| Mussolini’s career as a Socialist agitator began at age eighteen as a writer for various left-wing magazines. By 1905, he had been arrested numerous times in Switzerland, France, and Austria for revolutionary agitation and Italian police had opened a dossier which characterized him as “impulsive and violent.” Although Fascists and Communists alike were anxious to deny it later, Karl Marx was the biggest single influence on Mussolini and he considered Marx “the greatest of all theorists of Socialism.” He shared Marx’ opinion on religion and once shocked his audience by daring God to strike him dead.|
In 1910, Mussolini was asked by one of the Socialist clubs in Italy to become their political organizer and to edit their small weekly newspaper: La Lotta di Classe (The Class Struggle). For the next two years, with a portrait of Marx hanging on the wall he pounded out radical opinions on every subject under the sun. Catholic priests were “black microbes” and “poisoners of young minds.” He described the army as “a criminal organization designed to protect capitalism and bourgeois society” and urged soldiers to disobey their officers.
Mussolini got his first big break in 1912 when he took over as editor of Avanti!, the official organ of the Italian Socialist Party. Choosing Angelica Balabanoff as his assistant, he quickly rid the paper of the older more moderate writers and eventually more than doubled circulation by aiming at a wider, lower-class readership.
He urged the “necessary bloodbath” and the “physical extermination” of the bourgeoisie through which the proletariat would gain “a totality of power.” He urged neutrality in 1914 and railed against military budgets which might be used in a war against French or German workers: “Let us have no more talk of battleships, barracks, cannon, at a time when thousands of villages have no schools, roads, electricity, or doctors, but still live tragically beyond the pale of life. War,” thundered Mussolini, “is a prelude to revolution!”
On October 18, 1914, Mussolini suddenly announced in Avanti! that he had been wrong. Neutrality was wrong! It was not fitting for a great nation like Italy to stand aside while Europe’s destiny was being decided on the battlefield . . . Italy must fight!
Whereas before, Mussolini had threatened the Government with revolution if it abandoned neutrality, he now threatened revolution if it did not.
For this unforgivable heresy, Mussolini was expelled from the Socialist Party and forced to resign his post at Avanti!. A few weeks later he started his own newspaper – Il Popolo d’Italia – and in December, 1914, he joined and eventually dominated a group of pro-war leftists who called themselves Fascisti.
The Fascists were dissident Socialists whose dreams of glory and empire were inflamed by the war and saw a golden opportunity to ‘liberate’ Trieste and Trentino from Austria as well as the prospect of “immense booty” in the Balkans and Middle East. After the war, the Fascists would be joined by the Arditi, an anti-Communist group who were the Italian equivalent of the German Freikorps.
... And Hitler? It is important to point up the affinity between Communism and Nazism which Hitler himself confirmed:
“There is more that binds us to Bolshevism than separates us from it. There is, above all, revolutionary feeling . . . I have always made allowance for this circumstance, and given orders that former Communists are to be admitted to the Party at once. The petit bourgeois Social Democrat and the trade-union boss will never be a National Socialist, but the Communist always will.”
Former Communists made up almost a third of the SA and, later, the Gestapo, and were popularly known as “Beefsteak Nazis” - brown on the outside, Red on the inside. After 1945, hundreds of former Nazis joined the Communist Social Unity Party of East Germany.