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THE DOCTRINE OF FASCISM
BENITO MUSSOLINI (1932)
(ONLY COMPLETE OFFICIAL TEXT ON THE INTERNET)
(This article, co-written by Giovanni Gentile, is considered to be the most
complete articulation of Mussolini’s political views. This is the only complete
official translation we know of on the web, copied directly from an official Fascist
government publication of 1935, Fascism Doctrine and Institutions, by Benito
Mussolini, Ardita Publishers, Rome, pages 7-42. This translation includes all the
footnotes from the original.)
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Like all sound political conceptions, Fascism is action and it is thought; action in which doctrine
is immanent, and doctrine arising from a given system of historical forces in which it is inserted,
and working on them from within (1). It has therefore a form correlated to contingencies of time
and space; but it has also an ideal content which makes it an expression of truth in the higher region of
the history of thought (2). There is no way of exercising a spiritual influence in the world as a human
will dominating the will of others, unless one has a conception both of the transient and the specific
reality on which that action is to be exercised, and of the permanent and universal reality in which the
Mussolini – THE DOCTRINE OF FASCISM 1 of 19
SKIP TO “Political and Social Doctrine,” BELOW.
line of development and spiritual formation (18). Not a race, nor a geographically defined region,
but a people, historically perpetuating itself; a multitude unified by an idea and imbued with
the will to live, the will to power, self-consciousness, personality (19).
In so far as it is embodied in a State, this higher personality becomes a nation. It is not the
nation which generates the State; that is an antiquated naturalistic concept which afforded a
basis for XIXth century publicity in favor of national governments. Rather is it the State which
creates the nation, conferring volition and therefore real life on a people made aware of their
The right to national independence does not arise from any merely literary and idealistic
form of self-consciousness; still less from a more or less passive and unconscious de facto
situation, but from an active, self-conscious, political will expressing itself in action and ready
to prove its rights. It arises, in short, from the existence, at least in fieri, of a State. Indeed, it
is the State which, as the expression of a universal ethical will, creates the right to national
A nation, as expressed in the State, is a living, ethical entity only in so far as it is
progressive. Inactivity is death. Therefore the State is not only Authority which governs and
confers legal form and spiritual value on individual wills, but it is also Power which makes its
will felt and respected beyond its own frontiers, thus affording practical proof of the universal
character of the decisions necessary to ensure its development. This implies organization and
expansion, potential if not actual. Thus the State equates itself to the will of man, whose
development cannot he checked by obstacles and which, by achieving self-expression,
demonstrates its infinity (21).
The Fascist State , as a higher and more powerful expression of personality, is a force, but a
spiritual one. It sums up all the manifestations of the moral and intellectual life of man. Its functions
cannot therefore be limited to those of enforcing order and keeping the peace, as the liberal doctrine
had it. It is no mere mechanical device for defining the sphere within which the individual may duly
exercise his supposed rights. The Fascist State is an inwardly accepted standard and rule of
conduct, a discipline of the whole person; it permeates the will no less than the intellect. It
stands for a principle which becomes the central motive of man as a member of civilized
society, sinking deep down into his personality; it dwells in the heart of the man of action and
of the thinker, of the artist and of the man of science: soul of the soul (22).
Fascism, in short, is not only a law-giver and a founder of institutions, but an educator and a
promoter of spiritual life. It aims at refashioning not only the forms of life but their content – man, his
character, and his faith. To achieve this propose it enforces discipline and uses authority, entering into
the soul and ruling with undisputed sway. Therefore it has chosen as its emblem the Lictor’s rods, the
symbol of unity, strength, and justice.
POLITICAL AND SOCIAL DOCTRINE
When in the now distant March of 1919, speaking through the columns of the Popolo d’Italia I
summoned to Milan the surviving interventionists who had intervened, and who had followed me
ever since the foundation of the Fascist of revolutionary action in January 1915, I had in mind
Mussolini – THE DOCTRINE OF FASCISM 4 of 19
no specific doctrinal program. The only doctrine of which I had practical experience was that
of socialism, from until the winter of 1914 – nearly a decade. My experience was that both of
a follower and a leader but it was not doctrinal experience. My doctrine during that period had
been the doctrine of action. A uniform, universally accepted doctrine of Socialism had not
existed since 1905, when the revisionist movement, headed by Bernstein, arose in Germany,
countered by the formation, in the see-saw of tendencies, of a left revolutionary movement
which in Italy never quitted the field of phrases, whereas, in the case of Russian socialism, it
became the prelude to Bolshevism.
Reformism, revolutionism, centrism, the very echo of that terminology is dead, while in the
great river of Fascism one can trace currents which had their source in Sorel, Peguy, Lagardelle
of the Movement Socialists, and in the cohort of Italian syndicalist who from 1904 to 1914 brought a
new note into the Italian socialist environment – previously emasculated and chloroformed by
fornicating with Giolitti’s party – a note sounded in Olivetti’s Pagine Libere, Orano’s Lupa, Enrico
Leone’s Divenirs Socials.
When the war ended in 1919 Socialism, as a doctrine, was already dead; it continued to
exist only as a grudge, especially in Italy where its only chance lay in inciting to reprisals
against the men who had willed the war and who were to be made to pay for it.
The Popolo d’Italia described itself in its subtitle as the daily organ of fighters and producers.
The word producer was already the expression of a mental trend. Fascism was not the nursling of
a doctrine previously drafted at a desk; it was born of the need of action, and was action; it was
not a party but, in the first two years, an anti-party and a movement. The name I gave the
organization fixed its character.
Yet if anyone cares to reread the now crumpled sheets of those days giving an account of
the meeting at which the Italian Fasci di combattimento were founded, he will find not a doctrine
but a series of pointers, forecasts, hints which, when freed from the inevitable matrix of
contingencies, were to develop in a few years time into a series of doctrinal positions entitling
Fascism to rank as a political doctrine differing from all others, past or present.
“If the bourgeoisie – I then said – believe that they have found in us their lightening-conductors,
they arc mistaken. We must go towards the people… We wish the working classes to accustom
themselves to the responsibilities of management so that they may realize that it is no easy
matter to run a business… We will fight both technical and spiritual rear-guirdism… Now that the
succession of the regime is open we must not be fainthearted. We must rush forward; if the
present regime is to be superseded we must take its place. The right of succession is ours, for we
urged the country to enter the war and we led it to victory… The existing forms of political
representation cannot satisfy us; we want direst representation of the several interests… It may
be objected that this program implies a return to the guilds (corporazioni). No matter!. I therefore
hope this assembly will accept the economic claims advanced by national syndicalism …
Is it not strange that from the very first day, at Piazza San Sepolcro, the word “guild”
(corporazione) was pronounced, a word which, as the Revolution developed, was to express one
of the basic legislative and social creations of the regime?
Mussolini – THE DOCTRINE OF FASCISM 5 of 19
The years preceding the March on Rome cover a period during which the need of action
forbade delay and careful doctrinal elaborations. Fighting was going on in the towns and villages.
There were discussions but… there was something more sacred and more important… death…
Fascists knew how to die. A doctrine – fully elaborated, divided up into chapters and paragraphs
with annotations, may have been lacking, but it was replaced by something far m 🙂 re decisive, –
by a faith. All the same, if with the help of books, articles, resolutions passed at congresses, major
and minor speeches, anyone should care to revive the memory of those days, he will find, provided
he knows how to seek and select, that the doctrinal foundations were laid while the battle was
still raging. Indeed, it was during those years that Fascist thought armed, refined itself, and
proceeded ahead with its organization. The problems of the individual and the State; the problems
of authority and liberty; political, social, and more especially national problems were discussed;
the conflict with liberal, democratic, socialistic, Masonic doctrines and with those of the Partito
Popolare, was carried on at the same time as the punitive expeditions. Nevertheless, the lack
of a formal system was used by disingenuous adversaries as an argument for proclaiming
Fascism incapable of elaborating a doctrine at the very time when that doctrine was being
formulated – no matter how tumultuously, – first, as is the case with all new ideas, in the guise
of violent dogmatic negations; then in the more positive guise of constructive theories,
subsequently incorporated, in 1926, 1927, and 1928, in the laws and institutions of the regime.
Fascism is now clearly defined not only as a regime but as a doctrine. This means that Fascism,
exercising its critical faculties on itself and on others, has studied from its own special
standpoint and judged by its own standards all the problems affecting the material and intellectual
interests now causing such grave anxiety to the nations of the world, and is ready to deal
with them by its own policies.
First of all, as regards the future development of mankind, and quite apart from all present
political considerations. Fascism does not, generally speaking, believe in the possibility or utility
of perpetual peace. It therefore discards pacifism as a cloak for cowardly supine renunciation in
contradistinction to self-sacrifice. War alone keys up all human energies to their maximum
tension and sets the seal of nobility on those peoples who have the courage to face it. All other tests
are substitutes which never place a man face to face with himself before the alternative of life or
death. Therefore all doctrines which postulate peace at all costs are incompatible with Fascism.
Equally foreign to the spirit of Fascism, even if accepted as useful in meeting special political
situations — are all internationalistic or League superstructures which, as history shows, crumble to
the ground whenever the heart of nations is deeply stirred by sentimental, idealistic or practical
considerations. Fascism carries this anti-pacifistic attitude into the life of the individual. ” I don’t
care a damn „ (me ne frego) – the proud motto of the fighting squads scrawled by a wounded man
on his bandages, is not only an act of philosophic stoicism, it sums up a doctrine which is not
merely political: it is evidence of a fighting spirit which accepts all risks. It signifies new style
of Italian life. The Fascist accepts and loves life; he rejects and despises suicide as cowardly. Life
as he understands it means duty, elevation, conquest; life must be lofty and full, it must be lived
for oneself but above all for others, both near bye and far off, present and future.
The population policy of the regime is the consequence of these premises. The Fascist loves
his neighbor, but the word neighbor “does not stand for some vague and unseizable conception.
Mussolini – THE DOCTRINE OF FASCISM 6 of 19
Love of one’s neighbor does not exclude necessary educational severity; still less does it exclude
differentiation and rank. Fascism will have nothing to do with universal embraces; as a member of
the community of nations it looks other peoples straight in the eyes; it is vigilant and on its
guard; it follows others in all their manifestations and notes any changes in their interests; and
it does not allow itself to be deceived by mutable and fallacious appearances.
Such a conception of life makes Fascism the resolute negation of the doctrine underlying
so-called scientific and Marxian socialism, the doctrine of historic materialism which would explain
the history of mankind in terms of the class struggle and by changes in the processes and
instruments of production, to the exclusion of all else.
That the vicissitudes of economic life – discoveries of raw materials, new technical processes,
and scientific inventions – have their importance, no one denies; but that they suffice to explain
human history to the exclusion of other factors is absurd. Fascism believes now and always in
sanctity and heroism, that is to say in acts in which no economic motive – remote or immediate –
is at work. Having denied historic materialism, which sees in men mere puppets on the surface of
history, appearing and disappearing on the crest of the waves while in the depths the real
directing forces move and work, Fascism also denies the immutable and irreparable character of
the class struggle which is the natural outcome of this economic conception of history; above all it
denies that the class struggle is the preponderating agent in social transformations. Having thus
struck a blow at socialism in the two main points of its doctrine, all that remains of it is the
sentimental aspiration-old as humanity itself-toward social relations in which the sufferings
and sorrows of the humbler folk will be alleviated. But here again Fascism rejects the
economic interpretation of felicity as something to be secured socialistically, almost
automatically, at a given stage of economic evolution when all will be assured a maximum of
material comfort. Fascism denies the materialistic conception of happiness as a possibility,
and abandons it to the economists of the mid-eighteenth century. This means that Fascism
denies the equation: well-being = happiness, which sees in men mere animals, content when
they can feed and fatten, thus reducing them to a vegetative existence pure and simple.
After socialism, Fascism trains its guns on the whole block of democratic ideologies, and
rejects both their premises and their practical applications and implements. Fascism denies that
numbers, as such, can be the determining factor in human society; it denies the right of
numbers to govern by means of periodical consultations; it asserts the irremediable and fertile and
beneficent inequality of men who cannot be leveled by any such mechanical and extrinsic device
as universal suffrage. Democratic regimes may be described as those under which the people are,
from time to time, deluded into the belief that they exercise sovereignty, while all the time real
sovereignty resides in and is exercised by other and sometimes irresponsible and secret forces.
Democracy is a kingless regime infested by many kings who are sometimes more exclusive,
tyrannical, and destructive than one, even if he be a tyrant. This explains why Fascism –
although, for contingent reasons, it was republican in tendency prior to 1922 – abandoned that
stand before the March on Rome, convinced that the form of government is no longer a matter
of preeminent importance, and because the study of past and present monarchies and past and
present republics shows that neither monarchy nor republic can be judged sub specie aeternitatis,
but that each stands for a form of government expressing the political evolution, the history, the
traditions, and the psychology of a given country.
Mussolini – THE DOCTRINE OF FASCISM 7 of 19
Fascism has outgrown the dilemma: monarchy v. republic, over which democratic regimes too
long dallied, attributing all insufficiencies to the former and proning the latter as a regime of
perfection, whereas experience teaches that some republics are inherently reactionary and
absolutist while some monarchies accept the most daring political and social experiments.
In one of his philosophic Meditations Renan – who had prefascist intuitions remarks, “Reason
and science are the products of mankind, but it is chimerical to seek reason directly for the
people and through the people. It is not essential to the existence of reason that all should be
familiar with it; and even if all had to be initiated, this could not be achieved through
democracy which seems fated to lead to the extinction of all arduous forms of culture and all
highest forms of learning. The maxim that society exists only for the well-being and freedom of
the individuals composing it does not seem to be in conformity with nature’s plans, which care only
for the species and seem ready to sacrifice the individual. It is much to be feared that the last
word of democracy thus understood (and let me hasten to add that it is susceptible of a
different interpretation) would be a form of society in which a degenerate mass would have no
thought beyond that of enjoying the ignoble pleasures of the vulgar “.
In rejecting democracy Fascism rejects the absurd conventional lie of political
equalitarianism, the habit of collective irresponsibility, the myth of felicity and indefinite
progress. But if democracy be understood as meaning a regime in which the masses are not
driven back to the margin of the State, and then the writer of these pages has already defined
Fascism as an organized, centralized, authoritarian democracy.
Fascism is definitely and absolutely opposed to the doctrines of liberalism, both in the
political and the economic sphere. The importance of liberalism in the XIXth century should
not be exaggerated for present day polemical purposes, nor should we make of one of the
many doctrines which flourished in that century a religion for mankind for the present and for all
time to come. Liberalism really flourished for fifteen years only. It arose in 1830 as a reaction
to the Holy Alliance which tried to force Europe to recede further back than 1789; it touched
its zenith in 1848 when even Pius IXth was a liberal. Its decline began immediately after that
year. If 1848 was a year of light and poetry, 1849 was a year of darkness and tragedy. The
Roman Republic was killed by a sister republic, that of France . In that same year Marx, in his
famous Communist Manifesto, launched the gospel of socialism.
In 1851 Napoleon III made his illiberal coup d’etat and ruled France until 1870 when he was
turned out by a popular rising following one of the severest military defeats known to history.
The victor was Bismarck who never even knew the whereabouts of liberalism and its prophets.
It is symptomatic that throughout the XIXth century the religion of liberalism was completely
unknown to so highly civilized a people as the Germans but for one parenthesis which has been
described as the “ridiculous parliament of Frankfort ” which lasted just one season. Germany
attained her national unity outside liberalism and in opposition to liberalism, a doctrine which
seems foreign to the German temperament, essentially monarchical, whereas liberalism is the
historic and logical anteroom to anarchy. The three stages in the making of German unity
were the three wars of 1864, 1866, and 1870, led by such “liberals” as Moltke and Bismarck. And
in the upbuilding of Italian unity liberalism played a very minor part when compared to the
contribution made by Mazzini and Garibaldi who were not liberals. But for the intervention of
Mussolini – THE DOCTRINE OF FASCISM 8 of 19
the illiberal Napoleon III we should not have had Lombardy, and without that of the illiberal
Bismarck at Sadowa and at Sedan very probably we should not have had Venetia in 1866 and
in 1870 we should not have entered Rome. The years going from 1870 to 1915 cover a period
which marked, even in the opinion of the high priests of the new creed, the twilight of their
religion, attacked by decadentism in literature and by activism in practice. Activism: that is to say
nationalism, futurism, fascism.
The liberal century, after piling up innumerable Gordian Knots, tried to cut them with the sword
of the world war. Never has any religion claimed so cruel a sacrifice. Were the Gods of
liberalism thirsting for blood?
Now liberalism is preparing to close the doors of its temples, deserted by the peoples
who feel that the agnosticism it professed in the sphere of economics and the indifferentism
of which it has given proof in the sphere of politics and morals, would lead the world to ruin
in the future as they have done in the past.
This explains why all the political experiments of our day are anti-liberal, and it is supremely
ridiculous to endeavor on this account to put them outside the pale of history, as though history
were a preserve set aside for liberalism and its adepts; as though liberalism were the last word in
civilization beyond which no one can go.
The Fascist negation of socialism, democracy, liberalism, should not, however, be interpreted
as implying a desire to drive the world backwards to positions occupied prior to 1789, a year
commonly referred to as that which opened the demo-liberal century. History does not travel
backwards. The Fascist doctrine has not taken De Maistre as its prophet. Monarchical
absolutism is of the past, and so is ecclesiolatry. Dead and done for are feudal privileges and the
division of society into closed, uncommunicating castes. Neither has the Fascist conception of
authority anything in common with that of a police ridden State.
A party governing a nation “totalitarianly” is a new departure in history. There are no points
of reference nor of comparison. From beneath the ruins of liberal, socialist, and democratic
doctrines, Fascism extracts those elements which are still vital. It preserves what may be
described as “the acquired facts” of history; it rejects all else. That is to say, it rejects the idea
of a doctrine suited to all times and to all people. Granted that the XIXth century was the
century of socialism, liberalism, democracy, this does not mean that the XXth century must also
be the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy. Political doctrines pass; nations remain. We
are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the ” right “, a
Fascist century. If the XIXth century was the century of the individual (liberalism implies
individualism) we are free to believe that this is the “collective” century, and therefore the
century of the State. It is quite logical for a new doctrine to make use of the still vital
elements of other doctrines. No doctrine was ever born quite new and bright and unheard of.
No doctrine can boast absolute originality. It is always connected, it only historically, with
those which preceded it and those which will follow it. Thus the scientific socialism of Marx links
up to the utopian socialism of the Fouriers, the Owens, the Saint-Simons ; thus the liberalism of
the XIXth century traces its origin back to the illuministic movement of the XVIIIth, and the
doctrines of democracy to those of the Encyclopaedists. All doctrines aim at directing the
activities of men towards a given objective; but these activities in their turn react on the doctrine,
Mussolini – THE DOCTRINE OF FASCISM 9 of 19
modifying and adjusting it to new needs, or outstripping it. A doctrine must therefore be a vital
act and not a verbal display. Hence the pragmatic strain in Fascism, it’s will to power, its will
to live, its attitude toward violence, and its value.
The keystone of the Fascist doctrine is its conception of the State, of its essence, its functions, and
its aims. For Fascism the State is absolute, individuals and groups relative. Individuals and
groups are admissible in so far as they come within the State. Instead of directing the game
and guiding the material and moral progress of the community, the liberal State restricts its
activities to recording results. The Fascist State is wide awake and has a will of its own. For this
reason it can be described as ” ethical “.
At the first quinquennial assembly of the regime, in 1929, I said “The Fascist State is not
a night watchman, solicitous only of the personal safety of the citizens; not is it organized
exclusively for the purpose of guarantying a certain degree of material prosperity and relatively
peaceful conditions of life, a board of directors would do as much. Neither is it exclusively
political, divorced from practical realities and holding itself aloof from the multifarious
activities of the citizens and the nation. The State, as conceived and realized by Fascism, is a
spiritual and ethical entity for securing the political, juridical, and economic organization of
the nation, an organization which in its origin and growth is a manifestation of the spirit.
The State guarantees the internal and external safety of the country, but it also safeguards and
transmits the spirit of the people, elaborated down the ages in its language, its customs, its
faith. The State is not only the present; it is also the past and above all the future.
Transcending the individual’s brief spell of life, the State stands for the immanent conscience of
the nation. The forms in which it finds expression change, but the need for it remains. The State
educates the citizens to civism, makes them aware of their mission, urges them to unity; its justice
harmonizes their divergent interests; it transmits to future generations the conquests of the mind
in the fields of science, art, law, human solidarity; it leads men up from primitive tribal life to
that highest manifestation of human power, imperial rule. The State hands down to future
generations the memory of those who laid down their lives to ensure its safety or to obey its
laws; it sets up as examples and records for future ages the names of the captains who enlarged
its territory and of the men of genius who have made it famous. Whenever respect for the State
declines and the disintegrating and centrifugal tendencies of individuals and groups prevail,
nations are headed for decay”.
Since 1929 economic and political development have everywhere emphasized these truths.
The importance of the State is rapidly growing. The so-called crisis can only be settled by State
action and within the orbit of the State. Where are the shades of the Jules Simons who, in the
early days of liberalism proclaimed that the “State should endeavor to render itself useless
and prepare to hand in its resignation “? Or of the MacCullochs who, in the second half of last
century, urged that the State should desist from governing too much? And what of the
English Bentham who considered that all industry asked of government was to be left alone,
and of the German Humbolt who expressed the opinion that the best government was a lazy ”
one? What would they say now to the unceasing, inevitable, and urgently requested interventions
of government in business? It is true that the second generation of economists was less
uncompromising in this respect than the first, and that even Adam Smith left the door ajar –
however cautiously – for government intervention in business.
Mussolini – THE DOCTRINE OF FASCISM 10 of 19
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