Posts Tagged ‘Philip V. Cannistraro’

Israel’s Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinians and the Italian Fascist Colonisation of Libya

March 5, 2018

Yesterday I put up a piece showing the parallels between Israel’s seven decades long campaign of violence, dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians and the Nazis’ annexation of Poland during the War, and their ethnic cleansing of the Poles and attempts to found German colonies in the cleansed regions.

I’ve no doubt that this comparison between the Nazis and Poland, what Israel is doing to the Palestinians, will be extremely unpalatable to the Israel lobby, who object that it is hurtful and anti-Semitic to compare them to the Nazis, the Jews’ mortal enemies. But however unpleasant and disturbing these comparisons are, they are there. And as the anti-PC right like to say, hurt feelings are no reason for covering up the facts or trying to shut down honest debate.

There is also another Fascist parallel to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, their campaign of colonisation through expanding, illegal Israeli settlements and the harassment and violence against the Palestinians themselves, and the seizure and destruction of their homes and property. It’s the Italian Fascist colonisation of Libya during the Second World War.

Italy had been trying to establish an empire in North Africa before Mussolini seized power, but had little success. Indeed, one Italian government fell because they were defeated in battle by indigenous African resistance forces. This was a massive humiliation for a European country, which considered themselves racially superior to the people over whom they sought to rule. Nevertheless, Italy continued to press for an empire, and the project was revived by Mussolini and the Fascists, who saw themselves as restoring the old Roman Empire. A brief description of the Italian Fascist occupation and colonisation of Libya is given in the article ‘Libya (Tripolitania and Cyrenaica)’ in Philip V. Cannistraro, ed. Historical Dictionary of Fascist Italy (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press 1982).

This states

The Ottoman provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica became Italian possessions at the conclusion of the Italo-Turkish War of 1911-12. Patriotic rhetoric and a sensational newspaper campaign had described Libya as a ‘terra promessa’ (promised land) for Italy’s emigrants who were forced to settle in foreign lands. Italians soon found that they had acquired sovereignty over two vast desert territories, totally lacking in natural resources and thinly populated by a hostile Muslim population-scarcely an emigrant’s paradise. Nevertheless, for nearly thirty years, until the defeat of the Axis marked the end of Italian rule, Italy worked to create a “fourth shore” (to add to Italy’s Tyrrhenian, Adriatic, and Sicilian shores), a single colony, along the lines of Algeria, that would become an integral part of the mother country and would provide opportunities for emigrants to settle as small landowners.

Following the initial conquest, Liberal regimes, preoccupied with World War I and then with Italy’s postwar domestic crisis, made little attempt to establish control over the entire territory or to undertake colonisation. When the Fascists came to power in 1922, they embarked immediately on a campaign of military conquest. The repression took nearly a decade. Although Tripolitania was peaceful by 1924, the Sanusi-led rebellion in Cyrenaica lasted until 1931 and was particularly ferocious. According to official Italian figures, the population of Cyrenaica declined from two hundred twenty-five thousand in 1928 to on hundred forty-two thousand in 1931. Moreover, the livestock, the chief means of livelihood of the indigenous population, was decimated.

Under the governorship of Count Giuseppe Vulpi between July 1921 and July 1925, General Emilio De Bono between July 1925 and December 1928, and Marshal Pietro Badoglio between January 1929 and December 1933, the Italians experimented with various programs of land grants and subsidies to attract investors and colonists. Despite ever larger subsidies and increasing government regulation, the results remained unsatisfactory. Large plantations (devoted to almonds, olives and vineyards), worked by Italian labour, developed instead of a small landholders paradise.

During the last half dozen years of Italian rule, however, the outlines of a “fourth shore” began to emerge. Thanks to peaceful internal conditions, the eagerness of the Fascist regime to finance the colony’s development, and the personal energy and influence of the flamboyant Italo Balbo, governor from 1934 to 1940, the colony flourished. Colonisation companies, financed by the government and by social welfare organisations, were entrusted with programs of intensive land settlement. Balbo himself presided over two mass migrations of colonists (twenty thousand in October 1938 and an additional ten thousand a year later) chosen primarily from the Po Valley and the Veneto. Communications improved vastly with the completion of a 1,800-kilometer border-to-border highway inaugurated in 1937. Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were united administratively into one territory known as Libya with a single governor located in Tripoli. Socially and culturally the coastal regions became an extension of Italy, as tourists flocked to special events such as car races and air rallies or to visit the newly excavated archaeological sites of Sabratha and Leptis Magna. By 1939 the transformation was given legal recognition when the four coastal provinces of Tripoli, Misurata, Benghazi, and Derna were incorporated into the kingdom of Italy.

The transformation of Libya, however, was very costly to the mother country. The colony never came close to self-sufficiency and remained heavily dependent on subsidies from Italy. Nor were the Italians successful in dealing with the indigenous Libyans, on whom they depended for labour. By 1940 the Italian population numbered about one hundred and ten thousand in contrast to a Libyan population of eight hundred thousand. The failure of a “separate but equal ” policy became clear when World War II broke out. Many Libyans rallied ot the Sanusi banner once again (in alliance with the British), and the Libyans rejected any claims for even a limited period of postwar Italian trusteeship over Tripolitania. Nevertheless, a sizeable Italian colony remained in Tripoli until its final expulsion in 1970. (Pp.305-7).

When Blair, Sarko, Killary and the rest were demanding Colonel Gadaffy’s overthrow a few years ago, one Tory MP put his head up to say that the Libyan dictator deserved it, because he was anti-Semitic. The MP’s father was Italian Jewish, and was one of those, who’d been expelled. It’s possible that anti-Semitism was a factor in his father’s expulsion, as there is a very strong current of it in the Middle East. But it’s far more likely that the man was expelled because he was Italian, and therefore one of the country’s hated colonial overlords.

I realise that the parallels between the Nazi occupation of Poland, the Italian Fascist colonisation of Libya and Israel’s own persecution and colonisation of Palestinian territory aren’t exact. Nazism and Fascism were both anti-democratic dictatorships. Israel is a multiparty democracy, and there are Arab members of the Knesset, as well as a separate Palestinian authority.

But Israel was born through the massacre of the indigenous Arab population, and has imposed a system of apartheid on those who remain, most similar to the former White South Africa, and presumably something like the “separate but equal” policy implemented by the Italian Fascists in Libya. While making noises about finding a two-state solution to the problem of Palestinian statehood and equal rights, Israeli policy appears instead to be to encourage the further expansion of their settlements in the Occupied Territories, intimidation of the indigenous Palestinians through aggressive policing and military action, and the seizure of Palestinian land and homes, as well as the destruction of Arab property, by militant settler groups. All while running schemes to encourage more Jewish and Israeli emigration to these areas. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, runs a business financing and building such settlements.

The comparison between Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians can be pushed too far, but it is still there. And libelling those, who point it out as ‘anti-Semitic’ is no argument or defence against it. The truth often hurts, but honesty requires that history should be squarely faced and the horrors of the past and present confronted.

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Pareto, Liberismo, Free Trade and Conservative Fascism

April 11, 2014

Vilfredo-Pareto-Quotes-5

Vilfredo Pareto: Free Trade economist who believed in the importance of elites.

I’ve posted a number of piece criticising the attempts by Conservatives, such as the Dorset MEP Daniel Hannan, to smear Socialism through the argument that Fascism was simply one form of it. American Conservatives in particular seem to believe that any form of state intervention or collectivist approach automatically equals Socialism, which is in turn equated with Communism and Nazism. Mussolini started his career as a radical Socialist, and there were elements of Socialism, and specifically Syndicalism, in Fascism. Fascism was, however, an unstable and frequently incoherent mixture of different and contradictory ideologies and attitudes. Syndicalism was one element. Others were the middle class, Conservative ideologies of free trade, private enterprise and liberismo.

Liberismo was the ideology of the Italian middle classes. It was associated with the belief in a balanced budget and sound, stable currency, and reflected the interests of the middle class groups with fixed incomes, who felt themselves vulnerable to inflation. These were rentiers, pensioners, civil servants, professionals and White collar workers. These groups looked to Fascism to halt rising prices. At the same time, Mussolini presented the Fascist movement as defending private enterprise and the small businesses from Socialism and organised Labour on the one hand, and the large trusts and cartels of big business on the other. They resented the way the government, under their influence, had maintained a policy of high tariffs and high state expenditure. The Italian Nationalists, who later merged with the Fascists, had attacked international finance and the major banks. The crash of the Banca di Sconto associated with the Perrone brothers and the Ansaldo conglomerate in 1922, resulted in a number of small investors losing their savings. The Perrone brothers and Ansaldo were major figures and backers of the Nationalists, who blamed their bank’s failure on the government blindly obeying the dictates of the rival Banca Commerciale.

Fascist elitism and contempt for democracy also had part of its origins in the ideas of the economist Vilfredo Pareto. A professor of Political Economy at the University of Lausanne, Pareto was a staunch supporter of free trade. This in turn led to his contempt for parliamentary democracy and belief in the importance of elites. He also valued myth, considered as powerful irrational ideas and images, as a means through which governments and movements could inspire their supporters to action. His works also explored the use of force and consent. He argued that the ‘foxes’ of the old, patrician order, would now be overthrown by ‘plebean’ lions, and denounced the humanitarianism of contemporary liberal politics as a symptom of a political order in decline. As the above quote makes clear, Pareto believed that contemporary democracy was merely an ideological disguise for the way the elite continued to hold power while maintaining the impression that it was the masses who were in control of government. Mussolini read Pareto when he was a radical Socialist, and took over his idea elitism, and utter contempt for parliamentary democracy and humanitarianism.

Free trade, private enterprise, and a balanced budget, became elements of Fascism. This is, however, denied by Conservatives, who seem to believe that they stand apart from and opposed to it in a way which the Socialist parts of Fascism do not. Liberismo and Pareto’s elitism may also explain the strongly anti-democratic trend in Libertarianism. Both von Hayek and Mises served in Vollmar Dollfuss’ Austro-Fascist regime. Dollfuss banned the Austrian Socialist party on the grounds that it was preparing a revolution. It’s unclear whether this was true, or merely a pretext. The regime was allied to Mussolini’s Italy, and looked to the Duce for protection against annexation from Hitler’s Germany. After Hayek moved to America, he also travelled to Chile after Pinochet’s coup to examine the implementation of his economic doctrines there. Pareto’s prediction of the victory of the plebs over the patricians may well have been another piece of myth-making – a powerful image intended to inspire fear in the middle classes, and force them to act against the threat from the working class. Hayek in his absolute support for private enterprise, free trade and willingness to serve Right-wing dictatorships, seems to have shared these attitudes. This is despite Libertarianism’s claim to represent traditional Liberalism. Libertarianism and its adherents share the same attitudes as the Conservative followers of liberismo who joined the Fascists.

For further information, see ‘Pareto, Vilfredo’, in Philip V. Cannistraro, ed., Historical Dictionary of Fascist Italy (Westport: Greenwood Press 1982) 392.

Adrian Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power: Fascism in Italy 1919-1929 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1987).