Tonight I will speak to you in the language of a National Fascist Party member, one who is proud to carry the card of the National Fascist Party.
Do not view this preliminary statement as superfluous. Today, nothing predisposes our party to internal fractures. The inner moral and spiritual unity of our organization is its fivefold structure -- political, military, trade union, cooperative, and technical -- is wholly admirable, especially when one considers the pressures exerted by adversaries who remain unconvinced that the new era demands a revision of their doctrine and methods. The party retains its compact and urgent strength in the face of some recent polemics and silly splits. This is the reason I open my speech, a speech of the highest composure whose polemics are driven more by inner passion than by artful virulence, with the explicit statement that I very concretely belong to the official organization of the National Fascist Party.
Buoyed with strength in the wake of our victory, I chose to shoulder the most challenging of tasks: to remind the victors of their responsibilities and not of the advantages victory has procured. As a result, accusatory fingers have been pointing at me with increased frequency. The fingers of severe judges filled with scorn for my serenely critical language. The fingers of the timorous, eager to shore up their irrational, catastrophic pessimism through my objective analysis.
But I am a man for whom passions of this sort are entirely alien, whether due to factors of temperament or of education. A mad passion for discipline leads to blindness. A mad passion for the critical spirit leads to intellectual anarchy.
I served fascism from its origins in 1919, embracing it as an intellectual and spiritual reaction and advancing its cause with my intelligence and spirit. Standing firm against adversaries who asserted the rights of culture in order to oppose us, I felt emboldened by knowing that I possessed a more valid and ready force than muscular strength alone. In my recourse to the latter, I let necessity and measure be my guides, aided by my experience of the battlefields as an Ardito (that remarkable expression of young Italians' intelligence in the form of audacity).
I have always recognized the genesis of fascism as non-theoretical and non-logical in the sense that it was the product neither of a systematic, preordained set of ideas nor of a stone-cold calculation. Indeed, I view this anti-theory and anti-logic bias as one of the merits of the fascist movement and as one of the reasons that it unfolded so rapidly and impetuously, progressing almost instinctively, as if according to a natural chain reaction. But I never believed that intelligence, in the purest sense of this beautiful Latin and Italian term, was absent at fascism's origin.
I feel it imperative to reestablish a simple truth in the light of various cudgel-driven deformations of fascism that critics have disingenuously seized upon to chalk up all the merits of the national movement to the rough bravado of a few individuals engaged in a crazed pursuit of posthumous heroism. The truth in question is that, as consecrated in the chronicles of 1919, fascism's earliest constitutive nucleus was made up of intellectuals. These intellectuals belonged to different (even opposing) schools, disciplines, and tendencies. But, renewed due to the shared sacrifices of the trenches, they found themselves united, thanks to the sudden emergence of a new understanding of life in general and of Italian political life in particular.
Fascism's origins were decidedly intellectual.
When, in a recent speech in Naples, Deputy Giovanni Amendola scornfully denounces us for our half culture, he misses the point. Our scorn is for his brand of culture, of which we refuse even that half that he so generously ascribes to us.
Placed on jeweler's scales and measured numerically, it is entirely possible that our culture will weigh but a fourth of Deputy Amendola's, a fact we readily admit. But, just as Deputy Arturo Labriola is a living example of the discrepancy between cultural refinement and an upright moral character, Amendola illustrates the enormous difference between being cultured and having a lively, up-to-date intelligence, an intelligence able to understand the deeper meaning of changes in the course of life.
We reject Giovanni Amendola's culture.
Fascism did not wait until 1921 to become revolutionary, as Ivanoe Bonomi's theory would have it. On the contrary, it arose as a revolutionary gesture of refusal: of the culture that preceded it, of the practices and governing methods employed by the old ruling classes.
Refusing the culture of the nineteenth century does not mean endorsing ignorance. Nor does it imply a wholesale rejection of the historical period or turning the clock back to a prior century's tradition.
Simply put, it means enabling one's intelligence to grasp things with immediacy, that is, to understand them anew and to reevaluate them.
Deputy Amendola claimed in Naples that he "set out to show through his own example that public life imposes discipline on those who understand public life as a noble calling. Such a discipline obliges one not to relinquish one's positions, to stick to them even when all avenues appear closed, to resist for resistance's sake. Evidently, the speaker is overcome with nostalgia for his culture, which is all fine and well. Nostalgias are solitary, undeniable pleasures. One gets the nostalgia that one deserves.
What we fascists ask of Amendola and his generation is that they permit us to leave behind their nostalgia for well-worn paths to instead anxiously embrace new positions in the world of culture. They must allow a new generation of intellectuals to embark on both a destructive and a constructive revision of modern civilization (irrespective of whether we someday come to accept many of the works that we now denounce as outdated).
Fascism is a revolution of intellectuals. To be even more explicit, it is an intellectual revolution.
Fascism's central problem remains the creation of a new ruling class, whether externally, at the national level, or internally, within the party apparatus. To declare this openly is not to suggest that the core group gathered around Benito Mussolini in March 1919 failed to live up to its pretense of contesting the old culture and creating a new one. What it does suggest, on the contrary, is that fascism's weighty mission has not changed during the five years since the movement's foundation.
The hard necessities of the anti-Bolshevik fight -- a secondary (not primary) feature of fascism, in my view -- kept us from immediately turning to the task. There was no time for philosophizing with the enemy so near at hand. But the situation has altered now that this obstacle has been removed and power is ours, so the problem of our origins faces us once again in its entirety.
The problem of fascism's intellectual revolution.
This is how we reply to our opponents, who have been busy disseminating the lie that our revolution was the result only of muscular effort and denying our right to create a new Italian politics. This is also how we reply to those fascists who play into the hands of our enemies when they try to raise to the status of theory some obsolete or transitory aspects of our political action.
Sources and Targets of Anti-Fascist Misunderstanding
Misapprehensions regarding fascism arise when aspects of the National Fascist Party's actions or temporary positions assumed by the fascist government are deliberately distorted by men accomplished in the art of manipulating sentiments and resentments.
The result is a contradiction. The same adversaries who, when in power, grope after the realities of our national life among the clouds and address concrete problems abstractly adopt the opposite method when approaching the fascist party and government; namely, they automatically endow events of a concrete and transitory nature with universal meanings.
When the men in the current national government came to power, they were not faced with the theoretical problem of human freedom but rather with the practical problem of establishing law and order.
Who was responsible for confronting Italy with such a terrible dilemma? Who was it that permitted the problem to fester? The answer is clear: the very social class from which we seized power and to which today's anti-fascists belong. It was democracy that permitted an assault so violent on the state's sovereignty that only an exceptional measure could reestablish authority: dictatorship.
The dictatorship currently in place is not a fundamental or essential defining feature of our methods or policies (as confirmed by countless indications, noted by men of good faith, that it is already tending toward self-overcoming). Nor was dictatorship unavoidable. It was the postwar ruling class's aversion to making use of physical force (alongside its lack of genuine efforts to garner popular support) that created the need to employ force in a more rigorous and sustained manner.
The problem is not strictly an Italian one. It is European, not to mention global, in scope. But no country experienced a crisis of authority as serious or as enduring as did Italy: so serious and enduring that it profoundly shaped our movement's practical orientation and mode of action. Among the contributing factors to the ongoing crisis it is plausible to consider a residual tendency toward rebellion among some within our ranks, but it must be noted that the habit of exerting authority locally when confronted with absent or ineffectual governments can be expected to disappear only gradually, thanks to endless and heartfelt efforts. Fascism has not yet come into its own from the standpoint of political policy making. It is still expiating the past. It is still battling a crisis created by others. It is still remedying mistakes that were not its own. It is still treating illnesses that it inherited on the level of nation and its party organization.
A long list of examples is unnecessary to prove the accuracy of my thesis. To justify some of the errors or abuses of yesterday is hardly productive if one wishes to rise above everyday polemics. This said, it would be improper to overlook the principal historical reasons for the present need to impose the authority principle with greater force than under ordinary circumstances. Suffice it to recall that in 1920 there were train workers who impeded the passage of trains carrying the Italian armed forces and that the government then in place not only accepted these sorts of disruptions but also sanctioned the principle the its own employees could disobey it. In the same year, train and cable car workers refused to obey the decree establishing daylight savings time; a prefect of the kingdom legally sanctioned the violent seizure of some factories belonging to the Mazzonis Company in Piedmont; the porters' trade union imposed fines upon the judicial authorities; and the Bologna Chamber of Labor freely encroached upon the state's sovereignty by requisitioning grapes, fixing their price, and placing a cap on the price of fuel, textiles, clothes, and so on. Suffice it to recall these and similar events in order to show just how systematic was the ruling class's abdication of its responsibilities and how citizens thereby developed the habit of not observing the law.
Today it is necessary to dispel the effects of those years when the Italian people ignored the state's authority. When Mussolini asserts that freedom is a duty, his is not a generic utterance but rather a truth that reflects the deep convictions of the Italian people. Deputy Amendola has no right to assert that he "defend the people's ability to carry out the highest duties of civic life" when it was precisely the men in his political party who were responsible for the citizenry's loss of any sense of civic duty.
One cannot repair a lacerated moral fabric in a single year. The lawless perversions of yesteryear are still firmly imprinted on the souls and consciences of an infinite number of Italians of all political stripes, which is to say that if one were simply to enact the abstract principle of unlimited freedom, anarchy's powers, dormant but not yet defeated, would be unleashed anew. The democratic decay of the four years between 1919 and 1922 is an undeniable fact. For the damage to be reversed, one would have to reestablish a feeling for the interdependence between the concepts of freedom and of authority and to strengthen the latter's hold on the people, so that once it counterbalances the concept of freedom, a superior harmony can arise. The constitution embodies this very harmony. Tracing at the same time the state's ideal form and its practical structure, it stands as the first and foremost guarantee that the balance between freedom and authority will be achieved in terms of spirit, conscience, and the will of the people.
The current efforts of the fascist government aim at redressing this balance. Arduous efforts, undertaken at the unrelenting rhythms that befit an urgently need reconstruction.
On 21 February  Deputy Claudio Treves had the shameless courage to sign a manifesto drafted by his party's leadership that contained the phrase "Victory, that freed the farthest boundaries of the fatherland." This from the same individual who in March 1920 told the Chamber of Deputies that the postwar social unrest was "the necessary and inevitable consequence of what took place; nobody can undo what had been done. Behold the inevitable corollary of the crime!" A crime: this is clearly Treves's image of the great war! Is it not fair then to turn the tables and to yell back at those who are now groaning under our pressure that the restoration of authority is the inevitable corollary of their crime against the fatherland and against freedom?
Dictatorship is the inevitable corollary, the unavoidable consequence of what was carried out not by us but by our opponents. Let the Italian people ask them for explanations!
The anti-fascists play their strongest card at this point: they try to show the Italian people that, by virtue of its nature and its goals, fascism is inexorably committed to dictatorship.
We reply that the fundamental character of the fascist movement is otherwise! After all, it was fascism and only fascism that stood up and defended not the freedom of a single class but the freedom of all Italians in their fatherland. This at the precise historical moment when beastlike hordes of Italians were foaming at the mouth with Lenin's slogan "freedom is a bourgeois prejudice"; when Deputies Turati and Treves voted for a platform stating that "when the proletariat reaches a position of political power it must proceed to a regime of class dictatorship" at their party's October 1919 convention; when the socialist newspaper Avanti justified the October 1920 death sentence pronounced by a workers tribunal against the guards Santagata and Crimi with the following words: "In these young men, in these women, in this sentence, one no longer must see a group of individuals, outlaws, or inhuman beings; one must instead envisage a social class that defends itself like a cohesive body, perhaps not fully conscious of itself, but driven by a blind instinct for self-preservation."
It is still easy for our enemies to try to hinder us by summoning up the sullen ghost of reaction! But recall that our martyrs died with the phrase "fascism is the savior of our freedom" on their lips. They did not sit around waiting for the various champions of a free Italy to do their bidding in the wake of the war. Their spirit lives on among the liveliest of our comrades. Immune the lure of murky nostalgias and determined to contribute to fascism's apotheosis, they declare that the dictatorship serves as guarantor of the pure idea of freedom; that it is in harmony with the best and healthiest of Italian political traditions and entirely compatible with ideas of order and nationhood; and that the anti-fascists' spurious claim that fascism is reactionary must be classed as one of the filthy carryovers from the old Italy now in demise.