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This is one of a series of excerpts from older articles and book chapters put online by John Ray as a public service. The articles concerned are in general otherwise available only by special request to a University or other major library.


This is an extract from:
Gregor, A.J. (1979) Italian Fascism and developmental dictatorship Princeton, N.J.: Univ. Press. pp. 122-127.


In mid-1921 Olivetti reminded socialists that Marxism had always conceived the revolution to be a function of the maturity of society's economic base. As a consequence, whatever was transpiring in Russia could not be a socialist revolution understood in any comprehensible theoretical sense. Russia. Olivetti argued, clearly faced bourgeois developmental, and not distributionist socialist, tasks. Because the Bolsheviks failed to early perceive the nature of their historic responsibilities, the process of development, begun under the Czars, had begun to flag. A socialist program of distribution was totally inappropriate in an economy of declining productivity. The Bolsheviks failed to acknowledge that where the industrial and economic base of society was not mature, the proletariat could only be devoid of all the technical and psychological prerequisites of the socialism Marx had anticipated.

Mussolini's judgments concerning the Bolshevik revolution are similarly instructive in this regard. For our purposes, the Fascist characterization of Lenin's Bolsheviks as "traitors" during the conflict against the Germans is of little consequence. More interesting is the fact that by 1919, Mussolini could refer to the absolute decline in economic productivity in Soviet Russia as evidence of its failure to recognize its historic obligations. Mussolini argued that the ground of revolutionary politics in the twentieth century must necessarily be the historic nation in which the sentiment and the interests of contemporary populations are anchored. As a consequence, he insisted that whatever Bolsheviks might say, they must ultimately commit themselves to national reconstruction and national defense. In effect, whatever his immediate postures, Lenin must inevitably give himself over to some form of national socialism. Because the exigencies of national politics in the twentieth century required the expansion and modernization of retarded or underdeveloped economies, Lenin would necessarily have to appeal to bourgeois expertise in the effort to restore and expand Russia's impaired economic potential. A retarded or underdeveloped economic system required, of necessity, the talents of the bourgeoisie. As early as 1919, Mussolini referred to Lenin's inability to address all these issues as evidence of Bolshevism's failure to comprehend the revolutionary necessities of the times .

Because the maintenance and development of industry required a disciplined and technically efficient labor force, Mussolini argued that Bolshevism must necessarily "domesticate" labor to the task of intensive development. Mussolini maintained that all of this could well have been anticipated since Marxism had made quite clear that society required the fullest maturation of the economic base before any form of socialism was possible. What Russia required, in effect, was a form of developmental national socialism.

By 1921 the Bolsheviks found themselves possessed of a nation in ruins. The national income of Russia had been reduced to one third of that of 1913. Industrial output had declined to one fifth during the same period. The economic infrastructure of the nation had disintegrated under the pressures of international conflict, revolution, and civil war. By 1922, threatened with total collapse, anarchy, and famine, the Bolsheviks took stock of their revolutionary illusions and the economic and political realities of their time. A monetary economy was reintroduced. Peasant land tenure was (at least temporarily) assured in the effort to promote agricultural production. The profit motive was reintroduced in industry. Orthodox fiscal policies were re-established with the stabilization of the ruble in 1923. At the same time that capitalism resurfaced in much of the economy, the Bolsheviks "commanded the heights" with increasingly authoritarian, bureaucratic, and oligarchic decision-making procedures.

Throughout the period between 1917 and 1923, the Bolsheviks had no real, coherent domestic policy. Their tactical activities were governed by a conviction that the European revolution would erupt..... Thus, while the first Fascists were organizing for a national revolution, the Bolsheviks were still absorbed in the dream of international insurrection. It was an illusion that was to fitfully persist until Stalin announced the advent of a "creative development" of Marxism: a national socialism.

Fascists watched the devolution of Leninism with considerable satisfaction. What had begun with the anarchosyndicalist promises of Lenin's The state and Revolution had rapidly developed into a hierarchical and authoritarian governance of a weak and faltering economy. Lenin began to speak of discipline and obedience.... In early 1919 Lenin spoke of the introduction of the "most energetic, ruthlessly determined and Draconian measures to improve the self-discipline and discipline of the workers and peasants of Russia." In terms more than reminiscent of Fascist authoritarianism, he spoke of holding the entire fabric of society together with "a single iron will"....

Thus, while the first Fascists were formulating the rationale for a mass-mobilizing, developmental, authoritarian, hierarchical, and statist program, the Bolsheviks were forced to assume similar postures by the course of events. For the revolutionary national syndicalists of Italy, the devolution of Bolshevism confirmed their analysis.... Since the proletariat was technically and organizationally unsuited for the management of a developmental system, it could only be driven to the tasks of development through what Lenin termed "the sharp forms of dictatorship." More than that, Lenin went on to admit, the technical and entrepreneurial bourgeoisie would have to be attracted to the service of the state through the payment of differential wages. The bourgeoisie would have to he cajoled, coerced or bribed into collaboration with the Soviet State in an obvious analogue to Fascist "class collaboration

.... In effect, Lenin, in arguing against the "Left Communists," insisted that capitalism had not completed its cycle in Russia. The Bolshevik government was committed to a program of state-controlled capitalism, complete with a monetary economy, private incentive, and the payment of differential wages that would insure the collaboration of the productive elements of the bourgeoisie, a domestication of labor, and a hierarchical, elite control of the entire process in the service of national economic development.....

But it is clear that as early as 1918 Lenin had begun to recognize the requirements of his time. What "proletarian Russia" required was not "left-wing childishness," but rapid industrial development under state auspices and unitary party control. This historic judgment, already arrived at by the revolutionary national syndicalists in the case of proletarian Italy, was reflected in the Fascism to which Italian syndicalists committed themselves.


.... First of all, it can easily be established that Fascism, prior to its advent to power, advertised a specific program addressed to immediate problems that afflicted the national economy. Moreover. Fascism entertained a long-range economic program that was reasonably well articulated in the doctrinal literature of 1921 and 1922. Furthermore, while it is true that Fascism's immediate, and some considerable part of its more comprehensive programs, were not incompatible with the interests of important segments of Italy's economic elite, those programs were autonomous, originating among its principal ideologues before allies previously unattached to the movement joined forces with Fascism. Whatever accommodation there might have been with the established economic interests of the peninsula, this accommodation was a contingent, rather than a constituent, characteristic of Fascist economic policy.

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