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Hitler to Mussolini: Fight harder!

Hitler to Mussolini: Fight harder!

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On February 5, 1941, Adolf Hitler scolds his Axis partner, Benito Mussolini, for his troops’ retreat in the face of British advances in Libya, demanding that the Duce command his forces to resist.

Since 1912, Italy had occupied Libya because of purely economic “expansion” motives. In 1935, Mussolini began sending tens of thousands of Italians to Libya, mostly farmers and other rural workers, in part to relieve overpopulation concerns in Italy. So by the time of the outbreak of the Second World War, Italy had enjoyed a long-term presence in North Africa, and Mussolini began dreaming of expanding that presence–always with an eye toward the same territories that the old “Roman Empire” had counted among its conquests.

Also sitting in North Africa were British troops, which, under a 1936 treaty, were garrisoned in Egypt to protect the Suez Canal and Royal Navy bases at Alexandria and Port Said. Hitler had offered to aid Mussolini early on in his North African expansion, to send German troops to help fend off a British counterattack. But Mussolini had been rebuffed when he had offered Italian assistance during the Battle of Britain. He now insisted that as a matter of national pride, Italy would have to create a Mediterranean sphere of influence on its own–or risk becoming a “junior” partner of Germany’s.

But despite expansion into parts of East Africa and Egypt, Mussolini’s forces proved no match for the Brits in the long run. British troops pushed the Italians westward, inflicting extraordinary losses on the Axis forces in an attack at Beda Fomm. As Britain threatened to push the Italians out of Libya altogether and break through to Tunisia, Mussolini swallowed his pride and asked Hitler for assistance. Hitler reluctantly agreed (it would mean the first direct German-British encounter in the Mediterranean)–but only if Mussolini stopped the Italians’ retreat and kept the British out of Tripoli, the Libyan capital. But the Italians continued to be overwhelmed; in three months, 20,000 men were wounded or killed and 130,000 were taken prisoner. Only with the arrival of German Gen. Erwin Rommel would the Italian resistance be strengthened against further British advances. Even with Germany’s help, Italy was able to defend its North African territory only until early 1943.

READ MORE: How Did the Nazis Really Lose World War II?

Operation Eiche: The Rescue of Benito Mussolini

It’s an understatement to say that 1943 hadn’t been a good year for Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. His desire to hold sway over the whole of North Africa had ended in humiliating defeat his disastrous decision to send unwilling troops to the Eastern Front to fight an increasingly confident Soviet Union had resulted in unsustainable casualties, and the Allied invasion of Sicily had brought World War II right to Italy’s back door.

Unlike in Germany - where Adolf Hitler and his inner circle ruled the country with an iron fist - Italy still had a king and a council that could, if they so desired, remove the increasingly desperate Mussolini from office. As July began, Mussolini was just about holding on … but for how long?

On July 19th 1943, Allied bombers appeared over the ‘Eternal City’ of Rome. It was not the first time the city had been bombed, but it would prove to be a crucial turning point in the dictator’s downfall. The bombers flattened the mainly working-class area of San Lorenzo, caused extensive damage to two of Rome’s airports and reduced parts of the ancient Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Walls to rubble. Enough was enough.

'At this moment you are the most hated man in Italy'

Furious members of Mussolini’s government turned against their beleaguered leader, culminating in a vote of no confidence by the Grand Council on the 24th of July. The following day, Il Duce was summoned to the palace of King Victor Emmanuel III for what he thought would just be one of their regular bi-weekly meetings. The king told him he was being replaced by Marshal Pietro Badoglio. 'My dear Duce, it’s no longer any good,' the king told the crestfallen dictator. 'Italy has gone to bits. The soldiers don’t want to fight any more. At this moment you are the most hated man in Italy.'

Mussolini left the palace in a state of shock. He had ruled Italy since 1922, and now he had been unceremoniously booted out of office after being betrayed by members of his own government. His mood darkened considerably when he was immediately arrested by members of the Carabinieri (Italian military police) and imprisoned on the orders of the king.

When Hitler received news of Mussolini’s downfall, he was appalled. If Mussolini could be so easily deposed, maybe the same fate awaited Adolf Hitler?

Hitler's opinions about italy and mussolini

Post by Mehmet Fatih » 16 Sep 2004, 20:12

Following text is from the book "Bormann Vermerke-Bormann Notes".the book was released in turkiye with the title "my political will" by adolf hitler.
this is what hitler thought about italy and its participation in war.it contains many "what if"s
by hitler.i hope you find it interesting.(i am translating it from turkish.and english is not my primitive language.so please excuse my mistakes in translation.)

FUHRER HQ 18th february 1945

"after a cold judgement of the situation,by leaving all emotional factors,i have to accept that my friendship with italy and duce must be added to the side of my mistakes.it is obvious that our friendship with italians was more benefical for our enemies than us.despite some little help provided,italy always created difficulties for us during their contribution to war.if we lose this war,italian contribution will be one of the reasons of defeat.

if they stayed out of the war,that would be the greatest goodness of italy for us.their neutrality would be more precious than all their soldiers sacrificed for us.if they stayed out of the war,we would provide them endless help to satisfy all their needs.if we won the war,we would share the earning and the honor of victory with them.we were going to help italians,the only true heirs of roman empire,to revive the old legends of their empire.everything else would be better than seeing italians as warriors beside us.

the italian entrance in the war made a positive effect on french army.the french who accepted our victory,started to fight harder and that delayed our victory.french had accepted the victory of third reich army.they accepted that with honor.but they couldnt bear the axis victory.

our ally italy disturbed us everywhere.their existence in northern africa prevented us to follow revolutionary politics there.according to the situation,italy thought northern africa was their own bussines and mussolini demanded the ownership of northern africa.we had to liberate the muslim countries under french rule.that would make a big effect on british controlled egypt and other near east countries.
but our dependance on italy in northern africa prevented such an honourable action.all muslim countries were shaken by the news of our victories.they were all ready for a rebellion.those rebellions would be
benefical for us.but we couldnt do anything because of italy.italian existence with us was paralyzing us and our muslim friends were displeased with that.those muslim countries saw us in a position of helping
their hangman.moreover the people of this region hated italians more than french or british.the memories of barbaric acts are still kept alive.also people are still making fun of mussolini's declaration of himself
as the "sword of islam" before the war.such an honor befits only on people like Mohammad or Omar is given to mussolini by a bunch of idiots.those idiots were probably paid money or threatened by mussolini.
we could make a great policy on islamic world but we missed the chance like many others because of our loyalty to our ally.

as we can see,italians prevented us to play one of our best cards in our plan.this plan was to liberate countries under french rule
and to encourage the people living under british cruelty for a rebellion.this policy was going to excite all islamic countries.
it is a fact that something interests a muslim country,interests all muslim countries from atlantic to pacific.

the effect of our plan on morality was two times disasterous.we humiliated france with no benefits and we made an effort for their empire to keep their colonies under control.we were anxious about that liberation ideas to spread in the italian colonies in africa.as we can see that, those land are now occupied by british and american forces.
so i can say that the result was a disaster for us.our wrong policy even helped british to look like a liberator in syra and libya.

if we look from the military aspect,we can see that the situation is same.italy's participation in war,helped our enemies to win the first victory.by the help of this victory,churchill encouraged his citizens
and all the supporters of britain.while italians were not in control of libya and ethiopiawithout informing us nor asking our opinion, they started an unnecessary war with greece.their humiliating defeats in greece
resulted some negative opinions about us in balkans.that was the reason for yugoslavians to change their minds.on the contrary of all our plans,severity of yugoslavia forced us to attack balkans and that
delayed our war with russia.some of our best divisions weakened in balkan operations because we had to invade an enormous territory with those divisions.if there was no conflict in balkans,those divisons would
remain with an increasing strength.balkan countries would be pleased to be neutral against us.we would prefer to use our paratroopers in Gibraltar instead of corent and crete.

if only the italians stayed out of the war.if only they didnt participate in fighting nations.if italians behaved like that,it would be a worthless favour for us.how happy would the allies be?
although they didnt know anything about italy's military power,they woudnt expect it to be that weak.they would think that they dont have to face a major power if italy stayed out.but even a neutral italy
will force them to keep some of their forces around the peninsula.the result would be a big amount of british forces waiting inactive without combat experience.shortly,this weird war would only be for our advantage.

a war which is getting longer is only for enemy's advantage.it gives enemy the opportunity to mature in battle.i hoped to fight a blitzkrieg against enemy,without giving him a chance to learn how to fight
against us.we did it in poland,scandinavia,holland,belgium and france.those victories were certain victories bringing an instant end to our enemies.

if the war was not the war of axis nations but the war of germany,we could have assaulted on russia since 15th may 1941.gained strenth by certain victory,we could finish the war in russia before winter.
then everything would be different.

Mussolini learnt about the German intentions first as did most other countries, by diplomatic reports from his ambassador in Berlin and similar sources alarmed, in early August 1939, Mussolini sent Galeazzo Ciano for a meeting with Ribbentrop, who told him Germany intended to invade the whole of Poland, not just Danzig. Mussolini was clearly against it, because he realized it would mean a war against the United Kingdom and France that Italy was not ready for, so he tried to organise an international conference like the one held at Munich the year before, but failed because Hitler was not interested in any such conference.
Check pages 248-250 from Mussolini by M. Clark for more info.

Following the "Pact of Steel" concluded in May 1939, Germany and Italy consulted on all major European matters, so Mussolini knew about Germany's plans to invade Poland no later than August, 1939.

Italy's response was the so-called "Molybdenum List," a long list of war materials, headed by molybdenum, that Italy would require before joining Germany in a war.

Answering the second part of your question, it is quite probable that Mussolini was against war with Poland, although I don't know what his opinion about German-Polish war was.

During the war (until 1942, IIRC) Poland and Italy were not in a state of war. This is of course officially, as Polish soldiers fought against Italians eg. in Africa (but as a part of British forces) and some Polish warships fought against Italian ones (however some commanders have objections here). The war was declared by Poland (maybe under British pressure), not Italy, so it might be assumed, that Mussolini was not interested in a war against Poland.

Also as an addendum to previous answers:

In the morning [of 25 Aug 1939], Adolf Hitler sent a message to Benito Mussolini, noting that the reason why Italy was not informed of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was because Hitler had not imagined the negotiations would conclude so quickly. He also revealed to him that war was to commence soon, but failed to let him know that the planned invasion date was on the following day. Later on the same day, however, Hitler hesitated in the face of the Anglo-Polish mutual defense agreement he would quickly decide to postpone the invasion date. (. ) [source]


The Antifa movement faced an almost impossible situation in 1945. The country lay in ruins in every sense imaginable, and had gone through a phase of destruction, brutality, and wanton murder unprecedented in scale.

The Antifa’s predicament was by and large “overdetermined,” in the sense that historical forces beyond their control would ultimately seal their fate. These socialists and antifascists, though numbering in the tens of thousands across the country, could not have been expected to provide a plausible political alternative to the overwhelming might of the Cold War.

Germany in 1945 was set to become the staging ground for the longest geopolitical confrontation in modern history, and there was no way the fragments of a shattered socialist movement could have influenced developments in any meaningful way. Nevertheless, statements and documents from the time reveal thousands of determined antifascists and socialists, keenly aware of the unprecedented nature of their historical moment and putting forward a political perspective for what remained of the country’s working class.

Although their numbers were comparatively and regrettably few given the movement’s former glory, their existence refutes the notion that the prewar German left was entirely destroyed by Nazism. Hitler certainly broke the back of German socialism, but West Germany’s postwar prosperity laced with anti-Communist paranoia would finally bury what remained of the country’s radical prewar traditions.

Albrecht Lein recounts how the incredibly difficult conditions facing the Antifa also necessarily restricted their political perspective. Though they attracted thousands of socialists and were soon bolstered by returning Communists and other political prisoners from the concentration camps, briefly becoming the dominant political force in cities like Braunschweig, they were unable to offer a political road out of the country’s social misery.

In 1946, even the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) was calling for nationalization and socialism in their propaganda.

Lein argues that the labor movement’s failure to defeat Hitler and the fact that Germany had required liberation from without drove antifascists to a largely reactive policy, vigorously pursuing former Nazi officials and purging society of collaborators, but neglecting to build a plausible vision for a “new Germany” beyond both fascism and Cold War machinations.

After the Communists dissolved the National Committee for a Free Germany (NKFD) in the weeks after the war, underground Nazi resistance groups began calling themselves the “Movement for a Free Germany.” Lein argues that this circumstance was symbolic of the overall political trajectory at the time: “Other than the notable exceptions of Leipzig, Berlin and Munich, the antifascist movements described themselves as fighting organizations against fascism, and not as Committees for a Free Germany. Leaving the task of gathering social forces for ‘liberation’ and thus, implicitly, renewing Germany to the Nazis and reactionaries characterized [. . .] their defensive position.”

Germans’ failure to engage in popular resistance to Hitler even in the second half of the war understandably demoralized the Left and shook its faith in the masses’ capabilities — a trait historian Martin Sabrow also ascribes to the caste of Communist functionaries operating under Soviet tutelage in the East.

In the French, British, and American zones, Antifas began to recede by the late summer of 1945, marginalized by Allied bans on political organization and re-emerging divisions within the movement itself. The Social Democratic leadership under Kurt Schumacher sided with the Western occupiers and returned the party to its prewar anti-Communist line by the end of the year, decreeing that SPD membership was incompatible with participation in the Antifa movement.

In Stuttgart, the Antifa and what remained of the old trade union bureaucracy fought each other for political influence from the outset. The old leadership of the ADGB, prewar Germany’s central trade union federation, sought to reestablish formalized employment relations in the occupied zones, which would at least mean a return to normalcy for Germany’s working class. This ran counter to the approach of the Antifas, however, who cultivated strong ties to leftist shop stewards and factory committees, and usually called for nationalization and worker control of industry. These demands were ultimately not realistic in a shattered economy occupied by powerful foreign armies.

The prospect of stability and a degree of economic recovery under the SPD simply proved more appealing to workers forced to choose between that and the principled but harrowing struggle put forward by the Antifa.

Antifas were further hindered by the decision by the Allies, particularly the United States and Britain, to cooperate with what remained of the Nazi regime below its most executive levels. Antifas seeking to imprison local Nazi leaders or purge municipal bureaucracies were often stopped by occupying authorities who preferred to integrate functionaries of the old state into new, ostensibly democratic institutions.

This had less to do with any particular affinity between the Allies and ex-fascist functionaries so much as it served the practical interests of keeping German society running under exceedingly difficult conditions without ceding influence to the reemerging radical left. Outnumbered and outgunned by the occupying powers and outmaneuvered by the SPD, the Antifa’s influence in the three western zones of occupation would evaporate in less than a year. West German society stabilized, the Cold War polarized the continent, and the political forces of old Germany in alliance with Social Democracy and the emerging Western bloc consolidated their hold over the country.

The KPD, for its part, initially took on waves of new members, as its prestige rose in light of the Soviet victory over Hitler and broad anticapitalist sentiment. The party soon rebuilt its industrial bases, and by 1946 controlled just as many shop floor committees in the heavily industrialized Ruhr Region as the SPD. In his classic study of the German labor movement, Die deutsche Arbeiterbewegung, German scholar Arno Klönne places its total membership in the three Western zones of occupation at three hundred thousand in 1947, and six hundred thousand in the East prior to the founding of the SED in 1946.

Early Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) poster.

Following a brief period of participation in postwar provisional governments, however, the Allies sidelined the KPD, and the party soon returned to its ultra-leftist line. It sealed its political irrelevance in 1951 with the passage of “Thesis 37,” a position paper on labor strategy riddled with anti–Social Democratic and anti-trade-union slurs. The motion, passed at the party conference, obligated all KPD members to obey party decisions above and against trade union directives if necessary. This move obliterated Communist support in the factories veritably overnight and relegated the party to society’s fringes. It failed to re-enter parliament in the 1953 elections and was banned by the West German government outright in 1956.

Developments were markedly different in the Soviet zone, but ultimately ended in perhaps an even grimmer dead end: that of SED leader Walter Ulbricht’s thoroughly Stalinized German Democratic Republic (GDR). An old-school Communist cadre from the party’s early years, Ulbricht had survived twenty years of Stalinist purges and fascist repression to lead the “Ulbricht Group,” a team of exiled KPD functionaries who now returned from Moscow to rebuild the country under Soviet occupation.

Though the Red Army generals certainly did not have a particularly democratic or egalitarian vision for East Germany in mind, they rejected cooperation with the old Nazi hierarchy for their own reasons and for a while permitted Antifas and related institutions to operate relatively freely. Eyewitness accounts from as late as 1947 report of factories in East Germany’s prewar industrial centers like Halle (traditional Communist strongholds) where KPD-led works councils exerted a decisive influence over factory life, confident enough to conduct negotiations and argue with Soviet authorities in some instances.

In an interview with Jacobin to be published later this year, veteran KPO activist Theodor Bergmann tells of Heinrich Adam, prewar KPO member and mechanic at the Zeiss optics factory in Jena who joined the SED in hopes of realizing socialist unity. Heinrich was an active Antifa and trade unionist who organized protests against the Soviets’ decision to take the Zeiss factory as war reparations (he suggested building a new factory in Russia instead). Adam was kicked out of the party for his independent views in 1952, although never persecuted, and lived out his days in Jena on a modest state pension for antifascist veterans.

In Dresden, a group of roughly eighty Communists, Social Democrats, and members of the left-social democratic Socialist Workers Party (SAP) formed a committee in May 1945 to surrender the city to the Red Army, citing broadcasts from the NKFD as inspiration. In cooperation with Soviet authorities, this group subsequently raided food and weapons stores from the German Labor Front and other Nazi institutions, and organized a distribution system for the city’s populace in the first postwar weeks.

Reports from Soviet officials and the Ulbricht Group describe rival antifascist groups, generally tolerated by the occupation, which beyond arming residents and organizing shooting practice also arrested local Nazis and opened soup kitchens for refugees from the eastern provinces. Internal communications reveal that leading Communists thought little of the Antifa, dismissed by Ulbricht as “the antifascist sects” in a communiqué to Georgi Dimitrov in mid-1945.

The Ulbricht Group’s initial goal was to incorporate as many of these antifascists into the KPD as possible, and feared that repression would repel rather than attract them. Former Ulbricht Group member Wolfgang Leonhard would later claim in his memoirs, Child of the Revolution, that Ulbricht explained to fellow Communist functionaries: “It’s quite clear – it’s got to look democratic, but we must have everything in our control.”

This period ended as the German Democratic Republic began to establish itself as a Soviet-style one-party state in the late 1940s, particularly after relatively free elections in 1946 delivered disappointing returns. Former KPO members and other oppositionists permitted to join after the war were investigated for past political crimes, purged, and often imprisoned. In the workplaces, the SED sought to rationalize production and thus neutralize the instances of factory control and democratic representation that had emerged.

The establishment of the Free German Trade Federation (FDGB) in 1946 marked the beginning of the SED’s attempt to establish party control over the factories. These “unions” in fact organized East German workers in line with the interests of their practical bosses, the East German state, and sought to buy their loyalty through “socialist competition” schemes, piece work, and union-sponsored vacation packages.

However, the “free” unions could not afford to phase out competitive elections overnight. Antifa activists were often elected to FDGB shop floor committees in early the years, thus exercising continued influence in the workplace for a bit longer. Some were integrated into mid-level management, while others refused to betray their principles and stepped down or were removed for political reasons.

The public split between the Soviet Union and Tito’s Yugoslavia in 1948 accelerated Stalinization in the Soviet occupation zone, and these limited spaces of self-organization were soon shut down entirely. Subsequently, the GDR’s antifascist tradition would be diluted, distorted, and refashioned into an ahistorical national origins myth in which the citizens of East Germany were officially proclaimed the “victors of history,” but where little space remained for the real and complicated history, not to mention ambivalent role of Stalinized Communism, behind it.

Hitler to Mussolini: Fight harder! - HISTORY

On this day in 1941, Adolf Hitler scolds his Axis partner, Benito Mussolini, for his troops’ retreat in the face of British advances in Libya, demanding that the Duce command his forces to resist.

Since 1912, Italy had occupied Libya because of purely economic “expansion” motives.

In 1935, Mussolini began sending tens of thousands of Italians to Libya, mostly farmers and other rural workers, in part to relieve overpopulation concerns in Italy. So by the time of the outbreak of the Second World War, Italy had enjoyed a long-term presence in North Africa, and Mussolini began dreaming of expanding that presence, always with an eye toward the same territories that the old “Roman Empire” had counted among its conquests.

Also sitting in North Africa were British troops, which, under a 1936 treaty, were garrisoned in Egypt to protect the Suez Canal and Royal Navy bases at Alexandria and Port Said.

Hitler had offered to aid Mussolini early on in his North African expansion, to send German troops to help fend off a British counterattack. But Mussolini had been rebuffed when he had offered Italian assistance during the Battle of Britain. He now insisted that as a matter of national pride, Italy would have to create a Mediterranean sphere of influence on its own, or risk becoming a “junior” partner of Germany’s.

But despite expansion into parts of East Africa and Egypt, Mussolini’s forces proved no match for the Brits in the long run. British troops pushed the Italians westward, inflicting extraordinary losses on the Axis forces in an attack at Beda Fomm.

As Britain threatened to push the Italians out of Libya altogether and break through to Tunisia, Mussolini swallowed his pride and asked Hitler for assistance. Hitler reluctantly agreed (it would mean the first direct German-British encounter in the Mediterranean) , but only if Mussolini stopped the Italians’ retreat and kept the British out of Tripoli, the Libyan capital.

But the Italians continued to be overwhelmed. In three months, 20,000 men were wounded or killed and 130,000 were taken prisoner. Only with the arrival of German Gen. Erwin Rommel would the Italian resistance be strengthened against further British advances. Even with Germany’s help, Italy was able to defend its North African territory only until early 1943.

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Measured in terms of the body count, the award - if such it can be called - goes to Mao. Though "worst" is something of a vague standard. If countervailing benefits are to be found in tyranny and mass murder, then perhaps a case can be made for a different ordering.

That said, Mao was history's most prolific killer. Followed by Stalin, then Hitler and lastly Mussolini.

One of the reasons, perhaps not the only reason, that Hitler has become the synonym for "the worst" is that he - along with to a lesser degree Mussolini - sparked a world war and in the aftermath of that war his crimes were laid bare for all the world to see. Those crimes gained universal coverage whereas in the case of Mao and Stalin, even after their deaths their regimes continued and covered up much of what they had done.

Though in the case of Stalin, Khruschev's 1956 speech - later a book - "On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences" did open the world, and indeed the USSR itself, to an awareness of what the Soviet dictator had done. At the time, it was a revelation, though it was not as if there had not been some recognition of it in the West before then.

However, without meaning to offend, there is a problem with your question. Speaking of that wartime propaganda, it is what made the popular conflation of Fascism and National Socialism possible. In fact, the definitions you proffered are in error.

Fascism is an ideology that defined the state as the pinnacle of authority and the defining entity of human character. It was based on what was sometimes called the Corporatist state.

That is that each individual was a cog in the machine of the state, and that the leader of the state was the unifying force that caused the machine to work in harmony. Consequently, it tended to make no distinctions between citizens based on ethnicity, race or such, so long as they pledged their fealty to the state and its leader.

Indeed, as an aside, Italian Jews were among the earliest supporters of Mussolini and the National Fascist Party. It was only as the war began to go badly for Italy and it became less an ally and more a satellite of Germany that it began to take on an anti-Semitic cast.

Fascism tended to have no refined economic theory but generally accepted private property. Stipulating that everything in the state was subordinate to it.

Communism was the idea that man is nothing but the product of the dialectic of History - with a capital "H" - and that class was the defining feature of human nature. It postulated that, in due course, the inevitable dialectic of History would end in the withering away of the state - note that it is antithetical to Fascism - and end in a classless society where all would spontaneously work in harmony.

As this tended not to work out in practice, the theory was refined that an elite of those who could discern History's dialectic - the party - would subordinate all to themselves and guide man to the class free utopia. As such, the party was the supreme entity in the state and the state itself was subordinate to it.

Finally, National Socialism - Naziism - is a variant of socialism. Indeed, Hitler famously wrote to some of his supporters in 1931, "I am a socialist, and a very different kind of socialist from your rich friend Count Reventlow." Also, Mein Kempf was replete with attacks on what Hitler - and the Marxists - called the "decadent Anglo-Saxon capitalists."

The difference between National Socialism and Marxism was that the latter, as noted, said class was the motivating force in history. The National Socialists argued that the conflict between the races was what drove history.

Suffice to say, reality often takes a toll on ideology and the methods available to the Marxist, the Nazi and the Fascist are apt to be strikingly similar. Yet all three are distinct and have readily identifiable characteristics. That said, Nazism and Communism were related, not Fascism and Nazism.

Why did the way Hitler and Mussolini orated appeal so strongly to their respective populations?

I have been watching WW2 in Color on Netflix recently and what really stood out to me was the very different styles of oration the Allies' leaders had (Roosevelt & Churchill) compared to the European Axis' leaders. Roosevelt and Churchill are quite soft spoken when compared to Hitler and Mussolini. They are much more akin to how Westerners today think politicians should orate. This type of oration obviously appealed to US and British citizens at the time or they wouldn't have given speeches in that manner. However, when watching Hitler and Mussolini speak, there is much more shouting, drama, and handwaving. To me, Hitler seeming to emphasize shouting and anger, whereas Mussolini seemed to emphasize theatrics. In fact, during the first clip of a speech by Mussolini, the narrator of WW2 in Color made an aside that the way he orates may seem cartoonish now, but back then the populace of Italy loved it. What was it about the populace and culture in WW2 era Germany and Italy to prefer this over-the-top manner of speaking, and were there any contemporaries who also gave speeches in this manner? Was it all simply to build and maintain a cult-of-personality? Why was this manner not adopted in Britain or the US?

I have put a lot of youtube videos here you can ignore them of course but I felt that I could not explain my point without showing something. They are OK obviously but, before watching, you may want to log out, unless you want “how the Nazis could have won” to pop up as your next suggested video! Source: I did not log out.

That's a few questions rolled into one.

First though I must begin by challenging the assumption that there was something that made the Italians more susceptible to Mussolini's style. In fact it is certainly true that Mussolini's speeches were quite distinctive, to the point where imitations were at risk of crossing into parody, and that he enjoyed a large, if fluctuating, amount of consensus up until the late 1942.

But that one thing had a causation function on the other is another thing entirely.

Mussolini's public speeches – and Hitler's too – were certainly a part of that privileged channel between the leader and the people that has been discussed in the most diverse fields of study: the charismatic leader, head of a totalitarian state, etc.

Nonetheless a question remains: were the leaders popular because of their oratorical skills or were the speeches successful because of the leaders' popularity? And were in fact the speeches successful at all?

In the last months of the Third Reich, when Hitler avoided speaking to the people, Goebbels noted that one of his speeches would have a reinvigorating effect on the Nation but Hitler appeared afraid that a speech of defeat and misfortune by a sickly old man would have had the opposite effect that instead of rekindling the fire of the leader cult, it would have smothered it for good. Perhaps the connection was worth more than the leader himself.

The fact is that it is difficult to prove how successful a public speech was. Things like opinion polls were at the time – at least in Italy – essentially non existent and they would have been pointless in the years of the Regime. Therefore what we have is countless police reports: the Fascist Regime was actively listening to the possible manifestations of dissent, complaints, lack of enthusiasm – I discuss this point here talking about dissent but the reasoning is the same. Keeping track of the people's dissatisfaction was a crucial part of the surveillance activity it allowed the Regime to keep a minimum of content that prevented a coalescence of opposition or a public display of dissent. In these various reports, we see that what dominated the mood of the Italian Nation were the material conditions of living: prices, wages, unemployment, subsidies and later during the war, victory, defeat, new enemies, hope and fear.

In this context the reaction to Mussolini's speeches was generally positive but why? Very little or nothing at all is said about his style: what matters is the general idea that Mussolini addressing an issue would mean a better chance of the State taking care of it. Mussolini spoke of the unemployed in the Savona docks: that means that new jobs were coming. Mussolini traveled to Catania: public works are coming. And Mussolini made every attempt to make sure that a positive reaction was a given: knowing beforehand the people's complaints, arranging for large sums of money to be given as charity during his travels, timing the solution of occupational issues, the beginning of public works, etc. so that it was clear that the solution was a consequence of his taking a direct interest into the matter. Mussolini also gave out large sums of money – well a large number of relatively small sums – to petitioners of any kind those that wrote to him directly.

The connection between the Duce – here I must add that the Mussolini style OP is referencing really is the style of his 1930s speeches it changed a bit from before (here in 1923 – skip to after 28.00, when we don't have the sort of media coverage that was developed later more (here and here for some cuts of Mussolini hanging out with friends and Mussolini in frac) – and his people was fostered in any possible way, even damaging that of the Party by comparison and if Mussolini's popularity lasted for over twenty years, that of the various gerarchi was far less substantial, with peaks of open contempt – ahem, Starace.

But a remarkable difference of style exist between Mussolini and other less idiosyncratic speakers (as this guy proves). And it is worth addressing some of the possible reasons.

The various moments of building consensus trough a speech have been discussed in various forms since the beginnings of mankind. Unfortunately, of that I know little to nothing except for translating bits of De oratore, therefore I'll limit myself to a minimum.

The first moment, that often may not be the most important, I'll call “open petitioning”, which is to say that part of the speech where you address the audience by presenting logical arguments to support your point and ask them to either agree or disagree on the basis of those arguments. Such moment was absent in Mussolini's speeches: there was no open petitioning for consensus as open consensus was a given – the fact that the Regime maneuvered to make it so did not chance the fact that open dissent was unfeasible, that there was no proper way to disagree.

In a Roosevelt speech – and I know very little of him as well – even as President, he is still talking to men who may agree with his views and to men who may disagree with him. All the elements of the speech are required. Ultimately he is addressing his equals.

Mussolini wasn't: the people and the leader weren't equals. Mussolini's audience was listening to the Duce telling them how things were going to be fixed. And in fact Mussolini's speeches to selected audiences toned it down significantly: here one briefly introduced by Minister Starace – don't miss 1.08. When he speaks to a crowd, from up, on the top of everyone else, dressed to impress, he becomes a showman, playing with the crowd, leading it .

In a way there was in that a portion of deliberate choice, as Mussolini was familiar with Le Bon's Psychologie des Foules - even if with him we are never sure how much of it he really understood and how much he believed to – and had taken to heart the idea that large groups of people were more easily moved by irrational arguments, than by rational ones. But we shouldn't fall into the trap of imagining a Mussolini master of propaganda, precursor of modern sociology and so on. As I noted before his functional role within the Regime put him in the perfect position to hold effective speeches, a position that would have made a less competent speaker still somehow successful. Nor we should forget that Mussolini was in fact – and was believed so by his contemporaries – an extremely effective speech writer and some of his speeches of the early 1920s clearly display that he was perfectly able to address an audience in a traditional manner – see for example the Udine speech for the economical program of the Party or his inaugural speech to chamber, or even his 1925 reopening speech.

History’s Dirty Little Secret

There is a dirty little secret that has received little attention. It is the untold narrative about the historical and socioeconomic context behind Italian Fascism and the German National Socialism. It is not what most people have heard before. It is not what many want to hear. But it is not something that can be ignored.

As it turns out, the horrendous ideologies of fascism and national socialist are not merely pejorative terms to dish out in flippant responses. They have historical significance. They have consequences. And their ideological underpinnings are still widely accepted in today’s world. In fact, many government administrations and agencies take the attitude that “It’s not fascism when WE do it!”

To understand those underpinnings, it is vital to comprehend what these collective ideologies represent from a historical perspective. History does repeat itself, and usually to the detriment of the ignorant.

Near the end of World War II, George Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm, attempted to define fascism. He found it difficult. He wrote that the word “Fascism” is almost entirely meaningless, arguing that it is recklessly flung around in every direction. [1] Orwell had been disappointed that nobody seriously wanted to come up with a clear and generally accepted definition of fascism. He knew why most were reluctant. If they did examine the core of fascism, they would have to gaze into a mirror and see an unsavory reflection.

So what is Italian-style fascism? One of the best descriptions came from author Lew Rockwell, who wrote: “Fascism is the system of government that cartelizes the private sector, centrally plans the economy to subsidize producers, exalts the police state as the source of order, denies fundamental rights and liberties to individuals, and makes the executive state the unlimited master of society.” [2]

This seems cut and dried, and not an uncommon type of government today or in the past. So, why did fascism become a universal swearword, especially since so many governments actively pursue its policies? Many blame fascism’s low status on Soviet Union propaganda. After Nazi Germany terminated the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact by invading its Soviet Union partner, the two military titans engaged in bitter war of epic proportions. Like a jilted lover, communists not only went after Nazi Germany with vengeance on the battlefield, but cranked up their propaganda machine to identify anyone opposed to communism as “fascist.” This is a curious anomaly given that the German National Socialists had masterminded the initial military strikes against the Soviet Union, not Mussolini’s Fascist Italy.

This is an historical oddity, because Benito Mussolini had warm relations with the Soviet Union and Lenin. Mussolini wasn’t a monarchist, capitalist or a rightwing churchgoer. He was fervently anticlerical, an avowed atheist and a well-known Marxist during the early years of his life. Where’s the proof? In 1924 Fascist Italy became the first western country to recognize the Soviet Union. That should not be surprising. Calling himself the “Lenin of Italy,” Mussolini had earlier launched a theoretical Marxist journal, Utopia. Two of his collaborators on Utopia went on to found the Italian Communist Party. Another helped found the German Communist Party. [3] As socialist and labor agitator, he led strikes and riots against Italy’s invasion of Ottoman Libya in the 1911–1912. He supported the violent labor strikes during “Red Week, until it failed to topple the government. During the 1920s and 1930s, he often boasted that fascism was the same as communism.

Mussolini rose quickly as an influential leader in the Italian Socialist Party. Author David Ramsey Steele painted Mussolini as “the Che Guevara of his day, a living saint of leftism. Handsome, courageous, charismatic, an erudite Marxist, a riveting speaker and writer, a dedicated class warrior to the core, he was the peerless duce of the Italian Left. He looked like the head of any future Italian socialist government, elected or revolutionary.” [4]

Mussolini’s friendship with the Russian Bolsheviks was substantial. Fascist Italy’s official recognition of the Soviet Union opened the flood gates to tremendous trade, making Italy a major supplier of arms to the Soviet Union, especially after the signing of the 1933 Russo-Italian “Treaty of Friendship, Nonaggression, and Neutrality.” Fascist Italy had forged an alliance with the Soviet Union, a commercial accord that provided technical help to Moscow in the aviation, automobile and naval industries. [5] A number of scholars contend that Italy’s industry and banks were responsible for the military industrialization of the Soviet Union, greatly contributing to Russia’s development of its oil and armament industries. The bustling trade between Fascist Italy and Soviet Russia lasted until 1941.

But how did fascism become anchored to Marxism? Historically, fascism arose in the 1890s out of a crisis in Marxist theory which was making Marxism archaic, obsolete and irrelevant. One of its major crises dealt with class conflict. The problem was, few workers were interested in class struggle. Instead, the populace was drawn to the flags of nationalism, especially with the unification of Italy in 1861 and of Germany in 1871. In an attempt to save Marxism, a number of notable Marxist intellectuals attempted to replace class struggle with revolutionary nationalism. In a well-documented article, “The Mysteries of Fascism,” David Ramsay Steele explained: “Fascism began as a revision of Marxism by Marxists…” [6]

That changed slightly in 1914, when Mussolini joined a splinter group of revolutionary syndicalists who supported Italy’s entrance into World War I. This labor-union movement metamorphosed in 1914 into the Marxist–inspired Fasci d’Azione Rivoluzionaria Internazionalista—known as the Fascists—causing the infamous split between pro-war socialists and anti-war socialists. [7] Similar breaks occurred within communist and socialist communities across Europe.

In his book, Inside the Kremlin’s Cold War, Vladislav Pleshakov wrote “The Socialists of France and Germany and even of Russia supported World War I as a war between nation-states.” [8] Four days after Germany declared war on France, Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière (SFIO) which eventually morphed into the French Communist Party, dropped its antimilitary, internationalist stand and replaced it with French patriotism, fully supporting the war. Established as a Marxist party in 1875, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) also came out in support of World War I. [9]

As for the political spectrum, Italian Fascists did not generally think of themselves as a movement of the right that label was already reserved for the reactionary forces of the monarchy and the clergy. In his 1927 “The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism,” Mussolini clearly states “this will be a century of authority, a century of the Left, a century of Fascism,” which came from Jane Soames’ 1933 authorized English translation. [10] [11] In the next sentence, Mussolini continued and wrote: “For if the 19th century was the century of individualism (Liberalism always signifying individualism) it may be expected that this will be the century of collectivism, and hence the century of the State.” As most political scientists would acknowledge, “collectivism” is clearly an ideology pegged to the Left. President Herbert Hoover, in his 1934 book Challenge to Liberty, used the same phrase “century of the Left” when he quoted from Mussolini’s “Doctrine of Fascism.” [12] [13]

Mussolini saw himself as anti-bourgeois, anti-liberal, anti-individualist, anti-laissez-faire capitalism, and anti-religious. He fancied himself as a leader of a great pro-worker state, saying: “If the 19th century has been the century of the individual (for liberalism means individualism), it may be conjectured that this is the century of the State.” What hardcore left-wing ideologue could disagree with Mussolini’s visions?

To collectivists, fascists, communists, national socialists and a slew of dime-a-dozen rigid ideologies, the state is the highest embodiment of god-like power and therefore nothing must overshadow its awe-inspiring divinity. As Mussolini stated in 1925, “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State” In actuality, the only thing that can be worshiped at the altar of an autocratic regime is the almighty State.

As can be readily seen, the incorrect alignment of political spectrums cloaks one of history’s dirtiest secret. A little before World War II, the National Socialist German Workers Party, Mussolini’s Fascism and the Soviet Union’s Bolsheviks were considered to be ardent socialists pegged on the political left. During the 1920s, the progressive left embraced fascists as one of their own, lionizing both Hitler and Mussolini for championing a progressive social movement, especially Hitler’s generous welfare programs, socialized healthcare and old age programs (social security). [14] Even W.E.B. Du Bois, the American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, socialist and Pan-Africanist who eventually joined the Communist Party, spoke highly of Nazi Germany’s march towards collective empowerment, viewing Hitler as a man of the Left. [15]

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, a leading member of the socialist Fabian Society, heaped praise on Mussolini in 1927. He said that fellow “socialists should be delighted to find at last a socialist who speaks and thinks as responsible rulers do.” [16] Shaw further noted that he found Mussolini appealing because he was “’farther to the Left in his political opinions than any’ of his socialist rivals.” [17]

In fact, the Italian fascists boasted to voters that they were a political party squarely on the Left. Prof. Pamela D. Toler in The Everything Guide to Understanding Socialism, writes: “In the 1919 parliamentary elections, fascist candidates presented themselves as part of the Left not only in their beliefs, but also in their willingness to ally with other leftist parties.” [18] Unfortunately for Mussolini, their mishmash of left-wing issues and nationalism fared poorly among voters.

Like many collectivist-leaning politicians, Mussolini had a turbulent relationship with the Church, with industrialists and with other socialists. During his early years, he threatened to shut down the Catholic Church and seize all its Italian property. But such vitriolic anti-church sentiment was highly unpopular in a deeply traditional and religious nation, and Mussolini had to back off. Still, he spent considerable time rebuking the Church, proclaiming that the “papacy was a malignant tumor in the body of Italy and must ‘be rooted out once and for all,’ because there was no room in Rome for both the Pope and himself.” [19] On other occasions he would announce his hope that death would soon come to the Pope. Mussolini had almost as much disregard for monarchies, especially the Hapsburgs.

Mussolini also had to both condemn and placate industrialists and business leaders, the same ones he had rioted against during his organized labor strikes. As for socialism, he criticized other socialists and Marxists while telling his friends and foreign visitors that Fascism and Bolshevism were dear brethren. Many books of the era show the extent of this love affair and the overlapping of the two.

For instance, Francesco Nitti, a former Prime Minister of Italy and a leading leftist, remarked in his 1927 book Bolshevism, Fascism and Democracy, “There is little difference between the two, and in certain respects, Fascism and Bolshevism are the same.” [20] In a chapter entitled “Bolshevism and Fascism are Identical,” Nitti wrote: “In Italy today one finds that greater tolerance is shown toward Communists affiliated with Moscow than to Liberals, democrats, and Socialists.” [21] In 1931, when Alfred Bingham, the son of a U.S. Republican Senator, visited Mussolini, he was told that “Fascism is the same thing as Communism.” [22]

Edmondo Rossoni, the first leader of the Italian Fascist labor confederation and professor at the University of Florence, described Benito Mussolini in Gaetano Salvemini’s 1936 book, Under the Axe of Fascism, as a “revolutionary Socialist of the extreme left.” [23]

Besides being an admirer of Lenin, Mussolini looked kindly towards Stalin as a “fellow Fascist.” Many Italian fascist leaders believed that Stalin’s bolshevism was evolving into fascism. Poet and journalist Gabriele D’Annunzio, considered as a folk hero to fascists, characterized fascism as a form of Latinized National Bolshevism.

In another book published in 1930 Il Duce: The Life and Work of Benito Mussolini, by pro-fascist L. Kemechey, the author fervently argued that Mussolini was a Socialist and a Leninist and a revolutionary. [24]

Mussolini’s fame came about from his days as a labor organizer. In fact, he got the nickname “Il Duce” after he was released from jail for organizing violent workers to oppose Italy’s imperialism and the capitalist system. During a celebratory banquet, a Marxist veteran congratulated Mussolini and said: “From today you, Benito, are not only the representative of Romagna Socialists, but the Il Duce of all revolutionary Socialists in Italy.” [25]

In England, Sir Oswald Mosley, a minister in the left-wing Labor Party until 1931, founded the “British Union of Fascists.” Mosley was a big admirer of economist John Keynes, Mussolini, state corporatism and protectionist trade policies. Many other well-known Europeans in the forefront of the progressive social movement were attracted to Mussolini’s fascism and Hitler’s National Socialism. One such luminary included science fiction author H.G. Wells, who coined the phrase “liberal fascism” in 1932 during a speech at Oxford University for the Young Liberals. One of the most influential progressive and socialist intellectuals of his day, Wells talked about having “foresight for enlightened Nazis.” Actually, in that speech, Wells praised both Stalin’s Russia and Hitler in Germany. [26] He believed that Fabian socialism and parliamentary democracy had failed and that liberal Fascisti would be a better replacement.

But H.G. Wells was not talking about the classical liberalism of John Locke and Thomas Jefferson. He was referring to the non-individualist modern liberalism that was careening towards collectivism and socialism. Mussolini understood this difference, writing: “If classical liberalism spells individualism, fascism spells government.”

In the final days of his rule under Hitler’s occupation of northern Italy, Mussolini railed against the bourgeoisie and declared to a socialist journalist: “I bequeath the republic to the republicans and not to the monarchists, and the work of social reform to the socialist and not to the middle class.” [27] Just before Mussolini’s execution in 1945, his aide Nicola Bombacci, a communist and long-time friend of Lenin, shouted out “Long live Mussolini! Long live socialism!” [28]

Interestingly, the socio-economic policies of Mussolini and Hitler are almost indistinguishable from the modern liberalism currently found in England, Canada and the United States, which have little relationship to the original liberalism of the American Founders. Basically, much of modern leftism has slowly morphed into an old, recycled version of Italian fascism. Some scholars have quipped that the modern liberal has become a quasi-authoritarian plagued by an identity crisis.

Socialist versus Socialist

But what about the violent conflicts between various socialist and fascist factions? There is nothing odd about collectivists with similar ideological messages fighting bitterly over turf and strategy. Shades of socialist doctrine are as numerous as recipes for chili . Since collectivism is based on group-conformity, any group unwilling to conform must be opposed, no matter how similar in ideology. The herd mentality can lead to conflict when individual identity is suppressed.

The armed conflict between the National Socialists of Germany and the Communists of Russia can be likened to two street gangs, first cooperating, and then slugging it out in a contest to dominate more territory. Both ideologies promoted state intervention in economic and personal affairs, but the policies they administered were of divergent structures and tactics. The Nazis and Communists were not opposites, as some historians have attempted to argue, but two sides of the same coin. They were unscrupulous competitors, not polar opposites.

For instance, Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany were not always on the best of terms. In fact, before his first meeting with der Führer, Mussolini referred to Hitler as that “silly little monkey.” Their rivalry was in accordance with the collectivistic nature of strict group conformity. In 1934 Engelbert Dollfuss, the “Austro-fascist” chancellor of Austria and strong admire of Mussolini, feared Hitler’s rise to power in Germany. He established a one-party dictatorship, banning both the Austrian National Socialist Party and the Communist Party. His concentration camps were packed with Nazis, Communists and Social-Democrats. He allied with Mussolini in order to protect Austria from Nazi Germany and to remain independent. He saw little difference between the ideologies of Hitler and Stalin, convinced that Austrofascim and Italofascism could keep other socialist rivals at bay. In secret meeting with Mussolini, Dollfuss agreed to Italy’s defense of “Austrian independence by force of arms.” [29] Nazi agents assassinated him.

After Dollfus’ assassination, Mussolini mobilized Italian troops on the Italian-Austrian border, and threatened war with Germany if Hitler invaded Austria. A large northern unit of German Nazis did invade Austria’s southernmost state of Carinthia, but was apparently routed by Italian military units.

This type of conflict demonstrates the danger of collective ideologies, and their strict allegiance to group conformity. All collective ideologues seek to impose one particular value system upon society. This means everyone must toe the same dogmatic, moralistic line. Seeing the world in stark black and white, collectivism takes an approach where either you are part of the tribe, or you are against the tribe. There is no middle ground. Individuality has no merit within a Borg-like universe, since individual thoughts are considered subservient to group thoughts. Uniqueness of self is seen as a weakness individual choice condemned as a sort of bourgeois plague that will plunge the nation into chaos. To the collectivist, the individual becomes expendable in service to the state.

Of course, this groupthink of collective identity—race, nation, class, gender—can harm diversity and toleration, especially when enforced conformity leads to outright racism. But when collective group goals conflict ever so slightly with other collectivist groups holding similar fundamental beliefs, violent and vindictive feuds are not far behind. Such political rivalry can burst into epic battles of eye-gouging, blood-letting, and all-out street rumbles that can run roughshod over the innocent.

For instance, after the October 25, 1917 Russian Red Revolution, a host of other communist-leaning groups, mainly the Socialist Revolutionaries, the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, and Mensheviks, eventually opposed the Bolsheviks’ power grab. The Bolsheviks were determined to install a one-party government. But they ran into a problem. The November 12, 1917, nation-wide elections to fill seats in the Russian Constituent Assembly did not go their way. The Socialist Revolutionaries proved to be far more popular with voters, receiving 57 percent of ballots cast. The Bolsheviks, who had limited support, mostly in a few large cities, had garnished only 25 percent of the vote. Fearing the loss of power, the Bolsheviks under Lenin’s leadership quickly disbanded the Assembly. The unpopular Bolsheviks had stolen the election.

After seizing control of the Russia government without an electoral plurality, the Bolsheviks refused to let rival socialist-revolutionary parties participate in the new communist government. The situation became ugly. Unhappy with the Bolsheviks’ refusal to share power, the leftwing of the Socialist Revolutionaries instigated what some refer to as the Third Russian Revolution of 1918. With 1,800 armed revolutionaries, the socialist insurgents attacked the Kremlin and bombarded the Bolsheviks’ capitol with artillery fire. Socialists were fighting other socialists over power. Many other Russian cities saw anti-Bolsheviks uprisings. After a few days, the coup d’etat in Moscow failed. Many Left Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks were arrested, imprisoned or shot. [30]

During this conflict two assassination attempts were made on Vladmir Lenin’s life in 1918. The first one failed. The second one was carried out by a Socialist-Revolutionary party member, Fanya Kaplan. Accusing Lenin of being a “traitor to the Revolution,” she approached him and fired three shots at the Soviet Head of State. Kaplan’s first bullet struck Lenin’s shoulder, the second one slammed into his jaw and neck. Immediately, the Bolsheviks issued a “Red Terror” decree. Within the month, the secret police ( Cheka) rounded up some 800 Socialist Revolutionary Party members and other opponents of the Bolsheviks. Most were executed without trial.

After the failed revolution, many Socialist Revolutionaries and Menshevik members allied with the White Russians to fight the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War. Further, many Black Army detachments of anarchists also fought the Bolsheviks, bombing the headquarters of the Moscow Committee of the Communist Party in 1919. In the countryside, Green Armies of armed Russian peasants fought both the White Army and the Red Army.

Corporatism, Fascism and Modern Statism

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009, informally known as Obamacare, included a controversial provision that forces the public to buy a product from a corporation —health insurance. This individual mandate, which regulates inactivity and forces Americans into commerce, is the type of “third way” that both the National Socialists in German and the Fascists in Italy referred to in an effort to explain their socio-economic policies. Many have argued that Obamacare smacks of a “corporatocracy,” where the government sector forcibly merges with the private sector. Most nations have variations of this mixed economy of fascist corporatism, drowned in economic dirigisme that establishes an atmosphere of centralized planning and control. In this realm, the state becomes the driver, while stockholders sit in the passenger seat. So, in many ways, almost every nation’s economy could be likened to Mussolini’s description of the third way.

But the history shows that the concept of the third way first emerged in the Soviet Union. After Lenin imposed socialism on Russia, producing massive famine and economic collapse, Marxists looked for an alternative “Third Way” between socialism and capitalism. In response, Lenin rolled out his New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1921, introducing a form of “market socialism” or what he called, “state capitalism.” Under the NEP, markets gained a greater degree of free trade and private ownership, while sanctioning the co-existence of private and public sectors. Lenin began to privatize parts of the economy. He encouraged a number of market principles and the profit motive, which allowed the people to trade, buy and sell for private profit. In fact, state-owned enterprises had to be self-reliant and operate on profit/loss principles. Lenin’s NEP was turning Russia into a state-oriented “mixed economy.” [31]

Mussolini took Lenin’s lead and soon established market socialism in Italy. In essence, Mussolini’s fascism was simply an imitation of Lenin’s market-based approaches, similar to what is found in today’s Red China. In short, Lenin’s revised Marxism gave birth to Mussolini’s fascism. It could be argued that Lenin was the first “red fascist” and state corporatist.

However, Mussolini’s corporatism was not similar to America’s corporations. He had fashioned twenty-two state-run holding corporations in 1932, headed by a top official of the government or by members of the National Fascist Party. They were completely controlled and operated by the Italian state in Mussolini’s effort to move beyond capitalism and socialism. According to Pamela D. Toler, Mussolini’s “corporatism borrowed heavily from Georges Sorel’s theories of revolutionary syndicalism.” [32] This meant that the Italian government was attempting to create worker-state corporations. Although the corporations were put under government-controlled trade unions and employer associations, strikes were illegal. Both Lenin and Stalin had done the same in the Soviet Union, taking over all independent labor unions and worker cooperatives and merging them within the apparatus of the worker-state. Both Marxist and fascist leaders banned labor strikes because the workers were now supposedly in charge of the government, making labor strikes unnecessary. The worker state had been accomplished, but managed by the bureaucracy and party leadership.

Mussolini had merged state and corporate power, but what he got was a vertical syndicalist-type corporatocracy that harkened back to medieval guilds. Speaking about what he had done, Mussolini explained in 1932 “When brought within the orbit of the State, Fascism recognizes the real needs which gave rise to socialism and trade unionism, giving them due weight in the guild or corporative system in which divergent interests are coordinated and harmonized in the unity of the State.” [33]

Mussolini also made it clear that his ideal corporatist nationalism was a top-down model of state control, writing: “The Fascist conception of the State is all-embracing outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State—a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values—interprets, develops, and potentiates the whole life of a people.” [34] By 1935, Mussolini boasted that fully three-fourths of Italian businesses were in the state’s hands. [35] By 1939 Italy had the highest percentage of state–owned enterprises outside the Soviet Union. [36]

German-Style National Socialism

German National Socialism is a political creed that absorbs systems rather than abolishing them. A hodgepodge of socialism and nationalism, this ideology simmers in a collectivist cauldron of military prowess and racial superiority. Nationalizing some sectors of the economy such as the railroads and Jewish businesses, this command–based system permits ownership of property in name only. Legal ownership is considered secondary what is important is that the state has the final decision over everything. As the press chief of Nazi Germany, Otto Dietrich, wrote: “The individual as such has neither a right nor a duty to exist, as all the rights and duties derive exclusively from the community.” [37]

A form of “state capitalism” or “corporate state socialism,” National Socialism is a system that is rigidly enforced through a state-driven and centrally planned economy. The state is set up as the sole manager of all socio-economic programs, unlike theoretical Marxism, where the people supposedly rise up and self-organize the economy without the benefit of a well–defined structure. It is a theory of collectivism and racism that is directly opposite to the individualism found in classical liberalism.

Nazism’s socialist core is too pronounced to ignore. After all, Nazi was an abbreviation for National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP). Most of the Nazi leaders were ardent socialists, many calling their movement a revolutionary socialist crusade. Other Nazis had distinct Marxist backgrounds and tendencies. Even many lower-ranked Nazi comrades could not decide which socialist party to join. During the 1920s and 1930s, German Communists would join the Nazi ranks when the communist were doing poorly on the national scene when the opposite occurred, Nazis would join the Communist Party. Those watching this phenomenon said that the Nazis were like a beefsteak: brown on the outside and red on the inside.

Hitler himself was crystal-clear about his advocacy of socialism. He boisterously proclaimed in a 1927 May Day speech: “We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak,…” [38] Hitler told the same to Otto Strasser in private that he was a “Socialist” and that “Socialism is nothing more than Marxism.” [39]

A few years later, Hitler did make a statement that he had regretted using the word “socialist” in the party name. He said he preferred the phrase “social revolutionary,” which had stronger Marxist overtones. [40] In fact, the red background used in the Nazi flag was the same symbolic blood color for communism and socialism. In his book, Mein Kampf, Hitler talked about using imagery and symbols to target like-minded Socialists and Communists. And as it turns out, even Hitler’s use of the ancient swastika symbol predated his movement. A little after World War I, some Soviet troops wore shoulder patches with the Nazi-like Soviet swastika. For a time, even Lenin considered adopting the swastika icon for the Soviet Union. [41] Although the swastika is an Ancient India symbol, it appears that many brands of socialists found its imagery appealing.

Despite his pro-socialist stances, Hitler did not believe that the German state had to nationalize every factory and workshop that German socialism had more profound roots, stating, “Our Socialism goes far deeper…. Why need we trouble to socialize banks and factories? We socialize human beings.” [42]

Hitler occasionally voiced support for private property, but under his interpretation, owners were to be subservient to the state. Hitler put this in no uncertain terms, proclaiming: “The party is all-embracing. It rules our lives in all their breadth and depth… There will be no license, no free space, in which the individual belongs to himself. This is Socialism… Let them then own land or factories as much as they please. The decisive factor is that the State, through the party, is supreme over them, regardless whether they are owners or workers. [43]

Hitler’s Marxist Tendencies

The National Socialists were leery of Bolshevism. After all, the Nazis were in direct competition with the Communists for Weimar Germany, which pitted International Socialism against National Socialism. But Adolf Hitler did not play favorites he discredited all other political parties, even those with similar nationalist and racialist platforms. For instance, the far-right conservative nationalist German National People’s Party (DNVP) condemned the Nazis for being socialist. In return, the Nazis denounced the DNVP for being reactionary and bourgeois. [44] For Hitler, only his was the one true party.

The differences between National Socialism and Bolshevism are superficial they were not opposites, they were competitors. But the Nazis did fear a communist worker–controlled state. Such a political system was viewed as chaotic since the final stage of Marxism lead to the withering away of the state. This idea horrified national socialists. To them, state-directed socialism was to be molded to precise specifications and administered through a highly organized hierarchy, not by some illusive people’s community that appeared to have little structure or future.

Still, Hitler and his inner circle flirted with Marxism. Along with Mussolini, Hitler held the view that Bolshevism was moving towards National Socialism, declaring in 1934:

“It is not Germany that will turn Bolshevist but Bolshevism that will become a sort of National Socialism. Besides, there is more that binds us to Bolshevism than separates us from it…. I have always made allowance for this circumstance, and given orders that former Communists are to be admitted to the party at once. The petit bourgeois Social-Democrat and the trade union boss will never make a National Socialist, but the Communist always will.” [45]

Obviously, Hitler sympathized with Marxism, although in a love-hate type of relationship. For instance, after serving in World War I, Hitler’s battalion was absorbed by the Bavarian Soviet Republic from 1918 to 1919, where he was elected to the position of Deputy Battalion Representative. During this time, he was outspoken in his anti-monarchist and pro-classless society positions. He even attended the funeral of communist Kurt Eisner and was seen wearing a black mourning armband on one arm and a red communist armband on the other. [46] In 1931 he said: “[W]hen I was a worker I busied myself with socialist or, if you like, marxist [sic] literature.” [47]

Hitler admitted that differences with the communists were less ideological than tactical. He once told Rauschning that the German Communists were ineffective, and that he would “put into practice what these peddlers and pen pushers have timidly begun.” And then he conceded that the whole of “National Socialism was based on Marx.” [48]

Hitler had uttered similar sentiments to Nazi major general and confidant, Otto Wagener, which were not published until six years after Wagener’s death in 1971. [49] Composed in a British prisoner-of-war camp after the war, Wagener’s memoir revealed that “Hitler was an unorthodox Marxist who knew his sources and knew just how unorthodox the way in which he handled them was. He was a dissident socialist. His programme was at once nostalgic and radical.” [50] Hitler told Wagener that he was going to act on what the communists had failed to accomplish, saying: “What Marxism, Leninism and Stalinism failed to accomplish, we shall be in a position to achieve.” [51]

But other Nazi leaders were even more radical and revolutionary in promoting hardcore socialism. One who was openly leftist and socialist was Dr. Josef Goebbels. He was one of Hitler’s closest associates and the Nazi Minister of Propaganda. Goebbels hated capitalism and pushed for a working-class, proletariat socialism. In 1932, Joseph Goebbels proclaimed the Nazi Party as a “workers’ party”, “on the side of labour, and against finance.” [52] During his student years, he briefly described himself as a German Communist, who agreed with the writings of Karl Marx before joining the National Socialist party. [53]

Goebbels made no bones about what socialism meant. “To be a socialist,” Goebbels wrote, “is to submit the I to the thou socialism is sacrificing the individual to the whole.” When he was once asked about the position of National Socialism, Goebbels responded, “the NSDAP is the German Left. We despise bourgeois nationalism.” [54]

According to Goebbels, National Socialists opposed Jews because they are considered exploiters and capitalists. In1932 Goebbels wrote: “As socialists, we are opponents of the Jews, because we see, in the Hebrews, the incarnation of capitalism, of the misuse of the nation’s goods.” [55] Perhaps this is one reason why Hitler commended Stalin for purifying the Communist Party of its Jewish leaders. [56]

A hot debate within the early Nazi leadership centered on which was most important—socialism or nationalism. More conservative elements in the party stressed nationalism. Goebbels defended full-blown socialism and proclaimed his hatred for what he called the “right-wing bourgeoisie” and the “the money pigs of capitalist democracy.” [57] And to make his case he published an open letter in 1925 to “My Friends of the Left,” where he urged an alliance between socialists and Nazi leaders against the main enemy—the capitalists. “You and I,” he wrote, “we are fighting one another although we are not really enemies.” [58]

To show off his anti-capitalist colors, Goebbels claimed in his diary that if his only choices were between Bolshevism and capitalism, “it would be better for us to go down with Bolshevism than live in eternal slavery under capitalism.” [59] Reporting on a riot in Berlin, The New York Times quoted Goebbels as saying: “Lenin is the greatest man, second only to Hitler, and that the difference between Communism and the Hitler faith is very slight.” [60]

In his memoirs, Adolf Eichmann, one of the major organizers of the Holocaust, asserted that “”My political sympathies inclined towards the left and emphasized socialist aspects every bit as much as nationalist ones.” He added that he saw Nazism and Communism as “quasi-siblings.” [61]

The leftist and socialist roots of National Socialism were abundant from the start. The Munich-born journalist who first reported on the newly minted Nazi party in 1920, Konrad Heiden, once referred to Hitler’s National Socialists as a “party of the Left.” [62]

Perhaps Hitler’s biggest stumbling block with Marxism was over the significance of race – implying that they were otherwise close. Without the issue of race, Hitler said, National Socialism “would really do nothing more than compete with Marxism on its own ground.” [63] To Hitler, the fatherland and race was everything, the holy grail of his cause. He had no love for soulless internationalism, especially after Lenin said that the proletariat did not require a fatherland.

Putting his faith in socialist-racialism, Hitler declared: “If we are socialists, then we must definitely be anti-Semites,” Hitler explained during a party speech in Munich, August 1920, “How, as a socialist, can you not be an anti-Semite?” [64]

But ironically, it was Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels who publicly advocated genocide. In 1844, almost a hundred years before the Holocaust, Marx published his anti-Semitic rant—“On the Jewish Question.” Despite his Jewish heritage, Marx wrote: “What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money… Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist.” [65] Some of Marx’s anti-Jewish statements made Hitler’s tirades mild by comparison. Near the end of his article, Marx concluded: “The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Jewry.”

In the case of Engels, some have claimed that he was the harbinger of fascism, a sort of proto-Nazi. Along with his homophobic discourse and paranoia about the Russian menace, Engels considered “the Polish Jews” to be the “meanest of all races,” denoted by “its lust for profit.” [66] Furthermore, like Hitler, Engels wanted to see Germany’s influence spread eastward, overcoming the Slavic people in “an annihilating fight and ruthless terror.” [67] Engels believed that to safeguard the revolution, communists and socialists would have to engage in an ethnic cleansing and genocide against entire reactionary classes, dynasties and peoples, to “wipe out all these petty hidebound nations, down to their very names.” [68] Could Hitler ask for more?

Others in prominent socialist circles also spewed racist slurs. For instance, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, anarchist and leading socialist thinker, wrote: “The Jew is the enemy of the human race. One must send this race back to Asia or exterminate it…By fire or fusion or by expulsion, the Jew must disappear…” [69]

Some historians argue that ethnic cleansing had been orthodox socialism since almost its conception. Even the American philosopher and social-democrat, Sidney Hook, has admitted, “Anti-Semitism was rife in almost all varieties of socialism.” [70] For example, Fabian socialist Bernard Shaw, publicly approved the principles of extermination of certain people that the Soviet Union had already adopted, along with linking eugenics with the virtues of socialism. [71] An admirer of Stalin, Mussolini and even Hitler, Shaw suggested in 1910 that the state needs to use a “lethal chamber” to solve the problem of those unfit to live. [72] Shaw explained: “We should find ourselves committed to killing a great many people whom we now leave living…” [73]

Some argue that Marxist theory actually required mass genocide. According to George Watson, a fellow in English at St John’s College, Cambridge, “The Marxist theory of history required and demanded genocide for reasons implicit in its claim that feudalism was already giving place to capitalism, which must in its turn be superseded by socialism. Entire races would be left behind after a workers’ revolution, feudal remnants in a socialist age and since they could not advance two steps at a time, they would have to be killed. They were racial trash, as Engels called them, and fit only for the dung-heap of history.” [74]

The Anti-Capitalism of National Socialism

Whether in public or private, Adolf Hitler held capitalism in contempt, considering capitalists parasitical moneylenders, egotistic in nature and in league with Jewish bankers. He opposed free-market capitalism, preferring a state-managed economy subordinate to the community interests of the Volk. [75] Referring to free-market capitalism, Hitler declared it “is the creation of the Jews.” [76] He was hostile to the “bourgeois” pariah class of capitalism he despised individualism, free choice, private property, free trade, limited constitutional government, and classical laissez-faire liberalism. Hitler peppered his discussions with bitter scorn for what he called “degenerate bourgeois politicians.” In private conversations, Hitler would offer refer to bourgeois capitalists as “cowardly shits.” [77]

Hitler promoted a mixed, mercantilist state-driven economy, but not where everything is necessarily owned by the state. He allowed private ownership through public-private partnership, strictly controlled under a byzantine bureaucracy. During a confidential interview in 1931 to an influential pro-business newspaper editor, Hitler said: “I want everyone to keep what he has earned, subject to the principle that the good of the community takes priority over that of the individual. But the State should retain control every owner should feel himself to be an agent of the State … The Third Reich will always retain the right to control property owners.” [78]

Some historians argue that the reason for Nazi’s Keynesian-like approach to economic control in the first few years was to introduce a stronger version of socialism without causing too much resistance. Adolf Hitler’s economic advisor, Otto Wagener, made this case, saying that people would eventually “find and travel the road from individualism to socialism without revolution.” [79]

Still, the Nazi economy was highly centralized, socialized and welfarized by even modern standards. Beginning in the late 1890s, Germany was already considered the first modern welfare state, and Hitler, expanded it. For instance, the Nazi regime expanded socialized medicine and state funding for old-age pensions and introduced euthanasia programs. National Socialism called for full employment and good living wages. They used pro–labor rhetoric, demanding limitations on profits and the abolition of rents. They actively limited competition and private ownership, to promote the general welfare. Hitler expanded credit, subsidized farmers, suspended the gold standard, instituted government jobs programs, mandated unemployment insurance, decreed rent control, imposed high tariffs to protect German industry from foreign competition, nationalized education, enacted strict wage and price controls, borrowed heavily and eventually ran huge deficits almost to the point of financial collapse.

This is why Germany had to levy heavy taxes on the wealthy. By 1943 industrialists bitterly complained that the Nazis were siphoning off 80 to 90 percent of business profits. [80] In fact, the Nazis had sharply increased taxes on capital gains and hiked taxes on corporate revenues to over “1,365 per cent” during a six year period. [81] Such anti-capitalist policies should be expected from an ideology that proclaimed in its Nazi 25–Point Platform from 1920: “The Common Good Before the Individual Good.”

To refinance their massive national debt, the Nazis increasingly had to rely on plunder from conquered nations and the cannibalization of Jewish assets. [82] In Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War and the Nazi Welfare, German historian Gotz Aly describes National Socialism as a form of populist wealth-redistribution welfare-state socialism. [83] He maintains that Nazi ideology preached equality only among Germans, and no other groups. To maintain their generous welfare state at home, the Nazi regime transferred wealth from non-Germans to Germans.

This point cannot be over-stressed. Nazism was a tribal-egalitarian movement. The Nazis aspired to build what Götz Aly termed “racist-totalitarian welfare state” that soaked the rich and plundered occupied territories in order to bribe the Germans into complacency. [84] Hitler’s socialism was based on nation and race whereas Stalin’s socialism was based on class. Under National Socialism, the state would plunder and kill undesirable national groups and races to provide Germans with an unsparing welfare/warfare society. Under international socialism, state would plunder and kill undesirable classes to provide communists with an unsparing welfare/warfare society. According to historian Stephen Kotkin, Stalinism had utilizing state violence in an attempt to forcibly purge society of the bourgeoisie class. [85] The point is, both systems believed in equality and socialism, but for different collective groups. Although Nazism preached inequality between the races, it placed great significance on equality among only true-blood Germans.

National Socialist had demanded the nationalization of all corporations and industries, but they did sell some state-own businesses, usually to loyal party members in a blatant display of cronyism. Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments and War Production, complained about Nazi cronyism in the armament industry. He found that many of those in charge of war production were Nazi appointees who knew nothing about their industry.

When it comes down to it, Hitler was the quintessential Machiavellian, where the means always justified his ends. He admitted to a number of Nazi confidants that he had no scruples whatsoever. Perhaps this is why he admired unscrupulous strongmen like Napoleon. In a rare moment of honesty, Hitler once confided that he saw Napoleon as his role model for his anti-conservative, anti-capitalist and anti-bourgeois attitudes. [86]

Hitler rose to such worldwide prominence by 1938, that Time magazine chose him as their Man of the Year, “for better or worse.” The editor’s tone was cautious and critical about the German Chancellor, writing: “Most cruel joke of all, however, has been played by Hitler & Co. on those German capitalists and small businessmen who once backed National Socialism as a means of saving Germany’s bourgeois economic structure from radicalism. The Nazi credo that the individual belongs to the state also applies to business. Some businesses have been confiscated outright, on other what amounts to a capital tax has been levied. Profits have been strictly controlled. Some idea of the increasing Governmental control and interference in business could be deduced from the fact that 80% of all building and 50% of all industrial orders in Germany originated last year with the Government. Hard-pressed for food-stuffs as well as funds, the Nazi regime has taken over large estates and in many instances collectivized agriculture, a procedure fundamentally similar to Russian Communism.” [87]

The ultimate point of this narrative is that aggressive behavior will always lead to bad consequences. Whether it is communism, fascism, National Socialism or some other distant relative, they all engage in the same aggressive violence against the citizenry. This is the legacy of all governments that rely on brute force instead of on voluntary human action.

Understanding the creeds of Italian Fascism and German National Socialism is vital to future generations. People must recognize the underlying doctrines that permeate such evil movements. If they don’t, if people become complacent, they will again become vulnerable to the same nightmarish abuses. For, if these collectivistic ideologies come to the forefront again, they will be swathed in deception, peddled under a hidden agenda and touted as the next messiah.

In “The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism,” Mussolini writes on page 20 near the top “…it may rather be expected that this will be a century of authority, a century of the Left, a century of Fascism.”

L.K. Samuels is the author of In Defense of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action, published by Cobden Press in 2013. Visit his website at www.lksamuels.com . This material was written as content for a script to be used in the production of a possible 60-minute documentary film.

For more information on L.K. Samuels, see his Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L.K._Samuels

[1] George Orwell, “What is Fascism,” first published: Tribune — GB, London. — 1944.

[2] Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr., “The Fascist Threat,” Mises Daily: posted June 19, 2012.

[3] They were Amadeo Bordiga, Angelo Tasca, and Karl Liebknecht. More details in David Ramsey Steele, “The Mystery of Fascism,” Liberty, Vol. 15, no. 11, Nov. 2001.

[4] David Ramsey Steele, “The Mystery of Fascism,” Liberty, Vol. 15, no. 11, Nov. 2001.

[5] Donald J. Stoker Jr. and Jonathan A. Grant, editors, Girding for Battle: The Arms Trade in a Global Perspective 1815-1940, Westport CT: Praeger Publishers, 2003, page 180.

[7] Zeev Sternhell with Mario Sznajder and Maia Asheri, trans. by David Maisel, The Birth of Fascist Ideology, From Cultural Rebellion to Political Revolution, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ. 1994, pp. 140, 214.

[8] Vladislav Zubok Constantine Pleshakov, Inside the Kremlin’s Cold War: From Stalin to Khrushchev, Harvard University Press, Chapter One: Erich Fromm, 1997.

[9] Lawrence Sondhaus, World War I: The Global Revolution, Cambridge University, 2011, p.177.

[10] Benito Mussolini, “The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism,” first authorized translation into English by Jane Soames, published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press, London W.C. in 1933, 26 page booklet, quote on p. 20 (Day to Day Pamphlets No. 18). Other sources include: Fascism: An Anthology, Nathanael Greene, ed., N. York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1968, pp. 41, 43–44, and Benito Mussolini, My Autobiography with “The Political and Social Doctrines of Fascism,” published by Dover Publications, Mineola, New York, p. 236, 2006. Although written in 1927 by Mussolini, with the help of Giovanni Gentile, it was first published in 1932 in Italian. Jane Soames’ translation was also published in The Living Age, November, 1933, New York City, entitled “The Doctrine of Fascism.” Posted at: http://www.pauladaunt.com/books/Banned%20books%20and%20conspiracy%20theories/The%20Doctrine%20of%20Fascism%20-%20by%20Benito%20Mussolini%20%28Printed%201933%29.pdf

[11] Directly after Mussolini controversial sentence in Jane Soames’ translation, indicating that the fascist movement was leftist, Mussolini writes: “For if the 19th century was the century of individualism (Liberalism always signifying individualism) it may be expected that this will be the century of collectivism, and hence the century of the State.” Most scholars have identified collectivism as synonymous with the idea that the group’s goal should be superior to the individual’s so as to advance the “greater good.” Most political scientists would peg collectivism on the Left side of the political spectrum.

[12] Herbert Hoover, The Challenge to Liberty, New York/London, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1934, p. 66. Source given for book is The Political Quarterly, London, volume 4, issue 3, pages 341–356, July 1933.

[13] Mussolini “Fascismo: Dottrina,” Enciclopedia Italiana, Vol. 14, Rome, pp. 847-50.

[14] German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck set up the first modern welfare state in the 1880s. Hitler’s administration greatly expanded Germany’s welfare state .

[15] Thomas Sowell, “Socialist or Fascist? posted on lewrockwell.com, June 19, 2012.

[17] Gareth Griffith, Socialism and Superior Brains, Taylor and Francis e-Library, 2003, p. 253. Shaw made this statement in the Manchester Guardian in 1927.

[18] Pamela D. Toler, Phd., The Everything Guide to Understanding Socialism: The political, social, and economic concepts behind this complex theory, section: “Mussolini: Socialist ‘Heretic,’” Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2011.

[19] Denis Mack Smith, Mussolini: A Biography, New York: Knopf, 1982, pp. 222–223.

[20] Francesco Saverio Nitti Bolshevism, Fascism and Democracy, translated by Margaret M. Green, New York, Macmillan Co., 1927.

[21] Bruce Walker, “Fascists and Bolsheviks as friends,” Canada Free Press, posted, Jan. 31, 2008.

[23] Gaetano Salvemini, Under the Axe of Fascism, New York: Viking Press, 1936.

[24] L. Kemechey, author, Magda Vamos, translator, Il Duce: The Life and Work of Benito Mussolini, Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2008, first published in London: Williams & Norgate, 1930.

[26] John S. Partington, “H. G. Wells: A Political Life”, Journal article in Utopian Studies, Vol. 19, 2008.

[27] Joshua Muravchik, Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism, New York: Encounter Books, 2002, p. 170.

[28] Ibid., Joshua Muravchik, p. 171.

[29] Santi Corvaja, Hitler & Mussolini: The Secret Meetings, Enigma Books, 2001, p. 21.

[30] E.H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1923. W. W. Norton & Company 1985.

[31] V N. Bandera “New Economic Policy (NEP) as an Economic Policy.” The Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 71, no. 3, 1963, p. 268.

[32] Pamela D. Toler, Phd., The Everything Guide to Understanding Socialism: The political, social, and economic concepts behind this complex theory, section: “Mussolini Rises to Power,” Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2011.

[33] Benito Mussolini, “The Doctrine of Fascism” (“La dottrina del fascismo“) is an essay considered written by Giovanni Gentile, but credit is given to Benito Mussolini. It was first published in the Enciclopedia Italiana of 1932. The 1935 edition from Vallecchi Editore Firenze, p.15.

[34] Ibid., Benito Mussolini, p. 14.

[35] Carl Schmidt, The Corporate State in Action, London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1939, pp. 153–76.

[36] Patricia Knight, Mussolini and Fascism (Questions and Analysis in History), New York: Routledge, 2003.

[37] Otto Dietrich, article in the Völkischer Beobachter, Nov. 11, 1937.

[38] Hitler’s speech on May 1, 1927. Cited in Toland, J., Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography, Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, p. 224. Other editions have the quote on p. 306.

[40] Konrad Heiden. A History of National Socialism. Oxon, England, UK New York, New York, USA: Routledge, 2010. p. 85

[41] Albert L. Week, Stalin’s Other War: Soviet Grand Strategy, 1939-1941, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2002, p. 52.

[42] Hermann Rauschning, The Voice of Destruction, New York, Putnam, 1940, pp. 191–193.

[43] Hitler, quoted in Hermann Rauschning, The Voice of Destruction. New York: Putnam, 1940, p. 191.

[44] Hermann Beck. The Fateful Alliance: German Conservatives and Nazis in 1933: The Machtergreifung in a New Light. Berghahn Books, 2008.

[45] François Furet, Passing of an Illusion: The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century, Chicago, Illinois, USA London, England, UK: University of Chicago Press, 1999, pp. 191-192. Orginally comes from Hermann Rauschning The Voice of Destruction: Conversations with Hitler, G.P. Putnam’s Son, 1940, page 131. Note: Rauschning’s book was also published under the title Hitler Speaks.

[46] Thomas Weber, Hitler’s First War: Adolf Hitler, the Men of the List Regiment, and the First World War, Oxford, England, UK: Oxford University Press, 2011. p. 25.

[47] Hitler, in interview with Richard Breiting, 1931, published in Edouard Calic, ed., “First Interview with Hitler,” Secret Conversations with Hitler: The Two Newly-Discovered 1931 Interviews. New York: John Day Co., 1971, p. 58.

[48] George Watson, The Lost Literature of Socialism, Cambridge, England: The Lutterworth Press, 1998, p. 73.

[49] Otto Wagener, Hitler: Memoirs of a Confidant, edited by Henry Ashby Turner Jr., translated by Ruth Hein, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987 first publish in1977.

[50] George Watson, “Hitler and the socialist dream, The Independent, Nov. 22, 1998.

[52] Josef Goebbels Mjölnir, 1932. Die verfluchten Hakenkreuzler. Etwas zum Nachdenken.

[53] David Irving, Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich,” UK: Focal Point Publications, 1999, p. 56.

[54] Der Angriff, Dec 6th, 1931. Der Angriff, (The attack), was the official newspaper of the nazi-sozi party in Berlin, according to author Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn.

[55] Joseph Goebbels and Mjölnir, Die verfluchten Hakenkreuzler. Etwas zum Nachdenken, English translation: “Those Damn Nazis,” Munich: Verlag Frz. Eher, 1932.

[56] François Furet, Passing of an Illusion: The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century, 1999, p. 191.

[57] Dietrich Orlow, The Nazi Party 1919-1945: A Complete History, New York: Enigma Books, 2012, p 61.

[58] Joachim C. Fest, The Face Of The Third Reich: Portraits Of The Nazi Leadership, Da Capo Press, 1999, p 89.

[59] Anthony Read, The Devil’s Disciples: Hitler’s Inner Circle, 1st American ed. New York, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004. p. 142.

[60] “Hitlerite Riot in Berlin: Beer Glasses Fly When Speaker Compares Hitler to Lenin,” New York Times, November 27, 1925.

[62] Konrad Heiden, Der Fuhrer: Hitler’s Rise to Power, first published in 1944, second printing 1969 by Beacon Press, p. 81. The two early Nazi leaders who made the statement were Anton Drexler and Karl Harrer.

[63] Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Bottom of the Hill Publishing, 2010, p. 382.

[64] George Watson, The Lost Literature of Socialism, Cambridge, England: Lutterworth Press, 1998, p. 80.

[65] Karl Marx, “On the Jewish Question,”1844.

[67] Engels, “Democratic Pan-Slavism,” MECW Volume 8, p. 362 first published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung Nos. 222 and 223, February 15 and 16, 1849.

[68] Engels “The Magyar Struggle”, MECW, Vol. 8, p. 227, first published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 194, January 13, 1849.

[69] Proudhon’s notebook,1847,Carnets, and in Richard L. Rubenstein and John K. Roth, Approaches to Auschwitz, revised edition, Westminster John Knox Press, 2003, p. 77.

[70] Commentary, Sept. 1978.

[71] Bernard Shaw, preface to On the Rocks, 1933.

[72] “SHAW HEAPS PRAISE UPON THE DICTATORS: While Parliaments Get Nowhere, He Says, Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin Do Things,” New York Times, Dec. 10, 1933.

[73] Leonard Conolly, Bernard Shaw and the BBC. Toronto: University of Toronto Press., 2009, p. 189.

[74] George Watson, “Hitler and the socialist dream, The Independent, Nov. 22, 1998.

[75] Overy, R.J., The Dictators: Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2004. p. 399.

[77] Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, Volume 7, Issue 4. Slavica Publishers, 2006. pp. 922.

[78] Edouard Calic, 1971. Unmasked. Two Confidential Interviews with Hitler in 1931. London: Chatto & Windus (1st edition in German, Ohne Maske, Frankfurter Societäts-Druckerei GmbH, 1968, p. 32-33. The interview was with Richard Breiting, of the pro-business newspaper Leipziger Neueste Nachrichten.

[79] Otto Wagener, Hitler: Memoirs of a Confidant, edited by Henry Ashby Turner Jr., translated by Ruth Hein, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987, first published in 1977.

[80] Gotz Aly, Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War and the Nazi Welfare State, New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007 p. 68.

[81] Germà Bel, “Against the mainstream: Nazi privatization in 1930s Germany,” first published online: April 27, 2009, p. 19, source on Internet: http://www.ub.edu/graap/nazi.pdf. Also published in The Economic History Review, Vol. 63, issue 1, pages 34-55, Feb. 2010. The years were between 1932/33 and 1937/38.

[85] Stephen Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism As a Civilization, First Paperback Edition. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California, USA: University of California Press, 1997, pp. 71, 307, 81.

[86] Hitler’s Piano Player: The Rise and Fall of Ernst Hanfstaengl: Confidant of Hitler, Ally of FDR, New York, New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 2004. p. 284.

[87] “Man of 1938: From the unholy organist, a hymn of hate,” Time magazine, January 2, 1939.

Inside Hitler’s Plan to Rescue Mussolini from His Failing Regime

Among the many coincidences that can be found in the files of the covert history of Operation Long Jump are the parallel events that occurred on July 26, 1943. For it was on the very day when the two spy chiefs had their first meeting at the Eden Hotel that Adolf Hitler also began to tread in similar territory. He, too, had inaugurated the planning for an adventurous, and by all reasonable expectations, impossible mission. Further, in what would prove to be an even more significant concurrence, in his opening move that summer afternoon Hitler had reached out, just as Schellenberg had when he’d started, to the head of the Oranienburg special action school—SS captain Otto Skorzeny.

“Could it be connected with Operation Franz?” Skorzeny would recall wondering in the first moments after he’d received the perplexing news that he’d been summoned to the Wolfschanze, Hitler’s secluded headquarters deep in the woods of East Prussia. But he swiftly dismissed the notion it seemed implausible that the Führer would want a personal briefing on a run-of-the-mill mission like the one in Iran. Instead, his “brain was plagued with useless queries,” and no good answers. And on that sunny late-July afternoon when he boarded the Junkers Ju-52 parked at Templehofer airfield, he was gripped by a nagging fear: in the Reich the bill for past sins, whether real or merely perceived, might be presented at any moment.

There were twelve seats on the plane and no other passengers, and he had no idea whether that was reason for encouragement or not. But there was a cocktail cabinet at the front of the aircraft, and he helped himself to a glass of brandy. Then another for good measure. Skorzeny’s nerves began to soothe, the plane lifted off, and he tried to prepare himself. He would be standing for the first time face-to-face with Adolf Hitler, the Führer of the Reich and the supreme commander of the Wehrmacht.

A big Mercedes was waiting when the Junkers touched down. A drive through a thick forest led to a checkpoint, and after credentials were presented the car continued along a narrow road edged by birch trees. Then a second barrier, another demand for identification, and a short drive to a tall barbed wire fence. When the gate opened, the car followed a winding drive surrounded by low buildings and barracks the structures were covered with camouflage nets, and trees had been planted on the flat roofs of many of the buildings for additional concealment. From the air, it would look like just another Prussian forest.

It was dark when he arrived at the Tea House, a wooden building where, he was told, the generals took their meals. Skorzeny was brought to a drawing room spacious enough for several wooden ta-bles and upholstered chairs. A bouclé carpet, dark and plain, covered the planked floor. He was made to wait, but in time a Waffen-SS captain appeared. “I’ll take you to the Führer. Please come this way,” he requested.

Another building. Another well-furnished anteroom, and this one bigger than the previous one. On the wall was a pretty drawing of a flower in a silver frame he guessed it was a Dürer. Then he was led through a hallway into a large, lofty space. A fire burned in the hearth and a massive table was covered with piles of maps. A door abruptly opened, and with slow steps Adolf Hitler entered the room.

Skorzeny clicked his heels and stood at attention. Hitler raised his right arm out straight, his well-known salute. He was dressed in a field-gray uniform opened at the neck to reveal a white shirt and black tie. An Iron Cross First Class was pinned to his breast.

When he finally spoke, it was in a deep voice. “I have an important commission for you,” Hitler announced. “Mussolini, my friend and our loyal comrade in arms, was betrayed yesterday by his king and arrested by his own countrymen.”

Skorzeny quickly tried to recall what he had read. Benito Mussolini, the Fascist dictator who ruled Italy with a heavy hand, had arrived for an audience with King Victor Emmanuel of Italy. No sooner had he sat down than Victor Emmanuel had bluntly announced that the Supreme Council had asked the king to command the army and take over the affairs of state, and he had accepted. A shaken Mussolini left the palace, only to be confronted by a captain of the carabinieri, who directed him to a Red Cross ambulance. The rear door opened—to reveal a squad of police armed with submachine guns. At gunpoint, the now former Italian dictator was shoved inside. The ambulance drove off, its destination a secret, as was Mussolini’s fate.

Back in the present, Skorzeny listened as the Führer grew more animated. “I cannot and will not leave Italy’s greatest son in the lurch. He must be rescued promptly or he will be handed over to the Allies. I am entrusting to you the execution of an undertaking which is of great importance to the future course of the war. You must do everything in your power to carry out this order. You will need to find out where Il Duce [literally, ‘the Duke,’ the title the Italian Fascist movement had bestowed on Mussolini] is, and rescue him.”

At attention, Skorzeny kept his eyes locked on Hitler. He felt himself being drawn in, carried along, he’d remember vividly, by “a compelling force.”

The Führer went on without pause. “Now we come to the most important part,” he said. “It is absolutely essential that the affair should be kept a strict secret.”

The longer Hitler spoke, the more Skorzeny fell under his spell.

“At that moment,” the SS captain would explain, “I had not the slightest doubt about the success of the project.”

Then the two men were shaking hands. Skorzeny bowed and made his exit, and as he walked out the door he could still feel Hitler’s eyes boring into him.

Yet once he was back alone with his thoughts in the Tea House, Skorzeny’s previous confidence turned to sand. His nerves were “in a pretty bad state” and hundreds of questions seemed to be screaming in unison in his head. So he forced himself to concentrate, to think like a soldier. “Our first problem,” he told himself as he worked to regain control, “was to find out where Mussolini was.” Only no sooner had he focused on that problem than another immediately rose up. “But if we managed to find him, what next?” he asked himself. “Il Duce would certainly be in some very safe place and extremely well-guarded. Should we have to storm a fortress or a prison?” His ranging mind “conjured up all sorts of fantastic situations,” and none of them were consoling.

Still, he reined himself in. Drawing on years of discipline, he started to make a list. He’d need fifty of his best men, and they all should have some knowledge of Italian, he began. Set them up as nine-man teams, that would be manageable. Then he considered weapons and explosives. Since it was a small force, it would need the greatest possible firepower, he told himself. But in the next moment he ruled out heavy artillery they might have to drop by parachute. Instead, he decided, they’d have to make do with only two mounted machine guns for each team. The others would be armed with just light machine pistols, but that was a lethal-enough weapon when fired by a marksman. And explosives? Hand grenades, of course. And while thirty kilograms of plastic explosives should be plenty, he also made a note to get the British-manufactured bombs that the SS had scavenged in Holland they were more reliable than anything distributed to the Wehrmacht. All sorts of fuses, too, both long and short running, would be needed there was no way of predicting the battle plan, so they’d better be prepared for any eventuality. Then they’d need tropical helmets and light underclothing you wouldn’t want to be traipsing around Italy under the burning summer sun in long johns. And food, of course, had better be requisitioned. Rations for six days and emergency rations for three more should keep the men going. If that wasn’t enough, well then, the chances were that they would be on the run from the Allies in enemy territory, and eating would be the last thing on any of their minds.

When Skorzeny had completed his list, he found the radio room so he could send it off to his headquarters in Berlin by teletype. Then he returned to the cot that had been made up for him in the Tea House. It was well after midnight, the end of an exhausting day, but he could not sleep. “Turning over and over in bed,” he’d say, “I tried to banish thought, but five minutes later I was wrestling with my problems again.” The more he picked away at the mission, “the poorer seemed the prospect of success.”

Unknown to Skorzeny, on that same long night across the Reich in Berlin, Schellenberg tossed restlessly in his own bed as he mulled remarkably similar tactical problems. He, too, could reach only a despairing conclusion.

It was a demanding time. He left it to his adjuncts to keep the force in fighting trim, ready for whatever physical demands the mission might require. As for himself, Skorzeny concentrated on a single objective: finding Mussolini. There was no point in planning an assault until they knew where Il Duce was held captive. He needed to solve one mystery before he could even begin to grapple with the next.

“All sorts of rumors were flying about as to where Mussolini could be found,” he discovered, and he had no choice but to chase after each of them. A grocer had heard there was “a very high-ranking prisoner” on the remote penal island of Ponza. An Italian sailor turned informant was certain he was interred on a warship cruising off the port of La Spezia. A postman sighted Il Duce in a heavily guarded villa on the island of Sardinia. And Canaris had gotten into the hunt, too, insisting the Abwehr had received reliable intelligence establishing that Mussolini was being kept in a makeshift prison on a thin strip of an island off Elba. But none of these panned out. After three futile weeks, Skorzeny fumed, “we were back at the beginning.” And when Hitler summoned him once again to reiterate that “my friend Mussolini must be freed at the earliest possible moment,” his already low mood nose-dived even deeper. For an egotist like Skorzeny, failure was the worst fate that could be imagined.

But as he was preparing to give up all hope, he received an intelligence report detailing a car accident involving two very highranking Italian officers in the Abruzzi mountains. What were they doing up there? Skorzeny wondered. It was a long way from the fighting, or, for that matter, from any military installation.

When he followed this trail, Mussolini drew closer. And at last a plan for his rescue started to take shape.

There were twelve gliders, and the idea was that they would swoop in for their soft landings as if on cat’s feet, and that way the teams would have the benefit of surprise. It wasn’t a carefully worked-out plan, and there were too many uncertainties, too many unknowns, a dozen things that could easily go wrong. Skorzeny knew his chances of pulling it off were “very slim.” He doubted that his men could overpower the guards before Mussolini would be executed. But he had considered all the other possibilities, and this was the only one that held even a trace of promise.

The more he thought it through, the more the element of surprise became essential.

Il Duce was being held, he had finally verified to his satisfaction, in a ski resort perched on top of a nearly seven-thousand-foot Apennine mountain. A single cable car ran from the valley up to the summit, and a detachment of heavily armed soldiers stood guard around the station, while carabinieri had blocked off the approaching road. The Hotel Campo Imperatore, where Mussolini was being held, might just as well have been a fortress: solid brick, four stories, and at least a hundred rooms—and Il Duce could have been in any of them. Added to that, about 150 soldiers, as best as the intel reports could estimate, had dug in on the mountaintop and were guarding the hotel and its only guest. With a nod of professional praise, Skorzeny had to give the Italians credit. If he had wanted to keep someone safely hidden away, this was what he might’ve done. No, he conceded, this was even better.

His admiration for the Italians’ shrewdness grew as he tried to work out a rescue plan. He quickly ruled out a ground assault. Making their way up the steep mountainside would be a running battle, and with the enemy firing down from fortified positions, a losing one. Surprise would be the first casualty. There’d be such a racket of gunfire and explosions, he imagined, that it’d be heard in Rome. The Italians would have all the time they needed to scurry off with Mussolini, or, equally likely, shoot a bullet straight into his head.

The more he thought it through, the more the element of surprise became essential. The mission would be a gamble, and this would be, he said, his “trump card.” So he had considered a parachute attack, his commandos jumping from planes. But the Luftwaffe experts ruled it out. At that altitude, in the thin air, the men would drop from the sky like lead weights, slamming into the ground. And those would be the lucky ones—jagged rock formations lay scattered all about the mountaintop, projectiles as sharp as swords.

By default, gliders would have to do. Only that required a big, level landing field where the craft could come down after their towing planes had cut them loose. The closest thing the surveillance photos offered was a foggy glimpse of a triangular meadow not far from the hotel. The Luftwaffe wise men quickly vetoed that, too. A glider landing at this altitude without the assurance of a well-prepared landing ground was sheer folly, they insisted. At least 80 percent of the troops, according to their prediction, would be wiped out when the light craft careened about the rocky meadow. There wouldn’t be a sufficient force remaining to storm the hotel.

Skorzeny took his time before responding. “Of course, gentlemen,” he said at last with a careful politeness, “I am ready to carry out any alternative scheme you may suggest.”

“This action has made the deepest impression throughout the world.”

In that way, the decision was made. And on September 12, 1943, at about one in the afternoon, the gliders began to drop out of the sky and come down in a rush, the wind shrieking. A gust caught one of the craft, and it fell as if shot out of the sky, pounding into a rocky slope and smashing into pieces. Another two were blown far off course. And Skorzeny’s glider came down in a nose-first crash that bounced the shattered machine about as if it were a stone skimmed across a pond. But when he pulled the bolt and climbed out of the exit hatch, he saw that he was only about twenty yards from the hotel.

Of the fight that ensued, there’s not much to say, because it was not much of a fight. The shocked sentries put up their hands in surrender on Skorzeny’s command, and the team rushed into the entrance hall. On instinct, Skorzeny chose a staircase and leaped up it three steps at a time. He started flinging doors open, and on the third try he found Mussolini guarded by two Italian soldiers, who were hustled out of the room. The entire assault had taken four minutes at most.

A small Fiesler Storch plane, with its single propeller and long wings, had landed on the now secured mountaintop, and Mussolini climbed into the only rear seat. There was no room for another passenger, but Skorzeny was not about to abandon his charge (or the triumph that would be his when he presented his hard-won prize to Hitler). He somehow managed to fit himself into the cramped space behind Il Duce. The overloaded plane had to struggle to rise into the air, but just when it seemed that it had reached the end of the plateau and was poised to nose-dive into the gully below, it caught a gust and climbed high into the blue sky.

Three days later Skorzeny and Mussolini were having midnight tea with the Führer at the Wolfschanze. Hitler awarded the SS commando the Knight’s Cross and promoted him to major (Sturmbannführer). “I will not forget what I owe you,” the Führer promised him in a burst of emotion.

Paul Joseph Goebbels, the Reich minister of propaganda, made sure that the world, too, would not forget what Skorzeny had accomplished. The front pages of newspapers throughout Germany offered up suspenseful accounts of the daring mission, and for once the Nazi reporters could stick to the facts, because the truth was sufficiently extraordinary. A short newsreel film was produced, widely shown to applauding audiences, and Skorzeny’s handsome smiling face became quickly known all over Germany. Even the papers in the United States and England had to admit that the Nazis had pulled off a remarkable success. Their headlines announced that Skorzeny was “Europe’s Most Dangerous Man.”

But arguably it was Goebbels himself, writing in his diary, who best caught the full impact of the moment. “This action has made the deepest impression throughout the world,” he wrote. “There has not been a single military action since the outbreak of the war that has shaken people to such an extent or called forth such enthusiasm. We may indeed celebrate a great moral victory.”

Of course, Schellenberg also found himself contemplating what Skorzeny—the very man he’d selected to train the SS commandos for the Iran missions—had accomplished. In his mind he followed a direct line that led from a raid on an impregnable Italian mountaintop to the assassination of the Allied leaders. And it left him filled with hope. He now had the evidence that encouraged him to feel that despite all odds the impossible could indeed be accomplished. If Skorzeny could manage to pull off one miracle, well, why not another? For the first time Schellenberg found himself believing that it could be possible to kill FDR, Churchill, and Stalin in a single covert operation—and in the process alter not just the outcome of the war, but also the peace.

Yet before too long, all his usual misgivings attacked. The imponderables were enormous: He had no idea where the three-party conference would take place. Or when it would occur.

Without this crucial intelligence, nothing would ever be possible. If he didn’t know the time, if he didn’t know the place, if he didn’t know any of the specific operational pitfalls that lay in his path, then no team of commandos, even one led by the likes of Skorzeny, would have a chance. If, if, if. A litany of ifs, each one a question without an answer.

From Night of the Assassins by Howard Blum. Used with the permission of Harper. Copyright © 2020 by Howard Blum.


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