11 NOVEMBER 1922, Page 37


[To the Editor of the SrEcr.vron.]

note that, as I expected, you take a grave view of the unique revolution which has been accomplished in Italy. Now that we are absorbed in a welter of domestic politics, there is real danger that the significance of this startling event may be insufficiently regarded, and you have helped to correct what would be an unfortunate omission. On one point I venture, with great diffidence, to differ from the tenor of your excellent article. You describe the Fascismc movement as the " Nemesis of Communism," which in part it undoubtedly is ; but I think that the causes lie far deeper. The complete failure of constitutional government to govern, which allowed a free field to Bolshevism, the intolerable corruption which widely prevails, the involved financial position threatening swift bankruptcy—these and other conditions must all be contributory causes in varying degree.

It is peculiarly significant that M. Mussolini places in the forefront of his manifesto the words : " The Government knows how to govern and will govern " as if they were best calculated to appeal to the Italian nation at the present moment. May this not be the secret of the rapid growth of his movement and of its resounding success ? Humanity, as a whole, craves to be governed—justly, wisely and humanely, no doubt, but governed. In the East this craving is deep- rooted, and the increasingly complex conditions of Western life—so easily dislocated—tend to enforce the same natural desire. We are beginning dimly to realize that without strong government freedom cannot exist, and that intermin- able interference with private enterprise is not the equivalent of such government. What is a country which has been misgoverned, not governed at all, or led towards the brink of disaster, to do ? The orthodox answer is, of course : " Have a general election and change your government." That is the gamble in which we are now actively engaged, with results that no wise man would forecast and with no certainty of the drastic changes which are imperatively required.

The Italians have taken another course, which proves them to be possessed of qualities which, perhaps, we did not recognize. Is it certain that they are wrong ? We are placing the fate of the Empire in the hands of more than twenty million voters, of whom not one in a thousand could give a coherent account even of the principal matters-

domestic and foreign—on the right handling of which our whole future depends. Out of the maelstrom of ambitions, motives, intrigues, discordant opinions and distracting propaganda, a Parliament will be evolved. Will that Par. 'lament represent the " will of the people " ? Have the people arrived at any decided will of their own ? Will the new government be able effectively to discharge the in- numerable tasks upon which the welfare, even the safety, of the nation depends ? Will it be able to govern ? We cannot tell.

You, Sir, as a sturdy democrat, say at the end of your article that, whatever happens, we " should accept the will of the majority. That is the only way for a free and stable democracy. Democracy has no other meaning." Yes, but shall we really know the " will of the majority " ? Do present democratic institutions provide any valid guarantee that the majority views can be ascertained, or will prevail ?

Fascismo may, as you point out, set a dangerous precedent, which must be carefully watched ; but the real question is : Would the Italian people have obtained any release from their abounding difficulties, any clear hope of a better future, If they had only reshuffled the worn political cards by a general election ?

Many other democracies, nominally " free," though far from " stable," being plainly unable to supply governments that can govern, may be tempted to follow the Fascismo example if their peoples possess the patriotic spirit of the Italians. The lesson that I am compelled to draw from this amazing revolution is that democracy has begun to show its most seamy side, and that a nation may, in desperation, be forced to discard its methods. Fascismo, as a revolt against democracy, would be a real political portent.—