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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.”

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