Fixing Historical Sabotage

Column by L.K. Samuels.

Exclusive to STR

Being something of an amateur historian, I find it reprehensible that there are so-called historians willing to rewrite history to suit their own ideological narrative. But then again, as George Orwell wrote in Nineteen Eighty-Four, he “who controls the past, controls the future” and he “who controls the present controls the past.”  And this is where my story begins.
 
While researching for a new book—Government: A State of Deception—I ran across a curious mystery. The confusion started when my skeptical eyes turned their attention to the political placement of German National Socialism (NAZIS) and Italian Fascism. I had already done a fair amount of research on the origins of the left-right political spectrum, which emerged from the seating arrangement of French parliament after the French Revolution (1789–1799). Those who sat on the left side of the aisle represented John Lockean classical liberals, merchants, laissez-faire capitalists, artisans and bourgeois middle class. The seating on the right was occupied by the autocratic elite—the Monarchy and the Church.
 
With this knowledge firmly established, I felt compelled to investigate the various claims that the National Socialist of German and the Fascist of Italy were somehow pegged on the right. Those claims began to unravel when I discovered that Mussolini was a self-avowed atheist who wanted to plow over the Vatican and seize all of the Church’s property. In fact, Mussolini said he wished death upon the Pope and that “papacy was a malignant tumor in the body of Italy and must 'be rooted out once and for all.’”
 
Next, I ran across a number of famous historians who documented Mussolini’s hatred for the monarchy, especially the Hapsburg, often threatening to abolish the almost powerless Italian monarchy during his reign. Red flags were popping up like crazy. Mussolini and Italian fascism seemed to fit a pattern mostly associated with the left side of the political spectrum. When I discovered that Mussolini had been a self-avowed Marxist, revolutionary syndicalist (labor union activist) and an influential leader in the Italian Socialist Party, I knew something was terribly amiss.
 
Upon further research, I came across Mussolini’s “Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism.”  Written in 1927 and mostly ghostwritten by Giovanni Gentile, the doctrine was published in 1932 in Italian in the Enciclopedia Italiana, and then finally put into English through Jane Soames’ 1933 authorized translation. But the trouble was that there seemed to be two versions of this doctrine, differing radically in one particular sentence.  In one version, Mussolini supposedly writes: “We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the 'right', a Fascist century.”  But in Jane Soames’s authorized version of “The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism”, Mussolini writes: “. . . it may rather be expected that this will be a century of authority, a century of the Left, a century of Fascism.”[1] So who is correct?
 
The first important source that allegedly had Jane Soames’s version was President Herbert Hoover’s 1934 book The Challenge to Liberty, which I bought. Thumbing through the book, I finally found a section quoting Mussolini’s “Doctrine of Fascism.” It had Jane Soames’s exact verbiage that proclaimed Mussolini’s allegiance to the “Left” with a footnote referencing “The Political Quarterly,” out of London, 1933. So, the question was getting cloudier. Which version was correct? What had Mussolini actually written?
 
Meanwhile in 2013, I had a web designer post Jane Soames’ controversial sentence on the Wikipedia page for Fascism, along with President Hoover’s book as a reference.  The material was removed within days.  The Wikipedia page editors on Fascism argued that Mussolini was not a leftist, despite my research material. They pooh-poohed President Hoover, but thought that Jane Soames’ might have mistranslated the Italian word for “Left.” They probably also thought that Jane Soames’ version had been simply altered on the web.  Whatever the case, they saw the sentence as too controversial to let stand. Determined to let the public know, I asked my web designer friend to resubmit it along with more documentation, but my friend soon found himself locked out.
 
I was in a quandary. Was it true or not? Did someone alter Jane Soames’ translation, changing “Right” to “Left”?  Did the Wikipedia editors know something I did not? Finally, I had to see for myself if Jane Soames 26-page booklet actually had Mussolini writing that fascism was on the Left. To satisfy my desire to take the historical high road, I paid over $50 to acquire Jane Soames’s original booklet from a private collection in Ireland. When it arrived, I was at first hesitant to peer inside. But I was not disappointed. Indeed, she used the word “Left.”  Then I found more evidence, reprints of her translation in “The Political Quarterly” (London on July, 1933), and “The Living Age” journal published in November, 1933 and in a number of books, all saying the same thing. In fact, none of her later re-publishing of her translation changed, meaning that the Italian Fascists and Mussolini had no complaint over the wording.
 
So, armed with irrefutable proof, I attempted to let the world know of my discovery. But again, the editors of the Wikipedia page on Fascism not only took her translation of the controversial sentence, but her very existence, as if she had never lived. I had even tried to have her mentioned simply as the journalist who translated Mussolini’s “Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism,” with no reference to the controversial sentence. Even that was too much for the Wikipedia page editors of Fascism.
 
Other attempts proved futile. The Wikipedia page on the Doctrine of Fascism also took out Mussolini’s quote. Actually, two were posted from her booklet. The one citing Mussolini’s fascist movement as leftwing was removed, but the other sentence was kept which read:  “For if the 19th century was the century of individualism (Liberalism always signifying individualism) it may be expected that this will be the century of collectivism, and hence the century of the State.”  Somehow referring to fascism as collectivistic was deemed permissible, although collectivism is considered on the left side of the political spectrum.
 
Anyway, I still plan to continue to strive to keep history actuate. There are reams of evidence to show that Mussolini considered his fascist movement both socialist and leftist. Luckily, a Wikipedia page has been posted that provides a slew of historical evidence that Mussolini was advancing a hardcore socialist agenda, while often claiming that socialism was dead, which was just fancy doublespeak so commonly used among the political elite. See the Wikipedia page “Controversies Over Italian Fascism’s Political Placement”, and examine the evidence for yourself. Much of the data already comes from other Wikipedia pages.
 
For classical liberals and libertarians, this issue is important. Accurate history is vital to understand political theory and its relationship to current day issues. We need to know the meaning behind historical Italian Fascism, German National Socialism, and Communism. How can we oppose such authoritarian ideologies if we don’t know their similarities and differences?  Accurate history can set us free, but historical sabotage can easily enslave us to a false past.
 



[1] Benito Mussolini, “The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism,” first authorized translation into English by Jane Soames, published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press, London W.C. in 1933, 26-page booklet, quote on p. 20 (Day to Day Pamphlets No. 18). Other sources include: Fascism: An Anthology, Nathanael Greene, ed., N. York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1968, pp. 41, 43–44, and Benito Mussolini, My Autobiography with “The Political and Social Doctrines of Fascism,” published by Dover Publications, Mineola, New York, p. 236, 2006. Although written in 1927 by Mussolini, with the help of Giovanni Gentile, it was first published in 1932 in Italian. Jane Soames’s translation was published in The Political Quarterly, London, vol. 4, issue 3, July, 1933, pp. 341–356, and in The Living Age, November, 1933, New York City, pp. 235-244 (quote on page 241) entitled “The Doctrine of Fascism.” Posted at: http://www.pauladaunt.com/books/Banned%20books%20and%20conspiracy%20theories/The%20Doctrine%20of%20Fascism%20-%20by%20Benito%20Mussolini%20%28Printed%201933%29.pdf
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Lawrence Samuels's picture
Columns on STR: 7

L.K. Samuels is the editor and contributing author of Facets of Liberty: A Libertarian Primer, first published in 1985. His new book, In Defense of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action, was published in 2013. All of his books are available at www.lksamuels.com.

Comments

Paul's picture

It's funny leftists don't want to own up to this, but they undoubtedly have to account for Lenin and Stalin, so not all is lost. I suspect they are recasting Mussolini and Hitler as rightists to have enemy icons that everybody can hate. Easier than making Locke or Jefferson into an enemy!

But the left-right notion is not very useful after all. Leftists often sound like rightists and vice-versa, so that over the long run there seems little difference. Its utility seems to boil down to a "divide and conquer" tactic by the ruling class, and little else.

Those folks in Wikipedia ought to be a bit more careful. Having a bias is not good for the reputation of encyclopedists (or whatever they are called). Next time they hit me up for a donation I will have to refer them to your article.

Samarami's picture

We've all heard that truth is the first casualty of war. Once conflicts begin to arise people in their own hearts begin to rewrite history. I think the reason we tend to do that sort of thing is because often we're not happy with what we said or what happened or what we did. So we'll lie awake in bed at night rewriting the script of what happened the preceding day. We'll spend that hour or two or maybe three hours before we wind up getting to sleep at night rehashing the scene, justifying what we said -- explaining to ourselves why we did certain things. And in the process of it we'll come to believe something entirely different about what happened from what really happened.

Most of us also agree that war is the health of the state. German National Socialism (NAZIS) and Italian Fascism are about war. Almost all of what we know of as "world history" defaults back to war.

Because war is what grand wizards of states do.

And virtually all of history is flawed -- self justification. Even sincere writers like yourself have to try to decipher the machinations of questionable sources. And you can rest assured Wikipedia is not overseen by tame, truth-seeking volunteers. Here is a classic example. Dr. Andrew Wakefield has been exonerated by many substantive studies, but Wiki will not take down their falsehood.

Lots of recent articles regarding the manipulation of web content and search results by Google and the majors. I don't envy your attempt to seek valid information concerning a conflict that has been raked over by multiple millions of "authors". WWII "buffs" proliferate even 75 years hence.

The late Harry Browne had this to say about the divide-and-conquer left ("liberal") vs right ("conservative") phenomenon:

    Conservatives vs Liberals
    Conservatives say government cannot end poverty by force, but they believe government can use force and threats of violence to make people moral.
    Liberals say government cannot make people moral, but they believe government can use force and threats of violence to end poverty (redistribute wealth).
    Neither group attempts to explain why government is so clumsy and destructive in one area but a paragon of efficiency and benevolence in the other.

~Harry Browne
Liberty A-Z p 35

Sam

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Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture

Hello, Lawrence:
First, thank you for writing this excellent piece!
I met you briefly after your excellent presentation at Libertopia in San Diego in 2011. And yes, the history writers are bent on deception in many cases, and they refuse to be corrected. They are dipped in concrete and will not budge. Just as an added dimension to your exploration into fascism and socialism, you of course already understand the difference between American private-property anarchism (as described by Rothbard) and the faux "anarchism" of the European socialists. Only the Americans adhere to the accurate etymological roots of the term which means, quite literally upon exploring its Greek roots "no dictator." It has the same meaning as "no caesar" would have in Latin. Consequently, we liberarians, voluntaryists, or market-anarchists are the only REAL anarchists who are honest about our beliefs--both in practice and in terminology. The misuses of this term by closet-socialists depends upon the "historical" acquisition of this term by the Europeans. And they can have it! It is dishonest to the core.
Likewise, the term fascism was correctly used in the Italian idiom because it derives from the Latin word "fascis/fasces," the bundle of sticks or rods with the axe sometimes hidden inside. The important thing to recognize here is that it's all about the aggressive use of force--intiatory aggression. This type of behavior is shared by fascists and socialists alike, and they are consequently anti-choice, anti-freedom, and anti-consumer. Instead, they prefer to interpose a dictator (wielder of the fasces) into human relationships to obtain the results they want. The frauds at Wikipedia are sticking with the bargain-basement thinking that keeps this bogus left-right dichotomy in place as a distraction to keep us from realizing that the real enemy is ALWAYS the one who uses bundles of sticks on people to whip them into line. In otherwords, the fascist/socialist creeps.