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Editorial – The Basest Roman of Them All.

23 November 1940

Mexborough and Swinton Times November 23, 1940

The Basest Roman of Them All.

Mussolini’s speech in Rome this week can only be accounted for by the desperate necessity for some reassurance from the Fascist leader that all goes well. The fact of the speech, its matter, and its manner, are all highly significant of the uneasiness and embarrassment of the Italian end of the Axis.

The new affirmation that Great Britain is solely responsible for the war will deceive nobody, even in Italy, and is probably not seriously intended to do so. Even if it were true of the war between Great Britain and Germany it could not be true of the war between Great Britain and Italy, for the Italians were offered no provocation of any kind; the ink was scarcely dry on the pact which bound the two countries to settle all Mediterranean questions amicably; and from the outbreak of the war with Germany, Great Britain accorded to Italy all, and far, more than all, the rights of a neutral and a non-belligerent, and to the great harm, hinderance, and handicap of the British cause, exempted from the blockade an open and notorious friend, ally, and creature of Germany.

The speech was pure bombast and if it was needed to hearten the Italian people, then theItalian cause is in a bad way: if it succeeded, then the Italian people are in a bad way. The speech was most eloquent between the lines, and nothing gave away the insecurity of the Italian morale more than; Mussolini’s intimation that his Gestapo would have to be sent back from the front to deal; with “intellectual pacifism”— the recrudescence of a dangerous tendency to independent thinking.

The ferocious threats to Greece are idle and meaningless. Greece has had no choice but to take up arms and defend her soil against the monstrous assault of this brutal hypocrite. Greeks will not be intimidated by Mussolini’s  words, and will do their best Ito answer his deeds. Under providence they have already deranged the new Italian invasion, and with British aid they may yet startle the world with the power and patriotism of free men called upon, against all law, humane or divine, to defend their liberties with their lives.

Mussolini’s comment on the naval situation in the Mediterranean must have sounded tragically in Italian ears, for it is impossible that the Italian people can have no inkling whatever of the truth that the Italian Navy is a fugitive in its “mare nostrum” and that half its battle fleet lies stricken and helpless in the harbour of Taranto. The unwise boast of Italian participation in the air attacks on Great Britain will strike a chill also in the hearts of Italians who know the power of the Fleet Air Arm and cannot be unaware of the devastation wrought in Germany by the R.A.F. None but Fascist lunatics can suppose that the self-confessed crime of Italy against this country will go unavenged and un-repaid in kind. Only a race of ostriches could rejoice in the rashness of a leader who furnishes the evidence or which the whole nation will one day be convicted and sentenced.

The most significant and revealing part of the speech was the abject adulation of Hitler, who is at last acknowledged by this pinchbeck Caesar to be the brain and genius of the Axis. The failures, futilities, and frustrations of Italian arms have placed Italy and Mussolini completely in the power of the Germans, so that to-day they have hardly more to gain from victory than from defeat—indeed, not so much, for no punishment they can receive at the hands of a victorious Britain will be comparable with the permanent degradation to which a German triumph will condemn them. The history of two thousand ‘years will be reversed, and proud Rome will become a German province.

Thanks to Great Britain, with whom Italy is now treacherously and unjustly at war. Italy will escape that fate, compared with which even the “condign punishment” which Mr Churchill promises will be light affliction. But Mussolini who has “sold his people for this naught and taken no money for them.” whose mean aggressor and cheap aggrandisements have dishonoured and disgraced Italy. will surely not survive the revival of the nobler instincts of that ancient and once glorious race.