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16. Chapter XVI International Parliamentary Conference at Rome

A brilliant opening—Mussolini—Goering—A touch of British humour—Speeches by Japanese—Fascism—Milan—The King of Italy—Reception by the Pope.

I

IN April, 1933, I was one of two delegates from Australia to attend the Conférence Parliamentaire Internationale du Commerce which sat in Rome. It was the eighteenth conference. My Australian colleague was Senator Grant, a representative of Tasmania in the Federal Parliament.

The delegates to the Rome Conference numbered two hundred. A month before the meeting a difficulty arose. The eastern European States were annoyed at certain happenings in Rome, especially the suggested Four-Power Conference. Blame was placed on Italy, and they decided not to come to Rome. Poland, Czecho-Slovakia, Rumania and Yugo-Slavia were particularly offended. It required all the tact of M. Baie, the Secretary-General, assisted by the Belgian Ambassador and others at Rome, to bring about a conciliatory view. Ultimately, Yugo-Slavia and Rumania were mollified. They sent large delegations. Czecho-Slovakia also sent a delegation, but Poland reduced her delegation from fourteen to three. Once all the delegates met together this hostile spirit disappeared, for


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the time being at all events. The great tact and hospitality of the Italian hosts and the general spirit of friendliness, if not of confidence, had its effect. Yugo-Slavs and Rumanians showed special sympathy towards the Empire delegates.

The Imperial Parliament delegation consisted of twenty-two members of the British House of Commons. Two of them were lady members—namely, Mrs. Ida Copeland and Miss Irene Ward. Amongst the others were: Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland, Mr. P. J. Hannon, Sir Percy Hurd, Sir Philip Dawson, Sir Kenyon Vaughan-Morgan, Mr. I. J. Albery, Mr. C. E. R. Brocklebank, Sir William Davison, Mr. H. W. Kerr, Mr. O. Lewis, Mr. A. T. Lennox-Boyd, Major Llewellin, Mr. Geoffrey Nicholson, Sir Douglas Newton, Sir Assheton Pownall, Sir Samuel Roberts, Mr. J. Roland Robinson, and Major Sir Isidore Salmon. All the delegates from the British Empire paid their own travelling and hotel expenses. Colonel Crookshank was honorary secretary and Sir Stanley Johnson honorary treasurer. The chairman of the British delegation was the late Sir John Sandeman Allen. He could speak French and German fluently, and was well acquainted with international European politics. It was a high tribute to his urbanity and ability that before the close of the Rome Conference he was unanimously elected president of the conseil général for the following two years in place of the late Baron Deschamps, who had held the office since the inception of the Conference in 1914.

The delegates came from the legislative bodies of twenty-seven countries. Japan sent two delegates, the Argentine three, Germany seven, Australia two,


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Austria four, Belgium eight, Spain four, Hungary eighteen, Turkey seven, and Venezuela three. France sent what was perhaps the strongest delegation. There were twenty-seven French delegates, most of them men of high repute as parliamentarians. The delegates from Italy were also numerous, and included many of Italy's best-known statesmen.

There was a brilliant scene on the occasion of the opening of the Conference on Wednesday, April 19. It was held at the Capitol, with Signor Mussolini presiding as honorary president of the Conference. The King of Italy was present, and all the Diplomatic Corps in gorgeous costumes. The British Ambassador sat on the right hand of His Majesty. There was a remarkable gathering of distinguished Italians, mostly in military and naval uniforms ablaze with decorations. Flags hung from the walls. The hall was furnished in red and gold, and the attendants were clothed to match—red coats, old gold knee-breeches, pink silk stockings, buckled shoes, powdered wigs, and lace for neck and wrists.

Special instructions as to dress were issued to the delegates before they left their homes. They were expected to wear tall hats and morning clothes. Mussolini, stern of face, was in morning dress. As president, he sat on a chair raised above the audience, whom he faced. The King sat in a lower position, facing Mussolini and with his back to the audience. His Majesty, with his entourage, arrived with Mussolini. The speeches were addressed to the King and the Duce—“Your Majesty and Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen.”

The proceedings were opened by a short speech by


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the Governor of Rome formally welcoming the delegates. Then Count Martino, president of the Italian Conference Committee and one of Italy's elder statesmen, spoke of the Conference as being preparatory to the World Economic Conference in London, and emphasised the necessity to settle political issues at the same time as economic issues.

Mussolini was the most arresting figure at the Conference. Behind him stood a colossal statue of Cæsar. Mussolini's head, shoulders and body, both large and massive, are indicative of great strength. His high forehead, large nose and powerful jaws gave him the distinctive look of the old Roman of the times of the Cæsars. His hair was growing grey, and though but fifty years of age, yet war sufferings and heavy responsibilities told their tale in his face, and he looked much older. The most remarkable thing about him was his eyes; they were round, and glared with most piercing penetration. They never lost that strange look.

When he arose he received a tremendous ovation from the Italians present. Not a glimmer of pleasure or satisfaction appeared in his face. On the contrary, he tried to suppress it, and seemed displeased at being delayed by the prolonged cheering from getting on with his speech. Clearly he wanted to go on with the work, but he had to resign himself to the inevitable and suppress his impatience.

The cheering had not stopped when he began reading his speech. He spoke rapidly and with no declamation.

I remembered a remark he had made years previously,


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“We have tamed parliamentarism.” He did more; he destroyed it.

I wondered what he would have to say to representatives of parliaments from all parts of the world.

He was diplomatic and carefully avoided jarring references.

He recalled the fact that it was the third International Parliamentary Conference held in Rome, and asserted that, in the course of the twenty years of the organisation's existence, it had shown its vitality and the efficiency of its functions by rendering real services in the field of international commerce.

Mussolini then plunged into the subjects on the agenda, briefly dealing with each in turn, pointing out difficulties and hinting rather than suggesting solutions. “The solution of the economic problems under discussion,” he said, “is conditioned by the achievement of a better political atmosphere, towards which all statesmen in every part of the world are now turning, and by the reaching of a profound comprehension of the problems and difficulties of others on the part of those men who guide the economic destinies of the various countries.” He concluded by declaring the Conference open “in the name of His Majesty the King.”

The chairman of each of five delegations—namely, Germany, France, Great Britain, Japan and Rumania —then spoke, in alphabetical order. French was the language of the Conference.

Photograph Facing Page 336: The King of Italy Leaving the Capitol. After opening the Conférence Parlementaire Internationale du Commerce in April, 1933 (eighteenth year). Signor Mussolini is on the King's left.



Hitler had just come into power in Germany. The sensational doings of his party filled the newspapers.


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Captain Goering, President of the Reichstag and Premier of Prussia, was the leader of the German delegation. His reputation was that he was the extremist of the Hitler party, a party that in the eyes of the world was itself far too extreme. Captain Goering was supposed to be more Hitler than Hitler himself. It was generally understood that a friendly understanding had been brought about between the Hitlerites and the Fascists and that Germany and Italy had come closer together in consequence.

There was a hush when Captain Goering rose.

He looked the youngest of the speakers—a soldierly man, erect with square shoulders, a set determined face, fair, with hair brushed upwards, and a decidedly German appearance. He spoke in German. The previous speeches were in Italian and had been read. Captain Goering spoke extempore and forcefully and as though he had something definite and important to say.

He made it clear that in his opinion the depression could not be dealt with properly until party politics as generally understood had been got rid of. He said that in the presence of great changes, and in view of threats by subversive forces in Europe, he was glad the Conference was meeting in the capital of such a well-disciplined nation. The forces of evil should first be suppressed, and therefore political action should precede economic action.

There was no doubt about the definiteness of Captain Goering's speech. There were no platitudes in it. Whatever else it was, it was bold, and it was unquestionably the most remarkable utterance of the whole Conference proceedings.




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Sir John Sandeman Allen spoke in English. He was the only one who introduced a touch of humour into his remarks. He mentioned the problems of the Conference and the way their solution should be approached, adding, with a bright twinkle in his eyes, and turning to Mussolini and Goering, “on these lines even members of parliament may prove useful.”

A Japanese viscount delivered an address in Japanese. It occupied about half an hour. Everyone sat and wondered what it was all about. The King was a picture of patient resignation. Mussolini wore a look of amazement. Goering had an indignant frown. Finally the speaker finished. A sigh of relief went up, but another Japanese got up, and for twenty minutes gave us a translation in French of what the viscount had said.

It then appeared that the worthy Japanese had been all the time endeavouring to impress on us how strenuously Japan was striving to maintain peace in the Orient, especially in China and Manchuria.

Of the many banquets and other entertainments provided for the delegates in Rome, the most attractive was the dinner given to them and their ladies by Signor Mussolini at the Palazzio Venetzia, erected in 1455 for Pope Paul II., who was a Venetian. It was an immense gathering of men and women, most of them people of distinction.

The Duce was a perfect host—gracious and affable to all. His wife does not live in Rome, but prefers a quiet life in the country with her children, and is never seen at public functions. Mussolini sat between two charming


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ladies, one the wife of the British Ambassador and the other the wife of the Belgian Ambassador. They evidently interested him, and he looked pleased. Happily there were no speeches. When the host and his guests went to another room he went freely among them, and seemed desirous of meeting personally visitors from distant countries. His knowledge of English was extraordinarily good, considering that he had begun to learn it only two years previously. The delegates from Australia were presented to him. He talked freely with us. He asked me if it were my first visit to Italy. I told him that some forty years previously I had been there and that I had visited it many times later. He inquired if I had seen many changes in it. I replied that there were many signs of improvement. Everything was altered for the better, and the Italy of to-day was a new Italy as compared with Italy as it was before the war. When I added that even in far-away Australia the people knew who was responsible for the improvement, his eyes sparkled, and he looked pleased.

Mussolini, as host, was a brighter Mussolini than the Mussolini of the Conference.

II

It was not the attitude of the élite of Italy towards Mussolini that impressed me most. It was the almost frantic enthusiasm of the crowds in the streets that was most significant. I saw thousands of men and women waiting in pouring rain outside a building where they knew him to be. They waited for hours. They must have been drenched, but still they waited. Finally,


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when he came to the balcony and saluted, there was a storm of cheers. There was a manifest desire amongst the crowd to show him how they admired and trusted him.

Several attempts have been made to murder him. Autocrats are ever in danger of assassination. I have heard it said that his life is constantly menaced, and that there are scores of men ready and eager to kill him. That may be, but, judging by what I saw, I would not give two pins for the life of any man in the crowded streets of Rome who attempted to take the life of the Duce.

I was singularly fortunate on my visit to Italy in renewing my acquaintance with Sir Philip Dawson, who represents West Lewisham in the House of Commons. I had travelled with him previously in Central Europe and was much impressed by his facility in conversing in various European languages. He can speak German, French and Italian as fluently as English, is well acquainted with many Continental statesman, and has a profound knowledge of the inside of European politics. He spent five years at school as a youth in Italy. Subsequently he practised as an electrical engineer in Milan. He is at present the leading member of a well-known firm of consulting engineers in London, and during recent years has been a constant visitor to Italy.

Sir Philip and I were close companions during our stay in Italy, for we were keen on seeing, not the Italy of official functions, but Italy as it is known to the people of Italy. We went about together over a great deal of the country. We frequented restaurants and cafés; we went to places rarely visited by foreigners;


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we travelled in popular conveyances and talked to all kinds of people. We ate the food and drank the wine of the country. I realised that Italy is indeed the home of pasta, and nowhere else is it so well prepared. The countless strange but interesting dishes and insidious wines were not to me so impressive as the numberless reminders wherever one went in public or private of Mussolini.

It is not the statues and busts of him, it is not pictures of him in shop windows and private houses, it is not references to him in the Press, but it is the recently completed public works and those in progress, the industry of the people and the cleanliness of the cities, all of which are attributed to him. As one passes beautiful ancient buildings that are being freed of the shambles that choked them for centuries, the Italian tells you, “It is done by Mussolini.” Where old, insanitary dwellings have been taken down and roomy, well-ventilated, handsome workmen's homes have been erected in their place, an inquirer learns that it is the work of the Duce. When driving along the Appian Way, across the Campagna, skirting the Alban Hills and continuing parallel with the coast or along other ancient Roman roads, we are told that the reconstruction work and other improvements to be noticed have been the result of Mussolini's instructions.

We visited the ruins of the Colosseum built over 1,800 years ago, saw the circular tiers of seats rising to 160 feet to accommodate 50,000 spectators, inspected the arena where gladiators and wild beasts fought and where, when it was flooded, mimic, but not bloodless, naval battles were fought, and we were reminded of the ancient prophecy:




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“While stands the Colosseum Rome shall stand,
When falls the Colosseum Rome shall fall,
And when Rome falls with it shall fall the world.”

Many years ago the building was preserved from falling into utter ruin by buttresses built against the sides, but it remained for Mussolini to complete the work of preservation and restoration. He had done much in that direction, and further work was in progress. The arena is sanctified by the blood of the early Christian martyrs. For centuries a large and beautiful cross erected in their memory stood in the middle of the arena, but it was removed in modern times. It was replaced by him in 1926.

For twenty centuries two ships of the Roman Emperor, Caligula, lay at the bottom of the lake of Nemi. The draining of the lake and the uncovering of the vessels was a difficult and stupendous work, but it was accomplished. Italians speak of the feat with pride, and tell visitors that it was Mussolini's idea and that it was he who saw that it was realised.

For generations mysterious, corrupt terrorist secret societies existed in Italy. There was the notorious Mala Vita with its various grades and extensive ramifications. The Camorra, who held sway in Naples, were plunderers and batteners exacting money from shopkeepers. Perhaps the worst of these organisations was the Mafia in Sicily, with its members pledged to protect each other when charged with crime and to exact vengeance for any punishment inflicted. The Mafia even extended its operations to America, with serious consequences. About the end of the last century the society murdered the chief of police at New Orleans. This so angered the public that a mob broke into the


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jail and shot or hanged several Italians who were accused of committing the crime. Diplomatic relations between Italy and the United States were broken off, and not restored until the United States paid 25,000 dollars for the benefit of the heirs of the lynched Italians. When Mussolini came into power the Mafia still created fear and insecurity in Sicily. Despite threats against him, he took severe measures. Men were executed, but he effectually stamped out the evil. There is no longer any dread of the Mafia. I was told the society has ceased to exist.

Vast areas that were allowed to become mere useless swamps, but are now smiling farms, were pointed out as the reclamation work of Mussolini. Since he came into power 6,000,000 acres of land had been drained. For 250 days of the year 50,000 Italian workmen were employed on drainage works. Statistics say that in 1922 the production of wheat was just under 44,000,000 quintals, but in a few years the production amounted to 73,150,000 quintals. Italians asserted that the large reduction in the quantity of cereals imported into Italy during the previous ten years was due to the encouragement and assistance given by Mussolini to agriculturists.

On entering Italy by train I could not but notice the brilliant uniforms of men at railway stations. There were Carabinieri, a kind of police wearing blue swallow-tailed coats, blue trousers with a red strip down each leg, three-cornered hats and armed with swords and revolvers. They were invariably to be seen in pairs. The railway officials also wore smart well-fitting uniforms. On each railway station there were two or more members of the Fascist organisation.


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Dressed in serviceable black shirts, they looked almost drab beside the gorgeousness of the other uniformed men, but it was clear to any observer that it was the Fascists who were of real importance. They saw that the railway officials did their work promptly and efficiently. They stood on one side. They only interfered when some difficulty arose. A widely circulated official Fascist publication, L' Italia Fascista in Cammino, states: “Under the Fascist régime, the railway staff works 50 per cent. harder, the expenses for damages, etc., of goods have decreased from 7.31 per cent. to 0.12 per cent.”

It may be mentioned that hydro-electric power development has taken place on an immense scale, and the electric locomotive operates on the whole railway system of Middle and Northern Italy. The hydro-electric power of the Italian electric stations in 1922 was 1,300,000 kw., and ten years later it was 4,300,000 kw.

Mussolini, referring to the work of the last ten years, says: “Achievements have been attained not only in the field of material activities, but also, much deeper, in that of spiritual activities. A great transformation brought about in things is useful and interesting, but the supreme object of the Fascist revolution is the change in the temperament, in the character, in the intellectual outlook of the Italian people.”

That the people of Italy have been raised in their own self-respect and have become more industrious is commonly commented on by those acquainted with the Italy of ten or twelve years ago and the Italy of to-day. But the Italian citizens of the future are also of deep concern. There is an organisation similar to our


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Boy Scouts known as the Balilla. They wear black shirts with trimmings of white and greenish-grey breeches. In it boys between the ages of eight and fourteen are enrolled with the approbation of their parents. There is a senior body called Advance Guards into which they pass to continue their physical and moral training between the ages of from fourteen to eighteen, when they go into the Fascist militia. When in Italy I saw at the Forum Mussolini a wonderful display of this organisation of Italian youth. We quite understood that, as Lord Rennell, who is an authority on present-day Italy, has said, this organisation “is producing a new type of youth, smart in appearance, eager for instruction and inspired by ideals of manliness, comradeship and duty.”

Photograph Facing Page 342: Sir John Kirwan and Sir Philip Dawson, M.P. Leaving the Capitol, Rome, after the opening of the Eighteenth Conférence Parlementaire Internationale du Commerce, April, 1933, by the King of Italy.



III

When in Rome I often passed the doors of what purported to be an exhibition showing the cause, beginning, growth and achievements of the Fascist movement. There was all day a stream of people passing in and out. That aroused my curiosity. One morning I paid a lira, the entrance money, and pushed my way in. The exhibition was packed almost to suffocation. It was in many ways a most remarkable exhibition. The story of the various phases of Fascism was shown in a variety of rooms that were numbered in proper order. In the first there was the murder of the Archduke in Serajevo in 1914, then came the Great War, next Italy's entrance into it, afterwards features of Italy's share in the struggle; next the Armistice and Treaty of Versailles. After that a state of chaos in Italy due to strikes and other troubles was represented; factories


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were shown as seized and taken over by workers in 1920; flourishing industries were ruined; next Mussolini and some comrades were illustrated as founding the Fascisti movement to counteract Bolshevism and also against the inactivity of post-war Italian statesmen. The growth of Fascism was shown and the historic march of the Fascists on Rome on October 24, 1922, and a fortnight later the Assembly of Fascists at Naples to salute the King of Italy.

In one of the rooms of the exhibition there was a map of the world showing that wherever Italians lived in any numbers branches of the Fascist organisation existed.

Attractive as the Fascist exhibition was, the most impressive of all was the last hall to be entered—the Chamber of the Martyrs, the Fascists who died in the cause. As it was approached silence was requested. The chamber was circular, very dark; the only light was from a few shaded lamps. The plaintive music of “The Fascists' Hymn” could be faintly heard. It seemed to come from the unknown. A single blackshirt stood to attention in the centre. From the wall could be dimly seen the flags of the various Fascist regiments. There was a huge black cross with the words across the arms, “Per la patria, Immortale!” Most impressive of all, against the black of the sides of the building, were the words in several rows round the hall standing out in white and repeated hundreds of times, “Presente! Presente! Presente!” indicating that the dead were announcing their presence there. It was difficult to be in the chamber and not to feel the presence of the dead.

Fascists boast that in the Fascist revolution the death-roll


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amongst supporters and opponents was small in comparison with other great revolutions. This is confirmed by Mr. James Strachey Barnes, an Englishman, who lives in Rome and has spent much of his life in Italy. In his book, “The Universal Aspects of Fascism,” he says the total death-roll of the revolution is little more than 4,000, and of these 2,000 were incurred by the revolutionaries themselves. Compare these figures with those of the Russian and French Revolutions! According to official figures issued by the Moscow Government, there were over 1,800,000 persons executed between 1918 and 1923.

Several times I went to St. Peter's, that colossal church which, as has been truly said, cannot be entered without a feeling of awe. The church is the work of many men of genius, the greatest of whom, Michael Angelo, then in his seventy-second year, when asked by Pope Paul the Third to complete it, replied he would do it for the love of God, the Blessed Virgin and St. Peter. The last time I was there I was admiring the Stuart monuments. There is one of Maria Sobieski, wife of Prince James Edward. Opposite it there is a truly beautiful memorial by Canova, erected at the expense of George the Fourth to the memory of James the Third, as he is called, and to his sons Prince Charles Edward and Prince Henry, Cardinal York. I was accompanied by an Italian priest, a gentleman of infinite charm and great historical lore, who spoke English excellently and whose invitation to go round St. Peter's with him I had readily accepted, for each visit to the church reveals new beauties and wonders. A stranger who was standing near, evidently not an Italian, remarked to the priest by way of an almost


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irreverent jest, “I don't see a memorial to Mussolini here.” “Perhaps even that may come in time?” was the quiet and, to me, surprising answer of the priest.

Many declare that the greatest of all the achievements of the Duce was the Treaty of the Lateran, which he signed with the representatives of His Holiness. The signing was followed by a visit of the King of Italy to the Pontiff. It definitely settled the Roman question, which had been a disturbing factor in Italian politics for some sixty years. It meant that the Pope was no longer the prisoner of the Vatican. By it he was recognised as an independent sovereign, and the Vatican over which he rules as an independent state. Religious and financial differences were also reconciled. Canon law, so far as it applies to marriage, was put into force throughout the whole of Italy. The Vatican received over £8,000,000 in cash and nearly £11,000,000 in five per cent. bonds as compensation for the losses sustained in 1870.

Perhaps the priest was right. A monument may be seen yet even in St. Peter's to the man who restored sovereign rights to the Pope.

Under the reforms of the Fascists an entirely new form of government has been built up. The Senate was retained and the Chamber of Deputies reformed. The national councils and certain other bodies which are nominated, not elected, choose about a thousand names. The Fascist Grand Council selects four hundred from these, or, if it wishes, goes outside for other names. The four hundred thus selected are submitted to the electors en bloc for acceptance or rejection as a whole. The electors can say “Yes” or “No.” If they say “Yes” they are elected, but if they say “No,”


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another list will be presented to them. The list roughly consists of equal representation of capital and labour. Parliament is supposed to be a gathering of technical advisers or, in other words, experts on industrial and financial matters and, indeed, all the problems of legislation and administration. The idea is “government by the fit.”

IV

So far as I am aware none of the twenty-three members of the British House of Commons who represented the Imperial Parliament at the International Parliamentary Conference in Rome believe that Fascism is needed or, if tried, would succeed in Great Britain or in any British community. Mussolini himself has declared that it is only justifiable in special circumstances. He has said that it thrives best “in the atmosphere where the need for its development is most urgent.” Most of the visiting parliamentarians knew Italy well both before and since the establishment of Fascism. There was not one of them whom I spoke to who was not enthusiastic about the improvement that had been effected in the conditions existing generally in Italy.

Soon after the return of the British parliamentary delegates to London, a letter was published in The Times signed by Sir Philip Dawson and Mr. P. J. Hannan, an Irishman born in Castlebar, who represents a division of Birmingham in the House of Commons. The letter described the transformation in the social and economic conditions of Italy during the ten years of Fascism. They both have known Italy before


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and since Fascism was established. They wrote of their visit:

“We found evidence of triumphant prosperity everywhere. The miserable mendicant who invaded town and country in pre-Fascist days has completely disappeared. Orderly cleanliness is the outstanding quality of town and country alike. The homes of the peasant population, scattered over intensely cultivated areas with their uniformity of colour and design, indicate the development of homely comfort and steadily advancing prosperity. Every patch of available land we saw was in process of cultivation or crop raising, and the industry of the rural population was apparent everywhere. New roads and old roads reconstructed will compare favourably with the finest highway of any country in Europe.… The physical and intellectual improvement of the mass of the people is phenomenal. It is part of the national policy to afford facilities for physical and educational training for the workers, which is extending its beneficial influence upon the character of the people from day to day. The organisation of youth is truly remarkable, and we witnessed at the great demonstration to celebrate the anniversary of the foundation of Rome an array of organised boyhood and early manhood which could not be presented by any other country in the world. Italy affords an amazing example of the genius of constructive statesmanship.”

Many books—mostly biassed exaggerations of fact— have been written for and against Fascism in Italy.


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Professor Salvemini's “The Fascist Dictatorship in Italy” goes to as absurd an extreme in one direction as “Mostra Della Rivoluzione Fascista” does in the other. Reforms can rarely be brought about, even simple reforms in legislation, without some individuals being inconvenienced and frequently suffering hardship. During the early years of Fascism deeds were done by its supporters and its opponents that must be condemned. Excesses were undoubtedly committed and reprisals followed. Literally, thousands of Fascists in the early years of Fascism were imprisoned by the Fascist authorities for committing excesses. Following on two successive attempts on Mussolini's life in 1926, excesses occurred that resulted in the imprisonment of hundreds of Fascists, and hundreds of others were expelled from the ranks of the party. In fact, Mussolini himself took over the control of the Ministry of the Interior in order that his prestige and authority might be exercised to preserve order and enforce discipline.

Opponents of Fascism declare that Fascists destroyed liberty. The Fascists declare that they prevented the abuse of liberty, that they put an end to corruption, and that all they have done has been in the interests of the people. Prominent Fascists consider that it was the state of political affairs existing in Italy after the war that produced Fascism. No such conditions exist or have existed in Britain. Such is the opinion also of Mr. Winston Churchill, who said to the Fascists: “If I had been an Italian I am sure I should have been with you from the beginning to the end of your victorious struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism.”

In Italy Fascists thought the motto of revolutionary


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France, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” was not producing satisfactory results, so they substituted “Responsibility, Hierarchy, and Discipline.” Fascism is about a dozen years in power in Italy. Some say it is a mere temporary form of government created to deal with a great national crisis. Fascists believe that it will endure and be permanent. Time alone will prove which prediction is correct.

V

The delegates were invited to Milan. At a luncheon at Cernobbis on the banks of Lake Como, the British delegations invited me to respond on their behalf. My friend, Sir Philip Dawson, suggested that I should address the gathering in Italian. Other delegates spoke in the language of their own countries, and he thought it would be interesting for a delegate from Australia to reply in Italian. I pointed out that, as he well knew, there was a slight difficulty about it—I had no knowledge of Italian. He then suggested that I could conclude my remarks in it and that he would give me half a dozen sentences which I could read. He wrote them out, dividing them into syllables to ensure correct pronunciation.

Having spoken about Australia and the relationship between different parts of the Empire, I added: “The Empire Parliaments carry on their work under the sheltering folds of one flag. Under that flag we have grown from tottering infancy to what we are to-day. Britain has built up a Commonwealth of nations bound together by feelings of mutual trust and for purposes of mutual advantage and mutual protection. The objective


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of international parliamentary conferences should be to build up a similar understanding amongst the countries of the world in furtherance of peace and civilisation.” I then went on to say I would conclude in “their own beautiful language.” I then read in Italian clearly and carefully so that everyone could hear distinctly an expression of the thanks of the British delegates to various people and institutions. I added that we had greatly enjoyed our visit to Italy, spoke of the Conference and its work, and on behalf of the British delegates “wished prosperity and happiness to the great and glorious people of Italy.” My remarks in English had been received in respectful silence. They were not understood, but what I said in Italian was evidently appreciated. It was punctuated by many rounds of loud applause.

After the luncheon the chairman sought me out and spoke to me volubly in Italian, congratulating me on my excellent command of the language of his country, the choiceness of my diction and my correct accent! Fortunately my friend, Sir Philip Dawson, was with me to tell me what he was talking about.

VI

The Conference delegates were received by the King of Italy with great formality in the Quirinal Palace, the residence of the Kings of Italy since 1870. In the piazza, in front, are a couple of magnificent groups of statues—two youths leading a restive horse— attributed to Phidias and Praxiteles. A fountain plays into a basin of Egyptian granite. The Quirinal Palace is many centuries old, and at one time the Popes spent


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some part of the year in it. On the grand staircase there is a fresco representing Christ the Redeemer, remarkable for the singularly poignant expression of Christ as the Man of Sorrows.

The reception took place in a vast hall beautifully coloured in pink, gold and grey, with a wonderful painted ceiling; the attendants were arrayed in the royal colours, whilst the corridors and ante-chambers were lined with soldiers in gorgeous uniforms.

The King was probably the shortest man present, but he was affable, and when he spoke he was impressive. His conversation indicated mental alertness. He also showed himself to be very well informed, highly intellectual, interested in what he was told and anxious to exchange ideas. He was dressed in the grey-blue military uniform of an Italian general. The delegations were presented in alphabetical order, and the King spent some time with each delegation, speaking to most of them in their own language. The first on the list was Afghanistan, represented by two young men, well groomed and in perfectly fitting morning dress, with whom the King conversed in French.

His Majesty spent quite a time with the British Empire delegation, talking English freely. When he met the two lady members of the House of Commons he was evidently much interested, and inquired how many women were members of the House of Commons and the other Parliaments of the Empire.

Before leaving London all the British delegates had met in the House of Commons to discuss the Conference agenda and other matters. A unanimous desire


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was expressed that they should, if possible, secure an audience with the Pope. Various difficulties were experienced. Hopes of success had been abandoned almost, when one morning in Rome a message was received that His Holiness had complied with the request of the British delegates and their wives, and would receive them at six o'clock that afternoon. The matter had been arranged through the influence of Sir Robert Clive, British Minister to the Vatican. The party presented, including ladies, numbered thirty-five, and but two of them were Roman Catholics. The men were required to wear full evening dress with white ties and white waistcoats, whilst the ladies were in black from their necks to their ankles, with black mantillas covering their heads.

At the Vatican we were met by picturesque Swiss guards, with halberts and bright red and gold uniforms. Then we were brought up a wide imposing staircase, through lofty rooms, with decorated ceilings, and finally we reached a small audience chamber, round which the delegates were ranged. Presently His Holiness entered, a simple figure in white—white hair, white cape and white soutane. A crucifix was hanging by a chain from his neck, and his shoes were red. His face was kind and benevolent. His whole appearance suggested calm, unconscious dignity. There was a complete absence of ostentation. He bore his age well, and it was difficult to believe that he was seventy-six.

His Holiness went round the group, gave his hand to each of them and then spoke to them collectively in French, saying that he welcomed them, and was pleased that they had expressed a wish to come and see him. He hoped their efforts would always be directed


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towards the promotion of the peace and well-being of the peoples of the world, and gave them all his blessing, blessing their countries, their homes, their families and all whom they held dear. Then, bidding them farewell, His Holiness slowly withdrew.

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