(Published in Il Popolo d'Italia, April 24, 1921)
By Benito Mussolini
Those who desired the destruction of Italian Fascism, and who suddenly burst with joy at the misguided thought that our destruction was imminent, have now been completely silenced. They are disappointed. They are now beginning to suspect that they went too far in their aspirations. Fascism has not been destroyed yet! There is a profound emotional-political division within the existing order which may have extreme consequences. But the masses which Fascism has collected and assembled under its wings will not "evaporate"; they may group themselves under a different name or banner or leader, but they will not longer fall prey to subversive ideologies, because the youth shuns everything cadaverous and they know that socialism—in all its various forms and subtypes on the Left and Right—is a corpse which has not yet decomposed. It may be that Fascism frees the body from unhealthy waste but preserves its unity of mass and battle. However, now is the time in which all those who have given blood and soul to the movement must assume precise responsibilities in the face of the future.
One Fascist writer addressed a fundamental problem and posed this question: must Fascism become a party? After long reflections and a careful examination of the Italian political situation, I must answer in the affirmative. Let me tell you why. The Fascist leagues are already a party, even if they repudiate this word in the traditional sense of the term. The Fascist organization—which in recent times has been greatly improved from a political point of view with the creation of provincial and regional federations—is already already a party. To reject this word a priori would be to tie ourselves down, which is eminently contrary to the animating spirit of Fascism. On the other hand, one of the peculiar and original characteristics of Fascism has disappeared completely.
In the beginning it was truly a league; i.e. a sort of spiritual convention or political palaestra for men from different schools of thought and from different political parties. But not anymore. Except for a small nucleus of liberals and conservative nationalists, the men from the other parties have almost entirely abandoned us and returned to their old parties; and today the vast majority of the Fascist league is composed of pure Fascists. Thus it can be concluded that we have become a "party". Recent events have revealed the deficiencies of our organization in the way it was chaotically and impetuously formed. A dilemma was imposed by the very origins and course of the Fascist crisis: either it is a party or it is an army. Only in the latter case can one recognize a captain or a duce. But who is the man who can now assume personal responsibility to guide and support such a complex, rich and difficult movement? What is the Fascist movement? An army? This is a troublesome question.
In my view, the problem must be resolved in these terms: it is necessary to form a strong party so solidly framed and disciplined that it can, when necessary, turn into an army capable of acting with violence, both to attack and to defend itself. We must give a soul to the party, i.e. a program. Theoretical and practical postulates need to be revised and expanded; some of them need to be abolished. The weeks leading up to the national assembly in Rome should be and will be dedicated to elaborating the program of the Italian Fascist Party. But having soul is not enough: the party must organize itself so that it can immediately transform its members into soldiers, ready to fight violently on the battlefield against those anti-national organizations that are exalting and preparing for the advent of a regime of violence and dictatorship.
Long dissertations are not required to convince us that the present organization of the Fascist league has all the faults of a political party but none of the advantages. If we persist on this course, we will end up being an immobile aphorism, which is to say non-Fascist. Fascism is already de facto a party; it is useless and almost puerile to continue to refuse to recognize the exteriority of the word. The name of the party can be debated, although the name must not fail to clearly remember our origins; but there should not be any deep disagreements. This topic will have to be placed on the agenda of the congress in Rome.