Denis Mack Smith

British historian

Denis Mack Smith CBE FBA FRSL (born 3 March 1920 – July 11, 2017) was an English historian, specialising in the history of Italy from the Risorgimento onwards. He is best known for studies of Garibaldi and Cavour and of Mussolini, and for his single-volume Modern Italy: A Political History. He was named Grand Official of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 1996.

Quotes edit

Mussolini, 1983 edit

, New York: NY, Vintage Books (1983)

  • [Mussolini] forcibly denounced those socialists who thought religion a matter for individual conscience or had their children baptized. Science had proved that God did not exist and the Jesus of history was an ignorant Jew whose family thought him mad, and who was a pigmy compared to the Buddha. Religion, he said, was a disease of the psyche, an epidemic to be cured by psychiatrists, and Christianity in particular was vitiated by preaching the senseless virtues of resignation and cowardice, whereas the new socialist morality should celebrate violence and rebellion.
    • p. 8
  • [Mussolini] brought a radical Marxist strand to the Avanti! newspaper, soon doubling its circulation. With a growing audience, Mussolini redoubled the urgency of his utopian propaganda; ‘private property is theft’ and should be abolished as Italy moved through the phase of collectivism forwards to the ultimate goal of communism.
    • p. 23
  • The election [of 1919] indicated that the prevailing sentiment in the country was to the left and Mussolini acknowledge this face by still in 1920 calling himself a socialist, albeit a dissident. He continued to campaign for nationalization of land, workers’ participation in the running of factories and partial expropriation of capital,…
    • p. 40
  • Lenin was the contemporary politician whom [Mussolini] most admired and he studied the Russian revolution closely to see what lessons it offered. Lenin seemed to him ‘the very negation of socialism’ because he had not created a dictatorship of the proletariat or of the socialist party, but only of a few intellectuals who had found the secret of winning power. Mussolini was, in truth, envious.
    • p. 41
  • Mussolini had once belonged to the Bolshevik wing of the Italian Socialist party and still in 1924 confessed admiration for Lenin, while Trotsky was quoted as saying that Mussolini was his best pupil.
    • p. 96
  • [In 1938] Mussolini anti-clericalism was thus reassuring itself. Sometimes he now acknowledged that he was an outright disbeliever... [that] the papacy was a malignant tumor in the body of Italy and must 'be rooted out once and for all,’ because there was no room in Rome for both the Pope and himself.
    • p. 222
  • The Mussolini of 1944 reasserted the socialist beliefs of his youth because he now felt that he had been cheated by the world of finance and industry: after having gained immensely from fascism,… To maintain some intellectual coherence he tried to pretend that, notwithstanding appearances, he had never deserted the socialist programme he had put forward for fascism in 1919; he had allowed certain tactical deviations in the interim, but for the most part, his basic views had never changed. In anonymous articles he now confirmed that he had been right when, in 1910, he called on the proletariat to capture power from the capitalists by a bloody revolution. . . He now decreed that all industrial firms employing more than 100 workers would be nationalized.
    • p. 311-312
  • Bombacci had once been a friend and disciple of Lenin and revived the story that, according to Lenin, Mussolini had been the one serious socialist in Italy. No doubt the Duce was influenced by Bombacci when he called fascism of Salò [Italian Social Republic] the only truly socialist government in existence—with the possible exception of Soviet Russia.
    • p. 312
  • [Mussolini’s] desire for revenge against the bourgeoisie was genuine enough; his intention was to inject the germs of social revolution into Italian society in order to ensure that, if Italy should lose the war, whoever won would have a difficult time of it. In this way, fascism, which had once invented the myth of having saved Italy from bolshevism, ended up deliberately (and more successfully) doing the exact opposite.
    • p. 312

Modern Italy: A Political History, 1959 edit

, University of Michigan Press (1997)

  • Always an extremist, [Mussolini] inclined to the belief of Babeuf and Blanqui in violent insurrection by a minority in order to establish authoritarian rule. His articles reveal a retreat from belief in class solidarity and a growing attachment to revolution for revolution’s sake, power for the sake of power.
    • p. 284
  • Mussolini had been envious of the Bolsheviks and for a while fancied himself as the Lenin of Italy.
    • p. 284
  • After his defeat in the 1919 election, Mussolini saw no future in trying to out-socialist the socialists. Without a distinct policy, without friends and backing, he was in serious danger of ending up as a confused and egocentric demagogue with a talent for histrionics.
    • p. 297

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