WE on this newspaper shall not quarrel with those who are busy discerning grave internal trouble in Italy as a result of the heavy defeats suffered in Egypt, Albania, and on the Mediterranean.
All that we have written about Italy—in contrast with the views of bitterly anti-Fascist political and diplomatic correspondents in the national press—would lead our readers to expect precisely the kind of trouble that is heaped today in our newspapers upon Mussolini's head. • We have always distinguished between the constructive points in Fascism on the one side and the recklessness and bombast of the Duce's extreme party-men on the other, We have distinguished between the policy of building up a strong and worthy Italy as a factor for European peace and the Axis policy of subservience to Germany. Above all we have reminded our countrymen that the loyalty to Fascism of the average Italian was always mixed, not only because of the Italian's natural suspicion of all politicians, but chiefly because of his pride in the Papacy and his traditional affection for the House of Savoy.
And when Mussolini threw his unwilling people into war, in defiance of the advice of the Holy Father and the personal feelings of the King, we were able to foresee that only a quick and complete victory could possibly save the Duce from the natural consequences of his gamble.
But while it is possible from this cut-off island to discern certain broad forces and the nature of their interplay, it is not possible to estimate what exactly is happening in a Continental country at any given moment. We do not, therefore, presume to be able to report. as our contemporaries do, the precise degeee of disaffection and demoralisation in Italy today. Al! we know is that the healthy elements in the country which enabled the people from the beginning to distinguish the good from the bad in Fascism must sooner or later cause grave internal trouble as the imposture of Mussolini's foreign policy becomes clearer.
No less important from the British point of view than continued hammering at the Italian forces so as to undermine the power of the warmonger Duce is that we should understand the nature of the healthy elements in Italy and encourage them.
It is for example with the utmost dismay that we find in a serious paper like the New Statesman a suggestion that we should feel cheered by the reported spread of Communism in the Italian army. (That this should be suggested in a responsible paper goes some way to explain why the Pope does not appear quite so enthusiastic about the prospects of a British victory as certain people expect him to be.) Apart from the fact that the spreading of Communism is a weapon of war as dangerous to those who use it as the spreading of virulent germs. any present Italian revolution in its name would play straight • into the hands of the Hitler-Stalin Pact.
Moreover, such Communist feeling as is still to be found in Italy would actually play into the hands of the extreme Fascists of the Left Wing. Will it ever be possible to drill into the heads of our British political commentators that on the Continent today it is the extreme Fascist radical who is the heir to the anticlerical revolutionary elements with which he is always trying to negotiate? Even though this was obvious enough to anyone who had made a study of the totalitarian revolutions, the fact shouted from the housetops when the Hitler-Stalin Pact was signed. And it must be said that even the professional Communists in this country are beginning to appreciate the truth, playing as they now are for the triumph of revolutionary totalitarianism on the Continent whether it call itself Hitlerian or Stalinite.
The peoples who are our potential friends in Italy and Germany are not the subversive agitators who want to overthrow all moderating influences and who will be as well pleased with the triumph of the Left Fascist wings as with a Stalinite triumph, but the honest and decent
Friday, December 20, 1940
men and women of all classes who ask for peace, social security and political decency.
The ease of Italy is crystal-clear. The Italians have little faith in politics, but they love their country symbolised for them by their royal House. They have inherited a love of personal and economic liberty rather pathetically illustrated by their desire to make good in a small business way. And through the better side of Fascism a great deal of their traditional love and respect for the Church has been restored to them after the unfortunate quarrels of the 19th century.
In the moral teachings of the Church and the democratic tradition of the Monarchy arc to be found the mainsprings of all that was finest in the Fascist movement, as the Duce well understood in the early days, and to these he added the Fascist drive for financial, economic and social reform in the interests of the people. These mainsprings. let us remember, are radically anti-German and antiwar.
If we wish to follow up the brilliant exploits of our forces, as well as those of Greece, we should be concentrating on pledging ourselves to respect and aid the Italian people in their great political. social and religious renaissance under their natural leaders. We should be pledging ourselves to help them achieve the good things that Mussolini promised, but has failed to deliver. We should offer in honesty and sincerity what Germany offered in dishonesty and deceit.
Let us drop bombs on the sources of armed power which Mussolini can still control; but let us also drop millions of leaflets pledging ourselves by concrete undertakings to be the true friends of the Italian people in their long struggle to rise above the political intrigue and the political gangsterism which has for so long soiled the story of their risorgimento.