The March on Rome: Violence and the Rise of Italian Fascism 2018048256, 9781138069732, 9781315115481

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The March on Rome: Violence and the Rise of Italian Fascism
 2018048256, 9781138069732, 9781315115481

Table of contents :
Cover
Half Title
Series Page
Title Page
Copyright Page
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements
Preface
Abbreviations
1. The Coup d’État Policy
Seditious plans
The Fiume exploit
From Fiume to Rome?
2. Political violence
The struggle for local hegemony
The anniversary policy
Strategies for violence and seizing power
The general strike and its aftermath
3. Towards the March
Talk of a coup
Organising the March
Defending the State
4. The March on Rome
‘It’s pouring’: the Fascist mobilisation
The revoking of the state of siege
The Fascists in Bologna
The appointing of Mussolini
Demobilisation
5. The March after the March
Paper battles
A ‘typically Italian revolution’: diplomacy and the March on
Rome
The ‘bivouac speech’ and the parliamentary debate
Army reports
The first official representation
6. A year of Fascist domination
Violence and public order
The transformation of the State
Time to draw a balance
Conclusion
Index

Citation preview

The March on Rome

The aim of this book is to reconstruct the violent nature of the March on Rome and to emphasise its significance in demarcating a real break in the country’s history and the beginning of the Fascist dictatorship. This aspect of the March has long been obscured: first by the Fascists’ celebratory project, and then by the ironic and reductive interpretation of the event put forward by anti-Fascists. This volume focuses on the role and purpose of Fascist political violence from its origins. In doing so, it highlights the conflictual nature of the March by illustrating the violent impact it had on Italian institutions as well as the importance of a debate on this political turning point in Italy and beyond. The volume also examines how the event crucially contributed to the construction of a dictatorial political regime in Italy in the weeks following Mussolini’s appointment as head of the government. Originally published in Italian, this book fills a notable gap in current critical discussion surrounding the March in the English language. Giulia Albanese is Associate Professor at the University of Padua. Her research focuses on the origins of Fascism, political violence and authoritarian cultures in the interwar years. Her previous books include Dittature mediterranee. Sovversioni fasciste e colpi di stato in Italia, Spagna, Portogallo (2016). With Roberta Pergher, she edited In the Society of Fascists: Acclamation, Acquiescence and Agency in Mussolini’s Italy (2012).

Routledge Studies in Fascism and the Far Right Series editors: Nigel Copsey, Teesside University, and Graham Macklin, Center for Research on Extremism (C-REX), University of Oslo. This new book series focuses upon fascist, far right and right-wing politics primarily within a historical context but also drawing on insights from other disciplinary perspectives. Its scope also includes radical-right populism, cultural manifestations of the far right and points of convergence and exchange with the mainstream and traditional right. Cultures of Post-War British Fascism Edited by Nigel Copsey and John E. Richardson Tomorrow Belongs to Us The British Far Right Since 1967 Edited by Nigel Copsey and Matthew Worley The Portuguese Far Right Between Late Authoritarianism and Democracy (1945–2015) Riccardo Marchi Never Again Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League 1976–1982 David Renton Anti-fascism in the Nordic Countries New Perspectives, Comparisons and Transnational Connections Edited by Kasper Braskén, Nigel Copsey and Johan A. Lundin The March on Rome Violence and the Rise of Italian Fascism Giulia Albanese Aurel Kolnai's 'War Against the West' Reconsidered Wolfgang Bialas The Ku Klux Klan and Freemasonry in 1920s America Fighting Fraternities Miguel Hernandez For more information about this series, please visit: https://www.routledge. com/Routledge-Studies-in-Fascism-and-the-Far-Right/book-series/FFR

The March on Rome Violence and the Rise of Italian Fascism

Giulia Albanese Translated by Sergio Knipe

First published 2019 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2019 Giulia Albanese The right of Giulia Albanese to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Albanese, Giulia, author. Title: The march on Rome / Giulia Albanese. Other titles: Marcia su Roma. English Description: Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY : Routledge, 2019. | Series: Routledge studies in fascism and the far right | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2018048256| ISBN 9781138069732 (hardback ; alk. paper) | ISBN 9781315115481 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Italy--History--March on Rome, 1922. | Fascism--Italy. | Italy--Politics and government--1922-1945. Classification: LCC DG571.75 .A4313 2019 | DDC 945.091--dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2018048256 ISBN: 978-1-138-06973-2 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-11548-1 (ebk) Typeset in Times New Roman by Taylor & Francis Books

Contents

Acknowledgements Preface Abbreviations 1

The Coup d’État Policy

vii ix xviii 1

Seditious plans 2 The Fiume exploit 5 From Fiume to Rome? 10 2

Political violence

17

The struggle for local hegemony 20 The anniversary policy 27 Strategies for violence and seizing power 30 The general strike and its aftermath 33 3

Towards the March

51

Talk of a coup 51 Organising the March 56 Defending the State 63 4

The March on Rome ‘It’s pouring’: the Fascist mobilisation 74 The revoking of the state of siege 82 The Fascists in Bologna 88 The appointing of Mussolini 91 Demobilisation 101

73

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5

The March after the March

113

Paper battles 114 A ‘typically Italian revolution’: diplomacy and the March on Rome 121 The ‘bivouac speech’ and the parliamentary debate 126 Army reports 137 The first official representation 140 6

A year of Fascist domination

148

Violence and public order 148 The transformation of the State 155 Time to draw a balance 164 Conclusion Index

174 178

Acknowledgements

This book is a revised version of the Italian edition, based on my PhD thesis, which I defended at the European University Institute in December 2004. I am intellectually indebted to this Institute, and in particular to the Department of History and Civilization. I would like to thank all the people who have contributed to the development of this work, and in particular my supervisor Luisa Passerini, along with Raffaele Romanelli, Victoria de Grazia and Heinz Gerhard Haupt, who have followed it at different stages, but always with the utmost care and helpfulness. I am also grateful to my colleagues and friends from those years, who have made me the person and historian I am. I am also most grateful to the Istituto italiano per gli studi storici for enabling me to complete this research, by offering me a scholarship and a year in Naples. Many other people have stood by my side providing moral and intellectual support in the year I spent drafting this volume. While I cannot list them all, I would at least like to mention Stuart Woolf, Mariuccia Salvati, David Bidussa, Alessio Gagliardi and Tommaso Baris, together with Luisa Mangoni and Innocenzo Cervelli, who regrettably have passed away. I am deeply indebted to these people for their advice and willingness to read and discuss this and other works with me. Special thanks are owed to Gia Caglioti, not least for her final reading of the text; and – for this final version – to Sergio Knipe, who has translated the volume and, through his work, has helped me think it over. Moreover, I am most grateful to the Department of History, Geography and Classical Studies of Padua University, which I joined several years ago. It is there that I started working on this translation and revision of the volume. In particular, I would like to mention Silvio Lanaro, a person who crucially contributed to my education and with whom I regret not spending more time. I would also like to thank Carlotta Sorba, Enrico Francia and Matteo Millan, with whom I have discussed the topic of this book over the years. The greatest thanks, however, are owed to Mario Isnenghi, without whom I would probably never have considered undertaking a PhD. He helped me focus my research on the March on Rome by discussing the subject with keenness and generosity.

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There is no need to thank the friends with whom I have shared the ups and downs of my research, writing and life, or indeed my parents – they know how indebted I am to them. The English edition of this volume is dedicated to my husband, Simon Levis Sullam – who has provided support at different stages of this project by discussing with me the topics I was investigating – and to the many things we share.

Preface

Rain, rain, and more rain. Little food, not enough tents and few weapons. The Fascist squads assembled north of Rome to attack the capital are weary, soaked and hungry when, on the afternoon of 29 October, the news of Mussolini’s appointment as head of the government breaks. Over the previous days, men, most of them from Tuscany, have been pouring into the five small towns in central Italy (Tivoli, Monterotondo, Santa Marinella, Foligno, Valmontone and Civitavecchia), chosen as rallying points for the squads heading to Rome. Men have also been assembling in Perugia, the headquarters of the anticipated revolution. However, on 28 October all preparatory actions are suddenly brought to a halt by orders of the Fascist leadership of the coup, the quadrumvirate. Only the assaults on army barracks to stock up the inadequate Fascist arsenal continue. Thus the squadristi assembled in the small city of Foligno, near Perugia, are sent to the nearby city of Spoleto, 28 km to the south, with the order to ransack the city’s military depot. Their mission proves successful in no small measure owing to the complete lack of defence put up by the commander and guards. Meanwhile, tension is rising at the rallying points: having heeded the call to participate in a heroic act, the squadristi now find themselves held back at the gates of Rome, caught in a fruitless and – in their eyes – unjustified wait. Some men disobey orders. On the morning of 29 October, a group attempts to occupy a fort in the Monte Mario district in Rome; unlike their colleagues in Spoleto, they are stopped by the army and forced to withdraw. The news of Mussolini’s appointment reaches the squadristi as they are expecting the order to enter the capital to be given at any moment. Instead, they now wait for Mussolini, who has boarded a train in Milan and is en route to Rome to assume his post as Prime Minister. Some squads, however, start heading towards the capital. Among them are the columns organised by generals Fara, Ceccherini and De Bono, comprising around 16,000 squadristi. At 1.30 pm on 30 October, these men finally arrive in Rome. The army troops restraining them at various checkpoints are ordered to let them through. The squadristi thus do not conquer their way into the city, but their entry follows an invitation of sorts. Nor do they march. Instead, part of them reach the capital by train and they are housed and fed in barracks and schools

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by express order of the King of Italy and the new Prime Minister. The ‘takeover’ of the capital, thus, does not look as the Fascist command and its men had imagined it. The Fascists have won – they are now in Rome; but they have not conquered the city and their deed is devoid of even a veneer of heroism. Though inside the capital, the squadristi have by no means seized power or taken control of the city. No longer having to fight the State, the squadristi must fight the antiFascists, who will not acquiesce to the Fascist occupation of their neighbourhoods. The working-class district of San Lorenzo does not surrender to them, nor do the other working-class neighbourhoods such as Prenestina, Nomentana and Borgo Pio, or of the Via Trionfale area. The Fascists struggle to occupy hostile places, as their opponents fight back. Nonetheless, the Fascist attack on Rome takes a heavy toll as episodes of violence shake working-class neighbourhoods. Fascists pour castor oil down the throats of political enemies, destroy the houses of anti-Fascist deputies, torch party headquarters, newspaper offices and People’s Houses and beat their occupants. The police give the Fascists complete freedom of action: the forces of law and order reach the riot sites when the clashes are over and simply show up to count the dead, carry away the wounded and try to arrest the people responsible, who for the most part are identified as anti-Fascists. Despite the severe fighting during these days, Mussolini’s first measure after coming into power is to withdraw the army and announce that all is quiet in the capital. The city is far from peaceful, but the important thing is to give people across Italy the impression that it is. Such is the conclusion to the events that make up the March on Rome. If we now consider the actions carried out by the Fascists in other parts of Italy at the same time, and link them to the Fascist strategy of the months before, what happened in Rome turns out to be far more complex and far less reckless and fortuitous than has often been suggested. As tens of thousands of men are heading to Rome, in many cities across Italy the squadristi who are not ordered to reach Rome occupy (often only as a formal gesture) the main seats of power and transport hubs linking urban centres to their periphery and to the capital of the country. They impede Prefects from maintaining public order, even holding them hostage for a few hours; they block post and telegraph offices and attempt – successfully, at times – to stop trains and close down stations, to prevent the circulation of news and police mobilisation. When it becomes clear that Mussolini has been appointed as head of government, the Fascists escalate the violence they have unleashed over the last few months. The squadristi occupy the headquarters of local public administrations that have opposed Fascism, threatening, beating or banishing from their towns and cities notable anti-Fascists – not just Socialists and Communists, but also members of the Partito Popolare Italiano, the Catholic party, and even a few liberals. They occupy and in some cases destroy the headquarters not just of anti-Fascist newspapers, but even of independent ones. In this context, twenty-two people die as a consequences of the Fascist action.

Preface xi The Fascist strategy proves successful, chiefly because it goes unchallenged. And it has a massive impact: it once again proves the reluctance or incapacity of the liberal State to react to threats and to defend some of its fundamental principles, such as freedom of the press, freedom of expression and of association, as well as the State’s monopoly of force. In fact, what is taking place is the destruction of the liberal State – even at an institutional level, a process that is gradually completed over the following months. At the time, however, with some exceptions, most Italians viewed the March on Rome as one of those sudden events that create a huge stir without really affecting the institutions or power relations. Even those who realised the subversive potential of the event believed that it was nothing new, that the March on Rome and its outcome were ultimately in keeping with liberal institutions and politics, or at any rate that it was best to downplay its significance, hoping that trying to normalise what was happening would be enough to maintain a balance in the country. In many respects, the March on Rome is a surprising event, which has often been recounted, yet for a long time was seldom investigated: until recently few historians have attempted to analyse its significance, the reasons behind it, and its role in the history of Italy. The actions of the squadristi and the extent of the violence perpetrated in those days have mostly been underestimated and overlooked, except by historians working for the Fascist regime. They – for evident reasons of propaganda – examined the whole episode in a highly selected manner, ignoring the clashes between Fascists and the police and highlighting the heroism and anti-Socialist efforts of the squadristi.1 In their accounts, the March was presented either as the revolution or as the beginning of the Fascist revolution, and in any case as the beginning of a new era, the Fascist one. While creating the myth of the March, Mussolini tried to conceal the subversive aspect of this event, in order to remove any idea that it was possible to subvert his government from within or from below. The images of the March on Rome, those which were intended to reach a national and international public, were carefully checked in order to develop a message that was acceptable to and controlled by the dictator. While the March was still taking place, the leaders of the Socialist Party and the Popolari – not to mention the liberal ruling class – were not convinced that the March represented a watershed in the political and institutional situation of the country. On the contrary, they thought that Fascist rule would not last, and hence failed to react to the events. This was confirmed by their broad participation in the coalition government organised by Mussolini and by the absence of any reaction to the violent speech with which he asked for a vote of confidence for his government. For many of those who were, or were to become, active anti-Fascists – and in opposition to the claims made by the Fascists, who labelled the March a ‘revolution’ – the real turning point in Italian history came with the assassination of Socialist MP Giacomo Matteotti and the speech delivered by

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Mussolini on 3 January 1925, in which he claimed responsibility for the violence committed by the Fascists. Even in anti-Fascist publications during the Fascist regime, most of which were published abroad and in languages other than Italian, the focus was more on the conflicts and violence in the period before the March on Rome, on the limitations and falsehood of the Fascist propaganda about the government, or at any rate on the limits of the late October events. This was even the case for those anti-Fascists, like Salvemini, who sought to analyse the events in greater detail after they happened. Salvemini refused to describe them as a revolution and was convinced, at least at first, that what had occurred was a coup d’état carried out with the support of the military establishment.2 Few anti-Fascists saw the March while it was happening as an epochmaking event; among those who did was Luigi Salvatorelli, who described it in such terms in the pages of the newspaper ‘La Stampa’ as early as 1923.3 Subsequently, as late as 1931, the anti-Fascist Emilio Lussu emphasised Mussolini’s choice to remain in Milan during the March as a sign of his readiness to escape to Switzerland in the event of a failure. Moreover, aiming to propose an anti-heroic view of the event, he underlined that Mussolini was not with the squads but that he travelled comfortably to Rome by train.4 This interpretation of the March in a way agreed with the conclusions of those who believed that the event was not a real watershed in the history of Italy. In the post-WWII period, the history of the Fascist takeover was largely reduced to the parliamentary negotiations that led to the resignation of the Facta government in the days of the Congress of Naples and to the King’s appointment of Mussolini as the head of the new government.5 Even after WWII, the March on Rome was thus largely overlooked, as other events – including the resistance – were perceived to be the key moments in which defeat or victory had been more heroic or meaningful, and thus more worth recounting. Many historians have emphasised the institutional continuity rather than the divergences between the Facta and Mussolini governments. They have thus tended to regard the March on Rome as a bluff rather than an event which had a strong political impact and which deserves to be studied as such. Moreover, many works have stressed the complicity and the many backroom agreements between the Fascist leaders and the liberal ones, the connivance of a substantial sector of the army, and the support of the King to the Fascist cause at the outset of the March. While all these elements have always held true, as early as the 1980s Adrian Lyttelton noted that what makes it so difficult to interpret the March on Rome is precisely the originality of the strategy deployed by the Fascists to seize power. Given the ambiguity of the event, it was easy to forget that – more than any other event – the March marked the beginning of the Fascist dictatorship.6 What made the March on Rome possible? What was the objective? What role did violence play in the March on Rome? How did the March change the political context? Why did only some sections of the police force react, while others did not? Why did the political ruling class believe that nothing particularly

Preface xiii relevant was taking place in Italy in those days? These are the questions that the present book seeks to answer. Two elements clearly emerged over the course of this enquiry. The first – revealed by a further engagement with Salvemini’s thesis of the March on Rome as a coup d’état – is the existence of widespread authoritarian and dictatorial tendencies in post-WWI Italy. The second element is the fact that the formula ‘March on Rome’ has overshadowed the events which were not part of the actual March and entrance of the squadristi into Rome. Yet the most noteworthy events related to the March are the many occupations of towns and cities, and particularly of Prefectures, post offices and stations in every corner of Italy. These shows of strength reveal that the March itself had a very different geography and impact from what is generally assumed. The central thesis of this book is that Mussolini’s government marked the beginning of dictatorship in Italy and the end of its liberal institutions.7 In the days and months immediately following the March, the Fascists were free to threaten one of the chief State institutions, Parliament, without meeting any opposition from the liberal ruling class. Immediately afterwards, a broad parliamentary majority passed an unconstitutional law, approving the establishment of a private militia, the Milizia volontaria per la sicurezza nazionale, under the Prime Minister’s control. Parliament also ratified a law curtailing freedom of expression and print, as well as an electoral law entailing a reform of the Italian representative system and the ‘granting of constituent power’ to Fascism.8 These laws were even voted for by some of those MPs who opposed Fascism in the belief that this was the best way to play the political game with the Fascists. The aim of this book is to reconsider the March on Rome with an awareness of the different interpretative perspectives according to which it has been analysed, and most importantly by freshly re-examining the sources. This event reveals how far an institutional transformation can take place without such a change being clearly understood by those witnessing it. In this study, much attention has been paid to the ways in which violence shaped political positions and choices not just in the period leading up to the March but also during the event itself and in its aftermath. This book demonstrates the extent to which violence constituted the cornerstone of Fascist action, even within Parliament, and how it affected or even determined the choices of the liberal ruling class, as well as of anti-Fascists. The attention to the role played by violence during this event is consistent with the broader reconsideration of the role of violence in the history of Fascism which has been taking place since the 1990s. The publication in 1990 of George Mosse’s Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars, marked in fact a turning point in the interpretation of the role of violence in the inter-war period.9 The brutalisation thesis has since been called into question, yet at the time it offered a refreshing starting point since it developed new hypotheses on the origins of the political use of violence and provided a wider reconsideration of the militarisation and brutalisation of

xiv Preface politics, focusing on the effects of WWI.10 In the case of Italy, this thesis brought to light the importance and role of the violent action of the squadristi from the very beginning of the Fascist movement. It also highlighted the role of the party militia in the development of Fascism and hence the structural function of violence at the origin of Fascism, its central role with respect to the seizing of new political spaces, the winning of the consent of the Italian public, and the creation of new bonds among the squadristi.11 Mosse’s perspective, therefore, also had a huge impact on the research on the origin of Italian Fascism. On the one hand, it created a picture in which it was necessary to consider what had happened on the peninsula through a broader comparative analysis, of the sort conducted in many different ways over the following years. In particular, when this present book was about to be issued in Italy, the German scholar Sven Reichardt published his comparative analysis on the Fascist squads and the German SA, showing the fundamental role of Fascist violence at the origin of Italian Fascism and its great impact on the development of the regime.12 This comparison allowed Reichardt to point out that violence had a greater impact on the crisis of Italian liberal democracy than it had on the final stages of the Weimar Republic, thereby suggesting new possible terms of comparison between the two Fascist cases. On the other hand, the brutalisation thesis also made it possible to rethink existing research on WWI and on the years leading up to it, showing the importance of acts of violence, authoritarianism and totalitarianism both before and during the war.13 These new strands of interpretation certainly were enhanced and reshaped by this new historiographical context. In the following years, more research was published on the role of violence in the period prior to the establishment of the Italian Fascist regime. Fabio Fabbri’s Le origini della guerra civile analysed the role and use of violence by the Socialists and by the State, as well as by the squadristi, in the period between the end of the war and 1921. This book also reopened the discussion around the possible definition of this period as one of civil war, focusing on the contemporaries’ representation and usage of these words.14 Following this renewed focus on violence, more research was also carried out on violence under the regime, for instance with Michael Ebner’s Ordinary Violence in Mussolini’s Italy, as well as on the endurance of squadrismo well beyond the alleged attempt to normalise the movement – as illustrated by Matteo Millan’s Squadrismo e squadristi nella dittatura fascista, which highlighted the importance of squadrismo as a means to stabilise the Italians’ acquiescence towards the regime.15 Finally, the acts of violence perpetrated in the colonies and during the war have received more attention. As for the March on Rome, Italian public memory continues to struggle with the idea that it constituted a turning point in the history of the country and a violent takeover of political power (albeit one legitimised by the highest political institutions), even though historians are more and more agreeing on this interpretation. In the early 1990s, Mario Isnenghi published a short article in his Italian version of the Lieux de Mémoire, in which he reflected on

Preface xv the Italians’ difficulty to take this momentous event of their history as a dramatic break in the history of the country and looked at the ways in which the March had been represented both by contemporary witnesses and by historians to demonstrate that.16 The essays helped to focus historians’ attention on the March and its significance and provided an important stimulus for more research. It led scholars to analyse how deep the impact of the events encapsulated by the label ‘March on Rome’ was and to reflect on and affirm its importance as a turning point in the history of the country. The thesis presented in Isnenghi’s book was not uncontested. Nonetheless, some years after the publication of the book, Emilio Gentile himself published a study, E fu subito regime, which partially differed from the interpretation provided in Storia del partito fascista, the first volume of an unfinished history of the Fascist Party, published in 1989. In this first volume, the March on Rome had been almost completely overlooked, while in the volume published on the 90th anniversary of the event, it was presented as the starting point of the Fascist dictatorship.17 Since the March on Rome stands as an important critical juncture in Italian history, new research and interpretations will continue to be developed. For now, I am very happy that this book will also be available to a wider international public. In the present edition I have extensively revised the text published in Italian in 2006, in order to make it more accessible to a nonItalian public, while updating some references and rewriting part of the prologue and the conclusion. The latter in the Italian edition attempted to reflect on some possible comparisons that I have since developed in a new study published in Italian under the title Dittature mediterranee. Sovversioni fasciste e colpi di stato in Italia, Spagna e Portogallo.18 Here I have chosen to present some recent reflections on the European impact of the March on Rome, since the Italian events of October 1922, far from representing an isolated turning point in a faraway and southern extension of the European continent, became a central force of political change in the following years. Giulia Albanese Venice/Padua, August 2018

Notes 1 The historiographical tendency to underestimate the use of violence during the March on Rome may be traced back to Angelo Tasca, who was nonetheless one of the first of Fascism to draw attention to its violent politics: see A. Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, Bari, Laterza, 1972 [1938], esp. p. 476. On the Fascist historiography of the March on Rome and this ambivalent attitude towards the founding event of Fascism, see M. Isnenghi, ‘La marcia su Roma’, in M. Isnenghi (ed.), I luoghi della memoria. Strutture ed eventi dell’Italia unita, Rome-Bari, Laterza, 1997, and G. Albanese, ‘Reconsidering the March on Rome’, European History Quarterly, vol. 42, no. 3, 2012, pp. 403–21.

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2 See the evolving interpretations of the anti-Fascist intellectuals: G. Salvemini, The Fascist Dictatorship in Italy, London, Jonathan Cape, 1928, his diary of those days, published posthumously, Memorie e soliloqui. Diario 1922–1923, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2001, in particular p. 36, as well as his lectures in Harvard, delivered around 1943, and available in Salvemini, The Origins of Fascism in Italy, London, Harper & Lee, 1973. 3 These articles were then published in 1923 in L. Salvatorelli, Nazionalfascismo, Turin, Einaudi, 1977 [1923]. 4 E. Lussu, The March on Rome and Thereabouts: An Autobiographical Account by a Leading Sardinian Republican Politician of Resistance to Fascism in Sardinia from 1918–1930, Lewinston (NY), Edwin Mellen, 1992. 5 The main exceptions to this perspective are A. Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power: Fascism in Italy 1919–1929, London, Routledge, 2009 [1974]; G. Santomassimo, La marcia su Roma, Florence, Giunti, 2000; M. Saija, I prefetti italiani nella crisi dello stato liberale, Milan, Giuffrè, 2001; M. Isnenghi, L’Italia in piazza. I luoghi della vita pubblica dal 1848 ai giorni nostri, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2004 [1994]. 6 Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power, pp. 77–93. The definition of the March of Rome as a coup d’état was also taken up, albeit less frequently, in the post-war period: for the main juridical and historiographical interpretations of the phenomenon in such terms, see S. Tosi, Il colpo di stato, Rome, Gismondi, 1951, and G. Candeloro, Storia dell’Italia moderna. VIII. La prima guerra mondiale, il dopoguerra, l’avvento del fascismo, Milan, Feltrinelli, 1979, in particular p. 416. 7 Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power. See also, more recently, Gentile, E fu subito regime, Rome-Bari, Laterza, 2012. 8 The quote is from L. Carlassare, ‘La “rivoluzione” fascista e l’ordinamento statutario’, Diritto Pubblico, no. 1, 1996, pp. 43–62. Much the same interpretative approach is favoured by G. Sabbatucci, ‘Il “suicidio” della classe dirigente liberale. La legge Acerbo 1923–1924’, Italia contemporanea, no. 174, 1989, pp. 57–80. 9 G. Mosse, Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of World Wars, Oxford University Press, 1990. 10 There is a huge literature on this subject. I will only refer to one of the most recent works, which demonstrates the liveliness of this interpretation almost thirty years after its formulation: R. Gerwarth, The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End, 1917–1923, London, Allen Lane, 2016. 11 On the impact of Mosse’s studies in Italy see L. Benadusi and G. Caravale (eds), George Mosse’s Italy: Interpretation, Reception and Intellectual Heritage, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. On Mosse’s use of the brutalisation thesis in 1989, see Storia del partito fascista. 1919–1922. Movimento e milizia, Rome-Bari, Editori Laterza, 1989, p. 471, where Gentile refers to the ‘brutalisation of life’, drawing upon Mosse’s Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Fascism, Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1978. 12 S. Reichardt, Faschistische Kampfbünde. Gewalt und Gemeinschaft im italienischen Squadrismus und in der deutschen SA, Köln/Weimar/Wien, Böhlau, 2002. An Italian edition was published by Il Mulino in 2009. 13 A very important study for the Italian case is the book by A. Ventrone, La seduzione totalitaria. Guerra, modernità, violenza politica (1914–1918), Rome, Donzelli, 2003. 14 F. Fabbri, Le origini della guerra civile. L’Italia dalla Grande Guerra al Fascismo, 1918–1921, Turin, UTET, 2009. The debate on the notion of civil war – also in the years 1919–1922 – was launched by some considerations of Claudio Pavone, put forward in A Civil War: A History of the Italian Resistance, London, Verso 2013 [1991]. On this theme see also M. Bresciani, ‘L’autunno dell’Italia liberale; una discussione su guerra civile, origini del fascismo e storiografia «nazionale»’,

Preface

15 16 17 18

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Storica, vol. 54, no. 3, 2013, pp. 77–110, and M. Di Figlia, ‘La guerra civile del fascismo’, Meridiana, no. 76, 2013, pp. 85–104. M. Ebner, Ordinary Violence in Mussolini’s Italy, Cambridge University Press, 2016; M. Millan, Squadrismo e squadristi nella dittatura fascista, Rome, Viella, 2016 (and the discussion in Contemporary European History, vol. 22, n. 4, 2013). Isnenghi, La marcia su Roma. Gentile, E fu subito regime. See also Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, in particular pp. 676–680. Rome-Bari, Laterza, 2016.

Abbreviations

ACS APC APS ASSME CGdL FO MI MRF MVSN PPI PRO PS TUC

Archivio centrale dello stato (National Archives) Atti Parlamentari della Camera dei Deputati (Proceedings of the Chamber of Deputies) Atti Parlamentari del Senato (Proceedings of the Senate) Archivio Storico dello Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito (Historical Archives of the Army) Confederazione Generale del Lavoro (General Confederation of Work) Foreign Office (UK) Ministero dell’Interno (Ministry of the Interior) Mostra della Rivoluzione Fascista (Exhibition of the Fascist Revolution) Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (Voluntary Militia for National Security) Partito popolare italiano (Italian Popular Party) Public Record Office (UK) Pubblica sicurezza (Public Security) Telegrammi Ufficio Cifra (Telegrams and Code Office)

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The Coup d’État Policy

26 September 1919, fourteen days after the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio’s coup de main on Fiume, the Socialist Anna Kuliscioff wrote to her partner Filippo Turati, one of the leading figures of the Socialist Party: Even the appeal to the country on whether Fiume should be Italian or not is risky, and the issue is being put off indefinitely, with the danger that meanwhile the army might launch a coup de main on Rome as well. The following day, she continued: In the political mire of this turbulent political period, it is truly comforting to see that Nitti [the head of government] is taking a stance. Not only is he not going back on his words but he is as resolute as ever before in upholding them in an anti-militarist and anti-war sense, thereby refuting the theoretical claims made by the bourgeois governments, which can only endure with the help of sharks, militarists and the haute bourgeoisie. Even his call for the proletariat to rise up against D’Annunzio’s coups de main was more than just an empty claim … It is definitely the case that red or white revolutions in Italy are only ever carried out with the government’s consent.1 A lucid observer, Anna Kuliscioff described the political situation of September 1919 with words that reflect the concern of at least part of the Italian political and intellectual establishment. What had triggered this concern was the rebellion which had led D’Annunzio and his legionaries to seize Fiume/ Rijeka – a multilingual and multicultural city, which had previously been part of Austria-Hungary and was now being claimed by Italian nationalists owing to its large Italian-speaking population – essentially with the support of the local troops. But what was also at play was the very nature of the crisis of the Italian institutions and politics, and the possibility of a conservative and authoritarian coup d’état in the country.2 This concern cannot be dismissed as unfounded, as is shown by the various plans for a nationalist coup hatched in the years 1919–1920.

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Seditious plans In early June 1919, the news of a possible coup d’état had become a matter of public debate after having circulated for some time in government circles and among members of the press. The plan in question was the result of an agreement struck between nationalists, Arditi (veterans from the Italian shock troops) and veteran associations. It had probably been orchestrated by the Duke of Aosta, General Gaetano Giardino, Colonel Giulio Douhet, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Benito Mussolini, Luigi Federzoni, Italo Foschi and Captain Mario Carli, that is by leading figures of the army and of interventionist and nationalists associations, among others.3 The aim of what came to be known as the ‘Palazzo Braschi plot’ was to seize government headquarters, depose the government and establish a new executive under the control of the army. The disclosure of the plan created a difficult situation for the head of government on account of the possible involvement of the Ministry of War, but also of the Royal Family in the person of the Duke of Aosta, the King’s cousin. It is likely that the alleged plotters were forced to disclaim the news of their involvement, and the sovereign himself took a public stance on the matter.4 In response to the circulation of this news, the nationalists launched a smear campaign against the government, accusing it of inventing a coup in order to delegitimise the people involved in the plan.5 On 13 June 1919, the nationalist newspaper Idea Nazionale ran an editorial entitled The Grotesque Manoeuvre of the ‘Coup d’État’. The article stated: No doubt, the matter could hardly be any different. Regarding the foolish and coarse tale of the planned coup d’état, let no one be misled into believing that this web of nonsense was conceived and spread simply to amuse the readers … It is evident that its circulation was intended to be of use for something and someone.6 The government’s campaign against the planned coup d’état not only stood in the way of the political schemes of the nationalists and certain military groups but also made them fear that they would be branded as traitors to the country – a role which up until then they themselves had attributed to the Socialists. Nevertheless, the nationalists’ necessity to make their position clear and to avoid marginalisation did not prevent them from publicly endorsing the prospect of an extra-parliamentary solution to the ongoing government crisis. Reflecting on the constitution of the cabinet presided over by the liberaldemocrat Francesco Saverio Nitti, who had taken the place of Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, the nationalist newspaper Il Dovere nazionale wrote: With Giolitti’s majority, every parliamentary solution will be a compromise and act of cowardice. We find ourselves in such a terrible moment that we need strong hands and strong men. The country must no longer

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be governed by the stale electoral oligarchies of the old Italy but by the civilian and military force responsible for its victory. The monarchy is there for a reason: let it appoint a government outside of the moribund parliament and restore the nation’s physical and moral strength.7 The authorities carried out investigations to ascertain the truth about the plans for a coup. The Prefect of Rome reported to the Ministry of the Interior that the rumours of a plot were well-founded and that the premises of Idea Nazionale were being used to hold meetings attended by nationalists as well as members of the armed forces. The Prefect advised against allowing D’Annunzio to visit Rome, while giving his reassurance that any initiatives against the government would meet with failure unless backed by the army.8 On the other hand, the news of a conspiracy was denied by the investigations office of the Ministry of the Interior, which declared: ‘We are unaware of any secret committees of nationalists and Arditi planning some violent action. The negotiations and agreements that have just begun in these days are taking place openly.’9 In his memoirs, written in the immediate aftermath of World War II, Enrico Caviglia, who had been one of the most prominent generals in the Italian army during WWI, confirms the existence of the plot and of widescale nationalist mobilisation. These memoirs also confirm that it was supported by the army and navy, as well as by a considerable section of the troops still mobilised in the Venezia Giulia region, which were ready to carry out acts of protest and revolt against the Italian State.10 Meanwhile, the irredentists and the more zealous nationalists, unexpectedly joined by some far Left groups, hoped for a return to action on different yet compatible fronts: some pushed for revolution within the country, others for Italian control over Dalmatia. In early June, Caviglia reported again that alongside the rumour of a coup de main on Palazzo Braschi, news had started circulating of two alleged plans to occupy Split: one organised by General Ottavio Zoppi, who had been in charge of the assault troops during WWI, and had therefore led many of the men who had followed D’Annunzio to Fiume, the other by a section of the Third Army led by the Duke of Aosta. As though to confirm the soundness of these rumours, shortly after they started circulating the government disbanded the Third Army and placed the border area under the control of General Mario Antonio Di Robilant, whose anti-irridentist sentiments were well known.11 A few days after these decisions, when presenting the new government to the Chamber of Deputies in early July, the head of government Francesco Saverio Nitti bemoaned his opponents’ attitude. In particular, he openly condemned the nationalists, stressing the subversiveness of their political views and comparing them to the revolutionary parties of the Left: I often hear the casual remark being made that the Government is too tolerant, that the Government does not exercise enough rigour. Honourable colleagues, I have performed my duty with great firmness, but also with a

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The Coup d’État Policy sense of equanimity and justice. I judge the work of those who inflame people’s souls in one way just as dangerous as the work of those who inflame it in another. Whipping the workers up to revolt is deplorable. But attempting to undermine the freedom of Parliament is even more deplorable.12

The British ambassador to Rome, Rennell Rodd – an external observer, yet not a complete outsider – remarked on the Italian situation when writing to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Lord Curzon: A very sensational story is being discussed in the press here and will if not stopped by the censor, no doubt find its way to other countries. It is at any rate significant of the general unrest prevailing here and of the tendency among the public to show their impatience with the present modes of government and the degeneracy of Parliament in this country … Now it would perhaps be superfluous to have submitted to you in an official dispatch a story which is naturally regarded as fantastic were it not that there is apparently a little bit of truth behind it, and that the elaboration of the supposed conspiracy has been built on a certain foundation of fact.13 In what was arguably a far from arbitrary move, Rodd discussed the news of the founding of the Fasci di Combattimento (and the funding they received) in conjunction with the issue of Fiume and the demonstrations in favour of its annexation, giving a description of the plot: The practical application of the plot was to begin with a hostile demonstration on a large scale with sig. Orlando and other delegates returned, to be followed by a sort of coup de main against the Ministry of the Interior and the Parliament. The constituted authorities were to be deposed, the deputies informed that their mandate had ceased, and those who were regarded as responsible for the disaster of the country, especially the Giolittians and the socialists, were to be arrested. New elections would then beheld, and if the crown opposed the programme, elections for a costituend assembly also. A state of war on the eastern frontier could also be resumed. The executive agents of the plot would be the military associations, which had 800,000 members enrolled, with a fund at their disposal of twelve million lire, subscribed by the great industrial houses in Lombardy, Liguria and Piedmont … A few months later, in September–October 1919, rumours of a possible new conspiracy started circulating. Francesco Saverio Nitti publicly denounced the fact that what D’Annunzio and his men were planning against him and his policies was an actual coup d’état. At the same time, in response to what was coming to light, from the pages of their newspapers the nationalists and Fascists were once again accusing the government of using these charges to reinforce its power by staging a coup.

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The Fiume exploit The coup de main on Fiume contributed to lend substance to the rumours that had been circulating until then. Indeed, since the ‘March on Ronchi’ organised by D’Annunzio to invade the Croatian town witnessed the involvement not just of the grenadiers but also of many members of the armed forces who ought to have stood in the way of this subversive action.14 In an address to the Chamber of Deputies, Nitti provided a remarkably harsh reading of the event which reflects a serious concern for the political situation and an awareness of the fact that the real political aim of many of the plotters who had occupied Fiume was to topple the government.15 In its attempt to resist the pressure of events, the central problem for the Nitti government was to regain control of the army and contain the sedition already at work within its ranks. The head of government discussed this point in two separate moments of his address to the Chamber, showing that he was not afraid of openly denouncing the situation, while bringing Italian public opinion face to face with a previously unforeseen prospect: What has happened has filled me with sadness, but also humiliation, because for the first time sedition has crept into the Italian army, albeit for idealistic reasons … An action carried out by volunteers is one thing, the involvement of soldiers from the regular army quite another. A soldier who breaks the discipline, albeit for a lofty purpose, goes against the country. Anyone who leads a soldier to carry out acts of sedition – albeit with blandishments, for far from vulgar aims and out of idealistic tendencies – pits him against his country.16 Nitti’s address was all the more significant because it linked the early June plot to what was taking place in Fiume, in an effort to portray all attempts made to overthrow the government over the previous months in the same light: Over the past three months I have noticed a chain of facts that began with street riots and displays of crazed excitement, continued with expeditions to seize public buildings and take control of the city of Rome (as in the case of the Pietralata adventure), and ended with events, such the present one, which have highly emotional but also highly dangerous motives behind them.17 As already noted, and as emphasised by Anna Kuliscioff in her letter to Turati, Nitti ended his speech with a plea to the proletariat: ‘I turn, therefore, to the anonymous masses, to the workers and peasants so that the great voice of the people may emerge as an admonition to all to keep to the path of renunciation and duty.’18 Nitti’s address reflected some of the unresolved dilemmas in the history of united Italy that in the aftermath of WWI had become pressing issues, arguably

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for the first time. How could the need to solve the conflict between political movements and the authorities in favour of the latter be reconciled with the history of a State, such as liberal Italy, whose founding myths had sprung from the actions of Garibaldi’s volunteers during the Risorgimento? In stressing the fundamental difference between an army of volunteers and seditious soldiers from the regular army, Nitti was seeking to avoid any possible comparison between Garibaldi’s troops and those of D’Annunzio.19 However, the name of Garibaldi could clearly be heard coming from the right-hand side of the Chamber when Nitti stated: ‘it is not by conceiving an exploit in the nature of a raid, something between the romantic and the literary, that one determines the fortune of one’s country’.20 The reference to Garibaldi was not a mere rhetorical device, given that the matter-of-fact Prime Minister himself made sure to undermine any possible identification between the two ventures and that the comparison between Garibaldi’s exploit and D’Annunzio’s one was a recurrent motif in the speeches held in the Chamber of Deputies on that day.21 The Risorgimento was not a distant historical memory but a source of debate, disagreement and contrasting positions with regard to the contemporary situation – in other words, it was a means to legitimise or delegitimise political movements or decisions.22 A few days after Nitti’s speech and the debate that ensued from it, D’Annunzio explicitly compared his own feat to Garibaldi’s. Writing to the editor-inchief of the moderate newspaper Corriere della Sera, Luigi Albertini, he stated: ‘General Badoglio himself [whom in November Nitti was to appoint special commissioner for Venezia Giulia, and hence for the Fiume affair] thinks that this is the finest exploit ever attempted after that of the Thousand [that is, Garibaldi’s volunteers].’23 This statement clearly reveals the degree to which sedition had found its way into the ranks of the army. Besides, Albertini’s own correspondence provides an important testimony on the situation of the military and the fear of sedition. At about the same time, General Cadorna, who had been Chief of Staff of the Italian Army from the beginning of the war until the Caporetto defeat in 1917, shared his opinion on the events which had just taken place with the editor-in-chief of the Corriere della Sera: I was expecting D’Annunzio not to stay put. Leaving aside the patriotic motive, for the country this is a leap in the dark. The insubordination of the army, with the poor example given by officers, including senior ones, is most deplorable in itself and on account of its future consequences. And to think that I have been criticised for my coercive discipline! Do they believe they can now re-establish it with caresses? They have despatched Badoglio there with full powers. But what if the troops he brings along with him fraternise with D’Annunzio’s men? It’s a nasty risk and – even it were to come to nothing – a nasty precedent!24 For Cadorna, the Fiume event, while undesirable, seemed to go in the hopedfor direction, insofar as it revealed the impossibility of preserving military

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discipline with a democratic government, thereby suggesting the need for an authoritarian one.25 D’Annunzio’s exploit gave the opposition a fresh opportunity to launch a tirade on the politicisation of the army and the predictability of the coup de main, and hence on the responsibilities of the government.26 Socialist MP Guido Marangoni, who in the post-war period belonged to Serrati’s maximalist current, stated in a speech delivered just after Nitti’s address: Honourable Nitti, you have trusted the information which reached you from the military front, from the heads of the army placed in command of our troops along the armistice line or near it. I certainly do not wish to accuse those people of disloyalty – an accusation I would regard as absolutely unfounded – but the pages by the Commission of Inquiry so clearly speak of their way of thinking and intellectual sharpness that a truly sharp and intelligent man such as yourself ought to have checked that information from a military source a little more closely … Be that as it may, the symptoms were visible throughout Italy. There were newspapers waging the battle, men leading it, and military divisions which had taken a stance of open revolt on all occasions. And only yesterday, within the government benches an apology was made of these military divisions that were plotting insurrection and promoting it among the other troops.27 In the wake of Nitti’s parliamentary address, the charge of plotting a coup d’état was levelled against the Prime Minister by the right-wing opposition formed by nationalists and former interventionists. Besides, these two constituencies had never accepted Nitti as a head of government worthy of managing the victory, since he was a representative of parliamentary democracy, which had been held responsible for the worst ills of the country since 1914. The newspaper of the recently founded ‘Movimento dei fasci di combattimento’, headed by the former Socialist and interventionist Benito Mussolini, the Popolo d’Italia, lent these sentiments a voice, arguing that Nitti’s dissolution of Parliament and call for new elections amounted to an attempted coup d’état.28 The newspaper described the ongoing political conflict in the following terms: What is taking place these days is not a nationalist ‘revolution’, as is claimed in the newspaper of the pussisti [the members of the Socialist Party], who are as physiologically unsuited to revolution as the toad is physiologically and anatomically endowed to flight … what is troubling the country today is not a bourgeois revolution, or a proletarian one. It is the revolution of one section of the country against another. On both sides of the barricade, bourgeois and proletarians rub shoulders. What bring them together or apart is something that lies above class interests or the ideologies of old parties – it is the war.29 A few days later, from the pages of the same newspaper Mussolini called for a coup d’état:

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The Coup d’État Policy Many people are agonising over their impossibility to go to Fiume, but I ask myself: does no one know the way to Rome? Has the requisition of weapons – another sly move attempted by the ‘pig’ – stripped all citizens of their revolvers, hand grenades and daggers? There are still some left. In this remarkably dynamic age, one goes to prison today only to leave it in triumph tomorrow.30

If we shift our attention to the words in which the charge of plotting a coup was framed by the political rhetoric of the period, we soon realise the full extent of the fractures dividing the country. Historians have long ascertained that the desire for a nation-wide action, not limited to Fiume, was widespread among the legionaries and was even shared by some of their commanders – D’Annunzio, of course, but also the Venetian irredentist nationalist Giovanni Giuriati at certain moments – although these sentiments do not imply the existence of an organisation capable of accomplishing such action.31 What is particularly revealing of the tension which existed and the popularity of certain ideas is the journey to Fiume made by Senator Borletti on behalf of Milanese industrialists, with the aim of testing the ground. Likewise, the nationalists Alfredo Rocco and Francesco Coppola travelled to Fiume to invite D’Annunzio to march on Trieste.32 Many years later, the nationalist jurist Rocco described how, in the momentous year 1919, it was already evident to the more far-sighted that waging a battle within the confines of the law was useless. The coming elections were bound to reinforce the chains that made the country a slave to demagogues, who could utterly undo the nation, if they only dared to do so.33 While it was far from clear what political order would emerge in the wake of the revolt, it was evident that Fiume would act as the information hub and powerhouse of a subversive movement, destined to spread to Milan, Venice, Trento, Genoa, Rome and Naples.34 Much the same conclusions could be drawn from the news that reached the Ministry of the Interior in those days from trustees and police commissioners, according to whom the Duke of Aosta was involved in the subversive plans.35 This information is also confirmed by the letters exchanged between the Albertini brothers. Antonio informed Luigi of the rumour that D’Annunzio was caught between his moderate followers and ‘hotheads’ who: apparently pressed for a march towards Italy … In any case – it is unclear whether during the course of this action or before it – in various cities officer uprisings broke out to the cries of Fiume and D’Annunzio, uprisings planned in these days by Vecchi and Martinetti … Nitti has opposed this propaganda with a counter-propaganda, which is apparently why the plan to make them rise up on the 23rd (tomorrow) was aborted … But we cannot rule out the possibility that something might happen at the end of the month or in early November … In short, he says that he is far from unperturbed, that he certainly believes that a coup de main is not

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unavoidable, and that he actually hopes to forestall it with his propaganda, although he is not really confident of this.36 The news did not end there. On the night between 24 and 25 October, a great commotion gripped Rome when a steamer carrying a hundred Arditi was seen leaving Fiume heading for the Italian coastline. The crisis was resolved when the steamer called at Grado and twenty men who had gone ashore to ‘get a field battery’ were detained by the local police.37 The captain decided to sail the steamer back to Fiume and put an end to the adventure so as to avoid any further consequences. On this occasion, General Badoglio himself privately stated that if episodes of the sort were to occur more frequently he was not sure that he could keep the situation under control.38 In the early years after the war, the picture in the rest of Europe was just as complex as in Italy, and in many countries it seemed as though the conflict had yet to come to an end.39 This was particularly the case in the countries that had lost the conflict, such as Germany. In March 1920, Kapp’s attempted coup d’état – which brought out the contrast between the democratic authorities and right-wing radicalism in Weimar Germany – was not only a topic of considerable interest for Italian newspapers but also a matter of reflection and a term of comparison.40 In the aftermath of the legitimate government’s victory over the plotters, the Corriere della Sera discussed the events by warning its readers not to ‘ramble’ about dictatorship or ‘any militarist abuse’, on the grounds that even in Prussia, which had a strong military apparatus by tradition, the attempt to stage a coup had met with failure. However, it is all too easy to see that the lesson which the Corriere drew from the event was to prove a naive hope more than an accurate forecast of the future of Italy and Europe: The age of reactionary restorations would appear to have ended for good. As soon as one is accomplished, Bolshevik fury follows on the heels of militarist fury … The two frenzies are as correlative and complementary as the two stages of manic-depressive folly. In these sorrowful months Europe has come face to face with death far too often (the great putsch in Berlin being merely its latest appearance) for everyone, Germans and non-Germans alike, not to finally realise that the time has come to live a little more wisely.41 What is more accurate and thought-provoking, despite its one-sided interpretation, is the analysis of German events made by Idea Nazionale,42 which attempted to explain not just that crisis but also – and most importantly – nationalist politics in Italy: Whatever turn domestic events may take in Germany, the international significance of the crisis is evident. The German counter-revolution confirms the utter failure of the spirit of the Paris Peace Conference the same

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The Coup d’État Policy day in which the Senate in Washington has issued a final condemnation of the very letter of the Treaty of Versailles.43

Returning to the subject the following day, the nationalist newspaper stated: democratic governments are capable of repression, but because of their inevitable constitutional weakness they are incapable of prevention. The KappLuttwitz episode has shown the folly of all those partisan men who pursue their violent ideas in a way that is out of touch with reality, placing their reveries and egoism above the Fatherland: on the one hand, a group of secondrate people, disregarding the discipline established by greater men, has shaken the order of the Country, obeying a passionate impulse; on the other hand, with just as much passion but with far more disastrous intents and viler uses of violence, Communist factions have sought to take advantage of the breach which the weakness of the government and the violence of the few had opened in the body of the State, so as to unleash their wave of destruction.44 The attention paid by the Idea Nazionale to the role played by Communist factions in the Kapp crisis was not unjustified: the crisis had many lessons to teach anyone who regarded the prospect of a coup d’état as a plausible hypothesis. The appeal which Nitti made to workers on the occasion of D’Annunzio’s exploit, and which was fiercely criticised by the Idea Nazionale, was similar to the appeal made by the democratic German government on this occasion to save the country from the military coup d’état. This appeal proved successful, showing not only that a democratic government was capable of repressing any attempts at subversive action but also – as Anna Kuliscioff had noted the year before – that it could deploy what were generally regarded as anti-system forces in order to quash any plot hatched by the army. The episode revealed that the liberal-democratic ruling class in Germany had realised by then that in the face of extreme danger for the country workers could be mobilised to preserve the existing democratic order. Italian nationalists feared this lesson above all, because it threatened to remove their political side from the sphere of public legitimacy. After all, what had preserved their legitimacy up until then was precisely the fact that Communists and Socialists could be considered a threat to the political system.

From Fiume to Rome? In October 1920, with the second anniversary of the victory approaching, new rumours started spreading that some generals were planning a coup. In addition to members of the army and nationalists, the news involved Fascists and Arditi. The government therefore shifted its attention once more from the far Left and the occupation of factories to the nationalist Right, which for the third time in under two years became a focus of concern for the powers in charge.45

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Fiume once again served as a hive of ideas. The first step in the coup was meant to be the landing in Ancona of ships stocked with weapons, according to a plan which had first been conceived by the legionaries in Fiume – in agreement with the leader of the Italian anarchist movement Errico Malatesta and his comrades – early in 1920, but which had never been implemented because of the Socialist Party’s opposition.46 The Giornale d’Italia, a very influential liberal conservative newspaper, and the liberal-democratic newspaper Epoca were the first to spread the news, which they dismissed as unfounded.47 The Corriere della Sera took a very different view, attacking the subversion which had crept into the army. This newspaper not only branded the members of the armed forces as ‘rebels’ but went so far as to argue that, given the claims made by the press and the Fascists, the silence of the high military echelons with regard to the coup was a sign of their connivance.48 However, the recent factory occupations led the Milanese newspaper to place a greater emphasis on the revolution-reaction conjunction. What worried the Corriere most was the prospect of a civil war: in our view, it would be difficult to make a more serious tactical mistake than to step outside the boundaries of legality in order to impose the will of one class or party by means of violence. This would be the signal of a dreadful fight whose consequences and outcome are impossible to foresee, since all the popular forces and a considerable share of the democratic ones would rally against the military-conservative reaction. What would this lead to? Possibly to the very opposite of what was expected.49 After 24 October, the date of the expected coup, and the anniversary of the Italian defeat at Caporetto, the Avanti! emphasised that the constant flow of refutations from the upper echelons of the army was in itself revealing of the fact that the accusation, far from being a laughing matter, was at any rate plausible enough to require disproof.50 The rumours about this last plot find confirmation in Luigi Gasparotto’s diary. The liberal-democratic interventionist, founder of the Associazione nazionale combattenti (Italian veterans’ association) and future War Minister wrote that he had been asked by D’Annunzio whether he would be interested in taking part in a march on Rome, but had turned down this offer.51 The negotiations between the Fascists and D’Annunzio’s men had been going on at least since the summer of 1920. Mussolini himself contributed to the planning of a march from Fiume to Rome but his interest then cooled in October, as he considered the terms of the Treaty of Rapallo unacceptable.52 Alfredo Rocco describes the atmosphere of those days as follows: For the second time, no longer a few but a great many people realised that a decisive action was required to stop the Country on the path to catastrophe. The sealing of the Rapallo agreement was imminent and then the renunciations would become unretractable. All social and economic life

12

The Coup d’État Policy was paralysed and falling apart. Once again, dictatorship seemed like an urgent need. And all thoughts turned to the only highly organised centre of national resistance then in existence: Fiume. A plan of action was discussed in detail in October 1920 by the Central Committee of the Nationalist Association, which was urgently summoned. The Idea Nazionale intensified its campaign for a dictatorship … The flow of pilgrims to Fiume increased; I myself returned there between late October and early November. Then too everything seemed to be settled, but things lingered on because Fiume was inextricably linked to the Adriatic problem. Finally, the signing of the Treaty of Rapallo on 11 November led to the irreparable, and over the Christmas of 1920 all hope to recover Fiume was drenched in blood.53

According to the British embassy, unrest on the Right was fuelled in particular by the foreign affairs negotiations which the government was conducting and by the fear that with the Rapallo negotiations it would acquiesce in further concessions, particularly in such a delicate moment as the anniversary of the victory.54 The embassy, which for the time being did not fear any further worsening of the situation, regarded the crisis as all the more serious because in the previous months the monarchy itself had not been exempt from considerable criticism: the rumour was circulating that the King would abdicate in favour of his son, a problematic prospect since the latter would be placed under the regency of the Duke of Aosta, who was apparently involved in many nationalist schemes.55 The constant hatching of coups d’état within nationalist and army circles, and the frequency with which anti-democratic and anti-parliamentary speeches and perspectives were voiced, were meaningful elements in Italian politics at the time. They show the progressive coalescence and strengthening of groups that pursued the avowed aim of overthrowing the parliamentary system and banishing certain political forces (especially the Socialists) from the political arena, while at the same time isolating those sectors of the ruling class that strove for the progressive democratisation of the liberal State.56 These tensions, which were rooted in unresolved problems marking the Italian political and economic context, were shared, in these same years, by many other European countries. They became part of a much broader, Europeanwide debate on the nature and effectiveness of liberal institutions and of political representation. The issue at stake was whether these institutions would survive the transformations brought about by the war both in the field of social organisation and in that of the economy and law.57 It is interesting to note that, despite the political developments which occurred in Italy over the following months, the hatching of hazy coups d’état has frequently been mentioned by historians but seldom discussed as a political project, if not by Roberto Vivarelli’s first books. If anything, what has proven more influential so far has been the aestheticising reading of the phenomenon, or indeed one that – as in Renzo De Felice’s case – tends to dismiss these events as individual projects.58 Far greater attention has been devoted to the strikes

The Coup d’État Policy

13

and land occupations, as well to the discussion of a possible revolutionary, and thus Socialist or Bolshevik, evolution of Italian politics, which were given the name of ‘red biennium’ in the first years of the post-war period. Recent research is starting to show not only the relevance of those grassroots movements, in terms of their action (and violence), aims and ideology, and the fears and reactionary stances they engendered among the Italian ruling classes, but also the interplay between the institutional containment of these movements and their action.59 Nonetheless, by directly investigating the plans for a coup d’état and by formulating a fully political interpretation of them, it is possible to grasp the authoritarian and subversive drive – already noted by American President Woodrow Wilson at the time – of part of Italian ruling classes, both in the military and in the civil sphere.60 This approach further enables a shift in the interpretation of the crisis of post-war Italy, allowing us to understand it also, if not mainly, as a reaction to the democratisation of the country and the institutional role played by the Parliament.

Notes 1 Both quotes are drawn from F. Turati and A. Kuliscioff, Carteggio V. 1919–1922. Dopoguerra e fascismo, Turin, Einaudi, 1977, pp. 241–242 and 244–245. 2 See ibid., pp. 202–248. See also P. Alatri, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Turin, UTET, 1983, p. 429. Henceforth, I will just use the name ‘Fiume’ since this is how the city was referred to by the Italians. 3 ACS, MI, PS, A5, ‘Agitazione pro Fiume e Dalmazia’, b. 2, fasc. ‘Roma’, the police commissioner of Rome to the Prefect, 11 June 1919; but see too F. Gerra, L’impresa di Fiume, Milan, Longanesi, 1974, p. 60; P. Alatri, Nitti, D’Annunzio e la questione fiumana, Milan, Feltrinelli, 1976, pp. 77–80. 4 ACS, MI, PS, A5, ‘Agitazione pro Fiume e Dalmazia’, b. 2, telegram from the cabinet of the Ministry of the Interior, 11 June 1919. D’Annunzio’s refutation in a letter to Mussolini dated 11 June 1919 may be found in Carteggio D’Annunzio-Mussolini (1919–1938), ed. by R. De Felice and E. Mariano, Milan, Mondadori, 1971, p. 7. On these matters, see Vivarelli, Storia delle origini del fascismo. L’Italia dalla Grande guerra alla Marcia su Roma, vol. I, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1991 p. 497 and notes. 5 See the articles ‘Il “complotto militare” giudicato da Don Abbondio’, Idea Nazionale, 16 June 1919; E. Corradini, ‘Sedizione di governo’, Idea Nazionale, 15 September 1919; E. Corradini, ‘Falsificazioni’, Idea Nazionale, 16 September 1919; ‘Cinismo cieco’, Idea Nazionale, 17 September 1919; E. Corradini, ‘Sotto la prossima dittatura’, Idea Nazionale, 19 September 1919; ‘Il responsabile’, Idea Nazionale, 25 September 1919; ‘Il colpo di mano’, Idea Nazionale, 1 October 1919. 6 ‘La grottesca manovra del “colpo di stato”’, Idea Nazionale, 13 June 1919. 7 The quote is provided by Vivarelli, Storia delle origini del fascismo, p. 496 and it is drawn from ‘I congiurati e i tremanti’, Il Dovere Nazionale, 19 June 1919. 8 ACS, MI, PS, A5, ‘Agitazione pro Fiume e Dalmazia’, b. 2, fasc. ‘Roma’, telegram from the police commissioner of Rome to the Prefect, 11 June 1919. By contrast, his concern for Fiume notwithstanding, the Prefect of Milan did not notice anything unusual in his city: see ASMi, Gabinetto di prefettura, b. 118. 9 ACS, MI, PS, A5, ‘Agitazione pro Fiume e Dalmazia’, b. 2, telegram from the cabinet of the Minister of the Interior, 11 June 1919. 10 E. Caviglia, Il conflitto di Fiume, Milan, Garzanti, 1948, p. 69–71 11 See too Vivarelli, Storia delle origini del fascismo, p. 554.

14

The Coup d’État Policy

12 Atti parlamentari Camera dei Deputati [henceforth APC], XXIV legislatura, Discussioni, vol. XVII, p. 19167, session of 11 July 1919. 13 PRO, FO 608/38, Ronald Rodd to Lord Curzon, 12 June 1919. 14 On Fiume see: Alatri, Nitti, D’Annunzio e la questione adriatica, Milan, Feltrinelli, 1959; Vivarelli, Il dopoguerra in Italia e l’avvento del fascismo. 1918–1922, Naples, Istituto italiano per gli studi storici – Feltrinelli, 1967; Ledeen, The First Duce: D’Annunzio a Fiume, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977; R. De Felice, D’Annunzio politico. 1918–1938, Rome-Bari, Laterza, 1978; Vivarelli, Storia delle origini del fascismo; Isnenghi, L’Italia in piazza. 15 See Vivarelli, Storia delle origini del fascismo, pp. 491–587. 16 For a complete account of the discussion, see APC, XXIV legislatura, Discussioni, vol. XIX, pp. 21088–21100, session of 13 September 1919. 17 See APC, XXIV legislatura, Discussioni, vol. XIX, op. cit., p. 21090. On the ambiguity of these movements, see Isnenghi, L’Italia in piazza. On the Pietralata events, see De Felice, Mussolini il rivoluzionario, n. 5, p. 552; Ledeen, The First Duce, p. 46; M. Grispigni, ‘Gli Arditi del popolo a Roma. Due aspetti particolari della loro storia’, Storia contemporanea, no. 5, 1986, esp. pp. 854–861, and E. Francescangeli, Arditi del popolo. Argo Secondari e la prima organizzazione antifascista (1917–1922), Rome, Odradek, 2000, p. 47. 18 See APC, XXIV legislatura, Discussioni, vol. XIX, op. cit., p. 21090. See too Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, p. 78. 19 See too G. Giolitti, Memorie della mia vita, Milan, Treves, 1922, p. 582. 20 APC, XXIV legislatura, Discussioni, vol. XIX, op. cit., p. 21090. 21 APC, XXIV legislatura, Discussioni, vol. XIX, op. cit., pp. 21088–21100. 22 On the political use of the memory of the Risorgimento on the part both of Fascists and anti-Fascists, see too C. Pavone, ‘Antifascisti e fascisti di fronte alla tradizione del Risorgimento’, Passato e presente, no. 7, 1959, pp. 850–918; S. Levis Sullam, Giuseppe Mazzini and the Origins of Fascism, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. 23 Emphasis in the original. L. Albertini, Epistolario 1911–1926, vol. III, Il dopoguerra, Milan, Mondadori, 1968, p. 1284. As a possible parallel, consider the position openly adopted by the Corriere della Sera: ‘Il limite’, Corriere della Sera, 21 September 1919. On this analogy, see too P. Badoglio, Rivelazioni su Fiume, Rome, Donatello De Luigi, 1946, p. 19. 24 Albertini, Epistolario 1911–1926, p. 1284. See too Caviglia, Il conflitto di Fiume, p. 127. 25 In the closing lines of the letter he sent Albertini on 14 September 1919, Cadorna wrote: ‘The hyper-democratic regimes are not designed to keep up discipline – on the contrary!’ See Albertini, Epistolario, vol. III, p. 1968. At the time, Cadorna’s conduct during the war was being made the object of a parliamentary inquiry, focusing on his role in the Caporetto defeat: see M. Isnenghi, G. Rochat, La Grande Guerra 1914–1918, Milan, La Nuova Italia, 2000, pp. 485–486. 26 Widespread concern with regard to the army is expressed in the memoires and letters from this period: see P. and A. Gobetti, Nella tua breve esistenza. Lettere 1918–1926, Turin, Einaudi, 1991, p. 172. 27 APC, XXIV legislatura, Discussioni, vol. XIX, p. 21092. 28 See esp. Mussolini, ‘L’urto fatale’, Popolo d’Italia, 24 September 1919; Mussolini, ‘Parodia di morituri’, Popolo d’Italia, 25 September 1919; M., ‘I fantasmi idioti!’, Popolo d’Italia, 26 September 1919; A. Lanzillo, ‘Dopo il ‘colpo’ nittiano’, Popolo d’Italia, 1 October 1919; Mussolini, ‘Il ministro della fogna’, Popolo d’Italia, 2 October 1919. We know, however, that in 1919 Mussolini was among those men who prevented Fiume legionaries from marching on Rome, arguing that the conditions were not right for such a feat: see Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, p. 81; De Felice, Mussolini il rivoluzionario, pp. 578–580.

The Coup d’État Policy

15

29 Mussolini, ‘L’urto fatale’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 24 September 1919. 30 Mussolini, ‘Il ministro della fogna’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 2 October 1919. The tone is much the same as that of the articles published in Idea Nazionale in those days, only without the call to active resistance against Nitti. 31 See Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, p. 81 and Vivarelli, Storia delle origini del fascismo, p. 497. See too De Felice and Mariano (eds), Carteggio D’AnnunzioMussolini (1919–1938). 32 Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, p. 81. See too A. Rocco, ‘Gli antecedenti, lo spirito, le date della marcia su Roma’, in A. Rocco, Scritti e discorsi politici. II. La lotta contro la reazione antinazionale 1919–1924, Milan, Giuffrè, 1938, pp. 739– 746, esp. pp. 740–741 (the article was originally published in Idea Nazionale, 28 October 1923). 33 Rocco, Gli antecedenti, lo spirito, le date della marcia su Roma, p. 740. 34 Alatri, Nitti, D’Annunzio e la questione adriatica, esp. p. 317. 35 See ACS, MI, A 5, ‘Agitazione pro Fiume e Dalmazia’, b. 4, fasc. 32, Unsigned note, dated Rome, 24 October 1919; b. 2, fasc. 6, the Ministry of the Interior to the Prefect of Milan, 18 September 1919 and ACS, PCM, Guerra europea 1915–1918, b. 234bis, War Minister Caviglia in command of the armed forces in Bari, Ancona and Rome, 22 November 1919. In the same days, similar news was circulating in the foreign consulates in Italy: see Ledeen, The First Duce. 36 Albertini, Epistolario 1911–1926, pp. 1304–1306. For further confirmation about plans for an expedition, see the telegrams in ACS, PCM, Guerra europea 1915– 1918, b. 243 bis, the Prefect of Ancona Grenet to the Ministry of the Navy, 24 October 1919; and Sechi to the Ministry of the Interior, 25 October 1919. In September 1919, Mussolini opposed the spread of the Fiume insurrection: see De Felice and Mariano (eds), Carteggio D’Annunzio-Mussolini, pp. 12 and 16–17. The ambiguousness of Mussolini’s attitude towards the Fiume uprising has often been emphasised in the secondary literature. 37 Albertini, Epistolario 1911–1926, pp. 1309. No mention of the event is made in the press. 38 See Albertini, Epistolario 1911–1926, pp. 1311. 39 On this violent post-war scenario, see the recent thesis by R. Gerwarth, The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End, 1917–1923, London, Allen Lane, 2016. 40 H. Schulze, La repubblica di Weimar. La Germania dal 1917 al 1933, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1987, pp. 245–267. 41 ‘Le cinque giornate di Berlino’, Corriere della Sera, 18 March 1920. Over the previous days, the newspaper had devoted numerous articles to the event, including front page ones: see ‘Sommossa militare sventata in Germania’, Corriere della Sera, 13 March 1920; ‘Un colpo di stato antirivoluzionario a Berlino’, Corriere della Sera, 14 March 1920; ‘Un nuovo colpo di scena in Germania. Ebert rimane al potere dopo un accordo con Kapp’, Corriere della Sera, 16 March 1920; ‘La caotica situazione in Germania’, Corriere della Sera, 17 March 1920; ‘Kapp e Luttwitz restituiscono il potere al vecchio governo’, Corriere della Sera, 18 March 1920. 42 More generally on the nationalist considerations inspired by the German situation, see F. Gaeta, Il nazionalismo italiano, Rome-Bari, Laterza, 1981, p. 190. The event was also extensively discussed by the Socialist press: see E. Collotti, ‘I socialisti italiani e la rivoluzione di novembre in Germania’, Studi storici, vol. X, no. 3, 1969, pp. 587–611. 43 ‘Morale’, Idea Nazionale, 17 March 1920. 44 ‘La Germania e l’Europa’, Idea Nazionale, 20 March 1920. See too the other article which the Idea Nazionale devoted to this crisis: ‘La controrivoluzione militare si estende in Germania’, Idea Nazionale, 16 March 1920.

16

The Coup d’État Policy

45 On this shift of focus, see Kennard to the Foreign Office, 27 October 1920, in PRO, FO 371/4889 (cc. 162–165). 46 See Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, n. 34, p. 90; De Felice, Mussolini il rivoluzionario, p. 554; Francescangeli, Arditi del popolo, p. 34 and G. Berti, Errico Malatesta e il movimento anarchico italiano ed internazionale 1872–1932, Milan, Franco Angeli, 2003, pp. 651–659. On the revolutionary fervour pervading Fiume, see C. Salaris, Alla festa della rivoluzione. Artisti e libertari con D’Annunzio a Fiume, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2002. 47 ‘Le voci di complotti militaristi’, Corriere della Sera, 26 October 1920. 48 ‘Fedeltà’, Corriere della Sera, 24 October 1920. 49 The newspaper adopted this position on later occasions as well: see e.g. ‘La campagna nazionalista e la necessità di disciplina’, Corriere della Sera, 26 ottobre 1920. 50 ‘I complotti e la situazione’, Avanti!, 28 October 1920. 51 The episode is quoted in a note by Tasca: see Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, n. 35, pp. 90–91. 52 Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, n. 13, pp. 199–200; De Felice, Mussolini il rivoluzionario, pp. 580–581, but also pp. 640–647. 53 Rocco, Gli antecedenti, lo spirito, le date della marcia su Roma, p. 742. 54 See the aforementioned letter by Kennard to the Foreign Office, 27 October 1920, in PRO, FO 371/4889 (cc. 162–165). 55 Ibid. 56 For a similar picture, see R. Vivarelli, Storia delle origini del fascismo, pp. 496–497. The fact that large sections of the army welcomed the prospect of radical uprisings and political conspiracies is also confirmed by P. Pieri and G. Rochat, Pietro Badoglio, Turin, UTET, 1974, pp. 473–475. On these plans for a coup, see too P. Alatri, Gabriele D’Annunzio, pp. 415–418, where the author stresses the threat posed to the State while concluding, with Rochat, that the plans hatched were probably unrealistic. 57 On these topics, see the hypotheses put forward by A. Gramsci, Quaderno 22. Americanismo e fordismo, Turin, Einaudi, 1975. The most compelling study is C. Maier, Recasting Bourgeois Europe: Stabilization in France, Germany and Italy in the Decade after World War I, Princeton University Press, 2015 [1975]. 58 See Vivarelli, Storia delle origini del fascismo, pp. 496–497. De Felice adopted a very different perspective, refusing to regard any of the alleged plans as genuine political projects: see De Felice, Mussolini il rivoluzionario, p. 553. 59 F. Fabbri, Le origini della guerra civile. L’Italia dalla Grande Guerra al Fascismo, 1918–1921, Turin, UTET, 2009. 60 See D.F. Schmitz, The United States and Fascist Italy, 1922–1940, Chapel Hill and London, The University of North Carolina Press, 1988, pp. 34–35.

2

Political violence

Benito Mussolini first came to the police force’s attention at the end of the war, on account of his ambiguously revolutionary intentions. He had been a revolutionary Socialist, and the director of Italy’s Socialist newspaper, L’Avanti!, until the autumn 1914, when he had chosen to take a stance in favour of the country’s intervention in WWI, which had led to his expulsion from the party. Starting from that moment, he published and directed a new newspaper, Il Popolo d’Italia, which became one of the strongest voices of interventionism and later the mouthpiece of a new movement he would create in March 1919, the movement of the Fasci di combattimento. In Italy, as in the rest of Europe, these were months of economic crisis, strikes and conflicts, of revolutionary ideals and great uncertainties. In this context, Fascist violence was only one among many instances of political violence.1 In particular, the occupation of land and protests against the rising cost of living marked key moments of popular unrest, reflecting the extensive poverty and distress experienced by most Italians in the aftermath of the war, rather than any clear revolutionary intent. Frequent clashes occurred between demonstrators and the police, with a considerable loss of life, especially among the former. These demonstrations took place within a context in which Socialist – and particularly Maximalist – propaganda had long been endorsing violence as the revolutionary means par excellence.2 The first episodes of Fascist violence occurred between January and April 1919, through the active collaboration established between Benito Mussolini, the Arditi (former members of the assault troops created during WWI), and the Futurists. Some of these episodes created a public outcry, both at a local and national level. In these clashes, the Fascists and Arditi burst upon the scene as unexpected actors. Not only did they inherit the pre-war interventionists’ desire to take over the public arena in order to assert their political will – in many cases, the people involved were indeed former interventionists – but they also had more weapons at their disposal, were better prepared to fight, and had a different outlook on death compared to other actors.3 The first action carried out by this heterogeneous group was the shouting down of a public speech by Leonida Bissolati, who, after having quit the Socialist Party because of his support of the Italo-Ottoman war over Libya,

18

Political violence

had also championed the entrance of the country in WWI and founded the Socialist Reformist Party. Bissolati was accused of treason, since he supported the Wilsonian programme, which contrasted with the nationalist expectations over land acquisition as a result of the Italian victory in the war. The incident, which took place on 11 January 1919, caused quite a stir, particularly because it marked a clear break between ‘democratic’ and ‘nationalist’ interventionism. Notwithstanding the violence exercised against an MP and political leader, these Fascists and nationalists were left free to carry out new actions. On 15 April 1919, a group partly composed of the same people set fire to the Milanese headquarters of the Socialist newspaper L’Avanti. This was the first important action of the Fasci di combattimento since the establishment of the movement, in Milan, on 23 March 1919. Conservative newspapers interpreted the attack on L’Avanti! as a reaction, however disproportionate, to the Maximalists’ violent propaganda. The Minister of War, General Enrico Caviglia, praised the Futurists Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and Ferruccio Vecchi for the deed. Practically no response came from the Socialists for the attack on their newspaper: they only held a strike and raised some money to rebuild the new headquarters of L’Avanti! Nonetheless, what was at stake was the place ideally assigned to the country in the international arena, along with the balance between the various political forces. In particular, the issue was who would control the government and the country, whether interventionists or neutralist, democrats or conservatives, even if the boundaries between these different political groups, existing political parties and the liberal State were not always clearly marked. In this context, what proved especially meaningful was the conflict over the possible acquisitions of territories on the Eastern front and in particular the fate of the city of Fiume. The initial drive of Fascism lost its momentum after a series of events led many of its activists to side with D’Annunzio and march on Fiume in September 1919, although apparently D’Annunzio and the Fasci acted in cahoots, to demand that the city be assigned to Italy, in open contrast to the peace agreements. The Fiume action took place only a short time before the national elections, which were held in November 1919. These were the first elections held with a proportional system in which all adult males could vote, and led to political turmoil in the country. The Socialist Party came first, followed by the Popolari, so that the only possible government was a coalition in which the liberals would hold the centre stage. The results of these elections were a catastrophe for the forces that had been in favour of intervention in the war, and above all for the nationalists and the Fascists, who chose to adopt an even stronger anti-parliamentary and anti-democratic stance. Meanwhile, just after the electoral defeat of the Fascist movement, the first legal measures were brought against Benito Mussolini and various nationalist and Fascist activists charged with acts of violence.4 New impetus for Fascist action came from the north-eastern part of the country, which had been heavily affected by the war, and where the boundaries

Political violence

19

of the nation had changed as a consequence of the conflict. At the beginning of 1920, Francesco Giunta, one of the founding members of the Fasci, was sent to Trieste, the newly acquired city on the Italian border, in order to build up a local Fascio. It was in this context, and as the head of this movement, that in the summer of 1920 Giunta led the local squads on an attack against the Narodni Dom, the Slovenian community centre, which also housed the Balkan Hotel. Not long afterwards, other violent episodes occurred in Venice: the Fascists let off a small bomb in St Mark’s Square to disrupt a Socialist demonstration.5 However, it was the outburst of violence in unexpected areas and the alliance established between the squads and local landowners that brought about those conditions which were ultimately to seal the success and rise to power of the Fascist movement: in particular in the Po Valley.6 With the 1920 local elections coming up, the Fasci di Combattimento, and especially their assault units, started to regain their momentum.7 In the aftermath of the occupation of factories, also industrialists developed a more favourable disposition towards the Fasci, which also gained greater public acceptance. At the time of the local elections, a ‘patriotic’ power block emerged – albeit not in every area of Italy – with the aim of preventing the electoral victory of the Socialists (and/or of the popular party), thus enabling Fascism to define its political position and serve as the vanguard of the reactionary forces. The emergence of this political block helped reveal the favourable attitude displayed towards the squads – if not the direct aid provided to them – by State officials, members of the army, and the ruling classes.8 The resurgence of Fascism appears particularly evident in the aftermath of the local elections held in the autumn of 1920, when the Fascist squads – especially in Emilia Romagna and some areas of Tuscany – started targeting the newly elected Socialist administrations. The most significant attack was carried out in Bologna: the clash between the armed red guards rallied in defence of the administration and the Fascists led to the death of a Fascist city counsellor, Giulio Giordani, and of ten Socialists. Whereas in this first episode, and in a few others, acts of violence by some members of the Socialist Party could be invoked to justify the Fascist reaction, in the autumn of 1920 the acts of gratuitous aggression on the Fascists’ part multiplied, as did the violent propaganda of the movement’s leaders. Up until then, continuity with the experience of war and the adoption of codes of conduct typical of combattentismo had not entailed the choice to publicly disclose the Fascist discourse on violence and to direct it towards external targets. The Fascists had co-opted Arditi and other war veterans into their ranks and had progressively ensured that the role of political secretaries went to former officials capable of training and leading the assault squads. Particularly from the summer of 1920 onwards, they had organised the movement as a fighting militia.9 From the point of view of language, however, the leaders of the movement – who peppered their sentences with revolutionary watchwords, albeit it with a markedly anti-Socialist and conservative emphasis – did not speak of violence at all. They rejected the label of

20

Political violence

‘aesthetes of violence’ and claimed that their attitude simply derived from the need to adopt adequate counter-measures against the Socialists. In one of the explicit speeches on violence he delivered in the aftermath of the ‘massacre of Palazzo d’Accursio’, Mussolini stated: We hereby proclaim, loud and clear, so that everyone may understand us, that by now we are adequately ‘equipped’ to repel and quash any violence on the part of the extremists of the PUS [The Socialist Party hereby defined as to sound as ‘pus’]. But – unlike Russified Socialism – we have not established violence as a doctrine and method of struggle. We are not bloodthirsty people, nor aesthetes of violence. In these columns we have stated countless times that of all possible wars, civil war is the one we find most distasteful. We declare, as we always have, that we are ready to accept civil war, when this is foisted upon us, and to wage it with the required energy and intrepidness. Both eventualities depend on the Socialists.10 However, the language of violence and the way in which violence was legitimised were soon to change.

The struggle for local hegemony Between 1920 and 1921, the Fascist struggle for power chiefly took the form of a conflict for local hegemony, particularly against the Socialists. It was through this struggle that squadrismo gained legitimacy in the eyes of moderate forces. The main aim of the Fascist squads was to occupy town halls wherever local administrations were governed by the Socialists. Before attacking the buildings themselves, however, as well as in those cities where there was no ‘red’ administration to oust, the Fascists often adopted the tactic of attacking the Socialists at public rallies, of storming camere del lavoro (the headquarters of Syndicalist labour unions), and of attempting to take over working-class neighbourhoods. The purpose of these Fascist actions was to gradually remove the Socialists – or even the Partito Popolare and the Republicans, wherever the Socialist presence was not as strong – from the public arena, and especially to remove them from the govern of local adiministrations. Nonetheless, the emphasis on the seizing of local power, or local centres of power, should not be taken to suggest that Fascist violence was only ‘the fruit of closed local communities’.11 The group cohesion and action of the Fascists was an essential feature of the violence of the squadristi. From the very outset, there were joint actions being conducted by squads from different areas with the aim of concentrating Fascist forces to ensure success.12 It is not merely the case that squads from provincial capitals would spill into small nearby towns to impose their power at a provincial level; rather, squads from different provinces, or even regions at times, would band together to lead punitive expeditions.13 Not all episodes of violence caused by the Fascists were followed by

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the political occupation of a town. Generally speaking, however, they reflect the presence of a combative group or an alliance with a well-organised group from another area. Early in the winter of 1920, the areas most affected by Fascist violence were the provinces of Bologna, Reggio Emilia and Rovigo, but some significant expeditions were also carried out in Tuscany – in particular, in the provinces of Florence and Pisa – as well as in Friuli and, more rarely, in other areas of northern Italy. The unfolding of violent actions was compellingly described by Angelo Tasca, who outlined what soon proved to be a general strategy to occupy Italy. The violence first broke out in the Bologna–Ferrara–Piacenza triangle (although episodes of violence had already occurred before then, throughout the Venezia Giulia area), particularly along the Via Aemilia axis. The violence later spread to the north-east, in the direction of Rovigo, and to the north-west, in the direction of Pavia. Meanwhile, between the end of 1920 and the spring of 1921, violence reached Tuscany. Then in the spring of 1921 some episodes also occurred in the Veneto. So by the first half of 1921, Fascism had spread across much of northern Italy (and Apulia), whereas extensive areas of central and southern Italy remained untouched by it.14 While carrying out these violent occupations, the Fascists also defined their electoral and political alliances. During the local elections of 1920, they chiefly joined conservative electoral coalitions. The establishment of national blocks for the 1920 local elections – and then, with greater success, for the general elections of 1921 – met the needs of the local conservative ruling classes, who sought to regain the power they had lost or which at any rate was being threatened by the new mass parties, while at the same time enabling the Fascists to gain legitimacy at the institutional level (as they did not have any idea on how to gain support in the new social and political context). In many cases the violence to which Fascists resorted at this stage failed to influence the electoral outcome. However, it contributed to changing the actual results of the elections thanks to the considerable support shown by the Minister of the Interior, who instead of ensuring free elections or protecting the legally appointed administrations, assigned commissioners to govern those municipalities that were under Fascist attack. According to a recent study, 80.6% of local councils in northern Italy were placed under a commissioner in 1921.15 Besides, this procedure was a good way of dealing with upcoming electoral challenges more easily and to the advantage of the governing forces, since mayors were often powerful ‘kingmakers’ in general elections.16 From this moment onwards, however, the most significant novelty was the fact that the occupation of local councils was made easier for a political force – the Fasci – that, while in some cases allied with the ruling parties, did not fully share their aims and political platform, given its subversive potential. This party, moreover, was in a minority position both at the electoral and parliamentary level. Through the suppression of Socialist administrations, one of the cornerstones of the reformist power of this party, namely the power it exercised through local

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councils, was radically curtailed. At the same time, the Socialist Party, the People’s Party, and the Republican Party, along with their trade unions, were silenced. Fascist violence was used to divide and intimidate the working masses involved with the camere del lavoro by driving away their more opportunistic members, and limiting – if not totally preventing – any actions from the other members. The Director General of Public Security appointed by the Ministry of the Interior described the situation, particularly in Emilia, in the following terms: It is only from October 1920 that, especially in the region of Emilia, the Fascist movement gained prominence, as a reaction to the many demands made by the leghisti [i.e. members of the rural workers’ unions] in their economic disputes with farmers. Besides, the Fascists were confident that they could dismantle the Socialist administrations that had come into power with the local elections held in major centres on the last Sundays of October and the first Sunday of November. The electoral defeats experienced in Bologna, Ferrara and Milan, instead of curbing the struggle made it more intense, since the Fascists reached the conclusion that greater preparedness and retaliation against the acts of violence carried out by subversive parties would force the extremists to keep within the boundaries of the law, and the administrations led by their party to resign.17 It must be noted, therefore, that in most cases the Fascists found it easier to occupy cities in those areas where Socialism and camere del lavoro were deeply rooted. Here the level of social conflict was higher and the ruling classes that felt deprived of power showed a greater willingness to support the Fascists. However, in these areas the Fascists pursued an aim that was not fully in line with that of the traditional ruling classes: the destruction of the camere del lavoro and control of working-class neighbourhoods, along with the spread of Fascist watchwords in these settings. The episodes of violence which occurred in the autumn of 1920 were the first to really grab the attention of members of the Socialist Party. In a debate held in the Chamber of Deputies on 17 November 1920, a group of MPs from the reformist wing of the Socialist Party – including, most notably, Giuseppe Emanuele Modigliani, Filippo Turati and Costantino Lazzari – submitted the following motion to the government: ‘The Chamber condemns the domestic policy of the Government, designed to fight the rise of the proletariat with a reactionary spirit in complete contrast to the present historical moment.’18 This motion led to an early debate on the countless episodes of Fascist violence that had developed since 1919 and on the partiality shown to this movement by public security forces. This partiality was particularly evident when compared to the behaviour displayed by the same forces towards Socialist militants. Socialist MP Adelmo Niccolai explicitly noted:

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We do not request any protection, any help, or any intervention. We only wish to highlight something that has become all too evident by now: we wish to show you that if Fascism exists, if Fascism operates, if it attempts to accomplish its mad aims in our country, this is due to connivance from the Government. Once we have shown this, we have shown that the Government is relinquishing its powers to defend and protect in favour of a private organisation that tomorrow may well turn against the Government itself.19 In the autumn of 1920, however, large sections of the Italian bourgeoisie, including the more moderate wing of the Socialist Party, still believed that Fascist violence was merely a right-wing reaction to Socialist violence and propaganda. From January 1921 onwards, Fascist violence increased and the use of the expression ‘civil war’ to describe the situation in Italy became more common. At this stage the conservative press started voicing its disappointment at a policy of violence that on the whole could no longer be regarded as a reaction to Socialist actions. Its reluctance to take a stance, however, clearly shows that these comments were chiefly motivated by the concern of losing consensus because of Fascist violence. No primacy was yet explicitly assigned to the State in the use of force. The Messaggero, a newspaper owned by the Perrone brothers (who had been the owners of Ansaldo, an important steel and shipbuilding company) which up until 1920 had supported Nitti’s liberal-democratic line and was then shifting towards a more pro-Fascist position, stated in February 1921: And it is for this reason that, while understanding and praising – in its spirit and aim – the reaction of those parties that, especially in Emilia, have refused to surrender themselves and the bourgeoisie to Maximalist abuse, we feel compelled to ask the exponents of the more zealous brand of Fascism to consider the dangers and damage that might derive from the continued use of a method which is only justifiable when it represents an immediate and balanced reaction to an attack or threat. Beyond this limit, violence is deplorable and contradictory to its aim, because it contributes to weakening State authority, eliciting reactions and protests from citizens.20 From the spring of 1921, and especially at the time of the general elections in May, Fascist violence became increasingly widespread. After the fall of the government led by the old liberal politician Giovanni Giolitti and the decision to hold new elections, in the two weeks following the vote (between 16 and 31 May 1921) according to ministerial data seventy people died in clashes between Socialists and Fascists – thirty-one Socialists, sixteen Fascists, twenty-odd bystanders, and four agents – while 216 were injured.21 The period of the elections and the violence that accompanied it made the partiality of the police towards the Fascists evident even to the highest echelons of the State. On 19 April 1921, Minister of War Ivanoe Bonomi, a former

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interventionist and the leader of the Socialist Reformist Party, requested Prefects, especially in Emilia and Tuscany, ‘to report any officers of the Carabinieri and Guardie Regie (Royal Guards) who failed to perform their duties impartially’.22 Having ascertained the plausibility of the hypothesis adumbrated by this memorandum, on 22 April 1921 Bonomi issued a second one to reinforce the measures against displays of partiality to – and collusion with – Fascism on the part of law enforcement officers. The Minister then ordered the transfer of a number of police officers operating in the areas most affected by episodes of violence.23 With the 1921 general elections, thanks to the alliances established in the previous months and possibly thanks to the role of enforcers of public order they had acquired through the use of violence, thirty-five Fascists were elected to Parliament. The Fascists’ entry into Parliament also changed the political praxis and brought Fascist violence into the very hall of Montecitorio. On 13 June 1921, the first day of the new parliamentary assembly, a group of Fascist MPs forcibly prevented the Communist MP Francesco Misiano from entering Parliament, since he had been a deserter, during WWI, for ideological reasons.24 This incident was followed by a bitter parliamentary debate in which the reformist Socialist deputy Giuseppe Emanuele Modigliani requested the session to be suspended until Misiano was allowed to join them. During the discussion, only the Socialists and Communists endorsed the proposal. However, words in support of Misiano were also voiced by the republican MP Napoleone Colajanni, who had hitherto supported the Fascists. Colajanni stated: I have been among the staunchest defenders of the Fascists’ actions; but I feel compelled to warn the Fascists that with their behaviour they are erasing the good they did in the past. I declare that henceforth I will have nothing to do with Fascism, which seeks to be a source of violence in this Chamber. I confess that I cannot accept violence against elected representatives, either here or elsewhere, since once is a deputy here as much as outside this Chamber.25 Before Colajanni, the Fascist MP Aldo Finzi had justified the violent removal of Misiano from the parliamentary hall, arguing that an attempt had been made to prevent the incident by inviting the latter not to enter the hall before forcibly expelling him. In the addresses that followed that of Colajanni, the nationalist jurist Alfredo Rocco justified the episode by arguing: ‘we [nationalists] regret today’s incident, probably more than anyone else; but we must also [note] that this illegal action is to be viewed in relation to all others which have been committed in the past‘. In the end, the Fascist MP Valentino Coda, speaking for the Fascist parliamentary group as a whole, claimed responsibility for the gesture, acknowledging that the formal legal boundaries had been crossed but that ‘here today the Parliament’s honour has been saved’. Coda then attacked the replacement of parties with armed bands and blamed the Socialists for the phenomenon, threatening them, with a style of address that was soon to become common:

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‘History is also made up of reprisals. Be satisfied if against you we limit ourselves to carrying out reprisals such as that of today.’26 On Giolitti’s advice, the discussion was brought to a close with the adjournment of the session and the assurance that, despite the Fascists’ words, Misiano would be allowed to return to Parliament.27 The prominence of violence at the very beginning of the new parliamentary term was not simply due to the actions carried out by the Fascists, but also to the responsibility they claimed for such actions and to the public use to which they put them, even in Parliament. Over the next few days, the Socialists distributed among all MPs the results of the enquiry they had made into the acts of violence perpetrated against them by the Fascists. The latter immediately produced a similar enquiry from the Fascist side: two books were then produced, from each side, of roughly 300 pages each, designed to show that ‘civil war’ had broken out in Italy and that the blame for it fell on their political opponents.28 The following months of the parliamentary term were heated ones: in June, political proceedings were interrupted twice because of the outbreak of confrontations between MPs verging on violence. To end them, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, the liberal Enrico De Nicola, announced that he would expel any MPs involved if further incidents of this sort were to occur.29 The liberals, aware of the problem posed by the use of such acts of violence, had a range of different perspectives. Some believed that the violence ought to be stopped by ordinary methods of law enforcement; others, such as the former Prime Minister Giolitti, believed that it was necessary to solve the problem politically, given the number of people who had joined the Fascist Party. Ivanoe Bonomi was one of those who maintained that it was a matter of law enforcement. Yet when he was appointed Prime Minister he supported the drafting of a pacification pact – a truce between the Socialists and the Fascists to put a stop to mutual acts of violence and disband the two parties’ armed squads. While this pact represented an attempt to find a political solution to the violence of those days, the statements made by Bonomi reflected the Italian State’s complete relinquishment of its role as an enforcer of public order; most importantly, it reflected an acknowledgement of this choice.30 Ultimately, the pact did not end all conflict, since at a local level the Fascists staunchly opposed the policy of pacification pursued by their parliamentary representatives.31 Even the Prefects entrusted with assessing the reactions to the new measure soon reported its complete ineffectiveness to the Minister of the Interior. The Prefect of Florence informed the Minister that the secretary of the local camera del lavoro and one of the most prominent leaders of the local branch of the Socialist Party had welcomed the pact; however, he also added: I have not been able to speak to the political secretary of the Fascio di Combattimento, Captain Pirelli, who is not in Florence; but I believe that an exchange would have produced few results anyway, given that the local

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Much the same statement was issued by the Prefect of Bologna: The local Fascists are very much against pacification, which they consider ruinous for the development of their agrarian policy. For now they have taken an unwavering stance on the matter. The Socialists, instead, while welcoming the idea of pacification, have little confidence in it, as they believe that for the majority of Fascists the idea of pacification means foregoing any Socialist action in terms of propaganda, organization, and demonstrations. The communists and anarchists are against it. The Popolari are in favour of it, but do not concretely express their support. The liberals and radicals remain aloof. The press does not dare to voice its opinion out of fear of the Fascists.33 Meanwhile, the violence against MPs and leaders of the opposition also increased outside Parliament. This is evidenced by the attacks carried out against the Hon. Claudio Treves by Fascists and soldiers in mid-July 192134 and by the murder of Socialist Hon. Giuseppe Di Vagno, carried out by some young Fascists (the youngest being only 16) on 25 September 1921, just after a speech held by the Socialist MP in Mola.35 It was the first Fascist murder of an MP. Given the ineffectiveness of the pacification pact, other solutions had to be sought. Bonomi opted for a tightening of criminal laws and sought to limit gun ownership and the circulation of armed squads. He also decreed that the Prefect Cesare Mori be put in charge of the enforcement of public order in all north Italian provinces.36 The issuing of these laws and the reiterated requests to comply with them further highlighted the extensive degree of collusion between sections of the public security forces – whether the military, Carabinieri or Guardie Regie – and the Fascists. In this context, episodes of violence continued to occur even in the following months: in December a new memorandum confirmed the orders imparted early in October, emphasising the need to disarm citizens and outlaw armed corps, and explicitly noting that the orders from the ministry had largely been ignored. In the memorandum addressed to Prefects it was observed that some regulations, such as the ban on the use of trench raiding clubs and sharppointed sticks, had not consistently been applied. It was also stated that the government would no longer tolerate any ‘armed corps which – regardless of whether they seek to attack and subvert, to repel their opponents’ violence, or to exercise the function of punishing and suppressing – constitute a threat and undermine the rights of the State’.37 In the wake of this second memorandum, between 21 December 1921 and 9 January 1922 the State revoked 2,273 rifle licences, 2,485 revolver licences, and

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one licence for sharp-pointed sticks. Along with the seizure of 546 rifles, 656 revolvers, 395 sticks and 9 trench raiding clubs, 929 people were arrested and 615 reported to the authorities.38 These data, however, even when broken down for the various provinces, are not indicative of a more or less widespread presence of Fascist organisations, and are considerably influenced by the course of action adopted by individual Prefects. In Milan, for instance, the most targeted organisations were undoubtedly anarchist and Communist ones; and when it came to sharp-pointed sticks, which were widely used by the Fascist squads, most of the confiscations took place in Padua and Genoa, which can hardly be regarded as Fascist hubs.39

The anniversary policy As in the previous years, in 1921 the victory anniversary – a testing ground for all political forces in Italy and a moment of reaffirmation or criticism of the ruling class – became an object of political controversy. But this time it was dealt with very carefully by the political forces in power, which succeeded in getting the war veterans involved in the celebration of the burial of the Unknown Soldier at the Altare della Patria, the monument built in Rome to honour King Victor Emanuel, the first king of unified Italy. The ceremony, which reached its culmination in Rome on 4 November,40 offered the Italian ruling class the opportunity – at a moment of serious crisis for the liberal State – to give proof of its ‘greatest effort to reaffirm its idea of a religion of the motherland’ and to finally gain legitimacy.41 In an attempt to keep the nationalist and Fascist forces in check, the government thus made them the protagonists of the ceremony, along with the war veterans. To further exploit the patriotic celebration, the Fascists chose to convene their national congress – the first ever held in the capital – in the immediate aftermath of the victory anniversary. The third Fascist congress took place early in November 1921, less than one week after the victory celebrations. The event drew much of the attention away from the veterans’ meeting that was held a few days before the Fascist one, and in the same venue.42 This was a delicate moment for Fascism, following the pacification pact and the (at least partial) transformation of the ambitions of the Fascist elite, which – despite much opposition – was starting to pursue the institutionalisation of the Fascist movement. Most importantly, however, the congress provided a significant opportunity to measure the strength of the Fascist forces in the streets of Rome.43 In the capital, clashes between Fascists and anti-Fascists – particularly railway workers – broke out as soon as the first groups of Fascists arrived by train on 9 November. After the first skirmishes with the Florentine squads, the railway workers engaged in equally significant clashes with the squads from Ancona, which led to the death of a 17-year-old railway worker, Guglielmo Farinetti. Other incidents occurred when the squads from Milan moved from the Portonaccio station to the city centre: the Carabinieri and

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Guardie Regie escorted the Fascists through the working-class and traditionally red neighbourhood of San Lorenzo, but failed to prevent the outbreak of violence. Here it was a young Fascist who lost his life, Franco Baldini. These incidents had a direct impact on the Fascist congress, which hotheads wished to end immediately in order to go and seek revenge for the welcome they had received. To avoid this, the Fascist leaders planned a rally to mark the end of the congress. In an attempt to prevent further clashes, the President Bonomi persuaded the Fascist leaders to have all participants leave just after the rally.44 Aware of the disparity of the forces at play and of the disadvantage at which the Fascist found themselves in the capital, Mussolini held back his men: ‘there is no point in wandering down side streets in small groups: Rome is huge, it is impossible to guard it all. This evening, therefore, you are only to make your way through the streets of the city centre.’45 The Fascist demonstrators who set out from Villa Borghese in the early afternoon were meant to march past the Altare della Patria and continue down Via Nazionale to reach Termini Station. What actually happened, despite Mussolini’s promises, was that the demonstration spilled into the city streets because the Fascists were eager to fight the workers and anti-Fascists in the capital.46 Numerous skirmishes broke out over the course of the day, especially in working-class neighbourhoods. A considerable number of acts of violence were also carried out against any bystanders who failed to adequately salute the Fascist demonstrators as they passed them by: one striking case is that of a war wounded who received a beating for not having doffed his hat.47 In the Prati district the Fascists also attempted to storm the house of Nicola Bombacci – a friend of Mussolini’s and one of the founders of the Communist Party, who was to become a Fascist in the 1930s – but were held back by the police. The day nonetheless ended with a dramatic toll: 2 people killed (a Fascist and a worker) and 150 injured (two of them seriously). At the same time, on 10 November, the local anti-Fascist forces proclaimed a general strike in the city from midnight until the Fascists’ departure as a protest against Fascist violence. However, the following day, and up until 13 November, the Fascists remained in Rome. On the 12th, 10,000 of them gathered at the Mausoleum of Augustus to plan a reaction. While frantic negotiations were being conducted between the Fascists and certain members of the government, a poster was affixed in all the streets of the city centre blaming the anti-Fascists for the incidents.48 These days in Rome showed that anti-Fascist resistance could stop the Fascist movement in Rome, but also that the police forces were utterly incapable – or unwilling – to prevent disorders.49 The Fascists’ attempt to exploit their congress in Rome as a means to symbolically occupy the city had been thwarted. In Parliament, Bonomi emphatically reported Mussolini’s statement that ‘Fascism is still so provincial that it has not been able to win over the ancient soul of Rome’ – a claim that the Fascist leader made sure not to publish in his newspaper.50

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The debate held in the Chamber of Deputies in the days following the incidents was a very significant one: the opposition accused the government of not having prevented the Fascist rally, and in particular of not having prevented armed men from entering the capital. Bonomi was forced to address these charges, but adopted a rather weak line of defence in Parliament: he argued that it would have been impossible to prevent the Fascists from coming to Rome for their congress because they had already arrived in the city to attend the ceremony of the burial of the Unknown Soldier. Moreover, Bonomi justified the rally by stating: given the exasperated feelings and the state of excitement and unrest in Rome, a banning of the demonstration would naturally have led to conflict with the police forces. In this conflict, State authority would ultimately have triumphed, yet only at the cost of many deaths and injuries; and deaths, as the Hon. Mussolini has put it, are a very heavy burden. The Government, therefore, allowed the rally, with the understanding that after marching past the Altare della Patria the Fascists would continue down Via Nazionale and reach Termini station, whence they would depart.51 The defeat in Rome did not tone down Mussolini’s provocative tone in Parliament; rather, the Fascist leader exploited the new political crisis to threaten the adoption of extraparliamentary measures, albeit in ambiguous terms and by calling for early elections: we might have an extraparliamentary solution, a Cabinet of functionaries and technicians, the adjournment of the House, a military dictatorship. I have never heeded these siren calls or accepted these suggestions, even when coming from unemployed generals who think they have the right recipe for saving the world. The card of dictatorship is an important card, which can only be played once and entails terrible risks; played once, it cannot be played ever gain. There is another solution: an appeal to the country, a new general election. On 16 December 1921, in response to the government, which had equated the Fascist squads with illegal bands, the Popolo d’Italia published instructions issued by the Secretary General of the National Fascist Party (PNF), according to which all party card-holders should be regarded as members of the fighting squads, squads whose existence was justified as a means to ‘contain the violence from opponents’. Moreover, it was explicitly stated that if the government wished to disband the squads, it also needed to disband the PNF.52 The squads were not touched; instead, after two months the government resigned, having failed to ensure a majority. In particular, it recognised its incapacity to solve inner conflicts and contain the spread of Fascist violence.

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Strategies for violence and seizing power Over the course of 1922, Fascism continued to pursue its violent strategy to gain control of the country. The party increasingly strove to promote the movement throughout Italy, in an attempt to seize the last non-Fascist key areas in northern Italy, but also to extend its control over the south.53 At the same time, the very moment they entered Parliament, the Fascist MPs adopted a policy of more explicit collaboration with the government. In an article published in the Popolo d’Italia on 22 April 1922, a few days away from the Fascist national congress, Dino Grandi, one of the founders of the Fasci in Bologna, spoke out against the possibility of seizing power through an insurrection, noting that: we cannot all of a sudden, through a handful of bold conspirators, force the fated rhythm of a long historical process … In a democratic society such as ours, revolution can never be a sudden outburst of subversive violence; rather, it must be a slow, deep, and constant process.54 Grandi’s reflections started precisely from an acknowledgement of the failure of the Roman days in the previous summer and attempted to justify a policy based on respect for legality in opposition to the insurrectionist approach. At the national congress held on 3 and 4 April 1922, Benito Mussolini himself spoke in support of this approach. In such a way, Mussolini gained sufficient leverage to carry on his political negotiations with the ultimate aim of seizing power. The law-abiding approach of the national congress clashed not just with the course of action of the squadristi, but also with the information gathered by the Direzione Generale di Pubblica Sicurezza (Public Security Office). The Ministry of the Interior was informed that the National Fascist Party had divided Italy into four areas (North-East, North-West, Centre and South, Sardinia and Sicily) and appointed a commander for each to coordinate possible insurrections.55 This ambiguity between lawful and subversive action in the Fascist strategy continued until the March on Rome: Fascist parliamentary support of the government and the request for new elections – and a new electoral law – was combined with an increasingly insurrectionist drive, designed to undermine the credibility and power of the liberal State, and ultimately to fight it or take its place. The aim was to build a different state, the ‘Fascist State’, which, while existing more in words than in practice, was nonetheless starting to emerge through the institutionalisation of the Fascist armed forces. It was in this climate, and on the basis of this strategy, that the March on Rome was conceived, planned and organised. From the spring of 1922, the main Fascist actions were the rallies held in Ferrara between 12 and 14 May, in Rovigo a few days later, in Bologna at the end of the month, and then – over the following days and months – in Ferrara again as well as in Modena, Florence, Verona, Padua and Cremona, to mention only the most sensational

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56

events. The spread of local actions added credibility to the hypothesis formulated by the young Communist leader Palmiro Togliatti – and taken up by Tasca, another Communist leader who was to be expelled from the party in 1929 – that the local strategy of violence was the product not simply of local political balances but of a national strategy.57 As the Facta government, established in February 1922, had the restoration of public order as its main goal, it was bound to find itself in difficulty following the fresh outbreak of violence in spring. Already in the wake of the occupation of Bologna in June 1922, the Popolari, along with the democrats and more progressive liberals, had voiced their intention of bringing down the government. However, for the executive the situation became unbearable after the occupation of Cremona in the summer of 1922. Precisely for this reason, Parliament withdrew its confidence in a government which had proven incapable of bringing the country back to ‘normality’. Besides, the debates before and after the crisis show just to what extent violence had become the centre focus of a discourse concerning the radical transformation of the country’s institutions. By challenging the legitimacy of the very existence of certain parliamentary forces through the use of violence, the Fascists were redefining the institutional spaces of the State subject to the rule of law and rewriting the constitution of liberal Italy. This was becoming increasingly clear to the liberal ruling class too, since it was becoming more and more evident just how dangerous it was to govern municipalities not run by the Fascists or by traditional elites (not just the Socialists but even the Republicans and Popolari were in danger), or to uphold an explicitly anti-Fascist political line in Parliament. The debate on the Cremona events brought into the limelight – even in Parliament – not so much the specific situation in this city, as the role of the government in terms of the enforcement of public order. Radical MP Antonio Casertano – who was soon to tow the Fascist line – voiced a sharp indictment of the government’s role: But there is a political point in this question with regard to which the Government absolutely cannot give in. And the point is this: no government can allow administrative matters to be questioned by the multitude, or at any rate revoked on account of the multitude. Any government yielding with regard to this point would be unworthy of occupying its position for twenty-four hours.58 Reformist Socialist MP Claudio Treves really drove the point home: in the face of many other analogous [facts] that are unsettling our country at this moment, you, gentlemen of the government, are like accomplices or powerless eunuchs. This debate brought to light the fact that what were at stake were not just political systems or parties, but the role of individuals, their rights, and their

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possibility to offer resistance. The discussion on this point became even more heated following the news that Fascists in Cremona had destroyed the homes of Giuseppe Garibotti and Guido Miglioli, MPs of the Partito Popolare. Miglioli, in particular, spoke out against the inconsistency of the government policy with regard to matters of public order, matters which were crucial to earn the support of the Partito Popolare.59 The liberal Prime Minister Luigi Facta repeatedly responded to these criticisms by arguing that the Cremona events were ‘precisely a reaction against this determination of the Government’ and not a sign of its immobilism. These claims failed to earn his ministry a vote of confidence.60 The ensuing debate was centred not so much on the solution of this government crisis as on the very future of the liberal State in Italy.61 What made it evident that this was not simply a momentary crisis but an institutional turning point, a challenge to which the liberal ruling class failed to react, was Mussolini’s intervention. The Fascist leader stated that the government could no longer continue to exist because it was ‘unbecoming from every point of view’; but he also stated that the time of ‘misunderstandings’ was over. Moreover, Mussolini spurned the call to obey higher orders that Facta had addressed to State officials,62 whose actions the Fascist leader instead ought to have defended. Mussolini then explained that leaving the majority had been a ‘gesture of high political and moral modesty’ on the Fascists’ part. This time, his speech explicitly revolved around the dichotomy between lawful and revolutionary action: Fascism will make its own decisions. Probably it will soon say if it wants to become a legitimate party, for that means a government party, or if it will instead be a party of insurrection. In the latter case it will no longer be able to be part of any governmental majority. Consequently it will not be obliged to sit in this Chamber.63 Moving towards a conclusion, Mussolini directed some explicit threats to Parliament, should the new government be an openly anti-Fascist one: If, peradventure, out of this ongoing crisis a government should emerge expressing a violent anti-Fascist reaction, take heed, honourable colleagues, that we will react with the utmost energy and inflexibility. We will react to the reaction by rising up. Out of loyalty I must tell you that, of the two scenarios just outlined, I prefer the former, for both national and humane reasons. I would rather that Fascism – a force, Socialists, which you can no longer ignore and which you cannot think of destroying – came to participate in the life of the State through legal saturation, through its progress towards a legal victory. But in my conscience I also felt obliged to mention the latter possibility, so that each and every one of you, in the future crisis, by discussing matters in groups and preparing a solution to the crisis, may take into account these statements that I entrust to your consideration and scruples.

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The head of the opposition, the Socialist leader Filippo Turati, responded by explicitly stating that Mussolini’s speech threatened the existence of the constitutional State, which appeared to be the target – as Facta’s words also made clear – of the Fascist assault: We have thus reached the hour of collapse! The collapse, honourable colleagues, not just of a ministry; stopping at this is ridiculous, it lacks common sense. Nor is it just the collapse of a government or regime. Unless we take some protective measure, what we will have is the collapse of a civilisation: this is what must frankly be declared. Turati ended his speech by addressing a call to action to all constitutional parties: In this Chamber there are also some constitutional parties, some democratic – or ostensibly democratic – parties. Gentlemen, this is a matter that concerns you in particular: this is your hour, the hour of the ultimate challenge … You have told us again and again that the institutions are open to all forms of progress, that the monarchy itself allows all progressive forms of evolution, even the boldest ones. We are not asking you to give proof of all this today: we are only asking you – if you wish and have the power to do so – to prove that these institutions do not allow a return to the Middle Ages.64 The government crisis and Turati’s address at the Quirinale showed the Fascists, and the power block that had at least partly linked its destiny to theirs, that the government could change its attitude towards them and that some room for dialogue was starting to emerge between sections of the Socialist Party, the Partito Popolare, the democrats and the less conservative liberals. The Fascists reacted to these developments by threatening civil war.65 The ruling class was bound to be alarmed by this threat, given that the favour shown to the Fascists by broad sections of the public administration – from Prefects to magistrates – and of the army had revealed the degree of immunity that the squadristi enjoyed throughout Italy. For the Fascists, however, the only way to play the card of civil war without alienating their allies was to continue to present themselves as defenders of the nation against saboteurs, in such a way as to simulate in subsequent victories – including ones against the State – the noble goal of defending the country.

The general strike and its aftermath In early August 1922, at the peak of the government crisis, a general strike was proclaimed by the Alleanza del lavoro (Labour Alliance), the coalition of various unions established in January 1922 in order to contrast the violent anti-unionist policies of the PNF. The idea of a strike had emerged following

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the increasing numbers of Fascist attacks on cooperative and camere del lavoro over the previous months. Once again, the main targets had been the Socialists and popolari, making even the conservative Italian press more distrustful of the Fascist squads. What really triggered the strike, however, were the incidents caused in Ravenna by Italo Balbo’s squads, which had occupied the city during a previous strike of the Alleanza del Lavoro on 26 July 1922. This Fascist attack had been launched as a reaction to the strike, but also as a way to put pressure on the government, in such a way as to influence the uncertain outcome of the crisis.66 The Alleanza del Lavoro thus opted for a strike on 28 July. The mobilisation began on 1 August. The same day, the Popolo d’Italia published the news of the ultimatum which the Fascists were giving both the strikers and the State, by threatening to intervene if the unrest did not stop within forty-eight hours. This act was a challenge not just to the labour movement and the trade unions but to the State itself. Particularly revealing, in this respect, are the words of the ultimatum published by the Fascists: Beyond this deadline, Fascism will claim full freedom of action and will replace the State, which will once again have shown its powerlessness.67 In the face of the new government crisis, the Fascist parliamentary group thus launched a new challenge to the political establishment: No government leader required to form a ministry by the King can do without the Fascist group. Either with Fascism or against Fascism. The dilemma allows no other options.68 The strike proved somewhat of a fiasco because of the limited participation and utterly failed to meet its aims.69 However, it fuelled a vast Fascist and nationalist backlash – serving more as a pretext for it than as an actual cause. On this occasion, the Fascists occupied many of the red administrations and camere del lavoro which up until then they had not been able to take over. For the first time, Fascist mobilisation took the form of a national demonstration and marked the ultimate defeat of left-wing labour organisations and trade unions. But what was at stake for the Fascists on this occasion was not the defence of the State against the latest strike, as claimed by pro-Fascist propaganda and part of the Fascist press, but rather the possibility of determining the orientation of the new government by threatening the country’s ruling class. Moreover, various sources suggest that the reaction to the general strike in itself may have triggered an immediate insurrection against the liberal institutions, and especially the government and Parliament.70 In those days, the Minister of the Interior was receiving worrying news from some local officials. The Prefect of Naples, for instance, reported that at a meeting held in the city on 1 August, the local Fascists discussed plans for an expedition to Rome:

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Confidential meeting held at the headquarters of the local Fascio di Combattimento with the participation of local leaders and ones from neighbouring towns; it was recommended to be ready to leave at a minute’s notice in small groups so as to cover short distances and concentrate in agreed locations in the environs of Rome; a mobilisation whereby around 100,000 organised Fascists would enter Rome as soon as orders are given.71 It is no coincidence, therefore, that the commanders of the army division in Rome, upon orders from the Ministry of War, despatched some troops to stop any Fascist trains at the stations of Civitavecchia, Viterbo, Orte, Avezzano, Roccasecca and Sezze – although none in fact ever arrived – and hence prevent any march on Rome.72 A few days later, the Prefect of Milan Alfredo Lusignoli informed the Minister of the Interior about the strong statements made by Aldo Finzi who – speaking on behalf of the local PNF after squads from Lombardy had occupied Palazzo Marino – had claimed that the Fascists sought to disband the Chamber of Deputies. Finzi had also informed the Prefect that the Fascists aimed to occupy all Socialist municipalities in Italy and that proscription lists had been drawn up of political opponents to be assassinated (in Milan alone it reportedly included sixty-four people).73 This last report seems like an exaggeration, although it is confirmed by several different sources. Nor can any real validation be found for the first report, given the lack of any confirmation from other Prefectures. What is certain is that early in August 1922 a very similar plan to the one that was carried out with the March on Rome was being discussed in one of the main headquarters of the Fascist Party. Besides, the situation was more alarming than it had appeared at first. Evidence of this is the decision made by the Ministry of the Interior to require all Prefects on 5 August, three days after the complete end of the strike, to transfer all powers to the military authorities in those cities in which the Fascist action was more violent.74 The request was made even more explicit by a telegram that was especially sent to the Prefects of Milan, Genoa, Ancona, Leghorn and Parma (as well as Brescia the following day), demanding them to invest the military authorities with all powers, while providing reassurance as to the fact that the prefects’ conduct had nothing to do with this choice.75 The following day, addressing the generals who had been entrusted with maintaining order in the various cities overrun by the Fascists, the Minister of the Interior, the liberal Paolino Taddei, stressed the importance of their task and asked them to resort to armed strength whenever necessary.76 From 6 August onwards, the Minister of the Interior’s reference to the seditious activity of the Fascists was made even more explicit by a memorandum with which Taddei himself asked that he be informed of any possible Fascist gathering, given that the Fascist Central Committee had ordered a general mobilisation.77 The Fascists were found to be operating on an extensive scale,

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which did not, however, perfectly correspond to those areas in which the Socialist strike had proven most successful. At the same time, they were targeting leftist cooperatives and newspapers that were not taking part in the strike. All this clearly showed that the Fascists were acting independently and not merely in reaction to the decisions made by the Alleanza del Lavoro.78 The news of a possible insurrection also circulated in some anti-Fascist milieus and in the press.79 One example is the statements that the liberal political Giovanni Amendola made to his trusted correspondent Carlo Cassola on 14 August 1922. According to Amendola, the ‘almost revolutionary’ crisis they had just experienced had not been overcome by the State, but only postponed to October by the Fascists. Amendola believed that in the months to come they would have to be ready to defend Italy, in order to ‘spare the South from the disease’.80 Similar comments were made by the official organ of the Confederazione Generale del Lavoro, Battaglie sindacali, in an article entitled ‘Dalla marcia su Roma alle elezioni’ (‘From the March on Rome to the Elections’) on 18 August of the same year: The Fascist army was on the march to seize Rome. Everything had been arranged for a triumphal entrance. The multicolour shirts thronged and gathered in the environs of the capital. The Fascist leaders promised that their troops would enter the Eternal City without meeting any serious obstacle. Having reached the gates of the city, when it seemed as though their ranks were about to make a victorious entrance, crowning their efforts, an unexpected order imposed demobilisation. What made the leaders change their plans? Was the uprising avoided at the cost of a coup d’état?81 A few days after the general strike and the Fascist mobilisation, in the pages of La Stampa Luigi Salvatorelli, an acute observer and co-director of this newspaper, wrote that evidently the crisis within the Fascist movement and the dilemma that Mussolini had drawn attention to in Parliament on 19 July had been resolved: the Fascists had clearly opted for insurrection. Salvatorelli also regarded the acquiescence of Italian conservatives to the Fascist policy as a sign of the subversion of political legality: It seems as though they do not realise that, with the same method, it would be possible to occupy Montecitorio tomorrow until a royal decree disbands the Chamber, ordering elections without proportional representation or with limited suffrage.82 It was not only men and forces opposed to Fascism that considered the crisis triggered by the general strike a crisis of the Italian political system. The Mattino, the liberal-conservative newspaper of Naples, was at least as resolute in denouncing Socialist responsibilities as it was in denouncing parliamentarianism, and pointed to a rift between liberalism and the institutions of the Italian liberal State:

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Now, since this abrupt return to a markedly anti-democratic situation is the outcome of an act of treason on the part of men who for years have been attempting to attack the homeland from the lofty position of the institutions they have gained control of; and since it is not we who are responsible for the need to choose between parliamentarianism and the salvation of the country, but subversive forces, why should we pit ourselves against necessity? Liberalism certainly does not coincide with the parliamentary system. Those who credit parliaments with the defence of liberty are rehashing a foolish old claim. Liberties are solid bodies that cannot depend on the game of parliamentary balances.83 These facts provided an opportunity for the Mattino to once again demand that the ‘nation’ take the step of ‘crushing’ the promoters of the strike as antinational forces funded by foreign powers to forestall the development of Italy.84 The timing of the Fascist mobilisation shows that the aim set by its leaders was not merely to provide a reaction to the strike launched by the Alleanza del Lavoro, given that the Fascist action only began when the strike was coming to an end and had more or less ended by 8 August 1922. In the aftermath of the strike, the Fascists mostly targeted those cities which they had not yet succeeded in occupying, in particular: Milan, where they forced the city councillors to resign; Ancona, where they destroyed the chamber of commerce and local cooperatives; Genoa and Leghorn, the last centre of anti-Fascist resistance in Tuscany; and, finally, Parma.85 Some of these centres – in particular Genoa, Leghorn and Ancona – carried considerable strategic importance, since according to Fascist plans they constituted the missing axes required in order to control Italy from the north-west to the south-east in view of a possible march on the capital. Some of the occupations are of great significance. In Milan, the Fascists, after acting against the strikers for the whole duration of the Socialist protest, occupying the tram depots in such a way as to partly restore the public transport service, on 3 August – by which time the mobilisation had ended – then gathered in great numbers in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and attempted to storm Palazzo Marino, the seat of the city council, around 3.30 pm. Only the arrival of the police thwarted this initial attempt.86 A few hours later, around 6 pm, the Fascists regrouped around Palazzo Marino, despite the concentration of policemen on horseback and on foot. The first clashes between law enforcers and Fascists broke out. Meanwhile, a group of Fascists and nationalists attacked the town hall from the back, where it was not guarded by the police, and succeeded in breaking into it so as to gain symbolic control over the place by displaying the national flag. The attack was not limited to this action, as the Fascists went on to search the whole palace. The same day, around 11 pm, the Fascists and nationalists clarified their institutional position by sending a delegation to Prefect Lusignoli with the aim of negotiating the clearing of the palace in exchange for the removal of the Socialist city council: the occupation would continue until this demand was met.87

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The following day, as the government was about to appoint an interim city administrator, Gabriele D’Annunzio himself arrived in Milan and addressed the crowd from the balcony of Palazzo Marino. Then on 5 August 1922, following the Ministry’s request to put all powers into the hands of the military authorities, and given how difficult it was to try and maintain some kind of order in the city, Lusignoli attempted to justify his unsuccessful course of action: The Milan events are only the expression of a more general plan of action that the Fascists are carrying out against the authority of the State with clearly foreseeable aims. The new call to a nation-wide mobilisation reveals some grievous intents. In the face of this, a preventive and repressive action must be simultaneously carried out and extended to the whole kingdom. I believe that local actions would be of little use and possibly even dangerous, as they could not prevent movements and gatherings, and would have no effect on the movement as a whole. On the other hand, repression in given places, such as Milan, would trigger a reaction from the Fascists throughout the kingdom. Hence, I prey to be informed whether in the light of these considerations I ought to occupy Fascists headquarters, order the mass arrest of the leaders and oppose Fascist force with State force by more decisive means, including – if necessary – the use of artillery, should the former gain the upper hand.88 Stripped of its power by the Fascist squads and later even by the State, which had confirmed the plans to place it under the authority of an interim administrator, the city council of Milan blamed the liberal institutions – and in particular Prefect Lusignoli – for what had happened.89 The following day, the Minister of War Marcello Soleri also stepped in, albeit without really changing the situation. Writing to the commander of the army corps in Milan, he asked him to ensure that the situation be faced ‘resolutely by all possible means and things be brought back to normal’. The general’s response, however, was not that different from the one given by the Prefect: in order to quash the Fascist actions, it was necessary to strike out against the organisation as a whole, but law enforcement did not have enough men to do so, nor had the government adopted a clear enough policy on the matter.90 Things were not brought back to normal, therefore, given that the city council was definitely – and until the new elections held in the aftermath of the March on Rome – placed under an interim administrator. The situation was similar in other areas of the country. In Naples the Fascists took to the streets to show the strength of Fascism in the city even though no strike was on. Two hundred of them descended upon Naples in a real battle formation. Meeting no resistance, they reached Sorrento and then returned to the city without any problem. With the help of another 200 Fascists from the Sorrento area they destroyed all centres run by Popolari, Communists and Socialists in the city.91 All this occurred despite the fact that

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the police had been ordered to act in a particularly resolute way in the south, to prevent the spread of Fascism. In Genoa, from 4 August the Fascists started preparing a major mobilisation, even though they had informed the police that they would withdraw from the city, given that the local Socialists had not gone on strike.92 The Fascists’ aim was to alter the power balance in the harbour: in previous years, this had been run by Socialist cooperatives, which controlled wages, work conditions and the recruitment of dockers, much to the chagrin of company bosses.93 In the afternoon of 5 August the Fascists attacked Palazzo San Giorgio, the town hall, an action which did not lead to the occupation of the palace but which nonetheless enabled some Fascists to enter the building. At the same time, in the piazza outside and in the surrounding streets clashes broke out in which three people, including one Fascist, were killed and several were injured.94 Once again, the local camera del lavoro was occupied, although the following day the police drove the Fascists out.95 While by and large things had returned to normal by the evening of 8 August, only on the 17th did ships from the Italian navy return to the harbour.96 The tension in the city partly abated after the president of the independent harbour consortium announced he would resign, yet the situation only really returned to normal in Genoa in the second half of August.97 Much the same occurred in Livorno (Leghorn). Even before occupying the town hall, the Fascists, represented by Costanzo Ciano and Dino Perrone, wrote to the Socialist mayor to ask for his resignation. The Prefect’s comments about the situation are an interesting exercise in ambiguity: My impression is that the Socialist administration will be inflexible in refusing to submit its resignation, regarding this as an act of cowardice incompatible with the tradition of pride of the municipality of Leghorn. Rather, the administration would resign when faced with a de facto occupation of the city council on the Fascists’ part, an occupation that, in compliance with the orders from the government, I cannot allow. I also believe that the administration would resign if the Prefect were to issue a written statement declaring that the heated climate and the need to take exceptional measures to defend the town hall have created an unbearable situation … But I will refrain from issuing any such declaration unless the government maintains that it is a suitable means to solve a serious situation which at any minute might lead to bloody conflicts.98 Later a large number of other Fascists swarmed into the city and, from 3 August, more and more clashes broke out. In the afternoon of 3 August the camera del lavoro in Leghorn was attacked, after the injuring of the secretary of the local Fascio. These numerous clashes caused the death of at least one person (an anarchist) and the wounding of almost twenty others in the first day of unrest alone.99 The city councillors, however, only resigned on the 7th, when the mayor chose to yield to the personal threats he had received – even

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though the power had already passed into the hands of the military authorities.100 Following his resignation, on 8 August the Fascists which had reached Leghorn from elsewhere finally left the city.101 In Ancona too the arrival of outside Fascists is what ensured a Fascist victory, with the resignation of the Socialist city council and the destruction of Communist centres, newsagents, and so on.102 However, clashes, depredation, deaths and the resignation of city councillors belonging to the Socialist Party, or even the Partito Popolare, also occurred in many other centres. In Parma, Bari and Civitavecchia the Fascists encountered with such a strong reaction that not only did they fail to meet their goals, but they suffered heavy losses, not least at the hands of the police.103 Meanwhile, on 6 August 1922, the newly installed government issued a very ambiguous call to pacification, speaking of ‘warring factions’, while forgetting that the strike had ended four days earlier, and without ever mentioning the Fascists. It is nonetheless significant that this text was published not during the strike but during the Fascist mobilisation. The appeal stated: At this hour of great disturbance of the domestic peace, the government addresses the country, the whole country without distinction, making a direct appeal to citizens, that they may end their violent contrasts and raise their spirits through feelings of patriotic and human solidarity. Italy is asking its sons to desist from the fighting that is ravaging it … The government has the supreme duty of defending the State, its institutions and the general interests for the sake of individual rights at all costs, by any means and inflexibly, against anyone who may jeopardise such. It is adopting the measures required by the situation to restore respect of the law, of life and of property; but it once again wishes to address words of reassurance to the country and to promote order, confident that it will not be ignored. Some people considered this appeal significant because ‘it had been many years since the government had undertaken an act of this sort, namely from the time of the assassination of King Umberto’.104 It was not just the government that deemed the situation to be particularly critical; Pope Pius XI also explicitly discussed the political situation in Italy in an apostolic letter demanding pacification and a return to peace, and pointing to the war as the primary cause of the divergences that were tearing the country apart.105 The Fascist Party immediately responded to the government’s appeal. In the pages of the Popolo d’Italia, Mussolini attacked the government, once again affirming the weakness of the State and, a few months after the events, affirmed for the first time the effectiveness of the use of violence on that occasion: Violence is sometimes moral. We dispute our enemy’s right to complain about our violence, because when compared to the acts of violence committed in the baleful years 1919–20 and to that of the Bolsheviks in

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Russia, where two million people have been executed and another two million lie in prison, our violence is nothing but child’s play. On the other hand, violence is decisive, because in late July and August by forty-eight hours of systematic, warrior violence we have obtained what we would not have obtained in forty-eight hours of preaching and propaganda.106 Support was shown by the conservative Sonnino’s Giornale d’Italia, which described the concern over subversive actions a ‘Socialnittian’ (‘socialnittiana’) manoeuvre and which considered the rumour that the Fascists were planning a march on Rome to be a mere canard.107 Meanwhile, in the press the debate on political violence and its use by political parties had reached a new pitch. Calling for lawfulness, the Osservatore Romano, the daily newspaper of the Holy See, described the violence racking the country in an article that took a markedly anti-Fascist stance: Bloody events of an unprecedented level of violence have shaken whole provinces and stirred the embers of civil wars, which at any moment might break out into a destructive fire. The country, which has just survived the dangerous days of the general strike, has not been given a moment’s break; it is once again dragged into a whirlpool of assaults and reprisals so swiftly and tumultuously that the public opinion no longer knows where to turn to try and tell provocation from reaction. All forces outside the law – whether they call themselves revolutionary or seek to re-establish order through violence – are all against the law, and therefore against the civilised life of a people, against the existence of the State and the progress of the nation. Judging intentions is useless when then the effects are the same.108 Similar positions were adopted by the pro-Amendola newspaper Il Mondo in a commentary piece published on the first page that same day: We have learned that there is an old law and a new law. The old law lives in law codes, the new law in the country’s conscience. And the old law, which safeguards and protects Italian citizens, is in contrast with the new one, which distinguishes between Italian citizens who are nationalists and ones who are not, and means to protect the former with no concern for the safety of the latter who, as a threat to the country, ought to be crushed … If this [i.e. the Zanardelli code then in force] is the old law of the Italian State, the Italian State can apply this law alone. And those who rebel against this old law are rebelling against the State, in its innermost ethical and juridical essence. And they are subversives, insofar as they demand a new law, which presupposes a new State, sprung from the ruins of the existing one. This simply means either that the State, in Italy, is non-existent since it no longer has any strength or raison d’etre, in which case it may give way to the new law; or that it exists and believes to have

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These facts were discussed in Parliament during the debate over the vote of confidence to be given to the new Facta government, which had been established precisely to face the general strike. It is a highly significant discussion, which reflects the worrying level reached by the crisis of the Italian liberal institutions. The speech delivered to present the new government emphasised and reinforced the central idea of equality before the law within the State: When an act breaks the law, it must be prevented; there cannot be any distinctions or exceptions. There is only one formula: the country has given itself some laws; these apply with all their force; anyone who violates them is against the State: from that moment an inflexible defence must be put up.110 Despite the stance taken by the government, the events of the previous days revealed the ineffectiveness of the law and the widespread acquiescence shown towards the Fascists – with very few exceptions – on the part of all the forces entrusted with keeping the public peace, from the police to Prefects and magistrates. It was precisely this possibility to exercise force without meeting any reaction that fuelled some rather explicit addresses on the part of both the Fascist MP Dario Lupi and of the nationalist MPs Alfredo Rocco and Luigi Federzoni. The former echoed Mussolini’s dilemma by arguing that unless the State absorbs Fascism, ‘Fascism will replace the State’.111 Alfredo Rocco instead denounced the fact that the parliamentary institutions were no longer functioning as they ought to, arguing that the proportional voting system had put the Socialist Party and the Partito Popolare in a position that was impossible to manage. The nationalist jurist also foresaw a moment in which the Chamber would no longer be capable of ‘expressing energetic governments’ and institutional turnover would occur, as the crown would reclaim the right to appoint the government, changing the Italian political system ‘from a parliamentary to a purely constitutional one’.112 In the light of the events of the previous days, Rocco announced ‘the impossibility of having a pro-Socialist and anti-Fascist left-wing Ministry’, given that the Chamber could not embark on an anti-Fascist policy the very moment in which Fascism, along with other nationalist forces, is permeating the whole country and irresistibly winning it over from top to bottom.113 No less explicit the following day was Luigi Federzoni’s defence of Fascism and outline of its future development. The nationalist MP stressed a break in continuity and called for a normalisation that could only take the form of a return to ‘long-standing laws’ and the legalisation of the revolutionary forces.114 The session held on 9 August, however, was marked by considerable tension, following the address given by Communist MP Luigi Repossi. Not unlike the Fascists and nationalists, Repossi argued that the ongoing crisis

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was a constitutional one, going so far as to claim that, given the failure of the State to act, the only salvation for the Communist Party lay in the development of a red squadrismo. Repossi’s considerations sprung from the fact that the strike had failed because no armed reaction to Fascism had been envisaged to counter the armed reaction to the strike. At this claim, Fascist MP Francesco Giunta threatened the Communist deputy with the words: ‘Get out, or I’ll shoot!’.115 The session was therefore adjourned for an hour and reopened with a drastic statement by the Fascist Giuseppe Caradonna: ‘Let it be known abroad that in the Italian Parliament one cannot make a vindication of crimes.’116 This statement made by Caradonna seems rather paradoxical considering not just the reaction from his fellow Fascist Giunta, but also his own political activity in his home region of Apulia. At the same time, an even more serious incident occurred in Parliament – even though no mention of it is to be found in the parliamentary papers. During Repossi’s address, Fascist MP Leandro Arpinati stood up and slowly made his way towards the Communist deputy. The quaestor of the Chamber noticed this and, obviously alarmed, asked Arpinati where he was going. The latter replied that he was free to go wherever he liked. The quaestor then asked Arpinati – as a ‘gentleman addressing another gentleman’ – whether he was armed, to which question the latter gave a positive answer. Nationalist MP Raffaele Paulucci, however, succeeded in preventing the weapon from being used and got Arpinati to hand it in, invoking the need to ‘desist from any non-parliamentary action’.117 The following day, the debate continued with yet another speech of accusation against the government, this time delivered by Socialist MP Claudio Treves. Drawing attention to the words which Turati had used before the fall of the previous government, Treves drew a dour picture of the Italian situation: The State is foregoing all its powers to avengers. A State is emerging within the State; a private army is emerging alongside the national army … Fascism wants power, all the power. While it says that it has not yet resolved the misunderstanding, as to whether it is lawful or insurrectional, insurrection triumphs. It may be that today or tomorrow it will decide to breach the Parliament doors, just as it has breached those of town halls. It may also be that it will try to do so by forcing the government to act on its behalf. Hon. Facta are you the man willing to march? Treves closed his address by explicitly quoting Turati: So when parliamentariansm is threatened and dictatorship praised, we declare to you, gentlemen: de re vestra agitur. The liberal parliamentary regime is yours, not ours.118 In the face of the repeated injunctions from the Socialists and the proliferation of accusations from the Fascists, the response from the government, and in particular from the liberal forces, was hardly adequate to the level of crisis

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that had been reached – in terms of rhetorical as much as political responses. Only one address, that from the liberal Francesco Cocco Ortu, seemed to take the magnitude of the crisis into account, if only in unrealistic terms, in the light of the events that had occurred. Attempting to find a middle way against both the Fascists and the Socialists, the deputy stressed the importance of democracy as well as the impossibility for any political force to achieve a victory given the bloodshed which Italy had experienced.119 Despite its incapacity to respond to both the facts and the questions raised in those days, the government earned the Parliament’s trust and the support of Fascists and nationalists as well the various groups of Popolari, democrats and liberals – with 247 votes in favour and 122 against out of 371 MPs present at the session.120 The scale of the acts committed in the years 1921–22 overshadowed the degree of autonomy that marked the squadristi’s action and the results this could lead to, in the eyes of their contemporaries, as much as of historians. A reflection of the climate of those years, violence was nonetheless the product of groups that sought to seize power and forcefully bring about a radical transformation of the institutions. The aim was to acquire a kind of power that would not be subject – as was typically the case in those years – to constant limitation from political opponents, and especially the law. Fascist political violence was driven by a plan that, far from having been made necessary by particular historical circumstances, could have been thwarted. At the same time, this plan – both as a whole and with regard to the individual incidents it led to – cannot be regarded as exclusively or chiefly reactive in nature. The Fascist strategy to seize power and its main objectives clearly prove that the opposite is the case. In this context, it is interesting to note the way in which the discourse on violence was developed and accepted at an institutional level, to the point of favouring and making acceptable, or even amplifying in certain cases, the acts committed by the Fascist squadristi.

Notes 1 On this aspect: M. Franzinelli, Squadristi, Milan, Mondadori, 2003, pp. 11–44. 2 On the Socialist Party and violence: G. Minasi, ‘L’attività illegale del PSI nel biennio 1919–1920’, Storia contemporanea, no. 4, 1978, pp. 685 ff. See too, more recently, F. Fabbri, Le origini della guerra civile. 3 See in particular: M. Isnenghi, L’Italia in piazza, pp. 207–300 and, for the interventionist period, A. Ventrone, La seduzione totalitaria. 4 Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, pp. 57–59. 5 On the situation in Trieste see Lyttelon, The Seizure of Power, pp. 53–54. On the bomb in St. Mark’s Square in Venice see G. Albanese, Alle origini del fascismo. La violenza politica a Venezia 1919–1922, Padua, Il Poligrafo, 2001, pp. 15–16 (on Venice in English, see R. Bosworth, Italian Venice: A History, Yale University Press, 2015). 6 This was widely acknowledged even in the interwar period: see Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo. 7 Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, p. 476, and pp. 495–504.

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8 On the evolution of the stance adopted by the Ministry of the Interior as regards Fascist violence and on the attitude of the Prefects, see: M. Saija, I prefetti italiani nella crisi dello Stato liberale, Milan, Giuffrè, 2001. 9 On the development of the Fascist movement in the spring–summer of 1920 see Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, pp. 119–162. 10 B. Mussolini, Scritti e discorsi. La rivoluzione fascista (23 marzo 1919–28 ottobre 1922), Milan, Hoepli, 1934, pp. 117–119. 11 A. Lyttelton, ‘Fascism and Violence in Post-War Italy: Political Strategy and Social Conflict’, in W. Mommsen and G. Hirschfeld (eds), Social Protest, Violence and Terror in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Europe, London, Palgrave, 1982, pp. 257–274. 12 I. Granata, ‘Storia nazionale e storia locale: alcune considerazioni sulla problematica del fascismo delle origini (1919–1922)’, Storia contemporanea, vol. XI, no. 3, 1980, pp. 503–544. 13 On punitive expeditions see Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, pp. 165–167. 14 Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, pp. 209–217. This was also clear to the General Director of Public Security: ACS, MI, PS, 1921, b. 90, report by the General Director of Public Security, no date. 15 In the same period, events of this sort affected ‘only’ 13.7% of southern Italy (see Franzinelli, Squadristi, pp. 96–97). Among the first scholars to notice the relevance of this was F.L. Ferrari, Le régime fasciste italien, Paris, Éditions Spes, 1928, p. 293. 16 Saija, I prefetti italiani, pp. 156–157. 17 ACS, MI, PS, 1921, b. 90, report by the General Director of Public Security. 18 APC, XXV legislatura, Discussioni, vol. VI, session of 17 November 1920, p. 5.611. 19 Ibid. 20 See ‘I partiti e lo stato’, Il Messaggero, 2 February 1921, quoted in G. Talamo, Il «Messaggero». Un giornale durante il fascismo. Cento anni di storia, vol. II (1919–1943), Florence, Le Monnier, 1984, p. 94. A more cautious approach was favoured by the newspaper La Tribuna which, from January 1921, started to mention Fascist acts of violence, while justifying them: see M. Legnani, ‘«La Tribuna» (1919–1925)’, in 1919–1925 Dopoguerra e fascismo. Politica e stampa in Italia, ed. by B. Vigezzi, Bari, Laterza, 1965, in particular pp. 100–101. 21 ACS, MI, PS, 1921, b. 90. 22 Report of the General Director of Public Security, s.d. [but 1921] in ACS, MI, PS, 1921, b. 90, p. 4. 23 Ibid. On Giolitti’s standing on this and on the State Administration in general, see Saija, I prefetti italiani, pp. 247–312. 24 On the assault against Francesco Misiano, see A. Baravelli, La Vittoria smarrita: legittimità e rappresentazioni della Grande Guerra nella crisi del sistema liberale (1919–1924), Rome, Carocci, 2006, pp. 204–205. 25 APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. I, session of 13 June 1921, pp. 2–9. 26 Ibid., p. 5. 27 On 21 December 1921, though, the Chamber of the Deputies decided to annul Misiano’s election: see S. Cannarsa, Senato e Camera nei loro rapporti e conflitti (1848–1949), Rome, Scarano editore, no date (but 1954), pp. 257–258. 28 These are Fascismo. Inchiesta socialista sulle gesta dei fascisti in Italia, Milan, Casa Editrice Avanti, 1922 [1st ed. 1921], and Barbarie rossa: resoconto cronologico delle principali gesta commesse dai socialisti italiani dal 1919 in poi, Rome, Fasci Italiani di Combattimento, 1921. 29 The confrontations happened on 21 June, and 20 and 22 July 1921. See APC, XXVI legislature, Discussions, vol. I, session of 21 June 1921.

46

Political violence

30 On the Pact of Pacification in English see Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power, pp. 72–76. For a more recent and complete interpretation see Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, pp. 214–313. 31 Particularly relevant here are Giacomo Matteotti’s addresses to the Chamber: see APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. II, pp. 2000–2001. 32 ACS, MI, Gabinetto Bonomi, ‘Ordine pubblico’, b. 1, telegram from the Prefect Olivieri to the Ministry of the Interior, 12 July 1921. 33 ACS, MI, Gabinetto Bonomi, ‘Ordine pubblico’, b. 1, telegram from the Prefect Mori to the Ministry of the Interior, 12 July 1921. 34 See the 2nd Division of Infantry (Alessandria) Commander’s report to Turin’s Head Quarter, titled ‘Accidents against the Hon. Treves, Acqui’, 17 July 1921 in ACS, MI, Gabinetto Bonomi, ‘Ordine pubblico’, b. 1. 35 Cf. F. Mazza, ‘Giuseppe Di Vagno’, in DBDI, ad nomen and Franzinelli, Squadristi, pp. 52–53. 36 Some measures were adopted at the end of 1920, especially in those areas which had most been affected by Fascist violence, such as Emilia (Bologna, Ferrara and Modena): cf. Report of the General Director of Public Security, no date (but 1921) in ACS, MI, PS, 1921, b. 90, p. 5. On Bonomi’s decisions after the Pacification Pact see Saija, I prefetti italiani, pp. 320–348. 37 Ministry of the Interior’s circular letter to the Prefects 21 December 1921, in ACS, Gabinetto Bonomi, ‘Ordine pubblico’, b. 1. 38 ACS, MI, Gabinetto Bonomi, ‘Ordine pubblico’, b. 1, Statistics on the disarmament of the citizens from 21 December 1921 to the 9 January 1922. 39 ACS, MI, Gabinetto Bonomi, ‘Ordine pubblico’, b. 4, the Prefect of Milan to the Ministry of the Interior, 6 December 1921; letter of Ivanoe Bonomi to Bombacci, 17 January 1922; telegram from Lusignoli to the Ministry of the Interior, 17 January 1922. 40 B. Tobia, L’Altare della Patria, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1998, pp. 71–86 and C. Brice, Monumentalité publique et politique à Rome: le Vittoriano, École Française de Rome, 1998, p. 345. 41 M. Ridolfi, Le feste nazionali, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2003, p. 66. 42 See Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, pp. 361–386. On the relationship between the Veterans’ Congress and the Fascist one see G. Sabbatucci, I combattenti del primo dopoguerra, Bari, Laterza, 1974, pp. 357–360. References to this are also to be found in newspapers from the period: ‘Il tumultuoso inizio a Roma del congresso e i combattenti’, Corriere della Sera, 6 November 1921; ‘L’associazione combattenti sarà apolitica’, Corriere della Sera, 8 November 1921. 43 The Corriere della Sera observed that the day after the demonstration, 11 November, there were still 10,000 Fascists in Rome: ‘La fine dello sciopero a Roma annunciato per oggi. Il servizio ferroviario ripreso. Un’altra giornata di incidenti’, Corriere della Sera, 12 November 1921; G. Polverelli, ‘Congresso senza precedenti’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 8 November 1921. 44 ‘Lo sciopero generale proclamato a Roma dopo conflitti tra ferrovieri e fascisti’, Corriere della Sera, 10 November 1921; ‘La proclamazione dello sciopero generale a Roma. I fascisti uccidono un ferroviere’, L’Avanti!, 10 November 1921. 45 ‘Il programma e l’azione sindacale dei fasci. Viva ripercussione dei fatti di Roma al congresso’, Il Corriere della Sera, 10 November 1921. 46 See the address by Prime Minister Bonomi to the Chamber of Deputies: APC, XXV legislature, Discussions, vol. I, p. 2. The Popolo d’Italia tried to play down the clashes and to focus on the Congress and on Fascist demonstration in the capital: ‘Il Congresso Fascista si chiude con un corteo formidabile. Quattrocentomila fascisti con quattromila gagliardetti sfilano per le strade di Roma’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 11 November 1921.

Political violence

47

47 ‘Giornata di sciopero e torbidi a Roma. Conflitti con due morti e centocinquanta feriti. Il corteo fascista a Roma’, Il Corriere della Sera, 11 November 1921. 48 See Il Corriere della Sera and Il Popolo d’Italia issues of 12 and 13 November 1921. The nationalist paper Idea Nazionale supported Fascist propaganda, saying that the Socialist strike was purposeful, but they did not completely rule out Fascist responsibility for the clashes: see ‘Le responsabilità del governo’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 14 November 1921. 49 See ‘I doveri dello stato e i doveri verso lo stato’, Il Corriere della Sera, 13 November 1921. 50 APC, XXV legislatura, Discussioni, vol. I, p. 4. 51 See again, for this and the following quotation, APC, XXVI legislature, Discussioni, vol. I, p. 3. 52 See Saija, I prefetti italiani, pp. 394–398. 53 On the development of the PNF in 1922, see Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, pp. 544–558. 54 D. Grandi, ‘Il mito e la realtà (Alla vigilia del Consiglio nazionale Fascista)’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 2 April 1922. The importance of this article was underlined by Gentile in his Storia del partito fascista, pp. 586–592. 55 Franzinelli, Squadristi, p. 156. 56 Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, pp. 592–602. 57 Togliatti, ‘Aspetti del fascismo: la presa di Rimini’, in Togliatti, Opere, ed. by E. Ragionieri, vol. I (1917–1926), Editori Riuniti, Roma 1967, pp. 373–376 (the article was published in Ordine Nuovo in July 1920). 58 See, also for the following quotation: APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. VIII, p. 8.193. 59 APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. VIII, p. 8.196. 60 Ibid., p. 8.225. Also in the following speech Facta justified his government, denouncing the Fascist aggression against the State, see ibid., pp. 8.248–8.249. 61 Ibid., p. 8.266. 62 Ibid., pp. 8.225–8.226. 63 Ibid., pp. 8.252–8.255. These last two quotations are taken from: Benito Mussolini, My Autobiography, Mineola NY, Dover Publications, 2006, p. 121. 64 APC, XXVI legislature, Discussioni, vol. VIII, p. 8.260–8.261. 65 See the letter of Giovanni Gioitti to his collaborator Corradini: G. De Rosa, Giolitti e il fascismo in alcune sue lettere inedite, Rome, Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 1957, p. 17. 66 Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, pp. 333–335. 67 La direzione del Partito, ‘Mobilitazione generale fascista contro lo sciopero antinazionale’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 1 August 1922. See what Emilio Gentile wrote on the Fascist menace: Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, p. 607. 68 ‘Il deciso e chiaro atteggiamento del gruppo parlamentare fascista di fronte alla crisi’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 2 August 1922. 69 On the heterogeneous participation to the strike see ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 56 and b. 57. 70 De Felice too did not exclude this hypothesis, but only for the most radical fringes of Fascism, see De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, Turin, Einaudi, 1995 [1966], pp. 275–276. 71 See ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 57, fasc. Roma, the Prefect of Naples to the Ministry of the Interior, 1 August 1922. Ordine Nuovo underlined that the reunion of squads in Ancona could be considered an attempt to reach the capital. See ‘La conquista fascista di Ancona per marciare su Roma?’, L’Ordine Nuovo, 6 August 1922. On the planning of the March on Rome in those days see the Modigliani’s testimony to Angelo Tasca: in A. Tasca, Témoignages, p. 166 (but 167 of Tasca’s manuscript in Fondazione G. Feltrinelli, Archivio Angelo Tasca, f. quaderni, sf.

48

72 73 74

75 76

77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85

86

87

Political violence Marche sur Rome, quaderno VI) (see http://xdams.fondazionefeltrinelli.it/dm_0/ FF/feltrinelliPubblicazioni/allegati/testoritrovato/0014.pdf, last checked on 21 December 2018) See E. Pugliese, Io difendo l’esercito, Naples, Rispoli editore, 1946, pp. 11–12. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 57, fasc. Milano, Lusignoli to the Ministry of the Interior, 4 August 1922. On these elements see De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, pp. 279–280. ACS, MI, TUC, Outgoing messages, 1–8 August 1922, telegram from the head of the Cabinet to the Prefects and general commissioners in Trento, Trieste and Zara, 5 August 1922, h. 20.30. See also the minutes of the Cabinet that wrote the telegram in ACS, Verbali del consiglio dei ministri, 2 August 1921–13 October 1923. See the telegram from Taddei to the Prefects of Milan, Genoa, Ancona, Leghorn, Parma in ACS, MI, TUC, Outgoing messages, 1–8 August 1922 and Taddei to General Barco in Brescia, 7 August 1922, h. 10.30. Taddei to Generals Catteneo, Squillace, Tiscorni, Ibba Piras and Lodomez, 6 August 1922, h. 10.30, in ACS, MI, TUC, Outgoing messages, 1–8 August 1922. At the same moment Taddei issued to the same generals and to all Prefects the order to search apartments for weapons and bombs: see Taddei to the generals and Prefects, 6 August 1922, h. 10.30, in ACS, MI, TUC, Outgoing messages, 1– 8 August 1922. Taddei to the Prefects, 4 August 1922, h. 18.15, in ACS, MI, TUC, Outgoing messages, 1–8 August 1922. On the effects of the strike against the PPI, see G. De Rosa, Storia del Partito popolare, Bari, Laterza, 1958. The Osservatore romano spoke of a conflict that had «providentially come to naught», see ‘Le ultime vicende. Si passa al lavoro. Dal fatto il monito’, L’Osservatore romano, 4 August 1922. ‘Lettere di Giovanni Amendola a Carlo Cassola’, Nord e Sud, new series, no. 24, 1961, in particular p. 56. ‘Dalla marcia su Roma alle elezioni’, Battaglie sindacali, 18 August 1922. L. Salvatorelli, ‘Dopo lo sciopero “legalitario”’, La Stampa, 6 August 1922, now in Salvatorelli, Nazionalfascismo, pp. 77–80. P.S., ‘Filippo II’, Il Mattino, 5–6 August 1922. P.S., ‘Responsabilità’, Il Mattino, 6–7 August 1922. See Repaci, La marcia su Roma, pp. 31–61; Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, pp. 606–615. On Ancona see M. Michelozzi, Le origini del fascismo nell’anconetano, Aralia editore, Urbino 1974; on Livorno see T. Abse, ‘“Sovversivi” e fascisti a Livorno (1918–1922). La lotta politica e sociale in una città della Toscana’, Quaderni della Labronica, supplement to Comune Notizie, no. 3, 7 November 1990; on Milan and Genoa see Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, pp. 351–352 and pp. 348–350. The authors of local research on these areas underline the fact that the ‘legalitarian’ strike of August was a more important turning point than the March on Rome for the transformation of the local balance of power. The Fascist attacks are described in ‘Il primo rendiconto del contrattacco fascista’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 5 August 1922 (see also Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, pp. 343–346). See also ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 55 and b. 57. On the Fascist action in Milan see ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 57, fasc. Milano, telegram from the Prefect of Milan to the Ministry of the Interior, 2 August 1922, h. 22.35 and Il direttorio, ‘I fascisti al popolo di Milano’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 2 August 1922. See ‘La sede del Comune di Milano occupata dai fascisti. Una giornata di conflitti, attentati e rappresaglie’, Il Corriere della Sera, 4 August 1922; ‘I baroni rossi cacciati dal palazzo del Comune’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 4 August 1922. See

Political violence

88 89 90

91

92 93 94

95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103

104

49

also Repaci, La marcia su Roma, pp. 35–44 and De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, pp. 276–281. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 47, telegram from the Prefect Lusignoli to the Ministry of the Interior, 5 August 1922. On this telegram see also Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, pp. 612–615. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 47, the Major to the Prefect, 5 August 1922. The document from the Soleri Archive is quoted by Repaci, La marcia su Roma, p. 655 and also by De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, pp. 274–275. See also ACS, MI, 1922, b. 57, fasc. Milano. A few words on the strike – and none on this episode – are to be found in M. Soleri, Memorie, Turin, Einaudi, 1949, pp. 139–140. See ‘Nessun operaio ha scioperato’, Il Mattino, 4–5 August 1922 and ‘I circoli comunista, socialista e popolare di Sorrento distrutti dai fascisti napoletani’, Il Mattino, 6–7 August 1922. A completely different version was provided by the Prefect of Naples, who mentioned no fights in his report of 6 August 1922 to the Ministry of the Interior (ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 57, fasc. Napoli). These were not the only cases in which the fighting was limited and the strike elicited little involvement, and yet the Fascists launched violent attacks: see Albanese, Alle origini del fascismo, pp. 225–227 and Alberghi, Il fascismo in Emilia Romagna, pp. 546–555. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 56, fasc. Genova, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 4 August 1922, h. 17. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 56, fasc. Genova, telegram from the Commander of the 14th Infantry Division to the Ministry of the Interior, brief report, 9 August 1922. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 56, fasc. Genova, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 5 August 1922, h. 0.55. After these events all power was given to the military authorities: see the telegram from the Prefects to the Ministry of the Interior, 6 August 1922. h. 2.45 in ibid. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 56, fasc. Genova, General Squillace to the Ministry of the Interior, 6 August 1922. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 56, fasc. Genova, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 17 August 1922, h. 14.25 and General Squillace to the Ministry of the Interior, 9 August 1922, h. 11.40. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 56, fasc. Genova, the Commander of the 14th Infantry Division to the Ministry of the Interior, 12 August 1922 and 17 August 1922, h. 14.25. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 56, fasc. Genova, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 2 August 1922, h. 9.15. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 57, fasc. Livorno, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 2 August 1922, h. 11 pm. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 57, fasc. Livorno, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 5 August 1922, h. 21.30 and 7 August 1922. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 57, fasc. Livorno, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 8 August 1922. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 56, fasc. Ancona, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 4 August 1922, h. 1.30. Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, pp. 352–355. See also E. Francescangeli, Arditi del popolo. Argo Secondari e la prima organizzazione antifascista (1917– 1922), Rome, Odradek, 2000, esp. pp. 126–139. On these matters see also the special issue of Storia e documenti, vol. 7, no. 1, 2002, with the article by U. Sereni, ‘Le barricate a Parma: una storia da ripensare’, pp. 141–183. This comment was made in ‘Per la restaurazione dell’ordine in Italia’, L’Osservatore romano, 7–8 August 1922. Meanwhile, the Fascists were putting pressure

50

105

106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117

118

119 120

Political violence on the Ministry of the Interior, as shown in E. Ferraris, La marcia su Roma veduta dal Viminale, Rome, Edizioni Leonardo, 1946, pp. 33–38. The Osservatore romano of 9 August 1922 published this letter on its front page. Commenting on this, the Giornale d’Italia declared that it was ‘maybe the first time that the Vatican speaks as authoritatively on a theme which is not directly or indirectly connected with the Church’: see ‘Lettera del papa per la pacificazione’, Giornale d’Italia, 9 August 1922. On this letter see also the editorials ‘La parola del papa’, Il Corriere d’Italia, 9 August 1922, and ‘La parola di pace’, Il Corriere d’Italia, 10 August 1922. B. Mussolini, ‘Il discorso di Udine’, in Mussolini, Scritti e discorsi. La rivoluzione fascista, pp. 308–309. In the aftermath of the strike Mussolini wrote the article ‘Continuando’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 6 August 1922. ‘La piovra’, Il Giornale d’Italia, 10 August 1922. ‘Nuovi conflitti in Italia’, L’Osservatore romano, 6 August 1922. ‘La legge’, Il Mondo, 6 August 1922. APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. VIII, p. 8.281. Facta spoke on 9 August. The quotation is from the same address to the Chamber of the Deputies, p. 8286. APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. VIII, p. 8.288. Ibid., p. 8.289. Rocco ended his speech by accusing the Socialists of being an anti-national force and of defending Fascism: see ibid., pp. 8.290–8.292. Ibid., pp. 8315–16. Ibid., p. 8292, see also Repossi’s address on the same page. Ibid., p. 8295 The episode and the quotations are from ‘Gravi incidenti alla Camera di ieri. L’on. Giunta minaccia di sparare: l’on. Arpinati depone la rivoltella’, Il Corriere d’Italia, 11 August 1922. See also ‘Un violentissimo incidente’, L’Ordine Nuovo, 10 August 1922; ‘Perché non avete tirato?’, L’Ordine Nuovo, 11 August 1922. Both quotations are from APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. VIII, pp. 8304–8305. Treves opened his speech saying that ‘the crisis begun on 19 July and condemning the internal policies of the Facta government was not resolved as the vote implied’, and he accused the Popolari and the liberals of not searching for other solutions. APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. VIII, pp. 8.310–1. Ibid., p. 8.322.

3

Towards the March

The fall of the first Facta government and the general strike at the beginning of August 1922 brought a change in the Fascist strategy. Fascist leaders realised that the ambiguity of a policy combining insurrectionist practices at the local level with a call to protect the established order could no longer prove effective in the face of the defeat of the Socialist and Communist movements. It was likely that at this stage the liberal ruling classes would seek to distance themselves from their troublesome allies, once they were no longer needed. After the successful insurrection staged as a reaction against the general strike, it was now a matter of developing a programme and political strategy to seize power. The parliamentary addresses delivered by Fascists (but also nationalists) made it quite clear even in an institutional context that the problem was no longer whether to seize power or not, but how to seize it. Confronted with this overt plan, the government too chose to adopt a strategy that would allow it to curtail the Fascist challenge, if not to oppose it.

Talk of a coup In the aftermath of the general strike, even before the National Fascist Party drew up a plan to attack the State, Fascists increasingly resorted to the threat to march on Rome, and all the main Italian newspapers talked about this prospect. The Popolo d’Italia published several articles which envisioned a civil war or coup d’état as a way out of the Italian political crisis, or which invoked the need for a dictatorship.1 The authors of these articles were for the most part prominent Fascists who were not directly involved in running the party – the exceptions being the articles by Benito Mussolini and Michele Bianchi, the party secretary. The linchpin of the arguments expounded in the press was the need for an action capable of re-establishing legality, which the State was no longer capable of ensuring, and authority, which the State had completely lost. In an article entitled La legge o la scure (The Law or the Axe), published on 2 August 1922, Gaetano Polverelli – who was to become a key figure in the propaganda of the regime – wrote:

52

Towards the March If the State shows itself weak and cowardly, the Fascists will be compelled to act, because it is time that the law be re-established and the saboteurs of the nation be punished. Otherwise, dictatorship will become necessary, but in this case the red gang leaders will find no escape, in Parliament or elsewhere. The rods and axe, which are the symbol of the fasces, will return into action as in the wholesome and great days of Rome.2

A few days later, in an article published on 26 August 1922 under the pseudonym of Volt, the Futurist and Fascist Vincenzo Fani Ciotti affirmed the need to restore the authority of the State – an idea more fully explored by Amedeo Mazzotti some time later – even through a dictatorship: The idea of a dictatorship, which is present in the anti-democratic doctrine of Nationalism in an embryonic form, and which was partially applied through the special measures taken during the War, is now popular in Italy, as a reaction to the post-war state of anarchy that the various liberal governments have proven utterly incapable of controlling. Today it is not a matter of evocations of a more or less literary nature. The Italian youth has shown that it is in earnest. A dictatorship has already become necessary in the large centres dominated by the Socialists, and who knows whether tomorrow it might not become necessary even for the State?3 Most of the articles published in this context were ambiguous as to the ways of solving this crisis of authority and of State legitimacy. However, to many people violence and civil war seemed the most adequate means to overcome the crisis and commence the destruction of the liberal State.4 This was not the only hypothesis envisioned by the Fascists, as is illustrated by an editorial entitled Fascism and the State, published on 1 September. While certain that the only salvation for Italy lay in the destruction of the liberal State, Volt stated here: It may not be necessary to change the constitution of the Kingdom. The wisest thing for a ruling class to do has always been to respect hallowed political forms, which – against all logic – correspond to habits and sentiments that no leader can afford to offend. Besides, written constitutions are so flexible that their effect will be good or bad depending on how they are put into practice by the one in charge. Old wineskins can sometimes hold new wine. It cannot be ruled out, therefore, that as the ruling party Fascism would respect the long-standing ceremony of the elections, preserving the extended suffrage and possibly the multi-member constituency – just as in Rome the Empire preserved consuls, comitia, and tribunes.5 The arguments that in one way or the other contributed to spreading the idea of a March on Rome through the Popolo d’Italia were not limited to the debate on the

Towards the March

53

aims of Fascism and the prospect of a coup. In the same months, several articles specifically examined the concept and function of a March on Rome. What proved particularly crucial was the interview published with Mussolini in Mattino, the local Naples newspaper, on 11 August 1922. On this occasion, the Fascist leader claimed that there was no doubt that ‘“the March on Rome” was already “underway”’: while not inevitable, it was ‘strategically possible’ and much depended on the possibilities left to the Fascists to ‘become “State”’.6 A few days later, through a consciously ambiguous argument, Polverelli illustrated the two possibilities contained in the political formula of the March on Rome. On the one hand, he stated – as Michele Bianchi was to do later on – that the March was to be understood in spiritual rather than material terms, as a means ‘to free Rome from a cowardly political class and from the parasitical Socialist cliques that feed off the liberal State like worms off a corpse’.7 He also argued that if the decision to hold new elections did not receive parliamentary approval, a show of strength would be necessary on the Fascists’ part. The long series of articles threatening State powers and the intimidation launched acquired new significance with the publication of the disciplinary code of the Fascist militia, the reorganised assault squads, which stood in contrast to the principle of the State monopoly on violence. However, on 5 October the PNF officially denied rumours that it was hatching a coup.8 The following day, in an interview with the Corriere della Sera the secretary of the Fascist National Party, Michele Bianchi, stated: A military march on Rome? A coup d’état? Preliminary arrangements? Who has come up with fantasies of this sort? It is certainly true that we have spoken, and continue to speak, of a March on Rome, but this – as should be evident even to outsiders – is an entirely spiritual march, a lawenforcing one, I dare say.9 The prospect of a subversive act of this sort had been repeatedly downplayed by right-wing and nationalist newspapers, which feared that talk of such kind might help ban the one party that was most contributing to strengthening their political platform. The articles of the Giornale d’Italia and Idea Nazionale, therefore, had two main targets: on the one hand, they sought to dispute the attempt made by the ruling class to delegitimise Fascist politics; on the other, they attempted to direct the Fascist action in a more lawful direction. In the aftermath of the mobilisation in early August, the director of the Giornale d’Italia, Alberto Bergamini, clarified that there was no plan for a March on Rome, using reassuring words: These are malicious fantasies: Fascism is only asking to remain on the strictly lawful level and to earn the support of the people, striving under its aegis to lawfully attain the government of the country.10

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Bargamini drove this point home again, with the same tone, even ten days away from the March on Rome, when he accused the opponents of Fascism of hoping for an action of this sort and a clash between the Fascists and the army, which would allow them to ‘shout against the insurrection’.11 A heated debate on the March on Rome developed even in national and local newspapers of a different political bent.12 The reaction of the Corriere della Sera to the Fascist discourse was prompt, yet weak in terms of content. This attitude reflected the difficult and ambiguous position of the leading liberal newspaper in Italy at this political stage. In an editorial published at the beginning of August, the Corriere denounced the public circulation of the opinion that dictatorship constituted a possible alternative to the crisis of the liberal State, yet without ever suggesting who was responsible for this. The liberal newspaper took a very critical stand against this political option, developing an analysis of the political role played by the National Fascist Party: The Fascists today are right to believe that they enjoy the support of public opinion, and they are probably right to believe that their parliamentary representation is much smaller than the consensus they elicit in the country. Precisely for this reason, they are not concerned with imposing their opinions on others through a sharp and peremptory kind of order, through the all too easy weapon of dictatorship. They can obtain everything by means of debate and legal measures.13 After this first article published in August, in the following weeks the Corriere avoided discussing the matter any further, possibly fearing that a March on Rome might really take place.14 However, in October, in the light of the increasing number of acts of violence by the Fascist movement, the Milanese newspaper frequently returned to the issue in an attempt to influence Fascist political action.15 The Corriere vigorously upheld the prospect of the Fascists joining the government, hoping that this new role would make them refrain from any unlawful or violent act against the State: That crossroads between legality and violence which the Hon. Mussolini once mentioned before the Chamber is not simply a metaphor, nor a remote possibility. In this respect, the present moment is a critical one for Fascism too; but it is especially critical for the nation … There is only one thing to do: promptly summon the Fascists to take part in the government.16 The Avanti! also emphasised the spread of a public discourse on dictatorship among the Fascists. However, it underestimated the distinction between democracy and dictatorship, since according to the Socialists the liberal monarchy was a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie that had to be opposed through the establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat.17 This perspective led the Socialist Avanti! to develop arguments that invariably tended to underestimate the threat posed by the Fascists, as is shown by the editorial of

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16 October 1922. Here the Socialist newspaper suggested that the prospect of a March on Rome was as unlikely as a possible compromise between ‘Fascism and the old conservative and liberal forces’.18 A somewhat similar position was adopted by Il Comunista, the Communist newspaper of Rome, through an article published on 24 October: The fact is that by ‘coup d’état’ today we are not to understand a political upheaval aimed at suppressing the Constitution and the liberties it guarantees, but rather an upheaval aimed at replacing at the head of the State one bourgeois political group with another bourgeois political group of a different origin and structure. All political groups that have governed Italy, at least since 1880, which is to say since the rise of the Left to power, have cared nothing about the Constitution.19 The rumours about the hatching of a coup that were carefully circulated by the Fascists contradict one of the fundamental elements that political theorists have identified as a distinguishing feature of coup d’états, namely secrecy. The cavalier attitude to secrecy during the preparation of the March on Rome – even in the days just before the action – is confirmed by various sources. This is the case, for instance, with Italo Balbo, who on 26 October noted in his diary: ‘I think it is useless to worry about keeping our journeys secret. Tomorrow the whole of Italy will know about them anyway.’20 The choice to adopt this strategy is to be viewed in relation to the particular political circumstances of the event: the Fascists did not have enough forces to ensure or even hope for victory in an armed conflict, should the State choose to resort to all available means in an effort to oppose them.21 For this reason, the half-secret and half-public discourse about the March, accompanied by declarations of loyalty to the sovereign and amicability towards the army, paved the way – as we shall see later on – for an uprising in which the crucial support of the sovereign and army were not at all guaranteed. The frequent use of violence in the Fascists’ rhetoric, just like the challenging tone they invariably adopted in relation to the State, made the lack of secrecy in the planning of the March on Rome less problematic: no one really believed the Fascists’ words, even though they frequently translated into facts. The news about the March on Rome, however, was not only circulated by the press: it was also a matter of debate among intellectuals, politicians and ordinary people, as well as among overseas observers. The British Embassy constantly followed the debate which had emerged within the Fascist Party. As early as August 1922, Ambassador Ronald Graham sent a report to the Foreign Minister informing him about the debates among the leaders of the party. With regard to the public debate on the possible Fascist ‘coup de main’, he argued that the threat was not to be taken ‘too seriously’. Moreover, quoting Mussolini’s interview with the Mattino, Graham expressed his confidence that the elections in autumn would provide the ‘necessary safety-valve’ for the Fascists.22 In late August, the spread of this news led one of the

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embassy officials to seek information directly from a prominent Fascist, Massimo Rocca, who claimed that much of what was being said about the March was only a ‘bluff’ and that there was little to fear: ‘had the Fascists wished to carry out a coup, they would easily have done so during the general strike’.23 It was in October, however, when new rumours on the matter started circulating in the press that talk of a possible coup became most frequent in the reports addressed to the British Foreign Minister by the Italian Embassy. In the aftermath of the Fascist attack on Trento and Bolzano, the Foreign Minister received the following despatch: Talk of an impending Fascista coup d’etat has been revived in the press; the ball being started by the publication by one news agency – the Agenzia informazioni – of details of the supposed plan. It was stated that the coup was to be brought off on the 20th of this month … If signor Mussolini has made up his mind that he wants the elections before the new year, it is probable that he will have his way. One is inclined to believe too that, if he should attempt a coup d’état –though to do so would be to force an open door – there would be very little to stop him. His renounciation of his republican tendencies has removed a possible cause of friction with the army.24 A few days later, following the publication of the rules for the Fascist militia, new considerations were put forward by the head of military affairs at the embassy with regard to the relation between the militia and the army, as well as the strong impact that an armed band such as that of the squadristi could have on the relations not just between the army and the Fascists, but also – and especially – between the latter and other political forces.25

Organising the March The spread of a debate on the March on Rome was a strategy adopted on the one hand to test the reaction of the ruling class and, on the other, to make public opinion used to the prospect of an event of this sort, which was actually far from certain and had not yet been officially planned. Within the PNF, the first public reflections about a regime turnover were advanced by the Central Committee that assembled in Milan on 13 and 14 August 1922, without reaching any decision.26 In late October, however, a series of concomitant events led to the choice of a march on Rome. One decisive factor, no doubt, was the proximity of the victory anniversary. Given the frequency of subversive plans in these autumn days, Luigi Facta had envisaged a grand anniversary for 4 November 1922, a celebration involving both the nationalists and D’Annunzio. The aim was to reinforce the political legitimacy of the State (and of the government responsible for the whole operation).27 It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Mussolini chose not to

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wait until 4 November to rally his squadristi. In such a way he sought to avert all possibilities that the Fascists might be excluded from this ritual celebration and act of re-legitimisation, or at any rate that they might not play a leading role in it. The Fascist Congress of Naples, which since early August had been scheduled to take place on 24–26 October, offered the possibility of organising a national event alternative to that held by the government. It also constituted a show of strength in an area – Naples – that was generally seen as hostile to Fascism. Once again in early August, the supreme leader of the Fascists presented the upcoming congress to his Neapolitan audience: It is not a real gathering, but the convening of the national council of the Party, with the involvement of around 150 people, which is like saying the high command of Italian Fascism. The items on the agenda are of the utmost importance … It is possible that during the Council meeting there will be a great concentration of Blackshirts from the whole of Campania, not least to show that the Fascist conquest of Campania is well under way and that it is only a matter of carrying it out in those areas where this could not be done until today.28 In view of this event, Mussolini made sure to remove some potential obstacles to the Fascists’ seizing of power, in particular those that had to do with the relationship with the monarchy and army. This issue had already been brought up, in late August 1922, by the right-wing liberals of the Giornale d’Italia, which published a letter from some army officials asking the Fascist leaders to take a stand with regard to the monarchy, given that until then the Fascists had openly displayed a ‘republican tendency’.29 The letter made it clear that, should the Fascists oppose the monarchy – in addition to the liberal State – the position of the army would be one of complete opposition to the Fascist movement. On the contrary, if the Fascists safeguarded the monarchy, the army could side with them, against both Parliament and government. In his reply to the letter from the Giornale d’Italia, Mussolini showed that he would not take the bait: the newspaper of the liberal-conservative Sidney Sonnino – he noted – enjoyed ‘now and then delivering treacherous blows to Fascism’; but at that stage the monarchy was not a problem for the Fascists, given that on several occasions they had honoured the sovereign. Mussolini ended his letter by stating: ‘the Crown is not at stake, unless it wishes to put itself at stake’. Nevertheless, it was evident that the question could not be solved so easily and that, sooner or later, Fascism would need to take a clearer stand on the matter. The choice made ultimately complied with the wishes of the Giornale d’Italia and Idea Nazionale, in particular with the Udine address of 20 September 1922.30 Mussolini’s declaration on this occasion did not go unnoticed or uncommented by either those who championed Fascism as a means to enforce order – and who therefore now considered all the problems posed by the earlier republican Fascism to have been solved – or

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those who were becoming aware of the increasing contradictions that riddled Mussolini’s political speeches and practices. However, the Udine address was not only important because it solved the question of the relationship with the monarchy, but also because it continued the ideological preparation of the Fascists for the March on Rome. Mussolini sought to reassure the Fascists with regard to the negative reception they could be faced with in Rome, by minimising the role of local anti-Fascists and arguing that the reason for the lack of preparedness among the Fascists lay in the events of the previous autumn: that part of the responsibility for what happened belongs to us, on account of some elements among us which were not on the high level the situation required. The leader of Fascism then embarked on an almost mystical praise of Rome by identifying its importance with that of the nation and linking the destiny of the capital to that of Fascism as the future restorer of the city’s glories: But if Mazzini and Garibaldi tried three times to arrive at Rome, and if Garibaldi gave his Redshirts the tragic alternative of ‘Rome or death’, this means that, for the best men of the Risorgimento, Rome already had an essential function of the highest importance to perform in the new history of the Italian nation. Let us then, with minds pure and free from animosity, lift up our thoughts towards Rome, which is one of the few spiritual cities which exist in the world; because at Rome, among those seven hills so pregnant with history, occurred one of the greatest spiritual miracles which have ever taken place – that is, the transformation of an Eastern religion, not understood by us, into a universal one, and which has succeeded, under another form, to the Empire that the Roman legions had carried to the extreme ends of the earth. And we want to make Rome the city of our spirit, a city cleaned and purified of all those elements which corrupt and defile her; we wish to make Rome the beating heart, the living spirit of the Italy of which we dream.31 The historical reference, the cornerstone of a rhetorical discourse on Rome that is only foreshadowed here, was fully developed over the twenty years of the Fascist regime. But what came together in this case were many other references: the religious one, which was made precisely on the anniversary of the capture of Rome; the imperial one; and, finally, the emphasis on the need for a renewal of the spirit of the ‘corrupt’ and ‘defiled’ city. The procedure used on this occasion was typical of Mussolini’s rhetoric and combined profoundly different elements to outline a rather unclear yet highly imaginative political platform. It is important to note here that the discourse on Rome was also launched in order to reinforce the idea of continuity with the experience of the Risorgimento and to more explicitly

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acknowledge the role of the monarchy in relation to a political plan that called for a marked regime change in Italy. The address delivered on 20 September, then, solved the question of the Fascists’ loyalty to the monarchy. Yet the prospect of a Fascist insurrection – or even of a coup d’état – found a serious obstacle in the enduring uncertainty on the issue of which side the army would take. Relations between the army and Fascism partly also depended on Victor Emmanuel III’s stance on Fascism, since the troops had sworn loyalty to the King. Yet there was also some leeway, as is shown by the frequency and intensity of the debate, including the public debate on the matter. Especially from the pages of the Popolo d’Italia, the Fascists sought to create the impression that the army would unreservedly side with them, stating that in turn they would never go against the army. At the same time, the Fascists aimed to undermine the faith that citizens – and perhaps the State too – had in the loyalty of the military institutions in power. Such was the stance of the Popolo d’Italia in response to the claims made by Badoglio, who expressed his confidence that ‘at the first sign of gunfire, Fascism will collapse’ and that he himself would give orders to shoot, were Fascism to adopt an unlawful course of action.32 At the same time, however, Fascist subversion against the liberal State came to a crucial turning point. In early October the Popolo d’Italia officially established an armed corps in Italy by publishing the disciplinary code of the Fascist militia, which had been drafted in the previous weeks by Cesare De Vecchi, Emilio De Bono, Italo Balbo and Michele Bianchi.33 This act amounted to yet another conscious provocation towards the liberal State and a further attack against the State monopoly on violence. Actual preparations for the March commenced in mid-October. Mussolini began the operation by summoning to Milan Balbo, De Bono and De Vecchi, along with generals Fara and Ceccherini and the head of the Roman Fascists, Igliori, on 16 October.34 It was at this meeting – also attended by Michele Bianchi and Attilio Teruzzi – that the so-called Quadrumvirs of the Fascist revolution (Emilio De Bono, Italo Balbo, Cesare De Vecchi and Michele Bianchi) established an action plan for the March on Rome.35 The Quadrumvirs first met at Bordighera on 18 October 1922 to lay out an action plan that called for an unspecified number of squads from various areas of Italy to converge in Rome. This action entailed two successive stages: the squads would first head towards Santa Marinella, Monterotondo and Tivoli, and then move on to Rome. As part of this plan, the prospect was also taken into account of occupying certain cities in southern Italy to prevent the despatching of local troops to Rome. However, no talk was made of occupying any cities in central or northern Italy. The March on Rome was to be accomplished by those squads from central and northern Italy that found themselves relatively close to the capital and hence could reach it within a few hours.36 Other meetings followed the Bordighera one. On 20 and 21 October the three supreme leaders of the militia, De Vecchi, De Bono and Balbo, along with Bianchi and Giuriati, met local commanders in Florence.37 The final plan for the March on Rome was laid out as follows:

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1

Mobilisation and occupation of public buildings in the main cities of the kingdom; Concentration of the Blackshirts in Santa Marinella, Perugia, Tivoli, Monterotondo and Volturno; Ultimatum to the Facta government to hand over State powers; Entry in Rome and seizing of the Ministries at all costs. In the event of a defeat, the Fascist militias would head back to central Italy, protected by the reserve forces gathered in Umbria; Establishment of the Fascist government in a city in central Italy. Swift gathering of the Blackshirts in the Po Valley to resume the action on Rome until victory and the occupation of the city.

2 3 4

5

In the tragic event of a clash with the army, the Bottai column (between Tivoli and Valmontone) would encircle the S. Lorenzo neighbourhood by making its entry from Porta Tiburtina and Porta Maggiore, the Igliori column with Gustavo Fara (in Monterotondo) would advance from Porta Salaria and Porta Pia, and the Perrone column (in Santa Marinella) would move through Trastevere. Compared to the Bordighera plan, this last plan called for more sustained efforts outside Rome. Moreover, the occupation of the main cities of the kingdom – through the seizing of ‘Prefectures, police headquarters, railway stations, post and telegraph offices, radio stations, newspapers and anti-Fascist circles, and camere del lavoro’38 – was conceived as the first crucial step in the Fascist threat to the government. This was not an obvious choice for the Fascist leaders, as is shown not just by the lack of references to the occupation of cities in the first plan but also, and especially, by the debate held in Naples in the evening of 24 October, when the final details of the March were defined. On this occasion, much talk was made as to whether it was necessary ‘to first mobilise and dispatch the Fascists who are to reach the places where the columns will concentrate, or … to occupy the cities and their public offices before the units set out’. Mussolini argued that the two actions ought to be launched jointly: for although the two operations would begin at the same time, the convergence of the units at the concentration points would require more time than the occupation of the cities at the hands of the troops already present in the area. The choice to seize the capital with the help of external forces was due to the awareness of not having enough forces in Rome to accomplish the action.39 While these plans were being evaluated and discussed, and the Ministry of the Interior was being informed about them, Mussolini continued his negotiations with the liberal ruling class. This political strategy, which in the post-war period the author of an acclaimed work on the March on Rome, Antonino Repaci, described as a ‘game of poker’, has so far been the best-known aspect of the March.40 Within this framework, the Naples congress was conceived not so much as a venue to discuss political ideas but rather as a show of strength and parade for the National Fascist Party. On 25 October, around 15,000 people attended the Fascist rally in

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41

Naples. In the days before the congress, the Mattino, which took an openly pro-Fascist stance, had predicted a turnout of 30,000 people. Sympathising with the aim of the rally, it had declared that the Fascist forces would surpass ‘the power of a military unit on war footing’.42 The gathering began with a great demonstration, following the opening of the congress at the San Carlo Theatre. The Fascists made their way through the city centre and reached Piazza del Plebiscito. The head of military affairs at the British Embassy in Italy painted the following picture: The representatives at Naples were a very fine body of men of excellent physique, the average age was 24, though there were about 20% youths; all were dressed in uniform wearing either steel helmets or the black fez, about 30% wore war decorations; they were armed either with truncheon or stick, though some carried revolvers, the discipline and behaviour pf the fascisti was generally excellent and not provocative as they were at demonstration in Rome last year. The representatives appeared to belong very largely to the lower middle classes, I saw few workmen or peasants amongst them, though there way a few railways detachments.43 The following day, this civil servant added further information with regard to the demonstration of 25 October, reflecting on the relation between the Fascist squads and the army. He informed the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs that: the commanders of the Fascisti units and formations were almost all ex officers and wore war decorations. A small mounted detachment of about 15 men and some aviators, wearing airmen’s helmets, were in the procession. I was told by a fascisti officer that artillery and a machine gun units existed, and that material would be forthcoming if required. I fancy that this is an exaggeration, though it is quite possible that such units will be organised in the future. There was a woman’s detachment and a few woman standard bearers in the procession.44 In the same despatch, the civil servant also noted that, despite the considerable deployment of policemen, the local head of the army, General Alberico Albricci, was not in the city. The Fascists disliked Albricci because he had signed an amnesty in favour of deserters after the War. The chief of staff of the Italian army had probably chosen to summon him to Rome because his presence might cause some turmoil. In his opening address to the congress, in the San Carlo Theatre, Mussolini emphasised many of the elements that had been used, at least since the summer, to define the relations between Fascism and the State, and to establish the legitimacy of the Fascist seizing of power – regardless of what means might be used to achieve it. In this speech, delivered in a hall filled with decorations for Madama Butterfly, Mussolini displayed his typical ‘Napoleonic mannerism’.45 He began with a reference to the Rome fiasco in the days of

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the 1921 congress, attributing the Fascist defeat to the ‘misunderstandings’ and ‘slanders characterising the uncertain world of politics in the capital’.46 The Fascist leader then emphasised the dilemma raised in Parliament the previous July, an element which he had often invoked to justify his impatience towards the ruling political class and his possible choice of insurrection. Mussolini renewed his request to take part in a government by appointing five ministers (the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, War, the Navy, Labour, and Public Works), bemoaning the fact that his requests had gone unheeded. He thus stated: We Fascists have no intention of coming to power by the tradesman’s entrance. We Fascists have no intention of turning our backs on the first recruits of our movement, such formidable followers, for a miserable dish of ministerial pottage! Mussolini ended his speech, however, by reassuring the public with regard to the Fascists’ acceptance of the monarchy, distinguishing its prerogatives from those of Parliament (‘Gentlemen, the Parliament and the whole apparatus of democracy have nothing to do with the institution of the monarchy’). Likewise, he declared his support for the army. While Mussolini had already been quite explicit about the aims of Fascism in his speech at the San Carlo, the statements he made in Piazza del Plebiscito were even clearer: Right from this moment I will tell you that either they give us the government or we will take it by force. For the action that we must undertake, and which must occur simultaneously throughout Italy, so as to take by the throat the political classes in power, it is necessary that you return to your headquarters. I promise you – in fact, I swear to you – that the order will be given, if it is necessary. Following this speech, the crowd repeatedly cheered: ‘To Rome! To Rome!’47 The government crisis that broke out in the days of the Naples congress only exacerbated the situation, giving Fascists much leeway. The crisis gave proof of the political clout of the Fascists – precisely because they were blamed for the fall of the government – while further weakening the State institutions faced with the threat of Fascist ascendancy.48 In an interview with the Mattino at the time, Michele Bianchi stated that since it was the Fascists who had brought the government crisis about, it was they who ought to succeed the old government through the appointment of Mussolini as Prime Minister.49 With the fall of the Facta government, a wide range of hypotheses were advanced with regard to the possibility of a new government: talk was made of the possible return of Giolitti, Nitti, Salandra, or Orlando.50 In the face of the constant stream of threats from the PNF, the liberal ruling class chose once again to save what it could by allowing the Fascists to enter the

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government. The political scenario that was taking shape was so evident that many Fascists started wondering about the destiny of Fascism once it came into power. This question had profound political implications: on the one hand, the existence of a Fascist army was somehow an expression of its incorporation into the State; on the other hand, the placing of Fascism within the institutions of the liberal State made the Fascist militia superfluous, unless changes could be made to the State – as Volt argued in an editorial published in the Popolo d’Italia on 24 October 1922.52 Volt clarified the importance of this army, explaining that force was not just important and useful ‘in order to march on and seize power’, but also – and especially – ‘to preserve it’. He thus outlined the way in which the Fascist militia might be preserved: Once squadrismo is militarised, there will no longer be any danger of rivalry between it and other armed forces of the Nation, because it will serve a different task. The squads will be deprived of any law-enforcement function … If the specific function of repression is left to the police forces, the actions undertaken by the squads to safeguard public order will rather acquire a moral and preventive character … The excellent military organisation of Fascism, sprung from four years of sacrifice and made glorious by the blood of 2,000 men killed on the field, cannot be suppressed at the first hint of electoral success.53

Defending the State In the face of the increasing signs of insurrection on the part of the Fascist movement, the main State institutions reacted in different ways. In addition to the news reported by the press – and which has already been examined in some detail – the government and the King could rely on official information from local Prefects and military commanders, as well as on unofficial channels, which made the whole picture more blurred. In the months leading up to the March on Rome, references to Fascist acts of insurrection and requests for further information on the matter became more and more frequent in the exchanges between the Ministry of the Interior and peripheral State authorities.54 Various Prefectures spoke of a reinforcement of the squads and of unclear plans with regard to future Fascist activities, in terms that are not that different from those used by the press in the same period.55 At the beginning of October, on orders of the Ministry of the Interior, Prefects were informed about the formula that would be used to launch the Fascist operation in the various provinces. They were warned that if this formula was used in any telegrams exchanged between different areas of Italy, it would be necessary for them to adopt some countermeasures.56 With the Naples congress looming on the horizon, more and more reports started circulating about measures that might be useful not just to protect the country during the congress, but also to manage the arrival of the Fascists in Naples.

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It was necessary to prevent the Fascists from travelling and entering the city armed, and to avoid possible clashes with other political groups.57 Meanwhile, the government received all sorts of news concerning the likelihood of a Fascist convergence on Rome.58 At the beginning of October, with the increasing spread of these rumours, the Ministry of the Interior took a more resolute stance in dealing with his men. The Ministry requested a more balanced treatment of the various political forces and a firm repression of any incidents of ‘partisan violence’, censuring the carelessness with which his previous requests had been ignored.59 This telegram was the outcome of a difficult meeting of the Council of Ministers, in which much had been said about the political situation, particularly in relation to the Fascist threats, and in which the prospect had been put forward of a new fall of Luigi Facta’s government. The Prime Minister himself had reported the conclusions to the sovereign, who found himself at Racconigi at the time: Council of Ministries lasted until late last night and was adjourned to this morning’s session. The conclusion of the long discussion was that an extra-parliamentary crisis is to be ruled out, in line with the impressions I have shared with Your Majesty. The situation will therefore continue as it is, but it will be necessary to evaluate what measures might prove opportune. Have conferred with Their Excellencies Diaz and Badoglio, who have reassured me that, despite undeniable sympathies for the Fascists, the army will do their duty in defending Rome. Meanwhile, the Fascists have given up on the plan of a Fascist convergence in Rome on the 22nd. All due measures will be taken for the meeting in Naples on the 24th. To sum up, I confirm that all protective measures against possible surprises are diligently being taken, although the situation does not seem as worrying as it was to me. I remain your loyal servant.60 As we have seen, in the wake of the general strike the attitude of the army towards the Fascists had received much attention both from the Fascists themselves and from the State, as well as from the press. The fact that many officers and even generals supported Fascism, and that the army showed considerable partiality towards it, was hardly a novelty. Rather, this had been a recurrent element from the very dawn of the Fascist movement. Within the State, the situation was developing in two directions: on the political front, an increasing degree of openness was shown towards the Fascists; on the level of public order, it seemed as though the only solution was for the police to adopt more stringent measures against the Fascists’ insurrectionist actions. However, the moment in which the prospect of a possibly violent opposition to the Fascist movement appeared on the horizon, the attitude of the army and Prefects constituted a central element for any political option. In the official exchanges on the matter between military commanders and the Ministry of War, the former naturally tended to confirm that they would respect the

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authorities’ orders, while always recalling the widespread sympathy that the Fascists enjoyed within the army.61 The Prime Minister was not overly worried by the Naples congress and the rumours that were spreading. On the evening of 24 October he wrote to the King, who was at San Rossore at the time: ‘I believe that by now that plan of a March on Rome has been abandoned, yet the utmost vigilance is being maintained.’62 The situation took a worrying turn in the following hours. On 26 October 1922 a joint telegram from the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior, Paolino Taddei, announced to all Prefects: From various sources the news has reached us of insurrectionary attempts by the Fascist Party, which will be implemented very soon by seizing the government offices in some cities. When these plans are brought into the open, armed resistance will become necessary, if all else fails.63 The same day the Minister of War, Marcello Soleri, warned military commanders: Classified message STOP. From various sources intimations have reached us concerning a forthcoming insurrectionist movement with the aim of seizing State powers by violent means STOP. I am confident that no members of the army will join this movement, betraying the essential duties of their military oath STOP – Your Excellency should give orders to increase the level of vigilance and remove any belief to the contrary that anyone might harbour in good faith STOP. Let Your Excellency and his units be ready to seize power to maintain public order as soon as you have received notification and instructions from the Ministry of the Interior STOP – Acknowledge receipt STOP.64 When read together, the two telegrams may be seen to reveal the weakness of the State in the face of the Fascist attack. The telegram to the Prefects reflects a degree of intransigence with regard to the Fascists which had rarely been expected of these governors in previous years. The telegram sent to the army by the Ministry of War instead showed considerable weakness and uncertainty with regard to the extent to which the troops would obey orders. It is worth noting that, while emphasis was placed on the uncertainty of the army’s attitude at this stage, the hypothesis that Prefects might not comply with ministerial requests was never taken into consideration, despite the fact that the Prefects played such an important role. The reaction to the Fascist movement on the part of the Prefects and army was strongly influenced by the experience of the previous four years, in which both army commanders and the government had shown much acquiescence towards the Fascists for political and strategic reasons. The ambiguity produced, which is already evident in the way in which Fascist violence had been dealt with over the previous four years, is clearly illustrated by many attitudes expressed in this period. In Ancona, the Prefect informed the Minister that he

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had been contacted by the Fascist MP Silvio Gai, who had learned about Facta and Taddei’s telegram from the leaders of the National Fascist Party. Gai visited the Prefect’s office and observed that any concern about a possible March on Rome was the product of ‘sheer imagination’.65 This piece of information was of the utmost gravity: it showed that the Fascists were aware of what the government was doing to oppose them. Yet, this information did not trigger any reaction from either the government or the Prefect. The latter only complied with the government’s requests, waiting for future developments.66 On the contrary, the Prefect of Ferrara obtained some confidential information from anonymous informers stating: ‘this evening the order was given to mobilise the Fascists of the province, effective this evening and tomorrow, with a rally in this city and the aim to occupy the post office and railway station for now’.67 The Prefect thus decided to organise the defence of sensitive targets, but the mobilisation in Ferrara was rather weak, and not just because the Fascists had long proven that they controlled the city and the province: to quote a Fascist chronicler of the Fascist March, Giorgio Alberto Chiurco, ‘in view of the correct behaviour of Prefect Giovara, who had given proof of impartiality and tact towards the Fascists, the Prefecture and police headquarters were not occupied’.68 The Prefect of Genoa instead answered Facta and Taddei’s telegram, confirming that he had gathered information about ‘forthcoming insurrections on the Fascists’ part’ and the choice ‘to take possession of the government in Rome the coming 4 November, while at the same time great rallies are organised in the main centres to give a show of strength, possibly through the seizing of government offices’. However, the Prefect justified the lack of any further information by arguing that the local Fascists would only receive updates about the operations at the last moment from the leaders of the party and that therefore it was ‘extremely difficult to have precise information and to check the rumours now circulating’.69 The Prefect of Alessandria found himself in a similar situation, yet unlike the Prefect of Genoa he was faced with a full-blown occupation of the city. He reported that he had asked to meet the Fascist leaders on 27 October and had received from them ‘formal assurance that no insurrection’ was spreading in the city. However, by 6 pm the following day the military barracks, the Prefecture, police headquarters, and telephone, post and telegraph offices had been invaded. The gulf between the assurances of the previous day and the actions launched was nonetheless explained by the fact that the local Fascists had actually been given the order of acting only in the night between the meeting and the occupation, when Fascist MP Edoardo Torre had returned from Milan ‘with secret orders and immediately ordered a secret mobilisation of the Fascists’.70 These telegrams bear witness to a confidential and intense exchange between Prefects and Fascist leaders, and to the importance of official and non-official communications between the two. In this sense, they reflect an attitude of acquiescence, if not of open abatement, with regard to the surging Fascist movement, an attitude which often overrode the loyalty owed to one’s superiors. Besides, disloyalty towards a weak and ambiguous

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Ministry of the Interior – or a government that faced with the threat of insurrection had chosen to resign, thereby weakening the institutions even further – was hardly surprising, not least given the turn taken by the relations between central and local authorities over the previous years. It was not just the State that was preparing to face a possible March on Rome. The various political forces too sought to make sure that this eventuality would not take them by surprise, and to develop a political strategy. More than anyone else, the nationalists were faced with the choice of whether to collaborate with the Fascist movement or not. We have already seen what position the leaders of the movement publicly adopted through the pages of the newspaper Idea Nazionale. But this stance did not coincide with the one adopted by the Sempre Pronti squads. The legion commanders from Milan, Bologna, Turin and Genoa met in Milan on 15 October and agreed that they needed to find out what the aim of the March was – whether it was a demonstrative act of intimidation against Parliament, or a revolutionary one, against State powers – and to establish a course of action only after having determined the nature of the incipient endeavour. The Sempre Pronti nationalists also declared that they would not tolerate any action unless ordered by the commanders of the army.71 On 27 October, moreover, Idea Nazionale sought to stress its opposition to the insurrection, stating: The danger of a violent, untimely and superfluous action is absolutely to be avoided … Given the present conditions of economic life in our country, a violent uprising would have alarming and fateful repercussions … Leaders of nationalist forces who are truly mindful of the interests of the latter can only take these conditions into account, when selecting the means to achieve their goal.72 The anti-Fascists were more eager to analyse the situation than to lay down a real plan for action; and on this level, with only a few exceptions, they proved very unprepared. From the ranks of the Popolari, Giuseppe Cappi – bearing the example of Parma in mind – wrote to Luigi Sturzo that in his view passive resistance was not an effective strategy against the Fascists. Fascist mobilisation worked precisely because it met no resistance.73 The Committee for Proletarian Defence in Rome would appear to be the only group that resolved, with some foresight, to adopt an interventionist approach should the Fascists accomplish their plans. Faced with the Fascist threat, the hypothesis of a general strike was ruled out. Instead, all categories of workers who could quit the workplace ‘without harm’ were instructed to be ready to do so at a signal and to gather in the streets of the city centre and of working-class neighbourhood, putting themselves at service of the Committee. According to the Prefect, who had been secretly informed of the meeting, this measure was taken because it would not force the movement into a political checkmate in the event of a defeat, but at the same it would not leave the field open for the Fascists.74

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These positions, however, were profoundly influenced by the political debate of the previous months. The combination of a public debate on the possibility of a coup, the violent seizing of power and the equally violent actions of the Fascists are all crucial aspects not just insofar as they help reconstruct the planning of the March on Rome – as historians have repeatedly emphasised – but also because they reveal how the importance of the event was underestimated. The long psychological preparation for a sudden and unexpected event helps explain the far from dramatic terms in which the March was interpreted. Indeed, in a way, with the accomplishment of the March there emerged a feeling of liberation from the Fascist threat. However, the Fascist discourse amounted not merely to a threat but to an attempt to lay down a political plan for the aftermath of the March – which is why I have paid close attention to it. This political plan was not given much credit at the time; most significantly perhaps, it has not been given much credit in the historiography. It is evident, then, that an authoritarian culture lies at the basis not just of many of the political choices made by the ruling class in Italy but also, in all likelihood, of many of the choices expressed by the moderate public opinion: this is the reason why the event in the making was not deemed particularly noteworthy. Besides, what may have influenced this disinterest is the fact that the Italian liberal state had frequently resorted to profoundly illiberal measures in dealing with both political groups and individuals, as well as the press. Nonetheless, it is necessary to analyse the reasons for what amounted to a break in political and institutional practices, as well as for the transformation of political horizons brought about by Fascism. In particular, it is necessary to take account of the fact that the declarations made by the Fascists before the March are often seen to reflect more the rhetorical exaggeration of Fascism than any well-defined political conviction, when in fact the opposite is the case, as we have seen. We must therefore address the following questions: why did this kind of reading emerge, given that the discourse developed by the Fascists is, in a way, what made the March on Rome possible? Why has the March on Rome chiefly been seen as a political intrigue, when thousands of men actually marched on the capital and proved those words true?

Notes 1 See the issues of Il Popolo d’Italia from August to September 1922 and P. Silva, Io difendo la monarchia, Rome, De Fonseca, 1946, p. 54. On the spread of appeals for a dictatorship, see E. Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, pp. 573–575. 2 G. Polverelli, ‘La legge o la scure’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 2 October 1922. 3 Volt, ‘Variazioni sul tema della dittatura’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 26 August 1922. See also the article by Polverelli quoted above. 4 As explicitly affirmed in Volt, ‘Fascismo e stato’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 1 September 1922. But see also A. Lanzillo, ‘La violenza del fascismo’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 16 agosto 1922; A. Lanzillo, ‘L’uomo e la gerarchia’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 16 ottobre 1922, G. Polverelli, ‘La marcia su Roma’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 16 August 1922.

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5 See again Volt, ‘Fascismo e stato’. 6 ‘Il fascismo e il Mezzogiorno d’Italia (intervista con l’on. Mussolini)’, Il Mattino, 12–13 August 1922. 7 Polverelli, ‘La marcia su Roma’. 8 See ‘Il partito fascista smentisce le voci di un colpo di stato’, Il Corriere della Sera, 5 October 1922 (the same declaration also appeared in Il Popolo d’Italia the same day) and ‘Un comunicato della Direzione del Partito su la pretesa «marcia su Roma»’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 7 October 1922. 9 ‘Che cosa significa la “marcia su Roma” secondo il segretario del fascio’, Il Corriere della Sera, 6 October 1922. Similar was Balbo’s declaration, see: ‘Crisi nazionale e orientamento delle milizie fasciste’, La Nazione, 22–23 October 1922. 10 ‘La piovra’, Il Giornale d’Italia, 10 August 1922. See also ‘Il farmacista, Discorsi di farmacia. La Marcia su Roma’, Il Giornale d’Italia, 17 August 1922; ‘Legalità’, Il Giornale d’Italia, 8 October 1922; ‘Un’intervista di Mussolini sugli scopi del fascismo’, Il Giornale d’Italia, 10 October 1922; ‘L’agguato’, Il Giornale d’Italia, 13 October 1922. While Bergamini fully supported Fascism, showing that he was not completely aware of the steps that were being taken against the liberal State, Sidney Sonnino’s standing was far more ambiguous. Il Giornale d’Italia was Sonnino’s voice: see S. Sonnino, Carteggio 1916/1922, Rome-Bari, Laterza, 1975, pp. 738–740, letter of Sonnino to Bergamini, 11 September 1922 and the letter of Bergamini to Sonnino, 7 September 1922. See also ‘Che cosa significa la “marcia su Roma” secondo il segretario del fascio’, Il Corriere della Sera, 6 October 1922. A similar declaration was made by Balbo: see ‘Crisi nazionale e orientamento delle milizie fasciste’, La Nazione, 22–23 October 1922. 11 ‘Il dovere’, Il Giornale d’Italia, 17 October 1922. This was also the position taken in the article P.S., ‘La rivoluzione di destra’, Il Mattino, 11–12 August 1922. 12 ‘Manovre parlamentari’, Il Mattino, 7–8 October 1922; ‘La marcia su Roma’, Il Secolo Nuovo, 7 October 1922; ‘Faranno la rivoluzione’, Il Secolo Nuovo, 14 October 1922; ‘Il Gabinetto di fronte alla situazione interna’, La Nazione, 7 October 1922; ‘Il dovere’, Il Giornale d’Italia, 17 October 1922. 13 ‘I valori morali della tradizione politica. A proposito di dittatura’, Il Corriere della Sera, 8 August 1922. 14 The only exception to this editorial strategy, before October 1922, was an unclear article on Mussolini’s speech in Udine: see ‘Il fascismo e lo stato. Commenti al discorso dell’on. Mussolini’, Il Corriere della Sera, 22 September 1922. 15 Renzo De Felice did not acknowledge that the Fascists sought to make the public receptive to the possibility of a march on Rome even before the month of October. This was a clear strategy to prepare the Italian public for what could (and did) actually happen. In this sense, the relation between secrecy and disclosure when it comes to the March on Rome could be viewed in a different light. See De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, pp. 336–337. 16 ‘La via’, Il Corriere della Sera, 12 October 1922. See also ‘Dalla fazione allo stato’, Il Corriere della Sera, 15 October 1922. 17 See ‘La democrazia e le dittature’, L’Avanti!, 19 September 1922. 18 ‘Il conflitto che non ci sarà’, L’Avanti!, 15–16 October 1922. 19 ‘Il “colpo di stato”’, Il Comunista, 24 October 1922. 20 Balbo, Diario 1922, p. 201. 21 See Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power, pp. 89–90; Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, p. 669 and De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, p. 348; Balbo, Diario 1922, p. 201. 22 PRO, FO 371/7650, Graham’s report to Lord Curzon, 16 August 1922. In a letter of 22 August (in PRO, FO 371/7659) Graham expressed the same idea to Curzon. 23 PRO, FO 371/7650, Torr’s memorandum, 31 August 1922. 24 PRO, FO 371/7650, Torr’s memorandum, 6 October 1922.

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25 PRO, FO 371/7650, report of the military attaché to the Minister of the Foreign Affairs, 19 October 1922. 26 ‘L’odierno Convegno fascista in un’intervista con l’on. Grandi’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 13 August 1922; ‘I lavori del Comitato Centrale del Partito Nazionale Fascista’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 15 August 1922. On this congress see Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, pp. 392–394; A. Repaci, La marcia su Roma, Milan, Rizzoli, 1972, pp. 331–334; Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, pp. 615–619; De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, pp. 298–391. 27 For Tasca, Facta had the idea of inviting D’Annunzio to the victory celebration of 4 November so that he might give a speech in favour of national pacification: see Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, p. 417. This is also confirmed by L. Albertini, Epistolario 1911–1926, vol. III, Il dopoguerra, Milan, Mondadori, 1968, p. 1592 (lett. 1356, D’Atri to Albertini, 22 October 1922). In the same days, voices circulated of a possible march on Rome by D’Annunzio himself: see ACS, MI, PS, A5 ‘Agitazioni pro Fiume e Dalmazia’, b. 4, fasc. 32, news from Fiume, anonymous, 7 December 1922. 28 ‘Il fascismo e il Mezzogiorno d’Italia (intervista con l’on. Mussolini)’, Il Mattino, 12–13 August 1922. 29 The official letter was published in ‘Un colpo mancino vibrato al Fascismo dal “Giornale d’Italia”’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 23 August 1922. See De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, pp. 322–323. 30 The previous month there had been frequent references to this issue: see ‘La fede monarchica del fascismo’, Il Mattino, 12–13 September 1922. On the secret negotiations with the King, see De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, pp. 258–259. 31 The Udine speech is published in B. Mussolini, ‘Il discorso di Udine’, in Scritti e discorsi. La rivoluzione fascista (23 marzo 1919–28 ottobre 1922), Milan, Hoepli 1934, pp. 307–322. These quotations are from pp. 308–309. 32 B. Mussolini, ‘Esercito e fascismo’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 14 October 1922; ‘Un articolo di Mussolini contro il generale Badoglio’, Il Corriere d’Italia, 15 October 1922; ‘Esercito e fasci’, La Nazione, 15–16 October 1922 and ‘Il conflitto che non ci sarà!’, L’Avanti!, 15–16 October 1922. On these issues, see Rochat, L’esercito italiano, pp. 401–7; De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, pp. 322–327; Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, pp. 646–648. On the relationship between the army and Fascists see also M. Mondini, Le politica delle armi. Il ruolo dell’esercito nell’avvento del fascism, Rome-Bari, Laterza 2006. Expressions of loyalty towards the King and the army were a central tool for the acquisition of new support for Fascism before the March on Rome: see ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 138, fasc. Napoli, telegram from the Prefect of Naples to the Ministry of the Interior, 24 October 1922. 33 See ‘Regolamento di disciplina per la milizia fascista’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 3 October 1922. See also Repaci, La marcia su Roma, p. 345; Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, pp. 537–539 and p. 635. The High Command for the March was designated in August 1922: see ACS, Carte De Bono, De Vecchi’s letters to De Bono, 18 August 1922 and 24 August 1922. 34 For De Felice, Mussolini decided to ‘take action’ as early as 12 October, after a meeting with D’Annunzio: see De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, p. 336–343. Differently, Ignazio Silone says that the plan for the March was presented by Mussolini to the central committee of the Fasci on 29 September: see I. Silone, Il fascismo. Origini e sviluppo, Milan, Mondadori 2002, p. 135. 35 Emilio Gentile has reconstructed the steps which led to the decision of holding the March: see Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, pp. 651–653. For some details on the meetings, see Repaci, La marcia su Roma, pp. 407–428 and De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, pp. 343–344.

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36 Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, pp. 15–16. 37 Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, pp. 653–654; De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, pp. 344–345. See also ACS, MRF, b. 146, circular of the meeting sent from Boedighera on 17 October 1922. 38 This quotation and the previous one are from: Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, p. 20. 39 Balbo, Diario 1922, pp. 196–200. On the lack of men in Rome for the coup d’etat, see G. Candeloro, Storia dell’Italia moderna. VIII. La prima guerra mondiale, il dopoguerra, l’avvento del fascismo, Milan, Feltrinelli, 1979, pp. 402–403. 40 On details about these negotiations, see Repaci, La marcia su Roma, pp. 357–406, 429–439. ACS, TUC, 1922, Incoming messages, 26.10–2.11, the Prefect of Naples to the Ministry of the Interior, 26 October 1922, h. 2. 41 Emilio Gentile defines the congress in Naples as «a symbolic act for completing the Fascist conquest of the country before its rise to power» (Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, p. 657). For reliable numbers for this demonstration, see the report of the military attaché to the Foreign Office, 25 October 1922, in PRO, FO 371/7651. The Popolo d’Italia provided a higher estimate: see ‘Quarantamila fascisti e ventimila operai sfilano a Napoli salutati da cinquecentomila cittadini plaudenti’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 25 October 1922. On this, see also ‘Sempre sul congresso fascista. Cifre e dati fra esagerazioni e restrizioni’, L’Osservatore romano, 27 October 1922. 42 ‘Trentamila camicie nere converranno oggi a Napoli per l’inizio del congresso fascista’, Il Mattino, 24–25 October 1922. 43 The Military Attaché to the Foreign Office, 25 October 1922, in PRO, FO 371/7651. 44 The Military Attaché to the Foreign Office, 26 October 1922, in PRO, FO 371/7651. 45 The Military Attaché to the Foreign Office, 27 October 1922, in PRO, FO 371/7659. 46 Mussolini, ‘Il discorso di Napoli’ in Mussolini, Scritti e discorsi. La rivoluzione fascista (23 marzo 1919–28 ottobre 1922), Milan, Hoepli, 1934, pp. 339–350 (esp. p. 340). 47 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 138, fasc. Napoli, phonogram from the Prefecture of Naples, 24 October 1922, h. 18.50 and h. 20.15. The fact that the speeches at the San Carlo theatre and in Piazza del Plebiscito were strictly connected was also noted by the English Military Attaché: see the report from the Military Attaché to the Foreign Office, 25 October 1922, in PRO, FO 371/7651. On this episode see Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, p. 443. 48 De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, pp. 355–357. 49 ‘La crisi conseguenza dell’adunata di Napoli’, Il Mattino, 28–29 October 1922. 50 Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, pp. 637–642. On the request for Giolitti’s return into government, see G. De Rosa, Storia del Partito popolare, pp. 274–298. 51 Everybody agreed on this: see De Rosa, Storia del Partito popolare, p. 293. 52 Volt, ‘L’Esercito fascista resterà’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 24 October 1922. Not everybody thought that this should be the Milizia’s function: Balbo, for example, thought that the Milizia needed to be transformed and to be absorbed in line with the «concept of armed nation». See ‘Crisi nazionale e orientamento delle milizie fasciste’, La Nazione, 22–23 October 1922. 53 Volt, ‘L’Esercito fascista resterà’ [The italics are mine]. 54 See ACS, TUC, 1922, Outgoing messages, 6–18 October, telegram from the President of the Council to the Minister of Foreign Affair, 13 October 1922. 55 See Commissioner Mosconi’s telegram about Alto Adige to the Ministry of the Interior, 6 October 1922, in ACS, TUC, 1922, Incoming messages, 6–16 October. See also ACS, TUC, 1922, Incoming messages, 6–16 October, the Prefect of Brescia to the Ministry of the Interior, 10 October 1922, h. 17.40; the Prefect Ferrario to the Ministry of the Interior, 16 October 1922, h. 15.25. 56 ACS, TUC, 1922, Outgoing messages, 6–18 October, telegram from the Ministry of the Interior to the Prefect of Milan, 10 October 1922.

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57 See ACS, TUC, 1922, Outgoing messages, 18–30 October. See the requests from the Prefect of Naples, in ACS, TUC, 1922, Incoming messages, 6–16 October. 58 ACS, TUC, 1922, Outgoing messages, 18–30 October, telegram from the Ministry of the Interior to the Prefect of Naples, 23 October 1922, h. 12. 59 Letter from the Ministry of the Interior to the Prefects, 7 October 1922, 5.15 pm in ACS, TUC, 1922, Outgoing messages, 6–18 October. See Saija, I prefetti italiani, pp. 394–398. 60 ACS, TUC, 1922, Outgoing messages, 6–18 October, telegram from the President of the Council to the King, 7 October 1922, 6 pm. 61 M. Michaelis, ‘Il generale Pugliese e la difesa di Roma’, La Rassegna mensile di Israel, vol. XXVIII, nos. 6–7, 1962, pp. 262–283 and De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, pp. 322–323. 62 ACS, TUC, 1922, Outgoing messages, 18–30 October, telegram from the President of the Council to the King, 24 October 1922, 9.40 pm. 63 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 105, telegram from the Ministry of the Interior to the Prefects, 26 October 1922, 12.10; two hours later, at 4.30 pm, the Ministry of the Interior sent in a correction, adding: «the government orders also to give all power to the military authorities at the first signs of such insurrectional acts». See ACS, TUC, 18.10–30.10, telegram from the Ministry of the Interior to the Prefects, 26 October 1922, 4.30 pm. 64 Telegram from the War Office to the military command, 26 October 1922, 5 pm. 65 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Ancona, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 27 October 1922, 7.10 pm. 66 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Ancona, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, 5 pm. 67 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Ferrara, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 27 October 1922, h. 8.45 pm. 68 Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, p. 70. 69 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Genova, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 26 October 1922, 9.10 pm. 70 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Alessandria, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, 1 pm. In Padua the situation was similar: see ACS, MRF, b. 146, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior. 71 Telegram from the provisional chief of the military corps in Bologna to the Ministry of the Interior, 19 October 1922, in ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 100. 72 ‘Ora decisiva’, L’Idea Nazionale, 27 October 1922. 73 De Rosa, Storia del Partito popolare, pp. 274–275. See also ‘L’appello ai popolari’, Il Corriere d’Italia, 22 October 1922. 74 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 84, the superintendent of Rome to the Ministry of the Interior, 10 October 1922.

4

The March on Rome

Departing from Naples, Mussolini, the Quadrumvirs and the twelve commanders of the areas into which Italy had been divided all had very specific tasks to carry out in just a short time, between 25 and 27 October. The actual action was to commence in the night between 27 and 28 October. Some of the local commanding officers issued mobilisation orders as they travelled by train. Others instead used special despatch riders to deliver messages to various local Fascists.1 The mobilisation order required the squadristi to be ready in the night between 27 and 28 October – the hour varied depending on how far each location was from the nearest city – ‘in uniform, with their Party card, in full battle array, equipped with a cape, blanket and provisions for three days’. The same instructions were given to the triari, who were named after the elite legionaries of the Republican Roman Army and were considered the third line of the Fascist troops. As such, they were not expected to immediately participate in the action, but only to be ready in the event of it, and were not required to wear a uniform. The principi instead constituted the second line of experienced soldiers, after the squadristi. They were entrusted with selecting squadristi based on their valour, so as to provide men ‘shown to possess a firm fighting spirit’ for the March. The better armed squadristi (‘squadristi who may arm themselves with a musket or hunting rifle, equipped with at least fifty bullets for each weapon and with hand grenades’)2 were to be deployed as part of special assault units despatched to the nearest city and then to the capital. The remaining squadristi were instead to stay in their hometowns at first. The mobilisation order threatened the squadristi with summary judgement and ‘martial law’ if they were to quit their place during the March. Giuseppe Caradonna was the only commanding officer who, instead of sending his troops back to their hometowns in Puglia, decided to bring them into action directly from Naples ‘in view of how difficult it would be for him to assemble them [i.e. the squads] again a few days later’.3 Indeed, the action in Puglia began on 27 October, with the arrival in Foggia of the Apulian squads from Naples and the occupation of the city. Following the mobilisation orders, the actions encapsulated by the formula ‘March on Rome’ commenced. The initial operations entailed the occupation

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of Prefectures, post, telephone and telegraph offices, and stations. The aim was to cut off all communication between centre and periphery and to influence the government starting from the latter; but it was also to prove, once again, the utter inability of the liberal State to react to Fascist pressure.4 It is hardly a coincidence that the Fascists chose to commence operations precisely in those areas where they had already proven to carry considerable clout, such as Tuscany: here their familiarity with the lawful representatives of the State (Prefects, army commanders, officers and troops) suggested that the latter were likely to react rather benevolently.5 It was precisely from these areas that most men were despatched to Rome, partly because many men were available and partly on account of the geographical proximity of the capital.

‘It’s pouring’: the Fascist mobilisation The first stage of the Fascist action was the most uncertain one. Neither the Fascist leaders nor the squadristi themselves knew how the State and government would meet their challenge, even though the experience of previous conflicts and the reluctance of the government to take action seemed reassuring. The occupations began ahead of schedule, on 27 October. The police were taken by surprise because the government, which was not too concerned with the rumours circulating in those days, had only thought of defending the capital. The first city to be occupied was Pisa: on the morning of 27 October, around 11.30 am, the Fascists cut off the telegraph and telephone lines connecting the city to Florence and Genoa, while private cars were requisitioned and put to the insurgents’ use.6 Pisa witnessed a convergence of forces from two fronts: on the one hand, a constant stream of trucks packed with Fascists from the surrounding countryside, where the occupation – particularly that of post offices – had begun even earlier than in the city centre; on the other, an outflow of these same Fascists towards Rome – to the point that the local Prefect, Renato Malinverno, wrote to the Ministry of the Interior that in the morning of 28 October very few Fascists were still to be found in Pisa.7 The interruption of communication with Florence and Genoa only lasted a few hours: in their one and only response to the Fascists’ action, the military authorities – invested with full powers by the Prefect – quickly re-established the telephone lines. On the evening of 28 October, the insurgents organised a procession of roughly 4,000 people, which suggests that the Fascists who had remained in the city were not so few after all. The demonstration ended with a gathering in Piazza Cavalleggeri, where some of the local leaders asked the Fascists to ‘be ready to proceed by any means and at all costs, adding that the Fascist masses were aligned with the army for the sake of the country and the King’.8 The mobilisation unfolded quite differently in Siena, where the occupation began shortly afterwards. At first the Fascists occupied the local garrison to steal its weapons – an objective attained without any clash with the army. They then marched through the city centre.9 In Cremona the occupation began once again ahead of schedule, yet somewhat later, around 7 pm on 27

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October: a group of Fascists broke into the police headquarters and cut off the electricity in the whole building. The same group then made its way into the Prefect’s office, without meeting any resistance from the armed guards stationed there, and negotiated a surrender. After a few moments of uncertainty, the Prefect regained control of the situation: he invested the local garrison commander with all powers and had the forty Fascists who had assaulted the Prefecture locked up in a room.10 A few hours later, around 10.30 pm, another group attempted to occupy the Prefecture, using ladders and ropes to storm the palace and driving cars at full speed to crash through the barriers surrounding the Prefect’s offices. Four Fascists died in these clashes and several were wounded, along with seven members of law enforcement, while in the previous hours three people had died at San Giovanni in Croce, on the outskirts of Cremona, and other deaths would followed in the subsequent days.11 Why were so many people killed in Cremona? Perhaps the Fascists hoped that the army would show them some partiality, as was indeed confirmed by the mobilisations taking place in other centres in the same hours. A few years after the events, Roberto Farinacci described the clash with the police in the following terms: The Fascists collide with the law enforcement and try to make their way up from Via Bissolati. Cattadori is the first to ascend. Suddenly two trumpet blasts and a volley of muskets. An angst-filled and sinister silence! I dash forward and cry out: “Stop, don’t shoot – these are blank cartridges!”. Vicini, mortally wounded, grabs my leg as he falls and mutters his last words: “No, Your Honour, they are shooting bullets and straight at us!”12 After the clash, the Prefect reported to the Ministry of the Interior – with no additional comments – that he had only passed on his powers to the garrison commander.13 As in Cremona, in Foggia the mobilisation began on the evening of 27 October, as we have seen.14 Around 1,500 Fascists from Naples, led by Giuseppe Caradonna, occupied the rail yard, the public security office and the military headquarters, and here too succeeded in causing a blackout in the whole city by occupying the local power plant. The Fascists were only stopped when they attempted to break into the infantry barracks: the troop stationed here opened fire. The wounding of three Fascists, however, did not lead to any surrender; rather, thanks to the blackout, the Fascists were able to occupy the barracks, the Prefecture and the post, telegraph and telephone office, in addition to the barracks in the aviation field, where they stocked up on weapons. Only after all these first occupations did the action begin at the ‘headquarters of the Fascist revolution’, Perugia. Historians have widely discussed the choice of this city as the capital of the ‘revolution’ – given that the city was apparently totally unsuited to serve as a hub from which to control and coordinate the squads. Marcello Saija has suggested that a contributing factor was Michele Bianchi’s friendship with the local Prefect, Sante Franzé.15 Be

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that as it may, on 27 October the Prefect informed the Ministry of the Interior of the presence of a substantial number of Fascists in the city, around 2,000, and of many leading personalities, such as Emilio De Bono and Italo Balbo, raising considerable suspicion.16 By the evening the situation had grown increasingly difficult.17 The Prefect of Perugia then sent a telegram in which he announced the transfer of all powers to the military authorities at 0:35 hrs: Last night, around 11.30 pm, while the city was being surrounded by over 2,000 swiftly moving Fascists in full battle gear, who had arrived in fast vehicles from nearby municipalities, I was approached by an especially appointed Commission set up by the Quadrumvirs De Bono, Balbo, Crespi and Bianchi, and which also included MPs Pighetti, Crespi and Mastromattei. They asked me, in the name of the Fascist Military Command, to hand over all powers to them. I refused with firmness and dignity, explaining in the most persuasive possible way that their request could not be met. However, in the face of the threat of an immediate Fascist invasion of the Prefecture Offices – at all cost and with overwhelming forces – I quickly assessed the situation and realised, not least in view of an explicit statement from the head of the police, the impossibility and inappropriateness of putting up any armed resistance, which would only lead to futile and dangerous bloodshed. I thus formally declared to the Commission that I would certainly hand over my powers to the military authorities and that, although I wished to avoid a desperate resistance, in view of higher considerations, I deemed their occupation of the Prefecture Office an illegal and violent act. In the meantime, while other forces were making their entrance into the city in great numbers, the first powerful Fascist units broke into the courtyard of the Provincial Palace, the Police Office, and the Telegraph Office of the Prefecture, occupying them.18 The Prefect’s refusal – ‘with firmness and dignity’ – to hand over his powers was made vain by his acknowledgement that this was an ‘illegal and violent act’, which paved the way for an occupation of the Prefecture that no army unit attempted to prevent. The rhetoric of honour was a fundamental element in the justification that the Prefect offered to the Minister in order to account for the almost complete lack of any reaction to the Fascists’ violent action. Using these formulas, the Prefect de facto acknowledged that he had failed to meet the government’s demands. The following morning, as though to confirm the oddness of the situation in Perugia and to clearly prove – to anyone willing to accept this information – that the Prefect had struck an agreement with the Fascist forces, the news reached the Ministry of the Interior that the Prefecture had been cleared. Although the occupation had lasted all night, the Prefect had apparently managed to persuade the Fascists to leave the offices in the early

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morning. But things had in fact gone very differently, the Prefect was held captive by the Fascist throughout the days of the insurrection.19 After these first occupations, starting from the midnight of 28 October, and in accordance with Fascist plans, the squadristi also started occupying Prefectures and telephone and telegraph offices in other Italian cities – in particular, Florence, Treviso, Rovigo, Piacenza, Alessandria, Verona, Bologna, Venice, Ferrara, Porto Maurizio, Pavia, Udine, Novara, Trieste, Gorizia and Brescia. No real resistance was put up by the police and no significant conflicts occurred.20 In most cities, these actions took place through a verbal agreement between the Fascists and the police – or even the Prefect and, in some cases, the local military commander. The commanders in the province of Ferrara advised the Fascists to establish with all due caution and only when it is sensible to do so, a preventive, unspoken and secret agreement with those soldiers from the various Carabinieri stations who are certainly regarded as Fascists, in such a way that, at the opportune moment, they might help us access the barracks or at least capture the commander of the Carabinieri station and, subsequently, carry out the much easier task of occupying the barracks themselves.21 In addition, the commanders gave orders to absolutely avoid any clash with the Carabinieri and invited the Fascists to occupy the barracks, in those cases in which no agreement was possible, ‘by surprise, resorting to some simple ruse’. The situation was quite similar in Piacenza, where all the squads were mobilised on 27 October. In the night between 27 and 28 October, moreover, a large commission, headed by the MP Terzaghi and the leader of the provincial Fascist federation Camillo Piatti, along with some former army officers and most mayors from the province, went to speak with the Prefect, informing him that the mobilisation was underway throughout Italy. The Fascists offered to collaborate with the Prefects and government, so that they could strengthen themselves ‘against machinations aimed at vanquishing their movement and tarnishing their reputation at a national level’.22 The purpose of the agreement was far from clear in the words of the Prefect, who nonetheless informed the Ministry that the following day another meeting with the delegation would take place; meanwhile, they would keep their guard up and take some defensive measures to maintain public order in the province. On 29 October the Milanese newspapers reported that a violent occupation had taken place of the police headquarters in Piacenza. The local Prefect denied that this was the case: he stated that the squads had accompanied the delegation to the Prefecture, demanding to be allowed to stand outside the offices the whole night, as a defensive measure, but the police had persuaded them to leave. Presumably, the Fascists of Piacenza had not had the strength to occupy – by force or deceit – the offices and had therefore been forced to relent.23

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The lack of any acts of violence in most places where the Fascist occupation had been launched constituted the first and chief success of the Fascist plan: the army and Prefects took as little action against the Fascists as possible, whereas the Fascists limited themselves to carrying out significant actions only in those cities in which no military headquarters were located. One exception was Florence, where Balbo immediately called back the Fascists and forced them to limit their actions, when the occupation of the railway station and post office had already taken place.24 Meanwhile, around midnight, Rome passed under the control of the commander of the local military division, General Emanuele Pugliese, after the latter – in the late afternoon – received orders to implement the plan he himself had laid down to defend the city. This plan called for the disruption of the main railway links near Rome (i.e. Civitavecchia, Orte, Avezzano and Segni) and for the setting up of two military blockades around the belt of the capital: the first approximately 100 km away from the city, the other around its walls.25 Nonetheless, on the morning of 28 October, the squads had yet to reach any of the assembly points identified by the mobilisation plan. The Fascists set off for Monterotondo, Tivoli, Santa Marinella and Foligno, mostly between the night of 27 October and the morning of 28 October. The first to arrive were the squads from Tuscany, where the mobilisation had begun earlier than in other areas of the country. The Tuscans numbered over 14,000: 3,450 Fascists set out from Empoli; a few hundred (plus three fully loaded lorries) from Montespertoli; 500 left from Pontassieve – although some of these had originally come from Romagna and the Mugello; 2,050 from Pisa; 400 from Cecina; 3,000 from Livorno; 2,100 from Grosseto; roughly a hundred from Viareggio; and 2,000 from Siena.26 Although the Tuscan Fascists made up the bulk of the squads that headed to Rome between 27 and 28 October, we must also add other small groups, together thousands of men – from other regions.27 The rallying of the ‘Lamarmora’ Column at Santa Marinella began at noon of 28 October, when the commander in charge, Dino Perrone Compagni, reached the town by car from Civitavecchia.28 Perrone described the situation at Santa Marinella as follows: It’s pouring … Although there are some charming mansions, the squadristi stand in the open, exposed to the cold, wind and water, and not a single door has been forced open. And still there are people who speak ill of these boys!29 The situation was no different for the Fascist column under the command of Ulisse Igliori, who had been entrusted with the task of occupying Foligno, Monterotondo and Mentana. However, Commander Igliori sought to cash in on the symbolic capital of Mentana by sojourning precisely in the lodgings that Garibaldi had stayed in before the famous battle.30

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While waiting for more men to arrive from Abruzzo and Molise, the Bottai Column organised the occupation of the town hall and of the post office in Tivoli. In the meantime, on the morning of 28 October most of the Fascists who had set off from the Mugello, along with those from Val di Sieve, reached Foligno, where they waited for the divisions from other legions, in particular the one from Umbria.31 At the very last moment, Foligno had been entrusted to Umberto Zamboni’s command:32 in the afternoon of 28 October, however, most of the men expected to arrive had not yet reached their destination, owing to the army disruption of the railway line at Orte, realised in order to stop the Fascists.33 In Valmontone too the flow of men was slow.34 On the whole, by 28 October just over 16,000 men had reached the assembly points.35 Faced with these initial events, on the morning of 28 October the Popolo d’Italia opened its front page with a very explicit title: ‘Italian history is at a crucial turning point! The mobilisation of the Fascists has already taken place in Tuscany’.36 On 28 October, the Fascist and nationalist newspapers were already emphasising the events that had occurred until then; in particular, they sought to influence the negotiations with the institutions and police, and to reassure the population. These events, however, were not accorded the same relevance by all newspapers. Some papers issued on 28 October made no reference at all to the occupations of the night before, probably because of the lack of information due to the confusion reigning in the country and to the closing down of post and telegraph offices. Political commentary focused instead on the crisis of the government, which was seen as the crisis of a whole system.37 Particularly interesting is the analysis of the government crisis made by the newspaper of the reformist Socialist Filippo Turati, Giustizia, which associated it with the insurrectionist movements taking place in the country and evoked the coup attempted by General Kapp in Germany a few months before: This is not a government crisis but a regime crisis … Were we not perpetually caught between tragedy and farce in Italy, this would be the time for the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to rise up together … to fend off Kapp. But to various extents we are all Kapps – and this even applies to those who are forced by their duty as officers and the oath they have taken to face the Fascist Kapp, whether they like it or not. Certainly, nothing would be more inappropriate than for us to take a quixotic initiative, which might lead everyone – Kappists and anti-Kappists alike – to band together against us. Our duty is to wait and see whether the events will take a tragic or farcical turn, and to reserve ourselves the right to act and enter the playing field only when we are sure to be truly serving the interests of the proletariat and of the country.38 Much the same analysis was offered, albeit from an opposite perspective, by Idea Nazionale. The nationalist newspaper also believed this to be a ‘systemic’ crisis and invoked a non-parliamentary solution:

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The March on Rome The solution to the present crisis cannot take place on the parliamentary level. It has been brought about not by a shift in parliamentary forces, but by a reversal in the country’s consciousness, accompanied by the emergence of new forces, which might find release at any moment. The solution must therefore immediately be sought on the national level; and the country must receive tangible signs of this transfer of the crisis from the parliamentary level to the national one, starting from the very first steps towards its solution.39

Significantly, the newspaper called for the immediate mobilisation of the blue shirts, the ‘Sempre Pronti’.40 The spread of the mobilisation exacerbated the difficulties faced by the outgoing government, which had completely underestimated the Fascist threat. Yet there were plenty of forebodings and warnings of what might happen, and the situation was monitored through a series of meetings held at the War Ministry.41 On the night between 27 and 28 October, a meeting was held at the War Ministry that was attended, on the government side, by Prime Minister Luigi Facta, the Minister of War Marcello Soleri, and the Minister of Internal Affairs Paolino Taddei, in addition to General Pugliese and the head of the cabinet of the War Ministry, Colonel Ottorino Carletti.42 During this meeting, Taddei and Soleri expressed their amazement at the events, blaming the armed forces for the situation in which the country found itself. This accusation was rejected by Pugliese, who blamed the lack of ‘precise orders regarding what behaviour to adopt in the face of Fascist acts of violence’.43 In the same context, much concern was voiced about the safety of King Victor Emmanuel III, and a new meeting of the Council of Ministries was scheduled to discuss the possibility of proclaiming a state of siege. That night, the debate in the Council of Ministers proved a long and difficult one. Besides, the outgoing government had already shown on various occasions over the past days that there was no agreement as to what solution could be adopted to solve the crisis or what measures could be taken towards Fascism. However, the government finally succeeded in unanimously proclaiming a state of siege in the early morning hours of 28 October.44 The situation changed, if only partially so, throughout Italy on the morning of 28 October, since at 7.50 am the Prefects of the kingdom received a telegram from the Ministry of the Interior that was to enter into force at 12 am of the same day: The Council of Ministers has decided to proclaim a state of siege throughout the provinces of the Kingdom from noon of today. Such a degree will be published forthwith. Meanwhile, Your Honours are to adopt all exceptional measures to maintain public order and ensure the safety of properties and people.45 This was not the first time such a momentous decree had been issued in Italy, but in this case it extended to the whole national territory.46 From this

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moment onwards, Prefects were even more careful to justify their failure to defend public spaces and meet the orders issued the previous days. Still, this did not stop the occupations or make the reaction from the police any fiercer. Many reasons were adduced to explain the either partial or total transfer of power from the armed forces to the Fascist militias. The Prefects chiefly emphasised the idea of a pro-Fascist solution to the ongoing crisis or the lack of available police forces.47 The Fascists’ deference towards the army and the tension marking the relation between the Guardie Regie (royal guards) and the Fascists were explicitly referred to by the Prefect of Milan, Alfredo Lusignoli. Following the proclamation of the state of siege, he decided to renounce any direct responsibility for the maintenance of public order and to entrust the army with the task of solving the crisis.48 The Prefect addressed the following words to the Ministry of the Interior: The movement that is taking shape in various provinces foreshadows a more general movement, which can only be regarded as an insurrection. In Milan this movement finds its starting point in two specific facts: the mobilisation launched for tomorrow, and the action of the Hon. Finzi, who has stated to the Corriere della Sera that henceforth newspapers are under Fascist control. In the light of these two facts, I have deemed it necessary to entrust the military authorities with maintaining public order, so as to bring the Fascists face to face with the authorities themselves, for whom they profess to have the greatest deference. This will help prevent clashes with the police, as far as this is possible.49 The handing over of all powers to the military authorities in the night between 27 and 28 October led to a militarisation of Milan. Despite this, the squadristi did not remain idle: they occupied two schools in Via Castelfidardo and then headed towards the barracks of the Guardia di Finanza near the main Fascist headquarters in Via San Marco. To occupy the barracks, they clashed with the Guardie Regie stationed a few metres away, in Via Moscova. In this conflict, in which three people were injured, including a brigadier of the Guardie Regie, the Fascists did not come out on top: they were only able to enter the barracks after two officers from the Guardia di Finanza struck an agreement with the Fascist leaders Cesare Forni and Aldo Finzi.50 On the same day, the 12th Bersaglieri Corps fraternised with the squadristi, going against their commander’s orders – the event was given much prominence by newspapers the following day.51 Faced with the Fascist failure to occupy the Prefecture, police station and telegraph and telephone offices, on the morning of 28 October the Prefect of Alessandria, Michele Darbesio, wrote: Undoubtedly, the action that the Fascists undertook this morning against the government offices is due to the departure towards Milan of around

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Only a few hours before the telegram, the Prefect had justified the Fascist seizing of power in the city in different terms. At first he had claimed that the reason for the Fascists’ success was that they had seized many weapons after storming some barracks.53 Later, he had quoted a conversation with the general stationed in the city, who had stated that he did not have enough forces to face the possible conflict. Despite these later justifications, Darbesio seemed to suggest to his superiors that a heavy hand was not the most effective strategy to solve the situation: If the immediate clearing out of telegraph and telephone offices, of the prefecture and of the police station was achieved without any bloodshed, and if the situation was immediately normalised, this was due not just to the categorical orders from the military authorities, but to my own influence and ascendancy over the Fascist leaders, with whom I have had frequent exchanges.54 In the short time in which it circulated, the news of the issuing of special measures nonetheless contributed to giving the anti-Fascists a little strength and hope. The Communists, in particular, decided to launch a general strike of all workers in support of the government and its decision to proclaim a state of siege, despite the fact that most Communist MPs had already left – or were about to leave – for Moscow, where a new Congress of the Communist International was scheduled to take place a few days later.55 The notice, however, was only published in Ordine Nuovo on 29 October, by which time the news of the repeal of the state of siege had already started circulating, giving rise to a polemic in the field of the Left too.56

The revoking of the state of siege The situation radically changed when the government despatched a second telegram, around midnight on 28 October, revoking the state of siege and ordering the cessation of the measures implemented the previous morning. From his San Rossore residence, the sovereign had decided not to support the government’s decision and not to give his assent to the state of siege, thereby stripping the action undertaken by the country’s highest political body of all legitimacy and paving the way for the Fascist seizure of power. Over the years, this decision has been the object of various interpretations and of much debate, yet the motivations behind it have never been defined once and for all. Certainly a contributing factor was the fear instilled in the sovereign by his more conservative advisers that stopping the Fascists might

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prove dangerous for the crown or plunge the country into civil war. Be that as it may, the revoking of the state of siege made it clear, both to peripheral State authorities and to the Fascists, that there was no political will to do away with the Fascist movement. Indeed, both the War Minister Soleri and the Minister of Interior Affairs Taddei repeatedly asked their subordinates to do all they could to avoid ‘bloodshed, by pacific and persuasive means’.58 It is no coincidence that, from this moment onwards, the Fascists gained the support of right-wing liberals and especially of the nationalists.59 Moreover the number of people who attempted to reach the capital increased substantially. The Fascists’ occupation of Prefectures and telegraph offices was largely symbolic in nature: in most cases, it was enough for the squads to have the local Prefecture and town fly the national flag, or to show their presence by stationing a few squadristi outside the main public buildings. They were no longer concerned with controlling all communication between centre and periphery, as had been the case the previous day, when the proclamation of the state of siege had threatened to truly spell the end of the Fascist movement. Instead, barracks were now increasingly targeted, in order to steal weapons, while assaults on gaols to free imprisoned Fascists also became more frequent. In the afternoon of 28 October, the squads from Ancona, which had only entered into action after the revoking of the state of siege, sought to prevent any reaction from the local Prefect by persuading him that the King had appointed Mussolini head of the government. This only occurred twenty-four hours later, yet on the basis of this information the Fascists asked the Prefect to avoid ‘any harshness and the severe dispositions that are customary’. However, the action in Ancona in those days was limited to the demands that a Fascist charged with murder be freed from the local prison and that the town hall, Prefecture and military headquarters fly the national flag – the latter request was promptly met.60 It is not difficult to grasp the reason for the limited effectiveness of the Fascist action in Ancona (as in other locations) in the days of the March on Rome: we need but recall the heavy occupation that was carried out in the aftermath of the general strike in early August, when the city had remained in the hands of the Fascists for four days; but what also came into play was the Prefect’s willingness to reach an agreement.61 In Padua, the Fascists started exerting verbal pressure on the police forces on 29 October. The heads of the local fascio visited the Prefect’s office, asking him to leave the city, to prevent the outbreak of violence. Not knowing what to answer, the Prefect turned to the local army commander, Giuseppe Boriani, and the two of them agreed that it was best to avoid an armed conflict, which could have ‘very serious’ consequences. General Boriani advised the Prefect to ‘fake … an urgent summoning to Rome from the Ministry to defend his dignity and that of the Government’, and the Prefect complied.62 In addition to the Prefect, however, on the same day the Fascists must also have met the local army commander, who apparently advised them not to act, only to then meet their requests by advising the Prefect to leave for Rome.63

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The situation was similar in Foggia: the local Prefect had not yet finished negotiating with the Fascists, when some squads started occupying the Prefecture. The action unfolded in much the same way in Naples as well.64 In Genoa the first steps were taken in the afternoon of 29 October, plausibly before the news of Mussolini’s appointment as Prime Minister started circulating.65 As in many other cases, the occupation of the Prefecture began while a Fascist delegation was seeing the Prefect. The delegation attempted to occupy the Prefecture building and a few skirmishes broke out with the Guardie Regie and the Carabinieri, who were initially disarmed: the news of this clash would appear to be accurate, given that four squadristi were wounded – one of them seriously. Nonetheless, the Prefect continued to negotiate with the delegation, complaining about the events, and the Fascists promised to end the occupation once the Prefecture building flew the national flag (something that the Prefect was ready to grant unconditionally).66 In Cremona, the only place where a casualty was recorded in the first twenty-four hours of mobilisation, the Prefect was forcefully taken away in a car by the Fascists on 29 October. Investigations were conducted, but the Prefect was only found two days later.67 In the face of these developments in the political scenario, Prefects and army commanders adopted widely divergent approaches. It is undeniable, however, that the negotiations between the Prefects and the Fascist commanders significantly reduced the frequency of the clashes. This is yet further evidence of the considerable acquiescence towards Fascism on the part of the armed forces, but it also shows that the Fascists were willing to reconsider their demands in exchange for demonstrative and symbolic acts from the armed forces. Significantly, on 29 October the Popolo d’Italia emphasised the reconciliation and collaboration between the Fascists and the armed forces, even though at the same time it continued to describe the squads as an advancing army. The newspaper ran the title The Unstoppable and Victorious Fascist Comeback, clarifying the reasons for its pro-Fascist opening in the subheading. Thus, from the earliest developments of the crisis, a mythicising of events began, which was destined to increase over time. The Popolo d’Italia proclaimed: ‘The State we aspire to is becoming a “fact” The solidarity of the regular army towards the militia: a remarkable merging of all nationalist forces.’68 The freedom of the press was the target of the other attack that the Fascists directed against the liberal State from 28 October, by which time the political battle against the institution had practically been won. The Fascists prevented the publication of all newspapers not aligned with Fascism, often physically destroying their printing works. Few non-Fascist or non-pro-Fascist papers were published on 29 October. The most striking case was undoubtedly that of the Corriere della Sera, which was warned by the Fascists – along with the Secolo, Avanti! and Giustizia – not to ‘publish false and tendentious news, or at any rate news that could damage or compromise the insurrection’. Faced with the impossibility of freely expressing their views because of these threats, the editorial board of the Milanese newspaper chose to suspend its publication until the situation settled down.69 This decision came as a real shock to

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the readers of the Milanese newspaper, as witnessed by the following letter addressed to the editor-in-chief Luigi Albertini: Dear Senator, I was told that the Corriere will not be published tomorrow! For goodness’ sake, Senator, do your best to prevent that this weakness is not added to the wretched situation we are in! The Corriere is spiritual nourishment – and not just for Milan either. I have spoken to roughly a hundred people today. They all agree that resistance is crucial … Let’s make sure that tomorrow we do not sense that the enemy has won!70 In the editorial of 30 October, however, the editors did not hesitate to justify their decision and to negatively comment upon the events of the previous days: Our words have not been heeded by the blind and helpless in Rome, and what could never have been predicted in the aftermath of the Naples gathering has now occurred. No match before the event, the Facta Ministry proved all the more incapable of defending the law and the constitution after it. We have now reached the point that Italy has no government at all and arbitrariness rules. We feel the full humiliation of this. Sunday morning we did not publish our newspaper because the Fascist military command, following our comments, had chosen to prevent the publication of the Corriere by all means. Well, we baulked at the prospect of causing a bloody conflict to defend our rights, and preferred not to publish the paper. But already by Saturday evening, the Hon. Mussolini had realised what damage his own movement was incurring from the suppression of this paper which – let us state with rightful pride – is the feather in the cap of Italian public life. By paying tribute to our uprightness and independence, he has fully restored our freedom. But can we take advantage of this freedom given the present public order? Are we capable of expressing an unfettered thought? And would expressing it not amount to stoking the flames of passions? … Given the present circumstances, we would have preferred not to publish the paper at all; but it seemed to us that this might cause panic on either side and exacerbate the climate of tension. We are publishing the paper, therefore, but only to fulfil our duty of reporting the news, and not to pass judgement on the current events. This is something we intend to undertake only once the new government has shown its willingness and power to restore the rights of the press and safeguard these rights from all threat of arbitrariness and violence.71 The situation was much worse for less prestigious newspapers and ones aligned with the Left or the Popolari: their printing works were burned down. The list of devastated printing works and newspaper offices is extensive. It may be useful to recall the cases of the printing works of Il Comunista in Via

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della Guardiola in Rome and of its newsroom in Corso Italia, which the local Fascists destroyed even before the protagonists of the March had entered the city.72 Some Rome-based newspapers, however, were able to publish a 29 October issue. This is the case of the Avanti!, which described its position as follows: Therefore, this much is certain: the army of the Blackshirts is on the move. In some provinces, according to Fascist reports, it already exercises power and has installed its own representatives in Prefectures, in minor centres and in many towns in Tuscany and Emilia, where the small garrisons of Carabinieri, Guardie Regie and army troops have surrendered without firing a single shot … These few facts are enough to give us a picture of the situation: uncertain as regards its final outcome, obscure as regards its upcoming developments, but already well-defined as far as the prestige, vitality and authoritativeness of the ruling class go … This does not concern us, since – unfortunately – the initiative for action has not come from us, for obvious reasons. Let Fascism rise to the pomp and burden of power. In the last leg of its journey it will find many stooping backs.73 The devastation and occupation of Roman newspapers continued in the following days, leading to the decision, taken by the commanders of the 16th Army Division, to have them garrisoned to prevent further damage.74 As the action continued to unfold in individual cities, with newspapers being targeted, the squads departed for Rome. By mid-afternoon on 28 October the squadristi had yet to finish assembling in the locations from which they were to set off to Rome, and the flow of men from various cities continued. The general commanders of the March advised that, from the evening of 28 October, absolute priority be given to the convergence in Rome of squadristi, particularly those from the squads heading for Santa Marinella and Monterotondo, where fewer men were present. The column in Monterotondo, moreover, was still waiting for General Fara, who had been placed charge of it. De Bono and Bianchi were ready to replace the general with Attilio Teruzzi, although he too had yet to reach the town (Fara only arrived in the afternoon of 29 October).75 Meanwhile, by the evening of 28 October Ulisse Igliori was planning to leave for Rome, but was prevented from doing so by Balbo. On 29 October the flow of Fascists to the assembly points continued, to an even greater extent than the previous day. The men who had reached Foligno, under Zamboni’s command, travelled to Spoleto that same day, following the Quadrumvirs’ orders. Here they occupied the local arms depot and stocked up on weapons, practically without meeting any resistance from the troops stationed there. The weapons were then despatched to Perugia, allowing the Florentine Legion – along with those from Umbria and Ferrara – to be reviewed by the Quadrumvirs, upon their return to Foligno in the night of 29 October, and be assigned to the lead of the procession that was held in Rome on 1 November. The men present in Civitavecchia and Santa Marinella in the

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morning were few in number, since many of the Fascists who had set off from Tuscany had yet to arrive: the commanders of the local company of the Carabinieri informed the Minister of Internal Affairs that there were 3,200 Fascists in Civitavecchia and 3,000 in Santa Marinella, and that another 5,000 were ready at Valmontone. In the night between 28 and 29 October General Sante Ceccherini finally reached Santa Marinella, where he planned to ‘accompany in uniform the columns so as to forestall any conflict with the troops’.76 Monterotondo only started to overflow with men when the railway link at Orte was restored: many units started moving through the town again from the afternoon of 29 October.77 Moreover, it was reported that many other Fascists were setting out from Tuscany and Emilia, as well as from the Caserta area. Meanwhile, in Rome the safety measures arranged by the commanders of the local army division from the morning of the same day continued to be in force: all bridges had been blocked (in particular those more likely to be stormed, such as the Milvio, Salario and Fomentano bridges), the perimeter walls had been obstructed using chevaux de frise and other devices, and all railway stations had been occupied. Over the course of the afternoon, however, some public service restrictions (such as the suspension of trams and the circulation of cars, the shutting down of the press, and the closing of shops and theatres) were abolished, bringing the situation somewhat back to normal in the capital.78 In that same afternoon, the Fascists and nationalists then celebrated the news of the King’s decision to revoke the state of siege by organising a demonstration outside the Quirinal Palace, which was not prevented by the police. From 29 October, the nationalist and Fascist newspapers made sure to emphasise the sovereign’s choice not to sign the proclamation of the state of siege, while at the same time mocking the measures taken by the military authorities, and in particular Pugliese, to stop the Fascist movement. The measures taken for the state of siege were described as ‘deplorable’, and what was stressed was especially the propaganda value of this gesture: ‘it seems as though the authorities have done their best to impress citizens and portray the situation as one of exceptional gravity’.79 The Idea Nazionale acknowledged the political conflict underway, but hoped to avoid any skirmishes, noting that they were ‘still in time to prevent a fratricidal clash’, precisely thanks to the sovereign’s action, and that the state of the country had been an essentially peaceful one until then.80 A broader reflection was offered by the nationalist newspaper twenty-four hours later. In the 30 October 1922 issue, the ‘national revolution’ of those days was described as an act performed not just in the King’s name but thanks to him, since he had decided to side with the nation by not signing the proclamation of a state of siege. The national revolution – the nationalist paper wrote – has unfolded and is still unfolding in the name of Italy and the King. This has generously been made possible by the monarchy, to which nothing national can be

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Meanwhile, the Popolo d’Italia flaunted all the victories achieved by Fascism over the past two days, emphasising its own role. The Fascist newspaper claimed that ‘most of northern Italy’ was ‘fully under Fascist control’ and that ‘the whole of central Italy, of Tuscany, Umbria, the Marche and upper Lazio’ had been ‘occupied by the “black shirts”’, stressing the political authorities’ inability to ‘face the movement’.82

The Fascists in Bologna At 5 pm on 28 October, Gino Baroncini, the secretary of the Fascist federation of the province of Bologna, visited the headquarters of the local army corps. He asked General Ugo Sani to clear the troops out of the Prefecture and other public buildings, noting ‘the gravity of the situation in Italy in general and especially in Bologna’. During this meeting, Baroncini invoked the national events in the hope of persuading the general and obtaining some advantages on the local level, but to no avail. Sani answered that he had duties and tasks which he could not fail to fulfil, and which weighed upon the honour of the army and the armed forces of the State. Without imposing any restrictions on the Fascists’ movements, he demanded that ‘no attempt be made to occupy the four public buildings garrisoned by the armed forces of the State, or the barracks and military buildings garrisoned by troops’.83 Baroncini finally replied that he could not guarantee anything of the sort, given that the orders he had received called for the occupation of the public buildings.84 Following this meeting, in the afternoon of 28 October, a large number of squadristi assembled in the city and formally occupied the railway station and some arms depots. In addition, they made several attempts – some of them successful – to disarm the armed forces, and in particular the Guardie Regie, without ever attacking the Prefecture or post office.85 The most relevant event of the day was certainly the freeing of thirty-four inmates from the prison of San Giovanni in Monte, an action in which Leandro Arpinati was also involved.86 These gaols were not adequately defended, as they had not been marked out as a possible Fascist target. Consequently, the squadristi met no obstacles in their action: they were able to reach the office of the prison governor after disarming an army lieutenant on guard there, and demanded the prisoners’ release. Faced with the governor’s refusal to comply – at least,

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according to the governor’s own version of the story, which the Fascists had no interest in disputing – the squadristi held him captive and took the prison guard’s keys to open the gates, carrying off two machine guns and three rifles.87 Not yet satisfied, over the course of the same day the Fascists of Bologna also made an unsuccessful attempt to occupy the arms depot at Prati di Caprara. The following day they repeated this move, assaulting the same arms depot and another one located outside the city, at San Ruffillo. At Prati di Caprara the Fascists attempted to storm the local barracks, which were being used as an artillery and ammunition depot, but were repelled by the soldiers stationed there. Five people were wounded in the armed conflict. In the memoirs he wrote shortly after these events, Giorgio Pini justified the Fascist action by arguing that the only reason why the skirmish did not have a more tragic outcome was that the Fascists had been ordered not to open fire on the troop and promptly withdrew.88 At San Ruffillo a more serious conflict cost two Fascists their lives – one of the two, Giancarlo Nannini, was seriously wounded and died from his injuries. Other people too, both Fascists and Carabinieri, were wounded. In the words of the young Bolognese Fascist Giorgio Pini, the conflict unfolded as follows: The car reached the Carabinieri station and the Fascists demanded in a loud voice that the brigadier surrender the weapons, as had already happened in all the towns of the province. The brigadier refused and – I believe – not for any excess disciplinary zeal or lofty sense of duty – a poorly understood duty, at that – but rather because of his well-established anti-Fascism and animosity towards Nannini, who had previously often visited the S. Ruffillo area. This refusal was followed by further intimidations and then fighting broke out, with rifle shots, bombs and machine gun fire from both sides. The two enemy groups were still very small at this stage. One of the Arditi involved in the action, the heroic Oscar Paoletti, followed a bold impulse and ascended half-way up a ladder, to reach a window on the first floor of the barracks, adjacent to the side of the building where the initial conflict was coming to an end. As he was opening the half-closed shutters with the barrel of his musket, the savage brigadier reached Paoletti from inside the building, snatched his weapon and struck him on the head with it. Paoletti, dazed and clinging to the ledge, could hardly make his way down the ladder on which he was precariously resting without falling; so, in a moment of ardour, leaping over the window, he climbed into the barracks, immediately engaging in a terrible fight with his opponent. Pini continued his narrative by giving an account of the chase between the two men, which ended with the brigadier mortally wounding Paoletti with his revolver. When Paoletti’s comrades found out what had happened, they called for a truce and promised to leave if Paoletti’s body was handed over to them.

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That very moment, however, according to Pini’s account, Nannini too was hit and the conflict flared up again, leading to the wounding of two more Fascists. In the previous hours, another two Fascists had died from accidental wounds, probably due to the careless and inexperienced use of weapons. Moreover, another serious conflict, which led to the death of a marshal of the Guardie Regie, broke out around the Church of San Giacomo in Via Zamboni, where the 6th Cohort was stationed, under the command of Major Ludovico Grimaldi. In this case, the Fascists attacked the Guardie Regie, who responded: a Fascist and a nationalist were seriously wounded and one of the two, Mario Becocci, died a few days later, while the marshal of the Guardie Regie, Vitalone, died almost immediately after the end of the conflict.89 The day of 29 October thus ended with a heavy toll for the city of Bologna. Overall, considering the immediately following days as well, in Bologna and the surrounding areas at least ten people died because of incidents related to the March on Rome, including eight Fascists, one Guardia Regia and one post office worker.90 These figures stand in glaring contrast to the picture of calm and tranquillity painted by the British consul when writing about the city. Although he was at least partly aware of the incidents that had occurred, the consul reported to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: yesterday (Sunday [29 October]) several encounters between Fascisti and carabinieri or regie guardie occurred with fatal result. It is difficult to control the contraddictory and generally exaggerated reports of these occurrences of which only one appear to have exceeded the proportion of a street crowd. Bologna city appear to be tranquil. Such brawls as have occurred are trifling considered in their bearing on the course of events, even though they appear to have resulted in one or two fatalities. I cannot perceive any great deviation from the normal life of the city and all the shops etc. are open as usual. Many Fascisti entered the town yesterday from the surrounding country and carbines and rifles are either more frequently carried or more openly displayed.91 The tensions between the general of the army corps and the Fascists in the days of the March on Rome remained strong even in the aftermath of the San Ruffillo skirmish. The Fascists refused to accept a shared funeral for the five Fascists and the marshal of the Guardie Regie, as suggested by the commander. The latter complained in particular of the hostility to this plan expressed by Leandro Arpinati, who justified his opposition by pointing to that of the Nannini family. The commander thus ‘decided to take matters into his own hands, overlooking petty formalities and the personal resentment due to the hostile attitude of the Hon. Arpinati’. This open hostility is confirmed by another document from the National Fascist Party in which Arpinati states:

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I have been informed that at this moment some Fascists have made a show of sympathy towards General Sani. These displays conflict with the spirit of this command, which holds General Sani personally accountable for the massacres of these days. Fascists and citizens are ordered, therefore, not to put on any more displays of this sort, which offend the memory of our dead.92 Sani’s attitude stood in open contrast to that adopted up until then by all the other army generals, regardless of their personal political convictions. Particularly significant, in this respect, is the final report on the army’s conduct in those days, in which all power was been transferred into its hands. The document first of all reflects a desire to justify the events and to show that the military forces stationed in Bologna had not displayed any hostility towards the Fascist movement. The responsibility was mainly laid on the Fascists, even though it was stated that they had probably ‘escaped their leaders’ control’. According to the general’s hierarchy of values, complete pre-eminence was assigned to the world of the army and its priorities over the political transformations that had occurred in Italy with the March on Rome. The rigorous approach adopted was such that sanctions were invoked to punish some officers and soldiers for the poor fulfilment of their duties, in disregarding the tasks assigned to them and obeying the orders issued by the High Command. These sanctions were to target those who, for instance, had all too easily handed their weapons over to the Fascists, or those soldiers who had not responded with ‘complete resistance to acts of intimidation’. However, the general noted more leniently, these episodes were to ‘be examined with that criterion of discernment required by the peculiar conditions of the events’.93

The appointing of Mussolini As the Fascist mobilisation swept through Italy, the political negotiations to solve this crisis continued at a frenzied pace. The revoking of the state of siege, however, did not leave any possibilities open except the appointment of someone very close to the Fascists and capable of demobilising the squads and ensuring the containment of violence. It was necessary to avoid a direct clash with the police and armed forces, given that the sovereign had refused to take this course of action. Based on these assumptions, the only possible candidate for this role was Benito Mussolini, and the King decided to summon him in Milan – despite the March, Mussolini had returned to his apartment in the city after leaving Naples – to ask him to travel to Rome to form a new government.94 The news of Mussolini’s appointment was disclosed between the afternoon of 29 October and the morning of 30 October, and made it harder to prevent the Fascists who had reached the assembly points or the gates of Rome from marching on into the capital.95 The squadristi – particularly younger ones – who were waiting in the assembly areas by orders of their commanders, but

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also because of the army blockades, were chafing at the bit. They could not believe that it was politically wiser to halt the Fascist advance in order to wait for Mussolini, rather than allow it to continue into the capital. The squadristi were therefore caught between an eagerness to act and the issuing of an allclear that was yet to come, while the armed forces continued to check their every movement.96 Describing ‘his’ March on Rome in 1924, Alessandro Del Vita recalled: If anyone lacks a military spirit, that is young people, who cannot comply with the idea that they cannot set out and must await further orders, or, worse still, cannot stand to be denied the right of passage by a friend standing guard. But seeing that the others, the veterans, are obeying, in the end they comply, all the more so because they are just as disciplined as the army.97 The action plan, however, required the squads to wait for orders from the Quadrumvirs before breaching the city gates; and the commanders of the columns in the outskirts of Rome complied with these instructions. Consequently, the wait lasted for several hours more, with the odd squadrista attempting to challenge the orders that had been given, and under the worst possible weather. The weather conditions were indeed terrible: it was pouring, the quartered troops were poorly organised and there was not much food to go round. The Fascists occupying Monterotondo and Mentana, roughly 16,000 men divided into three columns led by Ceccherini, Fara and De Bono, nonetheless set out for Rome in the night between 29 and 30 October. By mid-morning on 30 October, even before Mussolini’s arrival in the city, the squads had reached the immediate outskirts of the capital. In the night between 29 and 30 October other men reached Civitavecchia, seeking to join their squad to celebrate Mussolini’s appointment. Five hundred arrived by train and, a few hours later, along with 250 Fascists, Mussolini himself arrived at the station, for his official appointment as head of the government. Meanwhile, on 30 October six aeroplanes took flight from Centocelle, scattering several thousand leaflets over the city, in emulation of D’Annunzio’s gesture.98 Mussolini’s arrival in Rome only partly improved the situation. In officially bestowing the office on Mussolini, the sovereign asked him to demobilise the squads and have them return home: apparently, Mussolini replied that he ‘could not stop a movement of such magnitude without giving it some satisfaction’; otherwise, ‘he would take no responsibility for the possible consequences’.99 The two men agreed, therefore, that the squads were to march past the statue to the Unknown Soldier and reach the Quirinal, where they would salute the sovereign before heading back to their hometowns. In such a way, the impetus of the squads was not suppressed but rather redirected, significantly altering the meaning originally assigned to this action by some of the squadristi. The order restraining the squads about to enter the capital thus remained in force until 1 pm on 30 October, when Facta had the

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street blockades lifted. The squadristi then entered Rome with the authorisation of the highest State authorities.100 The Fascists of Foligno set out for Rome on the morning of 30 October. Those who had assembled at Santa Marinella received the Quadrumvirs’ orders on 30 October, when Dino Perrone had already scheduled a review of the troops from Santa Marinella and Civitavecchia to take place in the afternoon, in honour of Ceccherini: these squadristi only left in the morning of 31 October. The Bottai and Perrone columns set off from Tivoli on the morning of 31 October: they travelled to Tor Sapienza by train and then continued on foot. The squadristi from Foligno also reached Rome on the ten special trains reserved for them between 30 and 31 October, leaving after the Quadrumvirs’ review of the troops. Between 30 and 31 October, many other trains started heading directly to Rome: a thousand armed Fascists arrived on a special train at 6.50 pm; 200 Fascists left for Rome from Bologna and 300 from Ferrara. On 31 October another special train reached the city from Caserta. On the same day, more men set off for the capital, including the Fascist legion of Irpinia.101 Observing the Fascists who were entering Rome, the head of military affairs at the British embassy reported: In spite of the shortage of rations and the exposure they had experienced during the past 48 hours, when it have rained heavily, the Fascisti marched in excellent formation and maintained good march discipline. About 50% were armed with service rifles and shot guns and many detachments carried machine guns, those who had no rifles or shot guns usually had pistols or truncheons. The service rifles and carbines and equipment had been seized during the concentration and march on Rome, they appear to have been surrendered by the troops without opposition. One of the most serious aspects to the movements to my mind was that the Fascisti were largely armed with service rifles which had been surrendered by the troops. All the officers whom I have met sympathise with the movement, but the fact that the army surrendered rifles in such large quantities does not speak well for its discipline.102 Upon reaching Rome, the squadristi initially assembled in various areas of the city: Piazza del Popolo, Villa Borghese, the Pincio and Lungotevere dei Prati di Castello. The Florentine Legion was quartered in the Roman College.103 Meanwhile, on the evening of 30 October Benito Mussolini presented the King with a list of ministers. The new government suggested by Mussolini – the outcome of much mediation and negotiation – was a typical coalition government, including members from across the political spectrum: liberals, Popolari, Fascists, democrats and social-democrats, two pro-Fascist generals, a nationalist, and an independent politician.104 On the morning of 31 October, the squads were given orders to assemble at Villa Borghese, whence the Fascist procession set off at 1 pm. Positioned at its head were Fara, Ceccherini, Zamboni, Tiby, De Bono, De Vecchi, Bianchi

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and Balbo. Just as at the beginning of the March, and possibly even more so, the Fascists were variously dressed and armed: The Fascists who took part in the March – Efrem Ferraris wrote – armed with muskets, old rifles from military depots and daggers strapped to their waist, or simply brandishing huge cudgels, wandered through the streets in groups, singing their anthems and confirming the appropriateness of the label of “black devils” they had immediately been given by the witty Romans, who had thronged to the streets to enjoy the unusual spectacle.105 As to the number of participants, the figures are uncertain, although it seems likely that the parade was made up of just over 50,000 people.106 The procession of the squads began on the Lungotevere, where they were reviewed by Mussolini and generals Fara, Maggiotto and Ceccherini, who had taken part in the March. The parade then reached the Altare della Patria and Quirinale. The squadristi were then expected to continue on to the station, allowing as many demonstrators as possible to leave the city. As regards the final celebrations, here too provincial towns played a more important role than the national leadership had foreseen. At least in the eyes of many Fascists who had remained in their home towns, the demonstrations were not limited to the procession that filed past the Altare della Patria and Quirinale. Many other processions were held in various Italian cities to celebrate the appointment of the new head of the government. These demonstrations openly expressed a support for Fascism, but in certain cases also served to invoke the benevolence of the new Fascist leader towards places that had hitherto given no hint of supporting the movement. Moreover, all these demonstrations signalled that what was taking place was not merely a government turnover but a far sharper and more radical seizing of power on the Fascists’ part. In the aftermath of Mussolini’s appointment, however, the Fascist and nationalist newspapers – practically the only ones circulating – made sure to offer the Italians their own interpretation of the events that had just occurred.107 Siding with the most revolutionary squadristi, the Neapolitan paper Il Mattino adopted a unique approach, stating: The first effect of the anti-parliamentary revolution has been to practically strip Parliament and the Government issuing from it of the powers they had partly derived from the constitution, along with the more extensive powers they had usurped in recent times … Hence, for many years we had been living in a state of complete unconstitutionality.108 This newspaper ended its analysis by reaffirming its endorsement of Fascism, regardless of the outcome of its clash with the government (an outcome that in any case was apparent by then):

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If the Fascist leaders were to be put on trial as rebels, we would have to be sentenced along with them on a charge of propaganda and moral complicity.109 The demonstrations in honour of the new head of the government, held throughout Italy from 30 October, did not coincide with a political détente. From the very moment of Mussolini’s appointment, the country registered an increase in violent – and particularly fatal – clashes and a significant transformation in the kind of actions undertaken. The pattern that could be observed in the previous days, reflecting the mobilisation plan laid out by the so-called ‘Quadrumvirs of the Fascist Revolution’, was disrupted by a series of new events. The squads remained mobilised and armed, and their power increased with the Fascist political victory, even though their function was already reduced to nothing, given the outcome of the political negotiations. Indeed, a great number of squadristi felt that the political aim attained by Fascism was not enough. For many of them, victory was inconceivable without the elimination of their enemies, or at any rate of the latter’s symbols. The lack of an action plan for the squads, therefore, is probably the root cause of the large number of deaths and injuries registered in Italy at this stage of the March on Rome, since the reaction of the army against Fascist actions before the march had been extremely rare. On the other hand, the army too found itself in dire straits: Mussolini’s appointment suggested a normalisation which had not actually occurred; hence, commanders and officers did not know whether to endorse all actions on the Fascists’ part or to consider the violations committed by the Fascists unlawful, once Mussolini had entered the government. The course of action varied in these days, depending on whether the Fascists exercised a manifest power in their local area, and on whether the standard aims of the Fascist occupation of an area – for instance, the occupation of camere del lavoro and the destruction of anti-Fascist newspapers – had already been attained in the previous days or months. What also increased were the attempts to take over the few local administrations in Italy that were still in the hands of the Socialists or Popolari. At times pro-liberal administrations were also targeted, in such a way as to obtain an acknowledgement of the vitality of the Fascist movement and strip part of the local ruling class of its legitimacy. This was a sort of local settling of scores through acts of pressure and intimidation, episodes which chiefly occurred in the centre-south of Italy (where the Fascist action had been very limited in the previous months and years). Within this framework, three kinds of conflict took the centre stage. The first was the clash with the armed forces to achieve a given aim, be it entrance into Rome, the taking over of municipal administrations, the stealing of weapons or the occupation of camere del lavoro and of the offices of antiFascist newspapers defended by guards or soldiers (although practically no clashes of this sort occurred). The second kind of conflict was that between the inhabitants of working-class neighbourhoods and the Fascists, particularly in Rome: the former attempted to defend their prerogatives and power on

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their home turf, while the latter attempted to affirm their presence by organising processions and destroying the premises of associations and newspapers.110 Finally, we have the acts that brought about a transformation in the mode of action: the fierce violence directed against individuals, particularly members of the anti-Fascist ruling class, but at times even ordinary cadres of the Socialist, Communist, Democratic or Popolare parties. Starting on 29 October, outside Bologna, the main clashes with the armed forces and police took place in Milan, where the Fascists had already given proof of their desire to control national newspapers. The same day, they decided to take a more explicit step in this direction by attacking not just the Avanti!, which had been an important symbolic target since 1919, but also the Secolo and Corriere della Sera. In the armed conflicts between the Fascists and the Guardie Regie that followed, seven guards and eleven Fascists were wounded.111 During these few days, a Fascist was killed at Novara during a skirmish with the Carabinieri: in Borgo S. Martino a Carabinieri patrol, after having repeatedly ordered a lorry full of Fascists to slow down, opened fire, seriously wounding a Fascist, who died shortly afterwards.112 In Rome most clashes occurred between Fascists and anti-Fascists. For the third time, the capital refused to peacefully welcome the squadristi. In various areas of the city the police force actually helped prevent the violent expulsion of the Fascists – as some Fascist memoires also suggest, albeit indirectly.113 A massive presence of squads was registered in an area of the city that had not yet been brought under Fascist control and in which Socialist and Communist circles, along with camere del lavoro, were still embedded in the local social fabric. The endurance of these institutions explains the activeness of the Fascists, who operated according to a mode of action that, as already noted, was more reminiscent of those adopted in the Po Valley area over the course of 1921 than of the actions undertaken in the previous days.114 The anti-Fascist opposition in Rome had not yet been stifled. While aware of the strength of the Fascist squads at the time and unwilling to take action to defend Rome, so as to avoid certain defeat, the anti-Fascist opposition chose to react to Fascist provocation and to the attempt to assault working-class neighbourhoods. On 29 October a violent clash broke out near Borgo Pio, where the Fascists – who were travelling on fifteen lorries and had broken through the barricade at Castel Sant’Angelo – were greeted by the local inhabitants with a volley of tiles and revolver shots. The Fascist response led, among other things, to the wounding of a woman. The Carabinieri only showed up when the conflict was over and arrested various workers who, in the meantime, had occupied the street after driving the Fascists away.115 In the Porta Pia area, Fascist pressure was strong and was intended to spark a similar confrontation with the San Lorenzo district, as a means to avenge the unsuccessful clashes of the previous November.116 The commander of the Granadiers’ Brigade, General Piola Caselli, along with Lieutenant Sagna of the local army division, started negotiating with the Bottai Column at Ponte Mammolo, so as to prevent the column from entering Rome through the San Lorenzo district.

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However, as they were only able to defer the column’s entrance, they went to San Lorenzo and started negotiating with some Communist leaders in Piazzale del Verano, who promised they would not incite any conflict, unless provoked by the Fascists. But when the squadristi reached the Verano Cemetery, a clash broke out between the Fascist columns and the local inhabitants, although this was only a small-scale conflict and did not cause many deaths.117 In the afternoon of 29 October, another clash broke out in the Via Trionfale area, where fifteen cars packed with Fascists attempting to enter the city were stopped and surrounded by a group of Socialists, who however did not achieve their goal, because – unlike the Fascists – they were stopped by the police.118 Conflict was avoided one hour later when, in the same area, roughly a thousand Socialists attempted to block the entrance into the city of an armed group of roughly a hundred Fascists: in these clashes one Socialist was killed and many other people were wounded, including some of the policemen who had attempted to break up the skirmish.119 The clashes between Fascists and anti-Fascists flared up on the Via Prenestina – where four people died, including one Fascist – and on the Via Nomentana, where three people died, including one Fascist.120 Despite the extent of the clashes in the capital, as soon as Mussolini was appointed to form a new government, in the evening of 30 October, power was immediately restored to the political authorities, at his own request. At the same time, the Fascists started launching increasingly violent attacks against the representatives of the anti-Fascist ruling class – Socialists and Communists, but also social-democrats and members of the Partito Popolare. This violence did not spill into murder, however, and was often limited to the damaging of private apartments or, in more serious cases, abuses and beatings. While similar cases occurred throughout Italy, they were more frequent in the Rome area, particularly from 31 October onwards. In the morning of 31 October, an expedition of around sixty Fascists broke into the mansion of MP and former Prime Minister Nitti: after easily eluding the police forces guarding the house, the Fascists entered the mansion and destroyed books and paperwork, stealing various objects, although they were not able to destroy the furniture because the police intervened. One hour earlier, a more substantial group of Fascists – roughly 300 – visited the house of MP Bombacci, which was also guarded by the police, and destroyed the furniture, throwing everything they could lay their hands on out of the window. After breaking into the house of the Ardito del Popolo Argo Secondari, the Fascists did not smash his apartment but beat up its owner, causing him a serious head injury.121 Many other similar incidents occurred, with the damaging of the – usually vacant – houses of other MPs and representatives of the anti-Fascist ruling class, but in some cases also those of minor militants, such as Giovanni Mandini, ‘a suspected Communist’ who had moved to Rome to escape persecution by the Fascists in his hometown.122 Mandini’s house in Rome was found empty, but here too the Fascists smashed everything they could lay their hands on, making a bonfire of the furniture

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and clothes. In the case of lesser-known anti-Fascist militants, the kind of violence used – once again, ad personam – was often of a more humiliating sort than the one directed against political leaders: in the morning of 31 October, a large group of Fascists reached one of the working-class neighbourhoods of the city, the Salario district, which was known as one of the areas harbouring the greatest number of anti-Fascists, ‘in search of the most prominent subversives, whom they took to assembly areas and forced to drink castor oil’.123 At the same time as these violent attacks were taking place, in the days following the Fascist parade, the head of the police in Rome, Vincenzo Sechi, recorded dozens of other small incidents: from the theft of red flags to the requisition and arson of non-Fascist newspaper offices; from the vandalising of meeting places to violence against people hostile to the Fascist movement; from the searching of the houses of Socialist and Communist cadres or members of opposition parties to the requisition of weapons from all available stores. On 1 November, these incidents continued to a large extent, not without serious consequences: in the days of the March, 22 people were killed in Rome.124 Similar violent incidents spread outside Rome too. In Bari, for instance, on 31 October the Fascists finally succeeded in occupying and destroying the Camera confederale del lavoro (Confederate Chamber of Labour), which had actually already been cleared by the public safety authorities and was being guarded by the police.125 The same day, the chamber of commerce in Turin was destroyed, although this action was blamed on the militants themselves, who according to the Prefect and Fascists were guilty of having left some ammunition in the basement.126 In the night between 31 October and 1 November, the Fascists in Turin also attacked the storerooms of the Alleanza Cooperativa, a Communist circle.127 In Venice the Fascists succeeded in occupying the local casa del popolo only on 31 October.128 In Brescia, during a Fascist procession down ‘a troubled street of the city’ – presumably one in which many Socialist and Communist cadres were living – some clashes broke out. The Fascists were greeted with a volley of shots from windows and rooftops, which triggered their reaction. In the morning, five men and two women were wounded (presumably, none of them Fascists); in the afternoon the scene repeated itself, but this time a woman was killed. This death, far from reducing the tension, only served to heighten it: the Fascists attempted to set fire to the Circolo panettieri (Bakers’ Circle), but one of them was killed in the attempt. The following day, while some Fascists stabbed two local Communists, fifteen other Fascists smashed the house of MP Viotto, who was not at home at the time.129 The attacks against anti-Fascist political leaders also spread outside Rome. In Padua, on 30 October, a band of Fascists was able to elude the guards protecting the house of MP Giulio Alessio and ransacked his study.130 In the outskirts of Venice, on 31 October, sixty-odd armed Fascists reached Mira on six lorries, in order to force the local municipal administration to resign. They then waited for MP Guglielmo Sandroni to arrive by tram from Venice: identified by a local Fascist, he was taken to the Fascist headquarters in

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Mestre by car, ‘making it clear to him that there he would have his beard shaven off and would be given a laxative’.131 When the Fascist lawyer Magrini recognised Sandroni, the MP was freed and escorted back to Mira. However, he was advised to move somewhere else, ‘because he was not welcome’ in Mira or Venice.132 While reflecting the tense political climate, some of these violent incidents were also triggered by local or personal disputes. The cases of Catania and Caserta are particularly striking. In Catania, on 2 November, a Fascist procession first visited the police headquarters to pay their respects to the interim town administrator, and then filed past the offices of the Corriere di Sicilia, which were guarded by a group of Arditi of Fiume allied with the party led by a prominent local, Vincenzo Giuffrida. The armed conflict that broke out – according to the Prefect, probably after a shot was fired from the premises of the Corriere di Sicilia – led to the death of one Fascist and to the wounding of four others. In response, the Fascists occupied the headquarters of the Corriere di Sicilia, damaging all its equipment.133 The same day, in Caserta, sixty people held a demonstration in support of Vico Pantano’s municipal administration, against the local Fascists: in response to this demonstration, twenty-odd Fascists occupied the town hall, smashing part of it. In parallel to these events, a 24-year-old elementary school teacher and supporter of the municipal administration, Vito Maccarone, killed the 17-year-old Fascist Pasquale Ucciero with a rifle shot, only to be killed in turn by the latter’s brother.134 The PNF issued many official declarations attempting to distinguish between the responsibilities of actual Fascists and those of alleged ones. The spread of these violent incidents was due to the feeling that whatever acts were committed in the name of Fascism in those days would be tolerated and accepted – indeed, that less violence than usual was required in order to exact something. However, it must be added that it was also common to blame alleged impostors for acts of violence and abuses not just perpetrated by squadristi but even endorsed and tolerated by the actions squads. In Civitavecchia, for instance, where the Fascists had already unsuccessfully attempted to take over the municipal administration before the March on Rome, violence against individuals was widespread, as was violence against all the premises and symbols of associations belonging to the Socialists, Democrats or Popolari.135 These actions had such a strong impact that the local Fascist Party disavowed what was taking place, putting the blame on its opponents. The commander of the Perrone Column in Civitavecchia issued a statement on the matter, attributing the violent incidents to the ‘rabble’ who had ‘defiled’ the black shirt. In some cases, those responsible for such acts were identified as Arditi del Popolo, who were arrested and punished.136 The Fascists’ attempt to distance themselves from such incidents by blaming their enemies was one of the methods most readily used throughout the early stages of the Fascist movement (and beyond). For example, the fact that the statements made by Scorza, the commander of the Civitavecchia column, were not corroborated by any other source probably allows us to regard this as an

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example of Fascist propaganda. The case of Civitavecchia, however, was far from unique. In other towns too Fascists leaders blamed false Fascists or Arditi for private acts of violence. While in many cases the Fascists’ attempts to distance themselves from violent actions was a propaganda strategy, we should not underestimate the many instances of latecomers joining Fascism for reasons of private interest. Particularly striking examples are the impromptu creation of chapters of the Fascist Party in southern Italy, as a means to obtain the resignation of the local administrations (frequently a pro-government ones), thereby aiding the rise to power of recently self-styled Fascists. A similar situation occurred, for instance, in the province of Syracuse, where a local deputy mayor complained to the Minister of the Interior: Yesterday Fascist latecomers, driven by personal and far from idealist interests, inaugurated a chapter of the Fascist Party, with the firm aim of storming the town hall tomorrow. In the face of this provocative attitude on the part of irresponsible people, behind whom there stand the usual petty political speculators, real experts at seizing the right moment, it is my firm resolve to maintain the public order and not endanger these excellent workers; hence, along with all the councillors, I am ready to hand in my resignation, if Your Excellency deems this municipal administration to be unlawful.137 Over the following days, the level of confusion in the city increased even further, although there was no change in the local administration, which remained in place, as is often the case in such circumstances.138 These local acts of violence often also resulted from tensions between the national leadership of the movement and its grass-root supporters, although such tensions are difficult to pin down, since the sources have no interest in revealing them. However, in certain cases, the conflicts were explicit. In Modena, for instance, Aldo Finzi was forced to persuade the local Fascist MP to clear the Fascists out of the premises of the Gazzetta dell’Emilia. They had occupied the offices of this newspaper in the night between 31 October and 1 November, following the board of directors’ refusal to sell the paper to the local Fascist federation, which sought to turn it into an organ of their own party.139 On 2 November Finzi thus sent a telegram to MP Vicini in Modena: I beg you to take resolute action towards this fascio to ensure the prompt clearing out of the premises of the Gazzetta dell’Emilia. I trust that you will realise the difficulties of the present moment and the absolute need to restore the rule of law. This order also comes from His Excellency the President.140 The following day the headquarters of the newspaper had yet to be fully returned to its owners. Only on 6 November, after a lengthy negotiation, did the government succeed in persuading the local fascio to hand the Gazzetta dell’Emilia back to its rightful owners.141 By contrast to this increase in

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violent incidents, we should note the case of Cremona, one of the few places in which serious incidents had occurred before Mussolini’s appointment. Not only did practically no one from Cremona travel to Rome to celebrate the appointment, not even Farinacci – an event that cannot be regarded as devoid of political significance – but on 30 October at the funeral of some local Fascists, Farinacci himself issued a poster calling for reconciliation, in an attempt to prevent the tension, which in his view had become tangible, from breaking out into further episodes of violence.142

Demobilisation On the very day of the procession in Rome, the Quadrumvirs issued a ‘proclamation’ to announce that they would be relinquishing their powers and putting the party leaders back in charge, while also ordering a demobilisation, to be accomplished ‘with the same perfect order with which you assembled for the great ordeal’.143 Between the evening of 31 October and the following day, around 30,000 Fascists left Rome. Many non-Roman Fascists, however, remained in the city, leading to an upsurge in the kind of violent incidents just described.144 While this spike in violence helped Mussolini to highlight the defeat of enemy parties and to terrorise their members, it also raised a few problems: Mussolini himself, after all, needed to present himself as the man capable of pacifying Italy, not least through the control he exercised over the Fascist squads. Efrem Ferraris reports that Mussolini was irritated by the news of violent incidents in the San Lorenzo district following the procession of 31 October. The Fascist leader also chose to deal with the squads directly as soon as he received confirmation from both Finzi and the head of police in Rome that the Fascists had no intention of avoiding conflict and surrendering their weapons, as they had been asked to do. On this occasion, Mussolini personally attempted to persuade the squadristi of the need to put an end to the disturbances and oversaw ‘the setting up of special trains for the departure of the Fascists, until the last contingents of the troops mobilised for the March on Rome left Termini Station’.145 In actual fact, it took the squads much longer to leave and demobilise, and the orders for them to do so were reissued over the following days, as is shown by the repeated action taken by the Fascist leaders.146 On 29 October, the commanders of the Roman squadristi issued a poster addressing the Fascist militias with the following words: All conflict is not just useless but detrimental to Fascism. All Blackshirts, therefore, are categorically ordered to maintain the utmost calm, order and discipline. All individual action, all personal initiative is strictly forbidden … Any act committed against government institutions is a rebellion against Mussolini. It is strictly forbidden to assault weapon stores.147

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A similar proclamation was issued by the Fascist High Command and circulated through the Stefani agency on 31 October 1922.148 At the same time, the State police forces also pushed in this direction.149 The tensions between the Fascist commanders and the squads, however, were not limited to the aforementioned aspects. Another source of tension was the need to return the weapons stolen from military depots and from the army in such a way as to prove the Fascists’ loyalty to the authorities. But the squadristi and leaders of the movement took very different views on the matter.150 For them, what had taken place up until then was not yet a ‘revolution’: the appointment of their leader as Prime Minister did not provide any reassurance as to the extent of the changes which would be implemented or indeed the fate of the armed units in which they had served. They could not be sure that their position would not be challenged by the new government and they sought to keep open the possibility for them to blackmail the authorities through the threat of violence. For these reasons, the surrender of the weapons was only partially accomplished, and with considerable difficulty. The mobilisation begun on 27 October 1922 ended on 7 November, when all Italian cities officially returned under the control of the civil authorities. The actions undertaken in the days leading up to the March on Rome largely ran against the original plans and not just – as already repeatedly noted – because of the influence of political negotiations, but also on account of how the events unfolded.151 The occupation of the city was only achieved in a very partial way.152 It commenced a few hours ahead of schedule and took much longer than expected since, in various forms, it continued until the early days of November. Even the departure of the squads from the various centres and their arrival at the established assembly points, along with the March on Rome itself – following the order to advance given by the national leaders – were not achieved according to plan.153 In order to measure the strength of the Fascist legions ready to march on Rome, it is crucial to take account of the fact that the size of the forces assembled in the appointed areas varied from day to day. Overall, it may be argued that just over 15,000 men had reached their destination by 28 October and that on 30 October probably 25,400 squadristi were gathered in Rome.154 Therefore, while rather substantial, the concentration of the squads in the designated areas did not meet the Fascists’ expectations in terms of numbers and did not run to schedule, considering that in some cases even column commanders arrived very late. The action plan, then, was thwarted by the events. However, the Fascists achieved far more than they had hoped for, at least judging from their official statements: at the beginning of the mobilisation, they had declared that their chief aim was to hold at least three important ministries within a coalition government.155 The political outcome of the Fascist insurrection, however, had some political effects that had not been foreseen by the original plans for mobilisation. The peaceful resolution of the negotiations and Mussolini’s appointment as head of the government did not stem the violence, but rather increased it, even if this was not even recognised

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by anti-Fascist observers after the March. The squads acted far more violently than has usually been acknowledged, and many Italians died because of the March on Rome. The Fascist mobilisation also had a huge impact on the freedom of the press, which in those days was severely curtailed. The publication of most newspapers that were not Fascist, nationalist or pro-Fascists was prevented. Independent newspapers resumed publication on 3 or 4 November, depending on the location of their newsrooms and printing works, and the extent of the damage. Moreover, the attacks directed against a large number of non-Fascist or progovernment local administrations further altered the political geography of municipal administrations – as though the oppression exercised in the two and a half previous years had not been enough. Many local administrations were placed under an interim commissioner, despite the fact that the Council of Ministers presided over by Mussolini on 9 November 1922 ruled in favour of ‘restoring the ordinary functions of all municipal administrations forced to resign after 1 November’.157 In August 1923 and July 1924 another two waves of repression against non-Fascist administrations took place, although already by the end of October 1922 practically all administrations that were not either liberal or Fascist had disappeared, making the representation of anti-Fascist forces at a local level almost completely non-existent. This highly significant element has not been adequately taken into account in the historiography, even though local administrations were one of the crucial stakes in the political struggle that took place in the post-war period, and one of the points of strength of the Socialists.158 While from a military perspective – as all historians have come to acknowledge – the Fascist mobilisation was hardly a success, with Adrian Lyttelton we can argue that It is true that from an orthodox strategic point of view all these local and unconnected events were irrelevant: but to conclude that ‘the seditious movement not only had been victorious, but must be considered a complete failure on the military plane’ [a quote from Repaci, La marcia su Roma cit., pp. 503–504] is surely to miss the point159 Contrary to what has often been claimed, the political development that took place on 30 October was not an ordinary government crisis. The Fascist mobilisation was a significant political action, constituting both an insurrectionist movement and a coup d’état, which makes this event a momentous turning point in the history of the liberal State, spelling its de facto end.

Notes 1 Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, vol. 5, part II, pp. 38–39, 56, 139. For the mobilisation orders see ACS, MRF, b. 146 and ‘L’ordine ai fascisti: tenersi pronti!’, La Nazione, 27 October 1922. 2 ACS, MRF, b. 146, Handwritten document without any date and entitled ‘Marcia su Roma. Ordini di operazione per la provincia di Ferrara’, 3 pp. See

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8 9 10 11

12 13 14

15 16

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The March on Rome also the following document enentitled ‘Distribuzione ed assegnazione dei reparti per i vari obiettivi’, 5 pp. Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, pp. 50 and 99. See what is stated by E. Ferraris, La marcia su Roma veduta dal Viminale, Rome, Edizioni Leonardo, 1946. In the night of 27 October the mobilisation started in Pisa, Foggia, Cremona, Livorno, Treviso, Florence, Perugia, Rovigo and Siena: see ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106 and the files on these cities for this period. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Pisa, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 27 October 1922, h. 12.10 and h. 2.10 and 5.27 pm. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Pisa, telegram from the Prefect of Pisa to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, h. 11. See also ‘Le operazioni fasciste in Toscana’, La Nazione, 28 October 1922; ‘Migliaia di fascisti pisani partiti per Roma’, La Nazione, 28 October 1922; ‘Il giornale fascista di Pisa annuncia la ‘marcia su Roma”, Il Giornale d’Italia, 28 October 1922. ACS, TUC, 1922, Incoming messages, 26 October – 2 November, telegram from the Prefect of Pisa to the Ministry of the Interior, 27 October 1922, h. 10.30 pm. Popolo d’Italia, 28 October 1922; Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, pp. 141–145. On the occupation in Siena see ‘Il prefetto di Siena cede i poteri all’autorità militare’, La Nazione, 28 October 1922. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Cremona, telegram from the Prefect of Milan (news from Cremona) to the Ministry of the Interior, 27 October 1922, h. 11.45 pm. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Cremona, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, h. 2.40 pm and R. Farinacci, Squadrismo. Dal mio diario della vigilia (1919–1922), Rome, Edizioni Ardita, 1932, p. 173. See also ‘Un conflitto a Cremona durante l’occupazione fascista’, La Nazione, 28 October 1922; ‘Gli avvenimenti di ieri in città. Tre morti e venti feriti’, Cremona Nuova, 28 October 1922. See also ACS, Carte Michele Bianchi, b. 1, fasc. 2, Roberto Farinacci to Michele Bianchi, 3 February 1923. According to General Pugliese seven deaths occurred, including both Fascists and anti-Fascists see E. Pugliese, Io difendo l’esercito, Rispoli editore, Napoli 1946, pp. 138–139. See Farinacci, Squadrismo, p. 174. Farinacci’s version is confirmed by ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Cremona, 28 October 1922, h. 2.20 pm. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Cremona, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, h. 2.20 pm. On the kidnapping and getaway of the head of police Di Battista, see Saija, I prefetti italiani, p. 408. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Bari, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, h. 12.20; phonogram from the sub-Prefecture of Foggia, received on 29 October 1922, h. 3.40 pm; phonogram arriving from Bari, 29 October 1922, h. 3 pm. See Saija, I prefetti italiani, pp. 424–427. Perugia is described as the ‘capital of the revolution’ in Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, p. 28. Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, pp. 28–29; U. Zamboni, ‘La marcia su Roma. Appunti inediti. L’azione della colonna Zamboni’, Gerarchia, n. 10, October 1928, pp. 767–770. See also ‘Una pagina di storia’, L’Assalto, 7 November 1922 and ACS, TUC, 1922, Incoming messages, 26 October – 2 November, telegram from the Prefect of Perugia to the Ministry of the Interior, 27 October 1922, h. 9.45 pm. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Perugia, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922. The arrival of the Fascist leaders averted the possibility of a fight with the military, as noted in M. Isnenghi, ‘La marcia su Roma’, pp. 313–329. The agreement between the Fascists and the Prefect was also clear in ‘Il prefetto di Perugia cede la città ai fascisti’, La Nazione, 28

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24 25

26 27

28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35

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October 1922; ‘Perugia in possesso dei fascisti’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 29 October 1922. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Perugia, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, See also PRO, FO 371/7651, Perugia’s vice-consul to the Foreign Office, 28 October 1922, f. 247. Chiurco gave a slightly different version of the whole story in Storia della rivoluzione fascista, pp. 32–35. See ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, in particular the files from the aforementioned towns. MRF, b. 146, Document entitled ‘Marcia su Roma. Ordini di operazione per la provincia di Ferrara’. ACS, TUC, 1922, Incoming messages, 26 October – 2 November, telegram from the Prefect of Piacenza to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, h. 2.20. ACS, TUC, 1922, Incoming messages, 26 October – 2 November, telegram from the Prefect of Piacenza to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, h. 10.35. See also ‘La prefettura di Piacenza in mano ai fascisti’, La Nazione, 28 October 1922; ‘La situazione a Piacenza’, Cremona Nuova, 29 October 1922; ‘L’occupazione di Piacenza’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 31 October 1922. Balbo, Diario 1922, pp. 202 and 205. Pugliese, L’esercito e la cosiddetta marcia, pp. 53, 57–58 and 72. On Pugliese’s plan see M. Michaelis, ‘Il generale Pugliese e la difesa di Roma’, La Rassegna mensile di Israel, vol. XXVIII, nos. 6–7, 1962, p. 267–268; Pugliese, Io difendo l’esercito, pp. 14–19; M. Soleri, Memorie, Turin, Einaudi, 1949, pp. 150–151. On the Tuscan provinces see ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106. The data reported in Chiurco and those of the Ministry of the Interior are sometimes different, and need to be analysed one by one. See ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Chieti, the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, h. 11.50 pm; phonogram from Chieti to the Ministry of the Interior, 27 October 1922, h. 7.20 pm; the Prefect of Florence to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, h. 10.25 and 11.25 pm; fasc. Florence, the Prefect to Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, s.h., 7.55; fasc. Aquila, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, h. 9.55 pm; fasc. Ancona, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, h. 10.40. See also Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, pp. 45–48; ACS, MRF, b. 146, report by the Neapolitan Cohort, 3rd centuria, 8 November 1922, and report by the Neapolitan cohort, 1st centuria, 4 November 1922, and Michele Carbone, Relazione sanitaria durante la marcia su Roma. Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, p. 161. Dino Perrone, ‘Diario’, in Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, p. 166. Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, p. 176. On Monterotondo in those days see also Salandra, Memorie politiche, p. 26. ACS, MRF, b. 146, Report on the March on Rome by the 3rd Legion from Florence, 4 November 1922. Zamboni, La marcia su Roma, pp. 767–770. Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, p. 178. Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, pp. 186–197. This is quite an important point, since it was made the object of Fascist propaganda from the very beginning, and on the anti-Fascist front Salvemini used it in order to highlight the responsibilities of the King and the army in the Fascist seizure of power: see G. Salvemini, Scritti sul fascismo. Volume I. Lezioni di Harvard. L’Italia dal 1919 al 1929, Milan, Feltrinelli, 1963, p. 607. Nonetheless, it is quite complicated to determine exactly how many men were at the assembly points, since the number of the departures does not tally with that of the arrivals. The numbers I have quoted match those given by Tasca, who used different

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38 39 40 41

42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50

51 52 53

The March on Rome sources: see Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, p. 519. I do not agree with Emilio Gentile’s choice to accept Pugliese’s numbers: see Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, pp. 668–669; nor do I accept the underestimation of the numbers of the participants to be found in Repaci, La marcia su Roma, pp. 459–462. Il Popolo d’Italia, 28 October 1922. Similar points are raised in ‘Un voto che si compie’, L’Assalto, 28 October 1922 and in ‘L’ora è scoccata’, Cremona Nuova, 28 October 1922. No reference to the mobilisation was present in Alalà, the newspaper of the Fascio of Carrara, published on 28 October. See, for exemple, the Corriere della Sera which had a small article on the ‘Mobilitazione fascista in Toscana’, but was much more attentive to the government crisis, as in the article ‘Le dimissioni del Ministero Facta. Il re giunto a Roma comincerà oggi le consultazioni’, Il Corriere della Sera, 28 October 1922. Nonetheless, news of the mobilisation was given again at the very end of the paper: see ‘La mobilitazione generale fascista. Tutti i poteri all’autorità militare’, Il Corriere della Sera, 28 October 1922, p. 5. ‘L’ora di Kapp’, La Giustizia, 28 October 1922. ‘Crisi storica’, L’Idea Nazionale, 28 October 1922. ‘La mobilitazione generale dei “Sempre pronti”’, L’Idea Nazionale, 28 October 1922. See the previous chapter and the accusation brought against the government with regard to this point by General Pugliese in Io difendo l’esercito, p. 26. This text should nonetheless be viewed within the context in which it was written, namely after the collapse of Fascism and the Second World War. Michaelis, Il generale Pugliese e la difesa di Roma, pp. 275–276; Pugliese, Io difendo l’esercito, pp. 54–56. There is no mention of this meeting in Soleri, Memorie, which provides a detailed account of those days. Pugliese, Io difendo l’esercito, pp. 54–55. ACS, Verbali del Consiglio dei Ministri, 2 August 1921–13 October 1923. The minutes are published in Soleri, Memorie, pp. 151–152. Telegram from the President of the Council Facta to the Prefects and commanders of the kingdom, in Repaci, La marcia su Roma, pp. 843–844. The proclamation of the state of siege is published in Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, p. 515. On the state of siege in Italian modern history see R. Martucci, Storia costituzionale italiana, Rome, Carocci, 2000, p. 150. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Verona, telegram from the Prefect of Verona to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, h. 8 pm and telegram from the Prefect of Mantua to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, h. 11.10. Saija interprets this situation differently: see Saija, I prefetti italiani, pp. 404–405. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Milano, telegram from the Prefect of Milan to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, no time given. ‘L’occupazione della caserma di finanza’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 29 October 1922; ‘I due eserciti fronte a fronte a Milano. Nessun incidente grave. L’aspetto della città’, L’Avanti!, 29–30 October 1922; Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, pp. 79–81. ‘Il glorioso 12° bersaglieri fraternizza con le milizie fasciste’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 29 October 1922; ‘Il glorioso 12° bersaglieri fraternizza con le milizie fasciste’, L’Ardito, 29 October 1922. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Alessandria, telegram from the Prefect of Alessandria to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, h. 11.55. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Alessandria, telegram from the Prefect of Alessandria to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, h. 1 pm. Saija seems to argue that the Giolittian influence played a role in the way in which the Prefects acted in Piedmont, but it does not take into account the role of the army: see Saija, I prefetti italiani, pp. 402–403.

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54 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Alessandria, telegram from the Prefect of Alessandria to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, h. 11.55 pm. See also Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, pp. 38–41 and R. Farinacci, Storia della rivoluzione fascista. L’insurrezione rossa e la vittoria dei fasci, vol. 2, Cremona, Cremona Nuova, 1938, p. 431. 55 Spriano, Storia del Partito comunista italiano. I. Da Bordiga a Gramsci, Turin, Einaudi, 1990, pp. 232–233. 56 This idea was harshly opposed by the Socialist Party: see Silone, Il fascismo, pp. 144–145. 57 This has been a very important debate in the historiography on the event, and the role of the King in this situation was certainly of paramount importance: see Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power, pp. 90–93; Santomassimo, La marcia su Roma, pp. 87–91. On the fear of civil as a leading element that contributed to this decision, see ‘La via d’uscita’, Il Giornale d’Italia, 29 October 1922. 58 Michaelis, Il generale Pugliese e la difesa di Roma, p. 278. 59 ‘L’adesione dei partiti nazionali al movimento fascista’, La Nazione, 29–30 October 1922. 60 ACS, MI, Ps, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Ancona, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, h. 5 pm. See also Saija, I prefetti italiani, p. 420; Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, pp. 41–42. 61 M. Michelozzi, Le origini del fascismo nell’anconetano, Urbino, Aralia editore, 1974, pp. 57–58. See Saija, I prefetti italiani, p. 420. 62 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Padova, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 29 October 1922, s.h. 63 ASSME, A1 (cat. ‘Memorie storiche’), b. 021, Divisione territoriale di Padova, ‘Memorie storiche 1922 redatte dal comandante Giuseppe Boriani’. 64 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Bari, phonogram of the Prefecture of Foggia, 29 October 1922, h. 3.40 pm. See also the report of the Action Committee of the Fascio of Naples to the Directorate, 4 November 1922, in MRF, b. 146. 65 ACS, TUC, 1922, Incoming messages, 26 October – 2 November, telegram from the Prefect of Genoa to the Ministry of the Interior, 29 October 1922, h. 8, 15. See also ‘Incidenti alla prefettura di Genova’, L’Idea Nazionale, 30 October 1922 and ‘L’occupazione della prefettura di Genova’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 31 October 1922. 66 ACS, TUC, 1922, Incoming messages, 26 October – 2 November, telegram from the Prefect of Reggio Emilia to the Ministry of the Interior, 30 October 1922, h. 12.30. 67 On the orders for the Cremona squads to depart see Farinacci, Squadrismo, pp. 182–183. See also ACS, MRF, b. 146, De Bono to Farinacci, 28 October 1922, h. 22.20. 68 B. Mussolini, ‘La situazione’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 29 October 1922 and ‘Il proclama’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 29 October 1922. 69 ‘«Il Comando militare fascista mette il ‘veto’ alla pubblicazione del ‘Corriere della Sera’ e lo toglie l’indomani»’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 31 October 1922. The quotation is from Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, p. 79. 70 Giacinto Motta to Luigi Albertini, 28 October 1922 in Albertini, Epistolario, pp. 1993–1994. 71 ‘La crisi nazionale e l’incarico a Mussolini di comporre il nuovo Governo’, Il Corriere della Sera, 30 October 1922. 72 See also G. Giardina, ‘Ricordi dell’Ordine Nuovo’, Il Ponte, XXI, no. 10, 1965, pp. 1303–1310. The same day the printing works of Paese, of the weekly il Monocolo and of Epoca were destroyed: see Il Corriere della Sera, 30 October 1922. Moreover the print shops of the Avanti! were occupied and destroyed in Rome and Milan: ‘Ultime di cronaca. La mattinata in città. L’occupazione dell’Avanti!’, Il Corriere della Sera, 30 October 1922 and il Popolo d’Italia, 31

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82 83 84 85 86

87 88

The March on Rome October 1922; ‘Come fu distrutto l’Avanti dagli appunti di un cronista’, L’Avanti!, 14 November 1922. ‘La nostra posizione’, L’Avanti!, 29–30 October 1922. Pugliese, Io difendo l’esercito, p. 91. Emilio De Bono to the General Inspector of the 5a zone, 28 October 1922, h. 10.30 pm; Emilio De Bono and Michele Bianchi to Attilio Teruzzi, 29 October 1922, h. 8 in ACS, MRF, b. 146. The sabotaging of the railway lines by the army led to the creation of two others assembly points for the squads in Civitavecchia and Orte: see Repaci, La marcia su Roma, p. 459, n. 1 and Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascism, p. 474. Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, p. 169. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Roma, phonogram from the policepolice in Rome to the Ministry of the Interior, 29 October 1922, h. 3.15 pm and 7.25 pm. See also ACS, MRF, b. 146, Inspectorate of the 7th zone, Santa Marinella group, 29 October 1922. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Rome, phonogram from the police in Rome to the Ministry of the Interior, 29 October 1922, fasc. Comando del corpo d’armata di Bologna, ‘Relazione sugli avvenimenti svoltisi nella provincia di Bologna dal giorno 26 ottobre al 5 novembre c.s.’, 6 November 1922; fasc. Caserta, telegram from the Prefect of Caserta to the Ministry of the Interior, 29 October 1922, h. 11.15. Pugliese, Io difendo l’esercito, p. 67 and 90. A similar description is provided by Balbo, Diario 1922, pp. 210–211. ‘Gli stolidi provvedimenti dell’Autorità Militare’, L’Idea Nazionale, 29 October 1922. See also PRO, FO 371/7659, Graham report to the Foreign Office, 29 October 1922, 4 pm. ‘Decisione suprema’, L’Idea Nazionale, 29 October 1922. ‘La rivoluzione nazionale’, L’Idea Nazionale, 30 October 1922. Similar tones were used by A. Borrelli in ‘Sediziosi in nome del Re’, La Nazione, 29–30 October 1922 and in ‘Il Re disapprova lo stato d’assedio’, Il Giornale d’Italia, 29 October 1922. B. Mussolini, ‘La situazione’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 29 October 1922. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Bologna, Comando del corpo d’armata di Bologna, ‘Cenno ad alcuni episodi di carattere personale’. A despatch was sent by the consul in Bologna to the Foreign Office on 28 October 1922 in PRO, FO 371/7651 reporting things similarly. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, Comando del corpo d’armata di Bologna, ‘Relazione sugli avvenimenti svoltisi nella provincia di Bologna dal giorno 26 ottobre al 5 novembre c.a.’ The liberation of the prisoners was not something which happened only in Bologna, as similar cases occurred in Montevarchi, Vigevano, Savona, Cremona and Foligno (see ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106) and in Florence, even though I have found only evidence of this in newspapers: see ‘Detenuti fascisti liberati dai loro compagni dalle carceri di Asciano’, La Nazione, 29–30 October 1922; ‘Migliaia di fascisti ottengono la liberazione dei loro compagni prigionieri per reati politici’, La Nazione, 31 October 1922. Telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 October 1922, h. 5.25 pm and telegram from the jail’s director to the Ministry of the Interior, 29 October 1922 in ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Bologna. Comando del corpo d’armata di Bologna, ‘Relazione sugli avvenimenti svoltisi nella provincia di Bologna dal giorno 26 ottobre al 5 novembre c.a.’, 6 November 1922, p. 6, in ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Bologna. On the fight in Bologna see ‘L’occupazione di tutte le provincie dell’Emilia Romagna’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 31 October 1922; ‘Conflitti sanguinosi a Bologna’, L’Idea Nazionale, 30 October 1922; ‘Quattro morti e vari feriti a Bologna. Una caserma incendiata’, Il

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89

90

91 92 93 94 95 96

97 98

99 100 101

102

103

109

Corriere della Sera, 30 October 1922; ‘Quattro morti e vari feriti a Bologna’, Il Corriere della Sera, 31 October 1922. See also Pini, Le legioni bolognesi in armi, p. 25. Pini, Le legioni bolognesi in armi, pp. 27–30. See also ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Bologna, telegram, 30 October 1922, h. 10,45, pm. The nationalists are only mentioned in Comando del corpo d’armata di Bologna, ‘Relazione sugli avvenimenti svoltisi nella provincia di Bologna dal giorno 26 ottobre al 5 novembre c.a.’, 6 November 1922, p. 6, in ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Bologna. ACS, Carte Michele Bianchi, b. 1, fasc. 2 ‘Marcia su Roma’, letter of the vicesecretary of Bologna to Michele Bianchi, 10 April 1923. On the death of the post officer see ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Bologna, Comando del corpo d’armata di Bologna, ‘Relazione sugli avvenimenti svoltisi nella provincia di Bologna dal giorno 26 ottobre al giorno 5 novembre c.a.’, 6 November 1922. PRO, FO 371/7651, the consul of Bologna to the Foreign Office, 30 October 1922, f. 248. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Bologna, Comando del corpo d’armata di Bologna, ‘Cenno ad alcuni episodi di carattere personale’, p. 3 and the attached leaflet, which was posted in various areas of the city. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Bologna, Comando del corpo d’armata, ‘Relazione sugli avvenimenti svoltisi nella provincia di Bologna dal giorno 26 ottobre al 5 novembre c.a.’ Santomassimo, La marcia su Roma, pp. 83–85; De Felice, Mussolini il rivoluzionario. La conquista del potere, pp. 363–374. Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, p. 454. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Roma, telegram from the head of police in Rome to the Ministry of the Interior, 29 October 1922, h. 1,15. See also ACS, MRF, b. 146, Gino Calza Bini to the High Command of the Fascist militia, 29 October 1922. A. Del Vita, La marcia su Roma con le centurie scelte di Arezzo, Arezzo, Federazione provinciale fascista, 1924, pp. 9–10. On the arrival of the squads: ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Roma, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 30 October 1922, s.h.; ‘Il Bollettino n. 4 della legione ferrarese’, Il Balilla, 30 October 1922; Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, pp. 180–181; 202–203. See also ‘L’entrata delle squadre fasciste’, Il Corriere della Sera, 31 October 1922. The departure of the aeroplanes was filmed in Umberto Paradisi, A noi!, 1922. Ferraris, La marcia su Roma, pp. 126–127. Pugliese, L’esercito e la cosiddetta marcia, p. 72. On the arrival of the squads from the various assembly points see: ACS, MRF, b. 146, F. Fatti, ‘Relazione delle operazioni compiute dalla legione Irpinia durante gli ultimi avvenimenti’, Avellino, 7 November 1922; M. Carbone, Relazione sanitaria durante la marcia su Roma; relazione della marcia su Roma della 3a legione fiorentina, 4 November 1922. Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, pp. 169 and 172–173. See also ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Roma, phonogram arriving from the police of Rome to the Home Office, 30 October 1922, h. 10 pm and telegram from the Prefect of Rome to the Ministry of the Interior, same date, 4 pm. PRO, FO 371/7659, report of the army attaché to the Foreign Office, 31 October 1922. On the demonstration see the articles in the main national newspapers on 1 November 1922, bearing in mind that the only newspapers that could be published were Fascist, nationalist or pro-Fascist ones. Almost no sources were found on this in the papers of the Ministry of the Interior. ACS, MRF, b. 146, report on the March on Rome by the 3rd Legion of Florence, 4 November 1922.

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104 See Repaci, La marcia su Roma, pp. 567–575; De Felice, Mussolini il fascista, pp. 375–387; Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power, pp. 95–97. 105 Ferraris, La marcia su Roma, p. 129. 106 Fascist and filo-Fascist newspapers undoubtedly inflated the figures: see ‘Centomila camicie nere riconsacrano Roma all’Italia’, La Nazione, 1 November 1922; ‘Un concentramento di settantamila uomini per la marcia su Roma’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 1 November 1922. 107 See e.g. C. Scarfoglio, ‘Salute Italia!’, Il Mattino, 31 October 1922, and ‘Il fascismo al potere’, Cremona Nuova, 31 October 1922. 108 ‘Insurrezione antiparlamentare’, Il Mattino, 31 October 1922 and ACS, MRF, b. 146, Al direttorio del fascio napoletano di combattimento, 4 November 1922. 109 ‘Insurrezione antiparlamentare’, Il Mattino, 31 October 1922. 110 Some of these actions had a lethal effect: consider what happened in Andria; in Lugo di Romagna; in Foligno; and also in Cuorgné, where a non-Fascist died (Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, pp. 102; 103; 104; 125). 111 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, the commander of the company in Milan to the Ministry of the Interior, 29 October 1922. See also Comando del corpo d’armata di Milano, Avvenimenti della giornata del 29 ottobre, 29 October 1922 (ibid.) and ‘Milano. Mitragliatrici in azione contro i fascisti per una dimostrazione all’Avanti. Il vile contegno del giornale pussista. Fascisti feriti’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 31 December 1922. Other attacks against newspapers happened in Modena: see ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Modena, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 1 November 1922. In other areas selling certain newspapers was prohibited: see ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Firenze, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 2 November 1922, h. 6.50 pm and 3 November 1922, h. 12.30. 112 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Novara, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 29 October 1922, h. 1. See ‘La manovra infernale di Novara. Un morto e tre feriti fascisti’, L’Ardito, 29 October 1922. 113 Del Vita, La marcia su Roma con le centurie scelte di Arezzo, p. 43. What contributed to these events was the revocation of the state of siege and the telegrams coming from the government: see Michaelis, Il generale Pugliese e la difesa di Roma, p. 278. 114 See the telegrams from the head of police in Rome to the Ministry of the Interior, 29 October 1922, h. 10.35 am, 1.15 pm and 1.40 pm in ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106. See also ACS, MI, PS, 1922, fasc. Roma, phonogram from the Prefecture of Rome to the Ministry of the Interior, 29 October 1922, h. 6.50 pm. 115 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Roma, phonogram from the police, 29 October 1922. 116 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Roma, phonogram from the police to the Ministry of the Interior, 29 October 1922, h. 3.15 pm. 117 Pugliese, Io difendo l’esercito, pp. 99–100 and ‘Uno sanguinoso scontro coi comunisti’, Il Corriere della Sera, 31 October 1922. 118 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Roma, telegram from the head of police in Rome to the Ministry of the Interior, 29 October 1922, h. 5 pm. 119 The account of this episode offered by Pugliese, Io difendo l’esercito, pp. 96–98 is partially different, since in trying to praise the pacifying role of the army, he underestimated the number of victims. 120 Fondazione Feltrinelli, Fondo Tasca, ‘Angelo Tasca opere varie, situazione italiana’, b. 1, fasc. 72 ‘Note varie manoscritte 1919–1924’. 121 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Roma, police di Roma, ‘Notiziario dalle ore 10 del 31 ottobre alle ore 6,30 del 1° novembre’, pp. 2–3. 122 See ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, the police in Roma, ‘Notiziario dalle ore 6.30 del 1° novembre 1922 alle ore 6.30 del 2’.

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123 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Roma, the police in Roma, ‘Notiziario dalle ore 10 del 31 ottobre alle ore 6,30 del 1° novembre’ pp. 2–3. 124 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, fasc. Roma, the police in Roma, ‘Notiziario del 1° novembre dalle ore 8,30 alle ore 11,30 e Notiziario dalle ore 6,30 del 1° novembre alle ore 6,30 del 2’. 125 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, fasc. Bari, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 31 October 1922, h. 3 and 31 October 1922, h. 9.30 pm. On this episode see also S. Colarizi, Dopoguerra e fascismo in Puglia (1919–1926), Bari, Laterza, 1971, p. 227. 126 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, fasc. Torino, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 31 October 1922, h. 5 pm. A different interpretation is given by Chiurco in Storia della rivoluzione fascista, p. 123. 127 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, fasc. Torino, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 1 November 1922, h. 2.15 pm. 128 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Venezia, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 1 November 1922. 129 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, fasc. Brescia, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 30 October 1922, h. 6.30 pm. On Brescia see A.A. Kelikian, Town and Country under Fascism: The Transformation of Brescia 1915–1926, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1986, in particular pp. 158–159. See also Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, pp. 44–45 and ACS, MI, PS, 1922, fasc. Brescia, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 31 October 1922, h. 7.45 pm and telegram from General Barco to the Ministry of the Interior, 4 November 1922, h. 6.40 pm. 130 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Verona, telegram from the commander in chief to the Ministry of the Interior, 30 October 1922. 131 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Venezia, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 3 November 1922, h. 1.25 pm. 132 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Venezia, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 3 November 1922, h. 1.25 pm. 133 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Catania, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 2 November 1922, h. 5.15 pm. 134 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Caserta, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 3 November 1922, h. 7.50 pm. 135 Previous attempt to occupy the city were reported in ‘Il tentativo fascista contro Civitavecchia. Testa di ponte per l’avanzata su Roma? Il fermo contegno del proletariato’, L’Avanti!, 25 August 1922; ‘I fascisti di nuovo all’assalto di Civitavecchia’, L’Avanti!, 13 October 1922. 136 Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, pp. 161–165. Italics are used in the original text. On the actions during the March see ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Roma, phonogram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 29 October 1922, h. 6.50 pm. 137 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Siracusa, telegram from the person acting as vice-Mayor in Carlentini to the Ministry of the Interior, 4 November 1922. Similar cases happened in Lentini, in the province of Syracuse, in Catanzaro and in Carmignano in the province of Teramo. 138 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Siracusa, telegram from the Prefect to the Ministry of the Interior, 5 November 1922, h. 12.25. 139 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Modena, telegram from the Prefect of Modena to the Ministry of the Interior, 1 November 1922. 140 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Modena, telegram from Aldo Finzi to MP Vicini, 2 November 1922. 141 ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Modena, telegram from the Prefect to the Home Offic, 3 and 6 November 1922. Another act of violence against the editor-

112

142 143 144

145 146

147 148 149

150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158

159

The March on Rome in-chief of the newspaper happened in Bergamo in the same days: see ‘Il direttore del «Giornale» di Bergamo percosso e ferito’, Il Corriere della Sera, 1° November 1922. The only account I found of this is Farinacci, Squadrismo, pp. 183–185 L’ordine di smobilitazione. Un proclama del Quadrumvirato’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 31 October 1922. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Roma, the police in Rome, ‘Notiziario dalle ore 10 del 31 novembre alle ore 6,30 del 1° novembre’. In his first Cabinet address, on 1 November, Mussolini declared that there were almost no Fascists in Rome: see ACS, Verbali del Consiglio dei Ministri, volume dal 2 agosto 1921 al 13 ottobre 1923, consiglio del 1° novembre 1922. Nonetheless, there was a contradiction in the following meeting, where he reported that the situation in the city had not been normalised yet: see ibid., 8 November 1922. Ferraris, La marcia su Roma, p. 135. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, b. 106, fasc. Roma, the police in Roma, ‘Notiziario dalle 6 antimeridiane del 2 novembre alle ore 7 del 3’ and phonogram from the police in Rome, 4 November 1922, h. 10.15. See also ‘Lo sgombro fascista ultimato a Roma’, Il Corriere della Sera, 3 November 1922. Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, p. 219. Farinacci, Squadrismo, pp. 185–188. On the squadristi leaving Rome see ‘I fascisti iniziano la smobilitazione. Le ‘camicie nere’ reduci da Roma arriveranno oggi’, La Nazione, 1 November 1922. ACS, MI, PS, 1922, fasc. Roma, phonogram from the police in Rome, 2 November 1922, h. 1.10 pm. On the demobilisation of the squads see ‘La smobilitazione fascista’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 2 November 1922; ‘L’esodo degli squadristi da Roma’, Il Corriere della Sera, 2 November 1922; ‘Lo sgombero fascista ultimato a Roma’, Il Corriere della Sera, 3 November 1922. The British embassy told the Foreign Office that the squadristi weren’t giving back the arms they had stolen during the march: see PRO, FO 371/7659, Graham to the Foreign Office, 1 November 1922. The first to underline this aspect was Tasca in his Nascita e avvento del fascismo, p. 442. Balbo’s account is quite contradictory: see Balbo, Diario 1922, p. 197. Chiurco, Storia della rivoluzione fascista, p. 20 and ACS, MRF, b. 146, ‘Piano di mobilitazione per la Marcia dell’Intendente Generale Ernesto Civelli’. See the analysis in Santomassimo, La marcia su Roma, p. 74. The figures are approximate as the sources are neither precise nor completely reliable. Balbo, Diario 1922, p. 96. See e.g. Tasca, Nascita e avvento del fascismo, p. 458 and Silone, Il fascismo, pp. 140–141. ACS, Minutes of the Cabinet, 2 August 1921 – 13 October 1923. Roberto Balzani has underlined the fact that historians have overlooked this element: see ‘Le tradizioni amministrative locali’, in R. Finzi (ed.), Storia d’Italia. Le Regioni dall’Unità ad oggi. L’Emilia Romagna, Turin, Einaudi, 1997, pp. 599–646. Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power, p. 90.

5

The March after the March

On 16 November 1922, Benito Mussolini delivered his first address to the Chamber of Deputies as Prime Minister: eighteen days had passed since the March on Rome. Mussolini presented the events that had brought him into power as follows: I could have abused my victory, but I refused to do so. I imposed limits on myself. I told myself that the better wisdom is that which does not lose control after victory. With 300,000 youths armed to the teeth, fully determined and almost mystically ready to act on any command of mine, I could have punished all those who defamed and tried to sully Fascism. He then continued: I could have transformed this drab, silent hall into a bivouac for my squads, I could have barred Parliament and established an exclusively Fascist government. I could have done so, but I chose not to, at least for the present.1 The speech delivered on this occasion ought to have been a presentation of the new government and its platform to the government. The choice to emphasise the March on Rome and to describe it as a ‘revolutionary’ event enabled the newly appointed head of the government to legitimise his role and to allow himself considerable liberties with regard to legality and Parliament. It is significant, therefore, that in defining his relationship with Parliament, and especially with the Chamber of Deputies he was addressing, Mussolini linked the March on Rome – which he never mentioned in such terms but rather described as a ‘revolution’ – to the lack (and threat) of violence and his own power towards the Chamber itself. This was how the new Prime Minister affirmed his power, making it clear that the duration and very existence of Parliament, as well as the relation with other government forces, depended on his will alone. Moreover, he reaffirmed the importance of his private army, the combat squads, as a means to solve the institutional crisis and stressed that the Blackshirts were solely under his command.

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Paper battles As we have seen, in the two or three days between late October and early November most non-Fascist newspapers had been suspended or requisitioned. By the early days of November, they resumed publication. The March on Rome and the degree of violence applied on this occasion caused quite a few concerns among political activists and more politically committed journalists and intellectuals, as well as among all those people who – for professional or private reasons – were associated with them. The question emerged as to whether, given these premises, the new government would protect the freedom of the press and, if so, in what way. Immediately after Mussolini’s appointment, Salvatore Barzilai, the president of the National Press Federation, sent him a telegram, asking him to restore the freedom of the press. Barzilai stated: ‘The most serious incident of the past few days is no doubt the violence exercised against the freedom of the press.’2 Mussolini replied some days later, clarifying his position with respect to this right: Now that the exceptional conditions have passed, I intend to protect the freedom of the press, provided that the press be worthy of freedom. Freedom is not just a right, but also a duty.3 Criticism of Mussolini’s reply was also put forward by people who would later support his government. For the first time after the March, on 4 November, in an editorial entitled More Violence against Freedom of the Press, the Corriere della Sera, a newspaper close to the Popolari, voiced its concerns over Mussolini’s statements: We now ask the Government whether this systematic use of violence against the press is to continue. When the Hon. Mussolini claims that he wishes to protect the freedom of the press “provided it be worthy of freedom”, he gives the impression he wishes to conceal a dictatorial conception behind a good turn of phrase.4 While Mussolini’s reply to Barzilai worried all those who believed in the importance of freedom of the press, the Fascists were of a very different opinion. In the early days of November, a strong call to censorship, to the seizing of newspapers and their control was voiced by the Popolo d’Italia. This attack was justified by the accusation directed against anti-Fascist or non-Fascist newspapers that they were spreading false or unverified information for the sole purpose of creating a sense of danger among the readers. On 12 November 1922, the Fascist Giuseppe Bottai made an open call for censorship of the press on account of newspapers’ lack of ‘real political and national responsibleness’: We believe that the Government would do well to impose that limit which the press does not freely impose upon itself. Censorship is welcome, as long as nothing interferes with this wonderful rebirth of ours!5

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Given their dominant position, it was easier for Fascist and pro-Fascist newspapers to voice their own ideas, requests, and take on things. Instead of the call for normalisation almost universally expressed elsewhere, these newspapers reflect a desire to emphasise the importance of the March as a watershed. We find no attempt to conceal the harm inflicted on State legality; indeed, this was emphasised as something perfectly legitimate. The Idea Nazionale, for instance, addressed all those who felt that the new government had infringed the Constitution by recalling that a custom that replaces a written law can only be considered legal as long as it does not go against the country’s interest.6 As we have seen, a similar yet even more extreme stance was adopted by Il Mattino, which staunchly affirmed the lawfulness of the Fascists’ unlawful actions. Equally interesting are the views voiced, on 31 October 1922, by the newspaper of the union of the army and navy, Esercito Italiano, which published an article entitled Our Revolution.7 These military men, who found in this newspaper ‘the only political platform for the Italian army’, voiced their appreciation of the March on Rome, which they did not hesitate to consider a revolution, even though they realised that external observers were bound to raise an eyebrow at the way in which the events had unfolded.8 Under the pen name Timone, the author of the article argued that the presence of a government coalition did not ‘[lessen] the Fascist character of the new government’. Fascism thus seemed to have found a way to carry out a revolution without overthrowing the order of the State or causing great turmoil; yet, precisely for this reason, the revolution required some explanation and could only really become such through the way in which it was presented: Its true ‘revolutionary’ essence lies in this: the fact that Italy today has made a clear break with the almost thirty-year-long impotence and ineptitude of the Government and, relying on new forces, is seeking to attain the place it deserves. Besides, for Italy’s own good let us hope that, in all its great crises, its revolutions may resemble this one, which has taken place and ended with the praising of the King and the House of Savoy; which, even though it may have resorted to unlawful means, has always only sought to reestablish the authority and power of State laws; and which, by way of conclusion, is offering us such a revolutionary government that it is recruiting as its collaborators, first and foremost, two leaders of our great Victory: General Diaz and Admiral Thaon de Revel.9 Over the following days, the reflection on the March in the pages of this newspaper was further developed and acquired explicitly political overtones, which were partly disguised as the authors distanced themselves from political choices, in accordance with the principle that the army must remain ‘outside

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and above’ politics – to quote the title of an article published on 7 November 1922. The author of the article published in Esercito Italiano argued that the March on Rome provided food for thought concerning the relation between the army and the political authorities. He reconstructed the events of 28 October by noting the loyalty displayed by the army following Facta’s proclamation of the state of siege. In the author’s own words, ‘the Crown’s enlightened and bold decision’ had saved the country from civil war and brought back into the sphere of legality demonstrations that could have degenerated into open revolution, but which instead led to a mighty awakening of patriotic sentiments.10 For all its professed lack of involvement in politics, the newspaper also betrayed its political stance by spreading an anecdote that the Duce himself was to repeatedly refer to in the twenty years of his rule.11 According to this anecdote, although Mussolini had welcomed the presence of army representatives at the parade of the squads on 31 October, on the following day he had refused to grant some officers permission to hold a demonstration in support of the Fascists.12 Within the broader scenario of the press, if we turn to consider the newspapers aligned with the opposition or at any rate those that were not entirely Fascist or pro-Fascist, what we find are a wide range of different stances. Among the liberal newspapers, the Corriere della Sera and La Stampa did not hesitate to discuss the serious curtailment of the press imposed by the events of the previous days, and offered an uncompromising view of what had happened.13 Still, the positions voiced by these two newspapers remained ambiguous. Determined to play for time, in the hope that the new government might lead to the normalisation of the country, within a short time the two newspapers nonetheless managed to earn a reputation as the greatest and most dangerous opponents of Fascism. The temporising position they adopted is worth examining more closely: while on the one hand the two newspapers denounced the practice of violence as a limitation of freedom of expression – as well as of the press – on the other, they serenely accepted the appointment of the new government and the presence within it of notable politicians, as though Fascist violence and Mussolini’s government could be regarded as two completely different things. Besides, the liberal ruling class displayed considerable ambiguity with regard to the events taking place in that period.14 One revealing example of the different stances adopted by liberals is offered by the Neapolitan group that emerged around the liberal philosopher Benedetto Croce. As already noted, Naples hosted the Fascist congress a few days before the March. Together with MP Spirito, Benedetto Croce attended the inauguration of the Fascist congress at the San Carlo theatre, enthusiastically applauding Mussolini’s declarations.15 In the days of the March on Rome, the atmosphere was

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quite calm in the city. However, on Sunday 28 October 1922, a fierce discussion took place in Croce’s drawing room, when a quarrel broke out between Croce and Giustino Fortunato, who was worried that none of his friends had paused to consider the threat posed by the events then unfolding. No reference to this is made – if not between the lines – in Croce’s letters, where the March is almost completely overlooked and the only event that is given any attention is the appointment of Croce’s friend and colleague Giovanni Gentile as Minister of Education. A few days before Gentile’s appointment, Croce wrote a congratulatory letter to his friend: I realise how many difficulties there are; but now my soul is open to hope, which in cases such as this is not only a sweet feeling but a duty.16 By contrast, Giustino Fortunato, a historian and liberal politician who had animated the conversation on 28 October 1922, was very concerned and wrote to his more distant friends. On 6 November 1922, he addressed Antonio Cefaly: Make no mistake: here everyone is ‘delirious’ with joy and “applauds’ all that has happened and is happening. As on many other occasions in my life, I am alone in thinking – and complaining – in opposition to the almost complete consensus! What about you, my dear Antonio?17 Along much the same lines, the following day he wrote to Giuseppe Isnardi, another intellectual belonging to the same group: Dear friend, How often have I thought of you in these sad and gloomy days! I am literally the only one – in the whole of Naples, I might say – not to go against the unimaginable farce that has taken place but to deplore the fact that we have sunk so low that we must explain, if not justify, it. What meanness, what wretchedness, what obscenity! Is this the fruit of the ‘new Italy’?18 Fortunato explained in greater detail the reason for his solitude to the jurist and political scientist Gaetano Mosca, to whom he wrote in order to sound – before the publication of an article on this matter – his opinion on Fascism. With evident regret, Fortunato focused on the fact that the ‘new blood’ of Fascism was also represented by southerners like Michele Bianchi and Nicola Sansanelli. In particular, he deplored the fact that two fellow intellectuals of his like Benedetto Croce and Francesco Torraca were enthusiastically applauding Mussolini. Fortunato ended his letter with a remark expressing his dejection: ‘And I feel like I’m dreaming.’19 With the appointment of a new government, a feeling of tranquillity, or at any rate of hope for a less subversive solution to the crisis, was felt throughout

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the liberal spectrum, including a section of the Popolari.20 The broad coalition seemed to provide a safeguard against the worst dangers, as did the presence of well-reputed figures in the ministries. In particular, for many liberals, including ones who had been concerned by the events surrounding the March on Rome, Gentile’s appointment as Minister constituted a sufficient guarantee with regard to the new government. Evidence of this is to be found not just in the letters which Gentile’s brother addressed to him, but also in the new Minister’s correspondence with Fortunato Pintor, who wrote: The news has reached me in this isolated village in Sardinia. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. Not because I didn’t believe you were worthy of this honour, and prepared and destined for the loftiest appointments; but because the news of the distressing past days has reached us in such a small trickle here that I haven’t been able to follow the events as they unfolded. Therefore, the solution took me by surprise. Now, in your name, the spirit brightens up. A head of State that proves capable of assigning men to their rightful place and a government which can rely on such vigorous blood, can do good, provided the country returns to order. And should this government encounter too many difficulties, or waver in its task, then your name and presence will offer a guarantee. This comforting sense of security you thus offer he who is hesitant.21 On the liberal front, even when the view of the events was marked by ill feelings, the most common position was still the temporising one. In commenting on the repeated ransacking of the house of the former Prime Minister and on his own transfer, ordered by the government for political reasons, the Prefect of Potenza wrote to Nitti: ‘we must let this flurry pass’.22 Nitti himself, in a letter to Amendola dated 28 October, wrote: The sadness that fills you, and which your letter conveys, also fills me … The Minister’s resignation heralds a darker hour. What shall I do? I am an onlooker now. If any hearing with the Crown takes place, it is unlikely that I will be there. To what avail? It is necessary for Italy to complete its painful course.23 The situation was quite different with the Socialist and Communist opposition, which only resumed the publication of its newspapers quite late (chiefly because of the serious damage caused to printing works by Fascist gangs), and sought to bear public witness to the extent of the Fascist violence in the days of the March.24 Nevertheless, this did not translate into a uniformity of opinions. Significant divergences marked not just the interpretation of the events but also the strategies adopted for responding to them. As we have seen, a few exceptions aside, the Socialists did not display any kind of political reaction to the Fascist March. The Communists instead attempted to

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offer an official reaction by inviting their followers to hold a general strike following the proclamation of the state of siege.25 The Communist declaration proved ineffective, but in the wake of Mussolini’s appointment as head of the government it gave rise to a polemic between reformist Socialists and Communists. Battaglie sindacali, the periodical of the Confederazione Generale del Lavoro (CGdL, which took a very ambiguous stance in the immediate aftermath of the March), attacked the Communists: The workers’ forces have remained aloof from the two disputing factions. Their support of one party would have compromised the independence of the labour movement and hindered the process of resolving an increasingly unbearable situation … Only foolish Communist braggarts could come up with the idea of involving the proletarian forces in a conflict that did not directly concern them.26 Besides, on 31 October, the Turin newspaper La Stampa published the agenda of the CGdL, which went in the same direction: As political pressure is growing and two forces foreign to the labour unions are vying for State power, the CGdL feels the need to warn workers of the profiteering of parties and political organisations seeking to involve the proletarian in a dispute from which it must absolutely keep away, in order not to compromise its independence.27 On the Socialist front too, however, quite a few divergences were to be found in the interpretation of the March. In the issue of Giustizia on 10 November 1922, an editorial by Rinaldo Rigola, entitled Il diritto di vivere (The Right to Live), offered a strong interpretation of the March, which did not downplay its unprecedented character and importance but emphasised the neutrality of the working masses. At the same time, the author acknowledged that the event made it necessary to radically redefine the Socialist reformers’ attitude towards the authorities: That of the Fascists has been a genuine revolution in its method, even though the small coup d’état contributed to ensuring its success. Italians today are faced with a completely new situation, which seemed like an unlikely prospect only a few days before the event; and this new situation will force avant-garde parties to redraw their plans and change their attitudes. As regards the organised masses, it was already noted that they remained neutral with respect to a conflict that did not directly concern them … Up until now we have believed (or have done our best to believe) in the democratic principle of a peaceful seizure of political power: if the proletariat constitutes the majority, the proletariat armed with political rights

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The March after the March is a potential government. Its rise is merely a question of time. Who would swear by this theory today, after what has happened? … Fascism must ultimately be credited with having taught us that there are far swifter means to attain the national government than those used so far by all those foolish enough to believe in formal laws.28

A few days later, in the first issue of Avanti! issued after the ransacking of its newsrooms and printing works, Pietro Nenni wrote: The events of the last two weeks have not overly surprised the country and working class: indifference? No. But everyone already regarded the rise of Fascism to power to be so inevitable and imminent that they were hardly very interested in – or stirred by – the way in which this event occurred. Some have spoken of a Fascist revolution. This is a pompous and bombastic motto. The actual facts are more modest perhaps … By 27 October, when the Fascist mobilisation began, the legal and constitutional State had long ceased to exist.29 It is interesting to note that while both interpretations of the events sought to justify the Socialist failure to take a stance vis-à-vis the March on Rome, they interpreted the latter in completely opposite terms. On the one hand, Rigola regarded the March on Rome as a watershed and a somehow revolutionary event which ought to teach the Socialists a lesson, insofar as it showed how the seizing of power could be accomplished even without respecting formal laws. This statement is a particularly interesting one considering that Rigola was an exponent of reformist Socialism and a leader of the CGdL who played out his role in the political arena within these two organisations. On the other hand, Pietro Nenni completely downplayed the break brought about by the Fascists, based on the assumption that there was no longer a State at the time of their mobilisation and that the Fascists’ actions, therefore, had not been all that significant. While the contrasts between the various parties sprung from the original Italian Socialist Party prevented the establishment of a compact opposition, an even stronger weakening of their positions was caused by the ambiguity of a section of the reformist wing, in particular the leaders of the CGdL. In the days immediately following the creation of the new government, the proposal to assign a ministry to the leader of the CGdL Gino Baldesi (who had not turned down the offer) was widely debated but ultimately dropped because of a veto from the right wing of the government coalition. However, even the secretary general of the CGdL, Ludovico D’Aragona, delivered some conciliatory statements with regard to the new government, in an attempt to spare the trade union from the bitter political strife that was underway. While this attempt at conciliation was intended to reaffirm the independence of the trade union from the party, it also revealed some political developments in the ranks of the reformist Socialists which have not adequately been examined by historians.

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A ‘typically Italian revolution’: diplomacy and the March on Rome Throughout Italy people struggled to make sense of what was going on and to come up with a clear interpretation of the events. The feeling of bewilderment was even stronger abroad, both among the Italian diplomatic staff, which received constant requests for information and clarification on the part of the foreign press and ministers of foreign affairs, and among foreign diplomats in Italy. The country’s political instability was far from being a recent development, notwithstanding the fact that the situation in Italy was still much better than that in other southern European countries from an institutional perspective. For the past year at least, the overseas public and foreign governments had been informed, if only on the basis of impressions, of the developments taking place in Italian politics, as well as of the existence and actions of the Fascist movement.30 The early hours of 28 October caused quite a commotion in all the Italian embassies abroad, with constant and pressing requests for information from the outgoing Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carlo Schanzer. Requests for clarifications came from Paris, Berlin and Washington, but also from Zadar, Constantinople and Belgrade.31 The tone of these letters varied significantly from embassy to embassy. In some cases, the telegram from the Minister was timely enough to provide some information, however vague. In the night between 27 and 28 October, Schanzer sent a telegram to various embassies that stated (revealing, between the lines, the decision to proclaim a state of siege): In some areas of central Italy the Fascists have taken concerted action to impel the formation of a new government. The Minister, while about to resign, has acted resolutely to restore order. In the capital and in almost all the main centres order has been maintained.32 Over the course of the following day, however, the most amazing rumours started spreading throughout Europe and even beyond. In Washington it was even said that the King of Italy had been killed by the Fascists. Schanzer himself immediately made sure this rumour was scotched by sending a telegram to all Italian embassies, fearing that it might be circulated throughout the world by the press.33 The events in Italy proved particularly worrying abroad because it was feared that the Fascists would resort to power politics and shatter the Versailles balance. Fear of this was particularly strong in France, where – as Ambassador Sforza noted – the people most worried about the possible rise of a new government were in fact those who had the greatest political and cultural affinities with Fascism. Some tension was also felt in Yugoslavia, where the news of the turmoil in Italy – which had even been discussed by the council of ministries – fuelled a concern that the political balance in the area might change. This fear was not only caused by the position which up until then the Fascists had adopted with regard to the eastern border of Italy, but also by the rallying of

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local Fascists along these borders, which seemed to confirm the doubts of the Yugoslav Minister of Foreign Affairs.34 Meanwhile, a few days before the March on Rome, the press officer of the British embassy in Rome addressed a letter to his chief, offering a critical analysis of the press reports of the past fifteen days. In an attempt to provide an overall interpretation, he acknowledged that it was not easy to ‘take a step back’ and furnish an adequate summary of the most recent events.35 The British embassy did not refrain from formulating some fleeting anthropological remarks on the nature of the Italians, reflecting established stereotypes. Opinions of this sort are quite frequent in the documents issued by the British Foreign Office in those years, but in this case they also echoed the Resto del Carlino’s verdict that ‘nothing irreparable ever happens in Italy’. The press officer of the British embassy confirmed that ‘in Italy movements have a way of terminating short of what might be held to be their logical conclusions’, given that: Italians have a habit of careering to the edge of a precipice and pulling up short in spite of momentum and pressure. We were certainly near the edge on the morning of the 28th. The same report attempted to sum up the mood of the population in the days after Mussolini’s rise to power. It did not take into account ‘the enthusiasts who already see an Italy purged and powerful by the mere fact of Mussolini’s arrival with his program of regeneration’, but argued that ‘the opinion of serious people who are not Fascisti is generally favourable’. However, one should not forget that the embassy’s informers – most notably, MP Gelasio Caetani, who had just been appointed ambassador to Washington, and Giuseppe Prezzolini36 – were for the most part nationalists or Fascist sympathisers. Hence, it is hardly surprising that the picture of the new government they painted for the British Foreign Office was, by and large, a positive one. Given these circumstances and considerations, the events in Italy were judged in completely favourable terms: Summing up the general feeling at the moment, it may be said to be one of relief. There is relief that the parliamentary intrigues and wirepullers are ‘dawned’, for the time being at least, and that Italy has a government which is bent upon governing. There is relief too that vague dangers which were threatened by Fascismo and its unconstitutional methods are no longer hanging over the country. The fascista coup has taken place, and the skies have not fallen. On the contrary, they seem to have risen and cleared. Mussolini and his closest lieutenants seem determined to show their aim of restoring authority to the State in process of accomplishment, they mean to abandon violence and restore freedom, though no licence. He has promised protection for everyone, Socialists included, who keep within the law. Over 100 fascisti who have been guilty of outrages are already in prison, and there are more to follow. The reins of

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administration are being tightened up, and it was an excellent move to appoint General De Bono as director of public security. It is thought that he will stand no nonsense from anybody and the Fascisti know that he is not to be trifled with.37 The news that reached the British embassy from the Vatican was much the same, even though, in this case, the emphasis was on the break marked by the March on Rome. The local ambassador reported a conversation he had had with Monsignor Borgongini Duca, who regarded the events as a ‘revolution’ and ‘usurpation of the State’s authority’ but nonetheless deemed the government to be a good one, concluding: The ‘revolution’ was typically Italian, a piatto di spaghetti, and the manner in which the change was effected need inspire no great misgivngs merely because it was entirely unconstitutional. He did not anticipate trouble, not even over Dalmatia!38 With regard to the actual March, the British embassy adopted an uncertain position, yet one rather favourable to Fascism. On the night of 28 October, Ronald Graham informed the Foreign Office that he was not alarmed and believed that pacification was well under way. But he also observed that, if the Fascist forces were to reject a constitutional solution, no more than 20% of the army would fraternise with them.39 The following night, Graham informed the Foreign Office that the Fascists appeared to be in complete control of the situation: There are believed to be 60,000 concentrated not far north of Rome and they have announced intention of marching on the capital whatever happens in order to install Mussolini as premier or to acclaim him if already installed. So far they are behaving with restraint and discipline.40 At the same time, the ambassador – much like the nationalists and Fascists – took a stance against the state of siege, noting that it would spread panic among the population and that a show of military strength, following such a drastic measure, would never prove successful, as it was clear at that stage that the soldiers would refuse to fight the Fascists. A few hours later, the same ambassador reported that he was under the impression that the government had surrendered to the Fascists and nationalists, seeing that in Rome the soldiers were returning to their barracks and that the Fascist and nationalist forces had taken control.41 For the most part, despite a few moments of bewilderment in the early hours of the crisis, the British press had not taken a very different stance from that of the hopeful expectation adopted by the British embassy and government. For months, it had been viewing Fascism as a reaction to the Bolshevism that was sweeping through Italy and as a defence of the bourgeoisie

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from the attacks launched against it.42 The doubts that The Times had expressed – often in harsh and unrestrained terms – with regard to the nature and aims of the Fascist movement before the crisis, no longer seemed to apply after Mussolini’s appointment as head of government, given the change of role experienced by Fascism, now a governmental force rather than a force of the opposition.43 What conflicted with this picture of essential tranquillity, notwithstanding the awareness of the break that had been made, was the impression that the events left on France. Here, on 30 October, just after Mussolini’s appointment, the local British ambassador reported on the concern voiced by the French Prime Minister, Raymond Poincaré, that the subversive way in which the government had been created might serve as a model for similar movements in other countries, including France and Britain. As we have seen, for Poincaré the greatest cause of concern was the prospect of a new foreign policy on the part of Mussolini’s Italy, an aggressive policy that would destabilise the world order imposed at Versailles.44 The feeling that a break had been made must have been stronger in France also because, even though Ambassador Sforza described the situation as being perfectly under control, the announcement of his resignation in the aftermath of Mussolini’s rise to power made quite an impression on government leaders.45 At the same time, France preserved feelings of strong affinity with the Fascist movement – which had always been interventionist and pro-Entente – and with Mussolini, whose newspaper had originally been funded by France. The French ambassador to Italy thus reassured his government with respect to Fascist aggressiveness in foreign affairs, arguing that Mussolini sought to tone down aspirations in this direction.46 The ambassador, who had produced a faithful and almost step-by-step report on events surrounding the March on Rome, adopted a dismissive attitude. He described the March as a ‘show of strength designed to support the Fascists’ claim to some ministries’, while he regarded the state of siege measures applied in the capital as ridiculous and exaggerated – a view akin to that of the British embassy (and in particular of the nationalists).47 It was only following Mussolini’s rise to power that the Fascist movement came to be described as an insurrection, which was justified in the following terms: The Fascist insurrection is therefore what our forefathers would have termed a counter-revolution: the violent reaction of a vigorous party, militarily organised and disciplined, which was largely supported by the younger generations and which threw down the gauntlet to trade-union tyranny, Bolshevik infection, Nitti’s abject regime, the routine of the Italian parliament, the Byzantinism and decrepitude of the old parities, and the weakness and impotence of the State.48 All in all, leaving foreign policy aside, which is what most crucially influenced the French position, comments in the press varied significantly depending on political orientation. However, it is possible to identify some underlying

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tendencies: some gave their unconditional support to the Fascists; others, while supporting them, did not aspire to reproduce Fascism in France; others still did not support them, believing that a tendency of this sort would emerge; and, finally, there were those who staunchly opposed the Fascists.49 The last group included the Communist newspaper L’Humanité, which in its report from Italy on 31 October 1922 described the position of the French press as follows: The position taken by our bourgeois press with respect to the present events is very typical … Deep down, all our ‘friends of order’ secretly sympathise with the Fascists, who have defended the Italian bourgeoisie against ‘Bolshevism’. This may be read between the lines of the articles in Tempo, as this old newspaper does not dare openly take side – like Libertà – with the Fascists, whose actions are a constant breaching of legality … But what prevents them from making a declaration of love to the Fascists is their foreign policy.50 Contrary to the views on Italy voiced in the immediate aftermath of the War by Woodrow Wilson, in the year and a half leading up to the March on Rome the US Secretary of State and the American embassy had basked in the idea that the greatest threats in Europe, and especially in Italy, were Bolshevism and the Bolshevik revolution. What had also contributed to shaping a favourable picture of the March on Rome was the consideration that Italians ‘hunger for strong leadership and enjoy … being dramatically governed’,51 along with Mussolini’s regard for the Americans. Before the March, the latter had even gone so far as to request a meeting with the US ambassador in order to enquire as to what the American reaction might be in the event of a Fascist rise to power. The reaction of the US embassy to the events in Rome was a highly favourable one, by contrast to the greater cautiousness adopted by their British and French colleagues. The US ambassador in Rome, appointed by the Republican government, expressed his view to his father the day after Mussolini’s rise to power: We are having a fine young revolution … No danger, plenty of enthusiasm and color. We all enjoy it.52 Mussolini’s violent and unconstitutional actions, just like the progressive uprooting of the liberal State, were thus justified by the US embassy and government as something necessary to ensure greater stability in Italy (which would enable an increase in American investments in the country, as indeed happened in the aftermath of Mussolini’s rise to power) and to deliver a final blow against the Socialists.53 The leading American periodicals also highlighted the positive aspects of the new government, and of the March – the New York Times and Washington Post being particularly notable for their pro-Fascist stance. This contributed to marginalising the critical or anti-

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Fascist positions expressed not just within the government but also by most of the public opinion.54 Meanwhile, an essential legitimation of the new regime by all States had been expressed in the replies to the telegrams that Mussolini had sent all foreign ministers after coming to power.

The ‘bivouac speech’ and the parliamentary debate On 16 November the new government appeared before the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Mussolini opened the session in the Chamber with his ‘bivouac speech’. From a technical point of view, the March on Rome might have played a completely marginal role at this stage of the parliamentary debate, given that the sovereign himself had invested Mussolini with power and that, from a procedural point of view, the assignment of this office had taken place quite regularly. However, for the new Prime Minister, compliance with this legal procedure would have implied an acknowledgement that his government had the same power as any other, and that this power could be limited by law.55 The development of a discourse on the March on Rome as a source of legitimacy for Mussolini’s personal political power and the defining of this event as a ‘revolutionary’ one instead bestowed a different kind of legitimacy on the future Duce, granting him extensive freedom with regard to legality and Parliament. Mussolini, moreover, stressed that he was not making a complete break with the country’s political traditions: he argued that it was not the first time ‘the Italian people, or the best part of it’ had overthrown a ministry, giving itself ‘a government outside, above and against all parliamentary designations’.56 A similar break had already occurred with the choice of intervention in 1915. The reference to this historical precedent allowed Mussolini to justify the break made with the March on Rome, without downplaying its significance, yet at the same time preserving an idea of continuity between interventionism and Fascism. Recalling this event was another way of putting pressure on the deputies, since the institutional break had not occurred without the Chamber retrospectively justifying the decision. Through this parallel, Mussolini showed his confidence that the Chamber would also sanction those events that had overstepped the mark. The ‘revolution’, therefore, constituted the foundation of the legitimacy which Mussolini assigned to his government. He could claim: ‘I am here to defend and enforce in the highest degree the Blackshirts’ revolution, and to inject it into the history of the nation as a force for development, progress, and equilibrium’. However, he acknowledged the King as another cornerstone of his power – and as one of the elements confirming the institutional continuity of his government. The homage that Mussolini paid to the sovereign was justified not by his institutional role but rather by the King’s pro-Fascist action. The new Prime Minister claimed that: if I pay a warm tribute to our Sovereign, who, by refusing to permit the useless reactionary attempts made at the eleventh hour to proclaim martial law, has avoided civil war and allowed the fresh and ardent Fascist

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current, newly arisen out of the war and exalted by victory, to pour itself into the sluggish main stream of the State. Without the ‘bivouac speech’, official Italy might perhaps have forgotten, or at any rate feigned to ignore, the March on Rome: it was Mussolini’s own words that highlighted the marked institutional break made in the institutional and political history of Italy, and thereby defined a transition to a new era in Italian political history. The fact that neither Parliament nor the King ever challenged this discourse only confirmed that Mussolini’s speech, far from amounting to empty words, actually foreshadowed a reality that was likely to endure for quite some time – as was indeed to prove the case. However, if we were to set out from this speech in order to reconstruct the March on Rome as a historical event, we could only infer three elements: its definition as a ‘revolution’ – an imprecise one, as has repeatedly been shown;57 the nature and number of the participants – ‘300,000 youths armed to the teeth’ – a figure which does not actually match that of the Fascists who made their way through the capital on 31 October; and the failed acts of violence – ‘I could have transformed this drab, silent hall’ – which so far have not been made the focus of detailed historical scrutiny, and which highlight one fact, while obscuring many others. Rather than providing an interpretation of the events, then, Mussolini’s speech marked the beginning of the invasive use of the discourse on the March on Rome as a means to legitimise Fascist power, reflecting a transformation in the relations between Parliament and government. Through the threat of violence, Mussolini’s speech concealed the acts of violence actually perpetrated in the days of the March on Rome, while continuing to use them as a means of intimidation. The new Prime Minister downplayed their significance, foreshadowing the possibility of a far worse turn for Parliament and its ruling class, if only the Fascists deemed this expedient.58 Mussolini’s speech, moreover, suggested to the squadristi that the path of violence remained open, should it be necessary for them to follow it in order to reinforce their power. Mussolini thus presented himself to Parliament using threatening words, while telling the senators: ‘the first part of the statements I have recently read out to the Chamber of Deputies do not concern the Senate in the least’.59 He justified his choice as follows: ‘I must not use in front of the Senate the necessarily harsh language that I have had to employ before the honourable deputies.’ The interpretation of the March on Rome provided by different political spokesmen, therefore, is not a decisive element for defining the event, but it was nonetheless crucial if we are to understand how the Italian ruling class reacted to it. The first two speeches before the Chamber concern the fundamental points in the new government’s agenda: first of all, the vote of confidence and the approval of the new platform, but also the request that the government be granted full powers to reform the public administration and solve the country’s financial problems.60 In the Chamber as much as in the Senate, those who agreed to give a vote of confidence to Mussolini held widely different

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views and opinions with regard to the March on Rome and the Prime Minister’s speech. As Didier Musiedlak has noted, a relevant element in the debate that followed Mussolini’s address was the fact that ‘no liberal leader had the courage to defend the rights of Parliament’, even though – as we shall see – not all of those who gave the new government a vote of confidence spoke words of praise.61 Was there any expectation and hope that the Speaker might choose to resign, thereby confirming the violation that had taken place of a constitutional organ such as Parliament? The rumours that reached Salvemini about the reasons for the weak opposition that was being shown do not so much offer an explanation for how the situation evolved, but would rather appear to confirm that Parliament was incapable of leading the country.62 One element has not been taken into account so far: individual courage, as well as the fear of civil war, played a considerable role in the events both before and after the March on Rome. However, there is more to the Chamber and Senate’s failure to react than this. Many deputies, not just Socialists but even liberals, as Golitti himself apparently reported, fully agreed with Mussolini’s speech: it is almost as those the speakers were not MPs themselves. Who made up Parliament, then, if no one regarded himself as really representing it? On 16 November 1922, the very same day as Mussolini’s speech, MP Diego Murgia declared: while I do not approve of the way in which the present Prime Minister has come into power, for the good of Italy it is necessary to wait and see what he will achieve, given the favourable reconciliation of spirits and the settling economic and financial matters.63 With regard to the vote of confidence, MP Giovanni Rosadi ended his address with the words: By this vote of confidence, I declare myself to be favourable to you and your Government, despite the words embellishing your speech, with respect to which I wish to emulate the behaviour of people in a quarrel who stare at one another, asking themselves: Was he talking to me? Was he talking to him?64 Rosadi, however, added words of hope and appreciation to his speech, suggesting that he believed in the prospect of constitutional continuity – ‘when the revolution rests upon the power of the constitution it only has duties’ – that Mussolini’s speech had actually partially undermined.65 The same approach was adopted by Alcide De Gasperi, who in the name of the Popolari believed that – despite Mussolini’s words – the insurrectionist attempt had been constitutionalised by the royal appointment. Nonetheless, despite being a supporter of the new government, De Gasperi delivered one of the addresses most critical of the language and methods of the new Prime Minister and of his party; in the end, however, he granted them confidence. This support

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was justified by invoking the ‘will of the Government to act, and its intention and power to re-establish legality and discipline in the country’:66 the government was expected to pursue ‘the inflexible suppression of all illegality, and the strict safeguarding of constitutional liberties’. De Gasperi criticised Mussolini’s words by arguing that his language can be used to downplay the highest constitutional organ of the Italian State, and because it extends an unjust and summary verdict to men who in their conscience have come to fulfil their duty as the nation’s lawful representatives.67 Despite his support for the new government, the democratic MP Luigi Gasparotto expressed an even more radical view of the methods used in dealing with Parliament: ‘after the speech by the head of the Government this assembly has no reason to continue to exist’.68 Still, Gasparotto confirmed his vote of confidence to the new government. Gasparotto believed that it was necessary to grant the new government confidence in view of the country’s widespread trusting of the Fascists.69 However, he went even further, as in his view the Fascists’ gestures revived ‘the hope of the armed nation, which hearkens back to the brightest days of the Risorgimento’.70 Terzaghi, an exponent of the Fascist parliamentary group, argued that the new government had saved the Constitution, rather than sought to undermine it, and that the parliamentary debate underway marked the beginning of a new political phase.71 He stated that Mussolini was the first head of the government to speak in such harsh terms about the squadristi, and justified the late October actions by declaring that as previously observed in this hall, things had got to a point where either Fascism would overpower the State, or the State would seize the reins of Fascism.72 He further affirmed that the March on Rome had been a revolution and not ‘simply a disorderly movement of urges’.73 In his speech, Terzaghi also attacked the attempt to proclaim a state of siege – which he described as ‘a mad, absurd act’ – even though it had not been accomplished: a state of siege – he declared – would have set the State against Fascism, potentially causing a schism within the army, and thereby making the situation degenerate to the point of civil war. This speech, formulated to reassure the action squads, ultimately called for an amnesty ‘for our friends and our opponents’ – an amnesty that was indeed proclaimed a few week later, but only for the Fascists.74 Terzaghi ended his address by drawing a reverse parallel between Nitti and Mussolini: I remember that a few years ago, in this parliamentary hall, when the hours were more dismal than today and when we did not have a brutally loyal Prime Minister telling the deputies ‘It is up to you to live two days

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The March after the March rather than two years, or vice-versa’, from that bench an appeal was made to workers and farmers which was designed not to restore the nation’s economy but to destroy it; which was not designed to give the Italian people a sense of tranquillity and peace but was intended for the small parliamentary camarilla that made and unmade governments with its usual mentality. From that bench today an appeal was made to all the productive forces of the nation, including those workers and farmers that had once been called to destroy rather than build.75

Among the ambiguous speeches delivered about the new government we find that of the trade union leader Ludovico D’Aragona, who called the government to ensure ‘peace and freedom for the country’. At the same time, D’Aragona distanced the Confederazione Generale del Lavoro from left-wing political parties, and especially the Socialist Party. D’Aragona only criticised the new government for having announced that it would ban the activities of any trade union affiliated with international organisations.76 The addresses delivered by the opposition thus varied significantly. The first address was delivered, just after Mussolini’s speech, by MP Umberto Cao, a spokesman for the Partito Sardo D’Azione.77 In his speech, Cao’s denounced squadrismo and violence as regressive elements in the history of Italy, but also as a sign of further oppression towards the South, given that the human resources channelled into the ranks of the squadristi were mostly from the North. Cao regarded the late October actions as a coup d’état – ‘a distinctly political act in its aims and method’ – and partly blamed them on ‘those leaders (duci)’ who had not attempted to preserve the integrity of the State in any way. The Sardinian MP associated the ‘undermining of the State’ with the stifling of the institution of Parliament, rather than with its functioning.78 Cao further declared: ‘an impudent militia launched itself against Rome not to attack their enemies, who were absent, but to make a show of strength and sometimes exercise violence’.79 He then referred to the breeching of the freedom of the press, as well as to the erosion of civil liberties and lawfulness. According to MP Cao, what had sealed the coup d’état was the preserving of the Fascist Party’s militia ‘in addition to the armed forces of the official State’ and the fact that army men had betrayed their loyalty to the State. For the Socialists and Communists, one of the key points in the debate on the March was the fact that the event had not been a revolution, contrary to Mussolini’s suggestion. This point was discussed the day after Mussolini’s declarations by the reformist leader Filippo Turati, who observed: ‘we do not conceive the revolution in a choreographic sense, as all certain fools do’.80 In his view, revolution meant not a ‘revolt’ but ‘the affirmation of a new and progressive principle’. Through this speech, the Socialist leader also reaffirmed his reformist aspirations: This revolution, which amounts to more than just a “get away from there, that’s my place!” … and which is not a mere replacement of men,

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requires no coup de main; it is either a most gradual process, which is slowly prepared, or it is nothing but deceit.81 The same interpretation was favoured by MP Ettore Conti, who declared that Mussolini had chiefly used this term to ‘keep his 300,000 Blackshirts under control’, thereby confirming the numbers given by the Fascist leader. Conti further added that while the March on Rome could be described as a revolution, it was only a ‘palace revolution’: to be more precise, the rise of Mussolini’s government was to be regarded as ‘a change in governance’.82 Costantino Lazzari too did not hesitate to speak of a revolution. Like Mussolini, he affirmed the ‘rights of the revolution’ and the need to be strong ‘when the hour of revolution strikes in history’. But he then stated that, in the case of the March on Rome, one could not speak of a revolution, but only of ‘a lucky coup de main to replace one group of politicos with a group of young politicos’.83 While in the Socialist and Communist ranks there was general agreement as to the fact that the March on Rome was not a revolution, rather more complex views were expressed in the attempt to define what had happened and especially what scenario now lay open. As we have seen, Costantino Lazzari considered the March little more than a ‘lucky coup de main’, an aspect that Turati himself also stressed, denouncing the tendencies to establish shifting alliances to be found in Mussolini’s enterprise and spelling out the two substantial compromises on which the new government rested. The first compromise was to have accepted different parliamentary groups within the government, instead of having created an exclusively Fascist government. The second compromise was to have left the Chamber in place, provided it gave a vote of confidence to the government.84 Turati, moreover, criticised the fact that the new government had proven inconsistent in its decision to reopen the Chamber and not hold new elections.85 Getting back to the original issue, he then declared that the march was not a coup d’état, given that a coup d’état ‘had already long been staged’: it had begun the day in which the private Fascist army had been granted permission to operate ‘alongside and either in contrast to or in cahoots with the national army’.86 While disapproving of the dictatorship, Turati regarded it as a lesser evil compared to the ‘civil guerilla war’ that had been raging for the past two years.87 A different stance was taken by Conti, who denounced the dictatorship as marking a break with Italian history: ‘Italy was born in freedom, and in freedom must find its salvation.’ Communist MP Pietro Rebezzana instead stated that, despite parliamentary attestations to the contrary, the civil war had not yet ended and that what had occurred was just a temporary stabilisation.88 De Andreis, however, announced to the government that Fascism would meet the same end it had inflicted on the previous regime, the day in which other, more violent and more powerful, men will have greater strength than you and will overpower you, and you will have no right to protest; for no higher idea than brute force has given you power.89

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What also resurfaced in the debate was the issue of anti-parliamentarism, as though to confirm the fact that practically no MP, either within the ranks of the opposition or those of the government, could identify with that Parliament which – in Turati’s words – Mussolini had just ‘addressed with a riding crop in hand’.90 Nunzio Nasi proclaimed the existence of an irreconcilable rift between Parliament and the country, a rift also related to the distance between the executive and the country.91 Nasi nevertheless granted a degree of lawfulness to the March on Rome, given that the sovereign had ratified it: ‘constitutional jurists – he noted – will not struggle to find arguments to justify the events’.92 De Andreis, a Republican, considered it ‘useless to carry on the debate’.93 In the face of the latest developments, within the ranks of the opposition a need was felt to justify the choice to remain in Parliament and not hand in one’s resignation. All this confirmed what Salvemini had noted in his diary with regard to the difficult attempt to bring together a parliamentary opposition to Mussolini’s speech. Turati observed: In corridors and in newspapers talk has been made of necessary resignations – I have heard that these would be treated as an act of high treason. But, if anything, dear colleagues, such resignations ought to emerge from a spontaneous, immediate act of the Assembly, of the whole Assembly. For else, what are they worth?94 The Socialists and Communists continued to repeatedly evoke the perspective of a ‘red sunrise’ in the parliamentary debate.95 It was evident, however, that the constant violence of the last few years made it impossible for MPs, including ones from the opposition, to get a clear-headed view of the acts carried out in the days of the March on Rome. Turati regarded the recent events as ‘bloodless’, but nonetheless argued: You have carried out or, rather, believed you were carrying out a revolution, which you claim to have been a peaceful and bloodless one … this is a credit to your good Christian feelings. But this claim is quite a boast. Because, if it was bloodless, or almost bloodless, the merit is not yours. When everyone flees or proves acquiescent, from the Crown down to the last public security brigadier, victory comes easily but does not deserve the name of victory. Unless you were to argue – but you do not and have indeed denied this yesterday through the Prime Minister’s words – that, had a real resistance been put up, threatening civil war, you would have withdrawn.96 Mussolini joined the debate with a response to the deputies that sounded far more accommodating than his first speech, and was designed to appease the audience and to prevent De Nicola, the President of the Chamber, from handing in his resignation because of a new barrage of insults from the

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Fascists – particularly De Vecchi. The main aim of Mussolini’s speech was to blandish D’Aragona, who already in his opening speech had not shown himself to be utterly opposed to the new government, insofar as he had blamed the March on Rome on Parliament’s incapacity to come to a political agreement with the Fascists. Mussolini was ultimately granted confidence, with 306 votes in favour and 116 against, although abstention levels were high. On the side of the democratic opposition – in particular of the Republicans, Democrats and members of the Partito Sardo D’Azione – many either abstained or gave a vote of confidence, even though their parties had issued declarations against Mussolini’s government.97 With the exception of the Popolari, a more compact vote was given by those parliamentary groups that had decided to grant their confidence to the new government. Still, some notable absences are to be noted among the Fascists: in particular, those of Giuseppe Caradonna, Dario Lupi, Guido Pighetti and Edoardo Torre. In many ways, the debate in the Senate echoed that in the Chamber, but in this case it is somewhat less surprising that the senators felt little concern for the threats that Mussolini had made against the deputies. In fact, the new head of the government had expressed some reassuring words about the Senate, seeking to exploit the rivalry between the two parliamentary branches to earn the senators’ support. However, we cannot fail to note the almost unanimous indifference shown by the senators towards Mussolini’s harsh words and their equally strong consensus with regard to his negative verdict on the Chamber, not so much as an institution but rather as an organism that only functioned by virtue of the men who made it up and of the specific political mechanisms of the 26th legislature. The only words of serious opposition to Mussolini’s speech were voiced by Luigi Albertini, a name already repeatedly mentioned in these pages. He accompanied his speech with a vote of confidence for the new government. Albertini delivered one of the few addresses in the Senate that clearly referred not just to the events of the previous days but also to the break marked by the new government from an institutional perspective: One would have to be an intransigent constitutionalist, an unrepentant liberal, a ‘melancholy zealot of super-constitutionalism’ – as the Prime Minister would put it – to complain that the constitution has been harmed and that a sacred tradition dear to us, and which had accompanied our historical journey since 1848, was interrupted … The essential point is this: any bitter contrast between Parliament and the country must promptly be resolved without compromising the basis of that constitutional foundation that safeguards our rights and liberties, and which constitutes the linchpin of our dearest national traditions. And while I am deeply sorry that no one, no one among the leading MPs from the other branch of Parliament, stood up to speak a word of dignity, I acknowledge that the Chamber has done a great service to the nation by not

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The March after the March immediately yielding to resentment and voting, even against its beliefs, in favour of the measures presented by the Government, thereby avoiding any further harm to the constitution.98

The debate in the Senate continued with other highly interesting addresses, such as Gaetano Mosca’s analysis of the Italian and European scenario. Mosca argued that the great changes taking place in that period were due to a crisis of representative systems that could only be solved in three ways: ‘the so-called dictatorship of the proletariat; a return to a more or less concealed bureaucratic absolutism; and, finally, the syndicalist solution’.99 Mosca attributed to Mussolini the desire to restore the representative system. The issue of whether the political transition made in those days was a constitutional one or not was more closely debated in the Senate than it was in the Chamber of Deputies, given that Albertini’s speech had made it impossible to ignore. Luigi Borsarelli, who supported the new government, considered the Fascist events a revolution which had occurred ‘without any bloodshed … without upheavals … without overthrowing the institutions’; hence, in his view, there was no point in complaining about it.100 A very different opinion was voiced by the future anti-Fascist Giuseppe Tommasi, who after retracing the negotiations that had led to Mussolini’s government, argued that constitutional form had been ‘absolutely respected’.101 Mussolini too responded to Albertini’s harangue with a speech in which he stressed his moderation in dealing with the institutions, despite his power: I do not intend to deviate from the laws. I do not intend to deviate from the constitution or to improvise. The example of other revolutions has shown me that the universe is inexhaustible and that there are some fundamental principles in the life of peoples that must be respected. In the same speech, Mussolini therefore reassured his men while making his position clear to the loyalists. Fascism would not forego its military organisation but would require the Blackshirts to end ‘those small, individual and collective acts of violence which are rather humiliating to everyone, which are often the result of local situations and could with difficulty be associated with the larger problems of the different Italian parties’.102 Thus, after having given its vote of confidence to the Mussolini government, on 24 November 1922 Parliament also voted to assign it full powers to reform the public administration and put the country’s finances back in order. The parliamentary debate was shaped by political interpretations and conflicting views of the new situation in Italy. Francesco Saverio Nitti attempted to unite the constitutional opposition within Parliament by openly voicing his estrangement from the government through the choice to withdraw from the parliamentary hall. However, as he recalls in his memoirs, he was the only MP to make this choice: he was never to return to Parliament after the March on Rome.103 Until the opening of the Chamber there had been some doubts

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that this would ever occur, as well as to the reasons that might lead Mussolini to leave the institutional framework apparently unaltered. The parliamentary debate and subsequent vote of confidence greatly strengthened Mussolini and his government, lending it further legitimacy, and making the whole liberal ruling class guilty of having betrayed the institutions – as the most aggressive squadristi were to stress in the coming years.104 By now, the feeling of having entered into a dictatorship had become quite widespread in various sections of Parliament.105 The ‘bivouac speech’ elicited strong reactions outside Parliament, while within it only Modigliani attempted to defend the institution. The President of the Chamber, the liberal Enrico De Nicola, did not address a single word of reproach to Mussolini for his aggression towards the parliamentary institution, even though in the days after the speech he considered handing in his resignation.106 Albertini’s diary bears witness to the profound disgust he felt for the new Prime Minister’s speech, as does his public conduct – both the address he delivered to the Senate and his choice not to shake the hand of the new head of the government the moment he entered the Senate.107 Particularly revealing of the feeling roused by the speech with which Mussolini introduced the new government are the words that historian Gaetano De Sanctis – one of the few Italian professors who was to refuse to take an oath of allegiance to the Fascist regime in 1932 – addressed to his wife: Dear Emilia, I have just finished today’s letter and I already feel the need to write you another to advise you to show prudence, prudence, prudence, prudence. I read the Chamber’s proceedings for today and my heart sank. I can only imagine how you will feel tomorrow. But we do not show our love of freedom by compromising ourselves with vain drivel. Now it is time to keep silent. The time to speak will come and we must save our energies for it.108 On 17 November 1922, after having spoken to Giovanni Gentile, De Sanctis wrote to his wife again: ‘Nero has spoken. But who still remembers freedom apart from us?’.109 Along much the same lines, in a letter to the conservative liberal Antonio Salandra dated 14 November 1922, Ferdinando Martini wrote: ‘The parody of 18 Brumaire displeased me and I was irritated by the first speech of the Prime Minister … who appeared to be extending his contempt to both the present-day Chamber and the parliamentary institution.’110 He would nonetheless sign the Manifesto degli intellettuali fascisti only a few months later. Similar tones mark the comments that Anna Kuliscioff made to her partner, expressing her concern for possible future acts of the Fascists against the opposition.111 Salandra himself recalled in his memoirs: The Chamber was savagely lashed in the face yet gave no sign of protest or of rebellion. Although the unprecedented language used was not

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The March after the March addressed to me, it broke my heart and brought a flush to my face, yet it was not up to me to protest.112

Likewise, in a page of his diary, Zino Zini wrote: The legislative degree, the full powers, the provisional exercising of them have spelled the agony of the representative system in Italy for the past eight years. Today its death is being officially registered. Parliament had been reduced to a periodical national spectacle. The Fascist revolution delivered the coup de grace. No one has apparently realised this, except for some melancholic fellow enamoured of the constitutional idol.113 The newspaper editorials reflected the political stances of their MPs or parliamentary groups of reference.114 The Popolari and Catholics found themselves in a particularly difficult position since, although a fair share of their parties was against the government, they had to deal with the belief that it was necessary to support it. An especially ambiguous article was published by the Osservatore romano, which commented on The Hon. Mussolini’s speech as follows: The defining feature of the Hon. Mussolini’s statements, inherent to the conception, spirit and very words of his speech, seems to us to lie in the exposition of events that have already taken place and of a programme that is intentionally already underway and which – as a clearly expressed resolve and absolute belief in the possibilities from which it appears to draws inspiration – entails an implicit passing of judgement not just on intentions but on facts. Hence, it seems to lack all reason and practical effectiveness.115 A more explicit comment was made by the newspaper of the Popolari, Corriere d’Italia, which while confirming the Popolari’s willingness to collaborate with the government, declared that Mussolini could have avoided delivering such a speech to Parliament.116 Idea Nazionale instead pointed to the constitutional framework in which the platform laid out by Mussolini – and the way in which it was laid out – was to be read and interpreted. This position expressed by Idea Nazionale was not even shared across the whole Fascist and nationalist political spectrum, even though – for all its contradictions – it found many supporters.117 The nationalist Maurizio Meraviglia, who outlined this view, started by acknowledging that Mussolini’s speech had actually laid the foundations for a new regime. However, he associated this regime with constitutional restoration rather than a revolution: The constitution by which we were living up until recently, the constitution that had overthrown all the laws of life, religion and history, the constitution that had turned one of the sovereign State institutions into the main means to sabotage the State, was nothing but the product of a

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gradual usurpation of power on the part of the Chamber, to the detriment of the other sovereign institutions of the State.118

Army reports The partiality of the army – and in particular of high officials – towards Fascism was an undeniable fact for a number of reasons: for the attitude of many soldiers, officials and army corps commanders in their actions against Fascism and during the days of the March; for the presence of many generals – albeit ones not in service – at the head of the Fascist columns; for the important role assigned to two eminent pro-Fascist generals, Armando Diaz and Paolo Thaon de Revel, in Mussolini’s government.119 This partiality probably amounted not just to ‘formal obedience to the powers that be, but to a substantial support towards Fascism, expressed by the demand to remain neutral during the crisis’.120 The attitude of those who had asked that the army’s sworn loyalty to the sovereign not be put to the test can hardly be regarded as neutral, notwithstanding the fact that these men had confirmed that there would be no breach of such loyalty. Nor can it be argued that this loyalty was respected by those who had endorsed the Fascist acclamations when the government in power had already proclaimed a state of siege, or at any rate when the Fascists were setting out to attack – at a symbolic or concrete level, as we have seen – Prefectures and town halls. Even less neutral was the attitude of those who had not heeded the request to show intransigence towards the Fascists’ actions, or those who had given them some weapons. As we have seen, it was not because they feared a charge of high treason that most high-ranking members of the army were not explicit in their attempt to conceal their support of Fascism. Rather, the likely reason for this is that, given the code of lawfulness and order they obeyed, forms of loyalism were bound to prevail, even when a radical conflict was under way for the transformation of the institutions. Particularly interesting from this point of view are the historical reports of the army compiled late in 1922. Despite the succinct and rigid model they followed, these reports – which every army corps commander was required to write – offer a perspective that sheds light on how an institution such as the army could come to accept an institutional break such as the March on Rome and define its ambiguous role in relation to this event.121 In this case too, as in that of the Prefects, attitudes to the March vary considerably depending on personal experiences, as well as the local context. It is also important to consider the fact that the memoirs that we will be taking into account were written two months after the March on Rome, by which time Mussolini’s government had become solid and uncontested. Divergences in the accounts by the different corps help us interpret the army’s attitude towards this event. In late December a series of measures was taken to restore public order, not least through formal acts such as the re-establishment of those municipal

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administrations that had resigned after 1 November because of the March, the demobilising of the squads, and the order that they surrender their weapons. These measures were also designed to defend and confirm the squadristi’s role, as in the case of the Oviglio amnesty for crimes committed for political purposes but for the nation’s sake, or the orders issued to set up the Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale. The March on Rome, therefore, had not yet been fully institutionalised, as it was to be in the years to come; nor had an official narrative of the events been developed that applied not just to individual political institutions within the State (we have already considered the gap between the narration and legitimation of the events in the representation provided by Mussolini before the two parliamentary institutions) as for State authorities as a whole and the entire population. Some data were clear enough, starting from the fact that the March on Rome – as we have seen – was a means of political legitimation for the government. Hence, it was in no one’s interest to emphasise the conflict between the Fascists and the authorities (less still the army’s), or the defensive approach adopted by the authorities vis-à-vis the Fascists. However, it would have been equally difficult to emphasise the opposite approach, a marked pro-Fascism, since this would have been tantamount to asserting the army commanders’ betrayal of the authorities (a situation immediately resolved by the King’s choice not to sign the proclamation of the state of siege), as well as their infringement of the oath they had sworn at the beginning of their military careers. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that in their historical reports the military authorities for the most part were quite restrained when referring to the late October events (indeed, most of them did not even mention the events at all). Historical reports were regarded as bureaucratic documents that it was necessary to compile but which, at the same time, had only limited importance and were probably of little interest. Among the mass of documents, what stand out in particular are those testimonies that refer to the October events, and in which the data reported are not limited to a pedestrian recording of the transfer of powers into the hands of the military authorities and their later restoration to the civil authorities. One example is provided by the historical report compiled by the Verona army unit, stating: ‘The command took on civil powers from 28 November to 6 December on the occasion of the national Fascist movement.’122 A similar description of the action undertaken in the same period to maintain public order, with no additional comments, is to be found in the historical reports of the Bologna army unit, under the command of General Ugo Sani (who would have had a lot more to tell): ‘the troops of the Unit were deployed to maintain public order in all the turmoil due to the political struggles that led to the national Fasci’s seizing of power’.123 As regards Bologna, it would be difficult not to read the definition provided for the March on Rome – ‘turmoils due to the political struggles that led to the national Fasci’s seizing of power’ (italics my own) – as attesting to an institutional break, due to the

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victory of one political faction over the State authorities. Naturally, no comment of any sort was made on the nature of this break. However, it is significant – and consistent with General Sani’s leadership in the days of the March on Rome – that some members of the army could interpret in such terms the events of late October and early November. A vaguer report, which is nonetheless worth taking into consideration given its not entirely neutral account of the events, is the one submitted by the lieutenant general of the Rome unit, Edoardo Ravazza. In his report, he described the stage encompassing the March as that of the ‘Fascist movement’, emphasising – at first – that the events had led to the ‘fall of the Facta Government and to the subsequent instalment of the Mussolini Government’. Moreover, unlike in the Bologna case, the general stationed in Rome did not avoid mentioning incidents in which the army had been involved, thereby going against one of the unwritten rules that all those who wrote about the March in historical reports would appear to have followed.124 At the same time, some army personnel did not refrain from using the expression ‘Fascist insurrection’ or ‘upheaval’ to describe the events, although this choice would appear to have been made more in compliance with the interpretation of the events favoured by the most radical Fascists than out of any desire to defend the old institutional order.125 The equally ambiguous definition of the events as the ‘(Fascist) march on Rome’ went in much the same direction’.126 More markedly Fascist is the definition of the events as the ‘Fascist Revolution’, which only occurs once in the reports under consideration, but which was later to become a popular expression, even at the official level, in the years of the regime. Besides, out of keeping with the dry rhetoric one expects from these documents, it was stated: During the Fascist Revolution of late October 1922 no incident occurred among the troops or in the barracks. All showed themselves to be aware of the gravity of the moment and services and institutions continued to run their normal course, because the glorious past of the Brigade and the traditional loyalty to the King and Motherland it has displayed on all occasions is the solid foundation of the moral education which superiors of all ranks have imparted to their subordinates, and which, while making it disinterested in politics, constantly revives its spirit, that it may face any ordeal in defence of the laws of the State and of Italy’s honour.127 Therefore, the definitions which struck the compilers of historical reports as most appropriate were ‘Fascist movement’ and ‘Fascist uprising’. These definitions made it possible not to ignore the somewhat disturbing aspect of the events, without having to describe them as an institutional break, and especially without passing any judgement on them through the terms employed – and note the use of the noun ‘movement’ (movimento). Indeed, at times the idea of a break was further downplayed through the use of the adjective ‘national’, without lessening the responsibility for the events expressed by the

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adjective ‘Fascist’. Still, it is interesting to note that in certain cases, as in that of the Prefect of Rome, emphasis was also placed on the presence of the nationalist movement.128 There are also some other interesting data, such as the fact that the compilers of these records sought to present the Fascists’ rise to power and the March on Rome as being less directly related by stressing that the movements had occurred before Mussolini’s appointment, or their tendency to draw a distinction between their own personal opinions and the orders imparted to them.129 The latter element appears particularly noteworthy. In an unprecedented case, the commander of the Avellino Brigade stationed in Bolzano reconstructed the events by emphasising the beginning of insurrectionist movements ‘directed at seizing State power by violent means’ and the enactment of security measures with the transfer of all powers to the commander of the 7th Division in Trento and, for the Bolzano district, to the commander of the Avellino Brigade. What makes this a particularly significant record, however, is the remarks following this account: as the situation was gradually clarified, also through the messages from the Verona unit, which reminded us that the Fascist detachments stationed within the territorial boundaries of each jurisdiction were to be regarded as auxiliaries – should the need arise – the restrictive measures with regard to censorship and the interruption of telegraph and telephone services for civilians were revoked.130 Overall, however, these records display a constant attempt to place the army above all possible criticism, while not mentioning the events at all, or at any rate not in problematic way, and clearing the army of any suspicion of being pro-Fascist – and obviously anti-Fascist. The aim was to affirm the image of a non-political army that was only obeying orders, while also attributing a degree of neutrality to the State by affirming its impartiality with respect to the opposing factions.131 This desire is particularly evident in the historical record submitted by the Arezzo Brigade: On the occasion of the Fascist uprising of 27 October, the Brigade Command did not take part in the event in any way, either to repress it or for any other reason. It simply remained in close contact with the local political authorities, which at the early stages of the uprising, that is before the aims of the movements became clear, was about to hand over all powers to the military authorities.132

The first official representation In challenging the established powers, the Fascists not only addressed the issue of the press from the very beginning but also – and with considerable foresight – the more general one of how to use the event as a means of

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propaganda. They constantly sought a way to control the image of the events, and especially the spread of various interpretations of them, through the circulation of carefully selected photographic and cinematographic evidence. In adopting this strategy, the Fascists showed themselves to be ahead of their times. An impressive number of photos of the March on Rome were collected and used by the regime over the following years, in particularly through the organising of the Mostra per la rivoluzione fascista (Exhibition for the Fascist Revolution), which was inaugurated on the tenth anniversary of the March on Rome. Moreover, the Fascists made use of a film shot during the March and swiftly edited over the following days – an all the more striking operation, considering that cinematography had yet to be really developed in Italy in those years. On 7 November 1922 a documentary on the March on Rome entitled A noi! was screened. Directed by Umberto Paradisi, it immediately came to be regarded as the official footage of the March by the National Fascist Party.134 The documentary was in two halves, the first devoted to the Fascist congress in Naples and the second to the March – which proves how interrelated the two events were for the Fascists.135 This footage brings some new aspects to light compared to those found in the written propaganda, revealing some aspects that the Fascists would probably have rather concealed. As in the press, considerable emphasis was placed on the broad participation in both events – an exclusively male participation (although a few children were also shown) – and on the presence in Naples and Rome alike of men from the whole of Italy. In the images as much as in the considerations put forward by Fascist leaders, the historical roots of the movement were seen to lie in the Fiume movement, as well as in the Risorgimento. These precedents were evoked through various frames showing veterans marching. What also emerged was the need to prove the perfect military structure of the movement in terms both of attire – with an emphasis on large masses of men donning the black shirt and various decorations, headgears and weapons – and organisation. Many images, therefore, were devoted to the Fascist gathering in the Arenaccia field, while other scenes showed militia commanders marshalling their men or Mussolini reviewing the squads. Also frequent were images illustrating the Fascists’ eagerness to swiftly reach the capital, as well as their obedience to their leaders when denied this possibility. As I have remarked above, for the organisers of the March the presence of a well-organised Fascist army was a sign of the legitimacy of the Fascist seizure of the State, as well as of the illegitimacy of a liberal State that was incapable of controlling the emergence and proliferation of factional armies. In line with other sources, ironic criticism was voiced of the ‘mock state of siege’ represented by the presence of law enforcement forces at the gates of Rome and of Friesian horses. The film, like many other Fascist representations of the March, relegated violence to the margins by never showing it at all, if not in its effects: no clash was ever filmed by Umberto Paradisi, who instead placed much emphasis on acts of arson.

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The leading role in the footage was undoubtedly played by the squads. Very limited space was given to the institutional aspect of the Fascist rise to power, even though some images showed the presentation of the new government to the sovereign, with the new ministers leaving the Quirinal, Mussolini and his aides, and the King gazing at the procession from his balcony next to General Thaon de Revel. In the fifty-five minutes of the documentary, only a few personalities emerged – mostly the Quadrumvirs and some generals, in addition to the King and Thaon de Revel.136 One of the main novelties, however, concerns Mussolini’s role. In the picture of the Fascist March reconstructed in these pages, the figure of Mussolini is a rather blurred one, not least because of his actual absence in many key moments. By contrast, the footage tended to emphasise Mussolini’s crucial role as the leader of the movement. The other aspect worth focusing on is the fact that in the film the crowd attending the Naples congress appears to be far larger than the one present at the March on Rome and at the parade before the King and the Altare della Patria. Generally speaking, these images delivered a clear and unambiguous message: they expressed the strength of Fascism and its acknowledgement of the military authorities through its salute to the Unknown Soldier, the King, and the army. All in all, then, it was a reassuring message, in which violence remained a secondary and, once again, concealed element, despite its being clearly implied by the display of an army and of weapons by which the Fascists could attack.

Notes 1 B. Mussolini, Scritti e discorsi. L’inizio della nuova politica (28 ottobre 1922–31 dicembre 1923), Milan, Hoepli, 1934, p. 8. 2 ‘Ancora le violenze contro la libertà di stampa’, Il Corriere d’Italia, 4 November 1922. 3 Il Popolo d’Italia, 2 November 1922 and 5 November 1922. See also ‘La libertà di stampa e la risposta di Mussolini a Barzilai’, Il Corriere della Sera, 2 November 1922; ‘La risposta dell’on. Mussolini al telegramma dell’on. Barzilai’, Il Mondo, 2 November 1922. 4 ‘Ancora violenze contro la libertà di stampa’, Il Corriere d’Italia, 4 November 1922. The suspension of the publication of the newspaper was announced in ‘Per la patria’, Il Corriere d’Italia, 31 October 1922. 5 G. Bottai, ‘A proposito della libertà di stampa’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 12 November 1922. 6 ‘Restaurazione costituzionale e nazionale’, L’Idea Nazionale, 1 November 1922. 7 Timone, ‘La «nostra» rivoluzione’, L’Esercito Italiano, 31 October 1922. On this article see G. Rochat, L’esercito italiano da Vittorio Veneto a Mussolini, (1919– 1925), Bari, Laterza, 1967, p. 407 and Botti, Ilari, Il pensiero militare italiano dal primo al secondo dopoguerra (1919–1943), Rome, Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito, 1985, p. 279. 8 Rochat, L’esercito italiano, p. 399. 9 Timone, ‘La “nostra” rivoluzione’. 10 ‘Al di fuori e al di sopra!’, L’Esercito Italiano, 7 November 1922.

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11 E. Sailer, ‘Le due misure di Mussolini’, L’Esercito Italiano, 17 November 1922. 12 ‘Ottimamente!’, L’Esercito Italiano, 3 November 1922. 13 ‘Una pagina di storia italiana’, Il Corriere della Sera, 1 November 1922. Even though the Corriere staunchly opposed this censorship, the newspaper nonetheless tried to express a less vocal opposition vis-à-vis the new government and the possibility that it might normalise the country: see ‘In attesa’, Il Corriere della Sera, 2 November 1922; ‘Verso la normalità’, Il Corriere della Sera, 10 November 1922. 14 Gentile, Storia del partito fascista, p. 670. 15 L. Russo, ‘Conversazioni con Benedetto Croce’, in Russo, Il dialogo dei popoli, Florence, Il sentiero, 1953, pp. 329–330. 16 B. Croce, Lettere a Giovanni Gentile, ed. by A. Croce, Milan, Mondadori, 1981, pp. 621–622, letter no. 925, 3 November 1922. On the reactions to Gentile’s appointment, see G. Turi, Giovanni Gentile. Una biografia, Florence, Giunti, 1995, pp. 304–311. 17 G. Fortunato, Carteggio 1912–22, Rome-Bari, Laterza, 1979, p. 416. 18 Fortunato, Carteggio, p. 416. 19 Fortunato, Carteggio, pp. 416–417. On this, see also P. Zunino, Interpretazione e memoria del fascismo. Gli anni del regime (1991), Rome-Bari, Laterza, 2000, p. 8, and pp. 67–68. 20 Many Popolari, though, continued to harbour reservations about the government: see e.g. the letter addressed by Giuseppe Meda to Luigi Sturzo on 30 October 1922 in G. De Rosa, Storia del Partito popolare, p. 302. 21 G. Gentile, F. Pintor, Carteggio, Florence, Le Lettere, 1993, pp. 310–311, letter of 3 November 1922. 22 ACS, Archivio Nitti, b. 84, fasc, 132/c ‘Saverio Bonomo’, letter of Saverio Bonomo to Nitti, 11 November 1922. 23 F. Barbagallo, Francesco Saverio Nitti, Turin, UTET, 1984, pp. 458–462. 24 See ‘Continuando la nostra strada’, L’Avanti!, 14 November 1922. 25 Nonetheless the position of the Communists seems quite contradictory: see A. Agosti, Palmiro Togliatti, Turin, UTET, 1996, p. 44; A. Agosti, La terza internazionale. Storia documentaria, Rome, Editori Riuniti, 1974, vol. 1 (1919–1923), t. 2, pp. 615–617 and P. Togliatti, Sul fascismo, ed. by G. Vacca, Rome-Bari, Laterza, 2004. 26 A., ‘Nei nostri confini!’, Battaglie sindacali, 7 November 1922. 27 ‘La confederazione del lavoro contro una manovra comunista’, La Stampa, 31 October 1922. See also Spriano, Storia del partito comunista italiano, I, pp. 232– 233. 28 R. Rigola, ‘Il diritto di vivere’, La Giustizia, 10 November 1922. On Rigola see C. Cartiglia, Rinaldo Rigola e il sindacalismo riformista in Italia, Milan, Feltrinelli, 1976, and S. Merli, ‘Corporativismo fascista e illusioni riformistiche nei primi anni del regime. L’attività dell’A.N.S. Problemi del lavoro nelle carte di Rinaldo Rigola’, Rivista storica del socialismo, 1959. 29 P. Nenni, ‘Una pagina di storia’, L’Avanti!, 14 November 1922. 30 See A. Berselli, L’opinione pubblica inglese e l’avvento del fascismo (1919–1925), Milan, Franco Angeli, 1971. 31 ACS, Carte Schanzer, sc. 14, Sforza (Paris) to Schanzer, 28 October 1922, h. 5.45 pm; Trassati (Berlin) to Schanzer, 28 October 1922, h. 2.20; Garroni (Constantinople) to Schanzer, 28 October 1922, h. 9 pm; Rosso (Washington) to Schanzer, 30 October 1922, h. 8.30; Summonte (Beograd), 30 October 1922, h. 9 pm. See also R. Paris, L’Italia fuori dall’Italia, in Storia d’Italia. IV. Dall’Unità ad oggi, tomo I, Turin, Einaudi, 1975, pp. 664–670. 32 ACS, Carte Schanzer, sc. 14, telegram from Schanzer to all the embassies, no date, no time given.

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33 ACS, Carte Schanzer, sc. 14, Schanzer to all the embassies, 29 October 1922, h. 1.15, and the telegram from Rosso (Washington) to Schanzer, 30 October 1922. 34 Cfr. ACS, Carte Schanzer, sc. 14, telegram from Sforza (Paris) to Schanzer, 30 October 1922, h. 8.30 pm; ibid., Summonte (Belgrade), 30 October 1922, h. 9 pm. 35 PRO, FO 395/373, McClure to Koppel, press review, 10 November 1922, ff. 137– 143 (see this document also for the following quotations). 36 See G. Prezzolini, Diario 1900–41, Milan, Rusconi, 1978, p. 373 (31 October 1922) and Albertini, Epistolario, pp. 1646–1647. 37 PRO, FO 395/373, McClure to Koppel, press review, 10 November 1922, ff. 137– 143. See also PRO, FO 395/373, ff. 146–153, Report by Mr. Harvey on his visit in Milan and Turin to Mr Koppel (to Mr. Scott), 13 December 1922. 38 PRO, FO 371/7660, report of Dormer to the Foreign Office, 31 October 1922, ff. 166–167, see also Ragionieri, Italia giudicata, II, pp. 511–516. 39 PRO, FO 371/7659, Graham to the Foreign Office, 28 October 1922, h. 3.10 pm, ff. 77–78. 40 PRO, FO 371/7659, Graham to the Foreign Office, 29 October 1922, h. 4 am, ff. 84–85. 41 PRO, FO 371/7659, Graham to the Foreign Office, 29 October 1922, 11 am, f. 88. 42 Berselli, L’opinione pubblica inglese, pp. 79–99. 43 E. Fasano Guarini, ‘Il Times di fronte al fascismo (1919–1932)’, Rivista storica del socialismo, nos. 25–26, 1965, esp. pp. 165–169. 44 PRO, FO 371/7659, Hardinge (Paris) to Curzon, 30 October 1922, f. 109. 45 Cfr. ACS, Carte Schanzer, sc. 14, letter of Sforza (Paris) to Schanzer, 28 October 1922, h. 5.45 pm. Frassati resigned too when Mussolini came into power. 46 W.I. Shorrock, From Ally to Enemy. The Enigma of Fascist Italy in French Diplomacy, 1920–1940, The Kent State University Press, 1988, esp. pp. 23–24. 47 R. Schor, ‘La Marche sur Rome et la prise du pouvoir par Mussolini vues par l’ambassade de France’, in E. Decleva, P. Milza (ed.), La Francia e l’Italia negli anni Venti: tra politica e cultura, Milan, Ispi-Spai, Milano 1996, esp. p. 44. 48 Charles-Roux to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, 31 October 1922, in Schor, ‘La Marche sur Rome’, p. 47. 49 J. Mesnil, ‘La bougeoisie à l’abri du fascisme’, Humanité, 31 October 1922. 50 P. Milza, L’Italie fasciste devant l’opinion française 1920–1940, Paris, Armand Colin, 1967, pp. 54–76. 51 Schmitz, The United States and Fascist Italy, p. 52. 52 Ibid., pp. 36–59. The attitudes of the American press toward the March on Rome are now analysed in detail in M. Canali, La scoperta dell’Italia. Il fascismo raccontato dai corrispondenti americani, Venice, Marsilio, 2017, pp. 57–110. 53 R. Quartararo, I rapporti italo-americani durante il fascismo (1922–1941), Napoli, Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, 1991, pp. 19–21. 54 See Mussolini’s telegram to the British Home Office, 1 November 1922 and the one by Lord Curzon to Mussolini in PRO, FO 371/7673. On this see also ‘I telegrammi di Mussolini ai capi di governo alleati’, Il Corriere della Sera, 1 November 1922. 55 Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, Rapports commercials et politiques, Europe 1918–1929, Italie, 13, Télégramme de l’Ambassade de France au Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, 16 novembre 1922. 56 Mussolini, Scritti e discorsi. L’inizio della nuova politica, p. 7 and p. 9. 57 The interpretation and discussion about the March on Rome as a revolution or the negation of this possibility were present in the first parliamentary debates after the March and were to continue from this moment onward. As an example of these debates, see Salvemini, Scritti sul fascismo, Milan, Feltrinelli 1963, pp. 611–612. 58 I started to develop this hypothesis in ‘Dire violenza, fare violenza. Espressione, minaccia, occultamento e pratica della violenza durante la marcia su Roma’,

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61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94

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Memoria e Ricerca, no. 13, 2003, pp. 51–68. On these aspects see also the Introduction to S. Falasca Zamponi, Fascist Spectacle: The Aesthetics of power in Mussolini’s Italy, Berkeley-Los Angeles-London, University of California Press, 1997. Mussolini to the Senate, 16 November 1922, APS, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. IV, p. 3999. On the political uses of this reform see A. Aquarone, L’organizzazione dello Stato totalitario, Turin, Einaudi, 1995 [1965], pp. 1–14. On the full decisionmaking powers, see Volt, ‘Per la pienezza dei poteri’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 22 November 1922; M. Maraviglia, ‘Salus republicae…’, L’Idea Nazionale, 15 November 1922; ‘Pieni poteri’, L’Idea Nazionale, 24 November 1922; ‘L’uso dei pieni poteri’, Il Corriere della Sera, 26 November 1922; ‘Pieni poteri’, Il Corriere della Sera, 1 December 1922. These first parliamentary debates after the March are briefly analysed also in Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power, pp. 99–101. D. Musiedlak, Lo stato fascista e la sua classe politica, 1922–1943, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2003, p. 295. On the lack of any Parliamentary reaction to Mussolini’s speech see also M. Pernot, L’expérience italienne, Paris, Politeia, 1924, p. 234. Salvemini, Memorie e soliloqui, pp. 80–81. APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. IX, 16 November 1922, p. 8.401. Diego Murgia was a member of the Democrazia Liberale group: see I 535 deputati al Parlamento per la XXVI legislatura, Milan, Treves, 1922, p. 533. APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. IX, 16 November 1922, p. 8.405. Ibid., p. 8.404. Ibid., p. 8.444. Ibid., p. 8.443. Ibid., p. 8.452. Ibid., p. 8.453. Ibid., p. 8.454. Ibid., p. 8.405–8.406. Ibid., p. 8.406. Ibid., p. 8.408. Ibid., p. 8.409. See also Aquarone, L’organizzazione dello Stato totalitario, in the note on p. 26. APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. IX, 17 November 1922, p. 8.410. Ibid., pp. 8.460–8.462. APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. IX, 16 November 1922, p. 8.395. Ibid., p. 8.396. Ibid., p. 8.397. Ibid., p. 8.423. Both quotations can be found in APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. IX, 17 November 1922, pp. 8.423–8.424. Ibid., p. 8.436. Ibid., p. 8.446. Ibid., p. 8.422. Ibid., p. 8.427. Both quotations come from: ibid., p. 8.429. Ibid., p. 8.432. Ibid., p. 8.450. Ibid. Ibid., p. 8.421. Lazzari took a similar stance: see ibid., p. 8.445. APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. IX, tornata del 16 November 1922, p. 8.410. Ibid., p. 8.411. Ibid., p. 8.450. APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. IX, 16 November 1922, p. 8.423.

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95 APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. IX, 17 November 1922, pp. 8.435– 8.436. 96 Ibid., p. 8.427. 97 Musiedlak, Lo stato fascista, pp. 295–299. 98 APS, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. IV, pp. 4.213–4.217. 99 Ibid., p. 4.240. 100 Ibid., p. 4.245. 101 Ibid., p. 4.253. 102 Ibid., pp. 4.261–4.264. 103 F.S. Nitti, Scritti politici. Vol. XVI. Articoli e discorsi. Inediti vari, documenti, 1, Bari, Laterza, 1979, p. 128 and Nitti, Scritti politici. Vol. XVI. Articoli e discorsi inediti. Documenti, 2, Bari, Laterza, 1980, p. 466. The biographical context of these choices is clarified by Barbagallo, Nitti, p. 462. 104 See the speech delivered in Parliament on the electoral law by the leader of the squads of Trieste, Francesco Giunta, in the next chapter. 105 See Anna Kuliscioff’s letter to Turati, 15 November 1922, in Turati, Kuliscioff, Carteggio V. 1919–1922. Dopoguerra e fascismo (1953), Turin, Einaudi, 1977, p. 899. The references to post-October 1922 Italy as a dictatorship spread in the anti-Fascist world in those months: see e.g. APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. IV; F. Turati, A. Kuliscioff, Carteggio VI. 1923–1925. Il delitto Matteotti e l’Aventino, Turin, Einaudi, 1977; Salvemini, Memorie e soliloqui, esp. pp. 52–53; Albertini, Epistolario 1911–1926. 106 A comment on this is to be found in Anna Kuliscioff’s letter, 17 November 1922, in Turati, Kuliscioff, Carteggio V, p. 902. Interesting references to the matter are also provided by Albertini, I giorni di un liberale 1907–1923, Bologna, Il Mulino 2000, pp. 401–402. 107 Albertini, I giorni di un liberale, p. 401. 108 S. Accame, Gaetano De Sanctis fra cultura e politica. Esperienze di militanti cattolici a Torino 1919–1929, Florence, La Nuova Italia, 1975, p. 120 (the letter was written on 17 November 1922). 109 Accame, Gaetano De Sanctis, p. 120. 110 Il diario di Salandra, ed. by G.B. Gifuni, Milan, Pan editrice, 1969, p. 265. 111 Anna Kuliscioff’s letter to Turati, 17 November 1922, in Turati, Kuliscioff, Carteggio V, p. 902. 112 A. Salandra, Memorie politiche 1916–1925, Milan, Garzanti, 1951, p. 32. 113 Z. Zini, La tragedia del proletariato in Italia. Diario 1914–1926, Milan, Feltrinelli, 1973, p. 190. Italics my own. 114 ‘Un discorso dittatoriale’, La Giustizia, 17 November 1922; ‘Forma e sostanza’, Il Corriere della Sera, 17 November 1922; ‘Modus moriendi’, Il Corriere della Sera, 19 November 1922; ‘La riapertura del Parlamento in regime di dittatura’, La Stampa, 16 November 1922; ‘Aria greve’, La Stampa, 19 November 1922. 115 T., ‘Il discorso dell’onorevole Mussolini’, L’Osservatore romano, 17 November 1922. 116 ‘Un discorso e un voto’, Il Corriere d’Italia, 18 November 1922. 117 Much the same opinion was voiced by other nationalist or pro-Fascist conservative newspapers: see e.g. the opinion of the Sentinella delle Alpi in E. Mana, La professione del deputato. Tancredi Galimberti fra Cuneo e Roma (1856– 1939), Treviso, Pagus, 1992, p. 368. 118 M. Meraviglia, ‘Novus Ordo’, L’Idea Nazionale, 18 November 1922. Already on 1 November 1922 Idea Nazionale greeted the new government and the Roman demonstration in an article entitled ‘Restituzione costituzionale e nazionale’. 119 It also seems as though one of the meetings in preparation of the March was held in Torre Pellice, because the Fascists could rely on the fact that Diaz was

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120 121

122

123

124 125

126

127 128 129

130 131 132 133

134 135 136

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near, even though he did not participate in the event, and could be contacted: see F. Fucci, Emilio De Bono. Il maresciallo fucilato, Milan, Mursia, 1989, p. 65. Rochat, L’esercito italiano, p. 407. On the «memorie storiche» see P. Bertinara, ‘L’ufficio storico dello stato maggiore dell’esercito’, in Le fonti per la storia militare italiana in età contemporanea. Atti del III seminario. Roma, 16–17 dicembre 1988, Rome, Ministero per i Beni culturali. Ufficio centrale per i beni archivistici, 1993, pp. 35–36. ASSME, A1, b. 020, Comando del corpo d’armata di Verona, Memoria storica del 1922. For other similar examples see ibid., b. 021, Comando della divisione militare territoriale di Bologna, Memoria storica del 1922; ibid., b. 022, Comando della divisione militare territoriale di Firenze, Memoria storica del 1922; and ibid., b. 027, Comando della brigata Como, Memoria storica del 1922. ASSME, A1, b. 018, Comando del corpo d’armata di Bologna, Memoria storica del 1922. In this case too other similar examples may be found: ibid., b. 024, Comando della 7a divisione militare di fanteria, di stanza a Trento, Memoria storica del 1922; ibid., b. 029, Comando della brigata Parma, di stanza a Mantova, Memoria storica del 1922; and ibid., Comando della brigata Alpi di stanza a Perugia, Memoria storica del 1922. ASSME, A1, b. 019, Comando del corpo d’armata di Roma, Memoria storica del 1922. ASSME, A1, b. 022, Comando della divisione militare territoriale di Firenze, Memoria storica del 1922; ibid., b. 033, Comando della Brigata Arezzo; ibid., b. 044, Comando dei carabinieri reali della legione di Genova, Memoria storica del 1922. ASSME, A1, b. 026, Comando della brigata granatieri di Sardegna, Memoria storica del 1922; ibid., b. 029, Comando della brigata Parma di stanza a Mantova, Memoria storica del 1922; ibid., b. 066, 18° Reggimento di fanteria, Memoria storica del 1922. See ASSME, A1, b. 033, Comando della brigata Sassari di stanza a Trieste, Memoria storica del 1922. ASSME, A1, b. 018, Comando del corpo d’armata di Verona, Memoria storica del 1922. ASSME, A1, b. 021, Comando della divisione militare territoriale di Bologna, Memoria storica del 1922; ibid., b. 023, Comando della divisione militare di fanteria di Bari, Memoria storica del 1922; ibid., b. 045, Comando dei carabinieri reali della legione di Treviso, Memoria storica 1922. ASSME, A1, b. 033, Comando della brigata Avellino di stanza a Bolzano, Memoria storica del 1922. Particularly revealing are the memoirs by the Carabinieri of Genova in ASSME, A1, b. 043, Comando dei carabinieri reali di Genova, Memoria storica del 1922. ASSME, A1, b. 033, Comando della brigata Arezzo, Memoria storica del 1922. However, one of the most important studies on Fascist propaganda from the beginning of the regime does not even mention this case: see P.V. Cannistraro, La fabbrica del consenso. Fascismo e mass media, Rome-Bari, Laterza, 1975, esp. pp. 11–12. ‘Fasti e nefasti del cinematografo’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 10 November 1922. See also: G. Brunetta, Storia del cinema italiano, 1, Rome, Editori Riuniti, 1993, p. 324. M. Isnenghi, ‘La marcia su Roma’. Salvemini commented the film in Memorie e soliloqui, 12 December 1922, p. 104.

6

A year of Fascist domination1

From late October 1922 the Mussolini government was founded on a precarious balance of power that was brought about by the situation of emergency in which the government had been established. The support from the Partito Popolare, which as early as late October could no longer be taken for granted, grew even weaker over the course of the following months. In the spring of 1923 a congress of the Popolari sealed the end of their collaboration with Fascism, causing a government crisis, even though the decision was not a unanimous one.2 The other forces in the governmental coalition also displayed a degree of ambiguity. Part of the old liberal ruling class, as well as a section of the Democrats, continued to believe that, once in power, Mussolini and the Fascists would tone down their revolutionary expectations and would be led to endorse normalisation and to respect the liberal institutions. But these were not at all the intentions of the Fascists and nationalists. However, the political turn brought about by the establishment of Mussolini’s government did not automatically lead to the transformation of the liberal institutions. Their gradual process of dissolution, transformation and uprooting continued practically throughout the twenty years of the regime, though more intensely in the early years, at least up until 1927. The gradualness of this project and its largely indeterminate character explain why some of Mussolini’s contemporaries struggled to see its possible outcomes and meaning, particularly in the first year of government. Nevertheless, it seems clear by now that the nature and extent of the political and institutional changes defined in the first year of the Fascist government – when it still presented itself as a coalition and it was believed that liberal institutions could be spared – sealed the end of the liberal institutions and the destruction of some of their fundamental values.3 In this respect, the first anniversary of the March on Rome constituted a significant moment: it marked the beginning of the ritualising of a new era and institutionalised a break destined to have far-reaching consequences.

Violence and public order While the rhetoric of normalisation shaped the months that followed Mussolini’s rise to power, it must not be assumed that after the March on Rome no

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more acts of violence occurred or that such practices ceased to be one of the strong points of the Fascist government. Mussolini himself continued to uphold the usefulness of violence, while at the same time promoting it as a means of normalisation. In January 1923, in an article published in the Fascist monthly magazine Gerarchia one year after its founding, the future Duce suggested that violence had been necessary in order to ‘liquidate’ the ‘old machinists’ of ‘State machinery’. In March Mussolini made the principles on the basis of which Fascism was to govern even clearer, explaining what role violence – which he called ‘force’ – was to play in reinforcing the new government: Consent is as changeable as the sandy patterns on the seashore … Allowing as an axiom that any governmental decision creates discontented people, how are you to prevent this discontent from growing and becoming a danger for the safety of the State? You will prevent it by means of force … Take away force from any government whatever – and physical armed force is meant here – and leave only its immortal principles, and that government will be at the mercy of the first organised group which has made up its mind to bring it down. Now, Fascism throws all these anti-vital theories to the scrap heap. When a group or a party is in power it is obliged to fortify itself and to defend itself against everyone.4 Mussolini’s position must be interpreted by taking his many different interlocutors into account: the squadristi, who feared the disbanding of the squads and the exhausting of their role, as witnessed by the debate on this issue that emerged even before the March; the opposition to the government, against which the Fascists acted with violence and threats of violence; but also conservative liberals, whom Mussolini sought to ‘soften’ through his promises of normalisation. Mussolini’s early measures included the order to demobilise the squads, to surrender all weapons, and to restore those administrations which had been forced to resign after 1 November. Still, the following months did not register a drop in the level of violence. This is shown by the Turin massacre of December 1922, to mention only the most famous case of violence after the March on Rome. In addition to this, many violent incidents against individuals were recorded, which led to over a hundred murders in the year after the March.5 We should not underestimate the concrete targets of these actions, namely the anti-Fascist forces, nor the fact that the violence of those months tended to reproduce the strategy based on the occupation of land and the threatening of individuals that had marked Fascism in the preMarch period. Significantly, as in the case of Turin, the Fascist acts of violence occurred either in places where it had been impossible to achieve this kind of occupation because of the limited Fascist forces, or in those places where a staunch opposition to Fascism endured and continued to resist the advance of the movement.6 Moreover, the action of the squads, institutionalised as the Fascist militia, was used as a threat against possible political opposition.

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In December violence proved also a crucial means to influence the outcome of the local elections in Milan. In this city, which had generally been governed by reformist Socialists, the elections took place in a climate of intimidation against voters. The British consul in Milan reported: As is usual in such cases the Fascists had organized everything beforehands. By 5 a.m. on the Sunday morning the various polling booths were occupied by parties of the Fascisti, armed with sticks and revolvers. Any effort on the part of the Socialists to encourage Socialist votes, such as propaganda in the form of leaflets, distribution of the Socialist ballot papers, etc., were at once suppressed by the Fascisti and the culprits generally had to be taken to the infirmary. The Socialist voters found themselves in a somewhat difficult situation. The following is more or less what happened in every case. After having found his way through a mob of scowling Fascisti, the voter entered the polling booth, and was handed four cards. A Fascisti [sic] standing by promptly ordered him to take his hat off and to behave himself if he lost his head … a kindly gentleman assisted him by picking out from among the four ballot papers the one of the ‘block’ and placing it in the urn … The ballot papers of the various parties were printed on paper of different colours … There is not the slightest doubt that a good many Socialists voted for the block simply because at the last moment they were obliged to do so.7 In the press, this situation was only denounced by the Socialists, who reported that those handing out Socialist ballot sheets were being beaten and their sheets burned, making it difficult for people to vote. They further added that a few hundred voters had been imprisoned in order to prevent them from exercising their electoral rights.8 The spread of violence that followed the establishment of a Fascist-led government has often been interpreted as the outcome of a struggle for power within Fascism between those in favour of normalisation and those opposed to it. But while the tensions within Fascism were very strong at this stage, it cannot be denied that violence – in addition to being a fundamental component of the Fascist ideology and discourse – was a means for the government to earn and stabilise consensus through fear and to clear the field of possible opponents. The aim of normalisation, and the need for Mussolini to bring Fascist squadrismo under control, went hand in hand with an awareness of the importance of violence and intimidation as a means to stabilise consensus and impose the Fascist strategy of governance.9 Significantly, even if we were to interpret the early illegal acts of violence on the part of the squads as a challenge to Mussolini’s power, the latter’s reaction was a weak and ambiguous one. The Prime Minister constantly justified the use of force in the political arena and displayed an ambiguous attitude towards the squads, insofar as he continued to paper over those actions which had occurred against his will or outside his sphere of influence. It is in the light of this conduct that we should interpret, on the one hand, the institutionalisation of the squads

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as Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale and, on the other, the amnesty of December 1924. In order to institutionalise Fascist power, it was necessary to solve a range of problems: within the PNF, and particularly among the squadristi, it was necessary to define the role of the squads after the Fascist seizure of power. In November 1922 Aldo Finzi declared to the Corriere del Polesine – although the Corriere della Sera also picked up the news – that squadrismo could not be eliminated but only ‘opportunely and gradually’ ordered. He outlined the possible development of squadrismo in the following terms: We must discipline it and direct it towards other goals; and I believe I am not far off the mark in predicting that squadrismo will have to become a regularly militarised element, a special body that might take the form of a national guard or the bedrock of the armed nation.10 Later, Agostino Lanzillo further reassured the squadristi by explicitly stating – in threatening tones – that their role was not exhausted ‘because the possibility for Mussolini to save the country is closely connected to the existence of forces of squadristi in the country’.11 On 15 December 1922, at a meeting of the newly founded Grand Council of Fascism, the issue was discussed of how to best deploy the squads under the direct control of the Prime Minister. The Popolo d’Italia justified the decision in the following terms: It is not a matter of establishing new troops, less still some praetorian mercenaries at the service of the head of government, but rather a militia exclusively serving the highest interests of the country, under the high responsibility and trusted guidance of the Prime Minister.12 A few days before the end of the year, the Council of Ministers approved a first bill for the establishment of the militia, which was ratified on 14 January 1923 and published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale, the official journal of record of the Italian government, on 20 January 1923.13 We do not know – nor shall we probably ever know – what the sovereign thought of this measure, but what we do know is that he ratified the decree submitted to him by the government.14 Meanwhile, during a general reordering of all law-enforcement forces, on 31 December 1922 the Guardia Regia was abolished – the corps which Nitti had strengthened, and which had always been particularly unpopular with the Fascists.15 On the other hand, the Fascist squads were generally reluctant to accept their transformation into a militia, even though Mussolini attempted to earn their consensus by bringing them directly under his control, by preserving an inner organisation very similar to the one they had always had, and by decreeing that only Fascists could join the new militia. In order to achieve all this, however, Mussolini forced the sovereign’s hand, since according to the Statuto Albertino all army units were under the direct control of the King.16 Many conflicts broke out because of the establishment of this corps. The replacement of the Guardia Regia by the militia – the

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practical outcome of Mussolini’s political operation – caused much discontent among the Guardie Regie, which staged numerous protests, including violent ones. The government’s response left no room for doubt, given that the Fascist squads themselves were sent to quash the protests, even before their transformation into the Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale.17 Already prior to the publication of the decree in the Gazzetta Ufficiale, on 5 January 1923 Emilio De Bono sent a telegram to all Prefects, authorising them to employ the Fascist squads to maintain public order and inviting them to discuss the selection of troops with Fascist military directors and commanders, and arms provisions with the army. The telegram informed the Prefects that this experiment had already proven ‘perfectly successful’ in Milan, Rome, Piacenza, Modena and other cities.18 In this way, a historic role reversal took place, by which the Fascist squads started operating in the name of the authorities against the Guardie Regie, which had come to be regarded as a subversive force. Another problem directly related to the decree to establish the militia was that of the role which nationalist militias were to play. The Turin newspaper La Stampa highlighted this source of tension, seeking to fuel the contrast between the two forces, which were in fact already working towards a merger.19 Although this problem was raised by many people, the nationalist squads of the Sempre Pronti accepted to be disbanded and in February came to be listed among those worthy of joining the Fascist militia.20 Historians have chiefly focused on Fascist reactions to the establishment of the militia, which in many areas were far from positive, yet they have largely overlooked the reactions from liberal and anti-Fascist parties and leaders, which for the most part were rather subdued.21 Still, these reactions shed light on the disintegration of the liberal State and on the degree of transformation imposed on the country by the March on Rome. A feeble response came from the only liberal newspapers that were not yet aligned with Fascism and which sought not to emphasise their dissent too much but rather to oppose the Fascist justification of the political choices of the new government from within. In an editorial entitled La nuova milizia (The New Militia), the Corriere della Sera asked: If the founding of this militia is designed not to establish the dictatorship of one party over the nation through a more powerful armed organisation, but rather to carefully promote the absorption of squadrismo into the ordinary life of the nation and of the State, is the means devised the best one?22 A few days earlier, in the face of the acts of violence perpetrated in Turin and of the press campaign surrounding the establishment of the militia, La Stampa had drawn a balance of the first two months of the Fascist government, arguing that although it had been evident from the start that this was a dictatorship, the latest government decisions implied yet a further development of the political situation:

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They clearly and peremptorily express – beyond all doubts or discussions – the new government’s will to turn down any direct or indirect collaboration with non-Fascist elements. The new government, in other words, is opting for the third way, namely a one-sided dictatorship.23 Faced with this change, La Stampa declared that henceforth it would no longer voice any opposition but would simply report ongoing events, in the belief that there was no longer any space for politics. It was in these very circumstances that the editorial director of Il Secolo, Mario Missiroli, wrote to his friend Prezzolini declaring that he was adopting the same editorial approach as La Stampa, in a letter that is worth quoting in full: Dear friend, it’s over. I have decided to do as La Stampa has done. I no longer wish to comment on anything. Everything overshadows, everything gives rise to suspicion. And we are watched over, distrusted: it is impossible to gain any trust at all. God knows how I have shown objectivity, optimism and good will: a good disposition to cooperate. But there is nothing to it. You are too intelligent not to realise this and too good a friend not to take this badly. I am sorry, but this is inevitable. We’ll have as many variety or cultural articles as you like: these are always very well received; but political articles, or ones only slightly touching upon politics, are best avoided. The Turin events have caused me much distress and dismay. I think Salvemini is right to show pessimism, which I am informed is of the gloomiest sort. I send you my warm regards – Yours affectionately, Missiroli.24 In May 1923 a parliamentary debate took place over the approval of the provisional budget for the period between the summer of 1923 and that of 1924. To some extent, this was a purely formal debate, given that the Mussolini government had been granted full powers even with regard to such matters; but, at the same time, the government had decided to respect this institutional step and to discuss the budget in Parliament. From the very first addresses, the establishment of the militia was the central focus of the debate, given that it would clearly weigh on State expenditures. MP Luigi Basso took the opportunity to denounce the lack of information about the militia in Parliament: there was a dearth of data regarding the cost of this new military institution, even though the provisional budget called for the funds reserved for the now disbanded Guardie Regie to be destined to the new corps. Moreover, Basso denounced the wholly unconstitutional nature of the militia by making an appeal to the sovereign and Parliament, in the hope that someone would acknowledge it: The establishment of the national militia is a completely arbitrary act, it amounts to the sheer replacement of constitutional bodies with an autocratic power. Nothing authorises you to establish it and, indeed, you yourself in the December decree make no reference to any authorisation,

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A year of Fascist domination and you haven’t even invoked the full powers law. You yourself have realised that the full powers law did not extend to this.25

Basso then explained the reasons for the unconstitutionality of the decree, which went against the laws of a statute that not just Parliament and the Prime Minister but even the sovereign himself was required to abide by. The militia regulations stated that only members of the National Fascist Party could join the militia, whereas article 24 of the Statuto Albertino affirmed the right ‘of all citizens to aspire to any civil or military office’. Moreover, the decree establishing the militia placed the latter under the Prime Minister’s authority, whereas the Statuto affirmed that the King alone was at the head of the armed forces of the State. This unconstitutionality of the militia continued until August 1924 when, faced with the crisis that followed the murder of Socialist MP Matteotti, Mussolini was forced to reformulate some of the more problematic decrees of the early months of his government in order to preserve his power: on that occasion he had the sovereign sign a decree that placed the militia on the same footing as the other armed corps of the State, requiring its members to swear an oath of loyalty to the sovereign.26 In the May 1923 debate the contradiction between the role of the militia and that of the army was also grasped by the former Fascist Alfredo Misuri, who highlighted the tension between the two corps and, while affirming the importance of the militia in this phase of transition, maintained that it was to be regarded precisely only as a transitional institution and that, at a later stage, its men should only be summoned in emergency cases and by orders of regular army commanders.27 We must not forget, however, that the political role acquired by Mussolini enabled the Fascists to exercise force also through regular State corps and institutions. From mid December 1922 onwards, Emilio De Bono, who was appointed Director General of Public Security, issued two despatches to all Prefects, asking them to draw up lists of individuals who might plot against ‘the Motherland, the State, and the Government’, regardless of their political affiliation: ‘I am not signalling the Communists as being more worthy of special attention than the Republicans or Popolari’ – who were part of the government at the time. He further declared: ‘The State may also have some dangerous enemies among those men who make the greatest show of devotion towards the State’, and pointed to the means by which it might be possible to take action against possible opponents.28 This recommendation to also keep watch over the representatives of forces that generally were not regarded as being subversive by the State and the Fascists – unlike the Socialists and Communists – was well suited to the southern-Italian context: here, although the Socialist Party had few followers, the democratically inclined public opinion and affluent class were kept in check through the use of violence.29 The ambiguity with which the Mussolini-led government sought to carry out the process of normalisation is also witnessed by the amnesty granted on

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24 December 1922. With the sovereign’s endorsement, this amnesty only absolved those crimes – including ordinary crimes – committed ‘for national aims’. It was intended to grant clemency to the few Fascists who had not escaped the net of justice. This decree, then, was a way to assuage the resentment of the squads following the establishment of the militia and to define Fascism as the only legitimate force in the country.30

The transformation of the State Considerations on the reforming of the State constituted a crucial moment in the new government’s policy. Debates on the reform and on what direction to give the changes underway were frequent in the period leading up to Mussolini’s appointment, having emerged in the immediate aftermath of the March on Rome. On 1 December 1922, in an article in Il Popolo d’Italia Mario Govi reflected on what significance and direction the reform of the State was to take after Parliament had been given full powers to go ahead. Govi reaffirmed the close link between the March on Rome and the ‘constitutional reordering of the State, through the establishment of new legislative organs and the reforming of existent ones’, which was the ‘true and highest’ aim of the revolution.31 He also addressed the question of the reordering of the State within the framework of the international post-war context, outlining three main courses of action: the establishment of competent technical councils to oversee the drafting of new laws with powers above those of the national assembly and of the King; regional decentralisation for the economy; primary education and the involvement of all ‘productive classes’ in the planning of the economic and financial legislation. According to Govi, then, the heart of the reform was the establishment of a relation between the productive function and the citizen body as a means to reform the principle of political representation and to radically transform it. However, the reformers initially took a different approach.32 The first transformation inaugurated by Fascism and by the new head of the government on the level of the political-institutional management of the party was the creation, in December 1922, of the Grand Council of Fascism, which was conceived as the consultative assembly of the PNF. The news of the founding of this institution was given by the Popolo d’Italia on 12 January 1923, although an informal meeting of the Council had already taken place at the Grand Hotel in Rome on 15 December 1922 and reports on this had been widely circulated by the press.33 In January, the Fascist spokesperson announced that the Grand Council was to be convened once a month. The members of this institution included – in addition to the head of the government, the Fascist ministers, the Secretary of the Council of Ministers and of the Home Secretary – the leaders of the PNF, the director general for public security, the special commissioner for railways, the secretary of the Fascist Syndicalist Corporations, the head of the cooperative movement, the chief of staff of the militia and the head of the press office of the Presidency of the

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Council of Ministers. The heterogeneity of the members of the Council revealed all the ambiguousness of what was meant to be a government institution despite its connection to a party. This was also evident from the fact that its members were defined according to the institutional roles they played both within the party and within the State. Consider, for instance, the case of Cesare Rossi, who was made a member of this institution by virtue not of his role within Fascism but of his role as head of the press office – a temporary position that could also have been assigned to a non-Fascist. Several years ago, historian Alberto Aquarone outlined the main duties of the Grand Council – which in its first two years was chiefly entrusted with exercising control over the PNF, over political relations with other parties and over domestic affairs – by making a number of decisions that ‘were then developed, in terms of their concrete application, by the Council of Ministers and the ordinary administrative organs of the State’.34 What emerged was an anomalous and somewhat ambiguous situation, whereby the political line of the coalition government was defined by a party institution operating outside the framework of the regular institutions of the liberal State. Those supporters of Fascism more concerned with legality argued that the Grand Council constituted not a point of arrival but only a temporary measure that served its purpose given the existence of a coalition government, but which would be eliminated once a ‘sufficiently homogeneous’ parliamentary majority was established.35 As early as May 1923, in the course of the first political debate in the aftermath of the bestowal of full powers on Mussolini – and especially following the first political debate after the Popolari’s exit from the government – Alfredo Misuri highlighted the anomaly of the relation between the party and the State in 1923, stressing the equivalence between the decisions made by the Grand Council of Fascism and those made by the Council of Ministers in the first five months of the Council’s existence.36 In addition to the establishment of the militia, during its first meeting the Grand Council discussed the issue of the electoral law. One of the unsolved questions in the debate on the political future of the newly created government was precisely that of the elections, by which the Italian people were to pass judgement on Fascism. Within this context, the transformation of the electoral law was seen as one of the cornerstones in the whole process. Besides, the question of electoral reform had already been raised in the immediate aftermath of the March on Rome by Michele Bianchi. During the Grand Council of December 1922 the new law establishing majoritarian representation, with a proportional representation of minorities, was unanimously approved. This reform was again at the top of the agenda at the meeting of the Grand Council held on 17 March, when Mussolini entrusted some of his men with producing a draft of the reform.37 Following this decision, the whole institutional procedure was followed through: the Council of Ministers discussed the reform, and the choice was made not to push the limits of the liberal institutional procedures any further but to discuss the bill in Parliament, although it had previously been suggested that the bill might be approved via legislative decrees.38

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The debate on the electoral law, therefore, took place in Parliament from 10 July 1923 onwards, after the eighteen-men commission approved a proposal – which had already been conceived and drafted elsewhere – and submitted two advisories to Parliament, a majority advisory and a minority one. There were also four annexes from the opposition, which did not feel represented by the commission minority.39 Throughout the stage leading up to the parliamentary discussion of the bill, the level of violence and intimidation towards possible opponents of the law had increased: an evident sign of just how weak the Fascist position was in the debate, but also of their enduring determination to impose their will regardless of the opinion voiced by most MPs. This climate of intimidation was also marked by the desire to strengthen the role played by an event such as the March on Rome through violence and threats against those who had been its main opponents. At the beginning of the parliamentary debate on the new electoral law, on 10 July 1923, Anna Kuliscioff wrote to Turati about an article published in Impero: Today to the triad … of subversion, Impero has also added Amendola and Taddei, who – with Albertini – wished to decree the state of siege throughout Italy before the March on Rome. Others suggest that, in the case of rejection, a national Tribunal be set up in order to bring the five leading criminals before a firing squad.40 The re-establishment of the majoritarian system was criticised not just by the opposition forces but also by the Popolari: a stance which led to an ambiguous parliamentary situation in which no outcome could be taken for granted.41 However, at the very beginning of the debate on the new bill, the position of the Popolari was shaken by the resignation that their leader Luigi Sturzo was forced to hand in because of the Vatican pressure on his party.42 The most common criticism levelled against the proposed law was that it was a way to thwart universal suffrage by controlling a certain number of seats through the use of violence.43 The debate was such an important one that a deputy like Labriola chose to reclaim his place among the speakers in Parliament. As is widely known, Labriola had adopted the same attitude of detachment from Parliament as Nitti, an attitude further strengthened by the fact that his party had given the new government its vote of confidence – a gesture which had led him to resign from his parliamentary group.44 What was at stake in this debate was not just the electoral law but the radical transformation of the constitutional foundations of the Italian State. From the very opening of the debate on the law, this was made evident by the leader of the Popolari Giovanni Gronchi, who used the following words to describe the new bill – an expression of the government coalition which, only a few months earlier, his own party had supported and strengthened, albeit with some hesitation: Now, if we consider this electoral reform as it has been conceived by the Government and the Commission, it does not bestow any constitutional

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A year of Fascist domination character upon the Fascist movement, but creates a unique new constitutionality … Instead of representing the legalisation of the Fascist movement, it represents its revolutionary conclusion, seeing the extent to which it departs from the juridical and social foundations of our representative system.45

Several aspects of the new electoral system were debated. What seemed problematic was not just – or not so much – the re-establishment of the majoritarian system, although it has rightly been noted that in certain political areas – in particular among the liberals, who entered into crisis with the adoption of this electoral system – the rejection of the previous electoral law is precisely what made the passing of the new bill easier and swifter. The debate centred in particular on the quorum required to earn a majority bonus – 25% of the votes being enough – and on the extent of this bonus, which would assign the winners twothirds of Parliament. Related to this were the issues of how candidates were to be selected and of the problematic presence of a single national constituency. For example, although the liberal leader Giovanni Amendola had always been in favour of the majoritarian system, he did not have a positive opinion of a reform of the system of representation by which ‘the Chamber, according to the proposed law, is removed and estranged from the country’.46 This point was repeatedly invoked by all those opposed to the law.47 The political climate was also shaped by two other questions not directly related to the content of the reform but closely connected to the conditions for the approval of the law and the elections. The first question concerned the atmosphere of intimidation towards those who opposed the law, a hostility that also clearly emerges from the parliamentary speeches.48 This atmosphere becomes even more evident when we look up from the floor to the gallery, which was packed with armed squadristi. Nor should we forget that, in the very days of the debate on the electoral reform, the duty to guard Parliament had been assigned not to ordinary police forces but to the Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale: a decision that could only be regarded as an act of intimidation towards anti-Fascists and anyone seeking to oppose the bill.49 The second question instead concerned the tension that emerged outside the parliamentary hall, as clearly illustrated by the words with which, in the pages of Il Popolo d’Italia, the head of the liberal opposition, Luigi Albertini, was described as a candidate for assassination. Freedom of the press was increasingly under attack.50 In these circumstances, the Socialist newspaper L’Avanti! warned its readers that the climate was similar to that before the March on Rome and emphasised the new spike in acts of violence.51 But the memory of the days of the March was not evoked by the words of the Socialists alone. The Fascist MP Michele Terzaghi argued that the dispute under way was the ‘outcome of a strange situation deriving from the March on Rome’. He added: This law, then, has precisely this political, spiritual and moral value: to channel and legalise the revolution.52

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A different position was expressed by the MP who presented the bill, Giacomo Acerbo, who regarded the claims made by the opposition as inconsistent. Acerbo denied that ‘the government could assign any capital importance to the reform’, given that its power had already been legalised through the sovereign’s decision to put Mussolini in power on 30 October 1922. The MP reiterated that there was absolutely nothing unconstitutional about the law.53 He also stated that the opposition sought to draw attention to one crucial consideration: if the revolution was truly based on the country’s consensus, the Fascists did not need any law giving the country a flawed system of representation.54 What appeared particularly interesting, in this context was the rhetorical choice made by Luigi Frontini of the Partito Socialista Unitario, a party which had originally held radically reformist positions (although some of its exponents endorsed the idea of revolution) but which had then found itself defending the liberal institutions as a beacon. Frontini wished to open the liberals’ eyes, implying that something had clouded their sight, preventing them from grasping the basic elements of their ideology. He criticised their ‘chronic incomprehension’ as follows: Because of this incomprehension the Liberal Party allowed the March on Rome and because of this incomprehension it is now authorising and aiding the real March on Rome: what has been termed the legalisation of the Fascist revolution, and which – in the plans and in the hearts of its champions – represents the final seizure of power by the Fascist forces, and which goes against the Socialist forces as much as against the liberal and democratic ones. Frontini continued: The Liberal Party has no intention of favouring any further developments of the Fascist revolution. Yet, despite this lack of intention, and despite the fact that alarm has spread for the constitutional reform that is becoming visible behind the electoral reform … while only a handful of brave men from the party’s ranks dare boldly and nobly challenge your platform and endeavour, another part – the most numerous – clings to the illusion that it will be able to smother you in laurels and roses …55 Frontini sought to warn the liberals especially by leading them to reflect on the action that was being carried out against municipal administrations that were not pro-Fascist, and to find ‘in the small incidents reported by provincial newspapers’ traces of the true aim of Fascism: not merely to oppose the antiFascists, but to remove its non-Fascist allies from power. Many years later, when the political climate had changed completely, the conservative liberal Antonio Salandra recalled this period and attempted to defend his position by justifying the liberal attitude to the electoral reform:

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A year of Fascist domination The criterion that led us to give our approval is not, and could not be, adherence to an electoral system that will remain a genuine freak in the history of public law, but regard for the political moment.56

Salandra’s words were a concrete explanation of the liberals’ ambiguity. What did ‘regard for the political moment’ mean? Did it have to do with fear of the physical violence and threats exercised by the Fascists? Or with fear that other forces, such as the Socialists, might seize power? While the last question seems totally unrealistic, the previous one, which still has some basis in reality, does not seem adequate to explain the attitude of liberals in those days. In a way, an interpretation of this crisis of the liberals suggests that, forced to hand their power over to someone else, by supporting either a liberal-democratic or authoritarian system, they for the most part chose the system that under those circumstances seemed to better ensure a place in society for them. There seems to be no other way to explain the political ‘suicide’ to which the other political forces – especially the reformist Socialists – were dumbfounded witnesses. Zini illustrated their feelings well by stating about the voting of the reform: Giolitti’s attitude to Fascism and in particular his complicity in the attack on the democratic constitution of the country fully encapsulates the historical value of the statesman. It amounts to more than a guilty weakness or loss of conscience – it is a genuine political suicide.57 The words that Turati addressed to his partner reflect the tense climate in the benches of the opposition on the eve of the law, and the feeling that anything – anything at all – might happen in those days. On 16 July 1923 he wrote: Certainly, my dear, you were right to feel upset. As I was caught in the midst of the scuffle, it was unlikely for me to be shocked – indeed, I wasn’t at all. In fact … I could not understand Matteotti’s invitation – which I decline – for us not to sleep in our hovel that night but to find shelter at his place (was he really sure of this?). Likewise, I was not alarmed when, while I was speaking, the Fascists threatened to storm our benches – which were already watched over by Fascist guards – and to have the throngs of Fascists crowding the gallery break into the hall. It had apparently been agreed that, should the bill be rejected, the … massacre of the innocents would begin … Certainly, for my personal tranquillity, the way things turned out was a lesser evil. As far as the general situation is concerned, I doubt it was.58 The discussion on the electoral law, however, soon became a secondary matter compared to another two questions that the Fascists exploited in order to make the opposition to the bill less effective and compelling, by bringing new issues to the attention of the political forces and public opinion.

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During this debate Ludovico D’Aragona sided with the Socialist Party, declaring that he would vote against the bill. But he also made it clear that his vote did not imply that the CGdL was taking a position on the matter.59 In addition to undermining the power of the Socialist opposition, D’Aragona’s choice of vote brought back into the limelight the issue of ‘collaborationism’ that had already been one of the dominant topics in the political debate in the early months of the Mussolini government.60 As we have seen, Mussolini’s suggestion to bring Gino Baldesi into the government was rejected by the right-wing block of the government coalition. Nevertheless, the proposal caused quite a stir in the ranks of the Left. In particular, the affirmation of the independence of the trade union – a policy adopted by the governing committee of the CGdL in early October – was perceived as reflecting a desire to free the union from the influence of the Socialist Party in order that it might more easily negotiate and establish new relations with Fascism. The debate on this matter flared up following D’Aragona’s declarations during the vote of confidence given to the Mussolini government. These declarations were not unrelated to Mussolini’s attempt to involve Baldesi in the government coalition and to his repeated appeals to the workers – appeals which had been frequent since the days of the March. The accusations brought against D’Aragona from the Left were answered by the CGdL’s newspaper Battaglie sindacali in the following terms: We believe it is worth clarifying once again – and, we hope, once and for all – that the Confederazione Generale del Lavoro has not severed its ties with a ‘Socialist party’ in order to bind itself to ‘another one’ as from many quarters people continue to insinuate, but rather in order to resolutely and definitely raise the flag of our independence. In much the same terms, the newspaper defended D’Aragona’s parliamentary address: No wonder, then, that our secretary general, the Hon. D’Aragona, has addressed the Chamber not as a party MP but as the spokesman of the Confederazione Generale del Lavoro, keeping his speech within the limits of the interests of the trade unions and of the workers who subscribe to them.61 Over the following months, the CGdL cherished quite a few hopes about the new regime, as regards the creation of a representative system based on labour rather than politics, and the possibility of somehow bringing together the various trade unions. While these hypotheses met with clear and absolute rejection from the nationalist and Fascist Right, the same plans were carefully taken into consideration by trade unionists. As a result, a radical conflict emerged between the CGdL and left-wing parties (all of which resolutely opposed the hypothesis of collaboration, albeit for different reasons), as well as within the CGdL, thereby further weakening in particular reformist

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Socialist positions.62 In dealing with the new government, the CGdL sought to bring to bear the specific technical expertise in the management of the economy and of the labour world that it had acquired over the years and which it often used to negotiate positions of strength with the government, from within the State itself.63 This position was also ensured by the number of members of this trade union, which had nonetheless plummeted in recent months.64 In the summer of 1923, shortly after the debate on the electoral law, the news spread of a meeting between the leaders of the CGdL and the Prime Minister – a meeting that indeed took place and triggered a conflict between the leaders of the union.65 During the heated parliamentary debate which followed this meeting, D’Aragona talked about his encounter with the Prime Minister and reported having promised the latter that, until the situation was normalised, the only possible collaboration with the government would be of a technical sort. In the same context, a member of the CGdL governing committee had claimed that this collaboration could not go on, given that the leaders of the union were being criticised by the members. Others had added that there was nothing to expect from the government, and hence that D’Aragona’s statements and declarations had been completely inopportune and that it would have been necessary for the committee to discuss them.66 Over the following months it became clear, even to those who until the very last moment had hoped that the union might preserve some margins of freedom, that the Confederazione Generale del Lavoro no longer had any leeway and that matters had been settled in favour of the Fascist trade unions.67 As these discussions were taking place, Benito Mussolini – and we here come to the second question – submitted to Victor Emmanuel III a decree restricting the freedom of the press. This measure had been widely anticipated by his public statements in the aftermath of the March on Rome, as well as by the actions of the squads both before and after his appointment as Prime Minister. The document was well received by the King, who agreed to sign it.68 According to the new decree, the Prefect – an expression of the political power of the Minister of the Interior – could give formal notice to a newspaper or periodical in several circumstances: when ‘with false or tendentious news’ it hindered Italian negotiations with foreign powers, cast the country in a bad light, or caused ‘unjustified alarm’ among the population; or, again, whenever a newspaper incited violence or class hatred, promoted the violation of the law, or favoured the interests of a State other than Italy by any means (including satirical cartoons).69 Should the cease and desist order be issued more than twice, the Prefect would be required to stop the publication of the newspaper. The decree, however, only entered into force several months later, during the crisis triggered by the assassination of Giacomo Matteotti, when it was finally published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale. From its very first presentation, the decree inspired what were to prove realistic considerations about its effects. On 12 July 1923, Turati wrote:

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It is uncertain whether the decree that tomorrow ought to return to the Council of Ministers will be issued immediately (possibly in the sarcastic form of a bill to be submitted to Parliament – when and to what Parliament? – in order to be converted into a law) or whether we will have to wait until the closing of the Chamber. Thus, having torn the suffrage to shreds and suspended the debate, the dictatorship is being consolidated and the regime-revolution is being progressively accomplished, confident of the universal acquiescence. A utopian optimism still trusts in resistance … Like men sentenced to death, we cling to the wildest hopes – always in doubt as to whether it would be better for there to be a resistance or not.70 The gradual submission of the press to the new government had begun long before the issuing of the new decree. Indeed, only a few months after Mussolini’s appointment it was clear that, ruling out Socialist and Communist publications, the only bastions of the press non-aligned with the government were Il Corriere della Sera, Il Secolo, and Il Mondo. A report issued to the British embassy by an attaché during the local elections of December 1922 suggested that in the north of Italy public opinion (including those people who up until then had funded the Fascist movement) was far more concerned by the development of Fascism that the public opinion in Rome – particularly as regards Mussolini’s unconstitutional and anti-parliamentary methods. This stance was most notably represented by the Corriere della Sera and Secolo.71 Over the following months, political pressure led to a rapid transformation of the political line of these newspapers: Il Secolo changed ownership and hence editorial director (passing from Missiroli to Bevione) in August 1923.72 The same course was followed by the other newspapers which had remained anti-Fascist up until then, such as the Nittian ones Paese and Epoca. The latter, in particular, was turned into the organ of the Fascist veterans.73 At the same time, as already noted, a hard-hitting accusatory campaign was launched against the director of the Corriere della Sera, Luigi Albertini, who had also became one of the main leaders of the opposition to the government.74 This campaign grew increasingly bitter as the elements of tension increased for the government, leading the Corriere to shift its attention from political reports to the attacks against the newspaper and its director. In early January, in an editorial entitled La nostra collaborazione (Our Collaboration), Il Corriere della Sera declared that it found it difficult to fulfil its task of reporting the news, as this required stating facts that were unwelcome ‘to the party which in a dictatorial fashion dominates our public life’.75 Despite the difficult context in which the press was forced to operate, some voices of protest were raised against Mussolini’s proposal. The Corriere critically wrote: We have shown that the decree/set of regulations entails two serious practical consequences: the first is that it removes the press from the control of its natural judges, the magistrates, in order to subject it to Prefects; the

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In an editorial criticising the new decree and the suspension of two newspapers, Il Lavoratore of Trieste and Il Corriere Biellese, Avanti! stated: Now the events of these days show that the dictatorship has the highest aspirations in this field. Not satisfied with the juridical persecution of the press (Carlo Alberto’s poor old edict is too liberal for today’s imperialistic tendencies), it needs to transplant into the finally free Italy a touch of Franz Joseph’s Austria and to regulate the press according to the consent of the local police.77

Time to draw a balance It was in such a climate as this that the first anniversary of the March on Rome took place. There was a strong awareness that the March had not at all been a useless event for the Fascists. Rather, it had allowed Mussolini to complete his first year as the head of government by almost completely transforming the fundamental structures of the liberal institutions, while also undermining the importance of the Statuto Albertino through the support of the King and of Parliament, who approved bills that conflicted not just with the spirit of the Statuto but with its very letter. Over the course of the year, the March on Rome had played a relevant role in Mussolini’s propaganda, with two major effects. On the one hand, as we have seen, it had provided a means to restrain the protests of the more radical Fascists, who feared an excessive institutionalisation of Fascism. On the other, it had provided a source of strength and blackmail in relations with the ruling class and public opinion, allowing Mussolini to newly legitimise – and increase – his power as Prime Minister. The proposed image of the March, in other words, was caught between continuity and discontinuity. In this respect, considerable attention was shown towards the army: the March was legitimate insofar as the army had not fought the Fascists, at any rate according to the interpretation that was being promoted. This thesis, however, was not an unambiguous one. The complicity between the squads and the troops reflected their shared aims; yet, at the same time, it was evident – and was explicitly stated at times – that the presence of party squads – albeit Fascist ones – reflected the lack of that State authority which Fascism sought to re-establish. Particularly revealing is an interview that Mussolini gave to L’Écho de Paris: Last year, each party, with its army of blue shirts, red shirts or white shirts, constituted a genuine military force. This was unacceptable: it was

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a violation of State authority. I have said: No more shirts; the State must have an armed force.78 This declaration would appear to have been confirmed by the statements that Mussolini made once in power, when he felt the need to stress the importance of the apolitical nature of the army and the need for it to be loyal to the government, regardless of the troops’ political orientation: The army must not engage in polemics, and I have given a typical example of this myself: the day in which I seized power, I learned that the officers of the Rome garrison were organising a demonstration in my honour under my hotel windows. I informed the officers that I was forbidding any such demonstration. They understood me. The Army must neither approve nor disapprove. It has only one duty: to obey. I have carried out a political, not military, revolution in favour of the Army, but without it; and there was no need for it to take part. Oh, no! See: the Army is something sacred, lofty, which we have no right to touch. Mussolini then went on to explain the meaning of the choice of incorporating the Blackshirts within the State apparatus, clarifying the nature of the relation between the Fascist militia and the party: But I could not disband my Blackshirts. They had carried out the revolution with me. I have turned them into a Militia, with a leadership of Army officers. The solution was favourably accepted by everyone. Today this Militia probably comprises 300,000 men. It can immediately be raised to 800,000 men by mobilising Party members, who de facto are all soldiers. On the one hand, then, the armed squads were regarded as a negative element, a reflection of the weak authority of the pre-Fascist State, something which a state worthy of its name could not tolerate. On the other hand, the Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza dello Stato constituted an element of continuity between the squads, Fascist violence, and the government of the country, even though in certain contexts Mussolini presented the militia as a safeguard against any excesses on the squadristi’s part. The very representation of the March on Rome was riddled with contradictions of this sort: the difficulty in abandoning the founding myth of the March, a source of legitimacy for Mussolini’s role as the head of government and for his increased authority compared to previous Prime Ministers, but at the same time the need to normalise the image of the event – the only way to ensure the future stability of the Fascist government. These ambiguities would emerge in the stream of considerations on the event put forth throughout the years of the Fascist regime in Italy. In late October 1923, the preparations for the first anniversary of the March on Rome revealed just how necessary it was

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for the government to confirm the importance of this founding myth. The latter constituted an unprecedented attempt to develop a political religion: a distinguishing feature of Fascism from the very beginning, which had certainly been reinforced after its rise to power. Like other Fascist celebrations, the anniversary of the March on Rome soon became a State celebration.79 On 24 October Mussolini was in Turin to inaugurate the anniversary celebrations by embarking on a tour that culminated with the commemorative speech he gave in the city he had first set off from, Milan, on 28 October.80 In Turin, on the day of the anniversary of the Naples Congress, Mussolini recalled the reasons for the seizing of Rome as follows: A year ago the great gathering of the Blackshirts took place in Rome. I remember that in the evening of that famous day, in Piazza Plebiscito, with a solemn, religious rhythm, 40,000 Blackshirts spelled out a simple and formidable word: “Rome!”. These men from all the cities, towns and homesteads of Italy felt that unless we seized Rome, Fascism would fail its mission and fall short of its mark. And three days later we seized the Eternal City and began a work of mopping up and law enforcement which is not over yet and must be continued. And I can see that this work will be carried on inflexibly, tenaciously, and systematically. We do not occupy Rome now for our own personal ambition or profit, for our petty vanity as individuals. We occupy it and will occupy it against anyone.81 The March on Rome, then, was not cleansed of its moments of violence even in the months that followed the ‘bivouac speech’, although Mussolini carefully chose contexts in which to recall the subversive significance of the event. In the speech he delivered for the magazine of the Fascist militia in Rome, in February 1924, Mussolini again recalled some aspects that in a different context he would have glossed over: We then marched on Rome, and not without bloodshed. The revolution was not as bloodless as people say. We had our share of dead and wounded men. Besides, once the die was cast, we were ready to go for broke.82 Again in Rome, on the fifth anniversary of the San Sepolcro meeting, Mussolini retraced the various stages of the State crisis that had led to the March on Rome. He emphasised his own personality and his crucial role in the decisions taken in that period, casting himself as the sole heir to a troublesome power that no one wished to bear: ‘no one, no one – Mussolini stated – wanted to carry the cross of power on his shoulders’.83 The Prime Minister’s reference to his own responsibility with regard to the event was particularly prominent when he reported how he had incited the revolution. The words uttered on this occasion almost seem to affirm his role by contrast to that played by the Quadrumvirs and other Fascist leaders.

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Addressing the 5,000 mayors assembled at the Costanzi Theatre in Rome, Mussolini declared: Meanwhile Fascism … was finally about to accomplish the March on Rome. It is I who wanted this March; I who imposed it; I who took the plunge. On 16 October I convened in Milan those whom I had chosen to lead the insurrection, and told them that I allowed no further deferrals, and that it was necessary to march before the nation covered itself with ridicule and shame. In these months what also started to take shape was a doctrine of the revolution that contrasted with the tendency to regard the Mussolini government as an element of continuity – a tendency also exploited and in certain circumstances emphasised by Mussolini himself, as well as by the Fascists in general. The break made, however, was presented as a perfectly constitutional one. Against all those seeking to belittle the ‘revolution’, and against the Socialists and Communists who did not accept the improper use of the term, Mussolini stated: Why do I call that of October a revolution? If raising some armed masses, leading them to occupy public buildings, and having them converge in arms towards the capital does not mean carrying out the distinguishing act of any revolution, namely an insurrection, then we must change the Italian dictionary! And why do I insist on proclaiming that, historically, the October one was a revolution? Because words have their formidable magic, because it is grotesque to try and have people believe that it was merely a ministerial crisis. From that time onwards, I have sought to impose some limits on the revolution, to prevent it from overstepping certain boundaries. The nationalist jurist Alfredo Rocco, the regime’s future Minister of Justice, put forward similar considerations on these events a few months later. Again at the Augusteo, he confirmed the importance of the March on Rome as a watershed, against those who stressed the element of continuity: I have spoken of two phases: it would be more apt to speak of two epochs. Some of our opponents, but also many of our friends and sympathisers, still appear to believe that on 30 October 1922 what changed was a ministry. Many Fascists go so far as to believe that a change in political regime occurred or, at most, a change in the ruling class. We must clearly affirm, persuade ourselves and persuade others that with the Fascist revolution what occurred was indeed a ministerial crisis, a regime crisis, a social crisis, but also – and especially – a much vaster upheaval, a spiritual and intellectual change, which can only be compared to that associated with the philosophical, political and spiritual movement which led to the French Revolution.84

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A few months later, just before the assassination of Giacomo Matteotti, the issue of the violence which accompanied the March on Rome and of its importance in the Fascists’ governing of Italy was newly addressed by Roberto Farinacci, who in Parliament, in June 1924, stated: Make no mistake: we will never abandon the positions we have achieved at the cost of so much blood. You who say that ours has been a burlesque revolution should remember that in Cremona and Bologna our revolution cost twenty men their lives. Honourable colleagues, we stand for lawfulness. We agree with our honourable friend Bottai that the State must fully exercise its function to impart punishment. This is what we want, but we won’t worry if you will call us liberticides or reactionaries: by now we know that it is necessary to be even liberticides or reactionaries.85 After a year of Fascist rule, the Socialists drew a very different balance from the Fascists. In an article published in Critica sociale in January 1924, Giacomo Matteotti, as though commenting on his broader essay Un anno di dominazione fascista (A Year of Fascist Domination), published a few months earlier, argued: Personal freedom, freedom of residence and freedom of assembly are no longer regulated by the Statute, nor by the whims of the police, but continue to be at the mercy of any Fascist leader. This year, eighty Italian citizens have been killed with impunity by those citizens who enjoy the Fascist privilege. These summary executions, publicly organised and carried out, brought no sanctions or sentences, or even any prosecution. Thousands of citizens have been beaten and injured; thousands of homes have been broken into and ransacked, without the police ever noticing it. Freedom of the press ought to be ensured by the Statute, yet no week goes by without a newspaper being either illegally suppressed by Prefects and heads of police, or stormed and ransacked by the Fascists or at least publicly threatened with violence, not for having committed any crime, but simply for having voiced its legitimate opposition. The State has lost all authority.86 Likewise, in the days of the anniversary of the event, the Socialist newspaper L’Avanti!, one of the last remaining voices of opposition, wrote: A year ago, with no glory or regrets, the democratic and liberal State sombrely faded away. In the great duel – begun late in 1920 – between the reactionary forces gathered behind the Fascist pennants, and the Socialist proletariat, the State was under the illusion that it could control the situation and put all its forces – army, police and magistracy – to the service of Fascism. But after vanquishing the Socialist Party, Fascism no longer had any opponents. With what has rhetorically been called the

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March on Rome, all it did was take action to seize the power it had de facto been exercising since August.87 Less arrogant words, yet ones at the same time more critical and harsher towards false followers, were voiced by many of the Fascist speeches alluding to the March that were held during the second anniversary, and throughout the ‘Matteotti crisis’. This only confirmed the fact that the way in which the March was talked about, and what events were emphasised or forgotten, chiefly depended on the political phase of the government and regime, and by the kind of legitimation required to earn consensus. During this first anniversary, at any rate, it was evident that liberal Italy had faded for good, even though it was not yet clear that the future was destined to turn the regime into an even more radical dictatorship.

Notes 1 This is the title of a volume written by Socialist MP Giacomo Matteotti, who was murdered by Fascist squads in June 1924: see G. Matteotti, Scritti sul fascismo, ed. by S. Caretti, Pisa, Nistri-Lischi, 1983. 2 On the Popolari’s short participation in Mussolini’s government see G. De Rosa, L’avvento del fascismo, Rome-Bari, Laterza, 1987, esp. pp. 5–45; De Rosa, Storia del Partito popolare, pp. 299–310; N. Antonetti, Sturzo, i popolari e le riforme istituzionali del primo dopoguerra, Brescia, Morcelliana, 1988. For a more recent analysis of the role of Catholics and Popolari at the origins of Fascism, see: L. Ceci, L’interesse superiore. Il Vaticano e l’Italia di Mussolini, Rome-Bari, Laterza 2016 e A. Guasco, Cattolici e fascisti. La Santa Sede e la politica italiana all’alba del regime (1919–1925), Bologna, Il Mulino, 2016. 3 Similar interpretations are put forward in S. Trentin, Dallo statuto albertino al regime fascista (1929), Padua, Marsilio, 1983; L. Carlassare, ‘La ‘rivoluzione’ fascista e l’ordinamento statutario’. Recently also Emilio Gentile supported this idea in E fu subito regime. 4 ‘Forza e consenso’, Gerarchia, March 1923. The previous quotation comes from ‘Tempo secondo’, Gerarchia, January 1923. Both articles are now in B. Mussolini, Scritti e discorsi. La rivoluzione fascista (23 marzo 1919–28 ottobre 1922), Milan, Hoepli, 1934, pp. 77–79 and 43–44. 5 B. Buozzi, V. Nitti, Fascismo e sindacalismo, Padua, Marsilio, p. 102, affirmed that there were at least 166 victims. On Fascist violence after the March see the documents present in ACS, Gabinetto Finzi, bb. 1–13, and Matteotti, Un anno di dominazione fascista, pp. 167–253. 6 See R. De Felice, ‘I fatti di Torino del dicembre 1922’, Studi Storici, IV, no. 1, 1963, pp. 51–122; A. Sonnessa, ‘The 1922 Turin Massacre (Strage di Torino): Working Class Resistance and Conflicts within Fascism’, Modern Italy, X, n. 2, November 2005, pp. 187–205. 7 The British consul expressed no condemnation of this abuse, but only criticised the Socialist administration in PRO, FO 371/7673, Lampson to the Foreign Office, 28 December 1922, and the official report of 13 December 1922. See also Matteotti, Un anno di dominazione fascista, p. 175. No reference to these acts of violence is to be found in the article ‘Milano vittoriosa’, Il Corriere della Sera, 12 December 1922. 8 ‘La giornata elettorale’, L’Avanti!, 12 December 1922.

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9 De Felice emphasised the role of violence as a political means among the Fascists in Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere. Since then, however, various interpretations have contributed to affirming the importance of violence as a means of consolidation of Fascist power: see M. Canali, ‘Repressione e consenso nell’esperimento fascista’, in E. Gentile, Modernità totalitaria. Il fascismo italiano, Rome-Bari, Laterza, pp. 56–81; M. Millan, Squadrismo e squadristi nella dittatura fascista, Rome, Viella, 2014. Some interesting pages have been written by Salvatore Lupo on this: see S. Lupo, Il fascismo, pp. 154–166. 10 ‘L’avvenire dello “squadrismo” secondo l’on. Finzi’, Il Corriere della Sera, 11 November 1922. 11 A. Lanzillo, ‘Esame dei nuovi compiti’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 10 November 1922. 12 ‘Dopo il Gran Consiglio Fascista. Gli scopi e il significato della Milizia per la Sicurezza Nazionale’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 17 December 1922. See also ‘Il carattere del Gran Consiglio fascista e la milizia per la sicurezza nazionale’, Il Corriere della Sera, 17 December 1922; ‘La Milizia per la Sicurezza Nazionale’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 20 December 1922; ‘L’organizzazione della milizia fascista deliberata dal Consiglio dei Ministri’, Cremona Nuova, 29 December 1922; ‘La ‘milizia nazionale’ e i corpi di polizia nelle decisioni del Consiglio dei Ministri’, L’Idea Nazionale, 30 December 1922. 13 Meanwhile the PNF decreed the dissolution of the action squads and of the other political groups was established: see Aquarone, L’organizzazione dello Stato totalitario, p. 19; De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, pp. 431–438. On the Milizia see also De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere cit., pp. 431–438 and M. Canali, ‘Milizia volontaria per la sicurezza volontaria (MVSN)’, in V. De Grazia, S. Luzzatto (eds), Dizionario del fascismo, Torino, Einaudi, 2003, ad vocem. See also Millan, Squadrismo e squadristi, in particular pp. 19–46. 14 ‘Il Re ha firmato il Decreto per la costituzione della milizia nazionale’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 16 January 1923; ‘Il decreto per la costituzione della Milizia Nazionale firmato dal Re’, La Nazione, 16 January 1923. 15 L. Donati, ‘La guardia regia’, Storia contemporanea, no. 3, settembre 1977, pp. 441–487. Now see also L. Madrignani, La Guardia Regia. La polizia italiana nell’avvento del fascismo (1919–1922), Milan, Unicopli, 2014. 16 Already Silvio Trentin and Gaetano Salvemini emphasised this aspect: see Trentin, Dallo statuto albertino al regime fascista, and G. Salvemini, Le origini del fascismo in Italia. Lezioni di Harvard, pp. 395–396. 17 Donati, La guardia regia, pp. 481–484. 18 ACS, MI, Gabinetto Finzi, b. 1, fasc. 8, Emilio De Bono to the Prefects, 5 January 1923. On Milan see also ‘I fascisti in servizio di P.S.’, L’Avanti!, 5 January 1923. 19 ‘“Camicie nere” e “Sempre pronti”’, La Stampa, 23 December 1922; ‘La trasformazione dello squadrismo. E i “sempre pronti”?’, La Stampa, 29 December 1922. 20 ‘Lo scioglimento dei “Sempre pronti” e la fusione tra fascismo e nazionalismo’, Il Corriere della Sera, 3 January 1923. See also F. Gaeta, Il nazionalismo italiano, Bari, Laterza, 1981, pp. 239–251 and De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, p. 434. 21 De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, pp. 431–438. 22 ‘La nuova milizia’, Il Corriere della Sera, 30 December 1922. 23 ‘Orientamenti di posizione’, La Stampa, 22 December 1922. 24 Missiroli to Prezzolini, Milan 22 December 1922, in M. Missiroli, G. Prezzolini, Carteggio 1906–1974, Rome, Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 1992, p. 275. 25 APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. XI, pp. 9375–9392. 26 S. Trentin, Dallo statuto albertino al regime fascista, but also C. Pellizzi, Fascismoaristocrazia, Milan, La Grafica Moderna, 1925, p. 135. This is also the view expressed by Aquarone, L’organizzazione dello Stato totalitario, p. 21.

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27 See Misuri’s speech, 29 May 1923, in APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. X, pp. 9.467–9.468. A view favourable to the preservation of the Militia as a transitional solution was expressed by A. Pirelli, Taccuini 1922/1943, ed. by D. Barbone, Bologna: Il Mulino, 1984, p. 46. 28 De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, n. 1, p. 395. 29 Carlo Cassola to Giovanni Amendola, 26 February 1923 in Kühn Amendola, Vita con Giovanni Amendola, pp. 488–490. On the Fascist inroads in Southern Italy see Lupo, Il fascismo, pp. 166–180. 30 ‘I reati politici e militari contemplati dal decreto di amnistia’, Il Corriere della Sera, 24 December 1922; ‘L’amnistia. Il suo carattere politico’, La Stampa, 24 December 1922; ‘L’amnistia di Natale’, L’Idea Nazionale, 24 December 1922; ‘La promulgazione del Decreto d’amnistia del nuovo Governo. “Ulteriore suggello alla pacificazione del Paese, per le maggiori fortune della Patria”’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 24 December 1922. More studies on the amnesty are needed. Now see also: Millan, Squadrismo e squadristi, pp. 20–31. 31 M. Govi, ‘Il riordinamento costituzionale dello stato’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 1 December 1922. See also Govi, ‘Due discorsi’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 19 November 1922. 32 See the articles devoted to this issue in leading newspapers, such as Popolo d’Italia, Corriere della Sera, Idea Nazionale, Nazione, Epoca and Giornale d’Italia in November 1922. 33 See Aquarone, L’organizzazione dello Stato totalitario, pp. 15–17; De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, pp. 417–419, and M. Di Napoli, ‘Gran Consiglio del Fascismo’, in De Grazia, Luzzatto (eds), Dizionario del fascismo, ad vocem. 34 Aquarone, L’organizzazione dello Stato totalitario, p. 16. 35 Pirelli, Taccuini, p. 46. 36 APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. X, p. 9.465. This speech gave some hope to the anti-Fascists, as is shown by the letter which Anna Kuliscioff addressed to Turati on 30 May 1923: see F. Turati and A. Kuliscioff, Carteggio V. 1919–1922. Dopoguerra e fascismo (1953), Turin, Einaudi, 1977, pp. 44–45. 37 Aquarone, L’organizzazione dello Stato totalitario, pp. 36–37. 38 See for exemple: ‘La riforma elettorale per decreto reale?’, L’Idea Nazionale, 15 December 1922. 39 See Aquarone, L’organizzazione dello Stato totalitario, pp. 36–37; De Felice, Mussolini il rivoluzionario, pp. 518–525; Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power, pp. 121– 135; G. De Rosa, Il partito popolare italiano, Rome-Bari, Laterza, 1988, pp. 187– 213; M.S. Piretti, Le elezioni politiche in Italia dal 1848 ad oggi, Rome-Bari, Laterza, 1995, pp. 248–287; G. Sabbatucci, ‘Il “suicidio” della classe dirigente liberale. La legge Acerbo 1923–1924’, pp. 57–80; D. Musiedlak, Lo stato fascista, pp. 310–311. 40 See the letters written by Anna Kuliscioff in this period in Turati, Kuliscioff, Carteggio VI, p. 68, 93, 97 and 101. The quotation is at p. 102. 41 L. Albertini, I giorni di un liberale 1907–1923, p. 407. 42 Piretti, Le elezioni politiche, p. 273; De Rosa, Il partito popolare italiano, pp. 197– 205. 43 Salvemini, Memorie e soliloqui, p. 54. 44 See the speech given by Labriola on 11 July 1923, in APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. XI, p. 10475. 45 APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. XI, p. 10417. 46 See the speech of Giovanni Amendola, 12 July 1923, in APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. XI, p. 10539. 47 See e the speech of G. Alessio, 11 July 1923, ibid., p. 10493. Labriola also denounced the violation of the liberal State: see APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. XI, p. 10482.

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48 Threatening speeches were delivered by Terzaghi and Giunta: see APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. XI, pp. 1051–1053 and p. 10613 ff. These intimidations were denounced in some of the addresses delivered by the opposition: see ibid., pp. 10476 and 10493. 49 Sabbatucci, ‘Il ‘suicidio’ della classe dirigente liberale’, p. 69. See also A. Visani, La conquista della maggioranza. Mussolini, il Pnf e le elezioni del 1924, Genova, Fratelli Frilli Editori, 2004. 50 Filippo Turati to Kuliscioff, 11 July 1922, in Turati and Kuliscioff, Carteggio VI, pp. 107–108. 51 ‘Minaccia di applicare misure eccezionali e definitive’, L’Avanti!, 8–9 July 1923. 52 APC, XXVI legislatura, Discussioni, vol. XI, p. 10534. 53 Acerbo’s speech was delivered on 14 July 1923: ibid., p. 10624. 54 See, as an example, the speech by Alessio, 11 July 1923: ibid., p. 10500. 55 Ibid., pp. 10490–10491. 56 Salandra, Memorie politiche, p. 40. 57 Zini, La tragedia del proletariato, p. 204. Cf. Sabbatucci, ‘Il ‘suicidio’ della classe dirigente liberale’, p. 57, who uses this expression with reference to Calamandrei. 58 Turati and Kuliscioff, Carteggio VI, pp. 130–131. 59 ‘Sforzo di definizione’, L’Avanti!, 17 July 1923. See also ‘Un bivio’, L’Avanti!, 22– 23 July 1923; ‘I distinguo di Gino Baldesi’, L’Avanti!, 24 July 1923. 60 Almost no reference to this is provided in 20th-century studies about the CGdL: see A. Pepe, Il sindacato nell’Italia del ‘900, Soveria Mannelli, Rubettino, 1996; A. Pepe, O. Bianchi, P. Neglie, La CGdL e lo Stato autoritario, Rome, Ediesse, 1999. Some references can be found in C. Cartiglia, Rinaldo Rigola e il sindacalismo riformista in Italia, Milan, Feltrinelli, 1976. The question is given more attention in De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, and in F. Cordova, Le origini dei sindacati fascisti, Rome-Bari, Laterza, 1974, pp. 107–110; 116–118; 168–179. 61 A., ‘Indipendenza confederale’, Battaglie sindacali, 23 November 1922. D’Aragona position was approved by the national board of the CGdL, the 17–20 November 1922, cfr. La Confederazione Generale del Lavoro negli atti, nei documenti, nei congressi 1906–1926, ed. by Luciana Marchetti, Milan, Edizioni Avanti!, 1962. 62 See Cordova, Le origini dei sindacati fascisti, pp. 107–110; 116–118; 168–179. See too among those articles in favour of collaboration: ‘Unità sindacale’, L’Ardito, 14 December 1922; ‘Le trattative per l’unità proletaria’, Il Giornale d’Italia, 8 December 1922; ‘Il trucco dell’unità sindacale’, Il Giornale d’Italia, 14 dicembre 1922; ‘Nulla di straordinario sotto il sole? A proposito di Parlamento Corporativo’, Cremona Nuova, 24 November 1922; R. Farinacci, ‘La tattica degli avversari e il nostro atteggiamento’, Cremona Nuova, 7 December 1922; ‘Il colloquio Mussolini-Baldesi e alcune fantasie romane’, La Nazione, 5 December 1922; ‘I rapporti tra Governo e proletariato in un forte discorso di Mussolini a Milano’, La Nazione, 7 December 1922; ‘Il fallimento dei nuovi tentativi social-collaborazionisti’, La Nazione, 8 December 1922; ‘I nuovi orientamenti sindacali e il problema dell’unità’, Il Mondo, 30 November 1922; ‘Il fronte unico operaio nel pensiero dell’onorevole Baldesi’, Il Mondo, 2 December 1922; ‘Collaborazionismo e sindacalismo integrale’, Il Mondo, 1 May 1923. 63 See ‘Un’intervista con l’onorevole D’Aragona’, Il Mondo, 22 November 1922. 64 See B. Buozzi, Scritti dell’esilio, Rome, Opere Nuove, 1958, p. 26. 65 De Felice, Mussolini il fascista. La conquista del potere, pp. 591–618. 66 The minutes of the meeting are in Marchetti, La Confederazione Generale del Lavoro, pp. 370–372. See also A., ‘Una linea’, Battaglie sindacali, 26 July 1923. The issue of collaboration with the government was a hot topic in July 1923: ‘Le trattative per la collaborazione nel campo sindacale’, Il Corriere della Sera, 27 July 1923; ‘Le basi di un accordo per l’organizzazione operaia precisate in un colloquio con l’onorevole D’Aragona. E Le riserve dei socialisti unitari e degli organizzatori’, Il Corriere della

A year of Fascist domination

67 68

69 70 71 72 73

74 75 76

77 78

79 80 81 82 83 84

85 86 87

173

Sera, 27 July 1923; ‘I distinguo di Gino Baldesi’, L’Avanti!, 24 July 1923; ‘Sindacati operai e partito socialista’, L’Avanti!, 26 July 1923. A., ‘Sindacato vigilato?’, Battaglie sindacali, 20 September 1923; A., ‘La morte civile’, Battaglie sindacali, 4 October 1923. Turati suggests this in his letter to Kuliscioff of 11 July 1923, in Turati and Kuliscioff, Carteggio VI, pp. 108–109, and 111, 116. The decree was commented on in the Fascist world: ‘Verso la censura?’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 6 December 1922 and ‘La libertà di stampa. Diritti e doveri’, Cremona Nuova, 8 December 1922. Aquarone, L’organizzazione dello Stato totalitario, p. 40. Turati and Kuliscioff, Carteggio VI, p. 113. Graham to Curzon, 14 December 1922, in PRO, FO 371/7673. ‘La fine del Secolo’, L’Avanti!, 15 July 1923. Turati and Kuliscioff, Carteggio VI, p. 149. On these changes affecting those newspapers which prior to the rise of Fascism had supported the liberal leader Francesco Saverio Nitti, see F. Barbagallo, Francesco Saverio Nitti, Turin, UTET, 1984, p. 463. L. Albertini, Epistolario 1911–1926, III, Il dopoguerra, Milan, Mondadori, 1968, pp. 1724–1731, 1732–1745 and 1760–1766. ‘La nostra collaborazione’, Il Corriere della Sera, 10 January 1923. A response from the Popolo d’Italia came with a.m., ‘Il Governo fascista e il «Corriere»’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 11 January 1923. ‘Le nuove disposizioni sulla stampa’, Il Corriere della Sera, 14 July 1923. See also ‘Imminenti provvedimenti per la disciplina della stampa al consiglio dei ministri e I provvedimenti sulla stampa’, Il Corriere della Sera, 12 July 1923; ‘Le norme vincolatrici per la stampa approvate dal Consiglio dei ministri’, Il Corriere della Sera, 13 July 1924; ‘Il regolamento della stampa e le impressioni dei giornali’, Il Corriere della Sera, 15 July 1923; ‘Sulla stampa’, Il Corriere della Sera, 25 July 1923; T. Bruno, ‘Per la libertà di stampa’, Battaglie sindacali, 26 July 1923. ‘La libertà della stampa’, L’Avanti!, 11 July 1923. See also ‘Il bavaglio per la stampa’, L’Avanti!, 12 July 1923. B. Mussolini, ‘I principi del governo e la situazione politica internazionale. Riassunto intervista concessa a Roma all’inviato speciale di «Echo de Paris», André Pironneau’, 4 October 1922 in Mussolini, Opera Omnia (1923–24), E. and D. Susmel (eds), Florence, La Fenice, 1951–1963, XX, (for this and the following two quotations). On the first anniversary of the March see E. Gentile, Il culto del Littorio: la sacralizzazione della politica nell’Italia fascista, Rome-Bari, Laterza, 1993. Le celebrazioni della marcia su Roma, Il Corriere della Sera, 30 October 1923; La marcia su Roma, La Scure, 28 October 1923. B. Mussolini, ‘Al popolo di Torino’, 24 ottobre 1923, in Mussolini, Opera Omnia, p. 50. B. Mussolini, ‘Al gran rapporto della Milizia’, Roma, Augusteo 1° febbraio 1924, in Mussolini, Opera Omnia, p. 175. B. Mussolini, ‘Cinque anni dopo San Sepolcro’, Roma, 23 marzo 1924, in Mussolini, Opera Omnia, pp. 206–207. A. Rocco, ‘La formazione della coscienza nazionale dal liberalismo al fascismo. Discorso pronunciato il 5 aprile 1924 (Roma, Augusteo)’, in A. Rocco, Scritti e discorsi politici. II. La lotta contro la reazione antinazionale (1919–1924), Milan, Giuffrè, 1938, p. 755. See the speech by R. Farinacci, 3 June 1924, in APC, XXVII legislatura, Discussioni, I, p. 110. The same day, in response to Giovanni Amendola, Farinacci said: «we were wrong not to shoot you» (Ivi, p. 199). G. Matteotti, ‘Dopo un anno di dominazione fascista’, Critica Sociale, XXXIV, no. 1, 1–15 January 1924, pp. 5–7. ‘Contributo alla commemorazione della marcia su Roma. «Noi, no»’, L’Avanti!, 28–29 October 1923.

Conclusion

The impact which the event known as the ‘March on Rome’ would have on neighbouring countries and Europe as a whole was not the main concern of Mussolini and the Fascist leaders when they were planning their rise to power in the autumn of 1922. However, before embarking on the enterprise that was destined to ensure his place as Prime Minister, Mussolini had carried out some polls, and not only among the exponents of the Italian ruling class, with whom he had long been conducting intense exchanges. Mussolini had also met the US Ambassador, for instance, to enquire how the country might react to the Fascists’ rise to power; and the answer received had been reassuring enough.1 In October 1922, the Fascist March was envisaged as the solution to a domestic political conflict and there was no ambition to present it as a political model for the transformation of liberal regimes throughout Europe. Nonetheless, what took place in Italy immediately gripped the attention of governments, the media and public opinion in Europe and beyond.2 In a letter to Benito Mussolini, the Italian ambassador to Lisbon informed the newly appointed head of government that he had immediately been approached by some Portuguese wishing to establish a Fascist party in their country. In the Spanish liberal newspaper El Sol, Spanish intellectual Ramiro de Maetzu wrote that the March opened up ‘a whole range of unforeseen possibilities’. In the early 1920s the rise of Fascism to power struck the imagination of European politicians and intellectuals, leaving a deep mark on some people that was to somehow shape their political actions and outlook on European events in the 1920s – and partly even in the 1930s.3 It has become increasingly evident that, contrary to what was authoritatively argued in the past, the March on Rome and the emergence and coming into power of Fascism exercised a huge impact – at different stages and in various ways – and marked a genuine watershed in the political history of Europe in the early 1920s.4 From that moment onwards – particularly with the stabilising of the new regime – the Bolshevik revolution and the broadening of representative institutions ceased to be the only alternatives available to those European countries whose political regimes appeared to be crisisridden, tottering or inadequate, even from the point of view of the ruling classes or establishment or where not stable enough.

Conclusion

175

Within this context, the Fascist experience significantly contributed to shaping new political projects, which became hegemonic already in the 1920s. Although for some countries detailed research has been conducted by now on the way in which Fascism was viewed and integrated within the local political cultures of the day, the European – as opposed to merely national – relevance of this process still largely awaits to be reconstructed, given the crucial interweaving of political cultures throughout the continent and the non-exclusively bilateral nature of these exchanges and appropriations. It may certainly be argued that the circulation of these projects, practices and cultures brought into play relations that were not limited to those between two states or their citizens. However, Italian Fascism struggled to publicly acknowledge the position of those who upheld the Italian Fascist experience as a model to be reproduced in new contexts. This difficulty was due to the assumption that the Italian experience was unique and inspired by the distinctive qualities of Italian politics and of Italian national sentiment. Hence, the promotion of Fascism abroad in the 1920s, and in particular before the turn of 1925, was chiefly designed to target Italian émigrés – through the foundation of Italian Fasci abroad, for instance – rather than other nationalist movements that drew inspiration from Fascism.5 After 1925, the attempt made by some Fascists to set up a Fascist international was to prove unsuccessful for a variety of reasons, but a considerable degree of ambiguity remained regarding the possible acknowledgement of foreign political movements as Fascist. Nonetheless, Mussolini and the Fascist authorities covertly supported – at times even economically – individuals, newspapers and movements calling for a nationalist or pro-Fascist revolution, in particular when this might further Italian expansionist policies.6 Nonetheless, from 1922 onwards the political experience launched by Mussolini became a source of political reflection, development and transformation for conservative and right-wing political milieus throughout Europe, although the influence of pro-Fascist propagandists, newspapers and movements varied considerably across the different countries considered. How could it be that a country like Italy acquired such a central place in European political imagination and thought? Through WWI, the country had carved out a place for itself among world powers, even though it was evidently a minor power compared to France, Great Britain and the United States. This fuelled nationalism and the idea of a ‘mutilated victory’ in the country. But at the same time, it offered hope to recently formed states that aspired to improve their standing on the international stage. They saw Italy as a young country which in recent decades had undergone significant development, and hence as an example to be followed. Besides, Fascism cast Italy in a new light, insofar as it presented itself as a new political movement, capable of offering answers to the political elite and impoverished middle classes, but also to the Church authorities and to those Catholics who were alarmed by liberalism and even more so by Socialism. Fascism and the March on Rome showed that, even within the sphere of ‘political modernity’, certain models were available that might ensure the preservation of order and the integration of the masses within an authoritarian and traditional context.

176

Conclusion

In this way, not only Fascism but also the March itself became an object of imitation. It appeared as the symbol of a movement able to represent at the same time conservative and revolutionary interests, to deeply transform the institutions, and to convey seemingly traditional messages and values, also through the use of rituals and modern propaganda. In this way the March itself could become a source of continuity in a world upset by the transformations brought by the WWI. In the years following the March, many other marches through the capitals of different European states were conceived and organised: in September 1923 a successful attempt was carried out in Spain with the coup d’état of General Primo de Rivera, who immediately affirmed that he had been inspired by Mussolini. The Munich Putsch in autumn 1923 was envisaged as the first step of a march aimed at the conquest of Berlin, although it ultimately proved unsuccessful. Some months later, in 1926, Georges Valois was busy organising mass demonstrations in France, some of them designed to pave the way for a March on the capital of the country. Meanwhile, the Portuguese army managed to organise its March on Lisbon, which led to the establishment of a new, dictatorial, regime. Again, in the months following the crisis of 1929, new marches were staged that looked to Rome, even if with certain differences and far less chances of success. This was the case in Austria, Finland and even in London, where the British Union of Fascists tried to march on east London. Such events occurred in particular in the first years after the March, between 1923 and 1926, as a consequence of the long postwar crisis that had struck almost the whole of Europe.7 Moreover, as already explained, these events were organised particularly in countries whose liberal institutions were unstable, either because they did not have a firm hold over the country, or because they had been established only very recently. However, even countries like France and Great Britain were not immune to Fascism, although it was much less likely for radical movements to succeed there. The fact that both Italian and international historians have long failed to detect this influence would appear to be the result of Fascist self-representation and, after 1945, of the eagerness to limit Italian responsibilities with regard to the Fascist and pro-Nazi turn in Europe in the inter-war period, not to mention the difficulty of looking beyond the limits of national history, if not through the approaches of classic international and diplomatic historiography.

Notes 1 D.F. Schmitz, The United States and Fascist Italy, 1922–40, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1998, pp. 52–53. On this see also Canali, La scoperta dell’Italia, p. 101. 2 On the impact of Fascism abroad, see R. Paris, L’Italia fuori dall’Italia, in Storia d’Italia. IV. Dall’Unità ad oggi, vol. I, Turin, Einaudi, 1975, pp. 664–670; A. Berselli, L’opinione pubblica inglese e l’avvento del fascismo; R. Schor, ‘La Marche sur Rome et la prise du pouvoir par Mussolini vues par l’ambassade de France’; H. Woller, Roma, 28 ottobre 1922, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1999; B. Goyet, ‘La “Marche

Conclusion

3 4

5 6 7

177

sur Rome”: version originale sous-titrée. La réception du fascisme en France dans les années 20’, in M. Dobry (ed.), Le mythe de l’allergie française du fascism, Paris, Albin Michel, 2003, pp. 69–105; M. Peloille, Positionnement politique en temps de crise. Sur la réception du fascisme italien en France, Uzès, Inclinaison, 2015; Ch. Poupault, À l’ombre des faisceaux: les voyages français dans l’Italie des chemises noires, 1922–1943, École française de Rome, 2014; C. Goeschel, ‘Italia docet? The Relationship between Italian Fascism and Nazism Revisited’, European History Quarterly, vol. 3, no. 42, 2012; Canali, La scoperta dell’Italia; and my own research Dittature mediterranee. Sovversioni fasciste e colpi di Stato in Italia, Spagna e Portogallo. In recent years the global dimension of Fascism has increasingly become a focus of interest, although Italy always risks vanishing from the picture. Some of these reflections were already presented in my essay ‘Una marcia, tante marce’, in Andrea Giardina (ed.), Storia mondiale dell’Italia, Rome-Bari, Laterza, 2018, pp. 602–605. Critical works on the impact of Fascism in Europe in the 1920s include Woller, Roma, 28 ottobre 1922, p. 65, and E. Gentile, Fascismo. Storia e interpretazione, Rome-Bari, Laterza, 2002, p. 35, even though Woller’s research pushes towards a greater consideration of the impact of Fascism in Europe. L. de Caprariis, ‘Fascism for Export? The Rise and Eclipse of the Fasci italiani all’estero’, Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 2, no. 35, 2000, pp. 151–183. Woller, Roma, 28 ottobre 1922, pp. 100–106. Over the last few years there has been some consensus on the fact that the most important phase of European post-war stabilisation lasted until 1923 – see Gerwarth, The Vanquished. It seems to me that in a wider European perspective this stabilisation should be considered to have been in the making at least until 1925– 1926; on this see Maier, Recasting Bourgeois Europe, in particular chapter VIII.

Index

References to endnotes consist of the page number followed by the letter ‘n’ followed by the number of the note. A noi! (documentary, Umberto Paradisi) 141–2 Acerbo, Giacomo 159 Albanese, Giulia, Dittature mediterranee xv Albertini, Antonio 8–9 Albertini, Luigi 6, 8–9, 85, 133–4, 135, 157, 158, 163 Alberto, Carlo 164 Albricci, Alberico, General 61 Alessandria: Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 77, 81–2; Prefect’s response to warning of impending March 66 Alessio, Giulio 98 Alleanza Cooperativa (Communist circle) 98 Alleanza del lavoro (Labour Alliance) 33–4, 36, 37 Altare della Patria, Rome 27, 28, 29, 94, 142 Amendola, Giovanni 36, 41, 118, 157, 158 amnesty (24 Dec. 1922) 129, 138, 151, 154–5 anarchists: and new arms laws 27; and Pact of Pacification 26 Ancona: Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 83; Fascist occupation (Aug. 1922) 37, 40; power to military authorities after general strike 35; Prefect’s response to warning of impending March 65–6 anniversaries see anniversary of March on Rome; victory anniversaries

anniversary of March on Rome: founding myth of March xi, 164–6; March as ‘revolution’ 167–8; Mussolini on March and his role 166–7; Socialists’ assessment of event 168–9 anti-parliamentarism 2–3, 12, 18, 36–7, 94, 132 Aosta, Duke of see Duke of Aosta (Prince Emanuele Filiberto, 2nd Duke of Aosta) Apulia: Caradonna’s political activity 43; occupation of Puglia by Apulian squads (27 Oct. 1927) 73; squadristi violence (1920–21) 21 Aquarone, Alberto 156 Arditi: and Catania violent clashes (Nov. 1922) 99; co-opted by Fascists 19; and first episodes of Fascist violence 17–18; and Grado steamer incident 9; and Palazzo Braschi plot 2, 3; and post-Fiume rumours of coup 10 Arditi del Popolo 99–100 Arezzo Brigade, historical report 140 arms: laws limiting ownership and confiscation of 26–7; theft of weapons by Fascist squads ix, 83, 86, 89–90, 102 army: army’s historical reports (late 1922) 137–40; authoritarian tendencies 13; Bersaglieri Corps’ fraternisation with squadristi 81; complicity with Fascists xii, 137; complicity with Fascists (before March) 19, 26, 33,

Index 64–5; complicity with Fascists (during March) 74, 78, 84, 91, 93; and coups d’état, constant hatching of 12; and D’Annunzio’s coup de main on Fiume 5, 6–7; and D’Annunzio’s march on Ronchi 5; on Fascism and monarchy 57; and Fascist militia (Milizia Volontaria) 63, 154; general strike and transfer of power to 35, 38; Graham on army and Fascists 123; Mussolini on army vs “shirts” 164–5; Mussolini’s anecdote on army’s support for Fascists 116; Mussolini’s order to withdraw from Rome after March x; Mussolini’s support for 62; and Palazzo Braschi plot 2, 3; and post-Fiume rumours of coup 10, 11; post-March clashes with squadristi 95, 96; and proclamation of state of siege 81; and prospect of Fascist insurrection 59; and Sempre Pronti squads 67; see alsoEsercito Italiano (newspaper of army/navy) Arpinati, Leandro 43, 88, 90–1 assembly (rallying) points ix, 78–9, 86–7, 92–3, 102 Associazione nazionale combattenti 11; see also war veterans Austria, Fascist marches 176 authoritarian culture xiii, 13, 68; see also dictatorship Avanti!: Fascist attack on (15 Apr. 1919) 18; Fascist attack on (29 Oct. 1922) 84, 96, 120; on first anniversary of March 168–9; on inevitability of Fascists’ rise to power 120; on likelihood of March on Rome 54–5; on March of Rome 86; Mussolini’s editorship of 17; on post-Fiume rumours of coup 11; on press regulation decree 164; on violence during electoral reform debate 158 Avellino Brigade, historical report 140 Badoglio, Pietro, General 6, 9, 59, 64 Balbo, Italo 34, 55, 59, 71n52, 76, 78, 86, 94; see also Quadrumvirs Baldesi, Gino 120, 161 Baldini, Franco 28 Balzani, Roberto 112n158 Bari: destruction of Camera confederale del lavoro by Fascists (Oct. 1922) 98; strong resistance against Fascists (Aug. 1922) 40

179

Baroncini, Gino 88 Barzilai, Salvatore 114 Basso, Luigi 153–4 Battaglie sindacali 36, 119, 161 Becocci, Mario 90 Bergamini, Alberto 53–4 Bersaglieri Corps, 12th, fraternisation with squadristi 81 Bevione, Giuseppe 163 Bianchi, Michele: co-author of Fascist militia’s disciplinary code 59; Fascist from southern Italy 117; friendship with Sante Franzé 75; on March of Rome as ‘spiritual march’ 53; one of Rome procession leaders 93–4; Popolo d’Italia articles on possible coup d’état 51; Quadrumvir role 59, 76, 86; raising electoral reform issue 156; on replacing old government with Mussolini 62; see also Quadrumvirs Bissolati, Leonida 17–18 ‘bivouac speech’ and parliamentary debate: Mussolini’s ‘bivouac speech’ xi, 113, 126–7; Mussolini’s response to Albertini 134; Mussolini’s response to deputies 132–3; Mussolini’s speech to Senate 127; reactions outside Parliament 135–7; Senate’s response to speech 133–4, 135; vote of confidence debate in Chamber 127–33; vote of confidence results in Chamber 133; widespread feeling of entering into dictatorship 135 Blackshirts seeMilizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (Fascist militia); squadristi (Fascist squads) Bologna: army unit’s historical report 138–9; Fascist attacks against 1920 Socialist administration 19; Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 77, 88–91; Fascist occupation (June 1922) 31; Fascist rally (1922) 30; post-March clashes between army and squadristi 96; Prefect of and Pact of Pacification 26; squadristi from Bologna ordered to enter Rome 93; squadristi violence (1920–21) 21 Bologna-Ferrara-Piacenza triangle, squadristi violence (1920–21) 21 Bolshevism 9, 13, 123–4, 125, 174 Bolzano, army unit’s historical report 140 Bombacci, Nicola 28, 97 Bonomi, Ivanoe 23–4, 25, 26, 28, 29

180

Index

Bordighera, Quadrumvirs’ first meeting 59, 60 Borgo Pio district (Rome), post-March clashes with Fascists x, 96 Borgo S. Martino, post-March clashes between army and squadristi 96 Borgongini Duca, Francesco, Cardinal 123 Boriani, Giuseppe, General 83 Borletti, Giuseppe Cesare 8 Borsarelli, Luigi 134 Bottai, Giuseppe 60, 79, 93, 96–7, 114 Brescia: Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 77; post-March violent clashes with Fascists 98; power to military authorities after general strike 35 Britain: British Union of Fascists in east London 176; see also British Consuls; British Embassy British Consuls: report on 28–29 Oct. 1922 events in Bologna 90; report on 1922 local elections in Milan 150 British Embassy: analysis of pre-March press reports 122–3, 124; report on Dec. 1922 local elections 163; report on Fascists entering Rome 93; reports on 1922 Fascist Naples congress 61; reports on talk of Fascist coup d’état 56–7 brutalisation thesis xiii–xiv Cadorna, Luigi, General 6–7 Caetani, Gelasio 122 camere del lavoro (headquarters of Syndicalist labour unions): Fascist attacks on 20, 22, 34, 39, 60, 95, 98; and Pact of Pacification 25 Cao, Umberto 130 Caporetto defeat (1917) 6, 11 Cappi, Giuseppe 67 Carabinieri: in Alessandria 82; in Bologna 89, 90; in Borgo Pio 96; in Borgo S. Martino 96; in Ferrara 77; in Genoa 84; in Novara 96; and partiality towards Fascists issue 24, 26; in Rome 27–8; see also police Caradonna, Giuseppe 43, 73, 75, 133 Carletti, Ottorino, Colonel 80 Carli, Mario, Captain 2 Caselli, Piola, General 96–7 Caserta: squadristi on March from 87; squadristi ordered to enter Rome 93; violent clashes with Fascists (Nov. 1922) 99

Casertano, Antonio 31 Cassola, Carlo 36 Catania, Fascist occupation of Corriere di Sicilia (Nov. 1922) 99 Caviglia, Enrico, General 3, 18 Ceccherini, Sante, General ix, 59, 87, 92, 93–4 Cecina, Fascist squads on March from 78 Cefaly, Antonio 117 censorship: call for by Fascists 114; see also press freedom Centocelle, aeroplanes scattering leaflets from 92 CGdL (Confederazione Generale del Lavoro) 36, 119, 120, 130, 161–2 Chamber of Deputies see Parliament Chiurco, Giorgio Alberto 66, 104n15, 105n19, 105n26 Ciano, Costanzo 39 civil war: Fascists’ advocacy of after general strike 51, 52; Fascists and Socialists blaming each other for 25; Fascists’ threat of during Cremona crisis 33; fear of and revocation of state of siege 83; growing fears of 11, 23; historians’ "civil war" debate xiv; Mussolini on 20 Civitavecchia: squadristi rallying point ix, 86–7, 92, 93; strong resistance against Fascists 40; widespread Fascist violence against individuals and premises 99–100 coalition government xi, 93, 97, 118, 120, 148–50, 156; see also ‘bivouac speech’ and parliamentary debate; transformation of the State Cocco Ortu, Francesco 44 Coda, Valentino 24–5 Colajanni, Napoleone 24 commissioners, in municipalities under Fascist attack 21 Committee for Proletarian Defence (Rome) 67 Communist Party: Fascist destruction of Communist centres in Ancona 40; Fascist violence directed at individuals x, 96, 97, 98; Misiano incident and parliamentary debate 24–5; and new arms laws 27; and Pact of Pacification 26; red squadrismo notion 43; response to ‘bivouac speech‘ 130, 131, 132; response to March on Rome 118–19; and San Lorenzo (Rome) incidents 97;

Index support for state of siege proclamation 82, 118–19; as a threat to political system and nationalists’ legitimacy 10; see also Alleanza Cooperativa (Communist circle) Il Comunista: Fascist attacks on printing works and newsroom 85–6; underestimation of Fascist threat 55 Confederazione Generale del Lavoro (CGdL) 36, 119, 120, 130, 161–2 congresses see Fascist congresses Conti, Ettore 131 Coppola, Francesco 8 Il Corriere Biellese 164 Il Corriere del Polesine 151 Il Corriere della Sera: on 27–28 Oct. 1922 events 106n37; Albertini on Fiume exploit 6; Bianchi on March of Rome as ‘spiritual march’ 53; criticism of Facta government 85; Fascist attack on (29 Oct. 1922) 84–5, 96; Finzi on Fascist control of newspapers 81; Finzi on future of squadristi 151; on Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch 9; on Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale 152; on National Fascist Party and dictatorship 54; on press freedom 114; on press regulation decree 163–4; on prospect of civil war 11 Il Corriere d’Italia 136 Il Corriere di Sicilia 99 coup d’état: coup d’état thesis xii, xiii; D’Annunzio’s seizure of Fiume 1, 3, 4, 5–10; Germany’s Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch 9–10, 79; March on Rome as coup d’état 103, 130–1; Mussolini’s call for coup d’état 7–8; Palazzo Braschi plot 2–4; post-Fiume rumours of coup 10–13; significance of hazy coups d’état 12–13; talk of coup d’état after general strike 51–6 Cremona: Fascist occupation (27 Oct. 1922) 74–5, 84; Fascist occupation (summer 1922) and Parliamentary debate 31–3, 36; Fascist rally (summer 1922) 30; post-March call for reconciliation 101 Crespi, Silvio 76 criminal laws, tightening of 26 Critica sociale 168 Croce, Benedetto 116–17 Curzon, George, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston 4

181

Dalmatia 3, 123 D’Annunzio, Gabriele: address to Milan crowd 38; comparing his “exploit” to that of Garibaldi 6; Facta’s intention to involve him in 1922 victory anniversary 56; Fiume coup de main 1, 3, 4, 5–10; leaflets from aeroplanes 92; negotiations with Fascists re. march on Rome 11; Palazzo Braschi plot 2–3; pressed for march towards Italy 8; Ronchi, march on 5 D’Aragona, Ludovico 120, 130, 133, 161, 162 Darbesio, Michele 81–2 De Andreis, Luigi 131, 132 De Bono, Emilio, General: British Embassy’s report on 123; co-author of Fascist militia’s disciplinary code 59; one of Rome procession leaders 93–4; Quadrumvir role ix, 59, 76, 86, 92; telegram to Prefects re. Milizia Volontaria 152; telegrams to Prefects re. potential plotters 154; see also Quadrumvirs De Felice, Renzo 12, 69n15, 170n9 De Gasperi, Alcide 128–9 De Nicola, Enrico 25, 132–3, 135 De Sanctis, Gaetano 135 De Vecchi, Cesare 59, 93–4, 133; see also Quadrumvirs Del Vita, Alessandro 92 Democratic Party: and coalition government 93, 148; Fascist attacks on Civitavecchia premises 99; Fascist violence directed at individuals 96; and vote of confidence 133 Di Vagno, Giuseppe 26 Diaz, Armando, General 64, 115, 137 dictatorship: ‘bivouac speech’ and feeling of entering into dictatorship 135; Corriere della Sera on PNF and dictatorship 54; Idea Nazionale’s post-Fiume campaign for dictatorship 12; March on Rome interpreted as beginning of dictatorship xiii; Popolo d’Italia articles in favour of 51–2; regime to become ‘more radical’ dictatorship 169; La Stampa on Milizia Volontaria and “one-sided dictatorship” 153; Turati on press

182

Index

regulation decree and consolidation of dictatorship 163 diplomacy: and March on Rome 121–6; see also British Embassy; France; Germany; United States; Yugoslavia documentary, A noi! (Umberto Paradisi) 141–2 Douhet, Giulio, General 2 Il Dovere nazionale 2–3 Duke of Aosta (Prince Emanuele Filiberto, 2nd Duke of Aosta): alleged involvement in subversive plans 8, 12; alleged plans to occupy Split 3; and Palazzo Braschi plot 2 Ebner, Michael, Ordinary Violence in Mussolini’s Italy xiv L’Écho de Paris 164–5 elections: local elections (1920) 19, 21; local elections (1922) 150, 163; national elections (1919) 18–19; national elections (1921) 21, 23–4 electoral reform xiii, 156–61 Emilia, squadristi on March from 87 Emilia Romagna: Fascist attacks against 1920 Socialist administrations 19; growing prominence of Fascist movement 22 Empoli, Fascist squads on March from 78 Epoca 11, 163 Esercito Italiano (newspaper of army/ navy) 115–16 Europe: impact of March on political history of 174–6; see alsospecific countries Exhibition for the Fascist Revolution (Mostra per la rivoluzione fascista) 141 Fabbri, Fabio, Le origini della guerra civile xiv Facta, Luigi: Corriere della Sera’s criticism of his government 85; Cremona crisis (1922) 31, 32; fall of his government xii, 51, 62; general strike (1922) 42, 43; proclamation of state of siege 116; repeated ransacking of his house 118; telegram to King (7 Oct. 1922) 64; telegram to King (24 Oct. 1922) 65, 66; victory anniversary celebrations (1922) 56; War Ministry 27–28 Oct. 1922 meeting 80

Fara, Gustavo, General ix, 59, 60, 86, 92, 93–4 Farinacci, Roberto 75, 101, 168 Farinetti, Guglielmo 27 Fasci di combattimento (or Fasci): attack against Slovenian Narodni Dom in Trieste 19; attack against Socialist demonstration in Venice 19; attack on Avanti! headquarters 18; attacks against 1920 Socialist administrations 19; and D’Annunzio’s Fiume initiative 18; foundation of 4; Giunta, founding member of 19; Grandi founding member in Bologna 30; growing popularity during/after 1920 local elections 19; Mussolini, founding member of 7, 17; Naples fascio’s discussion of march on Rome 34–5; and occupation of local councils 21–2; and Pact of Pacification 25–6; see also Fascist violence (1919–22); National Fascist Party (PNF); squadristi (Fascist squads) Fascist congresses: 1921 congress (Rome) 27–9, 61–2; Apr. 1922 congress 30; Oct. 1922 congress (Naples) xii, 57, 60–2, 63–4, 65, 116, 141, 142; Oct. 1922 congress (Naples) anniversary 166 Fascist intellectuals, Manifesto degli intellettuali fascisti 135 Fascist latecomers 100 Fascist militia seeMilizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (Fascist militia) Fascist Party see National Fascist Party (PNF) Fascist propaganda 140–2 Fascist rallies: 1922 rallies 30–1; Naples (1922) 60–1; Rome (1921) 28–9; see also Fascist congresses Fascist squads seesquadristi (Fascist squads) Fascist Syndicalist Corporations 155 Fascist violence (1919–22): 1919 first episodes 17–18; and 1919 national elections 18–19; and 1920 local elections 19; 1920–21 occupation of local/Socialist councils 19–24; and 1921 Fascist Congress in Rome 27–9; 1921 Misiano incident in Parliament 24–5; and 1921 Pact of Pacification 25–6, 27; and 1922 Fascist rallies 30– 1; and 1922 general strike 33–44; 1922 occupation of Cremona 31–3; 1922

Index occupation of towns 31–4, 37–40; attempts to blame “false” Fascist for violence 99–100; Fascist violence as one among many xiv, 17; Fascist violence as part of national strategy to seize power 31, 44; Fascists’ rejection of ‘aesthetes of violence’ label 19–20; historians’ underestimation of violences during March xi, 103; and legal vs insurrectionist approach to seizing power 30; Mussolini on 20, 40–1, 166–7; Mussolini on violence of March 166; post-March clashes with army 95, 96; post-March clashes with working-class neighbourhoods x, 27–8, 95–7; post-March violence against individuals 96, 97–9; and tightening of criminal laws/ confiscation of weapons 26–7; see alsoFasci di combattimento (or Fasci); Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (Fascist militia); squadristi (Fascist squads) Fascist violence (1922–23): coalition government and normalisation 148–9, 150; Mussolini on “force” 149, 150; squadristi violence during coalition government 149–50; squadristi’s institutionalisation as Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale 150–4, 165; squadristi’s resentment and amnesty decree 151, 154–5; violence and electoral reform debate 157, 158, 160; see alsoMilizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (Fascist militia); squadristi (Fascist squads) Federzoni, Luigi 2, 42 Ferrara: Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 77; Fascist rallies (1922) 30; Prefect’s response to Fascists’ occupation plan 66; squadristi ordered to enter Rome 93; see also Bologna-Ferrara-Piacenza triangle Ferraris, Efrem 94, 101 Finland, Fascist marches 176 Finzi, Aldo 24, 35, 81, 100, 101, 151 Fiume (now Rijeka, Croatia): D’Annunzio’s initiative and Fasci di combattimento 18; D’Annunzio’s seizure of 1, 3, 4, 5–10; legionaries’ plan from Fiume 11; post-Fiume rumours of coup 10–13; role of Fiume movement in Fascist propaganda 141

183

Florence: Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 77, 78; Fascist rally (1922) 30; Florentine Legion in the March 86, 93; Florentine squads clashing with railway workers (Nov. 1921) 27; Prefect of and Pact of Pacification 25–6; squadristi violence (1920–21) 21 Foggia, Fascist occupation (27 Oct. 1922) 73, 75, 84 Foligno: Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 78; squadristi assembly point ix, 79, 86; squadristi ordered to enter Rome 93 Forni, Cesare 81 Fortunato, Giustino 117 Foschi, Italo 2 France: Georges Valois’ political activities (1926) 176; reactions to March on Rome 121, 124–5 Franzé, Sante 75 freedom of the press see press freedom Friuli, squadristi violence (1920–21) 21 Frontini, Luigi 159 Futurists, and first episodes of Fascist violence 17–18 Gai, Silvio 66 game of poker, March on Rome interpreted as 60 gaols, freeing of Fascist prisoners by squadristi 83, 88–9 Garibaldi, Giuseppe 6, 58, 78 Garibotti, Giuseppe 32 Gasparotto, Luigi 11, 129 Gazzetta dell’Emilia 100 general elections see national elections general strike (1922): call and failure of 33–4; Fascist backlash and mobilisation 34–7; Fascist occupations of major cities 37–40; government’s call to pacification 40; Parliamentary debate and support for government 42–4; public debate on political violence 40–2; success of insurrection and change in Fascist strategy 51 Genoa: Fascist occupation (5 Aug. 1922) 37, 39; Fascist occupation (29 Oct. 1922) 84; power to military authorities after general strike 35; Prefect’s response to warning of impending March 66 Gentile, Emilio xv, 71n41, 105n35, 169n3 Gentile, Giovanni 117, 118, 135 Gerarchia 149

184

Index

Germany: Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch (1920) 9–10, 79; Munich Putsch (1923) 176; reactions to March on Rome 121 Giardino, Gaetano, General 2 Giolitti, Giovanni 2, 4, 23, 25, 62, 106n53, 160 Giordani, Giulio 19 Il Giornale d’Italia 11, 41, 53–4, 57 Giovara, Cesare 66 Giuffrida, Vincenzo 99 Giunta, Francesco 19, 43, 146n104 Giuriati, Giovanni 8, 59 La Giustizia 79, 84, 119–20 Gorizia, Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 77 Govi, Mario 155 Grado, Arditi’s steamer incident 9 Graham, Ronald 55, 123 Grand Council of Fascism 151, 155, 156 Grandi, Dino 30 Great Britain see Britain Grimaldi, Ludovico, Major 90 Gronchi, Giovanni 157–8 Grosseto, Fascist squads on March from 78 Guardia Regia: abolition of 151–2, 153; in Alessandria 82; in Bologna 88, 90; in Genoa 84; in Milan 81, 96; and partiality towards Fascists issue 24, 26; in Rome 28; strengthening of by Nitti 151; see also police historians: "civil war" debate xiv; interpretation of hazy coups d’état 12–13; interpretation of March on Rome xi–xii, xiv–xv; origin of Italian Fascism xiv; role of violence in history of Fascism xiii–xiv; underestimation of violence during March xi, 103 L’Humanité 125 Idea Nazionale: on Fascism and monarchy 57; on Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch 9–10; on non-parliamentary solution to crisis 79–80; opposition to March 67; post-Fiume campaign for dictatorship 12; response to ‘bivouac speech’ 136–7; on revocation of state of siege 87–8; on rumours of coup d’état (1919) 2, 3; on rumours of coupd’état (1922) 53; on written law vs country’s interest 115 Igliori, Ulisse 59, 60, 78, 86 Impero 157

industrialists, favourable disposition towards Fasci 19 insurrectionist approach, vs legal approach 30, 32, 36, 51 intellectuals, Manifesto degli intellettuali fascisti 135 interventionists 2, 7, 11, 17, 18 Irpina, Fascist legion of 93 Isnardi, Giuseppe 117 Isnenghi, Mario xiv–xv Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch (Germany, 1920) 9–10, 79 King see Victor Emmanuel III, King of Italy Kuliscioff, Anna 1, 5, 10, 135, 157 Labriola, Arturo 157 landowners, alliance with Fasci 19 Lanzillo, Agostino 151 latecomers, Fascist latecomers 100 Il Lavoratore 164 Lazzari, Costantino 22, 131 leaflets, scattered from aeroplanes 92 leghisti (members of rural workers’ unions) 22 Leghorn (or Livorno): Fascist occupation (1922) 37, 39–40; Fascist squads on March from 78; power to military authorities after general strike 35 Liberal State see State; transformation of the State liberals: 1919 national elections 18; ambiguous position on the March 116–18; and coalition government xi, 93, 148; complicity with Fascist leaders xii, xiii; and Cremona crisis 33; and electoral reform 158, 159–60; failure to defend rights of Parliament after ‘bivouac speech’ 128; Fascist occupation of liberal local councils x, 95; and Pact of Pacification 26; support for Fascists after revocation of state of siege 83 Libertà 125 Livorno see Leghorn (or Livorno) local administrations: Fascist attacks on/ occupation of before March x, 19–24, 34, 37–40, 95; further repression and end of anti-Fascist local representation after March 103; see alsospecific towns local elections: 1920 elections 19, 21; 1922 elections 150, 163 Lupi, Dario 42, 133

Index Lupo, Salvatore 170n9 Lusignoli, Alfredo 35, 37–8, 81 Lussu, Emilio xii Lyttelton, Adrian xii, 102 Maccarone, Vito 99 Maetzu, Ramiro de 174 Maggiotto, General 94 magistrates, favour shown to Fascists by 33, 42 Magrini (Fascist lawyer) 99 Malatesta, Errico 11 Malinverno, Renato 74 Mandini, Giovanni 97–8 Manifesto degli intellettuali fascisti 135 Marangoni, Guido 7 March on Rome: A noi! (documentary) 141–2; action plan 59–60, 73, 76, 86, 91–3; action plan thwarted by events 95, 102; assembly (rallying) points ix, 78–9, 86–7, 92–3, 102; assessment of impact 102–3; decision to march on Rome and Mussolini’s Udine address 56–9; demobilisation problems 101–2; General Pugliese’s plan to defend Rome 78, 80, 87, 105n35, 110n119; impact on European political history 174–6; interpretation of as beginning of dictatorship xiii; interpretation of as coup d’état 103, 130–1; interpretation of as ‘game of poker’ 60; interpretation of as ‘revolution’ xi, 126–7, 129, 130–1, 139, 167–8; interpretation of by historians xi–xii, xiv–xv; interpretation of in this book xii–xv; mobilisation and occupations of towns 73–9; mobilisation and rallying of columns 78–9, 86–7; mobilisation and reactions of newspapers 79–80; Naples congress/ rally and preparations 60–2; preparations, political forces’ responses to 67–8; preparations, State institutions’ responses to 63–7; press freedom curtailed during March 84–6; procession through Rome 93–4; proclamation of state of siege 80–2, 116, 118–19, 123, 124, 129; revoking of state of siege 82–3, 87–8, 91; squadristi, number of gathered in Rome 102; squadristi ordered to wait outside city gates ix–x, 91–3; squadristi permitted to enter the city 93–4; underestimation of importance of

185

event 68, 80; underestimation of its violences xi, 103; violent clashes after March 95–101; see also anniversary of March on Rome Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso 18 Martinetti, Piero 8 Martini, Ferdinando 135 Mastromattei, Giuseppe 76 Matteotti, Giacomo xi, 46n31, 154, 160, 162, 168, 169, 169n1 Il Mattino 36–7, 53, 55, 61, 62, 94–5, 115 Maximalists 7, 17, 18, 23 Mazzini, Giuseppe 58 Mazzotti, Amedeo 52 Mentana, Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) and rallying point 78, 92 Meraviglia, Maurizio 136–7 Messaggero 23 Miglioli, Guido 32 Milan: 1922 local elections and squadristi violence 150; D‘Annunzio’s address to crowd 38; Fascist occupation (3 Aug. 1922) 37–8; Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 81; Mussolini in Milan during the March ix, xii, 91; post-March clashes between army and squadristi 96; power to military authorities (27- 28 Oct. 1922) 81; power to military authorities after general strike 35 Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (Fascist militia): disciplinary code of 53, 56, 59; establishment of xiii, 138, 149, 150–4, 165; role of during electoral reform debate 158; role of in development of Fascism xiv; Volt on role of after March 63; see alsosquadristi (Fascist squads) Millan, Matteo, Squadrismo e squadristi nella dittatura fascista xiv Ministry of the Interior: commissioners in municipalities under Fascist attack 21; news of subversive plans (1919) 8; Palazzo Braschi plot 3, 4; power to military authorities after general strike 35, 38; responses to Fascist preparations of March 63–4, 65–6; see also Prefects/Prefectures Ministry of War: awareness of sympathy between army and Fascists 64–5; monitoring of 27–28 Oct. 1922 events 80; Palazzo Braschi plot 2; telegram to

186

Index

military commanders prior to March 65 Misiano, Francesco 24–5 Missiroli, Mario 153 Misuri, Alfredo 154, 156 mobilisation orders 73 Modena: Fascist occupation of Gazzetta dell’Emilia 100; Fascist rally (1922) 30 Modigliani, Giuseppe Emanuele 22, 24, 135 monarchy: Fascists’ loyalty to 57–8, 59, 62; see also Victor Emmanuel III, King of Italy Il Mondo 41–2, 163 Monte Mario district (Rome), squadristi’s failed occupation of fort ix Monterotondo: Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 78; squadristi rallying point ix, 86, 87, 92 Montespertoli, Fascist squads on March from 78 Mori, Cesare 26 Mosca, Gaetano 117, 134 Mosse, George, Fallen Soldiers xiii–xiv Mostra per la rivoluzione fascista (Exhibition for the Fascist Revolution) 141 Movimento dei fasci di combattimento seeFasci di combattimento (or Fasci) Mugello, Fascist squads on March from 78, 79 Munich Putsch (Germany, 1923) 176 municipal administrations see local administrations Murgia, Diego 128 Musiedlak, Didier 128 Mussolini, Benito: in A noi! documentary 141, 142; appointment as Prime Minister ix, x, xii, 83, 91–2, 95, 102–3, 126; on the army 62, 164–5; on the army and its support for Fascists (anecdote) 116; and Avanti! director of 17; British embassy on possible coup attempt by 57; British Embassy’s report on 122–3; call for coup d’état 7–8; call for early elections after violence in Rome (Nov. 1921) 29; and Chamber of Deputies, first address as Prime Minister 113; on civil war 20; and Confederazione Generale del Lavoro 161; and Corriere della Sera, tribute to its independence 85; Cremona events speech in Parliament 32–3, 36; and Fasci di combattimento, founding member of 7, 17; on Fascism

and monarchy 57–8, 59, 62; on Fascism in Rome 28; and Fascist demonstrators, instructions to (Nov. 1921) 28; and Fascist violence (1919) 17–18; and Fiume, against spread of Fiume insurrection 15n 36; and Fiume, planning of march from Fiume to Rome 11; French ambassador on 124; and King, praise of for his pro-Fascist action 126–7; legal measures for violence against 18; and legal vs insurrectionist approach to seizing power 30, 32, 36; March on Rome anniversary speech in Turin 166; on March on Rome as ‘revolution’ and his role 166–7; and March on Rome as way of legitimising his power 164, 165; March on Rome interview in Mattino 53, 55; March on Rome meeting (16 Oct. 1922) 59; and March on Rome myth xi; in Milan during the March ix, xii, 91; on Milizia Volontaria and the army 165; Milizia volontaria under control of xiii; and Naples Congress (1922) 57, 60, 61–2; and Palazzo Braschi plot 2, 13n2; Popolo d’Italia articles for coup d’état/dictatorship 51; and Popolo d’Italia, director of 7, 17; on press freedom 114; press regulation decree to King 162; Rome procession (31 Oct. 1922) 94; on Rome’s importance in history of Italian nation 58; and Socialist Party, expulsion from 17; and squadristi, ambiguous attitude towards 150–1; and squadristi, order to house and feed them in Rome ix–x; squadristi demobilisation order 149; The Times on 124; Udine address (1922) 57–9; and US, regard for Americans 125; and US ambassador, pre-March meeting with 174; and victory anniversary celebrations (1922) 56–7; on violence ("force") xi–xii, 20, 40–1, 149, 150; on violence of the March 166; see also ‘bivouac speech’ and parliamentary debate; coalition government Nannini, Giancarlo 89–90 Naples: Fascio’s discussion of march on Rome 34–5; Fascist congress (Oct. 1922) xii, 57, 60–2, 63–4, 65, 116, 141, 142; Fascist congress (Oct. 1922) anniversary 166; Fascist occupation

Index (Oct. 1922) 84; Fascist violence (Aug. 1922) 38–9; liberals’ diverging views on the March 116–17 Nasi, Nunzio 132 national elections: 1919 elections 18–19; 1921 elections 21, 23–4 National Fascist Party (PNF): A noi! as official footage of the March 141–2; anti-unionist policies 33–4; appointment of commanders for possible insurrections 30; attempts to blame "false" Fascist for violence 99–100; Aug, 1922 discussion of a march on Rome plan 35; awareness of government’s measures against March 66; Corriere della Sera on PNF and dictatorship 54; decision to organise March on Rome 56; denial of coup rumours 53; Emilio Gentile’s history of PNF xv; and Grand Council of Fascism 155, 156; growing membership (1921) 25; impromptu creation of chapters in southern Italy 100; and institutionalisation of Fascist power 151; integration of squadristi into 29; and Milizia Volontaria regulations 154; and pacification call from government after general strike 40–1; Popolo d’Italia articles for coup d’état/dictatorship 51; see alsoFasci di combattimento (or Fasci); Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (Fascist militia); Il Popolo d’Italia; squadristi (Fascist squads) National Press Federation 114 Nationalist Association 12 nationalist militias (Sempre Pronti) 67, 80, 152 nationalists: and 1919 national elections 18; and coalition government 93, 148; constant hatching of coups d’état by 12; and first episodes of Fascist violence 17–18; first legal measures for violence against 18; legitimacy of and Communists/Socialists as threat to political system 10; and Misiano incident/debate 24; and Palazzo Braschi plot 2, 3; and post-Fiume rumours of coup 10; responses to Fascist preparations of March 67; on state of siege 124; support for

187

Fascists after revocation of state of siege 83; and victory anniversary celebrations (1921) 27; and victory anniversary celebrations (1922) 56 navy: Palazzo Braschi plot 3; see also Esercito Italiano (newspaper of army/navy) Nenni, Pietro 120 New York Times 125–6 newspapers: Fascist attacks on x, 60, 84–6, 95, 96; Fascist propaganda in 140, 141; gradual submission of 163; partial resumption of publication after March 103, 114, 118; reactions to 27–28 Oct. 1922 events 79–80; reactions to ‘bivouac speech’ 136–7; reactions to establishment of Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale 152–3; reactions to March on Rome 114–20; reactions to March on Rome from foreign press 122–6; see also press freedom; separate titles Niccolai, Adelmo 22 Nitti, Francesco Saverio: appeal to workers and peasants 5, 10; appointment as Prime Minister 2; Badoglio’s appointment as Venezia Giulia special commissioner 6; Chamber of Deputies addresses 3–4, 5–6, 7, 10; counter-propaganda against uprisings 8–9; on “crazed excitement” and "dangerous motives” 5; on danger of "inflaming people’s souls” 3–4; and D’Annunzio’s coup de main on Fiume 1, 4, 5; Fascist attack on his home 97; French ambassador on 124; Guardia Regia strengthening 151; on Italy’s “painful course” 118; Nittian newspapers 163; Perrone brothers’ support for 23; response to March on Rome 134; on “sedition” in Italian army 5, 6; talk of possible return after fall of Facta government 62; Terzaghi on 129–30 Nomentana district (Rome), fight against squadristi x northern Italy: concern about development of Fascism 163; squadristi denounced as force from 130; squadristi violence (1920–21) 21; squadristi violence (1922) 30

188

Index

Novara: Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 77; post-March clashes between army and squadristi 96 Ordine Nuovo 82 Orlando, Vittorio Emanuele 2, 4, 62 Osservatore Romano 41, 136 Oviglio, Aldo 138 pacification: government’s call to after general strike 40; Pact of Pacification 25–6, 27 Padua: Fascist occupation (29 Oct. 1922) 83; Fascist rally (1922) 30 Paese 163 Palazzo Braschi plot 2–4 Palazzo d’Accursio, massacre of 20 Pantano, Vico 99 Paoletti, Oscar 89–90 Paradisi, Umberto, A noi! (documentary) 141–2 Paris Peace Conference (1919) 9–10 Parliament: anti-parliamentarism 2–3, 12, 18, 36–7, 94, 132; and authoritarianism in military and civil sphere 13; confrontations verging on violence 25; Cremona crisis debate 31–3; election of 35 Fascists (1921) 24; electoral law debate xiii, 156–61; Fascist deputies’ collaboration with government 30; Fascist violence against deputies outside Parliament 26; Fascist violence debate (1920) 22–3; first Fascist murder of deputy 26; general strike debate 42–4; Milizia Volontaria debate xiii, 153–4; Misiano incident and debate 24–5; Nitti’s addresses 3–4, 5–6, 7, 10; see also ‘bivouac speech’ and parliamentary debate; Senate; State Parma: Fascist occupation (1922) 37, 67; power to military authorities after general strike 35; strong resistance against Fascists 40 Partito popolare italiano (PPI): and 1919 national elections 18; and 1920 local elections 19; and coalition government xi, 93, 148, 156; Corriere della Sera close to 114; and Cremona crisis 31, 32, 33; and electoral reform debate 157–8; Fascist attack on Civitavecchia premises 99; Fascist attacks on PPI local councils/councillors x, 20, 22, 34, 40, 95; Fascist violence directed at

individuals 96, 97; and March on Rome 67, 117–18; and Mussolini’s ‘bivouac speech’ 128–9, 136; and Pact of Pacification 26; and vote of confidence 133 Partito Sardo D’Azione: response to ‘bivouac speech’ 130; and vote of confidence 133 Partito Socialista Unitario 159 Pasella, Umberto 26 ‘patriotic’ blocks, in 1920 local elections 19, 21 Paulucci, Raffaele 43 Pavia: Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 77; squadristi violence (1920–21) 21 People’s Party see Partito Popolare Italiano Perrone, Dino 39, 60, 78, 93, 99 Perrone brothers (Mario and Pio) 23 Perugia: Fascist occupation (27 Oct. 1922) 75–7; headquarters of Fascist revolution ix, 75, 86 Piacenza: Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 77; see also Bologna-Ferrara-Piacenza triangle Piatti, Camillo 77 Pighetti, Guido 76, 133 Pini, Giorgio 89–90 Pintor, Fortunato 118 Pirelli, Captain 25–6 Pisa: Fascist occupation (27 Oct. 1922) 74; Fascist squads on March from 78; squadristi violence (1920–21) 21 PNF see National Fascist Party (PNF) Po Valley, alliance between landowners and Fasci 19 Poincaré, Raymond 124 police: complicity with Fascists x, 23–4, 26, 28, 42, 97; Fascist occupation of police headquarters 60; post-March clashes with squadristi 96; taken by surprise by Oct. 1922 Fascist mobilisation 74; see also Carabinieri; Guardia Regia Polverelli, Gaetano 51–2, 53 Pontassieve, Fascist squads on March from 78 Popolari see Partito Popolare Italiano Il Popolo d’Italia: 28 Oct. 1922 front page 79; on Albertini as candidate for assassination 158; on the army and Fascists 59, 84; articles invoking coup d’état/dictatorship 51–2; call to censorship 114; Fascist militia (Milizia

Index Volontaria), disciplinary code of 59; Fascist militia (Milizia Volontaria), on establishment of 151; Fascist militia (Milizia Volontaria), Volt on 63; general strike, Fascist ultimatum against 34; Govi on constitutional reordering of the State 155; on Grand Council of Fascism 155; Grandi against insurrectional approach to seizing power 30; on March of Rome’s success 88; Mussolini on violence 40–1; Mussolini’s call for coup d’état 7–8; Mussolini’s editorship of 7, 17; PNF instructions on squadristi’s integration in party 29 Porto Maurizio, Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 77 Portugal: interest in creating Fascist party 174; March on Lisbon and dictatorial regime 176 post offices: occupation of x, xiii, 60, 73–4, 83; see alsospecific towns Prefects/Prefectures: acquiescence shown to Fascists by 33, 42, 65–7, 74, 78, 84; communications from Interior Ministry prior to March 63–4, 65; De Bono’s telegram re. Milizia Volontaria 152; De Bono’s telegrams re. potential plotters 154; Fascist occupation of Prefectures x, xiii, 60, 73–4, 83; and post-general strike order to transfer power to military authorities 35, 38; and press regulation decree 162–4; and proclamation of state of siege 80–2; see alsospecific towns Prenestina district (Rome), fight against squadristi x press freedom: under attack during coalition government 158; curtailment of during the March 84–6, 103, 114, 116; Mussolini on 114; press regulation decree xiii, 162–4; see also newspapers Prezzolini, Giuseppe 122, 153 Primo de Rivera, Miguel, General 176 principi, mobilisation orders for March 73 prisons, freeing of Fascist prisoners by squadristi 83, 88–9 propaganda, Fascist propaganda 140–2 public administration: favour shown to Fascists by 33; see also magistrates; Prefects/Prefectures

189

Puglia, Fascist occupation (27 Oct. 1922) 73 Pugliese, Emanuele, General 78, 80, 87, 105n35, 110n119 Quadrumvirs: in A noi! documentary 142; March on Rome plan 59–60, 73, 76, 86, 91–3; Mussolini on his role vs theirs 166–7; order to keep squadristi at gates of Rome ix; order to ransack military depots ix; plan disrupted by events 95, 102; relinquishing of powers and demobilisation order 101 Quirinale Palace, Rome 33, 94, 142 railway workers, clashes with Fascists (Rome, Nov. 1921) 27–8 rallies see Fascist rallies rallying (assembly) points ix, 78–9, 86–7, 92–3, 102 Ravazza, Edoardo, Lieutenant General 139 Ravenna, Fascist occupation (1922) 34 Rebezzana, Pietro 131 red squadrismo 43 Reggio Emilia, squadristi violence (1920–21) 21 Reichardt, Sven xiv Repaci, Antonino 60, 105n35 Repossi, Luigi 42–3 Republican Party: Fascist attacks on Republican local councils/councillors 20, 22; and vote of confidence 133 Resto del Carlino 122 revolution, March on Rome interpreted as xi, 126–7, 129, 130–1, 139, 167–8 Rigola, Rinaldo 119–20 Rijeka see Fiume (now Rijeka, Croatia) Risorgimento 6, 58, 129, 141 Robilant, Mario Antonio di, General 3 Rocca, Massimo 56 Rocco, Alfredo 8, 11–12, 24, 42, 167 Rodd, Rennell 4 Romagna, Fascist squads on March from 78 Rome: Altare della Patria 27, 28, 29, 94, 142; army unit’s historical report 139; Borgo Pio district x, 96; clashes with Fascists in working-class areas x, 27–8, 95–7; Fascist congress (1921) 27–9, 61–2; Monte Mario district ix; Mussolini on its importance in history of Italian nation 58; Nomentana district x; Prenestina district x;

190

Index

Quirinale Palace 33, 94, 142; Salario district 98; San Lorenzo district x, 27–8, 96–7, 101; Via Triofale area x, 97; see also anniversary of March on Rome; March on Rome Ronchi, march on 5 Rosadi, Giovanni 128 Rossi, Cesare 156 Rovigo: Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 77; Fascist rally (1922) 30; squadristi violence (1920–21) 21 Sagna, Lieutenant 96–7 Saija, Marcello 75, 106n48, 106n53 Salandra, Antonio 62, 135–6, 159–60 Salario district (Rome), Fascist attacks on anti-Fascists 98 Salvatorelli, Luigi 36 Salvemini, Gaetano xii, xiii, 105n35, 128, 132, 147n136, 153 San Lorenzo district (Rome), clashes with Fascists x, 27–8, 96–7, 101 Sandroni, Guglielmo 98–9 Sani, Ugo, General 88, 91, 138–9 Sansanelli, Nicola 117 Santa Marinella: squadristi assembly point ix, 78, 86–7; squadristi ordered to enter Rome 93 Schanzer, Carlo 121 Scorza, Commander of Civitavecchia column 99–100 Sechi, Vincenzo 98 Il Secolo 84, 96, 153, 163 Secondari, Argo 97 Sempre Pronti (nationalist militias) 67, 80, 152 Senate: Mussolini’s ‘bivouac speech’ 127; response to speech 133–4, 135; see also Parliament Serrati, Giacinto Menotti 7 Sforza, Carlo 121, 124 Siena: Fascist occupation (27 Oct. 1922) 74; Fascist squads on March from 78 social-democrats: and coalition government 93; Fascist violence directed at individuals 97 Socialist Party: and 1919 national elections 18; and 1920 local elections 19; and 1922 local elections in Milan 150; assessment of March one year later 168–9; book on acts of Fascist violence 25; coalescence of groups against (1920) 12; and coalition government xi; and Confederazione

Generale del Lavoro 161–2; and Cremona crisis parliamentary debate 33; and electoral reform debate 160–1; Fascist attack on Civitavecchia premises 99; Fascist attacks on at public rallies 20; Fascist bomb attack against Venice demonstration 19; Fascist violence directed at individuals 96, 97, 98; and Fascist violence parliamentary debate (1920) 22–3; and March on Rome 118, 119–20; Maximalists 7, 17, 18, 23; and Misiano parliamentary debate 24; and Mussolini’s ‘bivouac speech’ 128, 130–1, 132; Mussolini’s expulsion from 17; nationalists’ perception of them as threat to political system 10; and Pact of Pacification 25–6; and proclamation of state of siege 107n56; Socialist local councils, 1920 Fascist attacks against 19, 20, 22; Socialist local councils, 1922 Fascist removal of x, 37–40, 95; Socialist local councils, disappearance of after March 103; use of violence by xiv, 17; and Via Trionfale (Rome) incidents 97; see alsoAvanti! Socialist Reformist Party 18, 24 Soleri, Marcello 38, 65, 80, 83 Sonnino, Sidney Costantino 41, 57 southern Italy: Fascist latecomers 100; Fascists from 117; squadristi violence (1922) 30, 95 Spain: General Primo de Rivera’s coup d’état 176; Ramiro de Maetzu’s interest in Fascism 174 Spirito, Ugo 116 Split, alleged plans to occupy 3 Spoleto, squadristi’s ransacking of military depot ix, 86 squadrismosee red squadrismo; squadristi (Fascist squads) squadristi (Fascist squads): and amnesty decree 129, 138, 151, 154–5; attacks on arms depots ix, 83, 86, 89–90, 102; attacks on gaols to free Fascist prisoners 83, 88–9; and ‘bivouac speech’ 127, 134; and confiscation of sharp-pointed sticks 27; and demobilisation order from Mussolini 149; denounced as force from northern Italy 130; and electoral reform debate in Parliament 157, 158; integration into National Fascist Party (PNF) 29;

Index militarisation of 63; Mussolini’s ambiguous attitude towards 150–1; post-March institutionalisation of 150–1, 165; role of in development of Fascism xiv; see also Fascist violence (1919–22); Fascist violence (1922–23); March on Rome; Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (Fascist militia); principi; triari La Stampa 36, 116, 119, 152–3 State: Cremona crisis and threat to Liberal State 32–3; end of Liberal State spelt by March on Rome 103; failure of Liberal State to defend itself xi, xiii; Fascist insurrectionist drive and destruction of Liberal State 30; Fascist militia as provocation against Liberal State 59; forces against democratisation of Liberal State 12; general strike and Fascists’ threat to "replace the State" 34; gradual transformation of liberal institutions 148; illiberal measures of Liberal State 68; the law and State’s raison d’etre 41–2; Pact of Pacification and State’s relinquishment of role as enforcer of public order 25; State officials’ favourable attitude towards Fasci 19; use of violence by State (1918–21) xiv; see also Parliament; transformation of the State state of siege: proclamation of 80–2, 116, 118–19, 123, 124, 129; revoking of 82–3, 87–8, 91 Statuto Albertino 151, 154, 164 Sturzo, Luigi 67, 157 Syracuse, Fascist latecomers 100 Taddei, Paolino 35, 65, 66, 80, 83, 157 Tasca, Angelo xv(n1), 21, 31, 105n35 telegraph offices: occupation of x, 60, 73–4, 83; see alsospecific towns Tempo 125 Teruzzi, Attilio 86 Terzaghi, Michele 77, 129–30, 158–9 Thaon de Revel, Paolo, Admiral 115, 137, 142 Tiby, Francesco 93–4 The Times 124 Tivoli: Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 79; squadristi ordered to enter Rome 93; squadristi rallying point ix Togliatti, Palmiro 31 Tommasi, Giuseppe 134

191

Torraca, Francesco 117 Torre, Edoardo 66, 133 trade unions see Alleanza del lavoro (Labour Alliance); camere del lavoro (headquarters of Syndicalist labour unions); Confederazione Generale del Lavoro (CGdL); Fascist Syndicalist Corporations; leghisti (members of rural workers’ unions) train stations: occupation of x, xiii, 60, 73–4; see alsospecific towns transformation of the State: creation of Grand Council of Fascism 155–6; electoral reform 156–61; press regulation decree 162–4; trade unions (CGdL) and Fascist power 161–2 Treaty of Rapallo (1920) 11–12 Treaty of Versailles (1919) 10, 121, 124 Treves, Claudio 26, 31, 43 Treviso, Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 77 triari, mobilisation orders for March 73 Tribuna 45n20 Trieste: Fascist attack against Slovenian Narodni Dom 19; Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 77 Turati, Filippo: Anna Kuliscioff’s letters to 1, 5, 157; Giustizia editor 79; on Mussolini’s ‘bivouac speech’ 130–1, 132; on Mussolini’s Cremona events speech 33; and parliamentary debate on Fascist violence (1920) 22; on press regulation decree 163; Treves’ reference to Turati’s speech 43; on violence during electoral reform debate 160 Turin: 1922 attack on Alleanza Cooperativa storerooms 98; 1922 destruction of chamber of commerce 98; 1922 Massacre 149, 152, 153; 1923 Mussolini’s March anniversary speech 166 Tuscany: Fascist attacks against 1920 Socialist administrations 19; Fascist squads on March from 78, 87; Popolo d’Italia on Fascist mobilisation in 79; squadristi violence (1920–21) 21; State representatives’ benevolence towards Fascists 74 Ucciero, Pasquale 99 Udine: Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 77; Mussolini’s address (1922) 57–9

192

Index

Umbria, Fascist squads on March from 79 United Kingdom see Britain United States: Mussolini’s pre-March meeting with US ambassador 174; Mussolini’s regard for Americans 125; reactions to March on Rome 121, 125–6 Val di Sieve, Fascist squads on March from 79 Valmontone, squadristi rallying point ix, 87 Valois, Georges 176 Vatican 123, 157 Vecchi, Ferruccio 8, 18 Veneto, squadristi violence (1920–21) 21 Venezia Giulia region: army and 1919 rumours of coup 3; Badoglio’s appointment as special commissioner for 6; squadristi violence (1920–21) 21 Venice: Fascist bomb attack against Socialist demonstration 19; Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 77; Fascist occupation of casa del popolo (31 Oct. 1922) 98 Verona: army unit’s historical report 138; Fascist occupation (28 Oct. 1922) 77; Fascist rally (1922) 30 veterans see Arditi; war veterans Via Triofale area (Rome), post-March clashes with Fascists x, 97 Viareggio, Fascist squads on March from 78 Vicini (Modena Member of Parliament) 100 Victor Emmanuel III, King of Italy: in A noi! documentary 142; appointment of Mussolini as Prime Minister xii, 83, 84, 91, 92, 126; army’s loyalty to and prospect of Fascist insurrection 59; concern about his safety 80; Facta telegram to (7 Oct. 1922) 64; Facta telegram to (24 Oct. 1922) 65, 66; and Fascist cause, support for xii;

first king of unified Italy 27; Mussolini’s praise for his pro-Fascist action 126–7; order to house and feed squadristi in Rome ix–x; and Palazzo Braschi plot 2; ratification of Milizia Volontaria decree 151; ratification of press regulation decree 162; rumour of abdication 12; rumours of his assassination 121; and state of siege, opposition to 82–3, 87–8; and Statuto Albertino 151, 154; see also monarchy victory anniversaries: 1921 anniversary 27; 1922 anniversary 56–7 violence see Fascist violence (1919–22); Fascist violence (1922–23) Viotto (Brescia Member of Parliament) 98 Vitalone, Guardia Regia marshal 90 Vivarelli, Roberto 12 Volt (pseud. of Vincenzo Fani Ciotti) 52, 63 vote of confidence see ‘bivouac speech’ and parliamentary debate war veterans: Associazione nazionale combattenti 11; co-opted by Fascists 19; and Palazzo Braschi plot 2; and victory anniversary celebrations (1921) 27; see also Arditi Washington Post 125–6 weapons see arms Wilson, Woodrow 13, 18, 125 working-class neighbourhoods: clashes with Fascists in Rome x, 27–8, 95–7; squadristi’s attempts to take over 20 Yugoslavia, reactions to March on Rome 121–2 Zamboni, Umberto 79, 86, 93–4 Zini, Zino 136, 160 Zoppi, Ottavio, General 3