Mussolini’s Declaration of War: An Ignoble Gesture

On 10 June 1940, speaking from the balcony of the Palazzo Venetia in Rome before a large and enthusiastic crowd of his black-shirted supporters Benito Mussolini, Il Duce, declared war on Britain and France.

He had wisely chosen to remain neutral in the conflict but believing that German victory was imminent and he would be denied his share of the spoils he wanted a thousand Italian dead to ensure a place at the Conference Table:

Soldiers, sailors, and aviators! Black-shirts of the revolution and of the Fascist Legions! Men and women of Italy, of the Empire, and of the kingdom of Albania! Pay heed!

An hour appointed by destiny has struck in the heavens of our fatherland.

To cries of War! War!

The declaration of war has already been delivered to the ambassadors of Great Britain and France. We go to battle against the plutocratic and reactionary democracies of the west who at every moment have hindered the advance and have often endangered the very existence of the Italian people.

Recent historical events can be summarized in the following phrases: promises, threats, blackmail, and finally to crown the edifice, the ignoble siege by the fifty-two states of the League of Nations. Our conscience is absolutely tranquil.

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The entire world is witness that Fascist Italy has done all that is humanly possible to avoid the torment which is throwing Europe into turmoil; but all was in vain. It would have sufficed to revise the treaties to bring them up to date with the changing needs of the life of nations and not consider them untouchable for eternity; it would have sufficed not to have begun the stupid policy of guarantees, which has shown itself particularly lethal for those who accepted them; it would have sufficed not to reject the proposal for peace that the Fuhrer made on 6 October of last year having finished the campaign in Poland.

But now all of that belongs to the past.

If now today we have decided to face the risks and the sacrifices of a war it is because the honour, the interests, and the future impose an iron necessity. If a great people are truly such it must consider sacred its own duties and does not evade the supreme trials which determine the course of history.

We take up arms to resolve the problem of our land frontier, the problem of our maritime frontiers; we want to break the territorial chains which suffocate us in our own sea; since a people of forty-five million is not truly free if it does not have free access to the ocean.

This gigantic struggle is nothing other than a phase in the logical development of our revolution; it is the struggle of peoples that are poor but rich in workers against the exploiters who hold on ferociously to the monopoly off all the riches and all the gold of the earth; it is the struggle of the fertile and young people against the sterile people moving to the sunset; it is the struggle between two centuries and two ideas.

Now that the die is cast, I solemnly declare that Italy does not intend to drag into the conflict other peoples bordering her on land or on sea. Switzerland, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey.

Egypt take note of these my words for it depends on them and only on them whether or not they will be rigorously confirmed.

Italians!

In a memorable meeting which took place in Berlin, I said that according to the laws of Fascist morality, when one has a friend, one marches with him to the end.

Cries of Duce! Duce! Duce!

This we have done with Germany, with its people, with its marvelous armed forces.

On this eve of great events we direct our thoughts to the majesty of the King and Emperor who as always has understood the soul of the fatherland. And we salute with our voices the Fuhrer, the head of our great ally Germany.

Proletarian and Fascist Italy stands up strong, and proud, and united as never before, one order both obligatory and categorical already spreads and fires hearts from the Alps to the Indian Ocean - Victory!

And we will win in and bring peace with justice to Italy, to Europe, and to the world.

People of Italy!

Rush to arms and show your spirit, your courage, your valour!

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