Previous posts in this discussion:
PostSyria Strike Did Not Go Far Enough (Istvan Simon, USA, 04/16/18 3:43 am)
I am not surprised by Eugenio Battaglia's take on the US joint intervention with France and the UK to destroy Assad's chemical weapons laboratories and storage facilities.
I am a huge opponent of President Trump, as anyone that reads these pages knows. But I support partially his strikes on Assad. My regret is that the President's rhetoric was sharply at odds with the military strikes that were actually ordered.
If I were the president, I would have ordered not only the destruction of these chemical weapons facilities, but I would have destroyed every single airfield of Assad, and his entire air force. The advantages of that approach would have been that Assad's capabilities to murder his own people would have been severely degraded with or without chemical weapons. I would have also destroyed Assad's presidential palace, much like President Reagan, in my opinion correctly, targeted Colonel Gaddafi in Libya after the outrageous terrorist attacks on a civilian airliner over Lockerbie.
On the negative side, the president says that our strikes are for humanitarian reasons. Indeed the attack on children and unarmed civilians with chemical agents is a war crime, and cannot be tolerated. But neither can the destruction of Aleppo which we tolerated without a peep from the then presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Also, it is ridiculous to say that we are protecting civilians from Assad's murderous assaults, and at the same time we close our borders to war refugees. Under this disgraceful president, according to CNN, exactly 11 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the United States in 2018. More than 3,000 were admitted in 2017, and more than 15,000 in 2016. These policies of the Trump administration are disgraceful, inhuman, and at odds with our humanitarian values.
JE comments: Two questions: Is there any way the Allies could have targeted Assad's air force without attacking Russian planes, too? Wouldn't this be an unambiguous declaration of war? The US thought so on December 7th, 1941.
Second, when you bombard a chemical-weapons depot, aren't the health and environmental risks potentially devastating?
Strike on Syria; The Ghastly Olympics of Mass Murder: Mao, Stalin, Hitler
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
04/17/18 4:29 AM)
Lately we have been discussing the topic of who murdered more people. For sure Mao gets the gold medal, the silver to Stalin and the bronze to Hitler for mass murder in the long term.
However, the gold medal for mass murder on a single day, by far, goes to the US, on several occasions. The greatest was the bombing of Tokyo, 9 March 1943, with 100,000 to 200,000 civilians burnt alive. Other attacks on Germany and Japan were nearly as deadly--and of course there was Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (In Italy we had "only" a total of 74,000 civilians killed in the bombings.)
I will give the silver medal to the UK for Operation Gomorrah on Hamburg, 28 July 1943.
Maybe we could give the bronze to the USSR for sinking the hospital ships carrying refugees from East Prussia. The vessel Wilhelm Gustloff on 30 January 1945 had 10,000 civilians drowned (Italy had 5 hospital ships sunk by torpedoes, 3 by aerial bombing and another 5 damaged).
Oh, returning to the missile attack on Syria, if the delegates of the OPCW have just arrived to investigate if there was a chemical weapons attack, by what proof and authority did the US, UK and France bomb Syria?
JE comments: Has anyone heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff museum in Hampton, Virginia? I am not clear if there is a brick-and-mortar place to visit or not, but the website does feature plenty of swastikas:
Unsurprisingly, officials from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have not been allowed full access to the Syrian sites. Doesn't this mean the Russo-Syrian denials will be able to continue indefinitely?
Sinking of "Wilhelm Gustloff": Kraft Durch Freude
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
04/19/18 5:36 AM)
A small additional comment on the vessel Wilhelm Gustloff.
The ship was known in Italy, thanks to a long article in the N° 39 4/II/1942 of La Svastika, the German cultural magazine for Italians. It is not to be confused with the international Signal, which was mostly dedicated to the war. La Svastika introduced and described the "Kraft Durch Freude," modeled on the Italian "Dopolavoro" (Afterwork) program, with a photo of the Wilhelm Gustloff.
The fleet for people's vacations and trips consisted of 10 transoceanic vessels, of which the more luxurious were the Gustloff and the Robert Ley, the first named after the murdered Swiss Nazi leader and the second for the leader of the Kraft Durch Freude.
The sinking of the vessel was a big trophy for the USSR, even if the poor captain of the submarine was somewhat in trouble for a brothel incident. After all the great writer Ilya Ehrenburg said, "If you have not killed at least one German a day you have wasted the day."
JE comments: I knew that Hitler based his Autobahnen on Mussolini's Autostrade, but I was unaware of the Italian provenance of Strength through Joy. Car nuts like myself of course remember Kraft Durch Freude through its automotive legacy, the Volkswagen Beetle.
Tell us more about Dopolavoro, Eugenio.
Mussolini's Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro (National Recreation Club)
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
04/21/18 4:25 AM)
In response to John E's request, here's a short history of the Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro (National Recreational Club).
Mario Missiroli (1886-1974) was a great writer, newsman and director of newspapers including the very important Il Corriere della Sera. He started writing when only 15 years old, and was a close friend of Georges Sorel.
He was an antifascist and on 13 May 1922 he faced Mussolini in a duel. Missiroli was injured so the duel was suspended, but there was no reconciliation: During the political crisis following the murder of Matteorri in 1924, Missiroli strongly attacked Mussolini.
However in 1926 through the good offices of his friend Carpinati, member of the government, he entered the Fascist Party while continuing to write.
In 1937 Missiroli published the book Cosa deve l'Italia a Mussolini (What Italy owes to Mussolini), where among many other topics, he explained the Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro. The book is a very interesting read.
Mussolini founded the OND on 1 May 1925: It was, in a very large sense, structured like the YMCA and was (originally) apolitical.
According to Mussolini, the OND was charged with providing the founding, organization and direction of institutes to intellectually, morally and physically elevate all the workers in their leisure time (he had reduced the working hours to 40 per week). This included physical education with plays and sports, artistic education with amateur theater, musical performances, radio, films and the famous Carro di Tespi, a much-celebrated traveling theater. There were also cultural events on a general level. On top of this, there was insurance protection for injuries during OND activities, social assistance, seaside and mountain resorts, and inexpensive trains to visit all parts of Italy.
Just one example in the cultural field: 1300 public libraries were created, which also operated evening schools and popular universities. There were 87 Cultural Societies in 1927, but 1800 already by 1928.
By the way, please remember that for Mussolini workers were all producers, including manual workers, intellectuals, peasants and artists.
The OND was a fabulous Mussolinian achievement, which with other fundamental achievements such as the GIL Gioventù Italiana del Littorin, the ONMI Opera Nazionale Maternità ed Infanzia, were providing complete assistance and satisfaction to the Italian people. They are all gone now...
A question with apparently no answer. Why at that time was possible to achieve so much, including autostrade, industrialization, the restoration of agriculture, all while maintaining a national budget, and now these things are impossible?
JE comments: Eugenio Battaglia is often pilloried by WAISers for his Mussolini sympathies, but what Eugenio admires most are Il Duce's social programs. I'm of the pedestrian view that Mussolini's cooperation with Hitler erases anything positive he may have achieved, and moreover he ultimately led his country to ruin in WWII. But still, is there much difference between Fascist social programs and the New Deal programs developed under FDR?
One paradox in politics: the less democracy you have, the more concrete things you can do--if you are the one in power. The rub: what about "achievements" that come at your expense, and you have no recourse? Democracy is messy, but when it works it gives everyone a voice.
How many duels did Mussolini fight in? I know of at least two. Fisticuffs, swords, pistols: Il Duce embraced 'em all.
Dueling with Il Duce
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
04/26/18 8:21 AM)
To answer John E's question of April 21st, Mussolini fought in five duels between 1915 and 1922. He of course won them all.
His antagonists were the socialist leaders Claudio Treves and Francesco Ciccotti Scozzese, newsman Mario Missiroli, anarchist leader Libero Martino and Cristoforo Baseggio, a military officer.
Officially, duels were illegal.
JE comments: Yikes. Did Mussolini kill any of those guys? A quick Googling says no, although Ciccotti was seriously wounded in a sword fight.
Libero is the perfect name for an anarchist. Name as destiny?
Dueling in Italy
(Roy Domenico, USA
04/26/18 1:51 PM)
My friend, Steven Hughes, recently retired from U Loyola Maryland, has written on Italian dueling and discussed Mussolini's prowess. Of course when the Duce was a kid, he also stabbed his teacher.
JE comments: Dueling was "in" during Romantic times, but it must have lasted far longer in Italy. Officers in the Prussian army continued dueling throughout the 19th century (gotta have that scar!); see this archived NYT piece from 1897:
Did the Young Mussolini Stab His Teacher?
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
04/28/18 5:08 AM)
It seems to me that Stephen Hughes has given our good friend Roy Domenico (26 April) a politically correct version of Mussolini's childhood.
According to the monumental biography by Mino Caudana, Il Figlio del Fabbro (The Son of the Blacksmith), the nine-year-old Mussolini attended a school at Faeza run by the Salesian Fathers.
The young students at this school were divided into three classes: the nobles/very rich, the middle class/bourgeoisie, and finally the third class comprising children from poor families. Young Benito was in this third group.
The conditions were appalling. The third-class kids received poor treatment and inferior food at the far end of the dining hall. Not only that, but they were the victims of continuous abuse from the priests and the kids from the other superior classes.
Mussolini with his already developing social conscience would fight back, and on one occasion he used a penknife against one of the other students. He was severely punished and in the summer of 1894, after the final examinations, he was expelled.
Maybe the poor kid just wanted justice?
JE comments: The Salesian order was founded precisely to help poor children during the Industrial Revolution. Setting up schools with three social classes doesn't sound very progressive. The goal must have been to "uplift" the downtrodden while reminding them of their proper place in the pecking order.
A Mussolini Tour
(Nigel Jones, UK
04/28/18 10:21 AM)
I thought that Eugenio Battaglia and other WAISers might be interested in my reflections on a reconnaissance I carried out this month in Italy on a tour I am leading later this year titled "Duce! The rise and fall of Italian Fascism." (Details on www.historical trips.com, though the 2018 tour has sold out.)
We visited Rome, the Gran Sasso high in the Appenine mountains (from which Mussolini was rescued in a daring commando operation by German airborne forces after he was deposed in 1943); Predappio, the Duce's home town and birth- and final resting place; Verona--where his son-in-law, Foreign Minister Count Ciano, and other Fascists who had voted for his deposition were tried and executed; Lake Garda, HQ of the radical Salo republic set up under Nazi auspices after Mussolini's rescue and restoration to power; and finally Lake Como and Milan, where the Duce, his mistress Clara Petacci and other leading loyal Fascists were caught, shot, and demeaningly strung up upside down.
My main surprising impression were the astonishing survival of Fascist artifacts from the era: not only the excellent modernist architecture of, for example, Rome's EUR quarter, but also the openly Fascist murals and statues of the Fora Italico sports complex, of which I reproduce an example below.
In stark contrast to Germany, where Nazi symbols such as the swastika are strictly banned, Italians appear quite nonchalant about remembering Mussolini, indeed many of them, including Eugenio, are proud of him!
This may be down to the relatively benign nature of the Fascist dictatorship in comparison to the Nazis. (Mussolini, with a few notorious exceptions such as Matteotti and the Roselli brothers, tended to jail his opponents--such as Gramsci--rather than murder them.) Unless you count the war dead among Mussolini's victims, Fascism had a far lower body count than Nazism, and infinitesimally fewer than Communism.
Even so, I was quite shocked that Predappio boasts no fewer than three thriving shops doing a roaring trade in Mussolini memorabilia: Badges, t-shirts, fascist flags, Hitler and Mussolini mugs, and even Fascist coshes. (OK, in the cause of research I admit to buying a Mussolini futurist bust--but a very small one!)
The most fascinating contrast came with meeting the Mayor of Predappio, a charming left-winger who wants to turn the large and semi-derelict "House of Fascism" in the town into a proper museum documenting Fascism (but who was happy to show me round his office in the Town Hall, Mussolini's childhood home, which is replete with Fascist insignia), and the man who bought the Villa Carpena, the Mussolini family's country home, from the family a few years ago, and runs it today as a combined shrine and pro-Fascist museum, full of relics of the Duce, including his uniform, motor bike, bicycle, pistol and so on.
Relations between the pro- and anti-Fascist factions in the town reminded me of nothing so much as the novel Don Camillo, documenting relations between a Priest and the Communist mayor of just such a small Italian town.
I should add that the trip is far from a Duce! tribute tour, and we will strive to be objective--including visiting the site of the notorious Aredeantine Caves massacre carried out by the SS in reprisal for a bomb which killed German troops in March 1944.
JE comments: Note the "V" in Dvce, an attempt to create a classical feel. Maybe this is why the mosaics remain.
Thank you for your fascinating preview, and best of luck for a successful tour, Nigel. if there should be a reprise in 2019, be sure to let WAIS know.
- A Mussolini Tour (Nigel Jones, UK 04/28/18 10:21 AM)
- Did the Young Mussolini Stab His Teacher? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/28/18 5:08 AM)
- Dueling in Italy (Roy Domenico, USA 04/26/18 1:51 PM)
- Dueling with Il Duce (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/26/18 8:21 AM)
- Mussolini's Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro (National Recreation Club) (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/21/18 4:25 AM)
- Sinking of "Wilhelm Gustloff": Kraft Durch Freude (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/19/18 5:36 AM)