Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sawdust Caesar: That Mussolini Lip

I noticed that Donald Trump has that Mussolini lip, sticking out his lower lip at the same time he expands his chest in a power or bully position.  Seeing that, I wondered if there were other similarities between the two and thus decided to read  _Sawdust Caesar:  The Untold Story of Mussolini and Fascism_ by George Seldes
(NY:  Harper and Brothers, 1935).  Seldes is a favorite of mine as he is one of the avatars of independent American journalism in the 20th century.  Before IF Stone, there was George Seldes and _Sawdust Caesar_ was one of the books that made his reputation.  It was useful to me as, yes, I did find some other similarities between Trump and Mussolini in the way they use language and approach opposition but I also found some intriguing glimmers of something else in the independent workers' movement in Italy after WWI and the possible forerunner of Liberation Theology in the work of Don Luigi Sturzo.

History is a wonderful thing.

My notes follow with pages numbers () in parentheses.

More on George Seldes at

(xv)  I have tried to recount the significant facts in the belief that, although history may be "lies agreed upon," there may be some value in stating realities at a time they may be useful to those seeking a new road out of the present world dilemma.

(51)  The poisoning of the world mind is just as necessary for a successful war as the murder of millions of deluded subjects.

(55)  He [Mussolini] immediately made his newspaper the organ of the Fasci, a little interventionist group which had been founded on July, 1914, months before his "conversion," and which had from its origin been his enemy.

(59)  That nation [Italy] officially renounced the Triple Alliance on the 30th of April, 1915, and amidst the applause of half the world joined the forces of Democracy, Humanity, Liberty and commercial penetration on the following 15th of May.

(80)  "We know now," state the former premier of Fiume, "that the new phase of the political fortune of Mussolini, and especially of Fascism, dates from the treason to the cause of Fiume, after his negotiations with Giolitti.  From that moment dates a different attitude of the government vis-รก-vis with Fascism and the rapid transformation of it into a reactionary movmeent.  From the end of 1920 the Fascisti were in effect armed by Giolitti and largely paid by him.  

"Giolitti had been called into power to solve two problems, Fiume and Bolshevism.  To solve the former he obtained Mussolini's passive consent to the fratricidal  aggression of Christmas 1920;  to solve the latter Giolitti obtained Mussolini's active consent and engaged himself to furnish arms and other material means for the guerilla warfare against Socialism.

(85)  Prologue to the seizure of the factories in 1920 was the episode at Dalmine, March, 1919, when Fascist agitators caused a strike at the Franchi-Gregorini plant, the workers raising the national, instead of the red, flag, and demanding participation in the operation of the factory which they had seized and refused to leave.

Mussolini called this a "creative strike."  He rushed there to aid the Bolsheviki, addressed them, saying:  "To protect the interest of your class you could have called a strike in the old style, the negative and destructive strike;  on the contrary, thinking of the interests of the people, you have inaugurated the creative strike which does not interrupt production."  In another exhortation he exclaimed:  "you have proven your Will, and I say to you you are on the right road... I say to you that your gesture is new and dignified, by the motives which inspired them, worthy of sympathy.  Your rights are sacred, and I am with you."

(94)  But although he still called himself a Socialist, he was really more of a Bolshevik and a revolutionary opportunist, ready to engage in a civil war, to shed any amount of blood, for the establishment of a proletarian dictatorship which the occupation of the factories [after WWI] seemed to make imminent.

(105)  Don Luigi Sturzo, founder of Partito Popolare Italiano in January 1919 - Catholic Social Democracy political party, non-violent, distribution of land and work and power.

(196-197)  In Sicily, in the old days, he [Cianfarra of the Chicago Tribune Rome bureau] had found that the judges made it a point to encourage habitual criminals, cut-throats, murderers, and bandits to emigrate to America.  As this was before Mussolini restored capital punishment, it was found it cheaper to deport murderers and gunmen than sentence them to life imprisonment and feed them in Italy.

When a murderer appeared before a Sicilian judge the latter would say, well, it's life imprisonment for you, and the sentence will be pronounced Thurday morning.  That is, if you are here.  But there is a boat for New York on Wednesday.

(201)  Power rests on fear as well as the consent of the governed.

(202)  "I have always said - and those who have always followed me in these five years of hard struggle can now remember it - that violence, to be useful in settling anything, must be surgical, intelligent, and chivalrous.  Now, all the exploits of any so-called Cheka have always been unintelligent, passionate, and stupid."
NB:  The syntax and vocabulary remind me of Trump

(243)  Order, Discipline, Hierarchy (The Fascist slogan) have been made actual.

(261)  In diplomacy, the waging of wars and the directing of their occasional interruptions, peace, Mussolini's course has been rather helter-skelter:  in fact, in this field more than any other he has proven himself a zigzag Caesar.

(312)  In many respects Mussolini followed the methods of other dictators.  Lenin had been editor of the Iskra;  Trotsky practiced journalism in Siberia, Switzerland, and Second Avenue, New York, while Stalin undermined the Kerensky regime when he edited the Petrograd Pravda.  Pilsudski was once a Socialist editor of the Rabotnik, The Worker, Kemal Pasha also published a paper to further his aims, and Hitler for years raged in his Voelkischer Beobachter.  A large number of leading dictators gained by experience in journalism the knowledge of the power of the press, and all in turn knew enough to abolish opposition newspapers as the first and probably most important act to insure stability of a regime.  Dictatorship and a free press can never co-exist.

(357)  The Fascist militia is exalted in many pages and children are taught it is their duty "to love at the same time, the book and the gun, the two arms of knowledge."

(361)  "You can do anything with bayonets except sit on them," said one of Musolini's great predecessors, Cavour, and the Fascisti celebrating their first decade laughed at the phrase.

(375)  In almost every sentence of his speeches, in almost every page of his writings, Mussolini curses his opponents.  He is always  shouting "scoundrel," "traitor," "egotist" at the same one;  his enemies are "soft-brained cowards," "swelled frogs," and "a base and pernicious crew";  he never hesitates to call the man who differes from his opinions a liar;  with the utmost contempt he speaks of political enemies and those who have fought duels with him as weaklings, cowards;  referring to foreign statesmen and journalissts who have said he threatens the peace of the world he replies these are the "accusations of fools";  when he can find nothing evil to say of those whom the world honors he calls them "egocentric," he speaks of their "unbridled egotism";  he is always attacking those who "sell themselves for money, for power," whom he despises - and frequently the word "turncoat" comes up and the six four-letter words in Joyce's Ulysses.
NB:  Another resemblance between Mussolini and Trump