To the People of Ferrara
By Benito Mussolini
People of Ferrara! and I say "people" intentionally, because that which I see before me now is a marvelous gathering of "the people", in both the Roman and Italic sense of the word; and because I see among you children who are upon the threshold of life, and not long ago I hugged and embraced an old Garibaldian, a survivor of that heroic Italy which was born at Nola in 1821, when two cavalry officers hoisted the flag of liberty against the Bourbons, and which triumphed at Vittorio Veneto with the great and magnificent victory of the Italian people. I see also among you the workers of the factories and their brothers of the fields. We Fascists have a great love for the working classes. But our love, because it is pure, is seriously disinterested and intransigent. Our love does not consist in burning incense and creating new idols and new kings, but in telling upon every occasion and in every place the plain truth, and the more this truth is unpalatable the greater the need to speak it out.
We Fascists, hitherto slandered and maligned, wished to continue the war in order to obtain freedom of movement in Italy, and although not giving way to a sense of weak demagogism, we are the first to recognize that the rights of the labouring classes are sacred, and even more so the rights of those who work the soil. And here I can give hearty praise to the Fascists of Ferrara, who have undertaken with facts, and not with the useless words of the politicians, that agrarian revolution which must gradually, without epileptic transitions, give the peasants the possession of the soil. I strongly encourage the Fascists of Ferrara to go on as they have begun, and to become the vanguard of the Fascist agrarian movement in all Italy.
How does it come about that we are said to be sold to the bourgeoisie, capitalism and the Government? Already our enemies dare no longer continue this accusation, so false and ridiculous is it. This impressive meeting would move a heart harder than mine, and shows me that you have done justice to those base calumnies put into circulation by people who believed in the eternity of their fortunes, while in reality they had barricaded themselves in a castle which was to fall with the first puff of breath of a Fascist revolt. And this Fascist revolt—and we could even use the more sacred and serious word revolution—this Fascist revolution is inspired by indestructible and moral motives and has nothing to do with incentives of a material nature. We Fascists say that above all the competition and those differences which divide men—and which might almost be called natural and inevitable, since life would be extraordinarily dull if everybody thought in the same way—above all this there is a single reality common to all, and it is the reality of the nation and of the country to which we are bound, as the tree is bound by its roots to the soil which nourishes it.
Thus, whether you like it or not, the country is an indestructible, eternal and immortal unity, which, like all ideas, institutions and sentiments in this world, may be eclipsed for a time, but which revives again in the depths of the soul, as the seed thrown in the soil bursts into flower with the coming of the warmth of spring. We have thus, by our furious blows, broken the unworthy crust beneath which lay imprisoned the soul of the proletariat. There were those among the proletariat who were ashamed to be Italian; there were those who, brutalized by dismal propaganda, shouted "Welcome to the Germans!" and also "Long live Austria!" They were for the most part ignorant, but sometimes wicked! Well, we Fascists want to bring into every city, into every part of the country, even to the most remote farmhouses, the pride and passion of belonging to the most noble Italian race; the race which has produced Dante, which has given Galileo, the greatest masterpieces of art, Verdi, Mazzini, Garibaldi and D'Annunzio to the world, and which has produced the people who won Vittorio Veneto. And if the common people still are not proudly aware of this, we Fascists will make sure they learn it so that all Italians have the pride of belonging to our race. (Vivid applause).
Not only do we not intend to push the working classes backwards. All that which the workers have gained and which they will gain is sacred. But they must acquire these conquests not only through a material improvement, but also a moral improvement of the soul. We Fascists do not speak only of rights, we speak also of duty, as Giuseppe Mazzini would have wished. (Vivid applause). We Fascists have not only the verb "to take," we have also the verb "to give," because at certain times, when our country calls, whether she be threatened by an enemy within or by an enemy without, we demand both from our adherents and from our sympathizers a readiness even for the supreme sacrifice. And you, Fascists of Ferrara, have consecrated with martyrdom the Fascist idea.
If the idea of Fascism had not contained in itself great potentiality, nobility and a line of beauty, do you think that it would have spread with such tremendous impetus? Do you think that there would be so many young people who risk their lives simply for the pride of being called Fascists? Do you think that we would have seven dead, the sacred dead that we carry in the depths of our hearts, the dead which point out to us the path of perseverance and victory?
A short time ago I went to your cemetery. One by one we visited the graves and threw our flowers upon them. Those moments of silence which we passed there were pregnant with feeling. Each one of us felt that within those graves were the bodies of young men in the flower of their days, men who were certainly loved and who had before them all the possibilities of life. They are dead; they have fallen. But we, in this great hour of your history, O people of Ferrara, will recall them one by one in the orders of the day; and since they are not dead, because their mortal clay is transformed in the infinite play of the possibilities of the universe, we ask of the pure and radiant blood of the youth of Ferrara the profound inspiration to be faithful to our ideals, to be faithful to our nation.
And so we are content that our flags, after having saluted the dead, will smile on life, because the working people of Ferrara, and of all Italy, will have found the true path that had been forgotten, have cast off all those ignoble politicians who had filled their heads with lying fables. We, O Italians of Ferrara, have no need to go beyond our boundaries, beyond the seas, in order to find the word of wisdom and of life. We do not need to go to Russia in order to see how a great people may be massacred. We do not need to turn the pages of the Muscovite gospels; gospels which the apostles themselves are reviling since, overwhelmed by the reality of life, they are denying them. We have no need to imitate others, because all the brilliant original minds of all branches of civilization and of all doctrines are to be found in Italy. And if there is to be socialism, it cannot be the bestial, tyrannical and liberticidal socialism of yesterday, it can only be the socialism of Carlo Pisacane, of Giuseppe Ferrari and of Giuseppe Mazzini.
Here, O people of Ferrara, is your history. Here, O people of Ferrara, is your life. Here, O people of Ferrara, is your future. And we, who have undertaken this hard battle, which has cost us tens and hundreds of lives, we do not ask you for salaries, we do not ask you for votes. We only ask you for one thing, and that is that you shall shout with us "Long live Italy!"