Mussolini and the Eclipse of Italian Fascism –
From Dictatorship to Populism
By R.J. B. Bosworth
Yale University Press – £25.00
The image conveyed is a familiar one of a dictator who was half killer and half joke: ‘As the 1930s wore on, the new Roman empire, the Fascist empire, was beginning to fray. As a circus master, Mussolini was still without peer, but lacked the resources – and he the strategic prowess – to transform the political map of Europe. Not so Adolf Hitler.
One of the evident attractions of past evil is an alluring apprehension that it might return. In the contemporary world with rightist and nationalist populism ousting alternative political models in very many societies, the words dictatorship, fascism and totalitarianism have regained menace. There is much pondering whether we are ‘going back to the 1930s,’ as pundits phrase it.
(‘Mussolini and the Ghost of Adolf Hitler’)
With current cronyism in the UK’s government seemingly out of control, an ever increasing cleavage between the haves and the have nots, and former US President, Donald Trump, having re-written the rule book with regards rule and divide by way of fake news, of course we are going back to the 1930s.
There is absolutely no question about it whatsoever.
That so many societies are hurtling back to an epoch of monstrous calamity and dishonesty, might be considered one thing. That it is essentially being ignored in England, and positively promoted in the US (lest we forget that 74 million people voted for Trump), is altogether another. Another in as much that one cannot help but wonder where (on earth) society is heading with regards the inexorable, destabilizing onslaught of populism – which to all intents and foreboding purposes, Benito Mussolini fundamentally invented.
This is something that is already mentioned in the Introduction to Mussolini and the Eclipse of Italian Fascism – From Dictatorship to Populism, where the esteemed historian and author R. J. B. Bosworth categorically writes: ‘’Like quite a few other dictatorships, in their latter days, ideas mattered less in Mussolini’s rule, and booty (and hanging onto ‘power’) more. This sad mixture was the hollow solution to government offered by Mussolini’s descent into populism after 1932.This dictator was cheaply ready to evoke the people, while in reality bringing them death and destruction and ensuring that, after 1945, Italy would be granted a place in the world’s hierarchy well below the rung of the least of the Great Powers’’ (my italics).
If nothing else, this most readable and terrific of books, plays testament to history itself; especially within the arena of history (unfortunately) repeating itself. So although anchored in the past, it is quintessentially current in that it perfectly reflects what is happening right now, far better than many of today’s periodicals and media outlets.
As much is wholly substantiated when Professor Mark Gilbert, of Johns Hopkins University writes: ‘’This trenchant, eminently readable book is a convincing analysis of the decline and fall of Fascism. Its conclusion – that Mussolini’s Italy was a ‘’weak regime that went to its collapse broadcasting fake news about itself’’ – ensures that the book also has a contemporary ring.’’
If one wishes to fully understand and come to grips with the ideology behind the political cancer that is populism, then this is most definitely, definitely the book to read.