A Complete and Rational Discussion of the ‘F-Word’*


*The F-word is “fascism”. It’s tenets include supremacy of the military, the need for perpetual war and a disdain for pacifism, a merging of corporate and state power, dismantling the unions, indirect control of the media, national security and patriotism as a motivational tool for the masses, government corruption, candidates appointed by the party command, and an erosion of voter rights. Sound familiar? It should because this is what happened during Mussolini’s rise to power in Italy in the 1920’s. He was the head of a relatively small political party that was not taken seriously by the other political parties. However, his united and intimidating 20% of the popular support overwhelmed a liberal majority that was divided over relatively small issues. Despite Mussolini’s small group, he knew a general strike by powerful unions were the only action that could stop fascism from controlling Italy. That’s why one of his priorities was to scare the people that unions were a threat to their freedom and private property. He called them “socialists” and, therefore, bad.

Listen to this interesting conversation with one of the world’s leading experts on Fascism, Donald Sassoon – a professor of Comparative European History at Queen Mary, University of London. Thanks to a generous contribution from the United Steelworkers, a transcript is also provided for you convenience. This show will be followed-up with another show that discusses fascism and its potential in the United States.

Guest: Donald Sassoon
Learn more at “Mussolini and the Rise of Fascism”

Music Featured:
“A Tramp’s Thoughts” by Tom Neilson

Move To Amend
Egberto Willies
Common Cause
The Organization for Competitive Markets
Coffee Party USA

Show Transcript:

Tim Danahey: From Colorado and, today, at London, England, welcome to the Tim Danahey Show here at Danahey.com. Many labels are tossed about with frequency within today’s polarized political environment. The popular labels are Democrat, and Republican, and Liberal, and Conservative. But, each carries an inferred sub-meaning, meanings like Socialists, or Communists, or Capitalists, or even Libertarian. All of these labels are used in either laudatory or even pejorative ways and, somehow, capitalism is equated with freedom and socialism is connected with taking wealth from wealth makers, the popular makers and takers according to the media. The use of these labels is usually pretty simplistic and it’s misleading in their applications to various agendas. But, there’s one label that does not get mentioned, and it’s euphemistically referred to as the “F word” in the United States when it is rarely mentioned in the media. And saying the “F word” gets the media outlets labeled as fringe, or extremists, or as a conspiracy theorist. And, as a result, the “F word” is not spoken. The “F word” is fascism. It’s a political doctrine. It’s as valid or as invalid as any other doctrine, such as capitalism or communism. It deserves discussion, if only to clear up misunderstandings, and to provide an historical context, and it’s relevance for today.

The founder of fascism really is Benito Mussolini, the Italian leader who legally came to power in the 1920’s and stayed in power for two decades. For a time, fascism was regarded as a new and efficient form of government to be copied, to be emulated by many nations. His doctrine was methodically implemented, and his power was consolidated, and his rise to power, and the tenets of fascism are important lessons we can learn and consider in our political climate today.

So, we’ve asked one of the world’s leading experts on fascism and its history to be our guest. He is Professor of Comparative European History at Queen Mary University of London. Donald Sassoon, welcome to the Tim Danahey Show.

Donald Sassoon: Hello.

Tim Danahey: Well, Donald, I want to mention something. I became aware of your book. Your book is Mussolini and the Rise of Fascism, and it was published in 2007. I’ve had it for years and I’ve read it — I’ll say I read it twice cover to cover and I’ve referred to it many other times. Donald, we have a pretty good book hour on this show. My library has hundreds of books, but your book is kind of kept on the shelf of 20 books next to my desk. I hope it’s still in print. If it’s not, it’s still released. Is it still out there — Mussolini and the Rise of Fascism?

Donald Sassoon: Yes, I think so. Yes.

Tim Danahey: Excellent. Well, first of all, if we could Donald, Mussolini as the creator of fascism and his rise to power, did he have popular support?

Donald Sassoon: When he became Prime Minister, when he was appointed Prime Minister in October 1922, Mussolini had very limited supported. In terms of — at the previous election he sparsely managed to elect 35 members of the Italian Parliament out of more than 600. His Black Shirts were to be feared, but only in the north of Italy. He was almost unknown in southern Italy. There were many more important parties than the Fascist party, the leading Liberal party, for instance, or those of the Socialist party. So, he did not have widespread popular support. In fact, one of the reasons why I wrote that book is to try to explain why someone with such limited political support was appointed by the King, in a legal way, Prime Minister on the 30th of October 1922.

Tim Danahey: Well, he could have been stopped at any number of occasions, but he wasn’t. I think he mentioned that labor unions could have stopped him and, also, your book mentions that the military could have intervened at any time. But, nobody —

Donald Sassoon: — Certainly the military could have intervened. The labor unions had been defeated. There had been two years of labor struggles in Italy between 1919 and 1921 in the north, which is where factories were located in Italy during [inaudible]. The labor movement had been defeated. It was the so-called [foreign], the two red years. So, there had been a red scare. Then, the rise of the Black Shirts was first a rural phenomenon. They were really students and lower-middle class people who went around maybe the countryside beating up socialists and burning down socialist headquarters in the stronghold of the Socialist party, which was [inaudible], one of the central regions. So, it was a force to be feared, but it could have been stopped. And, when Mussolini organized the famous march on Rome, that march was really what I call a few useful idiots because it was raining, their guns were ancient guns from the First World War. The army could have easily stopped them. There was even a decree prepared by the government and the King could have signed it. The King refused to sign it. He was advised that it was better not to.

The paradox of this story is that I think Mussolini was appointed Prime Minister because he was weak, because the powers that be thought that they could control him. The thought, well, alright, so his followers are a bunch of thugs. But, he’s not stupid. They were right. He was not stupid. We will appoint him Prime Minister. He will strut around with all the paraphernalia of office and he will be a puppet in our hands. He knows how to speak to the people. He’s a man of the people, unlike us, we are members of the upper classes. So, this was a liberal dream. They thought that they could control Mussolini. And that’s why he was appointed, precisely because they did not fear him.

Tim Danahey: — Well, they —

Donald Sassoon: — That was their big mistake.

Tim Danahey: They underestimated him. But, Mussolini comes to power and he talks about this fascist revolution. He said, “To tell the truth, we’ve made a revolution unparalleled in the whole world. We have made a revolution while public services continued to function without stopping trade, and with employees remaining at their desk, workers in their factories, and peasants peacefully tilling their fields. It’s a new style of revolution.” Donald, what was he saying?

Donald Sassoon: Well, he was reassuring the middle classes. At the one and the same time, he was using the words which had been popularized by the left because we’re talking 1922. But, the Russian revolution had occurred only five years earlier, as it were, as a proposed solution to the problems of the new century and the problems of the 20th century. So, he was saying, “We are revolutionaries, but we are the kind of revolutionaries where everything remains the same, everything keeps on working.” And this double idea of a revolution and, at the same time, a conservative — was terribly successful. A famous Italian writer, Tomasi di Lampedeusa, years later wrote in one of his novels the sentence, “Everything must change so that everything stays the same.” And that idea that you need sometimes change to preserve things, not to innovate, but to keep things as they are is, in a sense, the backbone of the conservative revolutions of the 20th century in which I think Italian fascism was probably the most important example.

Tim Danahey: Well, keeping things conservative and fear of change would be kind of a description perhaps of an industrialist attitude. But, how did the industrialists regard Mussolini’s rise to power?

Donald Sassoon: The industrialists were enthusiastic. I think one should say that, in 1922, 23, Mussolini had considerable support among the industrial classes and, if you want to call it like that, the establishment. The most important pro-business paper in Italy, also the leading paper, the Corea del Sur, printed in Milan, which in a way was the economic capitol of the country, supported Mussolini largely because Mussolini was seen as someone who was anti-socialist. He, himself, had been a socialist originally and then, during the war, changed sides. So, the industrialists were very much in favor. They’re also in favor of something else. When Mussolini came to power, he said that he was fed up with the state interfering in business. So, his initial slogan was what today we would say a very liberal one of low interference in the functioning of the economy and, at the same time, the systematic destruction of a labor movement. Why shouldn’t an industrialist be overjoyed by that?

Tim Danahey: And, so, they were pleased and so Mussolini continued his rise to power. But, Italy was a liberal democracy prior to Mussolini. It had a free press, but didn’t the press report concerns about Mussolini’s rise to power?

Donald Sassoon: Yes. I think we should at the beginning and examine what kind of liberal state was Italy. The country was united in 1861. Between 1861 and 1913, there were regular elections, and the parliament was elected regularly, and you had the different political parties, and the press was — the standards of the time, relatively free. It was small press in the sense that not many people could actually read, let alone were inclined to buy newspapers. So, one could say that the media was a media for the middle classes and the electoral system was one which favored the middle classes because, basically, the workers couldn’t vote and women couldn’t vote, and the election was very tiny. So, liberal Italy before 1913 was, yes, liberal, but not many people voted. At the beginning, 1% and then gradually, 5%, 6%, 7%, 8%. Actually, even of that 8%, many did not vote because Italy had been formed, united, against the wishes of the Pope. The Pope had told Catholics that they should not vote. So, even among the electorate, those who wanted to obey the words of the Pope did not vote. So, it will have a Parliament elected by a tiny fraction of the Italian people. And a tiny fraction can agree to things. Fundamentally, there are only two different interests, industrial north and the landlords in the south. Parliament was like a cozy club, a chamber, where they could swap favors and agree on who was going to be the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister would regularly consult everybody. That was the liberal Italy of pre-1913.

1913, you have introduction of almost universal male suffrage. After the war, the Parliament which results at the end of the war is one in which the Socialist party, which used to be a tiny party, is now very big. There’s a new party, a Catholic party, because the Pope decided to make peace as it were with the Italian voting system. So, you have two mass parties. The Catholics represent the peasants and the socialists, by and large, represent the workers. You’re maybe used to this with the American Congress. It gets complicated to form a government. It gets complicated to agree. The interests which are now represented in the Italian Parliament are not the simple interests of the upper-middle classes. They are much more complex, and this is where the old liberal Parliament doesn’t work very well anymore, and this is when Mussolini is appointed. So, he is appointed because Parliament doesn’t work well, because the liberal state is in a crisis.

Tim Danahey: Well, there are so many different parties who perhaps would oppose Mussolini. Could this disarray that they were in — that made them ineffective to try and opposes Mussolini’s small amount of followers?

Donald Sassoon: Yes. The Socialist party opposed Mussolini, but between 1919 and 1921, there was the labor movement and unrest, and in a sense, the socialists had lost. They had not been able to resist the onslaught of the Black Shirts. On top of that, in 1921, a new left-wing party arises, the Communist party and that also takes votes away from the Socialist party. So, the left is now weak. Of the other parties, you have nationalists who rather like Mussolini, who after all is a nationalist himself. So, they support him. Then, you have the liberals who, as I said, try, think, assume that they can control him. Then, you have a new Catholic party, the so-called People’s Party, [inaudible]. They, at first, support Mussolini because he is anti-socialist. So, he has considerable support, which is why when the King appoints him Prime Minister, he gets a solid majority in Parliament.

Tim Danahey: Well, we’re talking with Donald Sassoon, who is the author of Mussolini and the Rise of Fascism. We’re talking about the history of fascism and there’s more to talk about. We’re going to talk about really how to define fascism through its actions and policies. And we’ll do that when we come back from break. You’re listening here on the Tim Danahey Show. We’ll be right back.

Tim Danahey: We the people of the United States of America reject the U.S. Supreme Court Citizens’ United ruling and other related cases, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights. Go to MoveToAmend.org. Add your voice to the 350,000 people who say, “Enough. This is a government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
A good man, real people, clear thinking, enjoyable quality talk, a new name — EgbertoWillies.com. He talks politics. He talks issues. You can hear his radio shows and read his blog at EgbertoWillies.com. You can link to him here at Danahey.com. He’s also part of CoffeePartyUSA.com‘s network. Or, if you can spell EgbertoWillies.com, you found a new voice you’ll want to hear. EgbertoWillies.com.
Our government should be open. It must be accountable to the people. And we demand access to vote and our votes be counted and verified. These concepts should be common sense in our democracy, but they’re not. Some would deny us these rights. But, people died for them and Common Cause works every day to make certain they did not die in vain. Join Common Cause. Keep your rights and hold political power accountable where it should be — the people. CommonCause.org, holding power accountable.

Tim Danahey: Welcome back to the Tim Danahey Show here at Danahey.com and it’s just really such an honor. It’s a person with whom I’ve wanted to speak for close to a decade. His name is Donald Sassoon. He is one of the world’s leading experts on the history of fascism. His book, Mussolini and the Rise of Fascism, you’re going to have to probably special order it. You’re going to have to look for it, but it’s an extraordinary book. I would say that, conservatively, I have 5% to 10% of this book highlighted with my markers. I have notes in it. I have referred to it many times. It holds a place on my special shelf next to the desk. The book is that good. We’ve been talking about the history of fascism, and the rise of fascism, and how a fractured opposition — and kind of how Mussolini was underestimated by the liberal government in Italy at that time. Donald, I want to ask again, the media didn’t really seem to take him seriously either, did they?

Donald Sassoon: No, not really. The Corea del Sur, the main Italian newspaper back then initially, and when they realized that it was a terrible mistake, the editor started to take a stand against him. He was then sacked and a new pro-fascist editor was appointed. Apart from that, there was not really that much of a media structure in Italy at the time. Radio was in its beginning, and it was controlled by the government anyway, and obviously there was no television. Most people were actually not aware at all of what was going on in Rome, nor were they particularly interested. Italy in the 1920’s is much more an agrarian country than an industrial country.

Tim Danahey: Well, he comes into power, but Italy had a military and the military didn’t take any action. I assume that the military operated under the auspices of the government of the time. But, did fascism become popular with the military and, if so, how?

Donald Sassoon: I don’t think the regime ever became actually popular with the army. The higher echelons of the army were in the hands of the aristocratic classes. They regarded Mussolini as an upstart, maybe an indispensable upstart, maybe an inevitable one, but they despised him. They thought that, in the era of democracy, you got to have someone like that who keeps the people in their place, but they didn’t really like him. The court, the King — and it’s one of the remarkable things about the so-called Fascist Revolution, that the monarchy continued. Also, they put up with Mussolini. They didn’t interfere very much as long as he did not interfere with them. When things started going badly for the regime, that is when Italy started losing the war — this is 20 years after Mussolini had come to power — then Mussolini was dismissed by the same King who had appointed him on the 25th of July 1943. He was arrested by the military and the new Prime Minister was a General, Generale Badoglio. So, in a sense, those two institutions, army and monarchy, went along with Mussolini until it suited them. Then, when they saw the disaster which was about to cause the downfall of Italy in the Second World War, they got rid of him.

Tim Danahey: When Mussolini did come to power, Donald, I perceive that the public voice was nullified. You wrote, “During the next five years, the basic structures of the Fascist state were erected while those of the Liberal state were dismantled.” And you wrote, “The first to go was the system of proportional representation, which had given power to Liberals.” So, even though the people could not vote him out because he kind of rigged the system, correct?

Donald Sassoon: Okay. So, Mussolini, he is now the Prime Minister. He has got the majority in Parliament. But, Italy is still a liberal democratic state. So, one of the first things he does is to pass a new piece of legislation which changes the electoral system and establishes that any party or a coalition of parties which filled a joint list, if they are the first party, they’re getting more votes than anybody else, but not necessarily a majority, will have two thirds of the seats in Parliament. That would mean that there is no problem. Once you obtain a simple majority, you’re going to have an overall majority in Parliament. That law is passed and, of course, also the people want to join the fascist list. So, anyway, he wins easily.

So, now, he controls Parliament directly. He doesn’t have to depend that much on the old political parties. The new block, which supports him, follows him, and even Parliament, thanks to him. The second thing he’s got to do is he has got to make sure that the judiciary will systematically destroy the old political parties. In order to do that, he contrasts the judiciary. So, he establishes new courts, special tribunals, and he makes the Communist parties, the Socialist parties, and other political parties illegal in a retroactive way, which means that, if you had been a member of a socialist party when it was legal, well it’s now illegal. That is enforced not by the normal courts, which he could not trust, but the new special courts. The third thing is he abolishes the trade unions and establishes fascist trade unions. So, now, he controls Parliament, the judiciary, the army is at bay, the monarchy is his ally, and the trade unions are defeated. The Socialist party and the Communist parties are banned. It’s only now, and we’re about 1925, 26, 27, it’s in those years that one can talk about Italy becoming a fascist state, a new kind of authoritarian state, something which had not existed quite in that form in Europe or anywhere else before.

Tim Danahey: Well, Mussolini once said, “Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it’s the merger of state and corporate power.” What is the Grand Fascist Council? Who are the members and how are they elected?

Donald Sassoon: The Grand Fascist Council is actually appointed entirely by the Fascist party, and that is by Mussolini. He does not abolish Parliament. It is just the Fascist Council is there along with Parliament. In reality, Parliament has ceased to function. People are still there. They’re still parliamentary and they get their salary, but there are no real elections. What is interesting is that the Grand Fascist Council is another of these institutions which is devised by Mussolini and which will then sack him when things go bad in July 1943. Another thing which is particularly interesting is that the party, the Fascist Party, which had been instrumental in bringing Mussolini to power in the years 1921-22, becomes very much a second-rate institution. It doesn’t really count very much. It’s not at all like the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. The Fascist Party doesn’t matter very much, but Mussolini does. He takes over institutions or he creates new political institutions, new state institutions.

The idea of the corporate state is one in which in these corporations you will have both capitalists and workers sitting alongside. In reality, the idea of corporatism was sold as a fascist reaction to the class politics of the socialists. Corporations entailed some kind of peaceful coexistence between the various classes. The original idea came from the social Catholic movement. They did not like the normal trade unions because they were socialists and, so, they thought that class coexistence was much better than class struggle. But, again, the corporation didn’t really work very much. They didn’t do very much. Real power in fascist Italy was in the hands of Mussolini and the Grand Fascist Council.

Tim Danahey: Well, the Grand Fascist Council, I take a look at it and I know that agricultural classes had an influence here. But, I see there’s just manufacturing, there’s banking, there’s transportation and professional classes. How did they affect the Grand Fascist Council?

Donald Sassoon: Well, these interests — quite a lot of these chamber of corporations, which is not exactly the same thing as a Grand Fascist Council, but quite a lot of these corporation chambers represented particular interests which had been already represented before in Chambers of Commerce and similar bodies. They didn’t really matter very much then. If an industrialist wanted something to be done, he went straight to Mussolini or he went straight to someone near Mussolini. So, it was very much a sort of personal power through the bureaucracy. This is what mattered.

Tim Danahey: Voter rights, we mentioned it a little bit earlier. I’ll tell you what, before we get into that, why don’t we take our second and final break. Then, when we come back, we’ll talk about some of the individual components and liberties or lack of liberties under fascism. We’re talking with Donald Sassoon, the author of the marvelous book, still available even though it was originally published in 2007, the book is Mussolini and the Rise of Fascism. You’re listening to him here on the Tim Danahey Show. We’ll be right back.

Teddy Roosevelt said, “Of all forms of tyranny, the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth.” This is why anti-trust law and competition is essential to America’s economic health. This is why the Organization for Competitive Markets works to reclaim competition for farmers, ranchers, and rural communities across America. We believe our duty is to advocate a just role for government in the agricultural economy, an enforcer of rules necessary for markets that are fair, honest, and accessible. The Organization for Competitive Markets, learn more at CompetitiveMarkets.com.
You preserve a nation one community at a time with shared knowledge and an informed electorate, with many voices speaking with civility and integrity. We will preserve our nation when we participate, we learn, we discuss, we vote. We are the Coffee Party USA. Join us today — CoffeePartyUSA.com.

Tim Danahey: Welcome back to the Tim Danahey Show here at Danahey.com. Once again, it’s such a treat to be talking with Donald Sassoon, the author of Mussolini and the Rise of Fascism. We’ve talked about the history of fascism and how Mussolini has come to power. It’s just incredible really. It’s incredible. No other word for it. But, Donald, I want to ask about individuals — individual rights and the right to vote. I know there were still popular elections. But, voting and civil liberties, are those important under fascism?

Donald Sassoon: Well, there are conditions which make voting a meaningful thing and, of course, the most important when we talk about voting is that there should be free political parties. Under fascism, there were no free political parties. So, whatever voting there was, which was rather limited, it did not involve a choice within different political parties because they were banned. In the case of the socialists and the communists, their leaders had been sent to internal exiles, to various islands offshore Italy. So, the basics of democracy had been eliminated after 1925. Between 1925 and the end of the war, Italy is to all intent and purpose a dictatorship, a fascist dictatorship. Mussolini gloried in that fact. I mean, when I used to see fascism being used as a term of abuse, and totalitarian also a term of abuse, but actually Mussolini said that he was proud that Italy had become a totalitarian country. He was proud of the fact that the state had become the central element in everybody’s life. It was not quite true, but that was the rhetoric of the time.

Now, there’s been a long discussion among historians, the extent to which Italy was a true totalitarian country. I don’t think it was in the sense that, for instance, there was still private business. Private business could do more or less what it pleased. It could make what it wanted. It could sell. It was fine. If it didn’t sell, it went bust. The state started interfering in the economy only in the early 1930’s and we can discuss why. But, until then, Italy was not a state-centered economic system.

Let’s look at the press and censorship. Well, you could not say anything against the fascist regime. But, within that, within these limits, you could say anything else you wanted. In other words, you could not be political, but the new Italian cinema dealt with rom-coms, melodrama, stuff like that, which is what kind of cinema which was popular in the United States at the time then, as now, and in the rest of Europe. So, you could not have critical cinema. You could not have critical novels. You could not have critical press. So, there were severe limits on people’s freedom.

Tim Danahey: So, it sounds, Donald — so, we were free — the people of Italy were free to speak as long as it was not harsh against the government. Their vote, whenever they did vote, it was not a free vote, it was more of a ratification vote as long as you were in favor of what the government was doing. You could run a small business. But, you mentioned that Mussolini got involved with more economic issues in the early 1930’s. What was the degree of that involvement?

Donald Sassoon: It was quite considerable and it was due to factors which had not much to do with fascist ideology. Throughout the 1920’s, from the economic point of view, fascism was a non-interventionist state. Then, in 1929 as we all know, the Wall Street collapse, stock exchange in New York collapsed, American loans in Europe were withdrawn, massive unemployment in Germany, and the consequences in Italy were quite severe. Now, one of the peculiarities of Italian capitalism is that Italian banks had — instead of making loans, actually acquire shares in the business which they funded. The whole system was about to collapse because the banks, by collapsing, meant that the large corporations, even Fiat, was in danger. So, some bright sparks in the leading Italian bank who they were not fascists, they were technocrats, said, “Well, the best thing to do is to take over the banking system.” To take over the banking system, you also acquire an important part of the Italian economy. This is what Mussolini did. He established something called the Institute for Industrial Reconstructions, IRI, and that became the largest firm in Italy. It became also a state firm. It was reasonably successful, so much so that it was kept functioning after 1945, after the collapse of fascism and the return of democracy to Italy.

During the 1930’s, the state became more and more important, not only because of its intervention in the economy, but also because Mussolini tried to acquire an empire abroad and he took over Ethiopia at great cost to the Ethiopian people.

Tim Danahey: Well, you bring up an important point. How did the foreign nations regard fascism and, within that, what was Mussolini’s attitude or fascism’s attitude towards peace and war?

Donald Sassoon: Sorry. His attitude towards what?

Tim Danahey: What would fascisms’ attitudes be towards peace and war, and how did other nations regard fascism?

Donald Sassoon: The attitudes of other nations towards fascism was very much dependent on international politics. On the whole, there was a generally favorable attitude among conservatives in Europe towards Mussolini partly because they thought that the Italians were not mature enough to enjoy the benefits of democracy. So, for instance, Winston Churchill was rather pro-Mussolini in the later ’20’s, not because he thought that one should import fascism into Britain, but that was good enough for the Italians. Then, Mussolini was also seen as someone who might stand up against Adolph Hitler, who could speak to him and calm him down. He was respected as a figure. He finally goes to see Charlie Chaplin film, The Great Dictator, which was shot before the war. We see a completely different image from our present image of two dictators. We nowadays think of Mussolini as a bit of buffoon and Adolph Hitler as a tragic and dramatic monster figure. But, in the film, the clown is Hitler and the serious person is Mussolini. This reflected, more or less, the view that the western democracies had of Mussolini. They were upset about his takeover of Ethiopia, but they didn’t really enforce severe sanctions against him. One could say that the honeymoon with Mussolini ended when Mussolini decided that the only game in town was Hitler’s Germany, and in 1938, he made a pact with Adolph Hitler and also with Japan. It’s also only then, only in 1938, that you have the development of Anti-Semitic legislation in Italy expelling Jews from public office, from the public sector, and from schools and universities.

Tim Danahey: Well, I’m going to quote Mussolini if I could, Donald, and he said that, “Fascism believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace. It, thus, repudiates the doctrine of pacifism.” Then, he went on to say, “War, alone, brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have the courage to meet it.” He believed in perpetual war to advance fascism, didn’t he?

Donald Sassoon: He certainly did and he certainly used this kind of macho rhetoric, which originated in the First World War when a movement, an avant-garde movement, an avant-garde artistic movement, the futurists, were writing stuff about how wonderful war can be. Now, this may seem strange to people. But, in a country like Italy, which in a sense is a latecomer to becoming a nation, they find themselves at the end of the First World War without an empire. They find themselves in a situation where the real winners of the war are not themselves, but are the French and the British. So, they had not achieved through the war what they had set out to achieve. If only they had been stronger, they would have done better. So, in a sense, fascist Italy is a classic revisionist state which thinks that by revising the status quo you can only improve your standing, quite unlike a conservative state which you have a top dog and then your main problem is how to remain the top dog.

Tim Danahey: Well, Donald, I want to bring this forward to today and get your really expert opinion on this. Today, anywhere in the world, how easy would it be to implement fascism?

Donald Sassoon: Well, as I’ve tried to explain, for that particular kind of authoritarian regime, you needed very specific circumstances — a crisis, a parliamentary crisis, and above all, the popular view that traditional politics does not work anymore. So, one of the worrying things nowadays is that more and more people think — sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly — that politicians do not listen to them, that the established political system is rotten to the core, and so on and so forth. It is this sort of view which is a breeding ground for an alternative to the existing system. Now, this alternative could be a better system. I personally, of course, hope that. But, it could also be a more authoritarian system. In many European countries now, the parties which are increasing in strength are parties on the right of the political spectrum, parties that blame for the economic problems we all have, they blame immigrants, they blame those who come here to work. These parties have 10%, 20% of the electorate. They represent a possible threat. This will remain simply a threat unless there are serious changes in the sense of an aggravation of the economic crisis.

Tim Danahey: Well, the early signs — again, the people thinking politics doesn’t work and perpetual war, if we were to take Mussolini at his word, we have to kind of wrap it up. Donald, I want to ask you — I want to make two quotes, one from Thomas Jefferson and one from Thomas Payne. Thomas Jefferson said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Thomas Payne said, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” Do these statements apply today to prevent fascism from arising again?

Donald Sassoon: Absolutely. I would say they are even more important now than when they were written some 200 years ago. It’s not just to stop fascism, but to stop unpleasant, authoritarian, racist regime from surfacing. It is not just a question of simply saying, “Oh, it can’t happen here.” One of the lessons of Mussolini’s Italy is that of course it can happen here. No one is an exception.

Tim Danahey: This is why I wanted you on the show, Donald. Donald Sassoon, the author of Mussolini and the Rise of Fascism. We talked about fascism, its attitudes, its history. And you mentioned, Donald, that — in fact there was even a book written about it I think in the 1930’s called It Couldn’t Happen Here. But, it could and we must always be vigilant and work to make sure that our rights are maintained. Donald Sassoon, thank you so much for being a guest on the Tim Danahey Show.

Donald Sassoon: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Tim Danahey: It’s been an honor.

The Tim Danahey Show at Danahey.com is where you go when you want to listen to investigative and thoughtful discussion, when you want to understand the issues without the agendas. We discuss government, but not politics, world affairs, economics, social issues, justice, many topics. And every Friday, we have fun and talk about global authors and their new books. The subjects range beyond simple description. Come listen and download at Danahey.com. Be one of the listeners who value honest discussion you won’t hear anywhere else. Danahey.com.
This show sponsored in part by

About Author

Profile photo of Tim Danahey

The Tim Danahey Show started in July, 2010 at internet station Castle Rock Radio. It started as a one-day-per week endeavor and quickly grew to five days per week. The show discusses economics, government, social issues, history, and non-fiction books in a magazine format featuring in-depth conversations with guests. Politics and inflammatory conversations are discouraged as they are divisive and counter-productive. Instead, the show seeks under-reported topics and delves into facts, different perspectives, and ramifications of each perspective.