(Published in Gerarchia, March 1923)
By Benito Mussolini
Truly, Italian Liberalism, which holds itself to be the one and only depository of true and immortal principles, is uncannily like that moribund Socialism, because it, too, like the latter, thinks it has an indisputable "scientific" truth, good for all times, places and situations. This is absurdity. Liberalism is not the last word, nor does it represent the definite formula in the theme of the art of Government. In this difficult and delicate art, which has to work with the most refractory materials and in a state of movement, since it works on living and not on dead things; in this art, there is not the Aristotelian unity of time, of place and of action. Mankind has been more or less well governed in a thousand different ways.
Liberalism is the sun and the method of the nineteenth century, which is not stupid, as Daudet thinks, because there are not stupid centuries nor clever centuries, but there are alternate times of cleverness and stupidity in larger or smaller proportions, in every century. It is not said that the liberal method of government, good for the nineteenth century, for a century that was dominated by two essential phenomena like the development of capitalism, and the affirmation of the sentiment of nationality, must necessarily be fitted for the twentieth century, which already promises to have very different characteristics from those which marked the preceding century. Facts are worth more than books; experience more than doctrines.
Now, the greatest experience which has come to us after the World War in a state of motion under our very eyes—is the defeat of liberalism. In Russia and in Italy it has been shown that it is possible to govern outside, above and against the whole of liberalism's ideology. Both Communism and Fascism are outside the bounds of liberalism.
But after all is said and done, what does this liberalism, for which all the foes of Fascism today more or less obliquely get excited consist? Does liberalism mean universal suffrage and similar such things? Does it mean to have the Parliament always open, in order that it may present that indecent spectacle which made everybody feel sick? Does it mean to give a free hand to those who proclaim their hostility against the State and work actively for its destruction? Is this liberalism? Well, if this is liberalism, it is a theory and a practice of aberration and of ruin. Liberty is not an end; it is a means. As a means it ought to be controlled and dominated. Here fails this talk of "force."
The liberal gentlemen are asked to tell me if there ever was in history a Government based exclusively on the consent of the people and renouncing the employment of any kind of force. Such a Government has never existed and it never will exist. Consent is as changeable as the sands of the seashore. It cannot always exist. Nor can it ever be entire. No Government has ever existed which has managed to make everybody it governed happy. Whatever solution you happen to give to any problem, no matter what, you—even were you participants of divine wisdom—must inevitably create a class of malcontents. If so far geometry has not succeeded in squaring the circle, still less have politics managed to do it. Allowing as an axiom that any governmental decision creates discontented people, how are you to prevent this discontent from growing and becoming a danger for the safety of the State? You prevent it by means of force; by surrounding the mass with force; by employing this force without pity when it is necessary to do so. Take away force from any Government whatsoever—and physical armed force is meant here—and leave only its immortal principles—and that Government will be at the mercy of the first organized group which has made up its mind to beat it.
Now Fascism throws all these anti-vital theories to the scrap heap. When a group or a party is in power it is obliged to fortify itself and to defend itself against all corners. The truth, plain to the eyes of all who are not blinded by dogmatism, is that men are tired, perhaps, of liberty. They have had an orgy of it. Today, liberty is no longer of the severe and chaste virgin for which generations of the first part of the last century fought and died. For the intrepid youth who, uneasy and alert, face the dawn of new history there are other words which have greater fascination; these are: order, hierarchy, discipline.
This poor Italian liberalism, which goes in search of a greater liberty, groaning and struggling, is very much behind. It is quite outside all understanding and possibility. They talk of seeds which spring will find. Nonsense! Some seeds die under the coat of winter. Fascism, which did not fear to call itself reactionary when many liberals of today were prone before the triumphant beast, has not today any impediment against declaring itself illiberal and anti-liberal. Fascism does not fall a victim to certain commonplace tricks.
Let it be known then, once and for all, that Fascism knows no idol, worships no fetishes; it has stepped over the more or less decomposed body of the Goddess of Liberty once already, and, if need be, will turn and step over it again.