“Mussolini had another ardent English admirer, whose name is known universally, and who, while holding a seat in the British Cabinet, went on pilgrimage to Rome to express his admiration two years after the murder of Matteotti, when the character of the Fascist regime was well established. Here is the account of that pilgrimage which appeared in the Times on 21st January, 1927:
“‘Mr. Churchill On Fascism.
“‘Antidote to Soviet Poison.’
“(From Our Own Correspondent)
“Rome, Jan 20
“‘Before leaving for London by the mid-day train to-day, Mr. Churchill received representatives of the Italian and foreign Press. Mr. Churchill informed his audience that he had prepared what he, an ex-journalist, considered the questions and answers most likely to help them in their work, and that a typed copy of this would be given to whomsoever desired one. The following are extracts in his own words from the impressions made upon him by a week’s visit to Italy.
“‘You will naturally ask me about the interviews I have had with Italian statesmen and in particular with Signor Mussolini and Count Volpe. Those interviews were purely formal and of a general character. It is a good thing in modern Europe for public men in different countries to meet on a friendly and social basis and form personal impressions of one another. It is one of the ways in which international suspicion may be diminished and frank and confident relations maintained.
“‘I could not help being charmed, like so many other people have been, by Signor Mussolini’s gentle and simple bearing and by his calm detached poise in spite of so many burdens and dangers. Secondly, anyone could see that he thought of nothing but the lasting good, as he understands it, of the Italian people, and that no lesser interest was of the slightest consequence to him.
“‘I am sure that I am violating no confidence when I say that a large part of my conversation with Signor Mussolini and with Count Volpe turned on the economic position of the Italian wage earner… I was very glad to have it proved to me by facts and figures that there is a definite improvement month by month over the preceding year…
“‘I have heard a great deal about your new law of corporations which, I am told, directly associates twenty millions of active citizens with the State and obliges the State to undertake very direct responsibilities in regard to these dependents. Such a movement is of the deepest interest, and its results will be watched in every country. It will certainly require the utmost good will and cooperation of all the people, as well as the wise and clear guidance of the State. But at any rate, in the face of such a system, ardently accepted, it is quite absurd to suggest that the Italian Government does not rest upon popular bases or that it is not upheld by the active and practical assent of the great masses.
“‘If I had been an Italian I am sure that I should have been wholeheartedly with you from the start to finish in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism. But in England we have not had to fight this danger in the same deadly form. We have our way of doing things. But that we should succeed in grappling with Communism and choking the life out of it-of that I am absolutely sure.
“‘I will, however, say a word on the international aspect of Fascismo. Externally, your movement has rendered a service to the whole world. The great fear which has always beset every democratic leader or working-class leader has been that of being undermined or overbid by someone more extreme than he: It seems that a continued progression to the Left, a sort of inevitable landslide into the abyss was characteristic of all revolutions. Italy has shown that there is a way of fighting the subversive forces which can rally the mass of the people, properly led, to value and wish to defend the honour and stability of civilised society. She has provided the necessary antidote to the Russian poison. Hereafter, no great nation will be unprovided with the ultimate means of protection against cancerous growths, and every responsible labour leader in every country ought to feel his feet more firmly planted in resisting levelling and reckless doctrines. The great mass of people love their country and are proud of its flag and history. They do not regard these as incompatible with a progressive advance towards social justice and economic betterment.’” (The Times, 21st January, 1927.) Republished here from The Reason For Irish Neutrality, by Brendan Clifford, included in the publication of Elizabeth Bowen’s Notes On Eire, Aubane Historical Society 1999.