Every so often some Berlusconi Bro praises Mussolini to some extent or another and invites a flurry of condemnation from the handshakeworthy set. This has just happened with Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament. And then, of course, there was Matteo Salvini’s approving quotation of the Italian dictator last year.
From what I can figure out, though, he really didn’t do anything wrong – at least not substantially more so than any other countries at the time.
- A grand total of nine people were executed for political crimes during his entire rule from 1922-1943. These were handed out exclusively for murder and political terror.
- For comparison, that’s around SIX orders of magnitude lower than for the USSR [~700,000 political executions firmly established; probably around a million overall]. Over those twenty years, evil Italian fascists executed someone about once every three years; heroic Soviets executed someone once every 15 minutes.
- This is in the context of frequent assassination attempts against Mussolini (e.g. five in 1926 alone).
- It’s also comparable to the rate of politicized executions in the Western democracies, e.g. Sacco and Vanzetti (1927) would doubtless qualify.
- There were 4,500 people convicted of political crimes in Fascist Italy.
- This compares to 4 million people convicted of political crimes in the Soviet Gulag from 1921-1953. Difference of three orders of magnitude.
- Conditions in Italy were incomparably better. Gramsci wrote his books from a comfortable jail. The leader of the Italian Communists, Amadeo Bordiga, was sent into exile for three years, and was left in peace after his release. Reality is, Fascist Italy was a much nicer and safer place even for Communists than many actual Communist regimes.
- The Western democracies did not imprison crimethinkers in any significant numbers, so Italy was worse in this respect. But the chasm between it and the Nazis/Soviets, vs. between the West, was much narrower.
- But what about the Jews?
- While they did just fine under the early Fascist regime, they started getting kicked out from areas like journalism and academia from the late 1930s, largely under Nazi pressure.
- This is regrettable, but not even in the same universe as Nazi Germany itself; or for that matter the Soviet Union, where the old bourgeois and aristocracy – “former people” – were not just barred from areas like higher education (in favor of – yes – Jews*), but actively persecuted and eventually murdered. And even in the West, it is well known that were plenty of both formal and informal barriers to Jewish upwards mobility erected by America’s then WASP elites.
- The Italian military under Mussolini specifically prevented Germans from deporting Jews in their zones of control in foreign countries such as France and Croatia, to say nothing of Italy itself. Deportations did not begin until the overthrow of Mussolini and Italy’s partial occupation by Nazi Germany.
- Territorial aggression: Yes, Italy got greedy. But snapping up rival countries’ territories was fair game by the standards of 1930s Europe, including on the part of otherwise “fluffy” countries such as Poland that took full advantage of Czechoslovakia’s dismemberment in 1938.
- Fascist Italy’s biggest actual crime – which, ironically, basically everyone ignores – may have been Yekatit 12, the extermination of about 20,000 of the Ethiopian intelligentsia after the attempted assassination of the head of the Italian occupation forces.
- This is basically a week’s work for Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.
- About a year’s work for Franco’s Spain, for that matter.
- Comparable in magnitude to the Kenyan civilian casualties from the British suppression of the Mau Mau Uprising in the 1950s.
A German would have to be a psychopath to apologize for Hitler. A Russian would have to be not just a psychopath, but a cuckolded retard, to apologize for Lenin or Stalin.
A Spaniard can apologize for Franco, given the alternatives on offer, but it should come with many caveats. He did kill many, many more people than Mussolini, though most of this was in the context of a brutal civil war. Francoist Spain’s main saving grace and retrospective PR salvation with respect to Fascist Italy was that it did not end up allying with Hitler.
However, Italians have no particular need to be ashamed of Mussolini. Even if the claim that he made the trains run on time is an urban legend.
* Yury Slezkine in The Jewish Century (2004): “The art historian A. Anisimov wrote to a colleague in Prague (in November 1923), “Out of 100 applicants to Moscow University, 78 are Jews; thus, if the Russian university is now in Prague, the Jewish one is in Moscow.” The father of a student about to be “purged” for alien origins wrote to a friend or relative in Serbia: “Pavel and his friends are awaiting their fate. But it’s clear that only the Jerusalem academics and the Communists, Party members generally, are going to stay.” And according to the wife of a Leningrad University professor, “in all the institutions, only workers and Israelites are admitted; the life of the intelligentsia is very hard.”“