Gentlemen of the Jury, the Duce has arrived. I ask you to greet him. I do not imagine that at this late date he will disown the title.” (Page 6-7)
He also helped push Europe towards the World War that actually happened:
“In November, 1936, the Prisoner signed the Anti-Comintern Pact with the Nazi rulers of Germany. In March, 1938, he accepted the German conquest of Austria, which, incidentally, involved him in another treachery; the Prisoner had often sworn in years gone by that he would protect the independence of Austria with the last drop of Italian blood. In April, 1939, he invaded Albania, again in defiance of a special Non-Aggression Treaty signed with the ruler of that state and again in defiance of his several treaties with Britain not to alter the status quo in the Mediterranean.
“These, however, were inconsiderable crimes done in preparation for the greatest crime of all. The Prisoner waited until France was on her knees. He saw her down and out. He could not refrain from kicking, especially as he hoped that a few kicks would bring many spoils. Without warning and without a shred of excuse Italian troops were ordered by the Prisoner to march into France, to hold and to seize and to plunder what they could.” (Page 9)
All of this might have been avoided had Mussolini not survived his 1924 crisis:
“A mounting rage against the disappearance and murder of Matteoti spread throughout the land. The Government was shaken to its roots. The Prisoner sat more uneasily in power then than at any time before his downfall in 1943. He had to make resort to the most desperate remedies to secure his place. First he denied any complicity in the murder and then, since this excuse was not believed, he sought to implicate all others who surrounded him in the crime. He threatened to expose them for their offences against the law, which they had undertaken at his orders.
“And, of course, the Prisoner learnt from this incident. Henceforward he accepted the doctrine of Machiavelli that it is better to be feared than loved. ‘For me’ he said quite openly, ‘violence is perfectly moral, more moral than compromise and bargaining.’ ‘My regime,’ he insisted on June 22,1925, is ‘anti-parliamentary, anti-democratic, anti-liberal.’ On May 27, 1927, he declared: ‘We have erected the Corporate State. Today we solemnly bury the lie of universal democratic suffrage.’ By this date the Prisoner had certainly fulfilled the first part of his programme. ‘What is the State,?’ he had asked in 1923 and given his own answer. ‘It is the Gendarme. All your codices and doctrines and laws are worthless without him.’ From 1922 to 1927 that principle was enforced. I ask you, Gentlemen, to remember the dates.
“The violent doctrines of the Prisoner were exemplified not only in domestic affairs. He was equally ingenuous and frank in foreign dealings even at this early date. Eighteen months before obtaining power he stated that ‘Fascism does not believe in the vitality and principles which inspire the so-called Society of Nations. In it the Nations are not at all on a footing of equality. It is a kind of Holy Alliance of the plutocratic nations of the Franco-Anglo-Saxon group, to guarantee to themselves, despite the inevitable conflicts of interest, the exploitation of the greater part of the globe.’ In 1921 he gave first expression to a policy which was later to become famous. ‘It is destined,’ he said, ‘that Mediterranean should become ours, that Rome should be the directing city of civilisation in the whole of the West of Europe.’” (Page 14)
That’s the prosecution case. But Foot, who was not much concerned with the sins of the discredited Mussolini, imagines the Counsel for the Defence choosing to admit the facts, but deny that they were crimes:
“Now, Gentlemen, you may wonder why I, who am defending the Prisoner should recall these black details in his early career. I have done so with a purpose. I have recalled this record as well as my meagre talents and hasty study will permit in order that the prosecution shall not again be able to resurrect any of these topics to affect your judgment. For I hope to be able to prove to you shortly that none of these actions performed in the early part of the Prisoner’s career provide fitting subjects for your scrutiny. I will prove to you that this record is not such that it should call for your condemnation. Rather it is one which demands your praise and adulation. I wall give you the proof from the mouths of a series of eminent witnesses. I hope, my Lord, I may call them now. The first is Sir Austen Chamberlain.
“(Sir Austen Chamberlain takes the witness box.)
“Counsel: Sir Austen, what was your position in the British Government in 1924?
“Sir Austen: I was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Counsel: What was the first foreign mission which you undertook in that exalted capacity?
“Sir Austen: I paid a visit to Rome.
“Counsel! What was the date of your visit?
“Sir Austen: The date was December 6 to 12, 1924.
“Counsel: What was the purpose of your visit?
“Sir Austen: It was to establish friendly relations with the new Italian Government. But it was also a social visit. I paid two or three social calls on Mussolini at that time, accompanied by my wife.
“Counsel: Oh, yes, I seem to recall some incident connected with your wife. She was photographed, was she not?
“Sir Austen: Yes.
“Counsel: Shaking hands with Mussolini?
“Sir Austen: Yes.” (Page 15)
Austen Chamberlain was the son of Joseph Chamberlain, and older half-brother of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer (twice) and was briefly Conservative Party leader before serving as Foreign Secretary from 1924 to 1929. From 1931 he was a noted back-bencher and a supporter of re-armament. And he died in 1937, which is why Foot earlier spoke of ‘raising the dead’.
His support for Mussolini went far beyond normal politeness to a foreign government. Mussolini had been a leading socialist before 1914. He was won over by the notion of Italy joining the war on the British side. And on his journey towards Fascism, he had British help:
“In 1917 Mussolini got his start in politics with the help of a £100 weekly wage (the equivalent of £6000 as of 2009) from the British security service MI5, to keep anti-war protestors at home and to publish pro-war propaganda. This help was authorized by Sir Samuel Hoare.”
“In March 1917 [Sir Samuel Hoare] was posted to Rome, where he remained until the end of the war. His duties included helping to dissuade Italy from dropping out of the war. In Italy, he met and recruited the former socialist leader Benito Mussolini on behalf of the British overseas intelligence service, which was then known as MI1(c). Newly-published documents show that Britain’s intelligence service helped Mussolini to finance his first forays into Italian politics as a right-wing politician. Hoping to keep Italy on its side in 1917, during the First World War, British intelligence gave Mussolini, a 34-year-old editor of a right-wing newspaper, £100 a week to keep his propaganda flowing.”
You could say that was just the sort of odd alliances that happen in wars. But the Tories continued to view Mussolini as a friend when he overthrew the Parliamentary Democracy that we are repeatedly told that Britain’s rulers cherish.
Note that the British Empire was at the time the world’s only Superpower. The USA had chosen to withdraw from European entanglements and not join the League of Nations. So evidence of British backing counted for a lot. And to Italians, Mussolini and his wife photographed with the British Foreign Secretary and his wife would have been understood as clear personal ties to the strongest world power at the time:
“Counsel: And do you recall that a million and a half copies of that photograph were printed by order of Mussolini and distributed throughout Italy?
“Sir Austen: I was not responsible for Mussolini’s internal affairs
“Counsel: Of course not, Sir Austen. You said as much at the time, I believe, in an interview with the Tribuna which was also widely quoted. I have a copy here with which to jog your memory. Perhaps you will be good enough to read it to the Court.
“Sir Austen: (reading) “Signor Mussolini is a wonderful man and a formidable worker. I cannot enter into the internal policy of foreign countries, but I must say Signor Mussolini is working for the greatness of his country, and is bearing a tremendous weight upon his shoulders…
“Counsel: Thank you, Sir Austen. That is enough. I do not think we need trouble you with the special intimacies of your conversation with the Prisoner at that date. Perhaps the Court is more concerned with the political implications of your visit. I have discussed this incident with the Prisoner. He has repeated to me the statement which he made at the time to the Fascist Council when the news came through that the Labour Government of Britain had fallen in 1924 and had been succeeded by a Conservative Government. It may be remembered that Arthur Henderson, a member of that Labour Government, had rudely described the Prisoner as ‘the murderer of Matteoti.’ Hence, the Prisoner’s jubilation at his fall. Hence his rejoicing at the return of a new Government. ‘Victory’ he exclaimed to his Counsellors, ‘one sector of the international anti-Fascist front has collapsed.’ That appears to have been putting it rather high. However, you, Sir Austen, did not disappoint these hopes altogether. Certainly you had eminent support for your opinions.” (Page 16)
And it was not just politicians. Press lord Harold Harmsworth had become enormously influential through his newspaper the Daily Mail. And in 1919 he had received the title Viscount Rothermere, which is used here:
“I must call the next witness—the late Lord Rothermere.
“(Lord Rothermere takes the witness box.)…
“Rothermere: As I left Signor Mussolini’s room [in 1928] I was pleased to see, in a prominent place on a table that contains some of his most valued possessions, a photograph of Sir Austen Chamberlain, signed with a message of personal good wishes. Sir Austen Chamberlain has done a great deal during his period of office to develop the good relations that exist between the British and the Italian Governments. It should be the firm resolve of every future British Foreign Secretary to maintain and strengthen an international friendship which is so valuable to both countries.
“Counsel: Thank you, Lord Rothermere. Was that the first occasion on which you had the privilege of meeting the Prisoner?
“Rothermere: No. The first meeting between Signor Mussolini and myself took place in the summer of 1924, at a time when the murder of the Socialist Deputy, Matteoti, by a criminally extremist section of the Fascist Party, had, as Mussolini told me, ‘hampered his work.’ That was the most critical time of Mussolini’s eventful period of power. The prejudice of the whole world was against him; wrongly regarding him as responsible for a political murder which had done most deadly injury to his own regime. The calm strength and self-reliance Mussolini showed then, his set determination to cut out the evil growth that had manifested itself in the Fascist organisation of his creation, were proof unmistakable of his great force of character. He came with full success through that test laid down by Rudyard Kipling in the familiar lines:
“‘If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you.’
“Counsel: Just one moment, Lord Rothermere, before you finish the verse. Did he cut out the evil growth? There is a rumour that Amerigo Dumini, the murderer of Matteoti, lived a good deal longer than you did, that he was, in fact, found among the civilians of Derna when Wavell’s troops entered the town, in 1941. However, that is by the way. Did you find, Lord Rothermere, that your first opinion was justified by later events?
“Rothermere: As a close student of international politics I was better placed than most people to realise the immense significance of the accession of Mussolini to position and power. By snatching Italy from the very edge of the abyss of Bolshevism, he had saved the civilisation of Western Europe. In his own country he was the antidote to a deadly poison. For the rest of Europe he has been a tonic which has done to all incalculable good. I can claim with sincere satisfaction to have been the first man in a position of public influence to put Mussolini’s splendid achievement in its right light.
“Counsel: I can understand your pride. But were there not some who objected to your policies?
“Rothermere: When I heard armchair critics, who generally had made a complete failure of their own lives, denouncing Mussolini who raised the life of a whole nation to manifest success I could only marvel at the vanity and ignorance of some types of human nature. It was beyond the capacity of the Liberals and the Socialists to recognise true greatness.
“Counsel: This, then, was your final judgment. I do not recollect any retraction of your views at a later date. Would you tell this Court what you told your readers in March, 1928?
“Rothermere: He is the greatest figure of our age. Mussolini will probably dominate the history of the 20th century as Napoleon dominated that of the early 19th century. I am proud of the fact that the Daily Mail was the first newspaper m England, and in ‘the world outside Italy, to give the public a right estimate of the soundness and durability of his work. Counsel: I am most grateful for your testimony. However, I am sure that in fairness to yourself the Court, in setting the proper value on that last tribute to the greatest figure of the age, will remember the date. It was in 1928—before you had met Hitler.” (Page 16-18)
Foot was entirely right about Dumini. He had been lightly punished for the murder of Matteoti, serving only eleven months of a five-year prison sentence. He was punished more severely when he tried making demands on the Fascist leadership, and was exiled to Libya:
“He remained in the region for more than a decade and was captured by the British Army at Derna during the North African Campaign of World War II. Sentenced to death as a spy, he was hit by 17 bullets from a firing squad and still managed to remain alive, escaping to safety in Tunisia during the night.
“As Dumini returned to Italy, he was received with astonishment and offered yet another generous pension. He went into business as a transporter and bought a villa in a residential area of Florence.
“With the 1943 fall of fascism in southern Italy, he joined the German-backed Italian Social Republic. After the Allied occupation of that region, Dumini was arrested in Bologna and placed on trial for Matteoti’s murder. He was given a life sentence, but spent no more than eight years in prison and, following more than a decade in quiet retirement, died at the age of 73 at Rome as the result of a domestic accident.”
Rothermere died in 1940. He and his elder brother Viscount Northcliffe did enormous harm with their cheap populist right-wing newspaper. A paper that seems to have recently overtaken the more crudely noxious Sun as Britain’s best-selling paper.
The Daily Mail had encouraged Britain to see Germany as an intolerable threat before 1914. But was supportive of both Italian Fascism and German Nazism until they threatened British hegemony:
“Lord Rothermere was a friend of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, and directed the Mail’s editorial stance towards them in the early 1930s. Rothermere’s 1933 leader ‘Youth Triumphant’ praised the new Nazi regime’s accomplishments, and was subsequently used as propaganda by them. In it, Rothermere predicted that ‘The minor misdeeds of individual Nazis would be submerged by the immense benefits the new regime is already bestowing upon Germany’. Journalist John Simpson, in a book on journalism, suggested that Rothermere was referring to the violence against Jews and Communists rather than the detention of political prisoners.
“Rothermere and the Mail were also editorially sympathetic to Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists. Rothermere wrote an article titled ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’ published in the Daily Mail on 15 January 1934, praising Mosley for his ‘sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine’, and pointing out that: ‘Young men may join the British Union of Fascists by writing to the Headquarters, King’s Road, Chelsea, London, S.W.’
“The Spectator condemned Rothermere’s article commenting that, ‘… the Blackshirts, like the Daily Mail, appeal to people unaccustomed to thinking. The average Daily Mail reader is a potential Blackshirt ready made. When Lord Rothermere tells his clientele to go and join the Fascists some of them pretty certainly will.’
“The paper’s support ended after violence at a BUF rally in Kensington Olympia in June 1934. Mosley and many others thought Rothermere had responded to pressure from Jewish businessmen who it was believed had threatened to stop advertising in the paper if it continued to back an anti-Semitic party. The paper editorially continued to oppose the arrival of Jewish refugees escaping Germany, describing their arrival as ‘a problem to which the Daily Mail has repeatedly pointed.’”
Whereas Rothermere’s legacy flourishes, that of George Ward Price has almost vanished. But he counted at the time.
“The next Witness is Mr. G. Ward Price, Special Correspondent of Lord Rothermere’s Newspaper the Daily Mail.
“(Ward Price takes the witness box.)
“Counsel: Mr. Ward Price, I fully understand that the views you hold today on the Prisoner at the bar may differ somewhat from those which you held at earlier dates. However, I must explain that you have not been called as a witness in order to express your present views. I gather that you are still able to enlighten a wide public with your expert opinions on the Italian situation through the columns of the Daily Mail. That is your affair and theirs. The business of this Court is different. I wish the Court to be informed of the views which you held before the Prisoner became involved in this war. I will ask you to cast your mind back to those earlier days and in order that no injustice may be done you my questions will be framed in such a manner that you need not depart at all from the statements which have already appeared in print under your signature. Your evidence is essential, for you knew these Dictators and it was in your writings that the international significance of Fascism was most appreciated. Let us imagine, therefore, that this is the year 1924, the year of Matteoti’s death. How does Fascism appear to you at that date? Is it true that Fascism has but small support?
“Ward Price: Behind Mussolini stands all that is best in Italy. His supporters include the leaders of the Italian manufacturing industries which are now progressing with greater strides than any in Europe. Fascist Government in Italy arises from the game natural instinct of self-preservation as exists in England none the less strongly for as yet being hidden.
“Counsel: You think so highly of Mussolini’s regime at that time that it has a lesson for us?
“Ward Price: For those Britons who realise the dangerous condition into which their country’s affairs are drifting, Italy stands out today as an example and encouragement. From 1920 to 1922 her condition was so desperate that to us it would have meant disaster beyond repair. Yet none who knows both countries can deny that the economic position of Italy is now far better than our own, her national prospects brighter, her people of all classes happier and more contented.
“Counsel: And what is your opinion at that time of Mussolini himself?
“Ward Price: Not in our time only, but down through history Mussolini will remain an inspiration to all who prize freedom and love their native lands.
“Counsel: Let us move forward to 1926. Do you still hold to your opinion in that year?
“Ward Price: Fascism has raised the Italian nation to a degree of order, prosperity and self-confidence equalled in no other European country. After four years’ trial its rule is more popular with Italians than any executive has been since they became a nation.
“Counsel: Move forward again to 1932. What now is your judgment in 1932?
“Ward Price: The greatest evolution of the last decade of world history has been the regeneration of the national genius of Italy.
“Counsel: Can you think of some historical parallel by which we may estimate the immensity of this achievement?
“Ward Price: When he formed the first Fascio at Milan in 1919, Mussolini started as far-reaching a revolution in the world’s political development as Luther brought about in its religious structure when he nailed his ” 95 Theses ” to the door of the Church in Wittenberg 402 years before.
“Counsel: What do you think at this time in 1932 are the qualities which have enabled him to do this?
“Ward Price: Principal among them are courage and objectivity.
“Counsel: Any others?
“Ward Price: It is the secret of his success that he had imparted his faith-to his fellow countrymen Ignorant and prejudiced people talk of Italian affairs as if that nation were subject to some tyranny which it would willingly throw off.
“Counsel: How then do you explain the criticism of his regime?
“Ward Price: With that rather morbid commiseration for fanatical minorities which is the rule with certain imperfectly informed sections of British public opinion, this country long shut its eyes to the magnificent work that the Fascist regime was doing I have several times heard Mussolini himself express his gratitude to the Daily Mail as having been the first British newspaper to put his aims fairly before the World.
“Counsel: Your views seem strangely to confirm those put; forward by Lord Rothermere. Why was he and why were you so eager to spread the news of this new doctrine? Or, in other words, what was your final judgement at that time in 1932 on the new phenomenon?
“Ward Price: I asked myself this question: Will this prove to be the century of Universal Fascism, as Mussolini declared—in the same way as the last century was the age of that democracy which is now becoming so universally discredited? The possibility of the fulfilment of his prophecy was never greater since the Duce formed his first Fascio in the heart of a nation tom by civil conflict, and so laid the foundations of all those rapid and extensive reforms and improvements upon which the Fascist regime today, amid the resuscitated glories of Ancient Rome, looks back with lawful pride.
“Counsel: Mr. Price, it would be indelicate and irrelevant for me to ask whether these views of yours ever changed. However, I see that you wrote a book on this subject, the latest edition of which was published in August, 1938. Would you read to the Court the estimate of the character of the prisoner which appears on page 220, an estimate which you state you had no reason to alter during a fourteen years’ acquaintance with the Prisoner.
“Ward Price: ‘He is an Elizabethan. Allowing for altered conditions, he stands to modem Italy as Raleigh and Drake did to England in Queen Elizabeth’s day. He incarnates the new spirit which has possessed his nation, and between the Italy of the early 20th century and the England of the early 17th there is much spiritual resemblance—the same internal national pride, the same unbounded optimism, the same fierce sense of opening opportunity, the same quick, sensitive temper, the same tendency to recklessness, the same full-blooded heat of a nation that feels its youth and strength.’
“Counsel: We must all be grateful to Mr. Ward Price for his first-hand recollections. I am sure we will now read his articles with greater attention and scrutiny. But I must still ask the patience of the Court to call a few more witnesses.” (Page 18-21)
Ward Price is almost forgotten. The legacy of Emil Ludwig has fared better: several of his books have been reprinted in the 21st century.
That he was a Jewish enthusiast for Mussolini might seem odd, particularly since he emphasised his Jewishness:
“Emil Ludwig (originally named Emil Cohn) was born in Breslau, now part of Poland. Born into a Jewish family, he was raised as a non-Jew but was not baptized. ‘Many persons have become Jews since Hitler,’ he said. ‘I have been a Jew since the murder of Walther Rathenau, from which date I have emphasized that I am a Jew.’”
Rathenau was a German industrialist, writer and liberal politician, assassinated by right-wingers in 1922.
But until the mid-1930s, Mussolini’s Italy was not been anti-Jewish. There were some Jews among the leaders. So it is not so odd for Ludwig to be admiring him:
“I call Mr. Emil Ludwig, the eminent historian.
“(Emil Ludwig takes the witness box.)
“Counsel: Mr. Ludwig, when did you pay your first visit to the Prisoner?
“Ludwig: In the Spring of 1929. Subsequently I had other interviews with him.
“Counsel: Had you any preconceived views about his regime before you saw him?
“Ludwig: It was certainly with mixed feelings that I paid my first visit. My friends and I were first attracted by the social features of Mussolini’s revolution. I mean that part of his programme which established an organisation for the protection of the working classes. But of course we were opposed to the policy of shackling the Press and prohibiting the free expression of opinion. When I first came to visit him I certainly felt more against him than for him.
“Counsel: Did you retain these views? What was your first impression?
“Ludwig: The mental picture of Mussolini which is generally formed by the outside public is by no means true to life. As one enters the marvellous hall on which the master craftsmen of four centuries have lavished their artistic genius it appears at first to be quite empty. Soon a man stands up from a desk at the far end, about twenty yards distant, and approaches the centre of the hall to greet the visitor. He is rather small and of stocky build. At first one is rather surprised to notice the delicate and almost feminine hands. But that feeling changes the moment he grasps the hand of the guest. It is a manly and firm shake. The deep black eyes and the large domed forehead are in striking contrast. And here you have an illustration of the basic contradiction that underlies Mussolini’s whole nature. Like every man of creative genius, he is a combination of masculine and feminine qualities, the Act and the Dream…
“Counsel: Did he give you examples of the constructive work?
“Ludwig: Anyone who had lived in Italy for several years, as I did, and who then went through the country again could not fail to be struck by the improvements which were everywhere visible.
“Counsel; Did he speak to you about his foreign policy?
“Ludwig: Yes. I asked him why he had made such bellicose speeches in the Spring of 1930. And this was his reply: ‘We had been irritated and I had to convince myself how far the nation would follow me in case of an emergency. When I had ascertained that it would follow me to a man in case of necessity I delivered a speech over the radio which gave assurances of peace; in the opening of 1931. And here again I was convinced that the feeling of the nation was with me. I have never urged people into war. All constructive men need peace.’
“Counsel: And did he convince your historical judgment?
“Ludwig: I considered Mussolini as a guarantee of peace in Europe. He appealed to me as a constructive statesman, desiring to lift his people to a higher standard of living and give them a more forward place among the nations. Moreover, when I saw him he was becoming gradually less violent, less volcanic and less extreme. And he was correspondingly more pensive, slower to come to conclusions and far more careful about taking drastic decisions. He was essentially a constructive realist. In spite , of all the opposition I feel towards his system of government, I believe that in his youth Mussolini was not a mere revolutionary. He yearned, I think, for the establishment of a definitely new order of things. And if he sought power it was not for its own sake but rather that he might help in building up this new order after which he yearned.” (Page 21-23)
Winston Churchill was as guilty as the other Tories over Mussolini. But he had from very early on been hostile to Hitler. In 1943 he was an essential wartime leader, so Foot deals mildly with him:
“Counsel: Thank you, Mr. Ludwig. Your evidence has been especially valuable. It has put the argument in its full historical perspective. However, you may claim and perhaps the other witnesses may claim that your views were upheld by a more eminent figure, whom I do not propose to put into the witness box, but whose testimony is certainly valuable. I will now read to the Court the speech delivered by Mr. Winston Churchill when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer under Mr. Baldwin. The speech was made to the Italian and Foreign Press in Rome on January 20, 1927. After it has been read it will be placed at the disposal of the Jury alongside the other exhibits provided by the Attorney-General “ I could not help being charmed,” said Mr. Churchill, “ like so many other people have been, by Signor Mussolini’s gentle and simple bearing and by his calm, detached poise in spite of so many burdens and dangers. Secondly, anyone could see that he thought of nothing but the lasting good, as he understood it, of the Italian people, and that no lesser interest was of the slightest consequence to him. If I had been an Italian I am sure that I should have been whole-heartedly with you from the start to finish in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism. I will, however, say a word on an international aspect of Fascism. Externally your movement has rendered a service to the whole world. The great fear which has always beset every democratic leader or a working class leader has been that of being undermined or overbid by someone more extreme than he. Italy has shown that there is a way of fighting the subversive forces which can rally the masses of the people, properly led, to value and wish to defend the honour and stability of civilised society. She has provided the necessary antidote to the Russian poison. Hereafter no great nation will be unprovided with an ultimate means of protection against the cancerous growth of Bolshevism.’” (Page 23)
Churchill remains a British hero. Neville Chamberlain is now universally condemned for weakness in the face of Hitler. But he had also not been hostile to Fascism as such:
“Gentlemen, on this part on the indictment I will call but one further witness. I must then ask you to allow me to develop my argument on the basis of the evidence which you and I have heard. I began with one Chamberlain. It is perhaps fitting I should conclude with another. Mr. Neville Chamberlain will take the Witness Box now but I must reserve the right to recall him later if the Attorney-General wishes the trial to continue.
“(Mr. Neville Chamberlain takes the Witness Box.)
“Counsel: In April, 1938 you signed an Agreement with Italy. It dealt with a question of foreign affairs and we may have to discuss them at greater length later. However, at the conclusion your speech you chose to pass your judgment on the domestic affairs of Italy. I would be grateful if you would quote that reference m full as it appeared in Hansard for the instruction of the Court.
“Mr. Chamberlain: ‘In former days we had a close friendship with the old Italy, the Italy which with our warm approval and sympathy, won her independence and her unity under Cavour and Mazzini and Garibaldi—(Hon. Members: and Matteoti.)—Today there is a new Italy, an Italy which, under the stimulus of the personality of Signor Mussolini, is showing a new vigour, in which there is apparent new vision and new efficiency in administration—(Mr. A. V. Alexander: ‘And new horrors’)—and in the measures which they are taking to improve the conditions of the people. With the laying aside of temporary differences which this Agreement has brought about, I believe that we may look forward to a friendship with the new Italy—(Mr. Alexander: ‘Never’)—as firmly based as that by which we were bound to the old.’
“Counsel: Gentlemen of the Jury, you have listened with great patience to a sequence of witnesses. I am sure you will not complain about their eminence and variety. You have listened to a Conservative Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, a well- known newspaper proprietor whose chief newspaper had at that time the widest circulation of any daily journal in Britain, a well-known journalist who had received exceptional opportunities for travel and acquaintance with international affairs, a well- known and perhaps the most well-known of modern historians, a Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer who has since become Prime Minister of Britain and leader of the Conservative Party, and finally another Prime Minister and Conservative Leader whose evidence was supplied at the time when he held both those high offices.
“I asked you earlier, Gentlemen, to remember certain dates: the date of Matteoti’s murder; the date of the Prisoner’s first intervention in foreign affairs at Corfu; the dates of the violent words and actions which marked the early career of the Prisoner, which were noted by the Attorney-General and elaborated by myself. I ask you to recall those dates again, and I ask you to consider that all the opinions expressed by the witnesses on the character of the Prisoner and the nature of the regime which he had established were expressed subsequent to those dates. The personal good wishes of Sir Austen Chamberlain were sent to the Prisoner after the death of Matteoti and after the suppression of the Italian Parliament. The tributes of Lord Rothermere, the prophecies of Mr. Ward Price, the historical assessment of Mr. Emil Ludwig, the glowing praise of Mr. Winston Churchill for the personal charm of the Prisoner and his valiant work in saving civilised society, the final word of Mr. Neville Chamberlain were all spoken after and in some cases long after the Prisoner had committed the crime, if crime it be, alleged by the Attorney-General, of having ruthlessly and brutally established himself in power as the Fascist dictator of Italy by the suppression of Parliament, the bludgeoning of opponents and the banishment of all free institutions within Italian domains.” (Page 23-25)
“Now, Gentlemen, I think you will agree that this extraordinary evidence puts a totally new aspect on the whole trial. For on the basis of this evidence I will make three contentions, which I do not feel the Attorney-General will choose to debate.
“First, these witnesses prove that a great section of Conservative opinion on Britain not merely approved but applauded the regime which the Prisoner had established in Italy. Crimes may have been committed in the process of establishing it (although the witnesses make hardly any reference to them) but in the opinion of the witnesses and the opinion which they represented the establishment of a Fascist dictatorship in Italy was an achievement on which the Prisoner should be congratulated rather than condemned. In their consideration the murder of Matteoti, the suppression of Parliament, the attack on Corfu—to mention no further items—were not matters sufficiently grave to affect their final judgment. The good which the Prisoner did, according to their criteria of what is good, far outweighed these trifles.
“That is my first contention. However, the witnesses were not content to applaud the achievements of the Prisoner. They actually assisted him in his task. The visit of Sir Austen Chamberlain to Italy so soon after the murder of Matteoti and when indeed, as I have revealed, the regime was in the midst of a crisis on account of this event and when the whole fortune of the Prisoner was in the balance, must surely have acted as a powerful support for his regime. He was able to claim, and he and his newspapers did claim, that whatever failures there had been in domestic affairs, the new regime was winning victories and prestige in the sphere of foreign politics…
“I now reach my third contention. It is clear that the question of whether the Prisoner can be held guilty of the first count in the indictment is not a question of fact or of law. It is a matter of politics and a matter on which the most varying opinions have been held and may still be held. Mr. Arthur Henderson and the Labour Party may have regarded the Prisoner at that time as the murderer of Matteoti, the champion of a despicable creed and a potential disturber of the peace. A great body of Conservative opinion took a quite contrary view, and indeed as you have heard some of them even desired that his regime should be taken as a model for this country. Has this Court been assembled here to pronounce on the forgotten views of the political parties? Should we not have examined the Jury to determine their political opinions and their political past? Have they the right now to condemn a. Fascist dictator whom, possibly, as followers and admirers of Sir Austen Chamberlain or registered readers of the Daily Mail they were applauding and assisting twenty years ago?” (Page 25-26)
“There was hardly any year in which the Prisoner omitted to give this warning of his intentions to the world. ‘Within ten years,’ he said, in 1932, ‘Europe will be modified, and will be Fascist or Fascised. The antithesis by which contemporary culture is enchained can only be overcome in one way, by the doctrine and wisdom of Rome.’ Again, in 1934: ‘War is to a man as maternity is to a woman. I do not believe in perpetual peace.’ And lest anyone should think that these were merely the phrases of the platform, let me quote from the famous article written by the Prisoner for the Encyclopedia Italiana. ‘Above all,’ he says, ‘Fascism believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace. It thus repudiates pacifism born of a renunciation of the struggle and an act of cowardice in the face of sacrifice. War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the people who have the courage to meet it.’
“From these quotations it appears that the Prisoner did not disguise his aims. Where then is the deception or the treachery? Of course, the prosecution may quite legitimately claim that they can produce an equally abundant array of pacific professions from the mouth of the Prisoner. I am sure they can. But even if they were to do so, would their case really be advanced?…
“Treachery, as I have said, implies treachery to something. In this case, according to the indictment, it implies treachery to a standard of international morality. It is the breach of so many international obligations which deeply shocks the Attorney-General. I wonder where he and the Crown which instructed him gained this austere view of international ethics. It would be interesting and also highly relevant to this case to know. Unless he can establish some body of international law to which the vast majority of politicians subscribe and against which the Prisoner has offended, I do not see how he can call upon this Court to pronounce a sentence.” (Page 30-31)
Foot through the fictional Defence Counsel then attacks the notion that International Law was taken seriously by leading Tory politicians. He imagines calling John Allsebrook Simon, 1st Viscount Simon:
“(Lord Simon takes the witness box.)
“Counsel: Lord Simon, at what date did you become Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs?
“Simon: In 1932…
“Counsel: What was your first association as Foreign Secretary with the Prisoner?
“Simon: It concerned the Four Power Pact.
“Counsel: What was the date?
“Simon: The Four Power Pact was signed in Rome in March, 1933, by England, France, Germany and Italy.
“Counsel: What were the purposes of the pact?
“Simon: The Four Powers were to declare, first their intention to coordinate their European policy; next, their readiness to consider a revision of the Peace Settlement; and next, desire to ‘integrate their policy in the Colonial sphere.’
“Counsel: Did you succeed in coordinating your European policy?
“Simon: The Pact never came into operation. France refused to ratify it.
“Counsel: It seems to me, Lord Simon, that you do yourself much less than justice. Was not this the start of the policy which was so happily revived at Munich in 1938? Surely it was. However, if the Court will allow I would like to intervene at this moment with one or two observations. A month or two before this Pact was signed the Prisoner had been engaged in an attack on the whole Geneva system. ‘The system of conferences is finished,’ he said, in denouncing ‘the eternal fiction or conventional lie by which incense must be burnt to democratic equalitarianism, which does not exist in nature and never existed in history.’
“It was in this mood that he put forward the project of a Four Power Pact and the speed with which you, Lord Simon, and the Prime Minister, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, accepted the invitation and went to Rome must have represented for him a considerable triumph. For the Prisoner the Four Power Pact system had obvious advantages. It excluded Russia from the Councils of Europe. It was deeply resented by the smaller Powers in Eastern and Balkan Europe. It marked a noticeable blow to French prestige particularly in Poland who now first began her policy of orientating her view towards that of Germany. Indeed, some of the smaller Powers almost regarded the Four Power Pact as a breach of British obligations towards the League. That was no doubt putting it too highly, especially as the plan fell through. In any case I hope you will excuse the digression. I only wish to establish the point that at this time the Prisoner had a clear and pronounced policy which was so little disguised that Dr. Benes described it at that time in the Parliament of Prague. It was a policy, he said, to secure (1) a special status for the Great Powers, especially against the lesser states of Central and South-Eastern Europe, (2) a new balance of power aimed at the weakening of France and her friends, (3) Treaty revision on such lines as would weaken the Little Entente and Poland, and (4) Colonial concessions to Italy…
“Counsel: And is it also not a fact that a few weeks before Stresa you had discussed a naval treaty with Hitler in Berlin and that a few weeks after Stresa your .successor, Sir Samuel Hoare, signed an Anglo-German Naval Treaty which could only be construed as a direct and unilateral breach of Part V of the Treaty of Versailles. Was not the Pact in fact so condemned by France, Russia and several other countries since it allowed Germany to build a fleet almost as large as France’s and one which could almost certainly command the Baltic?
“Simon: Sir Samuel Hoare is well able to answer for himself. Counsel: And the same applies, I suppose, to the First Lord of the Admiralty at that time?
“Simon: Certainly.” (Page 32-34)
Next comes Sir Samuel Hoare. He had become notorious over the Hoare–Laval Pact with French Prime Minister Pierre Laval. This partially recognised the Italian conquest of Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia), but caused an outcry even in right-wing circles. The King was supposed to have remarked “no more coals to Newcastle, no more Hoares to Paris.”
He was removed from office when the Labour Party joined the wartime coalition, being blamed for earlier policies of appeasement. He was British ambassador to Spain from 1940 to 1944, and arguably did good work ensuring that Spain remained neutral.
Pierre Laval, his partner in the Pact, collaborated with the Nazi occupation. This included the deportation of Jews, most of whom were murdered. Also shipping French labourers to the German war effort. The French executed him in October 1945.
“I would like to call Sir Samuel Hoare.
(Sir Samuel takes the witness box.)
“Counsel: What was your first association with the Prisoner?
“Hoare: My first association was in 1915, when I went to Italy on a special mission . . .
“Counsel: An old acquaintance I We will not trouble you, Sir Samuel, with the details. It might cause embarrassment for and arouse prejudice against my client. I was referring to your first association with the Prisoner in connection with the crimes alleged against him in the indictment. I do not expect any detailed recital. There are, however, a few points concerning the Abyssinian affair.
“Hoare: I became Foreign Secretary in 1935 and on July 11, some time after the Abyssinian dispute had already come before the League, I made my view clear. I made it clear that we had always understood and well understood Italy’s desire for overseas expansion. Indeed, we had in the past done our best to show our sympathy with Italian aspirations in a practical way. In 1925, we ceded Jubaland to Italy and in the negotiations at that time we showed our willingness to endeavour to ensure for Italy some territorial satisfaction by a reasonable and legitimate arrangement with Abyssinia.” (Page 35-6)
Jubaland was an ethnic Somali territory, and was added to Italian Somaliland. It lies in the south of Somali territory: Britain remained British Somaliland in the north. And with the central government of once-unified Somaliland broken down, both now have their own administrations.
Foot shows that Tory policy was consistent:
“I will now call Mr. Duff Cooper.
“(Mr. Duff Cooper takes the witness box.)
“Counsel: Mr. Duff Cooper, I would like you to take up a few points of evidence just about the period where Mr. Amery left off. What was your view of the correct policy towards Italy after the sanctions period, say, about 1937?
“Duff Cooper: I was in favour of letting bygones be bygones and seeking to restore with Italy those happy relations which so long existed between that country and ourselves.
“Counsel: Were you hopeful that this policy would prove successful?
“Duff Cooper: I felt that between Italy and England there could never be any serious misunderstanding. Our friendship with Italy was very ancient despite the little opposition put up to Julius Caesar when he first landed.
“Counsel: And were your hopes still good even after you had resigned from the Government objecting to its policy towards Germany? You wrote an article on Italy on November 2,1938? Would you quote to us the relevant passages from that?
“Duff Cooper: “ It is not the dictator countries but the aggressor countries that are a menace to world peace. Sometimes the two coincide, but not always, and the post-war history of Italy provides an interesting case in point. From the March on Rome until the invasion of Abyssinia—a period of thirteen years – no cloud troubled the blue sky of Anglo-American relations, and during the whole of that period the .influence of Signor Mussolini in the councils of Europe was definitely on the side of peace. Concerning the Abyssinian episode the less said now the better… There seems to be no reason why the interests of Great Britain and those of Italy should ever clash. Italy has urged need of peace to consolidate her Empire. Her European frontiers are satisfactory, she has scope for colonisation in Africa, and her highly civilised population abominates war.” (Page 48-49)
The final witness is George Lloyd, 1st Baron Lloyd. Another interesting character:
“He was suspicious of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement, which he saw as a threat to Britain. He was agitating for rearmament against Germany as early as 1930, before Churchill did. From July 1937 onward, Lloyd was the president of the British Council, a purportedly independent group meant to engage in cultural propaganda promoting the British way of life to the rest of the world that was in fact under the control of the Foreign Office. As head of the British Council, Lloyd ran his own private intelligence network , employing as one his spies, the journalist Ian Colvin, who served as the Berlin correspondent of The News Chronicle. Unusually, Lloyd enjoyed a privileged access to the secret reports of MI6, the British intelligence service.”
He was serving in Churchill’s government as Leader of the House of Lords when he died in 1941, aged only 61.
Like Churchill, he had been keen to win over Mussolini against Hitler, or at least keep him neutral. Mussolini was neutral until the Fall of France convinced him that Hitler was a certain winner. And of course Spain was kept neutral, as was right-wing and authoritarian Portugal.
Tories in the 1930s were only very reluctantly enemies of Nazi Germany. They were never anti-Fascist. The pretence of anti-Fascism only happened because they failed to hold on to their old ally Mussolini, a man whose career British right-wingers had supported at critical moments:
“Lloyd: I wrote a pamphlet which contained some references to Italy.
“Counsel: What was its name?
“Lloyd: The British Case.
“Counsel: I know the pamphlet. Would you be good enough to read to the Court your references to Italy appearing on pages 37 and 38?
“Lloyd: “Above all, the Italian genius has developed, in the characteristic Fascist institutions a highly authoritarian regime, which, however, threatens neither religious or economic freedom^ nor the security of other European Nations. It is worth while to note that quite fundamental differences exist between the structure and principles of the Fascist state and those of the Nazi and Soviet States. The Italian system is founded on two rocks: first, the separation of Church and State and the supremacy of the Church in matters not only of faith, but of morals; second the rights of labour. The political machinery of Fascism is, indeed, built up on Trade Unionism, while that of the German State is built up on the ruins of the German labour movement.”
“Counsel: Thank you. That seems most comprehensive. And at what date did this tribute appear?
“Counsel: That seems very late. Are you sure the Jury will be right in taking this as a semi-official expression by the Foreign Office or does it only express your private views?
“Lloyd: Of course, it expresses my own views.
“Counsel: And did not the publication of the pamphlet call forth some rebuke from the authorities?
“Counsel: How do you account for that?
“Lloyd: It had a preface of commendation from Lord Halifax.
“Counsel: What was his position then?
“Lloyd: Foreign Secretary.
“Counsel: So it was a semi-official pamphlet.” (Page 50)
The broad conclusion is that it was the British governments, Tory or ‘National Government’, that allowed Mussolini to offend:
“Could Abyssinia have been conquered by the armies of Italy if the policy of the British Government had been dictated by the speech of September 11, 1935, rather than the private compact of September 10? Could Spain have been successfully invaded without the assistance of Mr. Chamberlain and Lord Halifax? Could Italy have brought such assistance to Nazi Germany if her prestige and power had not been enhanced from the day Lord Simon went to Rome in 1933 to the day Mr. Chamberlain went there in 1939? Gentlemen, if these high personages are also to be condemned, then perhaps the alleged crimes of the Prisoner might assume a recognisable character. But if they are guiltless, I cannot see by what standard the guilt of the Prisoner is to be established. Does the Attorney General propose a series of war trials? Is Sir Samuel Hoare to be brought home from Madrid to face his accusers? Is Lord Simon at last to leave the Woolsack for the dock? Is Lord Halifax to be arraigned as immoral? Are the mortal remains of Mr. Chamberlain to be dug up like Cromwell’s and hurled into a common pit? The very idea is monstrous, fantastic, unthinkable.” (Page 55)
“Mussolini told the Court in his speech of a day in October 1936 when the newspapers in Rome announced the fall of Madrid. Madrid did not fall until 1939. I ask the Court to remember that fact when it makes its verdict. I ask it to make its verdict in gratitude for those three years and as some poor balm for the four years which have followed.
“The Italian newspapers almost spoke the truth. Mussolini was not alone in his military estimate. Hitler and Franco with him had agreed that it would all be over by November at the latest. All the calculations at the Palazzo Venezia were based on that simple reckoning. It may be that Hitler sent his troops to Spain to try out new weapons and to give his commanders military experience. Mussolini could afford no such luxuries. He expected an easy triumph, one which would transform his dream of ‘the Roman Lake’ very near to reality. A Spain conquered in 1936 would have been an Italian Spain. But before the victory was achieved whole armies had to be squandered, a large Air Force was dissipated and an exchequer was bankrupted. How would Mussolini have desired not to have forfeited those losses before facing the more exacting challenge of 1940 and 1941?
“Yet this was not all that was lost. If Spain had become Fascist in 1936 almost all Europe would have succumbed—without a war. Europe was overrun later but she was overrun by force. What a difference that made to the future of human kind we shall never be able to measure. We can only guess, but the guess is frightening enough. When Europe was overrun in 1940 and 1941 a bitter legacy of enmity against the conquering power was left in every land. That indelible hate is the ally of freedom to-day. You can see its working in Yugoslavia. How many more German or Italian divisions would there have been in Libya or Tunis or Sicily if Yugoslavia had given to the invader even a grudging welcome? Spain did in 1936 what Yugoslavia did, to her honour, in 1941. Spain decreed that the Axis could not rely on domestic Quislings to achieve their conquests. They must bring whole armies to the aid of the Quislings and the armies brought with them the ultimate hope of Europe’s redemption. Because the subject lands were subdued by force and not by cunning, the victims chose resistance before acquiescence, resistance which will one day change to revolt and rebellion. Spain was the model. She taught free Europe how to resist and how to fight.
“Yet it was only done by a hairsbreadth… The Government of Largo Caballero departed. Moorish troops came within a fourpenny tram ride of the centre of the city. The Republic was ‘helpless and discredited,’ said the Times newspaper in London. It was just ‘a faction fight,’ said Sir Samuel Hoare. Yet fortunately for the editor of the Times and Sir Samuel Hoare and the rest of humanity, Madrid did not fall until three years after, until the Basques had been pounded into the sea, until the rest of Spain had been sliced in half, until hunger had descended on the beleaguered armies, until muscles were so strained, feet so weary and bleeding, stomachs so empty that human courage could do no more.
“Spain was not altogether alone in her battle. She had valuable support from distant Russia. She had other friends, too, who were ready to assist her. They came from Nazi prison camps, from Fascist prison cells, from Poland and Canada, from the slums of Glasgow and the back-streets of the Rhondda. They came to save, but also to avenge. So much they believed could be set right on Spanish fields: a February in Vienna, a March in Berlin, long years in Lombardy, an epoch in London. Here, they believed, the Fascist tide could be fought and turned back. Here, they believed, they could fight the decisive battles later contested at Alamein and Stalingrad. Here they could rescue the peace and freedom of Europe, for if Mussolini could be overthrown on a Spanish battlefield, the impact would be felt in Rome and Milan and soon in Berlin and Hamburg.
“It was not an idle calculation. Nor was it lack of valour which brought these hopes to naught. Spain was defeated in London and Paris, where ignorant men believed that the peace of Europe could be sustained even if Mussolini conquered and where cowardly men believed that the freedom of Europe could be salvaged even if Spain became a corpse. It was by no act of the statesmen in London that Mussolini was prevented from gaining the swiftest and what would have been the most menacing of his triumphs. That service was performed by ragged ill-equipped armies, sometimes called ‘scum’; and not merely were those armies deprived of the right to buy weapons; they had to fight against a Mussolini whose ‘perfect good faith’ was applauded in the British House of Commons even while his soldiers were battling to retrieve the bloody check administered to them before the gates of Madrid in 1936. To the blind eyes and stony hearts of some gentlemen in London, Mussolini was a better friend of peace than Dr. Negrin, who obstinately refused to perform for his country the task discharged for France by Potato in 1940. And while Count Grandi was being received in the salons of Mayfair, other Italians of the International Brigade were helping to win a battle at Guadalajara, fortunately for England and the world.
“Values have changed since those evil days. London and Stalingrad have fought like Madrid. The issues at these later battles were more momentous because the world crisis had scaled a higher peak, the last ditches had been reached and the penalties for failure had become more fateful for all men, yet in heroism neither city need seek a better comparison than Madrid…
“Yet Spain so far has not been able to share the new liberation. The first victim is not the first rescued. Spain was defeated; her prisons have been filled; her people have gone hungry; they have been hurled back into the dark cavern of serfdom from which they sought to break free.” (Page 65-67)
Franco’s Spain avoided joining the Nazi side. It was denied NATO membership, but the USA massively backed it. Franco remained in power and kept much the same system till his death in 1975.
There was and still is a broad preference for fascism over Democratic Socialism. And most post-war progress was based on fear of the Soviets winning the Cold War.
Things were snatched back as the Soviet Union faded.
Things similar to fascism are seen as useful, as they were in the 1920s and 1930s:
“The England of the Chamberlains, the Simons and the Hoares, the England of the Conservative Party which held absolute power throughout almost the whole period, has been described to you. It was this England which condoned Fascism, consorted with Fascism, connived at imperialist war, abandoned any hope of building a sane and secure international Society and only fought the Prisoner and considered him guilty at the last hour when it was already too late to save mankind from the cataclysm.
“Yet there was still another England. This other England detested Fascism from the day of its birth. It fought against the betrayal of Abyssinia. It denounced the policy which led to the massacre of Spain. It struggled in opposition throughout those years to build an international society and it understood that the chief enemy which must be fought was Fascism in whatever guise it might appear and in whatever land it might capture the apparatus of the State. This was the England of the Left, the England of Labour, the England which inherited and adapted to the modem age the European policy which made this country the leader of the nations in the nineteenth century. This England made errors too, but they were errors of a quite different nature from those crimes committed by the men who believed they could reach comfortable terms of settlement with the forces of Fascism which threatened to engulf the continent in a new Dark Ages. The error of this England was that they did not fight hard enough for their faith. Sometimes they accepted for a time the soothing assurances of the British accomplices of Fascism. Sometimes they forgot for a while the full scale of the menace. Sometimes they were cowed by the accusation of ‘warmonger’ which was fixed upon them by their Conservative opponents whenever they revealed in its true colour the mortal danger which the growth of Fascism presented to the British nation.” (Page 81)
The case is excellent now, as then. So why has it been forgotten?
As I said, there is a habit on the left to fight other leftists in the battle of ideas. To overlook the need to fight the centre-right view, even though more than half of the society can be won over to this view in the right circumstance.
Problems Magazine, Issue 42, 2nd Quarter 2020. July 1920.
See https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/problems-magazine-past-issues/ for other issues.
 The Trial Of Mussolini: Being A Verbatim Report Of The First Great Trial For War Criminals Held In London Sometime In 1944 Or 1945. Published October 1943
 https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-trial-of-mussolini. I seldom read e-books and have no idea what this item is actually like.
 Note that saying ‘Lord’ rather than Viscount is normal British practice for titled persons.