1 LENIN AND MUSSOLINI By Harold J. Laski THE progress science in the past century has reduced the world the unity interdependence. A civil war in America starvation the cotn wns Lan brings cashire. An injury the credit-structure Germany may in volve a on panic the Paris Bourse. Not less notable than this web complex interweaving is the pace at which change proceeds. Feudal can Japan become, as it were overnight, the modern state. Men are still living whom the was an railway incredi ble innovation; and their children will doubtless watch aerial traffic blot out the distance between London and New York. We pay, course, the price for scientific development. complexity that ensues involves a necessary fragility in the machine. working our social institutions as depends, never before, upon the maintenance peace. mechanisms civilization are so delicate that respond like the needle the compass every gust wind; and without their continuous we functioning are, continue the like sailors an metaphor, upon uncharted sea. We cannot maintain the vast system inter we relationships have built unless men are prepared follow con sistently the path reason in their affairs. We need a minimum social unity that will at least persuade mankind that the path social change is a matter for deliberation and argument, not for violence and physical conflict. Yet our interdependence has not a procured unified outlook. Racial hatred, national suspicion, the war class and class, all these remain us the error Confi emphasize optimism. dence, in fact, is the more dangerous because the weapons that science has at the service destruction are now so placed power ful that their utilization is incompatible with civilized life. We have learned in the last decade that the impulses savagery that are loosed war are utterly destructive the foundations a decent existence. If men cease trust the goodwill institu tions, if, that is, sacrifice the winning conviction the attainment their desires, civilization could quite easily be re duced the condition where, as in Mr. Wells' imaginary picture, I Council on Foreign Relations is collaborating with JSTOR digitize, preserve, and extend access Foreign Affairs
2 44 FOREIGN AFFAIRS some aged survivor may tell an organized and coherent world as a legend which his grandchildren cannot hope understand. plain lesson scientific knowledge is the making social change in terms peace. We must utilize our institutions. To destroy them is destroy ourselves. Such, at least, seems the lesson recent It plain experience. implies, course, the general realization that great events suggest the importance continuous social reform. mass men has now been entrusted with political power; and the govern ments the modern state must discover ways and means translating the will an elecrate which has hardly known the amenities life can fer in terms statutes. It is possible that so as long the process can legislation fer pro the democ racy a good will that results in solid benefit the transition a new social order will be accomplished in peace. But the good will must be demonstrated; and the benefits must affect those who feel that have now o small a stake in the present order make its a matter preservation urgency themselves. Such an attitude is the more important because the desira bility social peace has recently been attacked from what, at first seem sight, might two opposite directions. In Russia, a revolution made in the name the workers has enthroned in men authority whose boast it is that hold power without regard the will their subjects. In Italy, there developed alongside the constitutional an government extra-legal organi zation which, at the first definite challenge, the former was compelled yield. In Russia, the Bolsheviks have won and maintained power only at the cost immense bloodshed, in large part, doubtless, the result foreign intervention. In Italy, the Fascisti met with relatively little opposition at home, and with no external challenge. It is common both movements that their power is built upon the force can command. It is common them, also, that have rigorously suppressed all opposition themselves and dismissed as unimportant the forms consti tutionalism. Each has exalted the end it has in view as superior all problems implied in the means that have been used. Each has declared its own will so clearly identical with the good the as community make invalid, on a priori grounds, the notion its critical analysis. Each, that is say, has abandoned the path reason and declared, in substance, that a great end transcends the doubts which its methods have given rise. It is worth while
3 LENIN AND MUSSOLINI 45 examine in some detail the principles and possibilities which lie behind this attitude. II A revolution in Russia was doubtless implied in the logic events. No government which is vicious in principle and corrupt in can practice hope, particularly in the atmosphere military defeat, retain the allegiance those who do not share in the benefits its dishonesty. But the Russian Revolution differs from all its predecessors in that it came in the name a con sistent system doctrine; and it was largely made men whom that system contained the quintessence social truth. No one can fail be impressed the contrast between France in 1789 and the Bolshevik Revolution November, At no stage in the drama Versailles was a body coherent principles given validity in the event was a revolution occasion; November, 1917, was a revolution Lenin theory. and his came disciples do battle in the name a social philosophy each item which was built upon hisric interpretation. Acci dent might have defeated their effort, Kerensky might have been a strong man; the Allies might have had a definite policy; the nation might not have been welded in unity external in vasion. But granted that the was opportunity given, Lenin was the first author an attempt translate the Marxian creed in the institutions a state. His was a root-and-branch challenge western civilization. It was not a social merely rejection reform; it was not an insistence on the merely over-whelming communism. It was superiority pre-eminently the argument that communism is so obviously desirable that the cost its establishment must not be counted; and the methods that end were drawn from the system inherited Lenin from Marx. theses upon which Lenin has proceeded have at any rate the merit comparative simplicity. political institutions society, he are a argues, merely facade conceal the real nature the state's state is in fact a organization. method pro tecting the owners property; and the true division men is in those who own and those who do not own possessions other than their power labor. life the state is an eternal struggle between them. y have no interests in common. class which owns property moulds the civilization society in the service its own interests. It controls the government, it makes
4 46 FOREIGN AFFAIRS the laws, it builds the institutions the commonwealth in accord ance with its own desires. It divides the society in free men and slaves; and with the advent capitalism the last stage that hisric antithesis is reached. Just as the social order the past has secreted within its womb the germ its successor, as, for example, feudalism produced so capitalism, does the latter con tain within itself the germ its communist successor. Capital ism, as Marx said, produces its own grave-digger. conflict between owner and proletariat is an inevitable one, and it is bound result in the vicry the proletariat. process is predetermined; and there is nothing in Lenin's writings suggest that a doubt ultimate success has ever crossed his mind. method he advocates is, course, the method Marx. workers are assume the reins a power revolutionary act; and a dictarship iron rigor is consolidate the new system until the period transition has been effectively bridged. Lenin has never blinded himself what this implies. hisry seems capitalism him the hisry a relentless de fense every phase the rights property. se were main tained at every point methods unconnected with morality. If the conflict was extreme, as in the days June, 1848, or as with the Commune Paris, the last ounce was misery wrung from its opponents that capitalism might be secure. A period com parative quiescence may produce the concession social reform, but this is merely deception. Once a really vital point is uched the workers' demands, are met armed resistance. This means that a only conscious and violent intervention can realize communism. must seize a proletariat propitious moment for the revolution; and until the revolution comes it must do all in its power disturb the existing r?gime. For commu nists have two only functions, prepare for the revolution and consolidate it successfully when it has been prepared. period consolidation has always seemed Lenin a period iron dictarship. He has had no illusions about the possibility, in such an hour, democratic governance. Ideals freedom and are equality bourgeois myths which cannot be ad mitted until the won ground has been secured. Revolution pro vokes counter-revolution; and a vicrious must be on proletariat its guard against reaction. Revolution, in fact, demands the revolutionary class that it secure its purpose every method at its disposal. For or compassion remorse it has neither time nor
5 LENIN AND MUSSOLINI 47 opportunity It must disarm antagonism execution, im prisonment, forced labor, control the press. For as it cannot allow any effort at the violent overthrow what it has estab lished, so must it stamp out such criticism as might engender further attack. Revolution is war, and war is founded upon terror. communist must use, in fact, the methods capital ism extinguish capitalism. For as capitalism has made life itself the cheapest commodities, there need be no repining at its sacrifice, and the result, in the end, is worth the cost, since it destroys the possibility future sale. It would be, as Marx said the Paris Commune, a wann betrayal trust observe the traditional forms liberalism. end involved is o great be nice about the means employed. Nor, Lenin can argues, communism revolutionary halt at its own frontiers. best defensive is the fensive method; it must attack other states lest become centres attack against itself. Of this attitude the Moscow International has been a not ineffective expression. It has allied itself every centre proletarian discontent. It has sought everywhere create revolutionary working-class organizations hostile the constitutional weapons the middle-class state. Communists all over the world have been invited arm the class-conscious proletariat. y have been invited do all could cut down the army the state as the chief weapon defense pos sessed the bourgeoisie. y have been urged form their independent, if hidden, military force and acquire arms every method. y have been asked discredit influential democrats whose word the working-class seemed For respond. every where, Lenin has insisted, a violent struggle is inevitable. In England, for example, the workers might capture Parliament at the polls, but political power is in any case a shadow, and were it used for an attack on property it would inevitably provoke an armed resistance. Lenin, indeed, has gone further, and is openly contemptuous democracy. It is for him a bourgeois institu tion intended only deceive the people. proletariat will always be deceived; and there can be no reliance save upon the class-conscious minority which accepts his views. For in his eyes there is no place in hisry for the majority-principle. record states is a clash between determined minorities con tending for the seat power. To introduce considerations consent, wait on in the belief that the obvious Tightness
6 48 FOREIGN AFFAIRS communist doctrine will ultimately persuade them its accep tance, is entirely ignore reality. A generation which, like our own, has seen these dogmas applied armed battalions is unlikely under-estimate their importance. Nor are less significant because Lenin has re treated from the full substance his original position. Compro mise may have been made with the peasants; internal difficulties may have called a halt international propaganda; the pressure circumstance may have admitted a small measure private trading. What is here in dispute is not the end the Russian Revolution seeks serve. idea a emancipating people from economic servitude is a unquestionably noble one; and there is a fundamental sense in which the atmosphere that effort marks a great epoch in the hisry mankind. Lenin is quite obviously informed high sincerity. No work has been o difficult or o dangerous for either himself or his disciples undertake. y have shrunk from no labor, however hard; and have pursued throughout impersonal ends. question involved is a different one. Capitalism may be all that Lenin believes; and, indeed, the indictment against it is, on any impartial view, a formidable one. question is whether the overthrow institutions violent means is ever likely serve its intended purpose. It entails, and has entailed in Russia, the suppression lerance and kindliness. It has sown cruelty and hatred, anger and suspicion, in the soil human relations. It has at impaired every point the intellectual heritage the Russian people. It has been impatient reason and fanatically hostile critical enquiry. Its method, in fact, has been that which every militant religion in past hisry has propagated its creed. religion may have been true; but a religion which has sought enforce its truth the sword has always been in ulti mate conflict with what is most precious in the nature men. Ill Italian movement is different in origin, but its ultimate spirit is in no-wise dissimilar. Leninism has been the dictar ship a party, Fascism is the dictarship a man. Its rise is in part due the endeavor escape from the disillusion which seized Italy after the Treaty Versailles, and in part the ill considered effort the left-wing Italian socialists not merely link themselves the Third International but also seize con
7 LENIN AND MUSSOLINI 49 trol industry in some the great wns. Violence assumed the character a habit in post-war Italy. D'Annunzio's defiance the Allies at Fiume awoke a everywhere vivid enthusiasm; and the ultimate expulsion his troops the government was a pround blow the new pride irridentist vicry. Hardly less dissatisfaction was caused the supineness the govern ment before the progress socialism. Its refusal expel the workers from the occupied facries was taken, not as a wise effort avoid unnecessary bloodshed?since their surrender was inevitable?but as a failure accept the challenge Bolshevism. older were politicians thoroughly discredited. Giolitti had been opposed Italy's entrance in the war; Orlando had sur rendered the prestige President Wilson; Nitti's conversion the outlook a "good European" did not square with the in flamed ambitions vicry. re had, moreover, been for many years a pround unreality about the alignment Italian parties. y were in the control machines bankrupt ideas and?the clericals apart?little different from each other. A revivification political life was essential if Italy was realize the new possibilities opened her part in the vicry. It was as the symbol that revivification that Mussolini came do battle with the old order. In part he represented the passionate optimism youth, eager control what seemed a great destiny, and in part the desire the small property-owner for security against the advance socialism. Fascist ideas found a ready acceptance wherever men were ambitious or power apprehensive novelty. As a soldier in the late war, Mussolini could claim a part in the vicry. As a former member the Socialist Party, he had the credit which always attaches those who abandon unpopular views. small bands his sup porters grew rapidly until were the one organized and disciplined party in the state. y were able direct action drive out the socialists from their municipal strongholds. y met criticism and dissent not words but deeds. y destroyed the printing-presses their opponents. y broke up public meetings. y beat strikers in submission. Where encountered resistance, did not hesitate even at assassi nation enforce their will. district authorities were cowed in submission their local leaders. y infected the army and navy with their spirit; and the government did not dare challenge their power. Mussolini, as chairman the central
8 5? FOREIGN AFFAIRS council, exacted and received an iron obedience from his followers. y were organized like an army; wore a uniform. By the summer 1922 Mussolini had half a million soldiers under his command. time had come move from the atmosphere influence the realm government. He marched Rome. cabinet resigned its authority in the King's hands; and the lat ter had no alternative save make Mussolini Prime Minister. He was not even within sight a parliamentary majority; but the Chambers abdicated before his avowed contempt for them. Either, he asserted, must accept his will, or he would act without regard their constitutional power. ethos Italy was incarnate in himself; and oppose him was invite disaster. result was a remarkable triumph dominant personality. deputies did not hesitate surrender their authority; if criticized, were beaten in the street or subjected humiliat ing personal attack. Foreign policy and domestic policy alike were simply the will Mussolini. His followers became the national militia. It is now a legal fense publish material which serves bring either the government or its policies in contempt. Freedom speech has so far ceased exist that older statesmen like Giolitti and Orlando have hastened salute the new star. Chamber Deputies has a passed bill which any party which receives one-quarter the votes at a general election will secure aumatically two-thirds the seats in the Chamber; and since every Italian Government controls the elec tions Mussolini has granted himself at least four years power. He has openly thrown overboard all pretense majority-rule. He will obtain power not because the mass the elecrate supports his views, but because his followers will not allow opposi tion make itself heard. Government, for him, exists fulfil needs, not give effect wills; and its first requirement is an overwhelming strength incompatible with liberty. For liberty, indeed, Mussolini no presses affection. He has called it a nineteenth-century concept which has exhausted its utility. Liberty, for him, is the parent anarchy if it implies hostility from opponents, and the pro disloyalty, involving expulsion from the party, if it comes from his declared supporters. He is hostile, also, notions equality. Though Fascism was, in its first phases, republican, since its accession power it has found reasons believe in monarchical government. It is avowedly favorable a r?gime classes; and it regards the hierarchical
9 LENIN AND MUSSOLINI 51 structure society as the natural reward ability in an order where the weaker must go the wall. It is opposed public enterprise at a period when the increasing control basis mo nopolies is more and more regarded as a vital part social policy. It is imperialistic in foreign affairs. It regards the League Nations as the ill-begotten child Anglo-Saxon plucracy. It is determined expel England and France from the domination the Mediterranean. It regards Jugoslavia with suspicion. Wherever Italians dwell in foreign lands, it proposes create enclaves Fascismo that may "be brought live the Italian life more intimately" and be protected "legally and extra legally" where are dependent upon foreign employers. It seeks the domination, in particular, the Adriatic, which in volves the economic penetration Albania. It demands a sympathetic policy wards Turkey in its new form. student Fascismo who desires glean from its litera ture any definite system ideas will be asnished at its in coherent na?vet?. Italian mind has always been prolific eloquence; but Cavour and Mazzini, whatever their limitations, had always in view a tangible ideal. Mussolini has fered no such hostages fortune. His writings and speeches have been sedulously kept within the realm the impalpable. He em phasizes the importance patriotism and the duty upholding the national interest, as at Fiume, at all costs. He denies the validity class-warfare. Capital must be protected; but labor must be a given due cooperation in its management. He believes, particularly, in the promotion peasant propriership. It is at once a safeguard against Bolshevism and a means giving indi vidualism the opportunity active expression. He believes in law, but, so say, in a lawless sense. When government is weak it must be made strong; and direct action is the path strength. For the subversive tyranny Lenin there is substituted the creative tyranny Mussolini. He has a ruthless will power; and the extreme situation in which he found himself seemed demand heroic remedies. will power justifies the assump tion power. Its vicry means the close the period in ternal trouble and foreign disappointment. Production is be intensified; all political and economic deficiencies are be repaired. When life "has resumed its peaceful rhythm" violence may be discarded; but it is an essential method until the national reconstruction is complete.
10 5* FOREIGN AFFAIRS No one who has seen a political party constructing its elecral program can fail recognize phrases this kind. promise a new heaven and a new earth are part the common sck in-trade those who traffic in the art government. Wherein, perhaps, Mussolini differs from his predecessors is in the passion ate conviction which his activity is inspired. He literally regards opposition his views as a crime. He literally insists that all Italian hisry since the time Virgil finds its consum mation in the movement he leads. Any party, course, which regards its dogmas as a religion is bound derive strength from its fanaticism. It is o early yet pronounce a judgment upon the meaning this vicry. Declarations truth are inevitably easier than their realization in the event. Insistence that violence must order is more give place easily announced than applied. Expectations that one's opponents will start from the acceptance the condition one has established are ten doomed disappointment. Mussolini has used all the weapons at the disposal force hew his way power. He has trampled down all opposition. He has cowed his critics in silence. He may have a yielded little here, as in his support England's policy or Germany, his conciliary attitude the Vatican; in general, he holds fice without conditions or limitations any kind. He has made a revolution as vital as any in the hisry the last decade methods which Machiavelli would have undersod and admired. If he establishes at length the rule reason, it will be in terms the rejection its essential instruments. For there is no connection between conviction that is won per suasion, and acceptance that is exrted force. vicries the former are enduring; but the conquests violence produce a reaction conceived in the terms tragic the model create. IV hisrian the next generation cannot fail be im pressed the different reception accorded the changes which Lenin and Mussolini have been the chief authors. Where Lenin's system has won for itself international ostracism and armed intervention, that Mussolini has been the subject widespread enthusiasm. He himself has been decorated the governments foreign powers; ambassadors have exhausted the language eulogy at ficial banquets; and great men business have not hesitated say that only the emulation his methods
11 LENIN AND MUSSOLINI 53 can reduce the working classes a state proper mind. Yet, save in intensity, there has been no difference in the method pursued the two men; and it is difficult avoid the conclusion that the different reception their effort is the outcome their antithetic attitudes property. Yet the danger implicit in each philosophy is a similar one. We have so spent many years in war that we have accus grown med a code conduct peculiar times disorder, and we have even erected laws behavior which are special periods rebellion. In Greece, in Turkey, in Bulgaria, the writ violence alone receives allegiance; and the news murder and pillage is without a sense accepted outrage. We are the training thought seizing power numbers men who are care desperate less the hisric tradition and contemptuous the morality upon which our civilization has been built. same temper may be found in America and Ireland; and evidence its exis tence in England and France can be found on every hand. Mussolini and Lenin are merely the last term in a series which the circumference western civilization. pervades attitude represent is the one simple that serve a great end, and that barriers in the way their goal must be removed at any cost. Yet it is obvious that if any group men may, because ardent belief, ignore the tested constitution society, there is no prospect peaceful development. For it is the plain lesson experience that the only permanent basis power is action built upon the wills and desires the mass men; and those who govern must be humble enough be so skeptical their conclusions as be willing continuously submit them the judgment their fellows. Since, at least, the Renaissance, what we have improvement made in matters social organization has been built upon the maintenance this temper. willingness abide free enquiry is the one certain avenue progress. We may dislike the result; and we may seek men further persuade investi gation reject decisions that have been made. What is above all important is the notion that leration is the persistent atmos phere experiment. Once we are willing be aggressively dog matic about what are, after all, the most difficult all questions, we invite the abandonment reason. For every system gov ernment which fails rely upon persuasion and argument will always attract itself men who are capable neither. y
12 54 FOREIGN AFFAIRS may begin asserting that have seized power for a great end; are bound continue holding power for its own sake. And are certain hold power penalizing dissent from their views. Such systems have been tried before in hisry, most notably in the case religion. y have always failed for the final reason that the bonds which unite the social fabric are o fragile survive a constant assault. Medieval dogmatism did not pro duce conviction; it involved the wars religion. price we pay for militant certitude in social affairs is always the establish ment a despotism. From despotism conflict the step is near and logical. Lenin and Mussolini alike have established a government not laws but men. y have degraded public morality refusing admit the terms upon which civilized intercourse alone becomes possible. By treating their opponents as criminals, have made thought itself a disastrous adventure; and that at a time when what is needed, above all, is inventiveness in social affairs. y have penalized sincerity in politics. y have given rein passions which are incompatible with the security life. y have insisted on the indispensability themselves and their even dogmas though we cannot afford pay the price incurred in the enforcement that notion. If, as with both men, the problem social change is be restricted a struggle between property and poverty, we shall end either the estab lishment an iron industrial feudalism or an anarchy in which our intellectual heritage will perish. It may well be that the time has come for a revolution in the temper human affairs; no modern state can at once certainly widely distribute political power and seek maintain great dis parities fortune. But the only revolution that can hope for permanence is that which wins slow persuasion the organized conviction men. To endanger that process exalting violence will not a merely destroy law here and a government there. It will, in the end, disrupt the foundations the social fabric. Great events are not produced the mechanisms law or the efforts men. single y depend, in the last analysis, upon the spirit which surrounds the circumstances government. If that spirit is habituated methods violence, we cannot maintain trie traditions civilization.