Page 4, 30th July 1943

30th July 1943
Page 4
Page 4, 30th July 1943 — MUSSOLINI'S FALL
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Organisations: Roman Catholic Church, army
Locations: London

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MUSSOLINI'S FALL

141 U SS OLIN1 has fallen. His achievement and his failure are best judged by posterity. (That his influence did not terminate with his fall may be gathered by reading an article on him in one of London's evening papers. The article ends with these words: " We would rather see him hewn as a carcass fit for hounds. For the honour of a nation which was once great and can he great again, we hope that the deed will be done by Italians." The whole article in its savagery and meanness mirrors the political outlook and language introduced by the three big dictatorial rdgirnes and breaks clean away from the finer Anglo-Saxon tradition. Mussolini, among others, lives on in some of his enemies.) For the time being infinitely mote important than Mussolini's past is Italy's future. And more important than that is Germany's future.

It is obvious that the sudden eclipse of the founder of Fascism is an outstanding event of history and by far the most important political happening since the outbreak of war. It is childish to regard Fascism as an unimportant upstart tyranny with no characteristics but bestial ones. Those who write that way simply betray their incredible ignorance of the very meaning of history. Mussolini himself, lel us not forget, was a product of Marxism and for many years he would have been indistinguishable from many of our own extreme 'Left politicians thrown up by Socialist agitation. In Fascism he expressed one of the major evolutions, by no means the worst, of Marxism, an evolution which has profoundly influenced the whole Continent. It was one of the possible political and social expressions of the reaction against the private ownership and control of credit and means of production in an industrial age when the good estate of the people was becoming so dependent on big business and finance. It expressed also the growing national rivalry for the possession and control of markets and raw material and advocated the strong, militarised, imperialist State ready to challenge the Great Powers of the liberal, laissez-faire era which was passing. Hence the inevitability sooner or later of world war unless a peaceful accommodation, demanding the radical overhaul all-round of notions inherited from the past, could be arranged. That is why the defeat of Fascism, the first stage of which is now being enacted, raises problems of the first magnitude, and there can be no doubt that we shall take over, under whatever name we care to call it, a great deal of the totalitarian outlook to which Mussolini gave expression. Indeed, we have already done so.

Effects on Italy

MORE immediately, the fall of Mussolini symbolises for every man and woman who has found himself committed to the Axis challenge the inevitable coming defeat of that medley of nationalism, militarism and economic Marxism which began in Fascist Italy but which found its strongest expression in Nazi Germany, where it easily allied itself with long-standing pan-Germanic ambitions re-aroused to the point of fury by the exploitation of the 1918 debacle.

For Italy itself, a country that in modern times has always been weak, economically and militarily weak and weak too in the unwillingness of its people to discipline themselves to the stern demands of contemporary aggression, the sudden disappearance of the Duce and the sudden loss of the authority of the Fascist machine must be catastrophic. While there is reason to believe that the Italians accepted Fascism with equanimity and were much flattered by their leaders' pretensions to empire. they never relished the idea of real war. This, of course, Mussolini knew, but he gambled on the quick defeat of England after the collapse of France. As soon as that gamble failed, it became clear that Italy's only chance was to bang on the coat-tails of the hated Germany. an attitude that was never pleasing in itself and that became untenable as soon as the Axis was genuinely imperilled and Italy herself struck. Throughout this period the prestige of the monarchy (we should, by the way, be grateful to Mussolini for his sense in retaining the monarchy even in a nominal position) and of the Church increased. In regard to the latter a traveller just returned from Italy writes: "The Pope is the most respected figure among the Italians. ... The Roman Catholic Church has reached new heights of influence among all classes. . ." It is as certain then as anything can be that, short of the virtual occupation of Italy by the Nazis. the war is over for the Italians. There will doubtless be convulsive movements of a military character, similar to the stinging of a wasp that has been killed, but they will weaken and Italy will surrender.

Effects on Germany

A LL this must prove a tremendous " blow to Nazi Germany. Italy, no doubt, has proved to be a liability rather than an asset in the war, but the Nazis went so far in linking the fortunes of the two regimes and in expressing what in fact was the truth, namely, that the Fascist ideology was one revolution against demoplutocracv and one indivisible expression of National Socialism (or Marxism). that the downfall of one of the partners must appear like the writing on the wall for the other. Nothing could shake their confidence more rudely than the fall of Hitler's partner who, like him, read history in terms of a thousand years. Moreover this bitter blow coincides with patent disasters elsewhere, notably the failure of the summer offensive against the Bolsheviks (whom they fear far more than they fear us), the temporary--if it is only temporary—weakening of the U-boat attacks and the heavy bombing of their Western industrial districts. Despite all this it is too early to foresee a quick German collapse in the wake of Italy. Germany is still strong and admirably disciplined. Her people have taken the ideology of the Nazi revolution much more seriously than did the lighter-minded Italians. Above all, Germany's bid to revenge Versailles entered into the soul of the vast majority of Germans. But perhaps more important than all this is the deep-seated fear of Russia. They will endure a great deal more so long as there remains any sort of hope of preventing M. Stalin riding down the Unter den Linden.

The fall of Mussolini must leave Italy virtually impotent, but even if Hitler fell as the result of reverses

and the growing sense in Germany of the fact that his revolution, at any rate, was doomed, it would not follow that German resistance would be at art end. The army, supported by the strong bourgeoisie, could still hope to achieve a deadlock by fighting a prolonged defensive war. They might even hope that sooner or later England, America, France and Italy would become convinced that the other evolution of Marxism, the Left Marxism of Russia, was fundamentally as dangerous as Fascism. If so, however, they would be pinning their faith to something that is unthinkable at any rate until this war is completely cleared up. Beyond that no one can possibly prophecy.

THE ONLY REAL CHALLENGE

IT is well to remind ourselves just now when immense changes are taking place before our eyes that in the world to-day there exists only one real challenge to the contending ideals. We said above that Fascism was one of the evolutions of Marxism and one of the ideologies challenging in terms of contemporary economic and industrial technique nineteenth-century liberalism. If this is correct, it follows that we shall inherit much that was common to Fascism, Nazism and Bolshevism when we face the task of re-ordering the new world after victory.

The most important point, however, is not the fatal necessity of accommodating ourselves to the technique of the modern world; it is the fundamental similarity of values between all modem peoples. It is true that we jealously maintain our ideals of personal liberty, derived from our once Christian past, and propose to spread them to the world. We have to recognise, however, that neither Britain nor America have as yet been faced by the real problem of organising a

new world. They have inherited enough capital from the past to be able to live on it for a long time. But already there are clear signs of what is to come. The war itself has made unprecedented incursions into the very personality and conscience of men, and though we protest that all this is temporary, we have honestly to recognise that all the plans put forward for the future involve measures of control that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

He would be a very easy-going optimist who would bet on our habit of liberty proving strong enough to resist such pressure. The plain fact is that there exists to-day only one conviction that is strong enough to oppose the forces, and that is the Christian conviction of the comparatively few who thoroughly understand the fundamental values of Christ's teaching incorporated in and preserved by the Church.

At first sight this may not be obvious, precisely because Christianity does not resist Fascism or Liberalism with the impassioned fury and " unconditional surrender " attitude that marks the opposition between rival ideologies. Christianity is much too realistic not to recognise the inevitability and indeed the good in these theories, but because its roots are in eternal truth its values differ infinitely more from all the 'isms than any of them differ among one another.

That is one fundamental reason why the coming educational battle possesses an importance totally outdistancing the details of this or that educational reform.

Education and Totalitarianism

THAT the State should take over

modern education is probably inevitable. It is the price that has to be paid for the immense strides that have been made in controlling the natural resources and forces of the earth and applying them for the purpose of raising the standard of

human life everywhere. The immense complexity of the task and the tremendous power which it affords to those in key positions involve the training of each person to play his part in a structure for which the ultimately responsible power must be society or the State.

But just because this is the case, it becomes more than ever imperative (if what we know to be the evil of Fascism and Bolshevism is to be avoided) that the State itself should jealously safeguard and preserve the source of those moral, aesthetic and cultural values which defend the essential independence and liberty of the human being and are absolutely necessary if any State system is to be distinguished from the soulless organisation of colonies of bees or ants.

The Government's welcome recognition of religion as a vital element in education proves at least that its Conscience is pricking it. But prickings of conscience impose the duty of examining the conscience, and any such examination must lead to the conviction that, under these cir-, cumstances, it is a crime to take any step that would weaken the place of real religion in any educational plan. In defending their rights Catholics are simply seeking to preserve England from a totalitarianism as real as anything on the Continent. Their fight could scarcely be better timed.




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