Fascisti Party Now Ten Million Strong

Ernest Hemingway

Toronto Star Weekly/June 24, 1922

Milan.-Benito Mussolini, head of the Fascisti movement, sits at his desk at the fuse of the great powder magazine that he has laid through all Northern and Central Italy and occasionally fondles the ears of a wolf­hound pup, looking like a short-eared jackrabbit, that plays with the papers on the floor beside the big desk. Mussolini is a big, brown-faced man with a high forehead, a slow smiling mouth, and large, expressive hands.

“The Fascisti are now half a million strong,” he told me. “We are a political party organized as a military force.”

Talking slowly in Italian and choosing his words in order that he might be sure that I understood everything he said, he went on to tell how the Fascisti have 250,000 troops organized into squads of Camicie Nere, or black shirts, as shock troops of the political party. “Garibaldi had red shirts,” he smiled deprecatingly.

“We are not out to oppose any Italian government. We are not against the law,” Mussolini explained in carefully accented words, leaning back in his editorial chair and emphasizing his points with his great brown hands. “But,” he enunciated very slowly and carefully, “we have force enough to overthrow any government that might try to oppose or destroy us. “

“How about the Guardia Regia ?” I asked. (The Guardia Regia are the recently organized force of troops from the South of Italy formed by Ex­Premier Nitti to keep the peace in case of civil war.)

“The Guardia Regia will never fight us!” Mussolini said.

Now that situation needs a bit of examination and comparison. The Fascisti platform is one of extreme conservatism. Imagine the Conservative party of Canada with 250,000 men under arms, “a political party organized as a military force,” with their leader declaring that they have force enough to overthrow any Liberal or other government that might oppose them. It makes quite a picture, doesn’t it? At the same time imagine a special military police force having been created to prevent the Conservatives from battling in the streets with the Liberals, and you have a good angle.

(Source: Dateline: Toronto. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1985)

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